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Kavanaugh and the dirty,dirty

Kavanaugh and the dirty,dirty

by digby

House impeachment manager Lindsey Graham with Mary Bono

So Brett Kavanaugh wanted to get really down and dirty with the Lewinsky investigation and ask Clinton extremely personal sexual questions in his grand jury testimony? Actually, that's not a surprise. The investigation was full of that sort of extraneous detail with important elements of the case ultimately turning on whether or not Lewinsky orgasmed during their encounters.

I'm not kidding:

The House Judiciary Committee yesterday ended two days of partisan skirmishing behind closed doors with majority approval of the release of President Clinton's videotaped grand jury testimony in the Monica S. Lewinsky case, along with 2,800 pages of documents containing substantial amounts of sexually explicit material.

All of the material is scheduled to be made available at 9 a.m. Monday, when copies of the documents, printed by the Government Printing Office, are to be handed to the committee and other lawmakers, after which the information will be posted on the Internet. Sources said the documents -- appendices to the report on the Lewinsky investigation presented to the House last week by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr -- include graphic, and as yet unpublished, portions of Lewinsky's testimony about her Oval Office trysts with Clinton.

The House radio and television gallery will feed television networks the four-hour videotape of Clinton's Aug. 17 grand jury testimony, during which he was questioned by Starr and aides.
Before convening the committee Thursday, Hyde and ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) had agreed to 155 deletions in the printed material, under guidelines aimed at protecting the privacy of innocent third parties, removing redundant or irrelevant sexual references and striking material being used in ongoing criminal cases, and anything relating to official duties of the Secret Service.

But GOP members, who outnumber Democrats on the committee 21 to 16, rejected an attempt by the minority to delete 25 additional references, according to committee records. Among these were more explicit material relating to sexual interaction between Clinton and Lewinsky, the manner in which Clinton undressed her, and details about their telephone sex, according to sources in both parties.

Other Democratic motions were repeatedly defeated on straight party-line votes, and in a final rebuff, GOP members rejected a Democratic move to allow the transcript of the committee hearings to be made public.

Republicans on the committee approved, 20 to 16, a motion by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) to restore three deleted references to a cigar in Lewinsky's sworn testimony to the grand jury, according to information provided by the committee and other sources. One Republican, Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) joined the Democrats in opposing the Barr motions.

Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) said the release of sexually explicit material was necessary because of the president's insistence that he did not commit perjury when he denied in a sworn deposition that he had sex with Lewinsky. Barr agreed, telling reporters: "It's extremely relevant. We were forced to do this by the president's own words."

Republican sources said that material related, for example, to Lewinsky's orgasms, was left in specifically to address the question of whether Clinton aimed to arouse Lewinsky -- a key component of the definition of sexual relations at testimony by Clinton in the sexual harassment suit brought against him by Paula Jones.

In his report to Congress, Starr contended that Clinton's perjury on that point was one ground for impeachment.

Nonetheless, Republicans acknowledged there were risks in continuing to disgorge more lurid details of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, beyond the vivid descriptions already made public as part of Starr's Sept. 9 report to the House. "Nobody can ever predict how the public will react to a decision," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), a Judiciary Committee member.

One sign of GOP nervousness came after Judiciary Committee Republican Bob Inglis (S.C.) proposed that the generic description of one deleted item -- which was not included in Starr's published report -- be changed to indicate more specifically the form of sexual contact that it dealt with. Only five other Republican members, Barr, Ed Bryant (Tenn.), Edward A. Pease (Ind.), James E. Rogan (Calif.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) joined Inglis in pushing for the disclosure. The tally defeating the motion was 28 to 6, according to the committee.

"My view is that full disclosure is the best approach," said Inglis, who is battling to unseat Democrat Ernest F. Hollings in his state's Senate race this fall. "In a democracy, people have a right to know that government and its operations are open."

They were drooling over all of this, Graham in particular. Kavanaugh wasn't alone.

I must say that I never expected any of these perverts to be on the Supreme Court though. Yet another failure of imagination on my part.


Entitlement cuts will be a the top the list when we get back to “normal”

Entitlement cuts will be a the top the list when we get back to "normal"

by digby

You know how this works
.They cut taxes for their wealthy owners and then try to throw the poor and the middle class into penury. They are monsters.

CNBC's John Harwood: You were, during the Obama administration, a big critic of rising levels of national debt. We see the deficit going up to $1 trillion next year, debt levels are rising. About the tax cut: Did you guys go about it the wrong way?

Rep. Steve Stivers: I don't think we did. I think you'll see the economic growth will actually reduce the deficit a bit from the projected levels. And I think there's still an opportunity to continue that growth.

Harwood: No misgivings about a tax cut that was not paid for, that's allowing debt and deficits to rise like it is now?

Stivers: I do think we need to deal with our some of our spending. We've got to try to figure out how to spend less.

Harwood: Entitlements? Social Security, Medicare?

Stivers: Yeah, I mean, what I think we need to do is get some people who are now on government programs jobs, we have more open jobs than we have people on unemployment. So if we could get people to go from unemployment, or a government program, to become a taxpayer, it's a twofer because not only are they getting less government assistance, they probably have a better life economically and they're actually paying taxes.

Harwood: You're talking here about Social Security disability?

Stivers: I'm talking about a lot of programs. A lot of those people, there's a skills gap. You have to give them the skills they need for the jobs that are available today. I don't want to be, you know, mean and kick people off of programs, but the way I'd like to see us do it is in the benefit cliffs and create ramps where the more people earn. It might cost them a little more for their social subsidy, but they actually can keep their Medicaid expansion, or they can keep their housing, but they actually have an incentive to take that pay raise and do better and pay more taxes.

Harwood: Your speaker, Paul Ryan, has said the biggest spending issues are in those big entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security, as opposed to food stamps or welfare or that sort of thing.

Stivers: They are. And we have 10 million people on Social Security disability now — actually, 11 million — more than any time in history. And some of those people can't work at all, but many of those people can't work in the job they used to be in. And if we gave them some training, let them keep making a portion of the Social Security disability, but put them back to work, it would be a net win for the individual.

Harwood: But also Social Security and Medicare, right?

Stivers: The only way we're going to be able to fix Social Security and Medicare is for the two parties to come together — the way that Ronald Reagan did with Tip O'Neill — and figure out how to fix them together. I hope we can do that, I believe it's the right thing to do.

Yeah well, go fuck yourself. Even blandly referring to bipartisanship after what you Republicans have pulled is a joke. You are the walking political dead and any Democrat who decides to let bygones be bygones will join you.

They know what they are doing, you can tell by his dissembling and circling and idiotic rationalizations. They want sick and old people to work themselves to death. Monsters.

This fight is off the table for the moment. But it's going to come back. They will never stop trying to destroy the ragged American safety net altogether. And don't kid yourself. The media is dying to re-establish this bullshit bipartisan "norm" more than any other. They will be thrilled to push it hard the first chance they get.




by digby

What the hell?

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman revealed on Sunday that a C-SPAN caller had threatened the life of former President Barack Obama during a racist tirade.

Waldman said that he was appearing on the Sunday edition C-SPAN’s Washington Journal when a caller used the N-word to refer to Obama and then wished for his death

A Raw Story review of Sunday’s Washington Journal suggested that C-SPAN had used its 7-second delay to cut off the caller before the slur aired.

In the case of one racist caller on the Republican line, the C-SPAN host was forced to quickly hang up.

“Barack Obama is an illegal alien!” the caller named Christopher boomed.

“How do you know this?” the C-SPAN host asked.

At that point, the show’s audio cut for about 2 seconds, suggesting that C-SPAN producers censored the caller. It was obvious from the expressions on the faces of the two guests that the caller had said something offensive.

Sure, this is fine...

Fasten your seatbelts. We’re about to go into warp drive.

Fasten your seatbelts. We're about to go into warp drive.

by digby

Paul Waldman writes this morning that the next eleven weeks are going to be decisive for the Trump presidency. He notes first that Michael Cohen appears to either be on the cusp of indictment or cooperation and that could spell all kinds of new headaches for Trump both politically and legally. But that's not all:

And here are some other things that could or, in some cases, will happen between now and the first week in November:

  • Paul Manafort will either be convicted or acquitted in his first trial, presumably this week (the jury is currently deliberating). And his second trial — which will deal more directly with his work in the former Soviet Union and the ways it may have affected his actions as Trump campaign chairman — will begin in mid-September.
  • Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III could hand down more indictments, or even release a final report on all that he has learned in his investigation.
  • Trump will likely continue to revoke the security clearances of his critics in the intelligence community, which will generate more bipartisan condemnation and comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman will release more tapes she recorded of conversations with people in the White House.
  • A lawsuit will begin in Texas in which Republican states and the administration will be arguing for the entire Affordable Care Act to be struck down, handing Democrats a priceless campaign issue.
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings will take place. Even if the process ends with a win for Trump, it will also likely generate an immediate backlash, a wave of fear and opposition from Democrats as they realize the implications of an intensely partisan, intensely conservative Supreme Court.

Then there's McGann, the trade war and any of a number of simmering international crises. And these are just what we know about. He continues:

The culmination of this intense period is, of course, the November elections. The wave of scandal news will only increase the likelihood that Democrats will win control of the House, and as much as we’ve talked about that possibility, we haven’t fully reckoned with how transformative it would be.

Right now Congress is all but nonexistent as a force in our political life; having passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans have given up on any serious legislating, and certainly aren’t exercising anything resembling oversight of the administration. But if Democrats have control, they’ll begin holding hearings and mounting investigations of all the Trump scandals. Russia will be just the beginning; they’ll use their subpoena power and ability to create news events to probe the president himself, possible misconduct committed by other members of his administration (of which there is a nearly inexhaustible supply) and various policy outrages. It will be a ceaseless drumbeat of Trump scandal for the next two years.

It's been a drumbeat of scandal since he started running for president. But this will be different. The Democrats are going to hold public hearing and real investigations. That changes everything.

John Dean, Michael Cohen and Don McGahn, oh my

John Dean, Michael Cohen and Don McGahn, oh my

by digby

Jonathan Swan:

President Trump tweeted this morning: "The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic], he must be a John Dean type "RAT." But I allowed him and all others to testify — I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide."

What we're hearing: This afternoon, I called up said "RAT," John Dean, to get his take. Dean was Richard Nixon's White House counsel and heavily involved in the Watergate cover-up before he became a key witness for the prosecution.

"I am actually honored to be on his enemies list as I was on Nixon's when I made it there," Dean told me. "This is a president I hold in such low esteem I would be fretting if he said something nice."
Dean told me he read the hard copy of The New York Times this morning and enjoyed the "fascinating" story about the White House counsel, Don McGahn, cooperating "extensively" with Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

"It says more than it seems just in the cold print of the story," Dean said. "Trump doesn't really know what he's done. ... I don't think he really knows what this involved, and it's got to be incredibly helpful to Mueller, to put things in perspective and timelines...from somebody who was right there."
"Rudy [Giuliani] may think he [McGahn] had nothing but nice things to say about the boss, but Rudy has to remember his days as a prosecutor where, if you can get this kind of information, it can put a lot of other pieces into perspective that aren't so good for the defendant, or the potential subject or target."

Per the latest reporting from the NYT's Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, "The president, who is said to be obsessed with the role that John W. Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, played as an informant during Watergate, was jolted by the notion that he did not know what Mr. McGahn had shared [with Mueller]."

What's next? As Politico first reported, Dean has been talking to Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, who became a friend when they both appeared regularly on cable news during the Bill Clinton impeachment.

Dean says he sees parallels between his own Watergate experience and what Cohen is going through now.

Both were in the cross-hairs of criminal investigations (including a Southern District of New York investigation), both engaged with multiple congressional investigations, and both had been attacked by the president in order to discredit future testimony.

"There are some parallels," Dean said. "Nixon made a comment in his memoir, that I found striking.

That he wasn't worried about my Watergate testimony, but it was everything else I had to say.

Because I had become privy to so many activities... and he said that's what killed him."

"He [Cohen] can place this president in a broader context of how he operates."

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I've been saying this for months.

Trump’s White House Counsel has a history with Russian oligarchs too

Trump's White House Counsel has a history with Russian oligarchs too

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Reading President Trump's Twitter feed over the past week, it's hard not to conclude that he feels the walls are closing in. It started with his former adviser and fellow reality TV star Omarosa's new book. She accused him of being a racist and, even more unsettlingly, revealed that she has been taping conversations with people in the campaign and the White House, including the president himself.

Meanwhile, Paul Manafort's trial was coming to a conclusion. Trump seemed so unnerved by that spectacle that he went before the cameras and hinted strongly to any supporters on the jury that he thought they should acquit his former campaign chairman because the whole trial is "very unfair."

In what seems to have been a blatant attempt to change the subject, Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, ostensibly for his erratic behavior on the internet. (That took some real chutzpah.) This dramatic action resulted in major pushback from the intelligence community, starting with a scathing Washington Post op-ed by retired U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven, the man who led the bin Laden mission. He asked for his own security clearance to be revoked in solidarity with Brennan:

Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation. If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

This was followed by similar criticisms from top intelligence officials going back nearly 40 years.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the administration has a list of more such enemies at the ready. They're subject to having their clearances removed when the White House needs to shift the media attention. If that's the case, look for more clearances to be revoked this week. The New York Times published a major story on Saturday night, followed up with reactions on Sunday, that has the White House in a tailspin.

According to the Times, White House counsel Don McGahn has been extremely forthcoming with special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump and his lawyers have made a big show of asserting they have fully cooperated with the investigation, and it's true they have not claimed executive privilege, refused to turn over documents or stonewalled on interviews -- except when it comes to the president himself, whose lawyers apparently understand that he can't tell the truth and would only get himself in trouble. As Barack Obama's former White House counsel, Bob Bauer, makes clear in this post for Lawfare, there's nothing unusual about the White House counsel cooperating with a prosecutor, since his obligation is to the office of the presidency, not the sitting president. It's a requirement, in fact.

But the Times reports McGahn has spent more than 30 hours in interviews, which certainly suggests that he had something interesting to tell the prosecutors. What made this such a bombshell was the revelation that McGahn and his lawyer became convinced some time back that Trump was preparing to throw McGahn under the bus and blame him for "shoddy" legal advice. So they decided he needed to make sure he wasn't implicated. The Times further reports that Trump and his lawyers were unaware of the scope of McGahn's cooperation, particularly in regard to possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Trump reacted as one would expect. He took to Twitter and tried to claim that he has no issue with McGahn, while rather too obviously revealing his criminal state of mind by claiming that John Dean, who blew the whistle on Richard Nixon's abuse of power, was a "rat."

He is clearly cracking under the pressure, and you can understand why. Learning from The New York Times that McGahn spent 30 hours being interviewed by prosecutors had to come as a particular blow, and not necessarily for the reasons assumed in the story.

As journalist Marcy Wheeler has astutely observed, the assumption that McGahn is only providing information about possible obstruction of justice may not be correct. After all, he was with the campaign as its general counsel from very early on and is one of the GOP's top campaign finance and election law experts. He ran the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee for nearly a decade and served as a controversial member of the Federal Election Commission from 2008 to 2013. If there is anyone in the Trump campaign who should have known what the legal exposure for accepting "things of value" from a foreign entity might be, it is Don McGahn.

Wheeler also points out that McGahn has a long history with Roger Stone and various dubious fundraising schemes that are likely to be of interest to the Mueller team as they seem to be homing in on the notorious dirty trickster. And McGahn himself has some interesting experience with Russian pay-to-play schemes going back to his days as former GOP House Whip Tom DeLay's lawyer.

In the late '90s, DeLay and his chief of staff came under scrutiny for some trips he took to Russia with the corrupt K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. These were organized by Russian oil and gas executives who wanted to lobby the U.S. government for more foreign aid. The trips were paid for by a shadowy group in the Bahamas associated with Abramoff and suspected of being financed by these Russian players. DeLay subsequently voted for the bill the Russians were pushing.

The kicker was that the Russian businessmen had also given a million dollars to something called the U.S. Family Network, an "advocacy" group founded by DeLay's former chief of staff and part of what was known as DeLay's "political money carousel." That group also received half a million from the National Republican Campaign Committee, where McGahn, who was DeLay's lawyer, worked as in-house counsel.

When some Democratic groups ran ads against DeLay in 2006, accusing him of pay-for-play corruption, Don McGahn publicly defended him, saying that there was no Russian connection and that there was nothing illegal about it anyway. (An argument that may sound somewhat familiar at present.) But the suspicion that the disgraced DeLay had engaged in a highly lucrative quid pro quo with Russian oligarchs lingered on.

Don McGahn's background as an election law expert and criminal defense lawyer for corrupt politicians with suspicious connections to Russian oligarchs made him a perfect choice for Donald Trump's campaign. It also makes him a highly desirable witness for Robert Mueller's investigation. Thirty hours of interviews can cover a lot of ground.


Ron Fournier: The Triumphant Return of the America’s Sad Clown of Centrism

Admit it, you thought Ron Fournier was gone forever.

He who was once Matthew Dowd's False Equivalence spirit animal.

He whose only job during the 2016 election was squatting on cable teevee panels and croaking out phrases like "It's Both Sides" and "The K'rupt Duopoly" in the face of  every act of Republican depravity.  Gone back to Detroit to write about local politics, because the administration of President Stupid had so completely vaporized Mr. Fournier's career as America's Sad Clown of Centrism.

Or so you would think.

But you would be wrong.

Because as long as Both Siderism remains the corporate media's indestructible business model -- as long as there is an ocean of stupid, desperate money sloshing around inside the Beltway to bankroll anyone who will spin Prince Prospero's courtiers the Both Siderist fairy tales they desperately wish to believe -- toxic parasites like Mr. Fournier will always rise from the wreckage that they create, dust themselves off...

...and go right back to their default setting, unperturbed.

And thus it was in yesterday's Washington Post, where Mr. Fournier first-ever bylined column in that publication --
Nov. 6 could be independents’ day

Ron Fournier, a former reporter, editor and publisher, is president of Truscott Rossman, a Michigan public relations firm. Unite America is a client.

For years as a political reporter in Washington, I wrote about the public’s disgust with the U.S. political system and predicted the rise of a third party and outsider presidential candidates. I railed against the Republican-Democratic duopoly and chased the mythical “white knight” who would put country over party — and then put the two major parties out of business.

I was hunting a unicorn when I should have been herding reindeer.

While a viable third party is as elusive as a horned horse, there exists a rare-but-real creature in American politics that can systematically dismantle the status quo: the independent. Untethered to the two major parties, growing in sums and significance, independent candidates and officeholders are the reindeer of American politics...
But, eventually and incrementally, this may be the path to radically re-center American politics.

If these creatures can be corralled into controlling coalitions in legislatures across the country, including the U.S. Senate, they could find a powerful leverage point to break the partisan fever....
-- was an 800 word advertorial for one of the clients for whom his PR firm flaks:
“The question of whether independent candidates can win elections will inevitably turn to whether independent leaders can make a difference once in office,” reads a new report by the Unite America Institute, which is affiliated with the Unite America movement that aims to level the playing field for independent candidates. I am a spokesman for the group.

Having left Washington for my hometown of Detroit two years ago, I have been drawn back into politics by the pragmatic elegance of Unite America’s mission...
This was the signal to his fellow WaPo haver-of-stupid-opinions, Joe Scarborough, that Mr. Fournier was ready to resume his duties as a America's Sad Clown of Centrism.  

And so, this morning... (from Susie Madrak at Crooks & Liars):
Lobbyist Ron Fournier Says More Independent Voters Will Solve Everything

The infamous Ron "Both Sides" Fournier has structured his pet fetish into a superPAC called Unite America, and he was out selling it on Morning Joe today, pointing out there are more independents than either Democrats or Republicans.

Susan Page said there's "some concern on the part of some Democrats that the rise of talking about third party and independent candidacies in this midterm election could help Republicans because it could be a place for Republicans who are Republican-leaning voters who are unhappy with the Trump era, give them a place to land without voting for Democrats. Do you think there is a partisan impact? I realize there's not a partisan intent by the movement, but is there a possibility of a partisan impact from it?"

"Definitely. You and I have been covering this long enough to know, Republicans say don't vote for independents, you might help the other guy and Democrats say, don't vote for independents because you might help the other guy. 40% of Americans don't like either party, who are forced to vote for one party if they vote at all," Fournier said. 
And thus it came to pass that, after the eight years of out-and-proud, fangs-bared racism, slander and sedition the Republican party displayed during the Obama Administration, and a year and a half of clear and irrefutable proof that Donald Trump and the Republican party are an existential threat to democracy, Both Siderist schlock peddler Ron Fornier has landed --
Why are there so few independents elected when there are so many independent voters? The single greatest barrier to change is the question of viability. People don’t want to waste their vote. With an angry electorate and more-competitive independent candidates, that may soon change.
-- precisely where Both Siderist schlock peddler David Fucking Brooks landed nearly a decade ago --
What Independents Want


Liberals and conservatives each have their own intellectual food chains. They have their own think tanks to provide arguments, politicians and pundits to amplify them, and news media outlets to deliver streams of prejudice-affirming stories.

Independents, who are the largest group in the electorate, don’t have any of this. They don’t have institutional affiliations. They don’t look to certain activist lobbies for guidance. There aren’t many commentators who come from an independent perspective...

-- after eight years of Republican catastrophe, corruption and dereliction had nearly wrecked the country and sent professional Beltway frauds like Mr. Brooks flailing around desperately for some excuse not to blame Republicans for the atrocities of the Republican party.

In a real and tragic sense, this was the corporate media's own Lynndie England/Abu Ghraib moment:  the moment of fatal institutional cowardice when powerful and unaccountable people reached a collectively decision behind closed doors that no one of any importance to the media's business model -- not the Republican party base, not the GOP leadership, not Fox News, not Hate Radio and certainly not themselves -- would ever be held accountable for the multiple, catastrophic failures that during the Bush Administration.

This was the moment when Conservatism's long war against the "Liberal" media achieved final victory.  The moment when the corporate media gave up on journalism altogether and surrendered unconditionally to the Right by making the cult of Both Siderism the Beltway's official state religion.

From this moment on, the GOP had the media's guarantee that no matter what whopping great lies they told or what acts of barbarity they might commit right out in the open, the responsibility for those lies and that barbarity would be routinely deflected onto Both Sides or All Sides or All Americans...and thus harmlessly diffused.

From this moment on, the rise of a Republican monster like Donald Trump became inevitable.

Behold, a Tip Jar!


QOTD: Dave Wasserman

QOTD: Dave Wasserman

by digby

 "This election is the year of the angry female college graduate."

"The most telling number in the most recent NBC/WSJ poll is that Trump's approval rating among women with college degrees was 26 percent. That's absolutely awful and the intensity of that group is extraordinary. They're already the most likely demographic to turn out to vote in midterms. But never have they been this fervently anti-Republican."
Actually, we hate hate him and his minions with the fire of a thousand nuclear warheads...

But other than that ...


Remaining Questions

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.

- former CIA Director John Brennan (8-16-2018)

This week's featured post is "The Drift Towards Autocracy Continues".

This week everybody was talking about security clearances

In the featured post, I discuss Trump's revoking of John Brennan's clearance as one more example of his autocratic tendencies: He thinks presidential powers aren't tethered to any presidential responsibilities, and are just his to use as he pleases.

Something else worth mentioning is that when Rob Porter was facing credible accusations of beating his ex-wives, Sarah Sanders claimed that the White House had nothing to do with security clearances.

and Aretha Franklin

a.k.a. the Queen of Soul, who died Thursday at the age of 76. In tribute, I offer this clip from The Blues Brothers.

and the continuing sabotage of ObamaCare

Wednesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar had a WaPo column that makes it sound like Trump's latest effort to sabotage ObamaCare is a great thing for middle-class Americans.

Americans will once again be able to buy what is known as short-term, limited-duration insurance for up to a year, assuming their state allows it. These plans are free from most Obamacare regulations, allowing them to cost between 50 and 80 percent less.

In other words, they're junk insurance. Suppose you buy such a policy for a year. If you break your leg, fine, you're covered. If you get cancer, though, you're covered until the end of the policy, and which point the company wants nothing more to do with you. Or if your leg-break is complicated, requiring a series of surgeries and some rehab that lasts longer than the policy, forget about it.

In the meantime, these short-term junk policies will appeal to healthy people who don't expect to get sick. Drawing them out of the risk pool will raise rates for people who want real insurance.

The proper goal of American health policy should be simple: If you need care, you will get it, and you won't be forced into bankruptcy. This is a step away from that goal, not toward it.

and Trump administration epistemology

"Truth," Rudy Giuliani told us this week, "isn't truth."

"This is going to become a bad meme," Chuck Todd presciently warned.

Now is a good time to remind everybody of the concept of the "reverse cargo cult". Hans Howe explains:

In a regular cargo cult, you have people who see an airstrip, and the cargo drops, so they build one out of straw, hoping for the same outcome. They don’t know the difference between a straw airstrip and a real one, they just want the cargo.

In a reverse cargo cult, you have people who see an airstrip, and the cargo drops, so they build one out of straw. But there’s a twist:

When they build the straw airstrip, it isn’t because they are hoping for the same outcome. They know the difference, and know that because their airstrip is made of straw, it certainly won’t yield any cargo, but it serves another purpose. They don’t lie to the rubes and tell them that an airstrip made of straw will bring them cargo. That’s an easy lie to dismantle. Instead, what they do is make it clear that the airstrip is made of straw, and doesn’t work, but then tell you that the other guy’s airstrip doesn’t work either. They tell you that no airstrips yield cargo. The whole idea of cargo is a lie, and those fools, with their fancy airstrip made out of wood, concrete, and metal is just as wasteful and silly as one made of straw.

In Putin's Russia, democracy is the cargo and elections are the airstrips. Russian elections are bogus, but that just proves that all elections are bogus. The US and all those other countries don't really have democracy either.

In Trump's America, truth is the cargo, and public statements are the airstrips. There's no point claiming any more that Trump tells the truth; it's just too obvious that he doesn't. If he testifies to Mueller, of course he will lie. But that just proves that everyone lies, and no statements contain truth.

So it's totally unreasonable to put Trump under oath and expect truth, because there is no truth.

but you might wonder what's going on with Turkey

In addition to all the other trade wars Trump is fighting, we now have one with Turkey. Trade with Turkey is too small to make much difference in terms of jobs or the trade deficit, but Evangelicals have made a cause out of an American pastor the Turkish government has arrested. The result is an economic crisis in Turkey that could spill over into European banks or other emerging market countries.

and you also might be interested in ...

We're waiting for a verdict in the Manafort trial. I'm concerned that it's taking so long; the evidence seems pretty clear. Vox' Emily Stewart just thinks the jury is being methodical: There are a lot of charges.

Meanwhile, Trump has been doing his best to influence the jury, which has not been sequestered. Any Trump supporters on the jury must know what their marching orders are: not guilty.

Rick Perlstein explains the history of "voter fraud" as an argument for discouraging minority voters.

James Corden's musical version of the hoped-for Mueller report says that Trump is the "law defying, truth denying, dirty lying, Russian spying, absolutely horrifying worst".

Dinesh D'Souza's new propaganda movie is bound to restart the bogus talking point that the Democrats are the real racist party. (Somehow, Nazis and white supremacists never seem to get that memo, and keep supporting Trump.) If you find yourself in an argument about this, I already collected the research you'll need a few years ago in "A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System".

The even-shorter version is that the Democrats were the white-racist party at least until FDR. By 1948, racists had began to feel unwelcome among the Democrats, which is why Strom Thurmond ran for president against Truman as a Dixiecrat. Between then and 1980, racists had no clear home in either party, and kept flirting with the idea of running their own candidates, like George Wallace in 1968.

Nixon's Southern Strategy in 1968 began inviting racists into the Republican Party, and Ronald Reagan sealed the deal in 1980 when he launched his post-convention campaign with a dog-whistle-laden speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, not far from the site of the Mississippi Burning murders. Since then, the GOP has been the preferred party for white racists.

But the article needs this update: The Republican Party of 2012 still kept its racists in the closet and signaled to them with dog whistles. But in the Trump Era, racists have taken a central position in the party's base.

PBS' "Hot Mess" series about climate change has some clear, non-intimidating introductory videos that might get through to people still in denial about the problem. Here's one:

Meanwhile, the Trump administration wants to let states set their own regulations for CO2 emissions from power plants. States that produce a lot of coal presumably will have lax standards, as if the rest of the planet were unaffected by their decisions.

The regulations look like a big win for the companies that used to employ William L. Wehrum, who is now the top air-pollution official at the EPA. #DrainTheSwamp

Pennsylvania's attorney general released a grand jury report on clergy sex abuse.

Over a period of 70 years, Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused thousands of children while bishops ran a systemic cover-up campaign, according to the state attorney general.

If you wonder where the "abolish ICE" sentiment comes from, read this story: ICE agents arrest a man at a gas station, leaving his wife to drive herself to the hospital to have their baby. Would it be so hard for ICE to drive the couple to the hospital, to sit with the man until his family is safe, and THEN to arrest him?

The problem with ICE is a pervasive lack of human decency. "Illegals" have been dehumanized to the point that the humane and compassionate responses that we owe to all human beings can be withheld from them. (If you want to see examples of this kind of dehumanization, read the comments on the article.)

You know where this story fits? In a flashback where a terrorist explains why he owes no compassion to his victims. "The day I was born ..." he begins.

Much news-network time was taken up this week by speculation on whether or not there's a tape where Trump says the n-word. Count me among the people who don't see what difference it would make. If you don't already know that Trump is a racist, I don't know why an n-word tape would change your mind. I mean, we already have a tape of him confessing to sexually assaulting women, but his supporters still don't believe the women who accuse him.

Elizabeth Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act is an attempt to change the rules corporations work under. There's a lot going on here that I need more time to unpack.

Tracey Ullman has been playing with the notion of Melania being a Russian robot for a while now. In this episode, the bot needs a reboot.

So Kris Kobach is now the Republican nominee for governor of Kansas. There are few politicians I have less respect for. His signature issue, voter fraud, which he has been riding for years, is bogus, and he has to know it's bogus.

He chaired a presidential commission tasked with finding evidence of such fraud, and he didn't find it. The commission disbanded without issuing a report. But he's still talking about voter fraud as if it were a well established fact.

Denmark's response to Fox Business Network's hit piece is awesome. Just about every aspect of Denmark that FBN's Trish Regan attacked is actually something that Denmark does better than the US.

Apparently the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is in financial trouble, which is a huge shame. I realize that most of you have no occasion to pass through Springfield, Illinois. But I do, since it's on the road to my home town, so I've toured the museum. It's a very worthwhile afternoon, and if the museum were on the Mall in D.C., I think everyone would go there.

I get where NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo was coming from when he responded to Trump's MAGA slogan by saying that America "was never that great". In other words, if you pick any particular date for "again" to refer to, something pretty awful was happening in America: slavery or Native American genocide or civil war or child labor or the Great Depression or second-class citizenship for women or Jim Crow or Japanese internment or whatever. There is no magic moment that we should want to roll the clock back to.

But I wish he hadn't put it the way he did, because it's also true that there has always been something great about America. Even as it was winking at slavery, the Constitution institutionalized rights for white men in a way that could eventually extend to others. Even as America was cramming the Irish, Italians, and Jews into squalid urban ghettos, it was also letting them build a base for breaking out of those ghettos. It promoted science and invention. It created an engine for producing wealth on a previously unheard-of scale, and eventually let that wealth spread out into a large middle class. With its allies, it defended the world from Nazism and held Soviet Communism in check until it fell of its own weight. All superpowers have a degree of arrogance, but compared to historical norms, I believe we have ruled our sphere of influence with a comparatively light hand.

So I find plenty to be proud of in American history, even if there is no Golden Age I would want to return to. My greatest worry is that if we follow Russia, Hungary, and Poland down the authoritarian/nationalist path, we may someday have cause to look back on the Obama years that way. No one would have said so at the time, but that's how Golden Ages typically are.

and let's close with a baby otter

Otters may have evolved to swim, but that doesn't mean they take to water naturally. Mom has to drag the young ones in and force them under.


The freedom to be afraid by @BloggersRUs

The freedom to be afraid

by Tom Sullivan

Wolfe at the White House in 2004. (Public domain)

Maybe it is coincidence. Or maybe shifts in thinking across large swaths of society simply take time to become visible. People's unconscious frustration with their standing under metastasized capitalism has been bubbling around society's edges long enough that lately it is breaking out into the open. Brexit was a clue. So were the 2016 campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Sanders pointed to shortcomings in how the economy as presently configured treats ordinary people. Trump blamed brown-skinned Others, because as a member of the class benefiting most from today's economy, of course he did.

Bottom line? This ain't working and people feel it.

Noah Smith argues Americans still reel from "half-century of wealth destruction and stagnation." He writes at Bloomberg:

The government’s failure to bail out underwater homeowners -- recall that the Tea Party was inspired by an on-air rant against the idea of aiding struggling mortgage borrowers -- was a fateful error whose economic and social consequences are still being felt.

Wealth inequality eats at the core of a society. But as long as the wealth of the middle and lower classes is growing -- as it was up until 2006 -- the corrosive effect of inequality will be limited. For half of the country, the housing collapse destroyed a 60-year story of the American dream -- no wonder so many people are turning to populism and socialism.

To restore that dream, wealth will have to grow again for a broader swath of Americans. In a country with slow productivity growth and an aging population, that probably would require redistribution of wealth.

We have yet to decide on how. But as with treating any ailment, identifying the disease helps in defining a course of treatment.

Economic historian Louis Hyman of Cornell University argues in the New York Times that the insecure nature of our work is not driven by "the inexorable march of technology," but by decisions from business and policymakers. The Industrial Revolution did not take place because of technology, Hyman writes. Rather, changes that had already occurred in how people organized their work made it possible for technological advances to build on it.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution came an “industrious revolution” in which independent networks of farmers spun fibers and wove cloth. Manufacturers gathering those workers under one roof as paid employees was a cultural change and a precondition for the Industrial Revolution:

The same goes for today’s digital revolution. While often described as a second machine age, our current historical moment is better understood as a second industrious revolution. It has been underway for at least 40 years, encompassing the collapse, since the 1970s, of the relatively secure wage-work economy of the postwar era — and the rise of post-industrialism and the service economy.
Corporations began to abandon the old model, Hyman writes, in favor of "a new, strictly financial view of corporations, a philosophy that favored stock and bond prices over production, of short-term gains over long-term investment." This approach, he asserts, not technology, made employees more disposable and jobs more tenuous. The technology behind the gig economy simply accelerated the change in work culture resulting from corporate and policy decisions:
I am neither for nor against temping (or consulting, or freelancing). If this emergent flexible economy were all bad or all good, there would be no need to make a choice about it. For some, the rise of the gig economy represents liberation from the stifled world of corporate America.

But for the vast majority of workers, the “freedom” of the gig economy is just the freedom to be afraid. It is the severing of obligations between businesses and employees. It is the collapse of the protections that the people of the United States, in our laws and our customs, once fought hard to enshrine.

The late Tom Wolfe famously mocked the 1970s as the "Me" Decade, one of self-infatuation as self-enlightenment, of personal transformation, a third religious Great Awakening. If people felt it, so did the business world. In a world no longer defined by an us, infatuation with maximizing one's wealth drove corporations to become the vehicle for self-realization either through entrepreneurship or boosting stock value. Any balance between the interests of capital and labor broke down along with the very idea of a social contract. Self-maximalization through politics came through winning by any means necessary.

What Wolfe wrote of the new seekers is true of the period of vast wealth disparity that decisions since the 1970s have led us to, "There is no ecumenical spirit within this Third Great Awakening. If anything, there is a spirit of schism."

So, it is welcome to see Sen. Elizabeth Warren fighting to save capitalism from the worst excesses maximized by our own choices.

Forty years ago, Wolfe wrote:

And now many dare it! In Democracy in America, Tocqueville (the inevitable and ubiquitous Tocqueville) saw the American sense of equality itself as disrupting the stream, which he called “time’s pattern”: “Not only does democracy make each man forget his ancestors, it hides his descendants from him, and divides him from his contemporaries; it continually turns him back into himself, and threatens, at last, to enclose him entirely in the solitude of his own heart.” A grim prospect to the good Alexis de T.—but what did he know about . . . Let’s talk about Me!
Now the Great Me is President of the United States, and the greater we are free to be afraid.

[h/t MPW for Bloomberg]

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


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