Donald Trump Misled By Fox About James Comey

There are two things which Donald Trump must do if he is to gain any degree of credibility–give up watching Fox and Tweeting every idiotic thing which comes into his head. (Okay, he probably needs to do even more than that, but it would be a start). It looks like Trump made a false charge against Comey based upon a misleading story he saw on Fox.

Philip Bump explained in greater detail, but the gist is that Comey gave a memo of a meeting with Trump to a friend. Comey also wrote memos on his meetings which contained classified information. Fox, and then Trump, then claimed that Comey broke the law by giving his friend a memo with classified information. However, the memo which Comey gave to the friend was not one of the memos which contained classified information. Comey had written a total of seven memos after nine meetings with Trump. Four of the seven memos are marked as secret or classified. This did not include the memo which Comey gave to the friend.

Jake Tapper has a report further showing that Trump’s attack was untrue:

The Columbia University Law School professor and confidant of former FBI Director James Comey refuted a charge by President Donald Trump and his advocates in the media Monday: that Comey shared classified information with journalists.

Daniel Richman, with whom Comey shared at least one memo — the contents of which Richman shared with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt — said President Trump was simply wrong.

“No memo was given to me that was marked ‘classified,'” Daniel Richman told CNN. “No memo was passed on to the Times.”

Richman did share the contents of one memo, he said, but “the substance of the memo passed on to the Times was not marked classified and to my knowledge remains unclassified.”

Trump needs to learn that the claims made on Fox are often fictitious pieces of propaganda, and not things he should repeat or base his claims on. He certainly should not attempt to govern based upon what he hears on Fox.

Cutting Through Trump’s Game of Distraction

Guest Post by Sandra

It’s hard to tell if Trump and his administration really have an agenda. He won the presidency being “anti-everything,” but this “rage against the machine” attitude doesn’t really offer much as a guiding principle for policy making. This lackluster approach combined with the drama surrounding the Russia investigation, the President’s attacks on the media and his empty threats about North Korea give the impression of chaos and disorder, and subsequently, of inaction.

This can be seen clearly by the repeated failure of the new health care bill. Trump’s only promise was to repeal “Obamacare,” putting himself in line with this “anti-everything” approach, but because he and his advisers have no real plan for an alternative, the bills being drawn up in Congress are downright awful, leading them to stall and generating doubt about whether something will ever get done.

However, this illusion of inactivity does not tell the whole story. Things are getting done, albeit slowly, but more concerning, they are getting done with very little public attention. Without drifting too far into conspiracy theories, we have to wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along. We’re seeing a clear case of Noam Chomsky’s “anti-politics.” The happenings of Washington are so repulsive to the ordinary citizen that many are turning their backs on Washington, paving the way for corporate power to advance quietly in the background. Here is something the current government has done, the consequences of which should be concerning for those interested in preserving democracy.

The Financial CHOICE Act

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? Of course. Who could forget it? Well, after decades of deregulating Wall Street, the world paid a heavy price, and the response by the Obama administration was to push through new regulations to make sure nothing like that could ever happen again. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, more commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank, was born from this idea. It includes countless new regulations for banks to prevent them from making overly risky loans that could lead to instability.

If you haven’t seen it already, the film The Big Short gives an entertaining, although disturbing, version of the events leading up to the crash, and if there is one big takeaway, it’s that the lack of oversight on the banks was a huge driver of what turned out to be the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The film is available on Netflix, which you can access even if you’re restricted by location.

However, the Dodd-Frank bill is not perfect. It includes over 20,000 pages of regulations, and it makes some pretty black and white distinctions among banks. Specifically, it outlines rules for banks based on the value of assets, not the level of risk. This has led many smaller community banks to speak out against the bill, saying it prevents them from being able to expand their business because they have to dedicate so many resources to regulation-related paperwork. Others say this is what the bill was supposed to do—limit risky loans—but others say it goes too far. Regardless, it is clear Dodd-Frank could use some reform.

And so Trump and his Republican House reformed it by passing the Financial CHOICE Act. In general, the bill is modest. It reduces some of the red tape banks need to cut through to grant loans, making it easier for them to provide capital to interested borrowers. But the concerning part of the bill is the reduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency was created from Dodd-Frank and serves as a way for consumers to file complaints about banking fraud, to get information on the practices of other banks and to correct errors in reporting (specifically credit reporting).

In the new bill, the CFPB will be prohibited from banning “abusive” products, and it will have an entirely new leadership structure (a bipartisan committee of five people). Given the current state of Washington politics, the word “bipartisan” could easily be replaced with “do-nothing.” It’s hard to imagine the agency having any real direction without clear leadership from the top.

While Republicans are claiming the Financial CHOICE Act is a way to reduce unnecessary government regulation to help community banks, it’s hard to see how reducing the reach of the CFPB does that. One of the main reasons the 2008 crisis happened was that banks were able to operate largely in secret. They were using seriously questionable tactics, but no one was looking over their shoulder until it was too late. Had an agency like the CFPB existed during this time period, perhaps the damage would not have been so bad.

Reforming the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank bill shows a willingness in Washington to slowly drift back to the days where darkness clouded the banking industry, allowing it to do as it wishes while ordinary citizens bicker over daily controversies. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, but all signs point to a similar approach, and since Republicans have the majority, there might not be much hope of stopping it.

It is not a big leap to say we are in this political predicament because of the 2008 crisis. The consequences of decades of growing inequality and stagnant wage growth were unleashed with the banking collapse. Millions saw their futures disappear in a matter of minutes, and the anger arising from this has polarized even more what was already a divided country. But the answer to this is not more bank deregulation. However, with so many distractions going on in Washington, it is easy to see why this issue has not received much attention, but the potential consequences of this critical first step by Wall Street to return to the glory days of deregulation should be more than enough cause for concern. Much like a magician, Trump is using this “anti-everything” strategy to keep people focused elsewhere so that corporate America can continue its infiltration into politics and its seemingly endless expansion of power.

What do you think of the Financial CHOICE Act? Is it needed reform or a way to return power to the already mighty banks? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

About the Author: Sandra is an alternative news blogger who focuses largely on politics. She is concerned the circus that Washington has become distracts us too much from the important issues. As such, she frequently writes about things such as bank regulation, internet privacy and security, and corporate power, as she considers these to be fundamental issues that few are talking about.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Americans; American Gods

I looked at the regular season finale of Doctor Who, The Doctor Falls, last week. The episode ended with Peter Capaldi fighting his inevitable regeneration. Peter Capaldi discussed why he is leaving the show with Radio Times:

Why make this your final series?

I love this show, but I’ve never done anything where you turn up every day for ten months. I want to always be giving it my best and I don’t think if I stayed on I’d be able to do that. I can’t think of another way to say, “This could be the end of civilisation as we know it.”

With episodic television of any genre, the audience wants the same thing all the time – but the instinct that leads the actor is not about being in a groove…

What’s the hardest part of being the Doctor?

Doctor Who is a hugely challenging show to write and to act in. It has to turn on a dime from comedy to terror to tragedy. It’s a children’s show that developed into something more complex, a bit more adult-orientated, but we have a duty to play to the seven-year-old as well as the 42-year-old. Sometimes you have to be more comic than you’d normally be comfortable with, but it’s important.

How would you describe your Doctor?

The Doctor is deeply sad – I think he always has been. When you’re wise and you’ve lived a very long time, that’s how you’d be. Although you have to be careful with very human emotions and the Doctor because he’s an alien. It’s more straightforward to play the human elements, but then it might as well be a cop show…

What can you say about your regeneration?

I can’t go into the details. I know what happens, but I don’t know how it happens. Certainly it’s not straightforward. It’s more complicated than recent ones. That’s one of the appeals of being in the show – it has death at the heart of it. He’s the only hero on TV who dies again and again.

The article also includes interviews with Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. From the interview with Steven Moffat:

How would you describe your Doctors?

He is someone who’s running towards everything at once because he might miss it. He doesn’t understand why anyone would do the same thing every day or sit in the same room every day. He doesn’t understand why you would live a life in safety when you could be running from fires and explosions. He doesn’t understand why we volunteer to be dull – he needs to be out there and experiencing everything at once.

Along the way, of course, he helps people and people start to think of him as this great hero, but he doesn’t understand that – he’s just running past people and seeing that they need help, so he helps. Actors either have it or they don’t. The first time I saw Matt Smith – only the second person to audition for the role – you could instantly tell that he was Doctor Who. There was nothing clever about saying, “Well, obviously it’s him.”

In another interview, Moffat discussed possibly leaving a cliffhanger for Chris Chibnall, and the problem with gender pronouns when dealing with Missy and the Master:

After talking about the — incestuous? masturbatory? — vibes between Missy and The Master, something previous Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies wanted more of when Moffat told him about his plans to bring back Simm, Moffat revealed that he thought about ending his tenure as showrunner with a cliffhanger that incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall would have to resolve.

“We concocted this whole scheme that I’d cliffhanger out of my era of Doctor Whoand hand over to Chris with Missy telling the Master and the Doctor that she’s pregnant,” Moffat revealed. “I decided not to do that. Over to you, Chibs. Sort that one out, mate.”

While Moffat admitted that the idea was just “email lunacy,” he also called for a societal change as a result of his experience talking about the character’s gender.

“We have to ban gender pronouns. I can no longer talk about the character of the Master ‘slash’ Missy without having to go ‘slash.’ It’s exhausting,” Moffat complained. “Let’s just rid of them. It’s a stupid idea in the first place. What do we need them for?”

We still have the Christmas episode to look forward to. The Doctor has sometimes seen previous companions at the time of his regeneration, and it has been reported that Jenna Coleman will be appearing in the episode. There is no information as to whether this will show what has happened since she went off to explore the universe, or if this will be a visit with Clara Oswald from earlier in her life, or perhaps just something in the Doctor’s head. Jenna Coleman currently stars on Victoria.

Of course leaving Doctor Who won’t be the end for Steven Moffat. In a recent radio interview, he left open the possibility of Sherlock returning for another season. Variety reports that Steven Moffat and Marc Gatiss are working on an adaptation of Dracula. Like Sherlock, it will consist of short seasons of feature length episodes. No word as to where and when this will be set.

Besides last week’s finale of Doctor Who, other shows have had season finales worth noting. I have recently discussed iZombie here, and The Leftovers and Fargo here. Due to traveling and other distractions, I have fallen behind on other finales and will catch up on a couple more today–The Americans and American Gods. In the near future I also hope to look back at the finales of additional shows including The Handmaid’s Tale, Gotham, Veep, and Better Call Saul. Plus there should be a lot more news on next season’s shows as we get into Comic Con.

The Americans has been one of the best dramas on television the last several years. Much of this season was to set up the final season next year, and the ending this year felt somewhat like a tease. It looked like Philip and Elizabeth might return home, but obviously that could not happen until the end of next season, if it ever does happen. Instead they were given a reason to remain at the last minute. Stan also suggested he might leave his position at the FBI, but Renee quickly argued that he should not. That is also a tease for the viewers who have been wondering (along with Elizabeth and Philip) if Renee is a Russian spy who wanted Stan to remain where he is for her own reasons. Of course Stan had no such thoughts. TV Line interviewed the producers and asked about this scene:

TVLINE | In the finale, we also saw Renee try to talk Stan into staying with the FBI. Is he starting to get suspicious of her? And will Laurie Holden be back next season?
WEISBERG | [Laughs] No comment on the latter. Nice try! But on the former, we don’t particularly think so. Stan would have no more reason to be suspicious of the woman he’s dating than he does the neighbors across the street.

Deadline also discussed the finale with Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Topics included where the show will be going in the final season, whether it will lead into the collapse of the Soviet Union, and whether Donald Trump will appear. Here are some excepts:

DEADLINE: So, after all that anticipation this season, a big CIA catch means Philip and Elizabeth are not heading home to the Soviet Union. So what’s next?

WEISBERG: Still not going home. They still can’t get home. It was so close though, so close. They’re not only not going home, but it sure sounds like Philip is quitting his job — at least his spy job. It sounds like he’s going to work at the travel agency full time.

DEADLINE: Well, I doubt you mean that, but it did seem like you had Keri’s character looking for a reason not to return home, which, of course, is a real turn for her from her contempt for the West that has fueled much of the series.

WEISBERG: We think that she was being sincere in what she told Philip about why she couldn’t go back. Whether she was dying to go back, having second thoughts about going back, whatever it was, it felt to us like that was classical Elizabeth Jennings that when duty calls she had to answer the call. It was certain she couldn’t go home when she and Philip now have their hooks in the new head of the Soviet division at the CIA.

DEADLINE: Which brings us to the sixth and final season for next year. With history catching up to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, will we see Season 6 pick up from the Season 5 events of 1984 or move ahead in time toward a real resolution?

FIELDS: Dominic, you know we don’t like to give away really anything, but probably one thing we’re willing to say is that there’s going to be a resolution. Sometimes people will ask about The Americans. Is it moving slowly? Is anything happening? I think we are all willing to give away that there is something that most people who speak the English language would be willing to call a real ending…

DEADLINE: For a show so authentically drenched in the 1980s, there is one real-life character I’ve always been sure we would see one day on The Americans, a certain Art Of The Deal author who really became known back in the Reagan Era. So why hasn’t Donald Trump appeared on The Americans, even in the background or as an aside?

FIELDS: You know, it’s a funny thing. Had Donald Trump not become such a prominent part of our lives today, he certainly could have appeared in the background of the show (both laugh). Joking aside, that’s exactly the sort of reference we feel we could never make in the show, because it would have a self-conscious link. We feel would take the audience out of the experience of being immersed in the show and yank them back into today, and really isn’t the whole point of watching TV today to not have to think about today?

DEADLINE: So, going into Season 6, we’ll never see Donald Trump on The Americans?

FIELDS: I think as much as we try to prevent spoilers I am confident in saying we won’t. Joe, are you OK with that spoiler?

WEISBERG: I think we can say he’s not going to be in the show. Although, if you print that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a call from him asking to be in the show.

The Hollywood Reporter looked at the final minutes of the finale of American Gods and how they are likely to lead into the second season:

While Wednesday’s true identity is certainly an important revelation for the series, it’s not the stopping point most fans of the Gaiman novel would have expected for the season. Instead, those fans were likely expecting to see Wednesday, Shadow and some of the other deities — including Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy and Peter Stormare as Czernobog — arriving at the The House on the Rock, the site of what’s easily the single most iconic moment from the source material.

Based on the real-life Wisconsin tourist attraction of the same name, the House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly designed by Alex Jordan Jr. and originally opened in 1959. For those unfamiliar, the YouTube channel Atlas Obscura has an excellent breakdown of the “mind-tripping brain warp” nature of this extremely unusual location, which you can watch below.

In the fifth chapter of Gaiman’s book, Wednesday takes Shadow to the House on the Rock, and he explains it as “a place of power,” due to its nature as a roadside attraction. He says: “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples, or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”

…Shadow finally speaks Odin’s true name, and once he does, the whisper becomes louder and louder until it’s an undeniable echo, bellowing within a great hall in which Wednesday conducts his meeting with the other gods. From this point forward, Shadow knows that the oddities he’s experienced during his travels with Wednesday are more real than he could have ever imagined.

It’s a massive turning point in Gaiman’s novel, and given that the climactic scene occurs little more than 100 pages into the book, many fans expected to see the House on the Rock sequence in the season one finale. Instead, what they saw was Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) driving on a bus past a sign for the House on the Rock in the final scene of the season — a promise that the sequence is very much still ahead, albeit a bit further down the line than expected.

While the House on the Rock’s veritable absence from the finale is certainly disappointing for the book-reading faithful, it wasn’t without some warning. Fuller told THR before the season’s launch that due to some episode restructuring, budget that would have gone toward the House on the Rock sequence was instead repurposed to streamline the show’s narrative. What’s more, given that the first season of American Gods didn’t quite crack the first 100 pages of the book (with a total count of 541 pages in the updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, including forewords and afterwards), fans can rest assured that the show will adapt almost every granular detail of the novel — eventually, anyway.

Deadline interviewed Michael Green and Bryan Fuller about the finale. Here are some excerpts, beginning with a question about House on the Rock:

DEADLINE: Where does the end of this season leave us, going into Season 2 and going into the rest of Neil’s book?

GREEN: Precariously. We always knew we wanted to end the season with our weight tilted towards House on the Rock. We talked a lot, early on about wanting to get there and even starting that story, then advancing the narrative that far. But we enjoyed our time with our characters so much and were doing so many things that took so much time and resources that we realized that we had a very interesting and satisfying ending with Wednesday taking his first real aggressive stance against the new gods. With him saying, ‘You were very, very unwise to count me out and to speak in those tones to me.’ So Wednesday has the upper hand in two ways, he is taking a shot across the bow that’s going to hurt the new gods and he has a believer in Shadow Moon. Those are two things that are not without significance.

DEADLINE: With where we are in terms of Neil’s book, will that play a big part in the consequences of Season 2?

FULLER: I think the bigger interpersonal dramas that are waiting for us in Season two that excites us greatly is the notion of Laura Moon versus Mr. Wednesday. We see, by the end of the season, that Laura understands that Wednesday had her assassinated, specifically, to put Shadow in this situation. We always talked about Laura becoming that metaphor for the last Catholic who can, you know, shake her fist at the sky, and say, “Fuck you, God.” But now she actually gets to say it to a real god and she’s a god that she can get her hands on so what is she going to do next?

DEADLINE: You strode into some sprawling themes in Season 1–faith, obviously, but also immigration, gun violence, race, sexism. From the reaction online and elsewhere, it felt like the audience was very receptive to those conversations and those discussions. Did that surprise you?

GREEN: I feel like the people who wouldn’t be receptive to those conversations aren’t watching the show…

DEADLINE: Speaking of anger, one of the new characters invented for the series was Corbin Bernsen’s god Vulcan. He appeared to meet a fiery end but are we going to see more newly created characters for Season 2?

FULLER: Yes but you know, there’s lots of new characters to come into this world that were part of this story in the book as well as some that weren’t that we want to include. We’re excited about Mama-Ji and we’re excited about Sam Black Crow. There were a lot of characters that we want to start weaving into the mythology of the television series, and we’re really excited about seeing characters from the first season, again, that you may not expect to see again.

DEADLINE: Obviously, a character we fully expect to see more of is Shadow Moon. Over Season 1, we’ve seen him go from a very closed, almost one-dimensional character, who is trying to find his way to someone or something, who now at the finale, has literally and figuratively seen the world open up in front of him and maybe some sense of who he really is becoming close to home now. How is that arc moving forward in Season 2?

FULLER: Well, it has to move forward in a proactive way for his character. So much of what we had in the first season was Shadow as passenger to the narrative He was in a situation where he had everything removed from him, so he didn’t know what he wanted as a character. He just knew that he had to fill his days. Now that he understands a little bit more about the world and the world of gods, we get to witness him as an apostle of sorts – and see what kind of apostle he could be.

The Wrap has more with Bryan Fuller. The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Neil Gaiman.

Trump’s Income From Clubs Creates Ethics Concerns

Donald Trump might be an inept president, but he does understand personal promotion to make money. McClatchy reports on how Donald Trump has a steady stream of income from initiation fees to his expensive clubs:

Whether it’s the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship starts Monday; the club outside the nation’s capital, where the president often spends time over the weekend; the historic Mar-a-Lago Club, where he hosted the president of China and the prime minister of Japan; or one of his other exclusive addresses, each collects a hefty initiation fee from new members — up to $450,000 per person, with annual dues on top of that.

Trump has benefited greatly from these initiation fees for years. Even back when it was typical for membership fees to take the form of refundable deposits, he broke with the norm for such clubs by taking the money for himself, according to documents and interviews.

In 2004, Trump had access to nearly $100 million from refundable fees from members at just four clubs, including Mar-a-Lago, the resort in Palm Beach, Fla. that Trump has dubbed the Winter White House, according to a personal financial statement written by his accountant that year and obtained by McClatchy.

Reporting by McClatchy, including nearly 20 interviews and hundreds of pages of documents — some from litigation involving Trump and his businesses — shows that the president put in place unusual policies that allowed him to keep the high one-time fees charged to new members and put language in his club rules that allowed him to spend the money on anything he wanted.

“It’s definitely unusual,” said Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, who has been in the golf club business for two decades. “It certainly reflects a clever and shrewd way to raise capital.”
Having a shrewd way to raise money might be okay if done by a private citizen, but there are ethical concerns when the president is doing this while in office:

Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his businesses while president, including his nearly 20 clubs across the globe, has been sharply criticized by ethics experts who cite a litany of potential problems: Will the president’s proposals on taxes, environmental rules and labor regulations benefit his bottom line? Are members and their guests gaining unfair access to the president? Is the president violating the Constitution by accepting money from foreign officials? Do local and state leaders feel pressure to make decisions that could favor Trump’s businesses?

“I don’t think we have anything to compare this to in presidential history,” said John Wonderlich, executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group. “He is refusing to acknowledge that the office is bigger than his business.”

In the more than five months he has been in office, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago on 25 days and his golf clubs on 36 days, sometimes more than once a day, according to a compilation of information released by the White House.

The visits have led to a flurry of publicity that could boost the clubs’ popularity and revenue, fueling questions among experts as to whether he is using the presidency to make more money.

This report comes a day after the director of the Office of Government Ethics resigned, noting the need to strengthen the ethics program. From The Washington Post:

The director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, who has been the federal government’s most persistent critic of the Trump administration’s approach to ethics, announced Thursday that he is resigning nearly six months before his term is scheduled to end.

Walter M. Shaub Jr. repeatedly challenged the Trump administration, publicly urging President Trump to fully divest from his business empire and chastising a senior Trump adviser for violating ethics rules. His outspokenness drew the ire of administration officials and earned him near-cult status among Trump’s opponents. ..

“In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program,” he said.

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Noam Chomsky On Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Russia, And Donald Trump

“There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers.”–Noam Chomsky

The New York Times has an interview with Noam Chomsky which is primarily about Donald Trump. I found his discussion of the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders to be among the more interesting portions. Following is an excerpt:

Take the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the most remarkable feature of the 2016 election. It is, after all, not all that surprising that a billionaire showman with extensive media backing (including the liberal media, entranced by his antics and the advertising revenue it afforded) should win the nomination of the ultra-reactionary Republican Party.

The Sanders campaign, however, broke dramatically with over a century of U.S. political history. Extensive political science research, notably the work of Thomas Ferguson, has shown convincingly that elections are pretty much bought. For example, campaign spending alone is a remarkably good predictor of electoral success, and support of corporate power and private wealth is a virtual prerequisite even for participation in the political arena.

The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support. There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.

Activism spawned by the campaign is beginning to make inroads into electoral politics. Under Barack Obama, the Democratic Party pretty much collapsed at the crucial local and state levels, but it can be rebuilt and turned into a progressive force. That would mean reviving the New Deal legacy and moving well beyond, instead of abandoning, the working class and turning into Clintonite New Democrats, which more or less resemble what used to be called moderate Republicans, a category that has largely disappeared with the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period.

Elsewhere in the interview, Chomsky said that, “The most important issues to address are the truly existential threats we face: climate change and nuclear war.” At the end he criticized those who see alleged Russian  hacking as being “the political crime of the century.”  Chomsky said:

The effects of the crime are undetectable, unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth, not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy. That’s even putting aside the record of U.S. “interference” in foreign elections, Russia included; the word “interference” in quotes because it is so laughably inadequate, as anyone with the slightest familiarity with recent history must be aware…

Is Russian hacking really more significant than what we have discussed — for example, the Republican campaign to destroy the conditions for organized social existence, in defiance of the entire world? Or to enhance the already dire threat of terminal nuclear war? Or even such real but lesser crimes such as the Republican initiative to deprive tens of millions of health care and to drive helpless people out of nursing homes in order to enrich their actual constituency of corporate power and wealth even further? Or to dismantle the limited regulatory system set up to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis that their favorites are likely to bring about once again? And on, and on.

Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner

During the 2016 campaign, Matthew Yglesias and Vox were often seen as a voice for Hillary Clinton and “Neoliberal Corporatism.” It is with this background that I find it significant that Yglesias now proclaims that Bernie Sanders is the Democrats’ real 2020 frontrunner. While many establishment Democrats continue to resist Sanders and his supporters to various degrees, there are signs such as this that others are acknowledging this reality.

The post by Yglesias makes some points which I have made in the past, leaves out some things of significance, and does have some interesting material which Sanders supporters might not be aware of.

Yglesias does repeat a point I have made previously, both in the context of one reason why Sanders lost, along with an explanation for why Sanders went on to back Clinton and try to work with the establishment. It is important to understand how things looked before Sanders entered the race. Clinton’s nomination appeared inevitable and nobody (including Sanders) thought he had a chance. Sanders two main goals were to force Democrats to consider his economic views, and to strengthen his position in the party in order to push his priorities in the future. As Vox put it:

By the time it was clear the Sanders 2016 campaign had legs, it was already fatally hobbled. Almost no one believed in the summer and fall of 2015 that he stood any chance of beating Hillary Clinton — and that included Sanders himself. As Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor reported last April, he “was originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination” and only began to really focus on trying to win when his poll numbers unexpectedly soared in early 2016.

Consequently, labor leaders who sympathized with Sanders’s critique of Clinton didn’t give any serious thought to actually endorsing him. Instead, they used his presence in the race as leverage to extract concessions on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Cadillac tax on high-value health insurance plans from Clinton.

And since Sanders was running to raise the profile of his issues rather than to win, he didn’t bother to develop much in the way of answers to foreign policy questions, even though Clinton’s record of support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her hawkish instincts were some of her biggest vulnerabilities with the Democratic Party base.

Elected officials were almost uniformly afraid to endorse him, even if their policy views were closer to his than to Clinton’s, and left-of-center think tanks — including ones that are deliberately positioned to the left of mainstream Democrats ideologically — shied away from working with Sanders on policy development, for fear that Clinton’s wrath would destroy them if they did.

I would also add that the view that he could not win also affected Sanders’ early strategy. He continued to work in the Senate and initially only campaigned part time. If he realized how close the campaign would be he might have campaigned more in 2015, including going to the Super Tuesday states and work earlier to increase minority support. He might also have protested more about the lack of early debates, and made an issue out of Clinton’s scandals.

The lack of early debates also brings up another point which Yglesias ignored–the degree to which the nomination was rigged for Clinton from the start. There was undoubtedly pressure to clear the field for her, and Wikileaks made it clear that the DNC was not following their own rules about neutrality. This has further been confirmed in the class action lawsuit against the DNC.

Rules since McGovern, including Super Delegates and front loading the process with southern states, were specifically written to get a more conservative nominee. The irony is that they failed to change with the times, and these rules gave the Democrats a nominee who could not even beat Donald Trump, while harming a strong general election candidate such as Sanders when he did arise.

Rather than reverse the outdated rules, the Democrats instead altered the rules even further in 2016 to help Clinton. This included limiting debates, changing fund raising rules, and refraining from announcing the popular vote in Iowa, which Sanders probably won, as was done in 2008. Harry Reid’s actions in Nevada, at a time when he claimed to be neutral, also helped tilt the race towards Clinton. Despite the primary process, Hillary Clinton was chosen in back rooms by the Democratic establishment in 2016 in a manner which was little different than how parties picked their nominees in the proverbial smoke filled rooms in the past, ultimately costing the Democrats the election.

Things will be different in 2020. Yglesias also points to how Sanders is building a team to expand upon the issues he raised in 2008. As I noted again yesterday, among the major reasons I supported Sanders were his opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, as opposed to the major issues he campaigned on. A future campaign will hopefully include these issues. Yglesias wrote:

Earlier this year, Sanders — who doesn’t sit on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, or Intelligence Committees — quietly added to his team Matt Duss, a veteran Middle East analyst known for looking askance at America’s tendency toward uncritical alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel. It’s a clear sign that Sanders, who had a keen interest in left-wing foreign policy as mayor of Burlington but hasn’t had much of a profile on the issue in Congress, is serious about being able to play competently on the full spectrum of issues.

Sanders also picked up Ari Rabin-Havt, best known in recent years for his Sirius XM radio show but previously an adviser for Harry Reid in his early years as Democrats’ Senate leader.

While Sanders is deepening his team in Washington, his national political organization Our Revolution is diligently working to get Sanders supporters elected to state and local offices. Critically, the list of Our Revolution winners — a group that includes House members, state legislators, state party chairs, and even city council members — is quite ethnically diverse. His camp is aware that 2016’s African-American outreach strategy was flawed in both concept and execution, and he’s setting himself up to be able to count on black and Latino elected officials from all regions of the country as surrogates while also courting national leaders like the NAACP’s William Barber.

Yglesias also says that Sanders is moderating his views, but if true he does remain well to the left of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton campaigned against single payer health care, Sanders continues to push for Medicare-for-all. I cannot disagree with Yglesias when he points out that Sanders’ age could be a problem in 2020. We will have to wait and see if he is still up to running. The post did look at other possible candidates should Sanders not run, concluding by saying that “Among the Bernie faithful the most frequently named fallback candidate isn’t the well-known Warren or labor-liberal warhorse Sherrod Brown. It’s Nina Turner…”

Yglesias ended with a strong argument that “It’s time to take Bernie Sanders seriously”

The Democratic Party establishment is, in many respects, in worse shape than it realizes.

Sanders’s insurgent campaign revealed a Democratic Party electorate that is fairly eager to embrace an ideological champion as a progressive counterpoint to the decidedly conservative GOP. The notion of pragmatism continues to carry weight, but having lost control of all three branches of the federal government and blundered to a point where Democrats don’t control the state Senate in New York or the governor’s mansion in Illinois, party leaders’ credentials as strategic masterminds are in question.

Last but by no means least, relying on African-American voters as a bulwark against left-wingery, as Clinton did, is tenuous as black views on economic policy are generally quite left-wing. Democrats now rely heavily for votes on the large — and very Democratic-leaning — millennial generation that lacks clear political memories of the Cold War or the booming neoliberal economy of the 1990s, so “socialism” isn’t a scare word for them, even as it remains unpopular nationally.

Sanders became their champion over the course of 2016 and continues to hold that status now. But while in 2016 he faced a unified — and intimidating — opponent and launched with a ramshackle campaign, today he has a strong national political organization, a proven fundraising track record, and is moving decisively to address his weak points on international affairs, policy development, and minority outreach. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world he’d also wave a magic wand and scrape 10 or 15 years off his age, but that’s not possible. The movement he’s created lacks an obviously more compelling successor, and he continues to be broadly popular with the public.

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. But if Bernie Sanders runs again, he’ll be hard to beat. And as far as one can tell, he’s doing everything you would do to set yourself up to run again.

While I often disagreed with Yglesias during the 2016 campaign, this is a far more realistic viewpoint than he expressed previously, and far more realistic than the delusional account of the race which Peter Daou posted on Facebook today.

Did Clinton Lose Because Of Being A Warmonger?

There are many theories as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. The most likely involve her being the most conservative, insider candidate conceivable in a year in which voters wanted a change, promises from Donald Trump (regardless of  whether he could keep them) of jobs, contrasted to Clinton’s views on trade deals, the terrible campaign run by Clinton which failed to give any good reasons to vote for Clinton beyond her gender and the view that it was her turn, and Clinton’s dishonesty canceling out Donald Trump’s negatives. The Clinton camp is sticking to their fallacious claims that she lost due to factors such as Russia, James Comey, and misogyny.

While economic issues do appear to have been more important, Reason has found a paper which suggests an another issue was responsible for Clinton’s loss in a post entitled, Did Endless War Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency?  

A new study attributes Donald Trump’s victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties.”

The paper—written by Douglas Kriner, a political scientist at Boston University, and Francis Shen, a law professor at the University of Minnesota—provides powerful lessons about the electoral viability of principled non-intervention, a stance that Trump was able to emulate somewhat on the campaign trail but so far has been incapable of putting into practice.

The study, available at SSRN, found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.

“Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county’s casualty rate and Trump’s electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant,” the paper noted. “Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

For myself, opposition to the warfare/surveillance state was a major criteria in voting. This is an area where my views overlap with those of the libertarians at Reason and was an issue in which they were closer to the views of the candidates from the left as opposed to Republican candidates. While Bernie Sanders stressed economic issues in the campaign, a major reason I voted for him was his opposition to both the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Unfortunately the Democratic Party used McGovern era rules, and then further changed the rules in 2016, to basically rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, who is both one of the most hawkish politicians on the political scene, and has a far right-wing record on civil liberties.

The post from Reason concluded by saying, “The paper by Kriner and Shen should be ample evidence that there will be space in the 2020 election cycle for a principled non-interventionist not just to run, but to win.” While I personally would like to see a candidate win based upon finally ending the wars begun under Bush, I am not so optimistic that this will be sufficient for a candidate to win.

On the other hand, I do prefer their attitude of encouraging candidates based upon principle as opposed to an effort described by Recode by Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman to “hack” the Democratic Party. Their project, entitled  Win the Future (yes, shortened to WTF) plans to adopt planks based upon an internet vote:

To start, the group will query supporters on two campaigns: Whether or not they believe engineering degrees should be free to all Americans, and if they oppose lawmakers who don’t call for Trump’s immediate impeachment.

A group which seeks to reform the Democratic Party but currently doesn’t know what it stands for sounds too much like the Democratic Party of today.

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers On Donald Trumps Fund Raiser

“Last night, President Trump hosted the first fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign. The event was black tie, but white guests. ” –Seth Meyers

Democrats Looking At 25th Amendment Option For Removal Of Trump

Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior in his attacks on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski has led to further talk about the possibility of removing Donald Trump from office if found to be mentally unfit. Twenty-five House Democrats are pursuing a bill to create a panel which could evaluate Trump’s mental competency under the 25th Amendment. Yahoo! News reports:

… 25 House Democrats, including the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, are now pushing an equally radical alternative: They are backing a bill that would create a congressional “oversight” commission that could declare the president incapacitated, leading to his removal from office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At 12:56 p.m. Thursday, barely four hours after Trump tweeted attacks against MSNBC cable host Mika Brzezinski in crude, personal terms, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the chief sponsor of the bill, sent out an email to his colleagues, urging them to get behind the measure, writing it was of “enduring importance to the security of our nation.”

“In case of emergency, break glass,” Raskin told Yahoo News in an interview. “If you look at the record of things that have happened since January, it is truly a bizarre litany of events and outbursts.” Asked if Trump’s latest tweets attacking Brzezinski and her co-host Joe Scarborough — which were roundly condemned by members of both parties as beneath the dignity of his office — strengthened the grounds for invoking the 25th Amendment, Raskin replied: “I assume every human being is allowed one or two errant and seemingly deranged tweets. The question is whether you have a sustained pattern of behavior that indicates something is seriously wrong.” After Trump’s Thursday morning tweets, four more Democrats signed on to Raskin’s bill, his office said Friday. (Brzezinski and Scarborough’s response to Trump’s tweets ran in today’s Washington Post under the headline, “The President is not well.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s tweets Thursday, saying he “fights fire with fire.”)

…Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, has seized on some largely overlooked language in Section 4 [of the 25th Amendment] as the basis for his bill. It turns out it doesn’t have to be the Cabinet that makes a finding of presidential incapacity. The section also permits “such other body as Congress may by law provide” — along with the vice president — to reach the same conclusion.

Yet in the 50 years since the 25th Amendment took effect, Congress has never set up such a body. Raskin’s bill would do so. It calls for the creation of an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity.” The commission would be a nonpartisan panel appointed by congressional leaders composed of four physicians, four psychiatrists and three others — such as former presidents, vice presidents or other former senior U.S. government officials. The commission, if directed by Congress through a concurrent resolution, would be empowered to conduct an examination of the president “to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically.”

Removal of the president under the 25th Amendment could be more difficult than impeachment. Impeachment requires the support of a simple majority of the House and then two-thirds of the Senate to remove the president. The 25th Amendment  requires the Vice President to support the process. If the president should be declared to be incapacitated, he could then challenge the action. It would take two-thirds of both Houses to agree in order to prevent the president from being reinstalled in office.

The advantage of this mechanism would be that it is much quicker than the full impeachment process, provided that the Vice President and super majorities of both Houses agree. It is far fetched that this could currently be done, but does provide an option if Trump’s behavior should deteriorate further to the point that there is agreement that he must be removed.

Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski Respond To Donald Trump’s Mental State

Over the last couple of days Donald Trump has both advocated repealing Obamacare without a replacement, which would lead to 26 million people losing insurance, and has insulted Mika Brzezinski. Based upon the media response, the later appears to be the more important story. Therefore, rather than another post on the Republican plans to destroy health care (such as here and here), I’ll look at the more important story of the day.

In a pair of tweets, Donald Trump claimed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came……to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Subsequently Joe Scarborough accused Trump of blackmailing them, demanding an apology for their negative coverage, or else a negative story about Scarborough and Brzezinski would be published in the Enquirer. Trump mistakenly thought people would actually give a damn over what the Enquirer had to say about their relationship.

New York Magazine summaries what occurred:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of@JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

The most interesting thing in all of this is that the Enquirer is owned by a guy named Pecker who is a friend of Donald Trump.

While Trump’s ability to express himself is generally often limited to short forms like Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski are capable of more detailed expression of their views. They did this in an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, Donald Trump is not well. Here are some excerpts:

The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”

…It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

Fox cites anonymous sources to say that Scarborough’s claims are not true (which I point out only to demonstrate how low Fox can get).

Melania Trump defended her husband:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Stephen Colbert had this rebuttal to Melania’s defense: “Yes, as the first lady says, ‘When they go low, we go 10 times lower.'”