Saturday, March 31, 2018

The meaning of conservatism - the right to pass along all that is bad in our lives to the next generation.

The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri (who “writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day”) reminisces about the good old days in I am sick of these kids demanding safe spaces. A few snippets follow, but you gotta read the whole thing!

I am sick of these children and their demands for safe spaces.

Safe spaces! Back in my day, all we had were dangerous spaces. People would call you names that would turn your ears blue. Everyone had measles, mumps and rubella, just as a matter of course, and we did not go crawling to our family physicians for so-called vaccines. Disease was a ritual of childhood. We toughed it out. We built character.

… When children misbehaved, their parents were strongly encouraged to hit them with a rod.

Nobody wore safety belts. The water was full of mercury. The fish were full of sewage. Nobody recycled ANYTHING. When someone fell ill, you just hoped and prayed. (More things should be resolved that way: not with regulations or attempts at solutions but by wishing and hoping and thinking and praying. …

… We used to drink water from lead pipes. Some children still do this, but not nearly enough of them. There was smog in the air as thick as a man’s fist. … It was this pointless suffering that made me who I am.

Dare I deny these benefits to the children of today?

I look at kids these days and I despair. They need to man up and solve their own problems. They need to stop demanding to be coddled. Children now are bad and soft, and far too few of them have experienced the grit developed by being needlessly exposed to communicable diseases, or urged to ride bicycles without helmets.

Now, suddenly, they want to get rid of guns, too. The one thing I know is that we cannot stop guns. There is no point in discussing that; that is an immutable aspect of human nature. Children need to toughen up and learn how to care for themselves. They should learn CPR. …

If we let these kids have their way, soon there will not be danger anywhere. They will be able to go to school in the morning and feel confident that they will be able to come home in the evening. This is a radical thing to ask. I remember no such certainty. It is, therefore, undesirable. These children are weak. I do not want my children to live in a better world than the world that I grew up in, or the one we live in now. That would be to admit that things have progressed, and I do not admit that.

That is what conservatism means to me: the ability to pass the dangers and privations of my life on to the generation that will come after. The hope that their lives will be, if not actively worse than mine, then certainly no better. The idea that I suffered not because there were no better choices but because the suffering was inherently good.

I am sick of these children and their demands for safe spaces. Safe spaces! I refuse to modify my argument in any way to reflect the fact that what they are asking to be kept safe from is not words but bullets. …

When I was young, children were seen but not heard. If children suddenly started to be heard, that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

Like I said, you gotta read this in entirety.

Fitz: Arizona Gov. Doozy relies on economagic to fund education

Daily Star columnist/cartoonist David Fitzsimmons explains Governor Doozy’s education funding plan in Once upon a time a little bunny believed in magic.

Once upon a time, there was an adorable little bunny named Doug who loved to perform magic tricks for all the other little bunnies. Doug’s mama, Honey Bunny, called him “Doozy” because every bunny thought his magic tricks were “doozies!” Honey Bunny would often say, “Doozy would rather practice magic tricks than do his math homework!”

One day little Doozy was performing his magic show under the big cottonwood tree for a crowd of bunnies. Much to everyone’s delight, the Easter Bunny hopped by just in time to see little Doozy make a coin magically appear!

And then disappear!

The Easter Bunny introduced himself. ”You are a fine magician, little bunny!” Little Doozy wiggled his pink nose. “Aw, shucks. Thanks! They’re all pretty easy tricks.”

The Easter Bunny smiled. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Governor. And I’m going to pay for educating every little bunny in the land without ever raising a single tax. Because I’m really good at magic tricks!”

The Easter Bunny laughed and laughed and laughed until he noticed little Doozy wasn’t laughing. They shook paws and the Easter Bunny hopped away, shaking his furry white head and saying to himself, “My! What a strange little bunny-wunny!”

The years passed, and Doozy grew up to become Arizona’s first cotton-tailed governor, running with the slogan, “I’m all ears!”

On his very first day as governor, Doozy showed all the bunnies in all the land his magic egg basket. It was empty! Doozy pointed to his empty basket and said, “This is going to pay for all our schools and teachers — and we are going to have the best schools in the land!”

All the bunnies cheered.

Doozy held the empty basket up high. “This is a magic egg basket. The best way to grow eggs is to take away all of the eggs that were in the basket, say the magic words ‘Trickle Giggle Down,’ and just wait for Supply Side Egg-onomics to kick in! Thousands of eggs will magically appear!”

Of course, not all the bunnies believed in magic. But those that did kept voting for Doozy. And the underpaid teachers settled for magic because nothing else was offered to them. Fast forward through an immense fog of magic …

… By now all the bunnies had noticed the basket was very, very, very empty. With no eggs in the basket, how would they pay for schools for their bunny wunnies? They all began to thump their feet.

Doozy wiped the sweat from his paws and shouted, “Wait one Easter Egg minute!”

He brushed back his long ears, straightened his bow tie, pulled out his cellphone, tapped on a YouTube video and said, “If you won’t believe in magic — watch this!”

The bunnies looked at one another. Up came a video that must have cost a million eggs to make! The video told all the bunnies how much Doozy loved education and schools and teachers and all the little bunny-wunnies.

No bunny watched the video. They were all staring at the very, very, very empty basket.

Just then, who should hop by but the Easter Bunny himself! He burst out laughing when he saw poor Doozy and the empty Giggle Trickle Down basket. “That old trick! Mr. Doozy! Who do you think we are? Dumb bunnies? When it comes to education, you should leave magic to Santa, the Tooth Fairy and yours truly, the Easter Bunny.”

And then he laughed, shook his head and bounded away.

Scriber picks up the story …

Gov. Doozy finally got the message. He just needed to find a source of eggs - real eggs, not magical ones. He noticed that what eggs the teachers have comes from a big mega-basket. A few eggs pop out of the mega-basket each year. Doozy reasoned that he could take more eggs from that mega- basket today - even though there would be fewer eggs tomorrow. So Doozy made some more videos, the theme being 123, more eggs for thee. All the bunnies, well most of them anyway, cheered because finally they got some more eggs.

But this story may not end well. The Magisterial Bunny with the black robe and white wig ruled that robbing the future to pay for the present was not a good idea. All the teacher bunnies may have to give back the few eggs that Doozy’s 123 trick gave them. The problem is: the teacher bunnies already ate those eggs. If they have to pay back the eggs, they might end up with fewer eggs than before Gov. Doozy started dabbling in the dark arts.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Ducey's Lament: "we're not last" when it comes to teacher salaries. He has the means to make it so with more tax cuts.

Teachers protest salarie
Teachers march for higher pay

Howard Fischer reports in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) that Gov. Doug Ducey rejects teachers’ demand for 20 percent pay hike. Governor also won’t reverse tax cuts. (Fischer’s report also appeared in the Daily Star.)

Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that teachers aren’t going to get the 20 percent pay hike they are demanding – not now and not in the foreseeable future.

And he intends to continue proposing further cuts in state taxes even as teachers say that, without substantially more money, they may have no choice but to strike.

Speaking to reporters a day after a rally brought more than 2,000 teachers and supporters to the Capitol, the governor rejected the demand they laid out. Ducey said he’s doing the best he can.

Rubbish. What Ducey meant by that last statement is that “he’s doing the best he will.” After you discount Ducey’s inflated claims about what a good education guy he is:

What that leaves is the 1 percent pay increase that lawmakers gave teachers for the current school year – more than the 0.4 percent that Ducey had actually sought – and the governor’s promise of an additional 1 percent hike for the coming school year.

And the new money still leaves Arizona teacher pay close to the bottom of the barrel nationally.

Ducey disputed figures from the Morrison Institute that put salaries for elementary school teachers dead last when considering the cost of living, with high school teachers at No. 49. Instead, he insists, Arizona is just No. 43rd in the nation.

“I’m not bragging on 43rd,” the governor said. “I’m just saying we’re not last.”

It sounds to me like this is _Ducey’s Lament_: “we’re not last.” The thing is, he has the means to make it so and, as Fischer reports, he is hell bent on getting us back to last.

But the governor is not backing away from his pledge not only to never increase taxes but also in refusing to reverse any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts that have kicked in since taking office. Each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers.

Perhaps more galling to teachers is Ducey’s insistence that lawmakers approve yet another tax cut this year, albeit a much smaller one that eventually would reduce state revenues by another $15 million a year.

The governor’s comments, coming on the heels of that rally, discouraged Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis.

“He’s going to continue to ignore and neglect us,” he said.

Karvelis isn’t buying Ducey’s argument that the state can improve its economy by continuing to shave off sources of revenue.

“Every single one of those tax cuts has come with the promise it’s going to inject capital and dollars into our economy,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. That’s a lie.”

Nor does he believe that 20 percent is unrealistic, pointing out it would not even bring the average salary for Arizona teachers up to the national median.

“It’s ridiculous he won’t even consider it,” Karvelis said.

Part of what is working against the teachers is the sheer size of their demand.

Republican leaders in the lege are lined up behind Ducey, Fischer reports. However, there is some support for the 20 percent from the business community.

… Karvelis said he believes many elements of the business community would support a tax hike if they could be guaranteed it would increase teacher pay.

That’s likely true. In fact there is a coalition of current and former business officials who have said the current 0.6-cent sales tax for education – the one lawmakers just extended until 2041 – should be raised a full penny. That would raise more than $1 billion a year, more than enough to get teacher pay up to the national median.

Karvelis has the last word.

"We’re going to get out of ton of teachers to vote on [a ballot measure],” Karvelis said. “A lot of those teachers … are going to be checking ‘yes’ to that ballot initiative and then they’ll be checking ‘no’ for him.

In service of the Guv’s likely fight against a 20% initiative, consider some possible mottos for Ducey.

Last is best.

Back to last.

Make Arizona Last Again.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Update on Stormy Daniels vs. Donald Trump vs. Stormy Daniels

I have been amazed at the classy performance of Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti. I have been equally amazed (although by now I should not be) at the inability of Trump to field a competent legal team. I am not alone. The AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona summarizes the latest legal wrangling in the case of Stormy Daniels vs. Donald Trump in The porn star punks the president, seeks his deposition. Here are snippets.

I am duly impressed by Stormy Daniel’s attorney, Michael Avenatti. He has totally outclassed the hapless Donald Trump and his shyster attorney, Michael Cohen. Avenatti is way smarter than these guys and their lawyers.

Avenatti set a litigation trap for them, and these cocky fools walked right into it. Stormy Daniels asks court to order deposition of Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen:

Stormy Daniels’s attorney is asking a federal judge in California for permission to depose President Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen about the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) the porn actress says she signed to keep quiet about her alleged affair with the president.

Trump and Cohen’s legal teams are seeking to force Daniels to settle the case in private arbitration, which is required under the terms of the agreement. But Avenatti argues the matter can’t be resolved “without facts and evidence, and thus discovery.” He is seeking expedited depositions and document production, and a trial within 90 days of a judicial ruling on the motion.

It is not clear to me what Trump and Cohen hope to achieve by continuing to pursue their lawsuit against Stormy Daniels. Daniels has already told her story to InTouch Weekly and to 60 Minutes for all the world to see. What facts are they still trying to suppress?

The only thing that makes sense to me is that Daniels has more on Trump that she has not yet publicly disclosed, and it must be something damning in order for Trump and Cohen to continue to pursue this stategy to force her into private arbitration. What makes them think that she just won’t disclose it in due time? (Just what is on that disk Avenatti hinted contained evidence?)

As for Cohen’s claim for $20 million in damages — not going to happen. The court would find this an unconscionable penalty unrelated in scope to any actual damages sustained by Daniels’ disclosures.

The real purpose of the lawsuit by Trump and Cohen against Stormy Daniels is intimidation, to chill the speech of other women with whom Trump has the same form NDA agreement.

A depostion would be the end of Trump. He can’t go two minutes without lying. And lying in a deposition is why Bill Clinton was impeached.

How did it come to this? Amy Davidson Sorkin (New Yorker) provides a how-to-do-it list in How Trump Escalated the Stormy Daniels Story: A Thirteen-Step Guide. I’ll list the steps here, but for your morning entertainment, you should read the details in the original.

The scandal won’t go away, largely because Donald Trump and his lawyers have propelled it forward. Here’s how they have managed it so far:

  1. Go to a celebrity golf tournament, and decide how to spend your free time.

  2. At the first sign that a woman has a story to tell, treat her as an enemy.

  3. Spend five years ignoring reality. In this case the reality that, via gossip sites, the basics of the story are made public.

  4. When you run for President, be sure to claim that women who may have such stories about you are liars.

  5. Threats involving big numbers are more your style than legally grounded ones.

  6. Some lawyers would draft such an agreement in a way that does not require your signature. Not your lawyer!

  7. Don’t bother to sign it. Your lawyer got the money to Clifford less than two weeks before the election. We’re done here, right?

  8. But do you know exactly what your lawyer is doing?

  9. When your lawyer starts telling implausible stories about the deal, let him keep talking.

  10. Let your lawyer take actions that guarantee that your involvement in the hush agreement will come to light.

  11. Don’t think about what her next move might be.

  12. Make it twenty million dollars, then! Hire more lawyers, and have them not only join Cohen’s effort to enforce the agreement but ask to move the case to federal court—where, your filing says, you will pursue all legal remedies. Put aside the thought that legal remedies often involve things like discovery and depositions. And, by asking to move the case to federal court, you give Clifford an opening to file an amended complaint: the new version includes a defamation claim against Cohen and arguments about possible campaign-finance violations.

  13. Maybe just call her a liar? Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokesperson, doesn’t comment on whether you watched Clifford on “60 Minutes,” but does say that you think that everything Clifford said on the show was untrue. Sanders also confirms that you and Cohen had dinner the night before the broadcast. But you haven’t tweeted about Clifford by name—not yet.

I look forward to Step #14. You know there will be one. And we should not be amazed to find out that Michael Avenatti has anticipated Steps 14–20 about which Michael Cohen has no clue.

Update on Mueller investigation into Trump campaign and Russia

Aaron Blake (Washington Post/The FIx) reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller just drew his most direct line to date between the Trump campaign and Russia.

That line is drawn in a new court filing related to the upcoming sentencing of London attorney Alex van der Zwaan. Van der Zwaan has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates and a person identified in the document only as “Person A.” Person A appears to be a former Ukraine-based aide to Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort named Konstantin Kilimnik.

Here’s the paragraph (bold in original):

Fourth, the lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel’s Office’s investigation. That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.

That Person A has had ties to Russian intelligence is not terribly surprising. Kilimnik’s personal history has been examined extensively by the media, including The Washington Post. He has denied being involved in Russian intelligence, but he served in the Russian military and attended a Russian military foreign language university that is seen as a breeding ground for intelligence agents.

What’s particularly significant in the Mueller filing, though, are six words: “and had such ties in 2016.” Prosecutors have said previously that a longtime Manafort and Gates associate had ties to Russian intelligence, but they have never said those ties remained during the 2016 campaign. In December, they said this associate was “a longtime Russian colleague . . . who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.” Why those six words were added in this filing when they didn’t appear in the previous filing is the $64,000 question.

… There is so much Mueller knows that we simply don’t; this could be the tip of an iceberg or an extraneous fact. But those six words do seem at least a little conspicuous.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Income inequality watch: In the GOP economic world, a banker is 2361 times more valuable than a secretary. Here's the evidence.

Smiles for corporate bucks
Why are these guys smiling?

Republican tax cuts not working out as the GOP intended writes Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

Last fall, shortly after Thanksgiving, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was clearly aware of the criticisms of her party’s regressive tax plan, but she was eager to defend it anyway, insisting that the plan would be implemented effectively. “The purpose of lowering the corporate rate is to encourage job creation here,” Collins argued at the time. “It is not to encourage stock buybacks.”

How’s that working out?

Right after Republicans in Congress passed their tax bill, lowering tax rates on corporations, companies delivered a very public thank-you: a series of bonus and investment announcements. It was a major PR opportunity for both corporate America and the GOP, meant to show that American businesses were sharing their billions of dollars in tax cut savings with their workers and the broader economy.

But over the next few months, the real winners from the corporate tax cut became clear – not workers and consumers, but shareholders. Companies have boosted dividends and stock buybacks.

To borrow Collins’ phrasing, this may not have been the intended “purpose” of giant corporate tax breaks, but as Vox’s report makes clear, it’s become the result – just as many Democratic critics of the Republican plan predicted.

… There’s plenty of related evidence to bolster the point … a CNBC poll, released yesterday, found that a majority of Americans have seen “no change in their paychecks” as a result of the new tax cuts.

Some, however, have reason to be pleased: the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the average banker bonus in New York City “was $184,220 last year, the biggest annual haul for Wall Street employees since before the financial crisis.”

Note, that $184,220 figure isn’t the salary; that’s just the average size of the bonus for New York bankers.

After seeing a report like that, it’s hard not to think of House Speaker Paul Ryan and his recent boast about that secretary in Pennsylvania who’s now getting an extra $1.50 per week thanks to the Republican plan.

Let’s not compare apples and oranges. The $1.50 is the weekly bonus from the GOP plan. So we have to multiply it by 52 weeks to get the yearly bonus for that secretary. $1.50/week times 52 weeks = $78/year.

Now let’s express this as a ratio. $184,220/banker divided by $78/secretary = 2,361.8. That’s how much more the GOP values the banker over the secretary. Over two thousand times as much.

So the answers are: the rich guys in the photo are smiling because they get richer but the GOP tax break fails the working class. Bigly.

More on the legal status of Prop. 123

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona has an update to Linda Lyon’s post yesterday: More about that Prop. 123 ruling (Updated). The legal battle over Prop. 123 is far from over.

Supreme Court justices: NRA guilty of fraud, repeal 2nd amendment

Guns then and now
Rifles then and now

John Paul Stevens, a retired associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, in a New York Times op-ed makes a case for a means of effective control of assault weapons: Repeal the Second Amendment. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

However, much of what could be accomplished by repeal is already available but lacks political will to make it happen. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) provides that context in his post Former Supreme Court justice calls for Second Amendment’s repeal.

The national debate over gun violence tends to ebb and flow, though the contours of the argument don’t change much. Reformers urge policymakers to consider a series of ideas intended to save lives, while their opponents insist those ideas would be ineffectual and unconstitutional.

Reformers response is that the Second Amendment is not without limits, to which their opponents say that even the most modest restrictions on firearm ownership opens the door to a tyrannical dictatorship.

Once in a great while, however, someone comes along and jolts a stale debate with a provocative recommendation. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, for example, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times today in which he suggests repealing the Second Amendment altogether.

Indeed, Stevens, chosen for the high court by Republican Gerald Ford, made the case that the historic foundations of the Second Amendment have been twisted over the centuries and the original concerns that led to its adoption are “a relic of the 18th century.”

Here is Stevens’ op-ed in full.

Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.

That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms. But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.

Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.

For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation. In 1939 the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated militia.”

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.

That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.

Returning now to Benen’s argument …

I’m not inclined to argue constitutional law with the likes of John Paul Stevens, but it’s probably worth emphasizing that many of the key objectives of reformers – background checks, age limits, prohibitions on civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, bans on high-capacity magazines, et al – don’t require a repeal of the Second Amendment. In fact, I’m not even sure they’d conflict with the Heller precedent.

Putting aside some of the core issues at stake in the 2008 ruling, let’s not forget that Scalia’s 5–4 decision may have been celebrated by the right, but it nevertheless endorsed “longstanding prohibitions” on firearm ownership from felons and the mentally ill, bans on guns in government buildings, limits on the commercial sale of guns, and bans on “dangerous and unusual weapons,” including “M–16 rifles and the like.”

In other words, the kinds of proposals reformers are demanding are entirely in line with the kind of constitutional framework Scalia articulated a decade ago – a framework the right claimed to support.

I mention this, not to contradict Stevens, but to reject the idea of a binary choice between repealing the Second Amendment and leaving the status quo in place indefinitely. The same changes sought by leaders of the March for Our Lives could be approved immediately by lawmakers and could withstand a legal challenge from the NRA and its allies.

What stands in the way is not the Second Amendment, but the political will of officials currently in office.

Let’s hope that the March for Our Lives extends to Vote for Our Lives.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

In the case of Stormy Daniels' allegations, the coverup is more important than the alleged sex with Trump

Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels was a blockbuster according to the morning Significant Digits email from 538.

22 million viewers
CBS’s Sunday night news show “60 Minutes” had 22 million viewers Sunday night, its highest ratings in nearly a decade. The draw? Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who alleges to have had an affair with President Donald Trump. More people tuned in to the interview than watched either the Golden Globes or the Grammys this year. [New York Times]

The Times reports:

The segment on Ms. Clifford, who said she had a sexual relationship with Donald J. Trump in 2006 and had been offered money to keep it quiet, took up more than half the episode. The start of the episode was delayed 36 minutes by an overtime NCAA men’s basketball tournament game between Kansas and Duke. The CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who joined “60 Minutes” as a correspondent in 2006, conducted the interview.

OK, so many Americans watched Clifford spell out in sordid details her (sexual) relationship with President Trump. Many of us gagged, many watched agog, and not surprisingly many watched Fox instead. In the main, we cease to be amazed by the extramarital antics of a man who grabs ’em and brags about ’em. So what’s the big deal? In a word: coverup.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) writes about that point of view in Daniels and her lawyer make their case: ‘This is about the cover-up’.

It does not require an especially active imagination to believe Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels had an extra-marital relationship, and that the president’s denials probably aren’t true. But the sexual aspect of the controversy has always struck me as the least interesting aspect of the controversy.

Trump is, after all, a thrice-married admitted adulterer. Claims that he cheated on his current wife, and not just his first two wives, may be very easy to believe, but they’re also easy to overlook as a private matter, better left to the president, his family, and his conscience.

What I find vastly more important are allegations of criminal wrongdoing, efforts to silence women, and the extent to which Trump’s private misdeeds may have left him vulnerable as president.

… when Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money shortly before the 2016 presidential election, it may have been an in-kind contribution that ran afoul of federal election laws.

The “60 Minutes” segment featured a notable exchange between Anderson Cooper and Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

POTTER: The payment of the money just creates an enormous legal mess for I think Trump, for Cohen, and anyone else who was involved in this in the campaign.

COOPER: Are you saying that can be seen as a contribution to benefit a campaign?

POTTER: I am. it’s a $130,000 in kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he’s allowed to give. And if he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret.

So where does this leave us? First, the portrait that emerges is one of the president’s alleged mistresses claiming she’s faced threats, intimidation, and bullying.

Second, there’s the question of the larger effort to silence the woman at the center of the scandal. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told CBS, “This is about the cover-up. This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy.”

Third, there are the related questions that still need to be answered. How many other women are there who may have had extra-marital relationships with the president? How many of them were paid off? Who, exactly, knows about the women and could they use this knowledge as leverage over Trump now?

And what does the president, who’s said literally nothing of late about Stormy Daniels, intend to do about the controversy as it intensifies? The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the president is beginning to express concern about the political impact of the story – he apparently told an associate the matter is a “hoax,” which appears to be a word Trump uses a little too often – while the Wall Street Journal added that the president has weighed whether to follow advisers’ guidance and remain silent about the allegations.

One thing to remember is that if Trump breaks silence and comes out and denies Daniels’ claims, that raises the question of why his lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep her silent about something than never occurred. I detect echos of the Nixon downfall. The contortions of the coverup, more than any crime, is what brought his presidency down. So it may now go.

Prop. 123 Deemed Unconstitutional

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
Capitol Media Services reports that yesterday, a Federal judge ruled Governor Ducey’s funding scheme, that became Proposition 123, is unconstitutional. Judge Neil Wake “said the federal Enabling Act that made Arizona (and New Mexico) a state in 1912 and gave it lands to hold in trust for schools allows the state to use only the interest off the money earned. The idea, Wake explained, was to preserve the body of the trust – and the future interest it would earn – for future generations.” Wake deemed that Prop. 123, the solution to settle the lawsuit filed in 2010, does not comply with that law.
“Nowhere in the history does anyone request or suggest that Congress give unfettered discretion to either state or that it was abdicating its oversight obligations under either state’s Enabling Act,” he wrote.
Ducey’s attorney however, said there is a provision in recent federal legislation that authorizes future payments from the trust that help fund the school finance formula, but also ratifies the $344 million in payments already made. The Governor’s press aide, Daniel Scarpinato, said, “We’re not terribly worried”.
The federal government originally gave Arizona about 10 million acres, of which 9.2 million remain. About $4.8 billion currently exists in the trust from sales and leases of the land. At pre-Prop. 123 withdrawal levels, the fund was estimate to grow to about $9 billion by 2025. Post Prop. 123, the account is projected to grow to only $6.2 billion.
“The schools’ current incentive to get extra money for their current needs is at odds with the interests of future Arizona students,” the judge said. “Congress’s conscious plan to vest all citizens with property rights in the trust was necessary to uphold the trust against collusive violations.”
Even though it was passed by voters in 2016, Prop. 123 was very controversial from the beginning with AZ Treasurer Jeff DeWitt warning Governor Ducey that the radical change to use of the state trust lands could only be made by amending the Enabling Act. Education advocacy organizations such as the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Education Association, agreed to the settlement in order to avoid more years of litigation and get critical money to the schools sooner rather than later.
Prop. 123 has helped our starving schools with $491.5 million more received FY 2018 versus 2015. With this funding, districts hired 1,791 more full-time teacher equivalents during that time and increased the average teacher salary by $2,044. All in all, districts put 90% of Prop. 123 funds into paying and hiring teachers, with the other 10% used to comply with the new minimum wage increase, help fund building maintenance and renewal (cut by the Legislature nearly $2.4 billion since 2009), and give raises to employees in instructional and teacher support (who had also experienced salary freezes.)
I’m sure there will be much more to come on this issue. Two things though, are for certain. First, the AZ Legislature’s raiding of district funding caused this problem in the first place, leaving Arizona K–12 per pupil funding with the highest cuts in the nation from 2008 to 2014. Secondly, if the Prop. 123 funding is taken away, Arizona citizens MUST demand that Governor Ducey and his Legislature find new revenue for our district schools. Even with Prop. 123, our teachers are the lowest paid in the Nation, and our schools have almost $1 billion less in annual funding that prior to the recession. The situation is dire, and the legislation recently forwarded to Governor Ducey for signature to extend the Prop. 301 sales tax at current levels doesn’t do anything to fix it.
It is time for real leadership. If it doesn’t come from our Governor and Legislature, it MUST come from the voters in August and November.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Congress to NRA: Hey, hey, NRA-How many kids did we kill today?

Trump begs for power shutdown
Trump's request to Putin:
Shut down CBS and Spare me Stormy
  • Students march everywhere. Congress escapes DC. Trump hides in his Florida swamp. Do you think that the gun lobby will come up with a new slogan to use against the marchers: “Never again”?
  • Big Pharma execs worry about their looming death penalty for peddling opioids.
  • Clouds on the horizon: Trump worries about Stormy.
  • Trump gets many mulligans from Christian right.
  • Cambridge Analytica is new face of Facebook.
  • There’s no witch hunt. The question facing Mueller is which hunt.
  • And John Bolton moves one step closer to the red button.

All that and more in this Mournday Mourning’s Illustrated News from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Never again - students march to protest gun violence while Congress and the President go on vacation

Following is the New Yorker editor David Remnick’s introduction to several essays on America’s teenage activists (via “The Sunday” email).

Teen Spirit
Yesterday, thousands of American teen-agers marched on Washington to protest gun violence in their schools. This was more than inspiring—it was a bracing reminder to the rest of us that the course of events is in our hands, and that apathy is a choice. This week, we’re bringing you portraits of young people who are determined to shift the status quo. Reporting from Parkland, Florida, Emily Witt meets the students who are starting the Never Again movement. Michelle Nijhuis introduces us to the California teen-agers who are suing the government over climate change. Alex Carp attends Occupy Summer School; Betsy Morais meets Zoe Markowitz, the youngest-ever member of the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8; and Laura Parker drops in on the campaign of Tahseen Chowdhury, a high-school student running, as a progressive candidate, for the New York State Senate. Finally, in a piece from 1965, Renata Adler offers an overview of the Vietnam era’s student protest movements—for free speech, for civil rights, and for peace. Then, as now, young people were pushing society forward.
—David Remnick

Find those essays and more on the march at the New Yorker we site.

Here at home, Hundreds in Sahuarita join national gun violence protest reports Dan Shearer at the GV News.

More than 400 people — toddlers, teenagers, Green Valley seniors, moms and dads — crowded along the road in front of Sahuarita High School on Saturday morning to protest gun violence and mass shootings. They were joined by hundreds of thousands of others in an estimated 800 marches across the world, including at least 13 in Arizona.

Saturday’s event in Washington was organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people, mostly teenagers, died in a shooting Feb. 14. Six members of Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita flew to Washington, D.C., to join them — four teenagers, Assistant Minister Nathan Watts and an adult church member.

Milo Rushford, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Great Expectations Academy on Sahuarita, carried a sign that said, “School zones shouldn’t be war zones.”

“Why haven’t we done anything about it when every other country has solved this problem,” he asked.

His sister, Kelly, a 16-year-old student at Walden Grove High School, said, “I believe schools should be a safe place.”

The protest was organized by alliance4action, a Green Valley activist group that set out to support student protesters.

But it was not only teenagers protesting the availability of assault rifles.

Roger Brink, a Vietnam veteran from Green Valley who served in Army Special Forces, said assault-style weapons have no place on the street.

“I’ve seen what they can do,” he said. “I believe in the Second Amendment but I don’t believe we need access to an AR–15.”

Scriber’s answer to the questions raised by marchers is predictable from my previous posts on gun violence: your lives are expendable. The de facto policy of America is to accept deaths of school children as the price to be paid for unlimited access to assault weapons. Conduct your own analysis of whatever is said by politicians and the gun lobby about second amendment rights. You will discover that all the “thoughts and prayers” boil down to that one policy. Take it to the streets and do not give up - ever. And then as soon as you are able, vote the defenders of that policy out of office. And for starters, ask where Congress and the President were during your march yesterday.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

John Bolton's appointment as national security advisor heralds the coming of the sum of all fears

Max Boot, writing an opinion at the Washington Post about Bolton, says we can Add another zealot to the White House personnel roster.

Most presidents initially stock their administrations with cronies and ideological purists. Then, after suffering inevitable setbacks, they usher them out in favor of less ideological and more competent professionals. President Trump is doing it in reverse. He is jettisoning anyone who could serve as a break on his extremist tendencies, and replacing them with fire-breathing TV personalities.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn resigned in protest over Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum; now Trump is adding tariffs on China as well. Cohn is being replaced by former CNBC anchor Lawrence Kudlow. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired, in no small part, because he disagreed with the president’s desire to destroy the Iran nuclear deal. He is being replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who twisted his own agency’s findings to claim that Russian interference had no impact on the 2016 election. Now Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, one of the military’s brightest strategic thinkers, is out as national security adviser. He is being replaced by John Bolton, a Fox TV talking head who is likely to reinforce, rather than rein in, Trump’s worst instincts.

In addition to his controversial tenure as US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton comes to his new job as national security advisor with more baggage. The New York Times reports that Bolton Was Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data.

The political action committee founded by John R. Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents.

Mr. Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014, months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.

"The data and modeling Bolton’s PAC received was derived from the Facebook data,” said Christopher Wylie, a data expert who was part of the team that founded Cambridge Analytica. “We definitely told them about how we were doing it. We talked about it in conference calls, in meetings.”

“The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues,” Mr. Wylie said.

“That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview,” he added. “That’s what they said they wanted, anyway.”

Using the psychographic models, Cambridge helped design concepts for advertisements for candidates supported by Mr. Bolton’s PAC …

… the relationship between Cambridge and the Bolton PAC [grew] so close that the firm was writing up talking points for Mr. Bolton. In an email dated Oct. 1, 2014, Cambridge staff outlined a few sentences that Mr. Bolton could use to describe the work the new firm was doing for his super PAC.

Beyond their conservative politics, Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolton and Cambridge Analytica all share a patron — the Mercer family of Long Island … [Robert] Mercer was financially supporting Mr. Bolton’s PAC, donating $5 million between April 2014 and September 2016, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The Mercers also backed Mr. Trump in the presidential election.

All that was predicable, I guess, from Bolton’s history as a war monger. But there are other reasons to fear his appointment by Trump as national security advisor. Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) explains why The real reason Trump’s choice of John Bolton should terrify you.

… What’s really happening is that Trump is increasingly surrounding himself with advisers who are better than the “adults in the room” at manipulating his erratic and shifting impulses and whims, by giving a shape to them he can accept and act upon.

… when Trump was debating whether to certify the Iran deal last summer and was unhappy with advisers urging him to do so on substantive grounds, then-adviser Stephen K. Bannon handed him a piece by Bolton urging him to decertify. Bolton’s piece cast that as the only course consistent with Trump’s “view that the Iran deal was a diplomatic debacle,” because Obama had given Iran “unimaginably favorable terms.” Trump has no idea whether this is true — it isn’t — but it persuaded Trump to come close to decertifying, though ultimately the adults prevailed that time.

The point is that Trump doesn’t grasp the details, but Bolton skillfully gave shape to his impulses. Now Bolton will be in an even better position to persuade Trump to kill the Iran deal, and if and when that happens, to push Trump more in the direction of his own bellicose designs, which Bolton will almost certainly cast as in keeping with Trump’s vow to be tougher than Obama.

Or take North Korea. Everyone knows that when Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un, he did so on an impulse, with no thought through rationale or sense of the risks and complexities involved. Bolton wants to go to war with North Korea and has dismissed talks. But he cleverly greeted Trump’s announcement by describing it as “shock and awe” and an opportunity for Trump to give North Korea an ultimatum if it does not immediately begin “total denuclearization.” This, too, gave a shape to Trump’s impulse that he will very probably find flattering, but also one that might move Trump toward Bolton’s position.

If Trump now “feels” that Bolton will give him the policies he wants on Iran and North Korea, it’s because Bolton is skilled at making Trump feel that way. That’s ominous, because it means Bolton may be able to push Trump toward believing that Bolton’s goals are a realization of his own foreign policy vision, such as it is.

Bolton’s appointment is just one example of what is going on in the Trump administration. On other matters, like trade and the Russia investigation, we also see the rise of individuals who know how to manipulate Trump. Sargent continues.

On trade, the process leading to Trump’s decision to impose tariffs was a joke with no regard for specifics. But it did showcase the rising star of trade adviser Peter Navarro, who unabashedly stated that he had provided the “analytics” to “confirm his intuition,” which is “always right.” Trump just pushed out lawyer John Dowd, who advised careful cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and has added Joe diGenova, who has fed Trump’s fantasies of a “deep-state” plot against him, signaling the much more aggressive confrontation with Mueller that Trump clearly craves, without having the foggiest strategic rationale. In both cases, these people are successfully giving shape to Trump’s impulses.

As Michelle Goldberg recently observed, one after another, the people who are supposed to be “checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims” have departed. But this doesn’t mean Trump is getting back to being who he always wanted to be. It means he is increasingly listening to people who are good at exploiting and shaping those instincts and whims.

Only one of the original “adults in the room” remains, and that is Secretary of Defense James Mattis. If he goes, there will be no one left to provide the “checking of Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims”. And, by the way, you can discount the Republican-controlled Congress which shows zero spine when it comes to a check and balance on the child-like impulses of Trump. But even if Mattis stays, Max Boot asks can “Mattis restrain Trump now that the president is surrounding himself with fellow zealots?”

Without any such restraint we might well find ourselves (in addition to a trade war with China) in a two-front shooting war with Iran and North Korea, the reason being that a cabal of war mongers have figured out how to play the narcissist in the White House.

Friday, March 23, 2018

National Security Advisor shuffle - McMaster out, Bolton in

The reporting on this latest cabinet-level shift shows that Trump replaced one hard-liner with another. What it comes down to, your Scriber thinks, is that this is less a fundamental shift in national security policy and more likely Trump finally got fed up with getting advice he did not like. Trump continues to pack the cabinet with yes-men (and women).

The NY Times broke the story in McMaster to Resign as National Security Adviser, and Will Be Replaced by John Bolton.

WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.

General McMaster will retire from the military, the officials said. He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.

The officials also said that Mr. Trump wanted to fill out his national security team before his meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. He replaced Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson with the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, last week.

Mr. Bolton, who will take office April 9, has met regularly with Mr. Trump to discuss foreign policy, and was on a list of candidates for national security adviser. …

General McMaster’s serious, somber style and preference for order made him an uncomfortable fit with a president whose style is looser, and who has little patience for the detail and nuance of complex national security issues. They had differed on policy, with General McMaster cautioning against ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran without a strategy for what would come next, and tangling with Mr. Trump over the strategy for American forces in Afghanistan.

Their tensions seeped into public view in February, when General McMaster said at a security conference in Munich that the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was beyond dispute. The statement drew a swift rebuke from the president, who vented his anger on Twitter.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Mr. Trump wrote, using his campaign nickname for Hillary Clinton. “Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

General McMaster carried out a slow-rolling purge of hard-liners at the National Security Council who had been installed by Mr. Flynn and were allied ideologically with Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, earning the ire of conservatives who complained that his moves represented the foreign policy establishment reasserting itself over a president who had promised a different approach.

General McMaster’s position at the White House had been seen as precarious for months, and he had become the target of a concerted campaign by hard-line activists outside the administration who accused him of undermining the president’s agenda and pushed for his ouster, even creating a social media effort branded with a #FireMcMaster hashtag.

The case against John Bolton, in one Trump tweet, was made at vox.com.

People who’ve been intently watching the comings and goings of people from the White House might have expected the change. But it would have come as a shock to 2013-era Donald Trump.

Bolton stood out for his hawkishness even in the hawkish Bush administration. He was a leading cheerleader for the war in Iraq. And he spent his post-White House career arguing for more military intervention, specifically in Iran (over its nuclear weapons program) and to calm the civil war in Syria.

Trump, on the other hand, used to be a pretty staunch opponent of military adventurism in general and the war in Iraq in particular. (He claimed on the campaign trail that he had opposed the war before it started; that doesn’t appear to be the case, but he was certainly criticizing it as early as 2004.)

He tweeted, over and over again, that “we should never have gone into Iraq” (though, he often added, after going in America should have at least “taken the oil”). And on at least one occasion, in 2013, he declared that “all former Bush administration officials should have zero standing” on the foreign policy question of the time:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
All former Bush administration officials should have zero standing on Syria. Iraq was a waste of blood & treasure.
12:41 PM - Sep 5, 2013

Now, a former Bush administration official will be the president’s top policymaker on national security. He will have all sorts of standing on Syria, as well as Iran, North Korea, and any other place you care to name.

According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Bolton “promised Trump ‘he wouldn’t start any wars’” on the job. But as Trump himself knows very well, just because you say — or tweet — something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand by it.

But this opens the question: Did Trump promise Bolton not to start any wars?

Democrats and Republicans differ in educational attainment

A recent report from the Pew Research Center supports the conclusion that “Americans are pursuing higher education at growing rates, but those without a college education are increasingly finding a home in the GOP.” The data are summarized in this report by the New York Times: As Americans become more educated, the GOP is moving in the opposite direction. (h/t Jana Eaton)

There are two basic facts to know.

Fact #1: More Americans are earning college degrees

According to Census Bureau data, more Americans have a college degree now than they did a year ago — the highest number ever measured by the Census.

More than a third of American adults have a four-year college degree or higher, the highest level ever measured by the Census Bureau. In 2010, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“The percentage rose to 33.4 percent in 2016, a significant milestone since the Current Population Survey began collecting educational attainment in 1940,” said Kurt Bauman, chief of the bureau’s education and social stratification branch. “In 1940, only 4.6 percent had reached that level of education.”

Fact #2: More than ever, those with college degrees are Democrats, those without are Republicans

"In 1994, 39% of those with a four-year college degree (no postgraduate experience) identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and 54% associated with the Republican Party. In 2017, those figures were exactly reversed.”

More than half of registered voters who identify as Democrat have a bachelor’s degree, while fewer than 4 in 10 registered voters who identify as Republican have a bachelor’s degree.

Those with graduate degrees are even more likely to find their political home in the Democratic Party, according to the survey:

“In 1994, those with at least some postgraduate experience were evenly split between the Democratic and Republican parties. Today, the Democratic Party enjoys a roughly two-to-one advantage in leaned partisan identification. While some of this shift took place a decade ago, postgraduate voters’ affiliation with and leaning to the Democratic Party have grown substantially just over the past few years, from 55% in 2015 to 63% in 2017.”

The Times report draws another conclusion. “[All] This may not bode well for the GOP long-term as the American public becomes increasingly educated.”

… this could be bad news for the GOP long-term as the demographics of the country and the electorate will increasingly look less like their party. It could be increasingly difficult to win sizable numbers of support — and thus elections — from more educated Americans in the future. In recent elections in Virginia, Alabama and elsewhere, the GOP won the white, working-class vote — but, ultimately, the party lost.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stormy clouds on Trump's horizon

Consider some political stormy clouds that now loom on the near horizon. Suppose that Trump manages to avoid an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller (perhaps by firing him - a very real possibility). But then Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) gets her day in court and compels Trump to publicly testify. Below are snippets from two articles extending my line of thought.

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni muses about The Calm Before the Stormy. How come Trump is tweeting whacks at Mueller but is silent on lawsuits over his alleged extramarital affair with an adult film star?

Apart from his own kin, there’s no category of person exempt from Donald Trump’s attacks. He has gone after past presidents of the United States, current leaders of our closest allies, stewards of his own party, senior officials in his own administration, the Latina mayor of a city freshly devastated by a hurricane, the Muslim mayor of a city just struck by terrorists and the families of American soldiers killed in combat.

But not Stormy Daniels. Where are the tantrums and tweets for her? It’s a glaring and fascinating omission.

Bruni considered and discounted a couple of possibilities.

Maybe the explanation is straightforward: He doesn’t want to give her any extra motivation to speak out and describe whatever happened between them in a negative light. But when has Trump ever played the tempered pacifist before?

Lawyers are no doubt urging him not to amplify her importance — and spotlight a payment to her that may have violated campaign-finance laws — by personally battling her. But he has repeatedly ignored their counsel not to rail against Robert Mueller and others who are looking into his campaign’s ties to Russia, and that’s a matter of presumably greater threat to his presidency.

Meanwhile he stays mum about a porn star who is peddling steamy secrets about him — and who is doing what he hates most, which is using him as a stepping stone to saturation fame. The interview that she gave to “60 Minutes” is scheduled to be broadcast this coming weekend without a peep from the president (though with frantic efforts by his lawyers to quash it). His silence speaks volumes.

… What if the enigma of what Daniels is about to say really rattles him, and his turning away from it is the telltale sign of that? The assumption has long been that his Twitter account gives us his psychic vital signs and that we can chart his distress by his diatribes. But diatribes are his norm. Deviations from them may hold more meaning.

Trump maybe rattled by how Daniels described him in a previous interview.

"Textbook generic” was how she described the sex that she said she had with him … he comes across as somewhat pitiable. And she has reportedly given new details and documents to “60 Minutes.” [The CBS program airs this coming Sunday.]

Then there’s Melania. By all evidence the distance between the Trumps has widened since the surfacing of Daniels’s allegations that he had sex with her shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006 and that he told Daniels to pay his wife no heed. Every mention of Daniels must mortify Melania, and the president can’t afford that. There’s more than enough strain in their marriage and turbulence in the White House already.

… it’s worse still if a series of recent elections — in Virginia, in Alabama, in Pennsylvania — suggest that you repel women in the suburbs and they’re acting on their disgust. They won’t be soothed by an illicit romance that could be titled “Filthy Shades of Orange.”

So the take-away here is that Trump’s silence may indicate that he is more disturbed at a deep personal level by the lawsuits coming his way from Stormy Daniels (and other women like Karen McDougal) than by Mueller’s investigation. Perhaps he is aware of his vulnerability when it comes to civil suits. In exploring this latter possibility Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen thinks Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom.

The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.

Daniels alleges she and Trump had an affair beginning in 2006. The president’s lawyer and his press secretary allege that the allegations are not true. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, does admit to paying Daniels $130,000, apparently to keep her silent about an affair that, according to Cohen, did not happen. To do this, Cohen set up a private Delaware company and concocted false names for everyone involved — the allegation-maker and the allegation-denier. Only the name Delaware is legit.

The payment of $130,000 over an affair that did not happen did not deter Daniels. For one thing, no one could possibly believe Cohen paid a woman not to talk about a sexual interlude that did not happen. (What’s the price for one that did happen?) I, for one, am understandably mortified that any lawyer named Cohen could be that stupid. Second, the various deniers, both at the Trump Organization and at the White House, keep confirming that Trump and Daniels were fighting it out in court. For instance, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently said that Trump’s lawyers had won an arbitration case “in the president’s favor.” Bingo!

Sometimes … it is hard to take sides. … Daniels, after all, is a porn actress. She directs and writes screenplays as well, but she is best known for having sex in the movies — turning what used to be called a romp in the hay into a payday. But, with the inadvertent cooperation of Trump and his band of merry incompetents, she now comes across as the victim. Cohen says he can demand as much as $20 million from her for breaching a nondisclosure agreement. In other words, they’re out to crush her.

But they are on shaky legal ground, as Jennifer Taub reported in slate.com.

[This scandal has become] about a woman up against a bully and it makes other things explicable: This is what Trump did to Andrew McCabe, fired from the FBI hours before he qualified for his pension. Crushed.

In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.

It was the little thing that killed Harry on safari [in The Snows of Kilimanjaro]. It was the unattended cut, the disabled truck, the tardy rescue plane. As he died, he dreamed of Kilimanjaro, “unbelievably white in the sun” but the hyena that had been stalking him made “a strange, human, almost crying sound,” and he knew what the hyena already knew. It is what Trump is learning.

P. S.
Hyenas are scavengers and will often drive off lions from their kills. I invite you to complete the analogy.

Republicans in Congress Fail to Act "against all enemies, foreign and domestic"

The oath of office administered to each member of Congress contains those words.

The Constitution (Article VI, clause 3) requires that Senators and Representatives take an oath of office to support the Constitution. The specific language of the oath has changed several times since it was first administered in 1789. It is set by statute (5 U.S.C. 3331), enacted by Congress. It now reads:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

U.S. law requires that Members must be sworn before they can take their seats (2 U.S.C. 21, 25). The rules of the House of Representatives prohibit a Member from voting or introducing a bill until he/she has taken the oath.

The oath is administered to Members-elect on the opening day of each new Congress. In the House, the Speaker administers the oath to the Members present in the chamber all at once, as a group. Members absent on opening day due to illness or other reasons, take the oath later from the Speaker, or another House officer. If they cannot make it to the House, a local justice in their area is usually designated by the Speaker of the House to administer the oath.

In the Senate, the oath is administered by the President of the Senate (the Vice-President of the U.S.), or a Senator is designated to give the oath in his stead. Senators come forward to take the oath in alphabetical order in groups of four on the opening day of a new Congress. They are escorted to the front of the chamber by the sitting Senator from their state.

In my opinion, Trump’s pre-election apologists were dead wrong and that list includes sitting members of Congress. If the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power, and if Trump knew of it or participated in it, then inaction by members of Congress would violate their oath of office.

Here’s A reminder of just how wrong Trump apologists were from Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post.

President Trump is reportedly “more confident” in his job — what results provide him with such confidence is unknown — and hence we see an undiluted Trump. The promise that one day he would pivot, or become presidential, was ludicrous. In fact, he has gotten worse with time. [Scriber: It’s all coming out in Trump’s Terrible Twos.]

We now see unrestrained Trump — the one who hates criticism; who must continually pummel his opponents; who never bothers to learn about subjects on which he expounds; who thinks everyone in government owes their personal loyalty to him; who means what he says for only a fleeting instant; who confounds allies with policy zigzags; who bullies and blusters; who lies continually; and who, despite his bravado, cannot take on those to whom he apparently owes his presidency (e.g., the National Rifle Association, the Kremlin).

What were Trump’s apologists thinking?

We vividly remember when Republican sycophants assured us that all would be fine because Trump assembled a dazzling Cabinet and the greatest national security team ever. … On the contrary, Trump surrounded himself with people like him (rich, ethically-clueless, allergic to facts, etc.), and he has eschewed people who either tell him no or tell him he is wrong. … The promise that he would be saved by advisers with more intellect, temperament and experience also ignored Trump’s unwillingness to hire critics who voiced their qualms during the campaign. …

But, but … Congress will constrain him! That’s what Trump apologists (including congressional Republicans) assured us. Really. As a matter of policy, they have either been inert or have encouraged his worst tendencies (e.g., demagoguery on the “dreamers”). On appointments, they have rubber-stamped a cast of characters that is distinguished mostly by ethical slip-ups and antagonism toward the missions of the departments and agencies they lead. As for checking Trump’s personal failures, they have turned a blind eye toward his conflicts, his foreign earnings and his refusal to release his tax returns. They have no stomach for confronting Trump. (Even on tariffs, they’ve talked a good game, but no legislation has been forthcoming.)

More specifically, these same apologists in Congress are not likely to mount any serious defense of Robert Mueller and the Russian investigation. Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) reports on A GOP senator’s remarkable admission about Trump and Mueller, that Senator being Bob Corker.

President Trump just uncorked a new round of Twitter attacks this morning on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and on the English language, quoting one of his staunchest legal allies as follows: “I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!”

Yet Republicans appear increasingly dug into their position. Their stance is that of course Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation, but they will not act legislatively to protect the probe, because this is not at all necessary, as Trump would never dream of taking action against it, since he would face severe consequences that Republicans will not enunciate in advance.

But a Republican lawmaker has just given away the real game behind this carefully crafted straddle. Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) was pressed by the Washington Examiner on why Republicans are hesitant to protect Mueller, and this is what happened:

Republicans in Congress are hesitant to antagonize President Trump ahead of ahead of difficult midterm elections, wary of sparking a backlash from a committed grassroots base more loyal to the White House.

Amid sky-high Democratic enthusiasm and a developing “blue wave,” Republicans can’t afford a war with Trump that depresses GOP turnout. Republicans might be worried about Trump’s attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, but they are reluctant to push back, much less support legislation to curtail the president’s ability to fire Mueller and sideline the federal probe …

“The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who decided to retire when his second term concludes at year’s end, after periodically sparring with Trump.*

“People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not,” Corker added.

This is a candid glimpse from a leading GOP lawmaker into what’s really driving the Republican straddle on Mueller. …

… Trump’s attacks probably rally GOP base voters, large percentages of whom see the Mueller probe as a witch hunt, making it harder for GOP lawmakers to protect that investigation.

Corker just conceded that this is the driving motive. He suggested that GOP voters equate being “with Trump” in a “tribal” sense with not acting to protect Mueller. Republicans are mindful of this as they craft their position toward Mueller, which includes rhetorical support for the probe but no new substantive limits on Trump’s power to do what they say they don’t want him to do.

At bottom, the GOP position is basically to beg Trump not to bring the issue to a head, without taking any action to prevent it — and without signaling what Republicans will do in response if he does. …

Corker has basically conceded that Republicans believe it would alienate the GOP base to signal that removing Mueller would meet with specific consequences. But if this is the case, and Trump does try to shut down or hamstring the probe, that would only further rally Republican voters behind him. Why would it be any easier to inflict consequences at that point? If, as Corker says, what matters most in this calculus is what GOP voters think of lawmakers’ tribal loyalty to Trump, it would only get harder. And really, why would Trump take any other lesson from what he’s seeing right now?

All that is more evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans in Congress to do anything to protect Robert Mueller. And, I add, Corker’s analysis is evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans to defend our nation.

Here, from Mark Sumner writing at Daily Kos, is a specific example. Part three of Cambridge Analytica report makes a liar out of everyone on the Trump campaign. Select snippets follow.

UK Channel 4 has released the third part of their undercover investigation of Cambridge Analytica, and what it shows absolutely destroys the narrative that has been sold by the Trump campaign, by CA, and by congressional Republicans.

Despite desperate attempts from both sides to downplay CA’s role in the Trump campaign, Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix left no doubt about the scope of the company’s work when he thought the cameras weren’t watching.

“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

The company bragged about this ability to create stories that spread through the internet while leaving no fingerprints.

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

And Nix leaves absolutely no doubt that, as far as he is concerned, it was Cambridge Analytica’s weaponized disinformation tools that put Trump over the top—while deceiving Americans by the millions by feeding them false stories from disguised sources.

In addition to bragging about their ability to make people believe any lie, and their ability to spread those lies in ways that make them look like actual news, Cambridge Analytica’s leaders were also anxious to share how they violated US campaign funding laws by coordinating between the Trump campaign and supposedly independent PACs.

… Mr Turnbull described how the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads, that were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.

Nix was also happy to confirm reports that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee really had no interest in finding any sort of problem.

Mr Nix also belittled representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence in 2017. He claims Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

The report reveals that Cambridge Analytica was behind everything on the Trump campaign, from the research to the ad campaigns.

It shows that Cambridge Analytica was actively planting false stories and using false fronts to disguise the source of information.

It confirms what Republican Representative Mike Conaway already let slip—that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee actively avoided finding any issues.

With respect to those Republicans, Jennifer Rubin closed with this advice, in essence, Vote ’em out!

In sum, Trump could neither hire nor heed the advice of “very best people” on his staff or Cabinet. The pusillanimous Congress was never going to challenge him. But here’s the thing: By removing the GOP majority in Congress, the country can mitigate — not eliminate — Trump’s increasingly unhinged conduct. To get the institutional check that Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) promised, it seems, they need to be stripped of that majority.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

McSally posts fake FB comments about herself

Hey SkyIslandScriber readers - take note! Larry Bodine at Blog for Arizona has a great post this morning reporting McSally Caught Posting Fake Comments Saying How Great She Is. His post and the follow-on comments from the usual BfA commenters are hilarious. You need to go read the short post for a good laugh. Apparently she’s close enough to Donald Trump to pick up some of his fake news techniques. One more reason to vote against McSally this is.

Trump's Terrible Twos

Pediatricians and other behavioral scientists have long characterized a stage of development as Toddlers and the Terrible Twos.

Although parents don’t usually expect the terrible twos to begin until the child is at least two, it can often happen well before then. In fact, some children with start before their first birthday with behaviors ranging from frequent mood changes to outright temper tantrums.

So it is that Donald Trump continues to remind us that he often behaves as if he were a selfish child passing through the Terrible Twos. In fact, Trump’s behavioral problems started well before his first year in office and persist into his second year. Let’s consider just part of what’s happening during Trump’s Terrible Twos.

Trump’s war against the FBI

Just a few days ago, Trump got AG Jeff Sessions to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Getting to the essence of Trump’s firing of McCabe, Jeffrey Toobin (New Yorker) sums it up in two tweets in Donald Trump and the Craven Firing of Andrew McCabe.

If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
9:08 PM - Mar 16, 2018

Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.

Andrew McCabe, who turns fifty on Sunday, will be fine as he moves to the next stop in his career. The demeaning and unfair act that ended his law-enforcement career will be seen, properly, as a badge of honor. Still, this is far from a great day for the men and women of the F.B.I., who now know that they serve at the sufferance of unethical men who think that telling the truth amounts to “sanctimony.” The lies in this story are about the F.B.I., not from the F.B.I. The firing of McCabe, and Trump’s reaction to it, has moved even such ordinarily restrained figures as John O. Brennan, the former director of Central Intelligence, to remarkable heights of outrage. Brennan tweeted on Saturday:

John O. Brennan
@JohnBrennan
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.
5:00 AM - Mar 17, 2018

The haunting question, still very much unresolved, is whether Brennan’s confidence in America’s ultimate triumph is justified.

If he hasn’t already, McCabe is likely to be a cooperating witness in the Russia probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and that brings us to the thread that runs through most of what Trump does and says.

Will Trump try to fire Robert Mueller?

Depending on who and what you read, the answer is “no” (White House lawyers) or “yes” (journalists split on “probably yes” or “possible yes”).

John Cassidy at the New Yorker, for example, is a “probably yes”. He thinks that Mueller is at risk because as Mueller gets closer to Trump’s business dealings with foreign countries, Trump is acting more and more erratic. He lists the reasons for worry in Why Congress Must Act Now to Protect Robert Mueller. KIN summary, “The issue isn’t whether President Trump is thinking about firing Robert Mueller: we can take that as a given. The issue is whether he thinks he would get away with it.”

The United States may be on the brink of a constitutional crisis. After three days of Presidential attacks on the investigation being carried out by the special counsel Robert Mueller, it seems clear—despite a public assurance from one of Donald Trump’s lawyers that the President isn’t currently considering firing Mueller—that the Trump-Russia story has entered a more volatile and dangerous phase. As the tension mounts, it’s essential that Congress step in to protect Mueller before it’s too late.

It has been no secret that Trump would dearly love to fire the special counsel, and that he has little or no regard for the legal and constitutional consequences of such an action. It has been reported that, last summer, behind the scenes, he ordered Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to get rid of Mueller, and only backed down after McGahn threatened to resign.

Before this weekend, however, Trump had never explicitly attacked Mueller and his team in public, or called for the Justice Department to shut down the investigation. …

But now another barrage of tweets attacking Mueller suggests that Trump may be considering terminating the Russia probe by firing Mueller and thinking he can get away with it. That prospect has even (some) Republicans worried. as the NY Times reports in Trump Assails Mueller, Drawing Rebukes From Republicans.

… Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, that such a move “would be the beginning of the end of his Presidency.” As the special counsel’s investigation approaches its first anniversary and closes in on what may well be Trump’s biggest vulnerability—his business dealings with foreign entities—Trump’s calculus appears to be changing.

But Trump’s attacks triggered pushback from Republicans as the NY Times reports in Trump Assails Mueller, Drawing Rebukes From Republicans.

Graham went further as reported by the Daily Caller:

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that President Donald Trump should be impeached if he fires Robert Mueller as special counsel.

“I can’t think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have an investigator looking at a president’s campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes may have been committed. I’ve seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop investigation without cause, I think, would be a Constitutional crisis,” Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt had asked Graham, a Republican, whether Trump firing Mueller would be an impeachable offense.

“Probably so, if he did it without cause, yeah,” Graham told the host.

And, to add to the concern, Cassidy observes that legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation is hung up in the Republican controlled Congress.

If Trump does not fire Mueller, …

Will Mueller interview Trump?

Trump’s legal team has a couple of thousand reasons to keep Trump from an interview, those reasons being Trump’s willingness to lie about anything and everything. To that end, Trump’s lawyers have turned over documents to Mueller with hopes of limiting interview scope, the rationale being that Mueller would accept their say-so about Trump’s innocence.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) sees some comedy in all that, writing that Trump lawyers get creative, try to ‘minimize his exposure’ to Mueller.

[Trump’s lawyers want] to provide the special counsel with “a narrative of the White House view” of key events that are currently under investigation, in order to “eliminate the need to ask the president” about the incidents.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The decision, the Post added, is part of “an effort by Trump’s lawyers to minimize his exposure to the special counsel.” … This dovetails nicely with a New York Times report from early February, which noted the president’s defense team is “concerned” that Trump, “who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the moral of the story isn’t subtle. The president’s attorneys are aware of the problem the public already recognizes: Donald Trump, just as a matter of course, says things that aren’t true. The president lies, habitually, about matters large and small, sometimes to get himself out of a jam, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.

Having him sit down with Robert Mueller is therefore profoundly dangerous, leaving Trump’s lawyers in an impossible position. If they refuse to cooperate, the president will look guilty. If they agree to an interview, the president is likely to lie to federal investigators, which is a crime.

And so Trump’s defense team appears to searching for a solution that might accommodate the president’s strained relationship with the truth. At this point, given what we know of their offers, the search continues.

Will Trump be forced into court because of extramarital affairs?

OK - alleged extramarital affairs, the most prominent being those with adult movie star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Each has now filed a lawsuit that threatens to have Trump take the stand in open court. These might not be even a trivial notice on page 5 were it not for the fact that Trump and his lawyers are fighting so hard.

New Yorker writer Amy Davidson Sorkin explains What Went Wrong in the Stormy Daniels Case.
Last week, the story might have amounted to just a few sordid tabloid flashes, were it not a likely harbinger of major troubles ahead.

There wouldn’t even be a lawsuit were it not for the fact that, last month, a company that Cohen set up to make the payment to Clifford obtained from an arbitrator a temporary restraining order directing Clifford to remain silent, or risk a million-dollar penalty. This effort was futile: weeks earlier, InTouch had pulled from its archives an unpublished 2011 interview in which Clifford had described her encounter with Trump, in terms that leave little to the imagination. (“He was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ ”) More than that, the President’s lawyers seem not to have considered what Clifford’s next move would be: challenging the arbitration. They had, in effect, engineered something of a win-win situation for her. Practically speaking, in order for Trump to hold Clifford to the agreement, he has to fight her in court—a process he began Friday—and come out and admit to the deal publicly.

Daniels’ suit claims that Trump never signed a nondisclosure agreement that Trump is now trying to enforce.

… why didn’t the President sign the agreement? Did he never intend to, or could he just not be bothered? With Trump, it can be hard to tell bad will from bad lawyering. He regularly demands that his subordinates operate in accordance with what he thinks the law ought to be, rather than what it is. This has been the case in his berating of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for failing to make problems go away, and, last week, in reports that Trump’s lawyers were considering trying to block the broadcast, now scheduled for March 25th, of an interview that Anderson Cooper conducted with Clifford for “60 Minutes.” There is no legal rationale for such prior restraint. But it wouldn’t be the first time that the President has indicated that he believes he has, or should have, the power to silence the press.

Then again, Trump’s circle might be trying to enforce Clifford’s confidentiality agreement not for its own sake but in order to send a message to other people, who may have signed similar agreements, about the cost of breaking them. (“In my experience, bullies have one speed and one speed only,” [Daniels attorney] Avenatti told The New Yorker. “They don’t just bully one person. They bully many people.”) A hearing in the case is set for July 12th, in Los Angeles; Clifford has set up an online crowdfunding page to defray her legal costs, which may be considerable. She won’t be the only one with bills like that. In Washington these days, many people find themselves in sudden need of a good lawyer—above all, the President.

In the second case, Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal Sues to Break Silence on Trump.

A former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald J. Trump sued on Tuesday to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence, becoming the second woman this month to challenge Trump allies’ efforts during the presidential campaign to bury stories about extramarital relationships.

Both women, who argue that their contracts are invalid, are trying to get around clauses requiring them to resolve disputes in secretive arbitration proceedings rather than in open court. Mr. Trump has denied the affairs, which both women have described as consensual.

Ms. Clifford and Ms. McDougal tell strikingly similar stories about their experiences with Mr. Trump, which included alleged trysts at the same Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, dates at the same Beverly Hills hotel and promises of apartments as gifts. Their stories first surfaced in the The Wall Street Journal four days before the election, but got little traction in the swirl of news that followed Mr. Trump’s victory. …

Ms. McDougal, in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that [Trump lawyer] Mr. Cohen was secretly involved in her talks with A.M.I., and that the media company and her lawyer at the time misled her about the deal. She also asserts that after she spoke with The New Yorker last month after it obtained notes she kept on Mr. Trump, A.M.I. warned that “any further disclosures would breach Karen’s contract” and “cause considerable monetary damages.”

This strikes me as typical Trump bullying. The Trump team is doing the same thing to Clifford.

Ms. McDougal filed her suit just days before Ms. Clifford was to appear on “60 Minutes” to discuss her relationship with Mr. Trump and the efforts Mr. Cohen undertook on his client’s behalf to pay for her silence.

Mr. Trump joined a legal effort last week seeking some $20 million in penalties tied to Ms. Clifford’s agreement.

Jennifer Taub at slate.com explains Why Trump Likely Won’t Collect the $20 Million He Claims Stormy Daniels Owes Him. Taub says:

… will the court or an arbitrator make Stormy pay? This seems unlikely. While an agreement can set out in advance what a breaching party might owe, such “liquidated damages” provisions are not always enforced. Generally, they are honored only if they are viewed as reasonable in light of the anticipated or actual losses caused by the breach. Something that looks like a penalty will be rejected.

She reports opinions from five law professors that basically concur with her assessment. If they are correct, Trump’s legal maneuvering will not succeed.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona publishes more commentary on Trump’s attempt to silence Daniels in Playboy president seeks to profit from porn star – and more!

… Trump has denied (1) that he had an affair with Daniels and (2) that he has an NDA with her, so what is the basis for him to sue to enforce this NDA and to profit off this porn star to the tune of $20 million? This is quite literally insane.

The Blue Meanie also opines on the Trump attempt to block the airing on CBS of the Anderson Cooper interview with Daniels.

Any litigation aimed at stopping 60 Minutes from airing Anderson Cooper’s interview of Stormy Daniels this Sunday likely would fail, given protections for press freedom against prior restraints — most famously laid out in the Pentagon Papers case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times and the Washington Post could publish, over the objections of the Nixon administration, classified documents that detailed the history of US decision-making on Vietnam.

Pop some popcorn and tune in Sunday night.

See? Trump’s Twos are truly Terrible.