Monday Reads: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Good Day, Sky Dancers!

There are some interesting articles and analyses today so let’s get started!

Jessica Levinson at MSNBC has this to say about the classified documents and the media’s false equivalencies between the last two presidents. ” Investigations into classified docs should leave Trump more worried than Biden. Don’t focus on the headlines in the investigations into classified documents held by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Focus on the details.”

There’s a line in an old song that goes, “Lawyers dwell on small details.” It’s true. The law is all about details. From one perspective, two cases may appear similar, but depending on the details, they can be very different.”

Classified documents were found at the offices and homes of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden from the time he was vice president. In November Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to lead the investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Thursday, after reports that classified documents from his vice presidency had been found at Biden’s home and office, Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate that matter.

So far, the stories look similar. Neither Biden nor Trump should have been in possession of classified documents after they left office. These are the people’s documents, not theirs.

But because the law concerns itself with details, not headlines, the similarities mostly stop there.

As a former president, Trump might be indicted, but perhaps the most important reason Biden is unlikely to face indictment or criminal prosecution is he’s currently president. As we know all too well from the four years of the Trump administration, the Justice Department has a policy against indicting sitting presidents. An opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel, a division of the Justice Department, provides that charging the president with a crime would “unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

The GOP now controls the House of Representatives, and we know members of that party have been raring to go to investigate and possibly impeach Biden. But impeaching Biden for possessing classified documents would be improper for two reasons. First, there is a good argument to be made that people can only be impeached for misconduct committed while in office. Biden’s retention of classified documents occurred after he left the vice presidency and before he assumed the presidency. Second, impeachment is only available when the subject of the impeachment has engaged in “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

After a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant.

For reasons discussed below, Biden’s conduct is unlikely to be characterized as criminal, even if he weren’t the sitting president. There is also plenty of reason to believe that Trump will or at least ought to be. Consider what each did after being alerted that he might be in possession of classified documents.

Trump reportedly ignored multiple requests from the National Archives for those documents, and after a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s  Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant. Prosecutors have also argued that Trump’s team tried to hide the documents found at Mar-a-Lago before and after the subpoena was issued.

Reportedly, in Biden’s case, the White House counsel alerted the National Archives as soon as classified documents were found at Biden’s former office in November. The National Archives didn’t ask; Biden’s team offered.

Then that team searched for any additional documents that belonged to the government. It found additional files at Biden’s residence in December and more last week, before the White House announced Saturday that additional documents had been found Thursday. The Biden story is one of cooperation, not obstruction.

The contrast was muddied this weekend in the Sunday Shows.  There’s an outline of what various Congressional Representatives said at Politico written by Eugene Daniels. “POLITICO Playbook: Three storylines to watch in Biden’s document drama.”  Evidently, some Republicans still believe that someone that obviously obstructed the return of stolen documents deserves the same treatment as one that immediately notified the Archives of their existence and fully cooperated.

GOP investigations are inevitable, and they will be ferocious. Rep. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.), the newly minted chair of the House Oversight Committee, released a statement yesterday hammering Biden and promising an investigation.

“Many questions need to be answered but one thing is certain: oversight is coming,” Comer said. “The Biden White House’s secrecy in this matter is alarming. Equally alarming is the fact that Biden aides were combing through documents knowing there would be a Special Counsel appointed.”

Comer is now requesting additional documents and communications “related to the searches of President Joe Biden’s homes and other locations by Biden aides for classified documents, as well as the visitor log of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home from January 20, 2021 to present,” per CNN’s Daniella Diaz.

The exchange of the morning came as Comer appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, which offered a preview of how Republicans will approach the issue, especially vis-a-vis Trump.

Tapper: “Do you only care about classified documents being mishandled when Democrats do the mishandling?”

Comer: “Absolutely not. … At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is there’s such a discrepancy between how President Trump was treated … versus Joe Biden.” Watch the video

The Washington Post has an exclusive today.  “New details link George Santos to cousin of sanctioned Russian oligarch. The New York congressman once claimed Andrew Intrater’s company was his “client,” while another Intrater company allegedly made a deposit with a firm where Santos worked.  Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rosalind S. Helderman share the byline.

George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied about his biography, has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to video footage and court documents.

Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Intrater’s cousin is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the Russian energy industry.

The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year.

Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos’ onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme. Neither Santos nor Intrater responded to requests for comment. Attorneys who have represented Intrater also did not respond.

And speaking of “business dealings,” this is from DAWN. “U.S.: Investigate New Evidence of President Trump’s Business Dealings with MBS . Multimillion-dollar payments from LIV Golf, Reportedly 93% owned by MBS-Controlled Fund, to Trump Golf Resorts Raise Serious Questions about Conflict of Interest, Threats to National Security.”

The U.S. Department of Justice and Congress should investigate the disturbing facts and circumstances surrounding payments by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), via its wholly-owned LIV Golf company, to businesses owned by former President Donald Trump, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

On January 13, 2023, Elliot Peters, a name partner at Keker, a prominent San Francisco law firm, who is lead counsel to the PGA in the players’ lawsuit, inadvertently revealed in a court proceeding that PIF owns 93% of LIV Golf, pays for all of its events, and holds all of the entity’s financial risk. PIF’s chairman is Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), who has absolute and final decision-making control over the fund. LIV Golf is a newly established golf tournament franchise that has emerged as a rival to PGA Golf. It has paid Trump-owned golf resorts unknown millions of dollars to hold its events there, and former President Trump has publicly championed the new league, made prominent appearances at its events, and urged PGA players to sign on with LIV Golf.

“The revelation that a fund controlled by Crown Prince MBS actually owns almost all of LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. “The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favors to him are as dangerous as they are shocking.”

The information about LIV Golf was otherwise kept sealed in the secret shareholder agreement between PIF and LIV Golf, although LIV Golf had previously disclosed that the PIF was its majority shareholder. There has been no independent verification of the ownership percentages reportedly revealed in court. It is not known who owns the other seven percent of LIV Golf. LIV Golf Players and LIV Golf have sued PGA for suspending PGA players who have signed contracts with LIV Golf, and PGA has sued LIV Golf and the PIF for interfering with its players’ contracts. MBS is the chairman of PIF and has absolute decision-making power over its investments.

There is little doubt that MBS controls the PIF with as much absolute power as he controls the rest of the country, with final decision-making on all of PIF’s investments. When PIF’s advisory panel objected to PIF’s $2 billion investment in Trump’s son-in-law’s newly established fund, Affinity Partners, MBS reportedly vetoed the objections to proceed with the controversial investment as the only investor in a start-up fund that had no track record. Following DAWN’s demand for Congress to investigate this investment, as well as the $1 billion PIF investment in Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin’s newly established fund, Senator Warren announced she would commence an investigation into conflict of interest breaches and ethics law violations that bar solicitation of foreign government officials while in office.

“Former President Trump made no secret of the endless favors he granted MBS and Saudi Arabia during his term in office, from his first state visit to the country, to vetoing legislation that would have banned arms sales to the country, to protecting MBS by hiding the CIA’s report concluding MBS ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” said Whitson. “It now appears that like his son-in-law and treasury secretary, Trump is cashing in his chits with MBS for all these favors.”

DAWN stands for Democracy for the Arab World Now.  It’s an advocacy group founded by Jamal Khashoggi, an American Journalist brutally murdered at the request of MBS in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

Further down the Republican food chain, we have this headline by Caleb Newton writing for  Bipartisan Report:. “Legal Action Against Ron DeSantis For Migrant Trafficking Upheld By Judge.”

Florida Judge John C. Cooper has upheld a lawsuit filed in his personal capacity by a Democratic state Senator from the south of the state challenging the legal framework GOP Governor Ron DeSantis used for transports last year of migrants from Texas to a community in Massachusetts.

The trip, which was evidently facilitated without any prior notice to local leaders or members of the community where the migrants arrived, although residents quickly mobilized to help those involved, mirrored high-profile efforts by other Republican governors. That list includes Greg Abbott of Texas, whose administration was responsible for a trip that saw migrants arrive in temperatures below freezing outside the D.C. residence of the vice president on Christmas Eve. With the trip for which DeSantis was responsible and other ventures, concerns have also circulated about potential deception targeting those the organizers were trying to cajole into joining the voluntary trips, including about basic facts like the eventual destination.

In Florida, the case from Democrat Jason Pizzo challenges the process by which the state set aside $12 million for the transport of migrants. Also at issue in general has been that the transports designated for support by those funds originate in Florida, but the migrants the DeSantis team ferried to Massachusetts started their trek in Texas, although the venture made a brief stop of under an hour in Florida itself. Pizzo argues a new initiative of the substance seen in something like the funds for transports for migrants requires a separate legislative effort rather than mere inclusion in routine budgeting.

The Miami Herald noted the state team argued the budgetary provisions were actually just expanding on a law imposing restrictions on state partnerships with individuals transporting certain migrants into Florida unless detaining or removing those individuals from Florida or the United States. The thing is — that other law was signed after the budget, so no argument about the two building off each other would inherently solve the fact that such isn’t how time works.

Cooper scheduled the trial in Pizzo’s case to start at the end of this month, on January 30. The DeSantis team specifically — and unsuccessfully — sought the case’s dismissal. Separately, the Florida governor has already faced a raft of other scrutiny over the endeavor, including confirmation from the oversight official known as an inspector general at the federal Treasury Department that they would be looking at DeSantis’s usage of interest derived from federal relief funds connected to COVID-19 for the flights. That official spoke to the situation after an inquiry from members of the Congressional delegation from Massachusetts.

Nothing like a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: How long can this lawlessness go on?

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Sunset, Long Island by Georgia O’Keeffe

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I went to a meeting last night with neighbors and the mayor who is introducing a number of initiatives to breathe life back into New Orleans Neighborhoods. I came home rather hopeful at the ideas but somewhat skeptical that all of it will be seen to fruition given what usually comes out of City Hall. Maybe our energetic and bright Mayor LaToya will get it done and my skepticism will be misplaced but the City Hall is a slow working bureaucracy and it’s going to take a lot of energy and push to get it moving.

I decided to switch on the TV thinking I’d catch up with some of the Climate Conference presenters including an interview with Al Gore who we haven’t heard on the subject for awhile. I didn’t have long since I was lecturing too. I basically turned the TV on to the story that must wake the Republican party up to reality.

The whistle blower story first reported in the Washington Post is as bad as we thought it would be. I would hope the Republican party finally comes around to seeing that this regime of lawlessness and that its unconstitutional acts cannot go on any longer.

If–as Republican RIck Wilson says–“Everything Trump Touches dies” then Rudy Guilliani is definitely in some state of Zombiehood. I’m not sure why he decided to go do interviews last night but he definitely poured gasoline on the fire that threatens the rule of law in this country. This is from WAPO. “Giuliani admits to asking Ukraine about Joe Biden after denying it 30 seconds earlier”. Chris Cuomo is never on my must see TV watch list but I watched this clip just to see the dawn of realization hit Guilliani’s face that he is seriously and truly fucked. The byline goes to Coby Itkowitz

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, contradicted himself when asked whether he personally asked Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, ranted about media bias and defended Trump amid new reports about an intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint, during a chaotic and fiery CNN interview Thursday night.

Immediately after anchor Chris Cuomo introduced him and summarized the latest news out of the whistleblower story, which had only broken about an hour prior, Giuliani went into attack mode.

“I’m glad I’m on tonight, because what you just said is totally erroneous,” Giuliani said. “Every single thing you just said is completely spun in the same direction you’ve been doing for two years!”

Giuliani spent the first half of the interview repeating the claim that Biden in 2016 pressured Ukraine to drop its top prosecutor, which at the time was also investigating a natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter was on the board. World leaders, including the United States, reportedly wanted the prosecutor gone because he was ineffective at rooting out corruption. Biden threatened to withhold loan money from the country over it. There’s been no evidence found that Biden was trying to help out his son.

So, the whistleblower was disturbed about Trump’s conversations with Ukraine that was supposed to be getting a ton of military support from us but which was being withheld by the Trump administration in order to coerce them into doing a politically motivated investigation of what is perceived as the main threat to the Trump Rule of Lawlessness.

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The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset, Claude Monet

It’s at these times I wish I had actually followed through with going to law school. Thankfully, there are plenty of lawyers in the chattering class. As I read these things I can’t help but wonder how many laws and clauses of the US Constitution Trump has breached. Some one needs to keep a list. Some one, like say, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Anna Nemtsova writes this for The Daily Beast:”Ukrainian Official: Trump is Looking for Dirt ‘To Discredit Biden’. Ukraine officials see no indication Biden or his son broke their laws. If Trump wants them investigated in Kyiv, his government will need to say why and what for.”

Ukraine is ready to investigate the connections Joe Biden’s son Hunter had with the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings, according to Anton Geraschenko, a senior adviser to the country’s interior minister who would oversee such an inquiry.

Geraschenko told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview that “as soon as there is an official request” Ukraine will look into the case, but “currently there is no open investigation.”

“Clearly,” said Geraschenko, “Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.” Among the counts on which Manafort was convicted: tax evasion. “We do not investigate Biden in Ukraine, since we have not received a single official request to do so,” said Geraschenko.

His remarks last week came amid widespread speculation that U.S. President Donald Trump had made vital U.S. military aid for Ukraine contingent on such an inquiry, but had tried to do so informally through unofficial representatives, including his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s adviser on Ukraine, Sam Kislin.

But Geraschenko spoke before the appearance of a Washington Post story on Thursday that implied that an intelligence-community whistleblower may have reported the untoward quid pro quo was put forth directly by Trump in a phone call with Ukraine’s recently elected president last July.

Geraschenko reconfirmed his statements in a phone call on Friday.

Willows at Sunset 1888

Vincent van Gogh – Willows at Sunset 1888

Jared Bernstein reminds us in Bloomberg of just how enabling and complicit the entire Republican Party has been during the Trumpist Rule of Lawlessness. The courts are full trying to deal with it all. My assumption is they’ve bought and paid for several Justices on the Supreme Court and it should eventually pay off for them I suppose. However, most every one I know is pretty horrified by this unless they are completely ignorant of our rule of law and how our government is supposed to work. But,this implies that we have a lot more engaged and well educated people in the country than we currently have. Take Alabama, please.

We still have only limited information about the emerging whistleblower scandal. But we do know (from what Rudy Giuliani has bragged about) that the president’s lawyer has pressed another country to investigate a Democratic candidate for alleged corruption. That’s on top of the original Trump campaign’s dozens of contacts with a nation attacking U.S. democracy; several documented instances of the president obstructing the investigation of that attack; violations of the emoluments clauses of the Constitution and regular use of government resources to enrich the president’s businesses; and assertions of invented presidential privileges to prevent congressional oversight.

Republicans have been okay with all this, presumably because they’re getting what they want on policy. Or perhaps out of pure partisanship. Or maybe because they’re so deep in the conservative information-feedback loop that they’ve convinced themselves none of it is real. But they should be taking stock now of just how much lawlessness they’re willing to tolerate. At this point, it looks like the whistleblower’s story involves Trump attempting to offer U.S. policy favors to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
I’ve said all along that there’s a middle ground where the evidence may justify impeachment and removal of the president, but not demand it. Well, the evidence has long since established that impeachment is justified. Now we’re tiptoeing up to the line where it demands removal. At some point, we may wind up clearly over that line by any reasonable definition. If Republicans choose to stick with Trump then, he’ll correctly conclude that he’s above the law.
Democrats can’t do much about this by themselves. Sure, they can attempt to convince the public that Trump’s actions demonstrate that he’s unfit for office, and it’s reasonable to consider every method of doing so, including a partisan impeachment ending in a party-line acquittal in the Senate. They should also continue their investigations, even though much of the case against Trump has been public from the beginning.

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Sunset at Eragny Camille Pissaro

Aaron Balke of WAPO argues that “Ukraine being the focus of Trump’s whistleblower complaint is particularly ominous.”. We knew Trump felt that asking other nations for help with his political aspirations was something he was still willing to do. He trusts other spy agencies over our own. He outright announced it in an interview for ABC back in June. Well, instead of putting himself in debt to some one like Putin, he’s blackmailing a struggling democracy into doing it like you would assume a Mafioso Don would do.

That phone call took place July 25, and for a host of reasons — and depending on the substance of the complaint — it could spell real trouble for Trump and his supporters.

The main reason is because we already knew about demonstrated and very public interest from the Trump team in what Ukraine could provide them when it comes to Trump’s reelection effort. Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has publicly urged the Ukrainians to pursue investigations that he has admitted would benefit Trump, and one in particular that could damage what appears to be Trump’s most threatening potential 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

In May, Giuliani canceled a controversial planned trip to Ukraine that he had admitted was intended to apply pressure on its government to investigate Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his work for a Ukrainian gas company that had previously been of interest to investigators in the country.

Giuliani even acknowledged before the planned trip that it was intended to help Trump and that Giuliani was “meddling” in foreign affairs to that end.

“We’re not meddling in an election; we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani told the New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel. Giuliani added: “There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it’s improper. . . . I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”

It was a remarkable admission at the time — particularly that it could be “very, very helpful to my client” and separating that from the idea that it might also happen to benefit the U.S. government. And it’s even more remarkable in this moment.

When Giuliani canceled the trip, he blamed the Ukrainian government and suggested Democrats had overblown the situation.

So, the military aid package was just okayed by the Trump administration. The UK’s Independent had this information yesterday: “Zelensky defends relationship with US after Trump accused of pushing Ukraine to meddle in 2020 election. Ukraine’s new president insists that relations are ‘very good’ with the US and that there will be a meeting ‘soon’” All I can say at this point is meeting? MEETING?

Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky was fulsome in expressing his gratitude to Donald Trump for the military aid package.

The former professional comedian insisted his relationship with the former reality TV star was “very good” and that he was “sure we will have a meeting in the White House”.

But the $250m (£280m) of arms for Ukrainian forces, which are confronting Russian backed separatists, has been enmeshed in a bitter battle between the US president and his opponents over accusations that he has tried to manipulate it for underhand political reasons.

The Trump administration had in fact suspended the “Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative”, only agreeing to unblock it after rising bipartisan clamour from congress.

The ostensible reason for the hold-up was to ensure that it tallied with US interests.

The real reason, claim critics, was to pressure the Ukrainian government to target Joe Biden – the possible Democrat candidate for next year’s election – through an investigation into corruption allegations against his son.

Members of the Trump administration have claimed that Mr Biden, then Barack Obama’s vice president, had pressured the Ukrainian authorities to drop an investigation into Burisma, an energy company operating in the country, on which his son Hunter was a board member.

The claims against Mr Biden have been denied to a number of news organisations, including The Independent, by Ukrainian and western European officials.

Three Democrat-controlled house committees – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Government Reform – have announced that they would investigate whether a host of ethical and legal rules have been violated

Sunset, Paul Klee

So, yet another hearing that the Trump Rule of Lawlessness will sputter along while the public will likely not view it. We thought it was likely being held up after Congress appropriated because it was to help Ukraine confront Russia and of course Trump’s still Putin’s fuckboi. But, it was even more venal than that and typical of what the head of a mobster family would do. Please, take care of this little problem first and then we’ll be glad to fund your little struggle against invasion dear ally.

So, I really did think I was going home last night to get information on today’s Climate Strike which is going on as planned.

I could go on about NY Mayor Bill DiBlasio who finally threw in the towel on his lifeless presidential campaign today. I did enjoy hearing him speak when I saw him in July but it took him this long to realize he was’t going anywhere.

But, I’ll end with a NYT op ed by the two Political Scientists who wrote the book “How Democracies Die”. It’s called “Why Republicans Play Dirty. They fear that if they stick to the rules, they will lose everything. Their behavior is a threat to democratic stability.”

The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.

The party’s abandonment of fair play was showcased spectacularly in 2016, when the United States Senate refused to allow President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. While technically constitutional, the act — in effect, stealing a Court seat — hadn’t been tried since the 19th century. It would be bad enough on its own, but the Merrick Garland affair is part of a broader pattern.

Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an “any means necessary” strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices. And back in North Carolina, Republican legislators used a surprise vote last week to ram through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget — while most Democrats were told no vote would be held and so attended a 9/11 commemoration. This is classic “constitutional hardball,” behavior that, while technically legal, uses the letter of the law to subvert its spirit.

Constitutional hardball has accelerated under the Trump administration. President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to divert public money toward a border wall — openly flouting Congress, which voted against building a wall — is a clear example. And the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, manufactured by an earlier act of hardball, may uphold the constitutionality of the president’s autocratic behavior.

Constitutional hardball can damage and even destroy a democracy. Democratic institutions only function when power is exercised with restraint. When parties abandon the spirit of the law and seek to win “by any means necessary,” politics often descends into institutional warfare. Governments in Hungary and Turkey have used court packing and other “legal” maneuvers to lock in power and ensure that subsequent abuse is ruled “constitutional.” And when one party engages in constitutional hardball, its rivals often feel compelled to respond in a tit-for-tat fashion, triggering an escalating conflict that is difficult to undo. As the collapse of democracy in Germany and Spain in the 1930s and Chile in the 1970s makes clear, these escalating conflicts can end in tragedy.

Go read the rest. It’s worth your time.
So, I’m going to drink more coffee and try to figure out why about 1/3 of the US population has lost any sense of patriotism and loyalty to the Constitution. While Colin Kapernick kneeled during singing a song that not one Founding Father ever heard they got upset. While Donald Trump pisses away articles and clauses of the Constitution they wrote, this group of people acts like it’s no big deal.

I’m now at a loss for words.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Live Blog 2: Laughing Joe and Smirking Paul Veep Show

Well, they are really going at it.

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin each went immediately on the attack at the opening of their debate on Thursday night, sparring over Libya, Iraq and terrorism.

Responding to a question on the fatal attack last month on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Biden assailed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on a range of national security matters.

“Whatever mistakes were made will not be made again,” Biden said of the attack in Libya before pivoting to Romney’s support of the war in Iraq.

Biden credited President Obama for ending the Iraq war, saying Romney thought “we should have left 30,000 troops there.” He faulted Romney for objecting early on to Obama’s setting a 2014 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and for saying he “wouldn’t move heaven and Earth” to capture Osama bin Laden.

Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, said he mourned the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevensand three other Americans in the Libya attack, then criticized Obama’s response to the attack.

“It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack,” the Wisconsin congressman said.

Ryan said a Romney administration would provide Marines protecting an outpost like the one in Benghazi.

“If we’re hit by terrorists, we’re going to call it for what it is — a terrorist attack,” he said.

Ryan also castigated Obama’s administration for its evolving accounts of the Libya attack. “This is becoming more troubling by the day,” he said.

WAPO says they have “different styles”.

The first 45 minutes showed two men with widely divergent styles: Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, was precise and self-contained, marshalling numbers and policy issues.

Biden was looser and more familiar, chuckling in seeming exasperation several times at Ryan’s arguments, and interrupting the Republican in mid-argument. Eventually, Ryan seemed frustrated with a debate in which the two talked over each other.

“Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground,” Ryan said. “But I think people would be better served if we didn’t keep interrupting each other.”

One of Ryan’s best early moments came in response to the debate’s first question, about the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others. Ryan recounted how the White House’s account of the attack had shifted, and cast it as a signal of a broader problem.

“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making…us less safe,” Ryan said.

For Biden, the sharpest moment may have been when he picked up on the theme that President Obama did not touch in the first presidential debate. He recalled a Romney speech that was secretly recorded, in which the Republican candidate described 47 percent of Americans as people who considered themselves primarily victims.

“I’ve had it up to here with this notion that, ‘Forty-seven percent, it’s about time they take some sort of responsibility here,’” Biden said.

What do you think about this assessment?

The Fix ‏@TheFix

For political junkies and decided voters, this is a great debate. For the rest, it’s everything they hate about politics #vpdebate

Live Blog I : VEEP PEEP Show

Here we go!

Just thought I‘d drop this CSM article on the faux right wing outrage over the debate moderator tonight in as our first topic on a live blog series tonight. She’s actually a war correspondent but you know, it’s part of the lower expectations game.

On Wednesday, the conservative Daily Caller posted a blog about Ms. Raddatz, alleging bias because of her short-lived marriage in the 1990s to an Obama administration appointee, Julius Genachowski, the head of the Federal Communications Commission.

This shot comes on the heels of an avalanche of criticism aimed at last week’s presidential debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, ranging from GOP commentatorLaura Ingraham to Democratic contributor Bill Maher.

“There have always been questions about moderators,” says Atlanta-based GOP strategist David Johnson, who consulted on Bob Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign. Targeting moderators is simply a political strategy, he says, giving “each side a way to say, the debate was stacked against them if their candidates don’t do well.”

Mounting such a strategy before the debate even starts, Mr. Johnson adds, “makes the moderators go out of their way to be evenhanded.”

In one of the GOP debates earlier this year, CNN’sJohn King took withering heat for asking Newt Gingrichabout allegations made by his second wife. A variety of sources challenged Gwen Ifill’s objectivity in 2008 because she had written a book related to Barack Obama.

Now, both ABC News and the Commission on Presidential Debates have dismissed charges of bias against Raddatz, a senior foreign affairs correspondent. As reported in Politico Wednesday, The Washington Post’s conservative Jennifer Rubin tweeted that “this whole mini flap was obnoxious, dumb.”

Here’s the link to CPSPAN. 

The Republican Tax Scam or why compromise the Cow when the President will give you the Milk Free?

I think it’s safe to say that no one likes paying taxes.  However, every one likes roads without pot holes, functional national defense, public safety and justice systems, and modern infrastructure that supports commerce, travel, and trade.  How can Republicans justify their just say no new taxes position when they themselves continually run up government spending for their own pet projects?  Well, that’s where they’ve decided to lie and say  that decreased taxes means more revenues. That’s also why our deficit has been spinning out of control since the Dubya Bush tax cuts.  Unfortunately, they seem to want to continue this disingenuous game rather than tell the Grover Norquists in their base to take the delusion elsewhere.

Today, the last Republican walked away from VP Biden’s bipartisan task force to find a compromise solution to the budget.  Again, the issue was the lack of Republican will to pay for anything and to stop paying for anything that the majority of the nation demands. This has gone beyond ridiculous to dangerous.   Let me point you to the Bloomberg coverage and I’ll bold the important part.

President Barack Obama likely will step into the final stages of talks to break a deadlock over a plan to cut budget deficits, his spokesman said after two Republicans dropped out of talks led by Vice President Joe Biden.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor cited an “impasse” over tax increases in refusing along with Senator Jon Kyl to attend today’s planned negotiating session. They called for Obama to take the lead.

The move caught Democrats by surprise and raised the prospect that the Biden-led talks could collapse over taxes. Republicans insist on major spending cuts, and no tax increases, before they will agree to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The Treasury Department says the limit must be raised by Aug. 2 or the U.S. will risk defaulting on its obligations.

“It has always been the case that these talks would proceed to a point where the remaining areas of disagreement would be addressed by leaders and the president,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. He said the Biden talks “may or may not resume” and that he had nothing to announce on the next steps.

My guess is that Republicans want Obama to “step into the final stages” for several reasons.  First, the President’s direct involvement in talks will allow them to take political advantage of any suggestions they perceive as worth exploiting.  Second, every time Obama’s come to the bargaining table, he’s caved in or basically agreed to Republican demands.  Obama agreed to extend the Dubya tax cuts to the richest of the rich violating his own promise and stepping way over his line in the sand.  Obama also took every last Democratic policy out of Health Care Reform to the point there is virtually no difference between the 1990s plan American Heritage Institute plan first introduced by then Republican Senator John Chafee and later championed by Republican Senator Bob Dole.  We don’t have Obamney Care. We have the old Dolecare.  So, the Republicans have been fairly good at getting Republican policy passed without taking any of the blame. Why would they do any thing differently?

Ezra Klein explains why he thinks Eric Cantor won’t make the budget deal here.  He thinks its because Cantor will lose credibility with Teabots.

Cantor has the credibility with the Tea Party that Boehner lacks. But that’s why Cantor won’t cut the deal. The Tea Party-types support him because he’s the guy who won’t cut the deal. He can’t sign off on tax increases without losing his power base. But if he’s able to throw it back to Boehner, and Boehner cuts the deal, that’s all good for Cantor: Boehner becomes weaker and he becomes stronger. Which is why Boehner will also have trouble making this deal. It’ll mean he made the concessions that Cantor, the true conservative, didn’t. That’s not how he holds onto the gavel in this Republican Party.

One analysis of the House GOP right now is that there are two players in the GOP who can cut a budget deal: Eric Cantor and John Boehner (and, on some of the other budget issues, Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers). One of them is going to have to do it. Which means one of them is going to lose his job. The optimistic take is that what we’re seeing right now is a game of musical chairs over which one of them it’ll be.

But the pessimistic analysis is that if you had to write a plausible scenario for how America defaults on its debt, or at least seriously spooks the market, this is how it would start. After insisting on using the debt limit as leverage for a budget deal, the Republican leadership finds they can’t actually strike a deficit-reduction deal, but nor can they go back on their promise to vote against any increase in the debt limit that isn’t accompanied by a deficit-reduction deal. What follows is a lot of jockeying and fingerpointing, a short-term increase or two, and eventually, a market panic.

Cantor is putting personal power before country here, and in a very dangerous way.

ABC News explains that Senator Kyl has dropped out for similar reasons. None of the Republicans want to be the one’s to have signed the Read My Lips, No New Taxes Pledge, then sign on to new taxes.

A Senior Democratic aide says, “Cantor and Kyl just threw Boehner and McConnell under the bus. This move is an admission that there will be a need for revenues and Cantor and Kyl don’t want to be the ones to make that deal.”

I still think that the Republicans would rather go mano-y-mano with the President than nearly any other Democrat. The hapless Senator from Nebraska–Ben Nelson–is probably the only other spineless critter that would be somewhat attractive.  The only difference is that he’s got no pull within the party.

So, here’s the Republican spin:

In a joint statement with the chief Senate Republican negotiator, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, McConnell followed up by portraying Obama as a champion of higher taxes at the expense of “a bipartisan plan to address our deficit. He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

Cantor had sent mixed signals earlier this week, first saying that he wanted greater involvement by the president and then insisting that he remained committed to the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. His decision now appeared to catch some in the GOP leadership, including his fellow negotiator Kyl, by surprise. And it came just as Cantor has been on the defensive in the talks over Democratic demands for greater cuts from defense spending.

Adding to the intrigue was the almost Washington novel orchestration of the announcement. The Wall Street Journal was called in to get the news Thursday morning — the editorial pages of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper are famous for their anti-tax orthodoxy. And Cantor made his move just hours after a Wednesday night meeting at the White House between his sometimes rival, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Obama, who are slated to take over the talks once the Biden negotiations have run their course.

I still can’t figure out how the Republicans can be so successful at painting the President as being something completely at odds with reality but they continue to do so successfully.  My guess is they will get the President to step in and they will get what they want.  Then, look out.  The incredibly low taxes will continue to do nothing but drain the Treasury. The incredibly high spending cuts will do nothing but tank the economy.  The dithering around the debt ceiling increase will drive market interest rates up.  In short, the current situation will deteriorate.  Then, some one completely bat shit crazy like Michelle Bachmann will continue to spin the alternate reality and the opposite of truth and facts.  To be even short, we are going to be incredibly f’d.

This feels a lot like watching a high school graduate do an appendectomy on your best friend.  The people that know what they’re doing have left the building a long time ago.