Wednesday, May 24, 2017

9th District Democratic Primary

Dan McCready
Photo Deborah
The Charlotte Observer covers the developing Democratic primary to choose a candidate to take on Republican incumbent Robert Pittenger next year in the NC-9, and the newspaper either deliberately or inadvertently gives a big boost to a new Democratic challenger, Dan McCready, an Iraq war Marine veteran and business entrepreneur.

The Observer's photo of McCready at the head of the article doesn't hurt the man's chances and presents a palpable contrast to the older and far pastier incumbent.

Christian Cano
Photo John D. Simmons
Also running in that primary -- and really continuously running for the last two-and-a-half years -- is Christian Cano, who was on the ballot in 2016 against Pittenger but managed only 41.8 percent of the vote to Pittenger's 58.2 percent. He's trying again, and he's been a constant presence on social media since last fall.

Cano is also young but not as young as McCready and is as scrappy as any Marine.

Maria Collins Warren
The other announced candidate is Maria Collins Warren, an attorney in Robeson County who teaches constitutional law classes at UNC-Pembroke and UNC-Wilmington. She has experience as a prosecutor in the Wilmington district attorney's office.

According to the Observer, at least one more potential candidate is thinking about jumping into this race.

Primaries do not have to be acid baths, and we'll hope these guys stay positive about themselves and not negative about their opponents. Congressman Robert Pittenger is the target, and he offers plenty of pulpy wood to peck at.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Arid Vocabulary of Donald J. Trump

Donald Trump has labored mightily and come up with the proper label for suicide bombers: "losers."

Trump knows from long experience that if you label your enemy correctly, you have taken care of that enemy. Boom. Done.

For the record, here are the people/things that Trump has called losers (via the wonderful GH):
Barack Obama, John McCain, Cher, Chuck Todd, George Will, Jay Leno, Jeb Bush, John Heilemann, Jon Stewart, Seth Meyers, Mark Cuban, Alex Pareene, Alex Salmond, Ana Navarro, Angelo Carusone, Arianna Huffington, Bill Maher, Bill Moyers, Brian Williams, Charles Krauthammer, Chris Cillizza, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Jackson, Chris Moody, Chuck Hagel, Danny Zuker, David Cameron, David Milne, Eric Schneiderman, Frank Lutz, Gavin Rossdale, Graydon Carter, Hisham Elzanaty, Jaqueline Goldberg, Jonah Goldberg, Karl Rove, Lawrence O’Donnell, Lord Sugar, Michael Forbes, Michelle Malkin, Mike Tollin, New York Daily News, Salon
Or take a look at the remarkable list of Trump losers that Philip Bump compiled way back in 2015.

Whatever Trump's Hiding Must Be Really Hideous

This news broke late yesterday in the WashPost:
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.
“The problem wasn’t so much [Trump's] asking them to issue statements -- it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats.

Eventually, we'll know everything about Trump and the Russians and probably a good deal more about the idiot in the White House. Robert Mueller will tell us.


Wherein We Use "Trump" and the World "Ethics" in the Same Sentence

Okay, this happened back in January: Trump signed an Executive Order (read it here) that supposedly prohibited lobbyists and lawyers hired as political appointees from working for two years on government matters that involved their former clients. In the case of former lobbyists, they could not work on the same regulatory issues they had been involved in. This was part of Trump's promise to "drain the swamp."

But -- and here's where that drain got clogged -- Trump also reserved the right to issue waivers to the rule. Obama had a similar rule and also issued waivers to it. The difference between Trump and Obama is that Obama made the waivers public, with stated justifications, while Trump is keeping his dozens of waivers perfectly secret.

Not so fast there, says the head of the Office of Government Ethics, who sent a letter to every federal agency: "What former lobbyists are working in your department under an ethics waiver?"

Have you noticed that when Trump has something dirty to hide he tries to exert the power of his office to shut down inquiry? Yes. So Trump used Mick Mulvaney to send his own letter to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, demanding that he withdraw his request for copies of the ethics waivers.

The Ethics chief wasn't having it. He replied with his own blistering 10-page letter, which essentially said, "No, sir, I will not desist from tracking the ethical compromises being practiced in secret by the Trump administration."

Trump needs to hide the fact that his swamp is stagnating rather than draining, and he took the wholly unprecedented step of trying to bully the Office of Government Ethics. Thank God there are still government employees willing to stand up for ethics.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Morning Coffee Hour: Vocabulary Drill

1. Conservative Agitator Calls Trump "An Idiot"

Reading the Sunday morning papers -- because garden work is out of the question ... it's raining (yay!) -- we respect the Grand Confluence of causes and effects. We especially respect the writing of people with smarts, who also respect language and logic, and who obviously don't have gardens to distract them.

Take Erick Erickson, who published an editorial this morning in the WashPost. Erickson is the former editor-in-chief at conservative blog Red State and was a "never Trumper." Okay. I'm listening, Mr. Erickson:
The president exudes incompetence and instability. Divulging classified information to the Russians through bragging; undermining his staff’s defense of his conduct through inane tweets; even reportedly asking the FBI director to suspend an investigation of a former adviser — all these strike me not so much as malicious but as the ignorant actions of an overwhelmed man. Republicans excuse this behavior as Trump being Trump, but that will only embolden voters who seek greater accountability to choose further change over stability. The sad reality is that the greatest defense of the president available at this point is one his team could never give on the record: He is an idiot who does not know any better.

For very current meanings, the go-to Urban Dictionary defines idiot severally. Here's one: "Someone who has a wish to shoot someone, but is pointing his gun the wrong way."

The Urban Dictionary -- I visit there often! -- also offers this definition: Idiot is "an epithet that describes anyone but you. It is a statistical certainty that there is someone out there in the planet who considers you an idiot. That person doesn't matter, of course -- he's an idiot."

The English word idiot came into the language from France, probably along with the Norman Conquest. Before France had the word, the Romans used it freely (in Latin, natch! which supplied the vocabularies for French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian). The Romans had themselves borrowed the word from the more sophisticated Greeks, who used idiotes as a snub analogous to "rube." "Ignorant dude." An idiot was an ignorant "layman" whose ignorance might prove damaging.

In other words, idiot played to class and social position. You can imagine a Roman estate administrator using the word to describe the newest shipment of slaves, sent out by the Senator from Rome to work the estate. It was a slur denoting your place in the pecking order, your relative class, and still is.

Urban Dictionary definition of class? "That thing that sluts don't have."

Class is more than money. And Trump doesn't have it.

2. Democratic Prospects

Jonathan Martin reports in today's WashPost on grassroots Democratic congressional candidates in this year's special House elections, "Outside Washington's Blazing Inferno, Democrats Seek an Agenda." The short story: Democrats out in the country, as opposed to the national party in Washington, DeeCee, have it going on, while the national party hasn't yet recovered from Clinton's defeat: "For all the misfortunes facing their foe in the White House, Democrats have yet to devise a coherent message on the policies that President Trump used to draw working-class voters to his campaign."

It ain't really about Trump -- the winning of by-elections by Democrats this year and next -- since Trump is an idiot about public policy or how the government works. It's about the problems people face in Watauga County, N.C., and Briscoe County, Tex., and Cache County, Utah, and how those problems are not being fixed in any helpful way by the ruling Republicans. None of those issues generally include the word "Russia."

Luckily, I'm not running for office. I can obsess where I please.

Friday, May 19, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Trump Said Whaaaat? To Whom?

Reporters at the New York Times got hold of a "document" that recounts in print what was said in the May 10 Oval Office meeting between Trump and the Russians, a document whose accuracy the White House communications office does not dispute.

According to the written account of the meeting, Trump bragged to the Russians that he had gotten rid of a major hindrance to US-Russian relations -- FBI Director James Comey. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said to the Russians, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump added, exhibiting more faith than a grasp of reality, “I’m not under investigation.”

So that should pretty much settle why Comey was fired: the Russian collusion investigation.

Meanwhile, the WashPost had its own piece of breaking news this afternoon: "The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter."

Trump must be thankful to be fleeing the country for the loving arms of the Saudis. But he can't stay gone forever.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Take Back Every Nice Thing I've Ever Said About Jared Kushner

This piece of leaked White House gossip, or truth, or near-truth has emerged, "according to two people familiar with the situation." When word reached the Oval Office at 5:35 yesterday that deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein had appointed a Special Counsel to investigate Trump and his campaign and other stuff, Trump's first reaction was to "fight back":
He quickly summoned his top advisers, most of whom recommended that he adopt a conciliatory stance. But his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who had pushed Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Comey, urged the president to counterattack, according to two senior administration officials.
After a brief discussion, however, the majority prevailed. Aides huddled over a computer just outside the Oval Office to draft the statement accepting Mr. Rosenstein’s decision and asserting the president’s innocence.
Later on -- last night or early this morning -- Trump began fighting back on Twitter, alleging a "witch hunt" to get him.

But, really? Kushner pushed for Comey's firing? One of the most colossal political blunders of the age, a firing which led directly to the appointment of a Special Counsel.

Why does anyone think this kid is smart?

"Donald Trump Saves the World" -- Creating Two Very Nervous Republican Senators from North Carolina

About the reported information that the Israelis shared some highly sensitive terrorist intel with Trump, and Trump promptly shared it with the Russians, the Trump White House has put out two different stories. First, it never happened. Second, it happened, but Trump had every right to declassify highly classified intel with any Tom, Dick, or Ivan he pleases.

Senator Dick Burr of North Carolina, chair of the Senate Intel Committee (which is currently rustling the covers of the Russia investigation), said almost immediately that he wanted a transcript of what was said in that Trump confab with the Russians. The American press had been barred, so Burr put in a call to the White House, which went unanswered. (According to reporting in the Boston Globe, the White House was not returning calls to "Republican allies," which is never a good sign.) When he hadn't heard a peep out of the White House for hours, Burr said, lamely, or maybe facetiously, "Maybe they're busy." (Not making this up.)

Burr continued, as quoted by Annie Linsky: ‘‘My major concern right now is that I don’t know what the president said. I’d like to think somebody from the White House who was in the room is going to get on the phone and tell me what they said.’’

Really, Dick? Hearing it from the White House is going to clear it all up?

Meanwhile, The Other NC Senator Thom Tillis, who seems to be experiencing serious stresses on the ole chassis right now, edged away ever so slightly from his president. Tillis said he wanted to know exactly what Trump handed the Russians: “If it’s information that was shared with the Russian ambassador, it seems to me it would be okay to be shared with US senators.”

That's pretty bold of you, Mr. Tillis, but the Getting Bolder By the Day Medal goes to Burr.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump's Vulnerability

Lordy! Is America great again yet?

Trump's strange affinity for Russians -- blurting out secrets that might be better kept secret -- and his raging defensiveness about the FBI's investigation into Russian collusion wounds whatever credibility he might theoretically have as Leader of the Free World.

“What we’ve really learned is either he’s worried about Russia because he’s got a significant vulnerability or he’s worried about Russia because it undermines his electoral win,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who was the communications director for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. “He’s clearly been more preoccupied with it than we understood.”

If it's the former -- "a significant vulnerability" because he's in cahoots with Putin, or some of his people were in cahoots -- then his presidency is indeed doomed. If it's the latter, then his eternally fragile ego may doom us all.