Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dems might have to learn to 'love the one you're with'

John Cassidy (New Yorker) reports that Bernie Sanders scores an impressive victory in Nevada.

Sanders’s win in Nevada on Saturday was so large and comprehensive that it raised the question of when, rather than whether, some of his rivals will drop out.

Shortly after 7 p.m. E.S.T., news outlets projected Sanders as the winner in Nevada. The early returns from the caucus precincts showed him getting more than a third of the first preferences, and, after the reallocation of second preferences, more than forty per cent of the vote—while most of his rivals struggled to reach the fifteen-per-cent threshold that they had to pass to get any delegates at all. If this pattern held through the final returns, Sanders would be allocated the vast majority of the state’s thirty-six pledged delegates.

As the race moves on to South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, there are big questions about the viability of all of the moderate candidates. Biden’s camp claimed a second-place finish in Nevada, but the results were not yet final, and Biden performed woefully among voters under forty-five. Tom Steyer, who spent heavily on advertising in the state, ran well behind in virtually every category. Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren all did very badly with minority voters, according to the entrance poll. Among Latino voters, Klobuchar got just four per cent, Warren seven per cent, and Buttigieg nine per cent. Among African-American voters, who made up roughly ten per cent of the voters, Klobuchar got the support of just three per cent and Buttigieg got two per cent.

With numbers like these, you would think there has to be a reckoning among the candidates who are now chasing Sanders. On Saturday night, there was no indication of any candidates dropping out—yet.

Obviously, as an Elizabeth Warren supporter I am not pleased. But I am reminded of the 60’s song by Stephen Sills.

Sills sings
if you can’t be with the one you love
then love the one you’re with

There is nothing - no credibility, no integrity - left in the Trump administration but the triumph of evil

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

He writes in the Washington Post If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid. (Here is is in full with additional commentary from the Post.

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

But the president chose Maguire. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

So who did Trump put in McGuire’s place?

In The Post’s View: Trump puts an unqualified loyalist in charge of national intelligence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S campaign to purge the government of anyone not blindly loyal to him continued Wednesday with the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity. He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations — like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.

Mr. Grenell has nevertheless won the president’s favor in a familiar way: by loudly praising him and his agenda on Fox News programs and social media. Probably, he has convinced Mr. Trump he can be counted on to put the president’s personal and political interests above those of national security — something the two previous DNIs would not reliably do.

He will reportedly retain his post as ambassador even while serving as acting DNI, something that will probably disappoint the Germans. U.S. intelligence professionals already struggling to preserve the vital work of providing accurate information to government decision-makers will be further demoralized. Mr. Grenell tweeted Thursday that he would not be formally nominated for the DNI position; that is not surprising, since he barely obtained Senate confirmation for the Berlin post and would likely face still greater opposition to becoming the nation’s intelligence chief.

Mr. Grenell’s tweet said a permanent DNI would be nominated “sometime soon.” Mr. Trump nevertheless may well leave his minion in place for months. The president has developed a penchant for placing acting officials in high positions; by doing so, he dodges the need for Senate approval and reduces the clout and independence of department heads. Mr. Grenell could remain in command of the intelligence community through most of this year’s presidential campaign. Will he stand up against interference by Russia or other hostile powers? Not, we suspect, unless Mr. Trump tells him to do so.

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin reminds us of what happens When competence is not the goal.

… Democratic presidential contenders advocating for a policy revolution or big, structural change are increasingly out of touch. We have no capacity, even if it were desirable, to launch major initiatives or fundamentally change entire sectors of our economy with a government that is discredited, hollowed out, incompetent and corrupt. The next president, as unsexy as it sounds, must be a competent and ethically pristine figure in order to repair our government. Candidates who have no conception of the task ahead and no interest in the hard work of running government are unsuited to the challenge we now face. Candidates whose purpose is confrontation and revolution lack the good sense and skill set to restore functional democracy.

Corruption, cruelty and incompetence define authoritarian states precisely because everything revolves around elevation of the leader and destruction of critics. Democrats must recognize and be able to explain that. The task is not revolution, but fumigation and toxic cleanup.

It is certain that our 2020 election is being hacked as I write this. But because Trump will not countenance independence and competence by the DNI, the nation and those responsible for oversight will be denied information needed to to their jobs of protecting us and our democratic institutions.

McRaven has given us reasons to fear. “As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation.”

Coronavirus update - CDC prepares for 'likely' spread in US

USA TODAY reports that CDC is preparing for the ‘likely’ spread of coronavirus in the US, officials say.

The CDC reported that at least 35 people in the United States are infected with the virus. Of those, 14 were travelers who fell ill after returning from a trip abroad, while 21 were were people “repatriated” by the State Department.

Health experts sounded the alarm Friday over the worldwide threat of the coronavirus, with officials warning of its “likely” community spread in the United States and the World Health Organization cautioning that “the window of opportunity is narrowing” for containing the outbreak worldwide.

The COVID–19 coronavirus, which erupted in China in December, has killed at least 2,360 people and sickened at least 77,900 worldwide, the majority of cases in mainland China.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday that U.S. health officials are preparing for the coronavirus to become a pandemic.

“We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States, yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” she said. “Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.”

She said the CDC is working with state and local health departments “to ready our public health workforce to respond to local cases.” These measures include collaboration with supply chain partners, hospitals, pharmacies and manufacturers to determine what medical supplies are needed.

She said the “day may come” here where we have to shut down schools and businesses like China has done.

ABJ sentences RS saying 'the truth still exists, the truth still matters'

Look Out, America, ABJ Is the New RBG writes Molly Jong-Fast (Daily Beast Editor-At-Large). “The truth still matters.” With those words, a brave judge sent away a man who’s deserved it for years—and reminded us of what this country can be again.

"The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Thursday at the sentencing of the president’s favorite dirty trickster, Roger Stone. It may have seemed like an obvious statement, but as Trumpworld continues its assault on the rule of law, things like the truth mattering seem slightly obscured by the current political climate of relentless lying. Judge ABJ continued, “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy.”

The foundation of our democracy has been feeling a little shaky after all the Republican senators (with the exception of Mitt Romney) were derelict in their duty of holding the president accountable, after John Bolton was more committed to book sales than the truth, and as the president runs his own separate media ecosystem that takes his lies as gospel. It’s hard to have any faith in anything that’s going on in Washington, D.C., these days. But then along comes Judge Amy Berman Jackson, emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the Mueller investigation.

Despite personal attacks in the social media by Stone and Trump …

… the 65-year-old, Harvard-educated judge has not been deterred, and at the sentencing hearing she got down to the heart of the matter, which is simply that the cult of personality that surrounds Trump shouldn’t matter more than the truth. “The defendant lied about a matter of great national and international significance,” she said. “This is not campaign hijinks. This is not just Roger being Roger.”

The truth has had a very hard time of it lately. The president is not a fan. As of January, The Washington Post had him at 16,241 misleading statements. Bill Barr seems more and more like Rudy Giuliani, just another one of Trump’s “free lawyers.” Often, it feels like his administration is at war with the truth, the president’s army of propagandists seems relentless. And just when it looks darkest, we have the young RBG, ABJ, to remind us that “the truth still matters.”

It’s a beautiful and weirdly tragic moment, watching ABJ beat back against the current of Trumpism. ABJ reminds us that some day the truth will matter once again, that we as a people are better than the childish rhetoric and grotesque name-calling that is Trumpism.

Some day America will once again be a shining city on the hill, or at least a normal place, and not a partisan nightmare ruled by a moron. And when it returns to its once former normalcy, it will be because of judges like ABJ and not criminals like Roger Stone.

Science shorts - Elephants mourn and dogs love

How elephants respond to death

The Washington Post reports research on mourning by elephants: An elephant’s story does not end when it dies. That’s a bit of an inferential leap on my part, but read the story and judge for yourself.

In Kenya, there’s a spot on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River where elephants like to congregate. Tall acacia trees provide shade for naps, and doum palms supply date-like fruits that the animals scarf up by the trunk-full. It was in this place that Victoria, a 55-year-old matriarch well-known to scientists, drew her last breaths in June 2013.

But that was not the end of Victoria’s story.

Several elephants huddled around the body, recalled ecologist Shifra Goldenberg, who was observing the animals with colleagues that day. She noticed that Malasso, a 14-year-old bull, was one of the last to leave. Victoria was his mother.

The scientists do not conclude from these accounts that elephants mourn, an activity that is often attributed to the species. But their response has a common thread, the authors say. When an elephant falls, the loss is acknowledged and investigated by other elephants, even those unrelated to the deceased. Death means something to elephants, in other words — possibly something emotional.

Your dog loves you

The science newsletter phys.org reports on What makes dogs so special? Science says love.

The idea that animals can experience love was once anathema to the psychologists who studied them, seen as a case of putting sentimentality before scientific rigor.

But a new book argues that, when it comes to dogs, the word is necessary to understanding what has made the relationship between humans and our best friends one of the most significant interspecies partnerships in history.

Clive Wynne, founder the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, makes the case in “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

The math says that Bernie is the likely Dem candidate. But there are some things that could reverse that - if they get done yesterday.

The delegate math now favors Bernie Sanders reports John Cassidy at The New Yorker. Here is some of it.

The most significant development in the Democratic primary over the past few days wasn’t Wednesday night’s slugfest of a debate in Las Vegas, entertaining as that was for anybody not in Michael Bloomberg’s camp. It was the publication of three separate opinion polls that showed Bernie Sanders with a substantial lead over the other candidates in California, which votes on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, now less than two weeks away.

"Since the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire primaries … Sanders has opened up a large lead over the rest of the field across Super Tuesday states,” Mitch Stewart and Dan Kanninen, two staffers on the Bloomberg campaign, wrote in a controversial campaign memo that was leaked just before Wednesday’s debate. “As the race stands today, Sanders is poised to leave Super Tuesday with an over–400 delegate lead versus his next closest competitor a likely insurmountable advantage,” the memo warned.

The other campaigns rightly slammed the leaking of this document as a brazen effort to put pressure on Biden, Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar—Bloomberg’s rivals in the moderate lane—to leave the race. After Bloomberg’s pitiful performance in the debate, it is perhaps he who should be considering an early exit. But the delegate math can’t be swept aside. The independent Web site FiveThirtyEight—whose forecasting model for the primary takes into account the latest polls and the method of allocating delegates, as well as other factors—also shows Sanders taking a lead of more than three hundred delegates over his nearest rival by the end of Super Tuesday.

To be sure, this analysis is based on recent trends continuing, which may not happen. A strong showing for Biden in Nevada, followed by a big victory in South Carolina, could alter the dynamic, as could a sizable bounce for Warren, after her strong performance in Wednesday’s debate. Even absent some major new development, Sanders is far from assured of getting a majority of the pledged delegates at the end of the process. Unless his vote share increases substantially from where it currently is in the polls, Sanders achieving such a decisive result seems like a stretch. Right now, though, the senator appears to have a very good chance of having a plurality of delegates going into the Milwaukee convention.

I, your Scriber, don’t regard myself as one of the ABOTS (Any Body Other Than Sanders) but (#1) I favor Warren, and (#2) I really do worry that Sanders will lose to Trump. (Socialism, socialism, solcialism ad nauseam.)

If you share my misgivings (or even not), try tuning into this from Charlie Sykes’ the morning Bulwark email.

It’s later than you think, writes Tim Miller in this morning’s Bulwark. “Barring a drastic change in the race,,” he writes, “Bernie Sanders is going to be the presumptive Democratic nominee 11 days from now.”

“Eleven days.”

Some of us have seen this happen before. Miller lived it from inside…. So, helpfully, he offers “The 5 Lessons from 2016 Democrats Need to Understand If They Want to Stop Bernie.” Miller provides “an emergency guide to what I learned during the invasion of 2016.”

History is repeating itself. Democrats can learn how to save their party from seeing how the Republicans lost theirs ” writes Miller.

For starters, consider that the other candidates have been busy sticking it to each other. Miller provides a piece of history from the 2016 race.

Everyone else [other than Jeb Bush] went to pains not to target Trump and instead aim their fire at the guys in second, third, fourth, and fifth places. Remember the Christie/Rubio murder-suicide? You would think the non-Bernie Democratic campaigns would’ve learned that shivving one another only helps the frontrunner, not the guy or gal holding the shank.

And yet for two straight debates the non-Bernies repeated the same exact Christie/Rubio nightmare scenario. First in New Hampshire, the field focused on Mayor Pete rather than Bernie. (Bernie’s campaign admitted to NBC’s Shaq Brewster that it was that debate which stunted Buttigieg’s momentum and probably cost him the win.) On Wednesday night in Nevada, they did the same damn thing, with Warren disemboweling Mayor Mike and Pete and Amy continuing their tiff.

Remember this? NBC reported that Bloomberg to fund sizable campaign effort through November even if he loses Democratic nomination. Exclusive: The former New York City mayor plans to continue paying hundreds of staffers and funding his digital operation to defeat Trump even if he’s not the nominee.

So, on the money matter, Mayor Mike, shut up and put up. Back to Miller …

Bloomberg has spent $230 million and counting on TV and digital ads in the Super Tuesday states—all to bootstrap his own campaign. (I went in depth on the problem with his game theory and how it might be helping Sanders here.)

If Mike’s goal is to actually beat Bernie—and not just finish Super Tuesday with a gentleman’s 18 percent and embark on a long, losing slog in the hopes something crazy happens—then his paid media needs to shift to targeting Bernie immediately.

Let me emphasize this: Immediately, today, five minutes ago, right the fork NOW.

If Bloomberg embarks on a high-volume ad campaign aimed at Bernie it might have the effect of capping or peeling off enough of Bernie’s support before Super Tuesday to push the decisive window further out than just 11 days from now.

Which could, in turn, give the Democratic elites time to use their leverage and the other candidates to redirect their attacks.

Miller also points to another lesson from 2016: That “wait and see” approach became “it’s too late to do anything” really forking fast! So Establishment Figures Who Can Make A Difference Can’t Afford To Wait.

So let’s take a look at 2020 and which Democratic figures are on the sidelines: the Obamas, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore.

Basically every major Democrat who a normal primary voter would know and whose endorsement could command a news cycle is sitting around to see how things shake out.

And I promise you that every one of them who is right now weighing when to put their thumb on the scale will quickly decide after Super Tuesday that they don’t want to be fighting a lonely battle against an inevitable Bernie.

Some of these individuals could shake up the race. Imagine the consolidation pressure if an Obama or Clinton came out for Pete or Joe or Amy in the way Ted Kennedy did for Obama in 2008. That would be the type of event that could legitimately change the balance of the race. If it happened soon.

Check out Miller’s essay for other lessons from 2016. And see the Friday Blog for Arizona post from the AZ Blue Meanie for Some thoughts about ‘fight night’ in Las Vegas.

Tick tock.

20 hours of reflection on the Wednesday Dem debate

Elizabeth Warren is still my fav.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post Plum Line) has some observations and a question about last night when Elizabeth Warren just tore apart a billionaire. Why not Trump?

Is the problem festering at the core of our current crisis largely reducible to President Trump alone? Or is he mainly a symptom of much deeper pathologies afflicting our politics and economy?

For months, this question has lurked just below the surface of the debates driving the Democratic primaries, with each candidate for the most part leaning in one direction or the other.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s breakout debate performance in Las Vegas on Wednesday night is drawing wide acclaim for her brutal dismantling of Mike Bloomberg, who appeared shaky and unprepared. By repeatedly savaging one “arrogant billionaire,” as Warren put it, she induced many to envision her woman-handling the other “arrogant billionaire,” the one tweeting maniacally from the White House.

But there’s a hidden reason Warren’s performance deserves attention. In her treatment of both arrogant billionaires, you could discern how she’d strike her own version of the balancing act outlined above, by attacking Trump as both symptom and exacerbation, as both the result of deeply ingrained problems in our political economy and a figure of unique depravity and venality in his own right.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Warren said, right at the outset. “No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk,” Warren continued, adding: “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

That, of course, is an indictment not just of Bloomberg (who has his own history of demeaning women) but also of Trump: The president is a disgusting misogynist and a racist in his own right, and he’s engaged in nonstop corrupt self-dealing, facilitated by concealed tax returns — and a corrupted system.

Similarly, in another big exchange, Warren cornered Bloomberg by pressing him to release female employees from nondisclosure agreements. But Warren linked this back to the other arrogant billionaire, insisting Democrats can’t beat Trump with a nominee “who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements” hidden away somewhere.

The argument isn’t just that a misogynist billionaire can’t beat Trump. It’s that a misogynist billionaire who conceals misconduct through clever gaming of the system can’t beat Trump.

The through line here is an indictment of elite corruption — that is, of elites acting with impunity.

Trump and elite corruption

In other words, Warren’s attack on Trump (via Bloomberg) isn’t merely directed at his bottomless void of personal decency and respect for other human beings (which might appeal to suburban women alienated from Trump) or merely at the degree to which he’s representative of a deeply corrupted system (which could appeal to young voters and working-class whites).

It’s both. In Warren’s telling, these are two sides of the same coin: The same man who boasts of grabbing women’s private parts simply because he can is also representative of financial elites who hide personal and financial misconduct alike behind high-priced lawyers while enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us. It’s the corrupted and rigged system that allows them to do so, with a sense of impunity that at bottom is very similar to that exhibited by Trump’s boasts about sexual assault.

You could also see this in Warren’s discussion of her economic proposals. After Bloomberg absurdly denounced progressive economic proposals as “communism,” Warren pivoted to her proposed tax on extreme wealth, noting it could fund universal child care, pay teachers fair wages and relieve student debt.

“Do we want to invest in Mr. Bloomberg?” Warren asked. “Or do we want to invest in an entire generation of young students?”

One can easily see Warren on a debate stage next to Trump, asking this question while substituting Trump’s name for Bloomberg’s. She could link this to Trump’s massive corporate tax cut (which has produced huge shortfalls in revenue that could otherwise fund popular progressive proposals), and to Trump’s own history of ballooning his inherited wealth with tax fraud, profiteering off the presidency, and lack of transparency on his finances.

Here again Trump would be both symptom and peculiarly abhorrent aberration. Trump is uniquely corrupt, but his profiteering (and that of financial elites like him) is enabled by a tax system made more deeply regressive by Trump and Republicans, and a political system crying out for reforms (like those proposed by Warren) to constrain self-dealing by imposing transparency requirements on presidential candidates.

A Warren comeback? Maybe.

It’s not clear whether this can rescue Warren’s candidacy. Bloomberg’s massive self-funding could mitigate the damage he sustains. Or, by deflating Bloomberg, Warren may allow another moderate (a revived Joe Biden?) to emerge instead.

Separately, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also posted a strong performance and emerged largely unscathed, possibly putting him on track to an insurmountable delegate lead after Super Tuesday.

On the other hand, as Dave Karpf points out, Warren doesn’t necessarily need to cut into Sanders’s base (which is unshakably loyal) to come back. Warren is at her strongest when she attacks corruption and inequality, while staking out a posture that’s both progressive and pro-reformed-capitalism, both populist and technocratic, which could allow her to play unifier to constituencies outside Sanders’s base.

Whether this will happen remains to be seen. But Warren also showed a way to bridge the intra-Dem argument over how to attack both Trump and our deeper maladies alike, and whatever happens to her candidacy, the eventual nominee should study her performance closely.

Major Pete goes after Bloomberg and Sanders

Here’s a sample of Jennifer Rubin’s commentary in which she asks Who benefits from Bloomberg’s troubles?

Buttigieg also made hay out of Bloomberg’s (and to some extent Sanders’s) troubles. He began and ended with the same argument. In his first answer he told the audience: “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage.” He ended as he began: “If you look at the choice between a revolution or the status quo and you don’t see where you fit in that picture, then join us. … We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.” Tweaking both Bloomberg and Sanders, he declared that he was the only one who had been a Democratic mayor.

True. Sanders is a registered independent. Bloomberg was (is???) a Republican.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Trump prepares for election by lying, cheating, and more

Sarada Peri (Former senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama), writing in The Atlantic, confirms our fears that Trump Is Going to Cheat She then asks: How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?

Add to that his 15,000+ lies and his claims about not honoring outcomes of future elections. Here are excerpts.

… concerns about policy and broad cultural appeal are secondary to the true “electability” crisis facing whichever Democrat wins the nomination: He or she will need to run against a president seemingly prepared, and empowered, to lie and cheat his way to reelection.

The lies

If past is prologue, Trump will say absolutely anything necessary to attract and maintain support, including patent untruths. His pathological lying has been well documented and yet never ceases to stun. By one count, he has told more than 15,000 lies since taking office. A small sampling: After falsely declaring that Hurricane Dorian was headed toward Alabama, he displayed a doctored map to cover his tracks, and his chief of staff made the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration release a statement defending his lie. Trump also recently claimed that he rescued health coverage for people with preexisting conditions—even though he has gutted the Affordable Care Act and is suing to overturn it. One day after tweeting, “We will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget,” his budget revealed cuts to both.

How can Democrats run against a candidate who will simply deny his unpopular positions and make up nonexistent accomplishments? No amount of fact-checking can counter his constant stream of mendacity, which has become white noise in our political culture.

The cheating

Perhaps the most troubling form of cheating is the most diffuse, and therefore the hardest to grasp. Trump’s reelection campaign, abetted by right-wing media and companies like Facebook that have absolved themselves of any democratic responsibility, is waging a disinformation war modeled on the efforts of dictators and unprecedented in its scale. As reported by this magazine, the campaign is prepared to spend $1 billion to harness digital media to the president’s advantage, including bot attacks, viral conspiracy theories, doctored videos, and microtargeted ads that distort reality.

At the same time, his campaign is fomenting distrust in the very system he is undermining. Using guerrilla tactics, his supporters jammed up the Iowa Democratic Party hotline on caucus night to sow chaos. Then, when the results indeed yielded chaos, Republican trolls, including Don Jr., tweeted out conspiracy theories about a rigged election. Worst of all, congressional Republicans are shamelessly blocking election-security bills, including two that would specifically fight foreign interference in American elections.

The coup

Should the lying and cheating fail—should the Democrat manage to win the 2020 election—Trump will have one more trick up his sleeve. Before the 2016 election, he suggested that he might not accept a defeat. So who’s to say that he will accept one in 2020? You don’t have to squint hard to see the clues: He retweeted Jerry Falwell Jr.’s suggestion that he ought to have two years added to his term and “joked” about staying in office longer than eight years. If he loses in November, the litigious showman might claim that the election was rigged against him and theatrically contest the results in court.

What to do

The cumulative effect of Trump’s efforts, of all the stains on his shirt, is to disorient the media and the electorate. Democrats, meanwhile, are fighting about how aggressive to get on climate change or whether debt-free college should be means-tested—bless their hearts. These are worthy questions, but not the question of the moment: How should they fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass, and who will use the full might of the executive branch to win?

Electability, ultimately, cannot rest on the shoulders of whomever the party nominates, talented though that person may be. Electability does not depend, simply, on the nominee’s ability to earn the votes of a wide array of Americans in a few battleground states. It depends on all Americans’ willingness to demand an election that is, indeed, free and fair.

(Thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry for the tip on this one.)

What 'education reform' means to Mike Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools claim Dr. Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc (both associated with Sanders’ campaign). Like Trump, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country they charge.

For example:

If anything, the main difference between Bloomberg and Trump is that the former has spent far more of his immense personal fortune to boost corporate “education reform” and local candidates driving this agenda. The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg has spent millions to promote charters in the state of Louisiana alone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: Bloomberg’s foundation in 2018 announced its plan to spend $375m to promote charters, merit pay and the sacking of “failing” teachers, among other reforms.

Read (lots) more in The Guardian report. (Tnx to Phil Nicolai for the tip.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

After Stone case intervention, Federal Judges Association, 1100 strong, calls emergency meeting

The Washington Post’s Fred Barbash reports that Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention.

The head of the Federal Judges Association is taking the extraordinary step of calling an emergency meeting to address the intervention in politically sensitive cases by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the Philadelphia-based judge who heads the voluntary association of around 1,100 life-term federal judges, told USA Today that the issue “could not wait.” The association, founded in 1982, ordinarily concerns itself with matters of judicial compensation and legislation affecting the federal judiciary.

On Sunday, more than 1,100 former Justice Department employees released a public letter calling on Barr to resign over the Stone case.

A search of news articles since the group’s creation revealed nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.

Rufe, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

The action follows a week of turmoil that included the president tweeting his outrage over the length of sentence recommended by career federal prosecutors for his friend Roger Stone and the decision by Barr to withdraw that recommendation.

In between, Trump singled out the judge in the Stone case, Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, for personal attacks, accusing her of bias and spreading a falsehood about her record.

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe said to USA Today. “We’ll talk all this through.”

Trump has a history of judge-bashing in response to his many losses in Federal courts. For example, he lost a case involving Trump University and then, with racist remarks, attacked the judge.

'Justice' dispensed by an autocrat is the worst case scenario for our Republic

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell introduces “equal protection.”

Equal Protection refers to the idea that a governmental body may not deny people equal protection of its governing laws. The governing body state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances.

The Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause requires the United States government to practice equal protection. The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires states to practice equal protection.

Equal protection forces a state to govern impartially—not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective. Thus, the equal protection clause is crucial to the protection of civil rights.

Loyalty to an autocrat, a dictator, or a monarch is not a “legitimate governmental objective.” Yet that is exactly the criterion applied by the United States’ highest legal officers. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reviews that judicial malpractice in Trump, Bill Barr, and the arrival of the worst-case scenario. When it comes to the politicization of the justice system, we appear to have arrived at the worst-case scenario.

After a week in which the politicization of federal law enforcement jolted much of the political world, many are understandably concerned about highly unusual threats to the nation’s justice system. Indeed, there’s a temptation to imagine a worst-case scenario and wonder whether we’re likely to reach it.

But what if those fears are misplaced – not because the threat will never arrive, but because it’s already here? What if the worst-case scenario is not a hazard on the horizon, but rather, the point at which we’ve already arrived?

What if the justice system we fear might buckle has already been beaten into submission by those who see the rule of law as politically inconvenient?

Donald Trump pressed federal law enforcement to go after Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI director who authorized investigations into the president’s Russia ties. Soon after, the Justice Department did, in fact, target the longtime FBI official, looking in vain for some kind of crime with which to indict him. Prosecutors convened a grand jury, but couldn’t find wrongdoing.

We learned late last week that Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, told prosecutors he saw what was clearly going on.

“…I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted,” Walton said. “I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road, and we have those type of statements being made that are conceivably, even if not, influencing the ultimate decision. I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”

Benen provides other instances of political interference in the cases of Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

And let’s not overlook the cases we don’t yet know about.

Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases – some public, some not….

A New York Times report added yesterday, “Mr. Barr installed a phalanx of outside lawyers to re-examine national security cases with the possibility of overruling career prosecutors, a highly unusual move that could prompt more accusations of Justice Department politicization.”

Ya think?

The pattern is hardly subtle: on cases of interest to Trump, we see the president’s attorney general, trying to steer prosecutorial decisions in ways consistent with the White House’s wishes. We’re left with a dynamic in which there are two parallel systems: one for cases that the president cares about, in which Barr plays a direct and personal role, and another for the rest of the justice system.

A Washington Post report added yesterday that Barr’s Justice Department “has repeatedly tasked U.S. attorneys from far-flung offices to parachute into politically explosive cases,” which has raised “concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested.”

All of the recent reporting has been extremely valuable, though I take issue with the word “concerns.” Given the circumstances, it’s hardly unreasonable to believe we’re past the point of “concerns,” having arriving at the point of emergency conditions without modern precedent.

We’re not supposed to have a system – in fact, we cannot expect to maintain a system – in which the attorney general essentially tries to fix federal cases the president cares about.

As Rachel [Maddow] put it on Friday’s show, “Prosecutorial decisions are now being made under the direct supervision of the attorney general, specifically to benefit the president and to respond to his demands, to punish his enemies and try to free his friends. It’s not that there’s a threat of this; we are now living with a justice system that has been made to work this way.”

The president, unconcerned with legal constraints, is unembarrassed by these conditions. In fact, Trump appears eager to flaunt it – both as a way to signal support to his allies, and as a way to warn his perceived foes that he has a Justice Department at his disposal, and he’s prepared to abuse his power and corrupt the system as he sees fit.

Rachel added on Friday, “The rule of law is no longer in effect when it comes to criminal cases that have anything to do with the president or his perceived interests.”

It seems like a good time to stop fearing the threat of the worst-case scenario and start acknowledging that in a nation that takes the rule of law seriously, this is the worst-case scenario.

UofA Law prof defends the rule of law as critical to the survival of our Republic

Hank Shea, UofA law professor, writing in the Daily Star, explains: Why I signed the DOJ alumni letter calling on Barr to resign. Here is the article in full (with block quotes suppressed).

I am a professor of practice at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where I have taught courses in crime and punishment, white collar crime and investigations for the last 10 years. Prior to moving to Tucson, I served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota for 20 years during the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations.

I spent most of my career with the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuting many hundreds of white collar criminals, including scores of business executives, bankers, brokers, accountants and 15 lawyers.

Those defendants were typically well-educated, often wealthy, and sometimes quite powerful and influential.

I did my job as a federal prosecutor without fear or favor of any person because I was guided by the oath I took to support and defend our Constitution and uphold the rule of law.

Further, I was bound to apply the law equally to all Americans regardless of their identity, background or status.

At times during my career, current and former elected officials attempted to influence my efforts to prosecute prominent persons. I resisted and rejected those efforts because allowing any political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution would violate my sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

What I faced as a federal prosecutor, however, does not come anywhere close to the recent conduct of President Trump and Attorney General William Barr in attempting to improperly influence the upcoming sentencing of Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, by giving him preferential treatment.

For this reason, I joined more than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials in signing a letter calling on Barr to resign his office.

Let me quote extensively from that letter to further explain why I signed it and why it should matter to us all.

“(President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s) behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. One should not be given special treatment because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics, they are autocracies.

“We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters either to punish his opponents or help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility.

“But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

“For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department.

“Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress … We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives.

“The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.”

Hank Shea is a professor of practice at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where he has taught for 10 years.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Fareed Zakaria - Sander's energy plan relies on magical thinking

In his Washington Post column Fareed Zakaria exposes Bernie Sanders’s magical thinking on climate change.

The Sanders green energy “plan” is based on magical thinking. It presumes that we can reduce emissions in electricity and transport to zero in 10 years while simultaneously shutting down the only two low-emission, always-available sources of power that together provide nearly 60 percent of our country’s electricity [nuclear and natural gas]. And that makes me wonder: Is the real problem that Sanders will lose — or that he might win?

Read more about the basis for Zakaria’s concerns after the break.

(Reprinted in the Daily Star as “Sanders’ climate proposals should concern voters”. Thanks to Mrs. Scriber for this tip.)

Victory for Native American voting rights in North Dakota

Scriber’s hunch is that this is even a bigger deal. This capitulation by the ND GOP seems like it should apply to all rural residents regardless of ethnic origin. Read on.

Stephen Wolf for Daily Kos Elections reports that North Dakota GOP settles voter ID lawsuits in a major victory for Native American voting rights.

North Dakota’s Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger has agreed to settle two lawsuits that had argued that the GOP’s strict voter ID law had intentionally discriminated against Native American voters, handing voting rights advocates in North Dakota a major victory.

Jaeger’s move came after a federal court rejected the GOP’s motion to dismiss one of the challenges on Monday. The settlement will require the state to enter into a consent agreement enforced by a federal court order to guarantee that Native voters who don’t have a residential street address can still vote.

At issue was the law’s requirement that voters to have a street address on their ID for it to be valid. But because many Native Americans living on remote rural reservations lack postal service and thus don’t have a traditional address, a large number of IDs issued by the tribes would have been disqualified. Since many reservation residents also don’t drive, they don’t have driver’s licenses, either.

Federal courts let this law go into effect in 2018, but Native activists were able to blunt much of its impact by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to print free tribal IDs that included residential addresses. The backlash may have helped spur turnout on Native reservations, with some setting participation records that exceeded levels seen in even presidential years.

As part of the settlement, Jaeger’s office has agreed to work with the state Department of Transportation to help voters on reservations obtain a free non-driver ID within 30 days of future statewide elections. Native voters will also be able to mark their residence on a map and therefore shift the burden of verifying their address to the state. Officials will also be required to work to educate the public and train poll workers properly.

Barbra Streisand has a song for Donald Trump

Listen to “”Don’t Lie To Me“” here: http://smarturl.it/BarbraWalls.

(Thanks to Miriam Lindmeier for this one.)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Fitz endorses Amy Klobuchar

Fitz’s Opinion: Amy Klobuchar is this cartoonist’s candidate of the minute.

David Fitsimmons leads off with

I am not a member of the Arizona Daily Star editorial board and thus, being my own cantankerous varmint, I am endorsing Amy Klobuchar for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination to run for the president of the United States against that rattlesnake, you-know-who, the one with the forked tongue and the orange gills. At least that’s how I feel today.

Check out his essay for his reasons.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Rules for surviving Trump and other autocratic atrocities, Part 1

Last night (Feb. 12, 2020) Rachel Maddow reported on advice given America by two writers shortly after the 2016 election. Here is the link to the YouTube version of Rachel’s program: Experts Warn Democracies Facing Autocracy: Protect Your Institutions.

Part 1: Rules for surviving Trump and other such autocrats

Masha Gessen wrote an essay in the New York Review of Books titled Autocracy: Rules for Survival. She starteds with the concession speech that Hillary Clinton should have given.

“Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.”

That, or something like that, is what Hillary Clinton should have said on Wednesday. Instead, she said, resignedly,

We must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle [that] we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.

Not only have Trump and his sycophants trashed those values but in the right wing media they have mumbled about a transfer of power that is anything but peaceful.

Clinton was not the only prominent liberal to advocate working wtih Trump.

Similar refrains were heard from various members of the liberal commentariat, with Tom Friedman vowing, “I am not going to try to make my president fail,” to Nick Kristof calling on “the approximately 52 percent majority of voters who supported someone other than Donald Trump” to “give president Trump a chance.” Even the politicians who have in the past appealed to the less-establishment part of the Democratic electorate sounded the conciliatory note. Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to “put aside our differences.” Senator Bernie Sanders was only slightly more cautious, vowing to try to find the good in Trump: “To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.”

However well-intentioned, this talk assumes that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short, it is treating him as a “normal” politician. There has until now been little evidence that he can be one.

… Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now [in short excerpts]:

  • Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. … He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted “Lock her up!” They, and he, meant every word. … [Gessen predicted that] “Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas”
  • Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
  • *Rule #3*: Institutions will not save you. [For example]: The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.
  • *Rule #4*: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.
  • Rule #5: Don’t make compromises. Like Ted Cruz, who made the journey from calling Trump “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar” to endorsing him in late September to praising his win as an “amazing victory for the American worker,” Republican politicians have fallen into line.

(If you doubt, consider the behavior of GOP senators in their voting to Acquit Trump of abuse of power.)

  • Rule #6. Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

Rules for surviving Trump and other autocratic atrocities, Part 2

From Part 1: Last night (Feb. 12, 2020) Rachel Maddow reported on advice given America by two writers shortly after the 2016 election. Here is the link to the YouTube version of Rachel’s program: Experts Warn Democracies Facing Autocracy: Protect Your Institutions.

Part 2. 20 lessons about tyranny from modern history

Historian Timothy Snyder advises us to copy our founding fathers and learn from history, as they did, in his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Tim Duggan Books, 2017. (Scriber purchased the book.)

Here are short versions of Snyder’s lessons (after an introduction).

History does not repeat, but it does instruct. As the Founding Fathers debated our Constitution, they took instruction from the history they knew. Concerned that the democratic republic they envisioned would collapse, they contemplated the descent of ancient democracies and republics into oligarchy and empire. As they knew, Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants. In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing a system of checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of law by rulers for their own benefit. Much of the succeeding political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women, for example.

It is thus a primary American tradition to consider history when our political order seems imperiled. If we worry today that the American experiment is threatened by tyranny, we can follow the example of the Founding Fathers and contemplate the history of other democracies and republics. The good news is that we can draw upon more recent and relevant examples than ancient Greece and Rome. The bad news is that the history of modern democracy is also one of decline and fall. …

Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization: to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies in addressing them. …

We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats. This is a misguided reflex. In fact, the precedent set by the Founders demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.

Here are some of my favorites. (Advertisement: You can get the others by purchasing Snyder’s book.)

ON INSTITUTIONS

1 Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.

2 Defend institutions. It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about—a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union—and take its side.

3 Beware the one-party state. The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were not omnipotent from the start. They exploited a historic moment to make political life impossible for their opponents. So support the multi-party system and defend the rules of democratic elections. Vote in local and state elections while you can. Consider running for office.

ON ARMAMENTS

6 Be wary of paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.

7 Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, may God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

ON FACTS AND REALITY

10 Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

11 Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate propaganda campaigns (some of which come from abroad). Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.

ON CITIZENSHIP

15 Contribute to good causes. Be active in organizations, political or not, that express your own view of life. Pick a charity or two and set up autopay. Then you will have made a free choice that supports civil society and helps others to do good.

16 Learn from peers in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends in other countries. The present difficulties in the United States are an element of a larger trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

ON COURAGE AND PATRIOTISM

18 Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.

19 Be a patriot. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

20 Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.

AG Barr reduces DOJ reputation to 'tatters' as Trump attacks federal judge

The Daily Beast reports that Groveling Barr Just Pissed Away DOJ’s Greatest Power. The department’s hard-earned reputation for factual honesty and legal credibility is in tatters now.

You should remember, if for no other reason than repetition at this blog, the simple formula guiding the Trump administration: X/AntiX. That is, for a given X (agency or institution), appoint a leader who is AntiX. That is exactly what Trump did to DOJ when he appointed Barr as AG.

William Barr didn’t really help Roger Stone by overriding his own prosecutors — four of whom walked away from the case they’d already won in protest — to recommend a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime dirty trickster and newly convicted felon Roger Stone. But the attorney general is doing his part to trash the reputation and authority of the Department of Justice he leads, and to make clear that there is no higher authority in Donald Trump’s America than a presidential tweet.

The DOJ is among the most powerful arms of the federal government because of its role in enforcing the nation’s laws But the department’s power is inextricably tied to the respect its lawyers enjoy in the courts. The Solicitor General, whose office argues the federal government’s cases before the Supreme Court, is traditionally referred to as the “Tenth Justice,” because of the deference given to his arguments. The same holds true for line-level federal prosecutors, whose arguments on behalf of the DOJ are given great deference by most federal judges because of the department’s reputation for demanding the highest standards of factual honesty and legal credibility.

That reputation is in tatters now.

To make matters worse, Trump takes on Judge Amy Berman Jackson ahead of Roger Stone’s sentencing reports the Washington Post.

First he went after the prosecutors who recommended a multiyear sentence for his friend Roger Stone. Then President Trump turned his Twitter ire to the “witch hunt disgrace” of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, which led to Stone’s indictment. But perhaps most surprising was Trump’s decision to target U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who will determine Stone’s fate when he appears in her courtroom next Thursday.

It was not the first time Trump had gone after a federal judge or questioned the judiciary, but Tuesday’s attack was nevertheless vexing to current and former judges as Jackson prepares to decide whether to send the president’s friend to prison — and for how long.

… Trump’s criticism comes as Stone’s sentencing is pending and the president is being lobbied to pardon his friend. Michael Caputo, a former campaign adviser to Trump, on Wednesday announced a committee to raise money for Stone’s appeal alongside a petition drive for him to be pardoned.

"Roger Stone stood up for Donald Trump. Now America should stand up for Roger Stone. Please take just a few seconds to help by signing the petition to pardon Roger Stone!” says the committee’s website.

When asked Wednesday by reporters whether he was considering a pardon for Stone, Trump said, “I don’t want to say that yet.”

This story is far from being over: “a pardon for stone” is just a “yet” away.

In the meantime …

A week from now, Amy Berman Jackson, the judge in this case, will decide the matter of Stone’s sentencing. She’s been the target of Stone and Trump. But she is tough.

Jackson has already tangled with Stone. Last February, a photo of the judge on Stone’s Instagram account seemed to violate a gag order she had imposed on him because of concerns about pretrial publicity. The image appeared to show a gun sight’s crosshairs next to a photo of Jackson’s face. Stone said he wasn’t sure who posted the image, but he said he viewed it as a Celtic cross. He apologized for it.

Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge in Utah, called the personal nature of the president’s attacks “highly unusual and an extraordinary departure from the way things are ordinarily handled.”

But, he said, the nation’s system of government insulates judges from political pressure because they are appointed for life. While most judges would prefer not to be the target of attacks on social media, including from the president, he said, the independence of the judiciary provides protection from repercussions.

“Judge Jackson will simply move forward and decide the case,” said Cassell, now a law professor at the University of Utah, “and ignore the surrounding atmospherics from the president and the others who are responding to him.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Trump interferes in Stone case with a non-pardon pardon

Betsy Swan at The Daily Beast reports that all four Prosecutors Quit After DOJ Says It Will Override ‘Excessive’ Sentencing Guideline for Roger Stone. Three prosecutors quit Stone’s case, and a fourth left DOJ altogether, after the DOJ said it was “shocked” by their sentencing recommendation. Does anyone not think that all that is triggered by Trump’s intervention? He did go public on how awful the sentencing recommendation was. So it’s a non-pardon pardon.

All four prosecutors handling Trump ally Roger Stone’s court case withdrew on Tuesday just hours after Department of Justice headquarters stepped in to override their recommended prison sentence and push for a shorter term.

Prosecutors had asked a federal judge on Monday to sentence Stone to seven to nine years in prison. The Republican operative, a longtime Trump confidant and adviser who spent decades pushing Trump to run for president, was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump reacted volcanically to news of the recommendation in a tweet sent at 1:48 a.m. on Tuesday, calling it a “horrible and very unfair situation.” And within a few hours, a senior Justice Department official announced that they would override the sentencing recommendation and seek a shorter term. The official told The Daily Beast the department was “shocked” to see the seven to nine year recommendation.

“The Department finds the recommendation, as it was filed, extreme and excessive and grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” the official said.

The department’s decision to intervene almost immediately after Trump’s angry tweets complaining about the “miscarriage of justice” against his longtime confidant raised concerns about political interference.

Those concerns intensified Tuesday afternoon when prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis and Michael Marando filed separate notices advising the judge they were withdrawing immediately as attorneys in the Stone case.

A federal prosecutor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the apparent involvement of Attorney General Bill Barr in overriding the sentencing recommendation was remarkable.

“We’ve long known that Trump views his political opponents as crooks and his allies as righteous, regardless of the facts or the law. That was plain from his criticism of Jeff Sessions when DOJ indicted two crooked Republican congressmen in 2018; it was plain from his continued support of Manafort up through his conviction. What’s remarkable now is that Barr appears to share that same corrupt view,” the prosecutor said.

[snip]

Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokesperson, said on Tuesday afternoon that DOJ officials did not consult with the White House regarding their decision to override the initial sentencing recommendation.

She also said the decision was not a response to the president’s tweet, and that Barr was not aware of Trump’s views before the department decided to override the recommendation. That decision was made on Monday night, she said.

A senior DOJ official echoed that statement, saying Trump’s tweet had nothing to do with the decision to override the recommendation, and called it “an inconvenient coincidence.” The official also said Tuesday was not an easy day, and that the way the events of the last 24 hours played out was “not ideal.”

Experts were skeptical of the Justice Department’s explanation.

So am I.

Read more responses in Swan’s Daily Beast report..

Coronavirus infections and deaths on the rise as Trump cuts CDC global health budgets. He really is Effing nuts.

Breaking: TRUMP CLAIMS CORONAVIRUS WILL “MIRACULOUSLY” GO AWAY BY APRIL. The noted epidemiologist thinks this thing is just going to take care of itself.

That’s good news for the Scribers’ travel plans in August (as noted by our Roving Reporter Sherry).

Oh, wait! Donald Doofus Trump has lied again. Or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking given that his budget cuts hell out of our health agencies who need those resources to combat the Coronavirus. Here’s more from Vanity Fair.

On Monday, the death toll from the coronavirus topped 1,018, with World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning that recent cases of infected patients who had never visited China could likely be the “tip of the iceberg.” (An estimated 60 cases have been confirmed on a cruise ship docked in Japan, with at least 13 confirmed cases in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin.) At times like these, one looks for a calm, steady leader who understands the gravity of the situation while taking care not to be an alarmist and who, above all, values scientific data and gives the experts the resources they need to tackle the issue. At a minimum, it would be great if said leader had two brain cells to rub together. In the U.S., at present, this is obviously too much to ask for.

After remaining relatively mum on the coronavirus thus far, Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in New Hampshire Monday night that the virus will be gone by April, claiming that when temperatures rise, “the virus” will “miraculously” go away. Unsurprisingly, he offered no scientific or medical explanation to support his theory. Nor was that the first time he’d floated the theory; earlier in the day, during a meeting with the nation’s governors, the president, a noted germaphobe, predicted that the whole thing will be wrapped up around Easter through divine intervention via the weather. “The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April,” he said. Referring to the United States, he added: “We’re in great shape, though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.”

Where did Trump get his prognosis? While pulling facts directly from his ass is kind of this guy’s thing, in this case, his information has apparently come from Chinese president Xi Jinping, whose government’s early handling of the epidemic allowed it to spread, as the party prioritized secrecy instead of confronting the crisis head-on. “I had a long talk with President Xi two nights ago,” Trump said. “He feels very confident. He feels that again, as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat generally speaking kills this kind of virus. So that would be a good thing.”

Public health experts questioned the speculative nature of [Trump’s] comments. “I think there is a lot we still don’t know about this virus, and I’m not sure we can say definitively that it will dissipate with warmer weather,” said Dr. Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. “Relying on the fact that it’s going to warm up in April as reassurance that the virus will be controlled by then I think is arguable,” added Dr. James M. Hughes, a professor emeritus of medicine at Emory University.

In a sign of just how ridiculous Trump’s statement re: the weather is, even White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has suggested that the president has no idea what he’s talking about.

Of course, you can understand why Trump would like to put such stock in the weather taking care of things; his proposed budget, unveiled on Monday, cuts funding for the Health and Human Services Department by 9%.

It’s worse: Roving Reporter Sherry also tags this report from Forbes magazine. Trump Proposes 16% Cut To CDC As Global Number Of Coronavirus Infections And Deaths Rise.

Topline: As the coronavirus continues to spread, President Trump’s proposed 2021 budget calls for drastic cuts to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization that critics say could prevent preparedness for a pandemic at home.

  • Trump released his proposed 2021 budget Monday, which included a 16% cut to the CDC’s budget and a 10% overall reduction to the Department of Health and Human Services’ funding, according to the Washington Post.

  • The U.S. contributes about 2.5% of the World Health Organization’s overall $4.8 billion budget, and Trump’s proposal calls for a $65 million cut to the group; if enacted, the U.S.’ contribution would be reduced by over 40%.

  • An additional 34% reduction is proposed for overall global health programs, but Trump is asking for $115 million to be set aside for global health security for the purpose of combating “infectious disease threats.”

  • However, the proposed budget is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which the Post notes has the power of the purse, and will ultimately decide how the funds will be spent, after various committees weigh in.

  • The coronavirus⁠ (which was renamed Tuesday by the World Health Organization as COVID–19) has not been declared a pandemic, but the group has called for an immediate $675 million investment in “rational and evidence-based interventions” to stop the outbreak.

  • As of Monday, the U.S. has 12 confirmed cases, with one patient erroneously diagnosed as testing negative for the disease, based on a “mix-up” between the CDC and a San Diego hospital, CNN reported.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Coronavirus update - More and more cases and deaths while Trump spreads misinformation and cuts health budget

The Daily Beast reports: Coronavirus Keeps Killing and Americans Keep Getting Infected. A surge of new cases on a cruise ship has multiplied the number of U.S. citizens with symptoms of the disease that just killed almost 100 people in a day.

Here are the latest stats.

In recent weeks, hundreds of Americans have been evacuated from China and placed in isolation on U.S. military bases for symptom-monitoring. The State Department has said dozens more are still waiting on help from the federal government in evacuating from Hubei province, where the rate of infection soared over the weekend, leaving experts fearing that the worst of the outbreak might be still to come. The WHO said 40,235 people had been infected in China as of Monday morning, but public health officials have repeatedly cautioned that these numbers are likely too low due to a severe strain on testing facilities.

While the number of people infected inside the United States has been steady at 12 since last week, 23 Americans have contracted the virus since the outbreak hit a now-quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. A total of 135 people on board had been diagnosed, the ship’s captain told passengers on the Diamond Princess on Monday. The outbreak on the 3,700-person ship, which is carrying more than 400 people from the United States, is now the largest outside China. The passengers and crew members have been quarantined on the ship since Feb. 3, and Japanese officials have reportedly said they cannot test everyone on board.

At last count, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there had been 398 people under investigation for infection in 37 states and territories, of which 318 came back negative. Sixty-eight of those possible cases were still pending as of Monday morning. Twelve cases have previously been confirmed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Given the consequences for not only global health but the global economy, you’d think the U. S. would be front and center in the battle to contain the Coronavirus. Well, OK, you would not think so given the mad mobster in the WH.

In this morning’s email (to which Scriber subscribes), Judd Legum (popular.info) summarizes how what Trump doesn’t know can kill you.

The coronavirus has infected more than 40,000 people, killing at least 910 people globally. The outbreak is concentrated in China, where coronavirus killed 97 people on Sunday alone. At least 12 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States.

But on Monday, in a speech to governors, Trump downplayed concerns about the spread of coronavirus, saying it would probably go away by April when the weather gets warmer.

The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus. A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in. We’re in great shape though, we have 12 cases, 11 cases, but we’re in very good shape.

Trump’s claims are not backed by science. While the common flu is seasonal, coronavirus is a novel infection. There is no basis to assume it will fade due to increasing temperatures. “It would be reckless to assume that things will quiet down in spring and summer. We don’t really understand the basis of seasonality, and of course, we know we absolutely nothing about this particular virus,” Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert at Baylor University, told CNN.

For Trump, the problem goes beyond his rhetoric. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward infectious disease is reflected in the administration’s funding priorities.

Trump proposes cuts to agencies that protect public health

Coronavirus does not yet pose an acute health threat in the United States. But the risk of a novel disease outbreak, whether it is coronavirus or something else, is very real.

Nevertheless, Trump’s budget proposal, which was released Monday, slashes funding for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) — the two agencies on the frontlines of protecting Americans from an outbreak. Under Trump’s proposal, funding for the CDC would be cut by $1.29 billion, and NIH funding would decrease by $3.7 billion.

Three years of the Trump administration has already left the government less prepared for a pandemic. In 2016, in response to the Ebola outbreak, the White House established a “global health czar” tasked with coordinating “international, national, state and local organizations, public and private, to confront a global epidemic, backed by the direct authority of the president.” That post was eliminated by former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Prior cuts to the CDC have forced the agency “to scale back or discontinue its work to prevent infectious-disease epidemics and other health threats in 39 foreign countries,” including China. Former CDC Director Tom Frieden says the countries that lost CDC support are now “more likely to have outbreaks and less likely to be able to stop them themselves.”

The Trump administration has also zeroed out funding for “frontline and assessment hospitals that determine whether or not patients have a serious infectious disease.” Instead, the Trump administration is only maintaining funding for “higher-level hospitals that can treat patients with these dire infections.” Of course, if you don’t correctly identify what patients need treatment, these advanced facilities can’t do their job.

Trump has also proposed deep cuts to research on zoonotic diseases, like the coronavirus, which develop from infections that spread between animal and humans. Congress has restored most of the funding, but “appropriations for relevant CDC programs is still 10% below what the US spent in 2016, adjusting for inflation.”

Monday, February 10, 2020

Great video - The Day Democracy Died

You gotta take time to play this on YouTube: The Day Democracy Died sung by the founding fathers.

Some of the Founders and Framers of the Constitution did more than spin in their graves… they actually resurfaced to sing “The Day Democracy Died.” That, plus they “dig those rhythm and blues!”

(Tnx Miriam Lindmeier!)

The woman from Maine who is always troubled or concerned should get a different job

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that a Person who is always troubled or concerned should get different job, workplace experts say.

Collins' troubles and concerns

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—An employee who regularly self-identifies as “troubled” or “concerned” would benefit from seeking a different job, leading workplace experts said on Monday.

Professor Davis Logsdon, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Workplace Health Institute, cited the case of a Maine woman who appeared to undergo a traumatic experience every time she was faced with a difficult decision at work.

“According to her own account, each decision followed an excruciating period of existential torment,” Logsdon said. “Any employee who finds decision-making this harrowing should clearly consider working somewhere else.”

Logsdon said that the woman’s frequent episodes of being troubled and/or concerned usually resulted in an unsatisfactory outcome.

“At the end of her nightmarish deliberation process, she lost the capacity for individual judgment,” he said. “She just went along with what everyone else in the office decided to do, regardless of the harm that such a decision might cause.”

Consequently, the researchers at the Workplace Health Institute concluded that any person who approaches his or her job with the levels of self-doubt and anxiety regularly exhibited by the Maine woman should find a new job that requires no decision-making whatsoever.

“In her current position, she is useless,” Logsdon said.

Coronavirus update - Scientists race to develop vaccine

Scientists race to develop vaccine for new coronavirus reports the Kenyan Standard.

Scientists from the United States to Australia are using new technology in an ambitious, multi-million-dollar drive to develop a vaccine in record time to tackle China’s coronavirus outbreak.

The new virus has spread rapidly since emerging late last year in China, killing more than 800 people in the mainland and infecting over 37,000. Cases have been reported in two dozen other countries.

Coming up with any vaccine typically takes years, and involves a lengthy process of testing on animals, clinical trials on humans and regulatory approvals.

But several teams of experts are racing to develop one quicker, backed by an international coalition that aims to combat emerging diseases, and Australian scientists hope theirs could be ready in six months.

Check out this story for more details on the global effort to combat the Coronavirus.

McSally's history with the truth is questionable

Marine Corps vet Joanna Sweatt addresses Sen. Martha McSally’s history with truth questionable at best in the Arizona Capitol Times (to which I subscribe). Here it is.

I’d like to address the claims in Sen. Martha McSally’s recent op-ed on the “truth.” Ok. Let’s talk about the truth.

To explain why I’m concerned with the truth, it helps to explain my background. I had the honor of serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years before discharging for medical reasons. As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, I swore an oath that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

McSally had to swear the same oath, first as an Air Force pilot and again as a Congresswoman and a U.S. Senator. We aren’t allowed to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we support — we have to defend all of them. And that includes the First Amendment affirming the freedom of the press. We need men and women asking our leaders tough questions. That’s the reason we have a First Amendment. And that’s why I’m so disappointed in McSally’s response to a very basic question about the Senate considering new evidence in the impeachment trial, branding herself as a trusted truth-teller when her history with the truth is questionable at best.

In Arizona, we don’t get to see our elected leaders every day. We lead busy lives, and unless a senator or a member of Congress holds a town hall, we won’t be able to talk to them one-on-one. McSally, for her part, hasn’t held a town hall in nearly three years. That’s three years without Arizonans having the opportunity to ask McSally how she voted on this or that issue, and three years without Arizonans being able to hold her accountable to when she misleads us on those issues.

And when she has spoken about the issues, she never tells the truth. She never tells the truth about her vote to eliminate pre-existing conditions for millions of Arizonans, she never tells the truth about her vote to re-institute the AARP-dubbed “age tax,” which would charge Arizonans 50 and over five times more than younger Arizonans, and she never tells the truth when asked about her plan to ensure Arizonans are protected if the lawsuit to eliminate health care that’s currently in the courts due to votes she’s taken succeeds. That’s why it’s personal for me.

A pre-existing condition is why I’m no longer serving in the military. Nearly 14 years ago, I was outside running when I felt what I thought was a bee sting in my leg. The pain turned out to be symptoms that put me at a severe risk of a pulmonary embolism. After immediate medical treatment, doctors found over 30 blood clots in my lower extremities including a blockage in my femoral vein. If anyone of those clots broke free, I could have lost my life. I was later diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis. My life now includes daily blood thinners, frequent visits to the doctor, and regular physical therapy. I get my health care through the VA, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if I need it, private insurance can never deny me coverage for my pre-existing condition. And that’s true for the 2.8 million other Arizonans with pre-existing conditions. McSally likes to say her military background taught her to call it straight and not soften her words. Well, same here, senator. But on health care and so many other issues, she’s not calling it straight. Martha, from one Arizona veteran to another, it’s time you give us an honest answer about your record.

Joanna Sweatt is the chief operating officer for The Veterans Directory.