Day 964 – Scandal Hurricane

Over the past few days Trump has been embroiled a storm of scandals that continue to dominate the news cycle–joined by a new scandal seemingly every hour.  From altering a Hurricane forecast with a Sharpie, to calling a private citizen “filthy-mouthed”, to directing his Vice President and military members to spend taxpayer money at his properties even when inconvenient, to his Secretary of Labor threatening to fire people whose weather forecasts contradict the statements of Dear Leader–all of this chaos and lunacy obscures the fact that we are still separating children at the border and destroying families while betraying our national values and enriching private prison oligarchs.  This chaos obscures the fact that we keep learning about more possible tax malfeasance by Trump and his family.  This chaos obscures the fact that a CIA asset had to be smuggled out of Russia because the CIA couldn’t trust Trump to safeguard our spy secrets.  This chaos obscures the fact that Trump’s trade war continues to devastate our farming families with no end or meaningful relief in sight.  Keep your eye on these stories if you can.

This week the House Judiciary Committee will consider formalizing an (already underway) impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.  They will have an extraordinary list of potential crimes and misdemeanors to choose from.  The ten allegations of obstruction of justice in the Mueller report.  The as-yet un-indicted felony election fraud charges from the Michael Cohen case.  Trump’s offer to pardon officials who break the law while working to expedite his border wall.  Trump’s funneling of federal and military business to his various resort properties.  Trump’s diversion of Congressional funds meant to help the Ukraine into a bribery scheme to force Ukraine to help his re-election by bringing charges against his rivals, including Joe Biden.  And on and on.  Keep your eye on how this impeachment saga develops, and how Trump responds to it.

Today is the special election in North Carolina brought about by an election invalidated by massive electoral fraud perpetrated by a Republican.  It will be an important gauge of the political winds.  Democrat Dan McCready is polling even with Republican Dan Bishop in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1963.  Keep your eye on this race. 

Another thing to be aware of is the looming budget fight.  The House and Senate have until Sept 30 to work out appropriations for the federal budget, or pass a continuing resolution.  A lot needs to happen in the Senate before this can happen, otherwise there could be another government shutdown.  Is Moscow Mitch really that stupid?  Here’s a good overview from Li Zhou in Vox:

And finally, a Democrat has emerged in Georgia to challenge Senate Republican David “Do Nothing” Perdue.  Jon Ossoff, who famously ran for Congress in Georgia in a special election in 2017 and narrowly lost, drawing the ire of Donald Trump, will now run for the Senate against Purdue.  It should be a fascinating race in a state whose demographics are changing rapidly.

Keep your eye on Trump’s scandals and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.

Day 960 – Delgado vs Impeachment

Representative Antonio Delgado held a town-hall-style meeting for Indivisible activists this week in Hudson, New York.  The event was well attended with leaders from many of NY-19’s ten counties participating.

Rep Delgado has been one of the busiest, hardest working Congressional Reps in the nation in his first year in office.  He’s held numerous town halls and has met with group after group in every county of our district.  His travels have been tireless, and his main goal has been to listen to the concerns of everyone he represents and look for any way he can help solve their problems or ease their concerns.  I’m a big fan of Rep Delgado, not just because we are fellow Rhinebeckers. We also attended rival colleges, both studied philosophy, and both studied at Oxford University (though I was not a Rhodes Scholar!).  I’ve spoken to him on several occasions, both before and after he was elected, and I listened carefully to his remarks at the Hudson event.

Rep Delgado’s comments focused on what are understood to be the main areas of concern to Democratic voters in our district.  He spoke about healthcare, jobs, climate change, rural broadband, guns, infrastructure and agriculture, and his thoughts on these topics seemed well informed and congruent with his campaign platform and prior statements.  He also spoke about his Constitutional role to provide a check and balance on the Executive Branch, especially as it relates to the prospect of impeachment, and this was the one area that left me uneasy.

It’s fair to say that the top two issues in 2018 were healthcare and Trump, and based on the comments of the activists in Hudson, these haven’t changed.  People want some version of healthcare-for-all, and people are horrified about what Trump and his corrupt administration are doing on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  Many activists want to pursue impeachment, while Rep Delgado apparently does not.

When asked about the process of impeachment, and what it would take to get him to support impeachment hearings, Rep Delgado conceded that Trump had made all sorts of statements and taken actions as a candidate and as president that should be “disqualifying” but he felt we needed to gather evidence of crimes to support an impeachment charge and that Congress was in the process of doing just that.  Various House committees had issued subpoenas and the justice system was moving forward in roughly the same way it would under an impeachment process.  If he felt that the justice system was no longer moving forward, that we could no longer gather evidence through a traditional legal process, then it might be necessary to start impeachment hearings.  His comments were made in the context of a story about a recent conversation at a public event with a Trump supporter and how happy she was that he was willing to dialog with her.  He felt that our nation was too divided and implied that an impeachment hearing would only increase the division while doing little more than the current Congressional investigations, and after all, the Senate will never vote to impeach anyway.

I had several problems with Rep Delgado’s stance.  First, we already have evidence of Trump’s crimes in the Mueller report, which Delgado claimed to have read.  We may lack certain underlying detail, but the evidence in the Mueller report is clear, convincing and unambiguous–Trump obstructed justice.  Second, our current House investigation process is not working.  Trump and his regime are stonewalling every House demand and slow-walking the process.  Not a single witness has yet testified in open committee about obstruction and no requested documents have yet been produced.  Third, a House investigation and a House impeachment hearing are not the same process.  An impeachment investigation carries more weight and, in the past, has produced faster judicial review and a broader scope of inquiry than a regular House process.  So much of Rep Delgado’s framing of the impeachment question rested on these dubious assumptions.

More fundamentally, Rep Delgado’s initial focus on the “disqualifying” aspects of Trump’s personality and activity frames the impeachment question in terms of character rather than law.  We all know Trump is a liar and an adulterer and a sleaze-ball.  Some of those things might in theory be “impeachable” and a president can certainly be impeached without technically breaking the law.  But surely if a president actually breaks the law he or she should be impeached.  It shouldn’t matter if they are popular or powerful.  Imagine a community where a popular citizen raped a woman in front of witnesses but the prosecutor declined to bring charges because “the town is very polarized and I don’t want to contribute to that atmosphere.”  The prosecutor would be run out of office on a rail.  But this is the exact situation we have with Trump.  Investigations have already provided evidence of crimes.  (1) Mueller’s report clearly details all of the criteria needed to bring obstruction charges.  (2) The Michael Cohen trial clearly details felony campaign finance fraud perpetrated by Cohen and Individual 1, known by all as Donald Trump.  Some of our prosecutors–the House members–don’t want to bring charges via an impeachment process because they don’t want to make Trump voters mad.

This brings us to another issue.  Does it matter if Trump voters are made mad by an impeachment hearing?  Will more Trump voters show up to the polls if the Democrats start an impeachment inquiry?  Or conversely, will more Democrats and Independent voters stay home if House Dems don’t bring an inquiry?  Rep Delgado seems to believe that support for impeachment will keep Trump voters in the district from voting for Delgado in 2020.  Or he believes that supporting impeachment will bring a ton of voters out in 2020–who would have otherwise stayed at home–to vote for Trump and Delgado’s eventual challenger.  But the best analyses of the 2016 and 2018 elections suggest that these two beliefs are wrong.  Republicans came out in record numbers in 2018 even though there was no impeachment hearing.  Democrats did well in the midterms because they turned out in even bigger record numbers.  Trump supporters are going to go out and vote no matter what the Dems do.  The electorate is so entrenched that there are very few Trump voters who are going to crossover and vote for a Democrat no matter who that Democrat is or what that Democrat does.  BUT there are many left-leaning independent voters who didn’t vote in the past but WILL turn out if they are motivated.  That’s what happened in 2018.  They were motivated by their horror at what Trump was doing.  And impeachment hearings will only serve to keep these voters motivated.  The key is getting Democrats and left-leaning independents to turn out.  If Rep Delgado thinks that his current stance on impeachment will not depress the turnout of his base, he is playing with fire, and the passion of the questions hurled at him on impeachment at the Hudson event prove the point.

Of his role as a Congressman, Rep Delgado said “I’m not an activist,” meaning he is now working for all of our district.  Which is true.  But his role cannot be divorced from his oath to support and defend the Constitution.  If the Constitution doesn’t symbolize and represent the rule of law, and the fundamental notion that nobody is above the law, then what does it represent?  If the president broke the law, it shouldn’t matter how many citizens want him to be left alone.  And it shouldn’t require that a million citizens march on Washington to demand justice.  After all, who would they be making their demands to?  The members of Congress!

Impeachment isn’t about sleazy character, and it isn’t a popularity contest.  It’s an imperative that rests on bedrock principles of justice and oversight.  As the Department of Justice has made clear, impeachment is the only remedy to a criminal presidency.  When those principles are ignored or denied in favor of a political calculation, our nation and our democracy are degraded and cheapened.  Under Trumpism, the Republicans have jettisoned all of their values, principles, and ethics for the sake of political power.  Democrats now own the moral high ground and should convene impeachment hearings if they believe evidence exists that the president committed crimes while in office–and how could they not?  Impeachment is the right thing to do, it’s what justice demands, and it retains a claim to the moral high ground.  Ask yourself this question: If Trump doesn’t merit impeachment, what president ever will?

As a byproduct, impeachment will energize and mollify the Democratic base, which is the key to victory in 2020.

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

PS – I’m traveling to a wedding this weekend and won’t post another blog until next Tuesday, Day 964.  Have a great weekend.

Day 959 – “I will stay outraged.”

It’s been a crazy week thus far, and it’s only Thursday morning.

  • Hurricane Dorian crushed the Bahamas, creating a humanitarian emergency, and is now threatening the North Carolina coast.
  • Trump used a weather map crudely altered with a sharpie to argue that a statement he recently made about the path of Hurricane Dorian wasn’t embarrassingly wrong, which only made him look more dishonest and/or demented–and altering a government document was technically illegal.
  • Trump rolled back Obama-era requirements for energy efficient light bulbs, which will cause a significant increase in energy demand and carbon pollution.
  • England is in a state of political turmoil as new Prime Minister Boris Johnson was humiliated by Parliament, losing a crucial vote on a “no-deal Brexit” that has now thrown the entire process up in the air.
  • Ohio passed a reprehensible bill that would bail out two nuclear power plants and two coal plants while also gutting renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, removing all incentives for Ohio residents to use less energy.
  • Trump intends to pay for his border wall by pulling 3.6 billion dollars from the military and defense budget including programs for military schools and daycare, road maintenance, hazardous material warehouses, and 95 million dollars from West Point’s engineering center construction–outraging many elected officials.
  • The US and China announced last night that trade talks will resume in October, which buoyed overseas markets and US pre-markets but rested on the dubious assumption that Trump isn’t a thoroughly incompetent negotiator.
  • In a victory for democracy, a three-judge panel unanimously threw out North Carolina’s legislative maps, saying they were clearly gerrymandered in an unConstitutionally partisan manner.
  • The Democratic primary contenders had a CNN climate town hall last night.  You can see highlights here:

Fascists, authoritarians, and dictators create turmoil and chaos to exhaust and demoralize their opposition.  It’s just too difficult to keep your arms around so many horrifying and norm-busting actions.  We can’t let ourselves get too exhausted or dispirited in our fight to save democracy from Trumpism and restore some sense of sanity, competence and dignity to the White House.  Conservative pundit Ana Navarro said it best on Twitter yesterday:

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

Day 958 – Local Elections Approaching

Summer is winding down and a lying, immoral, authoritarian con-man remains in the White House so it’s easy to focus on the critical 2020 election and forget that we have a local election quickly approaching this November that includes several important offices in Dutchess County.  Of no greater importance is the race for Dutchess County Executive, a position currently held by Republican Marc Molinaro.

Molinaro has a long and well-known political history in Dutchess County.  At the age of 19 he became the youngest mayor in America in the town of Tivoli, and went on to serve in the Dutchess County Legislature, the New York Assembly, and then as County Executive.  Molinaro ran for Governor of New York in 2016, in part to drive up Republican turnout in an attempt to help John Faso beat Antonio Delgado for Congress, which failed, just like his gubernatorial campaign. But Molinaro sells himself as a moderate and is often described as popular in the county.

He’s running against Democrat Joe Ruggiero, a life-long resident of Dutchess County and until recently the executive director of the New York State Bridge Authority.  Ruggiero will face an uphill battle, but his candidacy is worth fighting for.  Republicans have become the party of Trump, and this horrifying fact motivates Democrats and many Independent voters to do anything they can to resist the corrupt, racist regime of Don The Con, as well as his political enablers.  So Ruggiero couldn’t be running in a more favorable political environment.

But beyond the political environment, it’s important to understand that Molinaro is not a moderate and holds many positions that should outrage a majority of voters in our area.  We know from polling that a handful of issues currently top the list of concerns in the United States, and Molinaro is wrong on most of them:

Guns.  In the wake of weekly mass shootings, a large majority of Americans are fed up with Republican views and inaction on a wide array of common sense gun control proposals.  We learned yesterday that the Odessa, Texas shooter failed a background check but then bought an assault rifle in a private sale exempted by lax gun laws. “Moscow” Mitch McConnell still refuses to bring a House Gun Control bill to the Senate floor despite deadly mass shootings happening with regularity.  Marc Molinaro received an “A” rating from the NRA’s PAC when he ran for governor and over the years has refused to support many common sense gun reforms, including preventing domestic abusers from possessing guns, banning 50-caliber weapons and criminalizing the possession of armor piercing ammo.  Let’s be clear–anyone who tolerates 50 caliber weapons in our society doesn’t deserve to be in public office.  On guns, Molinaro is out of step with America and wrong for Dutchess County.

Women’s Health.  Molinaro personally opposes abortion but says he “respects the law of the land,” which is Republican-speak for “I’m praying the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade so I don’t have to keep lying about my position.” He also gave money to a pro-life pregnancy center, and even voted against a bill in the Assembly that would have allowed pregnant female inmates to be unshackled while giving birth.  Molinaro also opposes universal health care, which hurts women who are disproportionately under- or un-insured relative to men.  On women’s health, Molinaro is wrong for Dutchess County.

Equality.  Molinaro voted against same-sex equality and voted against same-sex couples being allowed to adopt.  He has since said his thinking has “evolved” but it’s unclear what he would actually support, and since the only thing of substance we have to go on is his record as a legislator, it’s easy to conclude that on equality, Molinaro is wrong for Dutchess County.

Taxes.  Molinaro claimed to be against the SALT tax cap in the Trump/GOP tax scam that passed in 2017, which is good, but he wanted to lower the state “millionaire” tax on the rich from 8.82% to 6.85%, further increasing economic inequality.  He also wanted to eliminate the estate tax so wealth could be captured and passed down through the generations even though heirs did little-to-nothing to earn their inherited wealth.  We’re not talking about family farms, only a tiny fraction of which ever owe money in estate taxes.  We’re talking about families like the Trumps.  On tax policy, Molinaro is wrong for Dutchess County.

Molinaro may not have been a disaster for Dutchess County thus far, but we can do a lot better.  We deserve an Executive who will oppose the NRA and support common-sense laws like universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles.  We deserve an Executive who wants health-care for all and is willing to find a solution to our health insurance crisis.  We deserve an Executive who will clearly and unambiguously fight for women’s health and for women’s sovereignty over their own bodies.  And we deserve an Executive who doesn’t help the rich get richer while everyone else gets left behind.

Please start to focus on this local election and see if you can get involved in turning out voters.  It will likely be a light turnout so anything can happen.

Keep resisting  Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” along with Molinaro.

Day 957 – Focus on Finance Fraud

Hurricane Dorian stalled and devastated the Bahamas yesterday, sitting right on top of Freeport for almost a day and a half with category 5 winds and a massive storm surge.  Dorian has now been downgraded to a category 3, so it will at least hopefully not bring too much damage to the Florida and South Carolina coasts as it turns slowly north.

As we start the week, be aware that the stock markets are still quite shaky.  Trump’s China tariffs continue to crush our farming community, with no end in sight.  US market futures were sharply down over the weekend, and the Swiss forecast that their economy grew by a measly 0.2% in the second quarter, we are likely to see more market volatility for the foreseeable future.

Also be aware that the Democrats in the House are coming back from summer recess and will be ramping up several investigations.  One is particularly notable.  The House Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings on the Trump hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels that earned Trump lawyer Michael Cohen a prison sentence.  Trump has been described as an unindicted co-conspirator in this crime, so the House will be calling witnesses and endeavoring to expose to the public the details of who did what, and whether Trump had a direct hand in the campaign finance fraud.  Here’s coverage in the Washington Post by Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger:

Trump’s poll numbers continue to sag so it will interesting to see if renewed focus on his potential crimes will knock his numbers down any further.

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

Day 956 – It’s The Guns

As Texas reels from another mass shooting, this time near Odessa, social media is full of calls for legislative action on guns, and critical of “Moscow Mitch” McConnell for doing nothing in the Senate to stem the bloody tide of mass shootings.  Trump says he wants to do something with background checks, then says we have a lot of background checks, then goes golfing.

At the same time, social media is also full of right-wing trolls and NRA hacks who whine and whine about the 2nd Amendment and speak about guns with the reverence of a golden calf.  Some even say that God and/or Jesus want us to have guns and more guns.  So it’s a good time to refresh a few facts.

The United States has more guns per person by far than any of our industrial peers.


It’s estimated that there are now more guns in America than people.

The percentage of Americans who own guns has been steadily dropping for decades, yet the average number of guns per person has been rising.  Why?  Because a small percentage of our citizens stockpile and own a huge fraction of the guns–and they’re buying more.

As you already know, an enormous number of Americans die each year from gun violence.

Each year 36,383 Americans die from gun violence

And as this chart demonstrates, there’s a clear and causal link between gun ownership and gun deaths (duh).

Gun ownership versus gun deaths

It’s worth noting that after the ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire during the George W. Bush presidency, mass shooting deaths from assault weapons surged.  In the ten years of the ban there were 53 deaths, and in the twelve years after the ban was lifted (’05-’17) there were 309.  And of course, in the past two years that number has risen dramatically.  Now the LA Times is reporting that “Attacks aren’t just increasing, they’re getting deadlier.”

The only thing that differentiates us from other wealthy nations is the easy availability of firearms and the number of firearms in public hands.  It isn’t mental health. It isn’t the video games.  It’s the guns.

A huge majority of Americans support common sense gun regulations like universal background checks and a new assault weapons ban.  We have to demand that our leaders make progress on gun control and gun violence or we will vote them out.  And it begins with dumping the two NRA puppets in control of Washington–Don The Con and Moscow Mitch.

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

Day 955 – “Entitlements of Masculine Primacy”

As Hurricane Dorian crept closer to Florida (and another active shooter killed people in Texas) Trump was, yet again, playing golf at his private Virginia club after banging out a few tweets yesterday morning.  Trump is the laziest president in modern history, and also the most devoid of empathy.  By his own statements and policies, Trump is clearly a tool of the fossil fuel industry and comfortable keeping a dying energy source profitable for a few more years even if it means the beginning of the end of humanity.  He would rather signal to his base that he’s a land-raper and climate-polluter–like them–than do anything to stave off the catastrophic warming our planet is experiencing.

As I’ve often written, the GOP under Trump has become not only the party of racism but the party of misogyny.  And climate change is yet another example of this.  Trump’s aging white male cult grew up in a world and culture where pillaging the Earth for profit was what a real man does.  To suggest that we need to take care of our environment has become an affront to their masculinity.  Just look at the symbolism of today’s conservatives.  The Hummer and the gas guzzling monster truck have become symbols of conservative male power.  If you don’t drive one, you’re not part of their club.  Some of them even devised the practice of “rolling coal,” where their diesel truck pumps extra gas into the engine to blow out a huge plume of black exhaust, often directed at passing bicyclists, as an F-U to people who might care about nature.  The practice has become so widespread and noxious that it has been banned in Colorado, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Utah.

Eating meat has also become a masculine symbol for the conservative man.  Show them a vegetarian or vegan and their heads practically explode in anger and disdain.  Caring for the earth, or fellow creatures, or their own health, is seen as a proof of weakness, which is intolerable to men whose own self-worth and self-esteem are calcified and fragile.

An excellent article in the New Republic by Martin Gelin drove this point home recently.  It was titled “The Misogyny of Climate Deniers” and asked “Why do right-wing men hate Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez so much? Researchers have some troubling answers to that question.”

The heart of Gelin’s article is this:

In 2014, Jonas Anshelm and Martin Hultman of Chalmers published a paper analyzing the language of a focus group of climate skeptics. The common themes in the group, they said, were striking: “for climate skeptics … it was not the environment that was threatened, it was a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.”

The connection has to do with a sense of group identity under threat, Hultman told me—an identity they perceive to be under threat from all sides. Besieged, as they see it, both by developing gender equality—Hultman pointed specifically to the shock some men felt at the #MeToo movement—and now climate activism’s challenge to their way of life, male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another.

“There is a package of values and behaviors connected to a form of masculinity that I call ‘industrial breadwinner masculinity.’ They see the world as separated between humans and nature. They believe humans are obliged to use nature and its resources to make products out of them. And they have a risk perception that nature will tolerate all types of waste. It’s a risk perception that doesn’t think of nature as vulnerable and as something that is possible to be destroyed. For them, economic growth is more important than the environment” Hultman told Deutsche Welle last year.

The corollary to this is that climate science, for skeptics, becomes feminized—or viewed as “oppositional to assumed entitlements of masculine primacy,” Hultman and fellow researcher Paul Pulé wrote in another paper.

Full link here:

Change is difficult for any human being.  But it’s particularly difficult when it requires making sacrifices, which we will surely have to make in the face of an extinction-level threat like climate change.  Ideally there will be some positives, like a surge of economic prosperity tied to transformative energy technologies such as solar and geo-thermal.  But entire industries will have to be dismantled and their workers transitioned, such as fossil fuel and coal, which will create a lot of disruption.  Activities that despoil our environment, like clear-cut logging and long-line fishing and fracking will have to be done away with, forcing their workers to find jobs that will likely require less physical labor and more knowledge–a tough challenge.  BUT WE HAVE NO CHOICE.  And the longer we wait, the more extreme any viable solution will be.

It’s almost tempting to start advocating for some sort of black list or dis-honor roll of climate deniers to be used when we face severe food or water shortages, or when coastal Florida is swallowed by the sea.  People on the list stand at the back of the food line, or get federal help last–because you know that day is coming.  You know the day will arrive when some horrible disruptive climate-related catastrophe will be so bad that many deniers will throw in the towel and admit they were wrong.  It might not happen anytime soon, but it will come, and it will be hard to have much sympathy for them when it does.

A few weeks ago an article was published by Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs on CNN’s website calling Trump’s climate inaction a “crime against humanity.”  Sachs  starts the article with guns blazing:

President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and others who oppose action to address human-induced climate change should be held accountable for climate crimes against humanity. They are the authors and agents of systematic policies that deny basic human rights to their own citizens and people around the world, including the rights to life, health, and property. These politicians have blood on their hands, and the death toll continues to rise.

Full article here:

We have to hold our politicians and our citizens responsible for climate inaction.  The science is settled.  The evidence is mounting.  The damages are real.  The stakes are huge.

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