Friday, November 27, 2020

If Trump lives by numbers, ...

… then he dies by them (politically speaking, of course).

Catherine Rampell as the Washington Post, viewsTrump’s legacy, by the numbers

As covid–19 hospitalizations hit another new high on Tuesday, President Trump called a news conference to boast about a different record: the stock market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, he crowed, had just pierced 30,000. “That’s a sacred number, 30,000,” he said.

It was a bizarre statement even for Trump. After all, Trump has argued for years that any stock market gains that occur after a presidential election should be credited to the new president-elect, not the guy on his way out the door. In reality, neither presidents nor presidents-elect control stock markets, of course; but even if Trump did unilaterally control equity prices, and even if he had done so for the entire duration of his presidency, his record would still pale in comparison with his predecessor’s.

More important, 30,000 hardly seems like a “sacred number" — or a particularly significant one, in the context of this administration’s overall record. Here is a compendium of more memorable metrics that should forever be linked with the Trump legacy:

(Scriber: Assume block quotes for all that follows.)

261,000 (and growing): If anything is “sacred,” it is human life. This number is the minimum tally of U.S. lives lost to the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday night. By the time Trump leaves office it will be higher. Even by Thanksgiving morning, it will be higher.

$750: The amount Trump reportedly paid in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. He paid the same amount his first year in the White House, too.

14.7 percent: The unemployment rate in April 2020. Also the highest unemployment rate on record since modern statistics on joblessness began in 1948 and likely the highest rate since the Great Depression.

$421 million: The amount of loans and other debts for which Trump is personally responsible, with most of it reportedly coming due within four years — that is, a period when Trump had hoped to serve his second presidential term.

100.1 percent: Federal debt held by the public as a share of gross domestic product, in the fiscal year that recently ended, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The last time this measure exceeded 100 percent was just after World War II.

$1.9 trillion: The 10-year cost of Trump’s 2017 tax cut. (This is “dynamic” cost — that is, it accounts for the effects of economic growth.) This contributes to the debt number above.

$130,000: The amount Trump paid an adult-film actress with whom he had an affair; this bought her silence ahead of the 2016 election.

26: The number of women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

26 million: The number of American adults who reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat just ahead of Election Day.

Eight: The number of Trump associates to date charged with or convicted of criminal offenses. The former aides and advisers are: onetime 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort; 2016 deputy campaign chair Rick Gates; former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned Wednesday; foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos; informal Trump foreign policy adviser George Nader; political adviser Roger Stone; personal attorney Michael Cohen; and strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

666: The number of separated migrant children whose parents still have not been found, because the Trump administration didn’t keep sufficient records.

23,035: The number of false or misleading claims Trump had made as of mid-September, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker team. Presumably that number will continue to grow during Trump’s final weeks in office.

$3: The amount that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club charged taxpayers for a glass of water served to Trump.

289: The number of times Trump visited a golf course while president. So far.

15: The number of times that people have to flush their toilet, according to Trump. (Why he made this claim on the campaign trail I do not know.)

One: The number of viewers Trump officials sought to reach during their TV appearances (the infamous “audience of one”).

49 percent: The peak share of Americans who said they approved of Trump’s performance as president, according to Gallup.

306: The number of electoral college votes Trump won in 2016, which he called a “landslide.”

306: The number of electoral college votes Joe Biden won in 2020.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Criminal justice reform - Trump style

Trump’s Pardon of Flynn Signals Prospect of a Wave in His Final Weeks in Office. Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as the president also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul by commuting lengthy sentences for other offenders.

Thanks to our Editor at Large Sherry for this one

Here are some of the NY Times’ concluding observations.

Mr. [Allan] Dershowitz is exploring applying for pardons on behalf of Greg E. Lindberg, a North Carolina businessman who was sentenced in August to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme that shook the state’s Republican Party, and Eliyahu Weinstein, a New Jersey man sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for a real estate Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Dershowitz said he had not approached Mr. Trump about either case, though he recalled an earlier conversation in which he explained his general philosophy on the importance of pardons to Mr. Trump.

The president, Mr. Dershowitz said, “was very interested in the concept of the pardon power being more than just clemency, but being part of the system of checks and balances for *excessive legislative or judicial actions.*”

Others seeking creative ways to forge ties to the president include Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former Oklahoma zoo owner who is better known as Joe Exotic. His representatives have been running a carefully orchestrated campaign to try to persuade Mr. Trump to pardon Mr. Maldonado-Passage, who is one year into a 22-year sentence for trying to hire a hit man to kill an animal-rights activist.

I guess trying to hire a hit man is an example what’s OK in Trump’s criminal justice reform. There will be more. Wait for it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What we give thanks for - 'it feels like a miracle'

Yes, we still have serious problems facing our nation. Many more citizens will die before the vaccines are widely available. But we are on the road to recovery - physically, politically, psychologically. And the one thing driving that is why we should give thanks.

The Biden Era Is Really Here, and It Feels Like a Miracle. Imagine: The guy whose every sentence will potentially be news will be a normal and decent human being who understands in a sincere way that he is a public servant. So observes Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast.

And suddenly, things felt different Tuesday. It was that cowardly GSA woman finally throwing in the towel. It was Laura Ingraham admitting it was over the night before. It was Donald Trump pardoning the turkeys, a self-abasing ritual for a president in the best of circumstances, but these were the worst of circumstances, and it was actually the first time in his presidency that I felt any empathy for him as I sat there imagining for, oh, at least 1.3 seconds what it must have taken for him to haul his lazy septuagenarian girth out there to do that.

But more than any of those images, it was the sight of Joe Biden and his new national security team standing up there and introducing themselves to America. Serious people. Public servants, who are in this for the right reasons. Not a grifter or gonef in the bunch. People who are qualified for the jobs to which they’re nominated, and people who will be given rein to do those jobs without having to worry that the president is going to tweet at 5:37 a.m. that he’s been rethinking things and maybe it’s time to sell Alaska after all.

And later on Tuesday, it was Biden again, solo this time, giving his first big transition-period interview to NBC’s Lester Holt. He talked like a president. Imagine. He didn’t pout or lash out or accuse Holt of bad faith. He gave answers that reflected that he has the public welfare in mind. And while he sounded notes of realism about the Senate he’ll probably have to deal with, he also laid out his ambition, which is not just to recover but to do more: “It’s a crisis that’s causing real mental stress for millions of people, and it’s in our power to solve it, and to grow the economy at the same time.”

Add all this up, and it comes to one simple point: It’s real now. I mean, it was real from that Saturday morning at 11:28 a.m., but now it’s really real. The Trump era is ending, and the Biden era is beginning.

Biden’s choices so far are great. In addition to the foreign policy team unveiled Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, Janet Yellen for Treasury is absolutely an inspired choice. A former Fed chair has instant cred with those kinds of people, and she has very serious Keynesian cred too. This is not Tim Geithner redux by a longshot, and it’s perhaps a sign that whereas Barack Obama felt he had to calm the markets by taking in people like Geithner, Biden knows that he doesn’t haven’t to kowtow to “a bunch of fuckin’ bond traders” in the way that both Obama and Bill Clinton did, or felt they did (the quote was Clinton’s, during his transition). So this is exciting news.

Of course, we’ll have to see if all these people can get confirmed in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. Here’s a trivia question for you. Who was the last Democratic president to assume office without a majority in the Senate from his own party?

You have to go back—are you ready?—to Grover Cleveland. And not even the second term, after the four-year interregnum, but his first term. Yep—1885 was the last time a Democratic president didn’t have a Senate majority to help push his appointees through.

It’ll be very interesting to see how McConnell plays this when the time comes. I have to think that Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins will vote for most Cabinet nominees, and maybe even a few other Republicans here and there. But McConnell will choose two or three to mess with, just because he can. They’ll gin up some phony scandal on the person, because that’s how they start the “corrupt Biden administration” narrative that they’ll need to be in fifth gear by the time the midterms come around.

But all that’s for later. What’s for right now is the very good news that this is happening. States are certifying the results. It’s done. Of course, as soon as I write that, I think uh-oh, I better not, but it sure seems done. And now, we can begin to imagine a future where, well, we’re not exactly rid of him, but where we don’t have to give a fuck about whatever steaming bullshit flies out of his mouth. His statements, his tweets, won’t be news anymore. MSNBC and CNN won’t (I hope and assume) cover them, because soon they won’t be policy. He can say whatever he wants about the markets or a cop shooting or North Korea or anything, and we just don’t have to care.

And meanwhile, the guy to whom we will be listening, the guy whose every sentence will potentially be news, is a normal and decent human being who is also knowledgeable about policy and about the world and is also, and this is the main thing, someone who knows and understands in a sincere way that he is a public servant.

I loved that moment last week at that presser when someone asked him about the consequences of the Trump people not sharing virus info with him and his people. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t say how it affected him. He said he was concerned that more people would die.

That’s a president. It should be unremarkable, but after four years of this infantile and solipsistic behavior, it feels like a miracle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Transtion moves ahead as GSA ascertains Biden win

Michigan certifies Biden win despite Trump’s GOP overtures.

The move is another setback in Trump’s efforts to use unconventional means to undermine the results of the Nov. 3 election and comes even after he made direct overtures to Republican officials in the state by inviting them to the White House last week.

Trump’s efforts to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — faced increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory. Time and again, Trump’s challenges and baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.

GSA ascertains President-elect Joe Biden as winner, beginning formal transition process.

The General Services Administration has ascertained that President-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Donald Trump’s administration.

Now why, you ask, did this take two weeks? Doers anyone believe the GSA administrator’s claims that she was not pressured by Trump to block the transition?

Monday, November 23, 2020

GOP campaign in Georgia runoff is more and more unhinged ...

… and entertaining.

Judd Legum at popular.info describes A Confederacy of Dunces.

Background: Sidney Powell is whackadoodle

On Saturday night, Sidney Powell, one of the top attorneys on Trump’s legal team, appeared on Newsmax and alleged a massive conspiracy involving thousands of people to rig voting machines against Trump. The scandal, Sidney Powell said, is “so big no one wants to wrap their heads around it.”

The scheme, according to Powell, has been in the works for “multiple decades” and was initially created by Hugo Chavez with technology he obtained from the CIA. She claims that Dominion voting machines are set up so that people can “literally drag and drop hundreds of thousands of votes wherever they want them.”

All of this is false. Dominion machines have no connection to Chavez or Venezuela. There is one company involved in voting technology with Venezuelan founders, Smartmatic. But it is a separate company, and Dominion told The Dispatch that “no Smartmatic software has ever been used by the company.” Claims that Dominion machines were found shifting votes from Trump to Biden were also definitively debunked.

Powell said that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), two outspoken Trump supporters, were part of the scheme to steal the election for Biden. This scheme also involved, according to Powell, “thousands” of other people, including “the people running the machines at each of the polling centers.”

Why would Kemp and Raffensperger conspire to steal an election from a president they both support? Powell suggested, without providing any evidence, that they were paid off. “The state bureau of investigation ought to be looking into the financial benefits received by Mr. Kemp and the Secretary of State’s family,” she said.

Powell also said that Hillary Clinton stole the 2016 primary from Bernie Sanders by rigging the same machines. Sanders was told what happened but stayed quiet in exchange for “money to buy another fabulous house.”

Powell promised a “biblical” new legal filing in Georgia next week that will “blow up” the state. She’s also not worried about the fact that the election results in Georgia were already certified in Georgia and elsewhere. “I could wait a month to file the fraud case, and everyone would have to undo their certifications because it’s so bad,” Powell said.

Notably, in the Newsmax interview, Powell claimed that, on Election Day, the voting machines were rigged in favor of Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who will face Raphael Warnock in a January run-off election. Powell said that the “real vote” would show that Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) would have won and face Warnock.

We don’t know who bought their election… I’m sure it crosses party lines… I’m reasonably certain [the Republican nominee for Senate in Michigan] John James was ripped out of his seat, and he was entitled to have won that election by the real vote, and the same thing is true for Doug Collins in Georgia.

Popular Information highlighted these comments on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and the information went viral. A Loeffler victory in Georgia is critical for the Republican effort to maintain their Senate majority. Now Powell is suggesting that Loeffler cheated to advance to the run-off.

WTF? Read on.

Unhinged

Legum tweeted:

Trump’s legal team is now asserting that DOUG COLLINS, not KELLY LOEFFLER would be participating in the January 5 runoff if Brian Kemp hadn’t rigged the voting machines.

Does LOEFFLER agree? Or will she admit that the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud are BS.

“We don’t know who bought their election.. I’m sure it crosses party lines.. I’m reasonably certain John James was ripped out of his seat, and he was entitled to have won that election by the real vote, and the same thing is true for Doug Collins in Georgia.” — @SidneyPowell1

Trump’s legal strategy has never made any sense but, over the last few days, it has managed to become even more unhinged.

Last Thursday, Powell spoke at an official Trump campaign press conference with Rudy Giuliani and other members of the Trump campaign legal team.

And Powell has repeatedly appeared on television as a representative of the Trump campaign.

UPDATE: Moments ago the Trump campaign sent a press release claiming that Sidney Powell, who has participated in press conferences with Trump’s legal team, is not a member of Trump’s legal team and is “practicing law on her own”

This is false. On November 14, Trump tweeted that Powell was part of his legal team.

SMASH!!! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

Such is the sound of Powell being thrown under the bus.

McConnell’s choice

With a few exceptions, Republican elected officials have adopted the posture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell says that Trump is “100 percent within his right” to pursue litigation and refuses to acknowledge that Biden won.

But Trump isn’t pursuing a rational legal strategy. Judges have repeatedly rejected Trump’s claims as baseless — as a matter of fact and law. Those are the arguments that McConnell and most other elected Republicans are still legitimizing. And if they continue to do so, things will continue to deteriorate.

I can’t wait!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Trump insists that he won in a landslide. He got that right - if you sub 'Biden' for 'he'

Here is some of the November 21, 2020 (Saturday) Letter from Heather Cox Richardson.

We are faced with the odd prospect of a president fighting desperately to keep a job he evidently doesn’t want. Trump has continued to insist he did not lose the 2020 election, and yet seems to have given up on governing. He has not taken any questions from reporters since Election Day and has spent a great deal of time golfing. Today the G20, the “Group of Twenty, which consists of leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.

While the president golfs, President-Elect Joe Biden is trying to pressure Congress to pass another coronavirus bill as the economy lurches toward another drop. Incoming presidents usually want to hold their influence in reserve to take credit for new policies, but Biden is pushing forward because he is so concerned about the economy. Unless Congress passes a new bill, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year. Hunger and homelessness will follow.

With Prejudice in Pennsylvania

Here is a retweet from Neal Katyal with the summary of the court’s ruling in a Pennsylvania case.

In larger print

And here is the legal definition of “with prejudice.” In brief, that means that the judge said in effect go away and don’t come back.

From Wikipedia: Two of the more common applications of the word are as part of the terms “with prejudice” and “without prejudice”. In general, an action taken with prejudice is final. For example, “dismissal with prejudice” forbids a party to refile the case, and might occur either because of misconduct on the part of the party who filed the claim or criminal complaint, or the result of an out of court agreement or settlement. Dismissal “without prejudice” (in Latin, salvis iuribus) allows the party the option to refile, and is often a response to procedural or technical problems with the filing that the party could correct when filing again.