Trump manages to unite Iran and Iraq

Well, as everyone knows, we have a very stable genius in the White House. He decided, in his infinite wisdom, to assassinate Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Iran three days into 2020, getting the New Year off to a rocking start.

So, let’s see what has happened since Trump made what was surely a thoroughly thought-through and well-considered decision:

Oh good, well nothing to see here. I’m sure the Trump administration is, once again, playing chess while the rest of use are playing checkers.

For those of you who don’t remember, Iran was involved in a war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988. These people basically despise each other. Congratulations for uniting them, President Trump!

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Is Trump wagging the dog with his assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani?

Like most of you, I had never heard of Gen. Qassem Soleimani before yesterday. I read in the media that he was a bad guy. Maybe he was. Maybe he was just an Iranian patriot. (You know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. See the entry for Menachem Begin, if you don’t know what I mean.)

The question arises, why take out this guy now? It smells awfully like a “Wag the Dog” scenario.

Wag the Dog trailer

For better or worse, back in 2011, and 2012, when Obama was running for re-election, Trump tweeted multiple times about how he thought Obama was going to start a war to help his reelection chances, and how that is “what I would do” if Trump were in the same position.

Trump does realize that his tweets are archived, does he not? So, just to review:

  • Aside from tweeting about Obama potentially going to war, before he was President, Trump also tweeted about what a terrible deal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that John Kerry had helped negotiate was, and how he could get a better deal.
  • Sure enough, when he was elected President, Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (notwithstanding that the other signatories, including Germany, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and even Iran stayed in the deal).
  • The Trump administration then reimposed very punitive sanctions on Iran, even while Iran still kept to the terms of the agreement.
  • Eventually Iran began to retaliate with actions such as harassing the oil tankers in the straits.
  • Now Trump has gone out and assassinated their #1 General, on the eve of his impeachment and right before the actual voting starts.

Coincidence?

BTW, targeting a particular individual is considered to be a war crime under international law.

Pompeo is claiming on behalf of Trump that Soleimani was planning an operation against American diplomats, and that this action was necessary to prevent that action, and therefore not an assassination.

Yeah maybe. Do you trust the Liar-in-Chief and his administration? I don’t.

For those of you who don’t remember the history between the United States and Iran, NPR just put up a story reminding everyone of the 1953 overthrow of the popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, which the CIA happened to engineer. In case you’re wondering, you know, why the Iranian people might have some issues with us.

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How does an Atheist celebrates Christmas?

How does an Atheist celebrate Christmas? Pretty much like the rest of you: with pagan rituals, family, and sometimes sappy music.

Happy holidays everyone. And looking forward to a better New Year.

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What the DOJ Inspector General's Report did not say

I’m not, as I have repeatedly explained, a fan of equating Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler. While Trump is surely a malignant narcissist, Hitler was an extreme sociopath completely devoid of a conscience. See the Night of the Long Knives if you don’t know what I mean.

But there is one aspect in which I think a comparison between the Trump administration and Hitler’s administration is fair, and that has to do with propaganda.

Trump, and the GOP, are completely feckless in their use of propaganda. Basically, they’ve picked up where Fox News and right wing talk radio left off, and now of course, the Trump administration, GOP, Fox News and right wing talk radio are essentially walking in lockstep.

There are many examples of their out-and-out propaganda, but let’s just remember a few:

  • The claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
  • The claim that the investigation of Trump’s collusion with the Russians in 2016 is a witch hunt.1
  • The claim that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign.
  • The claim that the Mueller report exonerated Trump of wrongdoing.
  • The claim that the Ukrainian’s meddled in the 2016 election on Hillary Clinton’s behalf.

Most recently, of course, there has been the claim by the Trump administration that the investigation of Trump by the FBI and their use of FISA warrants was politically motivated. The Inspector General of the Justice Department has been looking into the conduct of this investigation (known as “Crossfire Hurricane“) for several years, and on December 8, 2019 they released a 476 page report.2

Inspector General’s Horowitz reported found 17 errors that we made by members of the FBI3 in the conduct of their investigation, and especially with respect to their applications to the FISA court for warrants to surveil Carter Page and other members of the Trump administration. However, what Horowitz did not find is any evidence of political bias in opening up the investigation.

And of course, Trump and the GOP immediately claimed that the IG’s report found evidence of political bias.

I’m not quite sure why one should bother to have an investigation, if the people who requested and authorized the investigation are simply going to lie about it’s results.

It’s hardly the first time this has happened. Attorney General Bill Barr lied about the findings of the Mueller report, of course. In case you forgot.

Barr also has another investigation going right now led by John H. Durham, the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, who had previously led investigations into the FBI handling of the Whitey Bulger case, the destruction by the CIA of videotapes of detainee investigations, and the legality of “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by the CIA. Now he’s been tasked by AG William Barr to lead a Department of Justice probe into the origins of the FBI investigation into Russian interference. Even though that’s what the IG had essentially already been investigating.

You know that Trump and Barr will just keep investigating until they find someone (anyone!) who is willing to say that some aspect of the investigation into Trump’s campaign was illegal. Then they can crow again about how the “deep state” and all of the establishment was out to get him, and how all the Democrats are still trying to reverse the 2016 election.


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The notion that Trump did not get due process before the House Committees is laughable on its face

In the impeachment debate before the House there some remarkable claims relative to the due process that President Trump allegedly did not receive (if you can believe the GOP) before the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee in their impeachment investigation of President Trump.

For example, Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) got up during the debate and alleged that the President received less due process than Jesus Christ in his trial before Pontius Pilate.

Jesus Christ?

Then Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) said the day that the House voted to impeach Donald Trump would “live in infamy” just like December 7, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor?

The President himself, in an unhinged six page letter to Nancy Pelosi, said that he had received less due process than the women accused in the Salem Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Trials?

Just to be clear, here is the due process that was afforded to Trump before both committees:

  • Trump could have appeared before either Committee in person to defend himself.
  • Trump refused to let any of the people in his administration with “direct evidence” appear before the Committee, including Acting Chief of Staff/Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, former Ambassador John Bolton, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
  • Trump has refused to turn over any of the documents subpoenaed by either committee.1

So this is basically like a defendant refusing to provide any evidence in a trial and then claiming that the trial was unfair because he was not able to provide any evidence.

The claim that Trump was not afforded due process is laughable.

The comparisons to Pearl Harbor, the Salem Witch Trials and especially Jesus Christ’s trial before Pontius Pilates are completely nuts.

And yet, that’s today’s Republican Party. Saying all these things with a straight face.


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It's a House Divided, and there is essentially no common ground in between

One thing which is immediately clear, in listening to the impeachment debate yesterday, is that it’s a House divided, and there is essentially no common ground between the parties.

Democrats believe that Trump abused his power, and that it’s a Constitutional crisis.

Republicans believe that it’s a partisan sham, and that Trump did nothing wrong.

These are two completely separate narratives that share nothing in common; it seems obvious that there will be no way to square the circle. People on both sides of this issue are not going to come to agreement.

I do think that it is interesting, however, that Republicans are emphasizing so much that this is a partisan process. How did it become partisan? Well let us count the ways:

  • President Trump won what I have previously described as a “fuck you” election. It’s pretty obvious now (and it was already obvious then) that what his supporters loved most about the guy was that he was going to stick it to us libtards.
  • Since the election, President Trump has gone about pandering to his base and ignoring everyone who didn’t vote for him (thereby becoming the first President in modern history to employ this strategy). Almost every other President went in the other direction.
  • Fearing Trump’s tweets and the base that voted for him, almost every Republican has lined up behind Trump since the election. The only exception have been those Republicans (like Jeff Flake, for example) who decided to throw in the towel and not run for re-election.
  • While still campaigning, Trump was already asking other governments to interfere in our election, especially when he went on TV and publicly asked the Russians to invade Hillary Clinton’s email server. Which they did, only a day later.
  • Trump began to obstruct justice early on in his tenure when in May of 2017 he fired FBI Director James Comey for not being willing to go announce publicly that Trump was not a target of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

So basically, Trump has made this a completely partisan affair from the very beginning of his Presidency.

In the meantime, Moscow Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican Majority in the Senate, has made that chamber as partisan as possible, by ramming as many judges as possible — and especially Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court — through the confirmation process while the Senate is still in Republican hands. (That may, of course, change in 2020.)

The (redacted) Mueller report was subsequently released to the public on April 18, 2019, which included ten examples of the ways that the Trump administration had obstructed justice, along with Mueller’s conclusion that a sitting President could not be indicted because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the Department of Justice.

He then practically begged the Congress to impeach Trump.

People who have been paying attention to the process also know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not a fan of impeaching Trump, wary of the political repercussions that the impeachment of Bill Clinton back in 1999 wrought in the political landscape.

But sure, the Democrats are responsible for today’s hyper-partisan landscape.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 22

Listening to the impeachment hearings at the House Judiciary Committee, it really is extraordinary to recognize the extent of the hypocrisy of the Republican members. If you were coming to this debate for the first time, their arguments might sound reasonable on their face. But they are not. Let’s examine their arguments, and the responses to them.

That Trump said do “Us” a favor instead of do “Me” a favor

The Republicans want us to believe that it makes a difference that on the call Trump said do “us” a favor instead of do “me” a favor. They want us to believe that the “us” here refers to the United States and that Trump was genuinely concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

This argument would be completely laughable if it hadn’t been advanced as a serious argument.

The “us” here clearly refers to Trump’s administration (or the “royal we”). Trump isn’t concerned about corruption in Ukraine, he isn’t even concerned about corruption in the United States. Hell, he isn’t even concerned about corruption in the Trump organization, unless it’s the question of how to be better at being corrupt. Just the other day the Trump Foundation was required to pay $2 million in penalties for the misuse of funds just last month.

That Ukrainian President Zelenksy denies that he was pressured

The GOP argues that Zelensky really didn’t feel any pressure because he’s said so in interviews and in public. Unfortunately, this is like arguing that a battered wife is telling the truth when she says in court that her husband did not threaten to do her harm.

She has to go home again and deal with her husband after the court hearing is over.

Zelenksy still has to deal with Trump as long as he’s President. And he doesn’t want to get involved in US domestic policies.

Are we saying that Zelenksy is lying when he says that he felt no pressure. Yes, we’re saying it. Not because he’s a bad man, but because he’s the moral equivalent of an abused wife.

That President Trump is not being charged with a specific crime under Federal Law

The GOP seems to think that it matters that Trump is not being charged with bribery under the federal code. But there is no requirement that Trump be charged with a federal crime. Various constitutional scholars have made clear that the “high” in high crimes and misdemeanors refers to the high office of the President. The Congress are not federal prosecutors, and do not need to prove a federal crime.

Clinton was impeached for perjury, but the perjury he engaged in was clearly about a consensual affair that he had not wanted to admit to his wife. It did not involve an abuse of his office, and yet the Republicans were happy to impeach him.

Vandalizing a US postal mailbox is a federal crime, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000. But no one is suggesting — as one of the members pointed out — that Trump would be impeached if he were found to have vandalized a US postal mailbox. That is because it would not impact his duty as President.

But trying to rig an election by having a foreign country create a fake investigation is the essence of the abuse of power.

That the Mueller Report did not Recommend Charging Trump with a Crime

The GOP seems to think that it’s important that the Mueller report did not recommend that Trump be charged with a crime. But the Mueller report did not recommend that only because they bought into an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the Department of Justice opining that a sitting President cannot be indicted.

On the other hand Mueller’s team provided evidence of ten different instances of Trump’s obstruction of justice, and practically begged the Congress to impeach Trump for these transgressions.

Personally, I wish that the Mueller instances of obstruction would have been included in the Articles of Impeachment.1 But the Democratic leadership, for better or worse, decided to focus the impeachment narrowly on narratives that they thought that the American people would understand.

I’m not about to second-guess Nancy Pelosi at this point, but I do wish that the Mueller information had been included. It would clearly make for much longer hearings, however.

That President Trump released the Military Aid to the Ukrainians

The GOP seems to think it’s significant that the President eventually released the hold on the military aid to the Ukrainians. But he did not do that until after the Whistleblower came forward and after it became obvious that his pressuring of the Ukrainians was going to become a major issue.

President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he wanted “No Quid Pro Quo”

Again, the GOP seems to think it’s significant that the President Trump, in a September 9, 2019 phone call, told the Ambassador that he wanted “no quid pro quo” from the Ukrainians. But again, this conversation did not take place until after the whistleblower came forward and after it became obvious that his pressuring of the Ukrainians was going to become a major issue.

That President Zelenksy did not announce the requested investigations

The GOP seems to think that it’s significant that President Zelensky never announced the requested investigations. The problem with this argument is that Zelensky’s administration was in active negotiations with Kurt Volker, Trump’s Special Envoy to Ukraine, about how to word the announcement of the investigations, and he had agreed to make the announcements on CNN when the agreement was derailed by the revelations from the whistleblower.

That the Minority was not granted a Day to Call in Witnesses

The GOP are angry that they were not granted an entire day to call witnesses so that they could distract from the Trump impeachment. Even though nothing in the rules requires the Majority to grant that.

Who are the witnesses they wanted to call?

Witnesses having to do with Hunter Biden and Burisma.

Of course, they could have investigated Hunter Biden and Burisma while they were in the majority, which was recently as October of 2018. Hunter Biden was appointed to the Burisma board in 2014. And while Hunter Biden’s sitting on the Board does not smell good, the issue has already been looked at by others, and there is no evidence of illegality or wrongdoing.

So, they’re mad that the Majority won’t allow them to begin an entirely separate and irrelevant investigation.

That Hunter Biden’s alleged corruption exculpates the President

The false allegation that Hunter Biden is corrupt would, in the GOP’s view, exculpate the President from wrongdoing. In other words, the President would have been correct in asking Ukraine to investigate him and therefore, it could not have been a pressure campaign. Well, there are two problems with this argument:

First, Hunter Biden is not under investigation, and there is no credible evidence to suggest that he should be under investigation. (At best, the GOP is alleging that Hunter Biden didn’t deserve the salary he received from Burisma, but if that were a crime, we’d have to indict half the CEO’s in the United States.)

Second, Trump wasn’t interested in an actual investigation of Hunter Biden, he was just interested in an announcement of an investigation so that he could insinuate wrongdoing and smear Joe Biden with it.

Congress should wait for cases to complete their circuits through the Courts

President Trump has famously refused to cooperate with the Congressional impeachment inquiry in any way. The House has filed multiple law suits relative to the President’s refusal to cooperate in the inquiry, an the GOP seems to think that these cases have to run through the entire appeals process, before Congress can act on it.

The problem with this argument is that — with a few exceptions related to Executive Privilege2 — all of the well-established case law is against the President, and all of the decisions that have come down so far, have come down against the President. Trump is clearly trying to run down the clock and simply keep the Congress from impeaching him before the 2020 election.3 In fact, United States v. Nixon establishes that the House has the sole power of impeachment and the Senate the sole power of trial. The Congress does not need the approval of any court to exercise it’s constitutional powers.

That the Evidence against Trump is “Wafer Thin”

The GOP has been arguing — quoting law professor Jonathan Turley — that the evidence against Trump is “wafer thin” and that there is not enough direct evidence of a quid pro quo to impeach him.

The problem with this argument is that Trump has refused to make available all the members of his administration who have the direct evidence that the GOP seeks. One cannot reasonably refuse to provide evidence and then argue that the President can’t be impeached because there is not enough evidence.

In addition to which, there is plenty of evidence already. Some 400 pages of it (and that’s not even including the Mueller report).

In Summary

The GOP has some very clever members, and those clever members are making some very clever arguments. If you were first coming to this debate without any background, the arguments made by the GOP could sound quite reasonable.

But when you look between the surface, it becomes clear that the GOP arguments are specious at best.

– They want to have it both ways. They want to argue that Trump can refuse to cooperate and then argue that there isn’t enough evidence.

– They want to distract, by making this an investigation about Hunter Biden rather than Donald Trump.

– They want to claim that no crime was committed because Trump was caught in the middle of the act and did not have time to complete it.

One has to look underneath the surface to recognize how cynical these arguments are on the part of the GOP.


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The Trouble with Polling in 2016 that may (or may not) occur again in 2020

There was a New York times article published the other day headlined Four Problems With 2016 Trump Polling That Could Play Out Again in 2020. The four problems were identified as:

  1. “Weighting” by education (or not giving enough weight to uneducated voters)
  2. “Shy” Trump voters (or voters who did not want to admit in 2016 that they voted for Trump).
  3. Counting who’s voting (or undercounting voters who traditionally don’t vote)
  4. Many late-deciding voters (or late deciders mostly breaking for Trump).

For various reasons, I don’t think this is going to be as much of a problem in 2020. Here are my reasons:

  1. By now it’s well-known that the less educated the voter, the more likely they are to vote for Trump. The pollsters can now account for this is they extrapolate from their smaller samples to predict for the population at large.
  2. Voters are no longer “shy” about admitting that they voted for or support President Trump. The “FU” President and his “FU” administration have won a wide swath of admirers who clearly love the fact that the President and his administration have given their collective middle finger to liberals and progressives. I think far fewer respondents will have trouble admitting that they love the Trumpelthinskin this time around.
  3. All signs point to there being a gigantic voter turnout for this upcoming election. Some of that may depend on who the Democrats nominate, but there should be a huge swell of anybody-but-Trump voters coming out. And Trump’s base is likely to come out for him as well. Pollsters should assume that there will be lots of people going to the polls.
  4. If you don’t have an opinion about President Trump by now, you must have been lobotomized sometime in the last few years. That was not necessarily the case, in 2016, where there were a lot of people in the “give him a chance” category. Those people should have an opinion by now as to whether he deserves another chance.

One thing is clear. If you’re a progressive and you know anyone in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, better urge them to get out to vote. Those are the states that are going to decide the 2020 election. And Trump is competitive in all of them.

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The Impeachment Process is not going to change the mind of Most Americans

National Public Radio recently reported on an according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that confirms what I think most of us already know: impeachment process is not going to change the mind of most Americans.

  • Overall, 65% of poll respondents said “no” when asked the question, “Can you imagine any information or circumstances during the impeachment inquiry where you might change your mind about your position on impeachment?”
  • Overall, when asked the question of whether “Based on what you’ve heard or read, has the testimony and evidence presented during the impeachment inquiry made you more likely to support impeachment, the number among poll respondents was 47% in favor and 41% saying they were less likely to support impeachment.
  • Overall, when asked whether “A whistleblower within the intelligence community filed a complaint about the contents of a call President Trump had with a foreign leader. Do you think the identity of the whistleblower should be protected,” the number of poll respondents answering in the affirmative was 56%, while 39% thought his name should be revealed.

Count me as those Americans whose minds is unlikely to be changed. In part that’s because I’ve already done a lot to inform myself, and I think the evidence is already overwhelming that Trump tried to shake down the new government of Ukraine to get them to investigate the Bidens (and more importantly, to announce publicly that they were investigating the Bidens).

But I do think that the witnesses that the Democrats have paraded up to the Committee hearing room have been good witnesses. And yes, I have been watching. They’ve been composed, they have not been defensive, and they have answered questions clearly.

And under oath.

As I’ve noted previously, the witnesses with “first hand” knowledge that the Republicans (allegedly) would like to have appear in front of the Committee have all been blocked from appearing by Donald Trump.

The President has, of course, teased the possibility that he might appear in front of the Committee himself. But he then quickly withdrew that suggestion to say that he might answer questions “in writing.”

That’s not going to work.

In writing he can study the questions and have his attorneys answer the questions for him.

No, we would need that lying malignant narcissist live and under oath, where he would almost certainly perjure himself.

Good luck waiting for that to happen.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 21

Given the hysteria about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it was highly amusing to hear David Holmes‘ description of the now infamous phone call that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland had with President Trumpelthinskin on July 26, 2019.

Let’s look at the details of this particular phone call:

  • It took place at a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine, a country which is notorious for engaging in (and being proficient at) cell phone hacking.
  • The call took place on the outdoor patio of this restaurant, where conversations could be easily overheard.
  • The call took place on an Ambassador Sondland’s unsecured cell phone.
  • President Trumpelthinskin bellowed so loudly into his end of the phone that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear, where Holmes could easily hear the conversation.
  • President Trumpelthinskin spoke specifically about the investigation against the Bidens that he wanted the Ukrainians to perform.

So, did the “lock her up” crowd that still hasn’t gotten over Hillary Clinton’s private email server have anything to say about this?

I don’t even have to answer the question, do I?

The silence, as they say, is deafening. So much for the Republicans alleged concern about the security of the United States.

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