October 28, 2018

Sunday School 10/28/18

I focused on a single classroom today - Face the Nation with John Dickerson on CBS, instead of trying to make it to a variety of the discussions.

Not surprisingly there was a lot of talk about the recent violence - pipe bombs sent to critics of the president, none of which detonated, and the horrible shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed and several more wounded.

Dickerson engaged all of his guests on the issues of partisanship, political rhetoric, and tribalism, and the answers were about what you would suspect from two of his guests, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator James Lankford; the two are co-chairs of a weekly prayer breakfast in the Senate.

Coons, for example, thought that it would be helpful when leaders appreciate that some of their arguments may have "inspired or encouraged deranged individuals to take actions" not supported by the politicians themselves to denounce hatred and to step away from the type of arguments that inspire bad acts.
It is important for us to recognize that there's more work that we can and should do to lower the temperature and tone in our national politics. 
Coons noted that the president had denounced anti-Semitism recently. Lankford echoed that, noting that the Pittsburgh shooter condemned Trump for being a 'globalist - both Lankford and the shooter must have missed Trump's declaration of being a 'nationalist' which many have said is coded language for being anti-Semitic and supportive of the White Nationalist movement, they of "Jew will not replace us" fame in Charlottesville. That argument may or may not be true, it's being made in an accusatory fashion from the left, and in a congratulatory one from the right. Go figure.

There is no disputing  Lankford's description of the shooters, whether at Mother Emmanuel or the Tree of Life synagogue or the Republican baseball practice as being done by "hate-filled individuals that are very deranged."

I'll have more from these Senators, and several other people, in an upcoming post on equivalence, or the lack thereof, in rhetoric.

Dickerson also played an interview from a couple of weeks ago with outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan on the lack of bipartisanship in the media. Ryan basically says that it doesn't sell, so the media doesn't cover it.  He referenced bills passed in the House, including some aimed at reducing human trafficking, and the opioid crisis as examples, and I would agree with him those are subjects that should be party-blind. He also referenced rebuilding the military, which is significantly less bipartisan, because historically that build up comes at the expense of much-needed safety net programs, education, the environment and others.
It-- it doesn't sell. So I, honestly, think, John, it's the hits and the clicks and it's the ratings chased that's on display in America today that says when they're fighting each other, that's when you cover it.
Dickerson went along, asking if the media accepts some portion of responsibility for it, what about the president, his rallies and
Do those rallies accentuate things that unite us - the bipartisan achievements, or are they, do they do something very successful in politics -- wildly successful - which is so division in the country?
Ryan noted that "sometimes" Trump hits the right bipartisan tone, but no always. And then pretended that tribal politics was "sort of a left wing, Alinsky thing." And
Unfortunately, the right practices identity politics now as well. It's the day and age, it's technology and everything else - identify politics, which is now being practiced on both sides of the aisle, is, unfortunately, working. 
And then he pretended that Trump, when speaking about economic growth, tax reform, the military and veterans, is being "inclusive" - which is literally laughable. No one takes even the most benign bipartisan policy and turns it into a partisan war cry like Ryan's leader.  

Ryan went on to say
So to me the best way to combat tribalism is to starve it of its oxygen, which is anxiety: economic anxiety, security anxiety. And if we can pass policies that help improve people's lives, make them more confident about the future, then they'll be less prone to be - to be swayed by the kind of tribalism identity politics we see these days. 
Turning to the panel discussion, here are a few highlights. 

Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic) on the Pittsburgh shooting, noted that while it was 
...not to say that Donald Trump is responsible for the shooting. The shooter is responsible for the shooting. But we live in a climate right now in which the president himself abets or creates a climate in the air in which this - this sort of incident, this sort of tragedy, becomes more imaginable
Lanhee Chen (Hoover Institution), on whether the politicians "lack the ability or they are just the wrong people" to talk about cultural issues: 
I think they are the wrong people. But I think they also have to realize that they have been put into a position that requires them to accept additional responsibility... politicians need to start taking this more seriously, that they are public officials whom people will look to as moral leaders as well.  I know we often say we don't elect politicians to be more leaders. Well, maybe we should take that a little more seriously. Maybe they should take that role a little more seriously.
Susan Page (USA Today), on the same topic:
...in particular, we like Presidents to step up at times of great national trauma to bring us together. That is one of the things that Presidents are in a unique position to do and that this president has declined to do, by and large. ...president Trump didn't create -- didn't begin it, but he has certainly increased it.
Goldberg again, on Trump's attempts at projecting the right tone:
Bat as we see in his rallies, he quickly veers from those statements (denouncing anti-Semitism) and goes right back to division. So it, it really is remarkable to me to see how quickly he pivots away from the message he understands or someone has told him he should be delivering, back to division.
Page, on the Senate prayer breakfast chaired by Coons and Lankford:
You know, I think that's great. I am glad they are co-chairing a prayer group. But think of how small our politics are that they are not coming to a reasonable agreement on immigration that could help de-escalate that issue, or on some other big issue that we expect Congress to deal with.
And finally, we'll leave it with Jamelle Bouie (Slate), on the difference in rhetoric or in the type of rhetoric of a Maxine Waters or Mitch McConnell and of a Donald Trump:
I think distinctions are really important. I think there's a qualitative difference, especially in the society that has a history of racialized violence, in a society that is driven by racial division, I think there's a qualitative difference between sort of getting angry and apocalyptic about policy issues and getting angry and apocalyptic about identity issues... I think we have - I think it's important that we don't conflate those two - these two different kinds of incivility. One of them is unfortunate, makes compromise difficult. One of them is an existential issue for people, for people living in the society. 
Thoughts on any parts of the discussion?  Chime in.

See you around campus.  

October 26, 2018

Trump in Transition (v34)

Darn "Bomb" stuff -- doesn't the Fake News know they're supposed to be talking about him?

October 24, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v152)

On a day when pipe bombs were stopped from being delivered to President Obama, Hillary & Bill Clinton, Eric Holder, Maxine Waters, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and former CIA director John Brennan, the president didn't make his own statement, initially - he "wholeheartedly agreed" with the statement of his veep on a retweet.

When he did make his statement, here's what he offered:
A major federal investigation is now underway. The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice... We have to unify. We have to come together. Acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America. This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear. We're extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it. 
Tonight at his rally in Wisconsin, he served up a plateful of comments on the issue, including this:
My highest duty, as you know, as president, is to keep America safe. That's what we talk about. That's what we do. The federal government is conducting an aggressive investigation and we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice. Hopefully very quickly. Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself. 
And this:
No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion, or control. We all know that. Such conduct must be fiercely opposed and firmly prosecuted. We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony. We can do it. We can do it. We can do it. It will happen.
And this:
For example, those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective. The language of moral condemnation and destructive, routine -- these are arguments and disagreements that have to stop. No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often, it's done all the time. Gotta stop. We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property. There is one way to settle our disagreements, it's called peacefully at the ballot box.
And this:
As part of a larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together, the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often time false attacks and stories. Have to do it. They've gotta stop. Bring people together. 
At no point did he say that he would stop lying, or that he would stop calling people names, or that he would put a halt to the 'lock her up' chants, or that he would stop celebrating people who body slam a reporter, or that he would stop any of his other vile statements, including violence will ensure if the Democrats win.

As it's clearly not the president, I wonder who will be leading the "larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together"?

October 23, 2018

Ranting and Raving (v2)

I've pretty much had it with the 2018 elections, on every imaginable front. I'm sick and tired of mud-slinging politicians who say nothing about their own positions but instead spend their entire time lying or purposefully obfuscating the record, story, purpose and positions of their opponent or, as happens here almost daily, asking bizarre questions on social media calling out their opponent for something about which the questioner reveals nothing about his own position. "Look at her! Look at her! Don't look at me!" I'm sick and tired of out-of-district money interfering in what happens in my district and directing who gets elected to represent me. Washington insiders are not NY-24 constituents, and they don't have a clue what's important to me. Neither does my current congressman, because he won't have a town hall meeting if his life depended on it - and it doesn't (see above reference to outside money screwing up my representation). Yeah, this guy? He's brave, oh boy is he brave. We find out about his 'biker town hall' when he posts the pictures. We find out about his 'diner town hall' when he posts the pictures. His breakfast-eating far-western-part of the district constituents found out about it when they saw the handwritten notes taped on their diner door: "Joe Blow here Sat. 8AM." We find out about his visits to carefully chosen companies when he posts the pictures. We see he's in town when he posts the pictures of endorsements he receives. Other than that? Yeah, no. He's not interested in hearing from us unless we're on record as being interested in him. He's from the other party, and I've voted for him twice - but never again. I'm sick and tired of the face, name and policies of Donald Trump being the most important thing in every race in the country. For example, in the race for Attorney General... You want to be NY AG? Tell me what you're going to do for me not what you're going to do to him. You want to take on Trump? Fine - run for Senate or Congress. Maybe I'll vote for you then. (Likely not, but whatever). I'm sick and tired and tired and sick of the ads, which around here have been running since August, I kid you not. Since August. And I'm in a media overlap are, so we have NY-24, and we have NY-23 and we have NY-22 And you know what else I'm sick and tired of? People who refuse to identify themselves, their district, their party in their advertising. What are they afraid of?  "I'm Jane Doe and I'm running as the Democrat in the NY-22 - vote for me!"  Remember when that used to be par for the course?  Not any more. They're too afraid to even say what party they're in. SAD! SICK!! to quote a certain someone. And the lies. Outright, blatant, ridiculously unbelievable lies - I mean, there is no way anyone can believe three quarters of the stuff that appears in the ads, and yet... And yet -- there's no lack of interviews with people here, there and everywhere who completely and totally parrot the lies they see and hear, and you can tell they believe with all their heart what they're saying, a COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT of the lies in the ads, the lies that come from the candidates directly, the lies that come from incumbents and challengers of both parties - on both sides - and of course from the current resident of the Oval Office, because he lies like the proverbial rug, in spades. I'm tired. I'm low energy. And we still have two weeks to go.

October 21, 2018

Sunday School 10/21/18

Let's do a quick stroll through the classrooms.

First up: Kentucky's junior senator Rand Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich talking with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Speaking on the credibility of the statement from the Saudi government that Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a fistfight or some such nonsense, Paul said the statement was "absolutely" not credible, noting
I think it's insulting to anyone who's analyzing this with any kind of intelligent background to think that oh, a fistfight led to a dismemberment with a bone saw. So, no. 
He went on to suggest putting the attack on Khashoggi into context.
Saudi Arabia has basically over the decades been the largest state sponsor of radical Islam and violent jihad. They sponsor thousands of madrassas that teach hatred of Christians and Jews and Hindus around the world. So, this isn't the first instance. This is just another in the line of long instances of Saudi insults to the civilized world. 
And, in sharp contrast to the president,
I think we really need to discontinue our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a long and serious discussion about whether or not they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy. 
Similarly, Gingrich did not mince words.
First of all, their explanation is insultingly stupid. I mean, the idea that this guy walked in the room with 15 security people, got in to a fight and was accidentally killed and they happened to have apparently an ability to dismember hm and get rid of him... This is just stupid.
Next up, Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip,North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

As did Wallace, Todd asked if there was anything credible in the Saudi's story. Durbin was clear no the lack of credibility, and our next steps:
No, and as a matter of fact, the only person on earth outside of the Saudi Kingdom who appears to accept it is president Donald Trump. Here's what we ought to do, and we ought to do it tomorrow morning. We ought to expel - formally expel the Saudi ambassador from the United States until there is a completion of a third party investigation into this kidnap, murder and God knows what followed that occur ed in Istanbul. We should call on our allies to do the same. 
Tillis was also asked the question.
No, not at this point. I agree with everything Dick Durbin just said. We've, we've got to get to the bottom of it. In Saudi Arabia, you do not do something of this magnitude without having clearance from the top. We need to find out who that is and hold him accountable. 
Todd asked whether or not the US could have a positive relationship with the Saudis if the crown prince was still in the picture.
No, I don't think so.  I think, again, if the facts lead to what we all suspect they will, I think it'll be very problematic for our relationship going forward.
In the interview with Scaramucci, Todd asked how Dems should go after Trump when he insults them. After professing to not want to offer the opposition any information, due to his love for the president, The Mooch opened up a little:
...I think the big mistake they're all making is they go right into the Trump insect Twitter light. And so the minute he shoots at them, they cannot help themselves. And they drive themselves right into that light. And then they get vaporized by him...
The answer, he tells us? Read his book.
And so the incident with Senator Warren, she should really read my book, so she can understand how the president, you have to think about the miracle of what he did. He hijacked the Republican Party to get their nomination. And then he hijacked the base of the other party and moved it over to the Republican party. And I try to write about that in the book. Because I have experience, as a kid that grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood with a blue-collar family. And I think I've seen the whole bandwidth of this sort of stuff. 
Oh wait - that's not really his recommendation, after all.
But my recommendation to people is don't engage him in that area because you're going to lose.
And on that happy note, we'll call it a day. 

See you around campus.

October 17, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v151)

Tonight I'm wondering about outrage, real and imagined.

For example, how much attention should we pay to former Attorney General Eric Holder, I wonder?  Holder caused a stir recently when he suggested that the "when they go how, we go high" sentiment of Michelle Obama was incorrect: it should be, "when they go low, we kick them." 

Not unexpectedly, there was outrage from folks who pointed out that there is no room for violence in our political system. Congressman Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded in the shooting at the Congressional Baseball game, wrote that comments like Holder's, and those of other Democrats - have no place in our democracy.
As a survivor of a politically motivated attack, it is tragic to think this is an acceptable state of political discourse in our country. I refuse to stand for this and I will continue to call for an end to it. A healthy, strong democracy is not possible if anyone lives in fear of expressing their views. 
If this is going to stop, it must start with Democratic leaders, who need to condemn, rather than promote these dangerous calls to action. 
In America,we win battles at the ballot box, not through mob rule or intimidation. While it's clear that many Democrats refuse to accept the election of President Trump, if they want change, they need to convince people with their ideas and actually win elections, rather than call for violent resistance, harassment and mob rule.
... when Democratic leaders like Eric Holder call for violence, that is a direct threat to our democracy. 
I hope he and others think long and hard about the world they are creating and the impact they are leaving on this country. 
I agree with Scalise that the level of discourse is, well, swampy at best. We don't need calls for violence, even ones as silly as Holder's. I mean, does anyone really think he's suggesting that Dems rise up and kick their GOP opponents in the shins?  Of course he wasn't, as he pointed out:
OK, stop the fake outrage. I'm obviously not advocating violence. (In fact, when I was AG violent crime in the US was historically low). I'm saying Republicans are undermining our democracy and Democrats need to be tough, proud and stand up for the values we believe in - the end.
Scalise has talked about this before; last month on a couple of Fox shows he said that the Dems needed to denounce the violence. And while it was easy to find those references, I haven't yet located anything where he called out the president for comments made in August to to evangelical leaders. After asking them to use the pulpit to get all of their people to vote in November, Trump told them 
You're one election away from losing everything you've got...they will end everything immediately. They will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There's violence. When you look at antifa, and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.
Now, one could wonder whether "they" and "antifa" and "these groups" are all the same, I guess. But the part that seems perfectly clear is that the ones who would be overturning "everything we've done" quickly and violently, as described by Trump, is not antifa or groups, but Congress.

And, of course, there are all of the other comments made by the president that many Republicans laugh off or ignore. And yet, Holder's comment is worthy of outrage... I wonder.

I also have to wonder what Melania Trump was thinking when she talked with Tom Llamas in that ABC interview.
I could say that I'm the most bullied person in the world... One of them, if you really see what people are saying about me.
Um, no. Not even close

First Ladies are always under a microscope, including about their fashion sense and how they comport themselves on foreign trips. So yes, she should have been prepared from the get-go for comments about her shoes and her clothes, including the green jacket, and about her tone-deafness wearing a pith helmet on her recent African tour.

Has she taken unnecessary hits? Of course she has. She did not plagiarize Michelle Obama when her Be Best initiative was rolled out - we all know that. Have people been overly interested in her relationship with her husband? I don't think any more than they have been in any other First Couple.

I'm also wondering about all of the folks who are outraged and say that the 'mainstream media' doesn't cover anything that they want to see covered;  you know -- good news about the administration (jobs reports, stock market, bills passed, crowd size, and what not).  Do you think they don't know these things are covered because they only get their news from pro-Trump sources?

I can only think that if the folks who complain about this would actually ever watch or read anything other than right-leaning outlets, they'd  know how much attention was paid to things they like.  It might not be the effusive coverage they're used to, and it might be a little more balanced, but there's plenty of coverage out there.

And wondering -- plenty of that as well.

October 15, 2018

Quick Takes (v29): Walking the Talk

Does anyone remember that fateful day earlier this year, when a political action committee announced that it would not accept corporate money? Let's refresh:
Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC (CPC PAC) announced its commitment to campaign finance reform by rejecting contributions from corporate PAC, making it the first major Congressional PAC to reject corporate donations.
Progressive organizations, including End Citizens United, were thrilled. Here's a statement from that group's president, Tiffany Muller:
The CPC PAC's decision to reject corporate PAC money demonstrates their leadership and commitment to unrigging the system. The Caucus has been a longtime champion of everyday families and this move underscores their dedication to giving all Americans a voice in our democracy. Their decision is part of a growing movement to refuse corporate PAC money, we we look forward to working with Representative Pocan, Representative Grijalva and the leadership of Congressional Progressive Caucus to end the influence of big money in politics so that Washington works for all of us.
And Representative Mark Pocan himself added
If we are going to end the influence of corporations and special interests in government, we have to start by not relying on their support.Only by being fully independent of their financial influence can we prioritize people over corporations.
Pretty lofty, for sure, and something I could wholeheartedly support (here's a link to my posts on campaign finance reform for background) -- and something I knew nothing about,. I would have promoted it had I known, even though I'm not a progressive by any stretch.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this headline the other day:




Yikes! Nearly every member of the caucus? Even Rep. Pocan? Yep. And it's a challenge for the caucus, and for the candidates themselves.
The new push to go cold turkey on corporate cash is creating tension within the caucus, as progressive members take offense at the implication that their votes might be influenced by big money.
According to Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, one of a handful of returning House members who have pledged to refuse corporate money,
People just feel like you're saying they are bought and sold - and some are, but many aren't. It's not like everybody who takes corporate PAC money is bad or only does what the corporations want... But that's not what this is about. It's about re-establishing trust with voters, changing the system, working from multiple angles. 
The article is a good read, as it gets into some of the nitty gritty on the variety of challenges to getting corporate money out of the picture, and also the challenges faced by incumbents who run up against very aggressive, more progressive opponents who use their campaign finance 'purity' as a weapon against the 'establishment' progressives. 

I can appreciate the challenges the candidates face - and that it's hard to go cold turkey on big money designed to buy influence, especially when the other side is not doing the same thing.

But as a long-time believer that corporate money doesn't belong in campaigns, I have to say I'm more impressed by candidates who refuse corporate money than I am by PACs that do.

And I'm much more impressed by candidates who walk the talk than I am by candidates who walk the money.

October 14, 2018

Sunday School 10/14/18

One classroom only again today -- this time, it's Jake Tapper and the gang on CNN's State of the Union, which Tapper said was "in crisis."

Part of that crisis is Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to hit the mainland US in a quarter century; the other is the alleged murder of WaPo columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2nd. It is believed that he was murdered that day, by the Saudis, but there is no confirmation yet of that, even though Turkish authorities say they have audio and video proof. The president noted that we are investigating this seriously and there will be serious consequences if the allegations are true.

Tapper talked with Marco Rubio about both Michael and Khashoggi. On the storm, Rubio indicated that things obviously are difficult but that he's not been asked to intervene to make sure the federal government is doing for Florida what it needs to. He did remind everyone that there are lots of folks in rural inland areas where the folks might be completely cut off and in dire need, so he's keeping his focus on those parts of the state.

The discussion turned to the impact of climate change on these storms:
The Union of Concerned Scientists said Florida could lose more than one million homes by the end of the century due to rising sea levels because of climate change, which they say is man made. What do you say to constituents who..ask, why are you not one of the leaders in Congress on this issue?
Rubio begged to differ.
Well, I would say that that's not true. We are. We - for example, we have funded this study in Congress that I have pushed for to better understand exactly what you have just said, primarily on the Atlantic side. Sea level rise and changes in the climate...I don't think there's a debate about whether that is happening, because you can measure that. The secondary aspect is, how much of that is due to human activity? And from a  policy-maker, the question is, what policies can we change to deal with that human activity?
Rubio indicated that he's pushed to get some kind of mitigation in place,
primarily because the insurance marketplace is going to start...pricing this in. So we better have answers on places like Miami Beach here in South Florida and the like. The second question about how much is human activity contributing towards that, what percentage of that is due to human activity, and the third question, what laws can we change, that's the more complicated one, especially the third one, because some of the things they're asking for is already happening. If you look at the US today, we're cleaner than we used to be. Natural gas is a clean source. Nuclear energy  is very clean. But you have to fight the same people to approve of that. 
Tapper asked if Rubio thought climate change was man-made, or at least in part man-made.
Yes, look, scientists are saying that humanity and it's behavior is contributing towards that. I can't tell you what percentage of that is due to human activity. And I think many scientists would debate the percentage of what is attributable to man vs. normal fluctuations. But that there's actually a rise in sea level, that temperatures are warmer in the water than they were 50, 80, 100-some years ago, that's measurable. There's no - I don't think there is (an) honest debate about that. The core response to me, though, is what can we do about it?
Then, Tapper asked
And in 20 years, are you going to be able to say to your children and my children, these are the three or four things I pushed for in Congress to help mitigate this factor? 
Rubio answered confidently. Sort of. 
Sure. Well, certainly, mitigating sea level rise, because no matter what we do -- no matter what we do with laws -- if, tomorrow, we stopped all carbon -- let's say we went to all solar panels and did all that stuff, which is not realistic, there would still be - this still - this trend would still continue. And so we're going to have to do something about the impact that it's having on low-level coastal areas. And that means mitigation, hardening, lifting - how we manage water. We're all over that. We have been working on that very hard and continue to, strategies to mitigate against those factors that are going to be in place no matter what happens with our energy policy.
But I'm also not going to destroy our economy. There's a reality here and there's a balance on that end of it that we need to be focused on.
That's quite a #MAGA thing right there, putting "the economy" first, wouldn't you agree?

And no explanation for the comment. Was he talking about the tourist economy? The snowbird economy? The oil, gas and coal industries? The construction industry, which rebuilds coastal communities in the same place, over and over and over again, with a ton of taxpayer dollars in the mix?

On Khashoggi, Rubio was clear and consistent. America needs to take some kind of action against the Saudis if the allegations are true.
...there needs to be a strong response if, in fact, this proves to be true. If they lured this man into that consulate, they went medieval on him, and he was killed and he was chopped up and they sent a death crew down there to kill him and do all this, that would be an outrage. 
I don't think we should continue as 'business as usual' (with the Saudis) until we know exactly what happened here, because what we do know is this: he walked into that consulate, and he never came out.
So the only two things that could have happened is, he's alive and somehow still in there, or he's dead and the Saudis are the ones who did it. There's no other explanation for it, because there was video of him leaving, they would have shown it by now. 
But here's the bottom line. I believe the Trump administration will do something. The president has said that. but, if he doesn't, Congress will. That, I can tell you with 100% certainty. With almost full unanimity, across the board, Republicans and Democrats, there will be a very strong congressional response if, in fact, the Saudis lured him into that consulate, murdered him, cut up his body and disposed of it. 
There is going to be a very strong congressional response.  
Let's hope the serious investigation happens quickly - dare I say 'Kavanaugh quickly'? - and that our response is what this situation demands.

See you around campus.

October 7, 2018

Sunday School 10/7/18

Lots going on today in the Sunday classrooms, but I only had the heart and stomach for one of them- Fox News Sunday, where Chris Wallace interviewed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Wallace started out by asking if the record of judicial appointments under Trump - two Supremes and 26 judges on the circuit court, the fastest pace in history - was McConnells' proudest moment as a senator. Here's McConnell's answer:
I think so. I think the most important thing the Senate is involved in is the personnel business. The House is not in the personnel business. And of the various 1200 appointments that come to us for confirmation, obviously the most important are the lifetime appointments to the courts and we prioritize handling president Trump's outstanding nominees for the Supreme Court as well as the circuit courts and we've done 26 so far as you indicated, record, and there'll be more before the end of the year.
The next question was about McConnell receiving the support of Steve Bannon, who praised the Majority Leader's "strong leadership" after hard-right conservatives have been criticizing McConnell for being "too establishment." Having Bannon's approval, he said (to laughter)
It's almost an out-of-body experience, I must say.
He went on to talk about the last two years, and Tea Party criticism.
Well, it's pretty hard to be the majority leader of the Senate without getting some criticism. I'd rather be judged about my record, and I think this has been an extraordinarily accomplished Congress, in fact, the most productive two year period in the time I've been in the Senate, whether it's taxes, regulations... We've got the economy booming and we are making long-term systemic chances in the courts that will serve future generations of Americans in a very good way.
On that, I'd have a hard time disagreeing more, but that's  just me.

They also talked about Supreme Court seats in general, which included Wallace trying to get a straight answer out of McConnell on what he'd do if there was an open seat on the bench in 2020; he started this by getting McConnell to talk about Merrick Garland.
We didn't attach Merrick Garland's background and try to destroy him; we didn't go on a search and destroy mission. We simply followed the tradition in America, which is if you have a party - a Senate of a different party than the president, you don't fill a vacancy created in the presidential year. That went all the way back to 1888.
Wallace noted a difference between this answer and McConnell's previous comments, noting that when the Garland nomination was made, they wouldn't consider it during a presidential election year, but now he's saying it's only when the Senate is controlled by a different party than the president. And, he wondered, if Trump were to name someone in 2020, would the Senate go ahead with it?
Well, I understand your question, what I told you is what the history of the Senate has been. You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year on the Supreme Court was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the president. That's the history -- 
When pressed, he didn't answer.
The answer to your question is, we'll see if there's a vacancy in 2020.
The Senate isn't broken. The institution is fine.

The people there? Well, that's a story for another day.

See you around campus.

October 5, 2018

It's Disgusting

Today the Senate takes the next concrete step towards confirming Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court Justice.

I wish they weren't doing this for a number of reasons:
  • Kavanaugh's nomination, we know had to be crammed through before the midterms, because the Rs fear losing their majorities.
  • There was a concerted effort to limit documents from his time in the Bush White House and on the bench, materials that would lend senators an opportunity to question him fully on his opinions on critical issues. I know he wouldn't have answered most of them but at least the questions could have been on the table.And not for nothing, but the Republicans pretending that the number of pages being more than was released for recent previous justices means that the relevant pages had been released is absurd. 
  • There were others on Trump's vaunted list of justices who would have been confirmable, easily, even had they had similar opinions; Trump was begged by Mitch McConnell not to pick Kavanaugh, and by others to choose a woman, but chose someone who wasn't on the original list, which was a campaign promise not kept by the man so proud of keeping them.
  • His belligerent approach to the questioning, at both of his hearings, but in particular at the hearing on what I'll call the high school days, and the lies he told during both of them, in particular during the hearing on the high school days. Everyone knows what he lied about, including Kavanaugh himself, and that cloud will hang over his head for the rest of his career.
  • The interview on the Trump News Network, and the op-ed in the Wall Street Journal - both of which seem out line to me, and unbecoming.
But what's really disgusting are the conversations about why senators might vote on the nomination tomorrow, when they'll pull the trigger on the nomination after the debate that'll start today. 

We know many of them will vote based on the hope that Roe will be overturned, or on the desire to prevent that from happening.  The swing of the Court to the right has impacts beyond that case, including on voting rights, corporate rights over the rights of individuals, money in politics, gerrymandering and a whole host of other issues that matter.

We know that many of them will vote because they're ideologically extreme on both fringes, and there's not a lot of room for anything remotely resembling advice and consent.

But what's assumed, by the talking heads, and the writers and bloggers and the rest, is that not a single one of the 'undeclared' senators will vote based on anything other than how best to keep their seat in 2018 or 2020.  According to those folks,
  • a Red State Dem (Joe Manchin is one) has to decide whether going against Trump will ruin their chances for reelection, or if it will mobilize their own constituents, most of whom are not supporters of the Kavanaugh nomination
  • Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have to decide whether it's worth it to buck Trump and suffer the consequences.  
  • Jeff  Flake isn't running for re-election but may want to challenge Trump in 2020, we're told, so he needs to decide whether his vote will help or hurt his chances...
What's disgusting about all of this is that no one thinks any of these folks will vote based on their conscience. No one expresses confidence that these senators will vote for anything other than a selfish reason - their own careers. 

And what's also disgusting?  They're probably right...

October 3, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v150)

Let's get this out of the way right off the top: I'm not really wondering about very much tonight, because so much of it seems so very straightforward and there's little demand for wonder. That said, let's get right to it.

First up?  There's no marriage like a forced marriage.
The Trump administration on Monday began denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, and requiring those already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or leave the country.
Huh? We're going to force people from other countries to get married in order to stay here? Why would we do this, you ask?  Because back in 2010, President Obama signed an order allowing same-sex partners to get visas, but at that time, only married heterosexual partners could. So, fast forward to the Undo Obama Policies administration we're in today, and the only logical thing to do?

Force gays to marry, obviously. Because now that same-sex marriage is legal (but of course, not required), we must impose the draconian rule on citizens of other countries - even those where same sex marriage is illegal - almost all the time:
The United States informed foreign governments that they would allow ''limited exceptions"  to its new policy in cases involving diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal. But that government would have to provide documentation proving that same-sex marriage was illegal and commit to accepting same-sex partners of US diplomats.
What's comical, if that's the right term, is that the party of Trump maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Up next?  The First Lady is trying to #BeBest, even as her husband is continuing to #BeAnAss, #BeWorst, #BeACad, and #MAHA (make America horrible again). There is literally nothing to wonder about on the latter, and I wish her the best on her trip away from her husband.

Finally, there's the FBI supplemental background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, the president's choice for the Supreme Court. It may be done, it might not be. There may be more witnesses to interview - or there may not be. The White House says interview anyone you want, but the White House counsel's office says not so fast, it seems.

There will be no conclusions offered, only interview notes - and the information  will be held extremely close to the vest, too.
All 100 Senators will have access to the new information, but not their staffs. There are also 10 Judiciary Committee staffers who have access to the Kavanaugh file, which is a paper report -- there are no pdfs of emails of it. And it will not be made public.
And anyone who leaks the information is likely to be in trouble, as none of it is to be shared - which is exactly what we have come to expect.

Like I said, not a whole lot of wondering going on.