Sunday, February 4, 2018

Last Call For Leave Them Alone

To say that women dislike Trump is an understatement.  White women, who preferred Trump by 9 points in November 2016, now prefer Democrats by more than double-digit margins.  To try to win them back, Ivanka Trump and Marco Rubio are going to make promises as empty as they come, bleating about family leave legislation that will never make it past the GOP House.

Marco Rubio is starting to strategize with Ivanka Trump to win over skeptical Republicans on a traditionally Democratic issue: paid family leave. 
Capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the idea in his State of the Union address, Rubio is trying to marshal Republicans behind a plan that would neither impose a mandate on employers nor raise taxes to pay for it — two hurdles that have long halted the GOP from embracing paid family leave. 
“We still have to work on members of my own party,” Rubio said in an extended interview with POLITICO about his effort. “I think there will be significant initial resistance to it, because it’s just not an issue that’s been identified with the Republican Party.”
No kidding.  But even this will come at at massive cost to America's parents. With Republicans, there's always a cost, and it's always on the individual.

Rubio has barely started crafting a paid leave bill, much less a broader legislative strategy. But he envisions an idea that has recently gained traction in conservative circles: allowing people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters, and then delay their checks when they hit retirement age.

Want to take time off to raise a kid?  It'll push back your retirement age for months, maybe years.  And trying to pay for a new baby or a family medical emergency on a couple hundred a month?  Good luck with that, especially since Republicans just gutted Medicare, Medicaid, and raised insurance premiums and wrecked maternity coverage on medical plans as part of their tax overhaul.

As is everything else with the GOP, it's a 100% scam designed to hurt American  workers.  Will white women fall for it again?

Who knows?  They already did with Trump before.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

As I said yesterday, the Nunes memo was a massive dud to the point where the GOP can't possibly use it for cover for Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or his boss Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Trump/Russia investigation as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.

That's not going to stop the Trump regime and the GOP from trying to salvage their attack, and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass gives away the game this weekend as to where the GOP will now be parking the Mueller firing goalposts.

What we’re looking at is politics.

It was politics when the political left loved WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange, back when he released sensitive information, even though it undercut American foreign policy. He was a hero then. But he was hated later, when his work involved Democratic National Committee emails. Then Republicans loved him.

Republicans were once adamantly in support of the FBI, the CIA and some of the other shadowy agencies with great powers to watch us and to monitor our phones, to listen to what we say in the interests of security and to ignore or avoid the Fourth Amendment. And Democrats were once adamantly opposed to even suspected abuses by federal police and the intelligence agencies — what is now called “the Deep State” — and they railed against those who’d step on American civil liberties in a political hunt.

But now, Democrats are the champions of shadow warriors in the CIA and the FBI, arguing that we must not challenge these agencies at the risk of national security. And Republicans hammer at the FBI — whose leadership they once respected — including former FBI director Robert Mueller.

Now that he’s special prosecutor investigating Trump, his final report could provide a political basis for Democrats to impeach Trump, should they gain control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.

So we’re in the Upside Down now. You see how this goes. You can see where it’s going.

The best thing to do in this business of the president and the investigation and the memo is to have everything released, all the information, and hope that the American people actually care enough about their country to read it, rather than accept the spin by some that it’s a nothing burger, and the spin by others that it’s a book of revelations.

Americans should read the Republican memo, and also read the complete rebuttal from the Democrats that is sure to come.

And also read the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report that is being compiled about this matter, and is reportedly digging into any FBI political bias in favor of Hillary Clinton when she was under investigation for tens of thousands of emails, some classified, on her private server.

What would be best is if we could all read the FBI’s FISA application used against Trump, which Republicans allege was based on opposition research done for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

If this is, in fact, true, then it is an outrage and an assault on our freedom. If it is not, we best know it quickly.

Getting all this out in the open is preferable to relying on whispers and leaks from shielded investigators to political hacks.

And while the partisans are either pro-Trump or anti-Trump, there’s something else that may be even more important.

It’s the argument — once offered by big-government Republicans and now cleaved to by big-government Democrats — that we shouldn’t challenge the huge federal bureaucracies that spy on us, and watch us.

The only branch of our government to have proper oversight is Congress. And the only real answer is sunshine, so we may see to make up our own minds about how our country is governed.

Kass neatly lines up where the GOP is going:

  1. Trump should somehow declassify information crucial to the ongoing investigation of Trump himself, a novel approach that assumes somehow the GOP is smart enough to obfuscate the "mysterious sausage-making process" without actually giving away the dirt on Trump.  This will never happen, but Republicans will say that Trump's refusal to do this is proof the FBI is corrupt.  Or something.
  2. Same goes with the FISA process, which after renewing said process only a few weeks ago as part of the regular renewal of Patriot Act surveillance legislation, suddenly now the GOP objects to it. Or something.
  3. Also the only branch that matters isn't actually Trump but Congress, which the GOP controls totally, so do we really need Mueller at all when we have the House and Senate investigations which as sure to be fair and impartial? Or something.

Anyway, this is how the rest of the Mueller investigation will play out.  He's not going anywhere, but if the GOP can shout loudly enough that HEY THIS IS NOT BEING DONE OUT IN THE OPEN AND PUBLIC WHERE WE CAN SEE IT like all criminal investigations are never, ever done even then Mueller will be...discredited...somehow...look I don't know, I didn't say it was a good plan, I said this is where they are going with it, and let's face it these guys are terrible at this whole nonsense.

I mean...look at Carter Page.

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page referred to himself as an “advisor to the staff of the Kremlin” in a 2013 letter to an academic publisher, Time reported Saturday.

The publication reported that it had obtained the 2013 letter sent during a dispute about edits on a manuscript Page had written. 
“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” Page wrote, according to Time.

Come on.

Sunday Long Read: The Big Game

The Philadelphia Eagles will try to defy all odds today taking on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII later today.  The Eagles are one of 13 NFL franchises to have never brought home the Lombardi Trophy (two more being my hometown Carolina Panthers and the local guys, the Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom have blown it in the big game.)

Another of those frustrated fanbases belong to the Arizona Cardinals, and author Kevin Sampsell ruminates on the Cards' long decades of coming up short in both St. Louis and Phoenix.

The last time I cried about a football game was in 2009.

When I was a kid, though — oh man! The waterworks from the coiled frustration and utter heartbreak of losing a game, or ending a season with a sad thud, was often too much for me. I’m not sure what is considered normal blood pressure for junior high and high school dudes, but mine was probably pretty high.

If you’re a sports fan, you don’t need me to tell you that watching a game can elicit conflicting emotions. Some times it’s dull, others, exhilarating. It can run the gamut from mildly stressful to utterly exasperating. We tell ourselves it’s fun to watch games — whether it’s the lightning-fast college basketball Final Four, a tense knuckle-biting World Series, or even the high drama of an Olympics figure skating face-off. But is it really fun? Is watching a game, especially football with its rash of injuries and hyper-macho fa├žade, truly enjoyable in the moment? Or do we just endure it so we can process the positive highlights later?

As a sports kid who eventually blossomed into a book nerd, I surprise a lot of people with my unflagging loyalty to a game that is often seen as barbaric, anti-intellectual, and sponsored by horrible right-wing corporations. For a long time, whenever I’d meet someone new, I wouldn’t reveal the fact that I’m a football fan right away. It was like a weird secret. I’d talk about more “intellectual” subjects: poetry, indie films, twee British music, or collage art. Often I would be looking for clues in these conversations, maybe a word or a name mentioned that would reveal that they knew what a linebacker was, or an onside kick. If I found out someone was a football fan, they would often become my new best friend, at least for a while.

I find it utterly refreshing to meet another man or woman “of arts and letters” who admires the sport like I do, and I glow inside with that feeling of camaraderie. Often though, if I slip up and admit that many of my Sundays are spent worshipping guys in full pads and helmets groping and tackling each other while rich old men tally their bank accounts in their executive suites, I am met with pained expressions and confusion. I counter that surprise by trying to illuminate my humanistic connection to the game — my love for discovering the players’ personal stories of overcoming adversity; the bonding community of fandom; the sheer unpredictable nature of all sports; and yes, indeed, the amazing beauty and skill of what these players are able to do on the field. I can still remember plays that happened decades ago and recall them as precisely as my favorite songs.

I did the math recently and figured out that I’ve been a football fan since 1975, when I chose the St. Louis Cardinals as my favorite team. Like most other 8-year-old boys, I picked my team mainly because I thought their helmet looked cool and partly because they were an exciting team to watch. Their star quarterback, Jim Hart, liked to throw long, and the team was nicknamed the “Cardiac Cards” because they won so many games in the final minute. But the Cardinals were also an underdog in a decade that saw the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Miami Dolphins hogging the Super Bowl limelight.

Two years later, the team started to crumble and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Following your team was drastically different in those days. Unless your team was playing on television, you’d have to wait for score updates to come up on screen about every fifteen minutes, or wait for the halftime highlights. The TV networks hadn’t introduced the scrolling game updates across the bottom of the screen yet. Of course, there was no internet either. I had to watch whatever game was on network television and make sure I didn’t take my eyes off the screen if I wanted to know how the Cardinals were doing. This was an excruciating experience, especially for a young fanatic.

I remember one time when a Cardinals game was on and they lost on the last play. I was crushed, and my stomach felt like a hard pit of sadness. It took a few minutes to sink in before I could believe they’d lost. I fantasized that after the end-of-game TV commercials, they’d go back to the game and the referees would be announcing that there was a penalty, or that there had been something wrong with the game clock, and the last seconds would have to be replayed — and the Cardinals would actually win!

Yeah, I know — the ’70s were a long time ago. It’s been over 40 years of fandom, but let me cut to the chase and hold up one finger to show you how many times my Cardinals have been to the Super Bowl. Now, let me put that finger away to show you how many times they’ve won it. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Why am I still holding out hope for this team, you might reasonably ask. The answer to that question is an infinite mystery. Sure, I’ve enjoyed other teams, other players. But when Sunday comes around, I can’t pull my focus away from those dang red birds — even during their worst years.

I can relate, as I said.   The Panthers lost arguably one of the best Super Bowls in history 15 years ago to Brady and these same Patriots, so if the Eagles win and Tom Brady accidentally gets launched into the sun, I'll call it a win.  One of these days the Panthers will pull it off, I'm sure.

Of course, Cards fans have been saying that since this whole things started five decades and change ago.

At least they're not the Browns though.

The Drums Of War, Con't

The Trump regime continues to indicate that war with North Korea is coming, and soon.

The White House has grown frustrated in recent weeks by what it considers the Pentagon’s reluctance to provide President Trump with options for a military strike against North Korea, according to officials, the latest sign of a deepening split in the administration over how to confront the nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong-un. 
The national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, believes that for Mr. Trump’s warnings to North Korea to be credible, the United States must have well-developed military plans, according to those officials. 
But the Pentagon, they say, is worried that the White House is moving too hastily toward military action on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate catastrophically. Giving the president too many options, the officials said, could increase the odds that he will act

Just so everyone understands what's going on here, our military leaders are convinced that if they work up more tactical plans for striking North Korea, Trump will use one of them, because the outcome will be the strategic mistake of a shooting war with North Korea that will kill millions on the Korean peninsula and will almost certainly threaten Japan, and draw China in as well.

The tensions bubbled to the surface this week with the disclosure that the White House had abandoned plans to nominate a prominent Korea expert, Victor D. Cha, as ambassador to South Korea. Mr. Cha suggested that he was sidelined because he warned administration officials against a “preventive” military strike, which, he later wrote, could spiral “into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.”

But the divisions go back months, officials said. When North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July that experts concluded was capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States, the National Security Council convened a conference call that included Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

After General McMaster left the room, Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson continued to speak, not realizing that other participants were still on the line. The officials familiar with the matter overheard them complaining about a series of meetings that the National Security Council had set up to consider options for North Korea — signs, Mr. Tillerson said, that it was becoming overly aggressive. 
For now, the frustration at the White House appears to be limited to senior officials rather than Mr. Trump himself. But the president has shown impatience with his military leaders on other issues, notably the debate over whether to deploy additional American troops to Afghanistan.

Trump is a raging child with nuclear weapons.  The Pentagon doesn't want to give him any more access to their toys, because they're afraid he'll order their use.

But before you feel sorry for the men and women in uniform fielding Trump's questions, remember this country has been giving our military roughly half-trillion dollars every year for decades, all while American conservatives kept saying we're broke.

Meanwhile, if this report from South Korean news outlet Hankyoreh is to be believed, we're already deep into "wag the dog" territory.  Josh Marshall:

I’d say we need to know more about. Quickly.

From a South Korean paper, flagged on Twitter by The Washington Post’s Tokyo Bureau Chief …

Indeed, White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger was reported as saying in a recent closed-door meeting with US experts on Korean Peninsula issues that a limited strike on the North “might help in the midterm elections.
The Post’s Anna Fifield identifies the paper Hankyoreh as “left-wing” and that it is the only paper currently reporting it. I don’t know more about the source. But this sounds like something we need to know more about very quickly. The report suggests Trump may see such a move not simply in the context of the standard efforts to help in a midterm election but to ward offer facing the prospect of impeachment or actual investigations under a Democratic congress.

I mean it's so obviously knuckle-headedly belligerent that it strains credibility that the Trumpies would actually say this, but at this point maybe this is the kind of thing they do say, and this is a diplomatic leak to try to get the people of South Korea some help before a couple million of them get shelled into oblivion.

Hell, maybe the quote is manufactured completely, but the fact is it's not implausible that this administration has diplomats and advisers who would say this, and this is a last-ditch effort to try to get somebody to put the brakes on the Tangerine Tyrant before the butcher's bill comes in at seven figures.  I'm not sure which is more terrifying, that this actually happened, or that South Korea is scared enough to make this up.

Either way, we need to have a serious discussion about what's coming down the pike here.

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