Saturday, February 18, 2017

Democrats can't muster votes to stop Pruitt

A fourth bad week for President Barking Yam could have been worse.  It wasn't a foregone conclusion that the Okie AG who sued the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of oil companies -- fourteen times -- was to be confirmed as head of the EPA.  But Senate Democrats fell down again on the way to preventing the GOP from drowning government in the bathtub.

The U.S. Senate (yesterday) afternoon confirmed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, even as he faces a new court order.

An Oklahoma district court judge Thursday ordered Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general, to turn over thousands of communications with major coal, oil and gas companies from his time in office.

The nonprofit watchdog Center for Media and Democracy had requested the public records two years ago, and the judge ruled there had been an “unreasonable” delay in responding to the request, demanding that Pruitt comply by the end of the day Monday.

The Senate confirmed his nomination 52-46 (Friday) afternoon, even after Democratic senators expressed outrage overnight that Republicans were going ahead as scheduled despite the judge’s ruling.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had said she would vote no before Thursday’s news of the court ruling, held to her vow to vote against Pruitt today. Another, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., skipped the vote, as did Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

But two Democrats -- Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voted for the controversial nominee, giving him the votes he needed.

Maybe those emails will matter to someone next week, as we wave goodbye to the cow leaving the barn.  If this was the strongest response the Sierra Club could manage, I'm not hopeful for the resistance.


Am the only one embarrassed by this demonstration of professional activism?  This is where your donations go, folks.  Let's all sign more petitions so that Cornyn and Cruz and Culberson have enough toilet paper to wipe their asses with.  Update: On the other hand, it could be worse.

If Chuck Schumer could enforce caucus discipline the way that Mitch McConnell can, Trump would be looking for some other lousy white guy to dismantle the nation's regulations keeping our air, water, and groundwater protected from avaricious corporations.  But Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin are all Blue Dogs in solid red states (+18 Trump in 2016) running for re-election in 2018, so they have a hall pass to keep voting like Republicans for another two years in hopes they can hang on and avoid letting the Democrats slip into superminority status.

Here is some solace for those who scowl at their monitor or phone/tablet screen every time I slap the Donkeys: Amy Davidson at the New Yorker cuts spineless Ds a little slack with sharp points about why Pruitt is also our nation's spineless Republican problem: nobody from starboard dares stand up to Cheetolini (except a few, like Collins and McCain, and then only on the rare occasion).  A caution to those who prefer their reading at junior-high level and with short paragraphs: this isn't the excerpt you're looking for.

There are two answers to the question of why Republicans rushed Pruitt through, not mutually exclusive. One is that this is just another instance of something that has been seen repeatedly in the weeks since Donald Trump took office: the Republicans’ floppy pose of deference to Trump. They have let him do what he wants, for the most part, unless a shocking “Oprah” tape from the past comes back to haunt an already unfit nominee. (As William Finnegan has written, in that case, involving Andrew Puzder, the failed Labor Secretary nominee, the tape only stopped the senators when combined with his illegal household help and his crudely expressed disdain for working Americans.) They hadn’t stood up to Trump on his executive order barring entry to people from seven countries and to all refugees, despite the direct risk it posed to many residents of red states, not to mention to the Constitution. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hadn’t managed to say much more than that “regrettably, the rollout was confusing,” as if he might have erased the insult to American values with a PowerPoint presentation and a can-do smile. Their hurt speeches on Friday morning about how the Democrats didn’t respect Trump’s choices came less than twenty-four hours after their President spoke casually about blowing Russian boats out of the water; accused his opponents of staging fake anti-Semitic attacks; questioned the legitimacy of the electoral system, the courts, and the media; and asked a black journalist, April Ryan, if the legislators in the Congressional Black Caucus were “friends” of hers, and if she could maybe set them up with a meeting with him.

This is a weak answer, in part because of what is at stake: not only America’s air and water and its children’s health but the future of the planet. Pruitt is so shameless a choice that former E.P.A. employees who have served under Presidents from both parties sent a letter to the Senate expressing concern about his appointment, noting his demonstrated lack of interest in enforcing environmental laws, his stance on climate change, and his failure to demonstrate that he would “put the public’s welfare ahead of private interests.”

Then again, why would this Republican Party want to block Pruitt? This is the other answer: the senators pushed him through because they wanted to, for their own non-Trump reasons. He is, in many ways, more typical of where many congressional Republicans stand than Trump is, though Pruitt might express his views more crudely and with fewer circumlocutions than some. His ties to industry are, in many cases, their ties to industry, too. (Jane Mayer has covered the influence of the Koch brothers, for example, in this regard.) When Ryan talks about dismantling the regulatory state, he is not far from Pruitt. Indeed, when asked about the influence of human activity on climate change, Ryan has said that he just didn’t know what it all added up to, “and I don’t think science does, either.” In a statement that Ryan issued in December, 2009, he accused certain scientists who did recognize the effect of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He added that any rules restricting American industry in the name of fighting climate change would be a “tough sell” in Wisconsin, “where much of the state is buried under snow.” Similarly, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tends to deal with climate change by saying that he is not a scientist. In the opportunistic calculations of the congressional Republicans, Pruitt may not even count as a price they have to pay, or a Trumpian burden to bear. To the contrary: he is their reward.

If fascism is going to keep flourishing in America, it will be wrapped in the sturdy embrace of pretty much every Republican, along with a handful of lily-livered conservative Democrats.  At some point, somebody (who is not already) has to say and do the things that begin to peel away Hair Furor's Congressional support.  His own words and actions don't seem to be having much affect yet.

Update: Down With Tyranny sees Susan Collins fighting judo with Democrats.  I thought martial arts were to be used in countering stronger opponents, so maybe this is more three-dimensional chess.  Some Democrat was allegedly good at that once upon a time. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The president needs an intervention

That press conference yesterday ...


President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary denunciation Thursday of his critics, complaining he inherited a "mess" and slamming stories that his campaign was constantly in contact with Russia as "fake news."

Trump held court during a news conference that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, carving out a stunning moment in modern American political history. He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public -- let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks.

"I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media," Trump said, later slamming leaks to the press from the intelligence community -- some of which led to the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"The leaks are real. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake," Trump said.

While it was a marked contrast with the normal dynamics of a presidential news conference, the East Room show was vintage Trump. He touted his own poll numbers, victory over Hillary Clinton and discussed cable TV ratings and panel discussions.

"I'm here again to take my message straight to the people. As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess."

That was the kind of message -- directed at large numbers of voters disgruntled with the performance of Washington's political establishment and delivered in a plainspoken, unvarnished manner -- that helped Trump win the presidency against all odds.

But his manner is also likely to offend or alarm other voters and may do little to alleviate skepticism towards Trump among political elites in Washington. Trump in fact predicted how his animated and unorthodox news conference will be interpreted in the press.

"Tomorrow, they will say: 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press,'" Trump said. "I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But -- but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it."

Indeed, both the right-wing media defending Flynn, and multiple anecdotal accounts from those who witnessed the reaction of average-Joe conservatives to yesterday's stunt indicate the consensus is of the "Give 'em hell, Donald" variety.  This is what shaking up Washington looks like to them.  It's wearing out some of the establishment GOP, which could be a good thing.

"The people that love him will love him more, the people that hate him will hate him more and the people in the middle probably will look at it the way that we look at in Congress, which is that's just the new normal. That's just the s*** that happens. I don't know how else to manage it," said one Republican lawmaker after Trump's press conference. "We're just trying to manage this s***."

Good luck with that.  We'll wait to see how the new comms guy helps out, and maybe we won't be blowing Russian ships out of the water off the coast of Delaware after all.  Nuclear holocaust would be like no other, you know.  Trump's electoral college victory wasn't the largest since Reagan, and Hillary didn't give any uranium to the Russians, either.

Some of his greatest hits beyond "real leaks are fake news" -- do you remember when he declared he loved Wikileaks? -- included saying he did not ask Flynn to talk sanctions with Russia, but was glad Flynn did, even though he fired him for doing it.  Which is exactly as warped as it sounds.

Without his wife or young son in the White House as a calming influence, with none of the lickspittles around him willing or capable to tell him to tone down his asshole CEO act, and with Trump himself operating under the delusion that the president is not to be questioned or criticized about anything he says or does, it's obvious that his temperament isn't going to be improving any time soon.  So strap in, and hope Russia or North Korea or China don't decide now would be a great time to insert more chaos into his world.  Our world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three scattershots at Trump and the Dems

-- Putz-der taps out; that makes two this week, with more surely on the way.  Since these come in three, who might be next?  Breitbart wants it to be Rinse Penis but Steve Bannon is shooting that down (jaw-drop emoticon here).  Hard for me to predict, but as a gambling man I'm betting on both James Mattis at 17/2 and Rex Tillerson at 6/1.  Neither man has the political ambitions that most of the rest of Trump's sycophants have.  Kellyanne Conjob is going to burn out sooner than any of them, but even that may take awhile (as in 3-6 months).

Word to the neoliberals who think there's something to gain electorally from simply being a social media activist of the revolution: you might be less of a Trump rebel and more a tool of the Republican wing of the Democratic party.  This was evidenced again last evening, as Susan Sarandon spoke some truth to power on Chris Hayes' MSDNC program and was promptly and roundly criticized as an elitist for doing so.

One. More. Time: if you aren't mad at Hillary Clinton's stooges within the DNC gaming the primary for her and against Bernie Sanders -- and you're blaming Sarandon or anybody else on the left for President Trump -- then you're part of the deep-rooted, severe problem with the Democrats and not the solution.  Do keep it up, please; we need a progressive political party in this country and we'll get it, one way or another, long run or short run.  This hastens that day.

We'll go meme now.


-- Get to know Carter Page, another ulcer on our body politic first formed and then emerged from the colon of Jeff Sessions to help Trump make America great again, similar to Stephen Miller.

These creeps behind the throne are the real danger.  Trump is circling the wagons with more plutocrats, so the threat of additional chaos and anarchy remains high.

-- When Trump, Bannon, the conservatives who have whined incessantly about the "librul lamestream media", and even douchebags like Piers Morgan say that the press is the bigger enemy to them (<<-- this is the most important link in this post) than the Democrats ... they are correct.  Your elected, establishment Donkeys are mules; incapable of fighting back dispositionally, unable to wield power effectively, and because of their eroded legislative numbers, only able to offer token resistance.  It's the people protesting in the streets, clogging up the voice mail boxes and Congressional offices, and yes, the Jake Tappers and Jim Acostas doing the heavy lifting in this resistance.  And it's working; their subscription figures are making a (albeit minor) comeback.  Make sure you find and read everything David Ignatius is writing, for one example.

Quarreling over whose fault it might be that Hillary Clinton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory actually helps Trump.  If you want to see the Democrats claw their way back to some real, actual resistance in two years or four, you should stop doing that.  But I'm more than fine with it if you can't.  Susan Sarandon is spot on when she says everybody is awake now.  Except, that is, for Joe Manchin, Gilberto Hinojosa, (see if you can guess what's wrong with that headline) and far too many Hillbots and Blue Dogs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Fourth Reich is already crumbling

-- I was wrong to compare Kellyanne Conjob to Joseph Goebbels last week.  Stephen Miller is, after his appearance on last Sunday's Talking Heads, quite obviously the High Minister of Propaganda.


"Will not be questioned".  What a joker.  He must have been referring to Maurice, the pompatus of love, and not President Pussygrabber.

Conjob has her own multiple issues as a serial liar, utter fraud, and just one more white supremacist in a White House full of them.  Contrary to erroneous reporting, however, Trump did not unfollow her on Twitter.  Having exhausted her credibility with the media, is another apology forthcoming or will she be fired resign shortly, as with Michael Flynn?  Morning line favors more twisting in the wind.

-- Of greater concern inside 1600 Pennsylvania is the NSA director's forced exit after his extensive conversations with Russian officials before he was confirmed were revealed, and his subsequent lies to VP Mike Pence about them.  "The Russians" thus reasserts its dominance in the storm of black clouds hanging over Trump.  Matt Taibbi wrote over a month ago-- a week before the inauguration -- that it was past time to find out if the president is being blackmailed by the Kremlin.  (Taibbi got it right about Russia's so-called hacking of the 2016 election, too, ICYMI).  Most Congressional Republicans weren't seeing the need for an investigation; that is, until yesterday.  When the scales have fallen from John Cornyn's eyes, you know it's a problem.  As you might expect, Big John's already holding his bucket of whitewash.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it's "highly likely" the Senate intelligence committee will investigate the retired army lieutenant general in the aftermath of his Monday resignation.

"I think the fundamental question for us is what is our involvement in it, and who ought to look at it," the Kentucky Republican said. "And the intelligence committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election."

Speaking to reporters, the second-ranking Republican senator was blunt in his assessment of whether the Senate should investigate Flynn.

"Yes," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

He did not say, however, whether Flynn should testify before the Senate.

"I think it's symbolic of somebody with a distinguished military career making a bad mistake," Cornyn said.

Better keep your Senate offices on communication lockdown the rest of the month, John.

Some GOP senators like Bob Corker get it; some, like Rand Paul, don't.  Just to correct Senators Turtle and Box Turtle, the fundamental question comes from the Watergate era: What did the president know, and when did he know it?  We already knew that Trump and several of his cabinet have deep and long-standing Kremlin commercial ties, and don't forget that Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign adviser, was forced out of that role last August over his own Russian business affairs.  Trump was briefed on Flynn's Logan Act-indiscretions on January 26, but Pence didn't find out until two weeks later, reading it in the newspaper.  Perhaps this is just a case of plausible deniability for when Pence assumes the presidency after Trump is impeached (or, more likely, compelled to resign).

So was Flynn acting on his own, or did Trump tell him to call Moscow?  That's the high crime and misdemeanor question that needs to be answered.

-- While your corn pops, and as I have recommended previously, go make ya some easy money from across the pond.  The Emerald Islanders are at it again.

Members of Donald Trump’s administration with questionable links to Vladimir Putin could start to emerge like Russian dolls, after the shock resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Irish bookmakers Paddy Power make it 5/1 that the President is officially accused of Russian collusion on the back of the Flynn scandal.

To illustrate the point, the bookie has today released an advert showing just how close the US and Russia are (attached).

Online, the bookmaker has more than 100 betting specials on Trump, due to extraordinary demand from its customers. Including a range of Russian themed bets that punters are Putin money on.

Featuring:

  • Trump to have a Russian airport named after him (12/1)
  • The President to holiday in Russia every year of his term (33/1)
  • Trump and Putin to receive a joint Nobel Peace Prize (66/1)
  • And the businessman-turned-leader to sell Alaska back to the Russians (100/1).

Féilim Mac An Iomaire, spokesperson for Paddy Power, said: “There was me worrying about 2017 having no major sporting event – I just need to tune into the Trump Show, which is on daily, on Fake News shows everywhere. We’ve been "Russian" out various markets on the President ever since his election – at this rate, we might have to build a whole new website just for him. We’ve a shower of golden bets on Trump, to take the edge off the reality of his reign.”

Trump and Russia
2/1         Trump to be impeached
5/1         Trump to be officially accused of Russian collusion
7/1         Trump to accidentally refer to Putin as ‘Vlad’ in a press conference
12/1       Trump to have a Russian airport named after him
33/1       Trump to holiday in Russia every year of his Presidency
66/1       Trump and Putin to receive joint Nobel Peace Prize
100/1     Trump to sell Alaska back to the Russians

Next member of Trump administration to resign
9/2         Jeff Sessions
6/1         Rex Tillerson
6/1         Betsy DeVos
17/2       James Mathis
10/1       Rick Perry
10/1       Ben Carson
10/1       Elaine Chao
10/1       Ryan Zinke
10/1       Sonny Perdue

For the full list of Trump and Russia betting markets, visit.
  Fun!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance declares that the number of the counting shall be three (to zero) as it brings you this week's roundup.


Off the Kuff looked at the Congressional seats the DCCC says it will target in 2018.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos exposes the craven hypocrisy of Texas Senator John Cornyn.  No, Sen. Cornyn, we did not overwhelm your offices because we are sore losers.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at a biennial Texas Legislature tradition — peddling seemingly unconstitutional bills. This year, silencing non-duopoly voters and other vote disenfranchisement is in the crosshairs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme heard Stephen Miller and Jason Chaffetz. Texas Republicans, like the Trump apparatchiks and GOP operatives in other legislative bodies, are going after voting rights with a vengeance.

Three years, eleventh months, and one more week just like the past three, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture he took of diverse and excellent citizens of Houston protesting against Trump's travel ban. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Dos Centavos collects reactions from Democrats in the state Senate to SB4 (the sanctuary cities bill).

Bonddad reiterates that while Trump is not imploding, the resistance against his administration is vast and intense, the sort of things that wave elections in midterm years are made of.

jobsanger finds a Gallup poll that says the public believes that Trump has damaged the country's standing in the world.

Candidates for Lewisville city council and school board are busy filing for election, reports the Texan Journal.

And Texas Vox covers the debate over expanding West Texas' nuclear waste facilities.  Public hearings are scheduled this week in Hobbs, NM and Andrews, TX.

===================

The Austin American Statesman reports that US Cong. Joaquin Castro will make a decision about challenging Ted Cruz in eight weeks, and discloses that his brother Julián will not challenge Greg Abbott in 2018.

Free Press Houston is hosting a town hall forum this week on protecting marginalized communities during the Trump years.  (No political party recruiting, please.)

Cort McMurray's heart goes out to poor John Cornyn for having to deal with all those pesky constituents.

Grits for Breakfast is lately peeking at Washington DC through a palmed face.

The San Antonio Express News make the most persuasive case in favor of eliminating straight party ticket voting.

The Midland Reporter Telegram picks up the Fort Worth Star Telegram's report on Texas being #1 in wind power generation, but there are challenges looming.

Lone Star Ma calls on us to make contacting our elected officials part of a daily routine, and Texans Together offers some practical advice for doing so.

Therese Odell rounds up the anti-Trump Super Bowl highlights, and Equality Texas points out that both God (faith leaders from diverse religions) and Football (aka the NFL) are warning Texas not to discriminate over bathrooms.

The TSTA Blog explains how the Texas Senate's budget cuts funding for public schools.

Bakeyah Nelson implores Ben Carson to "first do no harm" at HUD.

Somervell County Salon remembers a time when the biggest concern about a grifter in the White House was Sarah Palin getting reimbursed by the RNC for a fancy bra.

And Pages of Victory resurrects an old 1940's classic, "Der Fuehrer's Face".

Friday, February 10, 2017

Three years, eleven months, and one more week

Just. Like. This.

Every president gets humbled in office, but never as early or the way in which all of the defeats and bad news piled up Thursday for Donald Trump. Indeed, here's what took place on Trump's 21st day on the job:

  • A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously refused to reinstate Trump's travel ban, which represented the administration's third-straight judicial setback over the executive order.
  • Trump retreated on his team's previous refusal to recognize the "One China" policy (which maintains that the United States and other countries diplomatically recognize China and not Taiwan). "President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one China' policy," per a White House readout from Trump's call with Xi.
  • It turns out National Security Adviser Michael Flynn DID discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia the month before Trump took office, the Washington Post writes. "The emerging details contradict public statements by incoming senior administration officials including Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect."
  • And House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) chastised Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway for urging Fox viewers to buy Ivanka Trump products. "[W]e request that you use authority Congress granted to you under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended, to 'recommend to the head of the officer's or employer's agency that appropriate disciplinary action (such as reprimand, suspension, demotion, or dismissal) be brought against the officer or employee,'" Chaffetz and Democrat Elijah Cummings wrote to the head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

They've also got the entire three-week play by play for you there.  And it didn't include a review of Conjob's "counseling" apology to Trump for violating federal laws (Colbert runs 'em down) by shilling for daughter Ivanka's fashion line, no longer available at Nordstrom's.  Unlike Boeing, Lockheed, the various auto manufacturers, and the media companies who've been raked over the coals by President Brand Manager, Nordstrom stock gained strongly after his Twitter tantrum.

Facing lawsuits galore on every executive order he has signed (I'm so old I remember when EOs would torment Republicans; like, a month ago), Trump experienced the highest expression of legal humiliation to date in having his Muslim ban rejected unanimously by a three-judge federal appellate panel yesterday.  The executive summary:

President Trump reacted to the 9th Circuit's ruling with this tweet: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!" NBC's Pete Williams reports that the administration could very well make a quick appeal, perhaps to the U.S. Supreme Court, as early as today. More on the ruling from NBC News: "'Federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of — and even invalidate — actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict,' the judges wrote. The appeals court panel also dismissed Justice Department arguments that presidential decisions about immigration policy related to national security are unreviewable. 'There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,' the judges wrote."

Don't anticipate an already overworked eight-member SCOTUS to take up the question, which would leave the 9th Circuit's ruling intact.  And if Neil Gorsuch is telling the truth, expecting him to reinstate the ban as the new ninth Justice at some future point in time might be a stretch.  And that would be because Trump has vastly over-reached.  But could he be doing so deliberately?  The most interesting legal POV comes from MarketWatch's Brett Arends.

Contrary to what you may hear, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Thursday did not — repeat: did not — repudiate Trump’s legal right to suspend selective immigration. It just repudiated the bungling incompetence with which his administration made the case.

Yes, the three justices ruled: “Courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations” of the president and Congress. That is “an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence.” Indeed, as I pointed out earlier this week, it is well established that the president has very broad discretion to suspend immigration where he deems it necessary.

But that was not what the Trump administration claimed. Instead, they argued that they were actually above the law, the Constitution or legal review.

“The Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections,” the justices wrote with disbelief. They added: “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

You couldn’t make this up. Trump is now raging at the judges. But the blame for this fiasco lies entirely with him, and no one else.

This is so valuable to understand that I'm excerpting long.

All the administration had to tell the appeals court was that it had rational reasons for suspending immigration from the seven specific countries. Even with national security details “redacted,” the president’s lawyer could have laid out a simple case. Call it Iraq War II. “Intelligence sources say ... intelligence sources warn ... We have received intelligence ...” And so on. He could have kept it vague and menacing. He could have made it up. So long as he offered something. All the courts needed was an excuse.

Cue our old friend “Curveball.”

The justices were very unlikely to second-guess a president’s national security intelligence. They don’t consider that to be their job, they don’t want to do it, and they know how dangerous that could be — for the country and, indeed, for the standing of the courts.

Legal precedent strongly suggests that they’d support the president so long as he could reassure them he had a rational basis for his action.

But that’s not what Trump’s lawyer did.

When even John Yoo says you've fucked up the legal interpretation of the unitary executive, you've fucked up.  Badly.  Unless that was your plan all along.

Instead, August Flentje, a lawyer for the Trump administration, spent most of the hearing arguing the president’s actions were beyond review — and that individual states had no “legal standing” to challenge his executive order either. That was another stupid and fruitless argument, especially as Washington, the state in question, had shown clearly how it was affected.

Trump’s refusal to offer any kind of rational excuse for his immigration ban produced a double whammy. First, it insulted the judges by saying they had no right to review his actions. Second, it left him wide open to a First Amendment challenge. As the judges noted, there was plenty of Trump administration rhetoric suggesting this might be an unconstitutional ban on Muslims. Trump’s refusal to offer an alternative, rational explanation for the executive order was therefore a real problem.

Arends is offering some advice here to the Trump legal team for the future SCOTUS hearing.  But before he gets to reminding them that the law is on their side if they will only argue it correctly, he lays down the smack that they have already tilted the odds against themselves.  And also issues a warning for what may lie ahead if Trump is playing a long con, in hope or expectation, of a future terrorist attack on the US.

But maybe none of this should be a surprise.

What should we expect from a president whose special counselor hawks Trump family merchandise from the White House podium, and whose chief of staff recently heralded the arrival of our “new King”?

I’ve gone blue in the face over the past 20 months reminding MarketWatch readers that, no, Donald Trump was not a “successful businessman” or a “successful executive” in the traditional meanings of those terms. He is a serial bankrupt. He inherited a fortune from his dad, and made more only by scamming people, and sticking it to his bondholders and stockholders. Many of you would be rich, too, if you had his start, his greed, and his lack of ethics.

It would be genuinely interesting to see a true business leader take on the role of president. But Donald Trump is no Steve Jobs, no Henry Ford, no Bill Gates, no Walt Disney, no Warren Buffett. He is no value creator, no genius and no leader. He is a con artist, a huckster, the equivalent of a hawker of used cars or subprime derivatives. His skills are chutzpah, greed and a cynical, rat-like cunning.
The law still favors his ban on immigration. The question is going to be whether his administration makes a real legal argument when it goes, as it surely will, to the Supreme Court.

My original take was that Trump had merely bungled his case. But I could be wrong — very wrong.

I mean what I say about his “rat-like cunning.” Trump is a master manipulator. It is actually plausible that he screwed up this lawsuit deliberately. Trump and Trumpism thrive on conflict, paranoia and resentment. News that a bunch of “fancy-pants, elitist lawyers” at the 9th Circuit — in San Francisco, no less — has thwarted his immigration ban is great politics for him. It whips up his base into fury, and encourages them to look to him, even more, as their “protector” against the “elites.”

And, without wishing to be ghoulish, just imagine if an immigrant from one of these seven countries were by remarkable coincidence to cause a terrorist attack. Trump would look like a hero to his fans. His opponents would look terrible.

Would Trump do this deliberately? Would he play politics with people’s lives in order to consolidate his regime’s grip on power?

Well, that’s what Vladimir Putin did. And we know how much Trump admires Putin.

Nothing to add, except this: we're one terrorism event in this country removed from Cheetolini declaring martial law, curbing every expression of free speech, executing the most vigorous prosecution in the harshest ways of those who would practice their dissent and resistance (such as your humble reporter here and cartoonists like Ted Rall), and other Murphy's Law-like consequences of neofascism that ought to have already curled your hair.


Will some Republicans start resisting soon?  There aren't enough Democrats, as we have seen.

Like thieves in the night

Republicans came and stole your healthcare, confirming in the predictable party-line vote the most corrupt Trump lieutenant so far.


No reason to chew your fingernails, Sec. Price.  It's in the bag.

In a middle-of-the-night vote, the Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price to be the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The 52 to 47 vote was along party lines.

Democrats opposed Price, a Republican from Georgia, because he is a key architect of undoing the Affordable Care Act and has advocated making major changes to Medicare. Their suspicions were deepened when it was revealed Price traded health care stocks while having oversight duties of the health care industry. Price has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Republicans view Price, an orthopedic surgeon, as a champion of free market principles who will guide the repeal and replace of Obamacare, the top legislative priority for President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans.

Insider trading is of course illegal when anyone does it, and we seem to have returned to the good old IOKIYAR days.  On the bright side, we're beginning to see some significant differences between the corporate Democrats and the Grab-Our-Pussy Party in the Senate.  And if you missed it, the response to Jill Stein's Tweet earlier this week gave the angriest of Donkeys *cough* Dan Savage *cough* another chance to back-kick her about that.

Somebody -- a whole lot of somebodies -- had the point whoosh right over their heads.  Maybe I'll get around to a separate blog post about it, but for now and especially if you'd like to disagree with her statement that "Democrats serve corporate interests", sound off in the comments.  Let's have that out.

Bad things have come in threes this week with Devos and Sessions and now Price.  We still have Rick Perry and few more turds in the pipeline.  Why, we even saw Trump's SCOTUS pick, "Fascism Forever" club founder and Noah/James Horwitz-doppelganger Neil Gorsuch, telegraphing some possible disputes with the president, specifically his Tweets.  I would say he's gaslighting us (read all of this link for the ongoing dynamics) so he can get confirmed.  Gorsuch needs 60 votes, or 8 Democrats, if Mitch McConnell doesn't decide to go nuclear.  I just don't trust the guy (any of them).  Let's note what Gorsuch said, via a Democratic senator behind closed doors, for the record anyway.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told a US senator Wednesday that President Donald Trump's tweets about the judiciary are "demoralizing" and "disheartening."
In a meeting with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Gorsuch, who's largely been silent since Trump nominated him last week, took exception to Trump calling a federal judge in Seattle a "so-called judge" after blocking the President's travel ban.
"He said very specifically that they were demoralizing and disheartening and he characterized them very specifically that way," Blumenthal said of Gorsuch. "I said they were more than disheartening and I said to him that he has an obligation to make his views clear to the American people, so they understand how abhorrent or unacceptable President Trump's attacks on the judiciary are."
Ron Bonjean, who is leading communications for Gorsuch during the confirmation process, confirmed Gorsuch called Trump's tweet about the "so-called judge" "disheartening" and "demoralizing" in his conversation with Blumenthal. 

Words that will certainly have to be explained in greater detail in his confirmation hearing, and we can all see if he can sell his judicial independence as effectively as does the Executive Branch Chamber of Commerce.  That brings us to more of yet another lousy week for President Big Orange Baby, with his Tweets about his now-slapped-down Muslim ban and Kellyanne Conjob's violating federal law by pimping out Ivanka's clothing line after it was discontinued at Nordstrom's, and ... a few more things for the very next post.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Sessions confirmed

Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed on Wednesday as President Trump’s attorney general, capping a bitter and racially charged nomination battle that crested with the procedural silencing of a leading Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Mr. Sessions, an Alabama Republican, survived a near-party-line vote, 52 to 47, in the latest sign of the extreme partisanship at play as Mr. Trump strains to install his cabinet. No Republicans broke ranks in their support of a colleague who will become the nation’s top law enforcement official after two decades in the Senate.

Some people might dispute the party affiliation of Joe Lieberman Manchin, who was the only Democrat who voted for Sessions.  On the other hand ...

That kind of Democrat -- Manchin, Gilberto Hinojosa, James Cargas, etc. -- is precisely the reason why I'm no longer a Democrat.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

DeVos confirmed, Warren silenced, more scattershots

Like I said before, skip a blogging day and it's hell catching up.

-- Mike Pence broke the tie, and thus we now have a Dominionist who knows nothing about, indeed is opposed on religious grounds to public education, in charge of public education.

How long do you think it will be before your children and grandchildren are kneeling in prayer following the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance?  How long before intelligent design is taught in favor of evolution, like it is in church schools?  How long before -- never mind.  The answer is that it won't be long at all.

The whole reason private education came into existence is so that religious dogma wouldn't be forced on kids at taxpayers' expense.  Conservatives have evolved to the point that the answer is to strangle public schools.

-- Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Senate Republicans because she dared read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Jeff Sessions.  During Black History Month.  The power play is backfiring on Mitch McConnell.

Republicans can't help being racists; it just comes so naturally to them.  Of course it might be sexist instead.  My guess is it's both.

-- Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz had a debate on healthcare.  Generally speaking, both men lost.  Cruz because of his typical smarmy, condescending style and lack of facts; Sanders because ... well, he's always talking at us and not with us.  Cruz can at least feign empathy.  Update: Awkwardly.

Sanders doesn't really believe in the ACA; he's a proponent of 'Medicare for All' or universal single payer.  But he has to play this goddamned Democrat game of supporting some half-measure that until recently had Obama's name on it.  Because he doesn't want to rile up the Shrillarians too much.

This is the dilemma when you're trying to foment a revolution inside the castle walls.  And also why that never succeeds.

-- Trump offered to ruin an unnamed (but identified by gender) Texas state senator who has introduced legislation eliminating asset forfeiture to law enforcement by suspected criminals.  If you rule out Konni Burton on the basis of "him", they're talking about one Democrat -- Chuy Hinojosa -- or Bob Hall or Don Huffines, members of the Senate's Tea Party caucus.

Grits was first to see the irony.

Meanwhile, conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Justice, and others have been pushing forfeiture reform hard for the last few years. So this is an area where Trumpian authoritarianism finds itself at odds with traditional, property-rights rooted conservatism and small-government distrust of government power.  There are dozens such fracture points emerging where Trumpism  diverges from traditional conservatism, so this issue arises as part of a larger debate: Will there continue to be a place for small-government conservatism in the Trumpian era? D.C. Republicans probably cannot resist his Big-Government siren song. But here in Texas, perhaps those values are a little more deeply rooted. Burton's SB 380 would be a good opportunity to express them. 

Update: The Statesman feels confident in naming Bob Hall as the object of Trump's scorn.

Let's hope some of our corporate media Capitol bureau contingent can formulate a pointed question to ask a few senators.  Something like: "Yes or no on SB 380?"

-- Two steps for free and fair elections; one backward ...

The same day that Mike Pence became the first Vice President in American history to be summoned to break a 50-50 split in a Cabinet confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos, members of the Committee on House Administration advanced two pieces of legislation to repeal laws that safeguard the integrity of elections.

The committee, chaired by Mississippi House Rep Gregg Harper, voted 6-3 along (shocker!) partisan lines to advance the Election Assistance Commission Termination Act, ThinkProgress reported. This act of termination would kill off the bipartisan commission that was formed in the wake of the debacle of the 2000 election to ensure that states were making it easier and more transparent to vote. It also oversees voting machines to make sure they don’t get hacked. According to its government website, the commission “is charged with supporting state and local election officials in their efforts to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections.”

The commission was designed as oversight for the implementation and compliance with the Help America Vote Act. It’s worth noting that Republicans held the White House, the House and 50-50 control with the VP’s tie-breaker in the Senate when HAVA was signed into law in October, 2002. This goes to show how radically far the GOP has declined in its moral compass in the last 15 years. Republicans are voting to repeal legislation that their party wrote and enacted the last time they held unified control of the federal government.

... and one forward.

In blunt and highly critical language, a federal judge on Wednesday blasted the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and issued a ruling that lays the groundwork for removing the primary obstacle to a serious independent running for president in 2020.

In her 28-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said that, in rejecting a complaint by Level the Playing Field, a group seeking to change the rules for participation in the final fall debates, the FEC had acted in a manner that was “contrary to law.”

The FEC was the defendant in the case, but the real villain in the story is the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private organization that is dominated by Democratic and Republican party stalwarts.

You might recall that a different federal judge ruled against the minor parties trying to crack open the debates last August, which sealed our crappy duopolist fate (again).

The CPD’s rules – mainly the 15% threshold late in the election cycle for admission — have effectively excluded independent candidates from participating in the September and October debates, thus denying them the chance to become president — even though polls clearly show Americans want that choice.

Fix it or the plaintiffs will be able to fix it themselves, wrote the judge.

In one important passage of her opinion, the judge referred to evidence submitted by the plaintiffs and wrote:

“Given these expert analyses, the evidence that since 1988 only one non-major-party candidate, Ross Perot, has participated in the debates, and only then at the request of the two major parties, and the evidence that the CPD’s chairmen and directors are actively invested in the partisan political process through large donations, the court is perplexed that the full extent of the FEC’s analysis consisted of no more than a footnote stating that even if the fifteen percent threshold excluded third-party candidates, this still did not indicate that it was not an objective criterion. This begs the question: if under these facts the FEC does not consider the fifteen percent polling criterion to be subjective, what would be?”

The judge concluded by ordering the FEC to “reconsider the evidence and allegations and issue a new decision consistent with this Opinion within 30 days.” Otherwise, she wrote, the plaintiffs “may bring…a civil action to remedy the violation involved in the original complaint.”

STOP and then GO, democracy!

-- Democrats in Congress are at least trying to remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council seat he secured for himself.

While national security lawyers argue over whether Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council is legal or not, members of Congress are pushing back to close whatever statutory loophole even might render legal what is clearly a violation of long-standing national security norms.

In one of last week’s most under-reported stories in the major press, bills were introduced into both the House of Representatives and the US Senate this past week, each designed to clarify the composition of the NSC and Principals Committee, ensure Senate oversight over appointments, and, in the case of HR 804, “To Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference.” As of today, the House bill has 85 co-sponsors.

No GOP signatories yet, and Trump could veto it if it came down to that, but this is more meaningful than another protest or petition or phone call to a full voice mailbox.  Cruz and Johns Cornyn and Culberson ought to be able to go along with the premise that a Democrat could do this in four years, which is why they should act now.

Send an email to your Congress critter through the contact form on their website (the best).