Sunday, February 17, 2019

Conservatives Will Live to Regret Trump's Emergency Declaration

Republicans now engaged in prostituting themselves to Donald Trump and his racist base will likely come to rue the day that Trump, out of political desperation, invoked the pretense of a national emergency to try to take funds from other programs and the military to build his southern border wall to please his foul, racist base. The move, if not blocked by the courts will set a precedent that future Democrat presidents will likely invoke to push much more real emergencies such as gun control or climate change that will see "conservatives" witness the gutting of resistance to some of their sacred cows of dogma.  One body that might block Trump's dangerous move is the U.S. Senate, but do not count that to happen with Mitch McConnell, a man who after Trump has perhaps done the most harm to America's democracy, as a majority leader. A column in The Atlantic looks at the Republican's likely support of Trump's illegal act and how it will come to haunt them.  Here are highlights:
[Trump] The president seems to think he’s found a way out of the crisis. No, not the “crisis” at the border—if the word still has any universally accepted definition, there is no crisis at the border.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2018’s apprehensions along the southwestern border were the fifth lowest in nearly half a century. Last year’s records show modest growth from 2017, when apprehensions were lower than at any point since 1972.
For Donald Trump, the crisis isn’t humanitarian but political. It is a crisis of confidence. He staked his reputation on constructing a wall along the southern border, and he’s not going to get one. Republicans in Congress had two years to appropriate the $25 billion Trump initially sought for a contiguous partition along the border, and they passed on it at every available opportunity. Trump transformed the 2018 midterm elections into a referendum on the notion that a humanitarian disaster was unfolding at the border and the wall was the only answer. Voters were not convinced.
 Having lost face at the polls, Trump sought to demonstrate who’s still the boss by demanding tribute from ascendant Democrats—a mere $5.7 billion, not for a wall per se, but for “steel slats” along a few miles of the border. He didn’t get it. Indeed, Trump will sign a compromise today that appropriates only $1.375 billion for fencing and border-security enhancements—less than what the GOP-led Congress was prepared to allocate at the end of 2018.
 Amid this unambiguous series of defeats, Trump resolved to get his border-wall funding by other means: He said in a rambling press conference today that he would invoke the National Emergencies Act, under which he plans to circumvent Congress and reallocate approximately $8 billion apportioned to the Treasury and Defense Departments to construct his barrier along the border with Mexico. This is a staggeringly cynical maneuver not because it will finally hand Trump the MacGuffin on which he campaigned in 2016, but because it most likely won’t.
Legal observers expect the courts to impose an injunction on this national-emergency declaration as soon as it is made. Indeed, the president made the judiciary’s work easier on Friday when he admitted that he “didn’t need to do this,” a confession that there is, in fact, no ongoing national emergency. A judicial quagmire is the GOP’s fondest hope. . . . And all without ever having to expropriate private property along the border or prove the dubious efficacy of a physical wall. Everybody wins!
This is an especially dangerous game, in part because it further degrades the Madisonian scheme in which each branch of government is supposed to be a jealous steward of its constitutional prerogatives. . . . [Trump] The president will radically expand the definition of what constitutes an emergency, the relevant statutes of which are supposed to be applied only when Congress cannot be consulted on the matter in a timely fashion. By appealing to the military to resolve a domestic policy dispute, Trump is actively eroding America’s sense of civic propriety.
Even if Trump’s decision to invoke national security to erect his wall is stopped indefinitely by the courts, we may look back upon this moment as the crossing of the Rubicon. Congressional Democrats aren’t even being coy about their desire to expand on this precedent when their party regains control of the White House. “Want to talk about a national emergency?” asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency.” There is no shortage of Democrats who are similarly convinced that climate change also represents an existential crisis, to say nothing of a national emergency. Many have endorsed draconian anti-industrial policies that are unlikely to pass in Congress as the only rational remedy to the crisis. The next president will undoubtedly face pressure from his or her core constituents to apply the precedent Trump is setting to their domestic policy priorities.
Maybe the most pernicious effect of the president’s extraordinary maneuver here is how he will drag complacent Republicans along with him into the abyss. Once invoked, 50 U.S. Code § 1622 on national emergencies sets into motion a series of events, including an almost immediate vote by the House of Representatives ratifying the president’s decision. The House will certainly reject Trump’s national-emergency declaration, sending that motion to the Senate, where it cannot be tabled. And that GOP-controlled chamber will be compelled to support Trump’s transparently political debasing of constitutional norms, not because of support for Trump, but because of pressure from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Let’s not mince words: Backing Trump in this moment is not the prerogative of an institutionalist, which the majority leader claims to be. It is the prerogative of a partisan operator motivated, above all, by deference to a fleeting political imperative: avoiding another government shutdown.
This is a moment of extreme national cowardice. America’s governing institutions are abdicating their authority in pursuit of expedience and amid a craven scramble to save face. A precedent has been established that all Americans, but conservative Americans in particular, will long regret.

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Kansas GOP Wants to Ban Same Sex Marriage

Survey after survey shows that younger voters across the country support same sex marriage.  Other surveys show that a majority of the 40% of Millennials who have walked away from religion to join the ranks of the "Nones" cite anti-gay extremism and homophobia as the leading motivation - the hypocrisy of evangelical Christians is not far behind - for leaving.  So what are Kansas Republicans doing?  Pushing a bill that would ban same sex marriages in that state.  With a new Democrat governor, the bill has little likelihood of becoming law, yet the Republicans continue to engage in this type of batshitery at the very time the GOP is hemorrhaging younger voters.  (Tennessee Republicans unsuccessfully pushed a similar bill in that state).  A piece in The Advocate looks at this insanity.  Here are excerpts:
Some Kansas legislators are pushing a bill that would classify same-sex marriages as “paody marriages” and prevent the state from recognizing them.
The bill has no chance of becoming law under the state’s new Democratic governor, who would undoubtedly veto it, plus it would be unconstitutional under the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. But anti-LGBTQ politicians in Kansas are seeking to make same-sex marriage an issue as the legislature considers a measure to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, The Wichita Eagle reports.
“[Same-sex couples’] marriage probably doesn’t affect me — their union or whatever you want to call it. But in my opinion, they’re trying to force their beliefs on society,” Republican Rep. Randy Garber, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the paper. Garber’s legislation comes shortly after the introduction of a Tennessee bill that seeks to keep that state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Garber acknowledged that calling same-sex unions “parody marriages” is “kind of harsh,” but he believes the only true marriages are male-female couplings. In addition to his measure to stop same-sex marriages, he is sponsoring another one that would create something called “elevated marriage” for opposite-sex couples and make it more difficult to get a divorce.
His legislation calls sexual orientation “mythology” and says it is different from race because “there are no ex-blacks but there are thousands of ex-gays.”
he Kansas legislature got its first two LGBTQ members in last year’s election, and they objected strongly to Garber’s move, as did activists.
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, called Garber’s bills the “most vile, hateful and disrespectful legislation” he has seen during his career. “Every year, we see bills that restrict, remove, and limit the rights of LGBT Kansans, but never have we seen this level of extremist vitriol laid out in legislative language. These bills combined are 18 pages of insults and name calling,” he told the Eagle.
 NBC News has now reported that the language in Garber's bills is copied from drafts created by Chris Sevier, an anti-LGBTQ activist who filed lawsuits in several states seeking to marry his laptop computer. Sevier took credit in a Facebook post, but he declined comment to NBC on the matter, as did Garber. Bills with that language were introduced in Wyoming and South Caroline last year and went nowhere, NBC notes.
 The antidiscrimination legislation is sponsored by Ruiz and the legislature’s other new member from the LGBTQ community, Democratic Rep. Brandon Woodard. “I think the voters of Kansas have made it very clear that we should be open and inclusive to all Kansans,” Woodard, a gay man, told the paper. His bill, which would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing and employment, has many more cosponsors than Garber’s marriage bills.
Laura Kelly, the Democrat elected governor of Kansas last year, has signed an executive order banning discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but Woodard’s bill would cover private companies as well.

Trump Is Driving Out Republican Voters

A piece in the New York Times looks at an issue that I have long argued ought to be terrifying the Republican Party both nationally and here in Virginia: the GOP is driving away younger, non-rural voters at an alarming rate and putting the party's long term viability at risk. The GOP base is aging and literally dying off and in states like Virginia, the rural vote can no longer outweigh the collective vote of the urban voters, which is precisely why GOP operatives sought to create chaos in the Virginia Democrat Party with its orchestrated attacks on Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and, to a lesser extent Mark Herring (a piece in the Washington Post suggests the GOP strategy is not working with the Democrat donor class).  The majority of voters increasingly do not want what the GOP is selling.  And Donald Trump is exacerbating the problem, especially with younger voters who over time will replace the GOP's steadily dying base.  Personally, the death of the GOP and everything it has come to stand for cannot come soon enough, but one would think alarm bells would be going off somewhere with the GOP leadership.  Here are article highlights:
Ever since Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, much of the media attention has been on how Democrats need to reconsider their strategy for winning voters in future elections, particularly Obama-to-Trump voters. But the results of the 2018 midterm elections suggest that Republicans have some soul-searching to do as well.
They lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections and suffered battering losses in the House in 2018. Republican strategists must grapple with how to keep their party viable nationally, and our data suggests that Trumpism may continue to hurt them in the future.
It has flown under the radar a bit, masked perhaps by the switch of millions of Barack Obama’s voters into Mr. Trump’s column, but in 2016 Mr. Trump did not receive support from a large segment of voters who pulled the lever for Mitt Romney in 2012. In fact, our data shows that 5 percent of Romney 2012 voters stayed home in 2016, while another 5 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton. These voters tended to be female, nonwhite, younger and more highly educated — the very voters Republicans feared would be alienated by a Trump victory when he was seeking the party’s nomination.
Most strikingly, one-third of 2012 Romney voters who were under 40 in 2016 did not vote for Mr. Trump, but rather stayed home, voted for Mrs. Clinton or voted for a third-party candidate. Among the under-40 Romney voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, 16 percent appear to have defected from the party to vote for a Democratic House candidate in 2018. Of course, we don’t know how they will vote in 2020, but what this means is that in the past two elections Republicans may have lost more than 40 percent of Romney voters born after 1976.
Republican House candidates performed worse among 18- to 39-year-olds than they have in decades. The voters Mr. Trump and his party lost in 2016 and 2018 represent the future of American politics.
Defectors were disproportionately women; 63 percent of Romney-to-Clinton voters were female compared with 46 percent of Romney-to-Trump voters. Romney-to-nonvoters were 54 percent female.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, Mr. Trump shed a large share of 2012 Romney voters of color — precisely the type of voters that Republicans have been struggling to attract for some time.
Trump also lost support from Romney-supporting college-educated voters. While only one in four Romney-to-Trump voters had a college degree, 39 percent of Romney-to-Clinton voters did, and 31 percent of Romney-to-nonvoters were college-educated.
Crucially, the Trump campaign alienated a lot of younger-to-middle-aged voters who had turned out for Mr. Romney in 2012. Four percent of Romney-to-Trump voters were under 30 years old in 2016. In contrast, 18 percent of Romney-to-Clinton voters were under 30, as were 21 percent of Romney-to-nonvoters. Each of these patterns should raise red flags for Republicans, even more so after 18- to 29-year-olds went from supporting Mrs. Clinton by a 25-point margin in 2016 to supporting House Democrats by a 44-point margin in 2018. . . .
But it is the graying of the Republican coalition that is arguably the biggest threat to the party’s prospects. It is true that on average, older people are more reliable voters than younger people. But the partisan identities and voting behaviors that people adopt early in the life cycle tend to stick, becoming routines that people carry on for the remainder of their lives.
Can Republicans solve their demographic problem? A look at issue preferences indicates wooing back defectors will be difficult. On crucial issues facing the country, Romney-to-Clinton voters, Romney-to-nonvoters and Americans over all hold positions that are relatively far from Romney-to-Trump voters.
Trump may have won the White House with a thin margin built on winning over just enough Obama voters in the right places. But this victory may ultimately have come at the expense of the Republican Party’s long-term electoral prospects. To win some of the Romney coalition back, Republicans would need to moderate their stances on some key issues, like immigration and trade, and, of course, exactly the opposite is happening.
Again, let's hope the exodus of GOP voters accelerates!

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion

At the same time that special counsel Robert Mueller has linked Trump insider Roger Stone to Wikileaks, a federal judge has ruled that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort consistently lied to Mueller's team about the campaign's communications and conspiracy with Russia to flip the 2016 presidential campaign in favor of Trump not withstanding his cooperation agreement.  Mueller has now recommended a 24 year prison sentence for Manafort, a virtual life sentence for the 29 year old Manafort.  The only plausible reasons for Manafort's repeated lies are (i) a effort to protect Trump, and (ii) the hope for a presidential pardon.  A piece in New York Magazine links together what is currently know and maps out at least part of the conspiracy between the Trump campaign and a hostile, enemy power.  It' hard not to have the t-word - treason - spring to mind. Here are article excerpts:

Last night, a federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to federal prosecutors about the Russia investigation. Some of Manafort’s lies go “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” a prosecutor told the court. In particular, Manafort deceived prosecutors about a meeting he had with his former partner and active Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik. At this meeting, the two discussed a peace plan to resolve Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top Russian foreign policy priority. Manafort passed on polling data to Kilimnik, data that was “very detailed” and “very focused,” not just some topline numbers. And according to prosecutors, Manafort did all this in hopes of getting a pardon from President Trump.
Here we have, in this case alone, every single element one would need to establish collusion. There was a meeting between Trump’s campaign manager and a Russian operative; the discussion of something Russia would gain from a Trump victory (a favorable Ukraine settlement); the exchange of information that would assist Russian campaign intervention (polling data that would allow Russia to target its social-media attacks). Also, they left the meeting place via separate entrances. This isn’t merely suspicious. It’s a scene from The Americans.
And perhaps most curious of all, you have the interest of the president. If Manafort was just running a side hustle behind Trump’s back, Trump would have little reason to care about him getting caught. Prosecutors have already charged that Manafort maintained secret contacts with the White House as recently as 2018. Howard Fineman reported last year that, according to “friends and aides” of the president, Trump believes Manafort “isn’t going to ‘flip’ and sell him out.”
The revelations about Manafort have dribbled out slowly enough that it’s easy to lose track of how far along they have come. . . . . This is exactly what you’d expect in the prosecution of a massive conspiracy: The prosecution works its way from the bottom up and the outside in, finding crimes by key figures to force them to testify against higher-ups. Instead, conservatives have treated every step in the prosecution as evidence that Manafort did nothing wrong with Russia.
This defense has been smashed to pieces. There’s a ton of collusion in the case against Manafort. Of course we haven’t even seen the full extent of the charges, much of which is still hidden in the procession of indictments beneath tantalizing black lines. What we already know is that Trump’s campaign manager was working tightly and in secret with Russia during the campaign, and that his interests and those of Donald Trump have been very much in alignment.

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Anti-Gay House of Delegates Speaker Cox to Be Targeted in November Elections

Anti-gay Speaker Kirkland Cox
The Washington Post is reporting that the, in my view, utterly toothless Equality Virginia ("EV"), is planning on targeting House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) for defeat in November after Virginia Republicans yet again killed all non-discrimination protections for LGBT Virginians.  Yes, Cox and Gilbert need to be defeated, but don't hold your breath waiting for EV to pull it off, especially if the Democrats do not field top quality candidates to oppose them.  Meanwhile, if EV had placed more focus on securing passage of these bills and less time attacking Governor Northam, the strongest ally EV has ever had in the governor's mansion, and riling up its own donor base in the process, perhaps the bills might have succeeded this legislative session. EV also needs to grasp that with Republicans, bipartisanship doesn't work.  They only understand the threat of electoral defeat,  

Democrats will be headed into the November elections suffering from self-inflicted wounds, thanks to national Democrats who butted into Virginia's affairs and self-aggrandizing organizations like the Human Rights Campaign which I suspect talked EV into attacking Northam.  Personally, I've had enough and I have stopped my monthly donations to EV and will likely end up going to the Commonwealth Dinner in April - we had already bought tickets before EV's attacks on Northam - solely so the husband and I can give the EV board members and Democrat elected officials in attendance a piece of our minds face to face.  Here are excerpts from the Post story:
Gay and transgender activists, fed up with four consecutive defeats in trying to ban discrimination in housing and government employment, say they will now turn to the ballot box, targeting GOP leaders who have failed to support them. “No one has taken a more bipartisan approach than we have,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, which lobbied for the bills that passed the Senate but died in a House subcommittee. . . . The only solution we see now is new leadership.”
State Republicans hold a two-seat majority in the Senate and a three-seat majority in the House, with one seat open for a special election in a district previously held by a Democrat. A federal court approved a new redistricting map Thursday that is expected to favor Democrats.
Equality Virginia says it will work to unseat House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) because it blames those leaders for blocking a full committee hearing of the bills.
The bills would have prohibited discrimination in all state and local government jobs on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and barred housing discrimination against people in those same groups, with exceptions for rentals in single-family homes, property owned by religious organizations or private clubs.
Advocates thought they had a better-than-average chance for passage this year given the Republicans’ determination to try to win back seats in November and attract suburban swing voters, who are more open to supporting gay and transgender people than some constituencies within the Republican Party.
“We don’t live in 1980 anymore, and it’s time for us to get past this and not discriminate against a community when most people don’t have a problem with this community,” Del. Roxann L. Robinson (R-Chesterfield), who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this year.
Conservative groups, including the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Family Foundation [Virginia's leading hate group], opposed the effort. . . . “Once again, the speaker and majority leader said ‘nope, under our watch this is not going to happen,’ ” Parrish said.
Cox “is only the speaker because his name was drawn out of a bowl,” he said, referring to how state officials broke a tied legislative race and handed control of the House of Delegates to Republicans. “He did not have a mandate . . . Now we will pivot, look at the new maps. Speaker Cox is in a very different district this year. That will be a priority of ours.”

Why People Talk About Invoking the 25th Amendment

Watch Donald Trump's bizarre press conference declaring a bogus national emergency on the US/Mexico border and then watch old news reel footage of Hitler's unhinged ranting or Mussolini posturing and suddenly one realizes what the 25th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. We have a mentally deranged individual in the White House which is the real national emergency facing the nation.  Everything else pales in comparison (national Democrats worried about ancient black face photos in Virginia need a serious reality check).  We face a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed immediately.

As for Trump's still loyal supporters, they are really no better than the ugliest elements of Hitler's base who were motivated by anti-Semiticism, hatred and bigotry, or greed over the money they thought they could make.  I truly do not know how otherwise sane Republicans cannot feel alarm as Trump increasingly shows he is not tethered to objective reality.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the bizarre spectacle that took place in the White House rose garden.  Here are highlights:  
There was no sign of alarm as administration officials and journalists assembled Friday in the Rose Garden under a perfect blue sky amid unseasonable warmth. Nor was there any sense of crisis conveyed by President Trump, scheduled to fly to his Mar-a-Lago resort later Friday.
His topic demanded utmost solemnity: The situation on the border is so dire, such a crisis, that he must invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, testing the boundary between constitutional democracy and autocracy. But with the nation watching, Trump instead delivered a bizarre, 47-minute variant of his campaign speech.
He boasted about the economy, military spending and the stock markets (“we have all the records”), and he applauded the Chinese president’s pledge to execute people who deal fentanyl (“one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal”). He said Japan’s prime minister had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He declared Ann Coulter “off the reservation” but praised his favorite Fox News hosts and celebrated Rush Limbaugh’s endurance . . . .
[H]e declared the “eradication of the caliphate” in Syria (his top general in the region begs to differ). He introduced his new attorney general, disparaged the Democrats’ “con game,” criticized retired House speaker Paul Ryan, invoked campaign promises, recited the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and pronounced his reelection prospects excellent. He pinged from regulations to Britain to MS-13 to “monstrous caravans” to an apocryphal story about women gagged with duct tape.
Oh, and he also mentioned his emergency declaration — specifically, that it isn’t necessary. “I didn’t need to do this,” he said in response to a question from NBC’s Peter Alexander. It’s just that the emergency declaration lets him build a border wall “faster.” He acknowledged that “I don’t know what to do with all the money” . . . Somewhere, administration lawyers were face-palming.
On Thursday came reports that former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had confirmed that Justice Department officials discussed the possibility of removing Trump under the 25th Amendment for incapacity. The president then spent the next 30 hours showing exactly why some people think him incapacitated.
Prayers and frantic reassurance: This is how Republicans deal with an erratic president determined to defy an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress, take money from the military (the Pentagon’s uses for it “didn’t sound too important to me,” Trump said) and set a precedent for future presidents to declare emergencies for their pet projects.
When President Barack Obama attempted a less aggressive use of executive power in 2014, Republicans denounced him as a “tyrant” and “dictator,” . . . Trump seemed not to have heard such warnings as he ricocheted from topic to topic in the Rose Garden. He carried a speech to the lectern but mostly ignored it as he spun fantasies.
Evidence that most of the illegal drugs pass through legal border crossings? “It’s all a lie.”  CNN’s Jim Acosta pointed out that border crossings are near record lows and illegal immigrants are not disproportionately criminal.  “You’re fake news,” Trump replied.
Playboy’s Brian Karem asked Trump to “clarify where you get your numbers.” “Sit down,” Trump told him, declaring that “I use many stats.” Minutes later, he pumped a fist in the air and departed.
“What about the 25th Amendment?” Acosta called after him. Trump’s performance had already provided a compelling answer.
Trump is not mentally well - and neither are those who continue to support him (e.g., evangelical Christians) and/or make endless apologies. 

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