Friday, June 23, 2017

Answering 'Anonymous'

"Anonymous" down-column asks, in rage and self-righteousness, if I, JW, thinks that he, rich taxpayer, should be required to pay for my health insurance.

Yes. Yes I do.

I believe that the social compact of "we the people" calls on all of us to take care of all of us. I believe that health care is a right of the people, along with a quality education and clean water and unpolluted air, and I believe that all of us have an obligation to pay, and I have been paying all my life the taxes that help insure all of the above, although I don't have children in school and don't have a parent in a nursing home and don't have a bottled water business nor a travel agency that depends on clear skies.

I have never been a resentful taxpayer, and I've never enjoyed hearing the resentments of others, especially coming from the very rich who have benefitted rather demonstrably from the social contract that they so deeply loathe. The very idea that some poor person might be enjoying life a fraction more because of the taxes they pay fills them with yellow bile. Their resentment, considering their own multitude of economic blessings, strikes me as unAmerican and -- I was raised on the Bible -- profoundly unChristian.

Holy Crap

[The Senate dismantling of Obamacare unveiled yesterday] would also repeal most of the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for expanded coverage, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent in a measure that would also slice billions of dollars from Medicaid, a program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but also almost two-thirds of people in nursing homes. A capital-gains tax cut for the most affluent Americans would be retroactive to the beginning of this year. ("Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid")
The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. ("Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill")
How many Watauga County citizens have relatives in nursing homes who rely on Medicaid? How many Trump voters?

Trump recently criticized the House bill dismantling Obamacare as "mean," and he also said recently that he wanted more "heart" in the Senate bill. Yesterday on Twitter, he was crowing what the marvelous bill the Senate had produced. Pretty soon it's gonna start raining kittens!

Trump doesn't know a thing, and his opinion actually does not matter to the people running Congress. The people running Congress are all about making the rich more comfortable. They don't give a shit about your grandmother in the nursing home.

Virginia Foxx is responsible. Thom Tillis and Dick Burr are responsible. They are the proximate cause that you're allowed to do something about.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Feel Good, Part 3

Look at just one of the quality candidates who are right now standing up to run for Congress next year.

Randy Bryce is a Wisconsin ironworker who's challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan. This is his campaign announcement video:

Some Democrats have complained that Jon Ossoff (of George-6 losing fame) was not sufficiently of the 6th district. They won't be saying that about Randy Bryce.

And maybe Paul Ryan is as unbeatable as Karen Handel proved to be. I don't care. Maybe Bryce's prior unsuccessful attempts to win office will also sink him this time. I don't care. I'm proud of the man who stands up for workers against what the Republicans are hatching at this very hour to deny health insurance to millions.

I'm proud of the man who made that video.

I Feel Good, Part 2

Numbers from Tuesday:

Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th District by about 10,000 votes and nearly four percentage points. Republican "outside groups" spent $18 million smearing Ossoff as Pelosi's puppet and defending a congressional district where Republican candidates have won easily for decades. Eighteen million bucks for a 10,000-vote margin.

Also on Tuesday, an "obscure Democrat,"Archie Parnell, came within 3,000 votes of capturing a solidly Republican congressional district in South Carolina. Few observers expected that showing, and fourteen Democratic male babies born on Wednesday morning were promptly named Archie. And two female babies.

Nick Everhart, a Republican strategist in Ohio, warned fellow Republicans against chest-thumping and the complacency which often follows ego inflation. He reminded fellow Republicans that up to this point -- after just four special elections -- Republicans have been beating Democrats "only on solidly red turf."

“To pretend that there are not serious enthusiasm-gap issues with the G.O.P. base and, more crucially, independents fleeing, is missing the lessons that need to be learned before truly competitive seats are on the board,” Everhart said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Feel Good About the Special Congressional Elections

I've seen enough of fellow Dems beating up on the usual suspects for Ossoff's loss last night in the 6th District of Georgia ... blaming Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton herownself, and of course the young whippersnapper Jon Ossoff (whose greatest sin, other than all that money, IMO, was living outside the district). But enough of all that blame.

I feel good about the four special elections we've recently witnessed ... in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, and (also last night) in South Carolina for Mick Mulvaney's vacated seat (Archie Parnell did great, coming much closer than Ossoff in the most dismally Republican district you could ever deliberately draw).

All four Democrats lost, yes, but they lost in congressional districts the like of which Democrats will not have to win in 2018 to take back the House. Those four safe Republican districts -- and dozens of others like them -- will not have to be fought in and successfully challenged for Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House again (and, yes, I wish for someone new in that role).

The closeness of those four races, with previously unknown Democratic candidates coming closer than any Democrat in years -- decades, in some cases -- provides a trend line that might sober up all the Trumpettes who've been celebrating Karen Handel's win in Georgia like it totally settles the issue of Trump's drain on the Republican Party.

But puff pastry gotta puff, forgetting how wholly fragile that particular baked good tends to be.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Headhunters in Search of Smaller Heads

On Trump's problems recruiting qualified candidates to fill top administration jobs:
“He just threw Jeff Sessions under the bus,” said Bill Valdez, a former senior Energy Department official who is now president of the Senior Executives Association, which represents 6,000 top federal leaders, referring to recent reports that the president is furious at the attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. “If you’re working with a boss who doesn’t have your back, you have no confidence in working with that individual.”
And this:
Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking head-hunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage, according to 27 people The Washington Post interviewed to assess what is becoming a debilitating factor in recruiting political appointees.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Will Ignorance Destroy Trump Before His Arrogance Does?

According to White House insiders who talked to reporters, Trump views Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "less as executors of law than as salaried staff."

As "salaried staff," those guys should buckle to the CEO, should jump on command, should do the bidding of the emperor of ice cream before the ice cream melts in the political heat.

That in a nutshell is what's wrong with Trump -- the coupling of towering arrogance with a complete ignorance of how our government works -- that law enforcement is not the handmaiden of a bumptious executive but a check on executive power.

Whoever said that ignorance can't kill?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Congratulations, Mr. President! You're Now Under Investigation. It'll Be the Greatest Investigation Ever Undertaken By Mankind

At 6:22 p.m. yesterday, the Washington Post flashed the news -- confirmed by several anonymous sources -- that special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. This information comes hard on the heels of that other leaked information that Trump wanted to fire Mueller.

At 6:55 a.m. this morning, Trump tweeted:
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
The following response quickly appeared on Twitter:
Good question! If everything to do with the special counsel is mere fake news, why indeed appear constantly to cover it all up, deflect attention away from it, and fire a troublesome FBI director who refused to kiss the ring and pledge his loyalty?

The WashPost scoop linked above also reports that investigators have been looking "for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates." Hasn't it always been about money with the guy at the top, and presumably his associates too? Many dots would appear to connect Trump to Russian oligarch money, which would be the main reason IMO to "collude" with Russians. Piles of cash!

I believe Robert Mueller is following the money as well as the obstruction. When a president reacts to any mention of Russia's interference like a man who's just felt a hot branding iron next to his thigh -- that's suspicious.
"You're the greatest thing that's ever happened,
and everything you do is intentional!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump and the "Possibility of Being Fired"

White House leakers have been talking again, and what we learn (via Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis) is that Trump really did want to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but White House chief of staff Reince Preibus and White House counsel Donald McGahn talked him out of it.

Doug Mills, New York Times
Jared Kushner, who had taken the lead in getting FBI director James Comey fired, was noticeably quiet about the firing of Mueller, since his bright idea about firing Comey had backfired and ballooned into the appointment of Mueller.

Trump is in a rage about Mueller. The gold drapes in the Oval Office have turned turd-brown, and everything the president puts in his mouth tastes like used dental floss.

Trump's BFF Christopher Ruddy made the president's intention of firing Mueller public Monday night in a television interview. Ruddy is now saying that he did that in order to prevent Mr. Trump from "making a rash decision." For which Ruddy is now on the outs with Dear Leader:
“Ruddy is nothing more than a journalist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, echoing the president’s sentiments, according to West Wing aides.
Ruddy is CEO of Newsmax Media.

Yesterday, during a noon-time meeting at the White House with Republican members of Congress, Trump was asked by reporters if he supported Mueller, and he refused to answer. Then this:
The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration.
Trump apparently thinks that he's successfully intimidating Mueller. He also apparently thinks that toadies who praise him to his face on cue are being sincere. Any man this stupid should not have access to the nuclear codes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Stroke My Monkey! Stroke It!"

Doug Mills, New York Times
"Beware" -- my mother always said -- "beware the man who can't be embarrassed."

There they were yesterday, the unembarrass-able men (and a very few women) of Trump's cabinet, reciting their pre-written words of adulation and fawning praise for Donald Trump, one by one and very obediently, like craven underlings in Kim Jong-un's palace guard.

Good God! Trump demanded the ritual ass-kissing, and he got his ass royally kissed. According to eye-witness Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "the president went around the table asking for a statement from each cabinet member. One by one, they said their names and — as if working to outdo one another — paid homage to Mr. Trump, describing how honored they were to serve in his administration."

Only Defense Secretary Jim Mattis diverged from the approved script. He praised the troops rather than Trump. Trump was "stern-faced" with Mattis, whereas in response to all the other fawning lickspittles, Trump "sat smiling, nodding his approval." “Thank you, Mick,” he told Mick Mulvaney, his budget director. “Good job,” he told Scott Pruitt, his E.P.A. chief. “Very good, Daniel,” he said to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. And so on.

This scene of gross ego-stroking reminds me of Shakespeare's King Lear's demanding to know which of his three daughters loves him most in Act I Scene 1. How did that work out for him during the rest of the play?

Senate Republicans Risk Getting All Up in Trump's Grille Over Russia Sanctions

Set to go to a vote this week in the US Senate -- new sanctions on Russia, particularly sanctions based on Russian interference in our election, and there's even a stinger in the tail aimed squarely at the man in the White House: The bill contains a provision that the president cannot scale back sanctions without going through Congress first.

When asked if Trump is on board with this proposal, Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Bob Corker "hesitated," noting: “I have to believe that the administration has to at least strongly consider supporting this.”

And anyway, Corker added, "he was sure the measure could receive a veto-proof level of support in the Senate."

Whoa! A Republican senator -- from Tennessee! -- throwing down a veiled dare to the Republican president about veto-proof majorities for punishing Russia. I believe the ground just started sliding.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Republican Senators Have Apparently Signed a Suicide Pact

Greater in His Own Mind Than Anywhere Else

At a cabinet meeting this morning, Trump bragged: “I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of [Franklin D. Roosevelt], he had a major depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done, between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated. Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed.”

Sound right to you? Sound accurate in substance to you?

Trump wants to count all those executive orders as "getting things done," when they really do nothing more than pounding the presidential desktop would achieve. They're "aspirational," but until Congress acts, most of those executive orders are literally not worth the fancy binders that contain them.

Here are the actual facts, through June 12th, counting all legislation signed, no matter how insignificant or routine:

Hattip: WashPost

Trump might have more accurately bragged, “I will say that never has there been a president who has bragged more about less than me."

Cock-Blocked: Comey Was Not the Only Law Enforcement Official Trump Was Trying to Dominate

Preet Bharara
As U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District -- which just incidentally includes Trump Tower in Manhattan -- Preet Bharara had a reputation as a "tenacious and bipartisan prosecutor." He indicted 17 prominent New York politicians for malfeasance, including 10 Democrats. He prosecuted insider trading cases, including one against disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.

Preet Bharara was fired from his US attorney's post by Trump very shortly after Trump had promised he would keep him on and also very shortly after Bharara stopped accepting phone calls from Trump, because he deemed those calls "inappropriate." Some things Trump said or implied made Bharara "uneasy."

Bharara says that never during the seven-plus years he served as US attorney under Barack Obama did the president ever call him on the phone to talk about a case. Shortly after his firing, it came out that Bharara was overseeing an investigation into questionable stock trades by Trump's new secretary of health and human services Tom Price. Bharara will not say if those calls from Trump were about Price or about something else that Bharara was poking into that Trump didn't want him to poke into.

After James Comey testified in Congress about Trump's trying to influence his investigation into Michael Flynn's ties to Russian intelligence, Preet Bharara told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that Comey’s account “felt a little bit like deja vu. And I’m not the FBI director,” he said, “but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.”

Trump called Bharara several times, trying to “cultivate some kind of relationship” with him, according to Bharara, making Bharara uneasy enough to report the calls to the chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who did precisely nothing about it, obviously). Bharara says he was dismissed from the prosecutor’s job 22 hours after he finally refused to take a call from the president.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Donald Trump Is Done

They told us he was smart. He ain't smart.

They told us he was shrewd. He ain't shrewd.

They told us he was clever. He ain't clever.

There may be months and even years more to come of this presidency -- unless and until the Republican Party grows weary of the dead weight -- but this man in the White House has cemented himself as in history as The Biggest Loser.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Charting a Path Back to Representational Government

RALEIGH  -- Gov. Roy Cooper, trying to put pressure on lawmakers to redraw state House and Senate election maps within the next two weeks, said he would call for a 14-day special session of the legislature.
The session Cooper plans to call would run simultaneously with the ongoing regular session, which is due to end some time this summer. He said such a concurrent session is rare but not unprecedented.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that found 28 legislative districts to be illegal racial gerrymanders that diluted the overall influence of black voters.... [Anne Blythe reporting in the Raleigh News & Observer]
In response to the news above, Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action, issued the following statement:
“This illegitimately elected General Assembly led by Phil Berger and Tim Moore has held power for the better part of a decade, thanks to unconstitutional electoral maps that intentionally dilute the voices of minority voters. During that time, lawmakers have passed countless unconstitutional laws that have cost our state millions of dollars in legal fees and made North Carolina a global pariah, thanks to discriminatory actions such as HB2 and the monster voter suppression law. Letting an illegitimate General Assembly continue passing unconstitutional laws for even one more day is too long. These maps should be redrawn immediately, and the state should hold special elections as soon as possible. Furthermore, it is long past time for North Carolina to move to an independent redistricting system, to make sure this gerrymandering end-run around democracy can never happen again.”

Monday, June 05, 2017

U.S. Supremes Confirm Lower Court: 28 NC House & Senate Districts Were Illegally Gerrymandered

The justices affirmed the ruling of a three-judge panel per curiam, meaning they were unanimous in agreeing that 28 NC House and Senate districts were illegal racial gerrymanders.

But the justices vacated the lower court's order that redistricting and special elections must happen immediately (meaning in 2017).

The case is remanded back to the three-judge panel, which actually could still decide that the injustice of the gerrymandering warrants elections this year. But no one's holding his/her breath.

Democrats only need to win three House seats or six Senate seats to eliminate the Republicans' veto-proof lock on the General Assembly.

But ... per curiam! Meaning that Alito and Thomas and (we assume) Gorsuch all saw the obvious and could not bring themselves to countenance the NC Republican power grab.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Unicorns Making a Comeback: The Environmental Wisdom of DJT

WASHINGTON -- It's official. Climate change denial is now national policy. 

The United States of America affirmed today that global warming is a hoax, placing climate change on its list of debunked “theories” alongside evolution, gravity, magnetism, prime numbers, light waves, bacteria, atoms, and menstruation. 

No word yet on the administration's position on the flatness of the earth, the use of leeches as a cure for palsy, or the stoning of virgins to increase crop yield. However, the White House has confirmed that the sun is, in fact, a flaming chariot pulled by three Carpathian boars, and that tornadoes are caused by the wrath of the barley god Kubabanush. 

In other news, the U.S. Naval Observatory has re-set the national clock to the year 1017.

But seriously, folks:
(1) It's not economy-versus-environment; that's a false dichotomy, because alternative energy is providing more new jobs than traditional energy; 
(2) The Paris Accords were not a business "deal"; they were a general, evolving agreement; 
(3) The Accords were incredibly loose and open-ended; there was absolutely no practical gain in pulling out; 
(4) The Accords were flawed, but they were a start; pulling out just hurts the momentum and makes a terrible symbolic statement; 
(5) This action is a big blow to the U.S. as leading world power; it quickly makes us a marginalized outlier and opens a vacuum for others (including China) to fill; 
(6) The pullout won't be final until 2020 anyway (hint hint).
(Hattip: My friend JK)

Friday, June 02, 2017

Next Stop: NC Supreme Court

The same three-judge panel which ruled in March that the NC General Assembly had overstepped its bounds in rewriting the composition of the State Board of Elections (among other things) has now decided that it doesn't have jurisdiction over the constitutionality of the law, dismissing Governor Roy Cooper's lawsuit against it.

Cooper intends to appeal to the NC Supreme Court.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Trump to America: "Turns Out, Swamp Creatures Have to Eat Too!"

Just out this morning -- news that Trump has issued ethics waivers to at least 16 employees who are also former lobbyists. They have been given permission to "work on policy matters they handled while employed as lobbyists or to interact with their former colleagues in private-sector jobs."

Who got the waivers and why? According to reporting in the NYTimes, here are some of them:
Michael Catanzaro, who until January was registered as a lobbyist for companies including Devon Energy, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy, a coal-burning electric utility. "Catanzaro moved from lobbying against Obama-era environmental rules to overseeing the White House office in charge of rolling back the same rules, an activity permitted by his waiver."
Shahira Knight, who had been a lobbyist for Fidelity Investments and now serves as a special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy — the same topic she had lobbied on while working for Fidelity, one of the largest retirement-investment companies in the United States.
Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, along with four other former lawyers and another former employee from Jones Day — the law firm that handled compliance matters and other legal issues for the Trump campaign -- has a waiver to "communicate" with his old firm.
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who was an executive at Breitbart News, got a special waiver that was retroactive to January 20, which eliminated an apparent ethics problem for Bannon, who had continually advised Breitbart editors after the inauguration on what they should publish about Trump.
The ethics waivers released last night -- following blunt pressure from the Government Ethics Office -- apply only to White House employees. Still hanging out there are unknown ethics waivers granted to new employees in federal departments and agencies.

Trump promised repeatedly to "drain the swamp" and limit the influence of lobbyists in Washington. Instead, he's doing precisely the opposite. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said, “They [the Trump administration] are circumventing what they touted as their signature ethics achievement. It’s utterly at odds with candidate Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ rhetoric and it suggests that the Trump executive order is not worth the paper it is written on.”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Our Idiot Will Make the U.S. a Rogue Nation

Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, Darren W. Woods, is strong in his defense of this nation's remaining a part of the Paris climate agreement. Woods is part of a "nearly united corporate front" that's been urging Trump not to withdraw from the agreement. “By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets,” a host of corporate giants, including Woods, wrote in full-page advertisements that ran recently in The New York Times, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

But Steve Bannon is evidently back in the driver's seat in the Oval Office, and CBS News is reporting just now -- or confirming -- that Trump will indeed announce that he is withdrawing us from the Paris agreement.

Environmentally oriented groups like Ceres, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions have brought together big companies like Apple, Ingersoll Rand, Mars, National Grid and Schneider Electric to appeal to the president to stay in. Many of them operate globally and worry that if the United States abandons the deal, it would be harder to operate in existing markets and break into new ones.
But, never mind. Trump means to pander to the ignorance of his greedy, short-distance sprinters (Donald much prefers a golf cart to walking anyway), and he will make the United States the newest pariah on the planet.

How far above sea level is Mar-a-Lago?

"Can-Do" Kushner's Back Channel

Kevin Siers cartoon, Charlotte Observer, May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Election Board Power Grab by Republicans Goes to Trial This Thursday

Three-judge panel will hear the case about whether the Republican-controlled General Assembly can take away Governor Roy Cooper's ability to appoint the State Board of Elections ... starting this Thursday.

Stay tuned!

NCGOP Continues Its Assault on Ballot Access

If you've gotten forgetful about all the court decisions throwing out various Republican voter suppression laws in North Carolina, and the fact that -- left without their massive voter suppression law -- the Republicans in the General Assembly are busily cooking up a whole new voter I.D. law that they won't let anybody see, then William Wan's piece of journalism from yesterday will be most helpful to your understanding.

Buried deep in that article is this sentence (if you've been waiting for that other shoe to drop):
North Carolina legislators are anxiously awaiting yet another Supreme Court decision that could come this week and would determine whether North Carolina will hold special elections this year for many redistricted legislative seats that federal judges found were racially based and unconstitutional.
At this late calendar date, no one really believes that the Supreme Court (even without Gorsuch participating) is going to order new Congressional elections this year in North Carolina. But you never know.

One thing is certain. While Republicans hold power in Raleigh they intend to stomp on as many people as possible. They intend to grab power and abuse power and misuse power until we the people take that power away from them.

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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Dance Monday

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Republicans' appeal on trying to save North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law this morning, which means the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which struck down the law as unconstitutional last summer, will stand. In addition to its racially targeted voter ID provisions, the overturned law also banned same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting and severely reduced early voting including on Sundays.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Comey Refused To Kiss the Godfather's Ring

Thanks to the reporting of Michael S. Schmidt, we now know that within a week of his inauguration, Trump was trying to obstruct the FBI's Russia probe. Seven days after his inauguration, Trump "summoned" FBI Director James Comey to the White House for dinner and in effect demanded that Comey kiss his ring:
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
That Comey would not buckle to that implied threat is the reason for his firing and also the reason Comey's reputation will rise while the godfather's can only go lower.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trump's Presidency Unraveling Faster Than an Old, Rotten Cardigan

So Trump has said twice now that ex-FBI Director James Comey told him, the president, that he wasn't under investigation -- three different times. At least one of those times, according to Trump's own admission, was after Trump asked Comey, "Am I under investigation?"

Number One: If Comey indeed answered a question like that, then Comey should have been fired for that, for talking about FBI investigations to anyone, let alone a possible target of the investigation.

Number Two: If Trump indeed asked that question, which is much more believable than Number One, then Trump was committing a breach of FBI protocol (if not the actual law itself) -- the boss of the chief investigator exercising improper interference and influence by asking that question. There's always a presumption of improper meddling, of intimidation, of trying to sway the investigator away from the trail of evidence, especially when a president asks such questions of a man he can fire off the investigative job.

Number Three: Trump's version of his conversations with Comey is a tale told by an idiot. There's a living person with far greater public integrity than the idiot in question who is now waiting out there to finally speak and to correct the record and to assert that the president is a liar. That will happen in time.

I say it again: Trump is just plain dumb. Not just "inexperienced dumb," but two-dollar-dog, you-can't-fix-this dumb.

Another example? Trump keeps the American press far away from the Oval Office while he's palling around with the Russians, because he wants to hide from the American people that he's palling around with the Russians on the day after he fired the man who was investigating just how chummy he might have been with the Russians. And the Russians themselves release the photos that Trump didn't want us to see.

Just plain dumb.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, D. Trump, and 
Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak ...
in the Oval Office hours ago.
Photo courtesy of the Russian Foreign Ministry

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump Indicts Himself

Just how stupid can Donald J. Trump be?

The firing of James Comey as FBI Director should guarantee the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the entire Russia-Trump nexus.

The firing certainly cements the impression that Trump has much to hide and is desperate to hide it. Even the Republican stone wall in Congress is showing pressure cracks.

The "company line" that Comey was fired because of his bungling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation just doesn't wash, not even on laundry Tuesday. It's laughable, and everybody is gleefully showing those multiple clips of Trump praising Comey for his "guts," getting in front of cameras last summer to excoriate Clinton.

We heard the news late yesterday afternoon, and a wise old political hand immediately said, "Well, that goose is cooked."

Trump lit the fire.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Senator, Is That the Cookie Jar in Your Hand?

Ralph Hise
NC Senator Ralph Hise, who represents the neighboring 47th District (Mitchell, Yancey, McDowell, Madison, Rutherford, and Polk counties), was first elected to the General Assembly in the 2010 Tea Party steam bath. He has recently risen like the cream-of-corruption to the top of the tea kettle.

In March of this year, independent researcher and gadfly Greg Flynn filed complaints with the State Board of Elections about irregularities and apparent violations of elections law he found in Senator Hise's campaign finance reports:
Excess repayment of personal loans (Hise appears to have pocketed some $10,000 in extra cash)
Incomplete contributor information (missing addresses, names of employers, etc.)
Unitemized disbursements
"Irregular" entries (amendments to reports suggesting adjustments to "reconcile unrecorded payments"
Failure to report almost $10,000 in PAC contributions
The State Board of Elections opened an investigation on March 10 and informed Senator Hise that he should submit a response to the complaint by March 20 (see correspondence from SBOE to Hise at the link above). Hise replied that his treasurer (Shirley Hise) was "unable to assist at this time," and he asked for an additional 45 days to respond.

Those 45 days expired on May 4, and according to watchdogs DemocracyNC, Hise still had not responded as of May 8.

Senator Hise is chair of the Senate Select Committee on Elections and has had a hand in the attempted restructuring of the State Board of Elections (to deprive Gov. Roy Cooper of appointment and oversight power), and he now clearly has a huge personal interest in making sure that the people running the State Board of Elections are sufficiently partisan. DemocracyNC is calling for him to recuse himself from the Select Committee on Elections while he is under investigation.

The other thing to note: It took an independent citizen looking at public records to blow the whistle on Sen. Hise. Why? Because the SBOE doesn't have the staff to look at flagrant violations of reporting standards?

Trump Diagnosis of the Week

“He’s fundamentally lazy. He free-rides so many processes he doesn’t know anything about. He used to do it in the business world, and now he does it in the political world .... He’s not a student of anything other than protecting his image. What he cares about is how he’s perceived, not the nuts and bolts of things. He is essentially a performance artist.”

--Trump biographer Tim O'Brien, as told to Maureen Dowd

Monday, May 08, 2017

Intercepted on Facebook: We Can't Do Without Our Friends

Okay, so here’s what happened. At about 3:00 in the morning on November 9th, I woke up, rolled over in bed, and checked Politico on my iPad. I was so disturbed by what I saw, I immediately deleted all my news apps and social media apps. Then I got up and turned on the PC and cancelled all my news feeds and deactivated all my social media accounts.

For almost three months after that I read no news, watched no news, listened to no news, overheard no news. None. No TV, no Politico or Real Clear Politics, no Facebook or Twitter, no nothing. When a news-related conversation started up near me, I walked away from it. When I entered the kitchen, _____ and _____ turned off the TV. Sure, I was being a chicken-shit. But I was genuinely dismayed by the state of our country. I do not exaggerate.

Then, toward the end of January, a concern arose at work as to how the Muslim ban might affect our international students. As a member of the senior staff at the college, I needed to be informed so I could help protect our kids. So I read up on the Muslim ban, then started reading other news too. After that, I eased back into the online world little by little. But I missed the entire transition, the inauguration, and a couple of weeks after that.

I’ve picked up on a few things since then. I do know about our national regression on environmental protections, the rollback of oversight of the corporate and banking sectors, the proposal of economic and tax policies benefiting the rich, the condemnation of the sick and the hungry, the baseless accusations and personal insults of public officials, the vilification of the free press and the court system, the continued refusal to disclose personal financial connections, the disregard for longstanding international commitments and partnerships, the public expressions of support for known despots, the demonization of immigrants and minorities, the support of religiously-justified bigotry, the continuous drip of evidence of conspiracy with a foreign state to manipulate a presidential election, the disregard for national security protocols, the off-handed instigation of diplomatic crises (including at least one threat of invasion), the use of the office of the presidency for personal gain, the conspicuous nepotism, the nomination of government officials to departments toward which they had previously shown animosity or through which they were positioned to benefit personally, the attempted use of federal investigative agencies for political and personal purposes, the demonstrated ignorance of many areas of common knowledge, the repeated demonstrable lies, the infantile personal comportment, and the overall tone of arrogance, willful ignorance, and general douchebaggery. So I’m all caught up.

Also, I hear there have been some Tweets.