If they were just marginally competent liars, we’d all be screwed

You would think that this would be hard to do, but the Saudi Arabian Royal Family are actually worse liars than the Trump regime.

What am I talking about?

The murder of Jamal Kashoggi, of course.

Let’s review: Jamal Kashoggi was a journalist born in Saudi Arabian who eventually moved to the United States.[1] A former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel, Kashoggi eventually went into exile because he had written articles critical of the Saudi regime. While in exile, Kashoggi fell in love with and planned to marry Hatice Cengiz, a 36-year-old PhD candidate at a university in Istanbul, whom he had met at a conference.

On October 2, 2018, Kashoggi went into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in order to take care of paperwork that would allow him to marry Cengiz. He never came out.

What was the Saudi regime’s response?

  • We don’t know nuttin about it.
  • We think he came out of the building, it just wasn’t caught on camera.
  • Okay, he never came out of the building.
  • He was killed in a “fistfight” resulting from a dispute inside the embassy.

Now it turns out that not only was he dismembered by a 15 member assassination team linked to the Crown Prince, but there is an audio tape of his death that the Turkish government recorded[2] that they gave to the Trump administration. At least according to the Boston Globe and the “failing” New York Times.

Holy shit!

If any of these people were even marginally competent liars, we’d all be screwed. As it happens, they’re the most incompetent bunch of liars since Tricky Dick announced that he’s not a crook.


[1] Three of Kashoggi’s children are American citizens.

[2] Presumably obtained through surveillance by Turkish intelligence agencies.

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Why there won’t be any return to Bipartisanship anytime soon

To be honest, I don’t have many friends on Facebook who are conservative, but a few of those that I do have, have been asking questions like “when is bipartisanship coming back,” or “when can we expect a return of common sense?”

So let me answer that question quickly: not while Donald Trump is the President of the United States.

There are, of course, people out there who claim that conservatives “suffered” under President Obama, and that Trump’s Presidency is some kind of “Ausgleich,” some kind of equalizing for what conservatives had to endure under Obama.

Hogwash.

Conservatives didn’t have to “endure” anything under Obama, other than the arrival of a polished black man[1] as President and some policies that they did not like.

Progressives did not suffer under President George W. Bush

Just as conservatives did not suffer under Obama, liberals (or the term I prefer, progressives) did not “suffer” under President George W. Bush. There were plenty policies that we (and I personally) abhorred, such as Bush’s war mongering. I wasn’t in agreement with his tax cuts and with his refusal to fund stem cell research. There were lots of policy decisions that I was in strong disagreement with, but other than having to put up with a bit of a “doofus” as President, there was nothing to “suffer” through. It was just that the other team is in charge.

I recently read “Sister’s First,” the biography written by the Bush twins (Jenna and Barbara), and I must say that I liked them a lot in their book. Likewise, I think it’s sweet that George W. and Michelle Obama have essentially become friends.[2] I realize that there are people who consider George W. a war criminal, but whatever you think of his policies, he was a conventional politician who really is solidly in the tradition of American bi-partisanship. In person he appears to be what one might term a “nice man,” however misguided his policies may have been.

Conservatives did not suffer under President Obama

Likewise, conservatives did not “suffer” under President Obama. The man’s primary accomplishment while President were helping to stabilize the economy after the financial crisis of 2007–08, and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

Some conservatives were unhappy with the amount of money that was spent to stabilize the financial industry and to bail out the auto industry (although a good many of those policies were set in motion by the Bush administration before Obama even became President). And some conservatives did not like some of the post-crisis financial reforms, including the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The other initiative that many conservatives hated is, of course, the Affordable Care Act. They hated it even though the central idea in the ACA – the establishment of an “individual mandate” was a conservative idea that came out of the Heritage Institute after the Clinton health care initiatives went belly up. They hated it even though Obama bent over backwards to work with the Republicans on the Affordable Care Act, only to discover that the Republicans (as Mitch McConnel expressly stated in 2010) were only interested in not giving Obama any kind of “victory” that he could take into the 2012 campaign.

Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize (which I have previously argued he did not deserve). If some black men are pulled over for driving while black or similar “offenses,” Obama was unnecessarily rewarded for being President while black.  Trump partisans have argued, to promote their man, that Trump should have received the Nobel Peace Prize for reaching out to and meeting with Kim Jong Un. Of course, Kim Jong Un played Trump for a fool, so don’t stay up waiting for that to happen, Republicans. But I’m sure Obama’s prize stuck in the craw of many conservatives. That, and his unruffled “super cool” persona and the way that Hollywood and the glitterati fawned over him.

President Trump is not normal for a President of Either Party

Unlike Bush or Obama or any modern American President before him (including Richard Nixon), Donald Trump is not a normal President. Ignoring for a moment that Trump began his Presidency by lying about the size of his inauguration crowd – a lie that was so easily disputable – and has not stopped lying ever since, ignoring for a moment that Trump is a demonstrable malignant narcissist, just a look at his behavior in the last week (since the mid-terms). Just these two items (below) demonstrate how seriously disturbed Trump (and by extension his administration) really is.

  1. Not even waiting a full 24 hours for the ink to dry on the Midterm election results, Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Republican hack Matt Whittaker. When pressed on this choice Trump claimed that he “didn’t know” Matt Whittaker, even though he had praised him on Fox just a few days before.
  2. Flustered by a set of challenging questions from CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta, Trump tried to a get a White House flunky to take his microphone away. To justify Acosta’s subsequent exclusion from White House briefings, Sarah “Huckster” Sanders then released an obviously doctored video of the incident, even though the incident had been broadcast live.

WTF White House! Who does shit like this?

If Obama had done just those two things and nothing else, Republicans would have been calling for his head. In their heart of hearts Republicans know this to be true. They’re giving Trump a pass because he is their guy, because he totally pisses off the liberal establishment, because he is the thorn in our side that they’ve always wanted to have.

I have argued in the past (and will say it again) that people voted for Trump not despite him being an asshole, but because he is an asshole. That was the whole point.

And that’s why there will be no bipartisanship, no return of “common sense” as long as Trump is President.

And after Trump is gone conservatives will discover (as some of them already have) that they threw away virtually all of the moral authority they may have once had on this particularly odious piece of shit. Evangelicals, in particular, will discover that their “one issue” embrace of Trump[3] is going to cost their credibility dearly going forward into the post-Trump world.


[1] Technically Obama is bi-racial and not black, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions before.

[2] They were caught on film passing candy to each other at John McCain’s funeral.

[3] That one issue, of course, is abortion. Ironically, Trump isn’t personally pro-life. It’s simply a position-of-convenience for him, although he has delivered on a lot of the “pro-life” judges that the evangelicals so cherish

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Does the firing of Jeff Sessions mean anything?

On Wednesday President Trump fired Jeff Sessions, or asked Sessions to resign (which is really the same thing).[1]

This was, of course, the day after the mid-term elections. Honestly, I found the timing a little bit suspicious. Why do this the day after the election? It could be that Trump wanted to distract from the thumping he just took in the House; it could be that he started to panic about the fact that the House can now investigate him and his administration up the wazoo.[2]

Trump appointed Matt Whittaker to be the provisional Attorney General, and Whittaker is a political hack who has previously argued that the Mueller investigation has gone too far. This has obviously made a lot of people nervous (especially Democrats) believing that it’s a setup for Trump to fire Mueller. I don’t know about that, and I also don’t know that it’s not true. But before we get there, let’s review a little bit of the Independent Counsel statute and what Mueller’s legal authority is.

The Independent Counsel Statute

The Independent Counsel Statute was enacted in 1978 as part of the Ethics in Government Act as a response to the “Saturday Night Massacre.” That was the incident where Richard Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate Investigation. The conclusion from that episode was that a special prosecutor investigating a Presidential administration needed to be protected from that administration. As a consequence, the Independent Counsel Statute was enacted and included provisions that prevented a President from firing such a prosecutor on his own initiative.

Over the next 22 years, the Special Prosecutor conducted a baker’s dozen investigations that no one remembers, until we get to Ken Starr and the investigation of Bill Clinton. (For those of you who’ve forgotten) the Starr investigation began as a look into the Whitewater land deal and ended up with an investigation of a Presidential blow job. In between we had investigations looking into the suicide of Vince Foster, Travelgate, Filegate, and the sexual harassment allegations of Paula Jones.

A lot of people (myself included) thought that the Starr investigation went much too far, was much too partisan, and went into all kinds of topics that had nothing to do with the original mandate. Starr’s reputation was permanently damaged.

For this and similar reasons, the United States Congress let the Independent Counsel law expire at the end of 1999, as the law had to be renewed on a regular basis to stay in force.

Special Counsel Investigation

The current Mueller investigation is not, obviously, being conducted under the expired Independent Counsel Statute. Instead, its authority is based on an order coming out of the Attorney General’s Office, signed by then Deputy Rod Rosenstein[3], and which is directed to investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election and “related matters.”

The investigation is formally under the supervision of the Department of Justice, which is part of the Trump administration. Up until now, Rosenstein has done a reasonably good job in shielding the Mueller investigation from interference by Donald Trump.

However, the Donald is correct when he argues that legally nothing prevents him from firing Mueller. He can’t do it directly – he has to do it through a surrogate, like Rod Rosenstein or Matt Whitaker – but in effect he can still get it done. The inhibition is therefore not legal but political. If he does fire Mueller (as many other commentators have noted) it would cause a “Constitutional crisis” which even Trump may be unwilling to precipitate.

Still, it would be a strange time for Trump to try to fire Mueller. With the House turning Democratic, the House could essentially pick up where Mueller left off. Granted, the House could not bring indictments against Trump’s administration, but they could take all of his materials, gather some more of their own (using their subpoena powers), and publish the resulting findings.

If the House did do that, many Republicans would (of course) complain that the investigation is “partisan” and try to delegitimize it in that way. But Republicans have already been working overtime to delegitimize the Mueller investigation, notwithstanding that Mueller is a Republican, Rod Rosenstein (who appointed him) is a Republican, and former FBI Director James Comey (who got the ball rolling) is a Republican.[4]

I think Pandora is already out of the box, and all the huffing and puffing on the part of President Obergropenführer isn’t going to get her back into the box.

But we’ll have to wait and see.


[1] The only difference is that it apparently gives Trump a little more latitude about who can replace Sessions on a temporary basis.

[2] It’s been an open secret that Trump has been itching to fire Sessions as soon as possible since Sessions engaged in the highly disloyal act (in Trump’s view) of recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

[3] Sessions had, correctly, recused himself from an investigation of the Trump campaign since he had been directly involved in it.

[4] In particular, Donald Trump admitted to CBS journalist Lesley Stahl that part of the reason he criticizes the medial so incessantly is to “discredit” and “demean” the media, so when the media writes negative stories about him, “no one will believe” them.

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There were more investigations of Hillary than there are Ornaments on a Christmas Tree

Fascinating to have President Trump and Mitch McConnell warn the Democrats about not investigating the Trump administration.

Come again?

There were more investigations of Hillary Clinton than there are ornaments on a Christmas Tree. And they brought nothing. Zero indictments.[1] How many indictments does Mueller already have?

Then Trump threatened to investigate Democratic members of the House if they investigate him.

Come again?

Or precisely, here’s what Trump said:

If the Democrats think they are going to waste taxpayer money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all the leaks of classified information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!

Alright, let’s break that down into its component parts.  First of all:

  • If Trump wants to check for leaks of classified information, he had better start with his own administration. That appears to be where the majority of leaks are coming from.
  • The Senate has no authority to investigate the House.
  • If they did, then the House could also investigate the Senate.

I realize I’m not breaking new ground here, but your President is an idiot. He’s been President for two years, and I still know more about government than he does. Sad!

And of course, later in the day Trump fired Jeff Sessions, or forced him into resigning. (More on that tomorrow.)


[1] All the “lock her up” zealots who want her in jail because Hillary used an insecure email server have a serious problem: President Trump uses and continues to use – despite being warned about this on many occasions – an insecure iPhone. There is reason to believe that the Russians, Chinese and a number of other countries have already hacked into his phone and are listening in on his conversations. In Hillary’s case, there is no evidence that her server was ever hacked.

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It wasn’t a Blue Tidal Wave, but it will have to do

Well, it wasn’t quite the blue tidal wave we were hoping for, but it will have to do for now. For once the prognosticators got it right.

  • Voting participation was way up.
  • The Dems took back the House.
  • The Dems are picking up a lot of Governorships.
  • The GOP is going to gain a few seats in the Senate.

On the Senate side the math was so bad for the Dems, it would have taken a miracle to take it back. And miracles are in short supply these days. But as bad as it was for the Dems this time around, it’s going to be equally bad for the GOP in 2020. That one could be a tidal wave.

The bad news is that for the next few years the GOP will be able to confirm whatever judges they want, including any additional Supreme Court openings, should they arise.

On the other hand, the House now gains control of the congressional investigatory process, and they now get to investigate Trump and his administration in detail. They don’t even have to go the impeachment route. The impeachment route is silly so long as the GOP controls the Senate.[1]

But now we will get to see the full extent of the Trump administration’s corruption. We’ll get to see his tax returns (and how rich he isn’t). We’ll get to see all the ways in which Trump violated the Emolumentw Clause. And his legislative agenda grinds to a halt.

Along the way there were some losses last night that were painful to watch.

  • Beto O’Rourke coming close, but not succeeding in ousting Ted Cruz. Oh what sweet redemption that would have been.
  • Both Bill Nelson and Ron Gillum losing in Florida, in hard fought and narrowly lost campaigns.
  • Seeing Stacey Abrams lose to the cheater and vote suppressor Brian Kemp.
  • Watching the inevitable happen to Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McKaskill.

On the other hand, it was so sweet to see Scott Walker go down in flames.

The one thing that is just about guaranteed is that things will only get more partisan and more vicious in Washington over the next few years. It can’t be any other way so long as President Obergropenführer remains in the White House. But his day is coming, and it’s a lot closer now that the Dems will be back in control of the House.

If you didn’t like the Mueller investigations you big orange Cheeto, you’re definitely not going to like what’s coming next.


[1] But God forbid that Trump should be re-elected in 2020, the Dems would then have the House and Senate and impeachment now becomes a real possibility. See Nixon, Richard, if you’re looking for the historical analogy.

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If you’re still supporting Trump, you too are an Asshole

Today is the mid-term election day, and if you live in the United States and you’re not planning on voting, then shame on you.

Seriously.

President Obergropenführer wants to make this a referendum on him, and I think we should do just that. If you don’t know what you think of President Pussygrabber by now, then shame on you.

Seriously.

So let me begin by saying that one can still be a Republican and an honorable person, but it’s getting harder and harder by the day. Certainly one can support Republican policy positions – less regulation, fewer taxes, an emphasis on military spending, and even discouragement of immigration – and still be an honorable person.[1] But supporting this President personally and still being an honorable person, that’s an oxymoron in waiting.

As I’ve said on several occasions before – and it’s becoming clearer to me as time marches on how true this is – a large number of his supporters voted for Trump not despite the fact that he is an asshole, but precisely because he is an asshole. This is the “I hate libtards” crowd, and anything that will piss us off will be something they can support. Luckily, this is still a large minority of the electorate.

The other people who voted for Trump were the “I want something different crowd” who thought to themselves, “how bad can he be?” Now you know.

It should be clear to anyone who is paying attention that this President has become the “baiter-in-chief.” Despite his and Sarah Huckster Sanders adamant denials, the Trumpster has definitely created the conditions that provoked the attempted bombings of high profile Democrats by Ceasar Sayoc, or the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburg by Robert Bowers. No, of course there isn’t a direct line between Trump’s hateful rhetoric and these events; but he’s definitely creating the conditions that allow these things to happen.

Trump is now lying about the “migrant caravan” and the danger that it supposedly poses to the United States. He’s threatening to send 25,000 troops to the U.S. Border to stop the migrants, notwithstanding that the caravan is still 900 miles from the U.S. border, that the migrants have a right under U.S. law to seek asylum, and that federal troops cannot be used for police purposes. It’s simply an election year stunt.

Trump is also lying about being able to use an executive order to overturn “birthright citizenship” as guaranteed to anyone born in the United States through the 14th Amendment. This is settled law, and all Constitutional scholars view it as such. Even if any portion of birthright citizenship could be modified, it would have to be done through legislation passed by the federal Congress, and can certainly not be done through an executive order. Every Constitutional scholar agrees on that.

Trump has also lied about how many countries have birthright citizenship, claiming that we’re the only one. As it happens, we’re only one of thirty. Other countries that have birthright citizenship include Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Pakistan, among others. Countries that have a kind of “qualified” birthright citizenship include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand, Iran and South Africa. In other words, some pretty significant countries.

Trump has also lied about the non-existent middle class tax cut that he claimed the Republicans were going to pass, even though Congress is currently out of session.

Trump has also lied about supporting coverage of pre-existing conditions in the ACA (the most popular provision in the Affordable Care Act by far) even though he and his fellow Republicans have consistently opposed such coverage.

Trump has also lied about guaranteeing that there will be no cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, when that is exactly what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have proposed.

But then, as we know, Trump is a compulsive liar. He lies so much that the media can barely keep track of it all. Some of you may remember how much Obama was excoriated for saying that no one would have to change doctors after the Affordable Care Act was instituted, and it turned out that some small percentage of people would have to change doctors after all. Those were the days.[2]

So again, I can understand supporting Republic policies or even the Republican party. But this President? Come on people. If you’re still supporting this President, then you too are an asshole. There really is no other way to describe it.


[1] Remarkably enough, the economy is still going strong for the moment, despite Trump’s best efforts to screw it up. I do believe his erratic tariff policies and the ballooning federal deficit will eventually catch up to him, but maybe not soon enough.

[2] When we’re talking about “false equivalence” – the notion, for example, that all politicians lie – some of you may have noticed that Trump (and by extension the Republicans) lie without compunction, whereas the Democrats (burdened by a sense of fair play) are not lying ahead of the mid-terms. One glaring example of the difference between the parties.

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Yes on Question #3 (Massachusetts)

This is the third of three posts that will examine and make recommendations relative to the three state-wide ballot questions that will be part of the 2018 midterms here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Secretary of State’s office has information relative to all three ballot questions on the Secretary’s website. The following is the summary of the question from the Secretary of State:

Question #3: This law adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.

This law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in a person’s admission to or treatment in any place of public accommodation. The law requires any such place that has separate areas for males and females (such as restrooms) to allow access to and full use of those areas consistent with a person’s gender identity. The law also prohibits the owner or manager of a place of public accommodation from using advertising or signage that discriminates on the basis of gender identity.

This law directs the state Commission Against Discrimination to adopt rules or policies and make recommendations to carry out this law. The law also directs the state Attorney General to issue regulations or guidance on referring for legal action any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.

The provisions of this law governing access to places of public accommodation are effective as of October 1, 2016. The remaining provisions are effective as of July 8, 2016.

A YES VOTE would keep in place the current law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation.

A NO VOTE would repeal this provision of the public accommodation law.

 

Unlike the other two questions, which were initiative petitions, this question is a referendum. Where initiatives propose a new law, a referendum asks whether a law that already exists should be repealed. In 2016 in Massachusetts, the legislature amended our anti-discrimination to include transgendered people as a “protected class.” This referendum attempts to reverse that.

Now let me be the first to admit that I don’t completely get the transgendered thing. I don’t really understand how a man decides that he would really rather be a woman or how a woman decides that she would really rather be a man. I don’t really understand how surgery, regardless of how expertly performed, can really substitute for what grows naturally and organically on our bodies. I don’t think there are really that many people who fall into the transgendered category, and on the liberal side of the spectrum we seem to be focusing a disproportionate amount of energy on them.

However, whatever my personal discomfort with the transgendered might be – and let’s be honest here, this discomfort is mostly about my own limitations — the question here is whether I want them to be discriminated against. Do I want them to be denied housing, to be denied employment, to be denied admission into the college or university of their choice, or to be fired from jobs. And the answer to those questions is clearly no.  No, no, and no again.

Opponents of the transgendered anti-discrimination law have tried to link this to issues of women’s safety and women’s rights. In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, “as if!” The proponents of this question don’t care about women’s safety or women’s rights.  They want to make the argument that men could gain access to women’s bathrooms by pretending to be transgendered. The problem with this argument is that there is no evidence whatsoever that this is happening anywhere.  It’s a solution without a problem, so to speak.

The people making this argument are the same people that argue that they are against a woman’s right to choose because they are really concerned about the health of women.  If you have even a little bit of common sense, you know that this is just a pretext. And the alleged concern of the supporters for question #3 the health and safety of women and girls is just as much of a pretext.

For this reason I recommend voting yes on Question #3.[1]


[1] Question #3 is worded confusingly, so that if you don’t want the transgendered to be discriminated against, you have to vote “yes” in order to keep the law, whereas a “no” vote would have it repealed.

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