President Trump wants us to believe he pulled back for Humanitarian reasons.

President Trump wants us to believe that he pulled back from bombing Iran because his military told him that about 150 Iranians would die, and that is not a proportional response for the shoot-down of a military drone. Even a very expensive one.

Trump doesn’t know anything about the military, but he does know Hollywood. And that scene is straight out of the American President.

He’s not wrong that the response would have been disproportionate. Especially since the drone the Iranians shot down most likely was flying over their territory.

It’s just that once again, Trump has created the “emergency” and then wants to take credit for solving it. Tried and tested by the President, over and over again.

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Handicapping the 20 declared Democratic Candidates

With Joe Biden’s entry into the race, that makes 20. Twenty declared candidates for the Democratic nomination for President. What’s likely to happen over the next 18 months (552 days to be precise) is that there will be a “flavor of the month” (just as there was for the Republicans in both 2012* and 2016), and right now the flavor of the month is clearly Pete Buttigieg. (And yes, I’ve learned how to pronounce his name).


*Anyone remember Rudy Guiliano’s front-runner status?


So with that in mind, let’s do some ultra-early handicapping of the 20 declared candidates:

  • Joe Biden (D): Obama’s vice President and two-time previous Presidential candidate has the name recognition and the working-class bonafides to overcome Trump in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio (states without which Trump can’t get re-elected). That’s why the Trump campaign fears him the most. Joe comes with plenty of “#metoo” and other baggage, however, and he’s already 76 years old.
  • Bernie Sanders (I): the Senator from Vermont — as most informed people know — isn’t even a Democrat. Lightning struck for him in 2016, but it won’t strike again in 2020, even though he has his hardcore “Bernie bros” followers and leads in the early fundraising. This is the candidate the Trump team wants to run against the most.
  • Kamala Harris (D): my early dark horse and the candidate most likely to be the Vice-Presidential candidate, especially if Joe Biden is the nominee heading the ticket. The California senator is tough and charismatic, but she’d have to break that glass ceiling and follow Obama’s footsteps as the second bi-racial President**, so that’s a tall order for one person.
  • Pete Buttigieg (D): today’s “flavor of the month,” Buttigieg, the Mayor of Sound Bend, IN, is certainly an intriguing guy. His status as a gay progressive Christian makes him a thorn in the side of Vice President Mike Pence, with whom he’s already feuding. As the mayor of a medium-sized city he clearly doesn’t have the experience to be President (although that didn’t seem to hurt Obama much). Let’s see if he has any staying power.
  • Beto O’Rourke (D): the former Texas congressman was the darling of progressives in the 2018 Senatorial races for his almost-win against übervillain Ted Cruz, but almost wasn’t good enough. While that was a great effort and proved he could be attractive to moderates and independents, I believe that this “one hit wonder” will discover that it’s very difficult to chart a second time.
  • Elizabeth Warren (D): the most substantive candidate in the race by far, the Senior Senator from Massachusetts and inheritor of both the Ted Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum legacies, is (for reasons that I’ve explained before) likely to suffer the same fate as Hillary Clinton, if she ends up being the nominee.
  • Cory Booker (D): the New Jersey Senator and former Super-Mayor of Newark is plenty charismatic, but may find his lane blocked by Kamala Harris. His liberal voting record may also find him too far from the mainstream.
  • Amy Klobuchar (D): the Minnesota Senator is a centrist pragmatist, but may find it hard to get noticed in this crowded field. There are also “character issue” questions arising from her apparently abusive treatment of her staff. (And no, this can’t just be swept under the rug on the basis of the allegation that it’s only come up because she’s a woman. It would also be an issue if she were a man.)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D): the New York Senator and champion of the #metoo movement left some hard feelings among her colleagues by leading the charge to oust Al Franken from the Senate. In other years she might be a good candidate, but will probably find it hard to get traction in this crowded field. Her former anti-immigrant policies won’t help.
  • John Hickenlooper (D): Colorado’s former Governor is the first of a number of “who’s that” candidates who will suffer from lack of name recognition. Hickenlooper’s strong record on gun control won’t be enough to win him many adherents.
  • Jay Inslee (D): the next of the “who’s that” candidates, the current Governor of Washington state made an interesting entry into the race by making climate change and the Green New Deal his central issue. Hard to see, again, how he gets traction in this race.
  • Julián Castro (D): the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio is the only Latino in the race. Low name recognition will hinder his candidacy, however, and being the only Latino won’t help him enough.
  • Seth Moulton (D): the firebrand Congresssman from Massachusetts is mostly known for his attempts to oust Nancy Pelosi as speaker. His status as a former veteran will help his cause. However, many view his candidacy primarily as an audition for another top job.
  • Tim Ryan (D): the nine-term Congressman from Ohio is a centrist whose central idea is a long-term industrial strategy to make the United States more competitive with countries like China. Currently his lane is being blocked by Joe Biden.
  • Eric Swalwell (D), the California congressman, 38, is a member of House leadership and the House Intelligence Committee, and has centered his early efforts on gun control. Like fellow congressmen Seth Moulton and Tim Ryan, he could catch fire if things transpired in a certain way, but it’s not likely.
  • Tulsi Gabbard (D): the Hawaii Congresswoman has the advantage of being an Iraq war vet and the first Hindu to serve in Congress. Other than that, there is no apparent reason for the 37-year old to be running, other than to raise her national profile.
  • John Delaney (D): who’s that #3, the former Maryland Congressman “preaches a relentlessly bipartisan message of national unity,” according to certain media reports. Good luck with that. And with gaining any traction in this field.
  • Mike Gravel (D): who’s that #4, the former U.S. senator from Alaska has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t intend to win the nomination but is interested only in “pushing the field left by appearing in the Democratic debates.” I think that lane is already occupied by Bernie Sanders.
  • Wayne Messam (D): who’s that #5, the mayor of Miramar, Florida (a Miami suburb) has no reason for running other than to raise his national profile. His signature seems to be Puerto Rican statehood.
  • Andrew Yang (D): a businessman who founded Venture for America, Yang isn’t qualified to be President. The 44-year-old is running on a platform of a universal basic income, to counteract the worst effects of automation in the workforce. That will make for an interesting contribution to the discussion, if he’s allowed to be heard.
  • Marianne Williamson (D), the “A Course in Miracles” guru and Oprah Winfrey surrogate, is also not qualified to be President. But like Yang’s, hers could be a compelling voice added to the discussion.***

**Obama, like Harris, is bi-racial and not black, although most voters perceive both of them as black. Cory Booker, on the other hand, really is black.

***Williamson finished fourth in a congressional primary in California in 2014, so clearly doesn’t have much proven electoral pull.


So there you have the 20 candidates who have been declared. I haven’t dealt with “undeclared” potential candidates like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio or Stacy Abrams, the almost and really should-have-been Governor of Atlanta (but for a little vote rigging).****

Stacy Abrams, like Kamala Harris, might be an excellent choice as a running mate for some white guy at the top of the ticket.


****Abrams narrowly lost to Brian Kemp, who was Secretary of State (or in control of the elections process) during the election. Kemp refused to recuse himself from supervision of the election process during his own run for Governor.


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Obviously there was no tax reform under the Republicans in 2017

Like a lot of the rest of you, I did my taxes and finished them up on Monday. I wasn’t quite sure what they would look like because last year I bought a two-family house, and now I have tenants but also a new mortgage.

I used TurboTax Home & Business, like I always do. I like TurboTax, in part because you can see the impact of various parts of your tax profile, as you add credits or deductions and see how they impact the bottom line.


Even so, I’m paying a significant portion of my income to the federal government. That distinguishes me from Amazon and at least 27 other large and very profitable US corporations, including General Motors, Pfizer, United Airlines, and Johnson and Johnson, among others.

I checked with Snopes to see if it was true that Amazon did not pay any federal taxes in 2017. It was absolutely true!

Now, I like Amazon, and I have for a long time. I was a relatively early adopter of their service (when they mostly sold books), and I think their customer service is second to none. My nephew works for Amazon. But they should pay taxes.

Why?

Well, among other things, their package delivery service puts a tremendous strain on our transportation infrastructure. For another, corporations (especially those with oodles of money) should be good citizens, like the rest of us, and contribute to the common good.

Paul Ryan, when he was promoting the deceptively named Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — and what Republican sponsored acts have not been deceptively named in recent years? — promised us all (just like David Stockman in the Reagan administration before him) that the benefits would “trickle down” to the rest of us, and that new jobs would be created and wages would go up.

Surprise, surprise!

Didn’t happen.

Companies did exactly what the smarter prognosticators predicted they would do: they spent a tremendous amount buying back stock shares for their corporate boards, not investing in new jobs.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Well, we’ve been fooled twice now. The third time the Republicans roll out trickle down — and it’s guaranteed to happen sooner or later — the economy will have struck out.

In the meantime, we’re accumulating the largest deficits we ever have as a nation.

(Sigh)

This was also as predictable as a morning sunrise.

Republicans assured us that economic growth would make up for all the tax giveaways they made to profitable corporations.

Oh, and Paul Ryan assured us of tax simplification, and that (like Sweden) we would soon be able to file our taxes on a postcard.

I have a law degree and analyze legislation for a living. It took me hours and hours to go through the TurboTax program, and there were a number of instances where I didn’t really understand what was being asked or had to estimate something because I had no documents proving a particular number.

What about the average high school graduate?

So while corporate accountants find all the tricks that allow their corporate clients to pay nothing, the rest of us are getting fucked.

Now, the second year in to tax reform, many ordinary citizens are discovering that they have to pay more in taxes than they did last year or the year before, despite the promises the Republicans made to us.

Hey “Real” America, do you ever get tired of being lied to by the people who are allegedly looking out for your interests?

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The Democrats are starting to cannibalize themselves again, this time over Joe Biden

Joe Biden is a touchy guy who likes to give people shoulder rubs. This isn’t exactly news. This has been known inside the beltway and among politicos for decades.

But Joe Biden might now survive the #metoo movement in 2019. So far there have been two complaints from women about Biden, but trust me there will be more:

  • Lucy Flores, a former candidate for Lieutenant Governor from Nevada, complained that back in 2014 at a campaign rally, Biden walked up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head.
  • More recently, Amy Lappos a former aide to Congressman Jim Himes complained that at a fundraiser back in 2009 Biden grabbed her head to rub noses with her.

Not every encounter of this nature that Biden has had with women ended badly. For example, Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said she didn’t mind at all when Biden came up to her and put his hands on her shoulders in a gesture she interpreted as one of support.

The mixed feeling that Democrats, including Democratic women have about Biden, is reflected in various letters to the editor that were published in the New York Times on April 1st.

When you compare this to the 19+ women who have made allegations against Donald Trump, it seems that Biden’s actions are pretty innocent.

To be sure there are other reasons to not want Biden to run. First of all he’s already 76, and he would be 78 by the time he was elected. That’s just too old. Sorry. Just like Bernie Sanders.

Second, Biden has already run for President twice before, and the first time he was derailed by a plagiarizing scandal, after he was found to have plagiarized by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. The second time he was knocked out by some relatively unknown guy named Barack Obama.

Biden also mishandled the Anita Hill allegations during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings back in 1991.

So, there are some questions about Biden’s judgment and character. And age.

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Alex Jones really is going to be psychotic when the libel suits against him drive him into bankruptcy

There isn’t a word in the English language to describe how big of an asswipe Alex Jones is.

Aside from all of his racist right-wing provocation, this is also the guy who claimed that the December 14, 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown CT (right before Christmas) — in which 20 elementary school children and six school staff members were shot and killed — was a government-inspired hoax designed to be a predicate for taking away guns from law-abiding citizens.

Seriously, dude?

It turns out that Jones had plenty of help in concocting this conspiracy theory by an Überdusch named Wolfgang Halbig. How they drove this conspiracy is now detailed in an article written by Elizabeth Williamson for the New York Times.

I was always wondering why the Sandy Hook parents didn’t just sue Jones for libel and defamation. Well, it turns out they did. Jones tried to have the whole law suit dismissed, arguing First Amendment, but no can do. The First Amendment doesn’t work that way.

In his deposition for the case, Jones claimed that he “almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’m now learning a lot of times things aren’t staged.”

Seriously, dude?

Remarkably enough, Jones’ entire deposition was video-taped and is now available on YouTube (see below).


Jones didn’t have any kind of psychosis. He’s just an Überasshole who doesn’t give a shit whom he hurts. Like the parents of elementary school children who were gunned down at school.

Seriously, dude?

The parents of elementary school children?

Jones is going to have some kind of psychosis when the parents wipe him out and drive him into bankruptcy. Nothing could be a better fate for Jones than that. Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms have already tossed this unrequited asswipe. But satisfaction won’t be ours until this guy is living in a one room walk-up with no assets and no audience, and dies the ignoble death for which he was so surely destined.

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The Trump administration is trying to screw people out of healthcare, again

Not even finished with his “collusion delusion” victory tour, President Trump is back to trying to screw Americans out of health care.

You might have thought that the health care fight was over when the Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare (but did succeed in repealing the individual mandate in their massive tax cut bill) back in 2017.

But you’d be wrong.

The fight lives on in the form of a case called Texas v. United States in which a number of Republican Attorney Generals banded together to claim that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the individual mandate was repealed.

Not many legal scholars agree with them, because there is a well-established principle in constitutional law that if part of a law is found unconstitutional, all of the remaining parts of the law that are not explicitly unconstitutional should remain in force. This principle is well known.

Trump has now ordered his Justice Department not to defend the Affordable Care Act as it winds its way through the federal court system.

When confronted about this Trump offered this assurance: the “Republicans will soon be known as the party of health care,” then adding “you just watch.”

No!
No!
No!
No!
No!

It’s a lie!
It’s a contemptible lie!
It’s a motherfucking lie!

The Republicans will never be known as the party of healthcare. We know this because we actually have been watching.

As I (and other commentators) have repeatedly explained, the individual mandate was their idea. That was their healthcare plan, which Mitt Romney (then the Governor of Massachusetts) pioneered in 2006. The Affordable Care Act built off of this model.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010. The Republicans have had nine years to prove that they have a viable idea for how to replace it.

They don’t.

Their idea is to return to the days of the “free market” where there are no controls whatsoever on the prices of drugs or medical devices, where health insurers can charge whatever they want, where people with preexisting conditions can be prevented from buying health insurance, and where more Americans go bankrupt because of health care bills than for any other reason.

Oh, and to score some political points with their base.

It’s that base that would get screwed more than anybody else by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

This is the same administration whose President promised repeatedly that he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and whose every submitted budget has proposed cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

It’s a lie!
It’s a contemptible lie!
It’s a motherfucking lie!

Trump’s supporters wonder why progressives are so adamantly opposed to their man. How about because he’s a motherfucking liar? A liar like no other. Oh, and also a malignant narcissist.

This will all have consequences when Trump is finally out of office, and Republicans find that where there were people who were willing to work with their side, there is now just undying hardcore opposition. This country is truly heading for permanent bifurcation.

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Today is the Day the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union

Today is the day the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union. “Brexit” (British Exit) has now been postponed (until either April 12 or May 22nd, depending on certain contingencies).

(For my American readers who may not know, the United Kingdom includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

Brexit itself is a very complicated subject, and far to complicated for a blog post like this one. Wikipedia has excellent materials on the history and substance of Brexit, and for the curious, I urge you to consult that website. I just want to make a few points here:

  • The Brexit vote in June of 2016 foreshadowed the election of Donald Trump later that November, both being race-driven “populist” uprisings in which the pro-voters were rebelling against the “elites,” whoever “they” are.
  • In both the Brexit and Trump votes, there was a deluge of fake news generated on the right of the political spectrum. The lies fed to the British public were primarily that an exit from the European Union would be easy and would allow the British to regain control of their “borders.” And they’d be able to stick it to the “elites” in Brussels.
  • In voting for leaving the European Union, the voters (primarily) of England completely forgot about Ireland and Scotland.
  • Scotland is the simpler case. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union. Previously, in 2014, the voters of Scotland had also narrowly defeated an independence referendum relative to the question of separating from the United Kingdom themselves. Now there is talk of having another referendum, and with the Brexit imbroglio, the outcome could be different.
  • Ireland is a much harder case. The “troubles” resulting from the partition of Ireland lasted roughly from 1969 to 1996, when they were mostly ended by the Good Friday agreement. Part of that agreement included a “soft border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland, where people can move freely across the border, just as people in mainland Europe now can. Brexit threatens to put an end to that by reimposing a hard border (because of customs requirements) and thereby potentially reigniting the Troubles.

That’s all stuff that the pro-Brexit voters totally forgot about. They were much to eager to stick it to the elites and keeping more dark-skinned people from entering Britain.

In the United States we have Donald Trump, but the good news is that we can get rid of Donald Trump. First in 2020 (and God forbid he should win reelection) at the latest in 2024.

Trump’s election has done a lot of damage to this country, and it’s going to take a lot of time to clean that damage up. But there’s a time-limit on this clusterfuck.

Not so with the United Kingdom and Brexit. Once they leave they’re gone. There’s no real going back. Prognosticators have different ideas about how much this will damage the British economy — especially if there is a “hard” (as opposed to negotiated) exit — but it sure isn’t going to be good.

The bottom line is that the pro-Brexit politicians lied to the people of Britain, and they stoked the fires of racism. And now they’ve got what they got.

I’m not sure that the extension of time to finish negotiating Brexit is going to buy them much, since her parliament keeps voting down the agreement that Theresa May negotiated with the European Union. The pro-Brexiteers apparently thought that the EU would fold and give them the deal they wanted.

Surprise.

Ain’t going to happen.

Good luck Britain. Good luck United Kingdom. Your version of Donald Trump may live on a lot longer than our version. May this not turn out as badly as everything would indicate.

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