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Convict the Don

Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison. We do not investigate Biden in Ukraine, since we have not received a single official request to do so.

Anton Geraschenko, the Ukrainian government official who would oversee such an investigation.

President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe.

The Wall Street Journal

Much as he did three years ago — when he asked Russia to hack the emails of his Democratic rival — President Trump on Friday seemed to make a similar request of Ukraine, all but urging the Eastern European nation to investigate Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent.

For Trump, controversial public disclosures have became almost routine, with the president saying the potentially scandalous part aloud. It is a form of shamelessness worn as a badge of protection — on the implicit theory that the president’s alleged offenses can’t be that serious if he commits them in full public view.

The Washington Post

The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again.

Hillary Clinton

The disclosure comes amid new details about the White House’s role in preventing Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire from complying with Congressional demands for the material in the complaint.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has been engaged in the matter since shortly after the whistleblower action surfaced, officials said, helping to identify legal obstacles to the sharing of information that could be politically damaging to Trump.

The Washington Post

I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. A president should be indicted, if he’s committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted. That’s something cooked up by the president’s lawyers. That’s what that is. But so that people will feel “OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, he should be able to be indicted.”

Nancy Pelosi

A president is sitting in the Oval Office, right now, who continues to commit crimes. He continues because he knows his Justice Department won’t act and believes Congress won’t either. Today’s news confirmed he thinks he’s above the law. If we do nothing, he’ll be right.

Elizabeth Warren

It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago.

Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow. Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.

George Conway and Neil Katyal

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Vote for the Guy!

© Keith Knight

I’m really happy to see “E. Warren” moving up in the polls. Even though she might not be my first choice (I’m not sure, I haven’t decided yet) I would really love to see a woman president in my lifetime. Heck, if that doesn’t happen, I’d even like to see a woman vice president (as long as her name doesn’t rhyme with “jailin”).

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9/11 GOP NC

On Tuesday, North Carolina held a special Congressional election. They had to do this because actual election fraud on the part of Republicans caused state officials to nullify the previous regular election. The Republican party pulled out all the stops, spending lots of money and having both Donald Trump and Mike Pence campaign for the Republican candidate, who won by around 2 points.

That may sound good for the Republicans, but this district elected Donald Trump by 12 percentage points, so the Republicans underperformed by 10 points. The Republicans will not be able to spend so much money nor campaign as aggressively during a general election. Also note that the NC Republicans have had their redistricting maps thrown out not once but twice because of blatant partisan gerrymandering.

Consequently, it should be no surprise that the Republicans honored the memory of 9/11 yesterday by pulling more dirty tricks. That morning many NC legislators attended the North Carolina National Guard September 11 Commemoration. The Republican legislators had promised that they would not do any business that morning because of the event, but they lied. Instead, they made sure that enough Republicans did not attend so that they could override a veto by the governor.

The governor had vetoed the budget because he wanted a Medicaid expansion that would insure an additional half a million people in NC. The Republicans wanted to override the veto, but ironically, they didn’t have enough votes because they lost their supermajority in the state assembly after the first time their gerrymandered maps were thrown out. Note that there are roughly the same number of Democratic and Republican voters in the state.

So with only 53% of the legislators (just enough for a quorum) in attendance— and only nine Democrats — the override passed. Hopefully it will not make it through the State Senate.

And incidentally, Donald Trump gave a speech on 9/11, but he spent almost all of it attacking the Democrats and praising himself. As usual.

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Lunacy of the Week

©Tom Tomorrow

I have been watching with mixed laughter and horror at Donald Trump trying to convince everyone that he was not mistaken when he claimed that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama.

This got started on Sunday morning when Trump tweeted:

In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.

Within a few minutes, local weather forecasters responded that Dorian would not have any impact on Alabama, including the Birmingham, Alabama branch of the National Weather Service. This was important, because if there was any chance that a hurricane could “hit” an area, it is important for people there to prepare, including possibly evacuating. Trump’s mistake could have caused costly and potentially dangerous results.

But Trump could not accept this, as he cannot tolerate being wrong, even when he is. So he repeats his assertion that Alabama will be hit, twice. He triples down!

And when the news media picks this up, Trump calls it “fake news”. And he keeps insisting that Alabama was in the original forecast. Trump also gets his son Eric involved.

The irony here is that if Trump had merely let this all quietly blow over, nobody would have noticed. But that’s not Trump. His need to be right (and damn the consequences) combined with his need for attention was his downfall. It is almost as if he is competing with the hurricane.

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Mass Politeness

@GiffordsCourage

A tweet from Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly points out that gun advocates claim that the solution to mass shootings is to arm everyone. They claim that “an armed society is a polite society”.

But if more guns make us safer, then Texas should be one of the safest and most polite places in the US. So how come 4 of the 10 deadliest shootings in modern US history happened in Texas?

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Universal Health Care

Sometimes I think we fail to realize how absolutely insane our health care system truly is. This comic by Sarah Mirk imagines what it would be like if all public services in the US worked like our healthcare system.

I am perfectly happy to not insist on “Medicare for All” immediately, as long as we start to offer a “public option” where people have a choice between our current system and and a Medicare-like system. But our goal should be to move toward single-payer health insurance, the only question is how we get there.

The main objection I hear against going to a Medicare-like system with universal coverage is that it would raise our taxes. But as this article in the NY Times points out, we are looking at this the wrong way. We should think of the premiums that we (and our employers) pay for health insurance as taxes. After all, it is all just money out of our pocket.

Most Americans who have health insurance get it through their employer. I have started several companies and served as a CEO, and I can assure you that if a company didn’t have to spend the time or money providing health insurance — something that is a huge distraction and money sink from the company’s core business — then that company could easily afford to pay their employees a significantly higher salary. In fact, typically enough to more than offset the extra taxes that people would have to pay to support universal single-payer health insurance.

And there are other benefits that most people don’t even realize. For example, I have lived in three countries that have single payer systems, and in those countries insurance for your car is a small fraction of what it is in the US. Why? Because the biggest cost of car insurance is liability insurance to cover health care costs for you, your passengers, and other parties when you are involved in an accident. But if everyone’s health costs are covered by a single payer system, then there is no need for that insurance.

In addition to saving companies time and money, and saving us the premiums that are automatically deducted from our paychecks, a universal single payer system would save all the time that individual employees spend dealing with their health insurance companies and filling out paperwork. Every time I have lived in a country with public health insurance, the paperwork I had to deal with to get health care was far far less than it is in the US.

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Why Don’t Jews Vote for Trump?

Donald Trump recently claimed that Jews who vote for Democrats have “a total lack of knowledge” or “great disloyalty” to Jewish people and Israel.

An opinion piece by David Schanzer in The Hill has a good response to this. First he points out that most minorities, including Jews, don’t like being treated as if they all think the same. People are smarter and more diverse than that.

However, it is true that 79% of American Jews voted Democratic in the 2018 midterms. Here is why he believes this is so:

First of all, most American Jews have a close connection to immigrants. Many of us are second, third or fourth generation immigrants. We feel strongly that refugees escaping persecution should be able to seek safety and shelter in America because throughout our history we have been persecuted and forced to flee to save our lives.

We have been on many refugee caravans. Ferdinand and Isabella evicted us from Spain, the tsars used pogroms to chase us out of Russia and we fled on boats and trains and by foot from the Nazis. We support today’s refugees because we know they could have been us. 

We also support civil rights and diversity. We know what it’s like to be an oppressed minority for we “were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 

We may feel very comfortable and secure in America, but we recoil when any American is targeted as “the other” — whether it be the Mexican you accuse of being a rapist or the Muslim you stereotype as being a terrorist — because so often we have been “otherized.”

The Jew with horns, the Jewish moneylender, the Jew with dual “loyalties.” We know that a frenzied mob calling for an American citizen of color to be kicked out of the country might be chanting to kick us out too one day soon. For there is one thing we know for sure: Those folks who don’t like people because they are black, brown or Muslims  don’t like Jews much either

I am half Jewish, so his arguments resonate with me, but my other half also understands that these are things that should be important to all Americans. It is always extremely dangerous to support a strongman who divides people for personal gain.

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Who Dunnit?

Matt Bors
© Matt Bors

The Medical Examiner has officially declared the death of Jeffrey Epstein a suicide by hanging.

I can actually believe that. No really. After all, someone wouldn’t actually have to snuff him themselves. All they would have needed to do is talk to him, and point out that he was about to spend the rest of his disgusting life in jail, probably being raped by other inmates three times a day (would serve him right, yes?).

Or subtly threaten the life, health, or happiness of anyone he cares about (of course, that assumes he is capable of caring about anyone other than himself). I’m sure it would not take much effort to convince him that he has nothing to live for, and why should he go through an embarrassing public airing of his horrid life?

The only thing that could have gotten him out of jail was if he squealed on a bunch of rich and powerful people, who would then make sure he paid dearly in multiple horrible ways for the rest of his short miserable life.

The last thing Epstein would have wanted was justice. So why wouldn’t he take the easy way out.

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What does the GOP stand for?

The Tuesday edition of Electoral-Vote.com examines the fact that Trump’s Republican party has abandoned almost all of the things they used to believe in and champion. Instead their core principle has become “support whatever Donald Trump says or does”. For example:

  • How the GOP attitude toward and treatment of immigrants (both illegal and legal) has changed completely since Trump was elected.
  • How after a long history of promoting job training and apprenticeship programs, the Republican Party is now only paying lip service to the ideal that America is the land of opportunity.
  • Even worse, after a long history of being against regulations, Trump only seems to be interested in jealously removing regulations put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Meanwhile, he is promoting many new regulations, for example against social media and high tech companies (who he claims have an “anti-conservative bias”).
  • Conservatives no longer believe in conservation of the environment. This has been coming for a while, but remember that Republicans were once the champions of conservation (it is part of their namesake even). This was as recently as the presidency of Richard Nixon, who helped create the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, the GOP has turned to using doublespeak, as their party platform is now that the best way to “conserve” the environment is to hand it over to businesses to develop. Most recently, Trump is starting to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act.
  • When Obama was president, Republicans were dead set against deficits, warning us all the time about how deficit spending would destroy our country. But they now simultaneously cut taxes and increase spending, never worrying about deficits at all.
  • Republicans used to hate Russia as our primary enemy. But even though Russia is still doing things that hurt the US — like sabotaging our elections, and building new nuclear weapons and other WMDs — Trump and the Republicans ignore this threat. Or even worse, they do things that will weaken our allies in Europe, which will give more power to Russia (and to China as well).

The article’s conclusion is that the Republican Party is having an identity crisis. They don’t know what they actually stand for, other than the hatred and bigotry spewed by Trump.

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Fool me again, shame on me

New York magazine just published an interesting article titled “Trump’s State-by-State Approval Ratings Should Scare the MAGA Out of Him“. The article points out that current polls show that Donald Trump’s job-approval ratings are negative in ten states that he won in 2016, by 9 to 12 points.

The article then makes what appears to be a reasonable assumption, that Trump will only win the states where he has a positive approval rating. Which means he will win 119 electoral votes (and lose 419 electoral votes). That is an incredible landslide for whomever runs against him.

There’s just one big problem with this. Polls make lots of assumptions about who will actually vote. These assumptions could well be wrong. Furthermore, if enough people read articles like this one and conclude that Trump is toast, they may not bother to go vote against him.

Like what happened last time, when all the polls showed that Hilary Clinton was going to win. Don’t be fooled again.

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How the hell?

I recently posted an article about Jeffrey Epstein, pedophile and sex trafficker to the rich and powerful. And now I read that he committed suicide while in solitary confinement. How utterly convenient.

There is an article in The Hill asking the obvious questions — how did someone on suicide watch in solitary confinement commit suicide, and why was someone who was a danger only to himself placed in solitary confinement anyway? As the article, written by a former corrections commissioner, states:

None of this makes any sense, at least at this point.

The crime here — in my mind, with what is known at this point — is that Epstein was placed in solitary confinement at all.

Who wanted him to commit suicide? Other than a large number of very rich and powerful people?

UPDATE: Now I read that Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his death. So they put him in solitary confinement and took him off of suicide watch, even though he tried to commit suicide in prison (and almost succeeded) less than three weeks ago. WTF?

On top of that, Donald Trump is now retweeting a conspiracy theory that the Clintons were involved in Epstein’s death — saying “Word on the street is the Clintons did it.” Given that Trump often accuses others of doing things of which he himself is guilty, that makes me very suspicious.

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Trickle Down, but Worse!

On Monday, 21 Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz, sent a letter to the Trump administration, proposing that Trump issue an executive order to give another huge tax cut to the wealthy. You might have noticed that Trump and the Republicans don’t talk much about the last tax cut that they gave to the wealthy, since trickle-down economics again didn’t do as much for the 99% as was promised. Which is probably why this one is being kept somewhat under the radar.

But I want to point out that this proposal is actually worse than last tax cut. The Republicans want Trump to index capital gains taxes to inflation. Here is what the GOP is trying to fix, in their own words:

They want to protect investors in stocks and bonds from inflation. How nice! Unfortunately, this only applies to capital gains, which are already taxed far less than income (money for which one actually works being income).

Furthermore, if you have a regular savings account that earns interest, you don’t get any protection from inflation. According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings accounts as of February 2019 was 0.09% APY. That is 20 times less than inflation, which is currently around 1.8%, so your savings account is losing money. But you still have to pay taxes on that interest.

It should be no surprise that 86% of the benefit of the GOP proposal would go to the top 1% of wealthiest Americans.

You are likewise not protected from inflation if you haven’t received a raise recently, or if you are a retiree on a fixed income.

But the really ironic thing about this proposal is that it causes inflation. Inflation is caused by too much money chasing too few goods. When the wealthy get more money, they often use it to buy property. Not just for vacation homes, but also to turn them into bed and breakfasts. This drives up the cost of housing,

I live in a city where housing prices have gone up as much as 30% in a single year, causing homelessness to spike.

So this proposal will actually increase inflation, but the people who will be causing this inflation will be protected from it. That’s just insane.

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Toilet Paper Trump

Donald Trump seems to be boarding Air Force One with toiler paper stuck to the heel of his shoe.

While this is mildly funny, my real question is why no one pointed this out to him. Hard to believe nobody noticed.

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Hater in Chief

A new study shows that hate crimes more than doubled in US counties where Donald Trump held a campaign rally, compared to similar counties that did not host a rally. In general, hate crimes increased 17% in 2017, year over year.

While it is true that correlation does not necessarily imply causality, a considerable number of reported hate crimes directly reference Trump. So he is unquestionably a catalyst.

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Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee
© Keith Knight

Yes, the renaming of schools to other people named Lee in order to save money is a real thing.

In addition to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Bruce Lee, Spike Lee, and Gypsy Rose Lee, how about Stan Lee? I also like the school in Texas who changed the word LEE into an acronym for the Legacy of Educational Excellence.

However, some people are against removing Confederate names, claiming that it is equivalent to changing history. But they have it backwards.

Building monuments and naming schools after Confederate heroes actually peaked around 1910, a full 50 years after the end of the Civil War. That was during the Jim Crow era, a time marked by laws disenfranchising Black Americans and rampant segregation. And there was another peak around 1950 to 1960, at the height of the civil rights movement. It looks more like this was an attempt to rewrite history, and intimidate Blacks.

Timeline of Confederate Symbols in the US

It was clearly racist. How would people feel if a school was named after Adolf Hitler? He was also a racist who started — and lost — a war in which many Americans died. And Confederate heroes were also traitors to the US. Why would you want to honor them?

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