Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kamala Harris announced her bid for president - here's who else is running

538’s significant digits email summarizes the current state of play in the Democratic Party’s candidates for the presidency in the 2020 election.

8 are running (so far)
Sen. Kamala Harris of California announced yesterday on “Good Morning America” that she is running for president. For those keeping a tally at home, that’s now: Eight people who are running for the Democratic nomination, two who are “all but certain” to run, four who are “likely” to run, and eight who “might” run. [The New York Times]

The NU Times piece has the longer list: Kamala Harris Has Entered the 2020 Democratic Race. Here’s Who Else Is Running.

These are the Times’ lists.
Running (8): Castro Delaney Gabbard Gillibrand Harris Ojeda Warren Yang
All But Certain (2): Booker Hickenlooper
Likely to Run (4): Biden Bullock Garcetti Sanders
Might Run (8): Bloomberg Brown Inslee Klobuchar Landrieu McAuliffe Merkley

So the number of Dem candidates announced, likely to announce, or even just may announce varies depending on where you draw the line: 8, 10, 14, or 22.

The good news is that Scriber does not see another Donald Trump in any of those lists - that is someone who will eliminate competitors by tweeting about “little” this or “crooked” that.

Just to start some conversations, how about a Biden/Harris ticket? Here’s what the times has to say about each of those.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., 76
Former vice president; former senator from Delaware
“I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president.”

  • Has run for president twice before.
  • Is among the best-liked figures in the Democratic Party, known for his down-to-earth personality and his ability to connect with working-class voters.
  • Regards 2020 as his last chance to run for president.

SIGNATURE ISSUES: Restoring America’s standing on the global stage; strengthening economic protections for low-income workers in industries like manufacturing and fast food.

Kamala Harris, 54
Senator from California; former attorney general of California; former San Francisco district attorney
“I believe our country wants and needs some leadership that provides a vision of the country in which everyone could see themselves.”

  • Would bring a star power and history-making potential to the race that few other Democrats can match.
  • One of few new Democrats to join the Senate after 2016.
  • Quickly drew notice for her tough questioning of President Trump’s cabinet nominees — and later, his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh.

SIGNATURE ISSUES: Unveiled middle-class tax cut legislation last fall, and has championed a liberal civil-rights agenda in the Senate.

You can read these kinds of summaries for each named (possible) candidate in the Times’ report.

And, FYI, the Times knows who is not going to run.

Unlikely to Run (6): Bennet Clinton de Blasio Holder Kerry Schultz
Not Running (5): Casey Murphy Patrick Steyer

Friday, January 18, 2019

Scriber takes a break

Hi all. Your Scriber is on vacation for a few days. I’ll get back to regular posts next week. Cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Be careful what you wish for - impeachment might trade an idiocracy for a theocracy.

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) tells us why AG nominee William Barr might want the AG job in Why would William Barr take this job? The answer should alarm Trump. The short answer is that Barr might be a protector of the rule of law and of the Mueller investigation. But I digress. In the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee we have evidence that our law makers, and Barr, understand that Trump is not the best and brightest.

And the chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), usually a Trump loyalist, seemed to be trolling the president.

Asked whether then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was right to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — a source of Trump’s fury — Barr replied: “I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself.”

“I agree,” Graham added, before poking fun at Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity. “President Trump is a one-pager kind of guy,” he said.

“I suspect he is,” Barr concurred.

There was laughter in the hearing room at Trump’s expense.

Although the Senators would not dare utter the word, Trump’s tenure really is an idiocracy - my word.

But let’s put that on hold for a moment. What if Trump is successfully impeached and leaves office. Who takes his place? You know the answer: VP Mike Pence. He is an evangelical and so is his wife Karen. She is the focus of recent reports about her teaching job at a Christian school that bans LGBTQ students and requires a moral pledge from its teachers. (And, look, I am not being misogynistic here. If Pence gets the presidency his wife becomes first lady, and that is not exactly apolitical.)

Jen Hayden at Daily Kos has a short version: Karen Pence begins teaching at a Virginia school that bans LGBTQ students and employees.

Karen Pence, mother wife of Vice President Mike Pence, started a new job this week: a part-time gig as an art teacher at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia, where she previously taught for 12 years. The private Christian school explicitly bans LGBTQ students and employees in the employment application that each staff member must sign and affirm.

It reads:

I understand that the term “marriage” has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture and that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other and that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity is engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Further, I will maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct. Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.

Remember that these hypocrites work next to and support someone who has repeatedly cheated on his current and former wives, and violates nearly every ethical and moral code we live by, but hey—you do you, Karen Pence.

One can only imagine what a painful, toxic place this kind of school would be for students who may be struggling with their own sexual identities.

Naw, no need. I suspect rather few such students would end up for any length of time in that school.

But this reporting does beg for evidence of the claimed hypocrisy. It comes from another story at CNN, Karen and Mike Pence’s astonishing moral hypocrisy by Clay Cane (h/t Sherry Moreau)

For all their professed beliefs, Pence, and his wife, show unwavering support for a man who has been married three times, divorced twice, has had five children with three women and who has been accused of (though denies) paying a porn star and a Playboy model hundreds of thousands of dollars to conceal affairs he’d had with them.

The hypocrisy here, and indeed from white evangelical Trump supporters, is astonishing. As of April, white evangelical support for Trump was at an all-time high: 75%. Disturbingly, as he left the White House, President Barack Obama enjoyed the favorable view of only 24% of white evangelicals.

Obama, a man who had no sex scandals, was never accused of sexual harassment, had two children with the same woman, couldn’t crack 25% white evangelicals. Of course, race is a huge reason, but Hillary Clinton only received 16% of the white evangelical vote.

For white evangelicals, it appears to be Trump over country – and Karen Pence is a glowing example.

It comes down to this: If the Pences love their God so much, then they would not sit in a White House with a man who shows no moral compass and said he never asks for forgiveness. They would be on the White House lawn, with the King James Bible in hand, disavowing a President who is a horrible representation for our children.

Do Karen and Mike Pence (who, incidentally, supports conversion therapy) not see LGBTQ people as humans deserving the same respect and rights as anyone? It’s easy to imagine, based on his pronouncements in the past, that if he could, Vice President Pence would create a sweeping policy to annihilate the progress of all LGBTQ communities — progress that, to be clear, resonates in every community.

The LGBTQ community is Republican, Democrat, black, white, undocumented, documented and has members in red and blue states.

Mike and Karen Pence, where is your Jesus?

So there you have it. Impeaching Trump risks trading the Trumpian idiocracy for a Pencian theocracy. Be careful what you ask for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

With shutdown Trump shoots America. Russia celebrates.

Read on to find out which part of the title is fact and which is fiction.

Trump accepted shutdown mantle. Voters agree.

There are two take-aways from the bloomberg.com report Trump Took Responsibility for the Shutdown, and Voters Say It’s His.

Polls: Half of Americans fault him, one-third blame Democrats
In past shutdowns, a president’s opponent blamed by public

How’s that for doing things differently.

President Donald Trump said a month ago that he’d gladly take the blame for a government shutdown over his proposed border wall. Polls show he’s getting it.

(In that iconic meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump promised not to blame Democrats. Guess what - he lied.)

Trump didn’t help himself by embracing the responsibility for the looming shutdown on Dec. 11 during an acrimonious Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” he said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

Congressional Republicans were stunned. “‘I own it’? Really?” former Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, who lost his seat in the November midterm elections, said the following day. "Do you really want to own this? Don’t you want to put it on their lap? Really!?”

Republicans fail History 101

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said the philosopher George Santayana. The bloomberg.com report provides the evidence that Republicans are repeating the past.

In October 2013, a government shutdown occurred after the Republican-led House refused to include funding for Obamacare in spending legislation; they relented in 16 days. A CNN poll that month showed that 52 percent blamed Republicans in Congress, while 34 percent blamed President Barack Obama.

In November 1995, the first of two shutdowns occurred after the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans demanded steep domestic spending cuts opposed by President Bill Clinton. A CNN survey found that 49 percent blamed Republican leaders, while 26 percent blamed Clinton.

Now, reports bloomberg, “Six surveys taken since the partial government closure began last month tell a consistent story – half or more Americans believe Trump and his party are responsible for the shutdown, while one-third or fewer point the finger at Democrats.”

Trump shoots America in the foot

Snopes.com rated this one as true. “On 23 January 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused controversy when he stated the following during a campaign rally in Iowa: I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Now he’s holed up in the White House waiting for some one, any one, to do something about his self-inflicted looming economic contraction. Not just a slow-down. A real reversal in economic growth. He’s sitting in the White House shooting America and claiming that he will not lose voters.

Shutdown’s Economic Damage Starts to Pile Up, Threatening an End to Growth reports the New York Times.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.

To blunt the shutdown’s effects, the administration on Tuesday called tens of thousands of employees back to work, without pay, to process tax returns, ensure flight safety and inspect food and drugs. But some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands.

Is that intransigence working?

Mr. Trump has demanded that Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, include $5.7 billion for a border wall in any measure to fund the government. Democrats have refused and, along with some Republicans, have tried to persuade the president to reopen the government and negotiate border security afterward. The House has passed several bills to fund parts of the government, including the Internal Revenue Service, that are not related to border security. Senate Republicans have declined to schedule votes on those bills.

On Tuesday, in an effort to try to splinter the Democrats’ opposition, the White House invited several House Democrats from districts Mr. Trump won to discuss a path forward. None showed up.

In the meantime, federal workers are taking a big hit and the misery is likely to spread to the general populace. See my post from yesterday for a summary of the damage Trump is doing. So far, congressional Republicans are just fine with that.

Would you believe that Mitch McConnell was heard to say “What, me worry?”

Our man from Moscow in the White House

Scriber has a nagging feeling that the shutdown is just the latest item on Putin’s wish list that Trump is checking off. There is evidence.

Rachel Maddow reported that Alarm rises as Trump behavior aligns with Putin’s fondest wishes.

Rachel Maddow looks at mounting evidence of Donald Trump policy inclinations lining up with the wildest anti-American, anti-Western dreams of Vladimir Putin as Donald Trump reportedly tries to obscure his personal interactions with Putin.

If you got this far, you will know that none of this is fiction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump's shutdown and the wall - garbage in, garbage out.

Trump's garbage
Garbage in, garbage out

There is an old saying in computer science: ’ garbage in, garbage out describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”. The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.’

So it is with respect to the White House. If you put a deeply flawed person IN a position of authority, you get garbled nonsense being spewed OUT. In 2016, Americans elected the most incompetent petulant narcissist in history. In 2019, he is forcing the people to suffer for his own campaign promise that is founded on nothing more than a campaign slogan: “Build the wall.” You see? Garbage in, garbage out.

Sher Watts Spooner, a Daily Kos Community writer, documents how The human costs of the Trump shutdown will affect all of us. Coming soon to your nation, your community, your income, you personally: bad sh!t inflicted by Trump’s temper tantrum - and we should acknowledge, abetted by the Congressional Republicans. In the latter regard, it’s become so bad that we have a Senator (Lindsey Graham) goading the president to take the legally, constitutionally, politically precarious autocratic action of declaring a national emergency.

Watts Spooner lists the various consequences of Trump’s shutdown.

… The worst-off, of course, are those employees who won’t get paid and are genuinely fearful about their ability to make a rent or mortgage payment. They’re worried about how they’ll afford groceries in the coming weeks to feed their families. They wonder where they’ll find the money for school fees. …

Would you believe that Trump’s idiocracy infected the US Coast Guard evidenced by “its online tip sheet suggesting that employees hold yard sales or babysit to make ends meet.”

Those who don’t depend on the government for a paycheck might not realize how cutting off government services when employees aren’t around can affect all of us. Whether it’s curtailing a visit to a national park, waiting in a long line to board a plane, or worrying whether the food you buy at the grocery store is safe, this Trump shutdown is starting to mean inconveniences and hardships for many Americans.

The Center for American Progress issued an analysis that put the amount of missed paychecks at $2 billion every two weeks. That’s a lot of money to remove from the economy, even for a short time.

Moreover, Trump’s shutdown is, or soon will be, affecting the majority of Americans.

Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in the Washington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together—or already have done so. … It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states—seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020.

One of these is Arizona where:

Seven thousand and three hundred federal employees in Arizona, over half of whom work for the Interior Department, are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown. The Interior Department includes workers who support the state’s 24 national parks, monuments, and trails in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The 300,000 indigenous Americans living in Arizona are uniquely harmed by the shutdown, thanks to its impact on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has said she does “not think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to shut down the government over any demand.” Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) has not publicly broken from Trump and McConnell, and did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Another of those states is Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader who has gone AWOL, effectively by his disappearance turning over control of the Senate to Trump.

Spooner concludes:

… [McConnell] shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know—the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Center for American Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mournday Mourning Madness (Trump) and Mythology (GOP)

Today let’s start with some definitions.

Wall defined:
Make someone very irritated or angry.
‘Chuck and Nancy are driving Trump up the wall’

National Emergency
A term typically used by politicians to express irony.
‘Donald Trump at the border’

Trump's wall
Dig under it, drive around it, fly over it

Now more Illustrated Gnus from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • Trump: “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” Toon: “Because you are the boy who cried wolf.”
  • Trump declares national emergency, requisitions paper towels from Puerto Rico.
  • A logical progression: concrete blocks, steel slats, chicken wire, picket fence, speed bump, legos.
  • What Trump is not considering: concrete wall, steel wall, padded cell.
  • Trump’s progression: The Art of the Deal, The Art of the Steal, The Art of the Heel.
  • The lesson Trump learned from Truman: The buck stops everywhere else.
  • What American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: 58,853,290,105 legos.
  • What else American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: A monthly paycheck for 1,954,062 TSA employees.
Trump's wall

A fool's impulse drives America to the brink

A means of building a wall. Typically used to prevent government workers from working and/or being paid.
Also: A fool’s impulse.

Something that can be dug under, driven around, and flown over. A monument to the stupidity of [one] man.

General George Patton had it right. Here are quotes swiped from military-quotes.com.

“Pacifists would do well to study the Siegfried and Maginot Lines, remembering that these defenses were forced; that Troy fell; that the walls of Hadrian succumbed; that the Great Wall of China was futile; and that, by the same token, the mighty seas which are alleged to defend us can also be circumvented by a resolute and ingenious opponent. In war, the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.”

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man”

Michael Gerson (Washington Post) elaborates: Trump is turning a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — all for a fool’s impulse. (h/t Daily Star which reprinted Gerson’s column this morning)

So far: President Trump has announced a crisis that isn’t actually a crisis — requiring a wall that is not really a wall, funded by Mexican pesos that are really U.S. tax dollars — to keep out murderous migrants who are (as a whole) less violent than native-born Americans, leading to congressional negotiations that involve no actual negotiations, resulting in a government shutdown undertaken on the advice of radio personalities, defended in an Oval Office address that consisted of alarmism, prejudice, falsehood and other material caught in the P-trap of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s mind.

One conservative claimed that Trump finally looked “presidential.” Actually, we are seeing the federal government — Trump supporters and opponents — trying to explain and respond to an impulsive, emotive, selfish, irresponsible and fundamentally irrational force at its center. It is like the immune system responding to a virus it has never seen before and cannot defend against. Trump walks in and out of meetings, repeating scraps of his stump speech, unpredictable to his staff, unconcerned about the pressure on his allies, contemptuous toward congressional opponents and with no apparent end game except their total surrender.

This is a case study in failed and erratic leadership. The shutdown happened because the president — under pressure from partisan media — reneged on a commitment to sign a spending bill the Senate had passed and that the House was ready to pass. Then, during an Oval Office meeting with the Democratic leaders, he said he would gladly own a shutdown, presumably because he figured it would look good on TV. Trump apparently did this without talking to congressional Republicans or his own staff. Congressional Republicans and his own staff were then forced to defend Trump’s impulse as a strategy. But this has proved difficult, because Republicans have no leverage. So now the whole GOP is left pretending there is an emergency at the border, and that a multiyear construction project is somehow the best way to deal with an emergency.

This is the Republican legislator’s lot in the Trump era — trying to provide ex post facto justifications for absurd presidential choices. The border “crisis” did not break because of some tragedy caused by a porous southern border. It did not result from some serious determination of national security priorities. The whole GOP strategy, and all the arguments they are using, are really backfill for an intemperate choice made by a president in response to media coverage. It is a dynamic we’ve seen again and again. Trump announced a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because, well, for the hell of it. Then the whole government had to backfill a policy and process to fit his wrongheaded announcement. Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria on the spur of the moment, perhaps to assert himself against the influence of his now-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Then, the whole defense and national-security establishment has to scramble to backfill the details of coherent policy (which they still haven’t really done).

On the issue of border security, it has fallen to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to provide justification for the irrational. And this has turned a serious public servant into a font of deception and bad faith. She warns darkly about a terrorist threat crossing our southern border, though both the size and details of that threat are too “sensitive” to release. “I am sure all Americans,” she explains, “would agree that one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.”

So, we know that the number of terrorists intercepted at the southern border is equal to or greater than one. What we don’t know is how this terrorist threat compares with other dangers and vulnerabilities that require funding as well. I have spoken to many counterterrorism experts about domestic radicalization, and foreign intelligence gathering, and drones and special operations, and financial investigation and disruption. I have never met an expert who mentioned the construction of a physical barrier with Mexico as an urgent priority in the fight against global terrorism. Some benefit in this area may be a highly attenuated byproduct of a wall. But if the goal is fighting terrorism, the first dollar would not go to a wall. Or probably the billionth dollar. The argument is deceptive to its core.

But security arguments would certainly be at the core of Trump’s justification for declaring a national emergency and building the wall with U.S. troops — if he makes that choice. Then, the ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness of one man would turn a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — and turn Republican defenders into abettors of creeping authoritarianism. All to justify a fool’s impulse.