Friday, March 22, 2019

Crazed Corpulent Commander-in-Chief Feuds with a Corpse

Is Trump the Commander-in-Chief? Check.

Is Trump corpulent? Check.

Is he obsessing over a dead hero? Check.

Is he just plain crazy? Circle the best answer: Yes or No.

New Yorker columnist John Cassidy , I suspect, would circle “Yes”. Let’s read on, shall we, to find out as Cassidy describes Donald Trump’s Unhinged Obsession with “a Man Named John McCain”. During a speech in Ohio, Donald Trump railed against the late Senator McCain, who died of brain cancer.

For the first ten minutes or so, the speech that Donald Trump delivered at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Fort Shawnee, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon, was standard fare. Standing in front of several M1A1 tanks and a huge American flag, Trump told the assembled workers that they should love him because he had kept the plant open when its future had been in doubt. … Etc. Etc. Yada yada.

Then he jumped from tanks to John McCain.

“A lot of people are asking, because they love me, and they ask me about a man named John McCain,” he said. “And if you want, I could tell you about … should I or should I not?” A few people in the crowd, or perhaps in Trump’s entourage, shouted yes, and Trump went on. “So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much—hasn’t been for me.” He flicked his right wrist in a gesture of dismissal. “I’ve really, probably never will, but there are certain reasons for it, and I’ll tell you.”

With that, the forty-fifth President launched into a five-minute disquisition on why he so loathes McCain, who died seven months ago, and whom he has been attacking periodically ever since, including several times in the days before his trip to Ohio. The recent attacks have caused distress to McCain’s family and have irked some senior Republicans. On Wednesday afternoon, just a couple of hours before Trump spoke in Ohio, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tweeted: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

Perhaps McConnell’s tweet bothered Trump, and prompted him to escalate his assault on McCain’s legacy. His comments, however, were detailed enough that they appeared to have been prepared in advance. “Did you hear about the dossier?” he began, referring to the notorious Trump-Russia document put together by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. “It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton, and John McCain got it. What did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the F.B.I. hoping to put me in jeopardy, and that’s not the nicest thing to do.”

The next entry on the rap sheet was McCain’s late-night vote, in the summer of 2017, against a Republican bill targeting the Affordable Care Act. “He said two hours before he was voting to repeal and replace, then he went thumbs down,” Trump said, affecting a tone of disgust. He also claimed that McCain “didn’t get the job done” for military veterans. Finally, Trump turned to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, accusing McCain of pushing George W. Bush to enter conflicts that “have been a disaster for this, our, country.”

When the long wars started, Trump supported them along with McCain and most of the U.S. establishment, of course. The failure to disclose this fact was the least of his offenses on this occasion. Here was the Commander-in-Chief, who dodged the Vietnam draft with the assistance of a doctor who knew his rich father, denigrating and dismissing a former prisoner of war and five-term Republican senator who died from brain cancer. It wasn’t just unseemly. It was kind of demented.

As Trump’s diatribe continued, the members of the crowd, who had been chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” when he took the stage, mostly fell silent. He didn’t take the hint. Instead, he brought up yet another beef with McCain that has been festering somewhere in his fragile psyche, one that he hadn’t mentioned in public before. “I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as President I had to approve,” he said. “I don’t care about this—I didn’t get ‘Thank you,’ ” he said, referring to the elaborate memorial service last summer, to which he wasn’t invited. “That’s O.K. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain… . Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that’s great.”

That last statement was almost certainly not true, and neither was a lot else of what Trump said. A fact-checking piece published by the New York Times on Wednesday night concluded that his description of McCain’s role in handling the Trump-Russia dossier and his claim that veterans groups took his side against McCain were both “misleading.” The article also said that Trump “exaggerated” his role in authorizing McCain’s funeral. That was a gentle way of putting it.

It was Congress that allowed McCain’s body to lie in state at the Capitol, and the Episcopal Church runs the Washington National Cathedral, where the funeral service was held. For his part, Trump didn’t order the flag at the White House to be lowered to half staff until almost forty-eight hours after McCain’s death, and he “stubbornly refused repeated requests from officials as senior as Vice President Mike Pence and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to acknowledge Mr. McCain’s death with a formal and unifying statement,” the Times reported at the time.

It should never, ever be forgotten what a resentful, self-absorbed, petty, and insecure husk of a man is occupying the Oval Office, and it never, ever will be forgotten. As he demonstrated again on Wednesday, Donald Trump won’t allow it.

There’s one more vote being cast in favor of Trump having some mental problem, and that’s from George Conway, husband to Trump advisor KellyAnne Conway. (See my post The pathological products of a preening president.) Conway thinks Trump is afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Cassidy thinks Trump is “kind of demented.” The thing is, none of the three of us are psychiatrists or clinical psychologists so I’ll let Trump’s behavior go as “just plain crazy.” Only through that lens could we make sense of a president of the United States feuding with a corpse.

Finally, Michael Bryan at Blog for Arizona shows us how AZ Sen. Martha McSally Acts Like Trump’s Battered Wife Responding to McCain Attack.

Here’s what McSally tweeted.

**Martha McSally
@SenMcSallyAZ
John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona. Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.
11:13 AM - Mar 20, 2019

Why not call out Trump directly? Compare this example of what other notables have said.

Others who knew McCain, such as Arnold (yes, that one) were much more direct and vocal in their condemnation of Trump’s attack.

“He was just an unbelievable person,” Schwarzenegger said. “So an attack on him is absolutely unacceptable if he’s alive or dead—but even twice as unacceptable since he passed away a few months ago. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to do that. I just think it’s a shame that the president lets himself down to that kind of level. We will be lucky if everyone in Washington followed McCain’s example, because he represented courage.”

That’s how to defend a dead friend and mentor.

But that’s not what McSally did. Why not? The Huffington Post found the likely reason in [Senator Martha McSally Praises John McCain But Doesn’t Rebuke Trump For His Attacks][huff]. McSally, who holds McCain’s former U.S. Senate seat, stopped short of condemning Trump’s behavior directly.

An op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Wednesday suggested that McSally’s decision not to directly condemn Trump is likely because she faces election in 2020 to maintain control of her seat.

“She’s afraid that if she speaks honestly about Trump, he’ll turn on her,” the op-ed accused, while further describing her response to Trump as disappointing. “She’s scared. Sad, but understandable.”

Sad, but understandable? Here’s what I understand. Because of her fear of Donald Trump, Martha McSally has traded off her political career against the interests of state and country.

ACTION ALERT - Senate committee scheduled for hearing on Interior nominee - McSally is on that committee

Here is another instance of Trump’s approach to governance - another instance of X/AntiX. He nominated David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. In brief, “Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.”

Please contact member Sen. Martha McSally and Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that is scheduled for a March 28th hearing. The full membership is appended below.

Contact information
McSally, Martha - (R - AZ)
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
202–224–2235
Contact: www.mcsally.senate.gov/contact_martha

Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)
522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224–6665
Contact: www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

You can cull talking points from the following two opinion pieces.

The Center for Biological Diversity shares a letter from 29 Retirees, With 737 Years of Service, who Oppose Confirmation of Trump’s Interior nominee: Retired Interior Department Employees Urge Senators to Block Bernhardt.

WASHINGTON— Retired employees with a combined 737 years of service at the U.S. Department of the Interior today urged senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin to oppose President Trump’s nominee David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. The senators are chairwoman and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively.

Bernhardt will face the committee in a confirmation hearing on March 28. In their letter the 29 retirees write that Bernhardt, in his current position as the agency’s deputy secretary, “has been at the center of a culture of corruption that has been the Interior Department’s hallmark under the Trump administration.”

“Confirming Bernhardt as Interior secretary would be like dropping a bomb on America’s national parks and imperiled wildlife,” said Chris Nagano, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity who spent 27 years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting endangered species. “He’s already twisted the law so powerful corporations can pollute our environment and suck up water from our rivers for agribusiness. The Senate shouldn’t endorse this guy’s appalling efforts to wreck America’s beautiful public lands.”

The former Interior employees who signed the letter worked at positions as high-ranking as national park superintendent. They spent their careers at the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Office of the Solicitor.

Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.

As a longtime lobbyist for the Westlands Water District in California, he fought hard to block wildlife safeguards. After moving to Interior, he recused himself from working on Westlands issues. But just days after the recusal expired, in the summer of 2018, he began work on a controversial plan to roll back environmental protections and send more water to Central Valley farmers, including those in the Westlands Water District. This plan, if executed, would decimate threatened Delta smelt, Sacramento River salmon runs and the entire Bay Delta ecosystem.

While Bernhardt was Interior’s top lawyer under George W. Bush, he authored policies that sharply limited protections for endangered species. Just last year, with Bernhardt as its deputy secretary, the Interior Department proposed sweeping regulatory changes that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act. The Act is credited with successfully keeping 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, including grizzly bears, California condors and Florida panthers.

Bernhardt oversaw the assault on a previously approved plan to protect tens of millions of acres in the Great Basin that are critical for imperiled sage grouse. The new plan will strip protection from more than 30 million acres of the bird’s sagebrush habitat, while significantly expanding oil and gas drilling and other harmful activities.

One Bernhardt policy precluded species like polar bears from protection against greenhouse gases, the primary threat to their survival. Another of his directives resulted in a rushed environmental review to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

“The American people want an Interior secretary who will stand up for them, not big corporations representing the 1 percent,” said Gail Kobetich, who was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s first endangered species biologists during a 31-year career with the Interior Department. “The Senate should vote against the confirmation of Bernhardt and send a message to Donald Trump that he must protect our public lands, wildlife and endangered species, not exploit and kill them.”

Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) published this opinion piece, Trump’s choice for Interior Secretary is fox at hen house. Here it is in full.

From our deepest canyons to our distinctive rock formations and mountain ranges, Arizonans love their public lands and outdoor spaces. According to the 2019 Conservation in the West poll, nearly 70 percent of Arizona voters want more emphasis on protecting sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands. Only 20 percent preferred that Congress place more emphasis on producing more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available.

That is why the prospect of David Bernhardt – whose Senate confirmation hearing approaches on March 28 – as Secretary of the Interior should be cause for great alarm in the Grand Canyon State.

The record shows that Mr. Bernhardt could not be farther away from the balance Arizonans want, where wildlife protections, clean waterways and appropriate energy development work in concert. His record as a former lobbyist for fossil fuel companies and now a leader at the Interior Department driving policies to expand drilling and strip wildlife protections, reveals so many conflicts of interest that Bernhardt admits he carries around a card to remind him of what they are. Nevertheless, since Bernhardt rejoined the Interior Department in 2017, it has made at least 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt’s former clients.

In Arizona, from 2011 to 2015, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of Rosemont Copper Co. for a proposed open-pit copper mine 30 miles southeast of Tucson. The EPA warns that the mine will pollute surrounding air and water supplies with toxic metals, which would severely impact local economies dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism. The mine has faced more than 11 years of legal battles from understandably concerned environmentalists and tribal nations.

Regionally, in his role as Deputy and now Acting Secretary of Interior, he has among other things taken aim at weakening the Endangered Species Act, reversing protections for the imperiled sage grouse; offered oil and gas leases next to national parks, national monuments, and national historical sites; and played an important role in the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. In his tenure as DOI Solicitor in the Bush administration, he spearheaded the campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Veterans, who often find that the great outdoors is a medicine that helps to heal the after effects of battle, have taken particular notice of the threat posed to the quality of outdoor experiences. In nature, veterans experience a sanctuary, free of stresses and uncertainties, a place with no worries where they can relax. Many returning from military duty to their favorite outdoor places find a release they haven’t known for a long time. It’s often a transformative experience and the first page in a new beginning.

With David Bernhardt defending energy interests for decades, it’s highly unlikely he will suddenly change his views overnight to become equally interested in land conservation and wildlife protection, let alone transformative experiences. The evidence shows he is far too skewed to lead Interior with any kind of balanced decision-making.

Arizonans across generations, faiths and political affiliations make it clear in numerous bipartisan polls they want their precious public lands and outdoor recreation access protected. We remember Interior Secretaries Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt, Arizona voices who genuinely cared about the lands they were charged with administering. With David Bernhardt leading Interior we will be confronted with the opposite: an appalling imbalance of energy development policy over sensible conservation. We ask members of the Senate to carefully examine his record of long-standing energy industry ties and seriously consider whether David Bernhardt is at all capable of fulfilling Interior’s mission: to conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.

Kate Hoit is the California State Director for the Vet Voice Foundation.

Dan Shilling is former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and Arizona resident since 1980.

Here is the membership of the Senate committee scheduled for a hearing on the 28th.

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
http://www.energy.senate.gov/
Total Members: 20

Majority Members (11)
Murkowski, Lisa (AK), Chairman; Barrasso, John (WY); Risch, James E. (ID); Lee, Mike (UT); Daines, Steve (MT); Cassidy, Bill (LA); Gardner, Cory (CO); Hyde-Smith, Cindy (MS); McSally, Martha (AZ); Alexander, Lamar (TN); Hoeven, John (ND)

Minority Members (9)
Manchin, Joe (WV), Ranking Member; Wyden, Ron (OR); Cantwell, Maria (WA); Sanders, Bernard (VT); Stabenow, Debbie (MI); Heinrich, Martin (NM); Hirono, Mazie K. (HI); King, Angus S. (ME); Cortez Masto, Catherine (NV)

Judging success in the age of Trumponomics - an example being Tax Cut Fever

Judd Legum (popular.info) looks at the economy, what Trump promised, and what he did not and cannot deliver. But Trump most likely will pronounce that Failure is the new success.

The only major legislative accomplishment of Trump’s presidency is the tax cut package passed in December 2017. That legislation featured very large cuts for corporations and the wealthy. But Americans were told that it would usher in an age of sustained economic growth – more than 3% each year for a decade or more – that would benefit everyone.

[You might recall that:]… Just before the tax bill became law in 2017, [Trump] predicted runaway growth. “I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 %, ultimately. We are back. We are really going to start to rock,” Trump said.

It’s been just over a year and the Trump administration has quietly acknowledged it was wrong.

The economy grew 2.9% last year – when the impact of the tax cut was at its apex. In a report released this week, the Trump administration now predicts economic growth will decline in 2019 and for years to come. …

The Trump administration’s prediction of growth just shy of 3% in 2019, while short of what was promised, is substantially more optimistic than other predictions. Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economic adviser, says growth will be far lower this year:

Given the large amount of fiscal stimulus in 2018 is unlikely to be repeated and the labor market has less room than it did a year ago, [it] is very likely this is a high water mark for the recent period. Growth in 2019 is tracking around 1% and potential growth is around 1.75%.

Other economists are predicting a recession in 2020.

And even that growth was financed by increased debt, an instance of voodoo economics that is not likely to recur.

Trump promised to balance the budget and pay down the national debt within 8 years. Instead, he’s racked up record deficits. It’s rising deficits that are spurring growth. Those deficits, however, won’t keep going up forever. Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains:

Last year’s growth was spurred in part by a federal deficit increase of $190.5 billion, which amounts to 0.9 % of 2018 GDP. While the deficit is expected to keep growing in coming years, it’s not expected to grow nearly that much on an annual basis. That means less stimulus, and presumably less chance of four-quarter growth cracking 3 % again.

Trump’s advisers have a solution to their projections of slow growth: more tax cuts. …

In other words, the failure of the tax cuts to deliver the promised economic growth is proof that more tax cuts are needed.

It looks like the administration has “got a fever and the only prescription is more tax cuts.”

(For this post Scriber rearranged and shortened some quotes.)

Speaking of fever, one of the smash hits of the late 50’s was Peggy Lee singing Fever. I’ve provided lyrics more suited to our economy under Donald Trump.

Never knew how much Trump loves me
Never knew how much he cares
When he wraps the flag around him
I get a fever that’s so hard to bear
He gives me fever from my tax cut
Fever when he promised more
Tax cuts in the offin’
Fever ever more

Everybody wants more money
That is somethin’ Pres’dents know
Tax cuts aren’t such a new thing
That fever started long ago

Reagan cut my taxes
Bush gave me even more
Trump put us all in debt
All to give us fever
Fever in the mornin’
Fever all through the night
Fever!
What a lovely way to burn

I’ll save Saturday Night Fever for another occasion … and there will be one.

Trump accomplishments - on track to score most advisors indicted

Indictments

Ari Melber (The Beat) reports “It’s common to compare Trump’s legal problems to Nixon’s, but that itself is a low legal bar. More broadly, Trump has now had more advisers indicted earlier in his term than any President in history.”

That’s something that one might trumpet. Or maybe not. If Trump looks at the numbers without reference to their meaning, he could claim success. On the other hand he may want to duck this one because that chart suggests that he is a lousy judge of character.

See my source, the Daily Kos post, This chart of Trump’s presidential ‘accomplishments’ is beautiful. “Glorious, isn’t it? And he’s just getting started! Stay tuned.”

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 1 - The Unconstitutional President

Of the founding documents, none may be more important than the Preamble of the United States Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

You would think that those officials in our government, from the president on down the hierarchy, would behave in such a way as to do those things. Of course, given what we learn each passing day, our president and his courtiers have no intention of honoring their obligation , for example, to promote the general welfare.

In this series of posts, I’ll rely on reporting from Judd Legum at popular.info. In Part 2, Legum exposes the Trump administration’s relation to white nationalism; it’s not just that they are doing little to combat it, they are actively suppressing attempts to prevent attacks by domestic terrorists. In Part 3, Legum chronicles the rise and fall of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau; Trump rewards the payday lenders while making life much more difficult for those living on paycheck-to-paycheck.

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 2 - the threat of white nationalism

In General Welfare Part 2, Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the rise of white nationalism

Violent white nationalists think Trump is a white nationalist.

Fifty-one Muslims were murdered in New Zealand last week by a white nationalist. The suspect scrawled racist slogans on his semi-automatic rifles and streamed the attack live on Facebook.

In a lengthy manifesto, published online just before the attack, the alleged killer touts Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Back at the White House, Trump was asked if he viewed white nationalism as a “rising threat”:

I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s a case. I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing — terrible thing.

Note that Trump not only denies that white nationalism is a growing threat but also casts doubt on whether the attack in New Zealand was even motivated by racial hatred.

At the same event, Trump vetoed a resolution from Congress that would have overturned the “national emergency” Trump declared to seize funds for a border wall. Trump justified the veto by citing the “invasion” of immigrants across the southern border, parroting the rhetoric of white nationalists globally.

The President of the United States is dismissing the threat of white nationalism, using white nationalist rhetoric, and aggressively pursuing policies favored by white nationalists.

Just the facts

First, let’s get our facts straight. Donald Trump says white nationalism is not a growing threat. He’s wrong.

Over the last ten years, according to data analyzed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “73.3% of all domestic extremist-related killings have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, compared to 23.4% perpetrated by terrorists motivated by Salafi-jihadism and 3.2% by left-wing extremism.”

Last year, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the United States and “every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement,” and “[w]hite supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings.” These attacks are on the rise. “The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So what is Trump and his administration doing to ward off these threats? Well, of course he tweets. This one was directed at Fox News.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
….must stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country. The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die! Stay true….
March 17th 2019 21,115 Retweets 79,628 Likes

It could be a coincidence, but “be strong and prosper” is a phrase featured in a text important to white supremacists. The 1683 Battle of Vienna is extremely significant to white nationalists because the victory of Christians over the Ottoman Empire is viewed as a prelude to the current “battle” against Islam. The New Zealand shooter even scrawled “Vienna 1683” over his weaponry and posted the photo on social media

There is a contemporaneous account of the Battle of Vienna, which has been translated into numerous languages. The first line of the text concludes: “[b]e strong and prosper in thy way on behalf of the Christian faith.”

Another thing they are doing is denying the obvious.

Appearing on Fox News, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked whether Trump would deliver a speech condemning white nationalism. “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that,” Mulvaney replied, not answering the question.

“I don’t think anybody can say that the president is anti-Muslim,” Mulvaney added on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Mulvaney’s defensiveness is the result of working for a man who, from the outset of his presidential campaign, has sought to exploit racial grievances against Muslims and others.

In his first speech as a candidate, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists. In a September 15, 2015 townhall in New Hampshire, Trump told a member of the audience that he was looking at ways to “get rid” of Muslims in America.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
TRUMP: Right. We need this question!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When can we get rid of ‘em?
TRUMP: We’re gonna be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying that.

What are those different things?

Defunding counter-extremism

The Trump administration has dismantled the modest efforts by the federal government to counter right-wing extremism. The Obama administration created a small pool of grant money to counter white nationalism and other extremist ideologies. The money went to fund Life After Hate, “one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups” and researchers “helping young people develop media campaigns aimed at preventing their peers from embracing white supremacy.” Trump immediately canceled both grants shortly after taking office.

The Office of Community Partnerships, which administered the grants, saw its budget slashed from $21 million to $3 million. An interagency task force “on Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, that included officials detailed from the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services” was disbanded.

The Trump administration was open in its belief that white supremacists were not a problem. Former Deputy Assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka falsely claimed that in the United States “[t]here has never been a serious attack or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or al Qaeda.”

Many people, citing Oklahoma City and other incidents, pointed out that he was wrong. Gorka was incensed. “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t,” Gorka said on August 10, 2017.

Two days later, a protester was intentionally killed by a motor vehicle at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump later declared that many of the people participating in the violent march were “very fine people.”

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 3 - payday heyday

Goodbye Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Hello payday lenders. It looks very much like pay to play in the land of Trump.

Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the Payday Party.

This week, the payday lenders are gathering at Trump National Doral Miami for the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) annual conference.

They have plenty to celebrate. After years of lobbying and litigation, the Trump administration gutted an Obama-era rule that would have cracked down on the industry’s most abusive practices.

Although Trump’s resort is expensive, it’s the second year in a row the CFSA has selected Doral for its conference. Patronizing the president’s property turned out to be a pretty good investment. The decision to rollback payday lending regulations by Trump’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be worth $7.3 to $7.7 billion to the industry every year. (emphasis added)

That will pay for quite a few rounds of golf — even at Doral where it costs $450 to play 18 holes.

How payday lending works now

In a typical payday loan, a customer is expected to pay the money back in two weeks with his or her next paycheck. Payday lenders charge outrageous fees. For example, a “customer who borrows $500 would typically owe around $575, at an annual percentage rate of 391 percent.”

Obviously, no one with access to a credit card or a home equity line of credit would pay fees that high. It’s a product that preys on people who have no other choice. Every year, around 12 million people take out payday loans.

Payday lenders typically secure repayment by automatically debiting the amount owed from the borrower’s bank account. But that’s where the trouble really starts. Most people who take out payday loans can’t afford to repay them in two weeks and still keep up with their basic expenses. So they take out another payday loan to cover the first loan.

This cycle continues. “Over 60 percent of loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting seven or more loans in a row. Roughly half of all loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting ten or more loans in a row,” the CFPB reported during the Obama administration.

Many borrowers end up paying more in interest and fees than the original amount of the loan.

Some states have stepped into the void and effectively banned these kinds of abusive lending practices. But in the 36 states that haven’t, the payday lending industry is a thriving, multi-billion dollar business.

What the Obama administration wanted to do

The payday lending industry entices people to take out loans they can’t afford to pay back, trapping them in a cycle of high-interest debt. The CFPB under the Obama administration proposed to rein in the industry by making payday lenders verify a borrower’s income and basic expenses. The loan could only proceed if the lender made a “reasonable determination” that the borrower could pay back the loan when was due. (This is a common practice in traditional banking known as “underwriting.”)

[snip]

A 2018 poll showed the payday lending rule was broadly popular. It garnered support from 79% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, 83% of Independents, and 77% of Democrats.

How the Trump administration is shafting paycheck-to-paycheck workers

But then …

Payday lenders, who viewed the proposed Obama regulations as an existential threat, were enthused about the possibilities under a Trump administration. They opened up their wallets. Payday lenders contributed over $1.2 million to Trump’s inauguration and over $1 million to his political committees.

Their investment was handsomely rewarded. The arch enemy of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, went after the agency’s rules.

Things started looking up for payday lenders after Richard Cordray, the director of the CFPB under Obama, resigned in November 2017,. Mick Mulvaney, currently Trump’s Chief of Staff, took over the agency on an interim basis. While in Congress, Mulvaney opposed the creation of the CFPB, calling it a “sick, sad joke,” and received over $65,000 in contributions from payday lenders.

And, under Mulvaney’s “leadership” the CFPB went to war against itself.

The payday lending industry filed suit to block the implementation of the Obama-era rule, which was supposed to take effect this year. In an extraordinary move, after Mulvaney took over, the CFPB joined the lawsuit on the side of the payday lenders, opposing its own rule. Mulvaney argued the rule should be delayed until the lawsuit was fully resolved. This was widely seen as an effort to “delay the restrictions long enough for the bureau’s new leadership to kill them before they take effect.”

In December, the Senate confirmed Kathleen Kraninger as the new CFPB director in a 50 to 49 vote. Kraninger had no experience in consumer protection or financial regulation. She worked with Mulvaney in the Office of Management and Budget, where she focused on the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Kraninger was accused by Democrats during her confirmation of helping implement “a policy by Trump that had separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.” She refused to answer questions about her role.

Her first major act as CFPB director was to gut the Obama-era regulations on the payday loan industry. She eliminated the requirement for lenders to verify borrowers ability to repay and the limitation on the number of consecutive loans.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

U. S. Senator Martha McSally courts Scriber with 'Null'

Certificate
Certificate of appreciation
received from Sen. Martha McSally

Yesterday I received this certificate in the mail. Note that it was addressed to “William Maki Null”. The fine print identifies me as “a patriotic American and Republican leader.” Come on. Stop snickering. It gets better. The certificate fingers me as “serving as a committed and valued member of McSally for Senate …”

That fancy certificate was accompanied by a “Delivery Confirmation Receipt.” It repeated my name “William Maki Null” and doubled down with the first address line being “Null”. It then begs for a “most generous gift” with amounts listed ranging from $35 to $2,800 and a “Best Gift” left blank. My signature was again “William Maki Null.” It ended with “Make checks payable to McSally for Senate, Inc.”

Where to start? “Null” refers to missing data cells in databases. So some of my information, apparently, was not in whatever database the McSally staff was using. (But how did they get me in the first place?) Printing a document with the missing cells flagged as “Null” is a serious amateurish newbie error. And what’s with "McSally for Senate, Inc.? Since when is a candidate committee a corporation? Does the senator have articles of incorporation on file?

Back at the beginning of February I posted how McSally runs afoul of campaign finance laws - again. At the time, I thought her problems with campaign finance laws might have been intentional attempts to evade such laws by accepting excess contributions. Now, given the mailing I received yesterday, I am more convinced that all McSally’s legal troubles are attributable to rank incompetence and carelessness. Null? Inc? And this was sent to her constituents?

Here’s what I will send back to McSally. Best gift? Null. Confirmation receipt? Null. My signature? Null. Credit card number? Nulll. Name as it appears on card? Null.

This performance is a clear signal why she does not deserve to be in the U. S. Senate - or any other government post. Vote for McSally? Null. Never.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The statistical scoop on the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

I know that many of you are intensely interested in the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament. So here’s the 538 Guide To The 2019 NCAA Women’s Tournament by Jenn Hatfield who tells you about The favorites, the Cinderellas and the teams to avoid when filling out your bracket.

You can thank me for this later.

Biden-Abrams in 2020, Republicans now a cult, and Proposed Rosemont Mine.

In this post from the Daily Star opinion, March 19th, 2019: Biden-Abrams in 2020, Republicans now a cult, and Proposed Rosemont Mine.

Dahleen Glanton: One could dream for a dream presidential ticket: Biden-Abrams in 2020.

He is a charismatic, experienced statesman with a knack for mixing serious politics with the perfect amount of humor.

She is relatively new to the national scene, but in the Republican-dominated state of Georgia, she has firmly established herself as a Democrat to be reckoned with.

He is an old-school moderate, a Washington insider, entrenched in the traditional values of the late 20th century Democratic Party. She is a symbol of the party’s future — a diverse, progressive wing that is forcing Democrats to move in a fresh direction.

He is a 76-year-old white male, a lifelong politician and former vice president with an unmatched political resume. She is a 45-year-old African-American who recently came very close to becoming the nation’s first black female governor.

Without a doubt, they would make a stunning political couple. And last week, they met for lunch.

There once was a time that Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams might have seemed an unlikely pair to be at the helm of a presidential ticket. But in the era of Donald Trump, the two of them together would comprise a dream ticket for the Democrats in 2020.

Of course, we don’t know what they talked about over lunch. But for the purpose of this column, let’s assume that Biden asked Abrams about being his running mate should he win the party’s nomination.

Democrats are anxiously awaiting the former vice president’s decision as to whether he will run for president this time. Abrams, a former Georgia state House minority leader , also is weighing her options.

Some might argue that she should be the one heading the ticket. Biden has had two unsuccessful runs at the presidency, and he is getting up in age. The newly appointed darling of the Democratic Party, Abrams is seeing lots of opportunities dangled in her face — a U.S. Senate seat or perhaps her own presidential bid.

An Abrams presidency likely would be an insurmountable long shot. Biden would have to be at the top of the ticket. As broad-minded as Americans like to think we are, we have yet to prove that we can elect a woman as president. So it isn’t really a stretch to think that the next U.S. president probably will not be an African-American female.

Some might argue that she should be the one heading the ticket. Biden has had two unsuccessful runs at the presidency, and he is getting up in age. The newly appointed darling of the Democratic Party, Abrams is seeing lots of opportunities dangled in her face — a U.S. Senate seat or perhaps her own presidential bid.

An Abrams presidency likely would be an insurmountable long shot. Biden would have to be at the top of the ticket. As broad-minded as Americans like to think we are, we have yet to prove that we can elect a woman as president. So it isn’t really a stretch to think that the next U.S. president probably will not be an African-American female.

In order to unseat Trump next year, Democrats will need someone who not only Democrats feel comfortable with, but also independents and Republicans who are on the hunt for somebody other than Trump.

The safest bet would be an older white man with a proven track record. Like it or not, that’s the type of leader many Americans trust the most.

There are many excellent qualities about a Biden-Abrams ticket. Their contrasting ideologies would give each faction of the party a voice. It could lead to a much-needed discussion about the direction of the party and how to best address the needs of the nation’s changing demographics. This is a conversation that America is in dire need of, and it will not happen under Republicans.

But more than that, choosing a white man and a black woman would give Americans a chance to make amends for the horrible mistake of electing Trump.

Contrary to how America has looked the last few years, it would paint us, in the eyes of the world, as a racially progressive nation after all. It would send a message that, while we have some serious flaws, Americans — for the most part — are tolerant people. And it would reaffirm our belief that inclusiveness is the only way to build a strong nation.

Republicans now a cult

Again we see Republicans violating their oaths of office to support and defend the constitution in order to support the lying President who leads them. Its clear the Republican party is now more a cult than a political party as we see in Arizona with the Chair sending out emails that are almost fascist in nature. Lying is now endemic with Republicans who cant seem to tell Social Security and Medicare from Communism. Hype is one thing but outright lying has now become a habit the Republican party just can’t resist. We all benefit from social endeavors like Hoover dam. Salt river project, CAP which we get water out of daily and friends that is all part of a social fabric welding America together. Think about it: weigh no Medicare or Social Security and how that would affect us all.

Donald Shelton
Northwest side

Proposed Rosemont Mine

My kids have grown up camping in the Santa Rita’s and Cienega Valley southeast of Tucson, climbing trees, playing in the creeks, and running through the grasses trying to spot prairie dogs. For my Mom’s 70th birthday last year, my brother and his wife came in from San Diego and we spent the day hiking in Patagonia and picnicking at the Sonoita vineyards. The drive along the incredibly scenic highway to Sonoita takes less than an hour from downtown Tucson, yet it is worlds away. This is a place so naturally special that it’s visited by jaguars and contains one of the few creeks in Arizona designated by the State as an Outstanding Water. Don’t be fooled. The proposed Rosemont Mine is not about copper, it’s about greed. There are places in Southern Arizona suitable for copper mines, and places not. Don’t give up yet.

Nicole Fyffe
West side

The pathological products of a preening president

Over the weekend, Donald Trump, president of the United States and supposed leader of the free world, went on a nonstop binge of unhinged tweets leading to speculations about his declining mental health. For example:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
What the Democrats have done in trying to steal a Presidential Election, first at the “ballot box” and then, after that failed, with the “Insurance Policy,” is the biggest Scandal in the history of our Country!
111K 4:16 PM - Mar 17, 2019

You see? What the hell is that about? I defy you to make sense of it.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin could not in her observations that Trump is getting worse. And Republicans’ rationalizations are getting weaker.

Whether meant seriously or not, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s alleged consideration of the 25th Amendment seems, in retrospect, not to have been irrational at all. Since President Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as FBI director and the appointment of a special counsel, Trump’s mental and emotional health has seemed to fray. The pace of lies and nonsensical accusations, the resort to conspiracy theories and refusal to conduct himself like an adult (let alone the president) often pick up in the wake of bad news from the special counsel and widespread criticism of the president’s unhinged behavior. So it was this weekend following his refusal to directly condemn white nationalism in the wake of the New Zealand massacre and the defection of 12 Senate Republicans last week on the resolution repealing the emergency declaration.

But Trump was not the only entity making little to no sense. The Grand Old Party Party of Trump failed, miserably, cowardly, to stand up to his ranting falsifications. Trump attacked a deceased national hero and the GOP leaders did nothing, nada, in response.

Trump attacked deceased senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he falsely accused of leaking the Steele dossier and who he falsely said finished “last in his class" at Annapolis. (He finished fifth from last. Since Trump’s attorney went around allegedly threatening schools Trump attended, we have no way of knowing how Trump performed in school.) Anti-Trump activist Sarah Longwell observed that the worst part of this was “the way so many Republicans just let them slide or even cheer them. John McCain was tortured in a prison camp for five years in service to this country. The least his party could do is defend him from Trump’s dishonorable smears.” That’s beyond the moral capacity of nearly all elected Republicans these days.

[In a message to those Republicans,] NeverTrump leader and Bulwark editor at large Bill Kristol tweeted:

Bill “Slightly Dangerous” Kristol
@BillKristol
To Republicans who’ve been inclined to acquiesce in a Trump re-nomination in 2020: Read his tweets this morning. Think seriously about his mental condition and psychological state. Then tell me you’re fine with him as president of the United States for an additional four years.
40.8K 6:56 AM - Mar 17, 2019

… Trump’s manic tweeting and wild accusations have George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, convinced that “his condition is getting worse.”

Here’s some history on George Conway’s deteriorating support for Trump and because of Trump’s deteriorating condition from John Harwood at CNBC, George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, has an urgent warning about the president’s mental health.

At first, it looked like a package deal: Kellyanne Conway would join President Donald Trump’s White House staff, her husband, George, the new administration’s Justice Department.

The former happened, but the latter did not. And now, in a Washington spectacle unseen since the wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general sounded alarms about Watergate, the spouse of a top presidential advisor is issuing urgent public warnings about Trump’s mental health.

… Conway publicly mused about the fate of a business executive behaving similarly.

“What if a CEO routinely made false and misleading statements about himself, the company, and results, and public attacked business partners, company ‘divisions’ (w/scare quotes!), employees, and analysts, and kowtowed to a dangerous competitor?” Conway tweeted.

Kellyanne Conway bristles at questions about her husband’s words as unrelated to her White House work. Trump accuses George Conway of seeking attention.

Washington cynics dismiss his stance for a different reason. While she retains Trump’s favor through unyielding public advocacy, they reason, he courts the president’s foes with an eye toward life after the administration.

But recent days make it more difficult to ignore the substance of what Conway says about the most powerful man in the world. Last week, Conway questioned Trump’s mental fitness while excoriating him for false claims about federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

“Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life?” Conway tweeted. “Whether or not impeachment is in order, a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man’s condition of mind.”

“His condition is getting worse,” Conway tweeted.

Monday he got more specific. Conway circulated medical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

“Don’t assume that the things he says and does are part of a rational plan or strategy, because they seldom are,” Conway tweeted. “Consider them as a product of his pathologies, and they make perfect sense.”

“All Americans should be thinking seriously now about Trump’s mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress – and the Vice President and Cabinet,” Conway tweeted.

Returning to Jennifer Rubin for concluding observations …

Unfortunately, most Republicans are fine with Trump, or say they are. They have tax cuts and some judges, so what do they care if the presidency is sullied, racial anger builds, the United States’ reputation in the world is damaged, decency and objective truth are obliterated, and none of our real challenges (e.g. income inequality, climate change) are addressed? Republicans will still tell you that they are victims of liberal elites. In their minds, Trump is just evening the score on their behalf.

There is no moral or intellectual reason that will persuade them. There is no respectful conversation to be had with people who argue in bad faith. The only solution is to defeat Trump and his party so thoroughly that Trumpism is permanently discredited. A party that continues to defend this president is simply beyond redemption.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sick alert - Anti-abortion activist kept spreadsheet on immigrant girls' reproductive functions

Back in November, the Washington Examiner reported on some bureaucratic shuffling in Scott Lloyd out at Office of Refugee Resettlement, heads to new role. So why am I now troubling you with this piece of Trumpish trivia? Read on.

Scott Lloyd, the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who came under scrutiny for his anti-abortion actions in his role, will be changing jobs within the federal government.

Lloyd will be heading to the Department of Health Human Services’ Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, where he will be senior adviser. The development, first reported in the Daily Caller, was confirmed by HHS press secretary Evelyn Stauffer.

“While I have valued my time at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, I am excited to take on this new challenge,” Lloyd said in a statement, adding that he was “proud” of what his former agency had accomplished.

And what, exactly did he accomplish?

In his role at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Lloyd blocked several teens who were in government custody and in the country illegally from getting abortions. His actions drew outcry from Democratic members of Congress and triggered numerous lawsuits. …

It gets worse.

On Friday Rachel Maddow reported how the Trump admin tracked individual migrant girls’ pregnancies.

Rachel Maddow reports exclusively on details of a newly obtained spreadsheet kept by the Trump administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, led by anti-abortion activist Scott Lloyd, tracking the pregnancies of unaccompanied minor girls. Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project senior staff attorney, joins to discuss details of the case.

Go watch Rachel’s report on this one. Scriber thinks this guy, Lloyd, is one sick dude.

So he landed in the “Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.” I didn’t know that HHS had become churchified.

Moms for Measles and other Gnus on this Mournday Mourning.

Tillis
“Principled Conservative” implies existence of
UNprincipled conservatives.

Here are the dreams (see below), themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Illustrated Gnus (aka cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

  • Faced with congressional oversight and possible subpoenas, Trump orders concertina wire around Trump Tower.
  • A dozen so-called Constitutional Conservatives (aka Republican senators) joined Dems in condemning Trump’s national emergency. But that’s a pile of squishy stuff. They are on board with the wall. They just didn’t like the cosmetics of how Trump was/is doing it.
  • Only Sarah Suckabee Handers could say that “God wanted Trump to be president” with a straight face.
  • GOP wants to protect innocent babies … but not if they are non-white.
  • The American dream scheme: forget studying - parents’ money will get you into an elite university.
  • College costs have gotten way too expensive, what with bribes, kickbacks, hush money, payoffs, …
  • “Anti-vaxxer” has gotten a bad rap in the liberal media. How about, instead, “Moms for Measles.”
  • Trump: “Thank you Tim Apple.” Cook: “No problem Donald Collusion.”
  • Oh, about that concertina wire? Trump didn’t do that, at least not yet. But, for a wee moment, you did think it plausible, right?

Trump and the NZ shooter are on the same white supremacist page

The Daily Beast reports on Erin Burnett’s conclusion that Trump’s ‘Invasion’ Talk in Aftermath of New Zealand Massacre is ‘Just White Supremacy’. The CNN host said Trump went past dog-whistling to racists when he echoed a phrase from the New Zealand shooter’s manifesto on Friday. (h/t AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona)

Hours after President Trump warned about an “invasion” of immigrants at the same time that he said white nationalism isn’t really a rising threat in response to a question about the white terror attack in New Zealand, CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked whether the president was foregoing “dog whistles” for open “white supremacy.”

At a White House signing event commemorating Trump’s veto of Congress’ resolution nixing his national emergency declaration, the president briefly offered condolences over the massacre of Muslims at their place of worship, only to quickly follow that up by raging against immigrants and painting them as dangerous criminals.

Appearing on Erin Burnett OutFront Friday, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), one of the few Muslims in Congress, expressed disappointment that Trump appears to be signaling to far-right extremists and ideologues in “his base” that he’s with them.

“The suspect, of course, cited [Trump] as, you know, a symbol—a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” Burnett noted, referencing the New Zealand shooter’s online manifesto.

The CNN host then noted “this word echo of ‘invade’” by the president, noting that the shooter used it repeatedly when describing immigrants.

“The President of the United States obviously happened to, today, talk about his wall and in a very, very eerie and unfortunately word echo used the exact same word to talk about brown people,” Burnett said.

“He knows it’s a dog whistle,” she said later in the program. “So then it’s not a dog whistle. That’s just white supremacy, isn’t it?”

A reminder that refugees enrich this nation.

There is much to distress us all in the Mournday Mourning Madness triggered by the Mad Hate-er and his Malicious Minions. Let me try to make up for that with a story that should lift your spirits.

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tells us why This 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Will Make You Smile. He concludes “Overcoming life’s basic truth: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.” (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Sometimes talent and opportunity intersect.

In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming.

He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship.

Much of the news of the last week has focused on wealthy families buying access to great universities, either illegally through bribes or legally through donations. There is no question that America is a tilted playing field that gives wealthy children huge advantages.

So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.

What’s even more extraordinary is that Tani, as he is known, learned chess only a bit more than a year ago. His play has skyrocketed month by month, and he now has seven trophies by his bed in the homeless shelter.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told me.

Tani’s family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.

So Tani, his parents and his older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor helped steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani’s class how to play.

[snip]

Russell Makofsky, who oversees the P.S. 116 chess program, waived the fees, and a year ago the boy took part in his first tournament with the lowest rating of any participant, 105.

His rating is now 1587 and rising fast. (By comparison, the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen, stands at 2845.)

Tani has an aggressive style of play, and in the state tournament the coaches, watching from the sidelines, were shocked when he sacrificed a bishop for a lowly pawn. Alarmed, they fed the move into a computer and it agreed with Tani, recognizing that the gambit would improve his position several moves later.

[snip]

Makofsky shook his head wonderingly. “One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources,” he said. “I’ve never seen it.”

Tani is a reminder that refugees enrich this nation — and that talent is universal, even if opportunity is not. Back in Nigeria, his parents say, his brilliance at chess would never have had an outlet.

“The U.S. is a dream country,” his dad told me. “Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.”

P. S.

There’s more to the story.

Tani’s mom can’t play chess but takes him every Saturday to a three-hour free practice session in Harlem, and she attends his tournaments. His dad lets Tani use his laptop each evening to practice. And although religion is extremely important to the family, the parents let Tani miss church when necessary to attend a tournament.

“Tani is rich beyond measure,” in the strength, love and support of his family, Makofsky told me.

Tani’s dad has two jobs: He rents a car that he uses to drive for Uber, and he has also become a licensed real estate salesman. Tani’s mom has passed a course to become a home health aide. Meeting them, it’s easy to see where Tani’s scrappy diligence came from.

… the family’s asylum request is dragging on, with the next hearing scheduled for August.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

New Zealand shooter fingers a 'symbol of white identity and common purpose'

And who might that symbol be? Read on …

New Zealand has a reputation—unmatched beauty, adventurous, filled with eclectic animals, people concerned about the environment, and lots of sheep—but despite its being on the far side of the world from the hotbeds of white nationalism, events on Friday morning showed that no nation is safe from the destructive power of murderous white radicals.

That’s how Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff led off with his post in the Daily Kos, New Zealand shooter called Donald Trump ‘a symbol of white identity’ as he murdered 49 people.

At least 49 people have died in an attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch. Dozens more were wounded or otherwise injured. And there’s absolutely no doubt about the cause of this sickening event. Because one of the killers livestreamed it to Facebook, while delivering a white-power manifesto about his hatred for “invaders.” This does not appear to be the act of a “lone gunman,” but a coordinated, planned slaughter staged to catch worshipers at their morning prayers. In addition to the alleged gunman, police have detained at least two others, and reports indicate that one of them was found with a number of explosive devices. Even the awful total so far may not have been close to what was intended in this racist attack.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has issued an official response, saying, “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch.” And, of course, she provided New Zealanders with the same assistance that has so often been extended to American victims in similar mass-murders: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” What’s not in Sander’s statement is any hint about why this happened. Nothing about the hate for Muslims that she, her party, and especially her boss have carefully nurtured. Nothing about the global spread of white nationalism that has seen a rise of hate crimes across America and Europe.

This morning, Donald Trump finally followed up with a tweet providing “My warmest sympathy and best wishes,” because apparently someone told him not to say thoughts and prayers. But what was the tweet that Trump delivered just before that one? While the shooting was underway, Trump was tweeting out a link to the nationalist outlet Breitbart. Before that was a tweet about how he was looking forward to vetoing the repeal of his emergency declaration so he could stop “Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking” from flowing into the United States. In other words … keep out the invaders.

Which is no coincidence. As part of his rant, the livestreaming shooter called Donald Trump a “symbol of white identity and common purpose."

John Cassidy (New Yorker) calls for action: It’s Time to Confront the Threat of Right-Wing Terrorism. Here is some of his column.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the twenty-eight-year-old Australian who allegedly carried out a racially motivated gun massacre, in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, appeared in court on Saturday morning and was charged with one count of murder. According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, Tarrant “appeared in white prison clothing, with manacled hands, and barefoot. He smirked when media photographed him in the dock, flanked by two police officers.” He didn’t enter a plea and was remanded in custody. The court hearing, at the Christchurch district court, was closed to the public, but the judge allowed some members of the media to report on the proceedings.

As they were taking place, surgeons were still operating on some of the victims of the shootings, which occurred at two mosques, and the confirmed death toll rose to forty-nine. More horrifying eyewitness accounts emerged, and the whole of New Zealand, a remote island nation of about 4.9 million people that had only thirty-five murders in all of 2017, was in a state of deep shock. …

Somewhere along the line, Tarrant got radicalized and became a hateful racist who was consumed by alt-right conspiracy theories and historical nonsense. The manifesto he posted online showed that he was consumed with Australia’s European heritage …

So much for Donald Trump’s absurd response, on Friday, when he was asked whether he thought that white nationalism was a rising threat around the world. “I don’t really,” Trump said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.” Of course, Trump had good reason to try to minimize the threat from the extreme right. In his manifesto, Tarrant praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” while also criticizing his leadership skills. “As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no,” Tarrant wrote.

What can we do about all this? In the face of all the hatred, the violence, and the enabling digital technology, it is easy to feel helpless. But some things can be done. To begin with, as Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argued in a recent analysis, politicians from all parties, the President included, need to openly acknowledge the scale of the threat represented by right-wing terrorism, and to commit to tackling it in a number of different ways. One obvious step is to beef up the law-enforcement resources devoted to tracking right-wing extremism and investigating possible plots to carry out threats. In addition, the Trump Administration “needs to understand how overheated rhetoric—including the president’s own words—can lead to violence,” Clark wrote.

In addition, the Republican Party must face up to the responsibility it bears for refusing to accept that lax gun laws are another enabling factor for domestic terrorists of all ideological stripes. When Australia tightened its gun laws some years ago, following a gun massacre, New Zealand chose not to follow suit. That was a terrible error. On Saturday, New Zealand’s Attorney General, David Parker, said that the government would now ban semi-automatic weapons of the type that were used in Friday’s attack.

Parker also pointed a finger at the U.S. technology giants, saying, “How can it be right for this atrocity to be filmed by the murderer using a go-pro and live-streamed across the world by social media companies? How can that be right? Who should be held accountable for that?” At the very least, the big tech enterprises—such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter—must redouble their efforts to monitor hate speech on their platforms, take it down rapidly, and ban the people and groups who are spreading it. But, at this stage, it is too dangerous to leave this task to the companies, which, ultimately, are motivated by the desire to maximize traffic on their platforms. It is time for some collective action, also.

All that would be a start.

In this blog I’ve lamented America’s diminished global influence. No longer. The New Zealand shooter’s embrace of President Trump as a symbol of white nationalism proves that words uttered at home have fatal effect abroad.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

UPDATE - Getting the Last Word and setting Democratic priorities

I’ve said it before in this blog: the big story of the 2o16 election is not about Trump - it’s about his followers.

If, as Nancy Pelosi said, Trump is not worth it, then what is?

Mary Sanchez offers advice in the Daily Star: To win in 2020, Dems must take on a party, not a man. In other words, Dems should be about battling undemocratic ideas and improving lives.

"Just not worth it” is a call for restraint. Whether her more vocal fellow congressional Democrats will heed the advice remains to be seen.

By week’s end, they’d been tempted, baited even more with news that cast the president in the shade, wounded, a man on the ropes.

Most of us have heard similar advice from a friend when we’ve been poised to act in ways that might double the hurt later. A failed effort to drive Trump from office by impeachment, rather than at the ballot box, certainly qualifies.

Many took Pelosi’s statement as pragmatic wisdom. And it is. But what she didn’t articulate is the greater challenge.

Trump is merely a manifestation of deep fragmentations within the U.S. that existed long before he glided down the staircase at Trump tower and entered the presidential race. He didn’t manufacture our divisions; he mined them for votes, surprising even himself.

The Democrats’ goal should not be defeating one man, no matter how repulsive or dangerous. It should be to resolve the economic concerns, the racial divide and outright fears of so many Americans.

That’s the national angst that spawned the Trump presidency in the first place. Finding a way to soothe and dissipate it is their likeliest path to victory in 2020.

Check out Sanchez’s column for more depth of her analysis.

Getting the Last Word - Trump fans imaginary flames over transfer of presidential power

Of course he does. At the drop of a hat. Or at the drop of opinion voiced by his ex-fixer. Remember that Trump is a guy who holds nothing sacred other than himself. It is in his self-interest, he believes, to plant fear and anger amongst his base. We must not help him do that.

Here is what triggered this post. Michael Cohen, in his testimony before Congress, Cohen said in his closing statement that he fears for the future of the country’s democracy if Trump loses re-election.

“Indeed, given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said. “This is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

Lawrence O’Donnell in his program The Last Word, on March 14th, took issue with that prediction.

O’DONNELL: And then the president gave an interview yesterday in which he said something that sounded to many people like a threat if he lost the election or was impeached.

And I don’t want to fan the flames of panic about this, so I’m very reluctant to discuss, but at the end of this hour, I’ll tell you what I think will happen in the next presidential transition of power.

[big snip]

Here is the transcript from the closing “Last Word” (block quoting suppressed.)

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

… today Donald Trump said what might be the most insulting thing ever said about Trump voters, that they are violent criminals poised to commit treason. He didn`t say it in exactly those words. So when we come back after this break, you be the judge of what Donald Trump meant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: When listening to Donald Trump, you must never forget that he was the man who said Mexico will pay for the wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So much of what Donald Trump says is a variation on that, a complete fantasy or an outright lie that he knows is untrue. And I believe that’s what we’re dealing with in a Breitbart interview yesterday where the president said something that many people have now interpreted as threatening a coup, a foreshadowing that he will not leave office if he is impeached or defeated in his re-election campaign.

The president said, “I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people. But they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad.” Now, I don’t actually believe that the president was threatening a coup or an armed insurrection of some kind in support of Trump as president for life. I believe that was gibberish from the man who said Mexico will pay for the wall. I think the full context of his comments actually clarified that.

He went on to say, “The left plays it cuter and tougher like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress.” So he’s actually saying Nancy Pelosi is tougher than Bikers for Trump which is probably true. Bikers actually aren’t what they used to be.

You walk into a Harley-Davidson dealer tomorrow and you`re looking at prices that are the cost of a car, up to $45,000. And Harley stopped being tough guy transportation decades ago. There’s a lot of dentists out there now on their Harleys every weekend. So let’s all relax about Bikers for Trump.

And let’s relax about the 750,000 police officers in America who Donald Trump wrongly believes all support him. They have never un-holstered their guns because of a presidential election result and they never will.

They have families. They have children. They have futures. They have comfortable retirement benefits coming to them if they put in enough years of service.

In other words, they’re regular Americans with a reliable paycheck and their lives are pretty good. And even if the majority of them support Trump that leaves at least 300,000 cops in America who do not support Donald Trump. American police officers are not going to start shooting at each other over Donald Trump.

And let’s relax about the 1.2 million people in the American military. They’re not going to suddenly start rolling tanks down Pennsylvania Avenue because of an election result. They are professional. They are dutiful. They are not going to make war on Americans or each other for Donald Trump.

Remember, even if the majority of the military support Trump, that leaves hundreds of thousands of military personnel who don’t support Donald Trump. It feels ridiculous to even have to say any of this out loud. But Donald Trump has pushed the country to this place, to this level of suspicion about what he wants.

And I’m sure Donald Trump would like to have the police and the military, and Bikers for Trump take up arms if he loses an election but they won’t.

They won’t because they are better people than Donald Trump wants them to be.

They are not violent criminals, ready to commit treason and murder for Donald Trump. There are not millions of people in America ready to grab their guns and go to war against Americans for Donald Trump. President Trump’s rhetoric has given aid and comfort to hateful murderers in this country.

On August 12th, 2017, a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of opponents of white supremacists and deliberately murdered Heather Higher. That was soul-crushing for the country to witness, but it was not contagious. None of the other Trump supporting white supremacists who shared the feelings of that murderous driver murdered anyone else in Charlottesville.

On October 27, 2018, a heavily armed anti-Semite who believes Donald Trump’s rhetoric about an invasion on our southern border and specifically blamed Jews for the invasion Donald Trump said was taking over this country entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric helped drive those murders. So he is already guilty of inciting murderous violence in America. And we will probably see more of that kind of violence in the age of Trump. Another Synagogue, another group of protesters against white supremacy, a reporter Donald Trump calls an enemy of the people, we don’t know.

But that, that is worth worrying about. Not the next presidential transition of power. Let’s not help Donald Trump fan his imaginary flames.

END TRANSCRIPT

So, if you read about or hear about fears of a civil war, let Lawrence’s last words put you at ease. And recall the words of Nancy Pelosi about Trump: “He’s just not worth it.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Senate votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration, but our Arizona Senators were split.

12 Republican Senators like Trump’s wall - they just don’t like using his national emergency declaration to build it. Here are some details of the Senate vote.

Yesterday the U. S. Senate voted on a measure “Overturning President Trump’s emergency declaration for border wall funding.” Twelve Republican joined Democrats in voting for it thus bucking the president. Here’s how our two senators voted.

March 14
Overturning President Trump’s emergency declaration for border wall funding (59–41)
Trump: Oppose Sinema:Yes McSally:No

The same split occurred in their votes a day earlier for “Ending U.S. military assistance to Saudi-led forces in the war in Yemen.”

March 13
Ending U.S. military assistance to Saudi-led forces in the war in Yemen (54–46)
Trump: Oppose Sinema:Yes McSally:No

Tim Steller, columnist for the Daily Star explained why McSally voted the way she did. The short of it is that she’s sucking up to Trump - again.

President Trump often puts Sen. Martha McSally, the Tucson Republican, in awkward positions.

Whatever Trump does, supporting him helps ensure that McSally will win a GOP primary, or at least ensure that no Republican challenges her.

But when she supports his actions, she also makes herself vulnerable in the general election to the (now well-grounded) accusations that she’s become too chummy with a president she used to question.

McSally waited till the last minute this week before announcing a decision on whether she’d support the president’s declaration of a national emergency to build more barriers on the Mexican border.

In the end, predictably, she backed the president by voting against a measure overturning his emergency declaration. Twelve Republicans voted for the measure and against Trump’s declaration, making it a 59–41 vote that the president will probably veto.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat from Phoenix, also announced at the last minute how she would vote: against the president’s emergency declaration, on the grounds that Congress had made a spending decision that the declaration undermined. She also disputed the assurances that McSally based her decision on.

I suspect that McSally was looking for a way to vote “no” Thursday. She’s long voted as a border-security hawk, and voting against Trump on this issue would practically invite a primary challenge. She found a way — by ensuring that no military construction projects in Arizona would lose their funding in order to put an extra $3.6 billion toward border-barrier construction, the purpose of the declaration.

[Here is what Steller considers to be] the most problematic part of McSally’s vote. She was one of 83 senators who voted “yes” on the spending bill that ended the threat of a second government shutdown on Feb. 14.

That bill did what Congress is supposed to do —it struck a compromise between the opposing parties on a key issue of the day, putting an additional $1.4 billion toward border barriers, rather than the extra $5.7 billion the president had wanted.

I don’t see how a member of Congress who voted for this compromise, as the vast majority did, can then go on to vote for a presidential declaration that overrides their compromise, even after receiving slippery promises about military funding.

Sure. She is banking on Trump in 2020 and almost everything she does is a bet that Trump will win that one.

Or so I think. Her voting record is 95.3% with Trump and that puts her at the third most Trumpian senator according to 538’s Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump.

But about those 12 Republicans who broke ranks? The Daily Star reports on why the 12 GOP senators join Dems to block Trump border declaration.

Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania admitted: “I support what the president is trying to do. I don’t support the way the president is going about it, and to me that’s an important distinction.”

Similar sentiments were voiced by Senators Paul, Portman, Rubio, and Wicker. That’s a clear signal that when it comes down to it, these guys, the enablers, are just peachy with Trump’s wall. I suspect the same is true for the other eight. So, don’t be surprised when (1) Trump vetoes the measure overturning his emergency declaration, and (2) the Senate fails to override - if it even gets the opportunity by a floor vote.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bribing colleges might help students learn math

Here’s a short report from 538’s Significant Digits email.

761 admissions
The major rich-people-cheat-to-get-their-kids-into-college scandal investigated by the FBI continues to unfold. William Rick Singer, a reported ringleader of the scam who pleaded guilty this week, said he facilitated 761 “side doors” to admission at colleges such as Yale University, Stanford University and Georgetown University by bribing administrators or helping students cheat on standardized tests. [NBC News]

And here’s more.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Betsy DeVos Suggests That Bribing Colleges Helps Students Learn Math.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Offering an upbeat assessment of the headline-grabbing college-admissions scandal, Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that bribing colleges gave students “a really neat opportunity” to learn math.

The Secretary of Education suggested that, rather than keeping children in the dark about the bribes that enable their college acceptances, “Parents should sit around the kitchen table with their kids and work on some fun math problems together.”

“Let’s say it’ll cost Amber seventy-five thousand dollars to get into Stanford, and it’ll cost her twin brother Dylan seventy-five thousand to get into Georgetown,” she said. “How much money total will their parents have to wire?”

“Or let’s say Jenna has a 470 verbal score, but she needs a 730 to get into Yale,” DeVos said. “How much will she have to pay to get her score changed?”

DeVos said that, as regrettable as the criminal charges against the parents in the bribery scandal were, the arrests themselves provided a teachable moment. “Lori Loughlin posted a million dollars in bail, and Felicity Huffman posted two hundred fifty thousand,” she said. “How much bail did Lori and Felicity post?”

There’s nothing like a good laugh now and then to lighten the burdens of the day. - Yen Lo in the original Manchurian Candidate.

Our Culture of Corruption - When it comes to college admissions, money talks.

Judd Legum reviews the nationwide conspiracy of cheating and bribery in The Price of Admission.

The Department of Justice arrested 33 wealthy parents on Tuesday for allegedly participating “in a nationwide conspiracy that facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite universities as purported athletic recruits.”

Among those implicated in the scheme were actors Lori Loughlin, known for her role as Aunt Becky on Full House, and Felicity Huffman, known for her role on Desperate Housewives. 13 coaches and test administrators were also arrested.

The alleged mastermind is William “Rick” Singer, who operated the Edge College & Career Network LLC, known as “The Key.” Singer was charged with “racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.”

Here are a couple of examples.

The coxswain scheme

Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, wanted their oldest daughter, Isabella, to attend USC. According to an FBI affidavit, in July 2016, Singer advised them that Isabella’s academic qualifications were “at or below” the “low end” for students admitted to USC.

But Singer had a plan. He would facilitate Isabella’s admission as a coxswain for the crew team. Athletes are given preference in the admission process so that teams can fill out their rosters. Isabella didn’t actually participate in crew, but that didn’t matter. Giannulli sent Singer a picture of Isabella on a rowing machine and a $50,000 check to the Associate Athletic Director at USC. By November, Isabella was provisionally admitted to USC as a member of the crew team.

After Isabella was officially admitted to USC in March, Giannulli sent $200,000 to Key Worldwide, a foundation controlled by Singer.

How Jared got into Harvard

How did Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, get into Harvard? His father, Charles Kushner, “pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school.” Administrators at Jared Kushner’s high school “described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.”

A former official at The Frisch School, where Jared Kushner went to high school, spoke with journalist Daniel Golden:

There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard. His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.

Charles Kushner was named to “Harvard’s Committee on University Resources” even though he was a graduate of NYU. A spokesman for the Kushner family business said that donation to Harvard had nothing to do with Jared’s admission.

That one earns my Of course not award.

I have a vision of a startup company with one product - a baseball cap with the letters MACA, standing for Making America Corrupt Allover.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Updates on recent crashes and Boeing 737MAX8 safety issue

In last night’s feature, Trump admin assurances on plane’s safety ring hollow abroad, “Rachel Maddow reports on worldwide concerns about potential safety problems with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and why perceptions of Donald Trump as compromised by poor judgment and susceptibility to manipulation have undermined the authority of the FAA and isolated the United States.” She cited evidence that, beyond the two post-takeoff crashes involving the Boeing 737Max8 plane, other pilots reported difficulties controlling the plane during takeoff.

The data Rachel reported came from an investigation by the Dallas Morning News: Several Boeing 737 Max 8 pilots in U.S. complained about suspected safety flaw.

Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient” several months before Sunday’s Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.

The News found five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

The disclosures found by The News reference problems with an autopilot system, and they all occurred during the ascent after takeoff. Many mentioned the plane suddenly nosing down. While records show these flights occurred in October and November, the airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database. [Scriber’s note: Americans and Southwest are the largest users of the Boeing 737Max8.]

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, was included on the Max 8 model as a safety mechanism that would automatically correct for a plane entering a stall pattern. If the plane loses lift under its wings during takeoff and the nose begins to point far upward, the system kicks in and automatically pushes the nose down.

After the Lion Air crash, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive that said: “This condition, if not addressed, could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane, and lead to excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and possible impact with terrain.”

Officials have not yet determined what caused Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to nose-dive into the ground Sunday, but many experts have noted similarities between this week’s crash and the one in Indonesia. [Scriber’s note: And, between those two crashes and nose-down incidents reported by other pilots.]

The complaint from the captain who called into question the 737 Max 8’s flight manual ended: “The fact that this airplane requires such jury rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?”

Now Boeing is promising a fix the the problem that is known to have resulted in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia - by the end of April. So why not sooner? Rachel reported that U. S. officials have claimed that work on the fix was suspended during the 35-day government shutdown. I confess that I don’t get that. Was Boeing treated as a government contractor?

And yet, in the absence of the fix, the 737Max8 planes are still flying - but not in most of the world. The NY Times reports Boeing Flights Grounded Across the Globe, but Not in the U.S..

By Tuesday afternoon, the United States was nearly alone among major countries still allowing the jets to fly.

Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, said regulators “will not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action” if a safety issue arises.

Boeing reiterated in a statement late Tuesday that it had “full confidence” in the 737 Max 8. It noted that the F.A.A. had taken no action and “based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

Two United States airlines fly the 737 Max 8 aircraft and both said they planned to keep flying. Southwest Airlines has 34 of the planes and American Airlines has 24. The airlines have said they have analyzed data from their thousands of flights with the jets and found no reason to ground them.

But also know this.

Boeing is a major lobbying force in the nation’s capital. Its top government relations official is a veteran of the Clinton White House, and last year, the company employed more than a dozen lobbying firms to advocate for its interests and spent $15 million in total on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The company, through its political action committee, funnels millions of dollars into the campaign accounts of lawmakers from both political parties. A list of a year’s worth of political spending on Boeing’s website stretches on for 14 pages, listing campaign contributions to lawmakers ranging from a city councilman in South Carolina to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who is now the House speaker.

“Boeing is one of the 800-pound gorillas around here,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has called for the Max 8 to be grounded. As an example of Boeing’s reach in the highest levels of government, Mr. Blumenthal noted that the acting defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, is a former Boeing executive.