Friday, September 15, 2017

$9.99, Up in Smoke

Real Men Don't Eat Pelosi

But they do, apparently, eat Chinese with Pelosi.

That now-famous dinner at the White House two nights ago has caused a lot of indigestion among those not actually at the dinner. What did Trump agree to with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? What did he give away? What did he promise? (Not that anything he ever says or promises means squat.)

Republicans have spent many years equating the name Pelosi with political evil, and here comes Trump who breaks out the chopsticks with her. And then deals on granting amnesty to the DACA kids. Not only deals, but according to principals in the meeting, strikes a deal. With Nancy Pelosi (and, oh yes, Chuck Schumer).

It's an amnesty deal, make no mistake. Enough so that Ann Coulter tweeted, "At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?"

I think we may have finally reached a crux in testing the Trump brag: "I could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, and I wouldn't lose any supporters." He just shot the heart out of "BUILD THE WALL" chanters, didn't he?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Some of My Best Friends Are

NC House member Mike Clampitt (Bryson City) held a sparsely attended town hall meeting at Haywood Community College on the day after Labor Day, and someone produced a picture of him gleaming with pleasure amid a display of men with Confederate flags (which Confederate flag detailed below), and then someone else accused him of being "racist."

The news write-up of the confrontation drew this eye-witness comment in the Smokey Mountain News:

I was not the person who called Clampitt a racist at the meeting, but I was the one who brought up his allegiance to the flag that is NOT the official flag of the Confederacy and his being photographed willingly with the men who joined the CAnton Labor Day parade by driving their trucks sporting huge flags -- the flag of the Army of Northern Virigina, which was rejected by the leaders of the Confederacy in favor or another flag.

I asked Mr. Clampitt if he would then and there denounce racism and those who adhere to it. At first he told the long story of his ancestors on both sides and his participation in re-enactments with men
Clampitt town hall, Sept. 5
[playing] Union as well as Confederate soldiers. When he seemed to equate the importance and integrity of Confederate leaders with those of the USA -- the Union. Another audience member pointed out that the Confederates did commit treason in going to war against the US, and doing so to continue to make slaves of other human beings. No real reply addressing that incontrovertible fact.

To give context to my question, I told him about growing up in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s and watching Bloody Sunday. As a white teenager I was traumatized, but my feelings are nothing compared to what people of color in Selma must have experienced and to what they must still feel whenever they see that execrable flag, which has in every rally where KKK and other white supremacists appeared.

I told him I have no doubt at all that the flag flown by these groups IS a symbol of racism because as a white I had the misfortune to overhear what white racists in the South [say], where I've lived most of my life.

If Mr. Clampitt and his fellow family history buffs want to commemorate their heritage, why not do it accurately by using the real flag the Confederacy adopted instead of the one that sickens those of us who have seen or experienced racism?

Waiving Goodbye To Ethics in Trumpland

Trump got rid of Walter Shaub two months ago, and look what happened! New livestock at the trough.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE), which Shaub used to head -- and honorably -- has "quietly decided" to allow Washington lobbyists to donate anonymously to legal slush defense funds for Trump aides who are caught up in the Russian investigation.

Hmmm. Ethics rules, "changed quietly." As in, Maybe we can get away with it?

They didn't get away with it. The guys over at noticed. Just hours ago.

The Walter-Shaub-less Ethics Office has decided to let lobbyists make essential business investments by "giving to the needy," that is, slipping the White House staff a little baksheesh donation, and doing it anonymously [wink wink]. The quiet change in the rules "raises the potential for hidden conflicts of interest or other ethics trouble" (Darren Samuelsohn). 

No kidding.

“You can picture a whole army of people with business before the government willing to step in here and make [the legal debt] go away,” said Marilyn Glynn, a former George W. Bush-era acting Ethics Office director with 17 years experience.

Who Was Walter Shaub? And Why We Should Mourn Him

Walter Shaub
Claire Harbage, NPR
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) exists as a weak watch-dog with no enforcement power. It's supposed to needle and head-off members of the Executive Branch to keep them from profiting from their government positions. (I know. In TrumpWorld, who isn't profiting? Sometimes in truly mendacious ways: Steven Mnuchin can get a government plane for his honeymoon and another one to rubberneck the full eclipse in Kentucky. It goes on. Jared Kushner has been fumbling around for a super-rich foreigner to bail him out of 666 Madison Avenue, and his family's real estate business cashed in on his prominence with rich Chinese. (Please try to convince me that Donald J. Trump isn't actively on the phone with Don Junior and Eric about the family business.)

So Walter Shaub, who's a complicated public servant, was appointed director of the Ethics Office in 2013. It would have been a five-year term. Shaub, who certainly knows the largely unenforceable rules, told the White House back in January that it shouldn't continue to conceal the details of certain conflict of interest "waivers" granted Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and others, giving them the right to earn political consulting money on the side while also working for Trump. "Waivers are considered public documents, but the Trump White House had been holding them back, saying OGE lacked the legal authority to require disclosure."

Even before that, Shaub had been a pain in the ass and probably should have stayed off Twitter -- that sweet marshmallow into which many have sunk. After Trump made it clear in January that he would not be divesting his businesses, Shaub went in for a little political sarcasm. He mimicked Trump's Twitterstyle: "Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, good for America!" Probably shouldn't have done that.

About 10 days before Trump's inauguration, Shaub spoke publicly about Trump's proposed plan for supposedly avoiding conflicts of interest (Trump said he'd move his business interests into a trust -- not at all a "blind" one -- run by his two oldest sons and a longtime business associate). But with Trump Himself the sole beneficiary of that trust, Shaub said it was a very bad idea. And a shocking departure from the policies of previous White Houses.

The White House was running over him, around him, under him. So Shrub resigned.

Fine by us, the White House said. And immediately set about making life easier.

Flippin' Awesome!

If a Democrat can flip an Oklahoma state House district that went to Trump last fall by 10 points, then just about anything can happen. Okla-frickin'-homa.

On Tuesday, in a special Oklahoma House race to replace a Republican who resigned to take a better job, school teacher Jacob Rosecrants beat some Republican businessman by more than double the margin that Trump won over Hillary in the same district last fall. Rosecrants buried his Republican opponent by 21 points.

Holy crap. Oklahoma. Where the wind comes whistling down the plain.

Also on Tuesday, another formerly Republican safe seat in New Hampshire flipped Democrat in another special election, in a district that went to Trump last fall by 16 points.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A New Political Party? Where Will the Refugees Go?

When one of the two major political parties gets in trouble, there's always talk of "third party." It's happening now to the Republicans. Jeremy Peters is out this morning with a piece in the NYTimes, wondering if Trump's about to brand a new property political party. (What shall we call it? "The Trump Party"? Or just "Trump"? "Trumpists"? "Trumpeters"? (In fairness, probably should be named for Bannon, its brain. How about The Bannonarians? Or how about White Nation?)

Bannon intends to make it happen. He's got his "weapons" back, he's leveled on his targets, and he's blasting away at the Republican establishment. McConnell, bam! Ryan, boom! He intends to take them and others down. Trump is the party now. You cannot oppose Trump. There are consequences.

Sen. Bob Corker
Like for Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. There's a rumor Bannon's prepared to support a primary opponent against Corker. Trump has attacked him on Twitter. Why? Corker publicly and on camera said that Trump had not demonstrated the “stability” or “competence” necessary to effectively lead the nation.

Now Corker is very publicly wondering if he'll even run for his Senate seat. It would only be his third term. He seems smart, level-headed, fair (though I don't prefer his votes). But he stood up to The Leader, and that makes Corker an untouchable.

Didn't Bannon just say on some Sunday interview show that Gov. Chris Christie got pushed out of Trump's inner circle because Christie didn't react well to the "Access Hollywood" tape? You remember, you do -- Trump struttin' in the locker room for the much younger Billy Bush. For the record -- and because I think we're mature enough now -- here is the unedited, unexpurgated transcription of part of what Trump bragged to Billy Bush:
“I moved on her and I failed – I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her, she was married. And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said: ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phoney tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
Christie had faced a camera back when that tape came out and said he couldn't support Trump unless he apologized. Trump didn't apologize, and Christie "didn't make the plane."

You know who else is gone who just coincidentally also denounced Trump over the "pussy-grabbing"? Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He said at the time, "I'm out. I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president." Strangely, "I'm out" proved prophetic in another way. Chaffetz left Congress suddenly, earlier this year. One of the most active and ambitious of House Republican conservatives ... retires mid-term. That's strange. There's been no hint that Trump/Bannon bullied him, but makes you wonder.
And look at the other battlefield casualties -- representatives of what may eventually be called "The Republican Party" again, refugees from Trumpland who finally got fed up with the wrongheadedness, the ignorance, and the bullying. I count four House Republicans, three in the last five days, who've backed out of running for reelection, four members who would have had a decided edge for reelection, but who are fed up: 
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. When she announced her retirement back in April, she made a point of insisting, in front of cameras, that she’s not leaving Congress "because of her differences" with President Trump or with the direction of the Trump administration. But note: Ros-Lehtinen has been "one of the most vocal moderate Republican critics of the White House and the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who said she didn’t vote for Trump last year, has disagreed with the president on deportations, transgender rights and budget cuts, and with House Republicans on healthcare" (Miami Herald).
Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.). Trott just announced yesterday. He's always been a so-called moderate. He's rich, from a suburban district that leans Republican, but he's had a "rocky relationship" with Trump. After Trump's equivocation about the "many fine people" who had associated themselves with neo-Fascism in Charlottesville, Trott said Trump should perhaps "stick to golf." Trott ... gone, after only two terms. He would have had the incumbent's advantage next year, unless he got primaried. (Dum-dum-DUMB)

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). Dent, who's been a favorite on-camera interview target for MS-NBC, has been an outspoken Trump critic. His retirement statement (in part): “I’ve worked to instill
stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I’ve fought to fulfill the basic functions of government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default. Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) Reichert is no Republican spring chicken. He's 67. He's represented his Washington State district for seven terms -- 14 years. But he decided it was time to exit. He had faced raucous town hall crowds in August, and Democrats were already lining up to battle each other in a primary for the privilege of knocking Reichert's lights out in 2018.

As the Republican Party splinters, there'll be more sudden retirements. Watch for it.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac Whipped by Hurricane Winds

The US Congress passed the debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey relief bill yesterday, and Trump quickly signed it. In the US House, some 90 Republicans voted against it, including Madam Virginia Foxx, who's rarely (ever?) voted to help anybody caught in a catastrophe.

Those 90 Republicans, and a good number of other Republicans who ended up voting for the "deal" hatched between Trump and the Democratic leadership but who actually and actively hated it because it was a deal hatched between Trump and the Democratic leadership, made their displeasure known earlier in the day when Trump's top lieutenants came to Capitol Hill to woo them.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, got booed. Steven Mnuchin, his treasury secretary, got hissed at. “[Mnuchin's] last words, and I quote, was, ‘Vote for the debt ceiling for me,’ ” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who leads a group of conservative members. “That did not go over well in the room at all …. His performance was in­cred­ibly poor.”

Said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after the vote with its 90 Republican defections, “If I ever as leader or as speaker had 90 members vote against one of the easiest bills to vote for, which is disaster assistance, you know they have a philosophical problem with governance.”


Friday, September 08, 2017

BOGged Down

How do you destroy a great educational institution?

One 28-member Board of Governors at a time, when it's packed with political hardliners and hacks who care more about ideological posturing than they do about education.

UNC BOG meeting yesterday.
Spellings is 2nd from right.
Photo Julia Wall, News&Observer
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors met yesterday, and a radical majority of right-wing Republican members -- almost all the members are Republican -- pushed through surprise resolutions that had not been shared in advance. The thrust of those resolutions was clearly aimed at undermining the authority of UNC System President Margaret Spellings, who was just appointed in 2015 (amid plenty of controversy).

Jane Stancill captured the action yesterday for the News&Observer.

Among the most destructive decisions was the vote to prohibit the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights from pursuing legal remedies for low-income and minority groups or for individual citizens. As a result, the Center will close and pursue its activities elsewhere. The Center was funded entirely by outside contributions anyway. The BOG isn't saving money by smashing the Civil Rights Center; it's merely signaling its political hostility to equal rights.

It's the old Confederacy reasserting itself, and that plantation mentality appears to be at heart the animus toward President Margaret Spellings. When the statue of Confederate symbol "Silent Sam" was becoming a flashpoint on campus, Spellings reached out to Governor Roy Cooper for advice and help in keeping order. The Republican hardliners, who intend to keep the sacred flame of the slaveholding South burning bright, were deeply offended. These 15 members of the BOG, which includes several hard-right former members of the General Assembly, signed a sharp letter of warning to Spellings:
Harry Smith
Jim Holmes
Marty Kotis
David Powers
Alex Mitchell
Philip Byers
Mike Williford
Thom Goolsby
Pearl Burris-Floyd
Wendy Murphy
Bob Rucho
Randy Ramsey
Kellie Blue
Tom Fetzer
Bill Webb
The cabbage worms are eating the cabbage from the inside out.