PAUL KRUGMAN @ NY TIMES: THE TRUMP-GOP KAKISTOCRACY – “ We are, instead, living in a kakistocracy, a nation ruled by the worst, and we need to face up to that unpleasant reality!”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/opinion/gop-character-bad-faith.html

Krugman writes:

“Even those who have long since accepted the premise that Donald Trump is corrupt, self-centered and dishonest seem a bit shocked by his tirades over the Presidents’ Day weekend. Using the Parkland, Fla., massacre as an excuse to attack the F.B.I. for investigating Russian election intervention on his behalf — while lying about his own past denials that such intervention took place — took vileness to a new level, which is truly impressive given Trump’s previous record.

Yet if you step back a bit and think about it, Trump’s latest outbursts were very much in character — and I don’t just mean his personal character. When did you last see a member of the Trump administration, or for that matter any prominent Republican, admit error or accept responsibility for problems?

Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are. On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions — what my parents called being a mensch — used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general. And in this as in so many things, there’s a huge asymmetry between the parties. Of course not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the G.O.P. willing to take responsibility for, well, anything.

And I don’t think this is an accident. The sad content of modern Republican character is a symptom of the corruption and hypocrisy that has afflicted half of our body politic — a sickness of the soul that manifests itself in personal behavior as well as policy.

Before I talk about that sickness, consider a few non-Trump examples of the lack of character that pervades this administration.

At the trivial but still telling end of the scale, we have the tale of Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who keeps flying first class at taxpayers’ expense. The money isn’t the important issue here, although his spending violates federal guidelines. The revealing thing, instead, is the supposed reason he needs to fly premium — you see, ordinary coach passengers have been known to say critical things to his face.

Remember this story the next time someone talks about liberal “snowflakes.”

More seriously, consider the behavior of John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, whose record of slandering critics and refusing to admit error is starting to rival his boss’s. Remember when Kelly made false accusations about Representative Frederica Wilson and refused to retract those accusations even after video showed they were false?

More recently, Kelly insisted that he didn’t know the full details about domestic abuse allegations against Rob Porter until, a White House staff member said, “40 minutes before he threw him out” — a claim that seems at odds with everything we know about this story. Even if this claim were true, an apology for his obliviousness seems in order. But these guys don’t apologize.

Oh, and by the way: Roy Moore still hasn’t conceded.

So it’s not just Trump. And it didn’t start with Trump. In fact, way back in 2006 I wrote about the “mensch gap” in the Bush administration — the unwillingness of top officials to accept responsibility for the botched occupation of Iraq, the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, and more.

Nor, by the way, are we only talking about politicians. In my neck of the woods, I remain amazed by the unwillingness of right-leaning economists to admit that they were wrong in predicting that the Fed’s efforts to rescue the economy would cause runaway inflation. Being wrong is one thing — it happens to everyone, myself very much included. Refusing to admit and learn from error is something different.

And let’s be clear: Personal responsibility isn’t dead everywhere. You can ask, for example, whether Hillary Clinton apologized sufficiently for her initial support of the Iraq war or her missteps in 2016 — but she did admit to making mistakes, which nobody on the other side ever seems to do.

So what happened to the character of the G.O.P.? I’m pretty sure that in this case the personal is, ultimately, political. The modern G.O.P. is, to an extent never before seen in American history, a party built around bad faith, around pretending that its concerns and goals are very different from what they really are. Flag-waving claims of patriotism, pious invocations of morality, stern warnings about fiscal probity are all cover stories for an underlying agenda mainly concerned with making plutocrats even richer.

And the character flaws of the party end up being echoed by the character flaws of its most prominent members. Are they bad people who chose their political affiliation because it fits their proclivities, or potentially good people corrupted by the company they keep? Probably some of both.

In any case, let’s be clear: America in 2018 is not a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable, where there are good people and good ideas on both sides, or whatever other bipartisan homily you want to recite. We are, instead, living in a kakistocracy, a nation ruled by the worst, and we need to face up to that unpleasant reality.”

***************************************

Yup. I also think that “Kleptocracy” and “Clownocracy” could be substituted for “Kakistocracy.”

PWS

02-20-18

PRESIDENTS’ DAY: MOVE ON OVER JIMMIE BUCHANAN!– THERE’S A NEW “WORST PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY” IN TOWN – You Might Have Thought That Sitting On Your Behind While The US Dissolved Into A Bloody Civil War Would Insure You A Lasting Last Place In History – BUT NO, IN ONLY A LITTLE OVER A YEAR, “PUTIN’S PUPPET” & “CON-MAN-IN-CHIEF” DONALD TRUMP HAS BEAT YOU OUT FOR THE “WORST PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY” ACCORDING TO A BIPARTISAN PANEL OF EXPERTS!

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/19/opinion/how-does-trump-stack-up-against-the-best-and-worst-presidents.html

“Where does Donald Trump rank on the list of American presidents?

We surveyed presidential politics experts to sketch out a first draft of Trump’s place in presidential history.

Since our previous survey in 2014, some presidential legacies have soared (Barack Obama’s stock has climbed into the Top 10), while others have fallen (Andrew Jackson toppled to 15, out of the Top 10).

And President Trump? Let’s say that, according to the 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section who filled out our survey, he has at least three years to improve on an ignominious debut.

Presidential Greatness Rankings

James Buchanan, who was at the helm as the United States careened into civil war, was dislodged from his position as our nation’s worst president by our current president, Trump.

His Oval Office predecessor, Barack Obama, shot into the Top 10, up from 18th in the previous survey. Ulysses S. Grant also got a bump, up seven places from 2014, perhaps owing to a strong assist from Ron Chernow’s recent masterpiece.

The biggest declines were for Bill Clinton, arguably the result of contemporary scorn for his treatment of women, and Andrew Jackson, for evolving attitudes on his treatment of Native Americans.

Overall rankings.

Presidents since World War II in boldface.

Presidents whose rank changed since last survey

0 = FAILURE

50 = AVERAGE

100 = GREAT

2014 RANK

CHANGE

IN RANKING

UP OR

DOWN

TOP 10 IN 2018

1. Lincoln

95

2. Washington

93

3. F.D. Roosevelt

89

4. T. Roosevelt

81

5. Jefferson

80

6. Truman

75

7. Eisenhower

74

8. Obama

71

8. Clinton

–5

9. Reagan

69

9. Jackson

–6

10. L.B. Johnson

69

10. Wilson

–1

11. Wilson

67

11. Reagan

+2

12. Madison

64

12. L.B. Johnson

+2

13. Clinton

64

13. Madison

+1

14. J. Adams

63

14. Kennedy

–2

15. Jackson

62

15. J. Adams

+1

16. Kennedy

62

16. Monroe

–2

17. G.H.W. Bush

61

18. Monroe

61

18. Obama

+10

19. McKinley

55

19. Polk

–1

20. Polk

54

20. Taft

–2

21. Grant

53

21. McKinley

+2

22. Taft

52

22. J.Q. Adams

–1

23. J.Q. Adams

52

23. Cleveland

–1

24. Cleveland

51

24. Ford

–1

25. Ford

47

25. Van Buren

–2

26. Carter

45

27. Van Buren

44

27. Coolidge

–1

28. Coolidge

42

28. Grant

+7

29. Hayes

42

29. B. Harrison

–3

30. G.W. Bush

40

30. Hayes

+1

31. Arthur

40

31. Garfield

–3

32. B. Harrison

38

32. Arthur

+1

33. Nixon

37

33. Taylor

–2

34. Garfield

37

34. Nixon

+1

BOTTOM 10

35. Taylor

33

35. G.W. Bush

+5

36. Hoover

33

36. Tyler

–1

37. Tyler

31

37. Fillmore

–1

38. Fillmore

28

38. Hoover

+2

39. Harding

25

39. W.H. Harrison

–3

40. A. Johnson

25

40. Pierce

–1

41. Pierce

23

41. A. Johnson

+1

42. W.H. Harrison

19

42. Harding

+3

43. Buchanan

15

44. Trump

12

Methodology: Each expert was invited to rate each president on a 0-100 scale, with 0 = failure, 50 = average, and 100 = great. Scores were then averaged for each president, with presidents then ranked in order of highest average to lowest.

Greatness Rankings by Party

On partisan-votes lines, Democrats ranked Ronald Reagan nine places lower than Republicans, while Democrats place Obama 10 places higher.

Counting only Republican votes, William McKinley — best known for winning the Spanish-American war, for defeating William Jennings Bryan twice in contests for the White House and for being assassinated by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz — holds a spot in the Top 10.

Independents admire George H.W. Bush, ranking him higher than Obama.

Trump doesn’t get much of a lift from Republican-only vote: Even in their eyes, he’s a bottom-five president.

Democratic scholars

Independents/other

Republican scholars

Presidents since World War II in boldface.

These scholars skew somewhat to the right.

TOP 10

0

AVG.

100

0

AVG.

100

0

AVG.

100

1. Washington

94

1. Lincoln

96

1. Lincoln

94

2. Lincoln

94

2. F.D. Roosevelt

94

2. Washington

91

3. F.D. Roosevelt

83

3. Washington

93

3. F.D. Roosevelt

83

4. T. Roosevelt

77

4. T. Roosevelt

83

4. T. Roosevelt

79

5. Reagan

76

5. Jefferson

82

5. Jefferson

79

6. Jefferson

70

6. Obama

78

6. Eisenhower

77

7. Eisenhower

68

7. Truman

78

7. Reagan

75

8. Truman

67

8. L.B. Johnson

75

8. Truman

74

9. McKinley

64

9. Eisenhower

74

9. Madison

65

10. Jackson

64

10. Wilson

72

10. J. Adams

64

11. G.H.W. Bush

63

11. Madison

67

11. G.H.W. Bush

64

12. Wilson

61

12. Kennedy

67

12. Obama

63

13. Polk

60

13. Clinton

66

13. L.B. Johnson

63

14. Taft

60

14. Reagan

65

14. Clinton

62

15. Clinton

59

15. J. Adams

64

15. Wilson

62

16. Obama

57

16. Monroe

62

16. McKinley

61

17. J. Adams

57

17. Jackson

62

17. Jackson

61

18. Monroe

56

18. G.H.W. Bush

59

18. Monroe

60

19. L.B. Johnson

56

19. Grant

53

19. Kennedy

58

20. Cleveland

55

20. J.Q. Adams

53

20. Taft

56

21. Coolidge

52

21. Polk

52

21. Polk

56

22. Madison

52

22. McKinley

50

22. Grant

54

23. G.W. Bush

52

23. Cleveland

49

23. Cleveland

54

24. Kennedy

50

24. Carter

48

24. J.Q. Adams

52

25. Grant

49

25. Taft

48

25. Coolidge

50

26. Ford

49

26. Ford

46

26. Ford

49

27. J.Q. Adams

49

27. Van Buren

44

27. Van Buren

47

28. Hayes

44

28. Hayes

39

28. Hayes

45

29. Nixon

42

29. Arthur

39

29. Arthur

44

30. Hoover

41

30. G.W. Bush

37

30. Garfield

42

31. B. Harrison

39

31. Nixon

37

31. G.W. Bush

42

32. Carter

39

32. B. Harrison

36

32. Carter

41

33. Van Buren

38

33. Coolidge

36

33. B. Harrison

40

34. Arthur

36

34. Garfield

34

34. Taylor

37

Lighter circles = below average

BOTTOM 10

35. Garfield

36

35. Taylor

31

35. Hoover

37

36. Taylor

34

36. Tyler

31

36. Nixon

36

37. Tyler

33

37. Hoover

29

37. Tyler

32

38. Harding

32

38. A. Johnson

27

38. Fillmore

30

39. Fillmore

29

39. Fillmore

26

39. Harding

26

40. Trump

25

40. Pierce

24

40. Pierce

25

41. A. Johnson

21

41. Harding

23

41. A. Johnson

23

42. Pierce

19

42. W.H. Harrison

19

42. W.H. Harrison

19

43. W.H. Harrison

19

43. Buchanan

16

43. Trump

16

44. Buchanan

14

44. Trump

8

44. Buchanan

14

Methodology: Each expert was allowed to self-identify as either Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Other. The results of those who self-identified were later analyzed independently to allow comparisons across partisan groups.

Next on Mt. Rushmore

Which president deserves to have his likeness carved next into Mt. Rushmore’s granite cliff? Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the overwhelming favorite, selected by two-thirds of our respondents.

Franklin

Roosevelt

Barack

Obama

James

Madison

Lyndon

Johnson

66%

7

5

4

4

2

2

10

Others

Ronald

Reagan

Dwight

Eisenhower

William

McKinley

Methodology: Respondents were asked if they were to add one president to those currently represented on Mt. Rushmore, who would it be, and then allowed to select any past or current president. The number and percentage of times each president was selected was then calculated.

Mt. Rushmore by Party

It wasn’t just Democratic support that would carve F.D.R. on Mt. Rushmore: All groups, including Republicans, named him as most deserving of that honor.

Roosevelt, the godfather of presidential liberalism, received more than twice as many votes from Republicans as Ronald Reagan, his conservative counterpart.

Democratic scholars’ vote:

Barack

Obama

Lyndon

Johnson

James

Madison

Franklin

Roosevelt

75%

11

3

3

8

Others

Independent/others’ vote:

Ronald

Reagan

Dwight

Eisenhower

William

McKinley

Franklin

Roosevelt

57%

9

9

6

19

Others

Republicans’ vote:

Ronald

Reagan

James

Madison

Franklin

Roosevelt

43%

19

10

29

Others

Methodology: Using the previously discussed self-identified partisanship breakdowns, the number and percentage of times each partisan group selected each president was calculated in the same way as the overall results.

Trump’s initial rating places him in an ignominious category, but dozens of presidents have had slow starts and have course corrected to improve their public esteem. Beyond his reputation or ranking, Donald Trump’s very presidency may alter perceptions of presidential legacies as his unique approach to the office continues to surprise.

Brandon Rottinghaus is a professor of political science at the University of Houston. Justin S. Vaughn is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University.

GONZO’S WORLD: TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLING OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM – THE “BOGUS FOCUS” ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IS KEY TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE STRATEGY! — “Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/opinion/sunday/donald-trump-and-the-undoing-of-justice-reform.html

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

“In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America’s approach to criminal justice was changing fast — reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives. Red and blue states were putting in place smart, sensible reforms like reducing harsh sentencing laws, slashing prison populations and crime rates, and providing more resources for the thousands of people who are released every week.

President Obama’s record on the issue was far from perfect, but he and his first attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took several key steps: weakening racially discriminatory sentencing laws, shortening thousands of absurdly long drug sentences, and pulling back on the prosecution of low-level drug offenders and of federal marijuana offenses in states that have legalized it. This approach reflected state-level efforts and sent a message of encouragement to those still leery of reform.

Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of “American carnage,” of cities and towns gutted by crime — even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades. Things only got worse with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, along with Mr. Trump, appears to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election. Perhaps that’s why both men seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative.

Last February, Mr. Trump claimed that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Wrong: The national rate remains at an all-time low. It’s true that the 10.8 percent increase in murders between 2014 and 2015 was the largest one-year rise in more than four decades, but the total number of murders is still far below what it was in the early 1990s.

 

As bad as the dishonesty is the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have managed to engineer their backward worldview largely under the public’s radar, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents. Last May, Mr. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case — reversing a policy of Mr. Holder’s that had eased up on nonviolent drug offenders and others who fill the nation’s federal prisons. In January, Mr. Sessions rescinded another Obama-era policy that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. (Mr. Sessions has long insisted, contrary to all available evidence, that marijuana is “a dangerous drug” and “only slightly less awful” than heroin.)

These sorts of moves don’t get much attention, but as the report notes, they could end up increasing the federal prison population, which began to fall for the first time in decades under Mr. Obama.

The reversal of sensible criminal justice reform doesn’t stop there. Under Mr. Trump, the Justice Department has pulled back from his predecessor’s investigations of police abuse and misconduct; resumed the use of private, for-profit prisons; and stopped granting commutations to low-level drug offenders who have spent years or decades behind bars.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions, who as a senator was one of the most reliable roadblocks to long-overdue federal sentencing reform, is still throwing wrenches into the works as Congress inches toward a bipartisan deal. Mr. Sessions called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a sweeping bill that would reduce some mandatory-minimum sentences, and that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a “grave error.” That earned him a rebuke from the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, who pointed out that the attorney general is tasked with enforcing the laws, not writing them. “If General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley is no one’s idea of a justice reformer, but he supports the bill because, he said, it “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

So what has this administration done right? The list is short and uninspiring. In October, Mr. Trump declared the epidemic of opioid abuse a national emergency, which could be a good step toward addressing it — but he’s since done almost nothing to combat a crisis that killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Trump promised to “embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” It’s great if he really means that, but it’s hard to square his assurance with his own attorney general’s opposition to a bill that includes recidivism-reduction programs intended to achieve precisely this goal.

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

The rhetoric from the White House and the Justice Department has emboldened some state and local officials to talk tougher, even if just as ignorantly, about crime. The good news is that it’s not working as well anymore. In Virginia’s race for governor last fall, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, attacked his opponent, Ralph Northam, with ads blaming him for violence by the MS-13 gang.

It was a despicable stunt, its fearmongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign. Thankfully, Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Gillespie, another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum. In the era of Donald Trump, candidates of both parties should be proud to run as reformers — but particularly Democrats, who can cast the issue not only as a central component of a broader progressive agenda, but as yet another example of just how out of touch with the country Mr. Trump and his administration are.”

******************************************

I know it’s quoted above, but two paragraphs of this article deserve re-emphasis:

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

Gonzo consistently uses bogus statistics, fear-mongering, racial innuendo, and outright slurs of immigrants, including Dreamers, and their advocates to advance his White Nationalist agenda at Justice.

At the same time, he largely ignores or proposes laughably inadequate steps to address the real justice problems in America: Russian interference, the opioid crisis, uncontrolled gun violence (much of it involving mass shootings by disgruntled White Guys with assault-type weapons), overcrowded prisons, lack of an effective Federal community-based anti-gang effort in major cities, hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, grotesquely substandard conditions in civil immigration detention, and the uncontrolled backlogs and glaring denials of Due Process and fairness to migrants in our U.S. Immigration Court System.

How long can America go without a real Attorney General who acknowledges the rights of all people in America? How will we ever recover from the damage that Gonzo does every day he remains in the office for which he is so supremely unqualified?

PWS

02-19-18

 

BESS LEVIN @ VANITY FAIR: CORPORATE AMERICA HELPED DIVVY UP THE SPOILS AFTER TRUMP & THE GOP LOOTED OUR TREASURY – THEY APPROPRIATED MOST OF THE LUCRE, LEAVING MERE CRUMBS FOR WORKERS – BUT, WHEN THEIR “USEFUL IDIOT” TURNED HIS IDOCY ON “DREAMERS,” THEREBY THREATENING OUR ECONOMIC WELL-BEING, THEY WERE VERY UNHAPPY!

Bess writes:

THERE ARE LOTS OF FOOLS OUT THERE — BUT POOR KAREN McDOUGAL HAS TO TAKE THE CAKE — SHE CLAIMS TO ACTUALLY HAVE HAD SEX WITH TRUMPIE & GOT NOTHING IN RETURN — Even Porn Stars Who Didn’t Have Sex With Trumpster Got Guaranteed $130K Cash Payments From Well-Known Philanderopist Michael D. Cohen!

WHAT THE TRUMP-MCDOUGAL STORY REVEALS ABOUT THE STEELE DOSSIER

The president of the United States is vulnerable to blackmail.

In the final weeks of the 2016, election, Donald Trump’s behavior toward women became a topic of national interest. The Access Hollywood tape had just been published, leading to a slew of allegations from more than a dozen women that Trump had engaged in unwanted touching and sexual advances. Amid the charged atmosphere, The Wall Street Journalreported that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 in August for exclusive rights to a story about a former Playboy model’s alleged affair with Trump, which it never ran. (A.M.I. C.E.O. David Pecker is a close friend of the president.) Now, details of the relationship have been made public, revealing a pattern of behavior when it comes to the sitting president of the United States.

While Karen McDougal story was buried, the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow obtained an eight-page handwritten document outlining her interactions with Trump, which McDougal confirmed she had written. According to Farrow’s report, McDougal and Trump first met at a party at the Playboy Mansion in June 2006, after a taping of The Apprentice. McDougal wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me—telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you—I think you could be his next wife.’” At the time, Trump had been married to Melania for less than two years, and his son, Barron, was months old.

After the party, McDougal said that she and Trump began an affair. Trump reportedly met McDougal at the Beverly Hills Hotel when he was in Los Angeles and regularly flew her to public events, but without leaving a paper trail. McDougal alleges that Trump once tried to pay her for sex: “He offered me money,” she wrote. “I looked at him (+ felt sad) + said, ‘No thanks—I’m not ‘that girl.’ I slept w/you because I like you—NOT for money’—He told me ‘you are special.’” McDougal is the second woman to make such allegations on the record. (In a statement, the White House called McDougal’s allegations “an old story that is just more fake news” and said the president denied there was a relationship.)

Though certain details of the report are more eyebrow-raising than others—McDougal allegedly ended the affair due in part to Trump’s “offensive” comments about African-Americans—the most serious ramifications are a matter of national security. While some of the seedier allegations in Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier have not been verified, the central thesis of the dossier seems increasingly likely: that Trump’s long history of alleged affairs make him uniquely susceptible to blackmail. Pecker’s A.M.I. told The New Yorker, “the suggestion that A.M.I. holds any influence over the President of the United States, while flattering, is laughable.” But the real worry isn’t whether the president’s friends, like Pecker or attorney Michael Cohen—who told the Hive he spent $130,000 to keep another alleged affair quiet—have power over the president. It’s whether additional alleged affairs and cover-ups are known to foreign governments, like Russia. If Rob Porter’salleged history of domestic abuse and Jared Kushner’smountains of debt were concerning enough to delay their ability to get permanent security clearances, then Trump’s history is a five-alarm fire.

***********************************

As some of you might remember, I’m willing to give Stormy Daniels credit for being 1) smarter than Trump; 2) no less honest; and 3) a heck of a lot better “entrepreneur.” I have my doubts about Karen, however. On the other hand, I acknowledge she did eventually get paid $150K for a “tell all” story that was never told. So, perhaps she’s not so dumb after all. Still, consensual sex with the Orange Mop has to raise serious judgment questions.

All things considered, I’d vote for Stormy over Trump or Karen. That is, unless I find out that Stormy is a racist/White Nationalist, which most of those having “close contact” with Trump appear to be. We’ve actually come to the sad point in our wounded democracy when a porn star in the White House would be a “step up” from the sleazy destructive TV reality show con-man who now occupies the position even if he is incapable of actually performing the functions.

We’ve elected the “Confederacy of Clowns.” 🤡 🤡 🤡  Vladi couldn’t be happier. Just like he drew it up!

PWS

02-17-18

E.J. DIONNE, JR. @ WASHPOST – “SIMPLE DECENCY MOVEMENT” LIKELY TO BE BAD NEWS FOR TRUMP’S INDECENT GOP – “[D]emanding simple decency is a radical and subversive act.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-real-split-in-american-politics-isnt-left-vs-right/2018/02/14/9ca64696-11bc-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html

Dionne writes:

“. . . .

Some members of this dispirited group overlap with a third key constituency that is underanalyzed because its ranks are not exceptionally partisan or ideological. They are citizens who ask for a basic minimum from those in charge of their government: some dignity and decorum, a focus on problem-solving, and orderliness rather than chaos. Trump and the conservatives sustaining him are completely out of line with this behavioral conservatism built on self-restraint and temperamental evenness.

It is not to romanticize the heartland to say that anyone who spends time in the Midwest runs into such solid citizens all the time. They are horrified by spousal abuse. They include small-business owners who prefer low taxes but care about schools, roads, libraries and parks. They may be critical of government, but they also expect it to do useful things. They don’t much like bragging and find an obsession with enemies unhealthy.

They are churchgoers who don’t watch TV preachers, may have doubts about this or that doctrine, and don’t tell others how religious they are. But they take from their faith and scripture that they have obligations to their communities and a duty to try as best they can to live by the standards they uphold.

They like to look up to their leaders with respect, and they feel betrayed when the powers that be give them every reason not to.

The obvious political calculation is that this fall’s elections will be decided by which side mobilizes its most ardent supporters. But here is a bet that there is also a quiet revolution of conscience in the country among those who are sick to death of the chaos they see every day on the news, a White House whose energy is devoted to stabbing internal foes in the back and a president who can’t stop thinking about himself. In the face of this, demanding simple decency is a radical and subversive act.”

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Read the rest of Dionne’s op-ed at the link.

One can only hope that at some point, reason will prevail over the greed, immorality, clownishness, disrespect, dishonesty, and incompetence that has come to symbolize today’s GOP and the Trump regime. Even today, there are a number of stories about how well-to-do yet fundamentally dishonest Trump appointees and their families continue to loot the Treasury and run up a huge deficit while essentially proposing a “death to the poor and vulnerable” budget. This is what a kleptocracy and gross indecency looks like! Reading our newspapers on a daily basis reminds me of passages I used to see only in State Department Country Reports on corrupt, Third-World dictatorships.

PWS

02-15-18

 

 

TOO GOOD TO WAIT FOR SATURDAY SATIRE: ANDY BOROWITZ @ THE NEW YORKER – “Millions of Americans Demand $130,000 for Not Having Sex with Trump”

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/millions-of-americans-demand-130000-for-not-having-sex-with-trump?mbid=nl_Borowitz 021418&CNDID=48297443&spMailingID=12931975&spUserID=MjQ1NjUyMTUwNjY5S0&spJobID=1341291132&spReportId=MTM0MTI5MTEzMgS2

Millions of Americans Demand $130,000 for Not Having Sex with Trump

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Americans on Wednesday demanded that Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, issue them checks in the amount of $130,000 for not having sex with Trump.

After Cohen revealed that he had issued such a check to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who he claims never had intimate relations with his client, there was widespread outrage among other Americans who had also not had sex with Trump but had not been paid for not doing so.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Stormy Daniels,” Tracy Klugian, a florist in Santa Rosa, California, said. “I just want my check, too.”

Harland Dorrinson, a bank teller in Akron, Ohio, said that he had already e-mailed Cohen to demand payment. “I have never come close to having sex with Trump, and that should be worth something,” he said. “Specifically, $130,000.”

But, even as millions of Americans clamored to be compensated for abstaining from sex with Cohen’s client, others, like Carol Foyler, of Tallahassee, Florida, took a different view. “Never having sex with Donald Trump should be a reward in itself,” she said.

 

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Sounds like a good deal to me! What a “win-win!”

PWS

02-14-18

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WARNING: THIS IS “FAKE NEWS” BUT COMES WITH MY ABSOLUTE, UNCONDITIONAL, MONEY BACK GUARANTEE THAT IT CONTAINS MORE TRUTH THAN THE AVERAGE TRUMP TWEET OR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS NEWS BRIEFING, AND ALSO MORE FACTUAL ACCURACY THAN ANY REPORT PREPARED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF “AGENT DEVON!”

 

TRUMP BUDGET: VLADI’S PUPPET WOULD LITERALLY SELL OUT AND SELL OFF AMERICA, MUSHROOM DEFICIT TO LINE THE POCKETS OF THE RICH, BUILD BOMBS (BUT WITH NOBODY TO DROP THEM ON, ONCE THE RUSSIANS TAKE OVER), WHILE THOROUGHLY SCREWING THE POOR, THE VULNERABLE, AND THE VAST MAJORTY OF AMERICANS – No, It Won’t Pass, But It Stands As A Monument To The Corrupt & Perverted “Values” Of Trump and The GOP & Their Stunning Contempt For The Shortsighted Voters Who Put Them In Power!

Here’s what James Hohmann of the Washington Post has to say about the “Grifter-In-Chief” in his “Daily 202:”

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump campaigned like a populist, but the budget he proposed Monday underscores the degree to which he’s governing as a plutocrat.

Many of his proposals are dead on arrival in Congress, but the blueprintnonetheless speaks volumes about the president’s values – and contradicts many promises he made as a candidate.

“This is a messaging document,” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

Here are eight messages that the White House sends with its wish list:

1. Touching third rails he said he wouldn’t:

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly said he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

Now he proposes cutting Medicare by $554 billion and Medicaid by around $250 billion over the next decade.

His plan includes new per-person limits on the amount of health care each Medicaid enrollee can use and a dramatic shift toward block grants, which would allow states to tighten eligibility requirements and institute work requirements that would kick some off public assistance.

Impacting the middle class, Trump also calls for cutting the subsidies that allow more than four in five people with marketplace health plans to afford their insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

2. Scaling back support for the forgotten man:

Many displaced blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt took the president at his word when he promised to bring back their manufacturing jobs. But Trump’s budget calls for cutting funding for National Dislocated Worker Grants – which provides support to those who lose their jobs because of factory closures or natural disasters — from $219.5 million in 2017 to $51 million in 2019.

Also at the Labor Department, the president wants to slash support for the Adult Employment and Training Activities initiative, which serves high school dropouts and veterans, from $810 million last year to $490 million in 2019.

3. Giving up on a balanced budget:

Trump repeatedly promised that he would balance the budget “very quickly.” It turns out that a guy who has often described himself as the “king of debt” didn’t feel that passionately about deficits. Last year, he laid out a plan to balance the budget in 10 years. This year he didn’t even try. Trump now accepts annual deficits that will run over $1 trillion as the new normal.

Going further, the president also promised on the campaign trail that he’d get rid of the national debt altogether by the end of his second term. But his White House now projects that the national debt, which is already over $20 trillion, will grow more than $2 trillion over the next two years and by at least $7 trillion over the next decade. The administration repeatedly denied this in December as officials pushed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion.

“After Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts in the 1980s, deficits exploded in the same range as Trump’s now, when calculated as a percentage of the economy, or gross domestic product. But Reagan’s famous ‘riverboat’ gamble came when the total national debt was a fraction of what it is today. Trump is pushing the envelope when debt is already near 80 percent of GDP, leaving far less room to maneuver if the economy turns downward,” David Rogers writes in Politico. “Economists and politicians alike don’t know what happens next. There’s all the edginess of breaking new ground. But also, as with Faulkner’s famous line, there is a sense that the past ‘is not even past.’ … Nothing now seems obvious, except red ink.”

Trump blames state of U.S. infrastructure on ‘laziness’ after WWII

4. Relying on fuzzy math:

Trump’s team knows full well that they’ll never get most of the spending cuts they’re proposing, but they’re using them to make the deficit look less bad than it really is. Just last Friday, the president signed into law an authorization bill that blows up the sequester and increases spending by more than $500 billion.

The White House also makes the unrealistic assumption that the economy will grow by more than 3 percent every year between now and 2024, which makes its projections for revenue growth rosier than they should be. No serious economist thinks that level of growth can be sustained. A recession seems probable in the next decade.

Senate Democrats noticed that Trump’s budget plan, if it was enacted, would actually result in a net decrease in federal spending on infrastructure. Chuck Schumer’s office identified more than $240 billion in proposed cuts over the coming decade to existing infrastructure programs, which is higher than the $200 billion Trump simultaneously proposed in new spending. “The cuts identified by Schumer’s office include a $122 billion reduction in outlays over the coming decade to the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road projects and mass transit,” John Wagner reports. “Other proposed reductions would target an array of programs that fund rail, aviation [and] wastewater…”

5. Paying for tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich by cutting holes in the safety net for the poor:

In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush denounced a House Republican plan to save $8 billion by deferring tax credit payments for low-income people. “I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor,” he said at a campaign stop. “I’m concerned for someone who is moving from near-poverty to middle class.”

That sentiment seems quaint now. While Trump has never claimed the mantle of “compassionate conservatism,” his budget validates several of the negative stereotypes that Bush tried to shed.

This is a budget for the haves. The have-nots get left behind.

Trump wants to cut $214 billion from the food stamp program in the next decade, a reduction of nearly 30 percent.

The budget shows Ben Carson has no suction at the White House. Despite his efforts, the secretary of housing and urban development was unable to stop Trump from reducing Section 8 federal housing subsidies by more than $1 billion, zeroing out community development block grants and eliminating a $1.9 billion fund to cover public housing capital repairs. The 14 percent cut at HUD is even deeper than what Trump proposed last year.

The budget cuts 29 programs at the Education Department, many of which are designed to help needy children – including after-school activities to keep kids off the street and a grant program for college students with “exceptional financial need.” Trump’s plan also gets rid of a tuition initiative that makes college affordable for underprivileged D.C. residents, who don’t have access to strong in-state universities.

6. Deconstructing the administrative state:

Trump wants to neuter the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by starving it of resources, limiting its enforcement power and changing its funding stream so that it’s more vulnerable to pressure from Wall Street.

He seeks to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is about a quarter of its spending. He’d eliminate funding for state radon-detection programs and end partnerships to monitor and restore water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound and other large bodies of water.

“Funding for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay would fall from $72 million to $7 million, and a similar program for the Great Lakes would be cut from $300 million to $30 million — although neither would be wiped out,” Brady Dennis reports. “In addition, the Trump budget would eliminate — or very nearly eliminate — the agency’s programs related to climate change. Funding for the agency’s Office of Science and Technology would drop by more than a third, from $762 million to $489 million. And funding for prosecuting environmental crimes and for certain clean air and water programs would drop significantly.”

7. More guns, less butter:

Make no mistake, Trump is not calling for a reduction in the size of government. He seeks to spend $4.4 trillion next year, up 10 percent from last year. He’s calling for spending less on the homefront to cover a massive military buildup.

Trump asks for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019, a 13 percent increase. “The Trump plan provides more money for just about everything a general or admiral might desire,” Greg Jaffe notes. “The United States already spends more on its military than the next eight nations combined.”

Meanwhile, Trump proposes slashing the State Department’s budget by 23 percent. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in 2013, when he was a Marine general leading Central Command: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Another campaign promise Trump is making good on: building his “Deportation Force.” The budget allocates $2.8 billion to expand immigration detention facilities so that 52,000 beds are always available, $782 million to hire 2,750 additional border agents, and $1.6 billion for the construction of 65 miles of border wall in Texas. (Whatever happened to Mexico paying?) He also adds $2.2 billion for the Secret Service to hire 450 more people.

Trump claims that U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East

8. Leaning in on privatization:

Trump wants to outsource as many public functions as possible to private, for-profit companies.

His budget calls for selling off scores of prized federal assets, from Reagan National and Dulles Airports to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. “Power transmission assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Southwestern Power Administration, which sells power in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas; the Western Area Power Administration; and the Bonneville Power Administration, covering the Pacific northwest, were cited for potential divestiture,” Michael Laris reports. “It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Some state officials said they were uncertain about how their residents would benefit from such a proposal.”

The White House is re-upping its plan to shift the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands, even though it went nowhere in Congress last year.

Trump proposes to end funding for the International Space Station after 2024 by privatizing the orbiting laboratory.

Finally, he wants to increase spending by more than $1 billion on privateschool vouchers and other school choice plans while slashing the Education Department’s budget by $3.6 billion and devoting more resources to career training, at the expense of four-year universities.

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Don’t be fooled by the “paper money” you might be making in the stock market (if you are one of the fortunate minority of Americans with money to invest). 2017 was one of the worst years in the history of American democracy, and 2018 promises to be even worse. Indeed, while American democracy has been resilient enough to stand up to Trump and the utterly corrupt GOP to date, they are now upping their attack. There is absolutely no guarantee that their plan to destroy our country and hand it over to an unholy mixture of Russian Oligarchs, Chinese Government Corporations, and greedy Capitalist plutocrats won’t succeed.

Donald Trump and today’s GOP are a clear and present danger to our national security and the future of our democracy!

 

PWS

02-13-18

 

AGENDA OF HATE AND INTOLERANCE: USDOE SCOFFS AT LAW, MOVES TO TRASH THE RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER STUDENTS WHO WANT TO USE THE BATHROOM!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/edu-dept-trans-student-bathrooms?utm_term=.mlEGELBLKo#.mlEGELBLKo

Dominic Holden reports for Buzzfeed News:

“The Education Department has told BuzzFeed News it won’t investigate or take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity, charting new ground in the Trump administration’s year-long broadside against LGBT rights.

It’s the first time officials have asserted this position publicly as an interpretation of law. No formal announcement has been made.

For nearly a year, the Trump administration took a less clear stance, with officials saying they were studying the issue. When the Education Department and Justice Department withdrew Obama-era guidance on transgender restroom access in February 2017, Trump’s officials said in a memo and court filings that they would “consider the legal issues involved.” Then last June, the Education Department issued another memo saying it was “permissible” for its civil rights division to dismiss a trans student’s restroom case. However, in those statements, officials never cemented their intent to reject all restroom complaints issued by trans students.

For the past three weeks, BuzzFeed News called and emailed Education Department officials attempting to pinpoint the agency’s position.

Finally on Thursday, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, responded “yes, that’s what the law says” when asked again if the Education Department holds a current position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX.

Asked for further explanation on the department’s position, Hill said Friday, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”

She added that certain types of transgender complaints may be investigated — but not bathroom complaints.

“Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX,” Hill said. “In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”

The bathroom rule is the Trump administration’s latest step to rescind and undermine LGBT protections. Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew a policy protecting transgender workers, while he took the unusual step of jumping into a private lawsuit arguing that anti-gay discrimination was permissible in employment under federal law. Sessions has also argued religious business owners can refuse service to gay customers, even when anti-gay discrimination is banned by state law, and Trump has attempted to ban transgender people from all military service.”

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Homophobia, hate, White Nationalism, scoffing at the rule of law: that’s Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and the rest of the alt-rightists (like DeVoss) who now represent the GOP. No wonder that these evil clowns were neck and neck in the balloting for the Worst Cabinet Member. Indeed, Gonzo is neck and neck with “John the Con” Mitchell for the worst AG of the “modern era.” And Gonzo hasn’t even been indicted (yet).

I just hope that decent folks will remember who’s pushing this agenda of hate and intolerance.

PWS

02-12-18

 

 

ON SATURDAY, “COURTSIDE” & SLATE’S JEREMY STAHL GAVE YOU THE “REAL LOWDOWN” ON AAG RACHEL BRAND’S “FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE!” — Two Days Later, NBC News Confirms What We Already Said!

Here’s a link to the prior blog on immigrationcourtside.com:

https://wp.me/p8eeJm-26R

Here’s the NBC report by one of my favorite Washington reporters, Julia Edwards Ainsley:

http://nbcnews.to/2CfKuHi

Julia reports:

“WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said.

She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.

Sources: Brand left DOJ over fear of overseeing Russia probe 3:40

As far back as last fall, Brand had expressed to friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job, especially as many key positions under her jurisdiction had still not been filled with permanent, Senate-confirmed officials.

Four of the 13 divisions overseen by the associate attorney general remain unfilled, including the civil rights division and the civil division, over one year into the Trump administration.

While Brand has largely stayed out of the spotlight, public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by President Donald Trump worried Brand that Rosenstein’s job could be in danger.

Should Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter.

The Justice Department pushed back on NBC’s report.

“It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking. All of this is false and frankly ridiculous,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores.

Brand has had a long legal career that has spanned several administrations, including under Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush.

In announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Brand as “a lawyer’s lawyer,” noting that she graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked at the Supreme Court.

In the same statement, Brand said, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

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Undoubtedly, the DOJ under Trump and Sessions has made some great strides in attacking the rule of law, undermining social justice, mal-administering the Immigration Courts, eroding the credibility of DOJ attorneys in court, and generally diminishing the quality and fairness of the justice system in the United States.

While those might give Rachel “bragging rights” over at Wal-Mart or in right-wing legal circles, I don’t see that they are anything to “write home about.”  Hopefully, at some point in the future, having served as a politico in the Trump/Sessions DOJ will become a “career killer” for any future Government appointments.

But, in today’s topsy-turvy legal-political climate, it’s still a shrewd “self-preservation” move on Brand’s part. And, she’s somewhat less likely to be stomping on anyone’s civil rights over at Wal-Mart (although you never know when an opportunity to dump on the civil rights of the  LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, women, the poor, or to promote religious intelerance might present itself in a corporate setting).

Looking forward to more DOJ reporting from the super-talented Julia! I’ve missed her on the “immigration beat!”

PWS

02-12-18

 

 

 

SATURDAY SATIRE WITH ANDY BOROWITZ @ THE NEW YORKER — “Trump Gives Wife Beater Praise He Usually Reserves for Child Molesters and Nazis”

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/trump-gives-wife-beater-praise-he-usually-reserves-for-child-molesters-and-nazis?mbid=nl_Borowitz%20021018&CNDID=48297443&spMailingID=12907428&spUserID=MjQ1NjUyMTUwNjY5S0&spJobID=1340850260&spReportId=MTM0MDg1MDI2MAS2

“Trump Gives Wife Beater Praise He Usually Reserves for Child Molesters and Nazis

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In comments to reporters at the White House on Friday, Donald J. Trump stirred controversy by lavishing an alleged wife beater with praise that he historically has reserved for child molesters and Nazis.

Reporters who heard the President’s comments were taken aback since, in the past, the President had given no indication that he held wife beaters in the same high esteem in which he holds supporters of child abuse and white supremacy.

“We knew that President Trump considered child molesters and Nazis very fine people, but this was the first time he had put wife beaters up there, too,” Tracy Klugian, a member of the White House press corps, said. “We wanted clarification as to whether he considered wife beaters as fine as those other two groups, or finer.”

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, accused reporters of attempting to drive a wedge between three of the President’s most cherished constituencies.

“Donald Trump has made it very clear that he can be the champion of wife beaters, child molesters, and Nazis at the same time,” Kelly said. “He doesn’t play favorites.”

  • Andy Borowitz is the New York Times best-selling author of “The 50 Funniest American Writers,” and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He writes the Borowitz Report, a satirical column on the news, for newyorker.com.”

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WARNING: THIS IS “FAKE NEWS” BUT COMES WITH MY ABSOLUTE, UNCONDITIONAL, MONEY BACK GUARANTEE THAT IT CONTAINS MORE TRUTH THAN THE AVERAGE TRUMP TWEET OR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS NEWS BRIEFING, AND ALSO WITH MORE FACTUAL ACCURACY THAN ANY REPORT PREPARED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF “AGENT DEVON!”

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I can can see why misogynists would be attracted to the Wh’s House, headed by a man who successfully campaigned on a platform of misogyny and disrespect for women.

Also, let the record show that I said months ago that by the time General Kelly was done “serving” the Trumpster (and thereby dis-serving our county) his reputation would be “in the gutter.” Nobody close to the “Con-Man-In-Chief” can avoid being “splattered with the slime.”

Miserable as his tenure at the DHS was, Kelly has sunk to new depths in his current position (which the “Trump leak mill” says he might not have for long).

PWS

02-10-18

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: DOJ #3 RACHEL BRAND FLEES SINKING SHIP TO SAVE CAREER – FINDS REFUGE AT WALMART – No, It’s Not Normal For The Associate AG To Leave After 9 Months! – But, Who Ever Said The Trump/GONZO DOJ Is “Normal?”

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/rachel-brand-is-leaving-doj-are-we-headed-for-a-massacre.html

“In a surprise move, Rachel Brand is stepping down as the No. 3 official at the Department of Justice, the New York Timesreported on Friday. Brand was next in line to oversee the special counsel’s Russia inquiry after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Brand’s departure could have enormous consequences for Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference and President Donald Trump.

The New York Times has reported that Trump considered firing Rosenstein and Mueller over the summer, a situation that would have been reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre and the firing of Watergate investigator Archibald Cox. Trump will now get to hand-pick a replacement for Brand, who would step in to take over the investigation should he or she be confirmed by the Senate and should Rosenstein go. It’s also been noted that Rosenstein may ultimately have to recuse himself from the investigation; in that case, he wouldn’t even have to be fired for the Trump selection to take control of the investigation into Trump.

Last March, Trump issued an executive order modifying the line of succession for an acting attorney general, the person who would be in control of Mueller’s inquiry since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. According to that order, under normal procedures, a potential replacement for either Brand or Rosenstein to oversee the Russia inquiry would need Senate confirmation.

Fordham Law professor and occasional Slate contributor Jed Shugerman has laid out the potential orders of succession at the current moment. According to the vacancy statutes, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would be designated by Jeff Sessions as acting attorney general if Rosenstein were to depart, and he’d be followed by the assistant attorneys general. The next in line after that would typically be the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a position which is being vacated by Dana Boente. Since Boente is leaving that job, it would go to the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon Jr.

It’s worth noting that the executive order says Trump “retains discretion, to the extent permitted by law” to go around this line of succession to select an acting attorney general on his own. But doing so in an effort to squelch an investigation into himself, his allies, and his family would conceivably be such a transparent effort to subvert the rule of law as to be a political liability even within the Republican Party.

Rosenstein has been personally attacked by Trump. He has come under additional fire recentlyfrom critics of the Russia investigation, who have been using a concocted and false narrative from a recently declassified talking points memo to go after the FBI, Mueller, and Rosenstein. When Trump was asked by reporters if he still had confidence in Rosenstein last week, he responded “you figure that one out.”

Brand is reportedly leaving to become the head of global corporate governance at Walmart. The move feels possibly odd for someone who has served in three presidential administrations, cultivated a reputation as a devoted public servant, and who has only been in her current job less than one year.

Politico’s Eliana Johnson reported that someone close to Brand and the administration said she was leaving “because she is very smart, accomplished, and talented, and wants to protect her career.”

Brand worked in the George W. Bush administration and has been considered a rising conservative legal star for more than a decade. It seems very possible that staying in that DOJ position might have ultimately left her facing a very difficult situation career-wise. In a world where Rosenstein was fired and Brand was placed in charge of the Mueller probe, she might have to choose between obeying a Trump order that might upend the rule of law and being fired by Trump. As congressional and mainstream Republicans have moved closer towards Trump’s apparent anti-Mueller, anti-rule of law position, such martyrdom does not sound like it would help her future in the GOP.

Either decision might have done long-term damage to Brand’s future career prospects in any branch of government.

Brand’s move, however, preemptively abdicates that possible decision, quite possibly leaving it to a Trump-approved successor. As Elie Mystal, the executive editor at Above the Law, wrotefollowing the news, it seems as though we might be rolling towards a “slow moving Saturday Night Massacre.”

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Gee, Jeremy, I’m only a retired Immigration Judge (and 35 year vet of the DOJ), but I don’t view this a much of a “surprise.”

Brand has a reputation as as a smart lawyer, perhaps the smartest of the “Sessions crew.” As opposed to someone like the buffoonish racist White Nationalist xenophobe Stevie Miller or the often incoherently bias spewing Sessions himself, Brand was a low-key “doer.” She actually did a “bang up job” of implementing the Sessions alt right, anti-civil rights, anti-due process, anti-minority, anti-civil-liberties, anti-diversity, homophobic agenda at the DOJ.

She obviously sees “Armageddon” coming to the realm of “Gonzo Apocalypto” and wants to get out before she is left in the “lose-lose” position (that both Trump & Sessions have a penchant for creating) of having to become “Trump’s patsy” in the Russia investigation or maintaining her integrity, getting fired, and getting on Trump’s “S-list.”

This way, she can get out of the way of the “train wreck,” make some real money, and preserve her reputation in both right-wing legal circles and with Trump. That sets her up as a possible Cabinet appointee in a future, somewhat saner GOP Administration, or even to be a Trump nominee for a Federal Judgeship.

Smart, Rachel!

PWS

02-10-18

BESS LEVIN @ VANITY FAIR: BULLY-IN-CHIEF “THREATENS STOCK MARKETS!” – “What’s he going to do to the ‘Stock Market’? Fire it? Send it back to its country of origin? Demand it produce its long-form birth certificate?” – NOW THAT THEY ARE IN CHARGE, GOP “SPENDS LIKE DRUNKEN SAILORS,” LEAVING POOR, MIDDLE CLASS, AND FUTURE GENERATIONS TO PICK UP TAB FOR TAX CUTS THAT LINE FAT CATS’ POCKETS!

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/trump-stock-market-big-mistake

Bess writes:

“Earlier this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted a record-setting 1,597 points, the biggest point decline in history during a single trading session. Donald Trump, who has patted himself on the back for gains in the stock market on a near daily basis since becoming president, was uncharacteristically silent on the matter, while the White House suddenly claimed it was focused on the long-term health of the economy, rather than short-term market fluctuations. However, given his uniquely thin skin, not to mention the fact that the Dow dared to take a nosedive in the middle of one of his speeches, it was only a matter of time before the president weighed in on the matter.

What we expected: perhaps an angry rant sent from his bed in the East Wing, or maybe a targeted attack on one of the many experts who have said, more or less, that he was a fool for tying himself to the market. (Trump may “fancy himself a great expert,” Horizon Investments chief global strategist Greg Valliere told me, but “the markets are . . . tricky and they’re really humbling. Not to be cliché, but you live by the sword and you die by the sword.”) But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine Trump’s counterattack would be something so magnificent as this:

It’s only one tweet. But there’s so much to appreciate:

  1. When Trump says the stock market went down because of “good news,” what he’s referring to is the fact that many have attributed Monday’s drop (as well as last Friday’s) to the strong U.S. employment numbers which, among other things, are leading traders to fear higher wage demands and rising inflation, at a time when the economy is getting a giant, yuuuge stimulus in the form of the tax cuts. Trump was actually warned by a lot of people, who he didn’t listen to, that given where unemployment was—at a multi-year low—and the relative strength of the economy, now was the exact wrong time for a stimulus. (“Passing the tax reform bill is like throwing a small cup of gasoline on a fire that’s already burning,” one expert said.) But he did it anyway, because he’s stupid, and now the markets are worried about a recession (which Trump was also warned about).
  2. You know he has literally no idea how modern financial markets operate and that his basis for the stock market is a bunch of guys holding up little pieces of paper and shouting on the floor of the stock exchange.
  3. Isn’t it great that Trump believes he can bully and intimidate the “Stock Market” like he does his political enemies? What’s he going to do to the “Stock Market”? Fire it? Send it back to its country of origin? Demand it produce its long-form birth certificate?
  4. We’re calling it now: the president is one indignity away from giving the stock market a derogatory epithet. Watch your back, Liddle Stock Market! Fake Tears Stock Market! Low Energy Stock Market! Sad!

Trump (probably) won’t get another shutdown, after all

On Tuesday, the president of the United States said that he’d “love” to see the federal government shut down should Democrats fail to give him what he wants re: cracking down on illegal immigration. But for once, lawmakers do not seem inclined to oblige him. On Wednesday, Senate leaders announcedthat they’d reached a bipartisan spending agreement. And not just anyspending agreement, but a real deficit-buster that will raise spending caps by roughly $300 billion over the next two years. According to The New York Times, the limit imposed on military spending—by a 2011 deal “once seen as a key triumph for Republicans”—will be increased by $80 billion for the current fiscal year and $85 billion for the next one. Nondefense spending will increase by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year. And while most Republicans have long since given up pretending to care about “fiscal responsibility,” not everyone is pleased.

Jason Pye, vice president FreedomWorks, told the Times that the deal “isn’t just fiscally irresponsible, it’s an abomination,” adding that “no one in Congress who claims that they’re a deficit hawk or a fiscal conservative can justifiably vote for [it].” Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan was practically in tears over the idea that Paul Ryan, whom he thought he could trust, would betray his Ayn Randian ideals in such a heinous fashion. Calling the agreement a “monstrosity,” he fumed to Politico “I just never thought that Speaker Ryan—with his history and his background in budget issues, and his concern with the debt and deficit issue—I just never thought that this would be something that the Congress would put forward.” Freedom Caucus member Mo Brooks likewise told reporters, “I’m not only a no; I’m a hell no,” and basically compared the deal to a narcotic: “This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream,” he said. “Quite frankly, I’m astonished that the Republican Party seems to be the party of big government in this day and age.”

Nancy Pelosi also said she wouldn’t support the budget, but for reasons that Jordan would sooner spit in his mother’s face than get behind. From the House floor, Pelosi said that without an accompanying commitment from Ryan or Mitch McConnell to debate legislation to protect Dreamers, “[the] package does not have my support, nor does it it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus.”

Read the rest of the “Levin Report” at the link.
Another “right on” observation:
  1. “You know he has literally no idea how modern financial markets operate and that his basis for the stock market is a bunch of guys holding up little pieces of paper and shouting on the floor of the stock exchange.”

Kind says it all about what Trump voters and the GOP are doing to America. Ignorance, arrogance, bullying, incoherence, irrationality — what more could we ask for in a “Supreme Leader?” Let’s celebrate with a big (expensive) parade!

PWS

02-08-18

 

NY TIMES COGENTLY EXPLAINS WHY TRUMP GOP NATIVIST IMMIGRATION PROGRAM WOULD BE BAD FOR AMERICA!

“Congress now appears likely to reach a budget deal to keep the government functioning without treating as bargaining chips hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were children. It also appears, though, that President Trump will consider undoing his threat of deportation for these young “Dreamers” only if Congress considers the first deep cuts to legal immigration since the 1920s.
The changes the president is demanding stem from a nativist, zero-sum view that what’s good for immigrants is bad for America. That view runs counter not just to the best of American tradition and principles, but to evidence of what’s best for the country.
The programs targeted by Mr. Trump are designed to make legal immigration more diverse and humane. One is the lottery system that offers the chance for visas to people from countries that are underrepresented as sources of American immigrants; the other is family-based immigration, which offers visas to close relatives of citizens and legal residents.
Mr. Trump, who has regularly smeared immigrants as terrorists and criminals, has lately been focusing his fear-mongering on the diversity visa program. Last month, his Department of Homeland Security released a report that dishonestly claimed that those who entered the country via the lottery were more likely to be tied to terrorist attacks. The Cato Institute found that lottery visa holders actually killed only eight of 3,037 Americans murdered by foreign-born terrorists since 1975. The immigrants chosen in the lottery, moreover, are not chosen “without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people,” as Mr. Trump said in his State of the Union address. They must have at least a high school education or two years of experience in skilled work, and they must also undergo criminal, national security and medical checks. The 50,000 recipients of the visas are not guaranteed permanent residence, only a chance at getting through the rest of the immigration process.
Mr. Trump has said that the family reunification program — which he and other immigration opponents prefer to call “chain migration” — opens the floodgates to “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” In fact, relatives other than spouses, parents and minor children are subject to annual caps and country quotas, so that, today, the backlog is almost four million applicants, most of them facing many years of waiting to get a visa. Mr. Trump would allow no new applicants other than immediate family members, and even these would no longer include parents. Imposing these restrictions and ending the diversity visa lottery would cut in half the number of legal immigrants.
It is hard to gauge how much of what Mr. Trump says is meant as a scare tactic and how much he really will demand. The one notion that runs through all he says or tweets about immigration is that it is a door for criminals and terrorists to enter the United States. Yet data studied by the Cato Institute indicates that diversity-visa holders and illegal immigrants, the groups most maligned by Mr. Trump, are far less prone to crime than native-born Americans.
Politicians have wrestled for decades with how to deal with immigrants who are in the United States illegally — now around 11 million people. But immigration in itself has been widely regarded as good for America and for the American dream. The preponderance of evidence shows that immigrants help the economy grow. They are more likely to own businesses or to start businesses than the native-born; of the 87 privately held companies currently valued at more than $1 billion, 51 percent had immigrant founders.
There are questions worth examining and debating about whether the United States ought to admit more skilled immigrants and what criteria it uses to screen applicants. But such a debate can’t unfold in the shadow of Mr. Trump’s threat to imminently expel the Dreamers. So what is Mr. Trump really after?
A Gallup poll last June found 62 percent of Americans support maintaining current levels of immigration or even increasing them. And since the country is at nearly full employment, the timing of these anti-immigrant demands might seem odd. Yet it’s no more odd than the president’s tough-on-crime talk at a time when crime is lower than it’s ever been, or his obsession with Islamist terrorists, even though the Government Accountability Office found that right-wing extremists have committed far more domestic attacks against Americans since 2001. Mr. Trump’s approach seems intended less to rationalize the immigration system than to inflame his core supporters by demonizing nonwhite people, as he did when he disparaged immigrants from nations like Haiti and Mexico while praising Norwegians.
Members of Congress know better, and they are aware that there are sensible measures that would clear the immediate hurdle and produce a bipartisan deal. Senators John McCain, the Arizona Republican, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, have offered a stopgap bill that would end the threat to the Dreamers while strengthening border security. Nothing about diversity visas or family-based migration, nothing for the wasteful wall.
That makes sense. The way we deal with legal immigration should not be changed without a thorough, honest debate.
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.”

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When policies are driven by White Nationalism, racism, and the need to throw “red meat” to a base that has abandoned inclusiveness, humanity, and “enlightened self interest,” there isn’t much room for rationality, facts, or the common good. Unfortunately, that’s a description of the modern GOP.

PWS

02-08-18

 

EVEN AS NEGOTIATORS NEAR SENATE BUDGET DEAL, TRUMP WORKS TO UNDERMINE COOPERATION AND PROMOTES SHUTDOWN!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/spending-plan-remains-unsettled-as-clock-ticks-toward-shutdown-deadline/2018/02/06/1639ab26-0b53-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_pp-shutdown-3pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.e12ac63f105d

Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner report for WashPost:

“Top Senate leaders said Tuesday that they were approaching a sweeping two-year deal to increase federal spending, which would clear a legislative roadblock that has kept Congress spinning its wheels for months.

Despite the optimism, no final agreement was in hand with less than three days until a Thursday midnight deadline, and even as congressional leaders were projecting optimism, President Trump was raising tensions by openly pondering a shutdown if Democrats did not agree to his immigration plan.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump said at a White House event focused on the crime threat posed by immigrants. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety . . . let’s shut it down.”

Those comments came at the same time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) were telling reporters that a breakthrough was at hand — one that would deliver a defense spending boost Trump has long demanded as well as an increase in the nondefense programs championed by Democrats.

“We’re on the way to getting an agreement and on the way to getting an agreement very soon,” McConnell said. Schumer echoed the optimism moments later: “I am very hopeful that we can come to an agreement, an agreement very soon.”

Trump’s remarks, at least initially, appeared unlikely to snuff out the negotiations, which mainly involved lawmakers and their aides — not Trump and his White House deputies — and have largely steered clear of the explosive immigration issue.

The deal to lift congressional spending caps through 2019 could be the only solution to a legislative puzzle that has already required four temporary spending bills to keep the government open since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

The House is set to vote Tuesday evening on a spending bill that would fund the military through September at boosted levels but leave other agencies running on fumes until March. That plan would be amended in the Senate, where Democrats are holding out for a matching increase in nondefense spending.”

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Read the rest of the story at the link.

Doing his best to destroy government and make America as dysfunctional as he is. Vladi must be delighted!

PWS

02-06-18