Thursday, April 26, 2018

Last Call For Jackson Action

The New Yorker's Masha Gessen has the after-action report on the failed Trump nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson as Veterans' Affairs Secretary, and what it means for the regime and the millions of American vets who are still looking on this country to make good on the promises we made to the people we sent in harm's way.

Appointing people to run federal agencies who are opposed to the work and, sometimes, to the very existence of those agencies is an established gesture of the Trump Presidency. Scott Pruitt all but promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency during his confirmation hearing, last January. Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary, once wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, though he apparently didn’t understand what the department was. Betsy DeVos, a stranger to and an apparent foe of public schools, became the Secretary of Education. In a distinct but related kind of gesture, Trump has appointed people who are clearly unqualified for their jobs, as when he made Ben Carson the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or when he tapped Jackson for Veterans Affairs. The two kinds of gestures send messages consistent with the themes of Trump’s never-ending Presidential campaign: he sees the U.S. government as a “swamp” that is best drained by destruction. He also continues to reprise his television persona of the boss whose power is displayed through hiring and firing—the more unpredictably and dramatically, the better. 
The Jackson nomination built on this pattern. Why shouldn’t Trump appoint his own doctor to run a vast health-care bureaucracy? The incongruence of job and résumé cannot be an obstacle: White House physician is to head of Veterans Affairs roughly as head of the Trump Organization is to President of the United States. Jackson’s appointment would have served indirectly to affirm, yet again, that President Trump is conceivable. 
Jackson has, famously, affirmed the President more directly. In a January press conference, he praised Trump’s “excellent health” and shared the results of a cognitive exam in which the President achieved a perfect score. Jackson also revealed a height and weight for Trump that strained credulity for many observers. Compelling subordinates to lie for him is another of the ways in which Trump asserts power. There was, in the earliest days, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, lying about the size of the Inauguration crowd. Last May, there was H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, telling reporters that the President had not divulged security information to Russian interlocutors. In October, there was the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, lying on behalf of the President to discredit Representative Frederica Wilson. It is easily conceivable that Ronny Jackson was yet another man in uniform who had been reduced to lying to show his loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief. 

So how did Jackson fail?  Simple: the one unforgivable sin in the Trump regime is making Dear Leader look bad.

Lying for Trump has become such a familiar practice in American politics that it would almost certainly have had no impact on the Jackson nomination. But Jackson’s problems were bigger. He has been accused of creating a hostile work environment; of dispensing painkillers and sleeping aids too liberally; of drinking; of drinking and driving recklessly; and of drinking himself into a stupor that made him unavailable when his services were needed. These are all allegations, as yet uncorroborated; in a statement on Thursday morning, Jackson called them “completely false and fabricated.” But, according to Democratic Senator Jon Tester, of Montana, more than twenty people have brought accusations against Jackson. Furthermore, as long ago as 2012, an inspector-general report raised the alarm about “unprofessional behaviors” in the White House medical unit. The sheer number of people making complaints and the inspector-general report serve to corroborate each other.

Trump took that as a rightful knock on his already garbage judgment.  Jackson embarrassed Trump, and for that, Trump will flay you alive.

So Jackson will get his retirement from service, and how rough the Navy is on him will depend on how much of an appetite is left for cleaning house after the Fat Leonard scandal (which is still justifiably wrecking Naval careers) or if there's basically anyone left to turn out the lights out and burn Jackson's service jacket.

As far as our veterans, well, just like everyone else in America who isn't a millionaire, they don't matter to this regime and never did, and fixing the problems in the VA will fall to the poor bastard who comes after Trump.

Part of me thinks we're all being primed for Pence being slightly less of a moron just so we get into a "grass been brown so long it looks green to me" situation in 2020.

We'll see.

Maybe, Just Maybe, The Anxiety Wasn't Economic

Some 18 months after the 2016 election and I can't believe we're still having the argument about whether white voters shifted to Trump out of Southern Strategy fear of those people taking over the government and us maybe treating white people like they're not the most important humans on Earth, but at least people are finally beginning to realize that it could have been about race, guys.

For the past 18 months, many political scientists have been seized by one question: Less-educated whites were President Trump’s most enthusiasticsupporters. But why, exactly? 
Was their vote some sort of cri de coeur about a changing economy that had left them behind? Or was the motivating sentiment something more complex and, frankly, something harder for policy makers to address? 
After analyzing in-depth survey data from 2012 and 2016, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist Diana C. Mutz argues that it’s the latter. In a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she added her conclusion to the growing body of evidence that the 2016 election was not about economic hardship. 
“Instead,” she writes, “it was about dominant groups that felt threatened by change and a candidate who took advantage of that trend.” 
“For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country,” Mutz notes, “white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race.” When members of a historically dominant group feel threatened, she explains, they go through some interesting psychological twists and turns to make themselves feel okay again. First, they get nostalgic and try to protect the status quo however they can. They defend their own group (“all lives matter”), they start behaving in more traditional ways, and they start to feel more negatively toward other groups.

This could be why in one study, whites who were presented with evidence of racial progress experienced lower self-esteem afterward. In another study, reminding whites who were high in “ethnic identification” that nonwhite groups will soon outnumber them revved up their support for Trump, their desire for anti-immigrant policies, and their opposition to political correctness. 
Mutz also found that “half of Americans view trade as something that benefits job availability in other countries at the expense of jobs for Americans.” 
Granted, most people just voted for the same party in both 2012 and 2016. However, between the two years, people—especially Republicans—developed a much more negative view toward international trade. In 2012, the two parties seemed roughly similar on trade, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s views on trade and on “China as a threat” were much further away from the views of the average American than were Trump’s.
Mutz examined voters whose incomes declined, or didn’t increase much, or who lost their jobs, or who were concerned about expenses, or who thought they had been personally hurt by trade. None of those things motivated people to switch from voting for Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump in 2016. Indeed, manufacturing employment in the United States has actually increased somewhat since 2010. And as my colleague Adam Serwer has pointed out,“Clinton defeated Trump handily among Americans making less than $50,000 a year.”

Meanwhile, a few things did correlate with support for Trump: a voter’s desire for their group to be dominant, as well as how much they disagreed with Clinton’s views on trade and China. Trump supporters were also more likely than Clinton voters to feel that “the American way of life is threatened,” and that high-status groups, like men, Christians, and whites, are discriminated against
This unfounded sense of persecution is far from rare, and it seems to be heightened during moments of societal change. As my colleague Emma Green has written, white evangelicals see more discrimination against Christians than Muslims in the United States, and 79 percent of white working-class voters who had anxieties about the “American way of life” chose Trump over Clinton. As I pointed out in the fall of 2016, several surveys showed many men supported Trump because they felt their status in society was threatened, and that Trump would restore it. Even the education gap in support for Trump disappears, according to one analysis, if you account for the fact that non-college-educated whites are simply more likely to affirm racist views than those with college degrees. (At the most extreme end, white supremacists also use victimhood to further their cause.)

White victimhood, especially Christian white male victimhood, is nothing new.  But it's important to remember that every time it comes up, it's because circumstances arise that confront America with a changing demographic tide.  And every time it gets ugly before it ends up being accepted as inevitable.

We go through cycles like this, but America has been one long fight for people other than white landowning dudes actually having human rights.

BREAKING: Bill Cosby Convicted In Retrial

It doesn't get much bigger than this.

A jury has found Bill Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his suburban Pennsylvania home in 2004. The jury handed down the guilty verdict on all three counts of indecent aggravated assault after more than 12 hours of deliberation, following a retrial that lasted more than two weeks
Cosby’s conviction concludes an acrimonious case that played out in the courtroom and in the press. In 2014 and 2015, dozens of women came forward with allegations that the comedian had drugged and sexually abused them. The statute of limitations had long since expired in almost all of those cases. 
Andrea Constand’s was the exception. In December 2015, Montgomery County prosecutors charged Cosby with three counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to accusations from Constand. Constand, who went to police in 2005, alleged that Cosby had given her pills in his suburban Pennsylvania home that left her incapacitated and molested her. The case went to trial in June 2017, and ended in a mistrial
Then came the #MeToo movement. After the New York Times and the New Yorker reported on the widespread allegations of sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,more and more stories came pouring out about high-profile men who abused their power. Ten months elapsed between the two trials, but Cosby returned to court in a very different climate. And this time, the jury believed the women who accused him.

Jury was majority male, by the way.

Justice served.

Trump Faces The Storm, Con't

The near-certainty of devastating state and federal criminal charges being leveled soon against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is making for some tough times in the White House these days for the embattled ocher ogre in the Oval Office, and it's not helping things now that we find out Cohen will plead the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels case.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed against the president by Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Cohen’s decision, disclosed Wednesday in a court filing in California, where the suit was filed, came a day before a federal judge in Manhattan was set to hold a hearing regarding materials seized from Mr. Cohen during an F.B.I. raid earlier this month.

Mr. Cohen cited the Manhattan investigation in his filing on Wednesday, saying that, if called as a witness in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit, “I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

Ms. Clifford was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about claims that she had an affair with Mr. Trump. She sued last month to get out of the nondisclosure agreement she signed in October 2016, alleging that it was void because Mr. Trump had never signed it.

Citing the Fifth Amendment in the Clifford case allows Mr. Cohen to avoid being deposed and revealing sensitive information in the more important criminal investigation. That investigation — which prosecutors say has been going on for months — became public in dramatic fashion on April 9, when agents from the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment and a room at the Loews Regency Hotel he had been using. The inquiry is said to be focusing on hush-money payments that Mr. Cohen made to — or helped arrange for — Ms. Clifford and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who has also said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

For days now, prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan have been sparring with Mr. Cohen’s lawyers — and with lawyers for Mr. Trump — for the right to review the records first, a step that will shape the contours of how the government presses its investigation into whether Mr. Cohen tried to suppress negative news coverage of the president in the run-up to the 2016 election.

First Michael Flynn takes the Fifth (and is almost certainly cooperating with Mueller now) and now Michael Cohen does the same.  I have to say that it most certainly doesn't look good for Trump or for Cohen at this point.  The Trump regime is scrambling to get its hands on the evidence taken during the raid, too.

In a filing Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for President Donald Trump told the federal judge overseeing the investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump would, as necessary, personally review documents to ensure that privileged information is not revealed accidentally to the FBI or prosecutors.

“…Our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf,” wrote attorneys Joanna Hendon, Christopher Dysard and Reed Keefe in their filing.

The filing is part of the ongoing effort by Cohen and Trump to get the first crack at reviewing records seized earlier this month from Cohen’s home, hotel and office. So far, US District Judge Kimba Wood has ruled against Cohen and Trump, though she has said she would be willing to consider their backup request to have an independent third-party review record before prosecutors and agents do.

And of course everything involving Trump will be "classified" and "privileged", especially the stuff showing Trump's criminal conspiracy with his own lawyer.

"The Mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"

--Donald Trump

Of course, then Trump called into Fox and Friends morning show on his favorite state TV network to make things even worse.

President Trump made two significant legal errors during a Fox & Friends phone interview on Thursday morning, during which he became audibly agitated about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — at one point yelling about FBI raids on his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work. 
“Michael is in business — he’s really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it, I don’t know his business but this doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said, attempting to distance himself from Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business, he also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something to do with his business. This doesn’t have to do with me. I have many attorneys — sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it.” 
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege. 
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.

His second problem:  admitting to obstruction of justice on national live TV.

“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t — our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and Russia, and everybody knows it.” 
Trump appeared to want to continue talking but the Fox News hosts, seemingly sensing he was doing himself no favors, cut him off and ended the interview.

Stay tuned.


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