Friday, November 30, 2018

I'm Always Ready To Believe All The Worst About Trump, But This Randy Credico Stuff Strains Credulity, No?


Roger and Randy like a little publicity

If Trump’s legal team wanted to further discredit and undermine the Mueller investigation into Putin-Gate, they might drag lots of clowns onto the public stage to attempt to make a mockery of the whole thing. Maybe they could dig up some perennial candidate, a comedian and talk show host who says he can’t remember anything because he’s been so heavily medicated. And then get him and another clown, say Roger Stone, into a public mud wrestling match. I don’t recall ever hearing about Randy Credico before but he ran for mayor of NYC and for governor of New York state and against Chuck Schumer for senator… And he kind of sounds like a crackpot. Doesn't mean he is, but he does sound like one. And this twitter thread sure looks like the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. Right? Or not. I don't know what to make of it. it's giving me a headache. Enjoy:

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NC-09-- It Appears That Neo-Fascist Candidate Mark Harris Stole The Primary From Robert Pittenger And Then The General Election From Dan McCready


Paul Ryan was whining Thursday about how the Republicans had only lost 26 seats when he went to bed on election night and wha wha now they’re down 40. So something’s wrong. Yeah, it’s called counting all the votes and conservatives hate the very concept. Well, there may be 41 soon. Seems there’s a little problem along the southern tier of North Carolina-- the 9th district-- where, ostensibly, it looked like far right extremist Mark Harris defeated Blue Dog Dan McCready by 905 votes. Or maybe not. Tuesday the state board of election unanimously refused to certify the results. And late last night Amy Gardner and Kirk Ros reported for the Washington Post that state election officials had no plans to certify them at their meeting today either. In fact, they wrote, “mounting evidence of voter fraud… could indefinitely delay the certification of a winner, as state election officials investigate whether hundreds of absentee ballots were illegally cast or destroyed. The board is collecting sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot and turn it in.”

The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board seems stunned and embarrassed— and demanding to know what happened.
We know that board members twice voted 9-0 not to certify the 9th District results. That means the board, which consists of Democrats and Republicans, was overwhelmingly persuaded of the seriousness of [Robeson County Democrat Joshua] Malcolm’s concerns.

We know that Elections board spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Associated Press Wednesday that the board is investigating “irregularities” involving absentee ballots in Bladen County, which Harris won by 1,557 votes. We also know that Bladen has what can charitably be described as a colorful political history of alleged arson and fraud.

We know that Malcolm’s move Tuesday was a surprise. Neither campaign knew Malcolm’s complaint was coming, which indicates that it likely doesn’t involve an election day complaint of fraud, at least not one significant enough to cause McCready to call for an investigation before conceding this razor-thin result.

Malcolm’s comments Tuesday also seem to indicate that the issues troubling him are ongoing. “I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding which has been ongoing for a number of years that has repeatedly been referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys for them to take action and clean it up,” he said. “And in my opinion those things have not taken place.”

Update, 11/28, 6:30 pm: Two sources tell the editorial board that the issue specifically involves a person who allegedly gained access to absentee ballots, perhaps through voters who request them from the county or state. The ballots were filled out for Harris. This individual was suspected of similar fraud in 2016, sources said, but investigators didn’t find enough to prosecute. The number of ballots involved in the 2018 race, however, wouldn’t be enough to swing the outcome to McCready, sources said.
Complicating this even further is that when Harris ousted a more mainstream conservative incumbent, Robert Pittenger, in the GOP primary there seems to have been the same monkey business in play. WFAE reported yesterday that ‘an elections law expert says Bladen County's results for the 9th district GOP primary also deserve attention, calling them unusual.’”

In May, Harris narrowly upset incumbent Robert Pittenger in the Republican primary by 828 votes.

Harris' win was powered, in part, by a surge of absentee-by-mail ballots from Bladen County, according to data from the N.C. Board of Elections. In the May primary, 22 percent of the votes cast in Bladen County in the Harris-Pittenger race were cast by absentee-by-mail, and Harris was the overwhelming winner of those ballots.

Harris won 96 percent of the 456 absentee-by-mail votes in Bladen, but won only 62 percent of all other votes in the county, according to state Board of Elections records.

Gerry Cohen, an elections law expert who was a state legislative attorney for more than 30 years, said the absentee-by-mail votes from Bladen are "unusual."

"Clearly there is something going on in Bladen County," he said. "It's the only county in the state with an organized, street-level vote-by-mail operation. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with that."

He said it's not illegal to help people request absentee by mail ballots, but someone can't collect the ballots, a process known as harvesting.

At 22 percent, Bladen County easily had the highest percentage of absentee-by-mail ballots in the district. Mecklenburg County was the next highest at only 1.6 percent.

Here are the percentages from the other counties in the 9th Congressional District: Union (.07 percent); Anson (0 percent); Scotland (1.5 percent); Robeson (1.1 percent); Cumberland (.08 percent); Richmond (.02 percent).

After reviewing the data, Cohen said there were a large number of absentee-by-mail ballots in the primary that were requested but never returned. Cohen says one possibility is that a third party promised to mail them for voters but failed to do so.

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"We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening" (William D. Ruckelshaus, this August)


"William Doyle Ruckelshaus [seen above c2009] served as the first EPA Agency Administrator, from December 1970 to April 1973. During EPA's formative years, he concentrated on developing the new agency's organizational structure; enforcement actions against severely polluted cities and industrial polluters; setting health-based standards for air pollutants and standards for automobile emissions; requiring states to submit new air quality plans; and the banning of the general use of the pesticide DDT."
-- from an Environmental Protection Agency website bio,
"William D. Ruckelshaus: First Term [as EPA administrator]"

"It’s hard to believe that, 45 years later, we may be in store for another damaging attack on the foundations of our democracy. Yet the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake. . . .

"We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. [Special counsel Robert] Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.

"What Mueller unearths will guide our next steps and will strengthen our trust in our institutions -- including the one we are now using to find the truth. I hope the president at last studies the lessons of a history I lived -- and that he heeds its warning."

-- long-ago Deputy AG William D. Ruckelshaus, in an Aug. 6 WaPo
"Only one other president has ever acted this desperate"

by Ken

My apologies if everybody else has long since read and processed the op-ed published by the Washington Post on August 6, "Only one other president has ever acted this desperate." I've only just read it -- by clicking an (undated) WaPo link that appeared following a new op-ed, "The clownish caricature of Nixon in the White House," the other day by true-red Post columnist Michael Gerson assailing the character and deeds of this monster whom circumstances oblige us to call President Abomination.

What can I say? The news these last couple of years has been so unremittingly grim that I've largely retreated into isolation from it. Still, this doesn't mean I have to go looking for trouble -- reality has a nasty, vindictive way of finding me anyway.

I should note that following the Gerson op-ed there was also a link to an equally forceful anti-President Abomination piece by another committed conservative WaPo columnist, Jennifer Rubin, "If only Republicans weren’t such cowards." Now, there's an awful lot that Michael and Jennifer and I will never agree on, but in these dark and dangerous times they have both amply demonstrated, going back to the 2016 presidential campaign, that -- appearances to the contrary -- there is still such a thing as "principled conservatives." There are others of their kind, but not all that many -- I'm well aware how lonely they're feeling, not least because such voices seem to be heard only in the media, and not all that frequently there. However, in the realm of Republican public officialdom, I'm hard put to think of any such voices I've heard.

Which brings me back to William Ruckelshaus. Just seeing his name attached to the aforementioned WaPo op-ed got my total attention, because there are names you just can't let go of.

I love that little bio of WDR from the archive of the Environmental Protection Agency website, which covers only his first term as EPA adminstrator -- the very first EPA administrator. It's often pointed out, when the abominations of the presidency of Richard M. Nixon are discussed, usually in the context of the subsequent, serially more abominable presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are discussed, that there were redeeming features of the Nixon administration, and usually topping the list is that it was during Nixon's presidency that the EPA was created, and under its first administrator it carved out a mission, a mission that has been ever more fiercely undermined by those successively more abominable Republican administrations.

What's more, as that designation "First Term" reminds us, Ruckelshaus served a second term as EPA administrator, in 1983-85 brought back by a somewhat abashed President Reagan to clean up at least some of the public-relations mess created by his disastrous first EPA administrator, the frightful Anne Burford Gorsuch, a monstrosity who would leave an even viler legacy in the person of her son, eventual Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (who clearly comes by his monstrousness honestly, possibly the only lick of honesty that can be attributed to him).


There was another small matter, which the gentleman himself recalled in starkly matter-of-fact terms in that August op-ed. He had already been used by Nixon to try to clean up PR messes, first as acting FBI director and then as deputy attorney general. And then --
In October 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire [Watergate special prosecutor Archibald] Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. As deputy attorney general and next in line, I was ordered by the president to fire Cox; I also refused and resigned. Cox was finally fired by Solicitor General Robert H. Bork. The result is what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
And there we have it, in a mere handful of words. There are moments in history when individuals are called on to stand up and show what they're made of. On that fateful night in October 1973, in quick succession AG Richardson "refused and resigned" and Deputy AG Ruckelshaus "refused and resigned."

"Neither Richardson nor I saw any justifiable reason for Cox’s dismissal," Ruckelshaus wrote in August.
WDR back in the day (c1970)
When it became clear that Cox would not give up his pursuit of the Oval Office tapes, Nixon took the only action he could to protect himself: He tried to get rid of the man charged with investigating him.

Nixon was desperate. His goal was to shut down the Watergate investigation by ridding himself of Cox. Instead, Nixon got Leon Jaworski, the highly respected former president of the American Bar Association. Nine months later, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision forcing Nixon to release the tapes that proved his guilt. Shortly thereafter, the president resigned.

Not only was that Saturday night the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency, but it also accelerated the growing wave of political cynicism and distrust in our government we are still living with today. One manifestation of that legacy: a president who will never admit he uttered a falsehood and a Congress too often pursuing only a partisan version of the truth.
Ruckelshaus recalled receiving "hundreds of letters" after he refused and resigned, and those letters "enshrined this thought in my head for the rest of my life": that "Nixon was brought down by his disrespect for the rule of law." Earlier in his piece WDR offered a laconic gloss on the events of October 1973:
A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.


I love it! It will be interesting to see whether this bit of history repeats itself. In which connection I heartily recommend a Dana Milbank op-ed, "The truth is finally catching up with Trump":
In the beginning, they proffered “alternative facts.” Later, they told us that “truth isn’t truth.”

All along, President Trump and his lieutenants were betting that Jonathan Swift was correct when he wrote more than three centuries ago that “falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

But after two long years, the truth is finally catching up with Trump and his winged whoppers.
Note, however, the care with which Dana points out, in the case of each of these "winged whoppers," that, while "Americans no longer need trust the media’s word against Trump’s," because "they can see with their own eyes, if they choose to, that facts are closing in on him from all directions," there's a crucial qualification: that "if they choose to." As more and more commentators are pointing out, this Trump legacy will endure long after he has walked or been booted into the sunset: a codification of Ronald Reagan's debilitating legacy: that "reality" can be whatever you want it to be.

None of which changes my takeaway for the day: that an important part of the reason Nixon's machinations turned out badly for him was that first Elliot Richardson and then William Ruckelshaus, received an illegitimate and unjustifiable order from the president of the United States and did the two things that an honorable person would have to do -- they "refused and resigned."

We might also recall that the third man in the October 1972 DoJ chain of command, the one who without apparent difficulty carried out the boss's execution order, a far-right-wing GOP legal hack name of Robert Bork, was rewarded by the Abominable Reagan first, in 1982, with a seat on the country's second-highest court, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then, in 1987, with nomination to the Supreme Court. True, that nomination failed, with 58 "no" votes in the Senate, as a result of what right-wingers still call "Borking," a supposedly despicable tactic that consisted of simply citing stuff the "victim" has said, written, or done.

It's one of those curious facts of life that right-wing crackpots are deeply, loudly, indignantly, self-righteously offended when you dare to simply citing things they've said or written or done. But this is another story. Today I just want to remember that night in October 1973 when two men understood what they were being ordered to do and instead of doing it, "refused and resigned."

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The DPCC Messaging Needs To Defeat Trump-- How Will Ted Lieu, Debbie Dingell And Matt Cartwright Manage?


Liz Cheney, considerably to the right of her father, now holds his old Wyoming House seat. Recently, she leap-frogged over all her colleagues into House GOP leadership as Chair of the House Republican Conference, the 3rd highest-ranking job in the GOP caucus after McCarthy and Scalise. She bumped Cathy McMorris Rodgers out of the position. Jonah Weiner’s piece for the New York Times Magazine, Why The Director of ‘Anchorman’ Decided To Take On Dick Cheney isn’t exactly a celebration of the Cheney family.

Adam McKay, the filmmaker behind Anchorman and Talladega Nights and, more recently an Oscar-winning adaptation of Michael Lewis’s financial-crash caper The Big Short has a new film, Vice, “a grim account of the life of Dick Cheney, with Christian Bale-- smoldering beneath prosthetic jowls and the ample weight he gained for the role-- in the lead.
Far from a grateful tribute, Vice-- which co-stars Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife, Lynne-- proceeds in a spirit of frenetic and ferocious irreverence… Vice is, in tone and form, one of the wildest movies he has made-- and one of the wildest movies ever made about politics, period.

…What is unambiguous, by the end, is McKay’s conviction that the American right, in its post-Reagan consolidation of power, has set our country and our planet on a path to ruin-- and that no single figure illustrates this better than Cheney. “He was the expert safecracker who opened up the safe,” McKay said, alluding to Cheney’s deft dismantling of checks on executive power, “and now the orangutan is in there, throwing around the money and the jewels.” McKay knows that a conservative backlash to his film is very likely, and while he emphasized how diligently he grounded the film in research, he also argued that making a less confrontational movie, hewing to a measured realism would have felt not only boring but also incommensurate to the task.

“I’ve never dealt with a tone like this, and I don’t think it’s by accident,” McKay said. “We’re living in a world with a tone that none of us has ever experienced. Pipe bombs are being sent to the leaders of a political party, and the guy who made Dilbert is saying, You know the bombs were really made by left-wingers because they didn’t work.” He made an incredulous face. “So, you’re claiming the assassination attempts are a false flag operation while slamming the liberals and you’re the guy who did Dilbert?” When it came to the movie’s protean tone, he said, “All I can tell you is that we were very conscious of it, we knew it was challenging and indefinable-- and we knew it had to be.”

This was true, he added, not in spite of the material’s seriousness, but because of it. “I’m suspicious of anything that feels like an old form,” he said. “We’re discovering new styles and forms, because this era we’re in demands it. The world has gotten so cartoonishly exaggerated and over the top. Why be subtle anymore?”

…Like many self-identifying progressives, McKay-- who grew up on food stamps and was raised in suburban Pennsylvania by his waitress single mother (his father, a musician, left the family when McKay was 7)-- has grown steadily disenchanted with what he calls “the corporate left.” This summer he joined the L.A. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He thinks that capitalism must come under greater, Scandinavian-style regulatory control, “especially if we’re going to do anything about climate change.” Earlier this year he left Funny or Die, a comedy website he co-founded in 2007, after it entered into a sponsored-content agreement with Shell, a deal he called “disgusting.”

…In The Big Short, the narrator, played by Ryan Gosling, puts it this way: “Mortgage-backed securities. Subprime loans. Tranches. It’s pretty confusing, right? Does it make you feel bored? Or stupid? Well, it’s supposed to. Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do. Or, even better, for you just to leave them the [expletive] alone.” Last year, McKay directed the pilot for and served as an executive producer on Succession, an HBO drama about a Murdoch-style media-empire patriarch and his reprobate heirs-- their nefarious business dealings and abject power moves.

In Vice, he uses Cheney’s life to tell a broader tale about what McKay describes as “the Republican revolution and how it changed our country.” He sees Cheney as a “Zelig-style” figure of the right. His career in national politics began in the Nixon administration as a congressional intern and then apprentice to Donald Rumsfeld and, from there, intersected and coincided with the rise of key conservative figures: among them the Fox News founder, Roger Ailes, who first floated the idea for a conservative news network while working for Nixon; right-wing megadonors like the Koch brothers; conservative strategy shops like the Heritage Foundation; and, finally, George W. Bush, over whose administration-- and over whose decision to invade Iraq after Sept. 11, despite paltry intelligence linking the two-- Cheney exercised unprecedented influence for a vice president.

One of McKay’s models was The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s landmark biography of Robert Moses. “He’s in the middle of all this stuff,” McKay said of Cheney, “and finally he gets his hand on the wheel.” Unlike Caro, McKay had to tell his story through a camera, and so there are compressions, elisions and metaphors in Vice that reflect both a filmmaker’s desire to enthrall the crowd and a prosecutor’s desire to nail the defendant. Reading journalistic accounts of Cheney’s move, in 2000, from the private sector back into public service, we learn that he took elaborate steps to divest from Halliburton, the oil conglomerate where he was C.E.O., to avoid the appearance of conflict; here, the relationship between Cheney and the energy sector is presented as one of clear cronyism. Or take Sept. 11. In Barton Gellman’s play-by-play of that morning in Angler, it’s strongly implied that Cheney usurped Bush’s authority, ignoring the chain of command and giving fighter jets the O.K. to shoot down commercial airliners if they appeared to be hijacked. The official White House version was that Bush gave Cheney permission to pass along this order, and Gellman, poring carefully through communications records and notes taken by administration staff members, leaves open the extremely slim possibility that this is true. In Vice there is no such equivocation. We see Cheney give the order to take out the planes himself. Compression, of course, isn’t the same as distortion: Jane Mayer, the investigative journalist, described this scene to me as “a perfect gem,” and told McKay, after he screened the movie for her, that he “got it right.”

One way McKay might have buttressed Vice against possible charges of liberal bias would be to include the sorts of political critiques he readily offers up in conversation. “When Clinton was elected, he cut welfare and deregulated banks, just like a Republican would have done,” he said, from his couch. “Obama waged a war against whistle-blowers, he let the banks off the hook and he expanded executive power.” McKay did tinker for a while with stitching points like these into Vice-- making it “the story of Dick Cheney and the rise of the Republican Party, and how they got so big they swallowed the Democrats.” To this end, he pieced in footage of Hillary Clinton supporting the Iraq war. “But it’s hard,” McKay went on. “The audience only has a certain amount of oxygen in their lungs.” As he said earlier: “I could have made the movie three and a half hours long, but you can thank me that I didn’t.” (The film runs just over 130 minutes.)

…On the subject of villainy, McKay said: “Cheney and Bush did kill, conservatively, half a million civilians in Iraq. Some estimates have it at more than a million. So he’s pretty bad.” But, he said, “I think you have to humanize him, because unless we see how a regular human being can go down these roads, it’s useless.” (McKay has heard nothing from the Cheneys, who did not participate in the making of the film, although he noted that Mary started following him on Twitter.)
Is Vice part of the story Democrats need to be telling between now and 2020, when there’s an historical imperative that Trump be sent packing in no uncertain terms and certainly no with any kind of uncertainty that will encourage fascism to rear its ugly head in our country again any time soon? Wednesday, the L.A. Times published an interview with George Lakoff on what Democrats don’t understand-- and Republicans do-- about how voters think. She kicked it off by asking him about what the story Democrats have to tell to voters for the next two years.

Thursday the Democratic caucus in the House elected Ted Lieu, Matt Cartwright and Debbie Dingell co-chairs of the DPCC-- the Democratic Policy and Communication Committee. It’s their bailiwick. This is what Lakoff would like them to know:
The story has two parts, and they have to do with progressive values. One of them comes from Abraham Lincoln, that in a democracy, you have a government that is of, by, and for the people.

“Of” means the ordinary folks are in charge, and “by” means that the people who are governing you have the same life experiences that you have and understand that, and “for” means that the role of the government is to take care of people.

The second thing is that the private depends on public resources, both private life and private enterprise. You can’t have a business without public resources like roads and bridges and airports and the electric grids. But private life is like that too. You need the same roads and bridges and airports and electric grid and much more. Without public resources, you can’t have private enterprise or private life.

And that's something that is rarely said. If you ask a Democrat if that’s true, they’ll all say yes and they’ll give examples. But if you ask them, “Have you ever said it?” the answer is, no.

And that’s the point. They haven’t said it.

…Every Democrat should deliver the same messages and repeat them over and over and over. Not only that, they should repeat them every time they have a policy, and they should point out how the policy relates to these values.

You want to say this over and over so that people understand, after a couple of years of hearing it-- maybe getting tired of it. But the point is that they would understand that’s what democratic values are, and why they are so crucial.

…It’s not just democratic values. It’s the values of living in a democracy. You can’t have a business without public resources; that affects every business. It affects Republicans as well as Democrats. When you talk about what Lincoln’s words mean-- of, by and for the people-- that affects all sorts of people, Republicans as well as Democrats.

There is a way of talking to people, to say, “Imagine that you don’t have public resources. Imagine that there were no roads, that there were no airports, that there were no air traffic controllers and so on. Here’s what a public resource is. Imagine that it wasn’t there.”

And the Republicans might just say, “Well, privatize them-- privatize roads, privatize airports.”

All very nice except that that won’t happen. If you privatize them, they become a matter of profit for people, and since you absolutely require them, [the private owners] can bilk you for as much as they want. That’s why they’re public resources.

Framing is a concept you brought to the table-- the way you tell the story, the way you make your point. Democrats don’t seem to be as good at it as [Republicans]. Democrats don’t know how people think. It’s really sad. The problem is what I call the Enlightenment reason. [Former President Barack] Obama, in his [recent] speech, talked about the importance of Enlightenment reason. And a week later, Hillary Clinton is talking at Wellesley about how it was important that Wellesley teach Enlightenment reason.

Enlightenment reason says everybody reasons the same way; that’s what makes them human. Whereas if you have different world views, you’re going to reason differently. Enlightenment reason says that all you need to do is get the facts, and everybody will reason to the right conclusion, since everybody has the same reason. No. If they have different worldviews, they’ll reason to different conclusions.

Enlightenment reason does not recognize different worldviews. Enlightenment reason doesn’t admit framing. It doesn’t admit metaphorical thought. It doesn’t admit the way people really work.

The Democrats don’t understand this. They think that if you just tell people the facts, they will all reason to the right conclusion. That’s why they keep coming up with fact after fact after fact, rather than framing things in a way so that people will understand why these things are important.

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The Halfway Mark In The Worst U.S. Administration Ever-- As Trump Skips Off To Meet With Putin


Maybe Trump will find solace tomorrow tangoing in the arms of his Russian master, but everything at home is collapsing around his ears-- as should be expected by the country when someone of Trump’s calibre and lack of preparation, apptitude and qualifications is elected (sort of) to the highest office in the land-- and then allowed, by a supine Congress, to run amuck. While in Argentina, I doubt Trump will be thinking about a CNN report showing that despite a strong economy-- at strong least on paper-- the number of uninsured children in America has grown, an unprecedented reversal from Obama’s presidency. "Roughly 276,000 more children were uninsured in 2017 than the year before, bringing the total to more than 3.9 million."

Reporting for CNBC, John Harwood wrote that the two calamitous years of Trump’s all-Republican government is sputtering to an end the same way it began-- in disarray, divisiveness and chaos, marked by fanciful promises, contradictory priorities and presidential provocations that congressional Republicans haven’t attempted to rein in. The Trump regime has struggled with the very concept of government. He may have vowed-- hollow and empty as the rest of his marketing-- to make America great again, but Trump “has rattled financial markets, reduced farm exports and raised manufacturing costs with his tariff policies. As growth slows, he blames the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates and threatens General Motors for closing plants.”
The president who promised law and order, having previously fired the FBI director, fired his attorney general over the Justice Department's Trump-Russia investigation. The acting attorney general has been openly hostile to the probe.

The president who insisted Mexico would finance a border wall now wants American taxpayers to pay as a condition of keeping their government open. Congress doesn't intend to build the wall, so the government could shut down next week.

Thus completes the chaotic circle of governance by Trump and the GOP Congress: fanciful promises, contradictory priorities, presidential provocations that Republicans won't rein in. Voters responded this month by handing the House to Democrats.

Obamacare survived. The better, cheaper Republican alternative never existed.

The infrastructure plan Trump promised business and blue-collar supporters has not materialized. GOP congressional leaders prefer to spend on tax cuts.

Republicans delivered tax cuts, but not as advertised. Proceeds profited the wealthy far more than the middle class and ballooned the budget deficit, with no evidence of giving the economy more than a short-term stimulative boost.

Trump's abandonment of the fight against climate change has not revived the coal industry, which keeps closing unprofitable facilities. The president answers his own government's warnings about the climate by saying he doesn't believe them.

Republican congressional leaders want cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to shrink government, reduce deficits and relieve pressure for tax hikes. Trump vows to protect those popular benefits.

Tough executive branch oversight, which preoccupied Obama-era Republicans, vanished when their party won the White House. Lawmakers who talked of prosecuting Hillary Clinton skipped past Ivanka Trump's use of personal email for government business.

Unlike Obama, Trump has supplied a steady stream of genuine scandal. Cabinet members and senior presidential aides have departed under ethical clouds, while Trump's former national security advisor and campaign chairman confessed to felonies.

Unprecedented turnover and turmoil hinder White House operations. Trump has filled just over half the administration jobs important enough to require Senate confirmation.

How Republicans attempted to retain power in this fall's elections exposed the chasm between their policies and public sentiment. Most voters believe the GOP tax cut has not made them better off, so Trump promised a new one.

Republicans who earlier favored repeal ran as defenders of a principal Obamacare achievement-- guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions. Trump accused Democrats, rather than his own party, of threatening Medicare.

On Election Day, Americans issued their verdict. They cast 9 million more votes for Democrats than Republicans in House races, the largest margin in midterm election history.

That produced 40 additional Democratic House seats, far beyond the 23 needed to likely make Nancy Pelosi speaker again. Residents of three conservative states-- Idaho, Nebraska and Utah-- voted to adopt the Obamacare-authorized Medicaid expansion that state Republican officials had resisted.

And predictably, Trump’s only governmental concern is in crippling Mueller’s Putin-Gate investigation, now blatantly dangling pardons to confessed felons from his campaign if they will lie to protect him and his family. Chuck Todd and his team reported that “hours before departing for Argentina to attend the G-20 summit— where trade with China, Putin and Saudi Arabia are all important topics-- President Trump has been tweeting this morning about... the Russia probe.” Clearly mentally deranged, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine most Americans hoping he never comes back from Buenos Aires.
“Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? At the same time Mueller and the Angry Democrats aren’t even looking at the atrocious, and perhaps subversive, crimes that were committed by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. A total disgrace!”

“When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever?”

The tweets, in fact, are just the tip of the iceberg of the ways in which the president of the United States has intervened in, criticized, thwarted, and potentially obstructed an investigation that involves him, his family and his 2016 presidential campaign. Consider:
He’s once again dangling a pardon to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort;
Manafort’s lawyer was cooperating with Trump’s legal defense team-- after Manafort struck a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller;
Trump dumped his attorney general (because he recused himself from the Russia probe) and inserted a Mueller critic to be acting attorney general;
When asked why he retweeted an image of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein behind bars, Trump replied, “He should have never picked a special counsel”;
He admitted firing former FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation ("When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” he told NBC’s Lester Holt);
And Trump dictated the misleading statement on his son’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians.
Add up all of these actions-- and they’re not an exhaustive list-- and you see a president who’s actively intervening in an investigation that involves him.

Whatever Putin invested in getting Trump into the White House will prove to be one of the most successful and productive moves in Russian history... at least in the short run. America is in chaos and everything is falling apart. Putin's desire to foster disunity in his biggest foe has paid off in spades. America is a crippled giant, exactly what the Russians have been hoping for and plotting for, for decades. 

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Every time you think that Trump and his party have gone as low as they possibly can, they find a new depth of WTF Hell to drag us all into. Perhaps that was no more evident than when Comrade Trump recently attacked Admiral McRaven, our military man in charge of the Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden, and, at the very same time, Trump continued to support the killers of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, all because they own him and enrich him as much as Putin's oligarchs, and because the very ideas and ideals set forth by America's founding fathers are a complete anathema to him and his supporters. The fact that Trump just plain despises journalists, as he and his staff have repeatedly made known on a daily basis, is also an obvious factor.

If the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by ISIS had happened on Trump's watch, that would no doubt have been fine with Trump as long as they had given him a hotel deal in their territory too. How long before we see the strange mutant fruits of Trump's closed door meetings in Singapore with North Korea's Kim Jong-un?

Impeach. Convict. Imprison.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Will There Still Be A Viable Economy Left When Trump Is Finally Kicked Out Of Office?


Señor Trumpanzee seems to think he's a better president than Reagan was. I doubt anyone would agree but he told right wing operatives Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, according to their just-released book, Trump Enermies that "The amazing thing is that you have certain people who are conservative Republicans that if my name weren’t Trump, if it were John Smith, they would say I’m the greatest president in history and I blow Ronald Reagan away... got the biggest regulation cuts in history in less than two years, judges, environmental stuff, getting out of the Paris horror show. If you said that conservative president John Smith did that, they would say he’s the greatest president. Far greater than Ronald Reagan."

His policies are chipping away at the successful economic engine that Obama left him and slowly but surely, the imbecile is destroying the economy. Steve Benen explained what's wrong: Trump doesn't understand the basics of his own economic policies. Benen, frustrated, was merciless:
A couple of months ago, Donald Trump boasted at a White House event that thanks to his tariffs, there’s “a lot of money coming into the coffers of the United States of America. A lot of money coming in.” Soon after, the president released a video via social media in which he said Americans are “taking in a lot of money” as a result of his tariffs.

A month later, the Republican reversed course, suggesting to the Wall Street Journal that the tariffs he’d spoken about for months may not actually exist. “We don’t even have tariffs,” Trump said, adding, “Where do we have tariffs? We don’t have tariffs anywhere.”

On Thanksgiving, he switched back to his original position.
“Now, as of already, we’re taking in-- right now, we’re taking in billions. China is-- people don’t understand this: China is right now paying us-- right now, paying us billions of dollars a month. That’s never happened before.”
It’s true that it’s never happened before, but it’s also true that it’s not happening now. Nearly a year after Trump launched a trade war, assuring Americans that the fight will be “easy” to win, the president is still confused about the basics of his own policy.

There is no foreign money “coming into the coffers of the United States” from China as a result of the tariffs. As Politico recently explained, “President Donald Trump said Monday that China is paying the U.S. billions of dollars in tariffs as he ramps up his trade war with Beijing. But that’s inaccurate: American consumers and businesses are the ones who will be paying higher costs for imports after he slapped penalties on $200 billion in Chinese goods.”

This is not some obscure triviality, only of interest to trade wonks. Rather, this is the principal presidential defense of his entire policy: Trump has told Americans, repeatedly over the course of several months, that “billions” of dollars are filling U.S. coffers from Beijing. It’s proof, according to the Republican, that his entire strategy has merit.

Reality, however, should still have some meaning. The actual amount of money China is paying us as a result of Trump’s tariffs is zero. When the American president boasted on Thanksgiving that China is “paying us billions of dollars,” he was off by billions of dollars.

Trump’s entire defense is based on payments that simply don’t exist outside his overactive imagination.

Either the president doesn’t know this, in which case his entire trade gambit is being driven by his profound ignorance, or Trump understands the details perfectly well, and he’s just brazenly lying to the public, hoping Americans won’t know the difference.

Either way, if the president sees this money as proof of his policy’s merit, shouldn’t the absence of that money be evidence of his policy’s failure?
Yes... as well as the bankruptcies his policies are causing across the Midwest-- not to mention the plant closings and job disappearances. Monday, local newspapers across the farm belt ran a report from the Associated Press. Short version: "84 farms filed for bankruptcy in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana in 12 months... That’s more than double the number over the same period in 2013 and 2014."
The number of farms filing for bankruptcy is increasing across the Upper Midwest, following low prices for corn, soybeans, milk and beef, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

“Current price levels and the trajectory of the current trends suggest that this trend has not yet seen a peak,” said Ron Wirtz, an analyst at the Minneapolis Fed.

The increase in Chapter 12 filings reflect low prices for corn, soybeans, milk and beef, the Star Tribune reported. The situation has gotten worse for farmers since June because of the retaliatory tariffs that have closed the Chinese market for soybeans and held back exports of milk and beef. Chapter 12 bankruptcy allows for repayment of debt over three years.

Minneapolis Fed analyst Ron Wirtz says the bankruptcy trend has not yet peaked.

“Dairy farmers are having the most problems right now,” said Mark Miedtke, the president of Citizens State Bank in Hayfield. “Grain farmers have had low prices for the past three years but high yields have helped them through. We’re just waiting for a turnaround. We’re waiting for the tariff problem to go away.”
Yesterday, at The Nation, John Nichols wrote that GM's closures confirm what we know-- Trump is a liar and a fool who never cared about the men and women who build cars in places like Michigan and Ohio. This was election year bullshit: "If I’m elected, you won’t lose one plant, you’ll have plants coming into this country, you’re going to have jobs again, you won’t lose one plant, I promise you that."
The heartbreaking reality is that Trump was never going to be a good president for the American workers who build cars and other vehicles in the nation’s historic factory towns. A reality-TV star with almost no understanding of the complex and demanding circumstance of domestic manufacturing in an age of globalization and automation, Trump peddled a combination of bumper-sticker slogans and past-their-expiration-date policy proposals on the 2016 campaign trail. That was enough to win narrow victories in a number of manufacturing states-- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin-- that were hurting after years of bipartisan neglect. It is true that many voters who felt they had been let down by both parties took a chance on Trump. But Trump assumed the presidency without an agenda, and he embraced the schemes of a Congress led by two of the worst players in Washington on manufacturing issues: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

It was only a matter of time before Trump’s facade of empty rhetoric and false premises crashed into the reality of 21st-century economics and technological change. The midterm elections revealed the extent to which confidence in Trump had already crumbled. In the three Great Lakes states that gave Trump the presidency by delivering the Electoral College votes he had needed two years ago-- Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin-- voters handed victories to the Democrats in three gubernatorial races and three US Senate races.
Despite Trump's gigantic tax cuts-- much of which went into big bonuses for top management-- GM is closing down 2 plants in southeast Michigan, one in Maryland and one in northeast Ohio. The idea is to boost profits by slashing 15% of the company's salaried workforce (about 8,000 people). GM sees a future defined by ride-sharing networks, self-driving cars and electric vehicles (though they're discontinuing the Volt). Trumpanzee, who, during his campaign consistently promised-- based on nothing but pure hot air and shameless guile-- that he would bring prosperity to the Rust Belt, had this to say: "This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get back to Ohio and soon. So we have a lot of pressure on them." I'm sure that will scare them into action; not. And, what about Michigan?

The Sound of Music by Nancy Ohanian

UPDATE: Trump Has A Gut

During a Washington Post interview Tuesday, Señor Trumpanzee was asked about Wall Street's collapse and GM closing plants and laying off workers under his watch. He blamed Jerome Powell, his pick to run the Federal Reserve, with whom, he warned, he's "not even a little bit happy... I’m doing deals, and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed. They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me."

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The Trump Kiss Of Death: Republicans Learn To Lose In South Carolina


Yesterday in this time slot, we looked at the most unexpected congressional win of 2018, Kendra Horn's in Oklahoma City. But there was an almost an unlikely a win in another deep red state: South Carolina. OK-05 has a PVI of R+10... and so does SC-01. Trump won both districts by double digits in 2016-- and his candidates narrowly lost each November 6. The similarities are stunning:

Trump v Hillary- 53.2%- 39.8%
Horn (D) v Russell (R)- 50.7%- 49.3% (3,338 vote margin)


Trump v Hillary- 53.5%- 40.4%
Cunningham (D) v Arrington (R)- 50.7%- 49.3% (3,982 vote magin)
Joe Cunningham has already added his name to the Moulton letter against Pelosi, an inauspicious beginning of a congressional career for a Democrat. No one inside the Beltway thought he had any chance to win. Nate Silver's final forecast was a 9.4% shot (not even 1 on 10. He gave Arrington a 90.6% chance winning and the only public poll had her over Cunningham 49-42%.

Cunningham outraged Arrington $1,908,175 to $1,313,382 with $346,909 of her money self-funded). It's worth noting that much of what she raised had gone into the primary campaign against incumbent Mark Sanford. The NRCC spent $228,412 attacking Cunningham, while neither the DCCC nor Pelosi's SuperPAC spent a cent to help Cunningham. They didn't believe his race was worth investing in.

Cunningham's policy positions were moderate (neither progressive nor conservative). Example: he didn't come out for Medicare-for-All but his website states that he believes "healthcare is a right, not a privilege. No one in America should go bankrupt because they get sick. In the United States, no one should forego necessary or preventative care because they are unable to afford it... One of the many ways we can improve our current healthcare system is by encouraging the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to lower medication prices for people on Medicare, similar to how the Veterans Affairs Department does. Another possibility is allowing more middle class families to qualify for tax breaks to reduce their healthcare costs. We should also explore lowering the Medicare age requirement from 65 to 55 over the course of ten years." What you might term a liberal-leaning position for a red district. The Blue Dogs ignored him and the New Dems put him on their watch list rather than endorsing him.

The ad above was devastating for Arrington. But Monday evening the Post and Courier took a deep dive into how she could have lost in such a red district, a Republican disaster almost entirely of Trump's making. She beat Sanford because of Trump's last minute endorsement but she could never raise the money she needed to deal effectively with Cunningham and the NRCC refused to put significant resources into the race. They had, according to her general consultant, Andrew Boucher, been "pressing panic buttons since June here, screaming and yelling to little avail.”
But outwardly, the Arrington campaign exhibited little, if any, signs during the race that they were concerned about some of the factors they now say led to their candidate’s electoral downfall. The Trump-heavy messaging that worked for them in the primary stayed largely the same.

Some trouble spots are obvious, like the fundraising gap Arrington could never seem to close, or the fact that Cunningham beat them to TV and stayed on the air throughout the general election campaign.

Other challenges, like Arrington’s failure to appeal to suburban Republican swing voters, becomes a more complicated story to tell. Was it really a split among Republicans who backed Sanford, like she hinted at during her concession speech, or was this a Trump referendum vote?

What happened in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District has been largely reduced to catch-all explanations and sweeping generalizations about issues like offshore drilling, but the story of Arrington’s loss is as nuanced as the coastal district itself.

Though historical election data gives a Republican candidate in the district a built-in 10-point advantage, it is a unique district. In 2016, Trump bested Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the district by 13 points.

By contrast, the more moderate Mitt Romney outdid President Barack Obama in the district by 18 points.

But Charleston, the most populous county in the district, has shown some movement to the left, morphing in recent years from red to purple in voting preference.

Fundraising challenges

While national analysts continually categorized the district as “safe Republican,” Arrington and members of her campaign team met with the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, a customary practice following a primary win.

At the June 20 meeting, Boucher said their goal was to be placed into the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program for competitive congressional seats, where the NRCC would aggressively invest in TV ads and staffing resources for candidates.

Instead, they were put into the Vanguard Program, a designation that treated Arrington like a victor-in-waiting rather than a challenger-in-need. Even NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in a July press release that he had “no doubt” that Vanguard candidates like Arrington would win in November.

Efforts to reach the NRCC for comment were unsuccessful.

Arrington, meanwhile, struggled to fundraise.

On TV alone, the Arrington campaign said their numbers show Cunningham outspent them nearly 3 to 1.

The latest publicly available federal election reports from October show Cunningham raised about $1.9 million to Arrington’s $1.3 million during the election cycle. Arrington also dropped an estimated $346,909 to self-finance her run, according to campaign finance watchdog  Post-election numbers due in December could show an even wider gap.

However, the numbers alone don’t tell the full story.

“Her dollar amount comes in over $1 million but a huge chunk of that went into the primary,” Boucher said. “When we were running in the primary, we had to spend every dollar we had to win. We couldn’t spend money to build campaign infrastructure.”

Arrington’s campaign had just three full-time staffers compared with the 10 or so with the Cunningham campaign.

None of Arrington’s full-time positions were dedicated to fundraising. Boucher confirmed that position was contracted out. By contrast, Cunningham dedicated four full-time staffers to fundraising.

But when fundraising numbers showed Arrington trailing Cunningham in a Republican district in mid-October, Arrington campaign strategist and spokesman Michael Mulé issued comments about their alleged momentum and the “tremendous support Katie has across the district.”

South Carolina Republican strategist Walter Whetsell said fundraising can be a reflection of a candidate’s ability or inability to connect with voters. He has run GOP congressional campaigns in South Carolina for U.S. Reps. Jeff Duncan and Ralph Norman.

“In political terms, there are two primary factors that define the best candidates: Their ability to raise money and their ability to get voters to like them,” Whetsell said.

But when pressed as to whether they thought they had a likeability issue with Arrington, Mulé and Boucher denied it. Boucher called Arrington “one of the best stump speakers” he had ever seen. Mulé said she was relentless despite being in excruciating pain every day following her June 22 car accident in which she was critically injured.

“Money talks, and it certainly did in this race,” Mulé said. “But money also made an issue out of something that wasn’t really an issue.”

Offshore drilling

In August and September, the Arrington campaign conducted polls asking voters for their most important issue in the race.

Illegal immigration was at the top followed by jobs and the economy. Offshore drilling polled at 1 percent, Boucher said. The highest it ever got, he said, was 4 percent.

“This is what is called a MacGuffin. It is an issue by which someone can target a specific demographic that they need, right?” Boucher said. “This was the issue that Joe Cunningham successfully was able to use to target the Democratic vote. If it has been a different Republican nominee, it would have been a different localized issue.”

The issue began to take off after Arrington stated during the primary at a Beaufort League of Women Voters forum that she supported Trump lifting the ban on offshore drilling along the South Carolina coast.

When two coastal mayors, who identify as Republicans, later endorsed Cunningham because of Arrington’s stance, she then issued a statement saying she did not did not support drilling.

To combat the comment, Arrington reiterated her opposition to offshore drilling at every turn. She also accused Cunningham of being a one-issue candidate.

Behind the scenes, the Arrington campaign spent about $50,000 on digital advertising to get their message out along with a targeted mailer campaign.

The issue was important enough that Arrington addressed the issue in a TV ad, where she stated she had met with the president to demand an exemption for the Palmetto State.

But by then, it may have been too little too late.

The Cunningham campaign had the Republican mayors-- Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll and Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin-- appearing on TV ads supporting Cunningham.

“That gave Republicans permission to cross the aisle and vote for a Democrat,” said Tyler Jones, Cunningham’s spokesman and strategist. “I’ve been working in this business 15 years in South Carolina, and I can tell you that’s never happened before-- ever.”

Whetsell said the offshore drilling issue also represented something far more challenging for Arrington to overcome.

“Katie Arrington’s defenders have missed the point on the relevance of the offshore drilling issue,” he said. “It’s arguable that offshore drilling cost her this election. If it did, it wasn’t on the merits of the issue. It was on the perception that she changed her position.

“What made this issue toxic was that voters perceived that she was misleading them. They perceived that she took one position in the primary then flip-flopped in the general.”

But when Arrington got her chance to speak publicly after her loss, she first blamed Sanford, whom she hammered in the primary for his Trump criticism.

Her unconventional concession speech comments flicked at something few national watchers understood about the underlying dynamics on the ground in this political race.

“You had an internal Republican war going on down there,” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP Chairman.

  “With Katie backing the president in the primary and getting some help from him at the last minute to whip Mark, while you’ve got Mark talking about the things that matter to him and his opposition to the president, well, that just doesn’t lend itself to a unified party.”
Charleston’s suburbs turned out to be the battlefield.

Suburban voters and the Trump factor

Arrington’s loss looks baffling on a map. The 1st Congressional District wraps around parts of Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort counties-- linking a conservative mix of retirees, suburbanites and military veterans.

Arrington won Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort counties. Where she lost was Charleston County, and specifically in suburban areas like Mount Pleasant and West Ashley.

“What defines a suburb?” Boucher hypothetically asked his fellow Republicans. “It’s a place where people care more about what their neighbors think than they do about their own political opinions.”

More seriously, Boucher said the hallmark of a suburban district is looking at the split between “Romney Republicans” and “Trump Republicans.” Where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney performed better than Trump did in 2016, they considered a suburb.

Arrington knocked on doors in suburban areas of Mount Pleasant and West Ashley from August through the third week in September, Boucher said.

But if the Arrington campaign was aware that they needed to sway Republican swing voters-- especially GOP-leaning women who are finding it difficult to defend Trump-- their messaging didn’t reflect that.

Instead, it echoed national GOP talking points, which included equating a vote for Cunningham as a vote for Nancy Pelosi and claims that Cunningham favored an open border policy.

Already, Charleston Republicans are trying to take lessons from the loss.

“We can’t act like things haven’t changed,” said Larry Kobrovsky, chairman of the Charleston Republican Party. “To win in Charleston County, we have to now go beyond our base.”

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