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Saturday, July 20, 2019

2020 could be very close folks. Racist whites are the minority but the electoral college was made for them.

by digby

Nate Cohn of the NY Times wrote a scary analysis showing that Trump could lose the popular vote by five million people and still win the electoral college --- which actually seems to be Trump's strategy:

President Trump’s approval ratings are underwater in national polls. His position for re-election, on the other hand, might not be quite so bleak.

His advantage in the Electoral College, relative to the national popular vote, may be even larger than it was in 2016, according to an Upshot analysis of election results and polling data.

That persistent edge leaves him closer to re-election than one would think based on national polls, and it might blunt any electoral cost of actions like his recent tweets attacking four minority congresswomen.

For now, the mostly white working-class Rust Belt states, decisive in the 2016 election, remain at the center of the electoral map, based on our estimates. The Democrats have few obviously promising alternative paths to win without these battleground states. The president’s approval ratings remain higher in the Sun Belt battlegrounds than in the Rust Belt, despite Democratic hopes of a breakthrough.

The president’s views on immigration and trade play relatively well in the Northern battlegrounds, including among the pivotal Obama-Trump voters.

There are signs that some of these voters have soured on his presidency, based on recent polling. There is also reason to think that white working-class voters who supported Mr. Trump were relatively likely to stay home in last November’s midterm elections.

A strategy rooted in racial polarization could at once energize parts of the president’s base and rebuild support among wavering white working-class voters. Many of these voters backed Mr. Trump in the first place in part because of his views on hot-button issues, including on immigration and race.

Alone, the president’s relative advantage in the Electoral College does not necessarily make him a favorite to win. His approval rating is well beneath 50 percent in states worth more than 270 electoral votes, including in the Northern battleground states that decided the 2016 election.

And just because racial polarization could work to the president’s advantage in general doesn’t mean that his particular tactics will prove effective. The president’s campaign rally on Wednesday night seemed, for a time, to go too far even for him: on Thursday he disavowed the “send her back” chants that supporters directed toward a congresswoman who immigrated to the United States as a refugee. (By Friday, he was declining to condemn the chants.)

But Mr. Trump’s approval rating has been stable even after seemingly big missteps. And if it improves by a modest amount — not unusual for incumbents with a strong economy — he could have a distinct chance to win re-election while losing the popular vote by more than he did in 2016, when he lost it by 2.1 percentage points.


Ron Brownstein doesn't see it quite so starkly. He tweeted this:

One part of EC debate that confuses me: even in the key blue-collar states (WI/PA/MI) relying on recapturing lots of working-class whites isn't the only way to win. Even apart from turnout, Trump's overt racism could provide Ds bigger margin w/other groups-col+ whites, young than in 16.

And despite his racial appeals, his hold on working-class whites, especially women, in MW isn't as strong as in South. In 18 exits 46-48% of non-college white women disapproved of him in WI/PA/MI, largely because of the ACA.

Attacking immigrants may help with some but doesn't erase those concerns. WI is indeed toughest for Ds (most blue-collar white), but it's not like open racism is electoral Kryptonite even there. There are real offsetting costs, plus the implications for AZ (where majority of under-40 population is already minority).

The demagogue in chief is a powerful inspiration to racists everywhere, to be sure. But he's not gaining any racist voters. They all loved him from the get. If this is his strategy it solves the dilemma for Democrats once and for all. There is no margin in trying to poach any of his voters. They have to get everyone else out to vote.



"If they can land a man on the moon ..."

by Tom Sullivan

Fifty years ago today, landing on the moon became a benchmark for human achievement. The world held its breath in those last moments as the Eagle lander, seconds worth of fuel left, settled onto the lunar surface.

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed," radioed Neil Armstrong.

Charlie Duke at mission control replied, “Roger Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.”

The United States had achieved President John F. Kennedy's bold vision of humans landing on the moon before the end of the 1960s. We would return them home safely. Thereafter, "If they can land a man on the moon" became both a declaration of human achievement and a demand we solve other insurmountable problems through the same American hard work, grit and ingenuity. We are still waiting for a president to lead a climate change moon shot.

Fifty years later, we've got a boatload of problems and a nation in retrenchment led by an ignorant, racist xenophobe and a coward. Add to that, he is a small-minded, white-nationalist demagogue with a DSM's worth of instability. Worse still, he has a following numbering somewhere around 40 percent of U.S. voters.

In 1969, inspired by Kennedy's vision and rivalry with the Soviet Union led by Russia, Americans dreamt of reaching for the stars. Fifty years later, a large percentage are eager to follow the acting president into the abyss.

Fifty years later, Russia is still an American adversary. But having lost the race to the moon and its empire, Russia has chosen to boost its global stature not through inspiring human achievement, but by working to collapse its rivals through stealth, burglary, and industrial-strength lies. The acting U.S. president is eager to play along.

The problem of perfecting this union (as well as protecting it against malicious adversaries) is not our technology but our lack of wisdom and garden-variety human foibles. Hugo and Nebula Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal issued a Twitter thread Friday explaining that for all the technical wizardry behind space travel we have yet to satisfactorily solve the problem of peeing and pooping in space.

For all our chest thumping about 'Murica and freedom, e pluribus unum remains beyond the grasp of many of our fellow citizens. Anyway, the phrase is foreign, dontcha know.

The Atlantic's Adam Serwer examines the challenge of addressing the white nationalism stoked by the acting president and abetted by a supine Republican Party. Specifically, he addresses this week's speech in Greenville, NC in which the acting president's audience chanted “Send her back! Send her back!” about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali immigrant serving in Congress. Trump primed the crowd for the chant by suggesting four freshmen women of color (including Omar) should go back to the countries they came from. The other three are native-born Americans.

For all the ugliness in the history of this republic, "America has not been here before," Serwer writes:

Ilhan Omar’s prominence as a Republican target comes not, as conservatives might argue, simply because her policy views are left-wing. Neither is it because, as some liberals have supposed, she is an unmatched political talent. She has emerged as an Emmanuel Goldstein for the Trumpist right because as a black woman, a Muslim, an immigrant, and a progressive member of Congress, she represents in vivid terms a threat to the nation Trumpists fear they are losing.

To attack Omar is to attack a symbol of the demographic change that is eroding white cultural and political hegemony, the defense of which is Trumpism’s only sincere political purpose. Many of the president’s most outrageous comments have been delivered extemporaneously, when he departs from his prepared remarks. Last night, though, his attacks on Omar were carefully scripted, written out by his staff and then read off a teleprompter. To defend the remarks as politically shrewd is to confess that the president is deliberately campaigning on the claim that only white people can truly, irrevocably be American.
Serwer argues for defending Omar, whatever her politics — "you needn’t like her at all" — "because the nature of the president’s attack on her is a threat to all Americans—black or white, Jew or Gentile—whose citizenship, whose belonging, might similarly be questioned."

Today we celebrate a monumental human achievement from half a century ago. The courage, commitment and science that adventure required has yet to be rallied to cleanse the darkness in human hearts. The acting president has no interest in addressing that problem. for him, it is not a problem, but an asset to be exploited. While not clairvoyant, I might venture his own heart is darker than most. As a fictional president said of a rival a quarter century ago, whatever the problem is America needs solving, Donald Trump is uninterested in solving it. "He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it."

"If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America," Serwer concludes, "it will not be defended elsewhere. What Americans do now, in the face of this, will define us forever." That is on us. "If they can land a man on the moon," perhaps we may yet save this republic from this ugly nationalism. Yet, we still can't figure out how to poop cleanly in space. God help us we are forever defined by the shit left behind by Donald J. Trump.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Wolf pup edition:

After the newest litter of European Wolves began emerging from their den a few weeks ago, keepers at Longleat Safari Park weren’t exactly sure how many pups were in the litter. They eventually determined that parents Eliska and Jango were raising seven pups!

Once it was known that pups had been born, the care team allowed the family to bond without any interference from staff. Keepers would occasionally glimpse the pups when Eliska and Jango moved the pups between three separate underground dens in their woodland enclosure.

“As the pups spend their first few weeks underground it makes it very difficult to work out exactly how many there are. Initially we thought there were only five, so to discover there’s actually seven of them was a wonderful bonus,” said Longleat’s team manager for carnivores, Amy Waller.

The pups, which weighed less than a pound when born, are now able to eat small amounts of meat but will not be fully weaned until eight to 10 weeks of age.

This is the second litter born at the Safari Park in the last year and boosts the pack size to 14.

“The pups’ older siblings have also been getting involved with transporting them from den to den but have still not entirely got the hang of holding them the right way up so mum and dad do have to occasionally intervene,” added Amy.

Wolf packs have a highly complex social structure and each individual knows its place in the pack hierarchy. In the wild, wolves depend on cooperation within the pack for survival, both in hunting and in raising offspring.

Wild Wolves were eradicated from most of Western Europe in the 19th century and they have been extinct throughout the United Kingdom for more than 250 years.

Thanks to several Wolf reintroduction programs, the wild Wolf population in Europe is now thought to include 12,000 individuals in 28 countries.

There are established packs in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain and Italy with numbers also on the rise in parts of France and Germany. In 2011, Wolves were also reported in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Via Zooborns

by digby

Please, Ivanka and Melania are not moderating influences. They are complicit.

by digby

Oh come on

CBS News has learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Trump on Thursday disavowed the chants of "send her back" and said he tried to stop it. "Well, number one, I think I did, I started speaking very quickly," he said.

But the video tells a different story. The president stands in silence for nearly 15 seconds, looking around the arena. When Mr. Trump resumed his speech, he made no mention of the chant, which started after he attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar. The rally left Republicans once again answering for the president.

CBS News learned that Mr. Trump spoke to several members of his inner circle about how to react to the chant. He weighed the pros and cons of softening his tone, worried supporters would not like it.

But ultimately, he declared unhappiness. Congressional Republicans also expressed concerns to Pence and asked him to relay the message to the president.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick called this out all the way back in 2017.

[Ivanka] Trump sees herself as a force for good. She sees her role in her father’s White House as a formal-yet-informal ambassador for generalized human kindness. Her brother has let us know that it is the free-floating human-like kindness of Ivanka that led Donald Trump to bomb the crap out of Syria last weekend. Is that even a job? Is she even that kind?

When it comes to President Trump, one must either begin from the proposition that he is a mentally ill huckster, unfit to serve, or one must start with the intention of continuously parsing each momentary action (the “give him a chance, he’s not that bad, the people have spoken” approach). And if you are of the camp that chooses to parse each jog and twist in the current madness, you can certainly make the case that though Ivanka does not, in fact, “know what it means to be complicit,” she certainly does seem to hope that “time will prove that I have done a good job and much more importantly, that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be.”

Indeed, if you are of the camp that maintains that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, despite flagrantly self-enriching and profiteering from the Trump presidency, are vitally important “moderating influences” on the narcissist to which they answer, you can surely assert, as Jared Kushner has been known to do when challenged, that he is doing what he believes is right with “complicated facets,” and that he is, in his own view, “navigating it appropriately.” The argument amounts to the proposition that having elected a nutball, anyone who performs a braking function on the nutball is by definition a national hero.

Semantically, you might be able to make this point. But ethically and morally, you would probably be wrong to do so. Put aside for a moment the very real allegations about very real wrongdoing by this family. Ivanka and Jared’s justifications of their actions rest on the claim that destiny has forced them to play outsize parts in this administration, and that as profoundly and intrinsically good people they are simply trying to play that role with performative goodness. This defense—that anyone who accuses Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner of complicity is opposed to their sane and benevolent intercessions on behalf of America’s good people—is without doubt the most morally and ethically shallow claptrap offered up to public discourse since Trump took office. I think it’s time to label it as such.

And Melania is the person who wore that coat. She knew exactly what she was doing.

More evidence against our criminal president

by digby

The government released several search warrant documents related to their investigation of Michael Cohen Thursday — and apparently revealed that the investigation into hush-money payments made on Trump’s behalf has ended.

The newly unsealed documents are search warrants preceding the raids on Cohen’s office and residence in April 2018. The media had wanted them released earlier but the prosecutors said the investigation was ongoing. They've apparently folded up shop, presumably because of the DOJ policy that you can't indict the president. Or Bill Barr made his wishes known.

So, whatevs.

To recap: Last August, Cohen pleaded guilty for violating campaign finance law by arranging hush money payments for two women who claimed affairs with Trump: Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. (He began serving a three year prison sentence for those crimes and bank fraud charges this May.)

The unsealed search warrant materials lay out investigators’ understanding of the hush money investigation as of early 2018 — before the raids on Cohen’s office, the public revelation of the investigation’s existence, and Cohen’s guilty plea. The new documents can be found at these links: Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3, Exhibit 4, Exhibit 5, Exhibit 6, Exhibit 7, and Exhibit 8.

The main takeaway from the documents is that there’s ample evidence that Trump and his campaign press secretary Hope Hicks were in close communication with Cohen as he tried to buy Stormy Daniels’s silence toward the end of the 2016 campaign.

An FBI agent wrote that in October 2016, in the days following the publication of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping women, Cohen “exchanged a series of calls, text messages, and emails” with the following people:

  • Keith Davidson (Stormy Daniels’s attorney)
  • David Pecker and Dylan Howard of American Media Inc. (the publisher of the National Enquirer)
  • Donald Trump and Hope Hicks
For instance, the day after the tape was released, on October 8, Hicks called Cohen — and, per the FBI agent, Trump joined the call. “I believe this was that this was the first call Cohen had received or made to Hicks in at least multiple weeks,” the agent wrote. Shortly afterward, Cohen called Pecker and then received a call from Howard.

Investigators surmised these discussions were about how to prevent more women from coming forward with stories about Trump. Already at this point, Cohen had worked with Pecker and Howard to pay off Karen McDougal, another woman who said she had an affair with Trump, so AMI could get exclusive rights to her story (and bury it). But the Access Hollywood tape’s release was the reason for new urgency.

The documents also reveal:

On October 26, 2016, less than 30 minutes after speaking with Trump, Cohen opened a bank account for his infamous shell company, Essential Consultants LLC. Later that day, Cohen transferred $130,000 to the account, which he’d later use to pay Daniels.)

After arranging the payment for Daniels, Cohen had a brief conversation with Hope Hicks.

After receiving an audio file of Daniels denying any affair with Trump, Cohen had a phone conversation with Kellyanne Conway (Trump’s campaign manager).

On November 4, 2016, Cohen texted that Trump was “pissed” about a Wall Street Journal article that would reveal the payment to McDougal.

So yes, this was a cover-up, and Trump was likely in the loop. It was also a criminal cover-up — Cohen admitted knowingly violating campaign finance laws with the hush money payment. He said last year he did so at Trump’s direction, and these documents appear to substantiate that claim.
What happened to the hush money investigation, then?

But the reason we’re seeing all these new documents is that, per prosecutors, there’s no longer an ongoing investigation that merits their continued sealing.

That’s a new development, because it had appeared that others — Trump Organization executives, and even Trump himself — were in some legal jeopardy from the then-continuing probe as recently as a few months back.

For instance, Cohen claimed to have spoken to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg about how to set up the Karen McDougal payment. Weisselberg was also involved in paying back Cohen for the money he paid Stormy Daniels — in 2017, he split the money into several monthly payments that the company falsely described as “legal expenses.” (Prosecutors investigating the payments reportedly gave Weisselberg immunity for testimony last year, though that did not mean he “flipped” on Trump, as some surmised. The New York Times reported that the immunity grant “was narrow in scope.”)

Then there’s Trump himself, who directed the illegal payments. Why isn’t he being charged? Have prosecutors put it aside only because he’s the sitting president, and can’t be indicted? Or were there evidentiary concerns? (To prove the violation, prosecutors would have to prove that Trump knew the payments were illegal — a tall order.)

Last week’s CNN report that the investigation would soon wrap up contained a curious tidbit. In January, prosecutors asked to interview Trump Organization executives on the topic — but, per “people familiar with the matter,” prosecutors then “never followed up” on that request and “the interviews never took place.”

As Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo points out, Bill Barr was confirmed as attorney general in February, the month after that interview request. The following month, in March, Robert Khuzami — the prosecutor who oversaw the hush money probe — left government. Per the New York Times, he told colleagues his departure was “unrelated to any political pressure.” But now, the investigation has fizzled out.

It's really looking as if the only person who will be punished for Trump's sins is that sad sack Michael Cohen.

The criminal in the White House just carrying on with impunity is destroying the last vestige of faith anyone can have in the American justice system. The Democrats look like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off running around in circles squawking and clucking and letting him get away with it, so it also appears that the political system is completely impotent to deal with him.

The best we can hope for is to get him out of office. I'm completely losing hope that he will ever face any accountability for his crimes. I suspect that if he loses the election he'll just go out and be a right-wing media star, making money hand over fist scamming his deluded cultists and remaining the chief spokesman for the GOP for some time to come.

If the justice system actually takes the step of going after this miscreant once he's out of office, I will be shocked. There is a strong resistance among normal people, for obvious reasons, to jailing defeated presidential candidates much less defeated presidents. It's not too hard to see where that would go under an Attorney General like Bob Barr.

It would be much more likely to be seen as legitimate if it happened to a president who had been impeached and then defeated, of course. But that' doesn't appear as if it will happen so ...

I think he's going to get away with all of it.

Deficit, Schmeficit: Rush admits it was always a sham

by digby

I think we all know that the Republicans will once again relentlessly fearmonger the deficit once a Democrat is in the White House. That's simply how this works. The GOP runs up the debt and then they hector the Democrats into cutting it and taking the heat from their own voters for cutting valuable programs. It's a nice little scam that's been going on since Reagan.

However,  Trump's tax cuts and military spending spree goes much farther than anyone before him so it's going to be a quite something to see the utter hypocrisy on display. Make no mistake, they will do it anyway.

However, you might want to make note of this, just for posterity:

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh admitted that Republican fear-mongering over the federal deficit under President Obama was “bogus,” while defending the deficit's explosive rise to $1 trillion under President Trump.

During Limbaugh’s show on Tuesday, a caller suggested that Republicans should nominate a young fiscal conservative instead of Trump, citing the rising deficit. Limbaugh dismissed the concerns, declaring that fiscal conservatism was basically a sham all along.

“Republicans can nominate a young, potentially two-term president, one that believes in fiscal conservatism,” the caller told Limbaugh. “We’re gonna have — in 2019, there’s gonna be a $1 trillion deficit. Trump doesn’t really care about that. He’s not really a fiscal conservative. We don't, we have to acknowledge that Trump has been cruelly used.”

“Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore,” Limbaugh shot back. “All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.”

That’s quite the statement from Limbaugh, who spent the entirety of the Obama years attacking the president over rising deficits.

In 2009, Limbaugh ranted that Obama was a “coward” without the “spine” or “gonads” to admit he was responsible for driving up the deficit (rather than the two wars President George W. Bush started while cutting taxes).

In 2011, Limbaugh bizarrely claimed that Obama was "the architect of deficits and debt unheard of in this nation."

The late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spent the entirety of his 2008 presidential campaign warning about rising deficits, CNN noted. The 2010 rise of the Tea Party, which fueled massive Republican gains in that year's midterm elections, was fueled largely by claims that federal spending was out of control. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan made an entire career out of rhetoric decrying the rising national debt. Then he led the charge to approve a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich and corporations, leading to the $1 trillion deficit Republicans apparently no longer care about.

Trump himself vowed to be a savior, promising that he would eliminate not just the budget deficit but the entire $22 trillion debt within two terms as president during his 2016 campaign.

"It can be done. ... It will take place and it will go relatively quickly. ... If you have the right people, like, in the agencies and the various people that do the balancing ... you can cut the numbers by two pennies and three pennies and balance a budget quickly and have a stronger and better country,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in 2016.

Later on Tuesday’s show, Limbaugh doubled down on his newfound believe that fiscal conservatism was never authentic, accusing former Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., of fear-mongering for expressing concern over the rising national debt under Trump. (Sanford has proposed mounting a campaign against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020.)

"How many years have people tried to scare everybody about the deficit?" Limbaugh asked. "The years, how many decades of politicians tried to scare us about deficit the national debt, the deficit, any number of things. And yet, here we're still here and the great jaws of the deficit have not bitten off our heads and chewed them up and spit them out."


Guys, he's been saying "send them back" from the very beginning

by digby

Trump reading "The Snake"

My Salon column this morning:

Donald Trump has bragged many times that his 2016 election victory was a result of his unique political genius, saying only recently, "You know who got me elected? I got me elected!" He is convinced that his instincts are infallible and that he speaks for the American electorate when he engages in his patented demagogic bigotry. He believes this is what brought him to the White House and is what will win him a second term.

He has little choice but to try. Even with a healthy economy and no new wars, he's been unable to raise his approval ratings above the 45 percent or so that elected him. For all of the media's insistence over the past few years that his victory was a result of "economic anxiety," Trump himself knows better. He knows he can only replicate his 2016 fluke by activating the racist id of his following to its fullest in order to once again eke out a narrow Electoral College victory.

Now that he has found the perfect symbols of all his voters' racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and Islamophobia in the persons of Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, there will be no turning back. They are the living personification of everything he and his voters loathe: Hispanic, Muslim, African American, progressive women.

Trump's recent Twitter tantrum and the ensuing outrage over his supporters' "Send her back" chant really should not come as any surprise. After all, he is the king of the "birthers," who managed to single-handedly convince millions of Americans that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim foreigner trying to pass himself off as an American citizen and was, therefore, an illegitimate president. These are his political roots.

And you can forgive his followers for chanting "Send her back," since Trump repeatedly promised to send refugees and immigrants back to where they came from during the 2016 campaign. It was a staple of his campaign from the very beginning to refer to Syrian refugees as a possible "Trojan horse."

In New Hampshire for the first time since he failed to correct a man's rant about President Barack Obama being a Muslim, Trump was greeted by a few thousand cheering fans — and he was fired up. ...

On the topic of Syrian refugees, Trump was forceful: "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back!”

He explained: “They could be ISIS …This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army maybe, or if you said 50,000 or 80,000 or 100,000, we got problems and that could be possible. I don't know that it is, but it could be possible so they’re going back — they’re going back.”

One of his favorite performances was to read the lyrics to a song called "The Snake," which he saw as a parable for immigrants and refugees turning on the Americans who generously "took them in." He brought that back as a greatest hit at CPAC last year:

From the beginning of his campaign, he spoke of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, citing (without naming it) the grotesque "Operation Wetback" from the 1950s as his model. In one Republican primary debate, he explained:
Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. I like Ike, right? The expression. "I like Ike." Moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer, you don’t get friendlier.
He told the press that he would create a "deportation force" that would "humanely" remove these millions of citizens.

In other words, he has formerly claimed that the first African American president of the United States was really a foreigner and he's been talking about "sending back" immigrants and refugees for years. So this latest salvo isn't original, although it's the first time he has combined claiming that a black American is an illegitimate citizen with calls for the person to "go back to where they came from." So in that respect he's taken the demagoguery up a notch. But his fans are just following the familiar grooves of his call-and-response chants by using words they've heard a hundred times before. When he said at his North Carolina rally that Ilhan Omar has "contempt for hard-working Americans," they knew exactly what to do.

Trump danced around the "Send her back" chant when asked about it on Thursday, saying he "disagreed with it" and claiming that he tried to stop it. (He didn't disagree with it and he didn't try to stop it.) This is par for the course with Trump. He throws out the red meat to his crowds and then pretends he doesn't like the fact that they gobbled it up like a school of red-bellied piranhas. But he doesn't keep up the pretense for long.

You will recall that when the eventually ubiquitous "Lock her up" chants first started he disavowed them, telling the media during a press conference:
When I started talking about Hillary Clinton, the veterans who saw her 24 hours before started screaming, “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” They also screamed that, as you know, during the speech I made. The big speech. And I said, “Don’t do that.” Now, I didn’t do that for any reason. I really — I didn’t like it. And they stopped. Not one reporter said that I said that. They all said — they started screaming “Lock her up! Lock her up!” I said, “Don’t do that.” I think it’s a shame that they said it, but a lot of people would say that should happen.”

It wasn't long before he told his people that he was going to stop being so nice and when the chants started he began puffing out his chest and strutting around the stage like Il Duce. During the presidential debates, he famously told Clinton that if he were president, “you’d be in jail.” The chants continue to this day.

I have every expectation that he will do the same with "Send her back" or any other chant his fans come up with over the course of the next year and a half. He believes that pushing this odious demagoguery is how he will win because it's how he won before. In any case, he doesn't know how to do anything else.

Update: yep

The NY Times's Moral Disgrace 

by tristero

The NY Times has recently published numerous intelligent op-eds openly denouncing Trump's racism and bigotry. But the actual editorial board of the Times apparently won't call Trump what he is until he starts gassing immigrants en masse or arresting members of Congress. Here's the lede to their official editorial response to the "Send her back" chant:
Donald Trump insists he’s not a racist. This is, increasingly, a bit beside the point. 
Bullshit. Total bullshit.

First, Trump's racism is the point. It's his main calling card, he knows it and the Times's editors know it. Second. claiming it's "a bit besides the point" lets him personally off the hook, as if he doesn't know what he's doing (when it comes to racism, he most certainly does).

And the reason they let him off the hook is that they're so in thrall to his celebrity, his wealth, and his position that they actually took his denial seriously. They even put his denial in the first goddamm sentence as if his denial was the single most important thing to know about the "Send her back" chant.

Here's what the lede should have said:
Donald Trump is a racist. His denials are entirely besides the point.
The rest of the editorial is equally evasive and cowardly. They have no idea, even now, about who and what they are dealing with. Trump is an American fascist who is only a few tweets and rallies away from openly inciting his MAGAts to violence against his explicitly named enemies.


Leashing the financial predators

by Tom Sullivan

There is a reason for leash laws.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's latest plan for bringing metastasized capitalism to heel is "red meat for the Democratic party's liberal base," per CNN. That characterization presupposes her attention to Wall Street's predations is a presidential candidate's gimmick. In fact, it is the reason Warren conceived and fought to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is the reason the former professor of commercial law sits in the U.S. Senate today.

Conservatives and business lobbyists argued for decades unleashing U.S. capitalism through deregulation would spur economic growth and enrichen everyone. They let large dogs loose on the playground with predictable results. People got hurt. And no, they didn't enrichen everyone.

In a press release for Warren's plan co-sponsored by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, plus Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Warren explains:

"For far too long, Washington has looked the other way while private equity firms take over companies, load them with debt, strip them of their wealth, and walk away scot-free -leaving workers, consumers, and whole communities to pick up the pieces," said Senator Warren. "Our bill ends these abusive practices by putting private investment funds on the hook for the decisions made by the companies they control, ending looting, empowering workers and investors, and safeguarding the markets from risky corporate debt."
Once known as leveraged buyout firms, the industry rebranded itself private equity after financial scandals of the 1980s, writes The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner. The rebrand meant "to mislead the public to believe that it is similar to the venture capital business, in which investors actually contribute new capital. But private equity exists to extract capital."

Ask Dylan Ratigan about America being "extracted."
In a Medium column, Warren adds, "Private equity firms raise money from investors, kick in a little of their own, and then borrow tons more to buy other companies. Sometimes the companies do well. But far too often, the private equity firms are like vampires — bleeding the company dry and walking away enriched even as the company succumbs."

As Kuttner concludes, "there is no constructive reason for this industry to exist." Except to make those in it very, very rich standing on the backs of workers who have lost their jobs and more. As Matthew McConaughey said in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), "We don't create shit. We don't build anything."

Warren's Stop Wall Street Looting Act would:
● Require Private Investment Firms to Have Skin in the Game. Firms will share responsibility for the liabilities of companies under their control including debt, legal judgments and pension-related obligations to better align the incentives of private equity firms and the companies they own. In order to discourage irresponsible leverage, the bill ends the tax subsidy for excessive leverage and closes the carried interest loophole.
● End Looting of Portfolio Companies. To give portfolio companies a shot at success, the proposal bans dividends to investors for two years after a firm is acquired and ends the extraction of wealth from acquired companies through excessive fees.
● Protect Workers, Customers and Communities. This proposal prevents private equity firms from walking away when a company fails and protects stakeholders by:
○ Prioritizing worker pay in the bankruptcy process and improving rules so workers are more likely to receive severance, pensions, and other payments they earned.
○ Creating incentives for job retention so that workers can benefit from a company’s second chance.
○ Ending the immunity of private equity firms from legal liability when their portfolio companies break the law, including the WARN Act. When workers at a plant are shortchanged or residents at a nursing home are hurt because private equity firms force portfolio companies to cut corners, the firm should be liable.
○ Clarifying that gift cards are consumer deposits, ensuring their priority in bankruptcy.
● Empower Investors by Increasing Transparency. Private fund managers will be required to disclose fees and returns so that investors can monitor their investments and shop around. The bill will also prevent firms from requiring investors to waive their fiduciary duties and end secret side deals that privilege some investors over others.
● Require Risk Retention. Reinstates the Dodd-Frank provision that requires arrangers of corporate debt securitization to retain some of the risk.
Occupy Wall Street was a reaction to the financial collapse of 2008. Donald Trump's election was, among other factors, a reaction to the Obama administration's failure to rein in Wall Street and address the foreclosure crisis that put millions of Americans out of their homes so too-big-to-fail banks could prop-up their balance sheets. Much of the country has still not recovered.

As the congress is presently configured, Warren's plans will go nowhere. Still, they accomplish two things. First, put the fear of God in the right people.

Trump supporter Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, told Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Monday, “I’m most scared by Elizabeth Warren.” Reflecting on 2020 Democratic candidates, Thiel said, “I think she’s the one who’s actually talking about the economy.”
Second, Warren's plans demonstrate at least some Democrats are prepared to stop American families from being harmed by financial predators allowed to run loose since the 1980s.

Adam Levitin of Georgetown Law School, one of the bill's advisers, tells Kuttner, “This is literally the first major bill on financial regulation since Dodd-Frank.” Levitin adds, “It shows that Democrats are back on the offensive on financial reform.”

Thursday, July 18, 2019


by tristero

I've seen some despicable behavior by American leaders but I've never seen or heard anything — not from Nixon, from Reagan, or from either of the two terrible Bushes — that comes close to the  "Send her back" rally last night.

I watched him basking in that revolting chanting and my stomach heaved — I'm sure I wasn't alone. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of Mussolini, of Hitler, and of all the sickening nihilistic displays of fascist hate our time has generated.

It is my sincere (but likely futile) hope that the limit has been reached, that now, finally, the major media will treat Trump and Trumpism like the existential danger so many of us have known it was since long before 2016.

It is long past time for the news to stop highlighting video footage of his lying and demagoguery and instead, regularly feature the thousands of eloquent people who are speaking up in protest. No more febrile white people drooling over their racism in diners. Let's hear frequently from the millions of Americans who are as disgusted by Trumpism as we are.

In short, it's way past time to cut Trump's access to grade A media coverage and for the media to stop the collusion with his blatant manipulation of the press's commitment to objectivity. Trump is still treated by the NY Times, for example, as if his monstrous racism and cynical distractions are somehow newsworthy and merely another point of view. Meanwhile, those speaking in opposition to his fascism are, at best, merely given equal time, creating a "he said/she said" vomitous media soup.

This approach to covering Trump has to stop, and stop now, or "Send her back" will soon be replaced by far worse including, I'm terrified to imagine, outright fascist, Trumpist violence.
Those rally goers were just blowing off steam

by digby

Rush on "send her back"

We know that they are targeting us. We know that they are taking political action against us. This stuff gets stored, there is no outlet for it, and then Trump’s rally happens last night, mentions Omar in context with everything that’s been happening here. It’s clear as a bell that Omar has got big problems with this country as founded. So do the rest of the members of The Squad. And let’s not forget the tie-in to illegal immigration, which I think also has a relationship to “send her back.”

I don’t think “send her back” is about one person or about one thing. I think it’s a culmination of many things resulting from a boiling over frustration. It is an overall expression of anger about the lack of enforcement of the morality and of the law and of the rules that preserve this country as founded.

The American people did what they could in 2016. They elected somebody that was gonna stop it. He has been opposed and thwarted at every move he’s made to try to keep his campaign promise, to stop this massive invasion of illegal immigrants into the country. He has been thwarted. You can understand frustration over this building and building and building.

All the while, the people who support this are being portrayed as the enemies of America, and they’re racists, and they’re bigots, and they’re homophobes. And people have been subjected to these insults now for years and years and years. And they’re tired of it. So here comes an outlet to express the frustration.

“Lock her up,” Hillary Clinton. She commits violations of the law, for crying out loud! She is exonerated, she gets away from them. People are fed up with this. They’re fed up with the two-tier justice system. She can do an illegal server. She can traffic in classified documents. She can have a pay-for-play, phony foundation where she’s accepting essentially bribes from foreign actors on the come, assuming she’s gonna be president. And the FBI and James Comey exonerate her after having a meeting with her husband on an airplane on a tarmac in Phoenix!

You think people are not fed up over all of this? And it’s just one thing after another that adds up! And it keeps adding up. And then you add to the fact that there’s no Republican stand up opposition to any of this! No! We get the Never Trumpers and the resigned members of the House blaming Trump supporters for this stuff! Blaming Trump supporters for lack of civility while it’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders being forcibly kicked out of a restaurant or any other number of Republicans.

We’re supposedly engaging in incivility? We’re minding our own business, we’re going about our lives, we end up being targeted. They try to ruin some of us. They try to damage some of us. They do anything they can, including taking physical action against us, and we’re supposed to sit there and be well-mannered. That will triumph in the long haul with the American people who will understand that we’re the ones who are civil.

In other words: Whaaaaaa!!!

This isn't the first time we've heard "send them back"

by digby

Trump made it clear during his 2016 campaign that he planned to deport millions back to Mexico and other countries south of the border. But he didn't stop there:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would send Syrian refugees "back" if he were elected to the White House.

In New Hampshire for the first time since he failed to correct a man's rant about President Barack Obama being a Muslim, Trump was greeted by a few thousand cheering fans — and he was fired up.

Trump outlined the specifics of his new tax plan. But in typical Trump fashion, he didn’t stop there.

On the topic of Syrian refugees, Trump was forceful: "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back!”

He explained: “They could be ISIS …This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army maybe, or if you said 50,000 or 80,000 or 100,000, we got problems and that could be possible. I don't know that it is, but it could be possible so they’re going back — they’re going back.”

This was big part of his pitch in the early days:
After two days of confusion over whether or not Donald Trump wants to set up a database of Muslims living in the United States, the candidate explained his stance during a political rally on Saturday morning.

"I will absolutely take database on the people coming in from Syria," Trump said, adding that such a database would not be needed in a Trump administration, as he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country, regardless of their religion, and allow no more to enter. "If I win, they're going back. They're going back. We can't have them."

Trump called for heavy surveillance of Syrians, Muslims and anyone with possible ties to the Islamic State. He urged the audience members to be vigilant and report anything suspicious they see to the police.

"I want surveillance of certain mosques, okay? If that's okay?" Trump said, as thousands of people in the audience cheered. "I want surveillance. And you know what? We've had it before, and we'll have it again."

His followers cheered that then and they cheer him now. The fact that he didn't actually do it is meaningless. They just want to make sure that all immigrants of color know that they are not "real Americans" and that this president will make sure they never, ever think they are. It makes them feel good. It makes them feel powerful. It makes them feel relieved that their ugly bigotry is actually ok.

QOTD: Lindsey Graham

by digby

Hey, he never says racist remarks about white people or people of color who are good boys and girls and bow down and reassure him that he's not a racist.

So --- he's not a racist.

Look what we've become: "Sofi's Choice"

by digby

Scarce at Crooks and Liars:

Sophie's Choice :
Sophie’s Choice is the title of a 1979 novel by William Styron, and in 1982 Sophie’s Choice was made into a critically acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep. In the novel, which is set during World War II, the title character must choose between the lives of her two children while imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
In this case, a three-year-old Honduran girl was asked to choose which of her parents could stay with her, while the other was sent away. The dark irony of what they were asking of the three-year-old who they called "Sofi" apparently didn't register with the border agents who were "just doing their job" [sic].

NPR reported this case:

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple's youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.

"The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad," her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. "And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, 'You said [you want to go] with mom.' "

Tania and her husband, Joseph, said they spent parts of two days last week trying to prevent the Border Patrol from separating their family. They were aided by a doctor who had examined Sofi and pleaded with agents not to separate the family, Joseph and Tania said. [NPR is not using migrants' last names in this story because these are people who are in the middle of immigration proceedings.]

Three. Years. Old.

I might doubt this story except for the fact that we are routinely dragging toddlers before judges who ask them if they understand their rights etc.

Because our system is both cruel and insane...

Female GOP officials should be identified for the hacks they are

by digby

The media needs to stop doing this:

CNN hosted a panel of Republican women this week, who defended President Donald Trump’s recent attacks against several progressive lawmakers of color, but the network failed to disclose all eight of the guests are part of an organized pro-Trump club.

The eight women, who came on the network shortly after CNN gave a platform to white supremacist Richard Spencer to discuss Trump’s racism, are all members of a group they call “Trumpettes of America 2019 Palm Beach Team.” Instead of informing their audience that these women are all dedicated, pro-Trump partisans, CNN correspondent Randi Kaye introduced the panelists using the innocuous label, “Republican women from Dallas.”

Cooper did refer to the women as part of “the president’s base,” but the on-screen description of the panelists simply read, “Republican.”

Unsurprisingly, not a single one of the women took issue with Trump telling Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to go back to the countries they “originally” came from. Three of those lawmakers were born in the United States — Omar came to the U.S. as a teenaged refugee and became a citizen.

“He was saying that if they hate America so much — because what we’re seeing out of them and hearing out of them, they hate America,” one of the pro-Trump women said, before claiming the lawmakers are “racist” because they “don’t like white people.”

Another panelist said they are “glad that the president” told the lawmakers to “go back” to their countries. A third woman described the lawmakers of color as “American now, so to speak,” but insisted “they are not acting American.”

“We know the president is not racist,” chimed in another Trumpette. “He loves people from Hispanics to black people, all across the board.”

As for activism that the Trumpettes actually conduct on behalf of the president, the group held a Pennsylvania rally on the same day that the CNN segment aired which featured some of the most notable women Trump supporters, including the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, Trump 2020 senior advisor Katrina Pierson, ex-Fox News host and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and pro-Trump viral sensations Diamond & Silk.

During the Tuesday night rally, Lara Trump repeated nearly the same talking points as the CNN panelists when asked about the president’s racist tweets.

“I know Donald Trump. He’s not a racist,” she told Vice News reporter Elizabeth Landers. “It’s a talking point that is always used against any Republican especially this president, and it’s sad to see that that is the only thing that people ever have to throw at any Republican racist, sexist.”

Eric's wife Lara is smarter than your average Trump. And she's got a very, very casual relationship to the truth...

This is not the first time the media has done this over the last few years. and it's a bad habit. They interview "Trump voters" which is technically true, but it turns out that they a political players not average citizens. So they end up promoting the party's talking points as if they are the real views of everyday citizens. It is, to say the least, misleading.

I suspect they do this because they depend upon the party to help them gather these people. Big mistake. The party is dishonest.


Trump has "reprogrammed" their minds

by digby

Trump's followers automatically know what to say:

We now have a new gross Trump rally crowd chant to replace “Lock Her Up!”

During President Trump’s Wednesday night rally in Greenville, North Carolina, he took aim at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of the Democratic congresswomen of color he told to “go back” to where “they came” from.

“Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” the president said.

The MAGA crowd knew just what to do next.

“Send her back! Send her back! Send her back,” the audience chanted as Trump soaked it in for a few moments.

Omar is a United States citizen. She moved from Somalia as a child and gained her citizenship as a teenager.

Maybe someone from the campaign prompted this unamerican bilge but I doubt it.

They are a cult. They know what to do.

Let's just hope there weren't any more cultists like his:

The Florida man who pleaded guilty to mailing explosive devices said in a letter to a federal judge that attending a rally for President Donald Trump "became like a new found drug."

Cesar Sayoc has admitted to sending pipe bombs to CNN, and various Democratic officials and donors. He pleaded guilty last month to 65 felony counts, including using weapons of mass destruction in an attempted domestic terrorist attack.

In the handwritten letter filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, he told a judge that "the first thing you here (sic) entering Trump rally is we are not going to take it anymore, the forgotten ones, etc."

At those events, he said, he came into contact with all kinds of people. "You met people from all walks life ... color etc," he wrote. "It was fun, it became like a new found drug."

He also wrote that Trump's self-help CDs reprogrammed his mind, and detailed the negative reaction he got for the Trump stickers on his car, including having his tires slashed and windows broken.

Luckily, he was incompetent. But they all won't be.

He is inciting these people.

Update: He said this morning that he "disagreed with it" and tried to stop the chant.

Uhm. No he did not.



In Trump’s world apologies are for losers 

by Spocko

Charles M. Blow wrote a column about Labor Secretary Acosta's press conference on Wednesday July 10th. Trump Detests Apologetic Men On Friday, July 12th Acosta resigned.

A lot of people who wrote about the press conference said the same thing, "Acosta was doing it for an audience of one." meaning Donald Trump.
Blow correctly pointed out how Trump likes his underlings to respond to attacks.
In Trump’s orbit you must ape the behavior of the boss: strongly deny and strenuously deflect. And, if possible, personally attack the person making the accusation. That is the Trump way. That is what he has always done.
This is not just Blow's analysis, it's based on quotes from others who talked to Trump about it.
According to Bob Woodward last year, Trump talked about a “friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women.” When counseling that friend on how to respond, Trump said, “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.” Trump continued: “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made.”
In Trump’s world, apologies and punishments are for the weak. They are for losers.
People in the media know that Trump coaches people who are caught in a bad situation to deny, deny, deny.  The reporters and producers see it happen again and again when someone is pushed out.  It doesn't take a time traveler like me to figure out that Trump is going to demand it for the next official under fire.

The next person to be pushed out might be Wilbur Ross. "Trump weighs ousting Commerce chief Wilbur Ross after census defeat"
Watch your back Wilbur! (Getty Images)
The media are so busy covering new atrocities they don't have time to see the patterns and use them to expose the White House's tricks. So here is some analysis from Ol' blogger Spocko.

Dear media: Prepare for Trump's denial method. 

I watched the entire Acosta press conference. He used multiple methods to stop or curtail certain lines of questioning. For example:

 1) He attacked one small mistake in reporting to cast doubt on all reporting.

2) He talked about conversations that others could not challenge because they weren't public and couldn't be verified.

3) He offered excuses that were laughable and referenced actions taken by people who weren't there to challenge his characterizations of their actions.

Obvious advice for the media confronting non-apologetic men

1) Read the documents that are public. Court douments about Wilber Ross's census case do exist.

2) Talk to the experts BEFORE the PRESS CONFERENCE and prep them with the likely answers that the ousted cabinet member will give.

3) Prepare for their 2nd and 3rd level excuses with your follow up questions that show the world just how ridiculous they are.

4) Bust Trump underlings in REAL TIME. This is a skill we mostly see from foreign press these days, but it is possible. Here is how to make it happen.
   a)  Work with OTHER reporters to ask follow ups that you can't that
   b)  Use Google during the press conference to find answers and pull up documents that dispute comments made by the ousted cabinet member.

   c) When the ousted cabinet member says, "I don't have the documents in front of me, I can't comment." say, 'Okay, I'll email them to you and we can talk about them tomorrow."

Watch me put a rabbit out of my hat, nothing up my sleeve! Presto! AlexWong / GETTY IMAGES
These all seem obvious, but people who don't know how press conferences work might not appreciate how stacked the format can be against the media, especially facing a well trained politician and their staff.

The press conference format isn't great for the media for a couple of reasons. The presenter is prepared for combat vs actually sharing information. They have their guard up and canned answers ready for tough and "gotchca" questions.  The media need to go to plan B:

Plan B: Set up one-on-one interviews with ousted cabinet members

Remember Trump's terrible Stephanopoulos interview? During one-on-one interviews Trump ignores the carefully crafted answers made for him.

Trump was supposed to tell Lester Holt he fired Comey, because "Comey did a bad job on the Clinton investigation." Instead he blurted out he did it because of the Russia investigation. This comment helped solidify his true intent.   Let's make more of these blurts happen!

Some cabinet members are better at one-on-one's than Trump. But even successful one-on-one interviews can piss off Trump if he doesn't like the way the cabinet member handled it. And then Trump will want to correct the record. That involves him revealing his true answer or intent either in a tweet or softball interview with Fox and Friends where he complains about his underling's answer.

Hot Tip: Set up situations where Trump is compelled to replace well crafted answers with whatever he thinks the answer should be

Now let's say the media follow my advice and get one-on-one interviews with Wilbur Ross. Let's say their research opens up new lines of questions. Now Ross is testifying before congress, UNDER OATH.Whoo. Hooo!

Like the media, the Democrats in congress are busy holding hearings over new atrocities every day. They also don't have time to see the patterns and use them to expose the White House's tricks. So here is some analysis of congressional hearings from Ol' Spocko.

Dear Congress: Prepare for hostile witness testimony

I remember watching the Kavanaugh hearings. He came out of the gate filled with anger and belligerence. He denied and attacked. He was coached to do that.

This worked for "the audience of one"  And it worked on some of the people questioning him. They weren't prepared for his ridiculous answers and lame excuses. "I like beer!"

So if we know Trump's people are told to go into denial mode with ridiculous answers and easily disproved reasons, what should we do with that information?

Prepare for crazy denial testimony

People testifying under oath before congress always prepare for lawyerly questions. They can't lie to them like the press, so they are more careful. We saw the hair splitting word choices during Harris's questioning of Barr. Everyone on the left liked that because Harris anticipated Barr's response and shut down his nonsense.

But I also suggest Congress think like a casting director. What questions will lead an actor to fail their audition for an audience of one? 

Help Trump appointees fail in front of the President. 
Trump threatened to eat Acosta unless he resigned. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Congress staffers need to ask open ended softball question that normal humans would answer rationally. Then prepare for the crazy responses Trump expects to hear.

Wilbur Ross will be coached to deny, deny deny on the census citizenship questions. Let a lawyer ask legal process questions. I suggest we find a story from Ross's past where he acted like a human, maybe even a human Democrat!   Bring up a time he showed integrity, empathy or compassion toward people of color or immigrants.  (It could have happened!)

Ross might think he is getting a life-line from the congressperson. But as Admiral Akbar says, "It's a trap!"

Democrats want to believe people are good and can be rehabilitated, even at this late date, even with all the evidence. That's one of the things that makes us better than them. However, when Ross is offered redemption and acknowledgement of his humanity in the past, and doesn't take it, we have no compunction when crushing him.

"We gave him a chance. He blew it. Now he goes to jail."

Democratic Congresspeople need to understand the theater of the hearings.

Ask questions that will elicit answers that will enrage the audience of one.  

Ask questions that will piss off Trump's base, not just questions that will piss off normal humans. 

What if Ross apologizes for his actions?  That would be interesting. The media might be quick to rehabilitate him, since they are hungering for any Republican to repudiate the President. Even the losers get lucky sometimes. But it would kill him on most of the voting right AND the left. Sorry Wilbur.


Helluva distraction

by Tom Sullivan

Professional trolls duped Fox News into believing these armbands were real. As early as March 2016, it was an easy prank to pull off.

Wednesday night's Trump rally in Nuremberg, NC — Greenville, sorry — poses an uncomfortable choice: whether to add oxygen to pyre the acting president is making of the American experiment or to examine what one suspects is his proximate motive for taking a rhetorical flamethrower to it.

Since the bulk of posts this morning will focus on Trump adopting "SEND THEM BACK" as his 2020 campaign theme, let's look instead at the timing.

"The trip to Greenville was initially expected to coincide with special counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited testimony before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees," WRAL reported. With Mueller's appearance delayed until July 24, Trump pivoted to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Mich.) and The Squad as his weapons of mass distraction. When Trump condemned the American legislator born in Somalia, the crowd eagerly chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!” The power of it must have given him a thrill up his leg.

But the weekend tweets that began this chapter in one small-handed man's search for a balcony served a purpose not connected to Robert Mueller. Trump needs to shift national focus from the metastasizing Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

When NBC broadcast a 1992 tape Wednesday morning showing Epstein ogling cheerleaders with Trump at a Mar-a-Lago party, Trump's efforts to distance himself from Epstein's alleged underage sex trafficking took a direct hit. Trump faced sketchy charges of raping a raping a 13-year-old girl at an Epstein "orgy" in 1994. The lawsuit brought by “Katie Johnson” (a pseudonym) and dropped just before the 2016 election may get a new look now that more than 50 Epstein victims are surfacing with witnesses to back up their stories.

Vanity Fair'[s Gabriel Sherman writes "a wave of panic is rippling through Manhattan, DC, and Palm Beach" among Epstein's former friends and associates:

Likely within days, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will release almost 2,000 pages of documents that could reveal sexual abuse by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders,” according to the three-judge panel's ruling. The documents were filed during a civil defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a former Mar-a-Lago locker-room attendant, against Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. “Nobody who was around Epstein a lot is going to have an easy time now. It’s all going to come out,” said Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies. Another person involved with litigation against Epstein told me: “It’s going to be staggering, the amount of names. It’s going to be contagion numbers.”
Courtney Wild is an Epstein accuser who gave testimony at his bail hearing. Her attorney told a Tuesday press conference Epstein appears to have spent all his time abusing underage girls. “We have not found anyone who has provided information about a legitimate business he was engaged [in].”

The source of Epstein's fortune is the subject of speculation. As is his purpose for keeping "a pile of cash," a stash of loose diamonds, and a fake foreign passport in a safe in his apartment. Epstein used the passport's phony identity "to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s."

Few on Wall Street believe Epstein is a financier as he poses. Sherman explains, "the reigning theory on Wall Street currently is that Epstein’s activities with women and girls were central to the building of his fortune, and his relations with some of his investors essentially amounted to blackmail."

Now, who among Epstein's acquaintances might be easier than most to blackmail?

That, Kathleen Parker suggests, is "the Something Else" Trump doesn't want us to see. So now it's don't look over here, look over there: non-white women from "other" countries who don't like me.

With Epstein facing trial without bail and life in prison, with more than 50 women threatening to tell all under oath, watch closely for signs of Department of Justice shenanigans aimed at shielding the acting president and his powerful friends either by somehow quashing the investigation or by delaying it until after the 2020 election. Epstein-Barr could take on new meaning.

In a place Trump cultists keep well hidden, there may yet be a vestigial organ of conscience to go with their Christian affectations. But after last night's rally, don't expect the Epstein scandal to awaken it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

RIP Justice John Paul Stevens

by digby

He was a true gentleman and a scholar:

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served the bench between 1975 and 2010 and died on Tuesday at age 99, was known for playing a major role during a crucial era for the Court and his evolving legal views.

Described by The New York Times as a "low-key Republican" who became an "ardent champion" of the court's liberal wing, Stevens wrote the majority opinions in major cases, including one that prevented military commissions from conducting trials for Guantánamo detainees and another declaring that the Constitution does not permit executing the mentally disabled.

But the bow tie-wearing justice wasn't held in high regard for his jurisprudence alone. Stevens was also reportedly known around the court for being a nice guy, treating others "with sensitivity and respect," the Times reports.

One former law clark, Christopher Eisgruber, wrote in a 1993 essay about Stevens' actions during a party for new law clerks. An older male justice instructed one of the few female clerks present at the party to serve coffee before Stevens arrived. When he got there, Stevens walked up to the young clerk and thanked her for serving the coffee. Then he made her stop. "I think it's my turn now," he said before taking over the job.

It's tempting to say that we will not see his like again, but I just don't want to think that. I hope his example will be seen by young lawyers as an inspiration.

I wrote a while back about Stevens' position on guns:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Repeal and rewrite the 2nd Amendment

by digby

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has written a NYT op-ed suggesting that since the high court decided back in 2008 to define the 2nd Amendment as an individual right maybe the best way to deal with guns is to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Taking that absurd argument away from the gun proliferation zealots so the nation can have some common sense regulations  would be a good first step.

I wrote about that ruling and Stevens' theories about it a while back for Salon:

In the wake of the horrific Isla Vista, California, mass killing, Americans have once again engaged the debate over gun proliferation. Victims' families issue primal cries for regulation of these deadly weapons and gun activists respond by waving the Constitution and declaring their "fundamental right" to bear arms is sacrosanct. Indeed, such right-wing luminaries as Joe the plumber, who not long ago shared the stage with the Republican nominees for president and vice president, said explicitly:
"Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights."
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Jodi Ernst, known for her violent campaign ads in which she is seen shooting guns and promising to "unload" on Obamacare, had this to say when asked about Isla Vista:
"This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace [opponent] Bruce Braley’s Obamacare. And it also shows that I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That is a fundamental right."
This argument is set forth by gun proliferation advocates as if it has been understood this way from the beginning of the republic. Indeed, "fundamental right to bear arms" is often spat at gun regulation advocates as if they have heard it from the mouths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson themselves. But what none of them seem to acknowledge (or, more likely, know) is that this particular legal interpretation of the Second Amendment was validated by the Supreme Court all the way back in ... 2008. That's right. It was only six years ago that the Supreme Court ruled (in a 5-4 decision with the conservatives in the majority, naturally) that there was a "right to bear arms" as these people insist has been true for over two centuries. And even then it isn't nearly as expansive as these folks like to pretend.

For instance, that gun-grabbing hippie Justice Antonin Scalia went out of his way in that decision to say that beyond the holding of handguns in the home for self-defense, regulations of firearms remained the purview of the state and so too was conduct. He wrote that regulating the use of concealed weapons or barring the use of weapons in certain places or restricting commercial use are permitted. That's Antonin Scalia, well known to be at the far-right end of the legal spectrum on this issue. Most judges had always had a much more limited interpretation of the amendment.

Justice John Paul Stephens discussed his long experience with Second Amendment jurisprudence in his book “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution," and notes that when he came on the Supreme Court there was literally no debate among the justices, conservative or liberal, over the idea that the Second Amendment constituted a "fundamental right" to bear arms. Precedents going all the way back to the beginning of the republic had held that the state had an interest in regulating weapons and never once in all its years had declared a "fundamental right" in this regard.

So, what happened? Well, the NRA happened. Or more specifically, a change in leadership in the NRA happened. After all, the NRA had long been a benign sportsman's organization devoted to hunting and gun safety. It wasn't until 1977, that a group of radicals led by activists from the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms took control and changed the direction of the group to one dedicated to making the Second Amendment into a "fundamental right."

What had been a fringe ideology was then systematically mainstreamed by the NRA, a program that prompted the retired arch conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger to say that the Second Amendment:
"Has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime"
The results are clear to see. Mass shootings are just the tip of the iceberg. Today we have people brandishing guns in public, daring people to try to stop them in the wake of new laws legalizing open carry law even in churches, bars and schools. People "bearing arms" show up at political events, silently intimidating their opponents, making it a physical risk to express one's opinion in public. They are shooting people with impunity under loose "stand your ground" and "castle doctrine" legal theories, which essentially allow gun owners to kill people solely on the ground that they "felt threatened." Gun accidents are epidemic. And this, the gun proliferation activists insist, is "liberty."

Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice (at NYU School of Law) has thoroughly documented all this history in his book, "The Second Amendment: A Biography," a bit of which was excerpted in Politico magazine. He recommends that progressives who care about this issue think long and hard about how the right was able to turn this around, making a specific case for taking constitutional arguments seriously and using their "totemic" stature to advance the cause. He suggests that they adopt a similarly systematic approach, keeping this foremost in mind:
Molding public opinion is the most important factor. Abraham Lincoln, debating slavery, said in 1858, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” The triumph of gun rights reminds us today: If you want to win in the court of law, first win in the court of public opinion.
In his book, Justice John Paul Stevens suggest a modest tweak to the Second Amendment to finally make clear what the founders obviously intended:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

This is important. As Waldman notes, where the NRA Headquarters once featured words about safety on the facade of its building, it is now festooned with the words of the Second amendment. Well, some of them anyway:
Visitors might not notice that the text is incomplete. It reads: “.. the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The first half—the part about the well regulated militia—has been edited out.

If they truly believed the 2nd Amendment was absolute and totally clear, you'd think they'd show all the language, wouldn't you? One can only conclude that they are trying to hide something: its real meaning.
His dissent in Bush vs Gore will be seen as historic. He called them out for their partisanship and degradation of the judiciary. Which is certainly was.

He will be missed.