November 26, 2020 / by 

 

Afraid? Who, Us? We’re Not Afraid!

h/t Flazingo Photos
[Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]

Politico has an interesting piece up about whether Trump administration staffers, especially at the senior level, will face any difficulties in life after January 20, 2021. Will they have trouble getting a new job? Will they be treated like Alan Dershowitz in the Hamptons at Martha’s Vineyard, and find themselves off the best invitation lists for the Villager’s Dinner Parties?

On the one hand, these Trump folks make a good point: the fact that more than 70 million people voted for Trump indicates that this was not a top-to-bottom repudiation of Trump and everything he stood for. The fact that so many of the folks eyeing the 2024 GOP presidential nomination are embracing Trump and his quixotic challenges to the election result suggests that these staffers won’t have a shortage of people looking to hire someone who has Been Inside The White House, even if it’s Trump’s White House.

But there’s one thing that suggests they are still worried. There’s one thing that suggests that they are looking over their shoulders. There’s one thing that suggests that they are not as comfortable as their brave words declare them to be.

Here’s a hint:

“. . . said a White House official . . .”

“. . . some current and former Trump officials . . .”

“. . . One top official at the White House . . .”

“. . . Many top Trump advisers now say . . .”

“. . . said one of the president’s closest advisers.”

“. . . Interviews with numerous current and former Trump officials reveal . . .

” . . . Most Trump officials feel . . .”

“. . . as one Trump official called them . . .”

“. . . said an administration official. . . .”

“. . . said a senior administration official . . .”

” . . . said a Trump adviser . . .”

” . . . said a Senate GOP aide . . .”

” . . . said a former senior administration official . . .”

To Politico’s credit, they did manage to quote one person by name in this story:  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But back to those Trump staffers. For folks who are quite sure they will land on their feet, they are mighty nervous about putting their name next to their words. Maybe it’s because of this:

“None of the Trump officials interviewed for this story seriously believed that Trump would prevail in the election, and it was taken as a given that they would all soon be looking for work outside the administration.”

These unnamed Trump officials may not fear repudiation by the DC social circles for having been complicit in locking children in cages and taking them away from their parents, never to be reunited. They may not fear for their next job, despite enabling the feeble and fatal Trump administration response to the coronavirus pandemic. They may not fear poverty, because they’ve got their book deal lined up already.

But their unanimous unwillingness to allow their names to be used says they are afraid of something. Or should I say “someone”?

It’s Donald John Trump, and he’s not going away.

*That* is what worries these people. It’s one thing to say “Look at the Dubya folks – they did just fine as their Iraq War stuff and market crash faded into history.” But as long as Trump doesn’t fade away, neither will their enabling of his policies. And deep down, they know that Trump is not going to quietly ride off into the sunset. Ever.

Be afraid, Unnamed Senior Administration Officials. Be very afraid.

[The post has been edited to correct the object of Alan Dershewitz’s unrequited feelings. While it is possible the residents of the Hamptons may have just as much disdain for Mr. Dershewitz as the residents of Martha’s Vineyard, that is not a matter of public record. We regret the error of not giving the residents of Martha’s Vineyard their due.]


Trump Pride and DOJ Prejudice: The Flynn Volume

As Marcy has already reported, the DOJ has formally moved to dismiss the Flynn case. Here is the pleading they filed. (Marcy also addressed here) Trump is, of course, calling the DOJ who just did his command influence bidding “scum” and accusing them of “treason”.

Let’s start with a little Q and A:

Q: Can DOJ do that?

A: Sure, but it is bizarre beyond belief.

Q: Does this mean the case is over?

A: No. As I have repeatedly said, the plea has been accepted, after full allocution, not just once (Judge Contreras), but twice (Judge Sullivan) and, arguably thrice (also Judge Sullivan). There is a technical difference between a plea being entered and a plea being accepted. The Flynn plea was very much accepted. Multiple times.

Q: So, what does that mean?

A: It means that there was a formal finding of guilt entered by the court.

Q: So is that finding of guilt gone now?

A: No. The DOJ can file whatever it wants, the final decision still remains with Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Q: Does that mean “Flynn is an innocent man” as Trump is bellowing?

A: No. Flynn has sworn to his guilt under oath and penalty of perjury multiple times, and the court accepted his sworn guilt.

Q: So, what happens now?

A: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. We shall have to await Judge Sullivan entering in with his thoughts. I have no idea where Judge Sullivan will go. For the sake of the rule of law, and, frankly, legal sanity, I hope Judge Sullivan takes this as the full on broadside to law and intelligence that it really is. As I importune relentlessly, courts and law are a function of men and women. They are us. They speak and act for us. Judge Emmet Sullivan is not a man that will take this affront to justice lightly. Nor should he. It is absurd, the court should treat it that way, and, if anything, sanctions ought be imposed on Powell and Flynn.

Okay, where does that leave things? Now that is not a very easy question to answer. Here are a few thoughts though. The first one is “prejudice”. It is absolutely critical whether a dismissal request by the DOJ (or any prosecutor for that matter) is “with prejudice” or “without prejudice”. Here, Tim Shea, and it is crystal clear that means Bill Barr, demands that any dismissal be “with prejudice”. That means that no case based on these facts could ever be brought again. It is a pardon by a corrupt DOJ, without Trump ever having to even issue a pardon. Anybody, including the national press, that describes it differently is straight up lying.

The statute of limitations on a 18 USC §1001 charge for false statements is (as pretty much any charge possible against Flynn save for an ongoing conspiracy allegation) is five years, which is the general statute in federal criminal law. But, you see, that exceeds the time of Trump and Barr if Trump is not reelected. And therein lies the problem and why Mr. Barr and his lackeys Shea and Jensen, are apoplectic to make any dismissal “with prejudice”. Does this ever occur in real criminal justice life? No. Hell no. Of course not, in fact it is always “without prejudice”. Always, unless the government is caught by incontrovertible facts beyond dispute, and even then they usually demur to “without prejudice” dismissal.

But, wait, there’s more, I have other questions! Let’s talk about “materiality” for a moment. It is replete in the position taken by Bill Barr, through his cutout, Tim Shea. To be kind to Mr. Shea, he is an eggplant installed by Trump and Barr. And, here, the eggplant has signed this pleading on his own. Normally any such pleading would be signed by underlings, including career prosecutors. But not here. Why? That is not clear, but apparently no career track lawyer in DOJ would undersign this garbage. So there is that.

Back to “materiality”: Peruse pages 12-20 of the DOJ motion. Good grief, law review articles will spend hundreds of pages in the future laughing at the arguments Tim Shea has signed off on. Because, presumably nobody but a Trump/Barr appointed toady would even touch that. Yes, it is truly that absurd.

Okay, a parting shot: Normally, when a client puts an attorney’s work in dispute through claims of malpractice, all attorney/client privilege is waived. That is generally how it works. And if Flynn and his Fox News addled lawyer Sid Powell have not accused Rob Kelner and Covington & Burling of malpractice, then there has never been such an accusation. Privilege is waived.

While I thought Judge Sullivan should have disregarded the nonsense, denied all the the Powell crazy (arguably unethical conduct) and just sentenced Flynn. Marcy was right, and I underestimated just how sick the DOJ could be under Barr.

Well, here we are. Flynn and Powell have waived privilege. The DOJ under Barr and, here, Shea, is corrupt beyond comprehension.

But the irreducible minimum is that Judge Emmet Sullivan is the one with jurisdiction and control of this case. Not Trump. Not Barr. An honest and good judge, and one that has proven that over decades. Sidney Powell was right about one, and only one, thing: The Stevens case is a template for the court to find the truth.

Emmet Sullivan is a judge that can appoint an honest and independent special prosecutor to make sure real justice is done. Trump and Barr cannot fire the truth if Judge Sullivan seeks the truth and justice. And he should, for all of us. Judge Sullivan is a lion of justice that has done this before, and he should again.


Straddling the COVID-19 Barbed Wire Fence in Kansas

Pro Tip: Don’t sit on this fence. (photo h/t to Craig Simpson [CC BY 2.0])

The Democratic governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, has put her finger in the eye of conservatives in Kansas by issuing a state-wide stay-at-home order yesterday in the face of the growing COVID-19 epidemic. Out in the western part of the state, the wingnuts have already been saying “this is an urban problem – we’re just fine – we don’t have any Chinese people here – why did she close all our schools?” and now they’ll scream just a little harder.

Note, however, that Kelly does not have the last word on this. When she issued her initial state of emergency declaration at the end of February, it lasted for 30 days. To extend it, the GOP-dominated legislature had to consent . . . which they did, but not without a fight. From the AP’s John Hanna in Topeka:

The [KS] Senate voted 39-0 and the House 115-0 to approve a resolution to extend the state of emergency until May 1 and to allow legislative leaders to extend it further every 30 days. Kelly declared a state of emergency last week, and without the resolution, it would have expired March 27.

But the resolution also requires legislative leaders to review all of Kelly’s executive orders and allows them to overturn many of them within days. It also prohibits Kelly from having guns and ammunition seized or blocking their sale.

The unanimity of those two votes is almost unheard of these days in Topeka, and it was a sign that the GOP was willing to go along with closing the schools for the rest of the year and take other measures as the COVID-19 outbreak began to surface across the state. But they sure didn’t like it, and wanted to make damn sure that they could shut down an out of control governor (in other words, a Democrat) when they did something they considered outrageous. The guns and ammo provision is another sign of how fearful the rightwing is of folks coming for their weaponry.
That was ten days ago. As soon as Kelly’s Stay-At-Home order came out yesterday, so did the folks on the right, waving around that provision that provides for a veto those orders. Again from John Hanna:

Conservatives in the Republican-controlled Legislature said Kelly overreached this month when she ordered public schools closed for the rest of the semester and complained that the state’s economy was being damaged too much. Legislative leaders have the power to revoke her orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, all Republicans, said in a joint statement that the new order “will no doubt impact our families and our businesses. As members of the Legislative Coordinating Council we have a duty to carefully assess this executive order and the reasons for it. Over the coming days we will consult with the Attorney General, health care professionals, the business community, and the state’s emergency management team to make sure we are on the right path.”

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said she was concerned about a “one size fits all” solution.

“I want to assure Kansans, particularly those in rural areas, the legislature is actively working to thoroughly review the Governor’s orders and ensure the specific needs of rural Kansans are addressed,” Wagle said in a statement.

Kansas Congressional Districts

[Note to the folks worried that the state’s economy was being damaged too much: a virus does not care.]

Speaking of those rural areas, let me direct your attention to OB-GYN Roger Marshall, who also serves as the US Representative from KS-01 (the large green area on the map to the right). Marshall is running to replace Pat Roberts in the US Senate, and he is trying to straddle a barbed wire fence on all this. He’s been loud about backing Trump’s “close the borders” stuff, but he’s still enough of a physician that he realizes that science actually matters. He doesn’t like the “big government” approach at all, but he has conspicuously not condemned Kelly for closing the schools. From an story two weeks ago in the Manhattan KS paper “The Mercury”:

Following Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent decision to close K-12 school buildings for the rest of the school year, halt mortgage foreclosures and evictions, and ban gatherings of more than 50 people, Marshall said he would rather people exercise an overabundance of caution at the moment.

“We have to assume that the virus is out in every community,” he said. “I hope there’s not, but we have to assume that. Kids and young adults, they’re super infectors so if one child has the virus, they’re going to transmit it a bunch more often than say an older person who just doesn’t have as many social contacts. Think of senior citizens, for the sake of people with illnesses.

“I hope in a couple of weeks you can say we did too much,” Marshall continued, “but I think right now, it’s so critical that this is the acceleration phase of the spread of this virus. Every virus we prevent spreading today is going to prevent dozens in the future and save many, many Kansas lives.”

Yesterday, Marshall retweeted John Hanna’s story about the Stay-At-Home order to his followers, perhaps trying to signal them that the GOP is watching this. He did not, however, attack or even question Kelly’s judgment for ordering this. To borrow from Sherlock Holmes, this is the dog that did not bark, and the silence is deafening.

And then there’s Marshall’s big opposition in the GOP primary (this was before Kelly’s order was issued yesterday):

U.S. Senate contender Kris Kobach reached for campaign gold amid the coronavirus pandemic by promising to intensify construction of a border wall to defend the country against illegal immigrants from China who may import deadly viruses.

“Over 12,000 Chinese nationals snuck across the border into the United States last year,” Kobach said in a video fundraising appeal delivered Thursday to potential voters in Kansas. “No checks. No visas. No health screening. In times of global pandemic, borders matter.”

The fence in Kansas between science and wingnuttery is made of very sharp barbed wire. Kobach is planted firmly on the Wingnuttery side of that fence, and Marshall does not want to cede all those voters to him by planting his feet firmly on the side of science. But Marshall is is going to find that straddling a barbed wire fence is not comfortable, to say the least.

The KS senate race will be very very interesting this November.

 


Come On Down Paul Gosar, The Latest Arizona Embarrassment

You may have watched the House Oversight hearing with Michael Cohen last Wednesday (See here and here). One of the most hilarious moments came when Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gosar went off the rails to crazy town.

The original is here courtesy of CNN. It is batshit nuts.

Last night, Saturday Night Live did a sendup of Gosar’s insane nuttery. Even the local press recognized the moment for what it was.

Yes, this is the same Paul Gosar that came into the light as Sarah Palin’s dentist friend was in cahoots with the idiot fellow dentist Gosar. Yes, it is all really that stupid.

And, now, that is where we are and, like Louis Gohmert and Matt Gaetz, Arizona has one of the biggest and most ignorant buffoons in national politics. Happy to see SNL catching up, but Arizonans have understood what an ignorant and cancerous buffoon Gosar is for years.


Grab Your Phone and Dial Now: NO on Farr [UPDATE]

[NB: Check the byline – this is Rayne. Updates appear at the bottom of this post.]

Look, these Senate Democrats will explain why they will vote NO on Thomas Farr for federal judge better than I will:

Amy Klobuchar

Elizabeth Warren

Richard Blumenthal

Sherrod Brown

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory Booker

Chuck Schumer says the Democrats are united and voting NO.

But here’s the thing: Shit happens. People slide when they think they have cover, when nobody’s watching.

CALL YOUR DEMOCRATIC SENATORS AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR.

You have a GOP Senator or Senators?

CALL THEM AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR because we are watching their votes closely when it comes to Trump’s policies and nominees. We are watching for senators who aren’t supportive of civil rights and voters’ rights.

These GOP Senators are particularly at risk — if they don’t retire — because they are up for reelection in 2020:

Dan Sullivan (AK)
Tom Cotton (AR)
Cory Gardner (CO)
David Perdue (GA)
Jim Risch (ID)
Joni Ernst (IA)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Bill Cassidy (LA)
Susan Collins (ME)
Steve Daines (MT)
Ben Sasse (NE)
Thom Tillis (NC)
Jim Inhofe (OK)
Lindsay Graham (SC)
Mike Rounds (SD)
Lamar Alexander (TN)
John Cornyn (TX)
Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
Mike Enzi (WY)

MAKE THE CALLS RIGHT NOW — the Senate is supposed to invoke cloture any time now on Farr.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

ADDER — 1:30 PM EST — In case you’re  not up to speed on Farr’s background and you don’t want to listen to the Senate Dems’ speeches linked above, here’s a backgrounder by Ari Berman at Mother Jones. In a nutshell, Farr exemplifies everything wrong with North Carolina’s politics — utterly racist and dishonest to boot.

UPDATE — 2:06 PM EST — Cloture was invoked; the vote is tight, forcing VP to cast the deciding vote. (Time stamp on tweet below is PST for some reason.)

CALL YOUR SENATORS ESPECIALLY GOP ONES. Make them own this vote when they finally confirm Farr.

_________

Treat this as an open thread.

 


Kavanaugh Confirmation Standards of Nonsense

Okay, in case you have not already guessed, Marcy is away, mostly, for a couple of days. Even a prolific presence like her is entitled to that. So, you get me for today. Sorry!

Now, because I have been a little involved in trying to figure what is the “real standard of proof” for people in the shoes of, say, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, I have been a tad predisposed this morning. But let us for now go back to Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh, Collins, Flake, Grassley and the “standard of proof”.

An executive branch nomination is NOT a criminal trial. Any talk about “presumed innocent” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” is asinine and duplicitous. There is no set standard for a nomination consideration, much less one for the Supreme Court. Senators, especially those on the screening Senate Judiciary Committee, get to make their own individual assessments. In a perverse kind of way, it is like impeachment’s “high crimes and misdemeanors”, it is easy for people to argue, but the net result is that it is whatever strikes Congress as being applicable.

Frankly, I think the argument over what Susan Collins’ standard was is kind of silly and diversionary. Collins stated on the record:

“This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard.”

This is bullshit. As David Graham, again, pointed out:

Citing the lack of corroboration of Ford’s account as well as lacunas in Ford’s own recollection, Collins said she did not believe the “more likely than not” standard had been met.

Although she did not use the phrase, the standard that Collins offers appears to be the same as “the preponderance of the evidence,” which is the burden of proof required in civil trials—as opposed to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard in criminal cases. This is also the standard that many colleges now use in evaluating sexual-violence claims under Title IX. Obama-era guidance required schools to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard, though the Trump Education Department has granted schools greater leeway, instructing that “findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.”

So, what is the relevant standard? As propounded earlier, there is no set one in these circumstances. It certainly is not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is in criminal trials. Anybody using that language, including most of the geriatric white geezers in the SJC, is lying.

“Clear and convincing evidence”? Nope, there is no precedent for that either. Preponderance of the evidence/more likely than not? Again, there is scant authority to establish that as a relevant standard. Bottom line is Susan Collins manufactured her own “standard” and then cynically applied it, all without any legitimate basis. And, maybe, that is the kind of intellectual malleability these SJC determinations engender, but, if so, people like Collins, and the journalists that cover her charade, should acknowledge it.

So, what is the real “standard”? Again, there is none I can find. But if the course and scope of “background investigations” conducted by the FBI at the behalf of an Article II Executive Branch request is any indication, it is far different than being duplicitously portrayed by both the White House and Senate Judiciary Republicans.

Here is a specialist in clearance and background investigation issues, Brad Moss:

Um, not totally true. It happens for high level national security operatives working for the NSC and related White House components. Those individuals have to hold TS/SCI access and often times can be subject to invasive polygraph screenings.

Actual vetting, not that Kushner BS.

Here is another, Kel McClanahan, of National Security Counselors:

The White House can’t order @FBI to just rummage through a random person’s life. They can definitely AUTHORIZE FBI to rummage through a person’s life who has agreed to be subjected to a background investigation.

If this is true, it was McGahn & not Trump who was playing games…

Yes. Exactly. And, as a Senator who was one of the maybe 115 American citizens able to actually read the “FBI Investigation” work product, for Susan Collins and Jeff Flake to blithely sign off on the limited, restricted and choked off nonsense, is beyond craven. It is straight up duplicitous. And the New York Times article is kind compared to the chicanery that was clearly afoot from Don McGahn, a close friend and Federalist Society gang member for decades with Brett Kavanaugh.

In short, it is NOT about the relative “standard of proof” used by Susan Collins. She used “more likely than not” standard (effectively a preponderance of evidence standard). When she said that was the standard, she was lying. It never has been, and never will be. That was manufactured bullshit.

People have also argued that the standard should have been “reasonable accusation” or “credible accusation”. And those are even lesser than than the preponderance/more likely than not” standard Collins artificially, self servingly and cynically utilized.

Is clearance on a Background Investigation warranted? Does anybody, including the high holy Brett Kavanaugh, have any god given right to have a clean BI and be elevated to the Supreme Court? Of course not (See Title 32 of the CFR), that is gibberish propounded by old white conservative and misogynistic demagogues, like Grassley, Hatch, Cornyn and Graham in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it is pure rubbish.

And, so too is the manufactured “standard” Susan Collins magically announced in her drama queen dog and pony show yesterday that seemed to narcissistically go on forever.

The bottom line is that whether under Collins’ manufactured and elevated standard, or even lesser ones such as reasonable or credible allegations, Brett Kavanaugh was not fit for passage and subsequent confirmation.

As Mark J. Stern detailed in Slate, Susan Collins’ manifesto announced with all the drama of a royal wedding, was in incredible bad faith. Her “standard” was nonsense and nowhere close to any applicable standard. It was a joke.

But, even more so, under ANY standard Susan Collins could have cited, her “finding” thereunder was garbage. Even in criminal sex cases, not just occasionally, but often, finders of fact (usually juries), decisions come down to weighing the relative credibility of an accuser versus the accused. And, given the relentless series of outright lies Brett Kavanaugh stated under oath, there is no way that a sentient human could see his testimony as more credible than the measured, and admitting as to gaps, honesty of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And, again, credibility of witnesses is what criminal trials, much less less than even civil litigation burdens, as here, are decided by every day.

This is because there are usually zero other witnesses to such kidnapping, molestation and attempted rape cases as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford credibly alleged, but also because time and reticence of victims is often a factor. And, yet, cases are filed and determinations made on just such “he said/she said” allegations every day. The implication by Susan Collins, Chuck Grassley, the other wrinkled old entitled white men like Hatch in the SJC, not to mention their cynically hired criminal prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, are complete baloney.

Somebody go ask Rachel Mitchell, and the sad old men that hired her before they fired her, how many times she has operated off of an accuser’s words. The answer will be a lie, because it happens all the time. And, yeah, that is enough to generate a full and meaningful “background investigation” despite the bullshit being proffered by the White House, Don McGahn and the SJC.


It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Despite Bill Clinton’s famous catchphrase that he rode to two terms in the White House, and despite its echo in the 2016 campaign when Trump voters were described as acting out of “economic anxiety”, politics in the United States in my lifetime comes down, first and foremost, to racism. Yes, in Trump’s case and for most Republicans in office, there is a hefty dose of misogyny mixed in, but the animus against those who are not old, rich, white males unites their hatred.

Russia affected the 2016 contest. Clearly. But one of their primary tools was to stoke racial animus. Another huge impact on the actual outcome of the election was the outright suppression of minority votes by Republicans. It now appears that they may well have tipped the Wisconsin vote through suppression. And all those millions of votes for Trump, in the end, amount to nothing more than a huge endorsement of his outright racism. In the end, they came out on top with a little help from Republican policies expressly developed to prevent minorities from voting.

Trump is America’s racism unmasked and he would not be President if there weren’t a huge racist component to American culture today. The primary home for that racism is the Republican party.

The last few days have shown Trump revealing both his deep-seated racism and his cynical understanding that virtually his only support now is rooted in America’s racism. He tried his best to make his response to NFL protests be about the flag and patriotism. But that is most definitely NOT what Colin Kaepernick was protesting when he started this movement in August of 2016:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has willingly immersed himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.

His latest refusal to stand for the anthem — he has done this in at least one other preseason game — came before the 49ers’ preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium on Friday night.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Making matters even worse, NFL teams and even billionaire NFL owners–the very parties responsible for Kaepernick still not being on a roster despite abysmal quarterback play on several teams–came out with what some folks saw as admirable statements and actions in response to Trump calling for owners to “fire the sons of bitches” who kneel during the national anthem. The best response to that development came from Shannon Sharpe. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the entire statement, it is a thing of beauty and something that every American needs to hear:

So what are we to do?

First, those of us who carry the advantage of being old, white males who are at least comfortable if not rich must speak up every time there is an instance of racial injustice. Especially at the local level, when the police treat minorities without respect, make it known that this will not stand. Support larger groups that are working to promote racial justice.

But perhaps it is also worth taking look at our own lives. What aspects of our own lives help to perpetuate racial injustice? Even simple actions can accumulate. The next time you reconcile a credit card statement, take a look at your choices. Do you only eat at faceless chain restaurants? When was the last time you had a meal at a locally owned restaurant with a minority owner? Those are likely some of the best eating establishments in your town if you take the time to look around and try some new cuisines.

How about schools? Do you send your kids to private schools, most of which have been established to get around integration? Worse yet, do you send them to charter schools, which are set up expressly to take money away from public schools?

How about your place of worship? Is it integrated? Does it have any activities or programs aimed at racial justice?

One small action that I’ve decided to take is that I won’t watch another down of NFL football until Colin Kaepernick has been signed by a team.

Trump is the poster child for American racism, but we could all benefit from spending a little time thinking about our own roles both in how he came to be President and what we can do to make sure his sort never gets there again.


The “Liberal” NY Times Focuses on the Next Disastrous GOP Daddy

It is never enough for the “liberal” media. Despite how the “liberal media” gets relentlessly dumped on and marginalized by the right wing nut machine, they are ALWAYS there to hand out some candy to the nutters.

Here are the estimable Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns in the Only Bunk That’s Fits To Print Gray Lady:

WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago.

Well, crikey, good that the paper of record is covering this. What else they got?

It may get worse, said Jay Bergman, an Illinois petroleum executive and a leading Republican donor. Grievous setbacks in the midterm elections of 2018 could bolster challengers in the party.

“If the Republicans have lost a lot of seats in the Congress and they blame Trump for it, then there are going to be people who emerge who are political opportunists,” Mr. Bergman said.

Well, sorry I asked, turned out it was some entitled crap from a “petroleum executive”. Great call guys!

Swell. Excellent follow up to all those “Ignorant average Trump voters still ignorantly averagely love Trump” reports that are rampant in the beloved balanced media.

Today’s GOP, fronted by Trump and his ilk, is NOT an aberration, but rather the culmination of where the Republican party has been headed for decades, since at least Reagan’s bigoted opening salvo in Philadelphia Mississippi. It is the party of nationalism, racism, bigotry, scientific ignorance and revanchism.

But, hey, never underestimate the ability of the national media to keep on singing like they don’t know their actions helped put this country in the lurch it is in (Her Emails!!). And that their continued refusal to unequivocally call out the current President for the blithering dangerous loon he is, may lead to making the lurch far worse.

The answer to America’s ills do NOT come from the discredited daddies in the GOP, whether older like Mike Pence and John Kasich, or younger like Ben Sasse. We have seen this movie before, and it sucks in a very disastrous way.


The Sickening Decay of Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander is a small-town boy from Maryville, TN, near Knoxville*, the son of a preschool teacher and a high school principle. He was a fine pianist, and athlete, and high school class president. He went to Vanderbilt, where he compiled a great record, went to law school, and clerked for Judge Minor Wisdom at the Fifth Circuit. He became involved in national politics, serving under Bryce Harlow in the Nixon White House, and as a staffer for Senator Howard Baker. He was also active in Tennessee politics, where he was campaign manager for the first Republican governor in 50 years. Alexander was elected governor in 1978, succeeding Ray Blanton. Blanton didn’t run, probably because he was suspected of issuing pardons for bribes and of selling state liquor licenses, both of which turned out to be true. At that time, I was working in the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, and I vividly remember discussions about an early swearing-in to prevent Blanton from further crimes, as well as some arguably funny stories about the sale of liquor licenses.

His Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance was John Neff, a decent and highly competent man as were all of Alexander’s appointees. In mid-1980 Neff hired me to be his Assistant Commissioner for Securities, a post I held for three and a half years. That gave me the opportunity to see up close that Alexander was a decent governor. He never once interfered in any of the decisions I made as Commissioner, either in prosecuting or in rule-making. He never interfered with my hiring decisions, though he presumably knew directly or indirectly that I was a Democrat. Among positive things, he was an education reformer. I didn’t agree with all his ideas, but there was no doubt of his personal dedication to improving the education system in Tennessee, and his willingness to spend political capital and work with Democrats to achieve his goals.

After two terms as governor, Alexander was appointed President of the University of Tennessee, where he did a decent if vanilla job. He left that position to become Secretary of Education under the first Bush. There was a hint of weirdness: Alexander overruled an advisory committee and approved the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools as an accrediting organization. The group had been denied that status under Reagan, probably because it was formed to accredit colleges that taught creation science. The group is still accredited, having been reapproved in 2013**.

Alexander’s career was buoyed up by a number of Tennessee businessmen and friends, including Jack Massey (KFC), Ted Welch (real estate), Tom Beasley (Corrections Corporation of America), and Chris Whittle. Welch was a major Republican fundraiser. These connections nourished Alexander’s political career, and while in the private sector, he became fairly wealthy. Envious people might raise questions about the arrangements that led to his wealth, but this was and is common, and more or less acceptable for politicians not named Clinton. He was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, and was elected to the Senate in 2002, both times running as a moderate Republican.

Alexander was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a PCUSA church in Nashville, where I was a member of the choir for over 20 years. The choir processed in and out on Sunday morning, and I saw him often with his wife, Honey. The preacher was K. C. Ptomey, a brilliant man and a wonderful preacher. His command of Presbyterian and Christian history and dogma was amazing, and I learned a great deal from listening to him Sunday after Sunday, and at least one Sunday School class he led that didn’t conflict with choir practice. As a young man in the early 60s, K.C. was involved in efforts to open the Presbyterian Church to African-Americans. You could not hear a sermon without realizing that K.C. was a good person.

Massey, Welch and Ptomey are dead now. Alexander is wealthy and probably won’t run again, given his age and the rise of Trumpism in Tennessee. He isn’t beholden to anyone, and is free to follow his conscience. He certainly knows that Trump is ignorant and a bully, and he’s smart enough to suspect that Trump is mentally unstable. He certainly knows about the White Nationalist Steve Bannon and the rest of the Dr. Strangelove characters and witless nepotists in the White House. He doesn’t have to kiss Trump’s ring, but he does: he’s carrying the nomination of Betsy DeVos forward, and promises to “repair” (the Frank Luntz rebrand word) Obamacare.

To me Alexander represented the classic Republican realist/moderate, and I assume that was the kind of man his mentors and wealthy donors supported. I have no idea what they would think of Trump or of the man Alexander has become. I imagine his parents would be appalled by his support of Betsy DeVos.

But I feel certain that K.C. would be ashamed of Lamar Alexander, and deeply depressed that he puts party over country, rejecting the principles, the ethics and the ideals K.C. lived and taught. It makes me sad too.

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* Some of this history is based on personal knowledge, and some is from this Wikipedia entry.

** Full disclosure: when I was with the State AG, I handled two cases for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which was in charge of policing colleges, both involving religious schools. I was successful in the case that went to trial, and the other school made arrangements to be accredited by an agency acceptable to THEC.


Liberal Bubbles and Conservative Intellectuals

Nicholas Kristoff explains once again that liberals need to hear from conservatives. Our thinking is clearer when we confront counter-arguments and alternatives, he says, and cites Cass Sunstein’s research on the decisions of three-judge panels. He’s worried about the dangers of the Trump Administration, but apparently thinks you could vote for Trump and be happy that he won on grounds other than racism or bigotry, though he doesn’t even try to offer an explanation of what those alternatives might be or why they are much different in practice from racism and bigotry. He is particularly worried that universities are bubbles of liberalism.

Kristoff doesn’t seem to grasp the difference Rayne noted in a comment here between a liberal education and liberal politics. Liberal education merely means that we have a free and open discussion of facts and the lessons and conclusions to be drawn from facts. Liberal politics has to do with social and economic fairness.

But, campuses are full of conservative politics. As we saw here with Amanda Delekta and her College Republicans, there are conservative students at the University of Michigan! Talk to the ROTC crowd, which cuts across college majors, and you’ll find plenty of conservative students. And there are plenty of politically conservative academicians. Just check out the engineering and business schools. Or the economics department at most colleges and universities.

Kristoff sort of recognizes this when he points to Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health and a committed Evangelical Christian. What Kristoff doesn’t say is whether Collins believes in evolution or geology. In his list of conservative thinkers, which I put at the end, he doesn’t mention whether any of them believe in evolution or science generally or whether they are Birthers or Sandy Hook Truthers or followers of Alex Jones. Let’s assume that they all passed this simple test.

But each of them is happy to ride to power on the coattails of those willing to feed the Republican base a constant dose of lies and distortion. Each of them apparently believes that a little racism is a small price to pay for tax cuts for the filthy rich. Each of them seems to believe that science denying is a reasonable price to pay to cut coal plant emission regulations, or that foolish arguments about the national debt justify killing Medicare or ending Social Security. Each of them participated willingly in, or at best, kept quiet about, the 25 year long phony assault on Hillary Clinton, from White Water to emails, from killing Vince Foster to Benghazi. Each of them is willing to put their favorite conservative goal ahead of a decent society.

Kristoff says I should listen to them respectfully, even as they ignore or support the lies and deception that bring them to political prominence.

I’ll make a deal with Kristoff. When his conservatives loudly and publicly denounce the Republican tactics of fire-hosing crackpot ideas and conspiracy theories at their base and at the nation generally, and when they start trying to win a battle of ideas in accordance with normal practice in those campus bastions of liberality, then I’ll take them seriously.

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Here’s Kristoff’s list of conservative twitter feeds: @DouthatNYT, @MJGerson, @StephensWSJ, @JoeNBC, @peggynoonannyc, @reihan, @Arthurbrooks, @ayaan, @eliotacohen, @Heritage, @danielpipes, @nfergus, @allahpundit, @charlescwcooke, @michaelbd, @SonnyBunch, @asymmetricinfo, @cathyyoung63, @KellyannePolls, and @jasonrileywsj.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/republicans/