Monday, June 18, 2018

Last Call For That Poll-Asked Look

As I keep saying, Trump is the metastasized symptom, the cancer is the Republican party.

More Republicans view North Korean leader Kim Jong Un favorably than do House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to a poll released Monday. 
The Ipsos survey conducted for The Daily Beast found that among Republicans, 19 percent indicated they hold a favorable opinion of Kim, while 17 percent said they have a favorable opinion of Pelosi
Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said they held an unfavorable opinion of Kim, while 72 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Pelosi.

Republicans have long criticized the Democratic leader, using her in campaign ads to rally up their base, while the survey results come just one week after President Trump’s historic summit with Kim in Singapore, where the two leaders discussed reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program.

America First, for certain definitions of "America".  Besides, Republican voters get to decide who's "American" right?

Nearly every day, voters have been confronted with heart wrenching stories about immigrant children being separated from their parents upon crossing the border into the United States.
The president incorrectly blames his administration’s policy on Democrats, but regardless of his attempt to pass the responsibility, self-identified Republicans have his back, according to a new Ipsos poll done exclusively for The Daily Beast. 
The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over, and conducted June 14-15, asked respondents if they agreed with the following statement: “It is appropriate to separate undocumented immigrant parents from their children when they cross the border in order to discourage others from crossing the border illegally.” 
Of those surveyed, 27 percent of the overall respondents agreed with it, while 56% disagreed with the statement. Yet, Republicans leaned slightly more in favor, with 46% agreeing with the statement and 32 percent disagreeing. Meanwhile, 14 percent of Democrats surveyed supported it and only 29% of Independents were in favor. 
The sample, according to Ipsos, included 339 Democrats, 335 Republicans and 204 Independents.

Nice people, Republicans.  Hell, Quinnipiac actually has a majority of Republicans approving of this

It's not Trump.  It's the people who voted for him.

About That Fox-Watching Uncle Of Yours

Politico's Michael Grunwald lays out the GOP's biggest weapon in the 2018 midterms: Boomer retirees who absolutely have time on their hands to vote, and overwhelmingly they vote Republican. Unless Democrats can get the kind of midterm turnout to counter them, the Blue Wave could crash on the rocks.

The Villages is America’s largest retirement community, a carefully planned, meticulously groomed dreamscape of gated subdivisions, wall-to-wall golf courses, adult-only pools and old-fashioned town squares. It’s advertised as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown,” and it’s supposed to evoke a bygone era of traditional values when Americans knew their neighbors, respected their elders and followed the rules. It has the highest concentration of military veterans of any metropolitan area without a military base. It has strict regulations enforcing the uniformity of homes (no second stories, no bright colors, no modern flourishes) as well as the people living in them (no families with children, except to visit). And it is Trump country, a reliably Republican, vocally patriotic, almost entirely white enclave that gave the president nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Older voters are America’s most reliable voters, which is why baby-boomer boomtowns like The Villages represent the most significant threat to a potential Democratic wave in Florida in 2018—and the most significant source of Republican optimism for many years to come. Because while the Villages may look like the past, with its retro architecture and gray-haired demographics, it sells like the future. This master-planned paradise an hour northwest of Disney World has been the fastest-growing metro area in the entire United States in four of the last five years. And as the baby boom generation continues to retire, The Villages is continuing to expand into nearby cattle pastures, luring more pensioners to this fantasyland in the sunshine, gradually swinging America’s largest swing state to the right.

The Trump supporters who get the most media attention tend to be economically anxious laborers in economically depressed factory towns. But in Florida, economically secure retirement meccas like the Villages are the real reason Trump won in 2016—and why the state’s Republicans, who have controlled Tallahassee for two decades, think they can avoid a blue wave in 2018 and help re-elect Trump in 2020. For all the hype about Puerto Ricans moving to the Sunshine State after Hurricane Maria, or high school students like the Parkland gun control activists turning 18 and registering to vote, any Democratic surge could be offset by the migration of Republican-leaning seniors who like Florida’s balmy weather and lack of income tax. If midterm elections typically play out as judgments on the presidency, then Florida’s upcoming contests will be a race between the usual laws of political gravity and the state’s demographic destiny: Trump remains unpopular with younger voters, and Democrats have already flipped four Florida legislative seats in low-profile special elections this year, but the older voters who are most likely to vote in midterms are increasingly likely to move to Florida and support the president.

It makes sense that they’re coming to The Villages, because this leisure-class Sun Belt oasis is a lot more pleasant than the dying working-class Rust Belt towns that journalists usually visit on Trump-voter safaris. It feels like a 40-square-mile cruise ship, or a college campus without required classes. It has enough golf courses to play a different one every week of the year, and more than 100 miles of golf cart trails that keep traffic congestion to a minimum. It’s the pickleball capital of America, appropriate considering that badminton-meets-tennis-ish paddle game has become America’s fastest-growing sport. It has 3,000 clubs that keep 125,000 Villagers busy doing everything from belly dancing to astrology, water aerobics to water skiing, karaoke to quilting. It isn’t exactly luxurious, but it’s comfortable, with a median home price above $250,000; though a new POLITICO/AARP poll finds plenty of concern elsewhere in Florida , the only real economic anxiety for most Villagers is the state of their investment portfolios, which are thriving in the Trump era. At a meeting of the Financial Markets and Investment Club in early June, a speaker announced: “NASDAQ just closed at a record high!”

That meant more wealth for club members like 80-year-old Larry Harman, a former Chicago-area stockbroker who watches the markets so closely he founded a separate club devoted to options trading. But while Harman voted for Trump, and gladly would again, his investment gains are not the reason: “I keep telling people: Come on, Trump has nothing to do with your portfolio.” Harman, a former Marine, is much more excited about Trump’s crusade against the National Football League. “Players taking a knee, that’s bullshit!” Harman told me. “I’m with the president 100 percent: Throw your hand over your heart and respect our flag.”

It’s not a coincidence that The Villages supports the nation’s largest American Legion post—or that signs in its bar declare: “NO NFL GAMES ON POST TELEVISIONS.” Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 2:1 here, and in interviews, they generally expressed support for Trump’s tax cuts, as well as his hands-off approach to Medicare and Social Security. That has helped blunt the perennial Democratic pitch to seniors: Choose us, because Republicans are coming for your checks. But what really attracted them to Trump were issues that had little to do with their pocketbooks or their daily lives—like his opposition to sanctuary cities, or his insistent rhetoric about strength, or his attacks on Muslims, MS-13 and defiant black athletes. They feel like Trump is on their side in a cultural war against cop-haters, scheming foreigners, global warming alarmists, and other politically correct avatars of disorder and decline; they thought President Barack Obama was on the other side, standing with transgender activists, welfare freeloaders and Islamic terrorists. And when Trump vows to make America great again, they sense that he means more like The Villages.

“They want an America that’s a little more like it was when they were growing up, and that’s what Trump is offering,” says Daniel Webster, the area’s conservative Republican congressman. Dennis Baxley, the area’s equally conservative Republican state senator, points out that The Villages offers that, too, with safe streets, light traffic, artificial lakes that provide a real sense of serenity, and hundreds of support groups for every imaginable malady or hardship. It’s a throwback to when they were children in 1950s America, without actual children.

It really is like living in a village, where there’s law and order, and people take care of each other,” says Baxley, who owns three funeral homes in The Villages. “Trump tapped into that sense that the rest of America isn’t like that anymore, that some people don’t have to follow the rules.”

Trump is definitely one of them. They love him for it, and they'll vote GOP for the rest of their lives.  More importantly, they show up to register and vote where Gen X and especially Millennials don't bother, so these are the voters that control our politics and our country.  They'll continue to control elections, especially midterms, for the next couple of decades, the living embodiment of the "I'm spending my kids' inheritance" bumper-sticker Boomer assholes who figure they earned it, and that they can't take it with them.

They elected the GOP, they elected Trump, and they'll damn sure be at the polls in November 2018.

Will the rest of us be ready to stop them?

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Realizing that yet another Trump campaign contact with Russia has been revealed by witnesses cooperating with the Mueller probe, Roger Simon is now trying to claim that the revelations of yet another meeting between Trump's camp and Russians trying to sell political dirt on Hillary Clinton was an FBI setup, yeah, that's the ticket.

One day in late May 2016, Roger Stone — the political dark sorcerer and longtime confidant of Donald Trump — slipped into his Jaguar and headed out to meet a man with a Make America Great Again hat and a viscous Russian accent.

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, according to Stone who spoke about the previously unreported incident in interviews with The Washington Post. Greenberg, who did not reveal the information he claimed to possess, wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt, Stone said.

“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone recalled saying before rejecting the offer at a restaurant in the Russian-expat magnet of Sunny Isles, Fla. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

Later, Stone got a text message from Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign communications official who’d arranged the meeting after Greenberg had approached Caputo’s Russian-immigrant business partner.

“How crazy is the Russian?” Caputo wrote according to a text message reviewed by The Post. Noting that Greenberg wanted “big” money, Stone replied: “waste of time.”

Two years later, the brief sit-down in Florida has resurfaced as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Caputo. Caputo said he was asked about the meeting by prosecutors during a sometimes-heated questioning session last month.

Stone and Caputo, who did not previously disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, now say they believe they were the targets of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump.

They cite records — independently examined by The Post — showing that the man who approached Stone is actually a Russian national who has claimed to work as an FBI informant.

Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. He attached records showing that the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a “significant public benefit.”

There is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone, and in his court filing, Greenberg said that he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013. 

So we can add Roger Stone to the list of Trump campaign folks actively seeking meetings with Russians for dmaging dirt on Hillary Clinton, and who didn't tell the FBI about it.

There are an awful lot of Trump campaign people in that particular boat: Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Erik Prince, and quite possibly Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump himself.  There was an awful lot of meetings between Russians and Trump campaign people before the 2016 election, too:  in Trump Tower, in DC restaurants, in the Seychelles, at the 2016 NRA convention in Louisville.

Believe me when I say Mueller knows about all of them.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Long Read: Breaking Up An Outbreak Breakdown

In this week's Sunday Long Read, The Atlantic's Ed Yong discusses where the world is in the Trump era as far as being ready for the next global pandemic, and while there are a number of factors that make a response potentially better than even a few years ago, there's a lot to worry about as global supply-chain economics has trimmed all fat from the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and that makes maintaining public health stockpiles far more expensive and daunting.

One hundred years ago, in 1918, a strain of H1N1 flu swept the world. It might have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, or in France or China—but soon it was everywhere. In two years, it killed as many as 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population, and far more than the number who died in World War I. It killed not just the very young, old, and sick, but also the strong and fit, bringing them down through their own violent immune responses. It killed so quickly that hospitals ran out of beds, cities ran out of coffins, and coroners could not meet the demand for death certificates. It lowered Americans’ life expectancy by more than a decade. “The flu resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death,” Laura Spinney wrote in Pale Rider, her 2017 book about the pandemic. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history—a potent reminder of the threat posed by disease.

Humanity seems to need such reminders often. In 1948, shortly after the first flu vaccine was created and penicillin became the first mass-produced antibiotic, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall reportedly claimed that the conquest of infectious disease was imminent. In 1962, after the second polio vaccine was formulated, the Nobel Prize–winning virologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet asserted, “To write about infectious diseases is almost to write of something that has passed into history.”

Hindsight has not been kind to these proclamations. Despite advances in antibiotics and vaccines, and the successful eradication of smallpox, Homo sapiens is still locked in the same epic battle with viruses and other pathogens that we’ve been fighting since the beginning of our history. When cities first arose, diseases laid them low, a process repeated over and over for millennia. When Europeans colonized the Americas, smallpox followed. When soldiers fought in the first global war, influenza hitched a ride, and found new opportunities in the unprecedented scale of the conflict. Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.

Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings. In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs. Not coincidentally, the total number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s.

Globalization compounds the risk: Airplanes now carry almost 10 times as many passengers around the world as they did four decades ago. In the ’80s, HIV showed how potent new diseases can be, by launching a slow-moving pandemic that has since claimed about 35 million lives. In 2003, another newly discovered virus, sars, spread decidedly more quickly. A Chinese seafood seller hospitalized in Guangzhou passed it to dozens of doctors and nurses, one of whom traveled to Hong Kong for a wedding. In a single night, he infected at least 16 others, who then carried the virus to Canada, Singapore, and Vietnam. Within six months, sars had reached 29 countries and infected more than 8,000 people. This is a new epoch of disease, when geographic barriers disappear and threats that once would have been local go global.

Last year, with the centennial of the 1918 flu looming, I started looking into whether America is prepared for the next pandemic. I fully expected that the answer would be no. What I found, after talking with dozens of experts, was more complicated—reassuring in some ways, but even more worrying than I’d imagined in others. Certainly, medicine has advanced considerably during the past century. The United States has nationwide vaccination programs, advanced hospitals, the latest diagnostic tests. In the National Institutes of Health, it has the world’s largest biomedical research establishment, and in the CDC, arguably the world’s strongest public-health agency. America is as ready to face down new diseases as any country in the world.

Yet even the U.S. is disturbingly vulnerable—and in some respects is becoming quickly more so. It depends on a just-in-time medical economy, in which stockpiles are limited and even key items are made to order. Most of the intravenous bags used in the country are manufactured in Puerto Rico, so when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, the bags fell in short supply. Some hospitals were forced to inject saline with syringes—and so syringe supplies started running low too. The most common lifesaving drugs all depend on long supply chains that include India and China—chains that would likely break in a severe pandemic. “Each year, the system gets leaner and leaner,” says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It doesn’t take much of a hiccup anymore to challenge it.”

Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor—and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years. Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed. And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.

When Ebola flared in 2014, the science-minded President Barack Obama calmly and quickly took the reins. The White House is now home to a president who is neither calm nor science-minded. We should not underestimate what that may mean if risk becomes reality.

Again, global pandemics keep happening and are happening.  So far, we've been able to hold the line.  But there are a lot of things that have to go right for that streak to continue, and should a particularly bad virus appear, a global death toll in the tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, wouldn't be out of the picture.

It's a question of when, not if.  Should "if" be "during the Trump era" then we're in real trouble.

Trump Trading Blows, Con't

There are signs that the one-two punch of Donald Trump's tax cuts for the rich and igniting a global trade war is starting to hurt the US economy.  Unemployment is down, but so are hourly wages.  Fed chair Jerome Powell raised core interest rates last week to head off inflationary pressures as gas price hikes have eaten up wage gains for Americans since Trump took office, with oil prices jumping substantially after Trump wrecked the Iran nuclear deal.  And in the heartland, a new round of tariffs on China announced last week will only make things worse for US farmers.

Perhaps Iowa farmers' biggest fear is becoming a harsh reality: The escalating U.S.-China trade dispute erupted Friday, with each country vowing to levy 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in goods.

U.S. and Iowa agriculture is caught in the crossfire, with farmers selling $14 billion in soybeans to China last year, its top export market.

Soybeans are among hundreds of U.S. products China has singled out for tariffs. The U.S. has an equally long list that includes taxing X-ray machines and other Chinese goods.

Iowa farmers could lose up to $624 million, depending on how long the tariffs are in place and the speed producers can find new markets for their soybeans, said Chad Hart, an Iowa State University economist.

U.S. soybean prices have fallen about 12 percent since March, when the U.S.-China trade dispute began.

"Any tariff or tax put in place will have a significant impact, not only to the U.S. soybean market but to Iowa's, because we're such a large producer," Hart said Friday.

Iowa is the nation's second-largest soybean grower, producing 562 million bushels last year worth $5.2 billion.

Iowa is number two.  The number one soybean producer is Ohio.   Farmers around here have noticed, too.  They're worried.  And Iowa has bigger problems too.

China already has smacked farmers with an additional 25 percent tariff on pork, and Mexico plans a 20 percent tariff on ham and pork shoulders.

Those moves could cost Iowa pork producers $360 million over the year, an ISU economist estimates, less than initially calculated, thanks to some pork price recovery.

Mexico is weighing tariffs on $4 billion of U.S. corn and soybeans, Reuters reported Friday, while the European Union and Canada are considering tariffs on a range of U.S. products.

Iowa stands to lose a billion dollars a year from tariffs on soybeans and pork.  If tariffs extend into corn too, Iowa's farm economy will be badly damaged.  That's just one state, too.

Then we have to talk about how food is going to get a lot more expensive in the US as a result of these tariffs, so even if you're not a farmer, you'll notice at the grocery store for sure.  It's going to get worse before it gets better, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

It's About Suppression, Con't

In the wake of last week's 5-4 Supreme Court decision allowing Ohio Republicans to purge voter rolls solely on the basis of not voting, I predicted that the decision would serve as a green light for other red states to begin massive voter suppression efforts:

Republicans want as few people eligible to vote as possible for a reason, and this is just one more weapon to use against voter registration drives.  Don't be surprised if red states in fact take up even more aggressive voter purges too, apparently it's open season now on "use it or lose it" as a "right" to vote.

What this means is voting is no longer a protected right, but something that can be taken from you by the states for the reason of choosing not using it.  Alito and the conservative majority on the court aren't concerned with voting rights, they are concerned with Republicans winning, period.

North Carolina Republicans are wasting no time now that they know how the court stands on restricting who can vote and are going for broke to stop groups that vote Democratic from being allowed to cast ballots ahead of midterms.

The last time Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature enacted a law making it harder for some of the state’s residents to vote, a federal court said the statute targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision,” and threw it out.

That was last year. Now the legislators are back with a new set of election proposals, and an unconventional plan to make them stick.

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, Republican senators unveiled legislation that would eliminate the final Saturday of early voting in state elections, a day that typically draws a large share of black voters to the polls. That followed a Republican proposal last week to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would require all voters to display a photo ID before casting votes.

In addition, party leaders say they are preparing a constitutional amendment that would curb the power of the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, over the state board that controls election procedures.

Since Republicans swept to control of the North Carolina Legislature and the governorship in 2010 and 2012, the state has become ground zero for struggles over election rules and voting rights. But Democrats have recently made gains in the state, most notably with Mr. Cooper’s win in 2016.

Voting rights advocates say Republicans are trying to lock in as much of a political advantage as possible in advance of a November election that could weaken or break their hold on the Legislature.

It's a pretty ballsy plan, I have to hand it to them.

Their plan faces risks. Both voter ID and restrictions on early voting were keystone features of the last Republican elections bill, in 2013, that federal judges struck down as racially discriminatory in 2017.

This time, however, the party’s tactics have changed. The voter ID amendment would require approval by citizens as well as legislators. The final Saturday of voting has been popular — nearly 200,000 citizens voted on that day in 2016 — and African-Americans turned out at a rate 40 percent greater than their share of the electorate. But the bill to eliminate that Saturday would apportion those lost hours among other early voting days, so the total hours of polling would not change.

Opponents call that a smoke screen, and say the legislation is crafted to curtail early voting by requiring local election officials to staff every polling place 12 hours a day for all 17 days of the early voting period. Many election offices will struggle to find enough volunteers to meet that schedule, they say, and will be forced to close early voting sites to comply.

And of course the counties that would be most likely to have to close early voting would be places with large urban black populations like Durham and Mecklenburg, and Sandhills counties in the east with a large percentage of black voters and not a lot of resources like Wilson, Wayne, and Sampson.

Like I said, pretty ballsy, especially bringing in a Voter ID amendment to the state Constitution, assuring that only SCOTUS could stop it, and won't.

Look for more states to put voter suppression efforts into state constitutions the way Republicans did with gay marriage 15 years ago.  Millions of Americans were denied the right to marry until SCOTUS stepped in, but this time that train is headed for the opposite direction.

Immiration Nation, Con't

House Republicans, realizing that they are going to get crushed in November, are scrambling to come up with some sort of cover as Trump's hideous policy of separating kids from their families at the border not only continues unabated, but is actually accelerating.

Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the U.S. border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries, according to Department of Homeland Security figures obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The figures show that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. The separations were not broken down by age, and included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult.

Under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security officials are now referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

Sessions announced the effort April 6, and Homeland Security began stepping up referrals in early May, effectively putting the policy into action.

Since then, stories of weeping children torn from the arms of their frightened parents have flooded the media and the policy has been widely criticized by church groups, politicians and children’s advocates who say it is inhumane. A battle in Congress is brewing in part over the issue.

Some immigrant advocates have said women were being separated from their infants — a charge Homeland Security and Justice officials flatly denied. They also said the children were being well cared for and disputed reports of disorder and mistreatment at the border.

On Thursday, Sessions cited the Bible in defending the policy, arguing the recent criticisms were not “fair or logical and some are contrary to law.”

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” he said.

The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid group, released a statement Friday saying, “A policy of willing cruelty to those people, and using young sons and daughters as pawns, shatters America’s strong foundation of humanitarian sensibility and family values.”

The Trump regime policy has resulted in internment tent camps for migrant children filling America's TV screens during an election year, and Trump is lying and claiming Democrats in Congress are forcing this with Obama-era laws.  It's complete nonsense, and House Republicans want to pass something so they can tell voters they tried to stop it, but of course the bill in front of the House GOP doesn't actually stop Trump from doing this.

The reality is that Trump, congressional Republicans, and most Trump voters all want this policy.

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” he tweeted. After listing his demands in any immigration bill, he added, “Go for it! WIN!”

The attempt to gain advantage from a practice the American Academy of Pediatrics describes as causing children “irreparable harm” sets up a high-stakes gambit for Trump, whose political career has long benefited from harsh rhetoric on immigration.

Democrats have latched onto the issue and vowed to fight in the court of public opinion, with leaders planning trips to the border to highlight the stories of separated families, already the focus of news media attention. Democratic candidates running for vulnerable Republican seats also have begun to make the harsh treatment of children a centerpiece of their campaigns.

But there are those religious groups that see this as the abomination that it is.

The policy has cracked Trump’s usually united conservative base, with a wide array of religious leaders and groups denouncing it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention issued statements critical of the practice.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, signed a letter calling the practice “horrible.” Pastor Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse, a vocal supporter of the president’s who has brushed aside past Trump controversies, called it “terrible” and “disgraceful.”

We'll see what happens, but my guess is that Trump will continue to blame Democrats, and that his own voters will buy the lie, as they have everything else.  As for the rest of America, we'll see if this motivates us to actually do anything about one-party Trump control.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Last Call For Pell-Mell Paul, Mauled

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been upgraded from Double Secret Probation to the full carcerial experience.

A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month
“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted, and the defendant will be detained.” 
The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision” but said his conduct — allegedly contacting witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators — left her little choice. 
“This is not middle school. I can’t take away his cellphone,” she said. “If I tell him not to call 56 witnesses, will he call the 57th?” She said she should not have to draft a court order spelling out the entire criminal code for him to avoid violations. 
“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort was led out of the courtroom by security officers. He turned and gave a last look and wave to his wife, seated in the well of the court. She nodded back to him.

And I've got news for you: Paul Manafort probably will never leave jail either.  His trial is going to go very, very badly for him, and even if Trump pardons his federal case tomorrow, the state trial will proceed, and he's most likely going to spend the rest of his life in a cell.

He's the first to go to jail.

He will not be the last.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

We've talked about the Democrats retaking the House and the struggle to hold the line in the Senate, but there are 36 Governor's seats up for election in 2018, and Democrats are also looking to make big gains at the state level ahead of 2020 redistricting.  The latest Cook Political forecast shows that Dems could pick up seven or more seats out of 50, which would make a huge political difference.

Governors’ races are not immune to mid-term election trends. Just as the party in power loses seats in the U.S. House and Senate, it also loses gubernatorial seats. In the 29 mid-term elections that have taken place since 1902, the party in power has lost seats in 26 of them, or 90 percent of the time. The average loss is 4.5 seats. The biggest losses in the last 50 years came in 1970 when Republicans under President Richard Nixon lost 11 seats. In 1994 as Democrats were losing their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, they also lost 11 gubernatorial seats. The most recent exceptions to mid-term losses are 1986 when Republicans gained eight governorships under President Reagan (this is the same year that the GOP suffered a net loss of eight U.S. Senate seats), and 1998 when Democrats under President Clinton didn’t lose any seats. 
Given the near historic number of seats Republicans hold and mid-term trends, it would seem that they have nowhere to go but down. They are playing defense this cycle, while Democrats are working to put as many GOP-held seats on the board as possible. 
Both parties are looking at contested primaries in most of the competitive races. The primary calendar is somewhat backloaded in gubernatorial contests, meaning that many of the most important primaries are going to take place in August and early September. These primaries carry a risk for both parties: will the strongest nominees emerge, will a weak nominee take a potentially competitive contest off the table, or conversely, put what should be a safe seat at risk? The number of competitive primaries on the calendar also makes it difficult to assign a range of potential gains or losses.

The big issue is that not all states have decided their primaries yet, which means for now, not all candidates are set.  There are also a lot of open seats this time around, and a lot of toss-ups.

Of the nine seats Democrats must defend, none are in red states, although a couple — Minnesota and Pennsylvania — are in swing states. 
The seats Democrats need to be most concerned about are the open seats in Connecticut and Minnesota. It seems counterintuitive that a seat in a solidly blue state like Connecticut would be in play, but the state faces significant financial problems, the city of Hartford was on the brink of bankruptcy last fall until the state bailed it out, and major employers like General Electric are leaving the state. These are all ingredients for a competitive race. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Ned Lamont, a businessman who defeated then-U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in 2006 (Lieberman won the general election as an independent). Lamont made an unsuccessful bid for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010. Republicans have a crowded primary, but they are likely to nominate a political outsider. 
In Minnesota, Democrats face a very competitive primary. While U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was thought to be the favorite, he faces challenges from state Rep. Erin Murphy, who won the party endorsement, and state Attorney General Lori Swanson. On the Republican side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is facing off against Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the primary. If Pawlenty doesn’t win the nomination, this contest becomes less competitive for Republicans. 
The open seat in Colorado may also be up for grabs. On the Republican side, state Treasurer Walter Stapleton is the frontrunner for the nomination in a four-way primary. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and former Denver CFO Cary Kennedy are locked in a battle for the nomination, while state Sen. Mike Johnston is considered a dark horse. Polis is putting considerable personal money into the race, which would make this contest more difficult for Republicans if he wins the nomination.

Things are a lot tougher for Republicans for the same reason they are tough for the Democrats in the Senate: a bunch of seats to defend in states the other party won in 2016.

Republicans are defending 26 seats, including a number in blue and purple states. They go into the general election with one seat – the open seat in New Mexico – in the Lean Democrat column. Republican Gov. Susanna Martinez is unpopular, and Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce does not have a great track record in statewide races, having lost U.S. Senate contests in 2000 and 2008. He is the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, and as a member of the Freedom Caucus, he is likely too conservative and controversial to win a statewide contest this year. 
There are seven seats in the Toss Up column, including incumbent Govs. Bruce Rauner in Illinois and Kim Reynolds in Iowa. Rauner is easily the most vulnerable incumbent of either party, but his significant personal resources make it hard to put him in the Lean Democrat column, at least for now. Reynolds is running for a term in her own right after becoming Governor when Terry Branstad resigned to become Ambassador to China. She will face Fred Hubbell, former president of Equitable Iowa and former Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development under Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. Hubbell easily won a crowded primary, outperforming expectations. This contest has moved to the Toss Up column. 
The other five contests are in open seats in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio. In Florida, both parties are hosting competitive primaries. There isn’t a real frontrunner on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the frontrunner, but he is getting a challenge to his right from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Putnam would be a very competitive nominee, while the race gets harder for the GOP if DeSantis, a member of the Freedom Caucus, is the party’s standard-bearer.
Maine will host a three-way contest. Shawn Moody, who ran for Governor in 2010 as an independent and finished fourth, won the GOP primary. As a result of the state’s ranked-choice primary system, it’s not clear yet whether businessman Adam Cote or Attorney General Janet Mills will be the Democratic nominee. There are several independent candidates running, but state Treasurer Terry Hayes seems likely to get the most traction. 
In the open seat in Ohio, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine will face off against Democrat Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There are three recent polls: one shows DeWine up by six points, another has Cordray up by two points and the third has Cordray up by seven points. It is extremely unlikely that Cordray is up by seven points and he may not even be ahead by two points, but the takeaway from these surveys is that this race is within the margin of error. As a result it has moved to the Toss Up column. 
Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is in the Lean Republican column, but Democrats are convinced that this race will ultimately be a toss up. Walker is seeking a third term, which is always difficult, but before Democrats can go head to head with Walker, they need a nominee. They are hosting a 10-way primary, and seven or eight of the candidates can make credible cases that they have a path to the nomination. Until the August 14 primary, Walker is left to raise money and fine-tune his organization.

In other words, Dems could pick up seven, possibly eight governor's mansions in November.  That would go a long, long way towards blunting Trump's influence.

Having Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin back on Team Blue could break Trump in 2020.  Let's make it happen, guys.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

It's been an abysmal week for the Trump regime, with the White House's North Korea summit narrative disintegrating under the deluge of bad news:

Things have now gotten so bad that  Rudy Giuliani was on FOX News last night demanding Robert Mueller's head.

President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said Thursday evening that special counsel Robert Mueller's probe should be suspended and Friday is the last chance for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "redeem themselves."

"I believe that Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions have a chance to redeem themselves and that chance comes about tomorrow," Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Holding up a copy of the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General report, Giuliani argued that Mueller's probe must cease so top FBI officials named in the report can be investigated.

The report, compiled by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and his staff, found that the FBI's handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server was not affected by political bias. However, multiple agency officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, made decisions that went against department norms and others, like agent Peter Strzok, made inappropriate comments critical of then-candidate Trump.

"Tomorrow, Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok," Giuliani continued. "Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week."

Giuliani’s call for Mueller to be suspended represents a major turning point for the Trump lawyer. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a White House event at the end of May, Giuliani said he didn’t think the special counsel job was in jeopardy. “I don’t think he’s going to fire Mueller. Mueller is creating his own problems,” Giuliani said.

At this point we have to assume that Rudy's appearance on Hannity last night is what Donald Trump wanted the world to hear, both the demand that Mueller be stopped and a new investigator brought in by Trump, and that Sessions and Rosenstein have "one day" to "redeem" themselves. 

Odds of that Saturday Night Massacre™ happening this weekend just went up astronomically in my book.  If there were ever a weekend where Trump blows his stack and makes his move against the DoJ, it's this one.

We know he's tried to fire Mueller before.  He was always going to try again.  When he realizes that Jeff Sessions can't make all of this go away, especially the NY state case involving Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. and the Trump Foundation, he might just take a flamethrower to it all.

Maybe somebody talks him down again. Maybe this is the weekend where he can no longer be talked down.  Stay tuned.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Last Call For That's Real White Of You, Con't

As I mentioned earlier this week, Virginia Democrat and Hillary veep pick Sen. Tim Kaine is running for re-election and his opponent is Republican/Actual White Supremacist™ Corey Stewart, who is already calling for Kaine to be investigated and jailed because of the crime of being Hillary's veep pick, or something.

After responding to his victory rally crowds’ “Lock her up” chants by saying it “might just happen,” the Republican Senate candidate who won the GOP primary in Virginia on Tuesday evening, Corey Stewart, again suggested that his opponent should be jailed. 
During a turbulent interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, Stewart suggested that his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) was at the “center” of reports that a government informant was deployed to meet with members of the Trump campaign to probe their contacts with Russian officials at the start of what we now consider the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Donald Trump, Stewart —who claims he won because he fully aligned himself with Trump — and other far-right Republicans have seized on reports of the informant as evidence that a spy was sent to infiltrate Trump’s campaign. The President himself has dubbed the whole ordeal “spygate.”

“’ll tell you something, I really do believe that Tim Kaine has been at the center of all this stuff that you’re seeing with regard to the FBI, you know the whole problem is having the FBI spying by federal agency on a presidential campaign,” Stewart told Cuomo, who interrupted him to say there was “no proof” to back up his allegations
Stewart shot back: “We’re not in a court of law are we?” 
“That doesn’t mean the truth doesn’t apply, my brother,” Cuomo said. 
Stewart then repeated his claim that Kaine and the entire commonwealth of Virginia were at the “center” of the informant controversy. 
I would not be surprised if there’s an investigation of Tim Kaine before the year is out,” Stewart said. “Look here’s the question, at the end of the day people have to ask themselves, what has Tim Kaine accomplished in his six years in the United States Senate? Tim Kaine can’t point to a single accomplishment in the United States Senate for Virginia or Virginians. The only thing that Tim Kaine has done in the past six years is run for vice president, and he didn’t even do a very good job at that, I might add.”

Then this morning, Stewart tweeted that Kaine is a terrorist.

It's only Thursday.  Stewart has been the GOP candidate for Senate for less than 48 hoursAnd when I say Stewart is a white supremacist, I'm 100% not being hyperbolic.

He once stood proudly before a Confederate flag, declaring it was not a symbol of hatred, but “about our heritage.” 
After the march of torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville last year, which led to the death of a counterprotester, he criticized “weak Republicans” who “couldn’t apologize fast enough.” 
As officials around Virginia have grappled with whether to remove Confederate statues, he has compared those politicians to leaders of the Islamic State. 
Now Corey Stewart, a county official who for years has played to the hard-right fringe, captured the Republican nomination for Senate in Virginia. 
He did so in a low-turnout primary on Tuesday when many centrist Republicans apparently stayed home, unhappy with a three-way race among candidates all professing strong loyalty to President Trump and given to fiery culture war pronouncements. 
Mr. Stewart, the chairman of a county board of supervisors who briefly led Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, received a congratulatory overnight tweet from the president, who called Mr. Stewart’s Democratic opponent, Senator Tim Kaine, “a total stiff.” 
Tellingly, though, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign arm, said it would not support Mr. Stewart, who lags far behind Mr. Kaine in fund-raising and has a history of cozying up to white supremacists and anti-Semites that threatens to make him an albatross for down-ballot Republicans. 
White House officials said the president was unlikely to cross the Potomac River to campaign personally for Mr. Stewart unless there were signs that his race against Mr. Kaine had become competitive. 
The real worry for national Republicans — and the hope for Democrats — is that Mr. Stewart’s nomination may cost some incumbent Republicans in Virginia their seats in Congress.

When he loses, I hope he takes the rest of the Virginia GOP down with him.

Trump Cards, Con't

It looks like New York AG Barbara Underwood is picking up where her predecessor Eric Schniederman left off (before it turned out he was an abusive monster towards multiple women as he resigned in shame last month) and has now filed suit against the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump, Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. for charities fraud.

In the suit, filed Thursday morning, attorney general Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. 
Underwood also asks that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States. 
In the suit, Underwood noted that Trump had already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016. New York state began probing the Trump Foundation in response to an investigation by The Washington Post.
But she asked the judge to go further, and require Trump to pay millions more. She said a 20-month state investigation found that Trump had repeatedly violated laws that set the ground rules for tax-exempt foundations — most importantly, that their money is meant to serve the public good, and not to provide private benefits to their founders.

“This resulted in multiple violations of state and federal law,” Underwood wrote in the legal complaint
The White House and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Trump has been president of the foundation since he founded it in 1987. In late 2016, he had promised to shut down the Trump Foundation — but could not while the attorney general’s investigation continued. 
Underwood was promoted to the position of attorney general only weeks ago, succeeding Eric Schneiderman (D) after he resigned following allegations that he had physically abused several romantic partners. Underwood was a career staffer, not an elected official. She has promised not to seek election for a full term as attorney general in the fall.

Underwood declined to comment on the case beyond issuing a written statement. “As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in the statement.

Underwood said she had sent letters to both the IRS and the Federal Election Commission, identifying what she called “possible violations” of tax law and federal campaign law by Trump’s foundation. 
Underwood has jurisdiction over the Trump Foundation because the charity is based at Trump Tower in Manhattan and registered in New York State. 
Trump’s children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump were also named in the lawsuit because they have been official board members of the Donald J. Trump Foundation for years. Under the law, Underwood said, board members are supposed to scrutinize a charity’s spending for signs that its leader — in this case, their father — was misusing the funds.

But in reality, Underwood wrote, the three Trump children exercised no such oversight. The board had not actually met since 1999

The Trump Foundation is most likely guilty of all the things Trump accused the Clinton Foundation of doing, being a personal slush fund and money laundering vehicle for the Trump family to take kickbacks from for decades.  Believe me when I say Mueller and his team of forensic accountants are follwing this money trail, and as I've said all along, even if Trump fires Mueller and pardons himself on all federal charges, the state charges brought by NY are going to be much harder to make disappear.

That doesn't mean Trump can't find a federal judge to tie up this lawsuit like rope day at a contortionist's convention, but it's not like Trump can fire Underwood or pardon himself from the lawsuit.  Most importantly, his slimy kids are in real trouble from this.  Dad might be able to smokescreen this for a while but Ivanka and her rotten brothers will not have that luxury.

And if these "multiple violations of state and federal law" turn into possible criminal indictments complete with possible prison time, things are going to get real fun around family gatherings.

Oh, and it directly ties into the Trump campaign's constant illegality too.

It also means the DoJ will have to certainly open yet another federal investigation into the person in the Oval Office, an investigation that AG Jeff Sessions, having been a member of the Trump campaign at the time, cannot be allowed to oversee.

Congress too should look into this as well.  Republicans certainly would if the legal complaint that the NY AG is producing here were directed towards the Clinton Foundation.

Stay tuned.  The family that crimes together, does time together.

Sayonara, Mouths Of Sauron!

CBS News is reporting that Trump Regime Minister of Disinformation White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah are out.

Two of the most visible members of the Trump administration are planning their departures, the latest sign of upheaval in a White House marked by turmoil.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are both heading for the exits, according to sources inside the White House and close to the administration. Sanders, who has become a confidante of President Trump since the departure of former communications director Hope Hicks, has told friends that she plans to leave the administration at the end of the year.

Shah is also considering his exit, but he has not yet settled on an exact date. Neither Sanders nor Shah responded to repeated requests for comment before this story was published. When reached Wednesday evening, both declined to comment on the record, and Sanders tweeted that she is "honored to work for @POTUS."

Several other lower-level positions in the communications department left vacant in recent weeks are likely to remain unfilled, with more departures expected in the coming weeks, according to a former official.

Numerous staffers have left the White House over the last several months, some voluntarily and others having been forced out. Those departures include Hicks; Jared Kushner's top communications aide, Josh Raffel; homeland security adviser Tom Bossert; National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton; Trump personal aide John McEntee; director of White House message strategy Cliff Simms; communications aide Steven Cheung; congressional communications director Kaelan Dorr; assistant press secretary Natalie Strom; and deputy director of media affairs Tyler Ross.

Now she didn't exactly deny the story in the tweet, which is the tell.  Trump often leaves Huckabee-Sanders and Shah out to dry by tweeting one thing and then leaving them having to deal with the "White House position" being the opposite of what Trump tweeted earlier in the day, and this happens several times a month, if not several times in the same week. It's exhausting having to cover for the worst liar on Earth.

Having said that, the two of them are getting paid handsomely to do it, and nobody's forcing them to, you know, actively work for Donald Trump.  If either of them had any shred of decency they would have resigned months ago or better yet never taken the job to begin with, knowing exactly what Trump was all about.  My sympathies, especially for Huckabee-Sanders, are precisely zero in this situation.  Besides, they'll land at FOX News within a week of leaving.

Somebody in the White House has it out for the two of them, and it could very well be John Barron Donald Trump himself, so who knows.  I'm thinking that neither Huckabee-Sanders nor Shah have what it takes to handle the press once Mueller closes in on Trump, and with Michael Cohen reportedly about to flip, that time could be sooner rather than later.

Of course, Jeff Sessions and John Kelly have been "heading for the exits" for over a year now, so who knows in the end.
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