Saturday, July 31, 2021

Maybe "Ass" Is The Right Word


Virgin Islands, you can do better than this.

On Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher, the host read- and condemned- several tweets from conservatives vehemently criticizing Simon Biles for backing away from the Olympics. (We mustn't say "quit.") Enthusiastically agreeing, Virgin Islands Delegate for the House of Representatives, Democrat Stacey Plaskett, remarked (at 1:48 of the video) "my response to that is they can kiss my overworked black woman ass."



It's unclear what the Biles overblown controversy has to do specifically with Piskett's  ass, but some individuals cannot resist the temptation to be vulgar on national television.  It's unclear also what this has to do with race, given that there has been no indication that the overheated reaction to Biles' decision is related to race. 

More interesting, however, is that the audience, understandably supportive of Biles, lustily applauded, probably (and hopefully) in the belief that Plaskett at that moment was supporting Biles.

Note that Biles, a House manager in the second impeachment of President Trump, did not say that the gymnast should have said "they can kiss my overworked black woman ass." Instead, she admonished "they can kiss my overworked black woman ass."

The delegate was not referring to the Olympian, but to herself as possessing an "overworked black ass."

Perhaps Plaskett was not suggesting that she's overworked because she's black or female. She certainly wasn't lamenting the plight of blue collar workers in the Virgin Islands who have to retire early because of the enormous strain of their labor. Nor was she thinking of the mother holding down two jobs while raising young children. Nor was she speaking of the retail employee in a tedious job, maybe working evenings and weekends earning minimum wage, nor the college student holding down a job while accumulating debt it may take a lifetime to pay back.

Stacey Plaskett was thinking of herself, probably claiming that she is working so hard as a member of the House of Representatives. Ethics official, who himself sympathizes with Simone Biles, sees the Washington, D.C. job differently:


They all begin vacation in a different location, for Plaskett at Studio 33 at Television City in Los Angeles. However, upon further review: maybe I'm wrong and the V.I. cannot do better than Stacey Plaskett. If she is only half as impressive and virtuous as she thinks she is, the Virgin Islands is very well represented, indeed




Friday, July 30, 2021

An Optimism Unsuited For The Times


Not comedian Noel Casler, who maintains Jared Kushner is starting an investment firm because he intends to attract funds for another run at the presidency by his father-in-law. Casler warns (beginning at 1:56 of his "rant")

So if you think these guys are getting stopped, they're not. I guarantee you they threw Tom Barrack to the wolves as a distraction just like you'd throw a body off the back of a truck when you're being chased by the cops or something. You know?

These guys are using human shields, they're continuing their grift, and they're continuing to keep the channels open that allowed them to become so powerful in the first place, and you gotta stop them.

Having worked on the set of The Apprentice, Casler recognizes Trump's insatiable desire for wealth and power and willingness to use virtually any means to achieve unsavory ends.  He is not joking about the deadly significance of this moment in time. Similarly

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) became the third member of Congress to be arrested during nonviolent protests aimed at rallying support for federal voting legislation that activists say are necessary to push back against new restrictive state laws.

“We pass the Voting Rights Act because my people in Texas are suffering, my people in Mississippi are suffering, my people in Georgia are suffering,” Jackson Lee said shortly before Capitol Police officers prepared to arrest her and six others who blocked the entrance to the Hart Senate Office Building. “We are here to say that voting rights is a fundamental constitutional right. … We will not be moved.”

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was arrested at the Hart Senate Office Building last week. The week before, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was cuffed with zip ties and briefly detained.

This realism and seriousness does not extend to the Democratic street.  In a poll from The Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research,  "53% of Democrats say they are pessimistic about U.S. politics generally " However, 60% were "optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party" and only 14% were pessimistic.

Yet, Democrats were optimistic  because of passage of the pandemic response package and widespread distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. Additionally, they cited "displacing Trump's bombastic leadership style."

Unless he dies, Donald Trump isn't going anywhere. His Party will still be defending, supporting, and following the man who describes himself as "the chosen one." His bombastic leadership style got him elected once and Republicans appear poised to retake both chambers of Congress next year, whereupon the GOP would be in a stronger position to reinforce those efforts to rig elections in decisive states. 

Joe Biden was able to take down Donald Trump- temporarily- because of high turnout by a Democratic electorate motivated by the clear and present danger it didn't recognize in 2016. The likes of Noel Casler and Representative Lee have a difficult task in rousing the left from its stupor. If  Democrats wait until the next presidential election year to recognize the GOP's determination to tear down democracy, it may be too late.

 


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Race, Race, Everywhere Race





Walter Shaub has a strong sense of priorities.

I

I had intended to say nothing about Simone Biles other than roughly what Shaub did. She is not a villain and she is not a hero. She is merely a great young athlete who did what she believed she had to do. The end.

But unlike Shaub, who understands Biles should not consume our thoughts, some people cannot let go. Naveed Jamali, though possessing an admirable professional biography, fails to understand that Simone Biles' world is sports, not real life, and that her actions affect only her teammates, her family, and herself.


It must be comforting neither to think hard not to evaluate news events in the context of their circumstances. Reducing all of them to race would save us the effort of considering anything objectively and allow us to stereotype and stigmatize individuals critical of Biles.

Sincere feelings and beliefs need not be suppressed in a misguided effort to avoid further alienating individuals we're convinced are insufficiently tolerant of blacks or other minorities. Canceling ourselves is not a worthy option.

It's simply that Jamali is flat-out wrong. It's not "all about race." Some people form their opinions of other people or issues based upon race, an affliction affecting right, left, and center. Thankfully, they constitute a minority.

Individuals should be permitted their views about Biles without a strong inference that they are racist. An individual who is racially biased or hostile should be called out with the action or statement cited. However, people should be permitted their views about Simone Biles without an assumption that it is determined by race. Condemning as biased, prejudiced, or racist everyone on one side of an issue is, well, plainly ignorant.

 


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hold Thy Fire


I am boycotting Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Given a small bowl at a friend's house decades ago, I realized the product it was overpriced and have been able to avoid it ever since. So I will never eat it again.

But only for that reason. Philadelphia Inquirer foreign affairs columnist Trudy Rubin notes

The ice cream maker, famous for social consciousness and iconic flavors like Chubby Hubby, announced Monday it was ending sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” meaning Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But the announcement stipulated it would still sell ice cream inside Israel (meaning within the pre-1967 borders before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Days War)...

Critics have linked it to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for countries, businesses, and universities to sever all ties with Israel, unless it withdraws from all land captured in 1967. The movement is based on the boycott of South Africa under apartheid. But its demands, if fulfilled, would rule out a Jewish homeland....

Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t calling for a boycott of Israel proper. It was focused on Jewish settlements in the mostly Palestinian West Bank, which the U.S. State Department regards as “occupied” territory. U.S. policy for decades, before the Trump administration, sought to curb growth of settlements lest they rule out any future political accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ironically

by insisting that a boycott of West Bank settlements is the same as one of Israel – in other words that settlements are an official part of Israel -- Israeli officials only strengthen the BDS line.

West Bank settlements have not yet been formally annexed to Israel (although former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing). However, the continued expansion of Jewish settlements and special settler roads on the West Bank leaves the Palestinians divided into unconnected chunks of territory that make any future Palestinian statelet unviable....

By equating West Bank settlers with citizens in Tel Aviv, the Israeli attack on Ben & Jerry’s effectively concedes there is only one Israeli state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This brings international attention back to BDS demands for rights for disenfranchised West Bank Palestinians in such a binational state.

In a case of irony+

If Israel treats West Bank settlers as part of the Jewish state, then it must confront the question of Palestinian rights within a “one-state reality.” Unless it distinguishes between the West Bank and Israel proper, and regenerates some kind of Israel-Palestinian negotiations, it will encourage the claim it is an apartheid state.

Rubin notes that Israeli officials across the political spectrum are united in decrying the Ben and Jerry decision, with Israeli president Herzog even labeling it "a new form of terrorism."

This is not terrorism, which (along with "terror" and "terrorist") is a word (similar to "racist") in recent years stretched far beyond its original meaning. There are many officials at the United Nations eager to minimize terrorism; it's disquieting to see an Israeli politician doing so.

Rubin acknowledges, as we all should, that

the angst stems from fear that the Ben & Jerry move marks the beginning of a slippery slope, a prelude to adoption by major international companies of the BDS call to boycott Israel entirely because it maintains an apartheid system over Palestinians.

The move by Ben and Jerry's, a division of Unilever, is not the end of the world, though if it does slip into approval of BDS, hostility to a loyal American ally and most democratic state in the Middle East will be on full display. (Closing the plant in Jerusalem is slimy, but whatever.)  Unfortunately, Israeli overreaction to cessation of sales in the West Bank and East Jerusalem makes that a little more likely.


 

 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Elusive Justice



Imagine not being charged with a crime yet receiving a letter (beginning "Greetings" and continuing

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in a Prolific Offender Program run by the Pasco Sheriff's Office in cooperation with the Department of Justice Strategies for Policing Innovation Initiative. This program provides you with an opportunity to receive assistance from the Pasco Sheriff's Office and several community partners who will work with you to identify and overcome barriers that have hindered you in your life's journey. Ultimately, the goal of this program is to empower you to live a lawful, productive and fulfilled life.

Research indicates that barriers to successful living may involve struggles with mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, finding a job, or several other challenges many people face on a daily basis. It is possible you have struggled with some of these issues. If so, please know the Pasco Sheriff's Office is committed to support you in overcoming these challenges through this program.

You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program. You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability.

The Justice Department's Justice Strategies for Policing Innovation Initiative is a grant-based program begun in 2009 (great job, Barack!).. An investigative report in the Tampa Bay Times, which recently published the letter above, found last September that 

First the Sheriff's Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

The list of problems with this program is a long one, including use of police officers as enforcers of the zoning code, tying up courts for minor infractions, violation of due process, and beyond. But, hey, that's a local jurisdiction (county) in Florida perverting a program intended by the Justice Department in Washington to encourage innovation. Surely nothing untoward is currently happening in that department, now headed by former President Obama's nominee for the US Supreme Court. It was no doubt in error that The Washington Post reported n late May that lawyers for the Department had asked a federal judge

to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police.

Trump and other U.S. officials are immune from civil lawsuits over police actions taken to protect a president and to secure his movements, government lawyers said of the actions taken ahead of a photo op of Trump holding a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Church. A crowd of more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis before the park was cleared.

A year to the week after Floyd’s death, Justice Department lawyers argued that the lawsuits should also be tossed because last November’s presidential election made future violations unlikely. The government said the square has been reopened, and President Biden’s administration does not share Trump’s stated hostility toward Floyd and the racial justice movement.

Evidently, we can let bygones be bygones as long as we decry "white privilege" long and hard enough.  The Post continued

The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., Black Lives Matter, other civil liberties groups and individual protesters accuse Trump and senior officials of driving the June 1 events. Military, federal and local police forcibly cleared the square using batons, clubs, horses, pepper spray, smoke and fired projectiles 30 minutes before a citywide curfew began. Images of violence drew a national backlash against Trump’s calls for “overwhelming force” to put down those he called “THUGS” and domestic terrorists. The nation’s top military official later apologized for walking with Trump before television cameras that day.

Lawyers for the ACLU said that despite legal precedents, the government’s defense would “authorize brutality with impunity” in the heart of Washington at one of the most symbolic spaces within the seat of the federal government.

If their defense was upheld, U.S. authorities “could have used live ammunition to clear the park, and nobody would have a claim against that as an assault on their constitutional rights,” said Scott Michelman, legal director for ACLU-D.C.

Of course the authorities could have done so. As that famous civil libertarian Richard M. Nixon remarked a few years after leaving office, "Well, when the president does it … that means that it is not illegal."

That spirit still  prevails as

In response, Justice Department attorneys for current and former U.S. officials and Park Police officers in their official and individual capacities, called presidential security a “paramount” government interest.

Police acted lawfully to protect the president while he moved a block from the White House through an unscreened crowd at a time of civil unrest, Justice Department trial attorney David G. Cutler said....

U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington held nearly three hours of joint oral arguments over several motions to dismiss four overlapping lawsuits on behalf of more than 100 U.S., D.C. and Arlington County defendants. She promised rulings “in the near future.”

In questioning, Friedrich appeared open to the government’s request.

“How do I get over the clear national security concern over the president’s safety?” the judge asked the plaintiffs at one point. Earlier she asked, “It seems to me you have to clear the square before he [Trump] walks to the church. Why is that not reasonable?”



Common sense would suggest a) clearing the park was unnecessary to protect the President; b) the President's stroll was taken entirely as a photo-op and obviously served no policy purpose but only a political one; c) even as a political event, the President's act, including awkwardly holding and ostentatiously displaying a Bible outside a church whose leaders were unaware of his plans, was particularly egregious.



Lafayette Park was cleared not to prevent violence, but to provoke violence. With abuses by Pasco County Sheriff's Department, other local police agencies, and the federal Department of Justice, this country clearly needs massive demonstrations protesting overreaction by police departments and policies abusive of civil liberties. Maybe thousands, even millions of protestors should pack the streets.

Oh, yea. That was done already.... truly a rousing success.

 


Monday, July 26, 2021

Leverage


Alexander Sammons in The American Prospect explains that progressive groups have been startlingly willing not to pressure President Joe Biden on their priorities, and have been rewarded with very few wins. However

In rare moments and on fairly niche issues, progressive groups have called out Biden publicly, and it’s worked. When news leaked that the president had chosen to go back on a campaign promise and would not raise the refugee limit from its Trump-era lows of 15,000 people per year, there was broad outcry from progressive and humanitarian groups. Biden quickly reversed course.

When "progressive groups have called out Biden publicly.... it has worked."  One of those issues- the most important one- on which the left has failed to twist the President's arm is voting rights, which Biden was asked about in his recent town hall meeting with CNN's Don Lemon. New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted the President stated

“What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up, right now, in the argument of whether or not this is all about the filibuster or — look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting. You tried last time. More people voted last time than at any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history. More people did.”

This is patently false. You absolutely can stop people from voting. We have seen this over and over again throughout American history. And, these laws won’t harm all Americans. They’ll harm minorities in America. They are aimed at liberal cities where the populations are often heavily Black and Latino.

Biden is basically saying here what Black America has heard forever: No matter how high they make the hill, your only choice is to climb it. I applaud your ascension. My God, aren’t your legs strong.

As Blow noted also, President Biden has been emphasizing other elements of his agenda far more than voting rights, notwithstanding that "Black people gave all to save Joe Biden’s candidacy, but Joe Biden refused to give all to protect their right to vote. Reciprocity is not compulsory."

After three states- Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada- held their primary or caucus, Biden was gasping for air, nearly dead in the water. But as was oft-repeated, we had not heard from African-Americans. Then Jim Clyburn unqualifiedly endorsed the former vice president and with more blacks than whites voting in the South Carolina primary, Biden creamed Bernie Sanders and was off to the races.

"Black people gave all to save Joe Biden's candidacy" is a short and sweet recap of Democratic primary season and the winner cannot be so dense as not to realize it.  Yet, there are ways to respond to the President going all out to get a bipartisan infrastructure bill and giving little more than lip service to voter rights.

Most effective probably would be the Congressional Black Caucus explaining that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and HR 1 are their highest- not high, but highest- legislative priorities. The CBC could imply a little political blackmail, noting that the GOP is favored to win back the House (also, the Senate) and that if it does, it will move to impeach the President. And oh, by the way- if that happens, the first black vice president will be waiting in the wings and black members of the House may be conflicted. A little intimidation from immigration rights activists persuaded Joe Biden earlier this year. Clarence Thomas knows how that works.


Implying they would not have the President's back if Articles of Impeachment were introduced in the next Congress might seem like an idle threat. Alternatively, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus merely can remind Biden "we made you, we can break you."   Of the larger black community: they did, and they can.

 


The "Trump Vaccine"



Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary to President Donald Trump and now GOP candidate for governor of Arkansas, has written an op-ed explaining why she decided to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Expert opinion and the experience of millions of other Americans be damned, she took the shot(s) on the advice of her doctor. And she argued

When the Trump administration initiated Operation Warp Speed in May 2020, the president stated that a vaccine would become available by December of that year at the very latest. From the moment he made his announcement, the "expert" class tried to undermine those statements with baseless fear-mongering.

The New York Times ran an opinion piece claiming that whatever the Trump administration released would likely be a dangerous political stunt. CNN did the same. But no one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be "real," while Harris said in a nationally-televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating.

Sanders has conveniently forgotten that in early October of 2020 Trump asserted

 “no president’s ever pushed” the Food and Drug Administration like he has as concerns mount that the administration is pressuring the agency to quickly authorize a vaccine for the coronavirus.

The FDA on Tuesday published new guidance for vaccine manufacturers that said they need to provide at least two months of follow-up safety data after vaccinating trial participants to apply for emergency use authorization. That makes the authorization of a vaccine before the Nov. 3 presidential election highly unlikely.

“We’re going to have a great vaccine very, very shortly. I think we should have it before the election, but frankly the politics gets involved and that’s OK. They want to play their games,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter. “The FDA has acted as quickly as they’ve ever acted in history. ... No president’s ever pushed them like I’ve pushed them either, to be honest with you.”

Trump wanted to make the vaccine available before the election. If he couldn't he could at least make voters believe that if they stuck with him, it would be here very shortly.

In her piece, Huckabee Sanders twice referred to the "Trump vaccine" and once to the "Trump vaccine plan." That's three times more than the ever-modest Trump has referred to a "Trump vaccine."

That's not by accident.  It has been widely reported that nationally the vast majority of individuals who have chosen to avoid the vaccine are Trump supporters. Sanders claims

If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time.

But of course, that's ridiculous. It's widely speculated that many people refusing the vaccine are doing so precisely because Democrats- especially the incumbent President- are vigorously encouraging them to do otherwise. If Biden, Harris, and "others on the left" gave more credit to Trump for Operation Warp Speed, they actually might sow doubt in the latter's supporters that the former President is responsible for development of the vaccine.

There is no reason Biden, Harris et al. should bend over backwards to give Donald Trump credit for something he himself doesn't want to take credit for.  Moreover, Trump's actions over the past eighteen months and statements over the course of his adult life suggest the most likely reason he doesn't want to be closely associated with the vaccine. If he boasted in it, a lot of his supporters currently resistant probably would change their mind and get the vaccine.

Additional people would be saved from contracting Covid-19 and its variant. Fewer people would be hospitalized and fewer would die. That would undermine President Trump's objective of culling the herd. Can't let that happen.


 



Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- American Government


Leave it to a New York comedian to recognize, and encapsulate in forty words or fewer, American government:

 


The only slight- very slight- inaccuracy is that Donald Trump tried to burn down the farm stand.   It was only a split-second, righteous decision by an officer of the Capitol Police Department in shooting Ashli Babbitt that prevented an incursion by insurrectionists which probably would have resulted in the murder of a whole lot of people in the Capitol on January 6. It was an act so bold that the name of the officer hasn't been released, no doubt in part to spare him and his family many of the death threats that will come his way once his name is revealed.

President Trump tried to burn down the farm stand that day and but for one police officer may have done so. Of course, if Casler had said all that, the tweet would have been far less pithy and memorable and would have little impact. Instead, he captured perfectly (or nearly perfectly) not only what has transpired in the federal government the past four-and-a-half years but the fragility of our representative democracy. 

It all can be brought down by one thoroughly evil and remarkably charismatic individual. Throw away conventional American history as traditionally taught. Throw away also the 1619 Project and critical race theory as a vehicle for teaching American history. Start with " the USA was- no, is- set up like an honor system farm stand in which you leave a couple of bucks in a jar and take some apples."  That captures the essence of our political system. Take it from there and our country's past and future would be fairly, honestly, and comprehensively taught.






Friday, July 23, 2021

Our F.B.I. And Donald Trump


Something is rotten in Washington, D.C., something including, but extending beyond, the stench Donald J. Trump and his henchmen left behind.

In June, 2018 The New York Times' Jim Dwyer recalled "two weeks before the 2016 election, Mr. Comey disclosed that the F.B.I. discovered a laptop that had not been examined in the original investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails."

After most of the damage was done, FBI director Jim Comey announced that those were among the emails already reviewed. Amid speculation that Comey announced discovery of the emails because he feared that anti-Clinton agents in the NY office would have leaked them otherwise. Dwyer noted

On Oct. 25, 2016, three days before Mr. Comey’s stunning announcement, Mr. Giuliani appeared on a Fox morning television show.

“We got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He chortled, and when asked to expand on the subject, replied, “And I think it’ll be enormously effective.”

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Mr. Giuliani appeared on another Fox show and said he was talking about “pretty big surprises.” He added, “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”

The news of the reactivated email inspection arrived the following day and may have helped propel Mr. Trump closer to the presidency.

It probably was the determining factor in the election. Nate Silver, then of FiveThirtyEight, would explain

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020.

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has long been curious about the "investigation," first suggested by then-GOP Senator Jeff Flake, into the allegations against President Trump's nominee for the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. The New York Times has found

In a letter dated June 30 to two Democratic senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, an F.B.I. assistant director, Jill C. Tyson, said that the most “relevant” of the 4,500 tips the agency received during an investigation into Mr. Kavanaugh’s past were referred to White House lawyers in the Trump administration, whose handling of them remains unclear.

The letter left uncertain whether the F.B.I. itself followed up on the most compelling leads. The agency was conducting a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that “the authorities, policies, and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply,” the letter said.

Ms. Tyson’s letter was a response to a 2019 letter from Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Coons to the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, posing questions about how the F.B.I.’s review of Mr. Kavanaugh was handled.



So the Federal Bureau of (non-) Investigation received tips in their (non-) investigation and instead of looking into them, turned them over to the White House, which the FBI knew wanted to whitewash the case. Tyson's letter can only be generously labeled a response to the Whitehouse-Coons letter, given that the agency ignored it during the Trump Administration.  The Justice Department and the White House no longer are under corrupt leadership.

Trump followers have for years bleated about the "deep state."  Maybe the Administration was the party overwhelmingly responsible for the Kavanaugh sham. However, the FBI certainly was a willing partner, running interference for a guy who probably wouldn't have gotten to the White House without its help.

 

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- HRC



Please, someone, give Bob Dole a cookie.


Haberman is impressed by how blunt Dole is when the the self-described "Trumper" stated "He lost the election and I regret they did, but they did." After six months of the Biden presidency, what could possibly have been his first clue?

There is no law that says that Donald Trump- or any losing presidential nominee- must go away. None, that is, unless the loser is Hillary Rodham Clinton (below in November, 2018 but it could have been at any time).







Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Open Carry



The Washington Post reported in late June

After a gunman ambushed and killed a police officer last week in a midday attack in a Denver suburb, most witnesses scattered, ducking behind cars as they ran for safety. But 40-year-old John Hurley moved toward the shooter, pulling out his concealed handgun and firing at the attacker.

After the gunman fell, Hurley picked up the rifle the shooter had been carrying. Moments later, police pulled up to the scene and one of the responding officers shot and killed Hurley with the rifle still in hand.

“The threat to our officers and our community was stopped by a hero named Johnny Hurley,” Arvada Police Chief Link Strate said in a Friday statement, releasing more details of the June 21 shooting that left three people dead. “Johnny’s actions can only be described as decisive, courageous and effective in stopping further loss of life.”

That's debatable, probably motivated to be comforting to the family and friends of the deceased, and promoted by the pro-gun groups which would be sought after by the media in such an incident.



Hurley was a hero- a hero who probably would not have been killed on a summer afternoon in that open carry state if his open possession were prohibited.

Philando Castille possessed a firearm, legally, in June 2017 and therefore was killed in his car by an evidently panicked police officer in suburban Minnesota.  In March of 2020 in Kentucky, Kenneth Walker opened fire with a legally registered firearm on police officers, whom he believed were intruders, serving a no-knock warrant. Returning fire, one of the cops shot and killed Walker's girlfriend, Breonna Taylor.

These three incidents had something in common. It isn't race- and usually isn't- because Taylor and Castille were black and Hurley was white. Hurley, acting unselfishly, was a hero and innocent victim while Taylor and Castille simply were tragic victims.

Here is the dirty little secret, completely ignored by news media, politicians, activists, and pundits: as far as we can tell, if there were no weapon possessed that day by civilians, these three innocent people still would be alive.

Open carry was not an issue in the incident which led to the killing of Breonna Taylor because Taylor and her boyfriend, the latter exonerated of criminal charges, were in Walker's home.  However, Castille was in his automobile and Hurley had transported his weapon, legally carried it out of his car, and was shot dead by a police officer.

Not coincidentally, all three episodes occurred in open carry states. We are often reminded that in most states in this most exceptional country of all time, people of any racial background have the freedom to be accidentally shot dead.



Update: It now appears that Good Samaritan Hurley killed with a concealed handgun Ronald Troyke, who had semi-automatic shotgun in the open. That would validate Terry McAuliffe's concern about assault weapons.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

That Brady Boy



Besides being the winningest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady, ex- (probably "ex") supporter of Donald Trump, knows how to deliver a great comedic line:


However, NBC News reported in January of 2019

Ace Davis, a fifth-grader at Millcreek Elementary School in Lexington, engineered a winning science fair project by answering the question that fans of 31 NFL teams already know the answer to: "Is Tom Brady a cheater?"

Davis and his family inflated footballs at various levels of pressure per square inch (PSI) and found that they threw them with greater accuracy at lower measures....

“The Patriots were found guilty of doctoring football [sic], thus losing $1,000,000 and future draft picks. Tom Brady is indeed a cheater,” Davis scrawled at the end of his three-panel science fair project, complete with graphs and charts.

Brady, the five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the New England Patriots, was suspended for four games in the 2016 season after the league concluded he and team employees had arranged to use footballs at PSI levels below the NFL rules.

The accusations came after the Patriots' 45-7 victory in the AFC title game over Indianapolis in January 2015, when Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Brady pass and noticed the ball seemed underinflated.

That led to an NFL probe that uncovered two Patriots employees regularly discussing how Brady likes footballs to be underinflated so he can get a better grip and throw them more accurately.

Brady was nevertheless permitted to play in the Super Bowl, won by his New England Patriots. The "greatest of all time" quarterback was suspended for the first four games of the following season, three of them somehow won by the Patriots.

NBC added "the "Deflategate" scandal hasn't done much to sidetrack Brady's career."

Truer words may never have been spoken. Since then, Brady's teams, the Patriots and now the Buccaneers, have won two more Super Bowls, the latter one in part because, as we learned (then forgot) in June of 2020

Ignoring the recently issued advice of the NFL Players Association that its members discontinue private workouts because of “the increase in Covid-19 cases in certain states” — of which Florida is one — Brady and other members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seen practicing together Tuesday morning.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a completely virtual offseason for NFL teams, which have had to conduct training sessions remotely. The Buccaneers began allowing their coaches to return to the team’s facility last week, but players are still ordered to stay away unless they are receiving medical treatment.

After ending his decorated, 20-year career with the New England Patriots in March, Brady signed as a free agent with the Bucs, replacing the turnover-prone Jameis Winston. As soon as Florida began lifting stay-at-home orders in May, he started organizing informal practices, at least some of which have been held at Tampa-area high school fields.

That was the case Tuesday, as the soon-to-be-43-year-old quarterback and other Tampa Bay players were spotted at Berkeley Preparatory School, which is about a 20-minute drive away from where Brady is renting a home from Derek Jeter.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Brady’s favorite pass-catcher while with the Patriots, new Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowksi, was also on hand, as was Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin and several other players who have been regulars at the practices. In fact, the newspaper reported, attendance Tuesday appeared to be swelled by the participation of some Tampa Bay defensive backs.

When asked for comment, an NFL spokesman pointed The Washington Post to a statement the league made in May: “Everyone associated with the NFL should follow the recommendations and guidelines of state and local authorities and medical experts, including the NFLPA.”

On Saturday, the NFLPA posted a message from its medical director, Thom Mayer, who said, “Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts. Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.

“We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that this is in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.”

This is the National Football League, consciously moving ever closer to full parity among all teams, in which any little advantage is likely to be decisive. Never stupid, Brady took advantage of the novel coronavirus in the most effective way possible and reaped the rewards.

The late, great Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher is credited with popularizing the expression "nice guys finish last." If that's valid, probably the ones without integrity finish first, and Tom Brady, winner of seven Super Bowls, demonstrates the wisdom of the phrase better than anyone.




Monday, July 19, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Vaccination




Well, tweet of yesterday, anyway.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported

Overall, Arkansas ranks near the bottom of states in the share of population that is vaccinated. Only 44 percent of residents have received at least one shot.

“Boy, we’ve tried just about everything we can think of,” a retired National Guard colonel, Robert Ator, who runs the state’s vaccination effort, said in an interview. For about one in three residents, he said, “I don’t think there’s a thing in the world we could do to get them to get vaccinated.”

For that, the state is paying a price. Hospitalizations have quadrupled since mid-May. More than a third of patients are in intensive care. Deaths, a lagging indicator, are also expected to rise, health officials said....

Even health care workers have balked. Statewide, only about 40 percent are vaccinated, Dr. Romero said.

In April, the state legislature added yet another roadblock, making it essentially illegal for any state or local entity, including public hospitals, to require coronavirus vaccination as a condition of education or employment until two years after the Food and Drug Administration fully licenses a shot. That almost certainly means no such requirements can be issued until late in 2023.

It's extraordinary when health care workers are not vaccinated, especially in what we hear constantly is an "exceptional" country.

As tweeter "Jill" argues, failure to be vaccinated cannot be used as a rationale for not treating an individual as long as hospitals permit their employees to work without vaccination. Of course, even if they impose a mandate, denying treatment to a patient raises very obvious and serious ethical issues.

Admittedly, many hospitals may be in a situation in which the demand for health care workers outstrips supply of qualified workers, thus preventing the institutions from mandating vaccines.(although not everywhere).



Maybe. But there is one industry which has no excuse: health insurance.

This gang of thieves remains in private hands. As private entities, they're permitted to exercise considerable discretion, usually to the detriment of the consumer, which discretion is restricted only by specific anti-discrimination laws pertaining to protected classes.

So most health insurance companies in most markets discriminate- as, for example, against smokers. Similarly, they could charge non-vaccinated individuals more than they charge the vaccinated. As a plus, it would be easier to confirm vaccination status than tobacco usage because everyone receives proof of vaccination upon getting the shot(s).  All that would be necessary is for a vaccinated consumer to present her company a copy or a screenshot of vaccination confirmation.

"We're all in this together" goes the popular coronavirus advertising slogan of 2020. It's less common now, perhaps because it is clearer that it is an inaccurate portrayal of the sentiment of Republican politicians and the men and women who love them. It's understandable, though possibly unfortunate, that hospitals are not requiring employees to be vaccinated and denial of treatment to patients who are not vaccinated would be extremely controversial. But health insurance companies have no such excuse, and their irresponsibility here is one more symptom of an industry which is too important to leave (primarily) to the private sector.

 


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- IRS Enforcement


The Administration hopes the $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service in the Democrats' bill would raise $700 billion over the next decades because it is intended 

to toughen IRS enforcement efforts as part of its "American Families Plan" proposal earlier this spring, as well as specific policy changes such as hiring agents to tackle complex returns, forcing firms to disclose more information and overhauling outdated technology. 

But the ghost of Johnny Paycheck hangs over the body politic. If the bill passes, it will be with very few if any GOP votes. Republicans would try to hang Democrats with the charge that the latter have imposed a massive middle class tax increase.

When Republicans cut IRS allocations during the Obama Administration, the agency responded as expected, going after the middle and working classes because their returns were low-hanging fruit. If the Internal Revenue Service gets more money from legislation supported exclusively (or almost so) by Democrats, the latter can't attack Republicans for merely protecting the rich (or even more impotently, for refusing to pay for spending).

They would have to name names. Attack the GOP for being the servile statements of this industry and that, this company and that. It would strike corporations which contribute to both parties as mean, and Democrats might recoil from their responsibility to call Republicans out. But unless they can convince voters that the GOP is representing their donors, those voters will believe Democrats are coming after them.



Not As A Bat Or Otherwise


Linking to a great video, the tweeter asks a legitimate question, one which in slightly different terms many people have asked:

 

In the last few weeks of Donald Trump's presidency

As Trump ceaselessly pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential election, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, grew more and more nervous, telling aides he feared that the president and his acolytes might attempt to use the military to stay in office, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report in “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.”

Milley described “a stomach-churning” feeling as he listened to Trump’s untrue complaints of election fraud, drawing a comparison to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship.

“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the FΓΌhrer.”

A spokesman for Milley declined to comment.

Portions of the book related to Milley — first reported Wednesday night by CNN ahead of the book’s July 20 release — offer a remarkable window into the thinking of America’s highest-ranking military officer, who saw himself as one of the last empowered defenders of democracy during some of the darkest days in the country’s recent history.

General Milley believed Trump might instigate a military coup to stay in office. 

Yet, though Donald Trump was impeached twice, he was acquitted twice. Several GOP members of the Senate and most GOP members of the House voted against certification of the electoral tally ratifying Trump's defeat for re-election. Nearly every Republican member of the House and Senate voted against establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the attempted overthrow of the USA government, which was inspired and possibly instigated by President Trump  Seventy percent of the ballots in an anonymous straw poll at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference were cast for the former President..

Trump made more than $1.6 billion in outside income and revenue while in office. In the first five-and-a-half months since he left office, he billed the Secret Service more than $50,000 for lodging at Mar-a-Lago and Trump Bedminster (NJ).

He swindled the nation's taxpayers royally while he was President. He has not been indicted for anything (yet, anyway) and more than a third of those taxpayers want him to be President again, where he could again leverage his office, power, and influence to fleece those taxpayers. And there he'd be free from the hangman's noose because of the ludicrous legal opinion(s) that a sitting President cannot be charged with a criminal offense.

The ex-President remains far and away the most popular politician among rank-and-file Republicans and GOP members of Congress bow to his every whim. Moreover, in the unlikely circumstance in which he'd be elected President again, Trump would put into effect that "Fuhrer gospel" far more than he did in the previous four years.

The rhetoric and actions of Donald Trump are so far removed from human decency that some individuals in the left or the center cannot imagine that he could not be at least slightly deranged. But he understands learned behavior and knows what he can and cannot get away with to satisfy his every desire. That is not a mentally unwell man. That is an evil man.

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Would Be Game Over


"Have you no sense of decency, sir?" Rebecca Onion has written

During the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in June 1954 Army counsel Joseph Welch famously asked that question of Sen. Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy brought up the details of a young lawyer’s past membership in a left-wing professional association accused of communism. We tend to recall the query as a narrative coup de grΓ’ce coming out of nowhere. But the “no sense of decency” line worked because most of McCarthy’s party, at that point, was finally done with him. The Army-McCarthy hearings were a product of President Eisenhower’s decision to try to curb McCarthy’s power. Bringing McCarthy down required the leveraging of moderate Republican distaste for McCarthy’s personality and methods, the novelty of the televised hearings, and a little bit of sexual panic.... 

The end of McCarthy, which we remember as so satisfyingly final, did not actually mean the end of McCarthyism. Anti-Communist crusading began before McCarthy took it up, and it persisted in various forms, perpetrated by politicians of both parties, long after he was censured in December 1954 and died in 1957. And if you look at some of McCarthy’s other populist political tools—his twisting of the truth, his hatred for “elitist” intellectualism, his insider-outsider “true American” rhetoric—it becomes clear that we’ve still got plenty of McCarthyism with us today.

Onion wrote those words, and that passage, in Slate in July, 2018. Almost exactly three years ago to the day, it is clearer still that we still have plenty of McCarthyism with us, after the Joe McCarthy+ of today has been beaten, thrown out of office, exposed as a full-time criminal grifter, and still controls his Party.

So when Joe Biden gave his voting rights speech yesterday at perhaps the safest spot in nearly the most Democratic city in the USA, National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he knocked the Republican Party by name a few times. However, he was unable or unwilling to name names, ostentatiously avoiding the words "Donald Trump" or "President Trump" or "Trump."

He did, however, promise “We’ll be asking my Republican friends in Congress, in the states and cities and counties, to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote. Have you no shame?”

"No, in fact, they don’t. And he knows it," writes Charlie Pierce, who is right about the first and, evidence suggests, wrong about the second.  After all these years, Democrats still don't completely understand that Republicans, hard at work in states across the USA denying the right to vote and undermining democracy, do not work in the context of shame or guilt.  It's not in their DNA, figuratively. Asking them for shame is akin to asking Calvinist Protestants about the Assumption of Mary or Roman Catholics about Limited atonement. It doesn't compute.

Seemingly unaware, Joe Biden asserts he will "be asking my Republican friends in Congress" and across the country to stand up for "the sacred right to vote."  He demands they do it "for God's sake," which comes across to those "friends" only as a pitiful plea from a faux tough guy. He begs in the name of the Almighty for cooperation from a Party which (like he) recognizes only one god, but in its case a Queens millionaire.

Nor would Joe Biden utter the four-syllable word "filibuster," this a tactic which chokes off legislation which would ensure that sacred right to vote. He meanwhile remains committed to infrastructure reform, calculating that no one can be opposed to infrastructure and that Democrats in competitive states could use a win. However

To President Biden, it's 1991 (or 1954).  If he gets infrastructure legislation, there will be plaudits from the left and the center, traditional and non-traditional media, politicians and pundits alike. But if the Democratic Party fails to reform the filibuster and gain passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the We the People Act, Joe Biden and the country win the battle and lose the war.


 


Trump Lite

At first, it might appear that freshman North Carolina congressman Matthew Cawthorn is merely ignorant. Cawthorn has claimed that Georg...