Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Last Call For The Drums of War, Con't

The Venezuela problem has not gone away, despite Putin stepping in to prop up President Nicolas Maduro. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Putin was now running the timetable in Caracas, and that Trump would agree to whatever plan Putin came up with for the country.  

What's Trump going to do, exactly?  At this point Trump has trashed NATO so hard that they're not going to lift a finger to help the US in Caracas.  No, Putin is holding all the cards here, and all of them have Donald Trump's big dumb orange face on them.

No, I was dead wrong about Trump and John Bolton invading Venezuela. I freely admit that.  That ship has sailed.

But brother, the reality is going to be much worse. 

Today we saw the beginning of that plan in action as opposition leader Juan Guiado all but declared a coup and the "final phase" of the uprising against Maduro.

Violent clashes erupted across Venezuela on Tuesday after opposition leader Juan Guaidó launched what appeared to be a military-backed challenge to President Nicolás Maduro, summoning thousands of people to the streets to demonstrate against the socialist leader.

It was a high-risk gamble for Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly who declared himself interim president in January. And by late Tuesday, it was unclear whether it would succeed.

Dozens of people were injured by rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition in melees across Venezuela, according to local observers and hospital officials. An armored vehicle ran into a cluster of Guaidó supporters. A group of hooded men in a pro-government militia — the feared colectivos — fired live ammunition into a crowd of protesters, witnesses said. And a colonel loyal to Maduro was shot in the neck, the defense minister said, but the extent of his injuries was unclear.

President Trump accused Cuban “troops and militia” of conducting military operations in Venezuela to cause “death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela.” If the alleged activities didn’t immediately stop, Trump tweeted, his administration would impose a “full and complete embargo, together with the highest-level sanctions” on Cuba.

There were protests across the nation, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Conflicts, with violent clashes in at least five states. At least 25 people were detained Tuesday, according to Foro Penal, a local organization that tracks political detentions.

Guaidó opened the day with a surprise appearance at a military base in eastern Caracas, where he was surrounded by armed men in military uniforms. He urged other troops to join what he called the final stage of “Operation Liberty” to force Maduro from power.

“People of Venezuela, the end of usurpation has arrived,” Guaidó said. “At this moment, I am with the main military units of our armed forces, starting the final phase of Operation Liberty. People of Venezuela, we will go to the street with the armed forces to continue taking the streets until we consolidate the end of usurpation, which is already irreversible.”

Two observations: First, The Zandar Coup Rule finds Maduro with zero for five.  It's all a puppet show, and Putin is pulling both Trump and Guaido's strings.

Second, now, where did Cuba come into all this?  It's not Cuban troops that in Venezuela, it's Russian troops.  But Russia has to be the bad guy somehow, right?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Tuesday that embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro was preparing to leave the country for Cuba, but was talked out of it by Russia. 
"We've watched throughout the day, it's been a long time since anyone's seen Maduro," Pompeo said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." 
"He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay." 
"He was headed for Havana," Pompeo said.

All this is very interesting.  We're seeing the opening act of a Broadway play here for American consumption.  Putin knows Trump needs a major distraction to save him from House Democrats, and Putin has to help out his puppet.  The result: a coup made for TV.

Stay tuned, true believers.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Joe Biden is correct when he says that if the Trump regime doesn't cooperate with House Democratic investigations of the issues raised in the Mueller report then impeachment proceedings have to begin.

Former vice president Joe Biden said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that Congress would have “no alternative” but to impeach President Trump if his administration seeks to block its investigations of issues raised in the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference.

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden said that the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III left several unanswered questions related to whether Trump obstructed the nearly two-year probe, and he argued that Congress should follow up.

“What the Congress should do and they are doing is investigate that,” Biden said. “And if in fact they block the investigation, they have no alternative to go to the only other constitutional resort they have: impeachment.

“My job in the meantime is to make sure he’s not back as president of the United States of America,” added Biden, who formally launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last week.

Biden’s comments came during a wide-ranging interview in which he also continued to grapple with controversies over his affectionate, physical style with women and his handling of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s 1991 Senate confirmation hearing. He also declined to say whether he would pick a woman as his running mate.

Frustration has been building among House Democrats as the Trump administration refuses to cooperate with an array of congressional inquiries, including several related to the Russia report. Attorney General William P. Barr has threatened not to show up at a scheduled Thursday hearing in the House to address how he handled Mueller’s findings.

Biden continues to have his own baggage: his failure on Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, his stance on the Clinton crime bill, an obnoxious tendency towards bipartisanship with a party of traitors and thieves, and a lifetime of Senate votes that are difficult (if not utterly impossible) to defend in 2019. Regardless, he's the front-runner right now.  Until he's not.

But he's right on this one.  Democrats have to call Trump's bluff on stonewalling, or he immediately wins by default.  The problem is I don't think Democrats are ready to go to the mattresses on this.  They'd better be: it's becoming painfully clear that the only way to compel Trump regime lackeys to testify is to impeach.

We'll see if they do, but Trump has already made it clear that he expects to win on this, and history says that he probably will.

Dirty Deeds Done Relatively Inexpensively Online

Expect another year plus of rotten fake news like this as Republican sleazebags invent misinformation to destroy Democratic candidates for 2020.

A pair of right-wing provocateurs are being accused of attempting to recruit young Republican men to level false allegations of sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The details of the operatives’ attempt emerged as one man suddenly surfaced with a vague and uncorroborated allegation that Buttigieg had assaulted him. The claim was retracted hours later on a Facebook page appearing to belong to the man.

A Republican source told The Daily Beast that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent.

The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race. The man asked to remain anonymous out of a concern that the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness.

But the source provided The Daily Beast with a surreptitious audio recording of the meeting, which corroborates his account. In it, Wohl appears to refer to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to President Donald Trump’s reelection next year.

Neither Burkman nor Wohl responded to repeated requests for comment on this story. But after The Daily Beast contacted them last week, traces of the scheme disappeared from the web and social media.

And of course, right-wing sites immediately ran the fake news as real.  Jacob Wohl is performing criminal acts here, and the Buttigieg campaign should sue at the minimum.

But a lot more of this is coming, and it won't be just garden-variety social media hucksters like Wohl, but calculated Russian disinformation ops designed to wreck any semblance of trust in the media.

2020's big lies and criminal collusion will make 2016 look like a cookout.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Last Call For Trump Street

Wall Street corporate Democratic donors are horrified at this year's crop of presidential candidates, and apparently if Dems don't lay off the "Socialism" soon, those billions are going to just have to go to Trump for a second term.

One night in early April, roughly 20 of the Democratic Party’s highest-profile donors from the financial industry sat down over dinner to discuss how exactly they were feeling about the 2020 presidential race. For the most part, it wasn’t great.

Convened by two veterans of liberal fund-raising — investors Steven Rattner and Blair Effron — the group had no hard-and-fast agenda except to share notes on the overflowing field of candidates. The crowd of Democratic heavyweights, including Clinton-administration Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs and Citi alum Robert Rubin, former ambassador to France Jane Hartley, and venture capitalist Deven Parekh, knew most of the contenders well. But coming to some kind of consensus, picking a plausible candidate they felt they could all live with and throw their considerable money behind — that was a far-fetched proposition.
“There’s tremendous fear,” said one banker who was there. The candidates who had long cultivated relationships with Wall Street — such as Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — were struggling to gain traction and had grown more hostile to finance as their party had, too. Joe Biden, leading in early polls, had a comforting history in the Obama White House and a reputation as an Establishment Democrat but had never, until a few months ago, maintained any meaningful relationship with Wall Street, hadn’t even announced his candidacy yet, and struck many bankers as a dubious bet to beat Donald Trump. Nearly everyone else in the field, the financiers felt, was being pulled leftward by Bernie Sanders (the preposterously well-funded contender they considered too crazy to even imagine in the White House) and Elizabeth Warren (less crazy, Democrats on Wall Street think, and way more competent). “She would torture them,” one banker told me. “Warren strikes fear in their hearts,” explained a New York executive close to banking leaders from both parties — so much fear that such investors often speak of the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, a former law professor and consumer advocate, as a co-front-runner with Sanders. “How do we come up with an alternative?” asked one person at the dinner.

There were a few options, none perfect. Beto O’Rourke had recently launched his campaign, and his congressional record was essentially a centrist-shaped blank slate. Pete Buttigieg was a McKinsey alum who came from the Rust Belt but talked like a Silicon Valley exec or an Obama Treasury official, but no one, yet, took him seriously.

Kamala Harris was a favorite of many in the room. The U.S. senator from California now describes herself as a populist and highlighted a past confrontation with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon over foreclosures in her pre-campaign book, but in 2012, as California’s attorney general, she passed on prosecuting OneWest and its CEO, Steven Mnuchin
. In this cycle, she has been the Democrat perhaps most active in seeking Wall Street money (Citi vice-chairman Ray McGuire and Pine Street partner Brian Mathis are helping with her Wall Street outreach, and she recently headlined a fund-raiser hosted by LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff) and occasionally its advice (BlackRock’s Michael Pyle, an Obama-administration alum, is advising her on economics). “People are generally in search of a candidate who has the right set of views, has the right character, but also can win,” Rattner told me later. “Right now, it is very hard to see who checks all three boxes.”

There was no agreement. By evening’s end, multiple donors walked away planning to write checks to three or four or five candidates — hoping they stay relatively moderate — rather than going all in on any one. Among the committed Democrats on Wall Street, this wait-and-see, as-long-as-it’s-not-Bernie-or-Elizabeth posture has become the norm. “This is like venture investing. You really don’t know who’s going to break out, but your hope is you have a good portfolio and that one of these investments breaks out,” Bruce Heyman, a former Goldman managing director and ambassador to Canada, told me.

Of course, these longtime donors are more committed to the Democrats than the average guy on Wall Street. Two years ago, Trump seemed noxious enough that Democrats (reasonably) hoped to continue growing their considerable advantage over Republicans in the New York finance set. But one GOP-driven tax cut and one leftward shift in the Democratic Party later, a worried handful of bankers is considering turning that story on its head. “They’re too far left! They’re too far left!” said Alex Sanchez, CEO of the Florida Bankers Association. “I mean, honestly, if it’s Bernie versus Trump, I have no fucking idea what I’m going to do,” one Democratic hedge funder told me. “Maybe I won’t vote.”

Democratic donors aren’t especially worried about policy; few have sussed out where candidates stand on Dodd-Frank or the carried-interest tax loophole, and few believe that, aside from Sanders or Warren, any contenders are likely to make an aggressive new push for regulation as president. What agitates them instead is — in a replay of the alienation they felt during the Obama presidency thanks to a few stray “fat cats” comments — how Democratic rhetoric threatens their sense of status. No moment crystallized the new reality more than when former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper — a centrist candidate who was a prominent business owner in Denver before entering politics — refused to even call himself a capitalist in a Morning Joe interview in March.

Before Trump won, Hillary Clinton had outraised him by a margin of more than four to one among the financial crowd, which had long regarded him as a pariah because of his shady record and bankruptcies. Now? “The anti-corporate, anti–Wall Street direction of the Democratic Party is driving Democrats into the Trump camp, which is, in most cases, the last place they want to be,” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, the business group that counts among its members all of the city’s major financial institutions. “The fact that he’s raised as much money as he has is a reflection of how many Democrats are holding their nose and supporting him because they feel demonized by the Democrats.” In mid-April, Trump’s team revealed it had raised over $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, slightly more than the top two Democratic candidates combined. If you add up all the Democrats’ dollars, the challengers are way ahead — but among donors, and indeed among the candidates themselves, the perception remains that the president is accumulating a real edge. Meanwhile, Goldman released its 2020 outlook: Trump, the firm concluded, now has a “narrow advantage.” Even Paul Singer, the GOP hedge-fund magnate who backed efforts to defeat Trump in 2016 — and who funds the Washington Free Beacon, which first paid for the anti-Trump research that later became “the dossier” — stopped by a small Trump fund-raising roundtable in New York late last year. “Well, we must be doing well now that Paul’s here,” Trump said.

“Wall Street for Trump is the reverse Bradley effect,” said hedge-fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, the Republican fund-raiser who (very) briefly served as Trump’s White House communications director, referring to the theory that voters overstate their support for nonwhite candidates in polls. “They all secretly love him, but because of their clients and the polarity, they don’t want to say it out loud.”

Over coffee recently in midtown, an investment pro with a long history in Democratic politics described the struggle to resist the unexpected pull of Trump. “What matters more?” he asked, looking up at me. “My social values or my paycheck?

This story makes Liz Warren look like the person Wall Street is most afraid of, and Harris the least.  That's very good for Warren in my book, not so good for Harris.

The real problem is Wall Street wants to keep him. 

Maybe we don't need Wall Street?

Just an idea, Dems.

You're Not Alone In The No Phone Zone

Our smartphones are literally killing us, and if there's any advantage at all to the prohibitive cost of the newest models these days, it's that fewer Americans will have them.

If you’re like many people, you may have decided that you want to spend less time staring at your phone.

It’s a good idea: an increasing body of evidence suggests that the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.

But there is another reason for us to rethink our relationships with our devices. By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives.

Until now, most discussions of phones’ biochemical effects have focused on dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits — and addictions. Like slot machines, smartphones and apps are explicitly designed to trigger dopamine’s release, with the goal of making our devices difficult to put down.

This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral addictions to our phones. But our phones’ effects on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.

Cortisol is our primary fight-or-flight hormone. Its release triggers physiological changes, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, that help us react to and survive acute physical threats.

These effects can be lifesaving if you are actually in physical danger — like, say, you’re being charged by a bull. But our bodies also release cortisol in response to emotional stressors where an increased heart rate isn’t going to do much good, such as checking your phone to find an angry email from your boss.

If they happened only occasionally, phone-induced cortisol spikes might not matter. But the average American spends four hours a day staring at their smartphone and keeps it within arm’s reach nearly all the time, according to a tracking app called Moment. The result, as Google has noted in a report, is that “mobile devices loaded with social media, email and news apps” create “a constant sense of obligation, generating unintended personal stress.”

“Your cortisol levels are elevated when your phone is in sight or nearby, or when you hear it or even think you hear it,” says David Greenfield, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “It’s a stress response, and it feels unpleasant, and the body’s natural response is to want to check the phone to make the stress go away.”

But while doing so might soothe you for a second, it probably will make things worse in the long run. Any time you check your phone, you’re likely to find something else stressful waiting for you, leading to another spike in cortisol and another craving to check your phone to make your anxiety go away. This cycle, when continuously reinforced, leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels.

And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been tied to an increased risk of serious health problems, including depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke.

“Every chronic disease we know of is exacerbated by stress,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, emeritus professor in pediatric endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of “The Hacking of the American Mind.” “And our phones are absolutely contributing to this

Put them down, folks.  Put them in another room.  Be very careful with the kids having them.  Especially in today's day and age, anything you see on a smartphone screen is only going to cause you more stress in life.

It's killing us.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

The Trump regime's refusal to cooperate with House Democrats is now total, and nobody can hold them accountable because the Trump regime has all the state's enforcement power at its command.  Josh Marshall:

Attorney General Bill Barr has dramatically escalated his Mueller Report coverup and effort to effectively end independent oversight of his Department by Congress. According to this report, he is refusing to show up to testify this week before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is accorded a veto right over the questioning format.

As the fight over the Congress’s oversight rights has heated up, it’s been increasingly clear that the committees should either designate one or two committee members experienced in questioning or have a committee counsel do the questioning. Absent that approach, you get what we’ve seen in other recent hearings. The members have a great range of issue knowledge and questioning abilities. Even to the extent that they’re pursuing good lines of questioning, they each get five minutes. So the person testifying can pretty easily run out the clock with non-answers. For really effective questioning you need a solid and knowledgable questioner who has a sustained period of time to pursue lines of questioning. The other approach is fine for garden variety testimony where there’s some degree of good faith give and take. It doesn’t work here.

For just this reason, Chairman Nadler has proposed having one round of questioning where every member gets their five minutes – basically the normal routine. Then he has a second round in which both sides’ committee counsels get thirty minutes of time in alternating five minute segments. (Nadler is also proposing that the committee go into closed session to discuss the redacted parts of the report.) Neither of these decisions are remotely controversial or unprecedented, especially when the subject matter is of great moment. But Barr is saying he may not show up if Nadler doesn’t change to what Barr considers a more friendly questioning format.

A window of good faith negotiation about format is not unprecedented or wrong in itself. But we’re far past that. Barr is pretty clearly trying to exercise a veto right over how the Judiciary Committee conducts its hearings, which are a bedrock constitutional function with respect to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. In this sense, Barr’s antics are part of President Trump’s strategy of massive resistance to any congressional oversight whatsoever.

How Nadler responds to this will be important to watch. For all the talk about impeachment, stand-offs like this are where power and brakes on the President’s power will be determined. If you want to do things to stiffen Democrats’ spines, these are the standoffs where it counts. As I was writing this, CNN updated its story. Nadler apparently told CNN that if Barr won’t comply he’ll move to subpoena him. “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.

A lot hangs on this.

If Barr is subpoenaed, if any member of the Trump regime is subpoenaed, then what?

What actually happens then?

My guess is nothing, because if Jerry Nadler or Elijah Cummings actually try to enforce this, Trump will simply refuse.

Who will make Trump comply?  It sure isn't American voters.

As House Democrats return this week to Washington after a two-week recess, they will find a Capitol consumed by the report of Mr. Mueller, the special counsel. A private meeting of the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday promises to be heated, as do Senate and House hearings on Wednesday and Thursday with Attorney General William P. Barr.

But rank-and-file Democrats are not being propelled by their constituents into a headlong confrontation over impeaching the president. In town hall-style meetings and meet-and-greets across the country last week, constituents bemoaned Mr. Trump’s policies, groaned at his refusal to heed congressional subpoenas and fretted over what they saw as an erosion of the rule of law.

There were few signs of an uprising to demand a quick judgment that the misdeeds laid out in the special counsel’s report constituted the kinds of “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of trying to remove the president from office.

“It’s not a top half-dozen. It may be down at the No. 12 spot” in terms of priorities, said Ms. Porter, a freshman Democrat of California, who hears far more from her Orange County constituents that dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump should be channeled into voting him out of office in 2020.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Friday appeared to underscore Democrats’ dilemma. It found that roughly six in 10 Democrats supported beginning impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, most of them strongly. But almost nine in 10 Republicans and six in 10 independents, whom Democrats need to defeat Mr. Trump, opposed the idea.

Democratic leaders in the House have pledged a series of hearings intended to ferret out the details of Mr. Mueller’s investigation and air the testimony of key witnesses. Rather than jump to conclusions — and there are some liberal lawmakers arguing in favor of prompt impeachment — party leaders say they want to build a case on live television before the public and see where that leads.

The future of America as a country under rule of law depends on that answer, but the fact is these hearing will almost certainly lead nowhere.

And then what?

Better figure that out, or Trump wins it all, and America is gone.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The term of art for defining the last 27 months or so of Donald Trump inciting synagogue shootings, mass slaughters, and violence against his political enemies as a measure to energize his base is "stochastic terrorism".

Stochastic Terrorism 
n. Acts of violence by random extremists, triggered by political demagoguery
When President Trump tweeted a video of himself body-slamming the CNN logo in 2017, most ­people took it as a stupid joke. For Cesar Sayoc, it may have been a call to arms: Last October the avowed Trump fan allegedly mailed a pipe bomb to CNN headquarters. 
No one told Sayoc to do it, but the fact that it happened was really no surprise. In 2011, after the shooting of US representative Gabby Giffords, a Daily Kos blog warned of a new threat the writer called stochastic terrorism: the use of mass media to incite attacks by random nut jobs—acts that are “statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” The writer had in mind right-wing radio and TV agitators, but in 2016, Rolling Stone accused then-candidate Trump of using the same playbook when he joked that “Second Amendment people” might “do” something if Hillary Clinton won the election. 
Of course, Trump’s people later said he meant they might … “vote.” That’s how it works: Stochastic terrorism lets bullies operate in the open with full deniability, since the random element erases any provable causation. 
Tellingly, the word stochastic comes from the Greek stochastikos, meaning “proceeding by guesswork” and “skillful in aiming.” Both are apt here. It takes a master demagogue to weaponize unstable individuals and aim them at political enemies.

Trump is effectively a master demagogue, not through his intellect or rhetorical skills, but through his unchecked power and command of the airwaves he has.  His rallies are vile.

The results are deadly.

Hours before the shooting on Saturday at the Chabad of Poway synagogue outside San Diego, an 8chan user identifying himself by the same name as the suspect in the attack posted a link to a white nationalist manifesto on that far-right message board. 
“What I’ve learned here is priceless,” the user wrote, adding, "a livestream will begin shortly." 
Saturday’s message is strikingly similar to the 8chan post left by the man accused of shooting up a mosque in New Zealand before he killed 49 worshipers in March. Both included detailed manifestoes and links to Facebook pages
As in New Zealand, the suspected Poway shooter appeared eager to win approval for his act of violence. In his post, the synagogue shooter cites the 8chan message board for indoctrinating him, urging others to take similar action. His manifesto not only refers to the online postings of the New Zealand shooting and of the man who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, but seems almost cribbed from past white nationalist rants. 
The pattern is eerie: it starts with a crude genealogy of the shooter’s ethnic roots, then a self-aggrandizing Q. and A. with himself, followed by a litany of toxic in-jokes meant to confuse the media and those less savvy in far-right online culture. (Like the New Zealand shooter, the Poway shooter facetiously mentioned the YouTube star PewDiePie as an influence.)

The Poway attack seems to be another horrifying entry in a lineage of hate crimes carried out for a captive audience of digital onlookers. Worse yet, these online communities appear to be incentivizing the darkest impulses of their worst users. Like the Christchurch massacre, the Poway shooting is not only tailored for the internet but also sickeningly standardized. The digital footprint and manifestoes of these white nationalist terrorists follow a familiar template — one that each shooter fills in with their own hideous details. Indeed, it seems real-world murderous hate crimes have become a message board meme of sorts. And like any online meme, the creation cycle only seems to be accelerating, refining itself and, horrifyingly, increasing in frequency. Online, it plays out like some game, but its effects are morphing into the real world and spreading violence.

Trump lays out the road map: you can get famous by taking out these folks because they are bad.

And he names more and more targets every day.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Republicans are now admitting that Russia was able to access the voter rolls of "at least one Florida county" in the 2016 election, something confirmed in the Mueller report.  They're calling everything a hoax and a lie but not this.  The question is why.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told The New York Times on Friday that hackers penetrated a Florida county’s elections system in 2016.
Rubio's comments come a week after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed that Russians sent malicious software to Florida county government officials overseeing the 2016 election.

Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Times that there was an intrusion into a county’s elections system but that the target or targets were not notified.

He said national security officials opted to issue a blanket warning about hacking efforts as a way to protect intelligence methods.

"Everybody has been told what it is they need to do to protect themselves from the intrusion," Rubio said. "I don’t believe the specific victims of the intrusion have been notified. The concern was that in a number of counties across the country, there are a couple of people with the attitude of: 'We’ve got this; we don’t need your help. We don’t think we need to do what you are telling us we need to do.'"

Rubio told the newspaper that the hackers were "in a position" to change voter roll data, but it does not appear they did so.
"My biggest concern is that on Election Day you go vote and have mass confusion because voter registration information has been deleted from the systems," he said.

Rubio and former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote a letter to Florida’s top elections official last year calling on him to seek federal assistance in securing the state’s elections systems.

A spokesperson for Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told The Hill on Friday that "the FBI has reached out and is working on scheduling a briefing with Senator Scott in the next few weeks" to brief him and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) about the hacking detailed in Mueller’s report.

The "why" appears to be Rubio's "did not appear to do so" caveat when it came to Russians changing voter rolls.  We haven't seen Mueller's counter-intelligence report, and if it turns out that Russians did interfere with voter rolls in order to say, disenfranchise black voters (more than Republicans already regularly did) in Florida and other states, then the call for Trump's resignation may very well become a tsunami.

Republicans are scrambling in other words to get out ahead of what appears to be lethal news for them.

Stay tuned.  This is going at the core of the collusion argument.

Sunday Long Read: Grocery Games

A cursory glance might suggest grocery stores are in no immediate danger. According to the data analytics company Inmar, traditional supermarkets still have a 44.6 percent market share among brick-and-mortar food retailers. And though a spate of bankruptcies has recently hit the news, there are actually more grocery stores today than there were in 2005. Compared to many industries — internet service, for example — the grocery industry is still a diverse, highly varied ecosystem. Forty-three percent of grocery companies have fewer than four stores, according to a recent USDA report. These independent stores sold 11 percent of the nation’s groceries in 2015, a larger collective market share than successful chains like Albertson’s (4.5 percent), Publix (2.25 percent), and Whole Foods (1.2 percent).

But looking at this snapshot without context is misleading — a little like saying that the earth can’t be warming because it’s snowing outside. Not long ago, grocery stores sold the vast majority of the food that was prepared and eaten at home — about 90 percent in 1988, according to Inmar. Today, their market share has fallen by more than half, even as groceries represent a diminished proportion of overall food sold. Their slice of the pie is steadily shrinking, as is the pie itself.

By 2025, the thinking goes, most Americans will rarely enter a grocery store
. That’s according to a report called “Surviving the Brave New World of Food Retailing,” published by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council — a think tank sponsored by the soft drink giant to help retailers prepare for major changes. The report describes a retail marketplace in the throes of massive change, where supermarkets as we know them are functionally obsolete. Disposables and nonperishables, from paper towels to laundry detergent and peanut butter, will replenish themselves automatically, thanks to smart-home sensors that reorder when supplies are low. Online recipes from publishers like Epicurious will sync directly to digital shopping carts operated by e-retailers like Amazon. Impulse buys and last-minute errands will be fulfilled via Instacart and whisked over in self-driving Ubers. In other words, food — for the most part — will be controlled by a small handful of powerful tech companies.

The Coca-Cola report, written in consultation with a handful of influential grocery executives, including Rich Niemann, acknowledges that the challenges are dire. To remain relevant, it concludes, supermarkets will need to become more like tech platforms: develop a “robust set of e-commerce capabilities,” take “a mobile-first approach,” and leverage “enhanced digital assets.” They’ll need infrastructure for “click and collect” purchasing, allowing customers to order online and pick up in a jiffy. They’ll want to establish a social media presence, as well as a “chatbot strategy.” In short, they’ll need to become Amazon, and they’ll need to do it all while competing with Walmart — and its e-commerce platform, Jet.com — on convenience and price.

That’s why Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market was terrifying to so many grocers, sending the stocks of national chains like Kroger tumbling: It represents a future they can’t really compete in. Since August 2017, Amazon has masterfully integrated e-commerce and physical shopping, creating a muscular hybrid that represents an existential threat to traditional grocery stores. The acquisition was partially a real estate play: Whole Foods stores with Prime lockers now act as a convenient pickup depot for Amazon goods. But Amazon’s also doing its best to make it too expensive and inconvenient for its Prime members, who pay $129 a year for free two-day shipping and a host of other perks, to shop anywhere else. Prime membersreceive additional 10 percent discounts on select goods at Whole Foods, and Amazon is rolling out home grocery delivery in select areas. With the Whole Foods acquisition, then, Amazon cornered two markets: the thrift-driven world of e-commerce and the pleasure-seeking universe of high-end grocery. Order dish soap and paper towels in bulk on Amazon, and pick them up at Whole Foods with your grass-fed steak.

Traditional grocers are now expected to offer the same combination of convenience, flexibility, selection, and value. They’re understandably terrified by this scenario, which would require fundamental, complex, and very expensive changes. And Kelley is terrified of it, too, though for a different reason: He simply thinks it won’t work. In his view, supermarkets will never beat Walmart and Amazon at what they do best. If they try to succeed by that strategy alone, they’ll fail. That prospect keeps Kelley up at night — because it could mean a highly consolidated marketplace overseen by just a handful of players, one at stark contrast to the regional, highly varied food retail landscape America enjoyed throughout the 20th century.

“I’m afraid of what could happen if Walmart and Amazon and Lidl are running our food system, the players trying to get everything down to the lowest price possible,” he tells me. “What gives me hope is the upstarts who will do the opposite. Who aren’t going to sell convenience or efficiency, but fidelity.”

The approach Kelley’s suggesting still means completely overhauling everything, with no guarantee of success. It’s a strategy that’s decidedly low-tech, though it’s no less radical. It’s more about people than new platforms. It means making grocery shopping more like going to the movies.

What worked for movie theaters, turning the experience itself into something enjoyable, is what these guys are aiming for.  Better hope it works, or Amazon will control your food supply.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Last Call For One Day In Gunmerica

As President Trump spoke to the NRA's national convention on Friday, today has turned into what is almost certainly the beginning of the end of the organization as the leadership has spiraled out of control and New York state is opening a fraud investigation.

National Rifle Association leader Oliver North announced Saturday that he will not seek a second term as president of the gun rights group, as is customary.

The decision plunged the organization into chaos ahead of a board meeting on Monday and sparked debate among NRA members over a resolution on whether to oust Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre.

North's decision to step aside from his leadership role comes amid infighting within the group and follows a number of articles from The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times detailing allegations of financial mismanagement by senior NRA officials.

"The current situation," North wrote in a letter to the NRA's membership, means that the organization's "non-profit status is threatened."

Even as the NRA struggled to handle its internal divisions, an external threat emerged this weekend in the form of a new investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

"The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation related to the National Rifle Association (NRA)," a spokesperson for the attorney general told NPR. "As part of this investigation, the Attorney General has issued subpoenas. We will not have further comment at this time."

The NRA has received a document preservation notice in connection with the investigation being undertaken by the New York attorney general, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The NRA responded to the announcement of the investigation by pledging its cooperation.

"The NRA will fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances," said William A. Brewer III, an outside lawyer for the NRA. "The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance."

North's announcement on Saturday shocked the hundreds of NRA members and donors gathered at the NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis — the news was met with absolute silence.

Following the announcement, rank-and-file NRA members proposed a resolution holding LaPierre accountable for the allegations of financial mismanagement within the organization and calling for him to step down.

The resolution was ultimately defeated, but not before a passionate debate broke out among members — with escalating rhetoric. Some members demanded information on the allegations of financial impropriety. Others suggested that because of ongoing litigation, the matter should not be debated in public. At one point, one NRA member compared the resolution to an attempted hanging of LaPierre.

North — who is perhaps best known for his role in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair — was expected to join Saturday's meeting himself, but his chair onstage was empty.

"Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president, endorsed for reelection," North wrote in a letter, read aloud to the NRA membership by NRA First Vice President Richard Childress. "I am now informed that that will not happen

The NRA is falling apart and I couldn't be happier.

It'll be replaced by another organization, or it will rebrand itself. and move on, but it will be permanently damaged and frankly I'm hoping Wayne LaPierre and his friends go to prison.  These guys funneled millions illegally to Trump, and more than a bit of it came from Russia.

These guys are crooked as hell and need to burn for it.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

White supremacist groups are openly protesting and recruiting in cities with large black populations like Chicago, targeting prominent African-American politicians and leaders, and drafting support from more members all while under protection of a compromised police force and a white nationalist president.

When several members of groups with ties to white nationalists showed up at a rally criticizing Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, it represented the latest attempt by the groups to raise their profile in Chicago.

What happened at the rally outside the Daley Center earlier this month, experts say, is part of an intensifying movement by the groups to recruit new members in recent years. While the organizations still do not have a large following in the Chicago area, their actions — which include flyering city streets and college campuses — are part of a disturbing trend that can’t be ignored, Foxx and other public officials say.

Members of three groups — the Proud Boys, the American Guard and the American Identity Movement — attended the rally organized by the Chicago police union, according to witnesses and photos the men posed for that were posted on social media.

The Proud Boys has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — a designation the right-wing group denies. The Anti-Defamation League calls the group “overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic,” noting that some members are “anti-Semitic and racist.”

The American Identity Movement (AIM) is considered by some experts to be a rebranded version of Identity Evropa, which the SPLC dubs a white nationalist group and the ADL considers white supremacist. Current leaders of AIM deny that and have distanced themselves from Identity Evropa.

The SPLC has also designated the American Guard as a hate group, while the ADL calls the group “hard-core white supremacists.”

While the police union denied any knowledge the groups would be at the rally, Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, said the event offered group members a chance to be seen at a more “mainstream” event.

The rally came after Foxx’s office’s controversial decision to drop charges against actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly faking a hate crime.

“It represents a significant recruiting opportunity,” said Levin, who two decades ago helped write the hate crime manual used by Cook County prosecutors. “They can ensconce themselves into rallies that are already highly-charged and actually get coverage as opposed to doing it themselves.”

And if you believe the police union "didn't know" white supremacists were coming to these anti-Foxx rallies, then understand that America's police and military are both full of white supremacists like Identity Evropa.

Four more members of the United States armed forces are now under investigation for their ties to a white nationalist group, military officials have confirmed to HuffPost.

A lance corporal in the Marines, a master sergeant in the Air Force, a specialist in the Army, and a private in the Minnesota National Guard have been identified as belonging to Identity Evropa, an organization listed by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist group.

There are now a total of 11 Identity Evropa members known to be under investigation by the U.S. military. Last month, HuffPost found seven other U.S. servicemen were being investigated over their connections to the group.
The investigations, which could last for months, are looking into whether the 11 servicemen violated military rules regarding discrimination and extremist activity. All 11 could face expulsion from the armed services, or even be court martialed and potentially sentenced to time in prison.

Members of Identity Evropa, like many other white nationalist groups, have long used the messaging platform Discord to chat with one another. Last month the independent media collective Unicorn Riot obtained Identity Evropa’s Discord messages and published them online.

Since then a network of anonymous anti-fascist activists have mined those messages for clues as to the offline identities of the Identity Evropa members, most of whom posted on Discord under fake names. Among those exposed by anti-fascist activists are cops, teachers, a lawyer and members of the U.S. military.

And let's not forget that the reason the SPLC and other anti-fascist orgs are doing the detective work here is because President Orange Creamsicle disbanded the DHS task force looking into this.

The Landed Gentry Landed On Us

Let's call 21st century gentrification of "African-American neighborhoods near revived urban centers" what it is: the latest in the cycle of black families losing wealth in America.

In the African-American neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh, the playfully painted doors signal what’s coming. Colored in crimson, in coral, in seafoam, the doors accent newly renovated craftsman cottages and boxy modern homes that have replaced vacant lots.

To longtime residents, the doors mean higher home prices ahead, more investors knocking, more white neighbors.

Here, and in the center of cities across the United States, a kind of demographic change most often associated with gentrifying parts of New York and Washington has been accelerating. White residents are increasingly moving into nonwhite neighborhoods, largely African-American ones.

In America, racial diversity has much more often come to white neighborhoods. Between 1980 and 2000, more than 98 percent of census tracts that grew more diverse did so in that way, as Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American families settled in neighborhoods that were once predominantly white.

But since 2000, according to an analysis of demographic and housing data, the arrival of white residents is now changing nonwhite communities in cities of all sizes, affecting about one in six predominantly African-American census tracts. The pattern, though still modest in scope, is playing out with remarkable consistency across the country — in ways that jolt the mortgage market, the architecture, the value of land itself.

In city after city, a map of racial change shows predominantly minority neighborhoods near downtown growing whiter, while suburban neighborhoods that were once largely white are experiencing an increased share of black, Hispanic and Asian-American residents.

In a country still learning to forge neighborhoods that are racially diverse and durably so, those yellow tracts appear to be on a path that is particularly unstable.

At the start of the 21st century, these neighborhoods were relatively poor, and 80 percent of them were majority African-American. But as revived downtowns attract wealthier residents closer to the center city, recent white home buyers are arriving in these neighborhoods with incomes that are on average twice as high as that of their existing neighbors, and two-thirds higher than existing homeowners. And they are getting a majority of the mortgages.

White families are moving into urban cores because they want "walkable" lifestyles, light rail commutes to work that don't involve cars, and they're displacing black families in order to get that.  Meanwhile, black and Hispanic families who have to walk to work because they had no choice are being pushed out to hour-plus long commutes and two-hour bus rides.

It's the suburbs that are becoming more diverse, and white families are moving back into cities in order to get away from that.

Cincinnati is no different.  Gentrification in Over-the-Rhine and West End has been going on for over a decade now.  OTR is now hip and cool with lofts, a Kroger flagship super supermarket, craft breweries everywhere (enough for a regular neighborhood tour of them), pop-up dining experiences and it's all a stone's throw from Fountain Square and the downtown core (and the relatively new Jack Casino) with the streetcar running through it all.  When I first moved here 12 years ago I was told not to go there because of the danger factor and I'm a six foot black guy.

Now?  OTR is great.  If you come to Cincy, you should really visit.

But it came at a cost.

It cost some way more than others.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Last Call For The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Democrats have a ways to go before the public will be convinced that Trump should be removed from office as opposed to wading through another election season.

Donald Trump's approval rating is essentially unchanged at a historically weak 39 percent after the release of the Mueller report, just three in 10 Americans accept the president’s claim to have been exonerated and 58 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the president lied to the public about the matters the special counsel investigated.

Nonetheless, support for impeachment is at a new low, 37 percent, in the national survey, albeit not significantly different from earlier this year. It rises to 62 percent among Democrats but falls sharply to 36 percent among independents and just 10 percent among Republicans. And while nearly six in 10 overall say Trump lied, there’s a closer division – 47-41 percent – on whether or not he obstructed justice.

The public overall appears cautiously supportive of the Mueller report, which Trump has characterized as “a total hit job.” Fifty-one percent in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, call the report fair and even-handed – just a bare majority, albeit far more than the 21 percent who say it’s unfair. Still, that leaves many, 28 percent, who are withholding judgment on whether Mueller’s report is fair or not.

While criticizing the report, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration” in its findings. Again the public’s response differs: Thirty-one percent say the report cleared Trump of all wrongdoing, almost entirely an ingathering of his political supporters. Many more, 53 percent, say the report did not exonerate Trump. An additional 16 percent have no opinion.

Americans know something is up, but the case against Trump has to be made cleanly and done correctly.  Televised hearings, loads of them, are the way to reach the country.  Democrats appear to be taking that route, and Trump is fighting every summons, every document request, and every subpoena.

Something's got to give and soon.

School Choice...Isn't

Democrats have a lot to answer for over the last 20 years when it comes to going along with Republican plans to destroy America's public education system, but nothing has been more of a detriment to America's kids getting a solid foundation than the abject stupidity of school choice.  It's failed spectacularly in Washington DC, it's failed in Ohio and Alabama and North Carolina, and it's failed miserably in San Francisco where the rich now have segregated enclave schools and millions of kids are left out in the cold with zero resources to compete.

For decades, the education mantra from presidential campaign trails to local school board elections has been the same: Your ZIP code should not determine the quality of your school. Few cities have gone further in trying to make that ideal a reality than San Francisco.

But as education leaders from New York to Dallas to San Antonio vow to integrate schools, and as presidential candidates like Joseph R. Biden Jr. are being asked to answer for their records on school segregation, San Francisco’s ambitious plan offers a cautionary tale.

Parental choice has not been the leveler of educational opportunity it was made out to be. Affluent parents are able to take advantage of the system in ways low-income parents cannot, or they opt out of public schools altogether. What happened in San Francisco suggests that without remedies like wide-scale busing, or school zones drawn deliberately to integrate, school desegregation will remain out of reach.

After families submit their kindergarten applications, ranking as many school choices as they like across the city, a computer algorithm makes assignments. Those from neighborhoods where students have scored low on state tests get first dibs at their top-ranked programs. Each child gets an address-based priority at one school, but it is considered only after those with test-score priority are offered seats.

The district had previously used busing to try to desegregate schools, under a 1983 agreement with the N.A.A.C.P. But a group of Chinese-American families sued in the 1990s, saying their children were being denied seats at elite campuses. The city settled the case by devising a choice-based enrollment process meant to be race-neutral but still achieve integration.

Research shows that desegregation can drive learning gains for students of all races. And on paper, San Francisco’s system showed promise. In recent years, it succeeded in breaking up racial concentrations at a handful of schools.

But over all, many parents and city leaders consider it a disappointment. The district’s schools were more racially segregated in 2015 than they were in 1990, even though the city’s neighborhoods have become more integrated, research shows. That pattern holds true in many of the nation’s largest cities, according to an analysis by Ryan W. Coughlan, an assistant professor of sociology at Guttman Community College in New York.

Segregation looks different in San Francisco than in other parts of the country. The district is one of the most diverse in the nation: 35 percent of students are Asian, 27 percent are Hispanic, 15 percent are white and 7 percent are African-American. Schools here are not racially monolithic. But over the past several decades, white, Asian and Hispanic students, on average, have been clustered in schools with more children of their own races.

While black children were slightly less racially isolated in 2015 than in 1990, that was largely a result of their lower enrollment in the district, Professor Coughlan said — a change driven by astronomical housing costs.

Putting all the onus of school choice on parents means the parents and families with resources are the ones able to put their kids in the best schools, just like America's college situation.  The result is a stacked deck against black and Hispanic kids for a lifetime and zero social mobility.  It's exactly what Republicans wanted, and more than a few Democrats too.

It was a disaster fated to happen, and we've wasted a generation on it.

Meanwhile In Bevinstan...

Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is now the least popular governor in the US, and in the era of Trump that's really saying something.

Kentucky's Matt Bevin hasn't won many popularity contests after being elected governor in 2015.

His publicized fights with the teacher's unions over pensions and with people on social media has led to polls consistently ranking him as one of the least popular governors in the country.

Bevin for the first time snagged the bottom spot Thursday morning in a poll released by Morning Consult, a nonpartisan polling firm based in Washington, D.C.

The poll gives Democrats hope since Kentucky's Republican governor faces reelection campaign this year. Democrats will pick their candidate in a May 21 primary.

Kentucky Democrats in the past 20 years have lost both houses of the state legislature and all but one statewide office in Kentucky.

Morning Consult's poll of Kentucky voters showed 33% approved of Bevin while 52% didn't.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1%.

Only one other governor is above 50% disapproval, Rhode Island Democrat Gina Raimondo. Locally, other Republican governors in the Tri-State are doing much better.

It was a positive poll for Eric Holcomb, Indiana's governor. It indicated 49% polled approved of him while 22% disapproved.

As for Ohio, newly elected Republican governor Mike DeWine fared OK. The poll showed 44% liked DeWine while 26% didn't.

And this all happened before Bevin made an ass of himself again yesterday as his crusade to make Kentucky the biggest political cancer in the nation along with Mitch and Rand continues.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin reopened political wounds with Kentucky teachers on Thursday when he blamed their sickouts for the shooting of a 7-year-old.

During remarks to the Louisville Rotary Club at the Muhammad Ali Center, Bevin responded to a question about what can be done to stem gun violence.

More attention must be spent on looking at behavioral health and firearms safety as opposed to the government creating more gun regulations, Bevin said.

"One thing you almost didn't hear anything about while we had people pretending to be sick when they weren't sick and leaving kids unattended to or in situations that they should not have been in — a little girl was shot, 7 years old, by another kid," he said.

"Because they were somewhere that they weren't intended and because a parent didn't have any option, put them in a situation so that they could go to work, it left these kids in a compromised situation where they encountered a gun and there was not enough awareness."

The governor appeared to be referring to a March 12 shooting in the Shively area when a 7-year-old girl was shot by her 11-year-old brother inside their home while their guardian, their uncle, was outside, officials said.

Bevin's office did not respond to an email asking whether the governor was talking about that incident.

It is unclear whether the children attended Jefferson County Public Schools.

Blaming teachers for Kentucky kids killed in school shootings is a huge reason why Bevin is in the basement, but he keeps doing it.  Sadly, Kentucky Dems seem to be heading for another double-digit defeat to Bevin in November because they can't get their act together.

The Democrats vying to take on Republican incumbent Matt Bevin kept things mostly civil on Wednesday during the first televised debate in the Kentucky primary election.

But fireworks erupted after the one-hour discussion, moderated by "Hey Kentucky" host Matt Jones at Transylvania University, between Andy Beshear and Adam Edelen. They traded barbs over Beshear's representation the Boy Scouts of America six years ago, as it faces new allegations of sex abuse by its leaders.

"If the good thing that can come out of this is that fact that he feels badly about having represented pedophiles in his private practice, then I'm glad that he has come around. My regret is he took the case to begin with," Edelen told a group of reporters.

Beshear, the state attorney general, bristled at that accusation in an interview with reporters.

"He said what?" Beshear asked. "That is desperate, and I expected lies and distortions from Matt Bevin, but coming from a fellow Democrat – that's disappointing."

In 2013, Beshear was working for the law firm of Stites & Harbison, which represented the Boy Scouts in a case against two men who were abused by scoutmasters as minors in the 1970s.  

It's going to be a dismal primary, and whoever emerges from this dumpster fire next month will probably be too broken to beat Bevin.

 We'll see.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Some of the most damning information in the Mueller report involves Trump's orders to go after his enemies. We know Jeff Sessions was fired as Attorney General because he wouldn't intervene on the Mueller probe itself, but we also now know he was fired because he wouldn't lock up Trump's political enemies, mainly Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Mueller’s report released last week brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation. But his request of Mr. Sessions — and two similar ones detailed in the report — stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken.

And at the time Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Sessions, the president was already under investigation for potentially obstructing justice and knew that his top aides and cabinet members were being interviewed in that inquiry.

Mr. Trump wanted Mrs. Clinton investigated for her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state, the report said, even though investigators had examined her conduct and declined to bring charges in a case closed in 2016.

No evidence has emerged that Mr. Sessions ever ordered the case reopened. Like many of Mr. Trump’s aides, as laid out in the report and other accounts, Mr. Sessions instead declined to act, preventing Mr. Trump from crossing a line that might have imperiled his presidency.

Instead, Mr. Sessions asked a Justice Department official in November 2017 to review claims by the president and his allies about Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I.’s handling of the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. The department’s inspector general had already been scrutinizing the issues and painted a harsh portrait of the bureau in a report last year but found no evidence that politics had influenced the decision not to prosecute Mrs. Clinton.

It was unclear what effect the disclosures about Mr. Trump’s discussions with Mr. Sessions could have on the president as House Democrats consider whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

Sessions wouldn't do it.

Do you think Trump would have hired Barr if he wasn't willing to start prosecuting Democrats at Trump's command?

Chasing Those Trump Voters Again

Democratic strategists are once again back to "Only more rural white men can save the party from doom".
Former Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, who both lost their 2018 re-election races in North Dakota and Indiana, respectively, are launching the One Country Project to help their party win back rural voters ahead of the 2020 cycle. Their team looked at rural votes by county and state from 2000 to 2018 and found that if Democrats don't break their performance with rural voters, they're projected to once again win the popular vote but lose the electoral college in 2020.  
Details: Their focus is primarily on Democratic Senate races and the presidential election, but they eventually want to work with races up and down the ballot in these rural areas.

Heitkamp and Donnelly will work with campaigns before the election, giving them messaging, data, polling, and a strategy to break through with these voters who "didn’t feel that we shared their beliefs" in past elections, Donnelly told Axios in an interview.

"Culturally, they’re focused on faith and family and country, and Donald Trump tells them all the time that we’re not, even though we are."

What they're saying: "What we heard on the ground is that the Democratic Party no longer speaks for the entire country," Heitkamp said. "They’ve forgotten the middle of the country and forgot to even show up. Even past Democratic voters didn’t recognize the Democratic Party of 2018."

By the numbers: Their data, shared exclusively with Axios, projects that Democrats' popular vote would increase from +2.1% in 2016 to +3.6% in 2020.

But, using a similar margin that Obama won by in 2012, One Country Project estimates Democrats would end up with just 232 electoral college votes in the upcoming presidential cycle. (Hillary Clinton won 227 in 2016.)

They also project Democrats would be poised to have a better performance in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia.

Assuming these trends among rural voters continue, the team predicts Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire will become even more competitive in 2020.

The reason why Republicans are doing better in those states is massive voter suppression efforts of black and Hispanic voters, not because of "rural white voter trends".

We can do both, but getting rid of the voter suppression is far more important than making Trump voters comfortable enough to maybe not vote for Trump.

Another Hat Lands In The Ring, Con't

And it's the big one for Dems, the one we've been waiting for, good or bad.  Former VP Joe Biden has officially announced his candidacy for president in 2020.

Biden leads off with Charlottesville, Virginia's white supremacist march and why it shocked the nation, a move that frankly I didn't expect from him.

“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation,” Biden says in the video, showing images of the August 2017 protests by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 
Biden called those demonstrations “a defining moment” for the country. 
“Our standing in the world, our very democracy — everything that’s made America America is at stake. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”

If anything, opening up with this is a clear message to voters in both parties, but Biden still has a ton of baggage to deal with and four decades of a problematic voting record.

Joe Biden's mission in the presidential bid he launched on Thursday is to prove he's not a man out of step with the times. 
He must convince a Democratic Party pulsating with forces of youth, gender and racial diversity that is moving left on health care and college funding to ultimately turn to a traditional middle-of-the road nominee to take on President Donald Trump. 
Biden is an aging white male, a physically expressive old-school pol with a nose for the ideological center who still believes a political opponent is not a blood enemy. 
And his third try to finally reach the political summit comes at the one moment in American history when such qualities have turned into liabilities. 
But Biden has one huge card to sell to Democrats desperate to oust Trump: He might be their best hope of beating the President, especially in the Midwestern, blue-collar heartland. And his experience and dignity could be the antidote to Trump's rage. 
Biden enters the crowded primary after months of soul searching as a clear but not prohibitive front-runner. 
Invoking America's better angels, Biden is offering experience and a character forged by tragedy to purge the scandals, lies and constitutional chicanery of the current President and to close the societal schisms he has widened.

Again, if Biden is the nominee, he'll have my support in 2020 because Donald Trump and the GOP can go to hell.  If it takes Biden to get him out of there, great.

We'll see.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Last Call For Her Turn

Hillary Clinton takes to the Washington Post to opine on what Dems should do in the post-Mueller report era, and frankly, it's solid, reasonable advice.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

 While the first piece of advice is wishful thinking, as the Republican party is hopelessly and completely corrupted and produced the Trump cancer on the body politic, the rest is absolutely correct.  We do have to get this right, and that means laying out the case with subpoenas and using the tools House Democrats have available.

It also means giving Trump enough agita that he slips up and very possibly commits even more impeachable offenses trying to cover up the mess he's in now.  And yes, it means proving Dems can chew gum and walk at the same time and pressing on the Democratic agenda as a positive alternative to Trump's garbage universe while pursuing impeachment at the same time.

Again, this is eminently solid advice from Clinton.  Will anybody listen or even remember she said this when the "Where was Hillary when the impeachment debate was going on?" inevitably begins?

We'll see.  Mark this one down.

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