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Day 844 – Mitch McConnell’s Graveyard

Republicans continue to whine and feign outrage over the Democrats’ refusal to stop investigating a dishonest president who is up to his orange comb-over in corruption.  The party of Eternal Benghazi and But Her Emails wants the Democrats to stop “harassing” the president and to work instead on things that will help the country. But anyone paying attention knows that the Democrats in the House have been passing bill after bill to help the American voter, while the Republican-controlled Senate remains the chamber where little happens and House bills go to die. Many are now calling it Mitch McConnell’s graveyard.  The House has already passed bills to enact common-sense gun regulations, protect our air and water, and reign in the health care industrial complex.  But the greedy corporations that own McConnell and the GOP want their avarice to remain unrestrained.

With so many investigations, Trump is facing a huge problem and he knows it.  That’s why his Tweets are becoming more desperate and his speeches increasingly unhinged and frantic.  He and his administration are facing subpoenas and legal actions on so many fronts it’s hard to keep track of them all.  The New York State Senate just passed a bill that will allow Congress to have access to Trump’s state tax returns–a state bureaucracy that Trump has no control over.  The Assembly is scheduled to debate the measure today, and Governor Cuomo indicated over the weekend that he supports the legislation.  Meanwhile, states are passing laws that require presidential candidates to release their taxes before they can appear on the ballot.  California was the latest to do so.  Trump and his regime are becoming like the Dutch Boy, fighting a losing battle to plug multiplying leaks in the flimsy dam surrounding the White House.

At the White House today Hungarian strongman Victor Orban will make his first visit, having been refused by Bush II and Obama.  Trump can’t pass up another opportunity to cavort with an authoritarian so he will grant the odious Orban the prestige and gravitas of the Oval Office, further staining the office of the presidency.

Also today, the markets will react to the bad news that Trump’s tariff negotiations failed.  As of this writing, Dow futures were down 240 points in overseas markets, so investors seem confident that Trump will continue to damage our economy and hurt businesses.  It’s rumored that capitalist Trump is trying to authorize another multi-billion dollar government bailout of farmers who will be hammered by his latest tariffs, a bold-faced attempt to buy their votes heading into 2020.  But polls suggest that sentiment has swung dramatically against Trump in the affected farm states, where his approval/disapproval split has eroded by 14-to-17%.  Bad news for farmers is also bad news for Trump in 2020.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 843 – Unite Against Citizens United

One small development that was largely eclipsed by the various Trump scandals and ethical lapses last week came courtesy of Congressman Adam Schiff who introduced a Constitutional amendment to effectively overturn the perverse and ridiculous Citizens United Supreme Court Decision.  Coverage here from CNN:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/08/politics/schiff-constitutional-amendment/index.html

It’s not the first time a Rep has introduced a bill to undo Citizens United, but Schiff is a high profile Democratic politician and may be able to get some traction where others failed.  Citizens United is a broadly unpopular ruling and many politicians on both sides of the aisle have condemned it, but only the Democrats have taken action to address it.  Until it’s overturned, large corporations and hyper-wealthy plutocrats will have an extremely outsized voice and influence over our politics, and corporatism is surely at the root of many of our problems.

Some Democrats are in the pocket of big business, but ALL of the Republicans are handmaids to moneyed corporate interests.  Many of the Democratic presidential contenders reject corporate PAC and lobbying money, while Republicans often embrace dark money and the embrace of big business.  The GOP has sold its soul to corporate cash, and they no longer care if the planet burns, or if sick people die, or if students are enslaved to debt for the rest of their lives.  As long as a rich white guy somewhere can remain rich and maybe get wealthier, the rest of the world can go to hell.  And that’s been the story of conservative America since the 1980’s and Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan correctly noted that our government doesn’t serve or help the average citizen.  But with help from wealthy corporations and plutocrats like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers, Reagan misidentified the problem.  The story they wove was that government itself was evil–even though our government is US.  In fact, government can be used for good or evil depending on who we elect.  Certain politicians are evil, and in many cases it’s because they embrace an agenda determined by the giant corporations or plutocrats who fund their campaigns.  Many of our problems can be solved by government, but only if good people are elected, and only if citizens remain engaged and active.  Otherwise, the constant eroding power of corporate greed takes over and bends the government toward its will, which has been the situation for many years, especially within the Republican party.

Only when we get big money out of politics will our government stand a chance of truly serving the needs of the average citizen.  As activists, supporting efforts to overturn Citizens United should be near the top of our list.  And it’s essential that we criticize and punish Republicans who stand in our way.  If bills like the one Schiff introduced make it to a vote it will provide Democrats with an opportunity to shine a light on the Republicans who vote against it and side with corporate greed.

Keep resisting and working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 842 – Extraordinary Corruption

As predicted, the new Trump tariffs on China caused the markets to sink Friday morning as investors fled stocks that would be hurt by Trump’s disastrous policies.  Stephen Mnuchin made a statement late in the trading day that ‘talks were progressing’, which brought the markets back up, but after the markets closed it became clear that the trade negotiations with China had failed and would be tabled for the time being.  This is bad news for America’s farmers and bad news for consumers of thousands of products, from washing machines to cars.

Mnuchin is a feckless and entitled doofus, but he knows how to use his position as Treasury Secretary to lie to Wall Street for a short-term market boost.  It won’t last.  Meanwhile on Friday, Mnuchin was subpoenaed by Congress to produce Trump’s tax returns.  The IRS commissioner was also given a similar subpoena.  The Democrats are upping their game and matching the lawlessness of the Trump regime with legal force.  They are also talking openly about steep fines for anyone who defies a Congressional subpoena, and they are also floating the idea of jail time for people who defy their subpoenas.  Congress has these powers, though they have rarely ever used them.  But these are extraordinary times.

The latest example of extraordinary corruption from team Trump came from disgraced lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is flying to the Ukraine to ask for dirt on Trump Democratic opponent Joe Biden.  Giuliani is trying to normalize the use of hostile foreign powers to attack domestic political opponents, both because it will help Trump in the next election, and because it makes Trump’s wildly unethical, immoral, and unAmerican contacts with Russia in 2016 seem less so.  The party of Trump has sunk so low that they are openly supporting and taking unAmerican and unpatriotic acts while their cult of followers, including most of the GOP, says nothing.

Finally, media observers are noting that male Democratic candidates are getting a lot more air time than their female counterparts, even though the men, by-and-large, have been political losers while the women have mostly been undefeated political winners.  It’s hard to look at what’s going on and come to any conclusion other than bias.  Here’s a Tweet from Amber Tamblyn that perfectly sums up the mindset of many in the Democratic party:

Keep resisting and working to “vote is ass out of office.”

Day 841 – Trump Negotiation Fails

Late last night it was reported that Trump’s trade talks with China broke down and Trump was moving ahead with $200-billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods.  “So easy!  I’m the greatest negotiator ever, folks!”  The current tariff situation is bad enough, but throwing another $200-billion in penalties on American businesses, which is the effect of a tariff, is going to cause massive pain to affected industries.  Trump has already bankrupted the domestic soybean industry, he’s put cherished businesses like Harley Davidson on the brink of fiscal disaster, and he’s raised the cost for basic materials like steel and aluminum.  Trade agreements and trade wars are complex, requiring psychological strategy and great attention to detail and nuance.  But all Trump knows how to do is hit opponents with a heavy club and beat them into compliance.  That won’t work on the global stage with opponents like China whose intelligence and acumen dwarf Trump’s.  Coverage from the NY Times here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/us/politics/china-trade-tariffs.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Markets are unpredictable, but it’s easy to imagine that the stock market won’t like this news.  And corporations who rely on the materials affected will report lower profits as a result of these news tariffs.  Trump loves to brag about the solid economy (he inherited from Barack Obama) but he’s doing everything he can to slow it down and damage certain industries.  Democrats need to attack these tariffs and activists can help.  We need to keep letting the public know that the pain agriculture and industry are feeling is purely the fault of Trump’s bad judgement and disastrous negotiating failures.

Also happening yesterday, a bill passed in the House of Representatives sponsored by Democrats called the “Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act of 2019”.  It’s meant to protect the ACA from attacks by the executive branch that erode the core of the protections built into the initial legislation.  Nancy Pelosi issued a statement about the legislation that you can read here:

https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/5919-2/

The bill puts pressure on Senate Republicans and Mitch McConnell, who give lip service to pre-existing conditions while they quietly try to kill them.  So assuming that “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell does not allow a version of this bill to reach the floor of the Senate, the Democrats will be able to use the failure of Republicans to support protecting pre-existing conditions as ammunition in the 2020 elections.

Keep your eye on McConnell’s reaction to this bill.  And keep resisting Trump and working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 840 – What Dictators Do

Takeaways from a busy Wednesday:

  • The House Judiciary Committee held AG William Barr in Contempt of Congress
  • The Senate Intel Committee issued a subpoena for Donald Jr. to testify
  • The Trump regime “decreed” that Executive Privilege covers the entire Mueller report

But you probably already knew most of that.

Did you know this: Sarah Sanders implemented a new set of press-credential rules that, in essence, bar many long serving reporters from White House events (briefings rarely take place anymore)?  It’s just another infuriating insult to our Democracy and the Fourth Estate, in the category of “what dictators do.”  Dana Milbank of the Washington Post was one of the affected journalists:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-white-house-has-revoked-my-press-pass-its-not-just-me–its-curtailing-access-for-all-journalists/2019/05/08/bb9794b4-71c0-11e9-8be0-ca575670e91c_story.html

Observing Trump and his regime on a daily basis is a horrifying and gut-wrenching endeavor for anyone with a heart and a brain.  But it’s the fecklessness of the Republican party which is the most galling dimension of the Trump disaster.  Yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee debate was a prime example.  To a person, every single Republican member who spoke reeled off the same lies and distortions that Trump himself Tweets.  I found myself screaming at the TV screen more than once as elected reps completely ignored the fact that our Democracy had been attacked–and is still being attacked–by Russia while complaining about the “so unfair” Mueller report, as if the investigation that resulted in multiple felony indictments and convictions was a trivial anecdote and not a hair-on-fire national emergency.  They claimed that the report exonerated Trump of obstruction of justice, when in fact it did the opposite.  At the risk of sounding like an insane tea-party lunatic from the Obama days, the Republicans in Congress are so derelict in their duties that we have to question their patriotism, not to mention their judgement and morality.  Their lying in service of Trump is a disgrace.

Living under a corrupt, narcissistic, lying, wannabe-dictator is exhausting for anybody who cares about our country, our history, and our system of government.  But it’s so much worse when that Con-man is supported by an entire political party.  At least during Nixon there were some Republicans with integrity and honor.  But none of those Republicans are left in Trump’s GOP.

Nancy Pelosi correctly assessed that we must vote Trump out of office decisively in 2020–assuming the Russians don’t alter vote totals for him–if we want to have any chance of slamming the door shut on Trumpism.  Until then, we have to work hard and do what we can do to hold onto our 2018 gains.  We also have to avoid burnout.  Here’s a interesting and relevant TED talk on avoiding activism burnout by Yana Buhrer Tavanier:

https://www.ted.com/talks/yana_buhrer_tavanier_how_to_recover_from_activism_burnout

Keep resisting and working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 839 – Fake Businessman Trump

Big news broke last night when the New York Times revealed that over a ten year period, from ’85 to ’95, Donald Trump lost a total of $1.17 billion.  He likely lost more money over that period than any other individual American citizen.

“In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer…His core business losses in 1990 &1991-more than $250 million…were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers…”

The bombshell report raised many more questions than it answered, such as: what are the sources of his income, how could he suffer so many losses and still get credit or even stay afloat, and how much is he actually worth?  Here’s a link to the story:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/07/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Aside from the fact that Donald Trump is clearly a terrible businessman (who, you recall, drove a casino into bankruptcy), the report also makes better sense of Trump’s desperate attempts to hide his taxes.  He’s terrified of the details his taxes will reveal or confirm, details that would likely smash the myth of his public image.  It’s been noted here many times that Trump is merely a playboy real estate heir who fraudulently inherited over $400 million dollars and spent much of it pretending to be a tycoon. Anyone with a lot of money can buy shiny things–spending money doesn’t make them brilliant.  But now investigators are on the trail of proving that Trump’s “empire” is made of sand.

On a different legal front, the number of career DOJ prosecutors who signed a letter stating that Trump obstructed justice ballooned yesterday from 450 to 700, most of whom are rank-and-file prosecutors who leave their politics at the door when they go into a court house.  Yet they were so concerned by the Mueller report that they decided to lend their names to a public statement of his possible guilt.  And this statement lends fuel to the impeachment fire.  Elizabeth Warren yesterday became the first Democratic Senator to publicly call for impeachment hearings, stating from the Senate floor that Trump had obstructed justice.

Warren’s speech from the Senate floor caused the usual battle to erupt on cable news between the “impeach him” crowd and the “it will backfire in 2020” crowd.  But the backfire position seemed to be losing traction.  The main backfire argument is that impeachment hearings will help Trump “solidify his base.”  But Trump’s base is already solidified.  He’s the most polarizing public figure in generations.  I don’t know a soul whose opinion isn’t already set in stone on Trump.  Perhaps the real issue isn’t Trump’s base, but what action will motivate Democratic voters to turn out in 2020?  Given the remarkable range of scandals and crimes in the Trump regime, it’s possible that impeachment hearings will shine a brighter spotlight on his misdeeds and keep them in full view going into the election.  Perhaps it will solidify the resistance against him.  Like it or  not, anger at criminals and fear of tyranny are both great motivators.

More will surely be revealed about Trump’s shady business history.  Meanwhile, let’s keep resisting and working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 838 – Contempt of Country

As expected, Stephen Mnuchin refused to allow the IRS to furnish the House Ways and Means Committee with the Trump tax returns in response to a subpoena, setting up a legal battle that the House Democrats will surely win.  The law is clear and unambiguous that the IRS must comply with a request from the House.  But it will take a while for the courts to consider the situation.

At the same time, Attorney General William Barr ignored a subpoena to furnish the House Judiciary Committee with the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence, which Congress needs in order to fulfill their constitutional mandate to provide oversight.  This also sets up a big court battle, and history is squarely on the side of the Democrats, but once again it could take a long time to enforce.  Meanwhile the House is threatening to hold Barr in contempt of Congress, which would automatically place their subpoena in front of a judge to start the legal process.

In both cases, the administration is blatantly stonewalling and obstructing legitimate House oversight.  Trump boasts about being the most transparent president ever when in fact he’s the most opaque.  Based on his response to the Mueller report and its aftermath, it’s clear that Trump feels he has a lot to hide, and that’s what he’s trying desperately to do.

Meanwhile a group of over 450 former Justice Department prosecutors and attorney generals signed a letter yesterday stating that the Mueller report documents “multiple crimes of obstruction of justice” that they would recommend for indictment in any ordinary circumstance.  The signers came from across the political spectrum, including many former Bush DOJ officials.  It was a devastating document for Trump in the absence of testimony or clarity from the Mueller team itself (but it seems likely that Mueller will testify before Congress at some point soon, especially when his official role ends).  It was also a devastating document for Barr, serving as a massive rebuke of his bogus legal position.  Here is coverage from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-would-have-been-charged-with-obstruction-were-he-not-president-hundreds-of-former-federal-prosecutors-assert/2019/05/06/e4946a1a-7006-11e9-9f06-5fc2ee80027a_story.html

The Trump regime are a bunch of scofflaws because that’s what crooks do–they scoff at our laws.  In Trump’s case, he has always felt himself above the law, and was often successful at avoiding consequences by counter-suing.  But counter-suing Congress is not a smart or winning strategy.  It’s now up to Congress and the courts to preserve the rule of law and reject attempts by Trump, Barr and Mnuchin to keep hidden documents that Congress has a right and an obligation to see.

Keep resisting and working to “vote his ass out of office.”