Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Call For 2017

I'll leave you this year with a pretty solid article from Politico Magazine editor and author Joshua Zeitz, who delves into the age old question of whether working class white voters rallied for Trump agaist their own self-interests.  Before you roll you eyes and say "But white supremacy is in their self-interest" not only does Zeitz agree, but he cites W.E.B. Du Bois asking this same question decades previously.

The same dynamic that Du Bois grappled with is on display today
. In breaking for Donald Trump and the GOP, working-class white voters are manifestly undercutting their economic self-interest. To be sure, Trump didn’t campaign like an archetypal GOP plutocrat. He railed against free trade and immigration, policies that many white working-class citizens believe, with some justification, have hurt their communities. He promised to bring back manufacturing and coal mining jobs, eliminate generous tax loopholes for wealthy families like his own, and—like Andrew Jackson, after whom he has patterned his presidency—privilege the many over the few. 
But Democrats and Never Trump Republicans shouted at the top of their lungs that Trump’s campaign promises either weren’t possible or that they wouldn’t help working-class voters as much as he pledged. And they appear to have been right. The president recently signed into law a tax bill whose benefits, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the Congressional Budget Office, accrue principally to corporations and super-rich individuals; many middle-class and working-class families will ultimately face a tax hike. The administraton and its congressional supporters have also taken steps to make health care less affordable or altogether inaccessible, destabilize retirement security for working-class families, and allow industrial polluters to despoil the air they breathe and the water they drink. Despite what Trump said on the campaign trail, his agenda does little to help and much to hurt struggling white families. 
Of course, whiteness still delivers other dividends—as it always has. It makes one less likely to be killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. It enables white men to carry assault weapons (including long guns) in places of public accommodation, while a black man might be shot and killed by law enforcement officials merely for picking up a BB gun displayed on a sales rack at Walmart. It affords working-class white families the peace of mind that the government won’t invade homes or hospitals in pursuit of undocumented children or grandparents. Whiteness, in other words, continues to pay tangible benefits, and for right or wrong, it makes some sense that its primary beneficiaries are loathe to support candidates who expressely promise to disrupt this privileged status. 
Yet Trump has also, arguably more than any other candidate for president in the last hundred years (excepting third-party outliers like Strom Thurmond and George Wallace), played to the purely psychological benefits of being white. From his racially-laden exhortations about black crime in Chicago and Latino gangs seemingly everywhere, to his attacks on an American-born federal judge of Mexican parentage and Muslim gold star parents, he has paid the white majority with redemption and revanchism. Trump might be increasing economic inequality, but at least the working-class whites feel like they belong in Trump’s America. He urged them to privilege race over class when they entered their polling stations. 
And it didn’t just stop there. As Ta-Nehisi Coates argues, Trump swept almost every white demographic group, forging a “broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker.” It’s not just blue-collar white people who seem blithely willing to sacrifice economic rationality for racial solidarity. After all, it arguably took a special kind of stupid for upper-middle class suburbanites in high-tax states to support a party that just raised their taxes. (No, this wasn’t a bait-and-switch. The GOP leadership has talked openly about eliminating deductions for state and local taxes since 2014.) Unless, that is, you account for the wages of whiteness.

If there's a sentence that sums up 2017 politically, it's "It’s not just blue-collar white people who seem blithely willing to sacrifice economic rationality for racial solidarity."

This is why "Democrats must push the class argument" will never work and it's the best argument that I've heard this year as to why Democrats need to stick with voters of color and stop chasing blue-collar whites at the expense of voters of color. It hasn't worked in the past, it won't work now. Class arguments, pocketbook politics, dinner-table finance discussions, these don't work in 2017 as long as a majority of white voters ignore them in favor of racial solidarity.

And as you've seen so many times, I end with this from Lyndon Johnson, who knew what was up almost 60 years ago when he spoke to a young staffer by the name of Bill Moyers in 1960 during a motorcade in Tennessee:

“I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” he said. “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Onward to 2018.

Zandar's 2018 Predictions

Welp, another year and we head into Year Ten of ZVTS: 2018.  I never imagined I'd still be writing at this date, let alone having regular readers like yourselves.  So, without further ado, it's time for my ten predictions for news events in 2018, and I'm going to go big:

1) Robert Muller recommends impeachable offenses for Donald Trump.  I know, this is a huge bet: that Trump won't fire Mueller, that Mueller will complete his investigation this year, and that he will find something that warrants an official recommendation to Congress that articles of impeachment be voted on.  But I see it happening.  There's just too much self-reinforcing evidence at this point to ignore, unless you're a Republican in Congress, in which case...

2) Trump will wait until after Mueller's report is delivered in order to issue pardons.  More indictments in 2018 by Mueller are as close to a guarantee as you can get at this point.  There are so many targets, too.  But Trump will wait until the investigation ends in order to start dishing out pardons.  Furthermore...

3) The GOP-led Congress will take no action on Mueller's recommendations.  Not in 2018, at least.  They will wait for midterm elections, hoping that either Mueller spares them by continuing the investigation into 2019, or that Trump ends it for them.  But Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, will never let impeachment articles come to a floor vote, which leads me to...

4) Democrats will take control of the House in 2018 midterms.  Yes, I know all this is dependent on a media that is already attacking Democrats for their sure-to-be failures on getting anything signed into law by Trump and the Senate remains a tough road...but I think it will happen. I'll even go one step further, because I need a serious goal to help shoot for...

5)  Dems will take the Senate back in 2018 too.  They would have to hold their Trump state incumbents and win Nevada and Arizona, but it's not impossible.  And if it's truly a 2018 blue wave year, I think there are a lot fewer safe red states than the GOP is willing to even think about.

6) A Trump miscalculation leads to a military incident with North Korea.  I don't mean war, but I do mean a US ship or airplane is destroyed, or US soldiers captured, something along those lines.  I don't believe it will lead to a larger exchange yet, otherwise all bets are off for everyone.  Trump needs something he can rally his base around ahead of midterm elections, especially as Mueller closes in.

7) America will fall victim to a significant cyber-attack.  I don't want to be right about this one either, because I don't know how Trump would react to it.  But I'm betting that something along the lines of a major computer virus or infrastructure blackout will affect a major portion of the US for some time.  Frankly, we're long overdue for this one.

8)  Trump's complete failure in Puerto Rico helps turn Florida blue.  I think Rick Scott will be succeeded by a Democrat in November 2018 at the minimum.  I don't know how feasible it is for the state's heave GOP majority in Tallahassee to flip, but the Dems will at least make major gains. In lighter news...

9)  Marvel's 2018 films will make $250 million at the US box office.  Black Panther, Avengers 3, Ant-Man and The Wasp and Deadpool 2 are easily going to hit that, and there's a good chance that Venom will too, but I'll put a marker down on the first four, no contest.

and finally 10) ZVTS will make it through its tenth year and into 2019.  Here's hoping.  I've basically spent my entire 30's blogging, so we'll see how it works out now that I'm older and wiser.

Thanks for staying with me on this ride.

Zandar's 2017 Scorecard

It's the final day of 2018, so that means it's time to review my 2017 predictions to see how I did.

1) President Trump's average approval rating as of the end of 2016 according to Real Clear Politics's average is 44% favorable, 48% unfavorable, and 43% favorable-48% unfavorable according to Huffpost Pollster average. My prediction is that he's at or below 44% favorable by this date next year.
Correct: FiveThirtyEight has Trump's average at 37.7% approval, Real Clear Politics has him at 39.8% as of 12/31.
2) At least one of Trump's cabinet selections will be rejected by the Senate. My money's on Rex Tillerson, but the Senate will not confirm all of Trump's picks. It will be a move by Republicans to let off the growing pressure on them to rein Trump in, but in the end somebody just as bad as Tillerson will be confirmed. I'd love for Democrats to make this a nasty mess however.
Correct: The Senate made it clear that Trump's initial choice for Labor Secretary, Carl's Jr/Hardee's CEO Andrew Puzder, was never going to be confirmed so Puzder withdrew in February.
3) Republicans are already fleeing from repealing Obamacare. I'll go out on a limb and predict that no repeal bill will pass in 2017. Republicans are just too far apart on a solution. I'll take the split here if a repeal bill passes but the actual repeal part doesn't happen until after the 2018 election. I'll take full credit though if that repeal date should be after the 2020 election, which is definitely possible.
Correct: The tax bill may have sunk the individual mandate, but ObamaCare lives on.
4) Harry Reid left the Dems the option to Bork a Trump Supreme Court pick. I expect that will happen at least once(remember Harriet Miers?) I'll take the split if a second pick is confirmed before the end of the year, but Trump won't get his first pick.
Incorrect: Never underestimate Mitch McConnell's evil. Not only did Trump's first pick,  Neil Gorsuch sail through, but he did because McConnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, meaning the Bork maneuver is officially dead going forward.
5) All this shouting about the United Nations won't change anything: the US will continue to fund the UN as normal. I could see a symbolic cut, but nothing about ending funding to the UN, it's simply too important.
Partial: Trump did indeed announce cuts to UN funding in 2018.
6) Likewise, all of Trump's bankster choices for his cabinet and advisors means the debt ceiling will be raised on time. That will happen quickly.
Correct: The debt ceiling was raised earlier this month as part of the continuing budget resolution.
I expect plenty of new GOP legislation out before the end of the year:
7) A national 20-week ban on abortions will make it through the House.
Correct: The House passed this in October, so far the Senate has no acted on it.
8) National Voter ID will make it through the House at least.
Incorrect: Indiana GOP Rep. Luke Messer introduced the Election Integrity Act of 2017 in April, but it has yet to go anywhere. 
9) Medicare and Social Security "reform" will also make it through the House. I expect all of these to die in the Senate.
Partial: Medicare and Social Security cuts were rolled into the GOP tax bill.
10) And as always, ZVTS will make it too. It wasn't a gimme as it has been in the past, I've considered hanging it up, but decided that Trump was just too much of a threat to stop this place.

Correct: And that remains true.

Final score:  6 correct, 2 partial, 2 incorrect, for 7/10.  Better than I did in 2016 at least, by a hair.
I'll have my 2018 predictions up tonight.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

Trump's defenders, leading the attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation of Trump's Russian collusion, are fixated on the Steele dossier, the opposition files put together by Trump's GOP primary opponents and handed over to the Clinton campaign and the DNC.  The Trumpies are convinced that since the dossier is political and was somehow responsible for the Trump/Russia investigation, the investigation is political as well.

The reality, as the NY Times reveals today, is that the Mueller probe came about because former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos can't keep his mouth shut.

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. 
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign. 
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. 
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired. 
If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation. 
While some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy,” interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. 
The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election? 
It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

That should slam the door on the attacks on Mueller, and indeed, Republicans are starting to get skittish as they realize just how much trouble Trump is in, and how much damage he'll do bringing everyone down with him.

A growing campaign by President Trump’s most ardent supporters to discredit the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the law enforcement agencies assisting his investigation is opening new fissures in the Republican Party, with some lawmakers questioning the damage being done to federal law enforcement and to a political party that has long championed law and order. 
A small but vocal group of conservative lawmakers, much of the conservative media and, at times, the president himself have launched a series of attacks to paint not only Mr. Mueller but institutions once considered sacrosanct to Republicans like the F.B.I. and Justice Department as dangerously biased against Mr. Trump. One of them, Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, called on Tuesday for top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials to be “purged.”

Now some Republican lawmakers are speaking out, worried that Trump loyalists, hoping for short-term gain, could wind up staining the party, dampening morale at the F.B.I. and Justice Department, and potentially recasting Democrats as the true friends of law enforcement for years to come. 
Straddling both camps is Mr. Trump, who in an interview on Thursday with The New York Times lavished praise on Republican congressmen who have defended him from a “witch hunt” and expressed confidence that Mr. Mueller would “treat me fairly.” 
It is not uncommon for members of the president’s own party to defend their leader against investigations. When President Bill Clinton was investigated and impeached in the 1990s, Mr. Clinton’s associates and many left-leaning Democrats on Capitol Hill waged war on Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel.

But Republican moderates in both the House and Senate with little loyalty to Mr. Trump and a Republican cadre of former law enforcement officials fear that their colleagues have reacted to specific and credible concerns about the F.B.I. with indiscriminate attacks. 
“As an institution we have to make it clear that we are dealing here with a scalpel not a sledgehammer,” said Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who sits on the Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. “Because you can’t have a situation where people say, ‘Oh, you can’t trust the F.B.I.’ That creates a spirit of anarchy.” 
Of his fellow Republicans pressing a public case against the agencies, Mr. King said, “I think some of them have been too strong on that.”

If even Peter King is running from this, the internal polling numbers for the GOP must be pointing towards a complete wipeout in 2018.

And they know it.  But it also means that the Papadopoulos angle of the story is far more important than has previously been reported. It also means that Mueller has been on to the truth for months now, and that the reckoning is coming.

It also means that Papadopoulos knew the Russians had hacked the DNC emails two months before that information went public, and that the Trump campaign was well aware of it, and yet took no action whatsoever to inform anybody about it.

Stay tuned.  2018 is going to be a wild ride.

Iran Into The Streets

The largest Iranian protests against the ruling theocracy in years are happening in the streets right now, and while things are tense and hundreds have been arrested, it hasn't devolved into full-scale violence yet. Everyone appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude because nobody on the outside is too sure of what's going on, as former Newsweek correspondent and one-time regime prisoner Maziar Bahari weighs in.

On Dec. 10, President Hassan Rouhani presented his budget, which essentially would make life more expensive for citizens and, at the same time, include generous allocations for religious organizations in Iran and elsewhere. The slogan “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I Give My Life for Iran” was repeated in the protests across different cities. Many Iranians regard their government’s generous help to the Palestinian Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, Syrian Assad regime and Yemeni Houthis as unnecessary and even treasonous. 
Despite people’s passion and energy, no one knows what is happening in Iran. Analysts are confused and mostly silent. And the people on the streets are not supporting any individual or group; they have chanted slogans against Rouhani and Khamenei, but unlike in 2009, there are no leaders to guide them
Rouhani has, at the time of this writing, reportedly gathered his ministers and advisers to assess the situation. So far, Rouhani’s government has managed only to blame the demonstrations on its conservative critics. Rouhani’s vice president has impliedthat the hard-liners are using people’s economic problems to bring down the government. Some hard-liners have been happy about the anti-Rouhani slogans, but many of them have chastised protesters for chanting slogans against the supreme leader, who is supposed to be a sacred being. 
Hundreds of people have been arrested in cities around Iran in the past 48 hours. No one has been released as of this writing. It would be interesting to know what their interrogations have been about and what charges are being brought against them.
The demonstrations have shown the dissatisfaction of Iranians with the regime as a whole — both the so-called pro-reform Rouhani and the conservative Khamenei. Dealing with this outbreak of hatred may unify the regime for a short while, but, inevitably, the factions will start their infighting again. Rouhani and Khamenei have different interests and bases of support. They cannot coexist peacefully and simultaneously cater to their constituencies. 
Rouhani cannot ignore the destructive role of the ayatollah’s cohorts in the Revolutionary Guard and their firm grip on the economy. The Guards practically run Iran’s policies in the wider region — including supporting Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah – and they have made a mockery of Rouhani’s attempts at rapprochement with Iran’s neighbors and the West. 
The supreme leader, in turn, cannot satisfy millions of Iranians who want prosperity and freedom and also maintain the support of his fanatic die-hard supporters who have been enjoying power for the past four decades. 
Is it a revolution? Not yet. Iran’s government is its own worst enemy and the Iranian people know it. Economic woes leading to infighting can bring down this corrupt and brutal system. Different factions within the government will, most probably, and just the same as always, choose to dismiss the genuine economic grievances of the Iranian people and blame the protests on foreign agents and an international imperialist-Zionist conspiracy.

The Iranian people have learned, after living almost 40 years under the Islamic Republic, to gradually and intelligently raise their voices in peaceful protests that will provoke the government to tear itself apart. Iran’s rulers may choose to blame foreigners and Zionists — but they hardly realize that the true danger to their power is right at home.

So it's not another Green Revolution like in 2009, it's something different and more organic.  But it's also a strong signal that Iran may not remain stable for long.

Water You Waiting For, Dude?

I've noticed that nothing brings the apocalypse prepper right and the hipster dirtbag left together quite like the notion that basic infrastructure services provided by the government are actually an evil conspiracy designed to kill millions. Vaccines, REAL ID drivers' licenses, public education, all suspect because if the government provides them, in 2017 they must be bad.

Now I know some of you guys have been around far longer than I have and know of folks who have been pulling the "Tune in, turn on, drop out" slash "off the grid" thing for decades, it's not exactly new stuff to be counter-culture suspicious of the federal government.  Lord knows over the years they have been up to some awful stuff.

But in the era of Trump that takes on a whole new level of meaning, when FAKE NEWS™ is a thing and science experts are dismissed out of hand by guys who Saw The Real Truth On The Google.

That brings us to an oldie but goodie from the NY Times: fluoridated water conspiracies are the new ground zero in California.

At Rainbow Grocery, a cooperative in this city’s Mission District, one brand of water is so popular that it’s often out of stock. But one recent evening, there was a glittering rack of it: glass orbs containing 2.5 gallons of what is billed as “raw water” — unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water, $36.99 each and $14.99 per refill, bottled and marketed by a small company called Live Water
“It has a vaguely mild sweetness, a nice smooth mouth feel, nothing that overwhelms the flavor profile,” said Kevin Freeman, a shift manager at the store. “Bottled water’s controversial. We’ve curtailed our water selection. But this is totally outside that whole realm.” 
Here on the West Coast and in other pockets around the country, many people are looking to get off the water grid. 
Start-ups like Live Water in Oregon and Tourmaline Spring in Maine have emerged in the last few years to deliver untreated water on demand. An Arizona company, Zero Mass Water, which installs systems allowing people to collect water directly from the atmosphere around their homes, began taking orders in November from across the United States. It has raised $24 million in venture capital.

What do you get when you cross alt-right conspiracies with granola anti-vaxxers and add a healthy dose of Silicon Valley startup culture?

The "raw water" movement, now coming to disrupt the water market near you!

The founder of Live Water, Mukhande Singh, started selling spring water from Opal Springs in Culver, Ore., three years ago, but it was a small local operation until this year. Marketing materials show Mr. Singh (né Christopher Sanborn) sitting naked and cross-legged on a hot spring, his long brown hair flowing over his chest.

Pure water can be obtained by using a reverse osmosis filter, the gold standard of home water treatment, but for Mr. Singh, the goal is not pristine water, per se. “You’re going to get 99 percent of the bad stuff out,” he said. “But now you have dead water.” 
He said “real water” should expire after a few months. His does. “It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” he said. “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.” 
Mr. Singh believes that public water has been poisoned. “Tap water? You’re drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them,” he said. “Chloramine, and on top of that they’re putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” (There is no scientific evidence that fluoride is a mind-control drug, but plenty to show that it aids dental health.)

And so the door to expensive privatization of your water supply cracks open just a little wider.  There's a lot of money to be made by taking water from a basic right to an expensive commodity, and there's all sorts of forces, from GOP billionaire donors to Silicon Valley disruptors who want in on it.

Sabotaging The Census

We've known for a while that the Trump regime was going to us the 2020 Census as a political weapon to help Republicans to advantage Republicans for a decade, now we know how they're going to do it. For the first time in more than a century, Trump is planning to have census-takers ask for immigration status and in order to undercount blue states with large undocumented populations by millions.

The Justice Department is pushing for a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 census, a move that observers say could depress participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them. That, in turn, could have potentially large ripple effects for everything the once-a-decade census determines — from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent.

The DOJ made the request in a previously unreported letter, dated Dec. 12 and obtained by ProPublica, from DOJ official Arthur Garyto the top official at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. The letter argues that the DOJ needs better citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act “and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.”

A Census Bureau spokesperson confirmed the agency received the letter and said the “request will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.” The DOJ declined to comment and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Observers said they feared adding a citizenship question would not only lower response rates, but also make the census more expensive and throw a wrench into the system with just two years to go before the 2020 count. Questions are usually carefully field-tested, a process that can take years.

“This is a recipe for sabotaging the census,” said Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census and the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group. “When you start adding last-minute questions that are not tested — how will the public understand the question? How much will it suppress response rates?”

The 2010 census included a handful of questions covering age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status — but not citizenship.

“People are not going to come out to be counted because they’re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes,” said Steve Jost, a former top bureau official during the 2010 census. “This line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.” He noted that since the first census in 1790, the goal has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens.

There's no doubt that Trump's ICE would use Census immigration status to round up potentially millions, but if people aren't counted, federal dollars, electoral college votes, and entire congressional districts will go elsewhere for a decade, which is what the GOP wants.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Last Call For The Rats Jumping Ship

Republicans control all three branches of government at this point, but they are heading for the exits rather than staying to continue their rule. The reason is that when the Trump regime crashes and takes the GOP with it, these cowards don't want to be anywhere near the crime scene.

A Republican congressman said Thursday while President Donald Trump wasn't the determining factor in his decision to retire at the end of his term, which expires in 2018, he was a part of it. 
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, said Republican candidates facing re-election would have to surpass challenging hurdles, among them Trump's divisive nature as the figurehead of the party. 
"Well, at least in my case, I would say the President was a factor, but not the factor for me deciding to leave," Dent told CNN's Poppy Harlow, while a "a very challenging midterm environment" also contributed to his decision. 
"The party of the President typically loses 32 seats in a situation like this," Dent told CNN, but "of course then, Donald Trump, you know, complicates that because he's a very polarizing figure, and so I suspect our challenges will be even greater just because of that."

They know what's coming: an ass-kicking of 2010-style proportions and then some.

"One of the challenges our party has faced is it's become, we have a much stronger base with older voters, and white voters, obviously," he said. 
The moderate Republican congressman also criticized the Trump campaign's decision to solidify traditional GOP voters at the expense of newer voting blocs. 
"You clearly alienate a lot of Hispanic voters with (Trump's) comments on Mexicans and Latinos, and of course you have the Charlottesville situation," Dent said, adding that "politics and getting elected is an exercise in inclusion and not exclusion."

Dent is pretending that there's a wing of "moderate Republicans" that have been hiding out or something, and that he's not part of the Party of Trump.

Florida Is The New Alabama

With GOP child molester Roy Moore still refusing to concede the Alabama Senate special election even after Democrat Doug Jones was certified as the winner yesterday, it looks like Moore will be the gift that keeps on giving to blue states in the South.  Having not learned their lesson, Trump and the billionaires who own him are moving on to Florida's gubernatorial contest, where they plan to set up another Roy Moore-style situation in the Sunshine State.

This time, the GOP frontrunner is the state Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, who isn't crazy enough for Trump and his megadonors.  They're all getting behind GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, currently the chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, the right-wing nutjob who's been regularly on FOX News calling for a purge of the FBI and a mass roundup of Democrats since July.

After Donald Trump appeared to endorse Ron DeSantis’ campaign for Florida governor last week, a handful of the biggest and most influential billionaires in Republican politics threw their support behind the three-term GOP congressman, upending the race in the nation’s biggest swing state.

The stable of billionaires and millionaires listed on DeSantis’ “Finance Leadership Team,” obtained by POLITICO, include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, investment tycoon Foster Friess and other donors who have funded the conservative Koch brothers’ network and President Trump’s campaign. Just last week, Trump weighed in on Twitter to say that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida.”

DeSantis has yet to formally announce his 2018 campaign for governor, but his intentions to seek the office became clear in May after he established a state political committee, called the Fund for Florida’s Future, that’s allowed to raise and spend unlimited soft money from corporate contributors.

“This sets DeSantis apart from the rest. He will have the financial resources and the ground game and the Trump base to be an incredible statewide candidate,” said David Bossie, a DeSantis backer, who founded the Citizens United conservative group, served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager and just co-authored the new “Let Trump Be Trump” book plugged by the president.

Putnam doesn't have a chance.  He's the Luther Strange in this equation and he's going to have his career as a Republican ruined because he's not crazy enough.

In a state as big as Florida, where a week’s worth of saturation TV during next year’s general election could cost as much as $3 million, cash is king. And Putnam has so far reigned over both his likely and current Democratic and Republican rivals by raising his money from the major industries that do business in Florida’s Capitol, such as agricultural interests, the healthcare industry, power companies and Disney.

With Tallahassee’s institutional GOP donors behind Putnam, a Republican candidate can only hope to match him with outside money or independent wealth, which was a key to Scott’s success in his unexpected primary win in 2010.

Including his campaign and his Florida Grown political committee, Putnam had a total of about $15 million cash on hand at the end of last month. Corcoran, who is not yet an announced candidate, had $4.7 million in the bank in his Watchdog PAC. DeSantis had about $3.6 million in the bank between his political committee and his congressional campaign, whose donors will need to sign off on re-directing their federal contributions to his state race if he runs.

Surveys conducted by Republican pollsters show Putnam leading the GOP primary with less than a third of the vote. DeSantis, depending on the survey, trails by anywhere from 10 points to 20 points. And Corcoran is polling in single digits. More than half of Republican voters say they’re not sure about whom they’ll choose. But 80-90 percent of them back President Trump, the polls show.

Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Bossie, said Trump’s support for DeSantis and the backing of the top donors should help catch up to Putnam quickly.

So once again, Trump and his donors are setting up a hard-right primary challenge to a state party's preferred candidate, because Trump likes him.  I bet that's going to go over real well in November in Florida, especially with all the influx of voters from Puerto Rico, which has now been without power for 100 days and counting and deep in a humanitarian crisis that this regime is ignoring daily.

Democrats are running both Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, and Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee. We'll see how this turns out, but I'm guessing that after DeSantis wins the primary for the GOP that he finds out just how much being Donald Trump's favorite is worth in November.

And it won't be much.

Trump Cards, Con't

Donald Trump's weakness is his ego.  He can't stop talking, can't stop seeking approval and accolades, he can't stop making news about himself, and most of all, he can't stop making things worse for himself.

President Trump said Thursday that he believes Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, will treat him fairly, contradicting some members of his party who have waged a weekslong campaign to try to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing inquiry. 
During an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been “no collusion” discovered by the inquiry. 
“It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Mr. Trump said of the investigation. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”

Asked whether he would order the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Trump appeared to remain focused on the Russia investigation. 
“I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he said, echoing claims by his supporters that as president he has the power to open or end an investigation. “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

Remember, the clinical sign of an egomaniac is that everything has to revolve around him.  Trump could end the Mueller probe, but he chooses not to. The fact that Trump can't actually do that simply doesn't exist in his worldview.

Hours after he accused the Chinese of secretly shipping oil to North Korea, Mr. Trump explicitly said for the first time that he has “been soft” on China on trade in the hopes that its leaders will pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
He hinted that his patience may soon end, however, signaling his frustration with the reported oil shipments. 
“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” he exclaimed, raising the possibility of aggressive trade actions against China. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.” 
Despite saying that when he visited China in November, President Xi Jinping “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China,” Mr. Trump said that “they have to help us much more.” 
“We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China,” he said. 
Mr. Trump gave the interview in the Grill Room at Trump International Golf Club after he ate lunch with his playing partners, including his son Eric and the pro golfer Jim Herman. No aides were present for the interview, and the president sat alone with a New York Times reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch nearby. A few times, members and friends — including a longtime supporter, Christopher Ruddy, the president and chief executive of the conservative website and TV company Newsmax — came by to speak with Mr. Trump.

The rest of the wide-ranging interview, again, with no minders present, is here.

And it's a doozy.  I can hear Robert Mueller laughing all the way from here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

What, you didn't think the Roy Moore Senate race saga was over, did you?  Alabama's Republican Secretary of State still hasn't certified Doug Jones's victory in the special election two weeks ago and Jones hasn't been sworn into the Senate yet.  And there's no reason to believe he will be as Moore is now suing the state claiming he has evidence of "systemic voter fraud" in a move that could prevent Jones from being seated at all.

Roy S. Moore, the first Republican to lose a United States Senate race in Alabama in 25 years, moved late Wednesday to block state officials from certifying the victory of his Democratic rival on Thursday afternoon because of “systematic voter fraud.” 
In a complaint filed in the circuit court here in Alabama’s capital, Mr. Moore’s campaign argued that such fraud had tainted the Dec. 12 special election, which Mr. Moore lost to Doug Jones by fewer than 22,000 votes, and that the Alabama authorities had inadequately investigated claims of misconduct. 
If the election is prematurely certified, Mr. Moore’s lawyers wrote, he will “suffer irreparable harm” and be “denied his full right as a candidate to a fair election.”
John H. Merrill, the Alabama secretary of state, has dismissed complaints, from Democratic and Republican critics, of election fraud. In an interview on Dec. 15, Mr. Merrill, a Republican who voted for Mr. Moore, flatly declared: “I have not seen any irregularities or any inconsistencies that are outside the norm.” 
In a text message early Thursday, Mr. Merrill said he did not intend to postpone the certification proceedings that would ultimately allow Mr. Jones to take office.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Jones’s transition team said the lawsuit was “a desperate attempt by Roy Moore to subvert the will of the people.”

“The election is over,” the statement added, “it’s time to move on.” 
Whether or not the litigation is successful, it is certain to infuse a strain of drama into a day that state officials had plainly hoped would be procedural and perfunctory. The lawsuit from Mr. Moore, who has been accused of bigotry and sexual misconduct against teenage girls, was certainly late in coming: His lawyers filed the complaint at 10:33 p.m. on Wednesday, and his campaign announced it less than an hour later. Alabama officials are scheduled to certify the results during a 1 p.m. meeting Thursday at the State Capitol.

All Moore has to do is find a friendly judge willing to buy his argument that the certification has to be delayed until his case is heard.

Don't be surprised if this happens later this afternoon.

[UPDATE] Moore's challenge was too much even for the GOP, which certified Doug Jones's victory this afternoon and ended Moore's hopes.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

The legal eagles on the right swore up and down earlier this month that Robert Mueller charging former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn with a single count of lying to the FBI was proof that Flynn was small potatoes, that there was no collusion or conspiracy to collude, and that Trump was in the clear because there was nothing for Flynn to testify about as far as information that could damage the White House. Case closed, right?

Of course here in reality, the Trump regime is now scrambling to attack Flynn's credibility as a witness because he's singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

President Trump’s legal team plans to cast former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy. 
The approach would mark a sharp break from Trump’s previously sympathetic posture toward Flynn, whom he called a “wonderful man” when Flynn was ousted from the White House in February. Earlier this month, the president did not rule out a possible pardon for Flynn, who is cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 
Attorneys for Trump and his top advisers have privately expressed confidence that Flynn does not have any evidence that could implicate the president or his White House team. But since Flynn’s cooperation agreement with prosecutors was made public earlier this month, the administration has been strategizing how to neutralize him in case the former national security adviser does make any claims.

Flynn is the most senior former Trump adviser known to be providing information to Mueller’s team. The lenient terms of his plea agreement suggest he has promised significant information to investigators, legal experts said.

"He's a great guy but we're going to go after him anyway" is a bold strategy, guys.  Let's see if it pays off!

Trump’s legal team has seized on Flynn’s agreement with prosecutors as fodder for a possible defense, if necessary. In court filings, the retired lieutenant general admitted that he lied to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the December 2016 transition. 
“He’s said it himself: He’s a liar,” said one person helping craft the strategy who was granted anonymity to describe private conversations. 
Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. Ty Cobb, the White House attorney overseeing the response to the special counsel investigation, also declined to comment. 
Defense lawyers have said privately that Flynn will be unable to point to White House or campaign records turned over in the probe to bolster any claims of a criminal scheme. None of those records suggest a conspiracy by Trump or his inner circle to improperly work with Russians to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to people who have reviewed the documents. 
The private talks about assailing Flynn’s credibility come even as Trump has signaled that a pardon is not off the table. 
“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” the president said Dec. 15. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”

He hasn't done anything wrong, but we might pardon him, but he can't implicate Trump, so it doesn't matter anyway, but...


But Trump is in a lot of trouble and he knows it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Last Call For Money Can't Buy Respect

Gallup's annual poll of the most respected folks on earth is out, and once again Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton top the list.

Americans once again are most likely to name Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the man and woman living anywhere in the world they admire most, as they have for the past 10 years. The pair retain their titles this year, although by much narrower margins than in the past. Obama edges out Donald Trump, 17% to 14%, while Clinton edges out Michelle Obama, 9% to 7%. 
The 2017 survey marks the 16th consecutive year Clinton has been the most admired woman. She has held the title 22 times in total, more than anyone else. Eleanor Roosevelt is second with 13 wins. Obama has now been named the most admired man 10 times, trailing only Dwight Eisenhower, who earned the distinction 12 times. Obama won all eight years he was president, plus 2008 -- the year he was first elected -- and this year, his first as a former president. 

That's ten in a row for Obama, and 16 for Hillary.  That can't make Donny happy.

Not at all.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Mueller investigation is now moving into the phase where we learn that Trump is far from the only corruption in the Republican party, and it's why so many high-ranking GOP politicians in a Congress they control completely are heading for the exits.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has begun to question Republican National Committee staffers about the party's 2016 campaign data operation, which helped President Donald Trump's campaign team target voters in critical swing states
Two sources told Yahoo News that Mueller's team is examining whether the joint RNC-Trump campaign data operation — which was directed on Trump's side by Brad Parscale and managed by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner — "was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate." 
The FBI has been scrutinizing Kushner's contacts in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the US and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank. 
The special counsel's office declined to comment on its ongoing investigation. Multiple requests to various current and former RNC officials on Wednesday went unanswered. A source close to one of the Trump campaign's data firms said they were "unaware of anyone being questioned." 
It is not surprising that federal investigators have begun to examine the possibility that Russia and the Trump campaign helped each other during the election. Investigators have been looking into whether Russia provided the campaign with voter information stolen by Russian hackersfrom election databases in several states, and whether the Trump campaign helped Russia target its political ads to specific demographics and voting precincts. 
The general counsels for Facebook, Twitter, and Google gave enigmatic replies when asked by the House Intelligence Committee last month whether they had investigated "who was mimicking who" when it came to online ads promoted by both the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. 

The RNC's data operation provided the targeting info for Russian-bought pro-Trump and anti-Clinton ads on social media.  They knew exactly who to hit.

And who was hired to help run the RNC's data operation?  Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon.

Investigators have long wondered whether the data-mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica served as a link between the campaign's data operation and Russia.
That scrutiny intensified following revelations that Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in June 2016 asking for access to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's "stolen" emails.

It is still unclear how much Cambridge Analytica actually did for the campaign. Trump campaign aides and even current and former Cambridge employees have consistently tried to downplay its role. 
Parscale was asked about Cambridge during his interview with the House Intelligence Committee in October. The ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees sent him a separate letter that month asking whether his firm received "information from a foreign government or foreign actor" at any point during the election. 
The letter was also sent to Nix and the heads of Deep Root Analytics, TargetPoint Consulting, and The Data Trust — firms hired by the Republican National Committee last year to bolster the Trump campaign's data operation. 

You'd better believe the Russians know more about you than you do.  They knew just where to target us to give Trump the Electoral College number he needed to lose the popular election but win the presidency.

If you're wondering what Trump has on the rest of the GOP in order to compel their silence, tug on this thread.  How many other Republicans benefited from this partnership in 2016?

When all this comes out, it's going to be devastating and Trump knows it.  He also knows there's no way he goes down alone.

Just A Steel-Town Fool On A Saturday Night

Lookin' for the Trump of their life
In the real time world no one sees them at all
They all say Trump's crazy...

Four days after his inauguration, Donald Trump signed a handful of executive memos to advance the Keystone XL pipeline and revive the U.S. steel industry. He invited builder TransCanada Corp. to reapply for a permit denied by Barack Obama and ordered up fast-track rules forcing not only Keystone but also all new U.S. pipelines to be made from American steel. “From now on, we’re going to be making pipeline in the United States,” he said.

Made-in-America Keystone was a stunt. Most of its pipes had already been manufactured, a fact the White House grudgingly admitted when it exempted the project from any new Buy American rules a few months later. While some of Keystone’s pipes were made in the U.S., at least a quarter of them came from a Russian steel company whose biggest shareholder is an oligarch and Trump family friend. The company, Evraz North America, supplied Keystone from its steel plants in Canada and for years has lobbied in Washington against Trump-style protectionism.

Ten months after his Keystone event, Trump has yet to deliver on his pledge to boost the fortunes of American steel. Two self-imposed deadlines for trade action, one in June and one in July, have come and gone. Meanwhile, the prospect of tariffs has led to a surge of cheap foreign steel into the U.S., with imports rising 24 percent in 2017, the fastest increase in years. 
As federal and congressional investigators probe Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Evraz North America shows that Russians are also involved in pressing against one of Trump’s main campaign promises. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Evraz Plc, Russia’s second-largest steelmaker. It has two factories in the U.S., in Colorado and Oregon, and four in western Canada, where it produces steel and large-diameter steel pipe. The company’s top shareholder is Roman Abramovich, a billionaire who owns 31 percent of Evraz’s stock. In 2005 he was the first oligarch allowed to sell his oil company to the state, taking in $13 billion in a deal approved by Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich’s ties to the Trumps stem from a decade-long friendship between Ivanka Trump and Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova, from whom he announced a separation in August. Jared Kushner and his brother, Joshua, invested in Zhukova’s art collection business. The Russian couple hosted Ivanka and Jared in Russia in 2014, when they shared a table at a fundraiser for Moscow’s Jewish museum. Zhukova went to the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament with Ivanka and attended Trump’s inauguration as Ivanka’s guest.

Dear Steel Country:

You voted for Donald Trump because he promised to make your mill towns and factory cities great again. You voted for him because he was going to make it so your kid, fresh out of high school, could make $90k a year busting his ass at a smelting plant and take pride in it, that you'd be proud of him, that you didn't have to spend $100,000 to get him through four years at Penn State or Michigan or Miami of Ohio for him to get a house and a good job that he could support a wife and kids with so she didn't have to work.

You also voted for him because he was going to send all those job-stealing Mexicans home and keep the blacks in line so that you could afford to send your youngest to Catholic school instead of the public high school with all those people in it. And maybe you could afford to move to a new place away from them and work for another 20 years and retire like your grandpa did when he put in his 35 at the GM plant in Hamtramck.

I'm here to tell you Donald Trump flat out lied to you.  Not only did he lie to you, he sold you out to the goddamn Russians.  He sold you out so that Putin's cronies could make pipelines using imported steel from Asia.  That big infrastructure plan Trump has?  It's a gift to the guys who really got him elected.

You got played for fools, but you had a choice and you made it.

Now we all have to live with the consequences of 2016.

The good news is you can help make it right in 2018 and 2020.

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Once again the Trump regime is signaling that it expects the Mueller investigation to be over very soon, despite all evidence to the contrary involving such a detailed, meticulous criminal probe by a career law enforcement official who rose to become FBI director and his hand-picked team of criminology field experts.  As I have said before, this isn't a prediction that the investigation will end soon as much as it is an open threat that it will be ended.

President Trump's legal team is standing by its prediction that a central part of the probe into Russia's election meddling will conclude quickly. 
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow reasserted in an interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal that the parts of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe involving Trump would end soon, though he did not mention specific dates. 
"I know we, collectively, the lawyers, are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter," Sekulow told the Journal. 
A spokesman for Mueller's team declined to comment for the newspaper's report.

Experts have said it is unlikely that the special counsel's probe will wrap up anytime soon, given the scope of the investigation that has reached into the upper echelons of the White House.

Nobody expects this to "conclude quickly" except for the guy who can fire the Deputy Attorney General who appointed Mueller in the first place.  Funny, that.

Of course, they've been predicting this for a while now, first it was Thanksgiving and then January.  So far that hasn't come to pass.  Yet.

But they are certainly continuing to prepare for it coming to pass.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) on Tuesday called for a "purge" of the FBI, warning of "deep state" figures at work in the agency. 
Rooney said during an interview on MSNBC that the American people have "very high standards" for the country's government agencies, and suggested they aren't being met.
He was pressed during the interview on whether he is trying to discredit the Department of Justice, and by extension the investigation into Russia's election interference.

"I don't want to discredit them. I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it," he replied. 
"And say, look, we've got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state." 
When pressed further he specifically mentioned Peter Strzok, a top FBI agent who worked on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of State. 
Stzok had been a member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team, but was removed this summer over text messages he sent that were critical of President Trump.

 And of course there's nobody who would love to see a mass firing of career FBI, NSA< CIA and DIA agents than Vladimir Putin.  There's a reason they keep using the phrases "purge" and "deep state".

Down The Hatch

The Salt Lake Tribune delivers a backhanded barrage to GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, naming him 2017 "Utahn of the Year" not for his accomplishments, but for the sheer amount of destruction he has caused in the lives of the people of the state.

These things are often misunderstood. So, lest our readers, or the honoree himself, get the wrong impression, let us repeat the idea behind The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utahn of the Year designation.

The criteria are not set in stone. But this year, as many times in the past, The Tribune has assigned the label to the Utahn who, over the past 12 months, has done the most. Has made the most news. Has had the biggest impact. For good or for ill.

The selection of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch as the 2017 Utahn of the Year has little to do with the fact that, after 42 years, he is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, that he has been a senator from Utah longer than three-fifths of the state’s population has been alive.

It has everything to do with recognizing:
  • Hatch’s part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
  • His role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
  • His utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.
Each of these actions stands to impact the lives of every Utahn, now and for years to come. Whether those Utahns approve or disapprove of those actions has little consequence in this specific recognition. Only the breadth and depth of their significance matters.

As has been argued in this space before, the presidential decision to cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half and to slash the size of the brand new Bears Ears National Monument by some 90 percent has no constitutional, legal or environmental logic.

To all appearances — appearances promoted by Hatch — this anti-environmental, anti-Native American and, yes, anti-business decommissioning of national monuments was basically a political favor the White House did for Hatch. A favor done in return for Hatch’s support of the president generally and of his tax reform plan in particular.

And, on the subject of tax reform: For a very long time indeed, Hatch has said that his desire to stick around long enough to have a say in what indeed would be a long-overdue overhaul of the nation’s Byzantine tax code is the primary reason he has run for re-election time after time.

Last week, he did it.

And with that "accomplishment" the paper calls for Hatch to retire from the Most August Deliberative Body™.

It would be good for Utah if Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him. 

Hatch, in either a failed effort to play along or a mind-numbing bout of cluelessness, posted the following on Twitter:

He's "grateful for this great Christmas honor" he says.  Which, frankly, sums up Hatch's nearly 42 years in office.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Last Call For Putin On A Puppet Show

Meanwhile, Trump's good friend Vladimir is making sure there are no surprises in store for him just in case the US decides to return the favor from 2016 as far as election meddling goes: it's hard to lose an election when you're basically the only candidate.

Russian election officials on Monday formally barred Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president
, prompting calls from him for a boycott of next year’s vote.

The Central Election Commission decided unanimously that the anti-corruption crusader isn’t eligible to run.

Navalny is implicitly barred from running for office because of a conviction in a fraud case which has been viewed as political retribution. He could have run if he was given a special dispensation or if his conviction was cancelled.

Incumbent Vladimir Putin is running for a fourth term in office and is widely expected to win the March 18 election.

Over the past year, Navalny has mounted a grassroots campaign which reached out to the most remote corners of Putin’s heartland.

Navalny is the most serious challenger that Putin has faced in all his years in power, and the court cases against him have been viewed as a tool to keep him from running for office.

In a pre-recorded messaged that was released minutes after the Election Commission handed down the decision, Navalny called on his supporters to boycott the vote.

“The procedure that we’re invited to take part is not an election,” he said. “Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it.”

“Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption.”

You'd better believe Trump is taking notes.  Putin convicted and jailed Navalny on a bogus "fraud" charge and now all the guesswork has been taken out of the elevtion in March.  I guarantee you that Trump is asking if "his" Justice Department can't find a charge to hang on some Democrats to keep them from running.

Those "Lock her up!" chants aren't just for show, guys.

Heart Of Coal

The Trump regime is cutting the UN budget by $300 million for 2018 because really, Trump is a terrible landlord.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations announced Sunday that it negotiated a major reduction in the U.N.’s budget for the upcoming fiscal years.

According to a statement from the mission, the 2018-2019 U.N. budget will have a $285 million reduction from the previous two years.

“In addition to these significant cost savings, we reduced the UN’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key U.S. priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system,” the statement reads.

One of the Trump administration’s goals has been to reduce the amount of contributions that the U.S. makes to the U.N. The U.S. currently provides for about 22 percent of the annual budget, or about $3.3 billion per year, according to PolitiFact.

The U.N. General Assembly previously approved a $5.4 billion operating budget for 2016 and 2017. The regular budget is separate from the body's budget for its sprawling peacekeeping operations, which totaled $7.8 billion for 2017 alone.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the budget cut announced Sunday is a “big step in the right direction” for the U.S., and that she will continue to pursue “ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests."

“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known,” Haley said. “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. This historic reduction in spending – in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN – is a big step in the right direction.”
Conservatives have long criticized the U.N. as not being in the U.S.’s interests, and many have amplified their concerns after the global body overwhelmingly voted for a resolution last week to oppose President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

No doubt in my mind that this happened in retaliation for last week's vote, but this is the American leadership this country chose to elect out of racism, hatred, and fear. And note Haley's words that this is only a step: more cuts are coming, I guarantee it.

Merry Christmas!

I have the flu unfortunately, but I have some time to take care of myself.

Limited posting this week, but I'll have my predictions for 2018 up soon.

Have a good holiday season and thanks for being with me another year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Finally. At least one GOP senator is saying openly that Trump attempting to fire Mueller would be a serious problem.  The bad news is that the senator in question is already on the way out.

Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday that if President Donald Trump were to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, it would be a "big problem" for the president. 
"I don't think that would go over well at all here in the Senate," the Arizona Republican said on ABC's "This Week." "I don't think he'll go there, he shouldn't go there."

Flake's comments come as the president's allies continue to take Mueller and the FBI to task. The White House has consistently said Trump has no plans to fire Mueller, but president joined in the bureau bashing this weekend with a series of tweets about FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. 
McCabe, who is reportedly retiring soon, was a key figure in the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server. 
Flake has burnished his reputation as one the president's most frequent critics in Congress, but was cagey when ABC'S Jonathan Karl asked if the senator would challenge Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020. Earlier this year, Flake announced that he would not seek reelection to the Senate in 2018.

It's good that Flake is saying this, but there's a 100% chance that he's not going to be around after the 2018 midterms when any real hope of impeachment might get started and that he might make an actual difference in getting rid of Trump.

So what's the point?  I'm not sure.  Guilt, maybe?  His political career in the GOP is already over, so I guess saying it now can't hurt him more.  Fawning press? "At least I didn't remain silent"? Ego? As good a reason as any when dealing with Republicans in the Trump era.

Wake me up when Mitch McConnell says this, which will be never.

Meanwhile, Arizona's choice to replace Flake will come down to GOP nutjob Kelli Ward and Dem Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema, who might give Doug Jones, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Joe Donnelly or  Joe Manchin a run for their money in the NRA-loving Democrats department, none of whom I believe would be a reliable vote to convict Trump in a Senate trial, that is if they're not all replaced by GOP crackpots (a very distinct possibility).

We'll see.

Sunday Long Read: Iran Into The Wall

Politico has a massive report on the dark side of Obama's Iran deal and how the previous administration looked the other way on Hezbollah's drug-fueled money-laundering schemes to pay for terrorism, all sacrificed so that Barack Obama could get his Iran deal. 

I don't know what to say about this other than to read the whole thing, because it's pretty shocking stuff.  The article flat out accuses the Obama administration of a massive cover-up.

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation. 
The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities. 
Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies. 
They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.
But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests. 
The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.
This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

Now, I'm not dumb enough to say that the FBI had their hands totally clean on this or anything involving the Justice Department that crosses over into international politics and Iran, but if this all is even remotely credible, a lot of questions need to be answered under oath.  The United States has a long, long history of looking the other way in the middle East when it comes to diplomatic convenience, certainly long before Obama.

But the notion that Barack Obama "covered this up" is ludicrous.  David Asher up there works for a think tank called Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has been, surprise! One of the loudest right-wing opponents of Obama's Iran deal.

It's all a load of bull.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Immigration Nation, Con't

The one good thing about Donald Trump is that he has, in less than a year, permanently destroyed the "post-racial America" feel-good trope with his own brand of screamingly awful overt racism.

Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.

Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.

But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.

According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

As the meeting continued, John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, tried to interject, explaining that many were short-term travelers making one-time visits. But as the president continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their ire on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the secretary of state to throw up his arms in frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas altogether, Mr. Tillerson fired back.

Tempers flared and Mr. Kelly asked that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the door to the Oval Office was closed, aides could still hear the president berating his most senior advisers.

Trump has been a racist all his life.  His hatred of black and brown people is well-documented since his days as a NYC landlord. And 62 million people had no problem voting for him, these are your neighbors, friends, and co-workers, people who attend your chosen house of worship, at your grocery store, at the park watching your kids and grandkids play.

They were cool with this asshole. They were so cool with his racism after Obama that they put him in the goddamn White House to make a point to us black folk, to remind us of our place lest we dream that we're human beings in America and not chattel.

But it's not the problem of black people to solve, even though we did in Alabama and Roy Moore.  I'm tired of 95-98% of us voting for the person who is not a racist piece of garbage only for white America to scratch their heads and deem it a tough choice somehow.

And yet for white America it is a tough choice.  They're not voting against their self-interest when they vote for Republicans who will trash the safety net, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP benefits, homeowner deductions, they've been convinced that the Democrats will do that to them anyway.

No, they're not angry, because they are voting for the racism.

It's a feature of American democracy guys, not a bug.

I'm not cool with any of them.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

If you've been wondering why the Trump regime has been using the State Media at FOX News to attack the FBI and specifically former Director James Comey and current Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for the last several weeks, it's because McCabe's testimony this week in front of the House Intelligence Committee directly implicates Donald Trump on Comey's firing earlier this year.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe faced numerous questions this week about his interactions, conversations and correspondence with his onetime boss, former FBI Director James Comey, spanning both the FBI's Russia investigation and its probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server, according to multiple sources from both parties with knowledge of his testimony. 
In private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this week, McCabe told lawmakers that Comey informed him of conversations he had with President Donald Trump soon after they happened, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter. 
The testimony suggests McCabe could corroborate Comey's account, including Trump's ask that Comey show him loyalty, which the President has strongly disputed. Comey previously testified that he briefed some of his senior colleagues at the FBI about this conversation with Trump.
McCabe appeared for more than 16 hours of testimony behind closed doors in two sessions this week before members of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Judiciary committees, amid growing calls for his firing from Republicans critical of the FBI's handling of both investigations.  
Intelligence Committee Republicans also grilled McCabe about how the FBI used the dossier compiled by a British agent alleging collusion between Trump and Russia. Some Republicans were dissatisfied with the responses, according to the sources. 
Thursday, before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, McCabe faced intense questioning from Republicans about the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation, which many in the GOP believe was unfair. The panel's Republicans forced McCabe to answer questions about internal emails they believe showed Comey mishandled the investigation, according to multiple sources. 
The mood, according to Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, was "tense."
"All this time on Clinton emails and dragging the FBI in to talk about Clinton instead of the real crime: Russian interference in our democracy," said Krishnamoorthi, who sits on the House Oversight Committee. 
The FBI declined to comment.

There's always an explanation with these guys.  It explains why the Uranium One deal is back in the news even though it was debunked months ago. It explains why Clinton's approval ratings are back in the news even though she doesn't hold office.  It would explain why AG Jeff Sessions and GOP House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes are so adamant on changing the subject even though both of them have supposedly recused themselves from the Trump Russia investigation.

If McCabe is backing up Comey's testimony under oath, it means Donald Trump is in dire trouble.  It's no longer Trump's word vs Comey's, it's now a matter of record with corroboration that Trump asked for loyalty before firing Comey.  It means Trump has been lying, and Trump's people have been lying, some under oath.

They're in full panic mode right now.  Trump has all but declared he FBI as enemies of Dear Leader and he's counting on his cult to turn against them.  And there's nothing Vladimir Putin would love to see more right now than for Republicans to cut the FBI (and CIA and NSA) to "purge the anti-Trump agents of the Obama Deep State" so that there's nobody standing guard to protect America from Trump...and Russia.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Last Call For The Drums Of War

Trump's generals are preparing for conflict.  They know Trump will order them to war, and soon.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, told troops Thursday that "there's a war coming" and urged them to be prepared. 
"I hope I'm wrong, but there's a war coming," Neller told Marines stationed in Norway, during a visit there, according to "You're in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence," he added.

The commandant pointed to Russia and the Pacific theater as the next major areas of conflict, predicting a "big-ass fight" in the future.

"Just remember why you're here," he said. "They're watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We've got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar." 
Neller's visit comes amid tensions between Russia and NATO allies. Russia warned neighboring Norway that the presence of American troops could hurt relations, after Norway decision to host a new unit of U.S. soldiers through the end of 2018.

The administration says the Marines are there to enhance ties with European NATO allies and train in cold-weather combat.

China, North Korea, Russia, Iran?  Who will Trump start World War III with in order to stay in power?  It's so obnoxious.
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