Monday, December 9, 2019

The Afghanistan Papers are a reverb from Vietnam - destroying the truth to save it

The theme of The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war detailed by the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock, is “At War With The Truth.” U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

This is a very long read documenting numerous interviews with those military and diplomatic personnel with direct experience on the ground in Afghanistan. Here I will provide just a few excerpts.

Remember how in the Vietnam War we had to destroy a village in order to save it? Read on.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in U.S. troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

“It was their explanations,” the senior NSC official said. “For example, attacks are getting worse? ‘That’s because there are more targets for them to fire at, so more attacks are a false indicator of instability.’ Then, three months later, attacks are still getting worse? ‘It’s because the Taliban are getting desperate, so it’s actually an indicator that we’re winning.’ ”

“And this went on and on for two reasons,” the senior NSC official said, “to make everyone involved look good, and to make it look like the troops and resources were having the kind of effect where removing them would cause the country to deteriorate.”

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Please understand this: this double-speak has been going on for three administrations under three presidents - George W. Bush, Barrack Obama, and now Donald Trump.

So what are the prospects for “victory”? On one count, not good. We are trying to remake this most ancient country into a western democracy. Good luck with that.

On another count, we’ve spent close to a trillion dollars on a military adventure that has taken over 150,000 lives. “Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.”

And on yet another, much of what we have spent there has fueled raging corruption.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

When will SoS Pompeo be loved - Linda Ronstadt answers with a smack down

At Daily Kos, “First Amendment” reports that Pompeo asks when he’ll be ‘loved.’ Music legend responds: when he stops ’enabling Trump’ (h/t Mrs. Scriber)

This little gem from Twitter is making major rounds.

According to Sam Greisman, a movie writer and the youngest son of Sally Field, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was having a major sad at the State Department dinner for Kennedy Center honorees.

Pompeo reportedly asked when he would be “loved.” That’s when Linda Ronstadt replied to his question and she pulled no punches.

sam greisman
At the State Dept. dinner for the Kennedy Center honorees Mike Pompeo wondered aloud when he would be “loved”. Then Linda Ronstadt got up to get laurels, looked the fucker right in the eye and said “maybe when you stop enabling Donald Trump”.

Variety also covered the exchange, though relayed it a bit differently. “Ronstadt rose to the microphone a feet away from the host’s table and looked straight ahead,” the magazine reported. “‘I’d like to say to Mr Pompeo, who wonders when he’ll be loved, it’s when he stops enabling Donald Trump.’ Then she sat down.”

That’s some serious shade right there. Ronstadt has been battling Parkinson’s disease since 2013, but nothing was going to stop her from exposing one of Trump’s main stooges.

The gutless GOP weaklings who’ve betrayed their country to defend Trump could learn something from Ms. Ronstadt, but I seriously doubt they will—because they’re far too busy defending him over our Constitution.

Here’s a cover of “When Will I Be Loved”… that was one her many smash hits.

I’ll be listening to her music today. …

When it comes to articles of impeachment there is a strong case for letting it all hang out

I completely understand the position of making the articles of impeachment narrow, focused, and thus understandable by the public. But doing so would effectively sweep much of Trump’s misbehavior under the political rug. For example, arguing against including his obstruction of justice (evidenced in the Mueller report) would not do justice to Trump’s numerous documented violations of his oath of office and his abuse of power.

In favor of a broader set of charges, Michelle Goldberg, a NY Times opinion columnist, pleads Please, Democrats, Don’t Make the Impeachment Articles Too Narrow. From Russia to Ukraine, the House needs to show the president’s pattern of corruption.

… to make clear the full gravity of what Trump tried to do in Ukraine, Democrats need to demonstrate that it was part of a pattern.

As the Mueller report showed, the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference in 2016, expecting that “it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” Then Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct the federal government’s investigation into what Russia had done. It was only the day after Mueller’s congressional testimony that Trump made his demand of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Part of that demand was that Ukraine help Trump obscure Russia’s role in his election by falsely implicating itself. Once the scheme became public, Trump obstructed Congress’s investigation into his solicitation of foreign election assistance.

Either Mueller’s findings or the Ukraine “drug deal,” as Bolton reportedly called it, would merit impeachment on its own. But the urgency of Democrats’ impeachment process — the subject of much bad-faith caterwauling on the right — is best justified by Trump’s recidivism. Impeachment isn’t just about holding Trump accountable for a discrete scandal. It’s about trying, against the odds, to stop an ongoing campaign to subvert the 2020 election, one that is building on tactics from 2016.

Given America’s political polarization, public opinion on impeachment is unlikely to move much no matter what Democrats do. Nevertheless, they’d be mad to let centrist trepidation stop them from making the strongest possible case for Trump’s removal. Doing that requires a willingness to put Trump’s Ukraine corruption in context.

Democrats have only one chance to impeach the most corrupt and disloyal president in American history. They say they’re rushing through it because it can’t wait. They have a duty to explain not just why Trump betrayed America when he sought to extort election help from Ukraine, but how we know that he’ll nearly certainly try the same thing again.

So what would a broader set of articles of impeachment look like?

David Leonhardt, NY Times columnist, enumerates The Eight Counts of Impeachment That Trump Deserves. The lessons from Nixon and Clinton.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — and voted down two of them. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the House voted on four articles — and rejected two.

That history serves as a reminder that impeachment is not a neat process. It’s a chance for Congress and voters to hear the evidence against a president and decide which rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

My own instincts have leaned toward a targeted, easily understandable case against President Trump, focused on Ukraine. And that may still be the right call. But the House shouldn’t default to it without considering a larger airing of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution. A longer process, with more attention on his misdeeds, seems unlikely to help Trump’s approval rating.

So last week I posed a question to legal experts: If the House were going to forget about political tactics and impeach Trump strictly on the merits, how many articles of impeachment would there be?

I think the answer is eight — eight thematic areas, most of which include more than one violation.

In making the list, I erred on the side of conservatism. I excluded gray areas from the Mueller report, like the Trump campaign’s flirtation with Russian operatives. I also excluded all areas of policy, even the forcible separation of children from their parents, and odious personal behavior, like Trump’s racism, that doesn’t violate the Constitution.

Yet the list is still extensive, which underscores Trump’s thorough unfitness for the presidency. He rejects the basic ideals of American government, and he is damaging the national interest, at home and abroad. Here’s the list:

  1. Obstruction of justice.
  2. Contempt of Congress.
  3. Abuse of power.
  4. Impairing the administration of justice.
  5. Acceptance of emoluments.
  6. Corruption of elections.
  7. Abuse of pardons.
  8. Conduct grossly incompatible with the presidency.

I’ve just listed the titles of each article. See Leonhardt’s excellent opinion piece for details.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

If Trump can't spell NATO, how can he handle longer concepts like LITERACY and NUMERACY

One has to wonder whether Trump skipped elementary school. He has more than one literacy challenge.

New Yorker Satirist Andy Borowitz reports that NATO Leaders Challenge Trump to Spell NATO

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) — This year’s summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began on a discordant note, on Tuesday, after the other twenty-eight nato leaders challenged Donald Trump to spell nato.

At a preliminary gathering of the leaders, Trump demanded that the other member nations increase their cash contributions to the alliance, prompting Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to issue the unexpected and unwelcome spelling challenge.

“We’ll be happy to give more to nato, Mr. President, if you can spell nato,” she said, drawing raucous applause from the other leaders.

Handing Trump a pencil and a yellow legal pad, Merkel watched as he struggled to spell the word correctly, crumpling page after page in the effort.

After several failed attempts, Trump finally offered up a drawing of several stick figures standing in a row and asked for “partial credit.”

When the other nato leaders rejected his request by a 28–0 voice vote, Trump stormed out of the room, vowing never to return.

In a joint communiqué, the nato leaders said that they were looking forward to spending the rest of the summit watching the impeachment hearings.

Trump is also numerically challenged, reports Scribers’ Usually Unreliable Sources. When pushed to make clear his claim about something quantitative, he resorts to qualitative descriptors like “the biggest number”. Multiple examples are in this YouTube video.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Daily Star LTE - Trump supporters are the real problem

Letters to the Editor in this morning’s Daily Star includes Trump supporters greatly concern me by Steven E. Templin. Here is his final paragraph.

The current holder of the office of the president does not exhibit the character traits that I can personally accept. I find him to be shallow, mean, vindictive, crude, and dishonest. He accuses others of actions he performs. I am most distressed by those choosing to follow this individual.

The last two points are important. Charging persons with spreading fake news is an example of psychological projection as Trump mounts a disinformation campaign that would be cherished in the Kremlin.

“I am most distressed by those choosing to follow this individual.” Indeed - as am I. I’ve been saying in this blog for years that the real story of 2016, and now beyond, is not Trump. He’s a figurehead. The real story is those who follow him. They are willing to accept a leader who is “shallow, mean, vindictive, crude, and dishonest” – and more – and who “accuses others of actions he performs.” Depending on the day and the pundit and the polls, about 40% of American citizenry are guilty of accepting all of Donald Trump’s horrible traits. Looking just at the Republicans in the U. S. Senate, the percentage is even higher. Message to those Always Trumpers: his characteristics are your characteristics. If you don’t like that charge, then get to it and Dump Trump.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Why Wednesday's panel of constitutional scholars gets 3.5 out of 4 stars

I’m going to award Wednesday’s panel of constitutional scholars 3.5 stars. I would have given it 4.0 but for the dissent from Jonathon Turley whose presence was requested by the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee. But I didn’t give it a 3.0 (which would have credited Turley with a full-on dissent) because his weak dissent played partly into the case for impeachment. Here are highlights from three accounts of the scholar’s testimonies.

Kim Wehle at The Bulwark views what the Constitutional Scholars Explain: This Is Just Why We Have Impeachment Today’s Judiciary Committee hearing highlighted the constitutional stakes in the Trump impeachment process.

Today’s impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was a landslide win for the U.S. Constitution. Three constitutional scholars and law professors—Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina (who is also an author of a leading book on impeachment)—passionately and unequivocally made the case for impeaching President Trump. For a president to ask for election interference from a foreign power is, in Professor Gerhardt’s words, “plainly an abuse of power. It’s a rather horrifying abuse of power.”

Speaking at the invitation of the committee’s Republican minority was Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University (and my colleague at CBS News). The thrust of his argument against impeachment was as follows: The process has been sorely truncated, lots of witnesses and facts have not been revealed, the courts have not definitively weighed in on the White House’s stonewalling of subpoenas, and a case of criminal statutory bribery as construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 has not been proven.

On the last point, Turley suggested that more direct evidence of the president’s corrupt intent is required to warrant impeachment …

More on Turley’s weak dissent follows below.

Wehle makes several points: “The trio of constitutional scholars who concluded that impeachment is warranted underscored why the possibility of removing Trump in the 2020 election is no answer to his wrongdoing in office …” “The Framers were very worried about foreign interference in elections, which is one factor that distinguishes Trump’s actions from those of the three prior presidents who were subject to impeachment proceedings …” “The impeachment question today is tied directly to the right to vote, which is at the heart of American democracy …” “Trump’s obstruction of Congress is no sideshow. The Framers decided to create not a monarchy but a presidency subject to checks and balances from two other branches of government, … But if a coordinate branch refuses to comply with requests for information needed to execute the impeachment power, that power becomes meaningless. And the presidency becomes a monarchy—or worse, a dictatorship.” “The three experts called by the committee Democrats today all concurred that there are three separate issues that justify the impeachment of President Trump as a constitutional matter …”

Wehle, who herself is a Professor of Law, winds up this way.

The impeachment process now underway is not a one-note complaint, an “impulse buy” on the Democrats’ part (as Turley described it), or (as Turley also put it) a “wafer-thin” factual record being used to unseat a president who was merely exercising his lawful powers to conduct foreign policy. To be sure, the president has vast powers at his disposal. But impeachment exists in the Constitution to address when those powers are abused. The Framers understood the potential for abuse to be part and parcel of human nature and political reality—and they created the remedy of impeachment for situations like the one we now find ourselves in.

Also at The Bulwark, Turley’s Weak Critique takes a hit from Benjamin Parker writing how The legal scholar’s case against impeaching Trump doesn’t hold water.

The Judiciary Committee Republicans were able at times to give an almost colorable defense of the president today. Led by Republican counsel Paul Taylor, Turley offered a reasonable-sounding critique of the impeachment process now underway, with three main points:

1) Because the Democrats have gone too fast, the factual record is incomplete—and inadequate for as momentous an act as removing a democratically elected president.

2) Some of the impeachable offenses that President Trump is being accused of committing—namely, bribery and obstruction of justice—don’t match the way those crimes are defined by law.

3) The impeachment hearings so far have only featured the case against the president, not the case for him.

There were gaping holes in each of Turley’s arguments. Let’s take them in turn:

1) In making the case that the factual record is incomplete, Turley suggested that the Democrats should issue more subpoenas. That would be a more helpful suggestion if the White House weren’t currently blocking key figures in the Ukraine scandal—including former National Security Advisor John Bolton, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others—from complying with congressional subpoenas. Turley also never made clear what kind or amount of additional information would bridge the gap between what he considers unsubstantiated assertions and what he conceded would be an impeachable offense.

2) Regarding the offenses President Trump is accused of: Back when President Clinton was facing impeachment, Turley argued that an act didn’t have to meet the definition of a crime to be impeachable, as Paul Rosenzweig pointed out to The Bulwark today. Rosenzweig, a former lawyer on Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation staff, noted by email: “Twenty years ago, Professor Turley wrote that a crime did not have to be committed for an action of the President to be an impeachable offense.” Today, though, Turley insists that for an action to count as bribery under the impeachment clause, it must satisfy the legal definition of the criminal offense of bribery—“an opinion,” Rosenzweig says, “that is manifestly wrong, if only because the impeachment clause was written before we created federal criminal law.” So, Rosenzweig asks of Turley, “What changed? One suspects that the only relevant change was the party affiliation of the President. Situational ethics are … situational.”

3) Even if Turley were correct in his contention that the impeachment hearings have so far not allowed the president’s supporters to make their case, the president’s lawyers could have defended him in the hearings today, if only President Trump hadn’t declined the opportunity to let them do so.

New Yorker author Amy Davidson Sorkin ties it all together in her comment on What the Law Professors Brought to the Trump Impeachment Hearings.

… Turley made a reasonable point about how much more might still be learned. The Democrats had a reasonable reply in ascribing that state of incompletion to the White House’s stonewalling; but there is a whole raft of lawsuits underway on that issue which are beginning to yield defeats for the President.

As much as the Democrats might see the benefit in getting the whole business quickly through the House and on to the Senate, doing so would mean, in a sense, abandoning the goal of achieving anything more than an impeachment with all the Democrats on one side and all the Republicans on the other. That may not be their fault—where Trump is concerned, the Republican Party has taken leave of its senses—but it’s their battle to fight. Will they give it more of a try, with one more Karlan-like jump into the fray? On Thursday morning, Nancy Pelosi said that it was time to draft articles of impeachment.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

House Speaker Pelosi addresses the American people about articles of impeachment and the reasons for them

Breaking (as of Thursday morning). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses the nation about articles of impeachment (and much more). CNN reports “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tells the American people that she is requesting that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee draft formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.” But her lead-in is a succinct, stinging indictment of Trump. Watch it or read it using the links below.

At CNN, Watch full video of Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment statement

At the Times, Read Nancy Pelosi’s Remarks on Articles of Impeachment

A Message for Always Trumpers

Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post has a message for Always Trumpers: The more love Always Trumpers show, the more dangerous Trump becomes.

You’ve heard of the Never Trumpers. That’s the president’s catchall slur for anyone who criticizes him or at least accurately attests to something unsavory he’s done.

But let’s talk instead for a moment about the true risk to our democracy: the Always Trumpers. These are people such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) and even the once-reasonable-sounding Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who excuse away any evidence of impeachment-worthy misdeeds no matter how damning.

The Always Trumpers represent a sprawling group of lackeys and co-conspirators, willing to aid, abet and (most importantly) adore President Trump no matter what he’s credibly accused of. Come hell or high crimes, Always Trumpers always truckle to Trump.

It doesn’t matter whether he’s extorting a desperate ally into announcing a fake investigation into a domestic political rival, compromising both that ally’s national security and ours. The Always Trumpers, many of whom were once Russia hawks, will stand by their man.

Many even cheerfully assist him in spreading Kremlin-planted propaganda.

It’s no worry that he’s encouraging war crimes and pardoning war criminals. Those onetime law-and-order fanatics now believe their lawless leader knows best.

He can betray his party’s commitment to free trade by inflicting tariffs that condemn U.S. manufacturers to recession and farmers to bankruptcy. He can then try to tidy up his trade-war mistakes with a ginormous farmer bailout, one that’s now more than twice as expensive as the 2009 auto-industry bailout that many Republicans opposed.

He can find other ways to undermine the GOP’s stated commitment to unfettered capitalism. He dictates where and how supply chains must operate, and weaponizes state power to reward companies that flatter him and punish those that don’t. Companies hoping for merger approval or tariff exemptions must kiss his ring. Or, preferably, grease his palm, with a stay at the otherwise half-empty Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Somehow, those erstwhile free marketers remain Always Trumpers.

Trump can persecute people based on their religious beliefs; he can have affairs with porn stars; he can rip nursing infants from their mothers’ breasts. Even the Bible Belters have buckled, and family-values-fixated Republicans remain perpetual pro-Trumpers, too.

Some Always Trumpers are die-hard cultists, proposing gristly punishments for the president’s perceived enemies (such as death by hanging for House Democrats who deign to exercise their constitutional oversight responsibilities). Others, such as retiring congressman and former CIA officer Hurd, were once considered moderates, or at least statesmen willing to weigh the evidence. Now even Hurd is excusing L’Affaire Ukraine, perhaps so he can preserve his own future opportunities within the GOP.

Trump has been mocked for declaring, as he did in a Monday tweet, that “The Republican Party has NEVER been so united!” The impeachment inquiry, he said of the GOP, is “bringing us even closer together!”

But given the public behavior of Republicans, Trump’s claims of unprecedented party unity appear correct. It’s hard to imagine a Republican Party of yesteryear excusing such inexcusable behavior, simply because the misbehaver is the party’s standard-bearer. (Even Richard M. Nixon lost his party’s support eventually.) Indeed, to be a Republican today is almost definitionally to be an Always Trumper. Any Republican who reveals himself to be merely a Sometimes Trumper, such as Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), gets ejected from the party.

Similar dynamics are at play for Republican voters, too.

Conservatives who don’t approve of the president’s actions are — like Amash — simply leaving the party, with “Why I’m No Longer a Republican” cris de coeur fast becoming a hot new genre of nonfiction. Those who remain in the GOP pledge their absolute loyalty to their boss, especially voters who get their news from de-facto state media. In a recent PRRI survey, a majority (55 percent) of Republicans whose primary news source is Fox News say there is nothing Trump could do to lose their approval.

There are, of course, many reasons to worry about this kind of idolatry.

But the biggest risk is that the more unconditional love the Always Trumpers show, the more emboldened Trump becomes. And the more he escalates his democratic destruction.

Absolved for soliciting political interference from one country, in one presidential election, he asks it publicly of two countries in the next. Forgiven for politicizing law enforcement, he moves on to politicizing the military. Allowed to abuse one immigrant group, or undermine one federal agency, he adds others to his crosshairs. Just imagine what he’ll do if not just GOP lawmakers but also the electorate affirms his behavior with four more years.

Well done, Always Trumpers. If Trump didn’t genuinely believe he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue before, you’ve convinced him he can now.

Only the Party of Trump (POT) believes in Planet B

Quote of the Day: “there is no Planet B.” - David Gordon, Blog for Arizona.

Yes, there is, according to the Party of Trump. There is an alternate reality Trumpeted by Trump and his minions in which everything is coming up roses. Tell that to the airlines. “Steadily rising seas are pushing airports like Newark Liberty International to create contingency plans for a future where flooding is more common and severe.”

Wired.com reports on How Airports Are Protecting Themselves Against Rising Seas. Many of the nation’s busiest airports are subject to increased flooding from climate change. So they’re building seawalls and relocating sensitive equipment.

What to do? Self-respecting Republicans can join with Democrats to take action on the dangers of climate change to our economy and our national security. Here’s an example.

John Kerry and Arnold Schwarzenegger have some ideas and are taking action. Kerry and Schwarzenegger Launch World War Zero reports David Gordon in Blog for Arizona.

This is not an article about a Zombie Movie or the latest video game to purchase for the kids during Christmas or Hanukah.

2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee-former Secretary of State-former Senator John Kerry and former California Governor-current Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger have helped to assemble a bipartisan who’s who coalition of scientists, politicians, military leaders, and celebrities, to form a combat climate change and pollution organization called World War Zero.

Speaking on the 12/1/19 broadcast of Meet the Press, Kerry and Schwarzenegger said that climate change “needs to be treated like a war” and this new group would do whatever is needed to bring this issue to the forefront.

While acknowledging there are a variety of plans and ideas that can get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, both men cited California as a model state that enacted strong environmental protections while having the fifth largest economy in the world.

Schwarzenegger mentioned that there now more “solar jobs in Bakersfield than oil ones.”

Kerry stated that the “fastest-growing job is solar power technician. The second is wind power technician” and fighting climate change is about “reducing pollution, creating jobs, improving health (like asthma), and improving American security.”

Schwarzenegger went a little further stating that ““we have to convince the whole world and talk about fighting pollution which means more than fighting climate change and think about now with regards to health.”

Both men welcome the opportunity to go to potential climate change-science denying areas like West Virginia and tell the people there about the choices and opportunities they have to transition from coal to clean energy.

World War Zero is not the only action with regard to combatting climate change in the United States.

The House of Representatives is putting forth legislation called the 100 % Clean Economy Act of 2019 to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Unfortunately, the political divide has been noticeable in the House. Looking to Arizona as an example, all the Democratic Representatives have shown full or partial support for the Clean Economy measure while none of the Republicans have voiced enthusiasm for the science of climate change or the potential of shifting to a clean energy economy.

The countries mayors are also taking a stand to combat climate change and pollution.

Again, looking to Arizona as an example, Phoenix and Tucson Mayors Kate Gallego and Regina Romero signed a letter together urging Arizona’s Representatives to back House legislation to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, former Phoenix Mayor (and now Congressional District Eight Representative) Greg Stanton, former Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, and Bisbee Mayor David Smith had already signaled their support for remaining in the agreement with over 400 more of the Nations Mayors.

There are many plans to combat climate change or fight pollution. Progressives have offered blueprints like the Green New Deal. Conservatives like Senator Lamar Alexander’s have called for A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy. There are also the various plans from current and former 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates.

All these plans have components that merit consideration. All of them share the same goal to do away with pollution, check the rise of high temperatures, shift to a clean energy economy with high paying jobs, and ensure that the planet’s waters, terrain, and air are safe and clean for all humanity.

It is time, like Secretary Kerry and Governor Schwarzenegger said on Meet the Press, for all sides to come together and forge regional common-sense solutions that save the planet.

Remember there is no Planet B.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Deranged Donald evident in news conference

The 33 most outlandish lines from Donald Trump’s news conference with Justin Trudeau. Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large. (With thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry.)

On Tuesday, as part of NATO meetings in London, President Donald Trump sat down with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to chat.

The two men took a series of questions from the assembled reporters, with Trump doing the vast majority of the talking.

I won’t clutter the blogosphere with all 33. I’ll just cite my top 3 (emphases in original indicating Trump speaking).

(30.) “I think he’s a maniac.”
The President of the United States on the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Very normal stuff!

(31.) “I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious.”
Serious question: What does Trump mean here?

(32.) “We have a perfectly beautiful three-, four-page transcription, and then in the other case, a two-page transcription of the conversation.”
Again, not exactly a transcript.

(33.) “These people are deranged, OK?”

Well, OK - I left in one other (#32). But the others, 30, 31, 33, are clear examples of psychological projection. The most deranged person in DC is Donald J. Trump.

A Demagogue in the Offal Office - the Founders' Worst Nightmare

John Cassidy (in the New Yorker ) explains how The House Impeachment Report Highlights Trump’s Ongoing Abuse of Presidential Power

Donald Trump’s obstructive behavior raises fundamental issues about the ability, or inability, of the American political system to police a rogue President.

The first two-thirds of the House Intelligence Committee’s lengthy report on the Trump-Ukraine affair, which was released on Tuesday, tells a story that, in broad strokes, will be familiar to anyone who follows the news. It details “a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” The report describes how, earlier this year, he empowered Rudy Giuliani and the “three amigos” (the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland; the former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry; and the former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker), Trump forced out the sitting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and then froze U.S. security assistance—all in an effort to force Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s new President, to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

“We should care about this—we must care about this, and, if we don’t care about this, we can darn well be sure that the President will be back at it, doing this all over again,” Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the committee, said at a press conference, shortly after his staff posted the report online. Trump’s attempt to squeeze the Ukrainian government, Schiff went on, was part of a pattern in which he asked Russia to interfere in the 2016 election and, more recently, asked the Chinese government to investigate the Bidens. He added, “This is the result of a President who believes that he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability, and, indeed, above the law.”

If we go to the 2020 election with Trump surviving the House impeachment and the Senate trial, we run a very real risk of our republic succumbing to a diabolical demagogue. The Founders would cringe at the prospect of the American people, via their elected representatives, accepting the death of democracy. We are on the way there with one of the two major political parties swearing fealty to one man and thus creating a malevolent monarchy. Here’s more about what the Founders feared more than anything else.

Trump Is the Founders’ Worst Nightmare. Once in the Oval Office, a demagogue can easily stay there writes Bob Bauer (the White House counsel under President Barack Obama). Following are lengthy excerpts.

Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.

As the self-proclaimed embodiment of the American popular will, the demagogue portrays impeachment deliberations as necessarily a threat to democracy, a facade for powerful interests arrayed against the people that only he represents. Critics and congressional opponents are traitors. Norms and standing institutional interests are fraudulent.

President Trump has made full use of the demagogic playbook. He has refused all cooperation with the House. He lies repeatedly about the facts, holds public rallies to spread these falsehoods and attacks the credibility, motives and even patriotism of witnesses. His mode of “argument” is purely assaultive. This is the crux of the Trump defense, and not an argument built on facts in support of a constitutional theory of the case.

The demagogue may be boundlessly confident in his own skills and force of political personality, but he cannot succeed on those alone. He can thrive only in political conditions conducive to the effective practice of these dark arts, such as widespread distrust of institutions, a polarized polity and a fractured media environment in which it is possible to construct alternative pictures of social realities. Weak political parties now fall quickly into line with a demagogue who can bring intense pressure to bear on party officials and officeholders through his hold on “the base.” As we have seen with Mr. Trump, the demagogue can bully his party into being an instrument of his will, silencing or driving out dissenters. Republican officeholders know that Mr. Trump can take to Twitter or to Fox News or to the podium at rallies — or all of the above — to excoriate them for a weak will or disloyalty.

This is how the Republican Party has become Mr. Trump’s party. It is also why that party will not conceive of its role in impeachment as entailing a constitutional responsibility independent of the president’s political and personal interests. It has come to see those interests as indistinguishable from its own. In this way the constitutional defense of the case against Mr. Trump and the defense of his own interests become one and the same. As another fabled demagogue, Huey Long of Louisiana, famously announced: “I’m the Constitution around here now.”

So where does this lead? Bauer concludes:

… A demagogue can claim that Congress has forfeited the right to recognition of its impeachment power, then proceed to unleash a barrage of falsehoods and personal attacks to confuse the public, cow legislators and intimidate witnesses. So long as the demagogue’s party controls one of the two chambers of Congress, this strategy seems a sure bet.

When this is all over, we will not hear warm bipartisan praise for how “the system worked.” The lesson will be that, in the politics of the time, a demagogue who gets into the Oval Office is hard to get out.

Voting for Donald Trump might be deadly

Now having made that bold suggestion I pause for a cautionary note. We’ll get back to the red-state, blue-state thing in a moment. But first, I must remind us all that that this is an example of correlation and that correlation does not imply causation. For example, poverty also is associated with reduced longevity.

Back in May of 2015 AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona … cites evidence that the young among our urban poor view their environment more negatively and are likely to die earlier than same-aged youths in other countries.

I picked up on that theme and expanded in my post, Inequality watch: Urban poor in USA worse off than in other countries, die sooner. For example:

… let’s look at a hypothetical case of two babies born on the same day this year in Baltimore. One is born in Roland Park, a wealthy neighborhood in the north of the city. The other is born just three miles away in Downtown/Seton Hill, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

The Roland Park baby will most likely live to the age of 84, well above the U.S. average of 79. The Seton Hill baby, on the other hand, can expect to die 19 years earlier at the age of 65. That’s 14 years below the U.S. average. The average child born this year in Seton Hill will be dead before she can even begin to collect Social Security.

Another way of looking at it is to compare life expectancies in Baltimore to various countries. If Roland Park’s life expectancy is similar to Japan’s, then Downtown/Seton Hill would be closest to Yemen. Roland Park would be the 4th longest-living country in the world, while Seton Hill would be the 230th. Fifteen Baltimore neighborhoods have lower life expectancies than North Korea. Eight are doing worse than Syria.

Now let’s go fast forward a few years to December 2019. Paul Krugman writes about another correlate of longevity in America’s Red State Death Trip and asks Why does falling life expectancy track political orientation?

E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — is one of America’s traditional mottos. And you might think it would be reflected in reality. We aren’t, after all, just united politically. We share a common language; the unrestricted movement of goods, services and people is guaranteed by the Constitution. Shouldn’t this lead to convergence in the way we live and think?

In fact, however, the past few decades have been marked by growing divergence among regions along several dimensions, all closely correlated. In particular, the political divide is also, increasingly, an economic divide. As The Times’s Tom Edsall put it in a recent article, “red and blue voters live in different economies.”

What Edsall didn’t point out is that red and blue voters don’t just live differently, they also die differently.

About the living part: Democratic-leaning areas used to look similar to Republican-leaning areas in terms of productivity, income and education. But they have been rapidly diverging, with blue areas getting more productive, richer and better educated. In the close presidential election of 2000, counties that supported Al Gore over George W. Bush accounted for only a little over half the nation’s economic output. In the close election of 2016, counties that supported Hillary Clinton accounted for 64 percent of output, almost twice the share of Trump country.

The thing is, the red-blue divide isn’t just about money. It’s also, increasingly, a matter of life and death.

Back in the Bush years I used to encounter people who insisted that the United States had the world’s longest life expectancy. They hadn’t looked at the data, they just assumed that America was No. 1 on everything. Even then it wasn’t true: U.S. life expectancy has been below that of other advanced countries for a long time.

The death gap has, however, widened considerably in recent years as a result of increased mortality among working-age Americans. This rise in mortality has, in turn, been largely a result of rising “deaths of despair”: drug overdoses, suicides and alcohol. And the rise in these deaths has led to declining overall life expectancy for the past few years.

What I haven’t seen emphasized is the divergence in life expectancy within the United States and its close correlation with political orientation. True, a recent Times article on the phenomenon noted that life expectancy in coastal metropolitan areas is still rising about as fast as life expectancy in other advanced countries. But the regional divide goes deeper than that.

A 2018 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at changes in health and life expectancy in U.S. states between 1990 and 2016. The divergence among states is striking. And as I said, it’s closely correlated with political orientation.

I looked at states that voted for Donald Trump versus states that voted for Clinton in 2016, and calculated average life expectancy weighted by their 2016 population. In 1990, today’s red and blue states had almost the same life expectancy. Since then, however, life expectancy in Clinton states has risen more or less in line with other advanced countries, compared with almost no gain in Trump country. At this point, blue-state residents can expect to live more than four years longer than their red-state counterparts.

Is this all about deaths of despair in the eastern heartland? No. Consider our four most populous states. In 1990, Texas and Florida had higher life expectancy than New York and almost matched California; today, they’re far behind.

What explains the divergence? Public policy certainly plays some role, especially in recent years, as blue states expanded Medicaid and drastically reduced the number of uninsured, while most red states didn’t. The growing gap in educational levels has also surely played a role: Better-educated people tend to be healthier than the less educated.

Beyond that, there has been a striking divergence in behavior and lifestyle that must be affecting mortality. For example, the prevalence of obesity has soared all across America since 1990, but obesity rates are significantly higher in red states.

One thing that’s clear, however, is that the facts are utterly inconsistent with the conservative diagnosis of what ails America.

Conservative figures like William Barr, the attorney general, look at rising mortality in America and attribute it to the collapse of traditional values — a collapse they attribute, in turn, to the evil machinations of “militant secularists.” The secularist assault on traditional values, Barr claims, lies behind “soaring suicide rates,” rising violence and “a deadly drug epidemic.”

But European nations, which are far more secularist than we are, haven’t seen a comparable rise in deaths of despair and an American-style decline in life expectancy. And even within America these evils are concentrated in states that voted for Trump, and have largely bypassed the more secular blue states.

So something bad is definitely happening to American society. But the conservative diagnosis of that problem is wrong — dead wrong.

(Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for the Krugman tip.)

The GOP crazy has not peaked yet - just wait until the House Judiciary Committee gets rolling

Think of the forthcoming Judiciary hearings as a circus tent full of Krazed Kongressmen (and a Kouple of Krazed Kongresswomen) high on Konservative Klown Koolaid. It’s a traveling show. All of our favorite actors are moving from the Intel committee to Judiciary. Jim Jordan (a Barsoomian Apt in disguise - see Note 1) , John Ratcliffe (pissed off for being passed over for DNI), Matt Gaetz (!!!), Louie Gohmert (a real goober if there ever was one), and last but not least, our very own Gila Monster, Debbie Lesko.

Shouting and screaming is what these GOPlins do - in the absence of evidentiary support. That’s why Democrats Fear ‘Circus Atmosphere’ Will Wreck Solemn Impeachment Hearings. Pelosi wants an “academic” feel to the Judiciary Committee hearings—but previous Team Trump run-ins have featured shouting, gavel-banging, and a bucket of fried chicken.

Michael Tomasky, Special Correspondent for the Daily Beast, says if you Think You’ve Seen Peak GOP Crazy? Watch This. By all means, BUCKLE UP! Because Doug Collins is poised to make Devin Nunes look like Abraham Lincoln.

So you think we’ve seen peak Republican crazy? I mean, surely we have, right? Shit can’t get any weirder than Devin Nunes.

Honey, buckle up.

The Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, where the impeachment action moves this Wednesday, make their counterparts on Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee look like Churchill’s war cabinet.

Let’s start with Nunes’ analogue here, ranking member Doug Collins of Georgia. You’ve seen him in action. A lanky fellow with a booming voice, he leans back in his chair and pronounces on the illegitimacy of anything and everything that presumes to challenge the king. He said this week that Donald Trump should not participate in this “sham” hearing. On Fox News Sunday, he said Schiff should be the first person called to testify. He also delivered this word salad: “Chris, [Trump] did nothing improper, there was nothing about a problematic giving aid to another country in which you’re talking about corruption, which he’s required to do by law.” I’ve seen it reported that he sleeps on a cot in his office and showers in the House gym. No word on his diet, but it’s obviously heavy on the Kool-Aid.

If he hasn’t quite made the name for himself that Nunes has as a deep-state fabulist, it sure hasn’t been for want of trying. Back when the impeachment hearings were announced in October, Collins went on Fox to chirp out the usual talking points about the “real” scandal. “If we want to talk about the corrupt cabal in the Department of Justice, which the Democrats have all of a sudden put their head in the sand and forgotten,” he said. “The things that we have been talking about for two years actually were coming true. You want to see corruption? You want to see a corrupt cabal? Look at CNN contributor Mr. [Andrew] McCabe who now goes back and we see exactly what they were doing.”

And now, as fate would have it, events have conspired to make Collins really go for the gold here. Remember how Georgia GOP senator Johnny Isakson announced his retirement a while back? Well, the retirement is imminent, and Republican Governor Brian Kemp—the guy who narrowly beat Stacey Abrams last fall because he got to decide what votes counted—is about to appoint an interim successor. Kemp is leaning toward a financial services executive named Kelly Loeffler. But Collins has thrown his pith helmet in the ring, too.

Trump doesn’t like Loeffler (they apparently had a frosty meeting at the White House right before Thanksgiving). The right-to-lifers don’t like her because she was on the board of a hospital where abortions were once performed or something like that. Why Kemp’s so hot on her I’m not sure. Maybe partly that she can self-finance, and partly that he thinks she can broaden the party’s appeal and keep those Trump-wary Cobb County women from drifting into the socialists’ greedy little hands.

Whatever the reason, what it adds up to is this. Loeffler’s appointment is said to be imminent. This means that this week may be Collins’ last chance to impress Trump and ratchet up the pressure on Kemp to appoint him. So don’t be surprised if Collins ends up making Nunes look like Lincoln.

Jim Jordan channeling a Martian Apt,
a relative of the Great White Ape

The rest of them? The usual gang of idiots, as Bill Gaines used to say. Jim Jordan’s on this committee, too. So we’ll see more of his theatrics. He may strip down to his bare chest by the time this round is over. John Ratcliffe will be there for his second shot at auditioning for a future Cabinet job should Trump manage to steal another election. Matt Gaetz, for God’s sakes. You think it doesn’t get worse than Gaetz? Think again; Louie Gohmert will be there. And Martha Roby, that woman Hillary took to the house so thoroughly during the Benghazi hearings. (But hey, she’s not the only woman—there’s actually a second one, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, a build-the-wall Trumpist; they’re surely plotting behind each other’s back to see which one of them will end up being this week’s Elise Stefanik.)

Judiciary is well known on the House side of Capitol Hill as a committee that attracts a certain type. You can’t fundraise off it because it has no jurisdiction over corporate interests, military contractors, all that. And while it covers lots of important stuff—civil rights, voting rights, numerous issues of constitutional import—it doesn’t have a ton of power. Certainly it’s nothing like the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has all that power over court nominations.

So it tends to draw two kinds of people. One, people serious about constitutional and legal issues. Two, showboats who know that once in a blue moon, Judiciary is, as it were, the hottest ticket in town. And it wouldn’t have been too hard for someone like Gaetz, elected to Congress the same night Trump won the presidency, to place a bet on the possibility that all this might one day come to pass.

So there we are, with the curtain about to rise on an assemblage of sycophants and bootlickers who undoubtedly have a few parliamentary tricks up their sleeve to try and turn everything into as big a circus as possible. Jerry Nadler has to be as emotionless as Schiff in not letting these clowns turn the hearings into a shitshow, which is the only way Trump can win. Jerry, the legislative gods gave you a gavel. Use it.

One way to combat the certain (I think) attempts by the GOP to turn the Judiciary hearings into a multi-ring circus is to stick to the script, the facts, and gavel down any bullshit claims. So far Chairman Nadler is doing it right by beginning the hearings with constitutional scholars as witnesses defining high crimes and misdemeanors.

Note 1. From Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars novels. “The Apt is a monstrous creature native to Barsoom’s northern pole… Like the white ape … the Apt is a fierce predator … The White Apes (or Great White Apes) are a feared race of semi-intelligent, gorilla-like monsters who inhabit the wilds of Barsoom. … The White Apes are incredibly violent creatures. …” See https://barsoom.fandom.com/wiki/White Apes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

To impeach and remove, Part 1

R.J. Lyman , a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and senior advisor to Governor Bill Weld, candidate for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, makes the case for impeachment and removal. Writing at The Bulwark he says: This Is the Single Best Argument For Why Trump Should Be Impeached and Removed. He tried to meddle in the 2020 election. It’s crazy to say that you have to let him participate in the 2020 election in order to render a verdict on his attempt to cheat in it.

It is equally crazy to hear members of “the greatest deliberative body in the world” (as Former President James Buchanan called the Senate) spew Russian disinformation apparently in defense of Trump’s autocratic, impeachable actions.

Let’s start with Crazy #1 and then move on to Crazy #2.

JVL, also in The Bulwark provides a succinct summary of Lyman’s case. (I include the text of Lyman’s article after the break.)

Last week I gave you what I think are the best arguments both in favor of, and against, impeachment.

And if you go just by those, I’d probably lean against impeaching President Trump on prudential grounds. In short:

  • Impeachment is a divisive process.
  • We are 11 months from an election which could become a unifying moment for the country.
  • Impeachment hurts everyone: Trump, the GOP, Democrats. No one comes out ahead.

Basically, you only pursue impeachment if you have no real choice in the matter.

And I purposely left out the argument that makes it clear that we don’t have a real choice in the matter.

R.J. Lyman makes it here. You should read the whole thing. (Scriber: See after the break.)

The nub of it is this: If Trump had withheld foreign aid to Ukraine because he wanted to force them to lease a hotel in Kyiv to him, that would be one thing. It’s just personal enrichment.

At that point, you could say, “Let the next election settle this.”

But Trump was trying to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.

You cannot say, Let the next election settle whether or not it’s okay for the president to try to cheat in an election.

You see the problem here?

The president was trying to leverage American taxpayer money against a foreign government to extort them into interfering on his behalf in the 2020 election process.

And if Trump is not removed from office for this, there will be no way to know whether or not he does it again between now and next November.

The legitimacy of the 2020 election is at stake.

JVL concludes: You cannot leave a case where the president is accused of trying to meddle with an election to be settled by that election.

Turning now to Crazy #2 …

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes GOP’s Kennedy, hoping to aid Trump, keeps echoing Russian propaganda.

It’s not enough to simply marvel at the lengths some Republicans will go to in order to shield Donald Trump from accountability. It’s not enough to note that the bogus claims Kennedy has peddled are wrong. It’s not enough to be gobsmacked by a sitting GOP senator’s capacity for willful ignorance.

What’s every bit as important, if not more so, is the fact that John Kennedy – a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – is helping advance a disinformation campaign, crafted by Russia, for the purpose of undermining American interests. Told that he’s echoing the Kremlin’s false claims, the Senate Republican didn’t seem to care.

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has more, pondering What to do about the Kremlin’s propagandists. If you’re in a time crunch, let me remind you, in Rubin’s words, about what you already know about the GOPlins in the Senate: "The solution for … reestablishing truth as a principle of self-governance, is at the ballot box in 2020: Vote them all out, every last one of them.

Here’s the longer version.

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) once before walked back an assertion that maybe Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election. That has not deterred him from repeating the Kremlin’s propaganda. Appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, he was at it again. When moderator Chuck Todd asked him if he was not simply doing Russia’s dirty work, Kennedy responded, “I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it’s been well documented in the Financial Times, in Politico, in the Economist, in the Washington Examiner, even on CBS, that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption League, all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise.”

This is false, patently false. None of these outlets identified manipulation or interference in our election. Individual Ukrainians have publicly criticized President Trump, but Kennedy prefers to utter the Kremlin propaganda line. He acknowledged that he did not attend a briefing that Fiona Hill referenced “that actually this entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you, you just made this case that they’ve done it, that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda, that this is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine,” as Todd put it. …

Here Kennedy claims he “was not briefed” even after Todd revealed that Senators were briefed about the importance of not spreading Russian propaganda (as Kennedy was doing).

At that point Kennedy switched topics — to falsely claim Trump was not allowed to invite witnesses in the House Judiciary Committee’s upcoming impeachment hearings. (An offer is outstanding.)

What to do about a senator who neglects his obligations to attend briefings, who perpetuates propaganda from an adversary of the United States and who deliberately misleads the public by conflating meddling/interference by an adversary and public criticism of a candidate?

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Louisiana to vote him out, but his fellow senators (are there no Republicans willing to stand up for objective reality?) need to condemn him roundly. The media, as Todd tried to do, must clarify that Kennedy is spouting disinformation. (Ideally the media should also disabuse the public of the notion that any individual of another country who criticizes a candidate is engaged in election interference.)

Kennedy is not alone in his obfuscation, but he is one of the most egregious examples. Frankly, it is for this reason — the need to set the public straight and to make a historical record — to proceed with impeachment. We look forward to the House Intelligence Committee’s report, due out for members Monday, which will begin the process of public education.

Unfortunately, we have one political party that would just as soon be used as Kremlin propagandists if it means helping Trump. (They never seem bothered by the realization that Trump’s interests and the Kremlin’s are in lockstep.) The solution for that, and for reestablishing truth as a principle of self-governance, is at the ballot box in 2020: Vote them all out, every last one of them.

The essence of impeachment - in 2 minutes and 39 seconds

From Politico Playbook:

HOUSE DEMOCRATS have released a two-minute-thirty-nine-second video that opens with this: “Two weeks of testimony … One story of betrayal.” It then ticks through most of the witnesses’ most damning testimony, describing their role in the impeachment. For example, this appears on the screen before Bill Taylor speaks: “The revered ambassador and decorated veteran … Who saw the pressure campaign up close.” The video

(Thanks for the alert from Charlie Sykes)

To impeach and remove, Part 2

Judging from the propaganda he horks up, Republican Senator John Kennedy (Louisiana) is not likely to vote to convict and remove the president. Are there any Republicans in the Senate who are willing to admit to the danger to our country, to our democracy even, posed by Donald J. Trump? Are there any willing to honor their oath of office and do their constitutional duty?

If the answer to those questions is “no”, then our nation is well and truly screwed. A purely partisan vote in the Senate will complete the hand-off of constitutionally specified power from the Congress to the President.

A. B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics, speculates about The Twelve Senate Republicans Who Might Vote to Remove Trump from Office in The Bulwark. He argues that It’s vitally important to the future of the Republic that a Senate trial not result in a straight party-line vote.

Here are excerpts.

The problem

Even before the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up its public impeachment hearings, the punditariat and the president’s defenders defiantly declared this whole matter “over” because polls show Americans don’t care, ratings show not enough of them watched, and though some vaping voters may abandon Trump, elected Republicans never will. This week the impeachment process moves over to the House Judiciary Committee, where we will hear from Republicans over and over that these proceedings are an embarrassing failure. When the process reaches the House floor, either late this month or in January, we can expect Republicans to vote en masse against articles of impeachment and throw triumphant press conferences celebrating the Democrats’ political suicide. Somewhere senators are practicing their gleeful but disgusted chuckles.

It seems all but certain that a Senate impeachment trial won’t remove Trump from office, since reaching the necessary supermajority of 67 votes would require the support not only of all 47 Senate Democrats and independents but also of 20 Senate Republicans. Yet surely there are at least 12 Republican senators who could find themselves unable to absolve the president of his demonstrably impeachable conduct. A bipartisan majority vote declaring his actions a betrayal of his oath of office is still critically important. A partisan acquittal would represent a grave threat to the Republic: Trump would view it not only as approval of his past abuse of power and attempted bribery but as permission for more. This outcome, senators know, would invite Trump to break our system for good.

Is there a dirty dozen?

Likely the only Senate Republicans who will truly wrestle with this burden are three retirees who are leaving the Senate next year, another three rebels who seemed disinclined to fear the cult, and six others who are up for re-election. Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, and Pat Roberts are eyeing the history books and all revere the institution that was functioning as a coequal branch of government when they arrived. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski have not been afraid to criticize Trump, and Richard Burr has run the most bipartisan committee in Congress through his own Russia investigation—and is serving his final term in the seat once held by Sam Ervin, who chaired the Senate Watergate committee.

For those Senate Republicans in tough re-election battles, a vote to sanction Trump isn’t going to save them, but if they are likely to lose their race anyway they may see the most important vote of their career a bit differently. Susan Collins is in a huge fight after a career as the most bipartisan senator in a state Hillary Clinton won. Cory Gardner is also facing a well-liked former governor in a blue state Clinton won. Martha McSally lost her race in Arizona last year and is now serving by appointment in the seat of the late John McCain. She is running in a swing state and will weigh her dependence on Trump against the Constitution and democracy she fought to protect as a combat pilot in the Air Force. Joni Ernst will have to hope every last devastated farmer shows up to vote Republican after Trump’s trade war has hit Iowa and his approval there is underwater. Her own approval and fundraising have been weak. Thom Tillis is also underwater in North Carolina where Democrats are investing heavily and where he was booed at a Trump rally. Tillis could lose his race even if Trump wins the state. Finally, John Cornyn, a former judge and attorney general of Texas, will be in for a fierce fight in a state Ted Cruz predicted would be “hotly contested,” with Democrats promising to run up massive margins after their record turnout in 2018.

Made-up minds

It was striking to see several GOP senators rush out, as soon as the weeks of damaging Intelligence Committee testimony concluded, to make sure we knew that as impeachment jurors they will most definitely not have open minds. It was especially striking because, just hours after the hearings ended, a series of new developments started breaking in the press.

Those developments include: Russia framing Ukraine for Moscow’s 2016 hacks, a “series of internal administration emails depicting a scramble to retroactively explain Trump’s Ukraine actions”, and “two White House budget officials resigned this year at least in part out of frustration with Trump’s delay of aid to Ukraine.”

But my fav is this: “a lawyer for Rudy Giuliani crony Lev Parnas told CNN that last year, Rep. Devin Nunes, then the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, met in Vienna with Viktor Shokin, the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor general, to mine for oppo on former vice president Joe Biden.” And then “Parnas has already provided tapes, audio, and video to the House Intelligence Committee.”

In spite of all that, it appears that the GOPlins in the Senate have already conducted a trial in their own minds and found Trump totally innocent of the demonstrable high crimes and misdemeanors he has committed (and continues to do so every day).

It will be so ugly. The smell of hypocrisy will be everywhere. Tribalism has already contorted the mindset of too many Republicans, making President Trump’s removal all but impossible. But a few good men and women can choose country over cult.

Let’s hope that a handful of them can stomach it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Trump, hope does not produce change. And so it is also true of the Republicans in the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”

Monday, December 2, 2019

Get ready for a rough ride this week as the impeachment advances

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin predicts that the Answers to these five questions will determine the path forward on impeachment. (Emphases in original.)

Events in the early part of last week, perhaps not fully appreciated in the run-up to the long holiday weekend, may turn out to be determinative in the impeachment story playing out before our eyes.

First, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) announced he would not wait for the determination of court fights over witnesses nor discovery of new lines of evidence before drafting the committee’s report and forwarding it to the Judiciary Committee. The report will be reviewed by committee members on Monday and then put up for a vote Tuesday. The big challenge for Schiff: Can he avoid the pitfalls of the Mueller report? The report has to be readable and digestible by the average American, painting a compelling picture of a president abusing his office for private, partisan advantage. Schiff must explain why President Trump’s conduct is so egregious while batting down the notion that we lack definitive evidence Trump directed the extortion scheme against an ally. (Trump’s own words in the July 25 call and the sequence by which aid was blocked and released, not to mention acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s public confession, would get any decent prosecutor a conviction in a criminal courtroom.)

Second, a federal court on Monday held Trump’s claim of absolute immunity used to block the testimony of Donald McGahn was, to borrow a word, malarkey. Will the appeals court and the Supreme Court affirm that ruling in a timely fashion, compelling potentially devastating witnesses to come forward? At issue would be not only McGahn’s testimony, but also that of Mulvaney, of former national security adviser John Bolton and of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. If that happens, the floodgates may open and the last scraps of deniability for Trump may vanish.

Third, The Post reported last week that one of Giuliani’s henchmen, Lev Parnas, allegedly was helping “the top Republican on the House Intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) … search for wrongdoing by former vice president Joe Biden in Ukraine, too.” Parnas is facing charges of his own so, The Post writes, he “certainly has reason to try to offer information to Congress that might help alleviate his legal trouble. But his claim would be a big deal if true, putting a member of Congress who plays a major role in the investigation into Trump as a part of the episode Trump is being impeached over.” Nunes has yet to deny the claims directly. Will Nunes, the chief Republican conspiratorialist, himself be toppled, thereby revealing House Republicans’ bad faith in concocting blatantly ridiculous defenses for Trump?

Fourth, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who already had a major revision of his testimony and implausibly testified he did not recognize that “Burisma investigation” meant investigation into the Bidens, is in hot water again. Sondland testified to an alleged Sept. 9 call with Trump in which Trump blurted out “no quid pro quo,” an odd formulation since Sondland had not raised the issue first. However, the lack of a record of the alleged call, the time of the alleged call (in the wee hours of the morning in Washington) and other witness testimony suggest there was no such call. Instead, other evidence substantiates a Sept. 7 call “in which the president made clear that he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to personally announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents.” That leads to the dual questions: Does Sondland have some liability for false testimony under oath, and does the evisceration of this witness remove one of the few remaining lines of defense for Trump?

Fifth, Schiff’s report will be tightly focused on the Ukraine scandal and on Trump’s obstruction of Congress, including possible witness intimidation. However, it is an open question as to whether Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) adds to the material for additional articles of impeachment including, for example, the instances of obstruction detailed in the Mueller report. Will the impeachment go narrow or broad, and if the latter, is this going to drag well into 2020?

Ultimately, impeachment is a political process. While Democrats remain united, and the public narrowly favors impeachment, Republicans are dug in, seemingly willing to stake their political survival and personal credibility on a president who betrayed our own national security to obtain foreign help (again) in his election.

Autocratic President Donald J. Trump, 'Old Bonespurs', administers military justice

Here is why you should worry about that. General Bonespurs has assumed autocratic control of military justice reports the NY Times: Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance. Here is some of the report.

He was limp and dusty from an explosion, conscious but barely. A far cry from the fierce, masked Islamic State fighters who once seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, the captive was a scraggly teenager in a tank top with limbs so thin that his watch slid easily off his wrist.

Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher and other Navy SEALs gave the young captive medical aid that day in Iraq in 2017, sedating him and cutting an airway in his throat to help him breathe. Then, without warning, according to colleagues, Chief Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.

The same Chief Gallagher who later posed for a photograph holding the dead captive up by the hair has now been celebrated on the campaign trail by President Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Mr. Trump has made Chief Gallagher a cause célèbre, trumpeting him as an argument for his re-election.

The violent encounter in a faraway land opened a two-year affair that would pit a Pentagon hierarchy wedded to longstanding rules of combat and discipline against a commander in chief with no experience in uniform but a finely honed sense of grievance against authority. The highest ranks in the Navy insisted Chief Gallagher be held accountable. Mr. Trump overruled the chain of command and the secretary of the Navy was fired.

The case of the president and a commando accused of war crimes offers a lesson in how Mr. Trump presides over the armed forces three years after taking office. While he boasts of supporting the military, he has come to distrust the generals and admirals who run it. Rather than accept information from his own government, he responds to television reports that grab his interest. Warned against crossing lines, he bulldozes past precedent and norms.

As a result, the president finds himself more removed than ever from a disenchanted military command, adding the armed forces to the institutions under his authority that he has feuded with, along with the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and diplomatic corps.

“We’re going to take care of our warriors and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Florida as he depicted the military hierarchy as part of “the deep state” he vowed to dismantle. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”

The president’s handling of the case has distressed active-duty and retired officers and the civilians who work closely with them. Mr. Trump’s intervention, they said, emboldens war criminals and erodes the order of a professional military.

Check out the Times’ report for more on Trump’s meddling. For even more, check out this report on Trump’s pardons in two additional cases: Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases. The moves signaled that as commander in chief, Mr. Trump intends to use his power as the ultimate arbiter of military justice. Trump has set himself up as the ultimate arbiter of military justice.

Consider: “He ordered the full pardon of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.” That case had not even gone to trial. I fully understand the meaning of Commander-in-Chief, but this intervention goes beyond the appeal-pardon route and is the action of an autocrat using these three cases for political advantage.

What worries me most of all is that Trump has neither military experience nor, as far as I can tell, an understanding of the need to insulate the military from politics. Instead, he is driven by his pathological need to advance everything that benefits himself. That motivation has not served our nation well.

Rick Wilson has famously observed that Everything Trump Touches Dies. As now applied to our armed forces, we should pray (to whomever we pray to) that Wilson is wrong. But given Trump’s track record I wouldn’t bet on it.