Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Impeach Trump? Be careful what you ask for

NY Times columnist Frank Bruni makes the case for something worse than Trump: Mike Pence, Holy Terror. Are you sure you want to get rid of Donald Trump?

There are problems with impeaching Donald Trump. A big one is the holy terror waiting in the wings.

That would be Mike Pence, who mirrors the boss more than you realize. He’s also self-infatuated. Also a bigot. Also a liar. Also cruel.

To that brimming potpourri he adds two ingredients that Trump doesn’t genuinely possess: the conviction that he’s on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity. Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy.

That’s the takeaway from a forthcoming book by the journalists Michael D’Antonio, who previously wrote “The Truth About Trump,” and Peter Eisner. It’s titled “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence,” it will be published on Aug. 28 and it’s the most thorough examination of the vice president’s background to date.

Here are more snippets from Bruni’s review.

Among other descriptors: “ineffectual congressman”, “vanity” as governor, “outwardly bland”, “intensely religious.”

In Pence’s view, … Trump wouldn’t be president if God didn’t want that; Pence wouldn’t be vice president if he weren’t supposed to sanctify Trump. And his obsequiousness is his own best route to the Oval Office, which may very well be God’s grand plan.

“People don’t understand what Pence is,” D’Antonio told me. Which is? “A religious zealot.”

And D’Antonio said that Pence could end up in the White House sooner than you think. In addition to the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, there’s the chance that Trump just decides that he has had enough. … “If the pain is great enough,” D’Antonio said, “I think he’d be disposed not to run again.”

So it’s time to look harder at Pence. “The Shadow President” does. It lays out his disregard for science, evident in his onetime insistence that smoking doesn’t cause cancer and a belief that alarms about climate change were “a secret effort to increase government control over people’s lives for some unstated diabolical purpose,” according to the book.

It suggests callousness at best toward African-Americans. As governor, … ignored a crisis — similar to the one in Flint, Mich. — in which people in a poor, largely black Indiana city were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead. D’Antonio told me: “I think he’s just as driven by prejudice as Trump is.”

The book says that in a high-level briefing about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Pence was told that intelligence officials hadn’t determined whether that interference had swayed the results. He then publicly claimed a finding of no effect.

And, following Trump’s lead, he rallied behind the unhinged former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. In a speech he called Arpaio a “tireless champion” of the “rule of law.” This was after Arpaio’s contempt-of-court conviction for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop using illegal tactics to torment immigrants. The conservative columnist George Will seized on Pence’s speech to write that Pence had dethroned Trump as “America’s most repulsive public figure.”

Fiercely opposed to abortion, Pence once spoke positively on the House floor about historical figures who “actually placed it beyond doubt that the offense of abortion was a capital offense, punishable even by death.” …

"He is absolutely certain that his moral view should govern public policy,” D’Antonio told me.

"I have to say that I prefer Donald Trump, because I think that Trump is more obvious in his intent,” he said, while Pence tends to “disguise his agenda.” D’Antonio then pointed out that if Pence assumed the presidency in the second half of Trump’s first term, he’d be eligible to run in 2020 and 2024 and potentially occupy the White House for up to 10 years.

Heaven help us.

h/t Sherry Moreau

Economic inequality - In America the Beautiful, la noblesse n'oblige pas

America, America
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine

Noblesse oblige (/noʊˌblɛs əˈbliːʒ/; French: [nɔblɛs ɔbliʒ]) is a French expression used in English. It translates as “nobility obliges” and denotes the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and requires the person who holds such a status to fulfill social responsibilities. For example, a primary obligation of a nobleman could include generosity towards those around him. - Wikipedia.

Not so much in today’s America. Some gains are more divine than others - by a lot. Following are excerpts from the Popular.info email, “5 economic statistics every voter should know.”

The GDP numbers show the economy overall is growing. But the real wages of the average American is going down. Real wages are 9.3 percent lower today than they were in 2006. … real wages have dropped sharply since Trump passed his massive tax cuts at the end of last year. The Trump administration promised that the average family would see their income go up by $4,000. Instead real wages decreased by about 1.4%.

One reason why real wages can go down while the economy expands is that workers are getting a shrinking percentage of corporate income. Workers’ share of corporate income in 1958 was 80.9%. It remained over 80% for much of the 1980s and 1990s. Today, workers receive just 75.7% of corporate income. … despite the flashy headlines about individual companies handing out modest bonuses or other benefits after the Trump tax cuts, corporations overall are using the money to reward shareholders, not workers.

A huge chunk of the windfall corporations received from the Trump tax cuts has been spent by corporations to buy back their own stock. [That was predicted at the time!] Corporate executives get most of their income through stock options and other stock-based instruments. … massive buybacks leave little money to either increase wages or invest in capabilities that could increase productivity (which ultimately result in wages increases). In the first quarter of 2018, corporations spent $242.1 billion corporate stock buybacks, an all-time record. That record was smashed in the second quarter, when corporations spent $437 billion on buybacks.

The average CEO for an S&P 500 company made $13,940,000 last year. That’s 361 times higher than the average worker, who made $38,613. … [For example:] The CEO of Mattel, Margaret H. Georgiadis, made $31,275,289 last year — 4987 times more than Mattel’s average worker. In the 1950s, the average CEO made 20 times the average worker. Since the 1950s, while wages for workers have stagnated, CEO pay has increased by 1000%.

While CEOs rake in millions, 11.4% of Americans still make poverty-level wages. That means that “even with full-time, year-round employment, their earnings would still fall below federal poverty guideline for their family size.” … one in nine American workers are not paid a wage that allows them to escape poverty. For a family of 4, the poverty level in 2018 is $25,100.

Imagine a Trumpian response to all this. “We’re going to have the most beautiful divide, the largest divide the world has ever seen. We nobles are obliged - to ourselves.”

Monday, July 30, 2018

Public Instruction Superintendent race goes nasty

It had to happen, I guess. We are now in the season of attack ads.

Various news reports make a few salient points about the two Democratic candidates for Superintendent for Public Instruction, David Schapira and Kathy Hoffman. First, their positions on issues relating to K–12 are not very different. Second, finding not a lot else to differentiate them, the candidates are squabbling over meanings of “teacher” and “certified”. Hoffman is a certified teacher with 6 years of experience. Schapira has taught but also has served in the legislature and has administrative experience. All that’s in the public record. Third, the campaign has taken a nasty turn with ad hominem attacks by Hoffman against Schapira. Most recently, Hoffman is running a TV ad reminiscent of the dark money ad run against US Senate candidate Richard Carmona - unidentified people levying unsubstantiated charges.

[About the ad from Hoffman’s Facebook page:] “These two women courageously shared their experiences of working with my primary opponent because they know the future of Arizona’s schools is at stake. Over the past year, countless women and educators have come forward with their own experiences with David Schapira’s professional incompetence and disrespect.”

This an example of what I find offensive. “Countless”? Give me a count. Would that be 2? “Women and educators”? Who are they? Heck, even porn star Stormy Daniels had the guts to self-identify. As did Playboy model Karen McDougal.

On Facebook, “Austin R. Stumpf” responded to Hoffman’s ad.

There’s a cavernous dearth of critical thinking happening in our community surrounding the discussion of an irresponsible, disgusting negative ad. I implore us as Democrats and civically engaged people to do better.

For a story to be credible, it should have at least one of two elements: a person who puts their name on the record or, more importantly, an actual specific allegation. Neither are present in this ad. Only broad characterizations.

The discussion claims we have to “believe” these people. What am I supposed to believe? What charge is being made? I have yet to hear or see anything substantial.

The forum is also suspect. These aspersions are being cast by a 30-second hit piece, not from a journalist’s report, which passes through processes to ensure that claims are credible, even when made anonymously.

Furthermore, the ad strongly implies that the recording is from a conversation with one of the two anonymous people. The Republic’s piece on the ad states that the recording is instead from a conversation between the candidates. Those are wildly different situations.

If these broad characterizations were the best “hits” that the campaign had, we should question whatever underlying charges they’re asking us to infer.

Producing this ad is malicious. Airing this ad is irresponsible. Believing it at face value is careless.

David Schapira is a good man. I have always counted on him to do the right thing and in all the years I’ve known him, he has never failed me. Suggesting otherwise, without a specific claim, is appalling. I expect better.

Here’s the capper on Hoffman’s attack ad. She’s running “clean.” That means that you and I as taxpayers have a stake in that ad, like it or not.

You can find out more about Hoffman’s ad and the Schapira response in this report from The Republic/azcentral.com, Democratic superintendent race gets nasty with personal attacks.

Illustrations from the Mournday Mourning Gnus room

Republican farmers OK with welfare
Breaking news: Republicans OK with welfare

$12 billion buys a lot of votes. That and more in this Mournday Mourning’s Illustrated Gnus from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • No collusion behind closed doors - just capitulation.
  • Will Russian military units march in Trump’s parade?
  • Ivanka shuts down fearing demand for black and white stripes.
  • But: Ivanka will continue to make the emperor’s clothes.
  • Trump: I may be a pot but Cohen’s a kettle.
  • Republican farmers will get $12 billion in welfare.
  • Sing along: This land was made for you and me in-dus-tree.
  • This just in: US intelligence agencies estimate Canada will complete its southern wall by 2020.

At last: a definition of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Trump Derangement Syndrome
Far right derides Trump Derangement Syndrome
They might try looking in the mirror

Sunday, July 29, 2018

China expands African investment to South American influence

Quote of the Day: "There has been an abdication” of leadership by the United States … “It surrendered that role not because it lost it, but because it doesn’t wish to take it on.” - Diego Guelar, Argentina’s ambassador to China.

After seeing first hand China’s billions of dollars investment in African infrastructure, Scriber lays awake at night pondering the future of America. Here’s what I wrote after one of our trips to Africa.

From SkyIslandScriber, Feb 9, 2017. China is building electric trains connecting East African countries and state-of-the-art international airports to boost African tourism. “… the biggest star of the day was China, which designed the system, supplied the trains and imported hundreds of engineers for the six years it took to plan and build the 466-mile line. And the $4 billion cost? Chinese banks provided nearly all the financing.” … Western banks declined to help finance the nation’s glaring infrastructure needs. Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, said " …“We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision,” he said. “They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision of Africa from the past, as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”

Now the NY Times reports on China’s growing influence in Latin America. From a Space Station in Argentina, China Expands Its Reach in Latin America. Our correspondent went to the deserts of Patagonia to examine how China secured its new base, a symbol of its growing clout in the region.

China’s military built it, but the implications are broader.

… China has been discreetly carrying out a far-reaching plan of its own across Latin America. It has vastly expanded trade, bailed out governments, built enormous infrastructure projects, strengthened military ties and locked up tremendous amounts of resources, hitching the fate of several countries in the region to its own.

… during the height of the [2008] financial crisis. Latching onto China’s voracious appetite for the region’s oil, iron, soybeans and copper ended up shielding Latin America from the worst of the global economic damage.

China has issued tens of billions of dollars in commodities-backed loans across the Americas, giving it claim over a large share of the region’s oil — including nearly 90 percent of Ecuador’s reserves — for years.

"China is positioning itself in a world that is safe for the rise of China,” [said R. Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the United States Army War College]. “If you’re talking about the 2049 world, from the perspective of Latin America, China will have unquestionably surpassed the United States on absolute power and size. Frankly, if it was a matter of sustained conflict, you reach a point where you can’t deny the possibility of Chinese forces operating from bases in the region.”

In Argentina, the mayor of Bajada del Agrio, the closest town to the [Chinese space] station said "The United States is the one that should be most concerned, he said. The base, he said, is an “eye looking toward that country.”

Here is a quote from another SkyIslandScriber post, Donald Trump, as a strategic opportunity for China, diminishes America’s role as world leader: “America will never be great again.”

Friday, July 27, 2018

Trump putting Trump First Leads to Trump’s Emoluments Trap

Emoluments
Trump's emoluments, foreign and domestic

Trump’s Emoluments Trap is what the authors of an emoluments law suit call Trump’s business dealings. (I call it profiting from the presidency.) Here are snippets augmenting my post from yesterday.

On Wednesday, a federal district court made history. Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland allowed a lawsuit to move forward against President Trump, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and domestic governments. In doing so, he became the first federal judge ever to rule on the meaning of the word “emolument” in the Constitution.

Coverage of the lawsuit, which was brought by two of us (with the third, Mr. Eisen, among the co-counsels), has sometimes cast doubt on the usefulness of the Emoluments Clauses, which we have argued forbid presidents from using their office to “profit, gain or advantage.” Critics have noted how rarely they have been deployed. That’s why Judge Messitte’s ruling is so important: It opens a path to enforcement of the ethics regime that the framers developed as a bulwark against corruption in the highest office in the land.

The decision could not be more timely. As our suit makes clear, the head of the executive branch of our government is more embroiled in commercial activities, from his hotel near the White House to business deals half a world away, than any president in American history.

By ruling that the word “emolument” in these clauses [of the constitution] means “profit,” “gain” or “advantage” in essentially any form from a foreign or domestic government, Judge Messitte has correctly found a way to enforce the framers’ anti-corruption mechanism. The framers understood the potential corrosive influence of commercial profit in the executive and wrote the Constitution “against a background of profound concern” regarding “possible foreign influence upon the president (and, to be sure, upon other federal officials),” as Judge Messitte noted. They designed the Emoluments Clauses as a prophylactic measure to prevent actual corruption and the specter of corruption — where a foreign power (or a domestic government) buys favorable policy decisions by engaging with the head of the executive branch commercially, outside the normal avenues of state.

Whether or not the president has actually been corrupted in such a way, his actions in violation of the clauses have raised widespread concern and the perception at home and abroad that he can be bought. This is why our jurisdictions came to the conclusion that the only avenue for protecting our citizens was to bring this lawsuit …

This ruling represents a major leap forward in understanding how Mr. Trump and his family are profiting off the presidency. The court has already ordered the preservation of Mr. Trump’s business records. We plan to examine them expeditiously and carefully when our lawsuit enters the discovery phase to uncover the extent of Mr. Trump’s violations through his Washington, D.C., hotel, where an endless retinue of foreign and domestic governments have spent lavish amounts of money since the election, all to the president’s financial benefit. …

Wednesday’s ruling was not the last in this case, but the decision has instant ramifications far beyond the District of Columbia and Maryland. By ruling that the term “emoluments” means, and that the founders intended it to mean, profit, gain or advantage, we know that other instances of profit, gain or advantage that Mr. Trump receives from foreign or domestic governments, even if not the subject of this lawsuit, violate the Constitution. Other plaintiffs may be able to challenge them. Mr. Trump apparently agrees that other government officials should not “monetize their public service” — which is why he is threatening to revoke the security clearances of some of his critics. We should apply the same standard to him.

By rejecting the president’s argument that the Emoluments Clauses merely prohibit the outright bribing of federal officials, Judge Messitte recognized that the framers of our Constitution created a powerful safeguard against corruption that was “intended to embrace and ban anything more than de minimis profit, gain or advantage offered to a public official in his private capacity as well, wholly apart from his official salary.” We intend to follow this constitutional path and bring to light the president’s commercial entanglements that have remained hidden for too long. It is our constitutional duty to protect our citizens from the harms Mr. Trump is causing by his violations of the Constitution — and to help safeguard our country from undue influence, foreign and domestic.

The authors are Karl A. Racine, Brian E. Frosh and Norman L. Eisen. Mr. Racine is the attorney general for the District of Columbia. Mr. Frosh is the attorney general for Maryland. Mr. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Other sources of reporting on the emolument law suit

For a history of how our leaders and legislators have treated presidential emoluments, see Move over, Trump. This president’s two lions set off the greatest emoluments debate.

AZBlueMeanie comments on the suit and ruling in Emoluments Clause case can proceed to discovery.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Emoluments might cause Trump to be deposed if he is deposed

de·pose
dəˈpōz/Submit
verb
(1) remove from office suddenly and forcefully.
“he had been deposed by a military coup”
(2) testify to or give (evidence) on oath, typically in a written statement.
“every affidavit shall state which of the facts deposed to are within the deponent’s knowledge”

Why Donald Trump fears the courts: if forced to (2), he might well suffer (1).

Trump’s legal nightmare is explained in the morning email by Judd Legum at Popular Information.

Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign — and its potential collusion with the Russian government — has captured the attention of the public and the president. But Trump actually faces a dizzying array of legal problems.

While garnering less publicity than Mueller’s work, these other cases are quietly progressing. None of them are moving in a direction favorable to Trump.

These less well-known legal issues threaten something Trump cares about deeply — his money. They also may expose the intricacies of Trump’s efforts to silence and humiliate women.

This morning I will focus on the money, namely the emoluments Trump receives from foreign sources via his hotels. Legum continues.

Hotel horror show

Trump broke from the practice of previous presidents and maintained full ownership of his sprawling business interest. For context, Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm in a blind trust to avoid the appearance of a conflict. Trump operates a luxury hotel in the middle of downtown DC that openly solicits the business of foreign governments.

Standing in the way of Trump’s plan is The Constitution of the United States. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 states:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

The key word here is “emolument,” which means anything of value. Trump, meanwhile, is receiving a steady stream of payments from foreign governments through his hotel and other properties.

The Constitution, according to Trump’s lawyers

Trump’s lawyers have adopted a convenient interpretation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. They say that the constitution only prohibits the president from accepting payments in return for official actions. Moreover, Trump’s lawyers argue, transactions conducted at fair market value are exempt.

**The Constitution, according to a federal judge

Yesterday, a federal judge gave Trump some very bad news. Trump’s lawyers argued that a case brought by the Attorneys General of Maryland and DC should be dismissed because the Foreign Emoluments Clause didn’t apply to Trump’s conduct.

In a 52-page opinion, Judge Peter Messitte absolutely eviscerated Trump’s interpretation.

Here is the key bit:

If there were any doubt as to the limits of the Foreign Clause, the Framers used the word “any” twice, ensuring a broad and expansive reach. The President’s argument that these modifiers merely ensure that the Foreign Clause bans receipt of every type of “present,” “emolument,” “office,” or “title” is unconvincing. Even without the inclusion of the modifier “of an any kind whatever”in the Foreign Clause, it could still ban every type of prohibited category because it provides no exceptions… The more logical conclusion is the one that Plaintiffs urge: The use of “any kind whatever” was intended to ensure the broader meaning of the term “emolument.”

In other words, this federal judge is convinced that the Foreign Emoluments Clause prohibits any payments from a foreign government.

(There is also a Domestic Emoluments Clause, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 7, which the plaintiffs argue prohibits Trump, as president, from doing business with state and federal governments. The judge made a similar ruling against Trump on that issue.)

Pulling back the curtain

There have been scattered reports of Trump using his hotel to vacuum up foreign cash. But the operations of the Trump hotel in downtown DC have been largely opaque. Now that the case is moving forward and the next stage is “discovery,” which means that the plaintiffs get to review relevant documents and interview witnesses, potentially including Trump himself.

The writing on the wall

The judge did not rule against Trump on the merits, but he’s sent a clear signal about how things will end up. It’s really not disputed, as a factual matter, that the Trump hotel is getting money from foreign government. The judge has made clear that these kind of payments are unconstitutional. It’s hard to see how Trump prevails in the trial court.

The bottom line

Trump cares deeply about his businesses. He’s used the presidency to promote his properties. Legal rulings that impact Trump’s ability to maintain ownership of his property holdings are something that Trump will take very seriously.

If he had to chose between his business and the presidency, what would he pick?

If I were to make the choice for him …

Might he resign over the emoluments issue and cut a deal with Pence for a pardon? That way he keeps his businesses (and likely also his profits while president?) and dodges the issue of pardoning himself.

Is Elizabeth Warren the new front runner for 2020&$63;

Elizabeth Warren
Front runner?

Perhaps not (yet). But she is taking the fight to Trump, every day, every minute, or so it seems.

Rebecca Traister, Columnist, the Cut, reports on Leader of the Persistence Elizabeth Warren’s full-body fight to defeat Trump. You could subtitle it “front runner” as did NY Magazine for its cover story.

It’s a very long story so I don’t think I can capture it all in a few snippets but I will give it a go anyway.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren is in constant motion. She often takes stages at a run, zigzagging around the edges of crowds, waving and giving high fives like Bruce Springsteen. Speaking to groups of supporters, she rocks on her feet, or rises to her tiptoes, with feeling; occasionally she tucks her mic under her arm to clap for herself or cuts the air in front of her with her flat palm. She’ll beat her chest for emphasis, speak so passionately that she gets winded, and throw a fist in the air as a symbol of defiance and determination. One afternoon in Nevada, perched on a punishingly high stool in front of several hundred people at a brewery, she kicked her feet out in front of her with such force that I feared she’d tip over backward.

Watching Warren this steamy summer as she works to move her party through the perilous wilderness of the Donald Trump administration, through the midterms and her own reelection to the Senate, and then perhaps toward a run for the presidency, she appears to have committed her whole body to the effort. Like if she stops moving, the whole world will end.

The battles have burned hottest with Trump himself; it’s clear that Warren scares the president nearly as much as that other 60-something white grandma did, and he devotes an inordinate amount of energy to insulting her. He’s built one of his reliably racist shticks around his nickname for her, “Pocahontas” — deploying it at least 26 times between 2014 and 2017 — in reference to her claim as a young law professor from Oklahoma that she was part Cherokee. A former college debater, Warren has been assiduous in her commitment to bark back at him, riling him further with tweets about his “trash talk” and “incompetence,” calling him “creepy” and a “thin-skinned bully who thinks humiliating women at 3am qualifies him to be President.”

Warren’s willingness to sink her teeth into the president’s ankles has turned out to be a smart tactical move. It puts her in the news cycle right along with him, while most Democrats struggle to get a spot of media time in a landscape dominated by Trump. The day after his Helsinki performance, Warren is aghast. “It was a fictional moment, only it was reality,” she exclaims. “Never before have I seen a president attack America at the same time he’s doing a public display of affection for a dictator.”

In the very near past, much of Warren’s agenda would have been considered untenably far left, but now it’s practically standard for serious Democratic contenders. She wants to reverse the new corporate tax benefits and invest in stemming the opioid crisis, bring college costs down, institute single-payer health care, alleviate consumer debt, strenuously regulate financial institutions. She talks about passing the Dream Act and enacting humane immigration reform, shrinking the race and gender wage gaps, remaking the criminal-justice system — “instead of jailing some kid who gets caught with a few ounces of pot, let’s put the banker who financed the drug deals in jail” — and passing a constitutional amendment to establish the unfettered right of eligible Americans to vote.

But first she has to train this puppy. [The puppy’s name is Bailey.]

Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, greet me at the door of their Cambridge house on a morning in early July. Mann, whom Warren met soon after the end of her first marriage, and whom she proposed to and wed in 1980, appears (at least to an outsider’s eye) to be one of those Good Husbands™, in the Marty Ginsburg mold. A Harvard law professor and historian of bankruptcy, Mann radiates both adoration and admiration for his wife. He stands still while she’s in motion; he smiles as she talks; he commutes to D.C. whenever his class schedule permits. Last summer, for their anniversary, he installed shelving in their D.C. home because he knows how much Warren likes organized closets and also that she has no time to hang shelves. This summer, he gave her a different kind of gift.

As we speak near the front door, a small crash echoes from the back of the house, as if perhaps a piece of furniture were being dragged across a stone floor.

“Is that — ” I ask.

“Yup,” Warren replies. “That’s the puppy.”

I knew there was a deeper reason I liked Elizabeth Warren. She’s a dog person. Check out the instagram photo.

It’s younger people, along with women recently awakened to activism and some experts who’ve been tracking the unprecedented wave of female candidates winning Democratic primaries, who aren’t just optimistic but enthusiastic about her potential. They say that she is a brawler and thus the candidate that this historical moment demands, that she’s the perfect person — left, female, and furious — to avenge the loss of Hillary while also bringing to the White House a politics far more progressive than Clinton ever would have.

After we talk on her sun porch, Warren has to rush to that big outdoor town hall in Natick. But before she goes, she has an alteration to make. She’s ordered a bunch of gauzy open-front cardigans to put over her uniform of black pants and a black tank top. They cost about $13 each, she says, but they’re too long, hit her too far down the thigh, so she’s planning to cut the bottom off the aqua one she’s about to wear.

I point out that if she just chops it with scissors, the knit will come unraveled. She shoots me a slightly withering look: “Well of course it will unravel, but it will just roll up at the bottom.” Fair enough …

"You know what I love to do?” she offers. “I love to go to Target with Amelia and just spend the day there.” Her daughter, Amelia, is the mother of Octavia and Warren’s two younger grandchildren; she lives in L.A. “We just wander around in there, look at the patio furniture, the pajama section. It’s like six hours of tuning out.” You spend six hours at Target? asks a staffer who’s there to accompany us to Natick. Warren looks up, surprised. “Well, not just at Target. We go to BJ’s; we each have things we like to eat there. Then I get the socks I like at Macy’s.” Warren’s voice gets softer. She’s talking mostly to the sweater now. “It’s just a few hours, six hours that I don’t have to think about Mitch McConnell. That’s all I need.”

Here is a 69-year-old woman, scissoring the bottom off a cheap sweater at her kitchen island as a lunatic white patriarch of a president rages against her, using his tiny thumbs and a social-media platform. On some level, it feels absurd — the contrast between the enormously consequential political fights and the people waging them, each small in his or her own way. There’s a muffled crash from upstairs, where Bailey is playing, perhaps with Granddad and Octavia.

Arnold Schwarzenegger asks Trump "What's the matter with you?"

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman asks whether Trump puts America First or Trump First?

The second I finished watching President Trump fawning over Vladimir Putin in Helsinki — refusing to defend the conclusions of his own intelligence services about Russia’s interference in our 2016 elections — I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before. It took a few days to figure it out, but now it’s obvious: I was seeing a U.S. president put Russia first, not America first.

On each key question — how much Russian agents were involved in trying to tip our elections, how that issue should be further investigated, and Putin’s behavior on the world stage generally (like his government’s involvement in the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, the murder of Russian journalists and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.) — Trump embraced Putin’s explanations and excuses over the judgments of his own spy agencies, Justice Department, European allies and bedrock American values.

I like what Arnold Schwarzenegger said to Trump afterward: “You’re the president of the United States. You shouldn’t do that. What’s the matter with you?”

You gotta view this one: what Arnold Schwarzenegger said to Trump

What’s the matter with you? I don’t know the definitive answer to that question, but I know that it will be an increasing problem …

Here’s why. There are few remaining defenses against the Trumpian madness. Senior officials have left or been fired. Friedman asks “with the G.O.P. having completely folded and with the few Trump advisers with spine neutered or fired, is there any restraint left around him?”

There is one critical defense line left — that formed by F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. By coincidence, two days after Helsinki, all four spoke at the Aspen Security Forum, which I attended.

Wray, Coats and Rosenstein all rose to the occasion. They knew Helsinki was a test of their institutions and themselves, and they passed it with flying colors — always putting America first and not Trump first when it really mattered.

Unfortunately, the secretary of homeland security showed no such spine. Asked if the Russians had intervened to favor Trump, Nielsen said with a straight face: “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party. I think what we’ve seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides.”

That was the sound of a senior national security official putting Trump first, not America first. Nielsen proved to be a shameful coward. I sure hope we do not have a homeland security crisis on her watch.

Which brings me back to Schwarzenegger’s question — “What’s the matter with you?” It applies not just to the president but also all the people enabling him. Why do they so freely sacrifice their own reputations and their own integrity to defend a man with no integrity, a man who would sell each and every one of them down the river the second he decided it was in his interest? It is inexplicable to me.

At least Stormy Daniels got paid.

(h/t Sherry Moreau)

Trump claims without evidence that the Kremlin will support Dems - 'who controls the present controls the past'

Trump as big brother
Trump's vision of Russiamerica

Yesterday I blogged about how the Trump White House doctored the video recording of Putin responding to the question about whether Putin wanted Trump to win in White House intentionally doctors video of Trump-Putin press conference. This morning AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona covers that bit of revisionism but in the interesting context of Trump as Orwellian: Dezinformatsiya or doublespeak, Donald Trump is Orwellian. Here is the Blue Meanie’s record of what happened.

Vladimir Putin: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Jeff Mason: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

Putin: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

And here’s the key section from the White House transcript, which makes it seem as though Putin is still talking about the Mueller probe:

PRESIDENT PUTIN: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Q: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PRESIDENT PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

Another strange wrinkle comes from the Russian government’s English-language transcript of the press conference. In contrast to its footage of the press conference, which features what really happened, the transcript does not include any piece of that key exchange.

All this is indeed Orwellian. AZBlueMeanie quotes some passages from 1984 apropos to the White House’s revision of history.

The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. [Winston Smith’s] heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

Trump, his White House, and the Kremlin understand that all too well.

Donald Trump took this a final step further with his penchant for psychological projection onto his political opponents. Without evidence, Trump claims Russia ‘will be pushing very hard for the Democrats’ in 2018 midterms:

President Trump claimed Tuesday, without evidence, that the Kremlin will support Democrats in the November midterm election, debuting a new line on Russian interference as the uproar over his shifting stances on the issue enters its second week.

Trump made the claim in a late-morning tweet eight days after he held a joint news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who acknowledged there that he had wanted Trump to win in 2016.

Polls and headlines provide exercises in skepticism

Judd Legum started a new email newsletter published M-R each week, called Popular Information. He started the first edition with some words of caution about placing too much reliance on polls (like the ones I cited yesterday in my blog, Blue Wave Update - good news but not for Trump’s Russiamerica party). Here are snippets from the web site (popular.info).

Polls are not crystal balls

People are interested in polls because they are interested in the future. But polls tell you about the present.

In December 2007, a Fox News poll showed Hillary Clinton with a 29 point lead over Barack Obama; an NBC News poll and an Associated Press poll showed her with a 22 point lead. These polls were taken just days before the caucuses and primaries began.

Were these polls wrong? Perhaps a bit. Some other polls taken at that time showed a somewhat closer race. But Clinton was clearly in a strong position in December 2007.

Then people changed their minds. In politics, things change very quickly.

Three weeks before election day, Congressman Joe Crowley’s internal poll showed him with a 36-point lead over his challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Crowley lost on election day by 15 points.

Was Crowley’s poll flawed or did a massive chunk of the electorate change their minds in the final days of the campaign? In the end, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s not that all polls are wrong. It’s that people are looking to them for answers the polls are not designed to or able to deliver.

To clarify, the polls he is citing are “horse race” polls: who is winning at this point in time. Those are most of what the media cover. There are other polls, focusing on issues, that are useful.

Much of the political coverage between now and November 3, 2020 will be about horse race polls. People who care about the future of the country can safely skip all of this information.

Talk to your neighbors about an issue that is important to you instead. Or take a walk outside.

What happened to the public outrage over family separation?

Legum follows on in his first edition with a critique of how the media lets themselves be used by Trump. Take the case of Trump’s reversal on mother-child separations at the border, what Legum calls Trump’s humanitarian tragedy and public relations triumph.

The images were stark and heart-breaking. Infants (infants!!!!) taken from their mothers. Legum reports the Google Trends for “family separation” in and around late June 2018. It peaked on June 20th. As the public outcry crescendoed, the pressure was on Trump to do something. He did. He signed an executive order supposedly reversing course. And then the hits on “family separation” died off to the minimal levels before the peak. That only took five days. What happened?

Trump didn’t reunite children but he accomplished his goal

Following Trump’s executive order nothing changed for the children who were ripped away from their parents. But Trump was successful in generating the headlines he wanted.

Headlines like this one in the Washington Post:

“Trump reverses course, signs order ending his policy of separating families at the border” -

Or this one in New York Magazine:

“Trump signs order ending his own family-separation policy”

So while the public went back to sleep …

Trump and his administration had effectively no plans to reunite the children separated from their parents as a result of the “zero tolerance” policy. But the ACLU sued the administration and, on June 26, a federal judge ordered all children to be reunited within 30 days. The final deadline is this Thursday.

You want to put money on whether this horribly incompetent and inhumane administration can come anywhere close?

There are 2551 children between 5 and 17 who were separated from their parents, according to court documents. Among this group, just 364 children were reunited with their families as of July 19, when the most recent status report was filed in federal court.

And Trump’s tragedy will continue.

h/t Patricia Prickett for the heads up on Popular Information

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

We Get What We Deserve

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
Wow! I normally think of Laurie Roberts as a fair-minded reporter with a pro-public education bent. I don’t know what happened to her this morning, maybe she ran out of leaded coffee and had to drink decaf. At any rate, I couldn’t let her opinion piece, “Does Arizona really need 236 school districts?”go unanswered.
First of all, the answer is no. But of course, this isn’t the sort of question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” because there are so many variables that must be factored in. For example, I was recently on the Diné (Navajo) reservation where even relatively close to Tuba City, the students must travel over REALLY bad roads for over an hour each way every day to get to and from school. Could we do more to consolidate district schools on tribal lands? Maybe a little, but I’m guessing opportunities would be very few and far between.
Sure you say, but that’s a really different situation than what they have in downtown Phoenix. Yes, that’s true, but I’m guessing there are other unique circumstances in those schools and the voters elect locally elected governing boards to make decisions about what is best for their students and their communities. Do they always get it right? No – no one ever does. But, they are closest to the action and have the best chance of making the right calls.
Roberts finds it curious Governor Ducey has never shown interest in merging school districts. I seriously doubt she really finds it curious and suspect she understands that this is a hot potato issue the Governor would rather just keep off his plate. And as for Robert’s claim that Governor Napolitano’s plan to reduce the number of districts went down in flames because “school officials fired up torches in defense of ‘local control’”, I don’t believe that was where the main pushback originated. If school officials were fighting the consolidations, I’m betting it was because their parents and community members were pushing them to do so. What parent after all, wants their child on longer school bus rides than necessary, or further away from home during the school day?
As for her assertion that “On average, school districts in Arizona spend a woeful 53.8 percent of their budget in the classroom”, Roberts knows this is “woefully” misleading. Here’s the facts about what public district schools spend in the classroom and what they spend on administration:
1. Yes, Arizona districts spent 53.5 percent of their available operating dollars on instruction in FY 2016 per the AZ Auditor General’s Arizona School District Spending report. But, the Arizona School Boards Association disagrees with what is included in that “classroom spending” and the Governor and Arizona Legislature agreed back in 2015. That’s because the AG’s report doesn’t count instructional support (5.7 percent) and student support services (8.2 percent). These areas include physical and occupational therapists, reading and math intervention specialists, media specialists/librarians, counselors and social workers. All of these specialists are critical to a student’s academic success and when included, take the total amount of classroom spending up to 67.4 percent.
2. Even at that, as Roberts points out, Arizona districts spend less on administration than the national average. My research shows we spend only 67 percent of the U.S. average spent on administration, not just the one percent she cites. Even assuming she is correct, the important point is that we do better than the national average.
3. For all their touting of efficiencies gained due to their relief from bureaucracy, Arizona charter schools spend DOUBLE the amount on administration than do district schools.
She really loses me though, when she opines, “if the school lobby succeeds with its plan to soak the rich with a massive income tax hike….” Words have meaning and it is by no accident that she chose “lobby” and “soak”. I mean, imagine if she’d wrote the sentence this way: “if public education advocates succeed with their plan to more fairly distribute additional taxation to ensure our districts are funded just at 2008 levels….”
Besides, if you want to make a case for efficiency of public school operations, how about we start exercising more control over where charter schools can build and operate. Does it really make sense for a Legacy Traditional Charter School to have been built in Peoria a couple of years ago for 1,500 students when there were 8 “A” and “B” rated schools WITH capacity, within a two-mile radius of where the charter went in? And that’s just one example of the waste generated via the lack of accountability in a state that is intent on siphoning taxpayer dollars away from its public schools with little transparency to the process.
The bottom line is that district schools, with their locally-elected governing boards, open meeting law requirements, and procurement rules, (unlike charters and certainly, private schools) offer the greatest degree of accountability and transparency of any school choice option. But…for the system to work, the public must be informed and engaged, and government MUST provide the checks and balances. Just like with government at large, we get the public schools we deserve.

White House intentionally doctors video of Trump-Putin press conference

Yesterday evening, the Scribers watched the Rachel Maddow show. (Hey! What else would we do?)

Of all the disturbing news these days, her feature on the purposeful doctoring of official records by the White House is pretty near the top. That’s right. The WH is guilty of scrubbing the video tape of the Trump-Putin press conference.

This ain’t Rosemary Woods, folks. Remember the missing 18 minutes from the Nixon tapes? Nixon’s secretary Woods took the fall showing how she stretched out in order to “accidentally” erase that portion of the tape. The business with the Trump WH doctoring of the video record is something else. In order to get that video changed, you’d have to (1) run your video editor until you (2) find the target segment and then (3) mark start point and then (4) mark stop point and then (5) execute a “cut” and then (6) save the edited video. There are just too many discrete operations to be an accident. The WH, BTW, also scrubbed the official transcript.

I’m no lawyer but it seems to me that the WH has violated the law dealing with preserving official presidential records. Scriber thinks that by editing the video recording, the WH brought that record under the Presidential Records Act. Here are relevant citations from the National Archives Presidential Records (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).

The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records; and such records shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

Through the implementation of records management controls and other necessary actions, the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are preserved and maintained as Presidential records pursuant to the requirements of this section and other provisions of law.

For more on Trump’s destruction of other records, see Retaining Presidential Records under the Law, specifically:

The Trump administration’s apparent disregard for statutory recordkeeping responsibilities is depriving the American public of the historical records to which it is entitled. The ethical lapses and missteps the administration already has made underline the need to preserve a full record of its activities.

Now add to those earlier “lapses” the purposeful tampering with and destroying an official record.

Here are the details of Rachel’s report as summarized by the Huffington Post: White House Omits Critical Question From Trump-Putin Press Conference Video. An incredulous Rachel Maddow pointed out the omission during her MSNBC show Tuesday.

The White House appears to have deleted a critical question from a video of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s July 16 press conference in Helsinki.

“The U.S. government is essentially following the Kremlin’s playbook,” said MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow as she pointed out the “misleading” omission during her show on Tuesday night.

White House edits video to remove question about whether Putin wanted Trump to win. pic.twitter.com/ExlsHNlgF8
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) July 25, 2018

During the press conference, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason had asked President Putin the question: “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

The Russian leader responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

As Maddow revealed during her show, the White House’s video of the event omitted the first part of Mason’s question. Only the second part — about directing officials to help Trump — was included.

“What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting … is President Putin answering in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Trump to win the election,” Maddow said.

The Atlantic had been the first outlet to point out this discrepancy, noting last week that neither the White House transcript of the exchange nor its live-stream of the press conference had included Mason’s full question to Putin. The White House didn’t immediately provide an explanation for this, The Atlantic said.

As the outlet noted at the time, Putin’s response to Mason’s query had already been ambiguous, as it was unclear whether he was answering the first or second part of the question when he said, “Yes, I did.”

The Reuters reporter told The Atlantic, however, that he believed Putin had likely been responding to the first part of the question — the very part the White House has omitted.

“You could interpret [Putin’s response] to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason said. ”[But] looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

While the White House record of the press conference provided an incomplete picture of Putin’s response, the Kremlin nixed the exchange between Mason and the Russian president entirely from its transcript of the event.

“At least the White House had the courtesy to leave in half of his question so you can get a misleading answer,” Maddow quipped. “The Russians just disappeared [Mason] altogether … They skip over that entire exchange.”

The Atlantic said last week that it was possible the White House’s omission was accidental but Maddow challenged that suggestion on Tuesday, saying the administration has since had plenty of time to correct the error.

“The U.S. government is essentially following the Kremlin’s playbook and maintaining that something we all saw happen with our own eyes, we all heard happen with our own ears, has nevertheless disappeared ― like old political opponents being airbrushed out of photos,” she said. “It’s weird, right? It’s creepy.”

“It turns out it wasn’t a mistake. It was on purpose,” Maddow added.

That’s how you do things in Trump’s Russiamerica. Both Trump and Putin evidently do not want us to know that Putin wanted Trump to be president. That we saw it, and heard it, is irrelevant in dictatorships.

Last night Tim O’Brien (Bloomberg View) was a panelist on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word. Based on his research, O’Brien concluded that Trump is not very bright. He also concluded that not very bright people surround themselves with other not very bright people. The short of it is that the video editing was a dumb thing to do imagined and executed by not very bright people. However, stupidity does not excuse criminal behavior.

Blue Wave Update - good news but not for Trump's Russiamerica party

fivethirtyeight.com, in their Pollapalooza reports What Some Early, High-Quality Polls Can Tell Us About The Race For The House.

In polling of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats have widened their lead to 9.3 percentage points; they are currently ahead 48.7 percent to 39.4 percent. Last week, they led 47.9 percent to 39.5 percent (an 8.4-point margin). One month ago, they led 47.4 percent to 39.8 percent (a 7.6-point advantage).

If you’re anything like me, you get inordinately excited every time you see a tweet from @MonmouthPoll. Not only is Monmouth University’s polling operation one of only six pollsters with an A+ grade in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings, but it’s also great about polling elections that otherwise don’t get much attention.

This week, Monmouth released a poll of California’s 48th Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Harley Rouda. …

… Monmouth doesn’t just release one set of toplines: It releases three, reflecting the very real uncertainty about which voters will turn out in November. (If there’s one thing you take away from reading FiveThirtyEight, it should be not to be afraid of uncertainty.) Among what Monmouth calls “potential voters” — those who have voted in any election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote — Rouda leads 46 percent to 43 percent. Among voters who are likely to vote based on historical midterm turnout, the Democrat is up 47 percent to 45 percent. And among likely voters in a “Democratic surge” scenario, Rouda defeats Rohrabacher 48 percent to 44 percent. (All three leads are within the margin of error.)

BTW: “The release of the poll was timely, given Tuesday’s revelation that Rohrabacher — who has been criticized for his pro-Russia sympathies — had met with Maria Butina, who was charged Monday with attempting to influence U.S. politics as an illegal Russian agent. …”

That’s symptomatic of what I just do not understand about Republicans, why they are so hell-bent on the idea of Russiamerica. Consider, also from 538:

32 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump handled his recent summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin according to a CBS News poll taken Tuesday and Wednesday. That includes 68 percent of Republicans and only 8 percent of Democrats.

Chris Cillizza at cnn.com has a more expansive report that Every sign is pointing to a Democratic wave in November.

The 2018 election is in 105 days. And the playing field continues to tilt toward Democrats.

On Tuesday, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia moved 17(!) House seats in Democrats’ favor – eight of which went from a “leans Republican” rating to a “toss-up.” That means that of the 36 races rated as “toss-ups” by the Center of Politics, 34 are held by Republicans. Remember that Democrats only need a 23-seat pickup to regain the majority they lost in 2010.

“Democrats are now a little better than 50–50 to win the House,” concludes Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of UVA professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “This is the first time this cycle we’ve gone beyond 50–50 odds on a House turnover.” He adds later: “At this point, we see the Democrats with slightly better odds to get their required share of the ‘toss-ups’ based largely on the environment, but also because they appear to have well-funded and credible challengers in these districts that can capitalize on that environment.”

These moves are broadly consistent with how other non-partisan handicappers see the current state of play. The Cook Political Report carries 34 seats that are either “toss-ups” or lean toward party that doesn’t currently control the seat; 31 of those are GOP districts. Inside Elections sees 26 Republican-held seats in serious jeopardy as compared to just 5 for Democrats. In CNN’s own ratings, there are 43 Republican-held seats in serious jeopardy as compared to six Democratic-held seats.

The building Democratic wave is also revealed in fundraising reports filed last week. At least 55 Democratic challengers outraised their Republican incumbent opponents during the second fundraising quarter which covers April 1 to June 30. 55! … Candidate fundraising also matters in another way: Expanding the playing field. …

Add it all up – and throw in the weight of history that suggests the President’s party loses, on average, 33 seats in midterm elections – and you have a devil’s brew for Republicans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Options for the Democratic party in 2018 and beyond

David Brooks - from the right

In the next elections, op-ed columnist David Brooks ask What Is the Democratic Story? Choosing between a focus on race or class is the wrong choice to begin with.

That his message is likely to provoke visceral reactions from the economically and politically oppressed and others on the left and center highlights the divisions facing the Democratic party. Suppress those reactions for a moment and read to the end.

Today’s Democrats tell two other stories. [Other than those told in past elections.] The first is the traditional socialist story associated with Bernie Sanders: America is rived by the class conflict. The bankers and the oligarchs are exploiting the middles. We need a fighter who will go out and battle concentrated economic power.

The second is the multicultural story: American history has been marked by systems of oppression. Those who have been oppressed — women, African-Americans, Latinos — need to stand together and fight for justice.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has risen to prominence blending these two languages into one: racial justice socialism. “I can’t name a single issue with roots in race that doesn’t have economic implications,” she declares, “and I cannot think of a single economic issue that doesn’t have racial implications. The idea that we have to separate them is a con.”

Racial justice socialism seems to be the story of the contemporary left. This story effectively paints Trump as the villain on all fronts, and Democrats do face the distinct problem of how to run against a bully like Trump. But is it good politics for the entire Democratic Party to embrace it?

Well, we should humbly admit we’re in virgin territory at a time when all the tectonic plates are shifting.

But we do know that no national Democrat has ever fully embraced this story successfully. In fact, Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went to great lengths to assure people they were not embracing this story.

They did because Americans trust business more than the state, so socialism has never played well. They did it because if you throw race into your economic arguments you end up turning off potential allies in swing states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania. They did it because if you throw economics into your race arguments you end up dividing your coalitions on those issues.

In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

Maybe this year is different, but for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America: F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier, Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and Obama’s hope and change.

If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises: First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo? Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.

Maybe the right narrative could be rebuilding social mobility for the young: America is failing its future. We need to rally around each other to build the families, communities, schools, training systems and other structures to make sure the next generation surpasses this one. People are doing this at the local level, and we need a series of unifying projects to make national progress.

This story pushes people toward reconciliation. It is future-oriented. It points to a task that we urgently need to undertake. But who knows what will work. We’re walking into the unprecedented.

From the left - Michelle Goldberg

Another op-ed columnist also has advice as she observes that Democrats Are Moving Left. Don’t Panic. If you want to beat Trump, centrism is not the answer.

She begins by listing “several outright Nazis and white supremacists will appear on Republican ballot lines” this November. If Dems are to be criticized for moving too far left, the GOPlins have already swung to a point where they cannot possibly get any more to the right. Under these circumstances, as always, taking a hard leftward position compromises to a left position, but taking a centrist position invites compromising rightward.

Clearly, the time has come for a serious national conversation. And so political insiders across the land are asking: Has the Democratic Party become too extreme?

Everywhere you look lately, centrists are panicking about the emboldened left. Moderates, reported Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News, “are warning that ignoring them will lead the party to disaster in the midterm elections and the 2020 presidential contest.” Former Senator Joe Lieberman wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, over Representative Joe Crowley “seems likely to hurt Congress, America and the Democratic Party.” James Comey, former director of the F.B.I., tweeted, “Democrats, please, please don’t lose your minds and rush to the socialist left,” arguing that “America’s great middle wants sensible, balanced, ethical leadership.”

And even people like [James] Comey — center-right figures who are momentarily allied with Democrats because they abhor Donald Trump — should be cheered by the energy that Ocasio-Cortez and others like her are creating. In the midterms, passion is likely to matter more than appeals to an ever-shrinking pool of swing voters, who at any rate tend to be idiosyncratic economic populists rather than the judicious centrists of Beltway imagination.

I’m not wholly unsympathetic to people of good faith who want Democrats to win in November, but who fear that America is more conservative than left-wing activists like to believe. I grew up at a time when Democrats were deeply afraid of liberal overreach. For many of the people who taught me about politics, the debacle of George McGovern’s 1972 rout was formative. Its lessons were reinforced by the overwhelming defeat of Michael Dukakis, who was painted as soft on crime and mocked by George H.W. Bush for being a “card-carrying member of the A.C.L.U.,” as if concern for civil liberties were shameful. I wasn’t old enough to vote when Bill Clinton was first elected, but I remember what a relief it was when he broke the Republicans’ 12-year stranglehold on the White House, and how necessary and worthwhile his compromises seemed.

Now, however, Hillary Clinton’s defeat has overshadowed McGovern’s as the Democratic Party’s paradigmatic trauma. There are several lessons you can draw from her loss, some of them conflicting — some voters saw her as too corporate, others as too liberal. But it’s clear that in a polarized electorate, grass-roots fervor and a candidate’s charisma matter a lot, and an agenda that seems too modest can be as risky as one that appears overly ambitious.

After all, the economic demands that animate the left are generally quite popular. Though “Medicare For All” means different things to different people, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last year found that 62 percent of Americans view it positively. A recent Rasmussen poll found 46 percent of likely voters support a federal jobs guarantee, a more radical proposal that was barely present in American politics a couple of years ago.

Those are two of the policies advocated by Ocasio-Cortez.

Centrists might not think these are good ideas, but they are not wild fantasies; they represent efforts to grapple with the chronic economic insecurity that is the enemy of political stability.

Democrats will not defeat Trump and his increasingly fanatical, revanchist party by promising the restoration of what came before him; the country is desperate for a vision of something better. Whether or not you share that vision, if you truly believe that Trump is a threat to democracy, you should welcome politics that inspire people to come to democracy’s rescue.

A case study : Sen.Kamala Harris

Ocasio-Cortez is an example of the rise of women and people of color on the Democratic scene. So is Kamala Harris. Perry Bacon Jr. at fivethirtyeight.com tells us What The Rise Of Kamala Harris Tells Us About The Democratic Party.

In the days after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the two people who seemed like the Democratic Party’s most obvious 2020 candidates, then-Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, hinted that Clinton had gone too far in talking about issues of identity. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman; vote for me,’” Sanders said. Other liberals lamented that the party had lost white voters in such states as Ohio and Iowa who had supported Barack Obama, and they said Democrats needed to dial back the identity talk to win them back.

But that view never took hold among party activists. Liberal-leaning women were emboldened to talk about gender more, not less, after the 2016 election. We’ve had women’s marches and women running for office in greater numbers than ever — all while emphasizing their gender. President Trump’s moves kept identity issues at the forefront, too, and gave Democrats an opportunity both to defend groups they view as disadvantaged and to attack the policies of a president they hate.

The Democratic Party hasn’t simply maintained its liberalism on identity; the party is perhaps further to the left on those issues than it was even one or two years ago. Biden and Sanders are still viable presidential contenders. But in this environment, so is a woman who is the daughter of two immigrants (one from Jamaica and the other from India); who grew up in Oakland, graduated from Howard and rose through the political ranks of the most liberal of liberal bastions, San Francisco; who was just elected to the Senate in 2016 and, in that job, declared that “California represents the future” and pushed Democrats toward a government shutdown last year to defend undocumented immigrants; and who regularly invokes slavery in her stump speech. (“We are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are Native American or your people were kidnapped and placed on a slave ship, your people are immigrants.”)

Sen. Kamala Harris has not officially said she is running in 2020, but she hasn’t denied it, either, and she’s showing many of the signs of someone who is preparing for a run, including campaigning for her Democratic colleagues in key races … The Californian ranks low in polls of the potential Democratic 2020 field, and she doesn’t have the name recognition of other contenders. (Her first name is still widely mispronounced — it’s COM-ma-la.) But betting markets have her near the top, reflecting the view among political insiders that Harris could win the Democratic nomination with a coalition of well-educated whites and blacks, the way Obama did in 2008.

Whatever happens later, the rise of Harris and her viability for 2020 tell us something about American politics right now: We are in the midst of an intense partisan and ideological battle over culture and identity; the Democrats aren’t backing down or moving to the center on these issues; and politicians who want to lead in either party will probably have to take strong, clear stances on matters of gender and race.

Harris can’t take the Obama “Kumbaya” route to the White House — I’m not sure at this point that a white Democrat could, either. By the end of his term, Obama didn’t sound particularly hopeful about America getting beyond its cultural divides. Clinton spoke more directly about race and racism in 2016 compared with Obama in 2004 and 2008. Sanders and other white Democrats are already talking taking fairly liberal stances on these issues, and I expect that to continue into next year.

I’m not sure Harris had much choice anyway. She is a Democratic senator from heavily Latino California with Trump as president, so it’s a virtual job requirement for to her to take leftward stances on immigration issues. She is a minority woman at a time when minorities and women are trying to gain more power in national politics, particularly within the Democratic Party — and she is the only black female senator. In other words, Kamala Harris and Barack Obama are, of course, different people. But they also arrived on the national scene at much different political moments.

“When you speak truth, it can make people quite uncomfortable,” Harris told a group of Democratic activists earlier this year in a speech in Henderson, Nevada. “And for people like us who would like to leave the room with everyone feeling lovely, there’s sometimes a disincentive to speak truth.

“But this is a moment in time in which we must speak truth.”

My hunch is that if you put all three of these folks (and adding Ocasio-Cortez) on the same stage, they’d find a lot to agree about: some form of universal health care and job training for a full employment economy, for starters. They might even find a way to fix what divides us, like replacing Donald Trump with someone who has a good dose of empathy and integrity, someone who can remake us into a more humane and rational country. But that’s the task for 2020. Now we must pave the way for such a candidate by winning in 2018.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Gnus Of Putin

Gnus belong to the family (Bovidae) of ruminants (cow-like creatures) including domestic cattle. What’s the last time you got attacked by a cow? What’s the last time you saw a domestic cow put up a spirited defense of its life? Even to protect its young? This morning I propose another species. The dictionary speaks of bovine as “(of a person) slow-moving and dull-witted”. That fits the GOP and its response to Trump’s sell-out in Helsinki perfectly. GOP stands for Gnus Of Putin.

Evan Osnos at the New Yorker reports how The G.O.P. Stands By as Trump Upends American Security. In the aftermath of Helsinki, there has been outcry, but no real action, from the Republican establishment.

Fifty years ago, America was in agony. Its unity at home, and its standing abroad, were deteriorating. Today, the country again faces a profound political crisis, and the summer of 1968 is instructive. One party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress, as was the case then, when Lyndon Johnson was President. But this crisis differs in a fundamental way: fifty years ago, the President’s party had the will to respond. On April 4th, Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot dead in Memphis, and riots erupted in a hundred cities. The next day, Johnson wrote to House Speaker John W. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat, imploring Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, saying, “When the Nation so urgently needs the healing balm of unity, a brutal wound on our conscience forces upon us all this question: What more can I do to achieve brotherhood and equality among all Americans?” The act passed, over a Southern filibuster, on April 10th, the day after King’s funeral.

But Democrats did not shy from using their checks and balances against Johnson. The Tet Offensive, launched in January of that year, undermined the Administration’s claim that it was winning the war in Vietnam. Senator J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas, had previously concluded that escalation was folly, and had privately tried to change Johnson’s mind. When that failed, he invoked the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to advise and consent, and, in 1966, convened a series of unprecedented public hearings on the handling of the war. By the following year, most Americans disapproved of it, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, of Minnesota, entered the race against a sitting President of his own party, arguing that duty called on him to challenge policies of “questionable legality and questionable constitutionality.”

This summer, President Donald Trump has upended the basis of American security—opening a trade war with China, chastising U.S. allies in Europe, and, at a press conference in Helsinki, following a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin, accepting his claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump with evidence that Putin himself had ordered cyberattacks in an attempt to affect the electoral outcome. Just days before the Helsinki meeting, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers on detailed charges of hacking Democratic e-mail accounts. In a separate case, prosecutors also accused a Russian woman in Washington, Mariia Butina, of advancing a plot to influence the National Rifle Association. (Her lawyer has denied the charges.) And still Trump praised the Russian leader.

Yes, Senators Flake and McCain protested as did DNI Coats. And, “The Senate, in a rare act of unity, passed a nonbinding resolution against Putin’s request to interrogate American officials, a proposition that Trump had entertained but finally rejected.” Take note of that in bold. Trump considered handing over American citizens to Russia? Really?

Silence is betrayal
The spineless Gnus of Putin

More remarkable … was what didn’t happen. No one resigned from the Cabinet. No Republican senators took concrete steps to restrain or contain or censure the President. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University, noted that, fifty years ago, “you had elected officials, including the President, who were fundamentally committed to governance. They weren’t dismissive of the operation. They were cautious in how they did things because they understood the stakes of what elected officials do. None of that is true right now.”

The pattern is already visible for the historians of tomorrow. When Trump hailed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” when he endorsed an accused child molester for the Senate, when he separated children from their parents at the Mexican border, the Republican Party, by and large, accepted it. And, when Coats said, of Russian cyberattacks, that “warning lights are blinking red again,” the Party did not pressure the President to mount a defense. Meanwhile, Trump returned from Helsinki and resumed berating fellow-Americans, especially the press (“the real enemy of the people”). On Thursday, it was announced that he had invited Putin to visit Washington in the fall—an invitation that Coats learned of from an interviewer.

Another moment for political courage

But will the Gnus Of Putin have the gumption, the cojones to seize it?

If Republicans decide to truly put country ahead of party, as the Democrats did in 1968, they have several options. They could halt the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, until Trump strengthens safeguards against election hackers and embraces the investigation into Russian interference. (Bob Corker, of Tennessee, who is departing the Senate next year, called that idea a non-starter. “I like the Supreme Court nominee,” he told reporters. “So what the heck?”) They could vote down nominees to lower courts, or threaten to switch parties. At a minimum, they could hold public hearings, like Fulbright’s, to examine Trump’s actions on trade, or nato, or Russia. Most immediately, they could pass a law to prevent the President from firing Robert Mueller; in April, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance a bill with that intent, with four Republicans joining the Democratic members, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it. The privilege of power carries the moral duty to use it.

In private, some Republican lawmakers offer a plainly expedient defense: they disdain the President, but, as long as he is popular with more than ninety per cent of the Party rank and file, confronting him would open the door to primary challenges from even more compliant successors. In truth, however, many Republicans are more comfortable with Trump than they care to admit. Although they recoiled from images of children in cages at the border, the G.O.P. leaders assented to Trump’s immigration crackdown, as they have to his tariffs and attacks on Canada, Mexico, and our European allies. Until that changes, this is the Republican Party of 2018.

In moments of American agony, we look for comfort in the legends of our resilience. In 1968, we found the will to govern, to unite, and to check a President who had lost his way. This is another moment for political courage. It lacks only someone to seize it.

Mournday Mourning Gnus and other illustrated news

Silence is betrayal
How our leaders defend democracy

AZBlueMeanie treats us to the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News at Blog for Arizona. Here are some themes.

I’ll start with a significant digit.

75
The difference between 1941 and 2016. In 1941, America went to war after a surprise attack by an Asian enemy. In 2016 America cowered, its congress went into hiding, and one of its political parties colluded after a surprise attack by an Asian enemy.

This week’s basket of deplorables

  • Benedict Donald.
  • Hell-sinki.
  • Butina.
  • The GOP (Gnus Of Putin).

About that last one: see the related post here this morning.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The not-so-new age of Ocasio-Cortez. Is she too 'radical' for economic justice in America?

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is running for Congress to create an America that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few” quoted from her website. As you likely know, she beat her opponent, an entrenched incumbent, in the Bronx Democratic primary. CNN reported on The age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In an aside, I propose a theme song for The Age of Ocasio.

There she was, on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” just a couple of days after the vote, explaining to the host, to a country, what democratic socialism – “not an easy term for a lot of Americans,” he noted — meant to her.

“I believe,” she said, “that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live.”

Asked if she thought the party was moving too far left ahead of the midterms and 2020 presidential campaign, Duckworth said: “Well, I think that you can’t win the White House without the Midwest. And I don’t think that you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest. Coming from a Midwestern state, I think you need to be able to talk to the industrial Midwest. You need to listen to the people there in order to win an election nationwide.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded to the headlines that followed in a tweet.

“With respect to the Senator, strong, clear advocacy for working class Americans isn’t just for the Bronx,” she wrote, listing states Sanders won in the 2016 primaries and asking: “We then lost several of those states in the general. What’s the plan to prevent a repeat?”

Ocasio-Cortez … is settling in to a remarkable new normal. Apart from [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, with whom she campaigned in Kansas on Friday for primary hopefuls James Thompson and Brett Welder ahead of the state’s August 7 vote, there might not be a more in-demand ally for this year’s slate of insurgent progressive Democrats.

“Rayne” posted this perspective at emptywheel.net, RADICAL SOCIALISM OR CLEAR-EYED REALISM?

A new commenter wrote that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ “rhetoric is pretty radical.” Ocasio’s the recent Democratic Party primary winner for House seat NY–14, unseating long-time incumbent Joe Crowley in the Bronx-Queens district.

But is Ocasio really radical? Is her Democratic Socialist platform all that far left? Looking at Ted Kennedy’s concession speech from 1980 and the points around which he’d wish to rally Democratic voters 38 years ago, probably not given the changes to our society and economy. Unlike 1980, before Ronald Reagan broke down PATCO — the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union which went on strike in 1981 — we no longer have a thriving middle class based on employment with adequate job security and living wages. We have instead handfuls of billionaires who have amassed their record-breaking fortunes rapidly on the backs of half the country which can’t scrape together $400 cash for an emergency, whose real wages haven’t budged since the 1980s.

Two points that seem to be of particular concern to our new commenter in Ocasio-Cortez’ platform are the Universal Jobs Guarantee and Housing as a Human Right.

Is a Universal Jobs Guarantee more or less radical than Universal Basic Income? How are we going to deal with an economy in which tens of millions of jobs have been completely displaced by automation — like autonomous transportation, expected over time to replace millions of truck, hired cars, train drivers and ships’ pilots?

You might want to catch up, then. Save the “But capitalism!” and “But taxes!” rebuttal because

1) we live in a mixed economy already;
2) the socialist portions have been cut too far back and proven capitalism to be grossly inefficient in wealth distribution; and
3) leaders, particularly Democratic ones, already grasp the problem.

Housing as a Human Right is already embedded in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the U.S. voted in 1948. Yet in the U.S. there is no place a full-time minimum wage worker can afford basic housing (as if there are full-time minimum wage jobs since nearly all are structured as part-time to avoid unemployment tax). How can we expect to deal with this on a long-term basis when the Federal Reserve and other entities continue the decades-long suppression of wages?

Again, leaders (particularly Democratic/liberal ones) have already recognized this problem and encourage solutions. It may be far more radical to stick one’s head in the sand and ignore the mounting housing crisis.

Perhaps the real problem isn’t that a platform like the one Ocasio-Cortez has built her campaign upon is labeled Democratic Socialist.

Perhaps the real problem is the decades-long right-wing propaganda which denigrates reasonable, achievable political solutions to real problems average Americans face as radical and socialism as something we haven’t already accepted and relied upon within our existing social safety nets like Social Security and Medicare.

Perhaps the real problem is the same absolutist propaganda which has uniformly characterized any and all Democrats, even moderates, as “hippies”, “liberal bigots” and worse rather than see them as fellow Americans who believe in the Constitution and also believe the U.S. can do more for the common man through reasonable and distributive economic justice.

Is it really all that radical to want to form a more perfect union by establishing economic and social justice, insure domestic tranquility by ensuring every American has food and shelter, provide for the country’s common defense by promoting American’s general welfare?

Here are the planks from Ocasio’s platform.

Medicare For All
Housing As a Human Right
A Peace Economy
A Federal Jobs Guarantee
Gun Control / Assault Weapons Ban
Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons
Immigration Justice / Abolish ICE
Solidarity with Puerto Rico
Mobilizing Against Climate Change
Clean Campaign Finance
Higher Education / Trade School for All
Women’s Rights
Support LGBTQIA+
Support Seniors
Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall

Which of these things do you think are too “radical” for liberal Dems?

Reflect, for a moment, on FDR’s four freedoms.

In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), [President Franklin D. Roosevelt] proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear

… In the second half of the speech, he lists the benefits of democracy, which include economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of “adequate health care”. The first two freedoms, of speech and religion, are protected by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional Constitutional values protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right to economic security and anticipated what would become known decades later as the “human security” paradigm in social science and economic development. He also included the “freedom from fear” against national aggression …

Are not Ocasio’s planks deducible from FDR’s four freedoms?