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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Just a little reminder

by digby

I'm not saying it can't change. But with all the polling out right now, it's important to remember that in the polling averages, Trump dipped to 42 percent within one month of becoming president and hasn't risen above it since. It's frighteningly consistent.

I hope it isn't a reflection of a bunch of people being too embarrassed to admit they really like him. I wish I didn't think that was possible. But this consistency in his ratings shows me that at least 50 million or so of my fellow Americans approve of the imbecile's leadership and nothing he's done has changed it. That astonishes me. Bigly.


Prove it Chief

by digby

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. began the Supreme Court’s term last fall seeking to assure the American public that his court does not “serve one party or one interest.”

He will end it playing a pivotal role in two of the most politically consequential decisions the court has made in years.

One initiative is to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, which has fueled a partisan showdown on Capitol Hill. The other could outlaw the partisan gerrymandering techniques that were essential to Republican dominance at the state and congressional level over the past decade.

The politically weighted decisions, by a court in which the five conservatives were chosen by Republican presidents and the four liberals were nominated by Democrats, threaten to undermine Roberts’s efforts to portray the court as independent.

They are among two dozen cases the court must decide in the next two weeks, and never before has the spotlight focused so intently on the 64-year-old chief justice.

Roberts sits physically at the middle of the bench in the grand courtroom and now, for the first time since he joined the court in 2005, at the center of the court’s ideological spectrum. With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy last summer, the most important justice on the Roberts Court became Roberts himself.

Roberts in the past has shown himself to be far more conservative than Kennedy, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested recently that has not changed.

Kennedy’s retirement, she told a group of judges and lawyers in New York, was “the event of greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead.”

Roberts has been on a mission to convince the public that if the court is ideologically split, it is about law, not politics.

“We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation,” Roberts told an audience at the University of Minnesota in October.

He repeated the message at Belmont University in Nashville in February. “People need to know we’re not doing politics,” he said.

In between was the well-publicized spat with President Trump, who just before Thanksgiving criticized an “Obama judge” serving on a lower court who had ruled against his administration in a contentious case centered on immigration policy and border security.

Roberts issued a rare public statement: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

Trump shot back on Twitter: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

So the citizenship question and gerrymandering cases, which have generally split along party lines, do not come at an opportune time.

Brianne J. Gorod, chief counsel of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center, said the many questions about whether Trump’s citizenship question is intended to benefit Republicans should be a warning for Roberts.

“If Roberts votes to uphold this plainly unlawful administration action, it will give credence to Trump’s claim that he can simply look to the conservative justices on the Supreme Court to save him,” Gorod wrote on the Take Care blog.

“That would be a deeply troubling state of affairs — both for the court and for the country.”

Well, what else is new, amirite?

But it is a very, very big problem. I wish I had some instinct hat told me Roberts would end up being a reasonable mediator on some these highly charged super politicalcases, but honestly I doubt it.

We are in for a very rough ride, I'm afraid. Roberts is no Trump but I'm sure he's more than willing to say up is down and black is white, claiming that he court isn't partisan even as they place a chokehold on the democratic processes. He showed his hand in the Voting Rights Act case. He's a rock-ribbed Reaganite steeped in the wingnuttia of the past 30 years. I expect him to be much more like William Barr than Anthony Kennedy (who was no prize, by the way...)

Treasonous fake news

by digby

Can you see the problem here?

I knew that you could. It's treason against the United States to print this totally untrue information in a newspaper.

Speaking of traitorous behavior, what can we say about a president who repeatedly threatens to defy the constitution and refuse to leave office after his term is up?

Trump's killing the messengers now

by digby

Don't tell the King what he doesn't want to hear and certainly don't ever let anyone know the truth:

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign.

The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states.

Portions of the campaign’s expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports.

But a person familiar with the inner workings of the Trump campaign shared more details of the data with NBC News, showing the president trailing across swing states seen as essential to his path to re-election and in Democratic-leaning states where Republicans have looked to gain traction. The polls also show Trump underperforming in reliably red states that haven’t been competitive for decades in presidential elections.

A separate person close to the Trump re-election team told NBC News Saturday that the campaign will be cutting ties with some of its pollsters in response to the information leaks, although the person did not elaborate as to which pollsters would be let go.

The internal polling paints a picture of an incumbent president with serious ground to gain across the country as his re-election campaign kicks into higher gear.

While the campaign tested other Democratic presidential candidates against Trump, Biden polled the best of the group, according the source.

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan — three states where Trump edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by narrow margins that proved decisive in his victory — Trump trails Biden by double-digits. In three of those states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida — Biden’s leads sit outside the poll’s margin of error.

Trump is also behind the former vice president in Iowa by 7 points, in North Carolina by 8 points, in Virginia by 17 points, in Ohio by 1 point, in Georgia by 6 points, in Minnesota by 14 points, and in Maine by 15 points.

In Texas, where a Democratic presidential nominee hasn’t won since President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Trump leads by just 2 points.

Portions of the internal Trump polling data were first reported by ABC News and The New York Times. The Times reported earlier this month that the internal polling found Trump trailing across a number of key states, while ABC News obtained data showing Trump trailing Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida and holding a small lead in Texas.

The president denied the existence of any negative polling during comments last week in the Oval Office, saying his campaign has “great internal polling” and saying the numbers reported were from “fake polls.”

“We are winning in every single state that we've polled. We're winning in Texas very big. We're winning in Ohio very big. We're winning in Florida very big,” he said.

I guess we'll eventually find out which pollsters are being fired. But if it's Tony Fabrizio they've lost a good one.

As the Russia scandal unfolded, I've often thought of this quote from Fabrizio:

“What was happening in this election that nobody was taking into account was Donald Trump was going to underperform in states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia. States that deliver Republican numbers,” Fabrizio said.

But, as he pointed out, running up the score in these states was completely irrelevant.

What was important was flipping traditionally Democratic-voting states and edging out Clinton in states that were toss-ups up until the final votes were tallied.

“When you really drill down on this election, if you change the vote in five counties, four in Florida, one in Michigan, we’d be having a totally opposite conversation right now,” Fabrizio said of the race. “For all the money that was spent, for the all the effort that was made, literally four counties in Florida, one county in Michigan puts us at 261 [electoral] votes and makes Hillary Clinton the president. So, remember that.”

You will recall that there was a lot of "interference" centered in those places.


Our top diplomat is a rude jerk

by digby

Crooks and Liars caught Mike Pompeo on Fox News this morning:

Donald Trump's Secretary of State became very perturbed after Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked him to comment on Trump's belief that he would take information from foreign governments against his rivals without informing the FBI, a very clear violation of the law.

Towards the end of this morning's interview, Wallace played video of Donald Trump's response to George Stephanopoulos' question about accepting aid from foreign powers to help get him elected.

Wallace then asked, "Is accepting oppo-research from a foreign government right or wrong?"

Secretary Pompeo: "Chris, you asked me not to call any of your questions that are ridiculous. You came really close right there."
What a rude and unserious response to a serious question.

Forcing Donald Trump to account for his words and actions by the news media is now deemed ridiculous by the U.S. Secretary of State.

Pompeo continued, "President Trump has been very clear."

Yes, he has. He said he would take dirt from hostile foreign countries - his idiotic Norway comment not withstanding, and said he "maybe" would tell the FBI.

"[Trump] clarified his remarks later," Pompeo said.

Then he began to lie.

Pompeo continued, "He made it very clear even in his first comments, he said 'I'd would do both.' He said he'd call the FBI."

Wallace rightly corrected the SOS and said, "He said 'maybe' I'd would do both."

Pompeo then made an innocuous statement about Trump's love of America and Wallace continued to grill.

Wallace said, "At the risk of getting your ire, the president told Fox and Friends on Friday, and I agree he kind of walked back -- "

Secretary Pompeo interrupted Chris, "No, he didn't walk it back."

Wallace replied, "Yes, he did because he said "maybe" on Thursday and then on Friday on Fox and Friends, he said he would listen first and then if the information was bad that he would take it to the FBI or the attorney general, but he also made it clear to George Stephanopoulos that he did not see this as foreign interference."

FNS played another clip from the ABC interview and Trump's "own words" bore out Wallace's point.

Trump clearly stated he would commit a felony to get reelected.

Wallace schooled Pompeo on American history to back up his point.

Wallace said, "He says it's not interference, it's information." He continued, "The country, sir, and I don't have to tell you, has a long history dating back to George Washington in saying that foreign interference in our elections is unacceptable."

Secretary Pompeo: "President Trump believes that too."

That's another lie since he just heard Trump say exactly the opposite.

The SOS continued, "I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think the third time you've asked me about a Washington piece of silliness, that chased down the story that is inconsistent with what I've seen president Trump do every single day."

So, America's top international statesman is a liar and a hothead too. Figures. But I doubt it's helping.

An Obvious Answer to an Absurd Question  

by tristero

The New York Times published an op-ed by someone whose church traumatized her when she was a child. Her ministers were obsessed with a sexual fetish, their particular kink being a hyper-Puritanical "purity" obsession:
One piece of youth-group folklore was a “game” in which a cup would be passed around a circle. At each turn, someone would spit in the cup, until the last person had a cup full of spit. “Would you want to drink this?” the youth pastor intoned. “No. And that’s how others will see you if you sleep around.” 
And now, as an adult, she is plagued by doubts and worries about what she can and can't do when it comes to sex. She can't fully grasp what was done to her and how to let go/move on. The title of the op-ed succinctly summarizes her present confusion over physical intimacy:
How Should Christians Have Sex?
What an absurd question. How should Christians have sex? Any way Christians want to, as long as everyone's comfortable doing whatever it is they want to do.

Y'know, it's a free country, and people are entitled to worship (or not) however they see fit. But I'm finding it hard be tolerant of what was done to her and to so many other children. It's the American  equivalent of female genital mutilation.

I hope she can continue to recover.

“I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy”

by Tom Sullivan

Political satire sometimes leaves a mark that lingers. I would have sworn the old joke involved an eye-rolling Al Gore debating George W. Bush in 2000. In fact, it was "Saturday Night Live" in 1988. Jon Lovitz played Gov. Michael Dukakis to Dana Carvey's platitude-spouting George H.W. Bush (“Stay the course, a thousand points of light … stay the course”). Future former Sen. Al Franken wrote the Dukakis line, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.”

Democrats Dukakis and Gore both lost to a George Bush.

NBC News just announced the lineups for the two-nights of debate among Democratic candidates for president. Ten each night, beginning Wednesday, June 26. Barring any unforeseen accidents, resignations or removals from office, one of those Democrats will face off against Donald J. Trump. Unless Trump decides he doesn't want to, like he decides which laws he'll obey.

Democrats might remember that old joke when taking on Trump. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's got an animal cunning that his whole life has helped him evade accountability before the law. It may yet serve to prevent accountability before voters in 2020.

The New York Times revealed on Saturday that U.S. cyber warriors have pre-positioned "potentially crippling malware" inside Russia's electrical grid "and other targets." Unnamed officials in three months of interviews told the Times the code is there "partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow." The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, describes such efforts as meeting the need to "defend forward."

A 2018 military authorization bill and a classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13 signed by Trump last summer provide authorization for such actions without presidential approval.

Now, back to Trump not being too sharp:

Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
Good call. The Times report Saturday night set him off:
The Times responded it had described the article to "the government" prior to publication and "President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns."

Trump has told so many lies, he can't tell what the truth is when he hears it from someone else about an operation he himself authorized. Or Donald simply considers it treason to report information that might upset Vladimir and that Trump Tower Moscow deal he still dreams of. While his thumbs yammer about "THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!", Trump's own people worry he'll give away secrets to America's enemies.

And still, he could win reelection in 2020.

For his part, Dubya had trouble putting together a coherent sentence without turning it into a Bushism. Yet he managed to launch the biggest foreign policy disaster since Vietnam after relentlessly selling it to America with lies. For all its undermanned incompetence, a Trump White House staffed by family members may do it again.

The 2020 Democratic candidate for president (and there are some very, very smart ones) cannot afford to find themselves in a position of saying, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.” Already, they are planning to make foreign policy and issue. But it is not attention to issues that made Trump a survivor, and certainly not intelligence. Beating him will take more than smarts. It will take political savvy and an ability to connect with voters on a personal level that, for all their intelligence, Dukakis and Gore could not.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday Night at the Movies

Goin’ mobile: Top 10 road movies

By Dennis Hartley

With the summer travel season just ahead, I thought I would address those stirrings of wanderlust we get this time of year by sharing my picks for the Top 10 road movies…

Five Easy Pieces – “You see this sign?” Thanks to sharp direction from Bob Rafaelson, a memorable screenplay by Carole Eastman (billed in the credits as Adrien Joyce) and an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson, this remains one of the defining American road movies of the 1970s. Nicholson’s plays an antihero teetering on the edge of an existential meltdown; a classically-trained pianist from a moneyed family who nonetheless prefers to martyr himself working soulless blue-collar jobs. Karen Black gives one of her better performances as his long-suffering girlfriend. The late great DP Laszlo Kovacs makes excellent use of the verdant, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest milieu. And don’t forget where to hold the chicken salad…

Genevieve-A marvelous entry from Britain’s golden age of screen comedies, this gentle 1953 film centers on the travails of an endearing young couple (Dinah Sheridan and John Gregson) as they join their bachelor friend (Kenneth Moore) and his latest flame (Kay Kendall) on their annual road trip from London to Brighton as participants in an antique car rally. After the two men have a bit of a verbal spat in Brighton, they decide to convert the return trip to London into a “friendly” race, with a 100-pound wager to be awarded to whoever is first across the Westminster Bridge.

Colorful, droll, and engaging throughout, especially thanks to Sheridan and Gregson’s onscreen chemistry. Oh, in case you were wondering- “Genevieve” is the name of the couple’s antique car! Director Henry Cornelius’ next project was I Am a Camera, the 1955 film that was reincarnated as the musical Cabaret.

Lost in America –Released at the height of Reaganomics, this 1985 gem can now be viewed in hindsight as a spot-on satirical smack down of the Yuppie cosmology that shaped the Decade of Greed. Director/co-writer Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty portray a 30-something, upwardly mobile couple who quit their high-paying jobs, liquidate their assets, buy a Winnebago, and hit the road with a “nest egg” of $145,000 to find themselves. Their goals are nebulous (“we’ll touch Indians”).

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the “egg” is soon off the table, and the couple find themselves on the wrong end of “trickle down”, to Brooks’ chagrin. Like most Brooks films, it is as painfully funny as it is to watch it (I consider him the founding father of the Larry David/Ricky Gervais school of “cringe comedy”).

Motorama – This darkly comic 1991 road movie/Orphic journey nearly defies description. A rather odd 10-year old boy (Jordan Michael Christopher) flees his feuding parents to hit the road in pursuit of the American Dream-to win the grand prize in a gas station-sponsored scratch card game called “Motorama”.

As he zips through fictional states with in-jokey names like South Lyndon, Bergen, Tristana and Essex, he has increasingly bizarre and absurd encounters with a veritable “who’s who” of cult filmdom, including John Diehl, John Nance, Susan Tyrell, Michael J. Pollard, Mary Woronov, Meatloaf and Red-Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.

What I find particularly amusing is that none of the adults think to question why a 10-year-old (who curses like a sailor and sports a curious bit of stubble by film’s end) is driving a Mustang on a solo cross-country trip. Not for all tastes-definitely not one for the kids (especially since the venerable parental admonishment of “You’ll poke your eye out!” becomes fully realized). Director Barry Shils has only made one other film, the 1995 doc, Wigstock: The Movie.

Powwow Highway – A Native American road movie from 1989 that eschews stereotypes and tells its story with an unusual blend of social and magical realism. Gary Farmer (who resembles the young Jonathan Winters) plays Philbert, a hulking Cheyenne with a gentle soul who wolfs down cheeseburgers and chocolate malts with the countenance of a beatific Buddha. He has decided that it is time to “become a warrior” and leave the res on a vision quest to “gather power”.

After choosing a “war pony” for his journey (a rusted-out beater that he trades for with a bag of weed), he sets off, only to be waylaid by his childhood friend (A. Martinez) an A.I.M. activist who needs a lift to Santa Fe to bail out his sister, framed by the Feds on a possession beef. Funny, poignant, uplifting and richly rewarding. Director Jonathan Wacks and screenwriters Janey Heaney and Jean Stawarz keep it real. Look for cameos from Wes Studi and Graham Greene.

Radio On – You know how you develop an inexplicable emotional attachment to certain films? This no-budget 1979 offering from writer-director Christopher Petit, shot in stark B&W is one such film for me. That said, I should warn you that it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, as it contains one of those episodic narratives that may cause drowsiness for some after about 15 minutes. Yet, I am compelled to revisit this one annually. Go figure.

A dour London DJ (David Beames), whose estranged brother has committed suicide, heads to Bristol to get his sibling’s affairs in order and attempt to glean what drove him to such despair (while quite reminiscent of the setup for Get Carter, this is not a crime thriller…far from it). He has encounters with various characters, including a friendly German woman, an unbalanced British Army vet who served in Northern Ireland, and a rural gas-station attendant (a cameo by Sting) who kills time singing Eddie Cochran songs.

As the protagonist journeys across an England full of bleak yet perversely beautiful industrial landscapes in his boxy sedan, accompanied by a moody electronic score (mostly Kraftwerk and David Bowie) the film becomes hypnotic. A textbook example of how the cinema can capture and preserve the zeitgeist of an ephemeral moment (e.g. England on the cusp of the Thatcher era) like no other art form.

Kings of the Road—Wim Wenders’ 1976 bookend of his “Road Movie Trilogy” (preceded by Alice in the Cities and The Wrong Move) is a Boudu Saved from Drowning-type tale with Rudiger Vogler as a traveling film projector repairman who happens upon a suicidal psychologist (Hanns Zischler) just as he decides to end it all by driving his VW into a river. The traveling companions are slow to warm up to each other but have lots of screen time to develop a bond at 2 hours and 55 minutes (i.e., the film may try the patience of some viewers). If you can stick with it, though, you’ll find it rewarding…it kind of grows on you. A lot.

Sullivan’s Travels – A deft mash-up of romantic screwball comedy, Hollywood satire, road movie and social drama that probably would not have worked so beautifully had not the great Preston Sturges been at the helm. Joel McCrea is pitch-perfect as a director of goofy populist comedies who yearns to make a “meaningful” film. Racked with guilt about the comfortable bubble that his Hollywood success has afforded him and determined to learn firsthand how the other half lives, he hits the road with no money in his pocket and masquerades as a railroad tramp (to the chagrin of his handlers).

He is joined along the way by an aspiring actress (Veronica Lake, in one of her best comic performances). His voluntary crash-course in “social realism” turns into much more than he had originally bargained for. Lake and McCrea have wonderful chemistry. Many decades later, the Coen Brothers co-opted the title of the fictional “film within the film” here: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Trip – Pared down into feature length from the 2011 BBC TV series of the same name, Michael Winterbottom’s film is essentially a highlight reel of the 6 episodes; which is not to denigrate it, because it is the most genuinely hilarious comedy I’ve seen in years.

The levity is due in no small part to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, basically playing themselves. Coogan is commissioned by a British newspaper to take a “restaurant tour” of England’s bucolic Lake District and write reviews. He initially plans to take his girlfriend along, but since they’re going through a rocky period, he asks his pal, fellow actor and comedian Brydon, to accompany him.

This setup is basically an excuse to sit back and enjoy Coogan and Brydon’s brilliant comic riffing (much of it feels improvised) on everything from relationships to the “proper” way to do Michael Caine impressions. There’s unexpected poignancy as well-but for the most part, it’s comedy gold. The director and both stars reunited for two equally enjoyable sequels, The Trip to Italy(2014) and The Trip to Spain (2017).

Vanishing Point – I don’t know if there was a sudden spike in sales for Dodge Challengers in 1971, but it would not surprise me, since nearly every car nut I have ever known usually gets a dreamy, faraway look in their eyes when I mention this cult classic, directed by Richard C. Sarafian. It’s best described as an existential car chase movie.

Barry Newman stars as Kowalski (there’s never a mention of a first name), a car delivery driver who is assigned to get a Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco. When someone wagers he can’t make the trip in less than 15 hours, he accepts the, erm, challenge. Naturally, someone in a muscle car pushing 100 mph across several states is going to eventually get the attention of law enforcement-and the chase is on.

Not much of a plot but riveting nonetheless. Episodic; one memorable vignette involves a hippie chick riding around the desert on a chopper a la Lady Godiva, to the strains of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” (riveting!). Cleavon Little plays Supersoul-a blind radio DJ who becomes Kowalski’s guardian angel and a sort of Greek Chorus for the viewer. The enigmatic ending still mystifies.

Previous posts with related themes:
They Live By Night
Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy
Microbe and Gasoline
The Curve
On My Way
The Trip to Italy
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry/Race with the Devil

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

Oh, Jared

by digby

This piece by Anne Applebaum in the WaPo says it all:

Imagine there was a completely secret, perfectly legal way to bribe a government official. Well, let’s not say “bribe”: Let’s imagine that you could channel money to this official — large amounts of money — and never have to reveal your name. Imagine that this official could accept this money, and then use it to make more money, without ever revealing that fact to the public.

Actually, there is no need to imagine such a thing, because it already exists. The thing is called an “opaque offshore vehicle.” Although that sounds like a motorboat with blackout curtains, this one is in fact a kind of bank account, based in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven where business deals are legally shrouded in secrecy. According to a report this week in the British newspaper the Guardian, the investment bank Goldman Sachs uses an account like this to funnel money from unnamed investors to a company called Cadre. Cadre, to oversimplify slightly, pools investments in real estate. One of Cadre’s co-founders is Jared Kushner; another co-founder is Kushner’s brother. Cadre’s headquarters are in a building in Manhattan owned by Kushner’s family real estate company.

Kushner — the United States’ prime envoy to the Middle East, to Mexico and to much else — seems to be nervous about Cadre. When he joined the White House, he resigned from the board and reduced his stake to less than 25 percent, though his holding is, according to the Guardian, now worth between $25 million and $50 million. When he filled out his first disclosure form, he somehow forgot to list Cadre, though later, under pressure, he added the company’s name. His forgetfulness is unsurprising: Other investors in the company include George Soros, a hate figure of the right. The company is already the subject of a conflict-of-interest complaint because it benefits from “Opportunity Zones,” part of a new tax law — a program that was specifically advocated by Ivanka Trump.

Now the Guardian reports that $90 million has come into Cadre via the opaque offshore vehicle. But from where? According to the report, which has not had much of an echo in the United States, at least $1 million has come from an unnamed Saudi investor. Other investments have arrived from an anonymous fund based in the Virgin Islands, another tax haven where business deals are shrouded in secrecy. Who is the real owner of this fund? We don’t know.

We don’t know and, thanks to the extraordinary system of tax havens and shell companies that we have allowed to flourish all around the world, we may never know. Shell companies can be owned by other shell companies; opaque offshore vehicles are carefully designed so that regulators can’t identify who is using them; with the right accountants, they can be set up quickly and easily. As Oliver Bullough puts it in his book, “Moneyland,” “You can wrap a paper chain of paper people around the world in an afternoon, but it will take investigators years of patient detective work to unpick it, and years more to prosecute.”

It’s perfectly possible that Kushner, who has not commented on the Guardian report, himself has no idea who put this large sum of money in his company’s opaque offshore vehicle, which is what Goldman Sachs is claiming. But it’s also possible that, privately, he has a pretty good idea. [Of course he does --- d] 
The fact that we don’t know, and may never know, points to yet another deep conflict of interest inside the Trump administration. More important, it points to a major flaw in Western capitalism.

By some calculations, more than 10 percent of the world’s wealth is held offshore, in places such as the Cayman Islands. Some of this money is obtained illegally, which is why it is hidden; some of it is just money that is not taxed to pay for the schools that educated its owners or the infrastructure that was used to build their companies. This is money that can be used for political purposes or simply for the excessive spending — on yachts, mansions, jewelry — that has contributed to so much anger and ill will around the world.

There is nothing inevitable about this secret offshore world. It is not a fact of nature: Our laws created tax havens, and our laws can also end them. We could forbid Goldman Sachs from owning opaque offshore vehicles. We could prevent companies such as Cadre from accepting anonymous investments. Not only that, my guess is that the politician who decides to do so will discover that this is a popular cause, among not only those fighting inequality on the center-left but also those promoting entrepreneurship on the center-right. There is no reason a completely secret, perfectly legal way to channel money to a government official, or anybody else, needs to exist at all. The fact that we have come to accept this as “normal” is one of the symptoms of a deeper democratic diseas
Apropos of nothing, it is widely rumored that Vladimir Putin is the richest man on earth.

This is the era of the oligarch. Ending it must be a top priority but it encompasses not only domestic legal policies, but foreign policy and international banking. It's a big topic that the next Democratic president is going to have to be committed to dealing with.

The global order has shifted and we don't know yet what will replace it

by digby

Brett McGurk, Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford, Foreign Affairs Analyst, Former Presidential Envoy who served under Bush, Obama, Trump posted this series of tweets about the Iran situation:

The US seems to have embarked on its “maximum pressure” campaign with few allies and little forethought as to unintended consequences or how to respond if key assumptions — e.g., that Iran will implode or succumb and enter talks on US terms — prove false.

Those assumptions are now highly questionable at best, which means the entire policy foundation as articulated by Trump has eroded. Iran appears to have made the strategic decision (not surprising) to resist economic pressure and respond asymmetrically, not directly against us.

I suspect Iran’s aim is to draw the US in deeper to the Middle East and heighten US rifts with allies or force removal of new sanctions as a pre-condition to talks. Those are likely goals behind reckless acts. They have also likely prepared responses should we respond militarily.

Thus, any US military response would need to be decisive and sustained over a period of months. That is not where a maximum pressure policy was supposed to lead. It was supposed to set the table for a “new and more comprehensive” deal. That’s now highly unlikely. So what now?

Strategy 101: when assumptions underlying a policy prove false, it’s critical to immediately review the policy and adjust course. Failure to do so doubles down on risk. Here, Trump may soon be boxed in: either back down or resort to military tools (as economic tools have failed).

In my view, targeting tankers in int’l waterways warrants a rallied international response with military measures to deter future incidents. If Washington had developed a policy with allies, it could rally the world to isolate Iran and reinforce economic with diplomatic pressure.

Unfortunately, our great comparative advantage as a nation — building and working with alliances — has eroded, particularly with respect to Iran. Key western allies warned of this very circumstance and sequence of events when the US began its maximum pressure campaign a year ago.

Our regional partners are now divided amongst themselves, lack confidence in the White House, and do not want an escalation given risks of an uncontrollable spiral. This is not 1988 where the “tanker war” was limited in time, scope, and geography. More risk and uncertainty today.

Moreover, Trump has made clear he does not want a military confrontation and hopes to drawdown from the Middle East. On Iran, this means a policy that appears to be executed without the full buy-in from the president or at least his personal consideration of downside risks.

On multiple fronts now, the national security team is pursuing maximalist policy aims backed by a minimalist president. Iran is just the latest example of this problem. Consider the last two weeks alone on Iran policy:

In Japan, Trump said he opposes regime change & only wants to talk about the nuclear file (albeit after leaving the table where that file is discussed). Pompeo in Switzerland floats talks without preconditions. Bolton then tweets Iran must “first end its 40-year reign of terror.”

Worse, Trump asked a key ally @AbeShinzo to carry a message to Tehran and float dialogue but less than one week before Abe visits, Trump’s national security team announces significant new sanctions against Iran. This is how Bolton set up the Abe trip:

Iran is spending its money to fund & conduct terrorism, resulting in serious economic problems that will only get worse. The President has given Iran the opportunity to pursue a better future, but first the regime must end its 40-year reign of terror.

Was that a coherent sequence and plan? Did Trump know about it? Did Abe? Did anyone think such an announcement would help the visit of our key ally, made at the behest of Trump himself? Was it intended to sabotage the visit? In any event, it’s peculiar diplomacy/sequencing.

This incoherence has ramifications beyond Iran; it’s weakening our position globally. Iran is a 5th-rate power. Its economy is smaller than our poorest state. Its defense budget a fraction of our regional allies. China & Russia are our near-peer rivals — and now sense advantage.

If you focus on the signal and not the noise as @JoeNBC has been saying, here’s what happened last week alone (some broader strategic trend-lines worth noting when considering the issue of Iran and US strategy)

1) China’s President Xi completes a historic three-day visit to Moscow and hails strategic ties with Putin.

2) Chinese and Russian military commands meet to discuss deepening strategic partnerships.

Today, both Putin and Xi met with Iranian President Rouhani and expressed their full support for Iran even in the wake of smoking tankers and US evidence that Iran was unquestionably behind the attack.

This trend threatens to reverse a signal achievement of the Cold War and runs totally contrary to Trump’s own national security strategy with emphasis on great power competition, and needlessly avoiding Chinese-Russian convergence.

Our intelligence community similarly warned earlier this year that “China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the 1950s” and the tend is likely to grow due to “perceived US unilateralism and interventionism.”

China and Russia have also made a decision with respect to US policies in the Middle East. They believe our zero-sum objectives on Iran as well as Syria cannot be achieved (given incoherence in resourcing, Trump’s aversion to more investment, mixed messages, and basic reality).

China has now afforded highest diplomatic status to Iran — and also Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt — positioning itself for the next 50 years on four pillars. I wroteabout this trend-line in @TheAtlantic after a @CarnegieBeijing seminar theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…

With smoking tankers attributable to Iran, this would be an opportune time to bring China and even Russia into a diplomatic coalition given that threats in the Gulf impact their own economies. Not unthinkable before. Now impossible: thus advantaging Iran, and limiting US options.

Bottom line: Iran is a real problem. But this policy is piling on strategic risk with little reward. It’s driving allies away & peer-competitors together. It’s not leading to talks but increasing risk of conflict. It’s ramifications go beyond the Middle East. Worth reassessing.

Yeah, it's worth reassessing.

There is no strategy. There is only impulse and infighting leading to chaos and incoherence.

Our best hope is that Trump's luck holds up.

Marsha Blackburn, a very, very good little soldier

by digby

It looks like Mitch has found a new henchman more than willing to do the dirty work.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) blocked an effort by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to pass a bill via unanimous consent requiring campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.
"We are all for free and fair and honest elections. ... These reporting requirements are overbroad. Presidential campaigns would have to worry about disclosure at a variety of levels. So many different levels. Consider this: vendors that work for a campaign, people that are supplying some kind of voter service to a campaign. ... It would apply to door knockers, it would apply to phone bankers, down to any person who shares their views with a candidate."

Warner then countered that Blackburn's reading of the legislation is "not accurate .., The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered that something that was already prohibited."

The big picture: President Trump's comments on Wednesday that he would consider accepting intelligence on a political opponent from a foreign entity set off immediate outrage from Democrats, who see it as an invitation for foreign adversaries to interfere in future U.S. elections. Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House have renewed calls to pass election security measures, with some going as far as to call Trump's comments "anti-American" and grounds for impeachment.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, responding to Blackburn's objection, said on the Senate floor: "How disgraceful it is that our Republican friends cower before this president when they know that the things he does severely damage democracy."

I knew she was going to be bad in the Senate. And she is already fulfilling every expectation.

They are accomplices, every single one of them. This must never be forgotten. Ever.

I Don't Believe a Thing the Trump Administration Says About the Oil Tanker Attack 

by tristero

And no one else should, either. These guys have less credibility than an 80's infomercial hawking baldness cures.

An independent international commission is needed.
Tips for Dems when they roll out Trump's Impeachment

by Spocko

I believe there is already a group planning the impeachment roll out. I'll call them the Impeach The MFer Already (ITMFA) group.  I'll call the woman in charge of the media strategy the Media Strategist for Impeach the MFer Already or (MS for ITMFA). She probably already has her staff lining up the experts on emoluments, obstruction of justice, money laundering and other crimes from the Mueller Report.

Her goal is to show the crimes and/or treasonous activity of Trump AND HIS INNER CIRCLE and push new parts of it out to the public every single day, using multiple methods on multiple platforms to multiple audiences.

The Democrats need to tell a story to the American people that will convince them to act in a certain way.  Impeachment will require figuring out the best ways to deliver the news, images and video from the hearings to the multiple audiences that have to be reached.  How? My first tip:

1) Recreate conclusions from the Mueller Report in a way the American people can absorb.

That involves first getting experts to explain the crimes, second providing video of the criminals talking about doing those crimes and third, getting more experts to refute the excuses from Bill Barr, Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney or Donald Trump that the crimes aren't really crimes. They need to be shown they are are wrong, wrong, wrong. 10,000 times wrong.
The Captain, Spocko and the late great Joel Silberman discussing ways to show the American people how to take down a penny-ante operator like Trump
[If my friend, the late great Joel Silberman, were alive I'm sure he would be an adviser to this group.  He would explain to them the importance of telling a story with emotional beats, backed up by hard facts, political and legal analysis all topped off with damning video clips. ]
The Trump White House is fighting hard to keep any Mueller witnesses off camera.  If I wasn't a polite Vulcan I would scream, "STOP LETTING THEM WIN BY GIVING DON JR. A CLOSED HEARING!"

But a modern media strategist doesn't have to only use hearings and they don't have to just work with what the MSM clips at hearings and uses. Rachel Maddow can bring on all the experts, but not everyone sees them. My next tip.

2) Create your own clips and get the story out directly to the world via Social Media.

I'm sure the MS of ITMFA already knows this, but I want to remind Democratic activists to not count on the MSM to show why Trump is a criminal and should be removed from office.  We need to use our own platforms, social media and connections to help the process.
I'll admit I'm no expert on Social Media but I know a lot about how it has been used and how it can be manipulated by bots to amplify messages. If you read the Mueller report, you would know who the the Russian government controlled Internet Research Agency was and what they did to influence people's opinions. Here's a clip on them from the report.

The ITMFA should hire the American equivalent of the Internet Research Agency to get the impeachment story out. The IRA used actual people pushing a specific message and used bots to amplify them. ITMFA shouldn't hide the use of bots either. Just explain the new battleground, "We are using the same methods and bots as the IRA. It worked for Putin and got us Trump, so we are learning from our enemies." That story alone will educate people on bots and social media manipulation.

Other social media ideas for ITMFA:

  • Hire YouTube stars to create explainer videos on obstruction of justice, money laundering or the history of foreign influence on politics
  • Hire comedians & smart writers to help politicians with clever, retweet-able tweets and vicious sub-tweets. (Hire my friends Jeff Tiedrich
    @itsJeffTiedrich and Frank Conniff @FrankConniff.)
  • Bring Instagram Influencers to the hearings and pair them with someone who can explain the impeachment story to their audience
  • Bumperstickers!
The MS of ITMFA can suggest that committee members at hearings ask the kind of questions that will create video clips of the people talking about what they heard, what crimes they committed, or the obstruction orders they got from the President but didn't carry out. The media will use them but that leads me to my third tip.


The Media will water down the story that Trump is a criminal and should be removed from office.

It appears to me that certain news producers, journalists and hosts want to believe rational Republicans exist. They keep providing Trump with "to be fair" comments about his lawlessness and keep bringing on Giuliani types to explain away crimes and treasonous activities.  The GOP today are extremists. But some mainstream media and Democrats STILL think the Republicans will reach a point where "The Fever Will Break." once Trump is out of office, and things will go back to normal.

NEWSFLASH for Joe BIDEN: Today's GOP IS the fever, and it's coursing through Trump's plaque-clogged veins.

I understand people who don't follow politics want the Republican party to stop being insane. But the insanity has worked for the GOP extremists. They have gotten what they wanted, conservative supreme court judges, multiple federal judges, huge tax cuts, cut backs on regulations, no action on the climate emergency and nativist attacks on immigrants. Why would they change? What's in it for them? Respect from people on the left? HA!

The ITMFA group can arrange the right video clips for the MSM, but they can't fix the media's attitude of giving the benefit of the doubt to the GOP's bad faith actions in support of Trumps's lies and criminality. Many are still stuck playing along believing a President wouldn't be a traitor to his country and Republicans wouldn't support him if only they knew the truth.

We need to help Democrats successfully Impeach Trump for his crimes and treasonous activity.  Pick an area you are interested in, learn the story, then learn how the Trump people are trying to quash that story. Then explain to the people who mostly listen to NPR, watch the NewsHour or see a few headlines, what is happening, why Trump's excuses are invalid and why it matters. Even if they think they can predict the future and say, "But the current GOP senate won't act!" They don't know the future. Only time travelers like me do, and even then things can change.

I'm just a brain in a box and not even from this planet, but I'm half-human and I want a better future for my friends in this time in this timeline.  I've learned that we are not alone in this fight. There are people who ARE working to ensure impeachment and the removal of Trump. Give them a signal boost when you can. Your nudge might be the one to move us out of the darkest timeline.

Cross posted to Spocko's Brain 

Giving democracy the finger

by Tom Sullivan

Trump administration salutes the separation of powers.

If Donald Trump were from America's other major political party, the host of offenses both criminal and ethical he has committed would have launched a fusillade of congressional investigations, Fox News special reports with screaming chyrons on criminality in the White House, and at the very least, an impeachment inquiry. But IOKIYAR, right?

This week, President "NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!" drew a public rebuke from the chair of the Federal Elections Commission for declaring to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he would accept "dirt" on his political opponents offered by foreign agents. Donald Trump shrugged off the idea there was anything wrong in a little collusion between him and geopolitical adversaries.

Donny, how many times have we told you not to accept candy from strangers?

The Office of Special Counsel’s Henry Kerner in another rare public rebuke recommewnded White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed for multiple violations of the Hatch Act. This, after Conway responded snidely two weeks ago to challenges from reporters about those violations, saying, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Trump refused to remove her.

Trump now has the U.S. attorney general and the Department of Justice running interference for him. The department on Friday issued a 33-page opinion supporting Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's refusal to comply with a House subpoena for six years of Trump's taxes. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) invoked "a little-known provision of the tax code" that requires the IRS to furnish tax returns of any individual upon request. Mnuchin refused to comply with "black-letter law" on the matter. Thus, Mnuchin is defying the law with the backing of the Justice Department and the Trump White House.

All the president's men give the rule of law the middle finger.

Who could have foreseen this turn of events? For one, Dave Neiwert, author of "Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump" (2017). In November 2015, the veteran observer of the violent far-right wrote at Orcinus:
Trump is the logical end result of an endless series of assaults on not just American liberalism, but on democratic institutions themselves, by the American right for many years. It is the long-term creep of radicalization of the right come home to roost.
The fascist fringe has been with us for decades, Neiwert wrote, but it has existed for the most part on the fringes, subsumed by the larger culture save for areas where the Ku Klux Klan exercised power in the shadows. What's been missing to galvanize an open fascist movement in America has been a charismatic leader to front it. Enter Donald Trump, "merrily leading us down the path towards a fascist state even without being himself an overt fascist."
Neiwert wrote:
The reality that Trump is not a bona fide fascist himself does not make him any less dangerous. In some ways, it makes him more so, because it disguises the swastika looming in the shadow of the flamboyant orange hair. It camouflages the throng of ravening wolves he’s riding in upon.
Speaking this week with Brad Friedman, Neiwert explained one of the key fascist traits of Trump's movement (from his 2015 post):
The palingenetic ultranationalism. After the race-baiting and the ethnic fearmongering, this is the most obviously fascistic component of Trump’s presidential election effort, embodied in those trucker hats proclaiming: “Make America Great Again.” (Trump himself puts it this way: "The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back. We're going to make America great again."

That’s almost the letter-perfect embodiment of palingenesis – that is, the myth of the phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of an entire society in its “golden age.” In the meantime, Trump’s nationalism is evident not just in these statement but are the entire context of his rants against Latino immigrants and Syrian refugees.
That he lacks the paramilitary is our luck. His only real ideology is "the Worship of the Donald." What he attracts instead of militant thugs are lots of Florida retirees flying Trump flags from their scooters and patio homes. Neiwert concluded:
America, thanks to Trump, has now reached that fork in the road where it must choose down which path its future lies – with democracy and its often fumbling ministrations, or with the appealing rule of plutocratic authoritarianism, ushered in on a tide of fascistic populism. For myself, I remain confident that Americans will choose the former and demolish the latter – that Trump’s candidacy will founder, and the tide of right-wing populism will reach its high-water mark under him and then recede with him.
Right-wing populism may yet reach its high-water mark with Trump, and recede after him. Only, it has risen higher than Neiwert expected in November 2015, and at risk of breaching the dikes holding back plutocratic authoritarianism. If those fail-safes have not already failed.

As for Neiwert, he's been "temporarily suspended" from Twitter for violating its “sensitive media policy” with the illustration from his 2017 book cover. Neiwert writes at Daily Kos that he refuses to remove it:
And I’m fighting it because the reductio ad absurdum of Twitter’s reasoning for the suspension would leave not just me, but any reporter who works to monitor and expose the activities of far-right extremists, exposed to the constant threat of being banned simply for doing our mainstream jobs as journalists.

"Maybe all this misery is resolved by way of free and fair elections in 2020," writes Dahlia Lithwick. "The problem is that maybe there won’t be free and fair elections in 2020 ... A year and a half is a long time."

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Inside Edition:
Four brand-new little Bengal tiger cubs, including a rare white tiger, were abandoned by their mother after she gave birth to them at China’s Rongcheng Shendiaoshan Wildlife Park.

Meng Qingjia, a veterinarian at the park, noticed the mother tiger just leave the babies. So Meng decided to step in and become their caregiver.

"After the four cubs were born, the mother tiger went away without caring at all. The baby tigers were just shaking, with their cries getting weaker and weaker. We saw it and therefore decided to bring them out for artificial feeding," Meng told Reuters.

Park staffers also brought in a breeder specifically to help care for the cubs.

"We feed them goat milk once every four hours on a daily basis. When they were first born, they would only need a little bit of milk each time, like 10 to 20 milliliters. We kept adjusting the amount and added more little by little. Now, it's 60 milliliters for each of them at a time," said Meng.

Staffers have been adding nutrients to the milk, watching the little tigers get stronger and stronger.

"We mix some vitamins and electrolytes with the milk powder. We also used to add substances such as digestive enzymes and probiotics when they were younger and tended to get diarrhea," Meng added.

The sole white tiger in the bunch is also making great strides. Meng said that cub’s color is due to a genetic mutation.

"White tigers are quite rare in the Bengal tiger population. It's not albinism but a result of genetic mutation. Around one in 10,000 Bengal tigers would turn out to be white," he said.

Here are some rare, endangered snow tiger cubs.


Oh Ivanka

by digby

Sure, this is fine:

Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father’s Washington hotel last year, according to a disclosure released by the White House on Friday.

She also made at least $1 million from her line of branded apparel, jewelry and other merchandise, down from at least $5 million in the previous year. Trump, 37, announced in July that she was closing her fashion businesses amid controversies over her role in the White House and after some big-name department stores dropped the brand.

Together, Trump and husband Jared Kushner earned between $28.8 million and $135.1 million in outside income while working as unpaid senior advisers to her father, President Donald Trump, their disclosures, which covers 2018, show.

The reports, which list the assets and sources of income for Ivanka Trump, her husband and dependent children, have yet to be approved by the White House counsel’s office. They will also be reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics.

Administration officials have to file financial disclosure forms annually with their agencies by May 15. They report their incomes and the value of their assets in broad ranges.

Kushner, 38, disclosed at least $27 million and as much as $135 million in debt, the same amount he disclosed last year. The form shows his purchase of PV Bungalow LLC, a boutique hotel in Long Branch, New Jersey, for between $1 million and $5 million, plus the purchase of the liquor license for the property, which cost at least $15,000 more.

Kushner also spent between $1.5 million and $3 million on residential real estate in Brooklyn. The form lists 132 transactions made in 2018, though the actual total is higher because some entries lumped together multiple sales of condo units made in a single property.

His wife lists assets and income worth between $187.6 million and $786.3 million, the document shows. She provided no value for her shuttered fashion brands, compared with $50 million the year before. The company still holds trademarks in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the European Union and 23 other countries.

Like her father, Ivanka Trump and her husband retained their ownership in their private businesses when they became White House advisers, a decision that critics say has left them open to conflicts of interest and influence by foreign countries.

I think it's pretty clear that the Trump clan is unconcerned about conflicts of interest and corruption. Well, "unconcerned is probably not right. They are very concerned --- with making the most out of all of it.

I can already see that I'm going to spend the rest of my life screaming "but look what Trump got away with and everybody just let it happen !!!! Arghhhghhhgh!!!!"

"Suck on This Again"— aka The Ledeen Doctrine Redux

by tristero

A coda to Digby's earlier post about Lindsey Graham wanting to put "points on the board" by invading Venezuela which will somehow show other countries we mean bizness:

This kind of loony, cynical thinking has a looooong history in America. And it is the height of dangerous, murderous stupidity.

Here are some samples of the same mindset from the Bush/Iraq War:

Andrew Card, Bush's White House Chief of Staff:
'From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products [i.e., the invasion of a country for no legitimate reason] in August.'
NY Times Columnist Thomas Friedman:
I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.
We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"
You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?
Well, Suck. On. This.
That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

And of course, there's Michael Ledeen, as big a damn fool as ever lived:
[E]very ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

And how did Bush/Iraq work out? 
It turned out to be the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, with more than 4,500 Americans dead, 32,000 wounded, trillions of dollars spent and a region thrown into chaos with the rise of the Islamic State just one of the eventual consequences, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died.
And that's what will happen again if Graham gets his way.

Fuck points on the board. Let's get these crazy people out of our public lives.
The worst White House press secretary in history

by digby

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is checking out. There had been word of her going a while back and she denied it. But apparently, she thinks she hs a political future in her home state of Arkansas. They are big Trump lovers there so I wouldn't be surprised.

If they love liars, she's their girl:
Trump, who apparently has no idea when Sanders started working for him, announced the news on Twitter, praising the woman who routinely brawled with the press and lied through her caps in service to his agenda, and suggesting she should seek public office. “After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump wrote. “She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”

In this case, a “job well done” refers to routinely and shamelessly telling brazen lies, some of which include:

Denying knowledge of Trump’s in-office hush-money payoffs, despite the fact that Trump himself admitted to them;

Claiming that Trump had created far more jobs for African Americans than Obama, when, in reality, Obama created four times as many as Trump;

Insisting, with a straight face, that her boss had never “promoted or encouraged violence,” seemingly forgetting the time Trump told supporters at a rally, of a protester who’d been ejected, “I’d like to punch him in the face”; or the time he told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay. Just knock the hell—I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise”; or the time he openly fantasizedabout “Second Amendment people” preventing the appointment of liberal judges; or the time he instructed police officers to knock suspects’ heads against the side of their squad cars.

Smearing the many, many women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault and claiming they are the liars;

And, of course who could forget the time she created an elaborate yarn about how she’d heard from “countless…individuals who work at the FBI who said they were very happy” with Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, in an attempt to make the story that the firing was all about agency morale stick, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Russia investigation. Which, of course, she admitted was a total lie during her interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. She subsequently doubled down, telling George Stephanopoulos that she only admitted to lying about hearing from “countless” people, before shifting the focus to Comey, who she described as a “disgraced leaker” and a “dirty cop.”

This is supposed to be a clarification?

by digby

Trump went on Fox and Friends and spoke some gibberish to explain his recent invitation to foreign countries to deliver all the goods on his political enemies (for which he will assuredly be very "grateful.")

"Well, I don't understand it. I think it was accurately stated and I’ve had a lot of support in this. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of support. First of all, I don’t think anybody would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country. Nobody will present me with anything.

Number two, if I was, and of course, you have to look at it, because if you don’t look at it you won’t know it’s bad. How will you know if it's bad? But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the Attorney General or somebody like that. But of course you do that. You couldn’t have that happen with our country, and everybody understands that. And I thought it was made clear. In fact, I actually said at the beginning, I think I said I’d do both.”

Well, that certainly clears things up ...


Which dog will they wag?

by digby

Graham's pushing for a Venezuela invasion so we can "put points on the board."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants the United States to use military forces to intervene in Venezuela to depose the country’s contested president, Nicolás Maduro. His reason: it will scare other foreign countries like North Korea and Iran to see America put “points on the board.” 
During a Fox News appearance on Friday morning, Graham was asked about the many foreign policy challenges President Donald Trump faces with Maduro still in power, North Korea continuing to ignore its supposed deal with Trump to move toward total denuclearization, and Iran allegedly attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. 
“It’s a time of testing,” Graham responded, urging Trump to “put military force on the table” the way President Ronald Reagan did when he invaded Grenada in 1983. This, he argued, could help sever Venezuela’s support from Cuba. 
After praising Trump for his foreign policy diplomacy, Graham said that the time has come for action. 
“We need points on the board. Start with your own backyard. Tell Cuba if you are not out of Venezuela, in a week, and people are starving and dying in Venezuela because Maduro is such a thug, then we are making a mistake. Fix Venezuela and everybody else will know you are serious.” 
This is not the first time the senator has argued for invading Venezuela — or at least threatening to do so — as a strategy to stop Cuban influence there. But it is the clearest he’s been that he wants to pursue a war-mongering approach for the optics it will create. 
Trump cited Graham in February as an example of a person he listens to on foreign policy matters.

Graham is egging Trump on with that rap. And Trump has been taking about military action in Venezuela from the beginning of his presidency. They have oil. He wants it.

And no, everybody else will not know you're "serious." They'll know you're an out of control rogue superpower invading countries to "put points on the board."


Not failing schools, a failing economy

by Tom Sullivan

"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

Ever since his infamous TED talk, I've liked billionaire Nick Hanauer. "It is astounding," he began, "how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies." The one idea he challenged was that increasing taxes on the rich will negatively impact job creation.

Hanauer now challenges another idea, and one of his own: that fixing America's education system "could cure much of what ails America." He dubs that belief held by many fellow billionaire-donors to education reform efforts, "educationism." Hanauer writes in The Atlantic, "... after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong." And he hates being wrong:

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.
The source of American families' economic struggles is not a "skills gap" or lack of education or failing schools:
In 1970, when the golden age of the American middle class was nearing its peak and inequality was at its nadir, only about half of Americans ages 25 and older had a high-school diploma or the equivalent. Today, 90 percent do. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans attaining a college degree has more than tripled since 1970.
Yet American households' purchasing power has remained flat for decades, even "as the average real annual wages of the top 1 percent of Americans rose 156 percent (and the top .01 percent’s wages rose by a stunning 343 percent) ..." The middle class is in decline while the top prospers. Hanauer argues income inequality is growing not because of failings in public education, but in spite of educational progress.

And what do "educationists" get wrong? (emphasis mine):
For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.
In short, pay people more and schools and life outcomes will improve. It doesn't work the other way around, Hanauer now believes.
The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools.
That was (and is) a mistake, as much a mistake as the idea that inspired Hanauer's TED talk slamming the tax catechism of the rich in which he offered, "It's small jump from 'job creator' to 'The Creator'." The metaphor is not accidental. It's a form of motivated reasoning that clouds policy decisions driven by those with all the money. It allows them to believe society's problems lie elsewhere than with the outsized rewards they've structured the economy to provide them.

Hanauer concludes:
Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less.
American families' economic struggles are not the product of failing schools but a failing economy. It is an economy (as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders remind voters) that serves the top 1 percent just fine, while failing the rest of Americans who create the wealth the elite enjoy at others' expense.

It is a peculiar article of meritocratic faith that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. This curious economic theory springs from a people steeped in the notion that we're all damnable sinners saved by grace, a grace we do not deserve. Yet, somehow the working poor deserve their crumbs.

Hanauer figured this out long ago. Yet in his desire to give back, the power of one idea (educationism) shaped his views on education until now. So I say with tongue in cheek, welcome back to the fight, Nick. This time I know our side will win.