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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Trump's 2020 vengeance and cruelty campaign

by digby

Trump thinks he won last week.

This is how he acts when he wins.

Imagine 2021:

President Trump is cutting against historical and political norms on a trifecta of big issues at the heart of U.S. domestic, economic and security policy.

Driving the news:
Trump is seeking to kill "Obamacare" through the courts over the objection of his own attorney general and top GOP congressional leaders.
The White House is publicly pushing the Fed to cut interest rates, something prior administrations never contemplated doing. 
The president is again publicly threatening to close ports of entry on the U.S. southern border. "I'm not playing games," Trump said Friday in Florida.

The State Department said the U.S. will cut off aid to the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — the Northern Triangle. Trump said: "No money goes there anymore. ... We stopped payment." The WashPost reports that the escalation involves hundreds of millions of dollars.

A Trump administration official familiar with the situation told Axios that the president "is definitely serious about" closing the border and "has talked about it quite a few times and wanted to do it several times."

The source said Trump's idea would mean that day laborers could cross the border, but that it would otherwise be a "total no entry."

But administration officials privately say it's unlikely Trump will follow through on his threat, and they acknowledge that they're nowhere near prepared to execute on such a radical plan on the president's threatened timeline of this week.

The widespread view within the White House and at the Department of Homeland Security is that it's a terrible and unworkable idea.

Trump administration officials have been discussing the impracticalities, such as U.S. citizens coming and going across the border.

But Trump wants it. So "it's being looked into, what it could and would look like," the administration official said.

Who knows if he'll accomplish it. But he did accomplish cutting off foreign aid to the three countries. That is inevitably going to make everything worse.

He gets angry when he thinks he's won because he wants revenge for ever having been opposed in the first place. He believes it's "unfair" for him to be questioned.


"Pro-family" fascists tell women to shut up because they have it so good

by digby

And people wonder why evangelicals support Donald Trump. It's all of a piece.

In a 17th century palazzo in the Italian city of love, an international alliance of far-right politicians, conservative activists and religious leaders have united in hate.

Over the past few years, the World Congress of Families, whose mission is to "defend the natural family," was held in former Soviet states. This weekend, the conference's 13th edition found a home in Verona, endorsed by the regional authority and Italy's deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant and xenophobic League party.

While Verona might be best known as the setting of the Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the picturesque northern city of just over 250,000 people has a long history connected to fascist and far-right groups. It was home to one of the headquarters of German Intelligence during the Nazi occupation and in the 1970s, a far-right terrorist network.

Today neo-fascist groups such as Casa Pound and Forza Nuova, whose leader held a press conference outside the venue on Saturday, have their headquarters in the city's center. And most recently, Verona has become a flashpoint of far-right activity and a launching pad for some of the country's most well-known -- and controversial -- politicians and ideas.

In October, Verona's mayor Federico Sboarina declared the city "pro-life" after the town council passed a motion that would use public funds to finance anti-abortion programs, inspiring politicians in a few other cities, including Milan, Rome, Ferrara, Trieste and Sestri Levante to propose similar motions, although they did not pass.

Verona's mayor, Federico Sboarina, declared the city "pro-life" last October.

Speaking to CNN from his office just steps away from the conference, Sboarina called Verona an "open city" where "everyone has the right to speak their minds."

And Salvini, the conference's keynote speaker, has never shied away from doing just that.

Inside the Gran Guardia Palace on Saturday, Salvini addressed several hundred attendees with a speech that spanned topics from population decline to illegal immigration and a critique of feminism.

"The feminists that speak of women's rights and are the first to pretend to not see what is the first, only and major, real danger in 2019 for rights, social achievements, freedom to work, study, speak, study, dress as you like -- and it's not the World Family Congress -- it's Islamic extremism, a culture where the woman's value is less than zero," he said.

"The woman gets covered with a burka, the woman doesn't have to leave the house, the woman shouldn't wear a mini-skirt, and if she dresses too western, thinks too western or becomes too western, (they) beat her up. Not from the dangerous extremists of the Family Congress," he added.

Come on ladies. Face it. It's not as bad as living in Afghanistan so stop yer bellyaching. Be grateful they let you have an education and a job.

Now get yer biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed.

Of course he cheats at golf

by digby

He cheats at everything. And apparently, he cows virtually everyone he golfs with into letting him do it and keeping it quiet.

It says a lot about the people who keep coming back for more.

Sixteen of the last 19 US presidents have played golf — and now, in Donald John Trump, the nation can finally boast the very best of them all.

Well, that’s what he’d like you to believe.

“To say ‘Donald Trump cheats’ is like saying ‘Michael Phelps swims,'” writes Rick Reilly in the new book “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump” (Hachette Book Group), out Tuesday. “He cheats at the highest level. He cheats when people are watching and he cheats when they aren’t. He cheats whether you like it or not. He cheats because that’s how he plays golf … if you’re playing golf with him, he’s going to cheat.”

Reilly, a former Sports Illustrated columnist who has played with Trump in the past, spoke to dozens of players — both amateur and professional — to recount some of the president’s worst cons on the course, starting with his declared handicap of 2.8.

In layman’s terms, the lower the handicap, the better the player. Jack Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 major golf titles and generally considered the greatest golfer in the history of the game, has a handicap of 3.4.

Nicklaus’ handicap is listed on the same Golf Handicap and Information Network website used by Trump, where players post their scores.

“If Trump is a 2.8,” writes Reilly, “Queen Elizabeth is a pole vaulter.”

Shortly after he became president, Trump played with Tiger Woods, the current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the veteran PGA Tour pro Brad Faxon. Given the quality and profile of his companions, you might have thought Trump would have been on his best behavior. Not so.

On one hole, Trump dunked a shot into the lake, but as his opponents weren’t looking he simply dropped another ball — and then hit that into the water, too.

“So he drives up and drops where he should’ve dropped the first time and hits it on the green,” recalls Faxon.

The actor Samuel L. Jackson has also witnessed the underhanded methods Trump employs, according to Reilly.

“We clearly saw him hook a ball into a lake at Trump National [Bedminster, New Jersey],” he says, “and his caddy told him he found it!”

Donald Trump plays golf.
Getty Images
The boxer Oscar De La Hoya and rocker Alice Cooper have also seen the same shenanigans first hand, while LPGA player Suzann Pettersen, another victim, thinks it’s all down to his caddy “since no matter how far into the woods he hits the ball, it’s in the middle of the fairway when we get there.”

And Trump doesn’t just tamper with his own balls.

During a game with Mike Tirico before Trump was elected, the former ESPN football announcer hit the shot of his life, a 230-yard 3-wood towards an elevated green he couldn’t see. But he knew it was close.

When he got to the putting green, however, Tirico’s ball was nowhere to be seen. Instead, it was 50 feet left of the hole in a bunker.

It made no sense — until Trump’s caddy caught up with him after the round.

“Trump’s caddy came up to me and said, ‘You know that shot you hit on the par 5?’” Tirico says. “‘It was about 10 feet from the hole. Trump threw it in the bunker. I watched him do it.’”

Even Trump’s golf courses lie. As the owner of 14 golf clubs and with his name on another five, Trump has, according to Reilly, been known to wildly exaggerate their standing in course rankings, overvalue them and even play fast and loose with their locations.

At Trump Washington at Lowes Island, there’s a Civil War monument (bearing Trump’s name, obviously) between the 14th and 15th holes, reminding golfers of how many soldiers, from North and South, died at that very spot.

It’s a nice touch, even though several Civil War historians have confirmed that no battle took place anywhere near the memorial.

And what about his course at Bedminster? There’s a plaque there with a quote from the renowned course architect Tom Fazio.

It reads:

This is the best design I’ve ever done.


Except that’s not true, either.

“I don’t believe I said it exactly like that,” Fazio told Reilly.

In a game where etiquette is everything, Reilly reports that Trump never takes his cap off for the end-of-round handshake, nor does he remove it in the clubhouse afterward, presumably for fear of what damage a sweaty round might have done to that hairstyle.

He’s even been known to drive his golf cart onto the putting green, an offense Reilly likens to “hanging your laundry in the Sistine Chapel.”

Quite why Trump cheats is another matter. He is, by all accounts, a very good golfer for his age (even Tiger Woods was impressed) but seems incapable of playing by the rules. Does he even care?

To that, Reilly offers a simple reply.

“Golf,” he writes, “is like bicycle shorts. It reveals a lot about a man.”

So Bolton got Trump to Use the Libya Model

by digby

Yet another example of Trump's ace negotiating genius:

On the day that their talks in Hanoi collapsed last month, U.S. President Donald Trump handed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a piece of paper that included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States, according to the document seen by Reuters.

Trump gave Kim both Korean and English-language versions of the U.S. position at Hanoi’s Metropole hotel on Feb. 28, according to a source familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was the first time that Trump himself had explicitly defined what he meant by denuclearization directly to Kim, the source said.

A lunch between the two leaders was canceled the same day. While neither side has presented a complete account of why the summit collapsed, the document may help explain it.

The document’s existence was first mentioned by White House national security adviser John Bolton in television interviews he gave after the two-day summit. Bolton did not disclose in those interviews the pivotal U.S. expectation contained in the document that North Korea should transfer its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States.

The document appeared to represent Bolton’s long-held and hardline “Libya model” of denuclearization that North Korea has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said.

Trump had previously distanced himself in public comments from Bolton’s approach and said a “Libya model” would be employed only if a deal could not be reached.

The idea of North Korea handing over its weapons was first proposed by Bolton in 2004. He revived the proposal last year when Trump named him as national security adviser.

The document was meant to provide the North Koreans with a clear and concise definition of what the United States meant by “final, fully verifiable, denuclearization,” the source familiar with discussions said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The State Department declined to comment on what would be a classified document.

After the summit, a North Korean official accused Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “gangster-like” demands, saying Pyongyang was considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink its self-imposed ban on missile and nuclear tests.

This is the problem with a president with no principles is so far over his head that he literally has no idea what he is doing. He literally doesn't understand what he's doing but he's so arrogant and narcissistic that he nonetheless thinks his "instincts" are so good that he doesn't have to. He has said this out loud:

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I already had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’ ”

What this means is that he's easily manipulated by advisers with competing agendas, lurching from one position to the other, all the while convinced that it makes sense simply because he's the one doing it.

Maybe that was ok for a man making deals for the branding of cheap consumer goods or fraudulent development deals. For president, it is lethal.

He may escape a nuclear disaster simply by accident. We have to hope against hope that he will. But it will be a matter of luck.

They are all Mexico

by digby

This is where Republicans --- and the president --- get their news:


That creaky, old time religion

by Tom Sullivan

It's not exactly "Springtime for Capitalism" lately. The old time religion is a bit creaky and tattered around the edges, as are the Americans with bad teeth living under overpasses.

The young stylist who cut my hair Friday explained she was moving this weekend to her boyfriend's hometown of Bowling Green, KY. She was ready "to get on with my life," she said, and was tired of living hand-to-mouth where lower-wage workers were barely able to make ends meet. Lower costs meant they could afford to buy a house in Bowling Green.

You know things are dicey when true believers feel obliged to draft paeans to the glories of the free market, when magazines like Bloomberg publish opinion pieces titled, "Capitalism Needs Reform, Not Revolution," when reporters are asking if presidential candidates are socialists, and when even the business press is speaking finally of reigning in capitalism's worst excesses.

Beside the threat climate change poses to bringing down the entire system anyway, Noah Smith offers at Bloomberg:

The second major challenge is to make Americans feel less materially insecure. Instead of looking at aggregate economic numbers -- gross domestic product, or the share of wealth held by the 1 percent -- we should look at the basic determinants of material comfort and security.
Welcome to the party, pal. FDR proposed that as his Third Freedom in 1941.

Nicholas Kristof reviews an effort by one business owner in Seattle to bring to heel the kind of cuthroat capitalism that crashed the economy in 2008. Four years ago, Dan Price of Gravity Payments announced to employees he would raise minimum salaries to $70,000, in part by slashing his own $1.1 million income to the same level.

Blasphemy! cried the business press. While the roll-out was rocky, Gravity Payments' business is up and profits, Kristof writes, are "higher than ever." But the model is probably not scaleable. Being first drew press and new customers followers might not see. But Price has shown what's possible.

The problem is, followers of that old time religion who have done well for themselves — and not likely all by themselves — are not anxious to share their good fortune.

"Real Time" host Bill Maher echoes FDR in commenting on how countries with a higher socialism-to-capitalism mix rank as happier than the United States in the recent World Happiness Report. They have low-cost or no-cost education and universal health care.

"Happiness isn't only about what you have. It's also about what you don't have to worry about," Maher said. As FDR knew, piece of mind is freedom as well.

For the benefit of aging Cold Warriors, perhaps, Maher recommends we rebrand any reformulation of America's capitalist and socialist elements "Capitalism Plus." Because, "It's a plus when you get sick and you can focus on getting better instead of not going broke" and ending up sleeping under an overpass.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday Night at the Movies

‘Roids R Us: Screwball (***½)

By Dennis Hartley

Did you know there is now a popular aggregator website called Florida Man, created to keep track of a seemingly endless stream of bizarre news items from The Sunshine State?

There is a possibility that the site is satirical. That said…the stories seem plausible to me.

It is in this spirit that one must dive headfirst into Screwball, the newest “is he making this shit up?” documentary from film maker Billy Corben (perhaps best known for his Florida drug trade trilogy-Cocaine Cowboys, Cocaine Cowboys 2 and Square Grouper).

I had some trepidation going in. On the upside, the film involves one of my favorite things (drugs). On the downside, it also heavily involves my least favorite thing (sports).

The subject of the film is Anthony Bosch, a Florida man (heh) who gained notoriety from his involvement in the Biogenesis “performance-enhancing drug” scandal back in 2013. Biogenesis was the name of Bosch’s clinic, where he “consulted” (“dispensed”, mostly) for a wide-ranging variety of clientele, from parents looking to juice up their kids’ performance on the school team to some very high-profile names in professional sports.

Bosch’s clinic had a shaky start. From a 2013 Miami New Times expose by Tim Elfrink:
Biogenesis's history really begins in 2009, when Bosch started a firm, called Colonial Services, based in Key Biscayne.

That same year, on May 7, Major League Baseball suspended L.A. Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez after he tested positive for HCG — a women's fertility drug often used at the end of a steroid cycle to restart testosterone production. Ramirez, who lives in Weston, issued a statement that a "personal doctor" had prescribed a medication he didn't realize would violate the drug code.

Reporters at ESPN quickly identified that doctor: Pedro Bosch, whose son, Anthony, was "well known in Latin American baseball circles," the network reported. "His relationships with players date at least from the earlier part of the decade, when he was seen attending parties with players and known to procure tickets to big-league ballparks, especially in Boston and New York," ESPN wrote.

The DEA was "probing" both Bosches for their role in getting Ramirez the medication, ESPN reported. MLB President Bob DuPuy also confirmed he was "aware" of the investigation and cooperating.

Tony Bosch never responded to the allegations, but in a letter to ESPN, Pedro lashed back two weeks later, claiming that Ramirez was never his patient, that he'd "never prescribed" anyone HCG, and that there was no federal investigation. No charges were ever filed.

(Pedro Bosch was a defendant in an unrelated federal civil case that same year. The U.S. attorney accused him, along with more than two dozen other doctors and a similar number of lab owners, of running a kickback scheme to inflate drug costs. The government withdrew the claims two months later.)

While father and son both dodged a bullet in 2009, it’s a telling prequel to where Corben picks up the story; it also gives you an idea of what types of characters are involved. It is quite the tale, told by Anthony Bosch himself (along with some of his former associates).

Corben employs an interesting variation on the usual docudrama tropes. He uses child “reenactors” throughout the film. At first, it was distracting; it felt “gimmicky” and borderline precious. However, as the story gets wilder, the reenactments accrue more entertainment value (it’s the same quotient that makes Drunk History so funny). Bosch is quite the entertaining raconteur himself (as most bullshit artists and con men tend to be).

In fact, I was so entertained I nearly forgot how little I care about sports. Joking aside, the film is not so much “about” sports, as it is about the business of sports. It’s also about that peculiar homo sapien obsession with “winning”. In my 2013 review of Rush, I wrote this:
I’ll admit up front that I don’t know from the sport of Formula One racing. In fact, I’ve never held any particular fascination for loud, fast cars (or any kind of sports, for that matter). If that makes me less than a manly man, well, I’ll just have to live with that fact.

However, I am fascinated by other people’s fascination with competitive sport; after all, (paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from Harold and Maude) they’re my species. There’s certainly an impressive amount of time, effort and money poured into this peculiarly human compulsion to be the “champion” or securing the best seats for cheering one on; even if in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t mean shit to a tree.

There is an interesting political sidebar to the story. Turns out, Anthony Bosch is related to Orlando Bosch. From my 2007 review of the documentary 638 Ways to Kill Castro:
The most chilling revelation concerns the downing of a commercial Cuban airliner off Barbados in 1976 (73 people were killed, none with any known direct associations with the Castro regime). One of the alleged masterminds was an anti-Castro Cuban exile living in Florida, named Orlando Bosch, who had participated in numerous CIA-backed actions in the past.

When Bosch was threatened with deportation in the late 80’s, a number of Republicans rallied to have him pardoned, including Florida congresswoman Ileana Ross, who used her involvement with the “Free Orlando Bosch” campaign as part of her running platform. Her campaign manager was a young up and coming politician named…Jeb Bush. Long story short? Then-president George Bush Sr. ended up granting Bosch a pardon in 1990. BTW, Bosch had once been publicly referred to as an “unrepentant terrorist” by the Attorney General. (Don’t get me started.)

Oh, what a tangled web you weave, Florida Man.

Previous posts with related themes:

638 Ways to Kill Castro

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

Trump has a tantrum and makes everything much, much worse

by digby

I guess he thinks these countries should start shooting their citizens if they try to leave the country? There's a great example of that in the not too distant past. They had a big wall too.

The United States will no longer provide foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement Saturday that the agency was directed by President Trump to halt aid to the so-called Northern Triangle countries.

"At the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle," the statement said. "We will be engaging Congress as part of this process."

The Hill has contacted the White House for comment.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Friday that she signed a "historic" regional compact this week with representatives of the Northern Triangle countries. She said the countries agreed to "combat human smuggling and trafficking, crack down on transnational criminals fueling the crisis, and strengthen border security to prevent irregular migration."

President Trump on Friday said that the countries "set up" migrant caravans, according to CNN.

"We were paying them tremendous amounts of money. And we're not paying them anymore. Because they haven't done a thing for us. They set up these caravans," he reportedly said.

Trump previously threatened to cut off aid to the countries in December over alleged caravans, accusing them of "doing nothing for the United States but taking our money."

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement denouncing the move.

"If carried out, President Trump’s irresponsible decision to cut off our assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras would undermine American interests and put our national security at risk," he said.

"U.S. foreign assistance is not charity; it advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens. This latest reported move shows the Administration still does not understand that the United States cuts foreign aid to Central America at our own peril," he added.

Notice how he puts everything in terms of them "taking our money" and the US not getting its money's worth over and over and eover again.

I'm so fucking sick of everything in this world being reduced to how the US is being financially screwed. It's all he knows, his entire worldview.

by digby

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Trump will have a real campaign this time

by digby

The New York Times reports on Trump's wildly expensive presidential campaign. It's a more professional campaign but they still have the same freak at the helm so I don't know wht difference that will really make:

For now, the Trump campaign is focused on giving its candidate the infrastructure for success and, as the race is in its early stages, giving him the room he craves to dictate his own script.

Mr. Trump is focused on vengeance after the end of the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and his campaign aides are indulging him, attacking the Democrats who have sought to investigate him and the reporters who have written about it. Mr. Trump, whom critics have repeatedly described as “corrupt,” has tried to affix both terms to the news media.

Privately, some Trump advisers acknowledge those attacks may have a shelf life, and that they are deploying them in part to blunt questions about Mr. Trump’s own credibility.

But aides say that Mr. Trump always needs a foil, and without the Mueller investigation to swing at and no clear Democratic challenger likely to emerge for months, the press is his stand-in.

In addition to the challenges posed by Mr. Trump’s preference for fights and distractions, the campaign faces headwinds that he did not as a first-time candidate. Democrats and Republicans see an electoral map that will be far more challenging for Mr. Trump, whose support in three key states has sagged, and who faced an invigorated and organic level of Democratic turnout.

To staff the campaign, advisers have brought in a mix of new hires and veterans of the 2016 effort. Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager who speaks frequently with the president, has consulted extensively with veterans of past presidential runs, relying increasingly on Karl Rove, the architect of Mr. Bush’s re-election effort.

Karl Rove had a political theory that said "Politics is TV with the sound turned off." By that he meant it was all about visuals not about what candidates say. Does that work with Trump? The big rallies and a sea of red hats is pretty familiar. He's not exactly an attractive leader (meaning that he pulls faces and seems strange up close.) It's what he says that excites his base.

Maybe Rove has ideas about how to appeal to the Bush voters, but I'd guess he's probably a bit out of touch. The Bush coalition included a whole lot of white suburban women and many of them loathe trump with every fiber of their being.

On the other hand, Rove is very experienced at selling a relly dumb guy to the public. But Trump issomehting else again ...

I wonder how the Bush's feel about him helping Trump? (Of course, they'll probably be stumping for him in September 2020...)

Yes, we do know Trump voters. How can we not? They are a national obsession

by digby

Paul Waldman has a good piece up this morning about the reflexive need for some Democrats to insult their own voters:

If you thought we were past the tiresome “How can Democrats appeal to Trump-loving Trump voters in Trump Country?” conversation, I’m going to disappoint you. And I’d like to use some recent comments from South Bend, Ind., Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to illustrate how problematic the discussion among Democrats is when it comes to thinking about different areas of the country and what kind of people live where.

Buttigieg was in the coastal enclave of San Francisco when he gave a radio interview that included this:

There are some folks I encounter here who seem to have trouble believing that things like Trump voters actually exist. And so I feel sometimes like I’m an emissary from the middle of the country, just pointing out that things look a little bit different in rural communities, industrial communities like mine, and that we really need to find ways to knit this picture back together into one America.

There’s a bit more to the discussion, but it goes on in that vein. Buttigieg’s intentions are good, since he wants to promote mutual understanding and common purpose. But he frames the problem as one that stems from condescending liberals who don’t sufficiently appreciate the lives and perspectives of people in the Midwest. In other words, the divide that exists is the fault of liberals alone. If they could just do more to understand the people who wind up voting for someone like Donald Trump, that would be the path to achieving unity.

Waldman goes on to point out that this tut-tutting of "coastal elites" -- to our faces, no less --- is really kind of stupid since we all live in places where plenty of Trump voters exist:

As Adam Serwer of the Atlantic points out, “There are more Trump voters in New York than Wyoming, Alaska, and the Dakotas combined.” Trump got about a million and a half votes in Buttigieg’s home state of Indiana, slightly less than the 1.6 million he got in the coastal state of New Jersey, and much less than the 2.8 million he got in New York, let alone the 4.5 million he got in California. Those are “real” Americans, too, even if they happen to live within driving distance of the ocean.

Not to mention the fact that we don't live a cave and have read and watched approximately 7,239 profiles and in-depth interviews with Trump voters over the past five years. If anything, you'd think that they are a huge majority and the rest of us don't exist.

Waldman also hits on something that continues to chap my hide. He admits that there are undoubtedly many liberals who are contemptuous of the Trump voters. Of course there are. But this isn't a one way street by a long shot. In fact, it's the other side that makes a fetish of their contempt --- and profit from it:

[Y]ou can also find lots of conservatives who are contemptuous toward liberals and the places where they live. Yet if a Democrat ever insulted the “heartland,” there’d be hell to pay, while Republicans insult heavily Democratic places all the time. Ted Cruz could sneer at “New York values” as a way of attacking Donald Trump in 2016, but what would happen to Kamala D. Harris if she told Buttigieg that Democratic primary voters didn’t want any part of his “Indiana values"?

One more vivid example from recent history: In 2004, the conservative Club For Growth ran an ad against Howard Dean, in which a couple told him to “take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs.” Everyone laughed. Now imagine the outcry if a liberal group told, say, Mike Huckabee to “take his trailer park-living, tobacco-chewing, NASCAR-watching, squirrel-eating freak show back to Arkansas where it belongs.” The condemnation would be furious and immediate, much of it coming from the elite media, who would yet again instruct Democrats that if they want to succeed they really need to stop being so condescending and reach out to those heartland voters.

Apparently, it's a one-way street.

I would just remind Democratic candidates that this is playing into Donald Trump's hands:

And, by the way, the county most affected by the wildfires he was referencing voted for Donald Trump.


It's not just Trump and the fringe pledging revenge

by digby

Just as America deserved to have its elections sabotaged because of all the bad things it's done in the past, I'm sure the Democrats must deserve this too:

Republicans are setting their sights on top Obama-era officials as they plan their own probe into the 2016 election.

Eager to move on from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign, GOP senators are gearing up to investigate the investigators. The idea is gaining traction with the Republican caucus, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

Mueller’s report hasn’t been released yet, but Republicans have seized on a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr that summarized key conclusions of the two-year probe, including that Mueller "did not establish" that President Trump or members of his campaign coordinated or colluded with Moscow in its election interference.

"Republicans believe that the FBI and [Department of Justice] — the top people — took the law in their own hands because they wanted [Hillary] Clinton to win and Trump to lose," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto as part of a media blitz discussing his plans for an investigation.

He said that he will be looking at "abuse" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application process and the counterintelligence operation into Trump’s campaign, adding that "there will be a lot of inquiry as to how this all happened."

GOP senators are already naming former officials who would be at the top of their lists to question, including former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

"The Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction and doing oversight of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and so that ... is something we need to do. Trying to find out how this thing got off the rails and hopefully prevent it from happening again," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Cornyn rattled off a list of Obama-era officials he would want to speak with, including Lynch, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, but he homed in on Comey.

"I think Director Comey is probably near the top. He’s the one who said that his intention of leaking memos of his conversation was designed to prompt the appointment of a special counsel. It just strikes me as some vindictiveness and animus toward the president motivating a lot of the action," Cornyn said.

Graham, who earlier this month teased that he wants to bring in Comey, added that the former official would be called to publicly testify and "will answer for your time as FBI director."

Comey has been a years-long source of ire for Trump, who fired the FBI director in May 2017. The White House initially cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey's handling of the investigation into Clinton’s private email server as the reason for his unusual firing, but Trump told NBC News days later that he was thinking about "the Russia thing" when he decided to fire Comey.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ally of Trump, also wants a laundry list of former Obama officials' communications to be made public, including any communications from former President Obama about an investigation into the Trump campaign. Paul is also calling on Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to testify under oath.

"We need every ounce of information about the people at the very top of our intelligence community that were promoting the inclusion of this fake dossier," Paul said. "We based this investigation on a lie. We should investigate who the liars were."

Trump's allies have claimed that the Russia investigation was started because of information in the controversial opposition research dossier compiled against Trump.

But a 2018 memo from the House Intelligence Committee, which was controlled at the time by Republicans, found that the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump campaign officials had improper contacts with Russia was triggered by information the bureau obtained about George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to the campaign.

With Republicans losing control of the House, the center of gravity for a GOP counter investigation is shifting to the Senate, where Graham, an ally of Trump who is up for reelection in 2020, controls the high-profile Judiciary Committee.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Mueller’s investigation as a "witch hunt." In the wake of the report being handed over, he has seized on the idea that officials within the Obama Justice Department were using an investigation to try to undercut his campaign.

"How did this start? How did it start? You had dirty cops. You had people that are about FBI folks. I know so many. They are incredible people. But at the top, they were not clean, to put it mildly. And what they did to our country was a terrible, terrible thing," Trump said during an interview with Sean Hannity.

It’s not the first time Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have floated trying to dig into the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s private email server, the FISA warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the controversial opposition research dossier compiled against Trump or the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the campaign.

But a probe during the last Congress was derailed amid a disagreement between Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), then the chairman of the committee, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, about the scope and direction of the panel and concerns that it could bump heads with Mueller’s investigation and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But with Mueller’s probe wrapped and the Intelligence Committee expected to finish its work in the coming months, senators are digging in for a new chapter that focuses on some of the largest scandals of the 2016 election. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway was invited by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to a Senate GOP caucus lunch this week, where they discussed the Russia investigation, a spokesman for the GOP senator confirmed.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a member of Graham’s committee, is calling for public oversight hearings, including issuing subpoenas to force cooperation if necessary. Under Judiciary Committee rules, Graham would either need a deal with Feinstein to issue a subpoena or would need a majority of the GOP-controlled panel.

McConnell, asked about Graham’s plans, said the South Carolina Republican had "raised a legitimate question" about potential misbehavior within the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign.

"I think it's not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department to investigate possible misbehavior," McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference. "The House is not going to miss an opportunity in ... the coming months to look at what they perceive to be things that require oversight. The Senate is involved in the oversight business just like the House is."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has stuck by Trump, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that there needs to be more scrutiny of how "so many Obama officials and senior officials in the FBI came to believe that an American presidential campaign was colluding with a foreign intelligence service."

Cotton was asked if his "premise" was that Obama administration officials tried to "sabotage" the transition.

"I don’t think based on what we’ve seen over the last three years you can have any other working premise," Cotton said.

This isn't a joke. They're going for it.


"The difference between me and Trump"

by Tom Sullivan

"Both sides do it" and other false equivalencies perpetuated in political debate keep cropping up no matter how much the national media and the right have their thumbs on the scale. The press has a tenuous business model to protect and does not want to alienate potential consumers of their products and advertising. The authoritarian right has political model fueled by resentment and projection. False equivalency allows the people of Trump country to demonize their opponents while avoiding "personal responsibility" for toxifying American politics.

No, in their minds shouting, "Lock [fill in the blank] up!" at rallies is justified. Their cult leader, no matter his wealth and power, status and privilege, is a knot of resentments and insecurities reflective of their own. In happier times, they would be the subject of an illustrated parable from Theodor Geisel.

Paul Waldman ponders a reality in which, instead of liberals being exhorted to bind America's wounds by better understanding Trump voters, it is conservatives' turn:

I have a crazy dream that goes like this. After a whole bunch of think pieces asking why Republicans are so contemptuous toward components of the Democratic base — let’s say African Americans — a Republican contender for president starts telling his party that they have to change the way they think, feel and talk. “For too long, members of my party have treated African Americans with scorn,” he’d tell an interviewer. “But as someone who has spent time in those communities, let me explain how they see the state of our country, and why we need to find ways to meet them where they live. Republicans are out of touch and that has to change.”
That would never happen, of course, the GOP base being "made up of only the most worthy of Americans, hailing from the small towns and rural areas where all virtue finds its true home."

Now, one can certainly find liberals who are condescending towards Trump voters, Waldman concedes. "Elite liberal" condescension is a conservative media trope. But the right feels perfectly justified in advertising theirs:
One more vivid example from recent history: In 2004, the conservative Club For Growth ran an ad against Howard Dean, in which a couple told him to “take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs.” Everyone laughed. Now imagine the outcry if a liberal group told, say, Mike Huckabee to “take his trailer park-living, tobacco-chewing, NASCAR-watching, squirrel-eating freak show back to Arkansas where it belongs.” The condemnation would be furious and immediate, much of it coming from the elite media, who would yet again instruct Democrats that if they want to succeed they really need to stop being so condescending and reach out to those heartland voters.
Last night's MSNBC special on the Green New Deal featured an exchange between New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bob Inglis, the former South Carolina congressman. Deemed apostate for believing climate change was real, Inglis lost his seat to T-party candidate Trey Gowdy in a 2010 primary. Inglis was on set in the Bronx not just as a Republican from "real America" who believes climate needs addressing, but to draw a parallel with Ocasio-Cortez who ousted a more conservative Democrat in a 2018 primary.

Inglis might believe climate change is an urgent problem, but the Green New Deal's inclusion of universal basic income was a bridge too far. Inglis fulfilled his designated "both sides" role by suggesting there is now a T-party of the left, and the forum on climate change was the mirror image of a Trump rally. Universal basic income should wait.

A few catcalls erupted from the otherwise patient audience. Someone shouted that Inglis was a moron.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, that's unacceptable," Ocasio-Cortez responded curtly, calling down the heckler. Pivoting immediately to Inlgis, she continued, "And that's the difference between me and Trump."

She. Is. Good. That particular exchange occurs at timestamp 7:50, but the entire clip sets the stage.

Keep this tweet of the exchange handy. You may need it at Thanksgiving.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Let's face it: All dogs like to smell poop. But this dog smells something else, too -- opportunity.

Train, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, sniffs out the scat, or poop, of elusive wild animals like jaguars and oncillas in the name of conservation.

It might sound like an unsavory task, but these scat samples are goldmines for researchers like Train's owner, conservation biologist Karen DeMatteo.

DeMatteo and a research team in Argentina are trying to pinpoint the habitats of endangered animals, but it's hard to figure out where they live if you can't find the animals themselves.

That's where Train comes in.

"Everybody leaves poop behind in the forest," DeMatteo says.

Scat can reveal a lot, including the species of an animal and even its sex.

"You can figure out which habitats they like and which habitats they avoid," DeMatteo says.

Using this data, she and the rest of her team determine which wilderness areas -- or corridors -- should be prioritized in conservation efforts. 
"Everywhere, people are expanding," DeMatteo says. "We can try to figure out areas of potential overlap between humans and wildlife. We can identify areas that need more work, areas that are great corridors, or areas that are kind of lost to the cause."

Train was originally a rescue dog from the Humane Society. He first entered a program to train drug-detection dogs, but it didn't work out.

"He failed out of narcotics school because he was too energetic," DeMatteo says. "He was like a bull in a china closet."

Train is almost 12 and a rescue dog from the Humane Society.

So she found Train a more suitable career path.

At the time, DeMatteo was looking for dogs to go to the Argentine province of Misiones to work on a research project. Since Train already knew the basics of drug detection, he was a viable candidate.

As it turns out, Train couldn't care less that he was searching for poop instead of drugs -- all he wanted was a ball to play with at the end.

His high energy may have hampered him in narcotics school, but it was a welcome trait in Argentina, where he trekked through vast stretches of wilderness. Last year, Train covered about 1,000 kilometers of Argentinian forest in search of animal droppings.

"Train was just a machine," DeMatteo says. "We just switched him to use all that energy and search really big areas and find this poop for us."

But his energy is perfect for searching acres of land

DeMatteo's team uses dogs to confirm the locations of multi-species corridors -- pathways through developed areas that allow wild animals to travel between wilderness habitats.

Before, most similar studies were done with cameras mounted in the wild and equipped with sensors to photograph animals as they passed by. But that method is not the most efficient one because scientists must wait for the animals to cross the camera's path. Also, the cameras get stolen.

But using Train, along with a border collie named April, has opened doors for the researchers. For example, private landowners who might have been hesitant to allow camera traps on their property are more receptive to the dogs.

"They're afraid you're going to take their land or do something funny, and we explain that we just want to look for poop and find out where animals are moving. And they're like, 'Oh, cool, can I come?'" DeMatteo says.

Even though Train is nearing 12 years old, he shows no sign of stopping. He's headed to Nebraska later this year to track mountain lions.

Sometimes the researchers will wake up after trekking long distances and wish for a day off. But they have to keep up with Train, who always wakes up ready to go.

"You're like, 'Oh my God, how does he do it?'" DeMatteo says.

She admits the job can be tiring for humans. But working alongside Train makes up for it, she says. 
"It just makes life really great to get up and work with a dog every day."


When a summary isn't a summary

by digby

Emptywheel on Barr's new letter:
Since his obviously limited summary released Sunday night, DOJ has been refusing to provide basic transparency about the Mueller Report or its plans for release. That refusal is best exemplified by DOJ’s unwillingness to reveal how long the Mueller Report is.

Four days later DOJ has just made public a letter to the Judiciary Committees leaders. And while it doesn’t provide an exact page count, it finally offers a ballpark of the page count: “nearly 400 pages long (exclusive of tables and appendices).”

It issues a hilarious denial that Barr’s four page summary — which Barr said “summarize[d] the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation” [my emphasis] — wasn’t a summary but then uses the word “summary” in describing what it was.

I am aware of some media reports and other public statements mischaracterizing my March 24, 2019 supplemental notification as a “summary” of the Special Counsel’s investigation and report. For example, Chairman Nadler’s March 25 letter refers to my supplemental notification as a “four-page summary of the Special Counsel’s review.” My March 24 letter was not, and did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report. As my letter made clear, my notification to Congress and the public provided, pending release of the report, a summary of its “principal conclusions” [sic] — that is, its bottom line.
I do not believe it would be in the public’s interest for me to attempt to summarize the report or release it in serial fashion.
As the bolded language from his original summary makes clear, Barr is now redefining what he summarized in it.

Finally, the letter describes what he will redact (meaning he has reversed on what the NYT got told about DOJ releasing a “summary”) in a public release by mid-April.

Specifically, we are well along in the process of identifying and redacting the following: (1) material subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) that by law cannot be made public; (2) material the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods; (3) material that could affect other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other Department offices; and (4) information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.

Of course, this is a letter to Jerry Nadler, who has a solid constitutional claim to be entitled to grand jury information — indeed, to the entire report. So while it may remain a reasonable solution for public release (though, note his silence on the exhibits, which must be released too), it is a absolutely unacceptable response to the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

At least it shows he’s beginning to feel embarrassed enough about his original hackish summary that he has issued a somewhat less hackish one.

Heidi Przybyla explained on MSNBC why Democrats are so aggressively pushing for an earlier date. It has to do with how the Republicans have dealt with this sort of thing in the past. One example would be when James Comey announced that he was recommending to the DOJ that they not indict Hillary Clinton over her email on July 5th, 2016 --- Jason Chaffetz dragged Comey up to the hill for a public hearing two days later.

Granted, this is a much bigger investigation (although you wouldn't know it from the oceans of ink that was spilled on the email case) so they gave Barr more time. But they aren't going to allow the Republicans to drag their feet. They'd be idiots to do it.


Yes, he really said this

by digby

Last night in Cedar Rapids Donald Trump actually said this:

In this country, we cannot criminalize political differences. We do not abuse the law enforcement and intelligence power to target our political opponents.

I'm pretty sure I don't have to spell out why that is an astonishing thing for him to say. Even after he said that his crowds were chanting "Lock them up!" and he stood there smugly grinning.

Here is Trump's twitter archive on Hillary Clinton for March 2019:

Here's the president's lawyer:

“We’re now trying to prove who did it,” Giuliani said. “The premise is, somebody had to have started the ‘He colluded with the Russians’” narrative. 
Asked whether the president himself wants an investigation to examine this question, Giuliani said, “Goddamn right he [does]. This is not ‘Oh, gee, it’s over, let’s forget about it.’”

Bizarroworld is giving me a headache this week.


The public isn't moving

by digby

I don't know if Barr's release of the longer summary of the Mueller Report next month will change anything but his letter didn't. Huffington Post summarized all the polling that's come out this week:

What do people think the report means?

In the HuffPost/YouGov poll, 18 percent of Americans who’d heard at least something about Mueller’s report said it found that Trump committed crimes, with 29 percent saying it found that others in his campaign committed crimes, and 31 percent that it found nobody on his campaign did so.

Trump voters who’d heard about the report overwhelmingly said it found no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of anyone on Trump’s campaign; Clinton voters, who’d mostly expected the report to conclude that Trump committed crimes, were substantially more equivocal.

Asked for their own opinions about the truth, 29 percent of Americans said they personally believe Trump committed crimes, 24 percent that he did not commit crimes but that others on his campaign did, and 23 percent that nobody on his campaign committed crimes. Views, again, were politically divided:

Other polls asked differently worded questions, with correspondingly different results. But most found divided perceptions about the report’s findings, with much of the public finding their pre-existing views confirmed, and a substantial share still unclear on the conclusions or feeling that matters are not yet entirely settled.

Per CNN/SSRS, 43 percent of Americans said Trump and his campaign have been exonerated of any collusion with Russia, with 56 percent saying that they were not exonerated, but that collusion couldn’t be proven.
Per an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 36 percent of Americans said Mueller’s report clears Trump of any wrongdoing, with a 56 percent majority saying questions still exist.

In a new CBS survey, 34 percent thought the Mueller report cleared Trump of illegal activity and 23 percent that it had not, with the remaining 43 percent unsure or believing it was too soon to say. Sixty percent, however, thought it was at least somewhat likely that senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia before Donald Trump was sworn in as president. Half of Democrats say they’re disappointed by the findings, while a majority of Republicans describe themselves as pleased and relieved. 

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, nearly half of Americans said they agreed with the statement that “President Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” with 40 percent disagreeing. (Questions framed as agree/disagree can make respondents more likely to say they’re in agreement.) 

And in a Politico/Morning Consult poll, voters said 55-to-21 that Mueller had not found evidence that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. There was less unanimity on Mueller’s findings about obstruction ― 15 percent thought he’d concluded that Trump obstructed the investigation, 27 percent that Trump did not, and 37 percent answered that he made no such determination.

Are people even paying attention to the story?

Sort of. Most of the public said they’d heard something about the report, but in surveys that asked how closely they’d followed the story, only between 23 and 35 percent reported paying the closest attention possible. The people paying the closest attention were also the least likely to be swayed: In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, 63 percent of Trump voters said they had heard a lot about the report, compared to 41 percent of Clinton voters and just 31 percent of nonvoters.

Do people have faith in the report?

Few are outright skeptical of the report itself, but there are some doubts. In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, 66 percent say they believe Mueller’s report is somewhat or very accurate, and just a tenth that it’s not very or not at all accurate. Per the CBS poll, 44 percent believe the investigation was conducted fairly, just 10 percent unfairly, and 47 percent are unsure or say it’s too soon to know.

Mueller’s own ratings are up. In February, Americans approved of Mueller’s job as special counsel by just a 3-point margin, according to HuffPost/YouGov polling. They now approve by a 16-point margin, thanks in large part to a substantial thaw in opinion among Trump voters, who formerly opposed him in large numbers but are now close to evenly split. The Economist’s polling, also using YouGov, noted a similar improvement in Trump voters’ view of Mueller, as did Marist’s polling.

Clinton voters, meanwhile, continue to feel positively about Mueller. But they’re far more suspicious about Barr. Clinton voters in the HuffPost/YouGov poll disapprove of Barr by a 50-point margin, while Trump voters approve by a 63-point margin.

What do people want to see happen next?

Americans support the release of the full report by a margin rarely seen on charged political issues. In seven of the most recent surveys that raised the question, between 57 and 84 percent of respondents supported releasing the full report, with at most a third saying the report should not be released. In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, most who wanted the report to be made public also said it was very important that it be made available.

Opinions on other next steps are less clear. A 57 percent majority, according to the CNN/SSRS poll, want Congress to hold hearings to investigate the findings in the report, with 43 percent saying Congress should end the investigation. But CBS, which asked specifically about Democrats in Congress, found Americans saying 58-to-38 that they should move on to other issues.

In Marist’s polling for NPR and PBS NewsHour, about two-thirds of Americans want Mueller and Barr to testify to Congress about the special counsel’s findings. But the public is close to evenly split on whether Democrats should hold further hearings or end the investigation.

Did the report change anyone’s minds about Trump or the investigation?

Public opinion on Trump and Russia, thus far, has been largely characterized by inflexible partisanship, with Trump voters insisting on his innocence, Clinton voters convinced of his guilt, and the rest of the public skeptical of the president’s integrity but not especially tuned into the story.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that, based on Mueller’s investigation, just 20 percent of Americans consider the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia to be a very serious problem, down from 31 percent last month. That shift is mostly due to a change among Clinton voters: In February, 73 percent said the relationship was a very serious problem based on what Mueller had uncovered. Following the report, just 44 percent said the same.

That’s a lot more movement than past polls have found. But it’s not a shift that seems likely to help Trump politically. His opponents’ vehement distaste for him has never been limited to, or even largely based on, his campaign’s relationship with Russia. Both polls found Trump’s approval rating at an identical 41 percent among the public, and an identically dismal 3 percent among Clinton voters.

Other polling, meanwhile, also finds little evidence of a sea change among any segment of the public.

“Despite the two years of attention focused on Russia and the convictions and all that,” Marist pollster Lee Miringoff told NPR, “it pretty much is exactly where it was.”

Per CNN, the 43 percent who believe the report fully exonerates the president is virtually identical to the share who extolled his innocence in previous polls ― suggesting, in their words, that “the summary letter released Sunday did little to move public opinion on this matter.” (That 43 percent is also, notably, more or less synonymous with the upper bound of Trump’s narrow band of approval.) Trump, the Morning Consult pollsters concluded, “got no bounce with voters after attorney general said he was cleared of collusion.” A Pew Research poll also found little movement in broader perceptions of Trump’s conduct after the report was finished. Those perceptions remain largely unfavorable, with a majority of Americans saying that Trump has probably acted illegally.

What this says to me is that Democrats tend to act in good faith on this much more than Republicans. You know if the shoe were on the other foot,  100% of GOP voters would reject Barr's conclusion letter outright and would right now be calling for Mueller's head on a platter. I'm sure there's some of that on the other side but I haven't seen it. And the polling bears that out.

People are rightfully skeptical of Barr because of his history and that memo he wrote to get the job. They are far less skeptical of Mueller and would like to see what he's come up with before making any judgment about the outcome.

So now we go back to "waiting for the Mueller Report."


No Trump, these asylum seekers are not prizefighters

by digby

I think we know who the big fat con is, don't we?

Here is reality:

Trump is now threatening to close the border by next week unless the Mexican government stops all the asylum seekers.

Dara Lind at Vox explains that part of the reason for the upsurge in migrants crossing outside ports of entry is the administration's slowing of the process. So naturally, Trump wants to make everything much, much worse:

Shutting down ports of entry would be an economic disaster. It would also disrupt the lives of border communities that rely on the flow of people between the US and Mexico — including the major cities of San Diego (and Tijuana) and El Paso (and Ciudad Juarez).

Approximately $1.5 billion worth of commerce happens along the US-Mexico border every day. Nearly half a million people cross the border legally every day through Texas ports alone.

Even reductions in port capacity or temporary shutdowns tend to lead to panic among the business community and local residents. El Paso is currently concerned that already-long waits at the ports could get longer as agents are reassigned to care for unauthorized migrants. When the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego shut down for a few hours in November, as agents responded with force (including tear gas) to an organized march of asylum seekers, the temporary closure cost about $5.3 million in lost business revenue.

Of course, making it harder for people to cross legally generally only encourages people to cross illegally — something that’s already been seen as the US has limited the number of asylum-seekers it allows to present themselves at ports.

Trump’s Friday tweets actually tacitly acknowledge that drug smuggling is more likely to happen at ports than between them — something he generally explicitly lies about. But drug smugglers are less likely than, say, banana exporters to just throw up their hands if a port is shut down, rather than finding other illegal ways to get drugs into the US.

Every time Trump tweets something like this, border-state legislators and business associations react with alarm. Generally, DHS officials stress that they understand the importance of keeping the ports open. But Trump by all appearances does not.

It’s not that “shutting down the border” is the administration’s only proposed solution — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote a letter to Congress on Thursday asking for changes to the law regarding family detention and child deportation, and predicting that they would need more funding. But it’s an idea Trump himself can’t let go of. And now, for the first time — if for completely different reasons — there is an actual prospect that the administration will do something that looks vaguely similar to Trump’s threats.

This is what he wants of course. There was no crisis. But he needs one so he's creating it. And he obviously doesn't care at all how many children and vulnerable people her hurts or even how much he damages the economy. In fact, he wants to damage cross-border business --- so he can blame the vulnerable brown people he and his base hate.

God he is exhausting. But I think that's a feature for him, not a bug.

Adam Schiff shamed the shameless

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

President Trump held his first rally since mid-February on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sounding alternately buoyant and furious, he took a big victory lap and declared himself to have "won" against the witch hunt. In an extended rant right out of the gate he proclaimed:

After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over. The Special Counsel has completed his report and found no collusion, no obstruction ... Total exoneration, complete vindication. ...
The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to take power by framing innocent Americans -- they suffered -- with an elaborate hoax. They tried to destroy a movement like nobody has ever seen before. They did it because they refused to accept the results of the greatest presidential election results in American history ... they perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics, they have to be — I’m sorry — they have to be accountable.”

As we saw telegraphed as early as Monday, Trump wants revenge. His motto for years has been "get even" and he obviously thinks that wreaking vengeance on his political opponents will keep him in the White House past 2020. Even his decision to back the lawsuit repealing Obamacare, made against the advice of many Republicans, is really just a way for him to exact revenge on his most hated rival -- who happens to be a dead man, John McCain.

Trump went out of his way to crudely insult House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

He didn't talk about the size of his own neck, thankfully. But he did get a bit more rhetorically pungent, saying, "The Democrats need to decide whether they will continue to defraud the public with ridiculous bullshit." (Yes, he said bullshit.)

The attack on Schiff is obviously a specific strategy to try to shut down the Intelligence Committee's ongoing investigation into Trump and Russia. Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted out:

When the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing later that day to hear Russia experts talk about how that country's intelligence services infiltrate various aspects of American life, the committee's ranking member and former chair, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., stepped up to make an opening statement:
We should not be used as a platform to spread false information and bizarre conspiracies. We have unique capabilities and authorities to do crucial oversight work and now, frankly speaking, that is not being done.
You read that right. Then Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, read a letter signed by all nine Republicans on the committee demanding that Schiff resign, claiming that he was promoting a demonstrably false narrative and had abused his position to knowingly promote false information about Russian collusion.

This, coming from the same Republicans who contrived the ludicrous alternate universe around a "deep state" plot, culminating in the preposterous "Nunes memo," could and perhaps should have resulted in convulsions of laughter in the hearing room. The idea of Nunes, the man who was caught red-handed, literally in the middle of the night, conspiring with the White House, accusing anyone else of conspiracy theories really cannot be taken seriously. He is a ridiculous person.

But Schiff didn't laugh. And he was right not to. This is a serious issue of national security, and he responded with one of the more memorable congressional speeches in a very long time:

If you haven't heard the whole thing I urge you to listen to it.

The reason that was so important is because Schiff brought the issue back to where it rightfully belongs: in the Congress. The only thing we know right now about any criminal liability is that Robert Mueller's investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But none of the events or behaviors Schiff cited are in dispute. Most of it happened right out in public. Whether it was legal or not, it was stupid and it was wrong and no president should be defended for behaving in such a craven, corrupt and unpatriotic way. What he did may not have been criminal conduct, but it was pathologically unethical. Anyone who didn't find all that behavior suspicious has no business holding a responsible position in the United States government.

Schiff's speech explains something important that Trump and the Republicans fail to grasp. People know what they saw. That's why the polls aren't moving toward the president in the wake of Bill Barr's letter and Trump's triumphant victory tour. Whether the president was part of a criminal conspiracy, or was simply so ignorant and corrupt that he didn't know or care about the ramifications of his actions, isn't really the question. What Schiff did in that speech was to bring the subject back to the central question: Is this president acting in the interest of the people of the United States, or is he acting in the interest of Donald Trump? I think we know the answer. And it's not OK.

Some of the Republicans on the panel understood that what Schiff had said was a powerful indictment of their own lack of ethics and morals. After Schiff finished and attempted to go on, one member demanded to be allowed to respond to his comments, insisting, "No one over here [on the Republican side] thinks that."

You don't? Could have fooled us. At every step of the way the Republicans have acted as Trump's accomplices, refusing even to suggest that he might have done something wrong in all this. They clearly don't think he did.

I'm willing to be generous and say that at the end of the day we may very well find that Trump is so dim-witted and narcissistic that he literally does not know right from wrong. That obviously makes him unfit for the presidency but it doesn't make him guilty of conspiring with a foreign government. Fine. But all these Republicans who refuse to even acknowledge the outrageousness of his conduct definitely do know better.

They are shameless and that's hard to fight against, still less to defeat. But Adam Schiff laid out the real issue more successfully than anyone we've seen in recent times. Let's hope it's the first of many illustrative moments as the Democrats start to provide the serious oversight that has been lacking these past two years.