Shut down – Shut up, Donald—Grown ups are talking

January 22nd 2019

News broke tonight that the Senate is going to take up two bills Thursday regarding the government shutdown.

The first is Trump’s compromise: he gets $5.7 billion in return for extending a grace period for the Dreamers. Like all things Trump, it’s utter bullshit: three courts have already ruled that Trump is legally obliged to continue the DACA program, and just yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that they weren’t going to interfere with the lower court decisions. So Trump is offering something he has to do anyway.

Even worse, the “compromise” essentially eliminates America from honoring its treaty obligations to refugees and asylum seekers. Nobody expects honesty from this administration, but this is particularly egregious, even for them. The “compromise” shows the duplicity and moral bankruptcy of Trump, nothing more.

The second bill, introduced by Schumer, is more promising. It simply finances the portions of government that have been closed through February 8th, and promises open debate on the wall. It’s interesting that McConnell, who had been rejecting consideration of any bill that didn’t include financing for the wall, allowed this one to reach the Senate floor.

Yes, the shutdown is extremely unpopular, and McConnell is seen as first in line behind Trump as being responsible for it. He’s probably realized that the party that caves on this is finished, but Republicans and Trump will remain widely hated no matter what happens. In normal circumstances, a Majority Leader in this position would look frantically for a bill that could resolve the issue while giving him a figleaf. This bill meets that criterium. If it passes, he can claim they haven’t finished the battle for the wall, but merely deferred it for a few weeks. He may even be delusional enough to hope that when the next continuing resolution comes along and Trump digs his bone spurs in, any subsequent closures would be blamed on the Democrats.

But these aren’t normal times. With the party leader in the Oval Office an unstable sociopath, McConnell knows that if it somehow, some way saves his ass from the scandals threatening to tear him apart, Trump will be perfectly happy to sacrifice not only the country, but his own party. There’s precious little evidence that McConnell cares much about his country, but his party? His wonderful, precious party? Nay! Dishonor before Death! The Party must live!

So, there’s three courses of thought he might have followed before deciding to let Schumer’s bill to the floor.

First, he may have decided he could keep 40 Republicans in line, effectively filibustering the bill. Given that would be the same forty Republicans who voted for that very same bill five weeks earlier, only to have Trump double-cross them, dumping them into a nightmare of rising public fury, it’s unlikely that even the goose stepping discipline for which the Senate GOP is renowned could keep them all in line. They have absolutely nothing to gain from continuing the shutdown, and a lot to lose. And most of them don’t even want the fucking wall in the first place.

Second: McConnell finally convinced Trump that the wall was nothing but a loser from the GOP standpoint. Two Republicans in Congress have already announced they won’t be running in 2020, one of them is quitting immediately. While that one probably has a major scandal about to break, there’s little doubt that Republicans are looking at the shifting landscape and realizing that if they didn’t do something now, they would be extinct by 2021. McConnell, a political animal, knows this, and perhaps he’s gotten Trump to agree to fight the wall battle another day. After all, Trump managed to go two years without the wall; he can go a little bit longer.

That’s actually the most likely of the three scenarios, and Mitch, if he has any actual religion, must be on his knees right now praying that the crazy fuck in the White House doesn’t cross him up again.

The third scenario is that he has decided to tell Trump to go fuck himself. That’s the bloodiest of the scenarios. In this one, Schumer’s bill passes in the Senate, but not by 66 votes. Trump vetoes it.

Public outrage swells. The national mood shifts from outraged to flat-out dangerous.

House Minority Leader McCarthy and McConnell take the unusual step of permitting the bill to come up again, and release their membership from party discipline on the vote. The bill passes both houses with veto-proof majorities, a massive humiliation of Trump and one that immediately brings down the temperature of the public, giving the Republicans faint hope for the future.

Between Mueller, the Senate Intelligence Committee (which, unlike the previous House Intelligence Committee, has been reasonably honest and non-partisan in its investigations into Trump) and various committees in the new, Democratically-controlled House, various houses of generally quite large sizes are going to begin landing on Trump. His own lawyer, Rudy the Risible, has blabbed enough to put Trump’s ass in jail. Just imagine what the people who aren’t on his side are going to come up with.

McConnell is probably betting that he can defuse this and it won’t matter how much is pisses off Trump, because Trump is going to be up to his ass in alligators in another week or so (Trump hired THIRTY-FIVE lawyers two weeks ago to start preparing his defense).

Both votes are scheduled for Thursday. Stay tuned.

Down 0-63 After One Quarter – For Trump, only losing six yards on a play is doing good.

January 20th, 2019

Back in 1916, there was a football game between a powerhouse team coached by John Heisman, and a college that had actually already disbanded its football program, but was contractually obliged to play this particular game. So, lacking an actual team, they sent a pack of frat boys, lambs to the slaughter.

There wasn’t much doubt about who would win: it was the score that made history. Cumberland 0, Georgia Tech 222. It was the most lopsided game in history, and observers suspected Tech wanted revenge for a 22-0 baseball drubbing by Cumberland earlier that year. Tech took a 63-0 lead in the first quarter, and built on it for a 126-0 lead at the half. Heisman solemnly warned his squad during the break to be wary of a possible comeback, but the fact was Cumberland was deader than Queen Victoria. Grantland Rice, the sportswriter, noted that Cumberland’s moment of glory came in the second half, when they had a running play in which they only lost six yards.

The stats were cringeworthy: Tech outran Cumberland by a net 564 yards, capitalizing on 15 turnovers. Oddly enough, Cumberland had the better passing game. They went 2-18 for 14 yards, while Tech never even attempted one pass. The score actually fails to show just how lopsided the game was.

So why am I talking about a football game from over a century ago? I mean, I’m not even a football fan!

Well, I was watching Pelosi and Trump this week, and that ancient rogering came to mind.

Trump has been reeling from one self-inflicted catastrophe to the next, and on his best days, he only suffers an embarrassment, and every so often, he has a great day that is merely disappointing.

I watched the televised meeting between Trump and Pence (who knew what as coming and simply went tharn) and Pelosi and Schumer, and my first thought was “It’s Boris and Natasha versus Moose and Squirrel.” Those Russian agents never had a chance.

When Trump crowed that “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.” I knew he had lost this one, no matter what he did.

At the time, I figured he would back down. His silly burst of braggadocio had seemingly ensured that he couldn’t shut the government down and evade blame for it.

But I actually underestimated Trump’s craven and easily-manipulated personality. He managed to publicly fold in the face of disapproval from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. A fringe pair. A has-been and a sociopath. Even most Republicans dismiss them as a pair of dips. Outside of the GOP—which is to say among the other 72% of Americans—they are regarded as two of the more loathsome examples of what crawls around under damp American rocks.

Depending on the approval of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to stiffen public support is a bit like plotting to win the Indy 500 by entering a Yugo. Or getting a pickup squad of 19 guys—three of whom subsequently get lost en route to the game—to play Georgia Tech.

Pelosi must have looked at the political dynamics at play and resolved to not show the pity Trump seemed to demand, since Trump would never show her any pity. Pelosi, after all, is human.

On the other hand, Trump was hurting a lot of people and actually endangering the country in order to suck up to a pair of fringe loons who represent the worst America has to offer. Knowing that probably helped Pelosi to decide that she really didn’t have to play nice with the vicious fool in the Oval Office.

Everyone knows about the subsequent interplay: Pelosi told Donald he wasn’t going to give the State of the Union in front of a Joint Session of Congress until he reopened the government, citing security concerns. I’ll bet any amount of money Trump immediately turned to Miller and screeched, “She can’t DO that! Can she?” No constitutional scholar, he. She can. She did.

Trump responded by canceling her planned trip to NATO allies and Afghanistan via military plane, citing security concerns. It was a pretty feeble riposte, petty tit-for-tat, but it might have actually held water had Melania used a military plane to travel—alone—to Mir-a-Lago that afternoon. OK, granted, Trump probably wouldn’t care much if she died in a plane crash. But then two days later, he exposed and scuppered plans by Pelosi to go ahead with her planned trip via private plane.

Then he announced a big, important announcement for noon yesterday. Now, Trump has taken us all to that particular rodeo many times before, to the point where when he gave a “big announcement” a few weeks ago, the Chuck-and-Nancy rebuttal actually got higher ratings. I wasn’t going to bother watching, simply because the Trump sideshow has gotten so tiresome.

Pelosi felt the same way, I guess. She rejected his offer before he even made it. Oddly enough, I didn’t hear any Republicans accusing her of jumping the gun.

Trump did offer to provide a temporary respite to Dreamers—there’s already court orders telling him he must do so by law—and that was it. The offer didn’t fool any sane Americans, and pissed off the haters on the fascist/Nazi right. So aside from getting a very public slap-down, all he did was harden resolve against him, while chipping away at his loathsome base.

Now there’s open talk among Democrats of impeachment, and outside Washington, talk of a national general strike.

Last night I mentioned on one blog that once Nancy Pelosi gets her fur up, she can be quite formidable.

The same, of course, could be said of the American people.

Donald came into this quarter trailing 63-0. Things don’t look to improve. It’s unlikely that even Heisman is going to be warning anyone of a Trump comeback on this one.

Barr None – He hit all the right notes, but…

January 15th, 2019

I watched the William Barr hearing this morning, and came away with mixed feelings. He hit all the right notes, vowing not to interfere with the Mueller investigation (but not swearing to recuse himself) and agreeing that the investigation was valid and important and needed to continue.

He agreed that a primary role of the DoJ was to prevent foreign interference in US elections, but undercut it by saying that Russia “appeared to interfere” in the 2016 election. That’s a bit like saying Boston appeared to have won the 2018 World Series. The equivocation is pointless, and leaves one with the unsettling feeling that Barr doesn’t really understand the nature of the investigations against Trump. At best, that’s what he doesn’t understand.

He also had a weird equivocation about the Emoluments Clause, appearing uncertain as to whether it could pertain to Trump. It reads, “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” An emolument is “profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services: Tips are an emolument in addition to wages.” OK, Trump is holding an office of trust, and is getting gifts and kickbacks from a variety of foreign states. Seems pretty straightforward. And it would be insane to pretend that presidents are above the law on conflicts of interest, bribery, self-dealing or misuse of office for profit. All of which Trump is demonstrably guilty of.

The Founders wanted a chief administrator, not a Divine Right King.

That a former Attorney General and lifelong Constitutional lawyer would profess uncertainty about this is troubling. At best, it’s disingenuous.

Barr also equivocated on whether he would allow Mueller to indict Trump. This, too, is troubling, since on a previous occasion he interfered with an investigation that would quite possibly have led to indictments of then-President George Bush and former President Ronald Reagan. As reported here:

Mr. Mueller indicated to Mr. Rivera and to me as well that they would prefer that our indictment — that we work aggressively on it as much as possible… I received a phone call a little bit before noon on August 22 from Denis Saylor who indicated to me that I was directed not to return the BCCI indictment. And I asked who was directing me not to return it, and he said Attorney General William Barr…” (US Atty Lehtinen)

As Robert Mueller III, the Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department now in charge of the BCCI investigation, testified in October, 1991: BCCI was not an ordinary bank. It was set up deliberately to avoid centralized regulatory review, and operated extensively in bank secrecy jurisdictions. Its affairs are extraordinarily complex. Its offers were sophisticated international bankers whose apparent objective was to keep their affairs secret, to commit fraud on a massive scale, and to avoid detection” (“The BCCI Affair A Report to the Committee on Foreign RelationsUnited States Senate by Senator John Kerry and Senator Hank BrownDecember 1992“)

It’s important to remember that in 1991-2, Barr was a very partisan lawyer, one who helped Bush write a series of last-minute pardons that effectively destroyed the Iran-Contra investigation, something that threatened to throw some 80 members of the Reagan and Bush administrations, including Reagan himself, in jail.

And now he is in a position to potentially short-circuit Mueller again. Yes, this is cause for concern.

It didn’t help that he was mouthing administration talking points on the wall, immigration in general, and indicated a willingness to make marijuana illegal again.

Well, it’s not like Trump was going to appoint a liberal. It couldn’t have been easy, searching someone who combined plausible credentials with the type of selective moral, ethical and legal blindness needed to serve under Trump.

It may be that it doesn’t matter. Mueller is close to end game, and in any event, even if Barr decided to be a Bork and fire or impair Mueller, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee could simply subpoena Mueller’s records and go from there.

It’s possible I’m being unfair. Yes, Barr was a partisan ratbag in 1992 and contributed to the vast amount of damage the corrupt Reagan and Bush regimes did to the country by making their criminals exempt from the law.

But that was 26 years ago. People change, mature, develop some ethics. Sometimes. Perhaps Barr did, and perhaps he was sincere, if overly lawyerly in today’s testimony. Perhaps the equivocations were those of a man used to dotting eyes and crossing tees.

Perhaps. But Barr needs to know this going in: This isn’t the America of 1992. If he, and the GOP, try to evade justice and put themselves outside of legal reach though obstruction and misuse of the pardon, they won’t walk away. America will come after them.

They aren’t free to spit on the country the way they did in 1992. It’s a different world, and people have learned about the nihilism of the far right.

If Barr lied, he will end up in jail.


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