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: 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?


It’s Just Another Manic Monday Reads!!!

Senators Harris and Warren talk as U.S. President Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in WashingtonGood Afternoon Sky Dancers!

There’s a lot going on!  We’re gearing up for the Mueller Testimony right in the middle of the usual wear and tear on the country caused by having Temper Tantrum Trumpie occupy the White House for another week.  If you get a chance, you might want to gear up for the Wednesday Testimony by watching this one hour documentary on the primary findings of the Mueller Report that aired last night.   “Understanding the Mueller Report With Ari Melber Sunday July 21, 2019”

Meanwhile, there’s some other interesting news and suggestions we should look at.   I was really glad that I attended Essence Fest 2019 and was enrapt by the speeches and presence of both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.  It’s exciting to see so many women running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President given we watched Hillary Clinton become the first in 2016.  Now there’s a few things we can dream about including this proffered by Harper’s Bazaar and Jennifer Wright.. “Why We Need a Two Woman Presidential Ticket! Two women? On a ticket together? Radical!  How many old white men would hyperventilate over this?

It simply can’t be done! Two women?On a ticket together? It’s too radical!

To which I’m going to respectfully say: To hell with that thinking. Put two women on the Democratic Party ticket. Specifically, Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren..

Bothered by it? No one has been troubled by the fact that presidential political party tickets have been composed of two men since the beginning of time.

If you want the best people, then some variation on Warren/Harris should at least be considered. According to a Change.org poll in California, the two are leading the pack of candidates in that state’s primary with Harris at 23 percent and Warren at 22 percent.

News outlets seem in agreement that the June debates belonged to Warren and Harris.

It’s entirely possible that one of these women will win the race for Democratic presidential candidate, and when she does, it’s already assumed that she will select one of the male candidates as her running mate.

But what if she doesn’t take this conventional route? What if we see an all-female ticket? It could be great.

Image result for photos democratic women running for POTUSBoth candidates have strong ground games and even stronger policy chops!  Today, Team Warren put out an article that has the talking heads talking.  It’s about what I’ve been saying for about a year now.  The next crash is right there on the horizon.  “The Coming Economic Crash — And How to Stop It.”

When I look at the economy today, I see a lot to worry about again. I see a manufacturing sector in recession. I see a precarious economy that is built on debt — both household debt and corporate debt — and that is vulnerable to shocks. And I see a number of serious shocks on the horizon that could cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble.

The administration may breach the debt ceiling in September, leading to economic turmoil that top economists say would be “more catastrophic” than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Trump’s trade war with China threatens American manufacturing and has already hurt American companies that investors think of as “industry bellwethers,” while feedingan all-time economic slowdown in China that could have dramatic ripple effects on the American economy. And Trump is goading the U.K. toward a no-deal Brexit, which even his own administration acknowledges would have “immediate and significant spillover effects” to our economy.

The financial markets agree that there is a serious risk of downturn in the near future. The U.S. Treasury yield curve — a barometer for market confidence — normally slopes upwards because investors demand higher yields for bonds with longer maturities. But this March, it inverted for the first time since 2007, signaling that investors are so worried that things are going to get worse that they’d rather lock in lower rates for the future today than risk long-term rates going even lower. The curve has inverted before each and every recession in the past half century — with only one false signal.

And experts agree. In a recent survey of nearly 300 business economists, three-quarters expect a recession by the end of 2021 — with more than halfthinking it’ll come by the end of 2020.

Other women are running for POTUS this year.  One of the reasons that Kristen Gillibrand might not be finding high ground could be the subject of this investigation by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: “The Case of Al Franken.A close look at the accusations against the former senator.”

At his house, Franken said he understood that, in such an atmosphere, the public might not be eager to hear his grievances. Holding his head in his hands, he said, “I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.” Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fuelled outrage. He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to “what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.” Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, “is ‘I’m going to die alone in the jungle.’ ”

Now sixty-eight, Franken is short and sturdily built, with bristly gray hair, tortoiseshell glasses, and a wide, froglike mouth from which he tends to talk out of one corner. Despite his current isolation, Franken is recognized nearly everywhere he goes, and he often gets stopped on the street. “I can’t go anywhere without people reminding me of this, usually with some version of ‘You shouldn’t have resigned,’ ” Franken said. He appreciates the support, but such comments torment him about his departure from the Senate. He tends to respond curtly, “Yup.”

When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press. It is extremely rare for a senator to resign under pressure. No senator has been expelled since the Civil War, and in modern times only three have resigned under the threat of expulsion: Harrison Williams, in 1982, Bob Packwood, in 1995, and John Ensign, in 2011. Williams resigned after he was convicted of bribery and conspiracy; Packwood faced numerous sexual-assault accusations; Ensign was accused of making illegal payoffs to hide an affair.

What follows is a detailed investigation of the complaints most of which still smell a bit fishy to me.  Especially, this woman who appears to be have sent up to the deed by the usual cast of “conservative” henchmen.

Tweeden may well have felt harassed, and even violated, by Franken, but he insisted to me that her version of events is “just not true.” He confirmed that he had rehearsed the skit with her, noting, “You always rehearse.” The script, he recalled, called for a man to “surprise” a woman with a kiss, in a “sort of sudden” way, and though Tweeden had read the script, it’s possible that in the moment he startled her. Tweeden wasn’t an actress—before going into broadcasting, she had been a Frederick’s of Hollywood model—so she may have been unfamiliar with rehearsals. But Franken said, of Tweeden, “I don’t remember her being taken aback.” He adamantly denied having stuck his tongue in her mouth.

Franken’s longtime fund-raiser, A. J. Goodman, a former criminal-defense lawyer, told me that it was “easy to see how it could have grossed Tweeden out” to be kissed by Franken. At the time, Franken was fifty-five, and his clothes tended toward mom jeans and garish windbreakers. “He was like your uncle Morty,” Goodman recalled. “He wasn’t Cary Grant. But tongue down the throat? No. I’ve done hundreds of events with this guy. I’ve been on the road and on his book tours with him.” She said that Franken was “five hundred per cent devoted” to Bryson, his wife, whom he met during his freshman year at Harvard. “He can be a jerk, but he’s all about his family,” Goodman said. (Franken and Bryson have a daughter, a son, and four grandchildren.)

In Hollywood, Franken’s reputation had been far from wild. According to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s book, “Saturday Night,” when Franken worked on “S.N.L.” he was seen as a stickler and a “self-appointed hallway monitor” figure. James Downey, who spent decades writing for the show, told me, of Franken, “He’s lots of things, some delightful, some annoying. He can be very aggressive interpersonally. He can say mean things, or use other people as props. He can seem more confident that the audience will find him adorable than he ought to. His estimate of his charm can be overconfident. But I’ve known him for forty-seven years and he’s the very last person who would be a sexual harasser.”

It’s a long read but worth revisiting the evidence.

Down here in New Orleans there’s an East Bank and a West Bank of the Mississippi even the the actually directions of the locations are north of the river and south of the river.  The West Bank has always been the forgotten of the two banks because it’s original purpose was that of the Slave Trade Markets which New Orleans wanted kept out of their faces even though it was a part of the city’s history as well as the region. Gretna is one of the places that sprung up when immigrants from countries like Italy showed up and it still has an ethnic feel to it including a Spanish revival Catholic Orphanage called Hope Haven built in 1925,  The place has been in the headlines recently in a less than favorable light: New lawsuit filed against Catholic Church in N.O. details alleged sexual abuse at orphanage.”

A little more recently Gretna achieved infamy with this awful headline directly after Katrina hit the area via NPR: “Evacuees Were Turned Away at Gretna, La.”

Three days after Hurricane Katrina struck, authorities blocked the road that connects the city of Gretna to New Orleans. Thousands of evacuees say they were prevented from escaping the flooding and chaos, and that shots were fired over their heads.

Believe me, there’s not much wealth over there  to protect in Gretna during a good time so there were much sinister forces stopping people from the East going to the West bank where they likely could’ve been reached by buses. Color all of us unsurprised when the local news came up with a headline that has now gone quite viral and national via WAPO: “Officer suggests Ocasio-Cortez should be shot, after he read fake news on Facebook”.  Yes, said officer is from Gretna, LA land of shooting at survivors of the worst disaster in the country to stop them from coming near the burbs.

It was not clear from his Facebook post whether police officer Charlie Rispoli knew he was responding to fake news when he suggested Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) should be shot.

“This vile idiot needs a round……..and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” Rispoli, a 14-year veteran of the Gretna Police Department in Louisiana, said Thursday, referring to a gunshot and the lawmaker’s earlier career as a bartender, the Times-Picayune/the New Orleans Advocate reported.

The post, which appears to have been deleted along with Rispoli’s Facebook account, comes amid a reckoning with racist and violent social media posts by police and federal law enforcement officers. As posts have been made public, firings and investigations have followed across multiple departments.

Image result for warren, harris, klobuchar, gillibrandWe’re all assuming what happens in Gretna gets covered up and buried in Gretna.  Just like everything else, nothing will happen.

Texan Wendy Davis is running for US Congress. Let’s hope she can win it.  I still have my pink Wendy Shoes.   This is via the Texas Tribune: “Wendy Davis announces bid for Congress, will challenge U.S. Rep. Chip Roy.  The former state senator is running for office for the first time since her unsuccessful campaign for Texas governor.”

 

 Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis is running for Congress.

Early Monday morning, Davis announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in Central Texas’ 21st District. She is challenging U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman Republican from Austin.

She made her intentions known in a biographical video, narrated in part with archival footage from her late father, Jerry Russell.

“I’m running for Congress because people’s voices are still being silenced,” she said. “I’m running for our children and grandchildren, so they can live and love and fight for change themselves.”

So the voices of women with much needed diversity will hopefully block out the trauma of yet another Trumpf Hate Fest in Cincinnati this week undoubtedly timed to draw attention away from the Mueller Testimony.  That Hatefest is scheduled for August 1st.  The second set of Democratic debates are set for July 30 and 31.  

The Mueller Testimony is on Wednesday.  Are you up for all of that?

Robert Mueller’s Capitol Hill testimony

  • Date: Wednesday, July 24, 2019
  • Times: 8:30 a.m. – House Judiciary Committee hearing, 12:00 p.m. – House Intelligence Committee hearing
  • Location: Washington, D.C.

How to watch Mueller’s testimony

  • Free online stream:  Watch CBSN for live coverage of Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill. CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell hosts a CBS News network special report starting at 8:30 a.m.

Schedule of Mueller’s testimony

  • It will be split across two committee appearances with three hours allotted for the Judiciary Committee and two hours for the Intelligence Committee.
  • There will be a 30-minute break in between the two hearings, and the former special counsel will have the opportunity to ask for breaks during each appearance.
  • Neither committee is expecting Mueller to give lengthy or extensive answers to lawmakers’ questions. Democratic staff members of the committees say they anticipate “yes” or “no” answers from the former special counsel or very short sentences. But in the end, they believe that the two hearings will help Americans better understand the Mueller report.

Well, that should keep us busy for a few days!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Fired up! Ready to GO!

Rev Al Sharpton and Trans Activist Ashley Marie Presley introduce Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Power Stage (my photo)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Essence Fest this weekend.  It was a great experience and a good way for me to hear some of the Democratic Presidential candidates in person.  There were unexpected visits by Colorado Senator Bennet and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio.  They addressed those of us assembled in front of the Power Stage.  Later, I heard Senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren who spoke and then took questions from a panel led by Rev Al Sharpton.  There were a lot of things going on, as usual, all over the Morial Convention Center but I want to make sure you got to hear and see a bit of what I saw in these candidates as they addressed the crowds.

Just a few notes. I left before Beto hit the stage and did not come back Sunday for Mayor Pete.  Biden and Bernie were no shows which I believe was a serious mistake.  I’m not sure about the others but Biden and Bernie made the usual “previous commitments” out

I have to admit that there were several moments that really thrilled me including the short speech from Auntie Maxine who was introduced by my former mayor Marc Morial.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a national treasure.  From the Essence: “Rep. Maxine Waters Reminds Black Women At Essence Festival: ‘We Don’t Take S— From Nobody’”.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters brought the heat to the Essence Festival Power Stage on Saturday afternoon. In a stirring address, she told thousands of attendees that the time for Black women is now.

As the nation readies for the 2020 elections, Waters did not mince words about the power of the specific voting bloc and the community as a whole. The veteran politician from California also used herself as a blueprint for what needs to be done to remove Donald Trump from office.

“I’m not intimidated. I’m not afraid,” Waters said about opposing the man in the Oval Office. “All of my life I have been trained to deal with demagogues like him. I will take him on any day of the week. And so what I want to leave with you today is this is our time, ladies.”

Waters pointed to the many ways in which Black women have proven that they are ready to step up to the challenge of not only removing Trump from office but also taking on the harmful policies that have been created since his election.

“Black women are moving forward,” Maxine triumphantly stated before adding that we are getting elected to public office in record numbers, remaining civically engaged in our organizations, leading the fight in our educational institutions, and being all-around change agents in our cities and neighborhoods.

“Don’t be discouraged.

“Don’t be disgusted.

“Don’t give up.

“Show Donald Trump who we are!” Waters said to cheers.

All of the candidates spoke to empowering black women to become entrepreneurs by giving better access to capital for their business ventures. There was also a lot of emphasis on closing the gap between wealth accumulation of white and black families with each candidate having a somewhat similar approach. Corey Booker suggested “baby bonds” be available to all families on the birth of a child with income-indexed contributions provided each birthday until that child is 18.  This would be available to all babies born in the US.  The two women definitely brought the excitement to the audience but Booker was well-received.  He also had the home court advantage since he was born and raised here.

This is also from Essence.

Even with this shifting demographic, Black women still overwhelming vote Democrat, and still have the power to determine election outcomes, something of which Booker is keenly aware.

“Black women are going to be the highest voters in this country, then the agenda of African American women has to be at the center of the Democratic Party’s agenda…because right now the reality is unacceptable,” Booker insisted from the Essence Festival Power Stage to loud applause.

Reading from his notes, Booker itemized the oppression of Black women in this country:

“Black women have the highest level of workforce participation. Eighty-percent of Black mothers are the breadwinners for their families. But still the pay gap for Black women making only 61 cents of every dollar that a white male makes is unacceptable in our country. The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs are African American women who don’t get the access to capital that they deserve. Black women have four times the maternal mortality rates of white women. This is unacceptable.

Channeling James Baldwin, who wrote in Notes of a Native Son (1955), “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” Booker located Black women’s pain within the larger white settler-colonial project known as the United States, telling the Essence Festival audience, “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”

In his closing pitch, the senator from New Jersey set his sights on Donald Trump, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., saying, “We are in a time right now where a person in the White House is spewing bigotry and racism…a person pushing policies that hurt communities of color.”

“But, the existence of demagoguery and hate has never defined us as a nation,” Booker claimed. “What defines us is how we choose to respond to the challenges before us.”

Senator Booker’s speech is here at MSNBC.  I continue to like the Senator but I’m not sure he has the fire required to do this election.  Both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris left me with no doubt.

My shot of Senator Bennet. I was in the middle of the room but far away from the stage. Thank goodness for the big screens!!

A good capsule of the weekend can be found at WAPO where, for some reason, Biden still got the freaking headline.  They just can’t help themselves I guess.

Arriving to a smattering of polite applause from the thousands of women in the room, Buttigieg, whose campaign has struggled with black voters, immediately began trying to win over the audience. “I stand here knowing that black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, you are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole,” Buttigieg declared. “When black women mobilize, outcomes change. And we need some different outcomes at a time like this.”

Buttigeig’s appearance came a day after six other candidates spoke at the festival, each appealing to black women in different ways.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pitched policy proposals aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio argued for universal health care. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) championed his support for a new voting rights act. And Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) invoked the road trip he’d taken to the festival through impoverished areas of rural Mississippi to pitch his plan to improve the nation’s education system.

I had the pleasure to sit next to a retired black woman from my families’ home of Kansas City.  She gave polite applause to every one.  Polite applause went to every one including Kamala whose #KHive section was filled with enthusiastic sign waving supporters from the sorority sisters at HBCs.  She was basically for Biden but had also was warmed up to Elizabeth Warren.  I asked her if Biden’s history of supporting state’s rights bothered her.  She shrugged and said it was a long time ago and that if Biden was good enough for Obama that was good enough for her.  She proudly told me that she had paid off her own home and talked about what happened when Kansas City Power and Light–her old employer–got bought out by a private provider.  She was just the perfect example of a Kansas City, church going lady that I saw every weekend we visited the family.  She did remind me that there would’ve been no gay marriage without Joe’s push.  I nodded and said yes, there is that.

Bill DiBlasio was a fiery speaker and made certain he gave a shout out to his wife the first lady of New York.  He came out from behind the podium and addressed a lot of issues in his short period of time. (Via NY1)

Mayor de Blasio looked to raise his profile with black voters Saturday while speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The annual event is always one of the largest gatherings of African American women in the country.

After being introduced by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday, de Blasio touted First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, Thrive NYC.

“She is taking away the stigma related to mental health. She is making people realize that we have to do something different in this country and get people the help they need,” de Blasio said. “There is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition. There is something wrong when people can’t get the help they need. Right? So join me in thanking the first lady of New York City, the love of my life, Chirlane McCray.”

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and indoor

I caught Senator Harris on one of the big screens. You can tell she was having fun and in her element. She’s looking straight at the #KHive

Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado is wonky as it comes. I’m not sure he has a plan for it all but he sure can speak to the issues. This is from Essence.   Bennet’s background is in Public Education and he basically spoke to his strength.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

So, that leaves me down to Harris and Warren who were basically the two candidates that got the most enthusiasm that I could see.  I sat with a friend my daughter’s age who has been politically active as a New Orleans native.  I also sat in front of a older black couple from Detroit and next to a black woman and her daughter from here.  I was surrounded by Warren Fans.  Literally. Warren’s volunteer desk even was handing out Warren Planners!  She and Kamala definitely had the best swag.  There was a desk in the middle that rotated from Booker to Beto as the day wore on but all my friends were either at the #KHive or All in with Warren.

So, let me just put their speeches up.

 

You can hear the Kamala Chants and feel the excitement as she speaks to things she feels strongly about.  This is from ABC News. “Kamala Harris stars as 2020 presidential candidates pitch African American voters at Essence Fest”.  

Harris, the only black woman running for president, and the only black woman in the Senate, hit the stage to Tupac’s “California Love,” a nod to her home state, and got an enthusiastic “Skee Wee” from the large number of sorority sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha — a black sorority founded at Howard University, Harris’s alma mater — in attendance.

“Good morning, my beautiful sisters,” Harris said, before launching into her plan to boost home ownership among African Americans.

This is from Essence and takes from the Campaign that has the plans. I also have to say that I met with Warren campaign staff on Friday night. There were two things that impressed me. First, they come from Stacey Abrahms’ campaign. Second, they asked each of us what we want Elizabeth to know about what’s important to our community. By the next afternoon, Warren addressed those items in her speech. The audience for Warren was much older. Both women had a following among white gay men and white women who both showed up in the volunteer desks and in the audience. Both campaigns have diverse volunteers and staff.

“It is good to be at a party with purpose and I am here with purpose. Our purpose is to take back the White House in 2020,” Warren said as she opened her remarks. “We must win, but winning is not enough. When we win we must make real change in this country, and yeah, I got a plan for that.”

Warren started telling her own personal story of grappling with access to childcare as a young professional, struggling to find work-life balance only to have babysitters quit on her and childcare centers not work out. She came out on the other end thanks to the help of one of her aunts. But not everyone has an aunt like she did, Warren acknowledged.

“How many women of my generation were just knocked off the tracks because of childcare, how many women of my daughter’s generation were knocked off the tracks, how many women and how many men today just get knocked off the tracks because childcare today is harder than it was two generations ago,” Warren said. “I’m running for president of the United States and yeah I got a lot of plans because [if] you want to get something done, you better have a plan to do it.”

At the top of Warren’s plans, as many of us already know, is her wealth tax – a tax on the top one-tenth of the one percent which would require the super-rich to give two cents on their 50 millionth and first dollar, and an additional two cents on every dollar after that.

“You know what we can do in America with two cents?” Warren asked, getting visibly excited as she listed the possibilities. “We could start by providing universal childcare to every baby 0 to 5 in this country. We could provide universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country. We could raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country.”

“And with that same two cents, we could do more. We could provide tuition-free technical school, community college and four-year college to every one of our kids who wants an education. We could also level the playing field and that means a $50 Billion investment into HBCUs,” she continued. “We could cancel student loan debt for 95% of the kids who got it. We can start to close that Black-white wealth gap.”

In the Q&A segment, speaking to Rev. Al Sharpton, ESSENCE CEO Michelle Ebanks and Founder and Chair of Essence Ventures Richelieu Dennis, Warren expanded on her ideas on the wealth gap, pointing out that it has led to a Black-white entrepreneurship gap.

The big headliner of the Day was former First Lady Michelle Obama.   Here’s USA Today’s coverage of her discussing living through hard hits with Gayle King.

Speaking onstage to Gayle King on Saturday at Essence Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration in New Orleans, the former first lady got real about how she learned to shake off hateful comments.

“It was important to tell that part of the story (in “Becoming,” her 2018 best-selling autobiography) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” said Obama, according to Essence. “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”

So, this is how I spent my weekend.  I know that every one wants to speak on the breaking news about Jeffrey Epstein and I’m also sure that BostonBoomer will be far better equipped to elabortate on that tomorrow.  But, they  SDNY just gave a presser and it was a doozy.  My suggestion for a read to start that discussion of is this one from New York Magazine: “Everything We Know About the Sex Crimes Case Against Jeffrey Epstein” b

On Saturday, billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for the alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. In a criminal indictment unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors claimed that Epstein lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his luxurious homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach under the guise of paying them cash for massages. He then molested them and encouraged them to recruit other young girls to return with them. The victims who returned with new victims were paid a finder’s fee.

“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

The hedge-fund manager and former friend of presidents Trump and Clinton faced similar charges a decade ago but escaped federal prosecution via a widely criticized, shockingly lenient plea deal. After a decade of legal efforts by many of his victims — and, more recently, increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the media — Epstein faces prosecution by the notoriously tough Southern District of New York and a long prison sentence if convicted.

Trump’s name comes up several places.  Read the article to find out more.

And now … what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads

The Marquis gave his hand to the princess, and followed the king, who went up first.” Illustrations by Harry Clarke. Published in The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Charles Perrault (1922).

Good Afternoon!!

The Fourth of July is coming up and Trump is busily working to ruin it for everyone but his ignorant deplorable base and his billionaire buddies.

The Washington Post: Trump plans ticketed-access area for VIPs, friends and family at July 4 celebration.

Plans by President Trump to reshape Washington’s Independence Day celebration now include an area in front of the Lincoln Memorial reserved for dignitaries, family and friends that will be accessible only through tickets distributed by the White House.

The VIP section will stretch roughly from the steps of the memorial to the midpoint of the reflecting pool, according to the U.S. Secret Service. It is in front of the spot from which Trump plans to address the nation as part of his rebranding of the traditional July 4 event into his own “Salute to America,” which includes moving the fireworks from the reflecting pool to two different sites, including West Potomac Park.

The revamped festivities will include additional fireworks, military bands and flyovers by Air Force One, the Blue Angels and aircraft from all branches of the military.

Where Trump plans to speak is not yet clear.

Kisa the Cat carries off Ingibjorg’s Feet from the giant’s cave, from Andrew Lang’s Brown Fairy Book, 1932

On Friday morning, bleachers had been set up on the plaza below the Lincoln Memorial, and workers were erecting other structures. Seats faced away from the memorial and toward the Washington Monument,making it unclear where exactly Trump plans to stand while giving his speech.

More problems:

Many people who have long-standing practices for how they get downtown, or where they position their boats for the best vantage points and ease of access, will need to make adjustments. Even travelers passing through the region’s skies will be affected, with all operations at Reagan National Airport suspended for up to an hour and 15 minutes on July 4, the FAA said late Friday….

The ongoing shifts to what had been established security and crowd-control protocols have left officials in the District and some federal agencies confused about logistics as basic as what Metro stops and roads might be open or closed, and for what period, and how many fireworks displays will launch….

In West Potomac Park, softball fields were fenced off Friday morning, a day earlier than had been announced, while 36 portable spotlights were parked along Ohio Drive. A crew from Garden State Fireworks was setting up its launch site near a baseball backstop.

Come July 4, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major thoroughfare that was open in the past on the holiday, will be closed for the day, cutting off people trying to drive into the District from Arlington National Cemetery and other nearby points. Transportation officials warned that the Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom Metro stops could experience extra crowding as a result.

Read the whole story. It’s going to be a clusterfuck.

Crookshanks and Scabbers from Harry Potter, by Stephen Andrade

Richard Nixon tried to pull something “special” on the Fourth of July, 1970, although it was supposedly “bipartisan.” From Timeline.com: On the 4th of July in 1970, the nonpartisan Honor America Day turned into a drugged-up protest.

Tensions all over America were high in the summer of 1970. The Nixon administration’s bombing of Cambodia and the continued war in Vietnam were seen by a vocal section of the population to be murderous disasters. Outraged students raised their voice, and in May, the National Guard killed four of them at Kent State and two others at Jackson State. It appeared to some as if the country doubled down on its sins, adding the blood of its own citizens to the mix.

A month later, a group of wealthy and prominent Americans assembled to do something about the national divide. Their mission was not to address the problems behind it, but to invigorate a broad and vague spirit of appreciation for the United States of America. They called it Honor America Day: a massive, entertainment-filled ceremony, to be held in Washington DC on the Fourth of July. For a day, Americans could swap their discontent for waving flags, live music, and old-fashioned pride….

And while the event was ostensibly apolitical, The New York Times noted that committee members almost unilaterally supported Nixon’s campaigns in Southeast Asia.

Naturally, there were protests.

Given the national and international situation, a counter protest was inevitable. And it was a doozy.

Perhaps the most inflammatory was a Fourth of July smoke-in on the National Mall by anti-war and pro-legalization protestors, slated to compete with the more wholesome Honor America Day activities. “Before this is over,” joked Bob Hope, “I may need some of that stuff myself.”

Green Cat with Lights, by Dr. Seuss

On the other side of the political spectrum, neo-Nazis and conservative groups also turned out to represent their causes.

Some 10,000 people attended the interfaith service led by Billy Graham on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 10:30. But protesters appeared at the same time, with the audience cheering as security ejected those who broke past the line.

I wonder if there are protests planned for Trump’s idiotic celebration of himself. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I wouldn’t want to be there.

Colbert I. King at The Washington Post: Frederick Douglass would be outraged at Trump’s Fourth of July self-celebration.

“What, to the American slave,” Douglass demanded, “is your Fourth of July?”

Nearly 170 years later, Douglass’s bold declaration and haunting question resonate with new meaning.

President Trump has taken over Independence Day 2019, transforming the traditional celebration on the Mall of the nation’s founding into a salute to his egocentrism, staged with demonstrations of America’s military might, an Air Force One flyover and an address to the nation to be delivered by himself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The brave signers of the Declaration of Independence — flawed men but men who, as Douglass said, “staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country” — will take a back seat next week.

This Fourth of July is Donald Trump’s — not theirs, not the nation’s, not mine.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More food for thought from CREW: How Trump’s 4th of July Hijacking Could Violate the Hatch Act.

LEAFY KITTIES, Remedios Varo

Is President Trump trying to hijack the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall by turning it into a taxpayer-funded campaign rally? If he does, the Trump administration will violate federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act. In that case, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had better have the campaign’s checkbook handy and be ready to write plenty of zeros.

At a kick-off rally for his re-election campaign last week, Trump sounded a lot like he was laying the groundwork for politicizing America’s birthday party—

This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy, and undermine you. And by the way, on July 4th, in Washington, D.C., come on down, we’re going have a big day. Bring your flags, bring those flags, bring those American flags, July 4th. We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people. We’re going to celebrate America. Sounds good, right? July 4th. Celebrate America. This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our Constitution and rip your country apart.

The very next day, Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, responded by issuing an announcement confirming that the July 4th event “will feature remarks by President Donald J. Trump.” [….]

If Trump is careful and has the self-discipline to talk only about government policies, the event may amount to little more than a garish display of nationalism….

But when has anyone ever accused Trump of being predictable or sounding like a dry policy wonk? It seems far more likely that he’ll talk about his reelection bid or fling schoolyard nicknames at his political rivals. That sort of bombast would be a whole lot more fun for Trump than having to deliver dull prepared remarks. And, hey, it’s a party after all. Right? The problem – as is so often the case for the Trump administration – is the rule of law.

The Cheshire Cat John Tenniel 1865

In other news, Kamala Harris was the breakout star of the first Democratic Debate and the Russian bots and Trump and his on-line army are attacking her.

The Daily Beast: Kamala Harris Is Surging and Birtherism Is Back. As Harris spoke about race and the history of busing,

she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours….

“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” [Ali] Alexander wrote. “I’m so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It’s disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.” [….]

More Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander’s message verbatim and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by writer Caroline Orr. Some of those accounts, like “@prebs_73,” have copy-pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-wing references in their usernames and biographies piled on, accusing Harris of not being black.mi

“Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are NOT BLACK. you are Indian and Jamaican,” wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word “CONSERVATIVE,” a red “X” emoji (a right-wing Twitter trope), and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username.

Read more about this at Buzzfeed News: A New Racist Campaign Against Kamala Harris Is Taking Shape.

The New York Times has an important article on the crisis in Trump’s concentration camps: The Treatment of Migrants Likely ‘Meets the Definition of a Mass Atrocity,’ by Kate Cronin-Furman.

The mice hold a meeting, Belling the Cat, Aesop’s Fables for Kids

A pediatrician who visited in June said the [detention] centers could be compared to “torture facilities.” Having studied mass atrocities for over a decade, I agree.

At least seven migrant children have died in United States custody since last year. The details reported by lawyers who visited a Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Tex., in June were shocking: children who had not bathed in weeks, toddlers without diapers, sick babies being cared for by other children. As a human rights lawyer and then as a political scientist, I have spoken to the victims of some of the worst things that human beings have ever done to each other, in places ranging from Cambodia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sri Lanka. What’s happening at the border doesn’t match the scale of these horrors, but if, as appears to be the case, these harsh conditions have been intentionally inflicted on children as part a broader plan to deter others from migrating, then it meets the definition of a mass atrocity: a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians. And like past atrocities, it is being committed by a complex organizational structure made up of people at all different levels of involvement.

Thinking of what’s happening in this way gives us a repertoire of tools with which to fight the abuses, beyond the usual exhortations to call our representatives and donate to border charities.

Those of us who want to stop what’s happening need to think about all the different individuals playing a role in the systematic mistreatment of migrant children and how we can get them to stop participating. We should focus most on those who have less of a personal commitment to the abusive policies that are being carried out.

A new take on Puss ‘n Boots by Ayano Imai

Cronin-Furman argues that the problem is that many of the people involved in what’s happening see themselves as just doing their jobs–or “following orders” as many people involved in the Nazi’s “final solution” did.

Testimony from trials and truth commissions has revealed that many atrocity perpetrators think of what they’re doing as they would think of any other day job. While the leaders who order atrocities may be acting out of strongly held ideological beliefs or political survival concerns, the so-called “foot soldiers” and the middle men and women are often just there for the paycheck.

This lack of personal investment means that these participants in atrocities can be much more susceptible to pressure than national leaders. Specifically, they are sensitive to social pressure, which has been shown to have played a huge role in atrocity commission and desistance in the HolocaustRwanda and elsewhere. The campaign to stop the abuses at the border should exploit this sensitivity and put social pressure on those involved in enforcing the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This morning’s big news is that Iran shot down a U.S. drone. From The Guardian:

A full-scale model of The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned plane

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that they had used a surface to air missile to shoot down what they called a US “spy” drone they claimed was flying in the country’s airspace.

US Central Command confirmed that one of its unmanned aircraft had been taken down, but said it was in international airspace. A CentCom spokesman, Capt Bill Urban said it was a US navy Global Hawk surveillance drone, which had been downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz at 11.35pm GMT.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Urban said.

The US military accused Iran last week of firing a missile at another drone that responded to the oil tanker attacks near the Gulf of Oman.

Tensions in the Gulf have been heightened since 13 June, when the US accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the the Gulf of Oman with mines. The US military released footage it said showed the Iranian military removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers. There have also allegedly been Iranian-inspired attacks on US oil and military assets in Iraq, and increasingly sophisticated weaponry being fired into Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.

The Iranian state news agency said the downed drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk. “It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Revolutionary Guards’ website added.

Now here’s a delicious story about how karma caught up with fake christian Jerry Falwell Jr.

Miami Herald: How cut-rate SoBe hostel launched Jerry Falwell Jr. ‘pool boy’ saga, naked picture hunt.

Giancarlo Granda and Jerry Falwell Jr. at Cheeca Lodge

The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.

It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.

The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”

The gist of the story is that photos of Falwell’s wife in “various stages of undress” have turned up in the court case. The Herald has seen three of them. These are the photos that Michael Cohen supposedly helped Falwell cover up.

Jerry Fallwell Jr. and his wife Becki

The timing of Cohen’s alleged photo-recovery mission roughly preceded Falwell’s pivotal evangelical endorsement of Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, which Cohen says he helped engineer. Ted Cruz, who became the last candidate standing in the fight to deprive Trump of the Republican nomination, wanted to land that endorsement for himself. That he didn’t get it remains a sore point with some of his backers and a source of curiosity, including speculation that the “pool boy” saga and the presidential endorsement could be somehow related.

“You have the chancellor of the largest Christian university in the world in South Beach, which is not exactly a hot spot for evangelicals to take a vacation, [who buys] a piece of property for someone with no business experience. There is something odd there,’’ said Rick Tyler, former spokesman for Cruz.

Tyler said that Falwell assured him that he had no intention of endorsing anyone in the primary in part because his board at Liberty University wouldn’t permit it. So Tyler and others on the Cruz campaign were caught off guard when Falwell suddenly endorsed Trump in January 2016 — a week before the crucial Iowa caucuses and at a time when Cruz and Trump were mounting a fight for key endorsements from powerful leaders on the religious right.

“Clearly, something changed that led him to endorse Trump, and I would like to know what that was,’’ said Tyler, who is now an MSNBC commentator.

Read the rest at the link above.

Joe Biden continues to get shoot himself in the foot with his 1970’s attitudes.

The Washington Post: Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators.

Racist Senator James Eastland

Joe Biden faced a growing backlash Wednesday from prominent Democrats — and a bit of second-guessing within his own campaign — over comments in which he proudly described his history of working hand-in-hand in the Senate with avowed racists.

Biden’s remarks, which came at a fundraiser Tuesday night in which he said one segregationist senator “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’ ” seemed intended to highlight a central argument of his presidential candidacy: that he knows how to bring unity to a polarized nation.

Interestingly, segregationists Biden talked about working with–James O. Eastland and Herman Talmage– were Democrats, so he wasn’t even working “across the aisle.” Even Biden’s advisers were disturbed by his remarks.

As seemingly random as it was for Biden to reference Sen. James O. Eastland, a long-ago deceased segregationist senator from his own party, some in Biden’s campaign had heard him discuss this relationship before — and warned him against mentioning it in public. Eastland, who represented Mississippi in the Senate from the early 1940s to 1978, often said that African Americans were “an inferior race.”

Aides said they had urged Biden to find a less toxic example.

Apparently, another way that Biden resembles Trump (besides being an old white man who excuses racism) is that he doesn’t listen to his advisers.

From The New York Times:

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate….

Yet for much of the day, Mr. Biden and his campaign appeared publicly unbowed and intent on defending, or at least explaining, his worldview of politics, which is rooted in his early days in the Senate when, he said, legislators who disagreed still worked together….

“Apologize for what?” he said Wednesday evening before appearing at a fund-raiser in Maryland, adding that he “could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more.”

Asked by reporters about Mr. Booker’s demand that he apologize for his remarks, Mr. Biden said: “Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”

Calling an African American Senator and presidential candidate “Cory” is not a good look either.  If Biden keeps this up, he’s going to crash and burn just like he did in 2008 and 1988.

More karma: another white male candidate faces a reckoning on race.

Wesley Lowery at The Washington Post: Back home in South Bend, Buttigieg faces ‘his nightmare.’

Lowery writes that Pete Buttigieg was “the surprise success of the 2020 presidential campaign” until he got bad news from South Bend, IN, where he is mayor.

A white police officer had shot and killed a black man early Sunday. Buttigieg canceled several days of campaign events — including an LGBTQ gala in New York — and rushed back to Indiana to “be with the South Bend community,” in the words of a campaign spokesman.

Pete Buddigieg faces his worst nightmare

Instead of showcasing But­tigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. Since arriving on Sunday, Buttigieg has alienated the family of the dead man, Eric Logan, 54, skipped a vigil at the scene of the shooting, and sought advice from outsiders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York.

On Wednesday, Buttigieg finally made his first extended public remarks about the shooting, appearing at South Bend police headquarters to lecture the city’s new cadet class about the importance of turning on their body cameras when they interact with members of the public. During Sunday’s shooting, the officer’s camera had been turned off.

“This is his nightmare,” said Jorden Gieger, a community organizer who is close to Logan’s family. “You have to imagine the first thing he said to the police chief was, ‘You all had one job: Don’t shoot a black guy while I’m running for president.’ ”

Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.

A story from Courthouse News that adds evidence for the meme that in the Trump administration, the cruelty is the point: Feds Tell 9th Circuit: Detained Kids ‘Safe and Sanitary’ Without Soap.

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

Trump concentration camp for immigrant children

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

The settlement at issue came out of Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, filed in 1985 on behalf of a class of unaccompanied minors fleeing torture and abuse in Central America.

Read more at the link.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Cover-Up General Barr Commits Crimes for Mob Boss Trump

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I hardly know where to begin. Yesterday Cover-Up General Barr made a complete ass of himself during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here’s a good summary of what happened from NBC News:

Just to put all of the news of Barr’s Senate testimony yesterday into one place, here are our seven highlights:

1. He said a president could replace an independent counsel if he thought in the investigation was unfair: “If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents, and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel,” Barr said.

2. He admitted he didn’t review the underlying evidence in the Mueller report on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice: “We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record,” Barr said in an exchange with Kamala Harris. “We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted as accurate.

3. He indicated he didn’t read the full Mueller report or even its executive summaries: “Polling data was shared, sir,” said Cory Booker. “It’s in the report; I can cite you the page.” Barr responded, “With who?” (Answer: Paul Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik – revealed on page 7 of Mueller’s executive summary of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.)

4. He dodged Kamala Harris’ question on whether the president or anyone at the White House asked him or suggested to him to open an investigation into anyone: “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that… they have not asked me to open an investigation,” he said.

5. He said the Mueller report was his “baby” after Mueller submitted it: “At that point, it was my baby… It was my decision how and when to make it public.”

6. He said Mueller’s concern to him about his March 24 summary was inaccurate media reporting: “And I called Bob and said, you know, what’s the issue here? Are you — and I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate, and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate.” (But here’s Mueller’s letter complaining about Barr’s summary: It “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

7. And/but he called Mueller’s letter “snitty”: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was written by one of his staff people.”

Afterward, he announced that he would refuse to attend a scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today.

Kamala Harris was the star of the show. Here’s her full examination of Barr in which she got him to stammer and stumble and finally admit he never looked at the evidence of Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation.

As noted in the NBC list, Cory Booker got Barr to admit that he didn’t know that Paul Manafort had shared internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik–who is connected to Russian intelligence services–indicating that Barr didn’t even read Mueller’s report or even the executive summaries! In fact, in his exchange with Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, it appeared that Barr did not even know who Oleg Deripaska is!

Here’s Twitter thread from David Rothkopf on the long-term implications of Cover-Up Barr’s claims about presidential power.

I don’t think we fully realize the profundity of Barr’s assertions yesterday. The ideas that a president can determine whether or not he ought to be investigated or that a president is incapable of committing obstruction are not just outrageous assaults on Constitutional values.

Taken in the context of this administration’s systematic rejection of the oversight role of Congress and of the law–whether it is the emoluments clause of Constitution or the obligation of the IRS to hand over tax returns to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee–what we are seeing is nothing less than a coup, to use a word the president has grown fond of. Trump and Barr are seeking to eliminate the checks and balances that are a hallmark of our system and to effectively render the Congress subservient to the presidency.

Combine this with the efforts of the Senate to load the courts with judicial candidates loyal to the president and the implication of McConnell, Graham & Co. that they will not fulfill their own Constitutional obligations, and you see a devastating picture.

Please click on the link and read the rest.

Some reactions to yesterday’s horror show

Neal Kaytal: Why Barr Can’t Whitewash the Mueller Report.

Many who watched Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed the revelation that the special counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr’s characterization of his report, are despairing about the rule of law. I am not among them. I think the system is working, and inching, however slowly, toward justice.

When it comes to investigating a president, the special counsel regulations I had the privilege of drafting in 1998-99 say that such inquiries have one ultimate destination: Congress. That is where this process is going, and has to go. We are in the fifth inning, and we should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president….

The underappreciated story right now is that we’ve not only learned that it was Mr. Barr — and pointedly not Mr. Mueller — who decided to clear President Trump of the obstruction charges, but also discovered the reasoning behind Mr. Barr’s decision. The American public and Congress now have the facts and evidence before them. The sunlight the regulations sought is shining.

Mr. Barr tried to spin these facts. He hid Mr. Mueller’s complaints, which were delivered to him in writing more than a month ago, even when Congress asked in a previous hearing about complaints by members of the special counsel’s team. And the four-page letter that Mr. Barr issued in March and supposedly described the Mueller report omitted the two key factors driving the special counsel’s decision (which were hard to miss, as they were on the first two pages of the report’s volume about obstruction): First, that he could not indict a sitting president, so it would be unfair to accuse Mr. Trump of crimes even if he were guilty as sin; and second, Mr. Mueller could and would clear a sitting president, but he did not believe the facts cleared the president.

These two items came out because the special counsel regulations allowed for public release of this information (and not, as Mr. Barr testified on Wednesday, because he “overrode” the regulations to give the information to the public). The attorney general was misleading through and through, not just about the investigation, but about the special counsel regulations themselves.

Read the rest at The New York Times. I hope Kaytal is right; I’m having a little trouble being optimistic right now.

Greg Sargent: William Barr is helping to cover up Trump’s biggest crime of all.

As the political world struggles to digest the enormity of Attorney General William P. Barr’s profound corruption of his role on President Trump’s behalf, it’s worth stepping back and surveying a distilled version of what we know, now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report has been released:

  • Russia launched a massive attack on our political system, undermining the integrity of our elections, to elect Donald Trump president.
  • U.S. law enforcement launched an investigation primarily aimed at getting to the bottom of that attack so that we could fully reckon with what happened and ensure the integrity of future elections.
  • Trump tried in multiple ways to derail that accounting of this massive attack on our political system — and then tried to bury the truth about that derailment effort — in a manner that was at best corrupt, and at worst criminal.

The simplest way to understand much of what Barr has done — and what Trumpworld will be doing to impede inquiries going forward — is that it’s mainly aimed at obscuring the broad contours of that larger story.

The point here is not that everything they’re doing is deliberately aimed at this end. It’s that this bigger story is at the center of everything — and by “biggest crime of all,” I mean Trump’s most monstrous wrong — and thus efforts to keep smaller truths from coming out will inevitably be about obscuring that larger story.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Politico: Pelosi: Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress, blasting him in a closed-door meeting and later at a news conference.

“We saw [Barr] commit a crime when he answered your question,” Pelosi told Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) during a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, according to two sources present for the gathering.

“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress,” Pelosi said soon after at a news conference. “And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.“

Pelosi’s comments were an apparent reference to Barr’s response to Crist last month during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, during which the attorney generals aid he was not aware of any concerns that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team might have expressed about his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings.

More reactions, links only

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton: ‘China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns?’

Jamie Bouie at The New York Times: Bill Barr’s Perverse Theory of Justice.

Aaron Blake at The Washingotn Post: William Barr’s ‘snitty’ slip-up gives away his game.

EJ Dionne at the Washington Post: William Barr has shamelessly corrupted the debate over the Mueller report.

Amanda Marcotte at Salon: Bill Barr runs from House Judiciary hearing — will Democrats let him hide?

Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr.

Jennifer Rubin: Barr’s testimony was a low point in Justice Department history.

ABC News: Hillary Clinton: Barr is acting as Trump’s ‘defense lawyer.’

I expect there will be more news breaking today. What stories have you been following?