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“The rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete”

"The rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete"

by digby



Vox explains:
The New York Times reported that at the Munich conference, “the rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete,” in part because of Trump’s “distaste for multilateralism and international cooperation.”

As was the case in Poland, Pence reportedly “met stony silence” during his speech in Munich when he called for US allies to follow Trump’s lead and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

During her speech, Merkel criticized the Trump administration on a number of fronts, including the president’s recent decision to pull out of a treaty with Russia banning land-based intermediate-range missiles, and his announcement that American troops will be leaving Syria and Afghanistan.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we certainly had the hope ... that we could come to a better cooperation,” Merkel said. “Today, in 2019, that seems like a long time ago ... [but] in a few years, it could look very different again.”

Different, for sure. Better? The jury will be out for some time on that.

The NY Times article explains that the allies are done licking Trump's boots in hopes of appeasing him because it hasn't worked. He only respects the leaders he perceives as strongmen --- like Putin, Xi and Kim Jong Un. So, if they flatter him, he's truly flattered and believes it's sincere. If democratic allies flatter him he sees it as a weakness and doubles down on his imbecilic browbeating over bullshit like tariffs and NATO.

Whether these longstanding alliances can be put back together is unknown. Maybe we'll all end up better off, who knows? But those who think the US doesn't need any allies and can just wall itself off from the world in 2019 are fooling themselves. We cannot. And confronting the biggest crisis of our time, climate change, is going to require more cooperation between countries than anything in human history. It's kind of a shame that the richest industrialized nations will have to start from scratch.

In fact, it's idiotic.

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Bill Barr has a history of partisan interference

Bill Barr has a history of partisan interference

by digby


Josh Marshall points to an article he wrote for Salon back in 2002 about the final report that came out about the Whitewater investigation (which no one paid any attention to.) William Barr played a part and it wasn't good.  Before the election, Bush Sr apparently got wind of a referral to the Department of Justice about that stupid Arkansas land deal back in the 1980s:

According to the report, on Sept. 17, 1992, Edie Holiday, the secretary to the Cabinet in the Bush White House, contacted then Attorney General William Barr and -- after some awkward back and forth -- asked Barr if he "would be aware of a pending matter in Justice (she may have said it was a criminal referral) about a presidential candidate or a family member of a presidential candidate."

At around the same time, according to the report, then-White House counsel C. Boyden Gray also apparently took action. He inquired about the status of the referral with the head of the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC), the agency from which the referral to the U.S. attorney originated.

Washington is replete with rules prohibiting or discouraging contact that might create the appearance of a conflict of interest. And most cover inappropriate contact between the political side of the executive branch and the law enforcement side of the executive branch, for obvious reasons. During a later phase in the Whitewater investigation, the general counsel at the Treasury gave White House lawyers a heads up about a possible upcoming indictment of Jim McDougal and possibly President Clinton, which was being reported in an internal RTC newsletter called the "early bird report." That incident was enough to get several White House officials hauled before a federal grand jury and led to the eventual resignations of White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum and Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman. The series of incidents noted in Wednesday's Whitewater report are considerably more serious: political appointees trying to use their influence over the executive law enforcement agencies for political gain.

And it has former Clinton staffers steamed.

"It doesn't pass the smell test," says one legal source close to the former president. "How did anybody at the White House even know about it? It suggests to us clearly that they were using the Justice Department and an investigation to influence the election." How did Edie Holiday find out about the referral? Or C. Boyden Gray? Why did they try to intervene as they did? What other officials were involved? On all of these questions the report is silent.

What is clear is that Barr went on to get in touch with Ira Raphaelson, the Justice Department's special counsel for financial institution fraud, and asked him to find out whether such a referral existed. When Raphaelson didn't uncover one at first, Barr asked him to try again. From here, the story takes a turn that is either comic or Kafkaesque.

Though Barr had no apparent reason to believe that the budding case against the McDougals was being handled inappropriately, he instructed his subordinates at the Department of Justice and the FBI to commence a series of contacts with local officials in Little Rock to make sure the case was being handled appropriately. The OIC Report is replete with self-serving statements from these officials, to the effect that they simply wanted to make sure it was handled neither more quickly nor more slowly than any other similar case. Barr, the report explains, told a subordinate that "he did not want action on it artificially sped up or slowed down -- it was to be dealt with on its merits and in the normal course."

In the succeeding pages, statements such as these are coupled with actions that clearly belie them. Everything in this case should be handled like every other case, Washington seemed to be telling the U.S. attorney in Little Rock. But after reading the OIC's recounting, it is virtually impossible to conclude that Barr and his colleagues at Justice were concerned with anything except the possibility that the potential case might not be moving as quickly as it could.

On Oct. 7, 1992, Banks informed his superiors in Washington that based on his review of the referral he was not inclined to open an investigation or move toward issuing indictments. Justice and FBI officials then met and responded to Banks' message by ordering him to commence an investigation and report back to them on Oct. 16.

Banks had little doubt about the origins of the sudden urgency to move ahead with the case. "All of a sudden, we had this FBI pressure that something had to be done by October 16th," he later told the OIC. But Banks and other law enforcement officials in Little Rock held their ground.

Officials in the Bush Justice Department apparently realized that it wouldn't do to order local officials to fast-track the case, but they nudged them as much as they could. It reflects well on Banks that he didn't let his superiors convince him that they knew better than he did. He believed he was being angled into issuing subpoenas in the case before the November election, and later testified that he would have resigned before doing so.

There are many passages in the OIC report that beg the question of whether more questions would have been asked if the independent counsel were interested in scrutinizing the behavior of former Bush administration officials rather than people tied to the Clinton administration. Why did the independent counsel choose to investigate possible foot-dragging on the part of U.S. Attorney Banks (who is completely vindicated in the report), when Banks had no reason to help Bill Clinton, and ignore the possibility that inappropriate pressure tactics were employed by Attorney General Barr, when Barr had a vested interest in seeing Clinton lose in November?

After Banks refused to pursue the Whitewater investigation, and after Bill Clinton's election, departing Bush Justice Department officials revealingly lost their sense of urgency about the case. Whitewater ultimately came into full bloom when Clinton requested a special prosecutor to look into it in 1994, following pressure from the media and critics.

Another tantalizing tidbit in the report is the central role that FBI director Robert Mueller, then assistant attorney general for the criminal division, played in Barr's fishing expedition. From the facts contained in the report, it's not clear that Mueller was doing anything more than overseeing the execution of decisions made by others or overseeing meetings of Justice Department and FBI officials in Washington. But he was clearly in the center of the drama and in the position to see almost everything that was going on.


All we can hope for is that Mueller still has enough juice with Barr to keep him from reverting to his old partisan ways.  I think the odds are no better than 50-50.
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QOTW: George Conway

QOTW: George Conway

by digby


Indeed. But people like his wife call such questioning a "coup."
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There was plenty of reasonable suspicion

There was plenty of reasonable suspicion

by digby

 Emptywheel's post lays out the four legal proceedings before judges that we've seen evidence that this is not some partisan witch hunt and that the evidence, much of which we have not yet seen, shows something very nefarious. She concludes:

Four times so far in this investigation, Trump’s aides have started the sentencing process for their crimes designed to obstruction Robert Mueller’s investigation. All four times, before four different judges, their misplaced loyalty to Trump above country has come up. And with both Flynn and Manafort — where the judges have seen significant amounts of non-public information about the crimes they lied to cover-up — two very reasonable judges have raised explicit questions about whether Trump’s aides had betrayed their country.

Trump wants this to be a case of contested claims of betrayal. But the judges who have reviewed the record have used striking language about who betrayed their country.


Considering all the hand-wringing over the McCabe interview this morning, I thought I'd re-up my Salon piece from Friday that makes some of the same points:




My Salon column this mprning:

Valentine's Day 2019 was a day to remember. Americans woke up with news about Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the FBI and his new book outlining the details of the wild days in May of 2017 when members of the Justice Department considered ways to evoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.  By that night we had word that the president was going to go through with his threat to declare a national emergency so that he could circumvent the will of the US Congress.

And just to add to the general chaos, in between breaking news stories,  legal and national security experts were still poring over earlier news from the Manafort case that had everyone who is following the Russia scandal closely just a little bit breathless. A federal judge has affirmed that the president's former campaign chairman lied to the special prosecutor about some damning evidence that we can infer may implicate Donald Trump.

As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-CA, explained on MSNBC:
It appears the judge has largely agreed with what the special counsel argued and that not only did he lie, but the motivation here is that if he told the truth about his relationship with someone with Russian Intelligence while he was the campaign chairman that would be so damaging  to Trump that it would negate his chance of a pardon. 
I have never subscribed to the theory that the president is a wily operator who's always strategizing how to distract the media and the public from bad news about him. He's got a strong feral survival instinct so he's always bobbing and weaving but I doubt that he's making any conscious choices. However, occurred to me that he seemed a bit too eager to draw attention to the McCabe story considering how damning it actually is.

Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax - a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won....

67.6K people are talking about this


Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax - a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won....

67.6K people are talking about this



Perhaps he really was upset. But it's also the case that he knew upon waking up yesterday that he had just lost the biggest legislative fight of his presidency. He closed down the government for the longest shutdown in history and wound up getting less than he would have gotten had he taken the border funding deal they agreed to last December.  He also undoubtedly realized that in order to save face, even a little, was to call for the national emergency and create a rift among allies in congress, possibly changing the dynamic.

As Salon's Amanda Marcotte pointed out on Thursday, Trump had already been in the unusual position of having to court his usually slavering media supporters to get them to accept the inevitable. McCabe's book probably seemed like the better of all the bad news cascading down on him in this very bad week.

Needless to say, Trump's defenders on Fox News and elsewhere in the right-wing media find this to be convincing evidence of an attempted "deep state" coup. But coming on the heels of this news about the Manafort case and the accumulated evidence of the last three years, it was a reminder to he rest of us of the craziness around the Comey firing when Trump had the Russian Ambassador up to the Oval Office the very next day and telling them:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.” 
Imagine how that looked to law enforcement and intelligence officials at the time. And consider that they also knew that Trump  shared "code-word information”  one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies,  which one official characterized as "more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

McCabe made some news in an excerpt of a CBS interview to air this weekend, by saying that he not only opened a counter-intelligence investigation, as reported earlier, but he also opened an obstruction of justice investigation around the same time based upon the president's behavior and his insistence that the Justice Department was to do his bidding. He appears to have been right to do so.

One of the president's most fervent defenders inadvertently made the point very clear with a tweet yesterday:



All of those firings have to do with the Russia investigation.

Former US Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman said on MSNBC, "Is it a slow-motion Saturday night massacre? That's what they were worried about at the time. In some ways, it's worse. It is as McCabe says, a fall-off in standards of presidential accountability such as they've never had before."

It must be noted that there is always a concern about powerful federal law enforcement investigating a president whether for the purpose of blackmail as Hoover was suspected of doing, or because of political bias against his policies. But, if anything, the law enforcement and intelligence communities in Washington tend to be conservative GOP so it would be very odd if they decided to go after a Republican administration right out of the gate for political purposes, even if they thought the president was a nut or a fool. They would most likely trust that the party and the bureaucracy would assert itself. In this case, with the evidence they had of Russian interference along with the president and his campaign's bizarre behavior, they took some protective action some of which was reckless and got them into trouble. But it's not hard to see why they would go there.

We've now had a United States federal judge in the Manafort case affirm what appears to be a central piece of the Special Counsel's theory which may implicate the president in a conspiracy. We earlier saw another United States federal judge look at the evidence in the Flynn case and get so agitated he accidentally threw out the word treason. And as of Thursday evening, the United States has a new Attorney General, William Barr.

We don't know as yet if Barr's years in private life were spent being brainwashed by right-wing media (and there is some evidence that they were) but he was, at one time, thought of as a man who cared about the Department of Justice and saw himself as a patriot. He too will probably be seeing all the evidence as early as today. Much depends upon whether this lifelong Republican lawyer sees what all these other otherwise conservative cops, G-Men, spies, US Attorneys and federal judges have been seeing over the past couple of years.
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McCabe on 60 Minutes by tristero

McCabe on 60 Minutes 

by tristero

Be sure to watch the whole thing. I couldn't help but think that here was a man who (1) spent his entire life believing that Republicans were the good guys, (2) because he believed he himself was a good guy, he could only be a Republican, and (3) now realized that, because of Trump, nothing he had ever believed about what was "good" was true.

McCabe sounds shaken to his core, completely confused about how he could have been so wrong about so many fundamental verities. He also sounds depressed at the state his country finds itself in, and terrified. He's not alone.

But McCabe's interview is unnecessary. There is already more than abundant evidence for impeachment against Trump and his cronies. The only reason he hasn't been forced from office is due to other Republicans who are enabling his corruption, obstruction, vindictiveness and destruction of this country.

As McCabe learned the hard way, it is the Republican party itself that is the problem. Trump is merely a symptom.

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There Goes The Neighborhood, Ctd.


Welcome to "Lifeboat Building" with Michael Steele.

This weeks's special guest Rick Wilson.

The former chair of the RNC and a life-long Republican hit-man talking about how awesome and principled the Republican Party used to be --
-- before Donald Trump came along and somehow hypnotized the entire Republican Party base and turned them into racist zombies.

Complimenting each other on their sagacity for noticing five minutes ago that something was wrong with their beloved Party of Atwater and Rove Reagan, and issuing dire warnings that, if this goes on, someday Republicans will rue the day yadda yadda yadda.

Except, of course, that is not how the history of the Republican Party unfolded at all.

In fact, for the entire run of Mr. Steele and Mr. Wilson's careers, the Republican Party has been pretty much exactly as it is now -- a party of racist zombies -- who were pressured to exercise slightly better public manners.  Whipping the racist zombie horde into a biennial frenzy and directing them to the polls is how Republicans won elections.  It's how Mr. Steele and Mr. Wilson got paid.

And everyone in the media knew it.  Everyone in the leadership of the Republican Party knew it.   In fact, back before the dawn of recorded history, before Michael Steele was making his living groveling to racists like Rush Limbaugh --
Steele to Rush: I'm sorry

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he has reached out to Rush Limbaugh to tell him he meant no offense when he referred to the popular conservative radio host as an “entertainer” whose show can be “incendiary.”

“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”...
-- we Liberals were writing what were once called "blog posts" sounding the alarm about the what was really happening inside Mr. Wilson's beloved Party of Cheney and Bush Reagan.  Blog posts like this one.   From me.   13 years ago:
Reactionary

...
Because if the entire Right Wing understands anything it is this – as frustrating and degrading as it is to men like Trent Lott, Tom Tancredo, G. Felix Allen and Rick Santorum who really, really want to shout their love for all things Segregated and/or Despotic from the rooftops, it is still not socially acceptable to publicly embrace and celebrate your Inner Klansman.

Thus they must commune with their Swine Army in code.

They must use lightly encrypting hatespeech to manipulate the Rove Rods to get the Electoral Reactor Core seething hot enough to activate the base...but always keep the Bobo Koolant level of soothing denial, spin and outright lies juuust high enough to keep the Moderates from being directly exposed to and freaked out by the unshielded Core of the GOP.

This is, by way of example, exactly the dilemma G. Felix Allen now finds himself in. Allen is in every way a transparently counterfeit imbecile. A Johnny-Reb-Come-Lately who has mined such electoral gold as is available in his blighted part the country to men with money, name and good hair who are willing to jump into the bigoted cesspit of Konfederate Kaucasian Kristianity with both feet.

Except people keep asking questions about his past and his persona while on camera!

Sure, slingin’ “macaca” around may get you a flattering laugh as a sly ol’ boy down at the Cross-N-Burn bar. And jumping out of your Tunisian skin to bitch that someone was “casting aspersions” who asked simple questions about your Jewish heritage might get you a pity fuck from the Council of Conservative Citizens' Comfort Women’s Auxiliary.

But G. Felix Allen seems almost congenitally unable to comprehend that in the Information Age, voices carry.

And outside of the Heart of Confederate Darkness, moderate GOP voters who are kept carefully shielded from the truth and lulled into a cozy, supply-side coma by the Bobo Koolant are genuinely horrified when the Core of their Party is suddenly exposed and they are forced to face with eyes wide open the naked, roaring, venomous, unreconstructed filth that actually fuels and pilots the Conservative’s Pretty Hate Machine.

But back then, when an honest look at the disastrous path the Republican Party was on might have spared us the rise of a monster like Trump, this sort of talk was absolutely verboten among the Very Serious People who rule our politics and our media.  And those of us who dared to speak in these terms were marked as a pariah forever precisely because we dared to do what journalism is supposed to do: speak critical truths to powerful people when doing so is most necessary and least unpopular. 

Instead, the Right and the Center allied themselves to preserve a status quo in which everyone knew the GOP was a shitpile of bigots and imbeciles, everyone profiting from it, and everyone agreed not to talk about it no matter how many alarms we crazy Libtards sounded.

And then Donald Trump arrived and told the racist zombie horde that being true to who the Republican Party had taught them to be in private -- listeners to Hate Radio and watchers of Fox News and ragers about imaginary Libtard conspiracies lurking around ever corner -- was nothing they needed to be ashamed of.  After all, since these were the very listening, viewing, reading and thinking habits their party's leaders had praised and encouraged sub rosa for decades, why all the sneaking around?

Why shouldn't they tell the Libtard political-correctness police to go fuck themselves and proudly shout their rage and paranoia and racism from the rooftops?

You see, the terrible truth which neither the media nor the Never Trumpers dare to admit is that Trump has not changed the base of the Republican Party --






-- at all. 

Instead Trump simply offered them what every con man offers his marks.
The basic idea is this.  It's called a confidence game. Why?  Because you give me your confidence?  No. Because I give you mine.
-- Mike, House of Games
He gave them that which they hungered for above all else.  What no other candidate for the Republican nomination would give them.  By declining to speak to them in attenuated, encrypted Meet the Press-friendly dog-whistle code -- by using the blunt, vicious vocabulary of the base to become one with them -- he took the GOP base into his confidence.

He gave them his trust.

And in exchange he gained their undying loyalty.

Which is why it doesn't matter to the Republican base that, even if Trump's stupid fucking Wall were ever built, it would do absolutely nothing to actually address the myriad bullshit justifications for its construction that Trump keeps inventing.  Because for the party base, Trump was never promising a mere wall-as-barrier.  He was promising them a vast, public monument to their hate, big enough to be seen from space, strong enough to hold back the future, durable enough to last 1000 years, erected by a Republican demagogue who told them at the top of his lungs what Republicans like Rick Wilson and Michael Steele had only whispered to them, indirectly, behind closed doors.

That their insatiable rage was perfectly justified.

That their racism was noble.

And that their paranoia was patriotic.


Behold, my Twitter Legal Defense Fund!

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“The gulf between the discussion on twitter and campaign events is a mile wide”

"The gulf between the discussion on twitter and campaign events is a mile wide"

by digby

Here are some well-informed observations about actual, real live Democratic voters in February 2019. It's from Dave Weigel who is following the candidates all over the place:

For the past six weeks, The Trailer has been on the scene for the first campaign appearances by every newly declared Democratic presidential candidate. They ranged from Pete Buttigieg's news conference in Washington, to Julián Castro's tour of Puerto Rico recovery sites, to the aforementioned Kamala Harris trip to a boutique on Lady Street.

If any theme has emerged, it's that the Democratic electorate showing up to meet its candidates is far less ideological and skeptical than the one that lives on social media. Some days, the gulf between the discussion on Twitter and the discussion at campaign events is a mile wide.

For example: The first question asked of any Democratic presidential candidate this year was the one Elizabeth Warren got at her maiden voyage to Council Bluffs, Iowa: "What is it that you think the Democratic Party needs in this journey toward 2020, and what you are bringing to it?"

The most recent question that The Trailer was on the ground for, in Columbia, was about Democrats' most ambitious spending plans. "I believe you said you support Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal," asked Ron Anderson, 50, at the end of Harris's town hall. "Simultaneously, we have a $22 trillion national debt and a $1.2 trillion dollar deficit. How do you square that circle?"

Warren has received just two questions from voters about the controversy around her past claim of Native American heritage. Gillibrand has received just one about her role in encouraging Al Franken to resign from the Senate. Harris has received no questions about her criminal justice record; Booker has received none about his vote against (nonbinding) legislative language to crack down on the pharmaceutical industry. No candidate has gotten a question about the details of the now two-year-old Russia collusion probe, though some have gotten questions about whether Trump may be too scandalized to remain in office.

What can change after the first seven weeks of a primary? Everything. No one has criticized a rival Democrat by name, relatively few have mentioned the president, and there have been more skeptical questions about whether they can really pay for a big "progressive" agenda than whether they pass the litmus test of progressive groups. All of this really should be factored in when there's speculation about how issues are playing on the trail; so far, the candidates are not being whipsawed by events like the media is.


I find that reassuring. People have open minds, are asking questions and don't seem to fighting the last war. While we are all sniping on twitter and Facebook, this campaign will unfold in its own time.
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Defending the Constitution

No Sift next week. The next new articles will appear on March 4.
We call upon our Republican colleagues to join us to defend the Constitution.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
joint statement on President Trump declaring a national emergency

This week's featured posts are "A Fishy Emergency Threatens the Republic" and "I See Color".

This week everybody was talking about the "national emergency"

I covered this in one of the featured posts. I left out a link to the proclamation itself, so here it is.

Before getting around to declaring the emergency, (There is no emergency, so what's the hurry?) Trump talked about trade with China, demonstrating that he has no idea how international trade works.
We have been losing, on average, $375 billion a year with China. A lot of people think it is $506 billion. Some people think it is much more than that.
He doesn't seem to know that this is not a guessing game; his own government actually keeps track of foreign trade. The US trade deficit with China in goods in 2018 was $382 billion. In services, we run a trade surplus with China -- $38.5 billion in 2017 (I haven't found a 2018 figure)  -- so the total trade deficit in 2018 was probably less than $350 billion.

The only person who says $500 billion or more is Trump himself. He has been saying it since 2015 and it has repeatedly been pointed out to him that this is wrong.

The more subtle but more important error in his statement is that we aren't "losing" that $350 billion. We're spending money and getting stuff for it.
“A bilateral balance doesn’t really tell you anything about what the economy is doing,” said Scott Lincicome, an adjunct fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, “just like my bilateral deficit with my grocery store doesn’t tell you anything about whether I’m in debt.”
Trump continued:
We’re gonna be leveling the playing field. The tariffs are hurting China very badly. They don’t want them and frankly if we can make the deal, it would be my honor to remove them. But otherwise, we are having very many billions of dollars pouring into our Treasury; we have never had that before with China.
He also doesn't understand how tariffs work. China doesn't pay the tariffs; American importers do, and they pass the cost on to their customers. So if you bought anything made in China this year, you paid a tariff. The Chinese paid nothing.

Military Times asked 900 active-duty troops to rate a variety of threats. Each bar in this graph represents the percentage of troops who described the threat as either "significant" or "very significant". Both "immigration" and "Mexico" ranked way down the threat list.


The conservative National Review has taken a very strong stand on the abuse of executive power:
Because executive power is awesome, and intended to be that way, certain abuses of it can be discouraged only by the credible threat that Congress will remove the president from power — or, if discouragement fails, can be remediated only by the president’s actual removal. That is why Madison believed that the inclusion of impeachment in Congress’s arsenal was “indispensible” to preserving the Constitution’s framework of liberty vouchsafed by divided power.
Of course, it took that stand in 2014, when the "executive overreach" in question was Obama's decision to tell 5 million undocumented immigrants that he was not going to get around to deporting them. To it's credit, NR isn't happy about Trump's seizure of power, but I haven't noticed them talking about impeachment.

and anti-Semitism

Ilhan Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, got herself in trouble by tweeting six words. Glenn Greenwald had just tweeted:
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It's stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.
Omar responded:
It's all about the Benjamins baby
If you're not tuned in to the history of anti-Semitism, you might not get why this is anti-Semitic. If the issue under discussion were, say, guns or drugs, there would be nothing particularly out-of-bounds about tweeting "It's all about the Benjamins" as a way of saying that McCarthy had been bought by the NRA or Big Pharma. But what makes it different when the subject is Israel is the long history (going back to the Rothschilds and even further) of conspiracy theories about Jewish money controlling events from behind the scenes.

Most recently, the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh was motivated by the belief (widely held on the right-wing fringe) that Jews are plotting to dilute the US's white majority by encouraging caravans of illegal Hispanic immigrants to come up from Central America. George Soros is supposedly financing the caravans. Soros himself was a target of the MAGA Bomber in October, who shared a social-media meme showing Soros at the top of the "Controlled False Opposition".

So it's playing with fire to imply without evidence that Jewish money has bought Kevin McCarthy, because irresponsible accusations like that have resulted in people getting killed, not just in Eastern Europe during the pogroms, but recently here in America. (If terrorists were attacking NRA conventions, I'd be more careful about how I talked about them, too. I wouldn't stop disagreeing with them, but I'd be careful not to seem to endorse the violence.)

Omar apologized. Some Jewish writers, like David Perry, want to accept that apology and move on:
too often, my would-be allies against injustice on the left can easily stumble into anti-Semitic tropes and only sometimes realize quickly enough to reverse course. The most recent example happened on Twitter when Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose district in Minneapolis surrounds me as I write in my office, made a flippant tweet about Israeli money buying off Congress. She clearly meant it as a comment on the power of lobbyists, but it inadvertently invoked long-standing tropes of wealthy Jewish cabals exerting influence. The ensuing political firestorm revealed just how hard it is to maintain solidarity in the face of the oppressive forces that want to divide and conquer. The solution is this: Listen. Believe people when they reach out to you in good faith. Ignore bad-faith hypocrites. Apologize if necessary. Then we can move forward together.
But then there are the "bad-faith hypocrites" like Trump, who said Omar should resign. Or Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy, who want Democrats to take away Ilhan's committee assignments, as Republicans did to Steve King after a lifetime of racist comments.
CNN's Jake Tapper did a great job of demonstrating that hypocrisy.
There is nothing that this White House finds more offensive than a politician feeding into stereotypes about Jews, Jewish money, and controlling politicians, which is what Congresswoman Omar is accused of having done.
But instead of a clip of Omar doing this -- there isn't one, she just tweeted those six words -- what rolled instead was Trump talking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015:
You're not going to support me, even though you know I'm the best thing that could ever happen to Israel. ... You're not going to support me because I don't want your money. ... You want to control your own politicians.
Tapper then apologized for showing the wrong clip, and began a mock struggle with his "rogue" control room. As Tapper kept asking for the Omar tape, what he got instead was
  • A Trump tweet showing Hillary Clinton on a backdrop of money, with "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" printed on a large red Star of David.
  • Trump lecturing the press that "very fine people" were "on both sides" of the marches in Charlottesville, where right-wing extremists chanted "Jews will not replace us."
  • A Kevin McCarthy tweet: "We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg" [three Jewish billionaires] "to BUY this election!"
He could have kept going by showing the 2016 Trump campaign's final ad, which The Guardian characterized like this:
The film features lurid shots of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve interspersed with images of three prominent Jewish people: Janet Yellen, who chairs the Federal Reserve, the progressive financier George Soros and the Goldman Sachs chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.
“The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election,” Trump is heard saying in the advert. “For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”
Instead, Tapper apologized and went to commercial, saying "We seem to be having some issues here sorting out which anti-Semitic tropes are offensive and which ones are not."

I understand the arguments for and against boycotting Israel (or perhaps just products made in the occupied territories) over the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. For: The situation is frequently compared to apartheid in South Africa, where a boycott played a significant role in putting pressure on the white government. Against: Of all the countries that violate human rights in one way or another, Israel is being picked out because of anti-Semitism.
But I don't understand why one side or the other of that debate should be illegal.

and Amazon

After that long public process about siting a second headquarters, Amazon has now changed its mind about building it in New York. Progressive politicians had begun to challenge the $3 billion in tax incentives that drew Amazon to New York.

There's a broader conversation to be had about corporations playing communities off against each other. I'm sure Amazon will get the deal it's looking for somewhere else. But should it?

Usually this issue comes up in the context of sports, when a city feels like it has to invest hundreds of millions in a sweetheart stadium deal in order to attract or keep a team. This is a situation where some federal rules might benefit everyone: Even the cities that "win" these competitions often wind up as losers.

and you also might be interested in ...

It looks like Bernie is running again.

Let's review: Kamala Harris isn't black enough, Kirsten Gillibrand is so out of touch that she doesn't know how to eat fried chicken, Elizabeth Warren should never have told anybody about her Native American ancestor, and Amy Klobuchar is a bad boss.

Isn't that weird? For every woman who runs for president, there's some story that blocks out consideration of what she wants to do.

I think the video rolling out Mark Kelly's campaign for the Arizona Senate seat that's up in 2020 is one of the best political pieces I've ever seen. Kelly has been a Navy pilot in Desert Storm, an astronaut, and the husband of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived being shot in the head by a mass shooter. The video is a fabulous mix of themes: service, heritage, heroism, risk, family. He may be a man running against a woman (Martha McSally, who lost her race to Kyrsten Sinema, but got appointed to fill out John McCain's term), but he's a man who has supported his wife through a difficult recovery. I think that's going to count for something.

To me, the most heart-breaking exchange is when Mark is sitting on a couch with Gabby, who apparently is still challenged to put together long sentences. "Do you remember when you entered Congress for the first time?" "Yes, so exciting." "It was exciting. You know, I thought then that I had the risky job."

Former FBI Director Andy McCabe isn't an unbiased source, but his account of the days after James Comey was fired is worth a look. I'll probably read his book when it comes out in a few weeks.

Cartoonist Jen Sorensen responds to Tom Brokaw's suggestion (since apologized for) that "Hispanics should work harder at assimilation".


Politicians put religion to the strangest uses. Wyoming recently came close to repealing the death penalty. The repeal bill passed the House and was unanimously approved by the appropriate Senate committee, only to lose 12-18 on the floor of the Senate. One senator explained her No vote like this:
Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, argued that without the death penalty, Jesus Christ would not have been able to die to absolve the sins of mankind, and therefore capital punishment should be maintained.
“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” she said. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”
That's what she learned from the story of Jesus.

What kind of woman has a late-term abortion, which the far right calls a "partial-birth" abortion? This kind.
In December 2014, I had an abortion at 29 weeks, after my first baby was diagnosed with a brain abnormality called lissencephaly. The early diagnosis—lissencephaly is sometimes not diagnosed until after birth—meant her case was severe and her prognosis was grim: We could expect her to live for two to six years while suffering from frequent respiratory infections and intermittently choking on her own saliva. Her cognitive development would be arrested or even reversed by painful seizures. She might have been able to smile socially and/or track motion with her eyes, but maybe not. Eventually, one of the bouts of pneumonia or choking episodes or complications from one of the surgeries needed to sustain basic life functions would have killed her.
The author, Margot Finn, eventually got involved with a support group for women who have gone through late-term abortions. None of them fit the anti-abortion stereotype of an irresponsible woman who just whimsically decided to kill her baby after procrastinating for six months.
I’m not sure I’ll ever understand how incurious some pro-life people seem to be about the reasons people seek abortions. In response to the version of my story I posted recently on Facebook, I’ve had people confidently claim that no one’s talking about people like me, that what I did was between me and my doctor. They say they’re talking about people who “just change their minds” at 24-plus weeks of pregnancy about whether they want the presumably healthy fetus cresting today’s fulcrum of “viability” inside them.
Oh, those people. Has anyone ever met one?

and let's close with some stupidity

Some would-be hi-tech thieves in Silicon Valley stole a shipment of GPS tracking devices. Within hours, police had tracked the devices, some of which were in the thieves' storage locker and the rest in their car. The storage locker also contained other stolen property, as well as some drugs.
And that's not all they did wrong.
Before making off with about $18,000 worth of the devices, the thieves grabbed a beer out of the fridge and cut themselves in the process, leaving fingerprints and blood evidence.
Clearly these guys need to spend time in prison, where they can meet more accomplished thieves and begin to educate themselves in their chosen profession.
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17 Inspiring Hand-Letterers to Follow on Instagram

Instagram is chock full of lettering artists. These people put their awesome calligraphy out there for you to enjoy. You’ll find everything from traditional and digital lettering to graffiti, neon, and body art. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, give a follow to these great artists and watch your Instagram feed flood with beautiful artwork.

Gemma O’Brien

Gemma O’Brien

All you can say when looking at these images: Wow! These designs are super cool and complicated. Letters, colors and unique designs mix together perfectly to create these fantastic pieces.

Sarah Disney

Sarah Disney

This artist creates hand-lettering for weddings and home decor, and that sophisticated aesthetic permeates the whole gallery. You’ll find their work on everything from signs and cards to plates and book covers.

Ian Bernard

Ian Bernard

This page is full of totally unique lettering designs, and there’s no one style here, either. Traditional, digital, grungy, sketchy, and elegant art awaits you. The artist also created letter brushes you can purchase for Procreate.

Heyfoxy.au

Heyfoxy.au

Have you ever wanted to keep a cute journal filled with artwork and calligraphy? Look here for all the inspiration you’ll ever need! These pretty pastels are nothing less than breathtaking.

JansArts

JansArts

This page is especially interesting because you’ll see both traditional art right on the paper and the artist’s work digitally overlaid on photography. The effect is pretty awesome!

Michael Moodie

Michael Moodie

This artist specializes in clean script font, but you’ll see other types of lettering too. Bold letters that look like something off a poster, or painted words with bleeding ink – but all pulled off with the same stylish grace.

The Inky Hand

The Inky Hand

This marker artist has a distinctively vibrant style. Mixed in you’ll find hand-lettering embroidery and digital pieces too, so there’s plenty of variety here!

Saskolinas

Saskolinas

This artist is all about the atmosphere. Their black and white lettering and drawings are amazing, and you’ll also want to take note of the carefully arranged background! It all comes together to make the perfect image.

Shelley Hitz

Shelley Hitz

Do you love watercolors and soft designs? Then you’ll definitely want to check out this artist! They make beautiful watercolor cards with calligraphy text.

Miichellabella

Miichellabella

Have you ever seen prettier hand-made cards? You’ll definitely want to take a look at these cards with their artistic calligraphy and sweet designs.

Mateusz Witczak Designs

Mateusz Witczak Designs

Do you love vintage lettering? This art looks like it could be engraved on a sign or as an established company’s logo.

Nim_br

Nim_br

Absolutely gorgeous calligraphy. You’ll see a lot of sketches, soft gradients and shiny gold lettering here.

Humletters

Humletters

You’ll love these watercolors with a unique font! There are plenty of distinctive and pretty designs here, all on cute little cards that will brighten up your day!

Lettering By Usha

Lettering By Usha

Here’s an artist who’s got their colors down. The gradients they create within letters are absolutely stunning, and there’s not a bad mix of colors in this whole gallery. The backgrounds are super fun and well-crafted too!

Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische

Not only is this artist a talented lettering artist, she’s also a best-selling children’s author. Her art is incredibly intricate and spans a wide variety of looks and genres. You’ll find anything from classic, homemade craft to modern styles within her gallery.

Creatifolio

Creatifolio

This elegant hand-lettering looks like it could be on a greeting card. Scroll down to see a rainbow of colors and beautiful typography.

Hello Tosha

Hello Tosha

These cursive designs just exude positivity. Maybe it’s the cute drawings or the splashes of bright colors. Either way, it’s impossible to be unhappy when you see this gallery.

Add Some Creativity to Your feed!

These awesome artists are sure to bring a little color and variety to your Instagram feed. If you find someone whose work speaks to you, make sure to like your favorite posts and give them a follow. Every artist could use a little love. And these fantastic hand-letterers definitely deserve it!

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Gypsies, tramps and thieves by @BloggersRUs

Gypsies, tramps and thieves

by Tom Sullivan

Donald Trump's presidential declaration of a national emergency is as fake as Trump University and a host of other Trump-branded products. Trump's "dictator move," wrote Will Bunch, is something we all expected, yet arrived with "a lot more banality than evil." Bunch examines the ways in which Congress through years of fecklessness has, even in trying to retard the expansion of the imperial presidency, simply enabled it through Republican and Democratic presidencies alike. And here we are.

The real national emergency Republicans see is not the southern border, but 2020. On the line are a presidential election, control of state legislatures that draw maps for state and federal districts (REDMAP 2.0?), plus a chance for Republicans to roll back the blue wave that washed over them in 2018.

Their propaganda campaign against high-profile non-white, non-male, non-Christian freshman Democrats has begun.

"In the 116th Congress, if you’re a Democrat, you’re either a socialist, a baby killer or an anti-Semite," writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg for the New York Times. It may not be as catchy as gypsies, tramps and thieves, but Republican strategists are working up a familiar tune their base can hum:

“Socialism is the greatest vulnerability by far that the House Democrats have,” Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview, adding that he had also instructed his team to spotlight “all the extreme wild ideas” that Democrats espouse, “on a daily basis, on an hourly basis if it’s available.”

House Republicans have identified 55 Democrats they regard as vulnerable, including many freshmen. Some flipped Republican seats last year, some represent districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, and some are in districts held by Republicans until recently. Bruised by their losses last year, Republicans are determined to start earlier and be more aggressive on the offense in 2020, and are hoping to exploit the Democratic presidential candidates’ courtship of the left.

Attempting "to strangle the new Democratic majority in its infancy," the GOP has already launched attacks ads. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will feature prominently, as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both Muslim women. Move over, Nancy Pelosi, self-described democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez is the new face of the liberal menace. Republican strategist and former Trump White House official Andy Surabian believes, “Democrats have handed Republicans this messaging on a silver platter.”

“Washington Republicans are set back now, and all they’re playing on is exaggerations and fear,” Cheri Bustos of Illinois, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tells the Times. Democrats, she insists, will continue to emphasize reducing health care and drug costs, improving infrastructure, and "and rooting out corruption in Washington." Democrats cannot let Republican negative branding take hold, leaving them climbing out of a hole in 2020.

For once, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) offered some useful counter-messaging, saying, “We are not going to abandon socialist policies like Social Security — or is that ‘socialist security,’ is that what they call it?”

Republicans running for anything from president to school board who cries socialism should be asked if they advocate killing "socialist security." See how that flies.

Red-baiting tactics by Republicans have worked in the past, both in sustaining fear in their already fear-saturated base and in making a flinchier generation of Democrats run campaigns on defense. But Republicans are preaching to the conditioned and not offering the remotest possibility for better lives to voters who might be persuadable. As Trump's cotton candy promises of economic renewal turn to dust in his voters' mouths, offering them more bitterness will energize only the most far-gone among them.

The Green New Deal Republicans ridicule may be a crude vision as yet, but it is a vision. Offered by a new generation of Democrats not easily cowed, it is a vision of a future better than the past. Republicans as a party lack any. Nor principles left they have not already sacrificed in a desperate effort to retain power. They have sold their birthright for Trump's white nationalist nihilism and are left to campaign on hidebound tropes left over from the last century.

Republicans who bragged Ronald Reagan won the Cold War should get their heads out of their anti-communism if they expect to lead America in the 21st century.

Extra: NC-9 Election fraud case

Links to exhibits are here.

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