Monday Reads: This and That about #KavaughLies

Image result for historical images US supreme courtIt’s another Monday Sky Dancers!

And, we’re hearing more about the how Brett Kavanaugh was given a lot of special treatment on his short path to a seat on SCOTUS. This is from WAPO and it’s an opinion piece by Jennifer Ruben: “This is the Kavanaugh mess we feared”. The big question is will this make one damned bit of difference?

In September 2018, I warned about the abbreviated FBI investigation into allegations that Brett M. Kavanaugh engaged in sexually aggressive behavior: “If Democrats retake one or both houses in November, they will be able to investigate, subpoena witnesses and conduct their own inquiry. The result will be a cloud over the Supreme Court and possible impeachment hearings … Kavanaugh has not cleared himself but rather undermined faith in the judicial system that presumes that facts matter.”

And sure enough, two New York Times reporters have found multiple witnesses to the allegations from Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself during a dorm party at Yale. One newly discovered witness had information concerning yet another, similar event. That witness, Max Stier, is the chief executive of Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that, among other things, tracks nominations and confirmations. According to the Times report, he brought the information to the Senate Judiciary Committee (Who? Who knew about this?) and to the FBI. (I have relied on him for expertise about the federal government and found him to be scrupulously nonpartisan and honest.) He might have been a compelling witness. The New York Times now reports that the woman involved in the incident Stier witnessed does not remember it.

The initial NYT times story has triggered a flurry of calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. The article from VOX is from Tara Golshan and sums up the areas where he’s had truthfulness issues..

Democrats called for an investigation into Kavanaugh’s “truthfulness” during the confirmation process, but got nowhere.As new information — and another allegation — comes out, there have been renewed calls to reopen investigations into the Supreme Court justice.

Kavanaugh’s truthfulness has repeatedly come into question

Even before Saturday’s report, there were a lot of discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s story — especially when it came to Ramirez’s allegation.

During the confirmation process, an NBC report detailed communication between Kavanaugh, his team, and college friends to rebut Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale, before she had come forward with allegations in an article in the New Yorker.

NBC’s reporting was in direct contradiction to Kavanaugh’s testimony, in which he angrily denied the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him and said he learned of Ramirez’s claim through the original New Yorker story:

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): When did you first hear of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations against you?

KAVANAUGH: … In the New Yorker.

HATCH: Did the ranking member [Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)] or any of her colleagues or any of their staffs ask you about Ms. Ramirez’s allegations before they were leaked to the press?

KAVANAUGH: No.

However, two friends of Kavanaugh’s — Kerry Berchem and Karen Yarasavage — were in contact with the Supreme Court nominee and his team, according to text messages obtained by NBC:

In a series of texts before the publication of the New Yorker story, Yarasavage wrote that she had been in contact with “Brett’s guy,” and also with “Brett,” who wanted her to go on the record to refute Ramirez. According to Berchem, Yarasavage also told her friend that she turned over a copy of the wedding party photo to Kavanaugh, writing in a text: “I had to send it to Brett’s team too.”

In an interview with Republican congressional staff two days after Ramirez went public, Kavanaugh said he had “heard about” Ramirez calling college friends about the alleged incident. It’s not clear if he had heard about that after the allegations went public.

These text messages detailing Kavanaugh’s knowledge of Ramirez’s allegations aren’t the first time his truthfulness has come into question. Here are five other instances where discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s testimonies have been raised.

1) Kavanaugh’s drinking: The Supreme Court nominee has been adamant that while he enjoys beer and perhaps at time drank “too many,” it was never to the point of passing out, blacking out, or even causing slight lapses in memory.

His characterization of drinking has been denied by multiple friends and past roommates, as Vox’s Emily Stewart explained. He grew “belligerent and aggressive” as a drunk, according to Chad Ludington, one of Kavanaugh’s former classmates.

Liz Swisher, another former Yale classmate, recounted to CNN of Kavanaugh’s drinking: “There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it.”

Image result for historical images US supreme court

First photograph of the U.S. Supreme Court, by Mathew Brady, 1869 (courtesy of National Archives).

From the LA TImes: “New reporting details how FBI limited investigation of Kavanaugh allegations.”

The other allegation, previously unreported, came from Washington lawyer Max Stier, who told Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) that he witnessed Kavanaugh exposing himself to a different female classmate during their freshman year.

Both Kavanaugh and the woman were heavily intoxicated at the time, according to Stier’s account, as described by people familiar with the contacts between him and Coons and others who have spoken with Stier since Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The woman in that case, a friend of Ramirez, has denied that she was assaulted, telling friends she has no memory of such an incident. According to Stier’s account, the woman was so inebriated at the time that she could easily have no memory of it.

Coons sent Wray a letter on Oct. 2 — four days before the Senate voted on Kavanaugh — naming Stier as an “individual whom I would like to specifically refer to you for appropriate follow up.”

The FBI never contacted Stier. The bureau also did not interview other classmates who said they had heard at the time of either the incident Stier reported or the one involving Ramirez.

Stier has declined to comment publicly on the allegation. He wanted his account to remain confidential, both for the sake of the woman, a widow with three children, and for his own professional considerations.

Stier founded a nonpartisan, nonprofit group to promote public service roughly two decades ago. Before that, he was a lawyer at Washington’s Williams & Connolly firm, where he worked with the team that defended then-President Clinton. Several Republican commentators on Sunday zeroed in on that part of his resume to discredit his account as partisan.

During the hearings, Kavanaugh stated under oath that he was never so drunk that he would pass out or forget what he’d done while intoxicated. A number of former classmates who knew him said they were sufficiently upset by that statement, which they considered untruthful, that they contacted the FBI. None received responses from the bureau.

Image result for historical images US supreme court

Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, with her husband, John O’Connor, 9/25/1981. (National Archives Identifier 1696015)

So, the usual suspects have lined up to either defend the feckless Kavanaugh.but it appears the calls for impeachment may not go any where at all.  From Politico and Kyle Cheney “Judiciary chairman throws cold water on Kavanaugh impeachment. Jerry Nadler says the committee is too busy ‘impeaching the president’ to consider investigating the Supreme Court justice.”

The House Judiciary Committee is too tied up with “impeaching the president” to take immediate action on a potential investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Monday.

“We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now and that’s going to take up our limited resources and time for a while,” Nadler said on WNYC when pressed by host Brian Lehrer.

The House Judiciary Committee is too tied up with “impeaching the president” to take immediate action on a potential investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Monday.

“We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now and that’s going to take up our limited resources and time for a while,” Nadler said on WNYC when pressed by host Brian Lehrer.

Image result for historical images US supreme courtThere just appears to be no depth of depravity to which all of Trump’s appointments can find themselves. And the worst thing?  They don’t ever seem to be held to account in a manner consistence with justice.

Trump and every one that surrounds him engage and scandalous, illegal behaviors and the system props them up.  The Republicans in their search for white male hegemony that only recognizes women and minorities that are enablers must be dealt with at the ballot box and in the committees of the House of Representatives.

Are we woke enough to get this done?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Post-Debate Speculation

Edvard Meownch

Good Afternoon!!

The mainstream (AKA white male) media has decided for us that only the oldest (white) Democratic candidates are acceptable to them. It also appears they have mostly rejected Bernie Sanders and embraced Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. I’d like to offer some rare counterarguments, even though it might be a futile exercise.

Henry Olsen at The Washington Post: The three big winners of the Houston debate.

Thursday’s Democratic debate lacked the sparks and conflicts that characterized the first two outings. It nonetheless produced three clear winners: former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Obviously, I disagree with Olsen about Biden but, after all, he is a white man. He does note that Biden “weakened” over the course of the three hours and gave “convoluted” answers to foreign policy questions. He doesn’t mention Biden’s racist response to a question about overcoming the long-term effects of slavery. On Harris and Klobuchar:

By Tetsuo Takahara

Harris was charismatic. Alternately funny and serious, warm and strong, she came across as a real person with real experience and a passion for change. Her answers lacked some of the policy detail of her competitors, but she more than made up for that with her wit and some planned one-liners. Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro spoke about how Democratic presidential winners excited millions of voters to put together their victorious coalitions. His low-energy performance did not show he was the person to do that, but Harris’s suggested she could.

Whether she can turn a winning persona into a winning campaign remains to be seen. Democrats looking for passionate progressivism have found their champions, and Harris wisely is not trying to out-shout Sanders or Warren. Democrats looking for a steady, more centrist hand also have their person, and Biden thus far hasn’t given them reason to change. But the race is still young, and we know from experience that candidates drop rapidly in the face of attacks and under the pressure of the moment. If Harris can keep this up, she is positioned to pick up former supporters of any of the top three if they falter.

Klobuchar was the surprise of the night, finally showing some energy and life. Her opening statement carefully presented her case as the Midwestern working mom who can unite the country while advancing liberal policy goals. Cleverly blasting Sanders’s signature Medicare-for-all proposal by saying, “While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” was a masterstroke. Her closing statement was superb as she argued that only someone from the middle of the country could speak to the middle of the political spectrum.

By Anatoly Merkushov

She won’t gain much in the polls from her performance, but it nonetheless demonstrates how she could break out of the pack. Her standing in Iowa polls is slightly higher than her national standing, and her debate strategy was laser-targeted on the Iowa voter who isn’t a staunch progressive.

Christopher Frizzelle at The Stranger: Kamala Harris Landed One Solid Blow After Another Against Trump.

Kamala Harris may not be my number-one choice for nominee, but hot damn she can land a punch. At a previous debate, she took her prosecutorial skills straight to Joe Biden. Last night, she changed tack and went for Trump, over and over again. In doing so, she demonstrated what kind of adversary she would be in general-election debates against Trump, and probably did herself some favors by making it easier to picture her as the nominee. (Not that “winning” debates against Trump in a general election would necessarily mean beating him: Hillary Clinton’s debate performances were flawless).

See videos of Harris’ attacks on Trump at the link. Here’s her opening statement:

 

On the Biden front, I posted this piece by Jamil Smith in a comment yesterday, but it’s so important that I’m posting again here:

As you can see from these few articles in which I found praise of Harris, she probably will never be accepted as a legitimate candidate by the media or the “Justice Democrats,” who favor Sanders and Warren. But it’s possible she could attract the black vote if Biden drops out. And we need the black vote.

Rolling Stone: Why It’s Time for Joe to Go.

Donald Trump is not merely a bully, but a racist one. Bigotry has been the marrow of his presidency, so whoever hopes to face him next year will need to at least be fluent in the language of antiracism, if not be practicing it. It is not enough, as author Ibram X. Kendi writes in his new book How to Be an Antiracist, to simply claim that you are “not a racist.” Democrats, particularly white liberals, have skated on that for generations. There is too much institutional cruelty for the next president to undo should a Democrat defeat Trump next fall….

By Robert Romanowicz

Thankfully, ABC seemed to understand this. They had excellent moderators, including Univision’s Jorge Ramos and ABC correspondent Linsey Davis, the panel’s only African American. She asked several questions of the entire field that provoked the kind of frank and open discussion of black concerns and political interests that is rare for a presidential debate. It was fitting, given the setting on the historically black campus of Texas Southern University, but also because Davis said that young black voters consider racism their chief concern….

Davis…directed a question at Biden concerning his alarming 1975 comments on school segregation. She read the full quote, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago,” and Biden smirked oddly as she did so. The correspondent followed up by asking, “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” Without missing a beat, the Democratic front-runner delivered a response that was considerably more disqualifying than anything Castro said all night.

Having just had something offensive that he said 44 years ago quoted back to him, Biden took the opportunity to say something that was arguably worse.

Night City by Marija Jevtic

After proposing that teacher raises are the first step to undoing the legacy of slavery, Biden said the following. It’s worth reading in full.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

That’s the current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination a) first appearing to treat the mere mention of an old segregationist quote of his as ridiculous, then b) responding to a question about repairing the legacy of slavery by saying that the government needs to have teachers go into the homes of kids in poor schools to teach the parents how to raise those children. And what color are the children, disproportionately, going to those poor schools? Nowhere in that answer is a prescription for making the poor families less so, nor for improving the schools. It’s the kind of paternalistic racism that has so long existed in both liberal and conservative circles, and was on Thursday night spilling out of the mouth of the former vice president on the campus of an HBCU. It was all quite a sight to behold.

Theophile Steinlen lithograph, 1909

Jamil Smith is right. We need an anti-racist candidate if we are going to defeat Trump. Biden can’t pass that test, and so far Warren hasn’t done it either. I guess we’ll find out if she has it in her as time goes on, but so far what we have is her claim of Native Americans blood that offended actual Native Americans and the fact that Trump will repeatedly call her “Pocahantas” in the general election campaign if she’s the nominee.

Jonathan Chait has an interesting argument about what may be happening in the Democratic primary race: What If the Only Democrat Who Isn’t Too Radical to Win Is Too Old?

Here is a science-fiction scenario: Imagine a strange new virus that incapacitates everybody below the age of 75. The virus wipes out the entire political leadership, except one old man, who has survived on account of his age, but may also be too old to handle the awesome task before him.

Now suppose — and I am not certain this is the case, but just suppose — that this is happening to the Democratic presidential campaign. The virus is Twitter, and the old man is (duh) Joe Biden.

Apparently Chait doesn’t see Sanders as a Democrat, and I agree with him. Chait argues that after 2016, liberal Democrats bought into the notion that, based on Bernie Sanders’ performance in the primaries, voters were ready to embrace the most progressive ideas and policies and that Trump’s election proved that “a nominee with extreme positions could still win.”

Dan Casado 2012

Neither of these conclusions was actually correct. The Bernie Sanders vote encompassed voters who opposed Hillary Clinton for a wide array of reasons — including that she was too liberal — and were overall slightly to the right of Clinton voters. And political-science findings that general election voters tend to punish more ideologically extreme candidates remain very much intact. (Trump benefited greatly by distancing himself rhetorically from his party’s unpopular small-government positions, and voters saw him as more moderate than previous Republican nominees, even though he predictably reverted to partisan form once in office.)

And yet, this analysis seemed to race unchallenged through the Democratic Party from about 2016 — it seemed to influence Clinton, who declined the traditional lurch toward the center after vanquishing Sanders — through this year.

Of course after Trump won, the media and many Democrats bought into the idea that they needed to work harder to win over white working class voters, but Chait doesn’t mention that.

Nowhere was the gap between perception and reality more dramatic than on health care. In the run-up to the primary, most of the field signed on to Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan. Sanders had not managed to work out solutions to the obstacles that have bedeviled single-payer health-care supporters for decades: How to assure Americans who currently have employer-sponsored insurance to accept higher taxes and that they’ll be happier on a public plan.

Engraving, 19th century, by George White, Vermont.

Kamala Harris has had second thoughts, and has twisted herself into a pretzel trying to wriggle away from the proposal. Cory Booker has largely avoided discussing it. Elizabeth Warren was signaling last year that she would support more moderate reforms, but has instead handcuffed herself to the Sanders plan.

The vulnerabilities of this position have been on bright display in every Democratic debate. Neither Warren nor Sanders could supply a coherent response to the question of whether middle-class voters would pay higher taxes or whether they would like being moved off their employer plan. “I’ve never met anybody who likes their health-insurance company,” Warren insisted, eliding the clear reality that most people who have employer-sponsored insurance do like it. When asked about higher taxes, they dodged by changing the question to total costs. And while it’s probably true that they could design a plan where higher wages — by taking insurance off the company books — would cancel out the high taxes, neither inspired confidence that they could persuade skeptical voters they’d come out ahead in the deal.

The odd thing about this race to the left is that there’s little evidence it appeals to the primary electorate, let alone the general election version. Democrats strongly support universal coverage, but have lukewarm feelings on the mechanism to attain this. They prefer reforms that involve a combination of public and private options over the Bernie movement’s manic obsession with crushing private health insurance.

This applies as well to the party’s general ideological orientation. More Democratic voters express concern the party will nominate a candidate who’s too liberal (49 percent) than one who’s not liberal enough (41 percent). By a similar 54–41 margin, more Democrats want their party to move toward the center than toward the left.

It’s an interesting article and there’s more at the link. I don’t agree with Chait on everything, but I do think Democrats need to think carefully about whether focusing on unrealistic policies that will never get through Congress instead of on the dangers of a Trump second term is a winning strategy.

This post is too long, but I want to call attention to one more important article by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: What Happens if Trump Won’t Step Down? National security expert Josh Geltzer on why we should be prepared for the worst.

Min Zhen, The Black Cat, 18th century, Princeton University Art Museum

In February, Georgetown Law professor Josh Geltzer began to ponder aloud what would happen if President Donald Trump refused to leave office were he to be defeated in 2020. It sounded far-fetched, but Geltzer isn’t a conspiracy theorist. Actually, he served as senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and, prior to that, as deputy legal adviser to the NSC and counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security. When he wrote his essay suggesting that perhaps it was time to start preparing for if Trump, who has repeatedly shown a willingness to overstep his constitutional authority, simply refused to leave the Oval Office, he was met with silence. When Michael Cohen warned in his March testimony before Congress, “given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” he too was met with awkward silence. But the anxieties gradually began to grow. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fretted about this possibility in a May interview in the New York Times. When Politico probed the question this summer, it noted: “Constitutional experts and top Republican lawmakers dismiss the fears as nonsense, noting there are too many forces working against a sitting president simply clinging to power—including history, law and political pressure.” But commentators now seem less confident in those forces.

On Thursday, Edward Luce at the Financial Times noted how often Trump jokes about having a third term, observing that, because of Trump’s belief that he could face prosecution after he leaves office, “no other US president has faced the prospect of being re-elected or going to jail.” He added that for Trump, losing the 2020 election is an existential threat, and he has openly invited foreign interference, while Mitch McConnell refuses to even consider legislation to secure the vote. And even if Trump is truly joking when he tweets that he deserves to be credited two extra years in his existing term, years he believes were lost to the Mueller probe, or riffs on staying on the job long after he’d been term-limited out, the tweets send a dangerous message to his loyalists.

Please go read the whole thing.

So . . . what stories are you following? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a peaceful, relaxing weekend.


Thursday Reads: Good, Bad, and Very Ugly

Good Afternoon!!

Some things that made me smile yesterday:

HuffPost: Hillary Clinton Spent An Hour Reading Her Emails At A Mock Resolute Desk For Art.
Hillary Clinton paid a visit to an art exhibition in Venice, Italy, that involved her sitting at a mock Resolute Desk and reading copies of her now-infamous emails.

Images cropped up online Wednesday showing the 2016 Democratic nominee for president in Despar Teatro Italia, which is currently hosting a solo exhibition by the artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith called “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails.”

Goldsmith told HuffPost via email that Clinton’s visit “was a surprise,” while curator Francesco Urbano Ragazzi said organizers thought the possibility of her visiting was a joke.

“Someone close to Mrs. Clinton contacted us very informally a few days before her visit. We realized that it wasn’t a joke only when we saw the security service inside the exhibition space at 9 am on Tuesday,” they told HuffPost via email….

Goldsmith’s exhibition makes public “for the first time in printed format” some 60,000 pages of Clinton’s emails, which, per WikiLeaks, “were sent from the domain clintonemail.com between 2009 and 2013,” according to the description from exhibit co-organizer Zuecca Projects….

“Everybody was very excited [during Clinton’s visit],” Urbano Ragazzi said. “I think the scene was so extraordinary that many customers believed that she was just a lookalike at first.” [….]

The artist shared on Twitter that Clinton read her emails for an hour and, per a translation from an Italian news outlet, said: “This exhibition is further proof that nothing wrong or controversial can be found on these emails. It makes them accessible to everyone and allows everyone to read them.”

He also recalled Clinton saying, as an aside, to Urbano Ragazzi: “They are just so boring.”

If only so many in the media hadn’t been determined to destroy her, we could have had a competent president with a sense of humor.

Thanks to Dakinikat for alerting me to this important message from NBC’s Katy Tur, who returned from maternity leave yesterday. On her show yesterday, she passionately for paid maternity leave for working mothers and fathers.

Democratic debate tonight

The third Democratic Debate airs tonight from 8-11PM on ABC and Univision. CNN:

The third Democratic presidential debate takes place tonight in Houston, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sharing the debate stage for the first time this cycle, having previously avoided a direct confrontation as a result of the random draw process.

Democratic voters will see the current top three candidates — Biden, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — share the stage together, setting up the ideological battle in the nominating race between the more moderate and progressive wings of the party.

For most of the other seven candidates sharing the stage, who have either failed to break into the top tier or have seen their positions stall in the Democratic race, the debate will be another chance to inject their candidacies with much-needed momentum heading into the fall sprint ahead of the first contests early next year.</

The media have decreed that our choices are between two ancient white men and a 70-year-old woman who agrees with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on Trade and on supporting primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.

The full list of candidates who qualified for tonight’s debate:

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Businessman Andrew Yang

Impeachment news:

NBC News: Impeachment inquiry ramps up as Judiciary panel adopts procedural guidelines.

The House Judiciary Committee took a big step Thursday morning in its ongoing investigation into whether to recommend the filing of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, passing a resolution that set procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings.

The resolution passed along party lines, 24-17.

“But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so.”

Earlier this week, Nadler told NBC News that the purpose of the resolution was to put into effect “certain procedures to make that investigation more effective,” a necessary move given that “the inquiry is getting more serious.”

Under the resolution, which does not need to be approved by the full House, Nadler can designate hearings run by the full committee and its subcommittees as part of the impeachment investigation. The committee’s lawyers are also able to question witnesses for an additional hour beyond the five minutes that are allotted to each member of Congress on the panel.

“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement Thursday.

Read more at the link.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein critiques the Democrats’ impeachment efforts: Why Are Democrats in Disarray Over Impeachment?

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are planning a step Thursday to make their de facto impeachment inquiry into something more formal. They’re doing it, however, in what Greg Sargent describes as a “muddle.” He has it right: This isn’t a messaging failure as much as it is a substantive one.

The basic problem is that House Democrats can’t seem to agree on where their impeachment effort stands. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says that “formal impeachment proceedings” are underway. Others, including in the House leadership, have expressed much more ambiguous views of what’s happening.

A few things are contributing to this muddle. One is a push from many party actors who basically judge everything short of impeaching President Donald Trump as a total flop – a position that I still think doesn’t make much sense. Another is that some House Democrats in tough districts are overly cautious about taking on the president. But perhaps the biggest factor is that the Democrats have had a majority in the House for more than nine months now and have at best managed to produce a handful of memorable moments in oversight hearings on Trump’s many scandals and general lawlessness. At best. Maybe.

Some impeachment-or-nothing advocates suspect that this is all part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s secret scheme to avoid impeachment altogether – that she fears effective oversight hearings because they’d inevitably lead to more calls for ousting the president. But a better explanation is simple incompetence. Successful hearings would in fact help resolve Pelosi’s difficult choices. There’s an outside possibility that they could shift some Republicans toward supporting impeachment. But even if they didn’t, the House leadership could explain that continued hearings would actually be more effective than a symbolic impeachment vote. That’s an argument that won’t convince anyone right now because no one thinks the hearings to date have had any effect.

Of course Trump has effectively been stonewalling Democrats’ efforts to obtain evidence and witness testimony.

To be fair: Trump’s stonewalling of legitimate House oversight is unprecedented, and a legitimate reason for impeachment and removal from office. The House has never had to deal with anything this extreme, and is fighting back in court. But there’s simply no excuse for their failure to dramatize Trump’s misconduct in ways that would really catch the attention of voters.

There’s still the problem I’ve discussed before, and that Sargent addresses in his item, that an impeachment inquiry really does imply an eventual next step of either clearing the president or moving to a vote, and Democrats probably don’t want to do either right now. But muddling through sometimes works out in the long run even if it looks like a mess to careful observers. Remember that hardly any voters are paying attention to anything Congress does, including impeachment investigations or inquiries or whatever they want to call it.

Whether there’s a train wreck ahead for Democrats or not, figuring out how to hold effective hearings would help in the meantime. Eventually, it’s really going to take some better results from Nadler and the rest of his party.

Read the rest at Bloomberg Opinion..

Now for the bad (AKA Trump) news, links only

The New York Times: Supreme Court Says Trump Can Bar Asylum Seekers While Legal Fight Continues.

Mother Jones: The Supreme Court Just Made It Virtually Impossible for Anyone to Seek Asylum at the Border.

The New York Times: Trump Pressed Top Aide to Have Weather Service ‘Clarify’ Forecast That Contradicted Trump.

Newsweek: ICE Is Building a ‘State-of-the-Art’ ‘Urban Warfare’ Training Facility that Will Include ‘Hyper-Realistic’ Simulations of Homes in Chicago and Arizona.

The New York Times: Trump Administration to Finalize Rollback of Clean Water Protections.

The Washington Post: ‘You’re a prop in the back’: Advisers struggle to obey Trump’s Kafkaesque rules.

The Daily Beast: Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources Say.

The Washington Post: ‘I don’t blame Kim Jong Un’: In dismissing Bolton, Trump sides with North Korean leader — again.

Trump wants to open concentration camps for homeless people:

The Washington Post: Trump officials tour unused FAA facility in California in search for place to relocate homeless people.

The New York Times: Trump Eyes Crackdown on Homelessness as Aides Visit California.

KRON4: San Francisco mayor, advocates address Trump Admin’s crackdown on homelessness.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Dotard Dictator’s Open Corruption

Henri-Matisse, Chinese Vase on the Table with Cat Underneath

Good Afternoon!!

It’s the end of another week in which the Dotard Dictator’s insanity and massive corruption have dominated the news. And once again more unbelievable stories broke on Friday.

After spending days ranting about Alabama being in the path of Hurricane Dorian because he said so, Trump forced administrators at NOAA to issue an unsigned statement claiming he was right all along.

The Washington Post: NOAA backs Trump on Alabama hurricane forecast, rebukes Weather Service for accurately contradicting him.

The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has sided with President Trump over its own scientists in the ongoing controversy over whether Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated Alabama was in fact threatened by the storm at the time Trump tweeted Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Girl and Cat

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA statement said that information provided to the president and the public between Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

In an unusual move, the statement also admonished its National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Ala., which had released a tweet contradicting Trump’s claim and stating, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

The NOAA statement said: “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

The Dotard Dictator must not be questioned! But:

Released six days after Trump’s first tweet on the matter, the NOAA statement was unsigned, neither from the acting head of the agency nor any particular spokesman. It also came a day after the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser released a statement justifying Trump’s claims of the Alabama threat.

The NOAA statement Friday makes no reference to the fact that when Trump tweeted that Alabama was at risk, it was not in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty,” which is where forecasters determine the storm is most likely to track. Alabama also had not appeared in the cone in days earlier, and no Hurricane Center text product ever mentioned the state.

Marc Chagall – La Poeté

And this next story that broke last night is even more shocking. Not only has the Dotard Dictator been profiting from his golf outings to his personal properties, he has forced the Defense Department to pay extra use his preferred airport in Scotland and pay for members of the military to stay at his Scottish golf resort.

Politico: Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump’s Scottish resort.

In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.

What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay — both en route to the Middle East and on the way back — at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport — the closest airport to Trump Turnberry — since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base. The letter also cites a Guardian report that the airport provided cut-rate rooms and free rounds of golf at Turnberry for U.S. military members.

Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Trump’s Turnberry resort afloat — the property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.

“The Defense Department has not produced a single document in this investigation,” said a senior Democratic aide on the oversight panel. “The committee will be forced to consider alternative steps if the Pentagon does not begin complying voluntarily in the coming days.”

Normally, refueling in foreign countries is done at U.S. military bases where layovers are less expensive.

Suzan Valadon – Raminou

House Democrats are also investigating why Mike Pence stayed at the Dotard’s golf resort in Ireland on his recent visit as well as the wannabe dictator’s efforts to make foreign countries pay him to attend the next G7 meeting.

The New York Times: Pence’s Stay at Trump Resort in Ireland and Trump’s G7 Plans Draw Democrats’ Scrutiny.

House Democrats, furious over President Trump’s continued promotion of his branded properties for government business, said on Friday that they would scrutinize whether two recent cases would violate the Constitution’s ban on presidents profiting from domestic or foreign governments.

Two chairmen acting in tandem sent letters to the White House, the Secret Service and the Trump Organization asking for documents and communications related to Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to stay this week at Mr. Trump’s resort in Ireland during an official visit, as well as Mr. Trump’s recent statements promoting Trump National Doral, near Miami, as a possible site for the Group of 7 summit of world leaders next year.

In both cases, the Democrats argued, Mr. Trump stands to benefit financially from American taxpayer dollars, and in the case of the potential summit in Doral, from foreign funds as well. The Constitution’s emoluments clauses prohibit presidents from accepting any payment from federal, state or foreign governments beyond their official salary.

“The committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies,” wrote Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee. The cases in question, he added, could be a conflict of interest.

Georg Baselitz, Cat Head, 1966-67

And from a couple of days ago, the Dotard Dictator is trying to strong arm a foreign country into helping him win the 2020 election. Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is trying to move his country toward reform and away from Vladimir Putin’s influence, but the Dotard is apparently trying to blackmail Zelensky.

The Washington Post: Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.

Not only has Mr. Trump refused to grant the Ukrainian leader a White House visit, but also he has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces.

Some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence. But we’re reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.

The strong-arming of Mr. Zelensky was openly reported to the New York Times last month by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said he had met in Madrid with a close associate of the Ukrainian leader and urged that the new government restart an investigation of Mr. Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, while Joe Biden, as vice president, urged the dismissal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who investigated the firm.

Mr. Giuliani also wants a probe of claims that revelations of payments by a Ukrainian political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were part of a plot to wreck Mr. Trump’s candidacy. In other words, Trump associates want the Ukrainian government to prove that Ukraine improperly acted against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election; but they also want it to meddle in his favor for 2020.

By Louis Wain

The situation is getting more and more dire, and finally the Jerry Nadler has decided to openly more toward impeachment.

Politico: House Judiciary panel preparing vote to define Trump impeachment probe.

The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to take its first formal vote to define what Chairman Jerry Nadler calls an ongoing “impeachment investigation” of President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.

The panel could vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution to spell out the parameters of its investigation. The precise language is still being hammered out inside the committee and with House leaders. A draft of the resolution is expected to be release Monday morning.

The issue was raised Friday during a conference call among the committee’s Democrats. A source familiar with the discussion said any move next week would be intended to increase the “officialness” of the ongoing probe, following a six-week summer recess in which some Democrats struggled to characterize to their constituents that the House had already begun impeachment proceedings. Democrats are hopeful that explicitly defining their impeachment inquiry will heighten their leverage to compel testimony from witnesses.

More from CNN: House panel to take formal steps on impeachment probe next week.

The vote, which is expected to occur on Wednesday, will lay out the ground rules for conducting hearings now that the committee has publicly announced it is considering recommending articles of impeachment against Trump. It is expected to follow the precedent set in 1974 over the committee’s procedures during then-President Richard Nixon’s impeachment proceedings.

Sources told CNN on Friday that the resolution is expected to spell out that Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, has the authority to call hearings at either the full committee or subcommittee level in connection with its impeachment deliberations.

The resolution, sources say, is expected to make clear that future House Judiciary hearings can be conducted in ways different from most congressional hearings since the panel is considering impeachment. For instance, the resolution is expected to authorize committee staff counsels to question witnesses, something that is typically not done at congressional hearings.

The resolution also will spell out how secret grand jury information can be reviewed in closed-door sessions. And it will say that the President’s counsel can respond in writing to the committee.

The exact legislative language is still being drafted and could be introduced as soon as Monday. The committee Democrats discussed the matter on a Friday conference call, which Politico first reported.

Can it get any worse? My guess is yes it can. Please post your thoughts on this and links to your own recommended stories in the comment thread below.


Frantic Friday Reads: Back to Work Edition

Coit mural apricot-dryers9980.jpg

Apricot dryers labor in Coit Tower mural (WPA art)

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

So a morning scan of the headlines has me convinced we’re already circling the drain and it’s of the utmost importance we get this administration out of the Executive Branch. First, the economic news keeps being worrisome.

The jobs numbers released yesterday were boosted by the addition of temporary Census workers while the overall numbers in the private sector were weaker than expected. It’s coming. That’s all I can say.  Via Bloomberg: “Jobs Report Shows U.S. Labor Market Cracking But Not Crumbling.”  

Weak August job gains signaled the U.S. labor market’s slowdown is deepening as the trade war with China takes a toll on the economy, even as some details of the report suggested a recession is far from imminent.

Private payrolls rose 96,000, a three-month low, according to Labor Department figures Friday that trailed the median estimate of economists for a 150,000 gain. Total nonfarm payrolls climbed a below-forecast 130,000, which was boosted by 25,000 temporary government workers to prepare for the 2020 Census count.

While average monthly job gains of 158,000 this year are down sharply from 223,000 in 2018, the pace is still more than enough to keep pace with population growth. In addition, the jobless rate held near a half-century low and average hourly earnings topped forecasts.

Coit mural grapepickers 9981.jpg

Coit Tower mural grape pickers

The news from the Farm Belt is not encouraging at all,  This is via US News and WR:  “Farm Loan Delinquencies Surge in U.S. Election Battleground Wisconsin”.

Farm loan delinquencies rose to a record high in June at Wisconsin’s community banks, data showed on Thursday, a sign President Donald Trump’s trade conflicts with China and other countries are hitting farmers hard in a state that could be crucial for his chances of re-election in 2020.

The share of farm loans that are long past-due rose to 2.9% at community banks in Wisconsin as of June 30, the highest rate in comparable records that go back to 2001, according to a Reuters analysis of loan delinquency data published by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Then there’s the rust belt where Trumpist policies are basically killing US Manufacturing.  It’s enough to make an economist weep.  We saw this all coming. This is from the LA TImes written by Michael Hiltzick.

U.S. manufacturers must be asking themselves just now: If President Trump is our friend, what would an enemy look like?

That’s the question raised by the latest statistic on the manufacturing economy, the Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers index for August, released Tuesday.

The index, in which a figure below 50 indicates that manufacturing is contracting, unexpectedly fell to 49.1. That’s down from 51.2 in July — the first decline in 35 months.

The gloom may be spreading. Comments by the ISM’s panel of purchasing executives “reflect a notable decrease in business confidence,” the institute said.

Related image

Industries of California, Coit Tower Murals WPA art

University of Michigan’s famous consumer confidence index plummeted last month and I do mean mean plummeted.

The Consumer Sentiment Index posted its largest monthly decline in August 2019 (-8.6 points) since December 2012 (-9.8 points), according to the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

The 2012 plunge reflected widespread fears among consumers that they would be pushed off the “fiscal cliff” due to rising taxes and falling government spending, said U-M economist Richard Curtin, director of the surveys.

The recent decline is due to negative references to tariffs, which were spontaneously mentioned by one-in-three consumers, he said. Unlike concerns about the fiscal cliff, which were promptly resolved, Trump’s tariff policies have been subject to repeated reversals amid threats of higher future tariffs.

Such tactics may have some merit in negotiations with China but act to increase uncertainty and diminish consumer spending at home, Curtin said. Unlike the repeated tariff reversals, negative trends in consumer sentiment cannot be easily reversed.

“The August data indicate that the erosion of consumer confidence due to tariff policies is now well under way,” Curtin said. “Compared with those who did not reference tariffs, consumers who made spontaneous negative references to tariffs also voiced higher year-ahead inflation expectations, more frequently expected rising unemployment, and expected smaller annual gains in household incomes.

“While the overall level of sentiment is still consistent with modest gains in consumption during the year ahead, the data nonetheless increased the likelihood that consumers could be pushed off the tariff cliff in the months ahead. This could result in a much slower growth in consumption and the overall economy.”

Image result for murals san francisco wpa

“Richmond Industrial City,” created by Victor Arnautoff commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts, had been installed at the downtown post office in April 1941.

Meanwhile, Trumpers and his crime family syndicate maintain their grifter status as we delve more into the ‘high crimes and misdemeanors” that they’ve committed.  Here’s a new one from Business Insider: “Trump may have committed tax fraud by fabricating a loan to avoid paying income taxes on nearly $50 million” that briefs us on a big MOJO expose.  Congress must be overwhelmed by its choice of scandals and misdeeds to investigate.

President Donald Trump may have fabricated a loan to avoid paying taxes on nearly $50 million of income, Mother Jones reported in a bombshell investigation published on Thursday.

The controversy appears to be related to the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and a shadowy shell company Trump owns called Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC. Media reports have found that the company does not earn revenue and is essentially worthless. Trump has said on his financial-disclosure forms that he owes more than $50 million to the company, which he controls.

Trump and the Trump Organization have not commented much on the loan, but Mother Jones noted that the president, then a Republican candidate, told The New York Times in 2016 that he bought the loan from a group of banks several years ago and that instead of retiring it, he decided to keep it outstanding and pays interest on it to himself.

Meanwhile, Congressional probes deepen into a long list of ethics and criminal actions. Here’s a few listed today.

Democrats widen impeachment probe as they confront roadblocks  —  Impeachment may be tough sell for Dems in red districts  —  (CNN)Faced with a time crunch ahead of the 2020 election season, the House Judiciary Committee is broadening its investigation beyond special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings …

Mary Clare Jalonick / Associated Press:
House Democrats probe use of taxpayer money at Trump hotels

Image result for murals san francisco wpa

Part of Coit Tower Murals’“California Industrial Scenes” . Workers at a May Day demonstration.

and via Reuters: “Exclusive: U.S. congressional probe finds possible lapses in Deutsche Bank controls”

The congressional inquiry found instances where Deutsche Bank staff in the United States and elsewhere flagged concerns about new Russian clients and transactions involving existing ones, but were ignored by managers, two of the people said.

Lawmakers are also examining whether Deutsche Bank facilitated the funneling of illegal funds into the United States as a correspondent bank, where it processes transactions for others, one of the sources said.

The congressional probe, whose initial findings have not been previously reported, is at an early stage, and it is not yet clear whether it will lead to any action against the bank, the three sources said.

A Deutsche Bank spokesman, Troy Gravitt, said the bank cannot comment on the work of the congressional committees but remains committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.

The Democrat-controlled House began examining possible money laundering in U.S. property deals involving President Donald Trump, a Republican, earlier this year. The lawmakers are also looking into whether Trump’s dealings left him subject to the influence of foreign individuals or governments.

Of course, the Republican response to all of this craziness is basically to ignore it and try to remove the voting franchise from more voters.  Via Huff Po and Sam Levine: “Ohio Set To Remove More Than 200,000 People From Its Voter Rolls. Voting rights groups want the state to pause the removals, noting that thousands of eligible voters are at risk of having their voter registrations canceled.”

Notice which states are hard at work on this?

Ohio is set to cancel hundreds of thousands of voter registrations on Friday, even though the list of voters it is using was found to have mistakes.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) published a list of 235,000 voters at risk of losing their registrations in August but soon discovered there were errors and corrected them. The following month, in August, voting rights groups said they identified an additional 4,000 people who were incorrectly added to the list. The Columbus Dispatch also reported more than 1,600 people who were erroneously added because of a technical error.

Since early August, voting rights groups have been combing through LaRose’s list in a mad dash to urge voters to check their registrations. Part of that effort includes a plan to text many people on the list to check their voter records. Voting rights advocates say LaRose should pause the removals to give people more time to check the list.

“There are new questions, it seems like every week, about what’s going on with this list, and various inaccuracies with the list,” said Mike Brickner, the Ohio state director of All Voting is Local, one of the groups working on contacting voters. “If we’re going to purge people, we better make sure that it be accurate and fair. As of right now, with new questions arising just about every day, many people in the state just don’t have a lot of confidence that this is a correct list.”

Image result for murals san francisco wpa

“Railroad and Shipping” by William Hesthal

So, MIchelle Goldberg gives us a little hope via pollster Stanley Greenberg Dare We Dream of the End of the G.O.P.? In a new book, the pollster Stanley Greenberg predicts a blue tidal wave in 2020.”

Greenberg suggests that Clinton erred by focusing too much on multiculturalism at the expense of class, and by trying to discredit Donald Trump as a vulgarian rather than a plutocrat. As Clinton wrote in “What Happened,” her post mortem of her shattering loss, Greenberg “thought my campaign was too upbeat on the economy, too liberal on immigration, and not vocal enough about trade.”

Yet going into 2020, Greenberg believes that what he calls the “rising American electorate” — including millennials, people of color and single women — will ensure Democratic victory, almost regardless of whom the party nominates. “We’re dealing with demographic and cultural trends, but we’re also dealing with people that are organizing and talking to one and another and becoming much more conscious of their values,” he said.

In his polling and focus groups, he’s seeing that the reaction to Trump is changing people. “The Trump presidency so invaded the public’s consciousness that it was hard to talk to previously disengaged and unregistered unmarried women, people of color and millennials without them going right to Trump,” he writes. A few months after the election, he realized he could no longer put Clinton and Trump voters in focus groups together because indignant Clinton voters, particularly women, so dominated the conversations. “This turned out to be an unintended test of the strength of their views and resolve to resist,” he wrote.

USA Today’s Jason Sattler warns: “Dismissing Trump as a crumbling, unfit fool will get us four more years. Don’t buy it.”

Trump is actually getting better at the worst things that matter most, like avoiding accountability for high and low crimes, capturing the courts for the far right, and raising hundreds of millions of dollars to “carpet-bomb” Democrats. The institutions that were supposed to rein him in have done more to restrain his critics than him. Meanwhile, what reigns is the belief that this nightmare is bound to end on its own — what writer Sarah Kendzior calls “normalcy bias.”

By now, we should know better.

Cognitive scientist George Lakoff warned in 2016, “Trump is a master salesman with a history of selling deals good for him but not so good for most others.” But it may be “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, the author of a book that claims Trump is a “master persuader,” who nailed Trump’s strategy: “When it comes to unfavorability, you don’t need to outrun the bear. You only need to outrun your camping buddy.”

The exciting "City Life" mural by Victor Arnautoff. Watch out for the fatal accident in the upper right. Other scenes off camera include left-wing newspapers for sale and a gun-toting pickpocket. San Francisco, United States, North America.

“City Life” mural by Victor Arnautoff.

Indeed, Trumperz’ cult seems addicted to the poison.  This is frightening:,  Several States are working to cancel Republican Primaries   via Politico.

Four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses, a move that would cut off oxygen to Donald Trump’s long-shot primary challengers.

Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans.

The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him.

Trump advisers are quick to point out that parties of an incumbent president seeking reelection have a long history of canceling primaries and note it will save state parties money. But the president’s primary opponents, who have struggled to gain traction, are crying foul, calling it part of a broader effort to rig the contest in Trump’s favor.

It’s a crazy mixed up country out there.  That’s all I can say.  And, don’t even get me started on SharpieGate.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 1898

Good Afternoon!!

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way up the Atlantic coast, the Dotard continues to insist that he was right when he claimed that Alabama was in the hurricane’s path. He tweeted this morning,

Alabama was going to be hit or grazed, and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path (up along the East Coast). The Fake News knows this very well. That’s why they’re the Fake News!

If only he would shut the f@ck up! Yesterday, he committed a federal crime by altering a weather map as “proof” for his false statement.

The Washington Post: Trump continues to push erroneous claim about Alabama as Dorian lashes Carolinas.

After the Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 189In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

As Hurricane Dorian unleashed torrential rains on the Carolinas on Thursday morning, President Trump continued to push his erroneous contention from the weekend that Alabama could have been affected by the life-threatening storm.“What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!” Trump wrote.

In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

Trump’s latest tweets on the subject came a day after he attempted to retroactively justify his Sunday tweet by displaying in the Oval Office a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated Aug. 29, indicating Alabama could in fact be affected. The graphic appeared to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.

The Dotard is loony tunes and he has access to the nuclear codes. He cares more about justifying his silly mistake than about the millions of human beings in the path of the storm.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That diagnosis no longer fits. Trump is a criminal psychopath, IMHO. In other words, he very likely qualifies for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Here are the DSM IV-TR criteria for ASPD:

A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the
rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three
(or more) of the following: having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from
another.
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful
behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that
are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases,
or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated
physical fights or assaults.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure
to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial
obligations.
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or
rationalizing.

B.  The individual is at least age 18 years.
C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15
years.
D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the
course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Artist Unknown

You can read the new DSM V criteria at the above link. That description is longer, so I won’t post it here. Tell me Trump doesn’t qualify as ASPD. The only thing we don’t know for sure is whether Trump had Conduct Disorder in childhood. But it seems like, since he is known to have attacked a teacher as young child and his parents sent him away to military school at age 13, presumably because of his behavior. On top of the ASPD, he likely has ADHD and worsening dementia.

Today’s news is full of Trump’s selfish, destructive, cruel behavior. Here are just three examples:

Politico: Watchdog: Migrant children separated from families experienced intense trauma.

Migrant children in government custody who were separated from their parents experienced intense trauma that shelters were unprepared to handle, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

The findings echo reports from physicians and mental health advocates about lasting ills stemming from the Trump administration’s family separation policies. They come as the administration is trying to revise the so-called Flores agreement, a long-standing court order that outlines standards of care for migrant children and families.

Many children in HHS custody already faced trauma in their home countries or during their journey to the United States, according to the watchdog report, which was based on visits to 45 shelters operated by the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement in August and September 2018. Children then experienced additional trauma after they were separated from their parents, including intensified fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress.

Shelter staff said that they were unprepared to address the problems because of a lack of resources and ongoing efforts to reunify children with their parents. The share of children under the age of 12 in ORR custody rose to 24 percent from 14 percent from April to May of last year.

Please go read the rest at Politico.

Hurricane Sandy, Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Wanted to Obliterate the U.S. Economy to Get Revenge on China.

One of the scariest aspects of the current national nightmare that is Donald Trump is that for as much of a dystopian hellscape as his presidency has turned out to be, we’re periodically reminded that if he got his way, it would be even worse. Over the past two and a half years we’ve learned that he had to be convinced not to invade Venezuela, or nuke hurricanes, or escalate tensions with Syria by assassinating Bashar al-Assad, or scrap a trade deal with South Korea, the latter of which was avoided when then-National Economic Council director Gary Cohn reportedly swiped a letter from the president’s desk that Trump didn’t even realize had gone missing. According to a new report, the president also wanted to shiv the U.S. economy in a characteristically self-defeating attempt to get back at China—a move that was only prevented by a chorus of staffers and CEOs begging him not to go through with it.

CNBC reports that after China retaliated with $75 billion worth of tariffs last month, the president was so angry—and apparently surprised, despite the fact that China has responded this way every time he’s ratcheted up the trade war—that he wanted to double existing tariffs on Chinese goods. That such a move would have hit the economy even harder than the trade dispute already has, and undoubtedly send the stock market into free fall, apparently did not cross his mind, even though people have tried to sit him down and explain it to him many times. Unable to talk him off the ledge on their own, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer apparently enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and get it through his seemingly impenetrable skull that the impact of such an action would be, in his own words “not good!” Instead, Trump simply chose to unleash a series of belligerent tweets about how he “hereby ordered” U.S. companies to cease doing business with China “immediately,” sending the Dow plummeting, which he later joked about. (He also settled for a 5% hike in tariffs on $550 billion in Chinese products.)

The news that Trump wanted to go nuclear on China comes days after aides confirmed that the president was lying about Chinese negotiators calling his “top trade people” and saying they wanted to “get back to the table.”

Desaturated – Hurricane Katrina, by El Franco Lee

Reuters: Pentagon pulls funds for military schools, daycare to pay for Trump’s border wall.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would pull funding from 127 Defense Department projects, including schools and daycare centers for military families, as it diverts $3.6 billion to fund President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Schools for the children of U.S. military members from Kentucky to Germany to Japan will be affected. A daycare center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland – the home of Air Force One – will also have its funds diverted, the Pentagon said.

Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year to access the funds from the military construction budget. In March, the Pentagon sent to Congress a broad list of projects that could be affected.

A Pentagon official said in a briefing that the department was given a “lawful order” by Trump to divert the funds. She said the Pentagon is working closely with Congress and its allies abroad to find funding to replace money diverted for the wall, but that there are not any guarantees that those funds will come.

More articles on this topic:

PBS: Full list: The 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier.

HuffPost: GOP Senators Who Backed Trump’s Emergency Declaration Lose Military Funding.

CNN: Lawmakers furious after learning how military will pay for Trump’s wall.

I’m going to wrap this up, because it’s getting really late. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread. 


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Doris Day

We’ve reached the end of another exhausting week in Trumpville. On Thursday the wannabe dictator cancelled his scheduled trip to Poland because he supposedly needed to monitor Hurricane Dorian from Camp David. The New York Times:

WARSAW — Elaborate military escorts stood ready. Chefs were at work on a grand state dinner at the Royal Castle. A concert was cued up for television and radio broadcast. The annual commemoration of the outbreak of World War II was even moved from Gdansk to Warsaw, where crowds would be bigger.

Poland’s governing party had carefully choreographed a day of pomp and ceremony to welcome President Trump this weekend — a powerful reminder to its own people, just six weeks before national elections, of the strong bond between the government and Trump administration.

Except that he will not be here.

Mr. Trump announced on Thursday that he would remain in the United States to monitor an impending hurricane, forecast to hit Florida next week, and send Vice President Mike Pence in his place. It was a blow to the leadership in Warsaw, which hoped to use the moment to bolster its standing and deflect criticism that it is undermining the nation’s Constitution.

Today, as Dorian bears down on Florida, Trump is golfing once again.

USA Today: Dorian, packing near 150 mph winds, bears down on The Bahamas as it hurtles toward Florida.

As a strengthened Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas Saturday, bringing the danger of life-threatening storm surges and heavy rain, new tracking forecasts suggested the storm could turn north before hitting the U.S. mainland, and move up the coast instead.

Lauren Bacall

But even as Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina braced for a possible hit, forecasters and government officials warned Floridians not to ease up on preparations for a devastating storm early next week.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. EDT advisory that Dorian, packing near 150 mph winds as a Category 4 “major” hurricane, was located about 415 miles east of West Palm Beach, slowing to 8 mph.

The NHC said the latest track suggested that the core of Dorian should move over the Atlantic well north of the southeastern and central Bahamas Saturday and near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday. That would put it near the Florida east coast late Monday.

Yesterday, the dotard tweeted a classified photo that gave away all sorts of information about U.S. spying. He appeared to be taunting Iran and implying that the U.S. had somehow caused the failure of an Iranian missile launch.

Business Insider: US official confirms that Trump tweeted out a picture from a classified intelligence briefing.

A US official told CNBC on Friday that a photo of an Iranian launchpad that President Donald Trump tweeted out in the afternoon came from an intelligence briefing Trump received earlier in the day.

The picture was attached to a tweet in which Trump said the US was not involved in the failure of an Iranian rocket launch on Thursday.

Jimmy Stewart

“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump tweeted. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”

Iran’s rocket launch failed and blew up on the pad at a space center in Iran, an Iranian official said. A US official also confirmed the news.

Shortly after Trump made his statement, military and national-security experts began sounding the alarm that the president likely tweeted out classified intelligence.

Read some of those tweets at BI. And here’s a thread that explains how much foreign intelligence services can glean from the photo Trump tweeted.

More from The Washington Post: Trump shares potentially revealing image of Iranian launch site on Twitter.

In a tweet Friday, President Trump revealed a detailed aerial imageof an Iranian launchpad, an unusual disclosure that may have confirmed the United States is violating Iran’s airspace to spy on its missile program.

Some imagery experts, examining the angle and very-high resolution of the image, said it may have been taken by an aircraft, possibly a drone.

“It looks like it was taken from an airborne platform, not a satellite,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, an assessment echoed by several other experts.

Meryl Streep

The image Trump tweeted Friday is almost certainly highly classified, experts said, and bears markings that resemble those made by intelligence analysts. They note damage to the facility and vehicles near it, as well as “scorching and damage” on one side of the launchpad.

Trump said it showed a “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” The Safir is an Iranian rocket used to place satellites in orbit.

Trump said it showed a “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” The Safir is an Iranian rocket used to place satellites in orbit.

Trump said “the United States of America was not involved” in the incident, which was puzzling because Iran had one day earlier confirmed a rocket explosion at the site, which it said was “due to some technical issues.”

What Trump shared on Twitter appears to show a camera flash and a person’s shadow, leading to speculation that Trump or one of his aides may have snapped a picture of the image using a cellphone.

“I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One,” Trump wrote, in a taunting jab.

As it frequently does, the president’s public schedule lists an intelligence briefing at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Those sessions are typically done in the Oval Office when the president is in Washington. Trump’s tweet had a time stamp of 1:44 p.m.

Aren’t those classified briefings supposed to be done in a SKIF? And aren’t cell phones banned in those places? Nothing is normal in Trumpville, and the dotard dictator commits impeachable offences on a daily basis.

Whoopie Goldberg

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Let’s Compare Donald Trump’s Week to the Impeachment Articles Brought Against Nixon, Clinton, and Johnson.

Every single day, Donald Trump offers up a fragrant, colorful, teeming bouquet of reasons to believe he is unfit to hold the office of president. And every single day, the nation shrugs and waits for something to be done about it. (Really, congressional Democrats take a long summer break and largely shrug, and hope that the election will take care of this specific problem for them.)

But it’s still worth cataloging the specific things Trump is doing that, in another time or place or plane of being, could be deemed as demanding an immediate and focused impeachment inquiry, as Jennifer Rubin also points out in the Washington Post. Because this week alone, the president has asked government workers to break the law to fulfill his requests, and noted that he will pardon them if they get in trouble; suggested hosting the next G-7 summit at his property (so that he can profit); and diverted funds from FEMA relief to his border fever dream. He’s also denying lifesaving medical care to immigrant children he will deport and changing citizenship rules for the children of military families born abroad. On the 25th Amendment front (meaning the “is he mentally unfit for office” front), the president has lied about his wife’s relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, garbled an answer about climate change in ways that would terrify anyone in search of a topic sentence, attacked Fox News for disloyalty, blamed Puerto Rico in advance of a hurricane for being in the path of a hurricane, and generally conducted himself in ways that bespeak grievously low functioning. This all comes on the heels of a week in which he approvingly quoted someone describing him as the second coming (a performance that would have sent most of us to the nearest psych ward), called his own economic adviser the enemy of the state, “ordered” American companies to stop investing in China, and got in a fight with Denmark over a real estate deal gone south in Greenland.

All that in just two weeks. But that’s what are lives are like now.

Elton John

The responses to the increased chaos are to be predicted. Jim Mattis went to work on his brand, gravely stating that he tried to protect us as long as he could, but things are officially out of hand and stay tuned for future acts of bravery™ (or as Scott Pilutik drolly interprets Mattis, “At some indeterminate point in the future, when the political risk has thankfully passed (if it indeed does), I will roar with the courage of a lion at a series of book signings”). Stephanie Grisham explained that he’s just kidding. Senate Republicans are hiding or quitting. And congressional Democrats are still just waiting for a sign that things have gotten Really Bad.

Here’s a sign that things are Really Bad. If one were to consider, again, the articles of impeachment against the three sitting presidents who have historically faced impeachment proceedings, not only has Trump clearly achieved all of them—he actually now achieves most of them in under a week. Every week. As Frank Bowman has argued in his new book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, because Americans have no contemporary understanding of the grounds for impeachment, they fail to comprehend that we go there, and back, on stilts virtually every day. So, let’s refresh our memories. What did previous presidents do that warranted congressional action?

Read the comparisons at Slate. Why can’t we get rid of this monster?

Eartha Kitt

One more story before a sign off. As you probably heard, Trump abruptly fired his personal assistant Madeline Westerhout on Thursday because she said some things about his children in an off-the-record press dinner. I’ve been waiting breathlessly to learn what she said. And now we know.

Politico: Trump’s personal assistant fired after comments about Ivanka, Tiffany.

Madeleine Westerhout, who left her White House job suddenly on Thursday as President Trump’s personal assistant, was fired after bragging to reporters that she had a better relationship with Trump than his own daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, and that the president did not like being in pictures with Tiffany because he perceived her as overweight….

The critical comments happened at an off-the-record dinner, according to two people familiar with the matter, that Westerhout and deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley held earlier this month with reporters who were covering Trump’s vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Westerhout also jokingly told the journalists that Trump couldn’t pick Tiffany out of a crowd, said one of the people. “She had a couple drinks and in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment, she opened up to the reporters,” the person said.

I wonder who in the press leaked this?

Arthur Schwartz, a confidant of Donald Trump Jr. who spars frequently with the media, accused Rucker on Friday in a series of tweets of having “burned” Westerhout and of violating the Washington Post’s policies on sourcing.

Marianne Faithfull

Rucker referred a request for comment to the Washington Post, while the other reporters present either declined to comment or referred requests to spokespeople for their news organizations….

Trump on Friday confirmed that Westerhout had been dismissed for talking to reporters about his children, calling the comments “a little bit hurtful.”

“It was too bad,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House for Camp David, adding that Westerhout was a “very good person” who performed her job well. “I wished her well.”

Trump said he would speak by phone with Tiffany when he reached Camp David, disputing that he had ever personally disparaged his daughter.

“I love Tiffany,” he said.

Yeah right. Apparently Melania’s staff didn’t care for Westerhout, according the The New York Times:

…she also had a fairly large coterie of enemies, includIing some in the East Wing — the purview of the first lady, Melania Trump — which viewed her with suspicion. Some of the president’s friends counseled him over the past two years that she was, in the words of one, “immature,” and was blocking access to him from some people he had known for years….

Inside the faction-split White House, Trump loyalists cheered Ms. Westerhout’s departure as a move that was long overdue, and said they hoped it served as something of a wake-up call for Mr. Trump to bring in more loyalists into the West Wing. But current and former officials also expressed alarm about what information Ms. Westerhout could share down the road, not just about the president, but about her colleagues.

I’ll bet book publishers are already lining up at Westerhout’s door.

So . . . what stories are you following today?