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.


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Insanity Continues . . .

By Juan Bejar, b. 1946

Good Morning!!

The insanity continues. Yesterday Trump rocked markets with a series of unhinged tweets. I hope you’ll read this CNBC thread. It’s a classic of Trump turbulence.

 

Last night Trump left for the G7 Summit and on his way he had another yelling session with reporters. Nothing sane came out of that, but he claimed that his remark about being “the chosen one was “sarcastic.” and “we were all laughing?” I don’t think Trump knows what sarcasm is.

This morning I turned on the TV to see him at a “working lunch” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron spoke about the many serious problems that need to be discussed at the summit, including climate change. Trump uttered several disconnected sentences, mostly about the weather. After the lunch, Trump tweeted thanks to Macron to a parody account, misspelling Macon’s name.

The New York Times summarizes yesterday’s insanity: One Crazy Day Showed How Political Chaos Threatens the World Economy.

President Trump arrived in France on Saturday for a meeting of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, having set the stage for fireworks and confusion. In one dizzying day, he had seemed to be searching for whom or what to blame for economic troubles, first using Twitter to call his own Federal Reserve chief an enemy of the United States and then to urge American companies to stop doing business with China.

Louis-Léopold Boilly – Gabrielle Arnault as a Child, 1813

And that was just while the markets were open. Later Friday, he said he would apply tariffs to all Chinese imports and increase those already in place….if a recession and breakdown in international commerce happens in the coming year, histories of the episode may well spend a chapter on the Friday collision of official actions in the government offices of Beijing, in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and in the Oval Office.

It became clear in real time how the risks of an escalating trade war and the fraying of longstanding financial and political ties could quickly outpace the ability of central banks — the normal first responders to economic distress — to do anything about it.

President Trump’s shoot-first approach adds to the risks at a delicate moment, with major economies in Asia and Europe already teetering and policymakers’ capacity to contain the damage in question.

“The escalation, the unpredictability, the erratic nature of policy developments is central to what is going on, and these aren’t things you can plug into an economic model,” said Julia Coronado, president of MacroPolicy Perspectives, an economic consultancy. “Something is breaking. It’s very dangerous.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

In France today, Trump claimed he has the power to force companies to follow the commands he issued on Twitter yesterday. The New York Times: Trump Asserts He Can Force U.S. Companies to Leave China.

Portrait of a Young Girl, Samuel Miller (c. 1807–1853), c. 1845

BIARRITZ, France — President Trump asserted on Saturday that he has the authority to make good on his threat to force all American businesses to leave China, citing a national security law that has been used mainly to target terrorists, drug traffickers and pariah states like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

As he arrived in France for the annual meeting of the Group of 7 powers, Mr. Trump posted a message on Twitter citing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 — a law meant to enable a president to isolate criminal regimes but not intended to be used to cut off economic ties with a major trading partner because of a disagreement over tariffs.

“For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Case closed!” [….]

In raising the possibility of forcing American businesses to pull out of China on Friday, Mr. Trump framed it not as a request but as an order he had already issued.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing our companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he wrote on Twitter, adding, “We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.”

In fact, aides said, no order has been drawn up nor was it clear that he would attempt to do so. Instead, it could be the latest negotiating tactic by a president who favors drastic threats without always following through on them in hopes of forcing partners to make concessions.

The “president” is a madman and we’re stuck with him for now.

By George Gassner 1811–1861

According to CNN, Trump doesn’t understand why he has to go to the G7: Trump has questioned why he must attend G7.

…in conversations with aides over the past weeks, Trump has questioned why he must attend, according to people familiar with the conversations. After the past two G7 summits ended acrimoniously, Trump complained about attending a third, saying he didn’t view the gathering as a particularly productive use of his time.

He’s made similar asides in meetings with other world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have encouraged him over the past six months to commit to attending the Biarritz summit, people familiar with the conversations said. Macron is this year’s summit host.

The G7 represents the world’s major economies, and has long been a regular stop on the US President’s calendar. In small group sessions, with only the leaders and few aides present, the world’s major economic and geopolitical problems are discussed at length.
It’s a more workaday style of foreign travel than the type of trip Trump has come to enjoy, which usually include lavish displays of welcome like royal parades or state banquets. It’s also a practice in the kind of multilateralism that Trump and his aides have downplayed in favor of one-one-one negotiations with other countries.

But if he didn’t attend, he would miss an opportunity to sow global chaos and frighten out allies half to death.

By Otto Van Veen, 1584

Associated Press: At global summit, Trump facing limits of go-it-alone stance.

Trump, growing more isolated in Washington, faces a tepid reception on the world stage, where a list of challenges awaits. Anxiety is growing over a global slowdown , and there are new points of tension with allies on trade, Iran and Russia.

Fears of a financial downturn are spreading, meaning the need for cooperation and a collective response is essential. Yet Trump has ridiculed Germany for its economic travails at a time when he may have to turn to Chancellor Angela Merkel and others to help blunt the force of China’s newly aggressive tariffs on U.S. goods. Those trade penalties, combined with the economic slowdown, have raised political alarms for Trump’s reelection effort .

In a late addition to the schedule, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron sat across from each other at a small table for lunch outside the opulent Hotel du Palais before the official start of the summit. Hours earlier, Trump threatened anew to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. over France’s digital services tax, and that prompted a European leader to promise European Union action if the U.S. followed through. Macron called for an end to the trade wars he said are “taking hold everywhere.”

Macron, the summit host, said two were discussing “a lot of crisis” around the world, including Libya, Iran and Russia, as well as trade policy and climate change.

Good luck with that.

Martha Bartlett with Kitten 1875 Unknown artist

At The New Yorker, David Remnick warns us about sinking into despair over Trump’s insanity: Trump Clarification Syndrome. Here’s the gist:

Again and again, Trump’s top advisers––Daniel Coats, Gary Cohn, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, H. R. McMaster, and John Kelly among them––have left the White House clutching their heads, their dignity and nerves in rags, realizing that they have served a President who is unreachable, beyond cure and counsel; a man of rotten character, blatant instability, and zero empathy; an empty but radically dangerous human being, who occupies the highest office in the land….

But, as perilous and unnerving as things are, any form of political despair at such a moment remains unforgivable. Despair is a form of self-indulgence, a dodge. Trump’s derangements in policy and character should instead instill a kind of Trump Clarification Syndrome, a reckoning with what confronts us. A reckoning, as the Amazon rain forest burns, with climate change. A reckoning, as Trump threatens to revoke the barest protections for immigrant children and the guarantee of birthright citizenship, with the history and persistence of bigotry in all forms. With the structural persistence of inequality of income and opportunity. With matters of truth and falsehood. Trump’s presence in the White House is depressing, there is no doubt, but to wallow in that gloom, or even to imagine that public life will “return to normal” on its own after his departure, is insufficient, even inexcusable. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans who cannot countenance Trumpist politics ought to welcome the most urgent kind of political debate on matters of policy and on who we are as a country. Perhaps it is a form of derangement to say it, but it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump, who has been such a ruinous figure on the public scene, has at least done the country an unintended service by clarifying some of our deepest flaws and looming dangers in his uniquely lurid light.

A Girl with Her Cat by Hendrik Maarten Krabbe

In non-Trump news, Joe Biden committed another disturbing faux pas yesterday. The Washington Post: Evoking 1968 at town hall, Biden asks: What would have happened if Obama had been assassinated?

HANOVER, N.H. — Former vice president Joe Biden, returning to this crucial primary state and attempting to put the focus on the foibles of President Trump, took an unusual departure toward the end of a 70-minute dive into health-care policy by asking the crowd to imagine the assassination of Barack Obama.

“None of you . . . women are old enough — but a couple of you guys are old enough,” he said during a town hall at Dartmouth College. “I graduated in 1968. Everybody before me was, ‘Drop out, go to Haight-Ashbury, don’t trust anybody over 30, everybody not get involved.’ No, I’m serious. I know no woman will shake her head and acknowledge it. But you guys know what I’m talking about. Right? But then what happened?”

The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination referenced the assassinations of two of his political heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy — who was killed while running for president.

At least he’s figured out that the assassinations happening 1968, not the late-1970s.

“Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, if Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee,” he continued. “What would have happened in America?”

La dame et son chat Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837)

What was his point? Your guess is as good as mine. But this puts me in mind of something Hillary said in 2008 that was met with universal outrage. The New York Times, May 24, 2008:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defended staying in the Democratic nominating contest on Friday by pointing out that her husband had not wrapped up the nomination until June 1992, adding, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Her remarks were met with quick criticism from the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, and within hours of making them Mrs. Clinton expressed regret, saying, “The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy,” referring to the recent diagnosis of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s brain tumor. She added, “And I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.”

Why isn’t Biden’s strange remark getting the same amount of negative attention that Clinton’s did back in 2008? Actually, I know the answer . . .

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Black Cats and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!

On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.

Today, pop culture loves black cats.  There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in  “Hocus Pocus”,  Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!

In Other News . . .

By Irina Kalentieva, 1965

Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.

William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:

Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?

Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?

Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?

The Black Cat, by Christian Schloe

Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….

He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:

Check out his Twitter feed to read more.

Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:

 President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.

The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.

Pierrot et le Chat, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..

Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.

Portrait of Mo von Haugk, 1932 – Conrad Felixmüller, (German 1897-1977)

Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.

Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.

The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.

In the boudoir, 1869, Lucius Rossi

Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.

In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.

He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:

In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.

When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:

Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.

Katherina Goncharova – Midday Dream

Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.

The Miami Herald: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.

About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.

Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.

So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Russia Backs Tulsi Gabbard; Kamala Harris Gets the Hillary Clinton Treatment.

Breathe, by Yoko Tanji

Good Morning!!

In 2016, Russian bots targeted Hillary Clinton and worked to support Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. The candidate they are most afraid of in 2020 appears to be Kamala Harris, and they are pushing hard to get Democrats to support Tulsi Gabbard.

Tulsi Gabbard is not Democrats’ friend.

Clint Watts is an expert on cybersecurity and Russian social media influence.

See also this important thread from Virginia Heffernan.

Stories to check out:

NBC News, from February: Russia’s propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat who earlier this month declared her intention to run for president in 2020.

An NBC News analysis of the main English-language news sites employed by Russia in its 2016 election meddling shows Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is set to make her formal announcement Saturday, has become a favorite of the sites Moscow used when it interfered in 2016.

Several experts who track websites and social media linked to the Kremlin have also seen what they believe may be the first stirrings of an upcoming Russian campaign of support for Gabbard.

Watercolor by Fabienne Rivory

Since Gabbard announced her intention to run on Jan. 11, there have been at least 20 Gabbard stories on three major Moscow-based English-language websites affiliated with or supportive of the Russian government: RT, the Russian-owned TV outlet; Sputnik News, a radio outlet; and Russia Insider, a blog that experts say closely follows the Kremlin line. The CIA has called RT and Sputnik part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

All three sites celebrated Gabbard’s announcement, defended her positions on Russia and her 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and attacked those who have suggested she is a pawn for Moscow. The coverage devoted to Gabbard, both in news and commentary, exceeds that afforded to any of the declared or rumored Democratic candidates despite Gabbard’s lack of voter recognition.

The Daily Beast, from May: Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is being underwritten by some of the nation’s leading Russophiles.

Donors to her campaign in the first quarter of the year included: Stephen F. Cohen, a Russian studies professor at New York University and prominent Kremlin sympathizer; Sharon Tennison, a vocal Putin supporter who nonetheless found herself detained by Russian authorities in 2016; and an employee of the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, who appears to have donated under the alias “Goofy Grapes.”

Gabbard is one of her party’s more Russia-friendly voices in an era of deep Democratic suspicion of the country over its efforts to tip the 2016 election in favor of President Donald Trump. Her financial support from prominent pro-Russian voices in the U.S. is a small portion of the total she’s raised. But it still illustrates the degree to which she deviates from her party’s mainstream on such a contentious and high-profile issue.

Illustration by Gisela Assensio Perez

The bots loved the way Gabbard attacked Kamala Harris in the second Democratic debate. Politifact looked at Gabbard’s charges against Harris and found them false or lacking context: Were Tulsi Gabbard’s attacks on Kamala Harris’ record as a California prosecutor on target? I hope you’ll read the article.

Finally, The New York Times has a major profile of Gabbard: Tulsi Gabbard Thinks We’re Doomed. Some exerpts:

A Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii who was first elected in 2012, Ms. Gabbard is a singular figure in the 2020 race. She doesn’t fit neatly into any one established ideology or school of thought.

She has a relatively bare-bones political operation and a history of outlier positions, from her foreign policy stances to suing Google for free-speech impingement. Some of her own advisers do not think she will win….

…her run, and the unusual cross-section of voters she appeals to — Howard Zinn fans, anti-drug-war libertarians, Russia-gate skeptics, and conservatives suspicious of Big Tech — signifies just how much both parties have shifted, not just on foreign policy. It could end up being a sign that President Trump’s isolationism is not the aberration many believed, but rather a harbinger of a growing national sentiment that America should stand alone.

On the far left, her supporters appreciate how she talks about respecting Native cultures. On the right, as liberal democracies see authoritarian strongmen rise, Ms. Gabbard’s allies like that she would not meddle with dictators.

The threat from Russia is severely exaggerated, Ms. Gabbard says. Do not beat the drums of war with Iran. Make nice with North Korea.

She flew to Syria in 2017 and had what seemed to be a friendly meeting with Bashar al-Assad, shocking her colleagues in Congress, and voted against a House resolution condemning the dictator’s war crimes. More recently, she said Mr. Assad was “not the enemy of the United States.”

On Russian support for Gabbard:

Illustration by Jacqueline Molnár

“Tracking metrics of Russian state propaganda on Twitter, she was by far the most favored candidate,” said Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “She’s the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat. She is such a useful agent of influence for them. Whether she knows it’s happening or not, they love what she’s saying.”

The appeal, Mr. Watts explained, is clear: “She’s a U.S. military officer and a Democrat who says the U.S. should withdraw from the world.”

And on support from the far right:

She also has attracted the attention of some figures in the alt-right, in part because they imagine that a reordering of America’s role abroad also means pulling away from its longstanding alliance with Israel. David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, has tweeted approvingly of her.

In other news . . .

The Baltimore Sun editorial board is on fire. Yesterday they once again wrote about Trump’s attacks on Baltimore: The pitiful day a U.S. president used a political rally to mock Baltimore’s homicide rate.

Slightly more than 15 minutes into his speech at a rally in Cincinnati Thursday night — right after claiming the crowd was record size but bemoaning how local authorities had limited the arena’s lawful capacity — President Donald Trump set his sights once again upon Baltimore. Basking in the crowd’s adulation, he started listing the dangerous countries where the murder rate was, he believed, not as bad as Charm City’s. El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. Then he sought his supporters’ response. ” I believe it’s higher than … give me, give me a place that you think is pretty bad,” he excitedly announced. “Give me a place. This guy says Afghanistan,” he said smiling and pointing to a member of the audience. “I believe it’s higher than Afghanistan.”

White Boat par Oxana Zaika

The crowd took it all in appreciatively, smiling, some cheering. They laughed when their leader joked how fact-checkers might contradict him Friday. Like Mr. Trump, they appeared wholly indifferent to people dying in Baltimore.

We have seen much in our day. Crime, poverty, drug abuse, racial discrimination, human trafficking, hate crimes. We have witnessed soldiers marched off to wars, some justified, others not. We have reported on horrible car accidents, serial killings, political corruption, disease outbreaks, air crashes, natural disasters, tragedy heaped on tragedy. But we can’t recall a president of the United States making light of the violent deaths of his fellow Americans….

And what are we to make of an audience that Mr. Trump so often described as “patriotic” yet which views Baltimore with such distaste and indifference? Cincinnati suffers these woes, too. There are murders and trash strewn alleys, overdose deaths and concentrated poverty. Why so little compassion? This was not a game, not the Reds against the Orioles, the Bengals against the Ravens. It was about the carnage on our streets, the 309 people killed here last year, the 197 murdered so far this year.

Remember the way John Delaney attacked Medicare for all at the Democratic debate this week? Here’s an interesting story from Sludge: Delaney Super PAC’s Biggest Donor is Wife of Former Health Care CEO.

As former Maryland representative John Delaney campaigns against single-payer health care and enjoys his considerable investments in the health care industry, he’s getting a boost from the wife of a close friend and former health care CEO. The biggest donor to a pro-Delaney super PAC, The Right Answer Committee, is philanthropist Katherine Bradley, whose husband, David, founded The Advisory Board Company, a major health care research and consulting firm.

In 2017, Advisory Board was acquired by Optum, a pharmacy benefit manager owned by insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann claimed that Medicare for All would “destabilize the nation’s health system” in April.

Painting by Kelly Beeman

Single-payer health care, as exemplified by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) Medicare for All Act, would end the for-profit health insurance industry and decrease overall health spending in the U.S., according to multiple studies, including one published by the conservative, free-market think tank the Mercatus Center. The government would be able to bargain down drug prices, and fees for service to care providers would likely decrease (although providers would likely see an increase in patients, given that the roughly 30 million Americans without insurance today would all be covered).

Six individuals have contributed a total of $85,000 to the pro-Delaney super PAC in 2019, including $50,000 from Katherine Bradley. David Bradley hasn’t contributed to the super PAC or to Delaney’s campaign this year, but he, his wife, and two of his sons each donated $2,700 to the Delaney congressional campaign in 2017. From 2012-17, the Bradleys gave a total of over $39,000 to Delaney’s campaigns.

A judge has said that the officer who killed Eric Garner should be fired. NPR: NYPD Judge Recommends That The Officer Involved In Eric Garner’s Death Be Fired.

An administrative judge with the New York Police Department has recommended that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

The judge found Pantaleo guilty of using a banned chokehold but did not find him guilty of intentionally restricting Garner’s breathing. Garner’s repeated cry of “I can’t breathe” triggered national outrage and galvanized activists concerned about police use of force.

As a result of the decision, the NYPD announced that Pantaleo has been suspended, “as is the longstanding practice in these matters when the recommendation is termination.” It is unknown whether he will be paid during this suspension.

The judge, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado, issued her recommendation Friday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was hit with questions about the Eric Garner case at the last debate. At The New York Daily News, Harry Siegal writes that de Blasio was gaslighting: Garner, Pantaleo, de Blasio and truth: Let’s be honest about how New York City got here</a. It’s a bit complicated. Click on the link to read about it.

One more interesting story from Justin Hendrix at Just Security: Trump’s Encouraging QAnon May Result in Violence—Just ask the FBI.

On Thursday, Yahoo! News published an exclusive story detailing a May 2019 FBI assessment that online conspiracy theories “very likely” result in domestic extremists committing violent crimes. The report notes that it is “the first FBI product examining the threat from conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists and provides a baseline for future intelligence products,” and predicts an increased risk of violent outcomes as the United States enters “major election cycles such as the 2020 presidential election.”

If that happens, it may be in no small part due to President Donald Trump’s endorsement and amplification of conspiracy theories and theorists such as QAnon. A few hours after the FBI assessment leaked, the President held a campaign rally in Cincinnati, where the pre-rally speaker Brandon Straka called out the phrase, “Where we go one, we go all,” a rallying cry of QAnon believers. That’s just the tip of the iceberg….

The President has retweeted QAnon supporters, perhaps unwittingly, dozens of times….Perhaps more significant is the President’s eagerness to engage personally with individuals who advance the conspiracy theory. For instance, right wing media personality Bill Mitchell “has regularly used his radio show and Twitter account to boost and legitimize ‘Q,’ the central figure of the QAnon conspiracy theory, sometimes hosting major QAnon believers,” according to Alex Kaplan at Media Matters. Mitchell was among the extremists invited to the White House for its recent Social Media Summit. Another QAnon supporter and conspiracy theorist, Michael Lebron, was photographed with Donald Trump in the Oval Office last summer, according to CNN.

Much more information at the link.

So . . . What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Olga Kost

Good Afternoon!!

The occupant of the people’s White House began his morning with more racist attacks on people of color. This time it was Rep. Elijah Cummings and the people of Baltimore. I won’t subject you to the tweets, but he claimed that Cummings’ district in Maryland is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “very dangerous & filthy place” and that “no human being would want to live there.” He also called Cummings a “brutal bully” because he criticized Trump’s concentration camps.

Apparently the occupant was watching TV this morning before he heads out to play more golf.

Cummings also announced recently that he has subpoenaed the White House for employees’ emails sent on personal accounts. That would include Ivanka and Jared.

This morning, CNN’s Victor Blackwell gave an eloquent response to the occupant’s ugly tweets.

Of course the real source of Trump’s rage is the fact that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have opened an impeachment inquiry into his crimes.

Joshua Matz at The Washington Post: The House has already opened an impeachment investigation against Trump. (Matz is the co-author of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.

Has the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry? That question is starkly presented by a petition that the House Judiciary Committee filed in federal court on Friday. It is also answered by that petition. No matter what certain House Democratic leaders might say about the politics of the matter, there can now be no doubt that the committee is engaged in an investigation of whether to impeach President Trump.

Flora Merleau, Dear Alexander

Through its petition, the committee seeks access to portions of the report by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that were redacted to protect grand jury secrecy. The panel also seeks grand jury testimony bearing on Trump’s knowledge of criminal acts, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Russian connections to his campaign. Finally, the committee seeks grand jury testimony about actions taken by former White House counsel Donald McGahn; this last request probably anticipates the committee’s rumored plans to seek an order compelling McGahn to testify.

It is settled law that House committees can obtain grand jury materials as part of impeachment investigations. So the legal dispute will probably center on whether such an inquiry is underway.

The Constitution itself does not use phrases like “impeachment investigation” or “impeachment proceedings.” This has led some to mistakenly assume that the House is disregarding its impeachment power because it has not yet held a floor vote approving articles of impeachment (or expressly instructing the Judiciary Committee to deliberate on such articles).

But to those who specialize in these matters, that all-or-nothing vision of the impeachment power is mistaken. The Constitution’s text and structure — supported by judicial precedent and prior practice — show that impeachment is a process, not a single vote. And that process virtually always begins with an impeachment investigation in the judiciary committee, which is already occurring.

Here is the historic announcement made by Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

At The Atlantic, four members of the House of Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon, David Cicilline, Pramila Jayapal, and Veronica Escobar write: Why We’re Moving Forward With Impeachment.

Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees was a watershed moment. At this point, it is up to Congress to act on the evidence of multiple counts of obstruction of justice committed by the president, and to continue our investigation into whether he has committed other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Beryl Cook, The Great Cat

Despite assertions to the contrary by the president and his allies, the special counsel’s report and testimony are not the end of our investigations. We have now filed a petition in court to obtain the grand-jury documents referenced in the special counsel’s report. In that filing, we have made clear that we will utilize our Article I powers to obtain the additional underlying evidence, as well as enforce subpoenas for key witness testimony, and broaden our investigations to include conflicts of interest and financial misconduct.

While many people believe that beginning an impeachment investigation can begin only with a vote of the full House of Representatives, this is not true. Article I authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to begin this process.

As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we understand the gravity of this moment that we find ourselves in. We wake up every morning with the understanding of the oath that binds us as members of Congress, and the trust that our constituents placed in us to uphold that oath. We will move forward with the impeachment process. Our investigation will seriously examine all the evidence as we consider whether to bring articles of impeachment or other remedies under our Article I powers.

Our Constitution requires it. Our democracy depends on it.

An so finally, it is happening.

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell blocked two more election security bills in the Senate. Twitter responded by getting the hashtag #MoscowMitch trending. Newsweek:

The hashtag #MoscowMitch was trending on Twitter on Friday morning after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two election bills designed to deter interference by Russia and other states, claiming it was “partisan legislation” by the Democratic Party.

It followed special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday that Russia is still attempting to interfere in American democracy, further to its meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with a view to disrupting the 2020 contest.

Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Black Cat

Then on Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report detailing Russian interference dating back to at least 2014 through to 2017 that targeted U.S. election infrastructure with an “unprecedented level of activity.”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough used the moniker “Moscow Mitch” in reference to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, multiple times during his MSNBC show on Friday, and tore into the congressional leader for several minutes.

Scarborough made reference to an effort in 2016 ahead of the election by President Barack Obama to sound the alarm to American voters about Russian interference by urging congressional leaders to sign a bipartisan statement condemning it publicly.

At the time, according to The Washington PostMcConnell rebuffed Obama’s suggestion, and said he would view the White House talking publicly about Russian interference before polling day as an act of partisanship designed to aid the then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

As everyone here knows, Sanctioned Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska has promised to pour millions into McConnell’s home state of Kentucky by opening a new aluminum plant there. In addition, Newsweek reports that Mitch McConnell received donations from voting maachine lobbyists before blocking election security bills.

This morning Dana Millbank went there at The Washington Post: Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.

Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.

This doesn’t mean he’s a spy, but neither is it a flip accusation. Russia attacked our country in 2016. It is attacking us today. Its attacks will intensify in 2020. Yet each time we try to raise our defenses to repel the attack, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, blocks us from defending ourselves.

By Mariana Kalacheva

Let’s call this what it is: unpatriotic. The Kentucky Republican is, arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.

Robert Mueller sat before Congress this week warning that the Russia threat “deserves the attention of every American.” He said “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious” challenges to American democracy he has ever seen. “They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” he warned, adding that “much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but others as well.”

Millbank provides specifics of McConnell’s unpatriotic behavior:

McConnell has blocked all such attempts [to protect our elections], including:

A bipartisan bill requiring Facebook, Google and other Internet companies to disclose purchasers of political ads, to identify foreign influence.

A bipartisan bill to ease cooperation between state election officials and federal intelligence agencies.

A bipartisan bill imposing sanctions on any entity that attacks a U.S. election.

A bipartisan bill with severe new sanctions on Russia for its cybercrimes.

McConnell has prevented them all from being considered — over and over again. This is the same McConnell who, in the summer of 2016, when briefed by the CIA along with other congressional leaders on Russia’s electoral attacks, questioned the validity of the intelligence and forced a watering down of a warning letter to state officials about the threat, omitting any mention of Russia.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

On Hardball yesterday, John Brennan discussed McConnell’s behavior in 2016.

This days, the GOP is filled with Russian assets like Trump’s suck-up golf buddy Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who tried to block funding to help 9/11 first responders but fights sanctions on a Russian pipeline. The Daily Beast:

Advocates for a massive Russian natural gas pipeline project have a powerful, quiet ally in Congress: Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and close friend of President Donald Trump. He has quietly worked against sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project, which would dramatically expand Russia’s shipments of natural gas to Germany. Critics say it would also dramatically expand Russia’s influence in Western Europe while harming Ukraine. The Trump administration has weighed sanctioning the project, but has yet to do so. And Trump himself has criticized it.

On Thursday, the senator postponed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s mark-up of legislation that would have put sanctions on the project, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the committee’s proceedings. And while Paul hasn’t publicized his opposition to the proposed sanctions, he sent Senate colleagues a letter before the mark-up explaining his stance. The letter, which The Daily Beast obtained, argues that the legislation in question—a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeanne Shaheen—doesn’t clearly state which entities would be sanctioned.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Congress Must Stop The “Cover-Up General” Bill Barr

Hillary and Bill with Socks on the White House lawn

Good Morning!!

Some folks are beginning to catch on to the “Cover-Up General” Bill Barr. I’ve been writing about this for the past couple of weeks. Barr did what even Jeff Sessions wasn’t corrupt enough to do. He shut down the Russia investigation and now he’s stalling for time in order to keep the American people from learning what Robert Mueller found about Donald Trump, his crime family, and his evil goons.

Barr knows how to shut down an investigation and cover up the results. Way back in 1992, The New York Times’s William Safire raged in column after column against Barr’s cover-up of the Iraq-gate scandal, but Barr won in the end by getting George H.W. Bush to pardon the top conspirators.

Audrey Hepburn with Paris 1957

Read a recap of the scandal and Barr’s victory in The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 1992: Iraqgate–A Case Study of a Big Story With Little Impact. Bush had illegally armed Saddam Hussein from 1986 and 1990. He handed Hussein “the very weapons he later used against American and allied forces in the Persian Gulf War.”

Bill Barr shut down both Iran Contra and Iraqgate by shutting the investigation down, first refusing to appoint a special prosecutor for Iraqgate and then recommending the pardons of the top Iran Contra officials.

NPR, Jan. 14, 2019: William Barr Supported Pardons In An Earlier D.C. ‘Witch Hunt’: Iran-Contra.

Barr….ran the Justice Department once before, under President George H.W. Bush.

Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six people who had been caught up in it.

“The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call,” Bush said then. “That’s what I’ve done.”

Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president’s decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.

To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

Cat Stevens

“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.

“The big ones — obviously, the Iran-Contra ones — I certainly did not oppose any of them,” Barr said as part of the Presidential Oral History Program of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

From Bloomberg, Jan. 19, 2019:

The most significant single act of Barr’s career in the Department of Justice was to advise President George H.W. Bush to pardon six officials from Ronald Reagan’s administration, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, for crimes associated with the Iran-Contra affair. At the time, Barr was — you guessed it — attorney general. His recommendation gave Bush the cover he needed to issue the pardons.

And Bush needed the cover. The investigation led by independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was closing in on the president himself. Walsh had demanded that Bush turn over a campaign diary that he kept in 1986. Bush failed to do so, presumably because the diary showed he knew more about Iran-Contra than he had let on. Walsh publicly condemned Bush’s failure to produce the diary as “misconduct” by the sitting president.

Jackie and Croline Kennedy, Hyannis Port, MA 1961

Issuing the pardons killed Walsh’s investigation — and saved Bush. When the targets of the investigation were off the hook, Walsh had no leverage to continue.

Don’t take my word for it. When the pardons came, Walsh went on ABC’s “Nightline” and said that Bush had “succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.” The comparison was intended. Walsh was saying that Bush had saved himself by effectively ending an investigation that was leading to the Oval Office — the aim that Nixon failed to accomplish when he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Leaving little to the imagination, Walsh also said at the time that he had “evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”

The architect of this pardon strategy was Barr. In an oral history interview he gave in 2001, Barr said he didn’t consult with the pardon office at his own Department of Justice, which was playing its “usual role — naysayers” against issuing pardons.

Instead, Barr said he spoke to “some seasoned professionals” at Justice. Then, “based on those discussions, I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others.”

Read more of Barr’s corrupt history in this piece by Lloyd Green at The Guardian from March 25, 2019: William Barr: attorney general plays Republican spear-catcher again. From the article, some examples of Barr’s obfuscation techniques:

Doris Day

House Democrats demanded Barr appoint an independent counsel to investigate the sins of the Bush administration. They were rebuffed. In a letter to the House judiciary committee, Barr tossed around such phrases as “not a crime”, “simply not criminal in any way”, “nothing illegal”, and “far from being a crime.”

As to the separate question of whether administration officials deliberately altered commerce department documents in an effort to conceal military sales to Iraq and purposely misled Congress about Iraq policy, Barr contended the Department of Justice was up to that task.

He wrote: “These are the kinds of allegations that are routinely investigated by the Public Integrity Section and there is no conflict of interest that precluded their handling these matters in the normal course.” [….]

From the looks of things, Trump has the attorney general of his dreams. Like the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh, Barr is a loyal conservative who comes with a Bush family seal of approval. For this president, it doesn’t get better than that.

Fortunately, this time we have more engaged House members than in 1992. Let’s hope they’ve researched Cover-Up General Barr’s history and are ready to fight back. We have to stand with Adam Schiff.

 

 

Two more relevant reads:

The Washington Post: Sally Yates: William Barr should release the full Mueller report as soon as possible.

America’s justice system is built upon one thing — truth. When witnesses give testimony, they are sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The word “verdict” derives from the Latin term “veredictum,” meaning “to say the truth.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a public servant with impeccable integrity, was entrusted to find the truth regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and has spoken through a comprehensive report that details the facts that he uncovered.

Christina Ricci

Yet a week after Mueller issued his report, we don’t know those facts and have only been provided with Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s estimated 400-page report. It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth. We need to see the report itself.

First, as the attorney general’s letter to Congress notes, the Mueller report “outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.” Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our democracy. Without access to the full factual record of what the special counsel uncovered, it cannot fulfill that mandate. As you read this, the Russian government is undoubtedly hard at work to undermine our next election. Each day that passes without Congress having access to the full Mueller report is a day that Congress is prevented from doing its job of keeping our elections free from Russian espionage efforts.

Second, Barr’s letter leaves important questions unanswered concerning what then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference, and how they responded to Russian overtures to assist the campaign. While Barr’s letter states that the investigation did not establish that the campaign reached an agreement with the Russian government to take actions to impact the election in Trump’s favor, it reveals that the campaign did field “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Yet President Trump and others have repeatedly claimed that they had no contact with Russians, or knowledge that Russians were acting to assist his campaign.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

David Corn at Mother Jones: Here’s the Real Trump-Russia Hoax.

Elvis Presley

Two fundamental facts were established long before Mueller completed his investigation. First, the Russians attacked an American election in order to sow chaos, hurt Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. Second, Trump and his top advisers during the campaign repeatedly denied this attack was underway, echoing and amplifying Moscow disinformation (the false claim that Russia was not attacking). Whether or not the Trumpers were directly in cahoots with the Russian government, they ran interference for Vladimir Putin’s assault on the United States, and they even did so after the intelligence community had briefed Trump on Russia’s culpability.

So to determine if the Barr triumphalists are acting in good faith, you need only ask them a simple question: do you accept these basic facts and acknowledge the profound seriousness of each one?

The Russian attack on the 2016 election was an attempt to subvert the foundation of American society: the democratic process. How can Americans have faith in their government, if elections are undermined by secret schemers, including a foreign government? It is certainly arguable that the Russian intervention—particularly the stealing and drip-drip-drip dumping of the John Podesta emails across the final four weeks of the election—was one of several decisive factors in a contest that had a narrow and tight finish. Consequently, there is a strong case that Moscow helped shift the course of US history by contributing to the election of Trump….

Jimmy Stewart, with Piewackit from Bell Book and Candle

During the campaign and afterward, some Trump backers and some critics on the left, including columnist and media scold Glenn Greenwald, questioned whether the Russians indeed engaged in such skulduggery. (The Nation, where I once worked, published an articlepromoting a report that claimed the Russians did not hack the Democratic National Committee—and then had to backtrack when that report turned out to be bunk.)

For many of these scandal skeptics, it hasn’t seemed to matter that the charge against Moscow has been publicly confirmed by the Obama administration, the US intelligence community (which concluded that Putin’s operation intended to help Trump), both Republicans and Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees, and Robert Mueller, who indicted a mess of Russians for participating in this covert operation. True, there often is cause to question officialdom and government sources. Yet anyone citing the Mueller report, as it is narrowly capsulized by Barr, must also accept his key finding: Russia attacked the United States and intervened in the election. (They must also accept that, as the Barr letter disclosed, Mueller found evidence suggesting Trump obstructed justice but did not reach a final judgment on this question.)

That’s it for me. What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Caturday: Celebrations and Reflections

1014335_406336752816251_509147101_nGood afternoon, newsjunkies!

Have you seen next week’s cover of The New Yorker that’s been floating around the internet yet? Well, obviously you have now if you’re reading this post. It’s nothing short of SQUEEEEE! Bert and Ernie nestled together on the couch snuggin’ while watching The Supremes in their robes on the TV.

The Supremes did good on knocking the wind out of DOMA, but it was a long time coming. They’re still in the doghouse for all their other despicable and unreal rulings this week. So while I did pop some champagne to celebrate the good things going on, including the tumbling down of DOMA, no cookies to the Supremes on this. I give the credit to all the grassroots LGBT activists and their growing accumulation of allies who have worked so hard for so many years to bring Wednesday’s ruling to fruition. Well done, everyone! The 21st century is finally starting to arrive…it’s here, it’s queer, and we as a society are not only going to live with it–we are going to live it up! Watch out, y’all, I am so happy for our LGBT sisters and brothers and for all of us as a ONE LOVE-ONE WORLD, I could about start doing some of my inner feminist Pollyanna somersaults all over this page. (I am an absolute klutz with no athletic motor skill coordination whatsoever, so that is truly a feat!)

So, to review:

relaxheterosexuals

And, via HuffPo, 10 WAYS THE DOMA REPEAL WILL AFFECT ‘TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE’:

After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that the Defense Of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, it’s time to look at the top 10 ways heterosexual marriage will be affected now that it’s not being defended.

1. Uh…
1

2. Uhhh…
2

3. Hmm…
3

4. Just a sec…
4

5. It’s like… You know how… It’s like when things… Right?
5

6. We swear we just had one
6

7. It’s coming… Wait for it…
7

8. Hey! Look over there!
8

9. Wait, where are you going?
9

10. Global warming?
10

Here’s what the wonderful Joyce L. Arnold  of “Queer Talk” has been blogging over at Taylor Marsh’s, which I think gives a pretty good overview and is instructive in terms of “Where we go from here”…Note: I am only quoting excerpts here, interspersed with a bit of commentary from me, so take the time to click over and read the pieces in full when you get the chance:

The much anticipated Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 were announced this morning.[…] The fight for marriage equality isn’t over. Everyone knows that. But today is huge, and it’s time to do some celebrating.

Post SCOTUS, post DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, the “now what” in LGBT equality question is getting attention, and one response to that question comes by way of the Campaign for Southern Equality. The organization didn’t just come into existence, but they were very ready for this moment. Other LGBT groups are, too, of course, from local to state to national levels. I find the efforts of CSE to be particularly inspiring precisely because they refuse to comply with the “just move to where you’re more accepted” arguments – and we hear them regularly – but stay, and fight for equality. There are a lot of people doing that, in the South and other more “challenging,” but definitely changing toward the better, areas.

About CSE: (emphasis added throughout)

Based in North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality is an effort to assert the full humanity and equality of LGBT people living in the South.

One of their projects is the WE DO Campaign, which

… involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.

These WE DO actions serve to make the impact of discriminatory laws visible to the general public; they illustrate what it looks like when LGBT people are treated as second-class… citizens under the law.

Take less than three minutes to watch.

Here is the video Joyce has spotlighted, which is well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. Very inspiring (this roundup continues after the video, so please keep scrolling after you view it):

More from Joyce’s post:

Celebrations continue. Statements agreeing and disagreeing with the decisions are still coming, from the White House to “citizen on the street.” Most likely the next sermon topic was an easy one for many, pro and con marriage equality.

And lots of analysis, which is obviously important, continues being done. It includes wide recognition that while this really is one of those moments we can call “historic,” there are 37 states with no marriage recognition; there are big questions about how same-sex couples are treated in terms of the military and immigration; and among other things, there is no federal employment protection. None of that detracts from the celebration. In fact, equality proponents in all of those “issues,” and more, can be energized by the SCOTUS decisions.

At The Advocate, “Message at Rallies: Celebrate Today, Fight Tomorrow.” At a post-SCOTUS decision rally in West Hollywood, with about 4000 people present, screenwriter Dustin Lanc Black said:

‘(I)t is time for each and every one of us to take that strength you now feel as Californians, and take it to Texas, and take it to Virginia … take it to Holland, Michigan … to Altoona, Pennsylvania. … You need to take your strength to these places, and share this feeling with this nation so we no longer leave a single one of our brothers or our sisters behind, no matter … which state they live.’

From the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force:

‘Today’s historic decisions are a significant leap forward for freedom and justice for same-sex couples and their families, the LGBT community and for our nation — and a lot more work needs to be done to deliver marriage equality to the rest of our nation’s same-sex couples and their families and full equality in every other respect for all LGBT people,’ said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.

Parties continue around the nation, as they should. There’s a lot to celebrate. Statements and analyses will keep coming for a long time, I’d guess, as the impact of the decisions is made clear in practice. And advocacy and actions will continue, in all regions and states of the nation. Look to every region, including the South.

(We Do Campaign via Campaign for Southern Equality)

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, tweeted his sadness about the Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Prop 8, but then rather quickly deleted it. That seems a fair representation of Cathy’s efforts to somehow balance an anti-LGBT – at least related to marriage equality – while also, as a spokesperson put it, provide “genuine hospitality to everyone.”

Via Huffington, Cathy’s tweet:

Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: conerstone of strong societies

No word about what the founding mothers would think.

Ok, pardon me but I have to interrupt here to cackle my witchy woman feminist ass off. Joyce goes on to cover the ins-and-outs of Cathy’s trying to have his corporate cake and eat it too while lamenting his sadness over…what seems to me a more perfect union. That appears to be the source of Cathy and his ilk’s lament. They don’t want this union to become more perfect, because that requires giving up their various privileges and twisted means of ‘control.’  (Though it’s always hard not to ask for the most vehement of the homophobic crowd, if they are in control at all or really they are deep in the closet. Because, let’s let the elephant out the room, y’all. That’s the only reason legalizing gay marriage would affect a so-called heterosexual marriage that would need any defending from it.)

Joyce also quotes more whining tweets from Huckabee, et al., via OpEd News:

[Mike Huckabee tweet]: ‘My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.’ …

‘Today, marriage, children, and the rule of law all suffer.’ Randy Thomassen, Save California. …

[Matt Barber tweet]: In states w/ ‘gay marriage’ there is no longer a legal or ethical defense against multi-party, incestuous or any other twiested ‘marriages’ …

How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit? – Todd Starnes, Fox News.

To which Joyce’s response is simply awesome:

Founding Fathers, weeping, suffering, children and incest … the familiar “the sky is falling” kind of responses.

As a follow-up to Joyce’s comment, I must insert the following, which I had used elsewhere on the internet (Facebook of course..on the Pink Sneaks support page JJ and I are working on) in reference to Stupakistan’s reaction. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Gov. Goodhair…) to the arrival of what Salon proposes we are now, i.e. a “Wendy Davis Nation.”

Anyhow, here is the graphic because it applies to what Joyce has highlighted about the sad, lamenting reactions to the DOMA/Prop8 reversal:

"Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song." Star Trek: The Original Series, 1x06 ("Mudd’s Women")

“Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song.” Star Trek: The Original Series, 1×06 (“Mudd’s Women”)

Joyce concludes by saying the following, which I totally agree:

My bet is the founding mothers and fathers just might approve of “liberty and justice for all” efforts. And since we’ve more or less (with some significant “less” moments and issues) been focused on that goal for quite some time, and the sky hasn’t even started falling, we’re safe to keep at it. And in trouble if we don’t.

Last but not least, Joyce reports…

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), filed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, would completely repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). The Supreme Court decisions were a big step in that direction, but not complete.

Ok, as I said, please do go read Joyce’s pieces in full whenever you can. Here’s a handy link where you can see her posts archived together in one place.

Pivoting from “gay rights are human rights” (smiles in thoughts of Hillary and Hillary 2016) to “women’s rights are human rights,” I want to touch on that article,“It’s a Wendy Davis Nation Now,” that I briefly linked to above from Salon though, because I have a very revealing excerpt I wanted to highlight from it:

For years — particularly the ones Democrats spent in the wilderness, losing national elections — the party’s pro-choice stance was blamed for losing so-called values voters. Axelrod pointed out how that had changed: “These were motivational issues for people on our side … What’s interesting to me is that these were once wedge issues for Republicans. Now some of them are working as wedge issues against Republicans. And it shows a shift of attitudes.”

Gay rights, of course, have long since lost any traction as a wedge issue in Republicans’ favor in all but the narrowest districts. It remains to be seen how the immigration reform debate will play out politically, but the 2012 election and its “self-deportation” rhetoric is widely seen to have driven away Latinos and Asians. And of course there was defunding Planned Parenthood and Todd Akin. But, Axelrod added, abortion wasn’t part of that. Or, as he put it, “Abortion’s a separate discussion.”

If this week was any indication — along with recent protests in Wisconsin and Ohio, and possibly more to come — that may not prove true.

Thus, if we are truly entering Wendy Davis Nation, then we must be exiting not just Bush country, but also Rove-Axelrod’s understanding of women’s rights as a “separate discussion.” Keeping my ears open and my eyes wide and waiting to see what happens next!

Before I end this post, just for some Caturday fun, and for purposes of smashing the patriarchy with my crazy cat lady pink-ness, here are pictures of my nails that I got done last night (click for larger view):

1002764_406725882777338_1556208287_n998668_406725862777340_1727898640_n

And, on that note, Sky Dancers, I’m going to turn the soapbox over to you. Do the wonderful thing you do in the comments y’all, and have a great weekend!