Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Saudi's shifting sands

The NY Times reports that Saudi Arabia Says Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight. The Saudis and Trump want us to believe that the mild-mannered journalist provoked a fist fight with 15 Saudi security thugs who, it is claimed, were sent to Turkey to bring Mr. Khashoggi home to Saudi Arabia. And, it was such an accident that Khashoggi was strangled to death. And then the body was hacked up and disposed of at a location unknown to the Saudis. And all this was such an unfortunate mistaken interpretation of what “MBS” ordered - or did not order. In other news, the Saudis are building a bridge that they want to sell us. And Trump seems willing to buy that too. Onward.

For the first time on Saturday, a Saudi official familiar with the government’s handling of the situation put forward the kingdom’s narrative of the events that led to Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

That would be the current narrative.

The story as of Saturday morning

The kingdom had a general order to return dissidents living abroad, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. When the consulate in Istanbul reported that Mr. Khashoggi would be coming on Oct. 2 to pick up a document needed for his coming marriage, General Assiri dispatched a 15-man team to confront him.

The team included Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, a security officer identified by The New York Times this week as a frequent member of the crown prince’s security detail during foreign trips, the official said. Mr. Mutrib had been chosen because he had worked with Mr. Khashoggi a decade ago in the Saudi Embassy in London and knew him personally.

But the order to return Mr. Khashoggi to the kingdom was misinterpreted as it made its way down the chain of command, the Saudi official said, and a confrontation ensued when Mr. Khashoggi saw the men. He tried to flee, the men stopped him, punches were thrown, Mr. Khashoggi screamed and one of the men put him in a chokehold, strangling him to death, the official said.

"The interaction in the room didn’t last very long at all,” the official said.

The team then gave the body to a local collaborator to dispose of, meaning that the Saudis do not know where it ended up, the official said.

All 15 members of the team had been identified by name by the Turks, and Turkish newspapers had published their photographs. The New York Times established that most of them were employed by the Saudi military or security services and that at least four had traveled with the crown prince as part of his security detail.

The Turks had said the body had been disassembled with a bone saw by an autopsy specialist flown in specifically for that purpose and probably carried out of the consulate in large suitcases.

People with knowledge of the Saudi plans had told The Times on Thursday that the kingdom was planning to blame the operation on General Assiri, the deputy intelligence director. The people said the kingdom would portray the operation as carried out by rogue actors who did not have orders from the top and who had set out to interrogate and kidnap Mr. Khashoggi but ended up killing him, perhaps accidentally.

Reactions to current Saudi account are skeptical

The Saudi statement … offered no explanation for why Mr. Khashoggi would enter into an altercation with multiple foes in territory he knew to be dangerous. Mr. Khashoggi was regarded as low key and even-tempered by those who knew him. He felt nervous enough about his safety entering the consulate that he told his fiancée to wait outside with instructions to call the Turkish authorities if he did not come out.

Whether the United States or Turkey is willing to dispute or contradict the Saudi explanation is far from clear … [since] President Trump on Friday night said that Saudi Arabia’s statements were credible and that, along with its announcement of arrests, amounted to “good first steps.”

But Representative Adam Schiff of California was not buying the Saudi explanation. Mr. Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Friday night that “if Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him.”

Mr. Schiff, who said he had received a detailed, classified briefing earlier in the day on what American spy services believe were the circumstances, said that the Saudi version “was not credible.” He said he could not disclose what the intelligence agency briefers told him.

Since Mr. Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate on Oct. 2, Saudi Arabia has offered various, changing explanations for his disappearance, all of which seemed to distance top leadership from responsibility.

Scriber, tongue in cheek, thinks that the Saudi account might be victim to an error in translation from Arabic to English. Might the English “chokehold” really be a mistranslation of the Arabic word for “beheading”? And might “punches were thrown” be a mistranslation of the Arabic phrase for “beaten to death”?

All this will settle down when the final version comes out that is a “mutually acceptable explanation.” Then we will have another cloud lingering over Trump’s reign, this time a suspicion of covering up a murder.

Friday, October 19, 2018

538's numbers show Dems raising more money in House races ...

… because GOP fundraising is down from 2016.

In today’s Election Update, 538’s Nate Silver reports on disparities in fundraising in the 2018 cycle compared to that in the 2016 cycle. The good news is that the Dems are hauling in far more than the GOP in House races. Let’s say that again. In run-of-the-mill House races, Dems are better funded than Republicans. Wow! Yippee kai yai! Holy Moly, Batman. No sh!t! Here are the numbers.

It would be one thing if Democrats were raising money only in a few high-profile races — say, for example, in Beto O’Rourke’s Senate race in Texas. But that’s precisely not what is happening. Instead, the Democrats’ fundraising advantage is widespread. They’re raising money almost everywhere they need it in the House, whereas Republicans are sometimes coming up short.

Until recently, it was rare for House candidates to raise $2 million for their races — but it’s become more common in recent years as fundraising has gone digital and candidates have learned how to make highly tailored online appeals. There was a huge jump in the number of $2-million-plus candidates in both parties between 2014 and 2016, for example. But while Democrats’ numbers have held steady or improved from the high levels they had in 2016, Republican numbers have collapsed. The 17 GOP candidates that project to raise at least $2 million this year is down from 64 in 2016. (All figures are adjusted for inflation.)

Silver reports that the same pattern holds for candidates at lesser funding levels. Those Democrats raising $1 million or more increased by 2 from 2016 to 2018 but those Republicans in this category dropped by a whopping 87. Similarly, those Democrats raising $500 thousand or more increased by 20 but Republicans in this category decreased by 70.

The result is a fundraising disparity of the likes we’ve never seen before — at least not in recent years. (Our data on House fundraising goes back to 1998.) In the average House district, the Democratic candidate has raised 64 percent of the money, or almost two-thirds. Likewise, the Democrat has raised an average of 65 percent of the money in districts rated as competitive by the Cook Political Report. In all previous years in our database, no party had averaged more than 56 percent of the money in these competitive districts.

The fundraising numbers are so good for Democrats — and so bad for Republicans — that it’s a little bit hard to know quite what to make of them. … [But] If Democrats beat their projections on Nov. 6 — say, they win 63 House seats, equalling the number that Republicans won in 2010, an unlikely-but-not-impossible scenario — we may look back on these fundraising numbers as the canary in the coal mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The second shoe - the real business model of the Trump Organization

Shoe #1: My October 3rd 2018 post was about the NY Times reports on how Trump made his money - suspect tax schemes and gifts from Dad. I quoted one of that report’s amazing conclusions: “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

Shoe #2: Now Adam Davidson at The New Yorker asks Is Fraud Part of the Trump Organization’s Business Model? A new investigation shows a pattern in different projects around the country and the world.

Here are excerpts.

This month, two incredible investigative stories have given us an opportunity to lift the hood of the Trump Organization, look inside, and begin to understand what the business of this unusual company actually is. It is not a happy picture. The Times published a remarkable report, on October 2nd, that showed that much of the profit the Trump Organization made came not from successful real-estate investment but from defrauding state and federal governments through tax fraud. This week, ProPublica and WNYC co-published a stunning story and a “Trump, Inc.” podcast that can be seen as the international companion to the Times piece. They show that many of the Trump Organization’s international deals also bore the hallmarks of financial fraud, including money laundering, deceptive borrowing, outright lying to investors, and other potential crimes.

The reporters—Heather Vogell and Peter Elkind of ProPublica, and Andrea Bernstein and Meg Cramer of WNYC—identified a similar pattern that occurred in deals around the world. The basic scheme worked like this: some local developer in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Canada, or some other location pays Trump, up front, for the use of his name and agrees to pay him a cut of every sale—not only of units but of things like hotel-room minibar items or, even, bathrobes. These projects typically require sixty per cent or more of units to be sold before construction gets under way. The same set of problems occurred in multiple projects. Many of the early units would be sold to shadow buyers—hidden behind shell companies. Donald Trump or, often, Ivanka Trump would deceive future investors by telling them that a much higher percentage of units had been sold than was factual. More investors pour money in, getting enough money into the project, often, to begin construction. Eventually, the project fails and goes bankrupt. Many of those investors lose all of their money. But the Trumps do not. They got paid up front and are paid continuously throughout until the day the project collapses. They are paid for their name and for overseeing the project, and, if the building is opened, the Trumps manage the property day to day, in exchange for hefty fees.

[For example:] In the Panama City project, Trump licensed his name for an initial fee of a million dollars, ProPublica and WNYC reported. Trump was also paid a portion of apartment-unit sales and minibar fees. Whether the project succeeded or failed, he was paid as well. A final accounting is startling: the project went bankrupt, had a fifty-per-cent default rate, and the Trump Organization was expelled from managing the hotel, yet Donald Trump walked away with between thirty million and fifty-five million dollars.

The same pattern emerged in other projects. In Fort Lauderdale, Trump announced that a hotel-condominium project was “pretty much sold out” in April, 2006, according to a broker who attended the presentation. In reality, sixty-two per cent of units were sold as of July, 2006, according to bank records that emerged in a court case. The project entered foreclosure, and Trump’s name was removed before construction was completed. In Toronto, Ivanka referred to the property as “virtually sold out” in a 2009 interview. In fact, 24.8 per cent of units had sold, according to a 2016 bankruptcy filing by the developers. The project was built but went bankrupt, and Trump’s name was removed from it. In New York, Ivanka told reporters in 2008 that sixty per cent of units had sold in the Trump SoHo. A Trump partner’s affidavit revealed that only fifteen per cent had been sold at the time. The building was constructed, but the project went bankrupt, and Trump’s name was removed from it.

Real estate has long been associated with some types of fraud. Large projects are perfect for a wide variety of schemes. There is an opportunity for fraud in exaggerating the rate of sales. The price one pays for a unit in a new building is affected by how many units were sold earlier, because a well-sold building is worth more than a less well-sold one. How much the developer has put in of its own money is an opportunity to mislead buyers as well. If a developer doesn’t invest in a project that it’s in charge of, it can suggest that it’s not as great as the developer is saying. The Trumps repeatedly lied about these two factors, ProPublica and WNYC found, telling potential investors that far more units had been sold than really were and saying that they had invested much of their own money in the projects. This increases the amount people paid and disguises the very real risks people were taking with their investments.

What is the Trump Organization? What is it good at? Where do its profits come from? It is becoming increasingly clear that much of the company’s business may have come from fraud. Daniel Braun, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who specialized in fraud cases, told the reporters on the story, “You’re describing the basic elements of a long-running and significant scheme to defraud investors. So is that the sort of thing that the F.B.I. and the Justice Department pay attention to? It is. It has a number of kinds of ingredients that you would typically see in an investigation or even prosecution of fraud.”

Regardless of whether it leads to impeachment, the House of Representatives has the power to acquire Trump’s tax returns. The Business Insider tells us how: Democrats will be able to make Trump’s tax returns public if they take back Congress. Here’s how.

  • Certain committees in Congress have the authority to request President Trump’s tax returns for review and can then vote to make them public.
  • Republicans have so far blocked efforts by Democrats to utilize the procedural tool.
  • If Democrats retake the House majority, they can move forward with getting Trump’s tax returns with newfound power in the Ways and Means Committee.

Three committees in Congress already have the authority to take a peek at Trump’s — or any president’s — tax returns in a closed session: The Senate Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Through section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, those three committees can request 10 years of Trump’s tax documents from the Secretary of the Treasury. They can then vote to make the returns public.

While the JCT is a nonpartisan committee operated by experienced economists and the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate are looking relatively slim, the House looks more likely to be changing hands come January, according to recent polling.

Taking back the House would allow Democrats, using their newfound control of the Ways and Means Committee, to review the tax returns and decide whether or not to release them.

The latest numbers from 538 have the House flipping by 40 seats. From its Election Update email:

You may have noticed a little bump for Democrats in the “Classic” version of our House forecast early this week. On Wednesday night, the party had a 5 in 6 chance (83.9 percent) of taking control; on Tuesday night, it had risen to 84.8 percent, the best Democrats have fared in our model since its August launch. The average number of seats Democrats are expected to pick up was 39; on Tuesday, that number reached 40 for the first time.

Things threatened with extinction - black rhino, red panda, our food supply

Look, even if you don’t worry about the black rhino’s fate, you should worry about pollinators going extinct. Those little buggers are responsible for 35% of the world’s plant crops. If the bugs go, we starve. “We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now.”

The planet is losing biodiversity. In plain English, critters large and small are disappearing rapidly. To get a sense of the magnitude, the “sixth extinction” we are experiencing (and probably causing) is likely to be on par with the massive extinction that killed off dinosaurs. I raised the alarm back in January 2015 in Signs of the sixth extinction: What happens when apes rule the earth and more recently this month in Thinking in terms of the survival of human society.

Here are two recent features in 538’s significant digits email.

45 percent decrease
Bugs are disappearing. Biologists estimate that the population of invertebrates such as beetles and bees has decreased 45 percent over the past 35 years. The number of flying insects in German nature preserves dropped 76 percent in a similar amount of time. And a new study found the same thing in a “pristine” Puerto Rican national forest. The animals that eat the insects are disappearing, too: The population of the Puerto Rican tody, a bird that eats bugs, dropped by 90 percent. “Holy crap,” an expert in invertebrate conservation said to the Post. [The Washington Post]

The Washington Post sounded a hyperalarm about a threat to human food supply: ’Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss.

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.

"This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call — a clarion call — that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research. He added: “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

No matter the cause, all of the scientists agreed that more people should pay attention to the bugpocalypse.

“It’s a very scary thing,” Merrill said, that comes on the heels of a “gloomy, gloomy” U.N. report that estimated the world has little more than a decade left to wrangle climate change under control. But “we can all step up,” he said, by using more fuel-efficient cars and turning off unused electronics. The Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation, recommends planting a garden with native plants that flower throughout the year.

"Unfortunately, we have deaf ears in Washington,” Schowalter said. But those ears will listen at some point, he said, because our food supply will be in jeopardy.

Thirty-five percent of the world’s plant crops require pollination by bees, wasps and other animals. And arthropods are more than just pollinators. They’re the planet’s wee custodians, toiling away in unnoticed or avoided corners. They chew up rotting wood and eat carrion. “And none of us want to have more carcasses around,” Schowalter said. Wild insects provide $57 billion worth of six-legged labor in the United States each year, according to a 2006 estimate.

The loss of insects and arthropods could further rend the rain forest’s food web, Lister warned, causing plant species to go extinct without pollinators. “If the tropical forests go it will be yet another catastrophic failure of the whole Earth system,” he said, “that will feed back on human beings in an almost unimaginable way.”

2.5 billion years’ worth of evolutionary history
According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we humans have hastened the extinction of more than 300 species of mammals, thus depriving them of “2.5 billion years’ worth of unique evolutionary history.” Yikes. Sorry about that. The study’s lead author believes we are living in the middle of a sixth mass extinction. For reference, the fifth mass extinction was the one that killed all the dinosaurs. [Huffington Post]

Mammals Will Still Be Recovering From Human Destruction Long After We’re Gone.
A somber new study estimates that it could take several million years for mammal diversity to recover from humanity’s impact.

Humans have helped propel the extinction of more than 300 mammal species — equaling a staggering loss of 2.5 billion years’ worth of unique evolutionary history, according to a grim new study published Monday.

It could take many millions of years for mammals to evolve enough new species to recover from the destruction humans have caused, researchers estimated. The human species, however, won’t likely survive to see the day.

“We are doing something that will last millions of years beyond us,” paleontologist Matt Davis of Denmark’s Aarhus University, who led the new research, told The Guardian of humans’ devastating impact on biodiversity.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that it could take up to 5 to 7 million years for mammal diversity to be restored to the level it was before the arrival of modern humans — and that’s assuming people cease all poaching, pollution and habitat destruction in the next 50 years.

Like many scientists, Davis believes the world is currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, also known as the anthropocene extinction or one caused by human activity. Davis told The Atlantic this week that “what we are going through now could have as big an impact as the asteroid” that killed off most of the dinosaurs.

It’s a “pretty scary” situation we’ve created, Davis said. “We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now,” he told The Guardian.

Davis said he hopes the new research will help guide conservation work, specifically in helping to identify ― and prioritize ― endangered species with long evolutionary histories. The study, for instance, highlighted the black rhino, red panda and the indri, a large lemur endemic to Madagascar, as endangered animals with particularly long and unique lineages.

“It is much easier to save biodiversity now than to re-evolve it later,” Davis said in a news release.

Ultimately, however, piecemeal conservation efforts won’t be sufficient to stem the tide of extinctions and avert “worst-case scenarios,” Davis stressed.

“It’ll probably get worse, in all honesty,” he told The Atlantic. ”[We need] a massive, ambitious global-scale project that everyone will need to be involved in.”

“It comes down to whether politicians have the political will to make this happen,” he added.

Oops.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monday's Senate debate reduced to an analogy. unflappable is to unhinged as Sinema is to McSally

McSally & Sinema Debate
McSally & Sinema Oct 15 2018 Debate

McSally, Sinema trade barbs, stress voting records during their only Senate debate reports Cronkite News (via the Tucson Sentinel).

In a debate peppered with accusations of lying and treason, U.S. Senate candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema took shots at each other Monday in their only public debate of the 2018 election, each calling out the other’s voting record as proof that the other candidate is not a true representative of Arizona.

Sinema used the debate, which was broadcast live on Arizona PBS, to portray herself as an independent, echoing the campaign ads supporting her candidacy. She painted herself as someone willing to step over party lines, embracing the fact that she had voted largely with President Donald Trump’s agenda since 2017.

“Over the past six years, I’m proud to say I’ve taken the time to learn and grow and occasionally even change my opinion,” said Sinema, who has served three terms in Congress. “Over time, I think it makes sense for individuals, who are willing, to learn and to grow.”

She attempted to dodge questions about how she would have voted during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, calling the event a “circus.” She expressed disappointment with the way the Senate handled the confirmation, but ultimately said she would have voted no because it appeared to her that Kavanaugh lied under oath.

McSally spent much of the debate on the attack, fighting against both her opponent and the moderators – “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons and Arizona Republic/azcentral.com reporter Maria Polletta. Answering the first question about her relationship with Trump, McSally said she took offense to the idea that she had been a critic during the 2016 campaign.

“I never endorsed anyone for anything, whether president or dog catcher, and I just continued with that path,” she said. “But he’s now in office and is the president of the United States and we have this historic opportunity to move America in a new direction.”

She defended White House policy, including the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the southern border, saying the administration’s hands were tied by the law.

“The law in the books is to enforce the law,” McSally said.

As the debate weaved through topics ranging from health care to immigration, McSally fought back against questions about her voting record and stances on those issues.

When asked about her motivation for voting to allow internet service providers to sell private information online, McSally denied acting on behest of corporate political action committees and said such accusations had been debunked. She had received more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry when the vote was held.

“What are you even talking about?” McSally asked. “Of course I did not do that. And this has already been debunked. This is, again, what this campaign is all about, coming up with these lies and attacks that are fear tactics. I’m actually a privacy hound.”

McSally described herself as anti-abortion but refused to give an answer when pressed about whether she would support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

“I am pro-life and I have a very strong pro-life record,” she said. “I would support (Supreme Court) justices that are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make, and that they will have a good decision-making process because of that.”

By the end of the hourlong debate, McSally was visibly frustrated, not answering a question about climate change and instead turning to her opponent and asking whether she would apologize for 2003 comments about the Taliban that McSally described as treasonous.

So let’s look at that accusation. Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) reports how Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of backing “treason” in Senate debate.

PHOENIX — Republican senatorial contender Martha McSally said Monday that Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic foe, is guilty of “treason.”

Near the end of their hour-long debate, McSally brought up a radio interview Sinema did in 2003 during her anti-war days. Asked if it was OK to fight for the Taliban, Sinema had said, “Fine, I don’t care if you want to go do that.”

Much of the campaign against Sinema has been focused on who she was more than a decade ago, including her opposition to war in the Middle East. McSally hopes to convince voters that Sinema, since being elected to Congress in 2012, is not the moderate that she proclaims.

After the debate, Sinema brushed aside the questions of what she said years ago.

“Martha’s chosen to run a campaign that’s based on smears and attacks and that’s her choice,” she said. What happened in the past, Sinema said, is history.

“Over time I think it makes sense for individuals who are willing to learn and to grow,” she said.

Sure, but Scriber thinks there is no apology necessary. It’s one thing to root out the taliban and go after Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attack. It’s quite another to invade Iraq on excuses ranging from quite flimsy to mostly false to outright fiction. A lot of us were opposed to Bush’s war which he paid for by adding more to the deficit.

The Wall Street Journal reported a study showing that the U.S. Spent $5.6 Trillion on Wars in Middle East and Asia.

The cost of the wars also include borrowing money to pay for them,[Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.)] said. According to the [study][brown], the accumulated interest expenses on the future cost of borrowing money to pay the wars could add an additional $8 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades. “Even if we stopped [the wars] today, we would add $7.9 trillion to the national debt,” Mr. Reed said

Wikipedia lists the Financial costs of the Iraq war. The estimates are eclipsed by the Brown University study cited by Sen. Reed. For example: “According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money.” Ten years later we know the cost is triple those estimates.

On that basis alone, any thinking person would have to question, if not oppose, the Mideast wars.

McSally might want to rethink her accusation and consider Trump defending Putin’s attack on our democracy and the Russian interference in our election. Now that, it seems to me, is treason.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona agrees in A desperate Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of ‘treason’.

… if you want to talk about “treason” Martha, you should take it up with Putin’s puppet traitor Trump who is coming to Mesa to campaign for you on Friday. Trump fails to defend America against Russian attacks; there is a word for that. Helsinki is now synonymous with Munich for appeasement.

Trump is expected to stump for McSally on Friday in Mesa, the same day that former president George W. Bush – responsible for the unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq – is scheduled to hold a fundraising breakfast for the Republican candidate in Scottsdale, according to the Arizona Republic.

Martha McSally is unfit for political office. She has been a complete failure as my representative in Congress. She does not deserve a promotion to U.S. Senate. Go away, never to be heard from again.

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona summarizes the debate this way: In Monday’s Arizona Senate Debate, it was a Tale of Two Temperaments: Poised versus Unhinged

Scriber agrees. For example, at the end of the debate when time had run out, the moderators tried to close it down as McSally shrieked “Military, military.” Sinema was unflappable.

Democratic nominee Representative Kyrsten Sinema came across as poised, prepared, mature, approachable, bipartisan and wonky. On issue, after issue, be it healthcare, Brett Kavanagh, border security, climate change, or the economy, she skillfully laid out for the audience her positions and why she supported or opposed differing policy initiatives or nominees. She conducted herself professionally when attacked by her opponent, calmly refuting each assertion brought on by her.

In sharp contrast, Representative Martha McSally came across as unhinged, inflexible, bombastic, animated, and untruthful. On issue after issue, she continually parrotted Republican talking points on the border, health care, the economy. taxes, and Brett Kavanaugh. She brought up Nancy Pelosi (the Republican boogeyman of the last 12 years) at least twice and when it came time for her response to the topic of climate change, she immediately demanded to shift the topic to the military where she regurgitated all the proven misleading, inaccurate, and false accusations against Representative Sinema, even “slinging mud” by accusing her of treason for remarks made in 2003 (long before the Democratic Nominee ever held office).

Here are useful links from Gordon: a fact-check and the debate itself

The devil is in the deficit - and his GOPlins are coming after your Social Security and Medicare

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes what the Republicans don’t want you to know about how they plan to pay for their deficits: GOP rhetoric about the deficit becomes a punch-line to an awkward joke.

First, consider Benen’s chart showing deficits by year by party in the White House. “Red columns point to Republican administrations, blue columns point to Democratic administrations, and red-and-blue columns point to years in which the fiscal year was split between presidents from two different parties.”

Deficits - year x party

Here are some take-aways from those data. Reagan ran a deficit as did Bush 1. Clinton actually ended up running a surplus. Bush 2 cranked up the deficit. Obama, after the stimulus to counter the great recession, gradually reduced the deficit. Under Trump, due to his tax breaks, the deficit increased and is increasing. Benen tells us how the Republicans are planning to pay for such excess.

As recently as June, Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, boasted to a national television audience the U.S. budget deficit “is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.”

Yeah, about that….

The U.S. government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended last month, an unusual development in a fast-growing economy and a sign that – so far at least – tax cuts have restrained government revenue gains.

The deficit totaled $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 17% from $666 billion in fiscal 2017, the Treasury Department said Monday. The deficit is headed toward $1 trillion in the current fiscal year, the White House and Congressional Budget Office said.

This deficit is the fifth largest in modern American history – in non-inflation adjusted terms – and it now stands at 3.9% of GDP, up from 3.5% a year ago.

To be sure, as a percentage of the economy, the deficit isn’t necessarily at a level that should cause significant concern. The trouble is the broader context:

Circling back to our previous coverage, there are a few key angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that Donald Trump’s campaign assurances about balancing the budget and eliminating the national debt should be near the top of the list of his broken promises.

Second, it’s now painfully obvious that the Republican Party, which spent the Obama era pretending to care deeply about fiscal responsibility and the terrible burdens deficits place on future generations, operated in bad faith.

And third, every Republican who said the GOP tax breaks for the wealthy would pay for themselves ought to face some renewed questioning about how very wrong they were.

As we discussed several months ago, I should emphasize that I’m not a deficit hawk, and I firmly believe that larger deficits, under some circumstances, are absolutely worthwhile and necessary. [Scriber agrees.]

These are not, however, those circumstances. When the economy is in trouble, it makes sense for the United States to borrow more, invest more, cushion the blow, and help strengthen the economy.

The Trump White House and the Republican-led Congress, however, decided to approve massive tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations when the economy was already healthy – not because they were addressing a policy need, but because they were fulfilling an ideological goal.

Economic growth is healthy and unemployment is quite low. This is exactly when we should see the deficit shrinking. Instead, it’s growing – and it’s on track to keep growing in the coming years.

Worse, now that the deficit is spiraling, those same Republicans who pretended to care about “fiscal responsibility” have decided that what the nation really needs is more tax breaks – none of which will be paid for – and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Given how close we are to the midterm elections, GOP officials and candidates will have to hope voters don’t hear about this.

One of those leaders is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a companion piece, McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit, Benen thinks rhetoric about “entitlements” has become quite serious. To Scriber all this sounds typical Republican: spend the public money on yourself and then complain that there is no money to run the government. In other words, they are starving the beast. The thing is, the “beast” is you and me.

Take a wild guess what McConnell told Bloomberg News he wants to do about [the soaring deficit].

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

He added that he believes “Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid” funding constitutes “the real driver of the debt.”

… it’s important to understand that we already know it’s the Republicans’ tax breaks for the rich that have made the deficit vastly larger. When McConnell calls the increased federal borrowing “very disturbing,” as he did this morning, it’s like watching an arsonist wring his hands over the ashes he created.

… During the debate over the Republican tax package, Democrats made a fairly obvious prediction: GOP policymakers would blow a giant hole in the budget and then use the shortfall as an excuse to target social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security (often referred to as “entitlements”).

That is, of course, exactly what’s happening.

But looking past Trump’s bizarre nonsense [about the GOP saving social insurance programs], leading Republican officials – from the White House, the Senate, and the U.S. House – keep admitting that they’re eager to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security. Maybe the public should believe them.

So now you know what the GOPlins are up to but don’t want to admit to.

Be worried.

Monday, October 15, 2018

With DNA evidence against him, welsher-in-chief reneges on million dollar bet on Elizabeth Warren's ancestry

Trump attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a July 5, 2018 rally in Great Falls, Montana. (Why pick on Warren? She’s a presumed potential rival for the 2020 presidential election. ) As usual, Trump focussed on Warren’s claimed Native American ancestry, calling her repeatedly “Pocahontas”. He walked the audience through an imagined debate in which (1) he presents Warren with a DNA testing kit, and (2) offers to give her a million dollars for her favorite charity. Trump said: “I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” he said. “I have a feeling she will say no.”

The offer was widely quoted at the time. For example, NBC News reported that Trump challenges ‘Pocahontas’ Warren to DNA test to prove she’s Native American, and RealClearPolitics reported that Trump Offers $1 Million For “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren To Take DNA Test To Prove Indian Ancestry.

The Daily Beast reports that, now fighting back, Elizabeth Warren Fights Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Taunt With DNA Test Proving Native American Roots. The senator sought to negate the frequent attacks on her claimed heritage. But for Trump and his allies, it seems, no evidence will ever prove sufficient.

It was President Trump, however, who said at a rally in Montana this summer that he would give $1 million to charity should Warren take a DNA test proving her heritage claims.

“And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,’” Trump said. “And we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no, but we will hold it for the debates.”

On Monday, however, the president denied that he ever said such a thing.

“I didn’t say that. You better read it again,” he told reporters.

Warren, eager to remind him of the pledge, defiantly tweeted Monday that Trump should send a check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

The Hill, cited in the Washington Post coverage, quickly posted a fact-check result: “Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did.” The Post has a comprehensive time-line with the evidence in Trump promised $1 million to charity if Warren proved her Native American DNA. Now he denies it..

Moreover, his mouthpieces are attacking the DNA report as “junk science.” The Post reports:

Earlier Monday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, dismissed Warren’s DNA test as “junk science,” an early indication that Trump is not likely to follow through on the donation promise he now denies having made.

"I haven’t looked at the test. I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion, it seems some days,” Conway told reporters. “But I haven’t looked at the DNA test and it really doesn’t interest me… ”

It gets worse.

On Monday afternoon, Trump was again asked by a reporter about the promised donation, and this time he said he would “only do it if I can test her personally.”

Oh, good grief.

Remember that:

Trump has had a long history of making bold pledges to donate large sums of money to charity, without actually delivering on those promises, as The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold uncovered in a series of articles that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

I’ve got a few things to say about all that. First off, Trump can deny all he wants. Fox News, his own propaganda outlet, posted the evidence to YouTube. Click on the link to view the 2:35 video with the million-dollar promise at about 2:05.

Second, the report of the DNA analysis conducted by independent scientists supports Warren’s claim about her ancestry. “While the vast majority of the individual’s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of 6–10 generations ago.” This is not “junk science.” I’d venture a guess that Conway does not know anything about genetics or quantitative analyses.

Third, now confronted with the evidence against his claims, Trump says he won’t pay up because he never said that he would. Liar. As Post reporter David Fahrenthold learned, Trump has a history of welshing on payments to contractors, a history I reviewed back in June 2016, here and here. Coupled with the Fox News video, it appears he has welshed again, trying to get himself off the hook by denying what has already been proven.

Finally , Warren has opened a new web site show-casing her background. It does look like the kind of slide show that would appear on the large screens of a Democratic National Convention. Be worried, Donald. Go get’m Elizabeth!

Robert Reich contrasts Trump's economy with the living standards of most Americans. 'You get a very different picture.'

This last Sunday I covered a New Yorker piece on why a narcissist like Trump should not be in charge of our economy. Robert Reich has many more specifics on how Trumponomics is not helping the non-rich but is actually hurting them. He exposes The Truth About the Trump Economy
(Monday, Oct 15, 2018).

I keep hearing that although Trump is a scoundrel or worse, at least he’s presiding over a great economy.

As White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently put it, “The single biggest story this year is an economic boom that is durable and lasting.”

Really? Look closely at the living standards of most Americans, and you get a very different picture.

Yes, the stock market has boomed since Trump became president. But it’s looking increasingly wobbly as Trump’s trade wars take a toll.

Over 80 percent of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans anyway, so most Americans never got much out of Trump’s market boom to begin with.

The trade wars are about to take a toll on ordinary workers. Trump’s steel tariffs have cost Ford $1 billion so far, for example, forcing the automaker to plan mass layoffs.

Reich lists many more negative aspects of Trump’s economy after the break. He concludes:

Too often, discussions about “the economy” focus on overall statistics about growth, the stock market, and unemployment.

But most Americans don’t live in that economy. They live in a personal economy that has more to do with wages, job security, commutes to and from work, and the costs of housing, healthcare, drugs, education, and home insurance.

These are the things that hit closest home. They comprise the typical American’s standard of living.

Instead of an “economic boom,” most Americans are experiencing declines in all these dimensions of their lives.

Trump isn’t solely responsible. Some of these trends predated his presidency. But he hasn’t done anything to reverse them.

If anything, he’s made them far worse.

White House screens 'Attack of the Ignoramous'. That and other Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus.

Here are the schemes, themes, memes, and falemes from the Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona.

Trump policies
  • There are no more moderate Republicans. If you think otherwise, put your trust in Susan Collins and see what that gets you.
  • Trump’s rallying cry is still “Lock her up!” This time it’s Ford, not Clinton.
  • The new Devil’s Triangle: White House, Senate, Supreme Court.
  • Rumored: Nikki Haley’s resignation letter said “Will the last sane woman to leave please turn out the lights- and leave the toilet seat up.”
How to elect morons
Tuned in, turned on, dropped out
  • Trump repeats 125 false or misleading claims in Lesley Stahl’s 60-minutes interview. (I didn’t count, but given the fact-checking record, it’s a good guess.)
  • Mexico Beach is the new normal.
  • More from Stahl interview: When it comes to climate change disasters, Trump knows something is happening but he doesn’t know what.
  • Trump loves Kim. Is this Love for Sale?
  • Speaking of love for dictators, how about Prince bin Salman? Do his reforms include bumping off journalists?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The hydraulic model of Trumponomics - a short introduction to why a narcissist should not be F'ing with our economy.

The mattress-as-bank is the butt of numerous jokes and cartoons. But come on. You don’t hide your life savings under your bed, do you? (The dog ate my money?) So let me come at this from a different but parallel direction - my hydraulic theory of the economy in which the commode is a receptacle for your money. Suppose that President Chaos perceives (quite accurately) that a big tax cut would help his bottom line and also the bottom lines of the party of his Chaotic Chronies. So we pour all our money into the economy aka the commode. We are now at the mercy of whoever controls the flush button. That would be President Chaos.

When President Chaos goes to war against the Fed, he is fucking with your money.

When he runs a tax break scam that benefits billionaires, he is fucking with your money.

And when he launches a unilateral trade war, he is fucking with YOUR MONEY.

Flush.

Adam Davidson of the New Yorker tells us How Trump’s Impulsiveness, Vanity, and Cronyism Could Tank the Economy. I’ll pick up on Davidson’s post about half way.

[Trump’s comments on the Federal Reserve] came as confirmation of warnings that the International Monetary Fund issued last weekend. The I.M.F.’s World Economic Outlook provides the benchmark forecast for the global economy. It is a bureaucratic document, using careful, bloodless words to convey even the most hysterical of warnings. But readers familiar with the language of international finance can’t help but see the fear and contempt in the most recent reports. The executive summary warns, “The trade measures implemented since April will weigh on activity in 2019 and beyond; US fiscal policy will subtract momentum starting in 2020.” In regular English, this means: Trump has unilaterally launched a series of trade wars that will damage the global economy next year. Also, the tax cuts that were sold as growth-inspiring will so dramatically increase the U.S. government’s deficit that its economy will begin to slow.

In the rest of his column, Davidson explains why the current state of the economy is an unsustainable bubble, and the hope that Trump knows something, knows any thing, is a hopeless dream. To believe that is to confuse economics (the science) with Trumponomics (a religion).

It can be tempting to mock President Trump because his craven rhetoric makes him sound ignorant of basic economic principles. To be fair to him, all Presidents pursue policies that international-finance experts see as contrary to long-term growth. All Presidents boast when the economy is doing well and blame others when it fails. And all Presidents get angry at the Fed when it raises rates. They just don’t speak publicly about it and try so nakedly to manipulate the process. (President Richard Nixon pressured his Fed Chair, Arthur Burns, into keeping rates low in order to artificially boost economic growth before the 1972 election. Nixon, though, implicitly recognized the importance of Fed independence by keeping his intervention secret.)

Trump, though, stands alone among post-Second World War Presidents in describing himself not just as a steward of the economy but as a visionary tactician, a person who has unique ideas about how best to promote economic growth. And his ideas are radically different from those of recent Presidents of both parties. This is a good week in which to explore what those ideas look like in practice and to begin to describe a unified Trumpian theory of the economy.

To understand just how radical a departure Trump’s views are, it’s helpful to remember that Presidential economic thinking for the past seventy or so years has existed in a remarkably narrow band. From the late nineteen-thirties until 1980, all Presidents were, essentially, Keynesian. To absurdly oversimplify complex policies that played out over decades, this means they all believed that most decisions about how money is spent and invested should be made by the private sector, by people and companies, and that the government’s primary role was to provide clear, thoughtful rules and apply them fairly. Keynesians, such as John F. Kennedy, typically believe in government intervention as a break-this-glass-in-case-of-emergency exception. When an economy is temporarily underperforming, the government can step in, spend money, and jolt the free market back up to a healthier level. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan famously dismissed Keynesians and embraced what is known as the Chicago School of almost religious devotion to the free market, shunning interventions. Since then, Presidents have seesawed between Keynes and Chicago. Partisans seek to heighten the distinction between these economic schools, which do have major differences in policy advice and methodology. But, in contrast to Trumponomics, they appear as near twins.

Trumponomics is something else entirely. For Trump, an economy, apparently, is best run when some person with power and good sense continuously weighs in on key economic questions. It could be called an anti-theory theory. For Trump, theoretical models—no matter how well grounded in data and experience—are binding constraints that limit the President’s ability to respond however he thinks appropriate and, worse, they telegraph which policies the President will likely pursue. This is an essential difference. For past Presidents, stability and predictability were crucial. These qualities allow companies to make long-term investments, feeling confident they will pay off decades later. Stability also encourages other countries to orient their economies around the United States, knowing that its economic policies are unlikely to change dramatically, no matter who is in power.

In many ways, Trump’s views on economics are off base. Decades of research show that economies run best when there are clear and neutral rules, fairly applied. But understanding Trump’s view is important to having a sense of what our next two to six years might look like.

Some Republican leaders, I imagine, comfort themselves by picturing Trump’s erraticism as a bit of showmanship that masks an embrace of standard Republican orthodoxy. He yells at China or Canada, he insults the Fed, he doesn’t understand how our economy functions. But that’s noise. They believe that, at base, Trump is a Mitt Romney Republican: he wants low taxes and less regulation and thinks that the only way for poor and middle-class people to thrive is to ensure that the rich do so first.

This is, clearly now, a misreading. The chaos is not the aberration. It is the point. It is Trumponomics.

Consider something else we learned this week. ProPublica reported that last year Trump asked Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to help out his donor, Sheldon Adelson, in his bid to enter the new Japanese casino market. On one hand, political leaders have always carried water for their rich donors. This is the swamp. But, with Trump, it is something more (or, possibly, something less). It is a model of governance and economics based, it seems, on impulse. Trump puts pressure on one of our closest allies so that a crony can make some money; Trump strong-arms Carrier so that a few hundred people can stay employed for a few weeks longer; Trump decides which industries and which countries should thrive and which should fail. The salient point is not consistency or theoretical rigor. It is that the world economy is governed by Trump’s whims. Trumponomics is not a steady state. It is, by its nature, constant turmoil.

This is, of course, deeply self-serving. Trump gets to enrich his cronies and, one supposes, himself. He gets to distract the media and the public when there is unfavorable news about him. But I believe it is not right to assume that Trump—in his own experience—is solely cynical. His mentality, apparently, allows him to pay little heed to the forces leading him to prefer one action over another. Is he pitching Adelson and attacking the Fed because he wants to help himself or because it’s good for America? Who cares? They’re the same. If he wants to do it, it’s good for America, then it’s good for Trump, and vice versa.

Trump is no longer a mystery. He is among the most transparent of public figures. The mystery is that it all works. The stock market, even with this week’s drop, has been at record highs. Unemployment is at record lows. Consumer and business confidence is robust. How can this be? According to basic economic theory, businesspeople should look at this chaos and realize it is unsustainable.

G.O.P. politicians and some sympathetic economists argue that the tax cuts and deregulation are spurring business. But there is one idea that Keynesians and Chicago School thinkers have long agreed upon: It is always possible to give an economy a sugar rush, a short-term boost, by flushing huge amounts of government money through the system. One can do this through tax cuts or government spending. Or, in a sense, by weakening regulation. (When the government removes consumer protections, it makes it cheaper for banks to do business and operates like a tax cut or a subsidy.) This creates a promise of near-term profits for companies, which leads to higher stock prices, which can lead to business expansion and new hiring. The newly employed buy more things, increasing the rate of expansion. It can be exciting and self-reinforcing.

An important lesson of the financial crisis of ten years ago is that markets are very bad at figuring out how to respond to warning signs. Many people on Wall Street knew that the housing market might be a bubble, that there was something of a frenzy. But they didn’t know when it would all fall apart, so they just traded as if everything would keep going up. Many on Wall Street today know that the likelihood of the President making a series of decisions—from launching a trade war to influencing fed policy—that sends our economy downward is unusually high. But, on any given day, the businessperson looks at the numbers that provide clarity (unemployment, wages, G.D.P. growth, the stock market) and sees no reason for today to be the day for despair. Yes, of course, they are all looking, anxiously, at the President, always unsure of what he will do next but knowing something, someday, might be cataclysmic. But before then, perhaps, he’ll do something else, something that helps their business and makes them richer. They don’t know, because there is nothing to base their forecast on other than Trump’s own gut. And that is precisely how he wants it.

Remember: Susan Glasser, also at the New Yorker, reminds us that “the chaos in the White House cannot be overstated.” It starts with President Chaos, it infects his staff, and will ultimately trickle down to our economy. The thing is, we common folk don’t want to be in the way of what this president tinkles down on us.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

How the media is complicit in Trump’s campaign to ‘flood the zone with shit’

Judd Legum (popular.info) introduces the theme of today’s post in Trump’s accomplice.

Spreading the media thin is part of the plan. “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit,” Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said.

This strategy paid off last week when the New York Times published a devastating piece, based on 100,000 documents, exposing how Trump and his father engaged in tax fraud to build their fortunes. The article, however, received only a modest amount of attention because, well, there was a lot of other stuff going on. Trump makes sure of it.

He makes sure of it by an increasing rate of lies. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, documents the acceleration of Trump falsehoods: President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims.

On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.

The day before, the president made 74 false or misleading claims, many at a campaign rally in Montana. An anonymous op-ed article by a senior administration official had just been published in the New York Times, and news circulated about journalist Bob Woodward’s insider account of Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day.

Trump’s op-ed in the USA Today is the high profile example of how the media gives Trump a pass on his distorted view of the world - a view that generates self-made fake news that then permeates the media.

In another report, as a specific example, Glenn Kessler does Fact-checking President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’.

President Trump wrote an opinion article for USA Today on Oct. 10 regarding proposals to expand Medicare to all Americans — known as Medicare-for-All — in which almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.

… this is not a serious effort to debate the issue. So as a reader service, we offer a guide through Trump’s rhetoric.

Kessler lists and rebuts many of Trump’s numerous false claims about Medicare. For examples, I return to the popular.info report for a selection of “five whoppers.”

Weaponizing USA Today

There is a history of presidents publishing op-eds in USA Today, one of America’s largest papers with a daily print readership of 2.6 million people. Obama published an op-ed in the paper commemorating the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Bush wrote one on the day of his reelection entitled, “Why you should vote for me today.” Bill Clinton’s commemorated the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination.

But no president has ever published a column in USA Today like the one published on Wednesday by Trump.

Trump’s op-ed is a diatribe against the Democrats’ health care agenda, particularly Medicare for All. That’s no accident. Healthcare has emerged consistently as a top issue for voters heading into the midterm elections.

The piece is also full of demonstrable lies.

Trump v. the truth

This entire newsletter could be devoted to fact-checking Trump’s op-ed. Virtually every sentence is false or misleading. But to give you a taste, here are five whoppers.

Trump writes: “As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions… I have kept that promise.”

The Trump administration has refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, which established protections for people with pre-existing conditions, against a lawsuit filed by Republican Attorneys General. In a brief filed with the court, the Trump administration argued that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional. If the Trump administration gets its way, the provision will be struck down.

Trump writes: “We are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.”

Insurance premiums, on average, are still going up. Insurance premiums would be lower in many states if Trump had not taken steps to sabotage the Obamacare exchange.

Trump writes: “Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare.”

Obamacare extended the life of Medicare by adding a payroll tax for wealthy Americans. The $800 billion in savings came largely from trimming back reimbursements from health care providers, not reducing care for seniors.

Trump writes: “I am fighting so hard against the Democrats’ plan that would eviscerate Medicare.”

Trump’s op-ed targets Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation. That bill would expand Medicare to cover all Americans and create additional benefits like dental and eye care.

Trump writes: “Republicans believe that a Medicare program that was created for seniors and paid for by seniors their entire lives should always be protected and preserved.”

For many years, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed ending Medicare as we know it and replacing it with “premium support.” In other words, replacing Medicare with a subsidy for private insurance. Democrats successfully fought against the plan.

USA Today’s epic failure

Surprisingly, USA Today claims that it fact-checked Trump’s op-ed. A statement from USA Today’s editorial page editor Bill Sternberg:

We see ourselves as America’s conversation center, presenting our readers with voices from the right, left and middle. President Trump’s op-ed was treated like other column submissions; we check factual assertions while allowing authors wide leeway to express their opinions. Readers are invited to submit opposing viewpoints and provide additional context, some of which will be published in the days ahead.

It’s unclear what kind of fact check was undertaken since the errors were obvious. Many of Trump’s lies are exposed by the very sources he links to in the article.

For Trump’s claim that he has kept his promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions, for example, the article links to a Washington Post fact check explaining that he broke his pledge.

What good is a fact check if it allows authors to publish things that are not true?

USA Today even featured one of the most obvious falsehoods on its Twitter account, which has 3.6 million followers.

To survive in Trump’s world, the media must change

There are many media fact checkers. But their work hasn’t changed Trump’s behavior because he knows that more people will hear what he says, without context, than slog through a lengthy fact check of his claims.

To fulfill its mission of providing accurate information to the public, the media must change their tactics.

For example, instead of producing fact checks after Trump’s appearances, cable networks could have a rapid response team on hand any time they decide to air a Trump speech, equipped with the facts needed to correct Trump’s most repeated lies.

If every time Trump said something false, networks displayed the facts on half of the screen, it may or may not change Trump’s behavior. But it would certainly change the experience for viewers.

In other words, we need to flood Trump’s zone with facts. For every Trump lie, the media should publish - in real time - 10 truths.

To combat Trump’s torrent of misinformation, the media needs to think outside the box. If outlets continue to treat Trump as if he was the same as other presidents, they will continue to be complicit in his efforts to warp reality for the American public.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) pens a Memo to the media: Stop spreading Trump’s fake news.

It is a great irony of the current political moment: By broadcasting forth Trump’s lies in tweets and headlines — while declining to inform readers that they are just that, and while burying the truth deep within accompanying articles — the organizations that Trump regularly derides as “fake news” are themselves spreading a species of fake news.

… the problem remains one that plenty of traditional journalists and news organizations still refuse to take seriously enough. You constantly see headlines on news organizations’ websites that blare forth a politician’s false, dubious or unsupported claims without informing readers that those claims are, well, false or dubious or unsupported. Often it requires reading deep into a story to discover a corrective, if there is a corrective at all.

This is part and parcel of a broader problem, in which too many newspaper editors and television producers still continue to fear that if they forcefully — and prominently, right in tweets and headlines — call out Trump’s lies for what they are, they will somehow come across as biased or lacking in objectivity. Indeed, some editors have offered the tortured argument that they should refrain from using the word “lie” because it suggests knowledge of Trump’s intent to mislead, which cannot be conclusively established.

But this rigs the game in Trump’s favor: One cannot ever conclusively prove whether Trump is intentionally lying, as opposed to just delusional or hopelessly uninformed. Yet if Trump repeats a falsehood over and over after it has been debunked, it is obviously deliberate deception; if news organizations refrain from calling this out as such, they are failing to accurately describe what is right there in plain sight.

This misleads readers and viewers not just in each particular case. Importantly, it also misleads them more broadly about the truly sinister and deliberate nature of Trump’s ongoing campaign to obliterate the possibility of shared agreement on facts and on the news media’s legitimate institutional role in keeping voters informed. The resulting standard does not reckon seriously with the scale of the challenge to the truth he poses. It ends up portraying his ongoing campaign of flood-the-zone lying as conventional dishonesty or mere incompetence, which in turn paints a profoundly misleading picture of the realities of the current moment.

To be fair, there have been many signs that leading journalists grasp the urgent need for their profession to rise to all these current challenges. CNN media reporter Brian Stelter’s newsletter recently reported that within newsrooms, there is “more and more introspection” about the media’s response to Trumpian deception tactics, and about whether the press is compounding the “damage” by airing and repeating falsehoods without any adequate institutional response to it.

So we may be in the midst of another transition, similar to the one that unfolded a generation ago. The news media seems to be retaining its core institutional independence and appears to be finding new ways to adapt. But as Hannah Arendt put it in a famous 1967 meditation on “Truth and Politics,” back during that previous period of serious institutional adaptation by the press, those two things — politics and factual truth — are perpetually “on rather bad terms with each other.”

Thanks to the rise of Trump, those terms are particularly bad right now. Perhaps we will get through this. But we are learning all over again, as Arendt put it, that “factual truth is fragile in politics, and its survival is never guaranteed.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

Scriber endorses Sinema for Senate and Kirkpatrick for House

The ballots for the 2018 election are in the mail, so we are down to the wire. I know that in the primary season many of you (and that includes me) preferred candidates who did not prevail. But we are beyond that now.

I am endorsing Kyrsten Sinema for U. S. Senate and Ann Kirkpatrick for AZ CD2 House.

The alliance4action has published 2018 fact sheets that include tables comparing and contrasting candidates and their positions on issues. The evidence in that publication supports my decision. In addition, following are excerpts from (and updates to) my previous posts that inform my endorsements.

Kirkpatrick

Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) covers The Kirkpatrick v. Marquez-Peterson CD2 Congressional Debate at a Glance with an excellent table contrasting the positions of the candidates. Carolyn Classen responds with a link to the Video of this debate online at AZPM. These two items make it clear why 538 said “maybe they should” in evaluating the Republicans withdrawing from districts that are likely losers for GOP apparently now including AZ CD2.

538 gives Kirkpatrick a 95% chance of taking back the CD2 seat.

UPDATE: As I was writing this post this morning, I found this report by Joe Ferguson in the Daily Star, NRCC pulls funding for Marquez Peterson in CD2.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling the plug on a planned six-figure ad buy in Congressional District 2 weeks before the general election.

The move has some wondering whether one of largest national groups singularly dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives has lost faith in its candidate, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson.

A spokesperson for the NRCC confirmed that the group would stop spending money on ads next week, but declined to discuss the reasons why it would shift an estimated $400,000 to races in other districts or states.

To update what I said earlier, “Republicans withdrawing from districts that are likely losers for GOP apparently now including AZ CD2.”

Sinema

[I identified] votes on legislation that matter to progressives, for example, denying funding for Planned Parenthood, punishing sanctuary cities, increasing the availability of guns, repeal of Dodd-Frank, and repeal of regulations that provide for clean air and water. I pulled the records for 33 such bills from January 1, 2017 to present. I counted the number of instances in which Sinema voted against legislation supported by Trump. Her score was 85% opposed to Trump’s position.

You might ask how good is that score. To establish bounds on that measure I used the same method to compute the progressive scores for Raul Grijalva (AZ CD 3) and Martha McSally (AZ CD2). Grijalva scored a perfect 100% opposed to Trump’s positions and McSally, voting almost entirely with Trump on everything, scored 3%. (By the way, Trump’s score on the same measure was a perfect 0%.)

… When it comes to deciding on how to vote, if you want ideological purity, you could point to the difference between Sinema and Grijalva (100% - 85% = 15%) and stay home. But if you want to flip that seat held by Republican Jeff Flake to a Democrat, you should focus on the difference between Sinema’s progressive score vs. that of McSally (85% - 3% = 82%) and Get Out to Vote.

UPDATE: Joe Ferguson adds:

Attempts to get Rep. Martha McSally to debate her Democratic rival Kyrsten Sinema in her hometown have failed.

While Sinema first floated the idea for a debate hosted by AZPM several weeks ago, the proposal eventually fell apart as the two sides couldn’t agree.

Instead McSally and Sinema will take part in a debate in Phoenix on Monday, Oct. 15, hosted by Arizona PBS, in partnership with The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.

The Republican Party has been transforming itself and America for decades. It's all about white male power.

The Republican party has now institutionalized psychological projection. For example, the AZ Blue Meanie reports that The Sausage Party declares women are an ‘angry mob’ that threatens the privileged white male patriarchy

The transformation of the GOP over the past two weeks has moved at remarkable speed.

President Trump went from declaring Christine Blasey Ford a “very fine woman” and “certainly a very credible witness” after she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegation of sexual assault, to just days later using her as a prop at one of his Nuremberg campaign rallies, lying about her testimony and playing the privileged white male as victim card, to chants of “lock her up” from his personality cult of Trump.

Trump and his enablers in the GOP then moved on to saying those who made ‘false statements’ about Kavanaugh ‘should be held liable’ and Saying Brett Kavanaugh Was ‘Caught Up In A Hoax’ And ‘Did Nothing Wrong’, to falsely saying Kavanaugh was ‘proven innocent’ at his swearing-in ceremony. The coup de grâce came when Trump apologized ‘on behalf of the nation’ to Kavanaugh “for the terrible pain and suffering” that he and his family endured during his confirmation process

In just two weeks, Brett Kavanaugh went from being credibly accused of sexual assault to the privileged white male victim of a hoax who should be able to exact retribution against his female accusers, according to the pussy-grabber-in-chief.

But, according to conservative columnists, the transformation of the GOP has been underway for decades. It abandoned conservative principles long ago.

Max Boot explains how The dark side of American conservatism has taken over

… It would be nice to think that Donald Trump is an anomaly who came out of nowhere to take over an otherwise sane and sober movement. But it just isn’t so.

… the history of modern conservative is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, isolationism and know-nothingism … conservatives have also espoused high-minded principles that I still believe in, … But there has always been a dark underside to conservatism that I chose for most of my life to ignore. It’s amazing how little you can see when your eyes are closed!

… The Republican Party will now be defined by Trump’s dark, divisive vision, with his depiction of Democrats as America-hating, criminal-coddling traitors, his vilification of the press as the “enemy of the people,” and his ugly invective against Mexicans and Muslims. The extremism that many Republicans of goodwill had been trying to push to the fringe of their party is now its governing ideology.

That’s why I can no longer be a Republican, and in fact wish ill fortune on my former party. I am now convinced that the Republican Party must suffer repeated and devastating defeats beginning in November. It must pay a heavy price for its embrace of white nationalism and know-nothingism. Only if the GOP as it is currently constituted is burned to the ground will there be any chance to build a reasonable center-right party out of the ashes. But that will require undoing the work of decades, not just of the past two years.

Another conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, considers alternatives to burn it down She admits The corruption of the GOP is complete and asks So what’s Plan B?

Perhaps a potential ticket independent is waiting to be constructed from among the few Republicans who have refused to join the Trump cult. There are center/right governors — John Kasich (Ohio), Charlie Baker (Mass.), Brian Sandoval (Nev.) and former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. Democrats such as Gov. Steve Bullock (Mont.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) would be solid additions on a ticket if you wanted to go the bipartisan route — perhaps with the promise of a one-term “reset” to rinse out the toxic remnants of the Trump era. Alternatively, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — a true independent voice — would be on any short list for vice president.

Rubin thinks that the “reset” should include a return to the 3 Rs. “What would the Plan B ticket offer? It should start with what is plainly missing in politics — restraint, respect and reform.” But, unfortunately, “Respectful and clean government, values-based leadership of the free world, responsible stewardship of the environment and a commitment to reform are no longer on the GOP agenda.”

Finally, Charles Blow forces on us a larger vision of the struggle between left and right in America, writing Liberals, This Is War What’s at stake is much more than a single Supreme Court seat. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. Rue the day. Rend your garments.

Then, step back, view the entirety of the battle in which you are engaged, and understand that Kavanaugh is just one part of a much larger plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the American political structure so that it enshrines and protects white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power.

This, for them, is not simply a game about political passion and political principles. This is a game of power, pure and simple, and it’s about whether the people who have long held that power will be able to retain it.

For them, Trump is just a useful idiot, a temporary anomaly.

They are thinking generationally, not in terms of the next election cycle but in terms of the next epoch.

Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war. Yes, next month it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority.

On one level this would provide relief and release for a pent-up demand by most Americans to be heard and to calm some of the chaos. But, catharsis is an emotional response and an emotional remedy.

Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown.

For instance, the constant pining about justices who will interpret the “original intent” of the Constitution feels far bigger than single issues like gun control.

In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

“Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.”

But, when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

We have to learn to see everything around us, all that is happening on the political front, through that lens. This is what the extreme measures on illegal immigration and even the efforts to dramatically slash legal immigration are all about.

This is also what the demonizing of the visa lottery program is all about. As the Pew Research Center pointed out in August: “In fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the largest number of visas went to citizens of African countries” while applicants from European countries and from Asia received fewer visas than before.

The effort to demonize the lottery program is an effort to preserve America’s white majority, against the statistical eventuality, for as long as possible.

And that is also what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are about. That is why conservatives cheer the moves by young liberals to densely populated cities. The move weakens conservative votes in the places they move to and strengthens it in places they move from.

As The Washington Post pointed out in 2016, “In the Electoral College, each individual Wyoming vote weighs 3.6 times more than an individual Californian’s vote.” The Post continued, “That’s the most extreme example, but if you average the 10 most populous states and compare the power of their residents’ votes to those of the 10 least populous states, you get a ratio of 1 to 2.5.”

But probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention.

There are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be proposed: One is by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and the other is by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states. The second method has never been used, but is now gathering steam among Republicans.

As Charles Pierce wrote in January in Esquire, the people pushing for a convention “have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34 to trigger the Constitution’s provision for a ‘convention of the states.’”

Pierce continued: “If the convention is called, the disunion that has become a faith in some conservative quarters will run amok. Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated.”

Folks, Kavanaugh is only one soldier, albeit an important one, in a larger battle. Stop thinking you’re in a skirmish, when you’re at war.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How and why our democracy might become Republican roadkill on the judicial highway ...

… and what we can do about it.

If you ask an average bloke (or blokette) what makes our democracy a democracy, there are a number of things that could be said. At the top of my list, is the principle and practice of voting by the people. Because of the never ending attempts at voter suppression, I fear for that practice and I therefore fear for our democracy.

This post is about a recent Supreme Court action (inaction, really), why it is so harmful to Americans, and what we can do to counter it.

I’ll lead with a NY Times piece by David Leonhardt in which he indicts The Anti-Voter Supreme Court (Oct. 10, h/t Jana Eaton) As an example, Leonhardt uses the North Dakota law disenfranchising Native Americans, a law that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

After Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, narrowly won a Senate seat in 2012, Republicans changed a voter-identification law in the state. They stopped allowing any voter identification that lists a post-office box as an address.

There was a specific reason for the change, as Pema Levy of Mother Jones reports. Many Native Americans use a P.O. box as their address because the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver to their communities. And Native Americans had provided Heitkamp with crucial support in her win. The law was another Republican attempt to win elections by keeping Democratic-leaning groups from voting.

Last night, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the North Dakota law, effectively upholding it. Amy Howe of Scotusblog has a fuller explanation. “The risk of disenfranchisement is large,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a dissent.

This case is yet another reminder that democracy protection needs to be the No. 1 item on the Democrats’ long-term political agenda. (Really, it should the top item on both parties’ agenda, but I realize that’s a naïve wish.) The next time Democrats control the federal government, they should pass a sweeping voter-rights bill, similar to the kind Paul Glastris has described in Washington Monthly.

History won’t look kindly on the political party that is trying to keep Americans — usually dark-skinned Americans — from voting.

Perhaps now you can see why I think the Supreme Court decision to let the ND voter-ID law to stand ranks right up there with lousy decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and Shelby County v. Holder.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) says more about Why North Dakota’s new voter-ID law is suddenly so important

When the Supreme Court fails to take up a case, it’s generally not front-page news, but this is a story that may carry significant consequences.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed North Dakota to implement a voter ID law for the November midterm election, turning down a petition arguing that the measure would harm Native Americans who are less likely to live at standardized addresses or possess the identification cards required by the statute.

Native Americans are a reliably Democratic constituency, making Tuesday’s order unfortunate news for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat struggling to hold off a challenge from Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in the deep red state.

In so sparsely populated a state, “it could be that a couple of hundred votes matter,” said Robert Wood, a political-science professor at the University of North Dakota.

Some background is in order. Six years ago, Heidi Heitkamp was widely expected to lose her Senate race in North Dakota. It’s generally a very red state – a Democratic presidential ticket hasn’t won in North Dakota in over four decades – and polls showed her trailing then-Rep. Rick Berg (R), the state’s sole U.S. House member.

But Heitkamp narrowly pulled off an upset, thanks in large part to support from Native American voters.

Soon after, the Republican-run state legislature decided it was time to overhaul the state’s incredibly easy system of voting. Under the newly imposed model, North Dakota would enforce a GOP-friendly voter-ID system, which would – you guessed it – make it harder for Native American voters to cast ballots.

Lower courts struck down the system as discriminatory, but just last month, the 8th Circuit, in a 2–1 ruling, rescued the Republican policy. The Supreme Court this week passed on taking up the case, which means the appeals court ruling will be binding and the state law – which wasn’t in place during North Dakota’s primary elections – will be enforced for Heitkamp’s tough re-election fight next month.

By practically every fair measure, the incumbent was already an underdog. This week’s court developments make matters just a little worse for the senator.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern did a nice job highlighting the practical implications:

The appeals court allowed the state to implement the part of the law that compels voters to provide an ID that includes his or her current residential street address. This provision is controversial because it seems to directly target Native Americans. The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential delivery in rural reservations, so most tribal members use a P.O. box, which is listed as their address on tribal IDs. To remedy this problem, the district court had ordered the state to accept IDs that list a current mailing address. But the 8th Circuit scrapped that compromise, permitting the state to reject IDs that include a mailing address but no street address – that is, a huge number of tribal IDs.

How many, exactly? The district court found that at least 4,998 otherwise eligible Native Americans do not have an ID with a current street address. They are not alone: About 65,000 non–Native American voters also lack the necessary ID. The law does allow voters to provide “supplemental documentation” to prove their identity, such as a utility bill or bank statement. But once again, Native Americans are disproportionately unlikely to have these materials, due in part to poverty and homelessness within their communities. Thus, at least 2,305 Native Americans may not be allowed to cast a ballot in the 2018 election.

For context, let’s not forget that Heitkamp won in 2012 by 2,936 votes.

In fairness, it’s important to emphasize that Native voters without a proper residential address can jump through some bureaucratic procedural hoops in order to try to cast a ballot. But to put it mildly, they’ll face an additional burden that most other voters won’t have to deal with.

What’s more, voters who participated in North Dakota’s recent primaries may not realize that a different system will be in place now. This week, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan warned of “grand-scale voter confusion” in North Dakota.

For Republicans eager to take Heidi Heitkamp’s Senate seat – and solidify the GOP’s Senate majority – it’s apparently a small price to pay.

Postscript: At the 8th Circuit, the two judges who restored the voter-ID law were appointed by George W. Bush. The dissenter was appointed by Barack Obama.

As Donald Trump and Senate Republicans dramatically shift the federal courts to the far-right, Americans should expect to see a whole lot more rulings like this one for the next several decades.

What to do

John Nichols (The Nation) confirms that “The Supreme Court Is Broken” and tells us Here’s How to Fix It. Progressives need to take back the Senate, and then consider constitutional reforms. We pretty much know about the broken part, so I am going to focus on Nichols’ take on how to fix it.

Shifting control of the Senate is vital, but that’s still an insufficient response; progressives must acknowledge the broader crisis and redouble their efforts to address it. Kavanaugh joins a right-wing activist majority on the Court that extends not from the will of the people but from our broken and dysfunctional politics. He is the fourth member of that majority to be nominated by a president who lost the popular vote. The genius of the American experiment has been its adaptability—much of it achieved by amending a Constitution that the founders knew would need to be changed. Yet the Electoral College lingers as the unreformed remnant of a period in which compromises between slaveholders and wealthy merchants were designed to thwart democracy. Advocates for constitutional amendments to get corporate money out of politics and to guarantee the right to vote—essential responses to the Court’s disastrous decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Shelby County v. Holder—must add to their agenda the elimination of the Electoral College. They can also work for short-term fixes like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which states formally agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular ballot.

Progressives must also make structural reform of the courts a priority. A century ago, presidential contenders like Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette proposed sweeping reforms of the federal judiciary, which was well understood as a reactionary threat. There were calls for legislation and constitutional amendments that would give Congress the power to defend laws that the Supreme Court sought to overturn, and to change the courts themselves with term limits for judges and provisions for the recall of errant jurists. President Franklin Roosevelt tried in the 1930s to expand the Supreme Court so that dinosaur justices appointed in the distant past could not block the New Deal. These calls for reform were dismissed as radical. But history often reminds us that the radicalism of one moment is the common sense of the next. That next moment has come. The awful corruptions of politics and process that put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court demand the immediate response of a new Senate and the longer-term response of a common-sense movement to reform the federal judiciary.

So, buckle up. The judicial road ahead is full of pot-holes and other political road hazards. We need to do a lot of road repair to get our democracy working.