Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Billionaires Ballot, An Electoral Nightmare (w/ Update)

Given how the Beltway media loves covering elections - the horse race nature of campaigning always involves personality clashes and plot twists galore - we're already into the nightmare of 2020 coverage not only with the usual suspects putting in their expected nominations but also a surprising opening appearance.

It seems the former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz is thinking about putting his hat in the 2020 ring to run as an independent.

Naturally, this requires a reasoned and well-thought response from Twitter (just read this article from Balloon Juice for a nice refresher). Which, if I can summarize for you, was this:


There's already been calls to boycott Starbucks (I originally argued that it might not work since he retired the CEO gig, but it turns out he still owns a hefty share so yeah go ahead nuke the company).

Schultz's reasoning for running is he posits the "Both Sides are wrong" argument popular with the "No Labels Third Party Will Save Us" wing of mainstream media.

But he's made his real reason pretty clear after his first couple of interviews: He's already attacked the likes of Kamala Harris (who announced this week) and Elizabeth Warren (who's announced earlier) and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (who is too young to announce but can dance circles around him) for their open calls for higher tax rates and expanded healthcare / social aid programs that will likely involve taxing the rich.

He's terrified by Democratic Party calls for a high marginal tax rate on billionaires, and he wants to do everything in his power - such as Spoiling the Democrats as a "Centrist" - to ensure trump wins a second term to keep that from happening.

Let's refer to Eugene Robinson at RealClearPolitics on this:

At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm election and Trump's cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I'm pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich.
He does have a chance in 2020, however, if the anti-Trump vote is split between two or more candidates. Imagine Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, siphoning off even 5 percent of the Democratic candidate's vote in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The horror of 2016 threatens to become a recurring nightmare.

Here is the sad truth of American Presidential Elections that I have noted before: The Electoral College system as currently rigged favors a Winner-Take-All by state meaning the top two major party candidates - Democratic and Republican - are the ONLY possible candidates to win the Electors.

No third party or independent candidate stands a chance. Anderson in 1980 barely won 6 percent of the overall popular vote and NOTHING in the Electoral College. Perot ran his vanity campaigns in 1992 and 1996 and achieved the same Electoral College results (Nada). Libertarians and Green candidates have yet to garner even ONE Elector over multiple campaigns. The last time we had a successful third party candidate was Wallace in 1968 with 46 EV, and that was because of the cultural and political shift over the Civil Rights Acts that sent the racist Southern voters to the polls in revolt.

But that's the thing, as Robinson notes, the third party candidate can perform the role of Spoiler to knock the possible winner down a peg and force the Electoral College - by having key battleground states flip the wrong way by just a handful of votes - to elect the losing Second-Place finisher.

We've seen it within our own lifetimes. The Perot races in 1992 and 1996 arguably pulled away enough votes from the Republican candidates, and there's still bitterness among Democrats towards the role Ralph Nader played in the 2000 elections. You could argue about Jill Stein affecting Hillary's chances in key states, but Libertarian Gary Johnson had a bigger popular vote impact and it did little damage to trump's chances (there's still the specter of Putin sabotaging the whole 2016 scene so that's kind of a wash). Outside of our times, the biggest Spoiler election was 1912's when Teddy Roosevelt - angry at his Republican protege Taft's soft business policies - decided to run his Bull Moose campaign... letting the Democratic candidate Wilson win due to the split Republican voter base.

Robinson notes in his article how even trump understood that in 2015-16:

Remember how coy Trump was early in the Republican primary campaign, reserving the option of an independent candidacy if the GOP did not treat him fairly? Trump used the threat as leverage to get his way on debate logistics and ballot access. But then he suddenly reversed course, signing a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
A person familiar with Trump's thinking told me why. Trump understood that the most likely outcome, if he ran on his own, would be to guarantee Hillary Clinton's election by taking votes away from the GOP candidate. In his wildest dreams, he might hope to win enough electoral votes to keep either major-party candidate from reaching a majority. But in that case, the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives -- which would surely choose the Republican or the Democrat, not Trump.

That's the real purpose - and threat - of a strong third party candidate in our current Presidential system: shake up enough votes to make the likely winning party actually lose.

Schultz is not actually strong - at least not yet, because he's a relatively unknown figure just re-entering the spotlight - but he is RICH. As a confirmed billionaire, he can throw about 500 million dollars at a vanity campaign and still use it as a tax write-off somehow because he can STILL spend enough money on accountants to cheat the IRS.

Referring back to my earlier argument against Schultz: the sonofabitch is running scared because the ascendant Democratic Party - with its new lineup of Progressive and left-leaning Congresspersons - shows little sign of slipping back for the upcoming 2020 cycle. The Dems are likely to retain control of the House, can arguably retain enough state governments (and maybe win a few Purple ones if the turnout's high enough) to keep progressive efforts going, may threaten Republican control of the Senate (more GOP Senators are up for re-election than Democrats this next cycle), and are poised to win against an unpopular and inept incumbent in trump (barring further Russian intervention).

Running for Governor or Senator as an "Independent" (or even as a business-friendly Democrat - he is apparently a registered D) won't stop that momentum. Running for President - even with the unlikelihood of winning without a popular base of support - to ensure trump retains veto power over everything is the best achievable goal.

Schultz making this a suicide mission is the only thing that makes sense. He has to know he's already getting hit on social media by outraged Democrats, and he's making a terrible impression with the media talking heads he's interviewed with. He's just another amateur at politics. It'd be like... me, making an announcement from my blog that "HEY, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for 2020 as an Independent!"

The only difference between Schultz and myself is I cannot afford to even download the paperwork I'd have to file to start a campaign, and he can afford to hire 10,000 people to do all that for him.

But we're running into the OTHER big problem with modern American politics (actually it's several): terrible, horrifying myths about business and politics.

  • The myth that Government ought to be run like a Business;
  • The myth that Business Leaders - CEOs for example - are capable of managing Public Sector powers;
  • The myth that our partisan landscape can be healed/fixed by a calming Centrist figure that can create bipartisan support just by standing there oh so pretty.

As we've seen from bad performances from other Presidents with business backgrounds - Hoover and Dubya and the current Loser of the Popular Vote trump (the con artist's not even a successful businessman in the first place!!!) - we should know by now that being a CEO is different from being a President. Decision making in a business is top-down, has to be, and there's nothing wrong with that. But a President has to lead by consensus and awareness of the public will, and CEOs can never think like that (everything has to be HIS WAY or the highway, or in Dubya's case he deferred authority out to handlers like Cheney - also having corporate experience - who DID think like that).

The myth of Government being run like a Business should be taking hits as well. Where a business operates in order to earn profits, a government has to operate to provide services as a public good. Those are opposing objectives. Every time the Republicans pull their "run it like a business" stunt - tax cuts and deregulations - everything falls apart with deficits and collapsing infrastructure.

The final myth is the belief - the hope - of the mainstream media and high-ranking punditry that all we need is a Uniter figure outside of "Party" corruption to rise up and save us from our weak political overlords. They look to figures like Washington who seemed to rise above party (only because he existed before they formed, and when they did he leaned conservative/Federalist). They look to calming, fatherly patriarchs like Eisenhower or amiable, cheerful types like Reagan (his spell on the current punditry remains horrifyingly intact).

THAT is the biggest pipe dream of all. There is no outisde Uniter figure waiting to save us, no one with a level of public popularity - outside of entertainers with universal appeal - that can sweep in and guide us to sane policy. And if there is, it sure as hell isn't yet another billionaire - especially one whom nobody could pick out of a police lineup two weeks ago - thinking he can buy his way onto the national ballot.

But we're stuck with Schultz, just like we were stuck with other vanity candidates like Perot, or the likes of Steve Forbes or Herman Cain trying their luck in Republican primaries.

Because the final biggest problem we have with our electoral system: It favors the rich.

It's been a thing since our nation's founding: Every political player from the Founders at the Declaration of Independence through the first few decades of forming the Constitution were all wealthy men. Lawyers, merchants, landowners, slaveowners. Not a one of them were what we'd call poor or middle class. They could afford to play the game of politics and then hand it off to the next rich newcomer to come along and keep the game going.

As our nation grew, we'd get the occasional poor person - someone from a struggling background - but we'd still get overwhelmed by the business leaders and the profit makers, all of them keeping control of government to ensure their needs - staying rich - were met first before taking care of the general welfare (reforms when they happened only happen in waves, like the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century in response to the corruption of the late 19th Century).

This is where we're stuck today. Only the rich can run for office. Entry fees alone to get on a ballot can get expensive. You have to take time to campaign, make speeches, get on airwaves, kiss babies, etc. and only the self-employed and indolent wealthy can afford that. You have to raise campaign funds, which means getting other wealthy people to chip in, and who else can do that but someone from those same social circles?

And the current electoral system favoring dark money and deep-pocket SuperPACs - thanks Citizens United! - guarantees that the wealthy can buy their candidates and make sure they stay bought.

We may live in a republic democracy, and we in theory should have open elections where any person could put their name in to run for office. But in practice we're stuck in a system where the billionaires hire the millionaires to run the government across the board as much as possible. And whenever that gets threatened - when a political party gains power like the Democrats that are willing to disrupt the rich people's attempts to get even richer by avoiding their civic duty of paying taxes or answering to the law - they break out fellow billionaires to run themselves and do their hardest to convince enough suckers voters into thinking they are the MODERATE CENTRIST NON-PARTY SAVIOR of their dreams.

This shouldn't be a hard decision to make, America. Billionaires are ironically not worth it as Presidential candidates. They are more disaster than savior.


Update: So far, Schultz's campaign rollout has been getting negative reviews. If he's trying to appeal to Democrats, accusing the party's more popular figures as "unAmerican" isn't going to cut it... (via Paul Blest at Splinter):

Schultz has just been getting pummeled from all sides over the past few days for everything from his inability to provide a vision for the country that doesn’t sound like it was left on the cutting floor during West Wing writers’ meetings to his repeated insistence that taxes, a robust safety net, and essentially everything that he doesn’t like are “un-American.” But while a lot of the attacks have come from the left, even Schultz’s presumed natural constituency—ideological centrists who think Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump pose a remotely similar level of danger to the country—are already tired of his shit.
Axios’ Mike Allen, who’s never afraid to ask the tough questions, has a blog out in Axios today which serves to allow Democratic Party “insiders”—i.e., the people whose main responsibility for the last couple of decades has been making sure it never does anything too popular—the opportunity to verbally whale on Schultz and his insipid candidacy... One of Washington’s best-wired party operatives told me: “I’ve talked to six dozen Democrats, and the overwhelming sentiment is that he will be pushed out by this incredible wave of disgust and disdain rolling his way...”
Schultz is going to have a problem appealing to the "Centrists" among the Democratic ranks if Schultz keeps talking like he's further to the Right on economic issues than most Republicans.

Like I tweeted:

it's at the point where Schultz is essentially just trump without the MAGA Hat Racism, which shouldn't make Schultz a draw to anyone in this electoral market. Except the damn media will pretend he's a fcking moderate to try and draw centrist voters away from the Dems. >:(

This election cycle requires total focus, America. Don't vote for billionaire assholes, thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Brexit Here We Come

I haven't really talked much about the Brexit situation for several reasons:

1) We've been having crazier shit happening stateside, goddamn you trump,
2) The last time I discussed Brexit I made it a personal argument with someone I respected and ended up offending them, so it's a bit of a sore spot to revisit.

But, well, things are heating up now because Brexit is on a deadline now, with the Conservatives in the British Parliament (Tories to their friends) set on getting some sort of deal by March 29. With the looming possibility of a No-Deal Brexit (you may start hearing posh economists screaming like terrified camp counselors in a horror movie right aboot here) happening that will very likely crash one of the biggest economies on the globe.

To refer to Yasmeen Serhan at The Atlantic on this one:

Indeed, in the two and a half years since Britons made the consequential decision to leave the EU, the process of their departure has been defined by political chaos. In 2017, it was the snap election in which May lost her party’s governing majority after gambling with the hope that she could expand it. The year that followed was one of a near-constant stream of negotiation deadlocks, cabinet resignations, and no-confidence letters. And though 2019 has only just begun, it appears to promise more of the same.
It began with May holding a previously delayed vote on her negotiated Brexit agreement with the EU, which British lawmakers rejected by a record-breaking margin—the kind that, in normal times, would have almost certainly resulted in the prime minister’s resignation...
That May continues to survive without the governing majority or authority to get her deal through Parliament is a testament to how far some of her Brexit deal’s biggest opponents—including the hard-line Brexit supporters within her own Conservative Party and their partners in the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party—will go to stave off a general election. Though they might not like the prime minister’s deal, they like the idea of a Jeremy Corbyn–led Labour government even less...

It doesn't help matters in the UK when the Labour Party - the next largest opposition party to the Tories - aren't entirely opposed to the Brexit efforts, not on party principle at least. The crazy thing about the Brexit chaos is that the major parties are split themselves: The Tories are split between a 'Hard' Brexit and a 'Soft' Brexit (which would be pulling out of the EU by name but keeping a lot of EU-friendly deals in place); Labour is split between a 'Soft' Brexit (whatever Corbyn thinks it should be) and a rejection of the 2016 referendum (to either 'Remain' or hold a second referendum with different terms instead).

What's really crazy, and I mean Florida-level crazy: the UK government seems determined to race towards the Brexit deadline on what is turning out to be a suicide run.

The scale of disaster awaiting the British economy depends entirely on the size of whatever Brexit deal gets passed. Even a middle-of-the-road 'Soft' Brexit is going to cause disruptions with trade deals outside of the EU, while a 'Hard' Brexit would cause serious disruptions to trade across the board as well as employment losses in key industries. The Brexit move has already harmed the British healthcare system with medical staff fleeing due to the uncertainty. Another impact of Brexit would be the loss of institutions and corporations - some are leaving NOW - that have made London a key financial capital.

And the topper is the situation with Ireland. Thanks to the EU, there is an open border between Northern Ireland (British) and the Republic of Ireland. If Brexit happens, that border - sharing trade and resources - closes shut unless exemptions are made... and Ireland isn't in the mood to deal. That border situation is one of the key elements of the peace that has formed on that troubled Island since the 1990s. Without a resolution on that border, the British Parliament may well proceed to a No-Deal Brexit. Which is sort of like dropping a financial Hiroshima bomb on the Tower of London.

A No-Deal Brexit would mean:

  • an immediate halt on all trade and transit between the United Kingdom and Europe
  • food shortages
  • medical supplies shortages
  • general supplies shortages
  • loss of legal rights for EU residents in the UK and for UK residents in Europe
  • most likely major drops in their stock markets and pound valuation

Like I said, it's like making a suicide run... straight over the White Cliffs of Dover.

Who would have thought that Ireland would be the cause of the United Kingdom's downfall?

With all that at stake, with everything in chaos, it's frustrating to note that there is a simple goddamned solution to this Brexit mess:

Just stop. Cancel the whole thing.

The Article 50 declaration to leave the EU can be canceled, just like that. You may get a lot of howls from the Leave factions who are obsessed with that cliff dive, but you avert even partial economic disaster if you do.

There are valid arguments to cancel Brexit. First, The referendum that started this whole mess was poorly planned out. Second, the people who pushed for Leave - Nigel Farage, above all - turned out to have lied about their positions meaning the arguments favoring Brexit are not in good faith. Third, the complications surrounding Brexit are proving the referendum wasn't a good idea. Fourth, there is growing evidence Russia meddled in the damn thing the same way they've meddled in other Western elections and ballot issues.

All May has to do is convince Parliament that there just isn't enough time and rational thought to make Brexit doable, and cancel the Article 50 request. She can argue that they need time to regroup on the matter and work out a plan first, THEN hold another referendum to see if the people agree with doing a Brexit later.

Let calmer judgment prevail.


It's not going to happen is it? The British Conservatives are apparently just as batshit crazy as the Republicans here at home.

This is not going to end well.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Some Thoughts On the Possible Ending to Mueller's trump-Russia Investigations w/Update

With Roger Stone now indicted on charges related to the Russian attempts to sabotage/hack/subvert our 2016 elections, what is exactly happening now and what's next?

From what we've been tracking, this is what's been established so far (via Margaret Hartmann and Nick Tabor at New York):

  • George Papadopoulos was charged with lying to investigators about his interactions with Russian agents, and has already served jail time. He is reportedly assisting Mueller's investigations.
  • Paul Manafort and Rick Gates allegedly laundered millions for Russians, and met with Russian agents about helping trump's Presidential campaign. Gates plead out and is helping: Manafort was convicted by a jury on several charges, plead out, then turned out to be lying about all that, which revoked his deal and has sent him back to court to re-face his convictions.
  • Michael Flynn, whom trump picked to serve as his National Security Advisor, had to resign and faced charges on lying to investigators about his Russian ties. He plead out and is helping the investigation.
  • Mueller proved to a grand jury that Russian operatives and businesses engaged in deliberate computer break-ins, social media propaganda, and other coordinated efforts to subvert the 2016 elections. This is a key point to remember as the rest of the investigation focuses on how and when trump's own campaign worked with these people, which would be serious federal violations (52 US Code s30121).
  • Michael Cohen, trump's personal lawyer for years, was caught paying off women to hide their adulterous affairs with trump during the election, which interfered with campaign finance regulations. While this doesn't directly relate to trump's Russian activities - which is one reason Mueller handed this off to another office with the Dept. of Justice - Cohen did meet with Russians on other matters that would have established illegal financial arrangements before, during, and after the election.
  • The most recent development was Roger Stone getting charged with lying to investigators about his contacts with WikiLeaks - which was getting hacked Russian info and dropping them at key points of the campaign cycle to "scandalize" Hillary - and also threatening/tampering with a witness. Stone left a sizable paper trail on this, suggesting an easy court win should it go to trial.

This is where we're at after two years of grand jury indictments and ongoing FBI/Intel digging. It doesn't look like much, but there's a lot of meat there... and there's supposed to be more stuff - additional indictments for key trump figures like Jared Kushner and donald trump junior - still under seal.

But what should we really expect over the next few months?

Part of what we're waiting on is the Democratic majority in the House handing over their Intelligence Committee's interviews conducted (rather haphazardly and biased to favor trump) the past congressional term. There are testimonies given - especially by Stone and trump junior - that may conflict with what Mueller's teams have, meaning certain people can get charged down the road with Lying to Congress (they don't even have to have been put under Oath in these matters). While the Republicans are trying to delay the release of documents to the Justice Department (and Mueller), they can't delay the inevitable on this.

With regards to Mueller's timing, he seems to release the indictments he has - again, the few stories that get leaked tend to agree he's got plenty of sealed indictments - when he's figured there is nothing more he can get about a suspect without taking him to trial and seeing if he'll flip. In a case like this, the paperwork and phone calls can only prove so much: Making the connections between players and getting them to confess is how the case gets proven to a jury.

What Mueller's working on is a serious matter: it involves charging a sitting President of having cheated to get that office, and relying on an adversarial foreign power (Russia) for getting it. There are old sayings at play here, referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson - "when you strike at a king you must kill him" - and Omar Little - "when you come at the king you best not miss." Mueller is going at the Head of State for the United States of America. He's got to have his i's dotted and his t's crossed for this.

Which is why this has been such a slow and painful process for a lot of Americans who have been convinced since the twisted outcome of November 2016 that serious crimes went down. Ever since trump openly called on Russia to hack Hillary and the Democrats in August, the fears of trump being Putin's puppet have been out there, and each new revelations seems to prove those fears true.

So it's been a long long looooong process - psst, is trump in jail yet?! - but we should recognize we're getting towards the end of that process.

For starters, Mueller has kind of gotten every known player lined up with their testimonies. While he's reportedly interested in getting more interviews out of trump, he's already gotten some questions answered by questionnaire that may be enough to go on. (The other buzz is that Mueller knows everything: the intel agencies have apparently picked up so much evidence that Mueller could probably go to trials without testimony anyway. Still, it helps to get testimony just to drive the nails in...)

There are still those sealed indictments, reportedly targeting some of the bigger names left on the board (Kushner, junior). If we look at this like a flowchart for a Mafia organization, Mueller has gotten the foot soldiers (Papadopoulos) and some of the Capos (Stone, Manafort) and even the Consigliere (Cohen). All that's left are a handful of remaining Capos (Bannon, Hicks?) and then the Underboss(es), the ones trump relies on the most to run everything for him. You don't get the Underbosses until you're ready to get the Boss himself.

That's his Inner Circle. In the Mafia, that's almost always family (the ties of blood are the strongest). That's Kushner and that's junior.

And when those indictments come out, that's the point of no return. Whatever it's been that has held trump back from shutting down the entire Justice Department and FBI to end Mueller's work will go away. trump will fight back to save his Inner Circle of family because that is all he has left to stay in power.

There's one other thing to consider at play: 2020.

While Mueller has to take his time, he is facing another clock and that's the next Presidential election cycle. We are already getting people announcing their campaigns for the Democratic ticket. Like it or not, we're getting into that horse race (again).

It's been noted that the government agencies don't like to interfere with political campaigns: They are well aware of the electoral consequences of public announcements of criminal investigations (which is one reason why FBI Director Comey's letter about Hillary's emails in October 2016 remains a major faux pas). While they had some evidence of trump's involvement with Russia by August 2016, the intelligence agencies didn't want to make any statements about it without political cover from both President Obama and Congressional Republican leaders. When McConnell refused to give permission, the intel agencies kept quiet... until it was too late.

We're coming up to a similar consideration. While it's obvious trump will have to answer about all this during his 2020 re-election efforts (unless the Beltway media wimps out as usual), the FBI and other agencies will be under enormous pressure during 2020 if those investigations were still ongoing. They are likely to get everything they have - well, everything they can release from national security concerns - out to the courts and let the Judiciary handle all the headaches before the Primaries begin at the start of next year.

Mueller should be expected to end everything this year - 2019 - before it directly affects 2020. It's merely a question now of which month.

I got good money on it happening in April. I figure it takes, what, six months at the earliest to start court trials? That should make it October 2019 when the big trials start, should go to jury by November 2019...

Tick-tock, on the clock. DJ Mueller gonna wrap this up.

(Update 1/28): FiveThirtyEight just published this the day after I published mine. It's a little more thorough than my take (and more focused on the political responses) but doesn't look at the impending deadline the investigations clearly face. And damn I keep feeling I'm always one step ahead of these guys talking about this stuff...

Blood in the Streets: Angry Guy Compliation

While we've been distracted by trump's incompetence, this has been going on:

Remember in the United States we only pay attention to the mass shootings where the body count is three or more, so more than likely we're not even seeing the individual acts of domestic violence involving men shooting/stabbing/killing their wives/girlfriends happening on a daily basis.

It's already been an established problem with gun violence: For all the problems involving the ready and available access of firearms, the other half of the problem involves the ready willingness of Angry Guys to get triggered for some ego-busting reason and going on a goddamned killing spree.

(If you're angry I pointed out the shooters are mostly White guys, it's because I wanna give trump and his anti-immigrant Haters Brigade a nice middle-fingered FUCK YOU Salute because their goddamned Wall would not have stopped any of these attacks on women)

You wanna know how bad gun violence has gotten in the United States?

Wikipedia has started breaking down their list of mass shootings by year (starting in 2013). They can't keep the body counts to just one html page.

And while the numbers on mass shootings aren't exact - thanks to a NRA-owned Republican Party that fights any attempt to track shooting injuries or gun-related deaths - just on reading the partial list of what we know you will keep seeing the same thing: Angry Guys.

While there's a lot America can do to cut down on the mass shootings (tip: Universal Background Checks and Filtering Out Domestic Abusers would FUCKING HELP, people) one thing we should be doing is calming the crazed, blood-boiled male population out there and getting them to, you know, STOP KILLING EVERYBODY.

Okay guys? Seriously? Just watch that damn Gillette Ad and CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

Friday, January 25, 2019

How the trump Shutdown *Ended*

This ended up being a crazier day than earlier realized. Via Sam Stein, Sam Brodley and Jackie Kucinich at the Daily Beast:

President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to fund the government without money for his much-desired border wall, effectively bringing an end to the longest shutdown in American history.
The deal extends funding for the government at current levels until February 15  and include a “vehicle” for lawmakers to begin discussions between the two congressional chambers over a larger bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and border security specifically...

trump tried to bluff his way through the speech by bringing up more fearmongering about kidnappers and slave traffickers, and that if he didn't get his wall by the February deadline he would force another Shutdown, I don't think anybody was believing his bluster by that point.

Though Trump spoke defiantly, the consensus view from officials of both parties on Capitol Hill was the Trump’s clock had been cleaned. The president had insisted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that he would not sign any bill to open the government that did not include $5.7 billion in wall funding. But amid sagging poll numbers and partial closures of critical government functions—including, on Friday morning, flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport in New York—Trump committed on Friday to doing just that...

I noted in earlier essays on the #trumpShutdown how this would end - when the unpaid federal workers would reach the breaking point and force a major confrontation - and I'd like to think I was correct. Earlier this morning, just as the Stone arrest was gathering notice, word quickly got out that LaGuardia Airport in Queens had to ground flights and suspend operations due to not enough Air Traffic Controllers coming in to work.

It cascaded from there. Newark Airport had to ground flights. That left JFK running at whatever reduced (yet swamped) level it could. At that point we are talking about closing off transit to one of the biggest and busiest business centres - NEW YAWK CITY - in the world.

Several East Coast hubs had to delay. DC's national airport was suffering cancelled flights. By lunchtime even the Atlanta airport - a MAJOR hub to the Southeast states - was threatening to close. Faced with a serious crisis - the collapse of the entire airline industry and the stranding of hundreds of thousands of angry travelers, not to mention every other business tied to air travel - trump seemed to cave. Just look at the timing: Nothing else - the destruction of national parks, the suffering of workers' families, the loss of public trust - made trump panic. A serious hit to our financial institutions was a serious wake-up call.

There is honest-to-God irony here. The beginning of the Grand Republican Revolution to dismantle the federal government started with Reagan and when he broke the Air Traffic Controllers' union in 1981. The heir to Reagan - trump - just broke when enough Air Traffic controllers called in the Blue Flu.

There are concerns trump will make another Shutdown attempt (since the current deal is a three-week Continuing Resolution). I doubt it.

trump has lost any political capital he had with this fight. he has access to a lot of weapons as President Loser of the Popular Vote, but every one that he used proved useless. The one nuclear option he has - declaring Emergency Powers - was one he kept threatening to deploy... but never did, possibly warned that such a move was gross overreach that would backfire on him. By ending the Shutdown fight without any concessions won, trump has nothing to trade with except more bluster and threats (which no one will believe).

If trump tries another Shutdown, all that has to happen now is the federal workers call in sick on Day One and make trump answer for the entire nation shutting down as a consequence. They all saw it. Workers may not be able to strike but they are realizing they can all punch back as one, and make that blow hurt.

trump lost ground on his approval numbers directly related to his mishandling of the Shutdown. A lot of independent voters - the ones who respect/vote for competency - will not vote for him again. If there are more Shutdowns more Americans will still believe he and the Republicans are to blame.

The frustrations among the other Republican officials during this Shutdown grew noticeable and got out to the public. While the Republicans still excel at presenting a unified facade - they still have a Fox Not News Narrative to follow - they are starting to show cracks and an unwillingness to charge into any further suicide runs.

And it's not just the politicians biting back. The Far Right punditry are outraged that trump caved (and caved so easily). President-Wannabe Ann Coulter - the one who originally bullied trump (!) into starting the Shutdown in the first place - went into Angry Panda mode. While there may be an attempt later on to pull back on the criticism to get the wingnuts to stay "on message," this is an affront the Right Wing Noise Machine will never forgive.

And the kicker: trump gave a major victory to not only Nancy Pelosi (who needed to demonstrate her authority as Speaker of the House and quash any intraparty resistance) but also Chuck Schumer  (whose earlier reputation as a bipartisan dealmaker made him look vulnerable to his Democratic base) who needed to demonstrate his resolve as Minority Leader in the Senate. By taking trump's punches - and by punching back - Pelosi demonstrated trump was beatable.

Better for Pelosi: She demonstrated the Speaker of the House still has power in the modern era, and has already earned comparisons to some of the greatest Speakers in our nation's history.

Worse for trump: Pelosi proved trump has no skill.

The "Art of the Deal" gave way to the "Power of Resistance".

Welcome to the long weekend, trump. You'll likely fume, you're likely going to tweet like a madman, you'd better check in with your lawyers about the next round of Mueller indictments.

P.S.: to the next likely targets of those indictments - Kushner and donnie junior - don't forget the FBI likes to make arrests between the hours of 11:39 PM and 6:27 AM. You will never get a good night's rest again bwhahahahahaha.

Stone In Jail

In honor of this morning's FBI raid, I present to you my best attempt at Schadenfruede.

(Sung to the tune "Stone In Love" by Journey. Sorry guys. It was either this or Little Richard's "Keep On Knocking")

Those crazy Russians, I don't remember in my email
I don't recall, those were misunderstandings, most of all
In the barrel with a G-Man Q&A
Burning files comes again in my lifetime
They found me begging in the WikiLeaks tapes
Arrested me at home, handcuffed in the moonlight

Those Brooks Brothers riots are calling
Stone in Jail
Can't help myself, Incriminating
Stone in Jail

Old Nixon habits, led to Trump Tower
Running scams
Kush pulled me in, ooh, to the elevator
We'd hold Russian meets, yeah
In the emails with a Putin buddy
Threatening witnesses puts me away for a lifetime
Oh, the memories are fading before trial
Golden Trump, I'll keep pleading the Fifth

Steve Bannon still calling
Stone in Jail
Can't lawyer up, Incriminating
Stone in Jail

Those furloughed agents are knocking
Stone in Jail
Can't answer the door, Incriminating
Stone in Jail

(Awesome guitar solo)

Stone in Jail
Kush in Jail
Bannon in Jail
Junior in Jail
trump in Jail...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Let Them Eat Gluten-Free Cake

Wait, what?

CNBC's Squawk Box asked Ross about (federal employees have been forced into food lines and homeless shelters) on Thursday, and Ross affirmed he was aware it was happening. But "I don't really quite understand why" these federal workers are out on the streets, Ross responded. "Borrowing from a bank or federal credit union" is "federally guaranteed," Ross said, so "there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against" the 30 days of pay they're missing, he finished.


Back to Kathryn Krawczyk:

Ross neglected to mention that taking out loans means paying interest. That's not exactly manageable for families living paycheck to paycheck, even if they are given back pay when the shutdown ends, as CNBC brought up after Ross' comments. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a slew of other critics pointed out, Ross is a billionaire...

This is kind of that tone-deaf thing you get from guys who have never had to sweat out living paycheck to paycheck in their lives. Except it STILL comes across as heartless toward hundreds of thousands of our own people, many of whom are forced to keep working without pay.

The Washington Post notes the Department of Commerce's own Credit Union charges 9 PERCENT on loans. That's not cheap.

And it's not 30 days of pay they're missing right now, it's 34. And it keeps going because the Republicans in Congress refuse to pass a clean budget resolution to get past trump's hissy fit for a Goddamned Wall.

And speaking of trump, when you think nobody can top Ross' tone-deaf dismissal of the peasantry, along comes the Shitgibbon to offer "Hold my beer" (via Chris Priovolos at SFGate):

"Perhaps he should have said it differently. Local people know who they are when they go for groceries and everything else, and I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that they will work along," the president said. He added that Ross has "done a great job."
Essentially trump is saying grocery stores will carry credit for people they know are regular customers.



so we got trump, arguably representing the standard bearer of global capitalism, telling our businesses to start behaving like communists. Look, I got my arguments against greed in general, and I believe Capitalism can work under regulation and towards an eye on honest behavior. This... this is just flippant disregard on the part of leaders who don't care about economic policies they just want it all.

I swear to God, the only way this day can get worse is if Marie Antoinette returns from the grave at the Davos 2019 Forum and gets in front of a camera to say "I heard Publix cake was very good nowadays."

But this is where we are at, America. Your Republican political leadership does NOT give a rat's ass about the suffering of the very people they are supposed to rely on to work for them. trump never cared for the "little people" for God's sake. The rest of the GOP hasn't concerned themselves with the well-being of ANYONE making under $200,000 a year since 1980.

That the Republicans as a group are this tone-deaf, and that they are this willing to continue the suffering of OUR nation's workforce, is a warning that they will never govern to OUR needs.

How many more red flags do you need to see this???

Just When You Thought Politics In Florida Was Going to Revert to Some Sense of Normalcy...

Just getting word on this now, BREAKING NEWS and what what. But DAMN (via Elizabeth Koh at the Tampa Bay Times)...

Newly appointed Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel has resigned from office after photos of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface were obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the paper reported Thursday.
According to the Democrat, the photos were taken in 2005, shortly after Ertel had become supervisor of elections in Seminole County, and depict Ertel in blackface, wearing a New Orleans Saints bandanna around his head and a shirt with the words "Katrina Victim" written on it.
There are photos. They are rude. I ain't showing them.

It's just (White) Boys (over the age of 35) being (White) Boys (what the everloving hell, you moranic wingnuts from the Hallowed Halls of White Privilege?).

Blackface is a troubling thing to begin with: it took Ted Danson years to recover from doing that, and he wasn't being an asshole about it.

Adding to the stupidity was even THINKING it was okay or funny to mock the thousands of actual New Orleans residents - most of them Black - dying from the flooding and lack of aid in the aftermath of one of the worst hurricanes in modern history.

And this was someone in a position of authority, a county-level official responsible for overseeing elections, showing utter disdain for a class of AMERICAN CITIZENS who just happen to be poor and wearing the "wrong" skin color.

This is a perfect example of the sadism of the modern Republican mindset. This is further proof of Serwer's contention that Cruelty is the Point.

And here I was about to write a blog entry about DeSantis' early tenure as Governor, where - I'm a bit shocked myself - he's actually been doing some sane shit for the state instead of going 100 percent Wingnut on everybody the way Rick "NO ETHICS" Scott did. Okay, DeSantis' court hires are a serious concern, but he's come out early on the right side of cleaning up the environment, which is huge around here...

But noooooo, the Florida GOP comes in and proves once again we're all getting leadership from a pack of assholes who never grew up from their drunken frat boy days.

And if you're wondering why a lot of people are throwing conniptions about Covington Catholic high school boys running around in blackface? This is why: Learned Behavior they will NEVER grow out of...

That Bubbly Sensation of Hope

I've commented on polling before. I've especially commented on how polling on trump's approval/popularity should be taken with a grain of salt because of how the Far Right adoration of him creates a false impression. For example, the fact that trump rarely if ever slid below the 40 percent approval threshold because the only number that mattered was the too-high 85-90 percent approval from just Republican voters skewing the averages.

Until now.

Referring to Martin Longman at Washington Monthly:

Until today, Trump’s approval numbers had been declining slowly but still holding at around 40 percent. A handful of recent surveys had him falling into the thirties, but they looked like outliers. But now the new AP/NORC survey has him at 34 percent and he’s fallen below the 40 percent threshold in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls. Even Rasmussen and Hill-HarrisX have Trump at his lowest mark despite being consistent outliers in his favor...

It's not so much the decline in Republican support trump has - it's still pretty high - it's from the collapse of the Non-Party/Independent voters no longer viewing trump as either/or "effective" / "harmless". In this month of trump running into the brick wall of Pelosi's Democratic House, people are starting to see how bad of a dealer - how inept of a leader - he is.

Looking at the aggregate polling of the last two years actually shows a lower point in trump's polling numbers in late 2017, but he did crawl back out of that into the low-40s where he's usually treading water.

But the likelihood his numbers went up due to the Midterms - when the voting base was invested in turnout for his Congressional allies - is probably an explanation for that rise. Now that trump is on his own again, his numbers are sliding down due to his own bad moves.

It's interesting to note how this compares to previous Presidents. Obama in particular had an oscillating polling chart of approval. But where Obama bounced between 55 percent to 45 percent approval on average, trump is bouncing between 44 to 34 percent, vastly more unpopular than any other person sitting in the White House (even Dubya had months over 50 percent approval).

That's what happens when you're the President Loser of the Popular Vote.

It's that consistency of low polling that has me feeling a bit better about the numbers. The polling for non-Republican voters have sunk to near-record lows for an incumbent Republican candidate. For all the odds that favor incumbency in re-elections, there are election cycles when incumbency can't overcome bad optics. An incumbent who never breaks over the 50 percent water margin in polling even after years in office to prove his (in)abilities isn't going to find enough voters to win again (and trump never even won a majority in the first place).

And trump can't overcome the political axiom from Machiavelli I keep referring to: Always avoid being Hated rather than Feared or Loved, because when you lose people to Hate they will never look at you otherwise and they will do everything they can to throw you out of power.

It's not the low approval numbers, it's the opposite end of the scale, the DISAPPROVAL numbers, and as long as those are at 60 percent or so, trump ain't winning anything other than the 2020 primaries (if any Republican tries to primary him, that is).

There's one other polling number to keep an eye on. Voter turnout. The reason why Dems did so well winning the U.S. House of Representatives against hard odds - Republicans pushing every voter suppression trick in the book - was because voter turnout was the highest for a Midterms (Non-Presidential) Election cycle in over 100 years:

See that sharp spike on the brown line?

Granted, it's not a guarantee the Presidential election turnout (the gray line) will go up, but there is a trend there, you should notice the charts of the two different election cycles tend to match at peaks and valleys.

If there was that sharp a swing UP in voter turnout for the Midterms, we should expect - we should work towards - a similar spike UP in the Presidential Election in 2020.

And that's not a good sign for Republicans or trump: More voters will tend to come not from the extremist voter blocs that show up no matter what, the expanded voter turnout comes from the moderate/Independent voters who are rarely encouraged to vote on their own.

If THAT moderate, Indy leaning bloc shows up to vote in higher numbers, it's usually because of one thing: THEY'RE PISSED. Let's be honest: People don't vote when they're content, they tend to vote angry. And they vote angry against the SOBs mismanaging everything (hint: name rhymes with DUMP).

The 2016 Election cycle wasn't a good indicator of that, sad to note: there was a split among Indy voters 46-42 favoring trump over Hillary. For all my hope during that election cycle, Hillary was hated enough to lose voters. But Hillary's not running this 2020. For all the Far Right will try to do painting the Democratic candidates in as bad a light as Hillary, none of them share Hillary's unfavorable numbers. trump is going to be the most hated candidate on the ticket in 2020, and as Machiavelli warns, never be that hated...

So looking at several factors - trump's unpopularity gap reaching Dubya-esque levels, trump's losing support among non-partisan voters, higher voter turnout - there is a bit of hope this morning. There is a feeling that the nation as a whole is recognizing the nightmare we're in and doing something to stop it.

I did write before that the only number that mattered was the insanely artificially high approval numbers trump got from his Far Right Republican base. Granted, that's still in effect. But all it's doing now is keeping trump out of the mid-20s approval where he deserves to be. As trump starts to hover in the mid-30s at least for longer periods of time, fellow Republicans facing their own re-election concerns are going to view trump as the millstone he is.

The only thing from that point on will be the Far Right Media's control of the Republican Party to keep everyone in line. But even that is going to break sooner or later when their own Narrative can't support a deeply unpopular bastard like trump. Already unelected overlords Coulter and Rush are looking for the lifeboats.

So, today in 2019, there is a reason to know hope.

Problem is, 2020 is still too far away on the calendar to end this nightmare fast enough.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Not-So-Open Secret Why the Far Right Hates A Working Government (w/ Update)

Update: Hello again everyone visiting from Crooks & Liars and through Mike's Blog Round-Up! I should have a "Roger Stone In Jail" article up later today on my blog if you wanna check back in later... just waiting to see if any further indictments pop up (c'mon Mueller I got good money on Kush!) Thanks, Batocchio!

Update to the Update: Not an article per se but a Schadenfreude-licious song lyric in honor of Roger's arrest: Stone In Jail (sung to the tune of "Stone In Love")

There are times when I come across an article that just needs to be shared and read in full.

Today I came across EJ Dionne's article at The Moderate Voice called "The Shutdown Trap" that is a required read:

Our core problem is a dogmatic anti-government attitude... that arose in the 1970s and ’80s. This makes it impossible for us to have a constructive debate about what government is for, what tasks it should take on, and what good it actually does.
In truth, the whole anti-government thing is fundamentally fraudulent. So is the conservative claim to believe passionately in states’ rights and local authority.
In practice, conservatives regularly vote for lots of government — so long as it serves the interests they represent. Start with farm subsidies, massive defense spending, regulations that disempower unions, and measures that sharply tilt the tax code in favor of corporate interests and the wealthy...
The shutdown reminds us that government is not the problem but the solution, or at least part of it, when it comes to many aspects of our common life.
We can see the damage done to the air transportation system, bureaus that gather useful economic statistics, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Add in the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the Forest Service and the Weather Service. And this is a very partial list.
The glee with which President Trump has talked about a shutdown for months reflects an old conservative trope: Government is so bad, plodding and, well, useless, that people won’t mind if it disappears for a while. This faith explains why Republicans were equally cheerful when they shut down the government in the mid-1990s during a budget fight with Bill Clinton’s administration...

Unspoken in Dionne's article is the animus/anger behind the anti-government outrage of the Far Right.

The Far Right hates and fears the New Deal/Great Society elements of modern government not because of its bureaucratic burdens but because those government policies fight against racial/gender discrimination and segregation. It's not that Social Security or Medicare or Federal Aid to Schools are expensive - and are they, compared to the corporate welfare and massive tax cuts we give to the rich? -  it's that those things have to be equally applied to everyone, in order to help all the poor - minorities included - break the cycle of poverty that the conservative rich rely on to retain wealth and control.

They won't admit it, but the real reason why the Republican Far Right hates federal social aid is because it's color blind. You will notice from Dionne's article that the conservative animus against government arose in the 1970s, when the post-FDR and LBJ era saw a lot of the civil rights requirements from the 1960s laws kicked in. The more federal aid went to non-White communities and services, the more the Far Right freaked out about it.

It's not about What the federal bureaucracy does (there's still bloated spending and mismanagement in the Dept. of Defense for God's sake but the Republicans don't rail against that), it's Who the federal bureaucracy serves (everyone). If the federal government suddenly dropped all civil rights protections and aid for Blacks/Latinos/Muslims/Asians/Women/Gays/Trans I guarantee you the Republicans would have no problem re-opening government because then all the money and support will go to White Men as their God intends.

Right now, trump's Shutdown is hurting families dependent on food stamps - and while poor whites are in the mix, there's a disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos - and not through slowdown on payments but from stopping stores from accepting SNAP money. trump's immigration stances - not just the Goddamn Wall but everything else - would punish Latino families, and we're still seeing trump's ICE rounding up honest American citizens (military veterans!) for deportation.

It's something deserving of a separate blog article, but Adam Serwer's Atlantic article is a must-read as well: for modern Republicans, Cruelty is the Point.

And that cruelty - fueled by racism and sexism and sheer hate - is why the trump Shutdown will not end on a happy note. The Far Right is going to keep pushing it until everyone they hate suffers.

And by then everything will be broken.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr Day 2019 (w/ Updates)

I will be part of the City of Bartow's float for today's Martin Luther King Jr parade. I'll report back how it went.

Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. - The Rev.

Update: Just got back, will upload photos as soon as possible.

Newer Update: Adding some photos with some context! For anybody who's never been in Bartow, here you go!

At the starting point near Main and Broadway

City of Bartow's official float!

High school marching band. I been there when I was in 9th Grade.
I sympathize.

When the drummers warmed up I suddenly found myself
stepping in place and rolling my feet out of habit.

Keep an eye on this house.

Gotta zoom in...

LB Brown House! A key location of African American and Floridian history.

At this point it was hard to keep up with photos because we entered the neighborhoods where families and kids were lined up for the candy handouts our float was giving. Which is kinda not what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, other than his civil rights focus on poverty and against hunger.

As for celebrating Reverend King's efforts, the city hosted an afternoon gathering at Carver Recreational Center.

As for honoring Reverend King's fight for civil rights and a better America, well that fight keeps happening every day. Get to work.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

trump's Offer Is Still Nothing

So trump tried to come up with some proposal to offer the Congressional Democrats to make himself look like a dealmaker, but tried to do it in a way where he wouldn't give up anything while still getting his precious Goddamn Wall.

And as usual, he sucked at it. Just check all of the immediate responses from key Democrats that Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice put together.

Adam L Silverman at Balloon Juice has a more detailed response of his own:

The President’s pitch this afternoon was a combination of rehashing his Oval Office address from two weeks ago with some limited sweeteners in exchange for $5.7 billion for his wall in order to try to bring the Democrats to the table and reopen the parts of the government that are in shutdown. This includes a temporary, three year DACA extension; a temporary, three year reinstatement of the Temporary Protected Status Program; and slight adjustments to the President’s hard line attempts to rewrite US law and treaty obligations in regards to those seeking asylum... 
The proposal was dead on arrival with the Democrats because the Democrats, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, seem to have finally learned that once you pay protection the first time, you never get out from under the thumb of the people running the protection racket...

Just one word there: Danegeld.

Back to Silverman:

The President’s proposal is also dead on arrival because his outside advisors and supporters feel betrayed by what he is proposing... Ann Coulter has already lambasted it... Rush Limbaugh hasn’t weighed in yet, at least not that I’ve seen, nor has Hannity or Tucker. Ingraham sort of has on her twitter feed. My guess is they’re all waiting to see how this plays so they can figure out whether they need to slam the President to get him back into line or support him against the Democrats. Coulter really only wants full on white Christian herrenvolkism, so slamming the President on this right away is easy. Regardless, this isn’t playing well with his base and I’m sure that Stephen Miller, who both channels that base to the President and is in contact with the interest entrepreneurs who manipulate it, will do what he does best behind the scenes and by the time Senator McConnell can bring this to a vote, the President will have changed his mind again and walked away from the sweeteners.
The President cannot be negotiated with because he is not a reliable negotiator, changes his mind constantly, and lies constantly. Senator McConnell cannot be negotiated with because he is not a reliable negotiator and because he recognizes no rule, norm, tradition, and/or law unless it can be manipulated to benefit him. It is easy for the Democrats to reject this proposal. If they agree to anything before Senator McConnell brings the clean appropriations and continuing resolutions to the floor that the Senate under his leadership passed 100-0 during the lame duck session in December 2018 and the President agrees to sign it before negotiations over immigration and border security start, then they have surrendered on every legislative and policy dispute for as long as the President is in office and Senator McConnell is the leader of his caucus...

We are in a sticky situation where the Democrats can't negotiate in good faith because the people running the Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith. It's not healthy for our nation, but that's the circumstances we're in now.

I said before, this #trumpShutdown is going to end with a third option, one where the federal government itself collapses either with too many agencies and services closing down (hurting millions) or with the federal workforce rising up in ways they normally can't - just found out last week federal employees can't strike, but there are so many public signs of stress that a mass strike is unavoidable at this point - and compels trump to re-open government. But that third option will break the norms of governance as well, and it won't end cleanly...

There is of course a fourth option: Mueller finishes his grand juries into Russia-trump activities and he arrests every key Republican - trump included - on the Putin Payroll (tm). But there's no guarantee of that, and DAMMIT MUELLER WE'RE WAITING WE'VE BEEN WAITING YOU'RE WORSE THAN GEORGE RR MARTIN AT THIS POINT ARRRRRRGGGHHHH.


To make a more relevant cultural reference, we keep harking back to The Godfather movies to highlight the ineptitude, greed, and overall gangster behavior of trump and his Inner Circle of handlers (AKA his kids). There has been the constant references to the lot of them being an Army of Fredos, but here I'm thinking of the scene where corrupt Senator Geary tries to extort Michael:

Except that trump is not Michael here. trump is the corrupt sonofabitch Geary. trump is trying to squeeze the Democrats here, trying to squeeze them to get every penny he can, all out of spite and racist demagoguery even as he ignores his own sinful hypocrisy.

No, the Democrats are playing Michael here, and the offer is this trump: Nothing.

And you're the one who's going to be paying...

Friday, January 18, 2019

It Will Open The Whole Thing (w/ Update)

This is some serious shit (via Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier at Buzzfeed News):

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project...

If we go by this consideration from Aaron Blake at the Washington Post:

If Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence he reportedly has — that Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress for him — it could present something that’s been missing thus far from the public domain: An event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment.
BuzzFeed News broke the story Thursday night about the alleged Trump request. The lie Cohen told is the one he has pleaded guilty to: about when efforts to secure a Trump Tower Moscow concluded. BuzzFeed reports that not only did Cohen tell Mueller’s team that Trump told him to lie, but that Mueller had evidence of this even before confronting Cohen...

That would explain how Mueller got Cohen to flip so quickly. Back to Blake:

There are important caveats here — and the story is of such significance that we need to emphasize those caveats up high. The first is that it is based upon two anonymous “federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.” The second is that Cohen’s team isn’t confirming it, despite his having flipped on Trump long ago. We also don’t know exactly what evidence Mueller has. The solidity of that evidence matters greatly in what would otherwise be a he-said, he-said situation.
But judging by the report, it sounds like Mueller just might have the goods. The key graph:
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
That sure sounds like a lot of evidence...

Agreed. All it took for Watergate to turn into Nixon's downfall was one audio recording of Nixon giving orders to interfere with the FBI's investigation of the break-in. If there's one verifiable email, one audio clip of trump doing exactly that - and Cohen is known for recording a lot of his conversations - and the Shitgibbon is caught dead to rights Suborning Perjury and committing Obstruction.

And I'm with Blake, so far this is just a report, without a lot of paperwork of its own to back it up. Until Mueller's investigators go public with what they have, this is still conjecture.

But it sure as hell puts in place one huge piece of the jigsaw puzzle. It explains why Cohen's office and personal abodes were raided with warrants specifying specific items (audio recordings). It explains why Cohen flipped faster than most other trump insiders like Flynn and Manafort (and Manafort still hasn't really flipped yet, which only tells us how deep in debt he is to Putin and Russia...).

It explains why trump hasn't shut the whole thing down like he's threatened to. Mueller probably already has something too big to hide, and closing his investigation will likely let that go public in the worst way.

It's just a question of when it all comes out. I hope to God it's soon. I hope to God it means a Presidential campaign of 2020 free of trump's malign presence.

I hope to God this is finally it.

Update: Mueller's Special Counsel office issued an official statement, disputing the Buzzfeed article. They don't go specifically into what was wrong within the article, but the statement notes the "characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate."

This could mean several things: the article itself was a screwup, relying on sources who were not in the know; the sources lied to rattle the Mueller investigation into making public statements before ready; or the details obtained were real but improperly interpreted. It is unlikely Mueller is blowing smoke here, so he and his office are pissed about something being wrong in the story.

One thing to note, most media outlets tend to run such stories - reporting on serious criminal matters involving political figures - by their Legal departments to make sure they didn't overstep or enter into Libel/Slander territories, so it's not likely the reporters made this all up. It's a question now of how well-vetted the story is. If I were Buzzfeed, I'd be questioning my sources under harsh scrutiny to find out what's not right.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

If I Gave the 2019 State of the Union Speech

Just noting at the moment that Nancy Pelosi - using her power as Speaker of the House - is NOT inviting trump to make a State of the Union speech this year before Congress.

She's publicly noting the security concerns are different this year due to the ongoing trump Shutdown, and that Secret Service protection will be less this time because of it. It's also quite likely Pelosi is doing this to fuck with trump's ego, on which point I heartily applaud.

The invitation has usually been something of a formality, and there's been times either side - the President or Congress - had openly mused about rejecting the offer out of partisan spite.

It's also become a terrific bore of a speech, if you ask pundits and historians. If the President and Congress are of the same party, it turns into one big rally with standing ovations and ego-boosting and nothing else. When it's split, the speech is pretty much a laundry list of "Oh hey let's do these things this year."

Even the Opposition Reaction speeches are useless.

Pelosi suggests trump is better off giving his State of the Union from the Oval Office, make it a televised spectacle to the nation without involving a Congressional background. It has the advantage for trump of being able to give the speech without having much of the House booing him for every lie he spills every five seconds.

So in some respects, this might actually be a good time to end what had been a meaningless spectacle. Our nation's actually done well without it for more than a century, after Washington stopped doing it after one year - he received a lukewarm response from Congress and swore never to return - until Woodrow Wilson revived it because he was the kind of President who believed a President should serve like a Prime Minister and make such appearances (also because film became prevalent and it was a good way to perform before the cameras).

But if it came to it, if I were President and I were still able to give a State of the Union speech before the entire Congressional body, what would I give?

Maybe something like this:

My fellow Americans, tonight the state of our union is... OH JESUS CHRIST IS trump STILL HERE?! GET him OUT! Grab him! Drag him back to the jail cell where he's waiting for his Obstruction trial.

Anyway, we are currently looking at repealing much of the Ryan Republican Tax Cut fiasco that has created billions in deficits rather than growth, we are struggling to improve health care coverage for more Americans, and we are waiting on the next Avengers Endgame movie to see how Spider-Man and Nick Fury get back (relax, no Spoilers, the trailers are already out for that).

We need to set higher goals and make better objectives this year in education. We've got to provide relief to millions of college students wallowing in loan debts. We've got to raise taxes at the federal and state levels to spend more money on upgrading every school for every city and every county. We've got to promise to ourselves and to our nation's future we WILL dedicate ourselves to making smarter and stronger children grow up to be better and happier adults.

We need to make a serious effort to fix every broken and aging bridge. We need to make a serious effort to clean up our water supply. We need to make a serious effort to end our carbon emissions to turn our planet away from the ecological disaster we are hurtling towards.

I want to count on every American to stand up in these coming days and weeks, for your families, for your communities, for your futures.

And now is the moment in the speech when we DANCE! BREAK OUT THE MOVES, SANDY!


...think it'll work?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How Low Will the trump Shutdown Go Day 25

This just crossed the newswire, regarding how the Republican-backed Shutdown is hurting our American workers (via NBC News):

The nation's 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members missed their scheduled paycheck Tuesday, as the only military branch to work without pay during the government shutdown.
Because the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security, it is getting no funding during the shutdown. All other parts of the military are under the still-funded Department of Defense.

Right now I can think of 42,000 families extremely pissed off at trump's obsession to force Congress to pay for his monument to his ego.

And the idea of forming a mess of a Homeland Security Department is starting to bite our own armed forces in the collective ass.

The thing about a partial Shutdown is that the longer it goes the likelier it's going to cut off other parts of the federal government that had been funded but will soon run out of money.

And this Shutdown will NOT end because the Republican leadership - not just trump but also Mitch McConnell may he rot in the deepest pit of Hell with the other traitors - profits from this destruction. This has been the political party obsessed with cutting at the federal system with a fireaxe, whittling it down to where Grover Norquist can drown it in his bathtub, and the Republicans are reveling in watching federal workers struggle to work at jobs that won't pay them and then stumbling out to the streets to beg for food.

This Shutdown won't end until it becomes perfectly clear too many people and too many families are suffering for the nation to ignore, when the workers fight back somehow and in any way they can, and there's nothing left but the tears to count.

And by then, too many will be hurting that didn't deserve any of this.

GODDAMN YOU, REPUBLICANS. Curse your dark empty hearts.