Quote of The Day: Jimmy Fallon On Donald Trump’s Call For An Investigation Into Hillary Clinton

Trump keeps tweeting that the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton, instead of his ties to Russia. When asked if he knows who runs the Justice Department, he said, “Of course I do — Superman, Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck.” –Jimmy Fallon

Democracy Under Attack–From Both Major Political Parties

The fundamental principles of democracy have been under attack for several months, unfortunately by both major political parties. The lack of respect for democratic norms by Donald Trump and his Republican supporters has been well documented. Rather than presenting a clear alternative, the last nominee for the Democratic nomination has also been attacking Democratic norms, including acceptance of election results and freedom of speech. Hillary Clinton repeated her attacks on the legitimacy of the 2016 election in an interview with Ari Berman of Mother Jones.

During the election, when there was a question of Donald Trump not accepting the results of the election, Hillary Clinton said that Donald Trump “threatens democracy” by not accepting the election results. She also said, “We know, in our country, the difference between leadership and dictatorship. And the peaceful transition of power is something that sets us apart.”

Since then, Hillary Clinton lost the election after running a terrible campaign. It was a huge mistake for the Democrats to essentially rig the nomination for a weak candidate as opposed to allowing a stronger candidate capable of winning a national campaign to be its nominee. Democrats made a terrible mistake, but once the election results were in, in a democracy there was no choice but to accept the results and look forward to the next election. Instead, as was revealed by in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing.

The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability. More recently we learned that Christopher Steele is saying he believes the report is 70% to 90% accurate. In other words, he admits that thirty percent could be inaccurate.

Over the last several month, as information has come out on the Congressional and Mueller investigations, the evidence has cast further doubt on Clinton’s claims. We have seen substantial evidence of improper business dealings between Trump, members of his family, and key people in his campaign having improper business relations with Russia. We have seen evidence of Trump conspiring to cover this up. The indictments to date have related to financial dealings, and it appears that this is what Mueller is concentrating on.

On the other hand, evidence released through the Congressional hearings have shown that Russia’s advertising on Facebook and use of Twitter was too inconsequential to have had an impact. We learned during the recent Congressional testimony that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. We also learned that the Russian Twitter accounts were not very large and that, of the tweets attributed to troll accounts Russia’s Internet Research Agency, only  “9 percent of the tweets were election-related .” Even former Clinton adviser Mark Penn has argued that the Facebook ads were not the reason Clinton lost.

It has been commonplace to see sensational headlines of a smoking gun of Russian tampering with the election results, only to have them quickly shot down. One supposedly Russian site consisted of pictures of puppies. Just this week we had the revelation that Russia had designated money “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather being a smoking gun, this appears to have been money spent on the Russian Parliamentary elections. Yes, Russia has been caught meddling in their own election.

With report after report falling apart, we have no evidence of any more Russian meddling in the 2016 election than has been occurring for decades–with the United States similarly meddling in other elections. There is no evidence of a vast and successful conspiracy to change the results of the 2016 election. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election.

In the interview Clinton claimed, “This is the first time we’ve ever been attacked by a foreign adversary and then they suffer no real consequences.” This is an especially chilling statement from a politician who has already participated in lying the country into wars, and is aligned with neoconservatives who wish to attempt regime change in Russia.

Just as chilling has been how this contrived scandal has been used to restrict political discourse. With the new McCarthyism which has overtaken many Democrats, to question this march towards conflict with Russia, no matter how reminiscent it is of the march towards war with Iraq over fake WMD, is countered with attacks of being pro-Russia. To oppose conflict with Russia over fake claims from the Clinton camp and other neocons no more means one is pro-Russia than opposing the rush to war with Iraq over false claims of WMD meant one was pro-Saddam.

One consequence of this hysteria has been to censor Americans on social media as I and others have been pointing out. Clinton, who has a long history of lack of respect for First Amendment rights, has used the bogus claim that her loss was illegitimate to call for government censorship of information critical of her as she labels it “fake news.” She also claims this is not protected by the First Amendment.

Nobody likes to lose an election, but we have never encountered a situation such as this in which the loser questions the legitimacy of the election, endangers our national security in promoting unnecessary conflicts, and attacks First Amendment rights. Of course we have also never encountered much of what we have seen by the winner of the election either, but this provides no justification for Clinton’s actions.

Porn Star Running For Democratic Nomination & Other Political Briefs

Are we now Italy? The Hill reports that a porn star has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination:

A porn star and a rapper say they have what it takes to win the White House in 2020.

Cherie DeVille, who’s starred in such videos as “Ass Planet” and “Hot Tub Hottie,” says she was inspired to run for office out of her “personal frustration for the current political climate.”

When Donald Trump won the election last year, DeVille — who’s running alongside rapper Coolio — says she sobbed. “I didn’t cry because I hated [Trump] specifically, I cried because of what I felt that meant for the direction our country was going in.”

“We’re voting for people as if we’re on a reality television show, and my concern is if we continue to purely vote for celebrities, or political figures, or the most entertaining, they’re not always going to be quality politicians,” DeVille told ITK on Tuesday.

So the 39-year-old adult film performer decided to toss her hat in the political ring, saying she’s planning on running as a Democrat.

“If our criteria now for becoming a political official is minor celebrity, I have that,” says DeVille, who boasts 190,000 Twitter followers. “I feel like I can be potentially what I’m feeling the American people — for better or for worse — want, which is interesting news, scandalous news, you know, not ‘boring’ political news.”

“But at the same time [I can] do what the American people really need,” she continues, which is “having a person with integrity, and having someone listen to the people, and actually care about America in public office.”

A former physical therapist, DeVille — whose campaign slogan is “Make America F—— Awesome Again” — says a lot of people “giggle” when they learn that “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper Coolio is running as her VP.

The Guardian has a story under the headline Christopher Steele believes his dossier on Trump-Russia is 70-90% accurate. So, in other words, he admits that his dossier, which fueled much of the Russia-gate hysteria (and which Clinton and the DNC hid the fact that they paid for) could be 30% false.

Portions of the left and libertarian right do often share some views in common. For example, CounterPunch today has a post on The Logic of Drug Legalization:

The Drug Lords of today exist because of the extraordinary profits resulting from criminalization. Estimates run in the half a trillion range globally per year. By way of comparison there are only twenty or so countries with a national economy of that size. The situation is exactly analogous to the prohibition era. When gunfights, beatings, murders and firebombs were the business strategy of choice for the pushers of alcohol. Once booze was legalized the bootleggers were immediately driven out of business. Alcohol is heavily taxed today there are however no Bootlegging Lords on the playground pushing cheaper booze on our children.

Nor would such pushers exist for any other drug that we might choose to legalize. Sure the criminals could evade the cost of taxes on their product but there are enormous costs incurred by criminal enterprises that don’t apply to legal ones. This is why marijuana today is sold for hundreds of times what it costs to grow. Our legal producers will not be faced with those costs and so can sell to us below current prices on the street. With profit margins cut to the bone the ‘dread lords and masters’ that control the illegal drug market today will simply melt away like the last snow before the advancing spring…

Matthew Yglesias writes at Vox, Bill Clinton should have resigned: What he did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price. What is amazing about this is that it comes from a usually very pro-Democratic Party source. Now that they aren’t concerned about white washing the past for Hillary, some Democrats might be able to face the truth about at least some aspects of their party.

Also at Vox, yet another reason to oppose the Republican tax bill: Republicans’ tax bill could trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare.

Periodically I see articles from people who have good intentions but don’t understand how health care really works argue that we should end private practice and have all doctors become employees to save costs. The reality is that this trend has increased costs rather than save money, as discussed in this article at Modern Healthcare entitled Hospital-employed physicians drain Medicare:

“When hospitals grow their physician network, with a subsidy of $150,000 to $200,000 per physician, they have to cover those costs by driving ancillary services and (getting more people) in hospital beds,” said Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, CEO of Summit Health Management, an integrated, physician-led independent physician group that includes some 800 doctors. One of the main drivers of physician acquisitions is to increase referral networks, he said.

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers On Generic vs. “Name Brand” Democrats Against Donald Trump

According to a new poll, a generic Democratic opponent would beat President Trump by 10 points in 2020 election. Yeah, the generics do great. It’s the name brands [shows photo of Hillary] who have trouble. –Seth Meyers

[Ten points is also the difference between how Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton did against Donald Trump in head to head polls. Democrats sure could have used that ten points they gave up by nominating Clinton for the general election.]

Bonus Quote

Trump claims the United States’ trade deal with China is unfair. Of course it is. The United States sends China high-quality American-made products, and in exchange China sends back the Donald J. Trump signature suit collection .–James Corden

Junk Both Major Parties

Jennifer Rubin is right about the Republican Party, but her recommendation to junk the Republican Party applies to both parties. The specifics differ but the general principles apply to either party. The conservative columnist wrote:

I get asked a lot what I think is the future of the Republican Party. These days, with increasing conviction, I say that it doesn’t have one. You need not look beyond the Roy Moore allegations to understand why it’s better just to start from fresh…

I would like to think that Americans have gotten a good look at this Frankenstein-esque party and will repudiate it in 2018 and 2020. I still carry the belief (bolstered by Tuesday’s election) that most Americans have not lost their minds and souls.

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative 2016 presidential candidate, says, “It’s time for the GOP to start over with new leaders, new solutions, new strategies, and a new commitment to basic human decency and American values.” I would add: And a new name, a new logo and …  well, just junk the whole thing. Its brand, as they say, has been tarnished, and virtually none of its political leaders possess the moral judgment and intellectual honesty to hold office in the future.

What will be the excuse for enabling Trump and sticking by Trumpism, for sublimating every other value to tribal protection? The GOP needs the Senate seat. We can’t let the left win. But the Supreme Court! These are not defensible arguments if your highest priorities are democracy, decency and the rule of law. They are the childish arguments of people who see politics as a game in which you always root for the home team.

How could one “rebrand” this, or trust these people again? I find it hard to imagine how. So the future of the GOP? It’s either a nationalist front party or a battleground mostly between Trumpists and strident ultra-right-wingers whose platform (repeal Obamacare; corporate tax cuts; reckless foreign policy that imagines war with Iran and/or North Korea are viable options) is unacceptable to the vast majority of the country. It’s not a civil war in which I’d have a favorite side.

In short, the GOP, I think, is kaput. The real question is what sprouts up to fill some of that space, the ground occupied by those who favor reform conservatism; responsible internationalism; free trade and robust immigration; tolerance and the rule of law; and market economics with an ample safety net. I don’t have the answer. I only know it cannot be the GOP.

While the specific issues might vary, so much of this could be changed to liberals/progressives and the Democratic Party, including in response to liberals who used the Supreme Court as justification for voting for a corrupt warmonger like Hillary Clinton despite how she has spent her career undermining liberal values.

Russian Facebook Ads And Tweets Turning Out To Represent A Minuscule Percent Of Their Traffic

It increasingly looks like a journalist can simply put out a headline with Russia and either Facebook or Twitter in it and create hysteria. Despite all the hype, we learned during the recent Congressional testimony that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton.

It also looks like the biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election.

Today’s hysterical headline is about Twitter, but looks far less scary when looking at the details. Apparently there were trolls on Twitter supporting Donald Trump. There is an enormous number of tweets going out every minute on Twitter, and a tweet does nothing if someone is not following the person tweeting. According to this article, the largest of these Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer. These are far from widely viewed tweets. It also seems a safe bet that if these accounts were tweeting pro-Trump material, they were primarily followed by pro-Trump individuals and it is questionable whether they could actually change votes, especially considering the far larger number of people tweeting in favor of both Trump and Clinton.

The likelihood of them impacting the election appears even less after noting that of the tweets attributed to troll accounts Russia’s Internet Research Agency, only  “9 percent of the tweets were election-related .”

Most likely we are seeing a combination of things going on. There were probably Tweets and Facebook ads designed to disrupt American politics in general without supporting a particular candidate. There were many which had nothing to do with the election, very likely posts from Russian troll farms designed to obtain page hits, sometimes by making controversial comments. There very well could have also been some intentionally posted to try to help Donald Trump–but considering how small a percentage of overall Facebook and Twitter traffic they represented, it is absurd to say they were more important than Hillary Clinton’s war chest of over one billion dollars, and many others helping her (including paid trolls for Clinton). Even former Clinton adviser Mark Penn has written that this is not what cost Clinton the election.

Russia very likely has been misbehaving–as they have for decades, and as the United States government has. According to a paper of election meddling reviewed by Slate:

Using declassified documents, statements by officials, and journalistic accounts, Levin has found evidence of interference by either the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia in 117 elections around the world between 1946 and 2000, or 11.3 percent of the 937 competitive national-level elections held during this period. Eighty-one of those interventions were by the U.S. while 36 were by the USSR/Russia. They happened in every region of the world, though most commonly in Europe and Latin America. The two powers tended to focus on different countries, though Italy was a favorite of both, receiving eight interventions by the U.S. and four by the Soviets.

We should certainly work towards making Facebook and Twitter more transparent so people know when they are reading ads purchased by Russians. We should not be so naive as to think that we can control what appears on line in the internet age. We should also not take this to mean that there was some sort of unique conspiracy to push Clinton over Trump on social media in 2016. As was revealed in Shattered, Clinton came up with the excuse that Russia cost her the election within twenty-four hours of losing to distract from her own mistakes which cost her the election.

While there are legitimate responses to this issue, this should not be used as an excuse to restrict freedom of speech. The dangers from restricting free communication on Facebook and Twitter are far greater than the actual risk of Russia using social media to alter election results. The consequence of this hysteria has been to censor Americans on social media as I and others have been pointing out. This is what we must concentrate on avoiding. We also must be cautious about playing into neocon propaganda, with many of those now making the same noise attacking Russia are the same people who got this country into a war based upon false claims about Iraq and WMD.

Biden Writes In Memoir That He Did Not Run For President Fearing Dirty Campaign From Clinton Supporters

One year ago the Democrats lost an election to a candidate as awful as Donald Trump. They lost not because of Russia, and not because of James Comey. They lost because of giving the nomination to a candidate as awful as Hillary Clinton. In a normal year Joe Biden would have probably have been the establishment candidate and, while he would not personally be my first choice, he probably could have beaten Donald Trump easily. In his upcoming memoir,  Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, Joe Biden wrote that he did not run because of being threatened with a dirty campaign by Hillary Clinton supporters.

The Telegraph is one of the newspapers which quoted portions of Biden’s memoir:

Joe Biden knew he could beat Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but decided not to run because he feared a “stop at nothing” smear campaign by her supporters, he reveals in a new memoir.

The man who served as Barack Obama’s vice-president remains a favourite among party faithful, many of whom believe he would have fared better in the states that delivered the White House to Donald Trump.

His words are certain to deepen splits among Democrats following their defeat and reignite speculation the 74-year-old is preparing for one last run.

In Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, due to be published next week, Mr Biden discusses his decision not to stand in the wake of his son Beau’s death.

He describes meeting Mrs Clinton in February 2015 when she was preparing her campaign and probing his plans.

“But if I ran, I told her, I would not run a negative campaign. She said the same,” he writes, in excerpts published by Mail Online, but then she added: “Although some of our supporters can get out of hand sometimes, it would not be me.”

After his son’s death, the Biden family had to deal with more upheaval when his other son, Hunter, left his wife for Beau’s widow.

That summer he received messages urging him to stand but had an ominous feeling that “the opposition research had already started on me”.

He does not say who the opposition was, but describes how negative stories began appearing in the media about past political positions.

“And Clinton backers sent the signal that they would not stop at voting records and policies if I did get in the race,” he writes.

Biden is being overly kind to Clinton in blaming her supporters and not Clinton herself. It has been typical of Clinton to claim innocence of some of the dirtiest acts of her supporters, such as launching the Birther campaign against Barack Obama during the 2008 nomination battle. I think that Biden is smart enough to see through this. Regardless, we certainly know how dirty and dishonest many of Clinton’s supporters are and can understand Biden’s concerns.

Excerpts From Hacks Contradict Claims From Clinton Apologists

Skimming through Donna Brazile’s book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, I have so far found just a couple excerpts worth quoting to shed more light on the story. I previously discussed the initial media reports about the book here, and have follow up information information here. The second post includes information debunking false claims made by Clinton supporters.

Clinton supporters have often claimed that Clinton deserved the nomination more than Bernie Sanders because of she was raising money for other candidates. While this would not justify nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton, Brazile’s book shows that this isn’t even factually true. This is seen in this excerpt from chapter 10 of Hacks:

Right around the time of the convention the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. A Politico story published on May 2, 2016, described the big fund-raising vehicle she had launched through the states the summer before, quoting a vow she had made to rebuild “the party from the ground up… when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially… money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

After the release of information from Brazile’s book, Clinton supporters made a number of false claims including that the funding agreement didn’t take effect until after the primaries were over and that Bernie Sanders was offered the same agreement. While this is debunked in my previous post, Hacks also showed that this was not the case:

The other campaigns—Martin O’Malley and Bernie—also signed victory fund agreements that kicked in should they secure the nomination, not seven months before. They also did not specify as much immediate control from the campaign as the one Hillary signed with the DNC.

While this line has been widely quoted for the past week, it is also worth repeating:

The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.

There is no doubt that it was unethical. It remains to be seen whether this attempt to evade federal campaign finance laws was legal.

As I noted in the previous post, Donna Brazile has been trying to walk back her accusations that the nomination was rigged, but while doing so said that the Clinton campaign was a cult.

Donna Brazile Says Clinton Campaign Was A Cult

During an interview on Morning Joe, Donna Brazile made another statement which will upset establishment Democrats, calling the Clinton campaign a cult:

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said during Brazile’s appearance on the MSNBC show on Wednesday that he thinks President Trump won the 2016 election because of mistakes the Clinton campaign made, former FBI director James Comey and the influence of Russia.

“I’ll put it all in there, but it should have never been a close race,” he said.

He then asked: “Why did they lose? Was it at the end of the day arrogance?”

“It was a cult,” Brazile said. “I felt like it was a cult. You could not penetrate them.”

Brazile has also been trying to walk back her previous description of the nomination battle  between Clinton and Sanders as rigged, despite the evidence from Wikileaks, the class action suit against the DNC, the multiple rules used by the DNC to tilt the results, a previous confession from Tom Perez that it was rigged, and the evidence presented in her own book. Most likely by later this week Brazile will try to walk back her statement that the Clinton campaign was a cult, perhaps saying it was a religion instead.

In other news coming out about her book, The Washington Examiner reports that Brazile felt betrayed by Jake Tapper for criticism of her for providing debate questions to Hillary Clinton. While I remain grateful to Brazile for the information she did divulge which added to the massive amount of evidence that the nomination was rigged, she is certainly not presenting herself as a person of principle.

Update:

Excerpts From Hacks Contradict Claims From Clinton Apologists

Non-Establishment Candidates Show They Can Achieve Victories For Democrats

Yesterday was a good day for Democrats, including many progressives. Democrats desperately needed this win and should be happy about the anti-Trump backlash in yesterday’s elections, but also should realize that it would have been an anti-Democratic backlash instead if Clinton was in the White House. Having Donald Trump in the White House, and not having Hillary Clinton on the ballot, made a huge difference for Democrats compared to a year ago. Hopefully Democrats won’t take yesterday’s results to mean more than it really does and ignore how unpopular the party actually is, only polling slightly better than the Republicans.

The lesson which the Democratic establishment should learn is that many candidates who they would consider unelectable won, while an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton couldn’t even beat Donald Trump a year ago. Notable wins include Danica Roem winning in Viriginia, an openly transgender candidate beating a socially conservative incumbent, and Jenny Durkan becoming the first openly lesbian mayor, and its first woman mayor since the 1920. (The only other openly lesbian mayor of a major city is Jackie Biskupski in Salt Lake City.)

The Intercept also noted that, A Year After Trump, Democrats, Socialists, And Populists Sweep Elections, pointing out these victories (as well as some losses in the full article):

A CIVIL RIGHTS attorney who delights in suing the police is the new district attorney in Philadelphia. A democratic socialist shocked an incumbent Republican in Virginia. A black woman who prosecuted a white cop for shooting a black teenager was re-elected as prosecutor. Three months after Charlottesville, a black lieutenant governor was elected in Virginia. A transgender woman who focused on traffic problems knocked out a longtime culture warrior who focused on bathrooms. A criminal justice reformer flipped the Washington stateSenate to Democrats. A wet bag of mulch beat a race-baiting lobbyist in Virginia by a stunning nine points. Maine voters expanded Medicaid. Long-held Republican seats in Georgia flipped in a special election. New Jersey, finished with Gov. Chris Christie, elected a Democrat in a landslide…

A year ago, Bernie Sanders ran an insurgent campaign that helped popularize democratic socialism and resurgent populism among American progressives. On Tuesday, populist candidates won in places you may not expect — from Manassas, Virginia to Knoxville, Tennessee.

In Virginia, Democratic Socialists of America-backed Lee Carter defeated the GOP whip Jackson Miller in the House of Delegates. Richmond-Times Dispatch reporter Patrick Wilson noted that the state Democratic Party offered little support to Carter. He won anyway. Numerous wings of the broader party united behind Carter, including factions, such as Planned Parenthood, who had backed Hillary Clinton last year.

Across the country, DSA candidates took offices, winning both as Democrats and independents. Socialist Seema Singh Perez won a seat on the Knoxville City Council. In Pittsburgh, a pair of DSA-backed candidates won, including Mik Pappas, an independent candidate who defeated a 24-year incumbent Democrat to become the 31st Magisterial District judge. Pappas ran strong on criminal justice reform, focusing on restorative justice rather than punitive measures.

In Somerville, Massachusetts, DSA members JT Scott and Ben Ewen-Campen unseated long-time incumbents to join the Board of Aldermen. DSA member Charles Decker will represent Ward 9 in New Haven, Connecticut.

And in Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner — also backed by DSA — will soon take office promising to radically overhaul the city’s criminal justice system.

Huffington Post has more information on some of the winners.

The Democrats have a narrow path to retaking the House next year. A backlash towards Trump can only go so far, and the Democrats’ lead in the generic polls hardly guarantees victory. In order to achieve more than a dead cat bounce the Democrats will need to do more than be the lesser evil party. They will have to give voters a reason to support them beyond opposing Republicans. Hopefully they will learn from last night’s results that running Republican-lite candidates such as in 2010, 2014, and 2016 was not a good strategy.