Thursday Reads

Le Paravent Mauresque, by Henri Matisse, 1921

Good Morning!!

Last night’s debate was only slightly more interesting than the one on Tuesday. Once again, CNN moderators baited marginal candidates into attacking those who actually have a chance to win the nomination. Jake Tapper continued to insist on enforcing ridiculous time limits by repeatedly cutting off candidates mid-sentence instead of just allowing them a couple of extra seconds to finish a thought.

The good news is that so far only 7 candidates have so far qualified for the next debate, according to The New York Times.

The Democratic National Committee has set stricter criteria for the third set of debates, which will be held on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 in Houston. If 10 or fewer candidates qualify, the debate will take place on only one night.

Candidates will need to have 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent support in four polls. They have until Aug. 28 to reach those benchmarks.

Bathers at La Grenouillere, Claude Monet, 1869

These criteria could easily halve the field: The first two sets of debates included 20 of the 24 candidates, but a New York Times analysis of polls and donor numbers shows that only 10 to 12 candidates are likely to make the third round.

Seven candidates have already met both qualification thresholds and are guaranteed a spot on stage. They are:

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

  • Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

  • Senator Kamala Harris of California

  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas

  • Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Three other candidates are very close: The former housing secretary Julián Castro and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang have surpassed 130,000 donations and each have three of the four qualifying polls they need, while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has met the polling threshold and has about 120,000 donors.

I can only hope we’ve seen the last of Tulsi Gabbard, the candidate of Putin and Assad. If only someone had confronted her during the debate, but at least it happened afterward.

The Russian bots were out in force last night in support of this year’s Jill Stein.

I don’t have much more to say about the debate, except that Julian Castro continued to perform very well, and I hope he will get strong consideration for Vice President. From Slate: Julian Castro Made the Best Case for Impeachment Yet.

Beach game and rescue, Pablo Picasso, 1932

On Wednesday night, after Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet articulated the argument that the failure of impeachment in the Senate will only allow Trump to claim he’s been cleared by Congress, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro effectively demolished that case for an audience of millions:

Let me first say that I really do believe that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. All of us have a vision for the future of the country that we’re articulating to the American people. We’re going to continue to do that. We have an election coming up. At the same time, Senator, I think that too many folks in the Senate and in the Congress have been spooked by 1998. I believe that the times are different. And, in fact, I think that folks are making a mistake by not pursuing impeachment. The Mueller report clearly details that he deserves it, and what’s going to happen in the fall of next year, of 2020, if they don’t impeach him, is he’s going to say, “You see. You see. The Democrats didn’t go after me on impeachment. And you know why? Because I didn’t do anything wrong. These folks that always investigate me—they’re always trying to go after me. When it came down to it, they didn’t go after me there because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Conversely, if Mitch McConnell is the one that lets him off the look, we’re going to be able to say, “Well, sure, they impeached him in the House, but his friend Mitch McConnell, Moscow Mitch, let him off the hook.”


In other news, Trump called Putin again Wednesday and, as usual, we only learned about it from Russia. Politico: Russian Embassy: Trump offers Putin help in fighting Siberian wildfires.

Lacy with fan, by Gustav Klimt, 1916

During a phone call between the two leaders, Trump offered American assistance to tame the fires that have engulfed 6.7 million acres of the Siberian woods. The Russian Embassy cited a Kremlin statement that said President Vladimir Putin appreciated the gesture and would take Trump up on the offer if needed. For now, Putin told Trump that Russian military aircraft were deployed to control the situation.

The two leaders agreed to keep in contact about the situation by phone and personal meetings, a Kremlin statement said. The White House confirmed Wednesday that the two leaders had a phone conversation about the wildfires and about trade between the countries. Putin and Trump have maintained a close relationship over the years, much to the consternation of American intelligence during the Trump presidency.

The Russian readout didn’t mention trade, probably because of U.S. sanctions on Russian businesses. I wonder if Trump suggested the Russians use raking debris to prevent future fires? How often do these two talk anyway? And was anyone else from the White House listening to this call? My guess is Trump just called Putin from his bed on his insecure cell phone.

Also yesterday, Trump again interfered in the case against war criminal Edward Gallagher. The Washington Post: Trump orders lawyers’ achievement awards revoked in Navy SEAL murder case.

President Trump on Wednesday ordered the Navy’s top leaders to rescind awards given to military lawyers who prosecuted a war crimes case in which the commander in chief took personal interest.

Rain, Marc Chagall, 1911

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher was acquitted this month of charges he murdered a wounded Islamic State fighter two years ago in Iraq. Trump had intervened on Gallagher’s behalf, having him removed from solitary confinement in March while awaiting trial.

As the military news site Task & Purpose reported Tuesday, members of the prosecution team were quietly presented with Navy Achievement Medals on July 10 for their work on the case. In tweetsWednesday, Trump said the decorations were “ridiculously given.”

“Not only did they lose the case,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion. I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards. I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!”

It’s hilarious that Trump claims to support the military while constantly undermining it.

Regardless of all the screaming and whining on Twitter about Nancy Pelosi supposedly blocking impeachment, House Democrats are already working on making it happen.

Politico: Majority of House Democrats now support impeachment inquiry.

More than half of House Democrats say they would vote to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, a crucial threshold that backers say will require Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconsider her steadfast opposition….

Auvers Town Hall in 14 July 1890, Vincent Van Gogh

“The President’s repeated abuses have brought American democracy to a perilous crossroads,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who announced his support on Tuesday. “Following the guidance of the Constitution – which I have sworn to uphold – is the only way to achieve justice.”

Democrats who support impeachment proceedings eclipsed the halfway mark — 118 out of 235 voting members — on Thursday, when Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida announced his support. Deutch was also the 23rd Democratic lawmaker to support impeachment proceedings in the week since former special counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress, affirming publicly his damning evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

News flash, Nancy Pelosi wants to be rid of Trump and is doing nothing to stop her caucus from supporting it, no matter how hard the media works to make her look bad.

Florida Rep. Ted Deutsch in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: No more debate. Impeachment inquiry is underway.

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony may not have been a summer blockbuster, it confirmed the damning conclusions of his report. The investigation revealed substantial evidence that President Trump obstructed justice. And that the Special Counsel did not exonerate him.

The Farm, Joan Miro, 1921

President Trump claimed victory. He seems to think that Mueller’s performance wasn’t enough to trigger an impeachment inquiry. Sorry, Mr. President, the question is no longer whether the House should vote to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry. The inquiry has already begun.

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole authority of impeachment. Officially launching an impeachment inquiry has never been a prerequisite to using that authority. The Judiciary Committee may refer articles of impeachment to the whole House for a vote at any time.

In the past, a resolution directing the Judiciary Committee to consider impeachment was needed to grant the committee additional subpoena authority and financial resources. That was the official start of an impeachment inquiry.

But times have changed. In 2015, Republican leaders gave committee chairs broad subpoena powers—powers that Chairman Nadler retains today.

No additional step is required. No magic words need to be uttered on the House floor. No vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry is necessary.

Read the rest at the link.

Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg: That Democratic Fight Over Impeachment? It’s a Useful Fiction.

Sometimes, it all comes down to semantics. Reporters have noted a spike in the number of House Democrats supporting an impeachment inquiry. There are now, by one count, 116 of them, just shy of a majority of the party. That’s up quite a bit from a couple weeks ago. But the full story is a little more complicated.

The Lee Shore, Edward Hopper, 1941

It turns out that those who don’t support an impeachment inquiry instead favor continuing the current investigations. And as House lawyers basically admitted last week, that amounts to the same thing. It was once the case that the House Judiciary Committee required special grants of power to move toward impeachment, so beginning an inquiry had serious substantive implications. But that hasn’t been true for a while. Under current House rules and procedures, officially opening an impeachment inquiry is, for the most part, a formality.

So all those lawmakers who say they oppose an inquiry aren’t really preventing anything, and all those who have publicly supported an inquiry aren’t really asking for anything that’s not happening now (aside from perhaps a symbolic vote).

The illusion of a dispute is, however, useful for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A formal vote in the full House might not set any wheels in motion, but it would increase the pressure to make a decision on impeachment one way or the other. Pelosi is quite right to duck that pressure on behalf of her caucus. It’s true that there appears to be plenty to investigate, so it’s both in the party’s interest to keep the inquiry going and the responsible thing to do. But actual articles of impeachment might not have the votes on the House floor, and a failed effort would surely be a victory for President Donald Trump.

Read more at Bloomberg.

This piece by Frank Figluzzi at The New York Times is well worth a read: Why Does Trump Fan the Flames of Race-Based Terrorism?

If I learned anything from 25 years in the F.B.I., including a stint as head of counterintelligence, it was to trust my gut when I see a threat unfolding. Those of us who were part of the post-Sept. 11 intelligence community had a duty to sound the alarm about an impending threat.

The Rose Garden at Wargemont, Pierre August Renoir, 1879

Now, instinct and experience tell me we’re headed for trouble in the form of white hate violence stoked by a racially divisive president. I hope I’m wrong.

Since October, the F.B.I. has made 90 arrests in domestic terrorism cases. Domestic terrorism includes violence by Americans who belong to anti-government militias, white supremacist groups or individuals who ascribe to similar ideologies not connected to Islamic extremism. In fact, the F.B.I. says that of its 850 pending domestic terror investigations, about 40 percent involve racially motivated extremism. In 2017 and 2018, the F.B.I. made more arrests connected to domestic terror than to international terrorism, which includes groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and their lone-wolf recruits.

Last weekend, a young man with a rifle took the lives of three people and injured at least a dozen others at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. Preliminary reports indicated that among the gunman’s social media postings was an exhortation to read the obscure 1890 novel “Might Is Right,” which justifies racism and asserts that people of color are biologically inferior.

Figluzzi describes Trump’s hateful racist tweets over the past couple of weeks and connects them to white nationalist terrorism.

Reporting indicates that Mr. Trump’s rants emboldened white hate groups and reinforced racist blogs, news sites and social media platforms. In response to his tweets, one of the four lawmakers, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, said: “This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms or it’s happening on national TV. And now it’s reached the White House garden.” She’s right.

To be clear, I am not accusing President Trump of inciting violence in Gilroy or anywhere else. But he empowers hateful and potentially violent individuals with his divisive rhetoric and his unwillingness to unequivocally denounce white supremacy. Mr. Trump may be understandably worried about the course of congressional inquiries, but his aggressive and race-baiting responses have been beyond the pale. He has chosen a re-election strategy based on appealing to the kinds of hatred, fear and ignorance that can lead to violence.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice day, despite all the negative news.

18 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Trump is staging another Nazi rally tonight.

    • bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      That’s the only kind of rally he’s ever had.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      I think that was obvious when Biden didn’t run last time. I think Obama was glad to see Hillary run but doesn’t want Biden in there. I saw Biden out on the campaign trail earlier and had to turn it off. He’s a hot mess. An old, out of it, hot mess !!!

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Three guesses on the skin color of whoever did this, and the first two don’t count. I hope Rep. Cummings has very, very good security.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    With a year and a half to go I am already exhausted from these “debates”. Yelling, screaming, attacking one another when the fool in the White House sits back and laughs.

    Why does Joe Biden think he should be president? He is too old. It shows. He is beginning to look as if the toll is too much to handle. And Bernie. Shouting out his responses and waving that finger at us is like someone “speaking” in ALL CAPS. Super annoying.

    Then Gillibrand decides to bring up an op-ed page from 1981 against Biden, Who cares? Is this the best she can do?

    Sorry, but Kamala Harris is coming across as too scripted. As if she has rehearsed whatever her responses are while pausing for dramatic effect. Tulsi has no business on that stage. A favorite of the Russians she opposes the gay community. DeBlasio needs to go home and concentrate on the problems of NYC and its police force.

    I am committed to vote for whoever is the nominee but to be truthful only one or two have my semi-attention. Julien Castro is looking better each time. At least for now. Warren has policies down cold but we can’t keep promising to” give the store away” while doing so.

    Mayor Pete had me up until he started dropping religion into the mix. Still not sure about Booker. Up one day, down the next. All that infighting is not helping.

    As for the rest they need to reconsider. Most are going nowhere. In 2008 and again in 2016 I was enthused with the idea of casting my vote for Hillary Clinton. My enthusiasm has dropped down a few notches when watching this group fight with one another.

    The problem and the issue is Trump. Focus on that. Be authentic. Stop looking for the opening to drop a sound bite you think will garner attention. Stop sniping at one another and shine your glare onto the plague that is Donald Trump.

    Please. It is up to you, the candidates, to get those voters to the polls. Do we really want another repeat of 2016?

    • NW Luna says:

      I’m no Biden, no Bernie, no Buttigieg, no Beto (maybe later, now run for Gov. or Senate instead). The only white man I like is Jay Inslee (of course) but realistically he’s still pretty unknown and not what the base wants this time. I would like to have a woman in the Oval Office.

      Agree with you on how damn early it is to be having debates. It’s an entertainment show for the media. Their format doesn’t help voters get a good idea of the candidates’ achievements or plans, only clickbait quips. Media is also exaggerating the divisions between candidates, again because they think that’s exciting.

      Debates, no matter how they’re structured, are not a good test of a candidate. Hillary wiped the floor with Trump (and Bernie) at all the debates, but the deplorables, the Bernie-or-busters, and the 3rd-party “purists” paid no attention.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I like Kamala Harris, but not one of these candidates can hold a candle to Hillary. It’s so heartbreaking.

        • RonStill4Hills says:

          True. Full stop.

        • NW Luna says:

          I was going to end my comment above with something like this and then felt too sad. No one now is as qualified as Hillary, nor has her brains and her heart.

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        This is not a contradiction, I am just sharing.

        As far as white dudes go, I could see myself supporting Al Gore or Russ Feingold, maybe Al Franken for the top spot. I would trust their leadership.

  6. RonStill4Hills says:

    Super-Star art today. Awesome.