Saturday, December 22, 2018
Back in September of this year, the New York Times ran an op-ed allegedly authored by an anonymous insider at the Trump White House who sought to justify his collusion with a dangerous and malignant occupant as a form of "resistance" and effort to basically protect the nation from Trump's worse impulses and excesses. Stated another way, the author tried to convince readers that he/she had not thrown away all morality and decency despite the appearances of having made a pact with the devil. Fast forward three months and the chaos and corruption at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has only intensified with the stock market having its worse December since the midst of the Great Depression, military decisions being made that appear to be huge gifts to Russia under the ruse of bringing the troops home, and acts of criminality circling closer and closer to direct connections Trump. An editorial in today's New York Times responds to the anonymous author of the September op-ed which challenges the pretense that unknown author presented. By extension, the challenge extends to every one of my Republican "friends" who voted for Trump: are you going to stand for morality, decency and the rule of law or will you stand with Trump. You simply cannot have it both ways and, yes, you will be judged by how you decide. Here are highlights from today's column:
In September, you acknowledged that you were a member of the “quiet resistance” within Donald Trump’s administration. You told us that you and others were “working diligently” to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” You said that while you agreed with many of the president’s policies, you were appalled by the president’s amorality, his chaotic management, his “repetitive rants,” his fondness for dictators.
You also believed that your efforts to resist Trump were often successful. On foreign policy, you noted, the administration’s policies were far more sober and serious than the president’s reckless rhetoric.
You were wrong. This week proves it. Assuming you haven’t departed the administration already, now would be the time for you to go. Ditto for all of your fellow “resisters.”
This is the central lesson of James Mattis’s stunning resignation on Thursday. . . . But Mattis is the highest-ranking cabinet member to resign over differences of policy and principle since Cyrus Vance quit the State Department in 1980 after Jimmy Carter’s Desert One fiasco. He is the only defense secretary to leave this way since the position was created in 1947.
Mattis resigned because he no longer shares your analysis. He no longer believes he can be a steadying or blocking force in the councils of government because it isn’t clear there are “councils of government.” A president who sticks it to his own team while sticking with a foreign strongman is not worth sticking by.
Mattis also resigned because he has concluded that the problem with Trump isn’t that he’s an empty vessel. It’s that he’s a malignant one.
Here was the fundamental mistake in your view of Trump: You thought he could be handled. You thought of him as a child who simply needed to be kept away from dangerous toys, as former economic adviser Gary Cohn did when he removed a letter from the president’s desk ordering the end of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
But our Commodus-in-Chief isn’t just an irascible buffoon whose worst impulses can be confined to Twitter but whose policy instincts largely align with yours. Trump thinks of himself as a man of ideas. Withdrawal from Syria, along with partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, is consonant with the quasi-isolationism he’s preached for decades. He is sympathetic to Erdogan, as he is to other tyrants, because he is indifferent to considerations of human rights and civil liberties.
The Trump Doctrine is the doctrine of unaccountability. It’s also the doctrine of dishonor. And this is what should most concern you and whatever is left of your in-house resistance. The United States is about to abandon our allies to the tender mercies of thugs. We are breaking our word to those who helped us decimate the Islamic State. We are standing aside so that Erdogan, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and the Taliban can roll in, and ISIS can fight on.
Until now, you may have convinced yourself that real honor lay in putting up with it — with the craziness of your boss and the disdain of your neighbors — because the good of the country (as you see it) demanded it. And until now, you had Mattis to serve as your role model.
But Mattis is going. And the argument can no longer be sustained. If Trump is capable of doing this to Mattis, what’s to keep him from soiling your carpet, too? And even if he never gets to it, you must know by now that you are no longer keeping a bad thing from getting worse. All you are doing is disguising how bad it is, thereby helping it to become worse.
Trump will never have trouble surrounding himself with ambitious and unscrupulous flunkies. Do you want that to describe you? Get out while you still can, whoever you are.
For Fox News readers, Commodus was a Roman emperor who was assassinated in no small part due to his megalomania and increasingly tyrannical rule. Upon his death, the Senate declared him a public enemy and all statutes of him were destroyed.
One thing often missing from the political narrative is the reality that less than 30% of eligible voters voted for Donald Trump. The man lost the popular vote and never had any mandate despite his - and the GOP's - delusions to the contrary. The 2018 midterm elections for the House of Representatives with a flip of 40 seats to Democrats showed the broad revulsion toward Trump. Some will try to point to GOP gains in the Senate to argue against this reality, but look at the states where the GOP wins occurred: all are increasing backwater states that are being left behind in the new economy. On top of that, the 2020 map for the GOP in the Senate elections will be far less favorable that was the case in 2018. If the economy continues to stall as many see happening and moves to recession, the bloodbath for the GOP could be horrific. Thus, the question becomes one of whether the majority of Americans have reached the point where they have had enough of Trump - and hopefully Pence as well - and the pressure will grow to see him removed from office. A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican looks at this question. Here are column excerpts:
Trump may have misread — if was reading at all — the vast majority of Americans' patience for an hysterical, chaos-creating and non-functioning president. What in the past worked to delight his audience and throw mainstream media off balance (e.g., a new scandal to replace an old one, vicious personal attacks on opponents and the press, new stock market highs) no longer works to keep his leaky ship of state afloat. Shutting down the government, rewarding Russia and Iran in the Middle East, losing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and sending the markets reeling may have moved us to a tipping point, the moment when lawmakers and voters decide Trump is far more trouble than he’s worth.
Once the realization hits that he’s a net drag on the economy and a needless headache, the country is collectively far more willing to consider grounds for getting rid of him.
Coming at a time of maximum chaos (perhaps what precipitated the chaos overload) are significant legal developments — Michael Cohen pleading guilty to a crime Trump directed, Michael Flynn getting bashed for a favorite conspiracy theory of the kooky right, jettisoning a foundation that state authorities identified as akin to an illegal slush fund, and the revelation that Paul Manafort continued to communicate with the White House and lie in violation of his plea deal. After more than 7,000 lies, Trump’s habitual dishonesty is now a given — and his excuses and accusations now habitually ignored by most Americans.
As a result of the chaos, the legal quicksand and the lies, Trump faces a country willing to accept that their president is, as Richard Nixon put it, a crook.
Let me suggest the American public is moving toward two disturbing conclusions: The president is a menace, and the president likely broke the law. What’s the implication of all that? First, his chances of reelection are sinking fast. It’s one thing to resist impeachment; it’s another to sign up for four more years of turmoil with a liar and miscreant. Republicans had better start looking for options for 2020.
Second, the public, I’d suggest, is far more likely to accept at face value special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report findings. If they already suspect Trump ordered illegal payments or obstructed justice, Mueller’s report will likely solidify that view beyond the confines of the Trump cult (which shrinks as his performance worsens).
Third, impeachment becomes less akin to a risky option and more like a constitutional obligation compelled by events.
Fourth, watching the turn in public opinion and the meltdown in the executive branch (especially the loss of the only trustworthy national security adviser), more senators will begin to consider seriously removing Trump from office.
And finally, as we have previously discussed, the option of indicting him and/or his business organization becomes only a question of timing (now or after he leaves office).
In sum, the ground shifted substantially over the last week or so. The cracks in his Republican wall of support are widening as actual fear grips Republican officeholders; the public becomes far more willing — anxious even — to see him go. Whether all that will result in his departure from office before 2020 is unknown, but it no longer seems like a pipe dream.
Shockingly, Nixon looks honest and completely sane and law abiding compared to Trump.
Friday, December 21, 2018
The image above must be how Vladimir Putin looks today in Moscow: a big grin as America lurches into crisis at the hands of Putin's operative (see this piece in Forbes) in the White House. He's also smiling as the United Kingdom approaches the Brexit cliff and chided Theresa May to NOT hold a second referendum to avoid economic catastrophe - something that Putin sought when Russia played a major role in stoking pro-Brexit frenzy in the UK before the ill-fated vote in 2016. Meanwhile, the knuckle draggers in Trump's base are too blinded by their hate of others and overt racism to see that they are cheering on perhaps the worse traitors in American history. On top of all of this, Virginia governor Ralph Northam - a neurosurgeon - described Trump as mentally ill. Be very afraid for where the nation is headed. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the looming crisis facing the United States due to the Trump goaded on by Fox News where to be an anchor one must (i) have a lobotomy or (ii) be a raging white supremacist (think Tucker Carlson). Here are article highlights:
Trump began Thursday under siege, listening to howls of indignation from conservatives over his border wall and thrusting the government toward a shutdown. He ended it by announcing the exit of the man U.S. allies see as the last guardrail against the president’s erratic behavior: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter was a scathing rebuke of Trump’s worldview.At perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency — and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right — Trump single-handedly propelled the U.S. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week to salvage signature campaign promises.
Hawks condemned his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Conservatives called him a “gutless president” and questioned whether he would ever build a wall. Political friends began privately questioning whether Trump needed to be reined in. . . . And officials said Thursday that Trump is preparing to send thousands of troops home from Afghanistan, as well.
Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary, CIA director and White House chief of staff for Democratic presidents, said, “We’re in a constant state of chaos right now in this country.” He added, “While it may satisfy [Trump’s] need for attention, it’s raising hell with the country.”
Panetta said the resignation of Mattis is a singular moment and that his letter, which underscores how Mattis sees Trump’s approach as misguided, “puts the security of the nation right now at some degree of risk.”
Trump has been isolated in bunker mode in recent weeks as political and personal crises mount, according to interviews with 27 current and former White House officials, Republican lawmakers, and outside advisers to the president, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.
“There’s going to be an intervention,” one former senior administration official said speculatively. “Jim Mattis just sent a shot across the bow. He’s the most credible member of the administration by five grades of magnitude. He’s the steady, safe set of hands. And this letter is brutal. He quit because of the madness.”
On Thursday, as criticism over his capitulation on the wall grew louder by the hour, Trump complained to friends and aides that he felt politically shackled. He had no plan but was spoiling for a fight. By midday, the president picked one.
“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security. Has to,” Trump said Thursday. He added that he had “no choice” but to act.
Trump’s advisers acknowledged that the funding may not be secured in the end but boasted that the spectacle would be remembered favorably by his base voters as proof of his mettle.
[O]n Fox News Channel and across conservative media, there was a brewing rebellion. Prominent voices urged Trump to hold firm on his wall money and warned that caving would jeopardize his reelection.
Rush Limbaugh dismissed the compromise bill on his radio program as “Trump gets nothing and the Democrats get everything.” Another firebrand, Ann Coulter, published a column titled “Gutless President in Wall-less Country.” Trump even found resistance on the couch of his favorite show, “Fox & Friends,” where reliable Trump-boosting host Brian Kilmeade chided him on the air Thursday.
“One of the things he’s most vulnerable to is mockery and mockery by his own supporters,” said Mark Krikorian, a leading anti-immigration activist. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus joined in the rebellion.
The administration drama comes at an especially perilous juncture for Trump, following his thumping at the polls in November’s midterm elections. Democrats are preparing to take control of the House in January and to use their subpoena power to investigate Trump’s finances and conduct in office, as well as alleged corruption in the administration.
Meanwhile, Republicans, in their last gasp of unified government, are divided. . . . . Inside the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump was in what one Republican close to the White House described as “a tailspin,” acting “totally irrationally” and “flipping out” over criticisms in the media.
Even as aides argued to him that protesting over wall funding could deprive government workers of paychecks over Christmas, Trump warned in private conversations with Republican lawmakers that they all would get “crushed” if they did not get the wall built.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
|Mattis and Der Trumpenführer in happier times.|
The so-called adults in the room who have tried to contain the ignorance, impulsiveness and detrimental actions of Der Trumpenführer are rapidly exiting their Cabinet and White House positions only to be replaced with extreme ideologues or those lacking relevant experience and only too happy to play "yes men" to Trump. The latest to exist is Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former general, who in essence resigned in protest over Trump's blunders and actions harmful to America's long term interest. The resignation came a day after Trump's abrupt move to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, a move that can only thrill Trump's Kemlin puppeteer, Vladimir Putin. Driving home I heard Trump minion Stephen Miller - who seems to be channeling Josef Goebbels when it comes to lying and moral bankruptcy in general - being interviewed and trying to waive off Mattis' condemnation of Trump. Only in the alternate universe of Fox News could anyone read Mattis' resignation as anything but a protest against Trump's harmful policies. A piece in Politico (that contains an embedded copy of Mattis' letter) looks at this latest White House crisis. Here are highlights:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned on Thursday while delivering a stunning rebuke to
PresidentDonald Trump, expressing differences on issues including the president's treatment of U.S. allies and the need for a "resolute" approach to Russia.
The highly public end to Mattis' two years as Pentagon leader came a day after Trump announced an abrupt pullout of U.S. forces from Syria, a move that shocked allies in the region and knocked military commanders off guard. It also followed reports that Trump is poised to order a similarly swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And his departure unnerved lawmakers who had looked to the retired four-star Marine general as a rare force for stability in Trump's administration — someone who had repeatedly counseled the president against taking precipitous actions in hot spots like Syria, Iran, and the Korean peninsula.
"I’m shaken by the news because of the patriot that Secretary Mattis is," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. "I think that everybody in the country should read his letter of resignation.
"This is scary," tweeted Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. He added: "As we’ve seen with the President’s haphazard approach to Syria, our national defense is too important to be subjected to the President’s erratic whims."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Mattis's staunch support for "post-World War alliances that have been carefully built by both parties."
"We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter," he said in a statement, adding he is "particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership.
“It is regrettable that the president must now choose a new Secretary of Defense," McConnell continued. "But I urge him to select a leader who shares Secretary Mattis’s understanding of these vital principles and his total commitment to America’s servicemembers.”
Another Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, tweeted in response to Trump's announcement: "That’s what happens when you ignore sound military advice."
The letter was a departure for Mattis, who had always been careful not to criticize [Trump]
the presidentpublicly. But it had been clear for some time that Mattis, once a darling of Trump's Cabinet, had become a dissident on a host of issues, including the president's desire for a Space Force, the proposed ban on transgender troops and the deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexican border.
But Trump's Syria pullout, combined with fears of Trump will also overrule his advisers on Afghanistan, were just too much, a former Pentagon official told POLITICO, “Those are the last straws."
In his letter Thursday, Mattis made clear that the two had steadily parted company. On China and Russia, he told Trump: "I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are are increasingly in tension with ours."
He also alluded to Trump's shabby treatment in public of longtime American allies.
Trump critics have long seen Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general and a professed nonpartisan, as a moderating force and steady hand within a chaotic administration. His overwhelming Senate confirmation included support from even senators who have since opposed nearly all of Trump's nominees.
As the Pentagon's top civilian, Mattis pushed for largely a continuation of strategies the military was already pursuing in its campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the war in Afghanistan. He opposed withdrawing from the nuclear pact with Iran.
Just who will step in to replace Mattis is unclear, though some speculation has centered on retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
A Democratic-controlled House is likely to be more demanding of both military and civilian Pentagon leaders and take a more skeptical eye toward historically high defense budgets and key policies, such as overhauling each leg of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and continuing military assistance for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen's civil war.
A lengthy column in the New York Times looks at studies and surveys on one of America's most persistent social and political problem: white racism and white resentment, two undercurrents that Donald Trump inflamed to edge out Hilary Clinton in 2016 by roughly 70,000 votes spread across three states to gain an Electoral College win despite losing the popular vote by three million votes. The column also looks at the insidious way the GOP continues to play the race card by pandering to racial fears that are unfounded when looks at real facts and figures as opposed to GOP sound bites and dog whistle messaging. Personally, I do not comprehend the anxiety far too many whites hold toward those who are deemed "other." Perhaps this is a result of living in a city where whites are a minority yet suffer no loss of privilege or standing or perhaps it's due to my being part of a minority group hated by many of the same people who hate blacks: white conservative Christians who in surveys admitted their racial animosity and exposed the lie to the claim they support Christian values. Here are column highlights (note the white fear that others may some day threat whites as they have long treated minorities):
For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.
As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.
The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight. . . . . For Democrats to counter Trump effectively, a number of scholars believe it is essential to understand the motivations — the needs, beliefs and agendas — of those whites who have moved into the Trump camp.
In her forthcoming book, “White Identity Politics,” Ashley Jardina, a political scientist at Duke, describes three groups of whites who generally fall on the right side of the political spectrum.
The first is made up of those for whom their white “identity is extremely or very important” to them. , , , , the percentage of whites who say their white identity is very or extremely important ranges from 28 to 42 percent. . . . . According to Jardina, “higher levels of white identity are somewhat linked to higher levels of racial animosity.” . . . . but many more white identifiers possess average and even low levels of racial prejudice.
The second group comprises those who rank high on a test of “white consciousness.” . . . The difference between white identity and white consciousness, Jardina argues, is that those in the latter category believe that “many whites are unable to find jobs because employers are hiring minorities.” Jardina reports that they also stress “the importance of whites working together to change laws that are unfair to whites.”
The third constituency is made up of whites high in “racial resentment.” . . . . On average, the level of racial resentment among whites is high, Jardina found: “Among all whites in the 2012 ANES face-to-face study, the mean level of racial resentment is 0.68 on a zero to one scale.”
Jardina argues in her book that the racial resentment scale reveals a new type of racial prejudice — one that is a subtle combination of anti-black affect and the belief that blacks do not adhere to traditional American values associated with the Protestant work ethic.
But, she adds, many whites’ reactions to our country’s changing racial landscape do not simply manifest in outward hostility. Amidst these changes, many whites have described themselves as outnumbered, disadvantaged, and even oppressed. They have voiced their anxiety over America’s waning numerical majority, and have questioned what this means for the future of the nation. They have worried that soon they may face discrimination based on their own race, if they do not already.
Such fears, in Jardina’s view, drive the emergence of white identity as a political issue: . . . They have led a sizable proportion of whites to believe that their racial group, and the benefits that group enjoys, are endangered.
The result? This racial solidarity now plays a central role in the way many whites orient themselves to the political and social world. . . . . these whites feel, to some extent, that the rug is being pulled out from under them — that the benefits they have enjoyed because of their race, their groups’ advantages, and their status atop the racial hierarchy are all in jeopardy.
[These] whites, to a certain extent, are deliberately claiming victimhood: White identifiers have co-opted the language of racial discrimination and oppression. Put bluntly, the politics of white identity is marked by an insidious illusion, one in which whites claim their group experiences discrimination in an effort to reinforce and maintain a system of racial inequality where whites are the dominant group with the lion’s share of power and privileges.
Eric Kaufmann, in his forthcoming book “Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities,” addresses similar racial and ethnic tensions. . . . Kaufmann argues that there is a structural dilemma posed by the multiracial nature of the left coalition: he views what he calls “the institutionalization of multiculturalism/diversity/equity” and of “high immigration” as fueling the rightward direction of recent political movements in the United States and Europe. He believes that it would benefit progressive groups, “in the interests of harmony,” for liberals to “argue their case for diversity” but that they should “tolerate difference of opinion and accept compromise.”
Lynn Vavreck — a political scientist at U.C.L.A. and one of the authors of one of the most influential books on the 2016 election, “Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America” — is also looking at the recent rightward drift in the United States. She believes that developments in contemporary politics are not in any sense racially neutral but instead amount to “hostility or fear of outgroups.”
One of the key attitudes revealed in survey data linked to support for Trump has been the “fear of losing your job to a minority,” Vavreck wrote me by email. In addition, 64 percent of Trump voters believed that “average Americans” have gotten “less than they deserve” but “only 12 percent said black Americans have gotten less than they deserve.”
They surveyed 22,500 people in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain and the United States and found that respondents greatly overestimate the total number of immigrants, think immigrants are culturally and religiously more distant from them, and are economically weaker — less educated, more unemployed, poorer, and more reliant on government transfers — than is the case.
The article suggest that white Trump voters need to do some real soul searching and admit that they may are motivated by prejudice or worse.In other words, pro-immigration, pro-diversity Democrats face clear obstacles breaking the Republican hold on white voters — and a challenge in repelling Trump’s race-and-immigration-focused offensive. Still, the accumulating insights on how and where Republicans have successfully worked these levers may help demonstrate — as President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and the results of this year’s midterm elections prove — that these obstacles are not insuperable and that they can be overcome.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
The 2018 has not been good for the Roman Catholic Church as a number of cardinals and bishops have been forced to resign over sexual abuse of children and minors or for covering up for predatory priests. This week, in the wake of the criminal conviction of the highest ranking prelate in Australia and the 3rd highest official at the Vatican and the launch of criminal investigations by federal and state prosecutors, a California bishop has been forced to resign due to credible accusations of sex abuse and the Illinois Attorney General blasted the Illinois diocese of failing to disclose close to 350 accused predator priests. Despite voluminous quantities of crocodile tears, the Vatican has failed to take effective measures to clean house of bishops and cardinals implicated in cover-ups, As a result, many are left with the impression that the Catholic clergy feel the equivalent of a droit du seigneur - historically, a supposed legal or customary right of a feudal lord to have sexual relations with a vassal's bride on her wedding night - when comes to sexually abusing children and youths. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the latest developments in Illinois. Here are excerpts:
Illinois' attorney general’s office Wednesday accused the Catholic Church of dramatically lowballing the scope of allegations of clergy sex abuse, saying her investigators found at least 500 additional accusations against priests and clergy — compared with the 185 cases the church has found credible.
[S]he alleged in a statement that a probe her office opened into the Church in August is finding that Catholic leaders are failing to dig deep into the guilt of their clerics. The probe “has revealed that allegations frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all,” the statement said.
Madigan’s office is one of more than a dozen to open state investigations this year into Catholic handling of abuses cases. But Wednesday, some experts said, seemed to up the ante because it pushed on a controversial topic that has angered Catholics from left to right -- whether the Church, under fire since the early 2000s, is really coming clean with its lists.
The problem: There is no standard within the Catholic Church for what constitutes “credible" accusations, and many Catholics and members of the public are skeptical that church leaders are coming forward to civil authorities and the public with everything they have.
Madigan, said longtime survivor advocate Terry McKiernan, is trying to force the church to produce lists that are more transparent and meaningful. Even in recent weeks, McKiernan said Wednesday, some lists around the country are being shown to not have included names that they should have.
“There’s a big debate about what ‘credible’ means, but these lists are clearly incomplete in a number of ways. Or at least there is lag before names are added,” he said. “Let’s face it, an allegation is an allegation, and very few are unsubstantiated if the diocese does the work to look into it."
Dioceses are dragging their feet on substantiating allegations "because they don’t want to acknowledge the crisis they’re in, ”McKiernan said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Vatican announced that a Los Angeles bishop was being removed after a review of a child sex abuse charge from the 1990s.
Since Madigan’s probe began in August, her spokeswoman said, the six Illinois dioceses have had to add 45 new names to their various lists of credibly accused priests. This reflects a lack of candor, said the office’s communications director, Maura Possley, and it’s why Madigan publicized the number of accusations.
Cardinals, bishops and other top clergy say they want to make amends and help victims heal, but the church’s glacial pace of revealing allegations runs counter to that stated goal, said Towey, who was a lawyer and a Bush administration official before taking the helm at Ave Maria University, one of the nation’s most prominent conservative Catholic colleges.
"It won’t start until all the names are out there. The church has to clean up its act,” Towey said. “The fact is – this is a mess of the Church’s creation and all of us, laity and ordained, have to come together and fix it.”
I first remember seeing Tucker Carlson years ago before he went fully over to the dark side, if you will, and joined Fox News. I do not remember the name of the news show, but I do remember how Carlson wilted and exhibited out right fear when Rachel Maddow - who was in her pre-big time, prime time show of her own - would be on the show and literally destroy Carlson who lacked even a basis command of facts and statistics on a par with Maddow. Since moving to Fox News - Faux News on this blog - Carlson has increasingly embraced the white supremacist message of Der Trumpenführer and his hideous base. With Carlson now facing the loss of 17 advertisers (and counting) in the wake of his racist anti-immigrant commentary, it is worth remembering that Carlson is a homophobe as well as a racist. A piece in The Advocate looks at Carlson anti-gay history. Here are excerpts:
As Trump's presidency goes up in flames, Carlson has been working to distract and rile his viewers by denouncing the migrant caravan, where refugees are seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border. Instead of advocating compassion for these desperate individuals, Carlson slanders them. The talking head said mass immigration “makes our country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” Following initial criticism to that comment, Carlson said in another episode that “huge swaths of the (border) region are covered with garbage and waste … that degrade the soil and kill wildlife.
Corporations have wisened up to Carlson's dangerous dehumanizing of migrants. Ancestry.com, Bowflex, CareerBuilder, Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card, IHOP, Indeed, Just for Men, Land Rover, Minted, Nerd Wallet, Pacific Life, ScotteVest, Smile Direct, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, TD Ameritrade, Voya Financial, and Zenni have all pulled their ads from TCT.
"There's no mistaking it: Tucker Carlson's words were ugly, inaccurate, and un-American, and advertisers did the right thing by ending support of him and his show," Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's president and CEO, said in a press release. "Current and future advertisers must also remember Carlson's pattern of peddling misinformation about and frequent attacks on other marginalized communities, including LGBTQ Americans.
GLAAD reiterated Carlson's long history of attacking not only immigrants, but the LGBTQ community. Carlson has called transgender people "crazy," denied their gender identity, described gay people as "unhappy," requested Saturday Night Live "[make] fun of transgender bathrooms," claimed pro-LGBTQ school curricula is "weird" and indoctrinates children, said a gay man worshipped Hillary Clinton "like Judy Garland," called it "fascism" for a Christian baker to make a gay couple a cake, bragged about beating up a gay man, declared "transgender privilege" is real, dismissed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" as a "sideshow issue," and declared Moonlight only won the Best Picture Oscar because of "political correctness."
Yes, I do not like Carlson. He embodies what's wrong with white, conservative America and advertisers are fools if they support talking heads like Carlson and turn their backs on the growing majority of Americans.
One constant throughout history is that change over time is guaranteed and that changes in technology and industry are constant, often at the expense of many classes of people who find their economic world turned upside down as industries and economic ways of life they thought unchangeable begin to die and wither away. The resulting angst and financial distress are causing convulsions across the developed world, especially in rural areas that have not embraced and/or been able to change see their social and economic reality crumble. The first glimpse of the danger posed by the phenomenon was the British Brexit vote that was sold to many on the deliberate lie that the exit from the European Union would allow the recapture of a glorious past. The reality is that Brexit will constitute a form of economic suicide for many Britons, especially those in rural areas. Next we saw the convulsion in the United States that put the thoroughly corrupt and unfit Donald Trump in the White House. Now, we are seeing convulsions in France where those left out of the new economic model are violently protesting. I totally understand the fear and anxiety of those reacting to change, but trying to resist the inevitable is not the answer and, indeed, threatens long term economic and political stability - and sets the stage for dangerous demagogues - as a column in the New York Times notes. Here are excerpts:
Ever since World War II, the liberal global order that has spread more freedom and prosperity around the world than at any other time in history has been held up by two pillars: the United States of America and the United Nations of Europe, now known as the European Union.Both of these centers of free markets, free people and free ideas are being shaken today by rural and beyond-the-suburbs insurgencies of largely white working-poor and anxious middle classes, which have not generally benefited from the surges in globalization, immigration and technology that have lifted superstar cities like London, Paris and San Francisco and their multicultural populations.
Having just seen the shocking sight of Parisian stores boarded up right before Christmas to protect against rioting along the Champs-Élysées by some of France’s yellow-vested protesters; after being told in Rome a few days earlier that Italy, a founding member of the E.U., could conceivably shuck off both the E.U. and the euro one day under its new bizarre far-left/far-right governing coalition; after watching Britain become paralyzed over how to commit economic suicide by leaving the E.U.; and after watching President Trump actually cheer for the breakup of the E.U. rather than for its good health, it is obvious to me that we’re at a critical hinge of history.
The core challenge for both the U.S. and the E.U. is the same: These rapid accelerations in technology and globalization have brought many more immigrants into many more remote corners of their societies — public housing in Paris today is dominated by immigrants — at the same time as many long-frozen social mores have changed — like acceptance of gay marriage and transgender rights — and as average work no longer returns an average wage that can sustain an average middle-class lifestyle.
The middle classes that powered the growth of the U.S. and the E.U. in the 20th century were built on something called a “high-wage, middle-skilled job.” But robotics and artificial intelligence and outsourcing and Chinese imports have wiped out a lot of middle-skilled routine white-collar and blue-collar work.
Now there are high-wage, high-skilled jobs and low-wage, low-skilled jobs. But high-wage, middle-skilled jobs are vanishing, leaving a considerable cohort of people with stagnant incomes and burning resentments at the globalized city slickers who they think look down at them and have mastered the nonroutine skills required for a high-wage job today.
When you simultaneously challenge all these things that anchor people — their sense of home, their job security, their prospects for growth and the social norms that, for better or worse, defined their lives — and then amp it all up with social networks, you can get a really ferocious blowback, as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, saw across his country.
It is going to take extraordinary leadership for the U.S., Britain and the E.U. to come up with a strategy for these grievances.
It has to balance the need for economic growth and redistribution, the need to take care of those who have been left behind without burdening future generations, the need for free-flowing borders to attract new talent and ideas, and the need to prevent people from feeling like strangers in their own homes.
But that leadership is not present. I get why a slim majority of U.K. citizens voted for Brexit — as it was sold to them. They were told they could curb all the stuff they didn’t like — such as a flood of 2.2 million foreign E.U. workers — and still keep all the stuff they liked — mainly Britain’s free access to the E.U. market — and give up nothing. But it was all a lie.
And to now watch the Conservative Party hacks who pushed that lie, led by Boris Johnson, continue to demand that their prime minister deliver this fantasy Brexit in the face of the reality that it’s impossible — and in the face of how bad even the second-best option will be — is to watch a once-sane country write a suicide note in a moment of irrationality and then argue endlessly over how to carry it out — death by hanging, poison or a gunshot to the head. They’ve got to reconsider. Disconnecting in a connected world is nuts.
Macron, by contrast, dared to do the right things to unlock growth in France, at the right time, “but he did not understand the difference between being right and doing it right,” a French economist, Ludovic Subran, told me. And he did not understand how his policies differently affected “the beer drinkers and the wine drinkers.”
Macron pushed through four vital structural fixes that fostered growth: pro-investment tax reforms, reduced pensions for the bloated railway union, relaxed labor rules to make it easier to fire and hire workers, and big new public investments in skills and education for the most disadvantaged.
To save his presidency, a shellshocked Macron busted his budget and canceled the fuel tax hike, raised the minimum wage by 100 euros ($114) a month and scrapped a planned tax on pensions under 2,000 euro ($2,272) per month. But because the Yellow Vests have no leader, no one knows what happens next.
“France today has a leader with no followers and an opposition with no leader,” said U.S. foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.
And the reason that matters is France and Germany were always the two adults whose partnership and adherence to the E.U. budgets and standards were the cement that held the whole E.U. pillar together.
I think the countries that will thrive in this era are the ones that have the most nimble cities, with the most nimble local leaders, who build adaptive coalitions of businesses, educators and social entrepreneurs, who can compete locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
In this world, highly centralized countries will fare much worse than decentralized ones. That’s the real shift France has to make, and, if it can’t, watch out for falling pillars. France matters.
Frighteningly, lurking among those feeling dispossessed is the same sort of nationalism and xenophobia that gave rise to WWI and WWII. All that is lacking for now is a dangerous demagogue ready to light the fuse.Dominique Moïsi, one of France’s top foreign policy analysts, put it to me like this: At a time when America, which was always the European Union’s life insurance policy against predatory threats from the East and was the world champion of democracy, begins to withdraw from the world; when Russia returns with a vengeance to global politics; when Germany turns inward and Italy rebels against E.U. spending limits and moves closer to autocratic Russia; when so many roads now lead to Beijing; and when the U.K. is hellbent on suicide, “suddenly what happens in France goes beyond France. We are the last barrier protecting the European idea. If Macron fails, it can bring the end of Europe.”
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
s noted in a previous post, anti-gay, pro-Christofascist and general right wing ideologue U. S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor (a GOP appointee) issued a ruling striking down the Affordable Health Care Act. Numerous legal experts excoriated O'Connor's ruling and a number of state attorney generals, including Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, have made it clear that they will oppose O'Connor's ruling. While it is easy to blame the ruling out of Texas on O'Connor's general extremism and constant placement of Republican partisanship over the rule of law, a piece in The Atlantic lays part of the blame on Chief Justice John Roberts and his ill advised refusal to uphold Obamacare under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and instead base his pro-Obamacare ruling on the power of taxation. With healthcare spending comprising nearly 20% of the U.S. economy and equating to roughly $10,739 per person for every American, it is ludicrous for Roberts to have pretended that healthcare was outside the scope of the Commerce Clause. Admittedly, this is possibly viewed by many as a "nerdy lawyer analysis and hairsplitting," but it is important. Here are article highlights:
Friday’s decision striking down the Affordable Care Act, Texas v. United States, is wrong and should be reversed on appeal for reasons ably explained by its many critics. Yet in focusing their wrath on the Texas decision, the critics overlook the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts put us in this mess by making a bad choice in the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision upholding Obamacare, NFIB v. Sebelius. Roberts erred—and opened the door to the Texas debacle—by failing to follow a famous and well-established 200-year-old precedent set by Chief Justice John Marshall.
Joining the four conservatives, Roberts maintained that the mandate could not be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce. But he joined the four liberals to uphold the mandate under the taxing power.
Congress’s 2017 move to eliminate the tax on nonpurchasers of health insurance gave rise to the theory that the legal foundation for the individual mandate had thereby disappeared, and that therefore the whole law should go down, too. So ruled the judge in Texas v. United States. The argument is nonsensical, because without the tax, there is no mandate: People are free to decline health insurance with no legal consequence. But the argument would not even exist if Roberts had voted to uphold the mandate as an exercise of the commerce power.
The constitutional challenges to Obamacare harken back to the first great debate over the powers of Congress. In 1791, then–Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton proposed establishing a national bank to act as financier to the federal government. Congressional opponents objected that the Constitution gave no express power to create a national bank. Supporters responded that Congress necessarily possessed implied powers to effectuate those specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
Late in the debate, Congressman James Madison offered a novel constitutional theory against the bank bill. Yes, there were implied powers, he conceded, but those could reach only minor matters and could not extend to “great, substantive, and independent” objects, no matter how useful to implementing the enumerated powers. Creating a national bank fell into this latter “great powers” category.
Madison’s argument was voted down by a two-thirds House majority. Congress passed the bank bill, and President George Washington signed it into law.
This victory for implied congressional powers was confirmed by the Supreme Court three decades later, when states’ rights advocates challenged the constitutionality of the Second Bank of the United States, chartered by Congress to succeed Hamilton’s bank in 1816—at the request of President James Madison. In the celebrated 1819 case of McCulloch v. Maryland, Marshall upheld the constitutionality of the second bank. Although the Constitution did not expressly authorize Congress to create banks, Marshall concluded that under the Necessary and Proper Clause, Congress may enact any legislation that is “conducive,” “convenient,” “useful,” or “plainly adapted” to implementing an enumerated power.
In the 2012 Obamacare decision, Roberts could have joined the four liberals to uphold the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause power “to regulate commerce … among the several states.” Individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance may or may not be engaged in interstate commerce. But if an individual mandate to purchase health insurance is useful for effective regulation of the interstate health-care market, Congress has the implied power to enact it, according to Marshall’s theory in McCulloch.
Instead, Roberts joined the four conservative justices to define “commerce” as “economic activity,” and to conclude that the Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate the “inactivity” of someone’s refusal to buy health insurance. Relying on Madison’s 1791 House speech, Roberts argued that regulating the “inactivity” of refusing to buy health insurance is “a great, substantive, and independent power” that cannot be implied, no matter how effective it might be in regulating the national health-care market.
Yet in McCulloch, Marshall had rejected this very contention. Marshall stated that no exercise of power could be deemed “great, substantive, and independent” if it was being used as a means to an end that falls within the enumerated powers. The individual mandate’s requirement to join the health-insurance pool is no end in itself, but rather a means to the plainly constitutional end of regulating the interstate market in health care.
Madison’s half-baked argument against implied powers never got off the ground. It was rejected by Congress and President Washington in 1791, and by the Supreme Court in 1819. Before Roberts resurrected it in 2012, it had not entered American constitutional jurisprudence. And for good reason: It doesn’t work. The bank, the military draft, and countless other federal laws belie the notion that the Constitution prohibits implied “great” powers. And if the draft can be implied, surely the individual mandate can be, too.
The Texas decision can easily be overturned, and Obamacare upheld, without Roberts revisiting his ill-fated choice of Madison over Marshall. But the Texas case highlights just why he should have sided with the long-standing precedent set by the Great Chief Justice, not the twice-rejected, eccentric argument of a flip-flopping congressman.
In the wake of a Senate report yesterday that looked at the pervasive and broad scale efforts of Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, yet another Senate report reveals similar efforts by Russian agents to attack and discredit Robert Mueller and the Russiagate investigation. Further, as in the presidential contest, numerous Americans all too willing to support Trump because he (and the Russians) have played to their prejudices have re-posted and bought into lies that track directly to enemies of the United States. The other disturbing aspect of the report is how the various social media platforms did far too little, too late to stop Russian efforts. Seemingly, money and outwardly expanding usage of their platforms was far more important than protecting users from manipulation and stopping subversion of the nation's election system. A long piece in the Washington Post looks at how Mueller was targeted to the delight of the Fox News viewing segment of the public. The unanswered question is one of how much the Trump/Pence regime has coordinated with the Russian effort. Here are highlights:
Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sights on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with “radical Islamic groups.”
Such tactics exemplified how Russian teams ranged nimbly across social media platforms in a shrewd online influence operation aimed squarely at American voters.
One of the reports, written by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika, became public when The Washington Post obtained it and published its highlights Sunday. The other report was by social media research firm New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research.
Together the reports describe the Russian campaign with sweep and detail not before available. The researchers analyzed more than 10 million posts and messages on every major social media platform to understand how the Russians used American technology to build a sprawling online disinformation machine, with each piece playing a designated role while supporting the others with links and other connections.
Twitter hit political and journalistic elites. Facebook and its advertising targeting tools divided the electorate into demographic and ideological segments ripe for manipulation, with particular focus on energizing conservatives and suppressing African Americans, who traditionally are more likely to vote for Democrats.
YouTube provided a free online library of more than 1,100 disinformation videos. PayPal helped raise money and move politically themed merchandise designed by the Russian teams, such as “I SUPPORT AMERICAN LAW ENFORCEMENT” T-shirts. Tumblr, Medium, Vine, Reddit and various other websites also played roles.
One unexpected star of the new reports Monday was Facebook’s photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram. Over the years of the disinformation campaign, Instagram generated responses on a scale beyond any of the others — with 187 million comments, likes and other user reactions, more than Twitter and Facebook combined. . . . . Instagram’s use by the Russian teams more than doubled in the first six months after Trump’s election, the researchers found. It also offered access to a younger demographic and provided easy likes in a simple, engaging format.
On Monday, the NAACP called for a week-long boycott of Facebook starting Tuesday, saying the company’s business practices — and the spread of “disingenuous portrayals of the African American community” on its site — should prompt further congressional investigation.
The emergence of Mueller as a significant target also highlights the adaptability of the Russian campaign. He was appointed in May 2017 as special counsel to investigate allegations of Russian influence on the Trump campaign. In that role, he has indicted on criminal charges a Kremlin-linked troll farm called the Internet Research Agency and others affiliated with the disinformation campaign.
A Clemson University research team, not affiliated with either of the reports released Monday, found that the Russians tweeted about Mueller more than 5,000 times, including retweets first posted by others. Some called for his firing, while others mocked him as incompetent and still others campaigned for the end of his “entire fake investigation.”
The report by New Knowledge highlighted the focus on Mueller and fired FBI director James B. Comey, who was falsely portrayed as “a dirty cop.”
On Capitol Hill, top Democrats said Monday that the revelations in the pair of Senate reports underscored the need to study social media and consider fresh regulation in order to stop Russia and other foreign actors from manipulating American democracy in future elections.
In particular, Schiff described the Instagram revelations as “surprising,” contradicting the data and testimony Facebook previously provided to the committee. “If Facebook was unaware of it, it’s one problem,” he said. “If they were aware of it and didn’t share that information, that’s a completely different problem.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the committee that asked the researchers to analyze the tech companies’ data, said the findings show “how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology.”
Sadly, far too many of my Republican "friends" took the Russian bait hook, line and sinker as they retweeted and re-posted Russian derived lies, never bother to check out the truth of the wild claims.
Monday, December 17, 2018
The main agenda of today's Republican Party is to retain power while thwarting the will of the majority of voters in the USA. This agenda is being pushed in multiple ways, including voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering and, increasingly, by politicizing the federal judiciary with unfit appointees who place political partisanship ahead above the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. Frighteningly, with the U.S. Senate controlled by Republicans - who seemingly hold as much regard for American democracy as the Vichy French did for maintaining the democracy of the French Third Republic - it is near impossible for Democrats to block these ideologues who are set on thwarting the will of the people. A column in the New York Times looks at this insidious assault of democracy itself and the ruling of GOP appointee U. S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor who issued a ruling striking down the Affordable Health Care Act. O'Connor has previously issued rulings (i) upholding anti-transgender "bathroom bills," (ii) barring same sex couples from family medical leave benefits and (iii) and allowing physicians to refuse to treat LGBT individuals. Here are column highlights:
The midterm elections were, to an important extent, a referendum on the Affordable Care Act; health care, not Donald Trump, dominated Democratic campaigning. And voters delivered a clear verdict: They want Obamacare’s achievements, the way it expanded coverage to roughly 20 million people who would otherwise have been uninsured, to be sustained.But on Friday, Reed O’Connor, a partisan Republican judge known for “weaponizing” his judicial power, declared the A.C.A. as a whole — protection for pre-existing conditions, subsidies to help families afford coverage, and the Medicaid expansion — unconstitutional. Legal experts from both right and left ridiculed his reasoning and described his ruling as “raw political activism.” And that ruling probably won’t be sustained by higher courts.
But don’t be too sure that his sabotage will be overturned. O’Connor’s abuse of power may be unusually crude, but that sort of behavior is becoming increasingly common. And it’s not just health care, nor is it just the courts. What Nancy Pelosi called the “monstrous endgame” of the Republican assault on health care is just the leading edge of an attack on multiple fronts, as the G.O.P. tries to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy in general.
Rule of law depends not just on what is written down, but also on the behavior of those who interpret and enforce that rule. If these people don’t regard themselves as servants of the law first, partisans second, if they won’t subordinate their political goals to their duty to preserve the system, laws become meaningless and only power matters.
And what we’re seeing in America — what we’ve actually been seeing for years, although much of the news media and political establishment has refused to acknowledge it — is an invasion of our institutions by right-wing partisans whose loyalty is to party, not principle. This invasion is corroding the Republic, and the corrosion is already very far advanced.
I say “right-wing” advisedly. There are bad people in both parties, as there are in all walks of life. But the parties are structurally different. The Democratic Party is a loose coalition of interest groups, but the modern Republican Party is dominated by “movement conservatism,” a monolithic structure held together by big money — often deployed stealthily — and the closed intellectual ecosystem of Fox News and other partisan media. And the people who rise within this movement are, to a far greater degree than those on the other side, apparatchiks, political loyalists who can be counted on not to stray from the party line.
Republicans have been stuffing the courts with such people for decades; O’Connor was appointed by George W. Bush. That’s why his ruling, no matter how bad the legal reasoning, wasn’t a big surprise.
[I]t’s not just the courts. Even as Trump and his allies spin fantasies about sabotage by the “deep state,” the reality is that a growing number of positions in government agencies are being occupied by right-wing partisans who care nothing, or actively oppose, their agencies’ missions. The Environmental Protection Agency is now run by people who don’t want to protect the environment, Health and Human Services by people who want to deny Americans health care.
The same takeover by apparatchiks is taking place in politics. Remember when the role of the Senate was supposed to be to “advise and consent”? Under Republican control it’s just plain consent — there is almost literally nothing Trump can do, up to and including clear evidence of corruption and criminality, that will induce [GOP] senators from his party to exercise any kind of oversight.
So how do people who think and behave this way respond when the public rejects their agenda? They attempt to use their power to overrule the democratic process.
When Democrats win despite election rigging, they strip the offices Democrats win of power, as they did in Wisconsin. When Democratic policies prevail despite all of that, they use apparatchik-stuffed courts to strike down legislation on the flimsiest of grounds.
As David Frum, the author of “Trumpocracy,” warned a year ago: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” That’s happening as we speak.
So Pelosi was right about Reed O’Connor’s ruling being a symptom of a “monstrous endgame,” but the game in question isn’t just about perpetuating the assault on health care, it’s about assaulting democracy in general. And the current state of the endgame is probably just the beginning; the worst, I fear, is yet to come.