Saturday, June 30, 2018

VIDEO - Republican shows off his smarts to Rod Rosenstein

VIDEO - John Stewart speaks directly to Trump

VIDEO - Steve Schmidt addresses the Muslim ban

Here’s a Tiny Little Case Study of Political Misinformation

KEVIN DRUMJUN. 28, 2018 1:34 PM

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. I’ve known him for a long time, and he’s a smart, politically engaged, moderate conservative. He’s not a big Donald Trump fan and certainly not a Fox News drone. Just an ordinary center-right guy.

And yet, he told me the following things during the course of a one-hour conversation:

Roe v. Wade is in no danger because it’s already been settled. The Supreme Court can’t just change its mind about it. Reality: The Supreme Court can overturn an old case anytime it wants, and it happens all the time. The most recent example happened yesterday in the public-sector union case.
American cars cost twice as much in Europe as they do here. Reality: Most American cars sold in Europe are made in Europe. Imports are subject to a 10 percent tariff.

If nothing changes, our trade deficit with China will keep going up forever. Before long it will be trillions of dollars. Reality: the US trade deficit with China has been flat for more than a decade.

We’re “finally” talking to North Korea. Reality: We’ve talked to North Korea many, many times in the past. So far, there’s nothing new happening except that Donald Trump decided to personally do the talking this time around.

Public-sector unions shouldn’t be allowed to make members pay union dues that are used for political lobbying. Reality: This has been illegal for 40 years. Anyone who wants to opt out of political activities is required to pay only a smaller “agency” fee, which is used to fund ordinary collective bargaining activities. Yesterday’s court case abolished even those. Workers can now enjoy the benefits of union representation without paying dues of any kind.

My friend also suggested there was a 50 percent chance that North Korea will give up its nukes. This strikes me as wildly improbable, but strictly speaking it’s merely an opinion, not a statement of fact.

I’m not quite sure what my point is here. Lots of people are misinformed about lots of stuff. But this a pretty spectacular list coming from a smart, moderate guy. And there was no malice or la-la-la-la involved. It was just honest misinformation.

Where did it all come from? And how is it that he’s apparently never heard the truth? It’s something for the mainstream media to think about.


Please Read This Through. He’s Right.

By Josh Marshall | June 28, 2018 10:54 am

I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about something that had been eating at me since Tuesday. Many of our assumptions about the course of the Mueller investigation are based on the premise or the backstop that Supreme Court will enforce the Nixon-era precedents about the rule of law and presidency. This seemed less clear to me after Tuesday’s decisions, though I didn’t return to that issue after yesterday’s news. I did last night at 3 a.m. The Mueller probe is the most immediate issue but it’s really just a proxy for our democratic institutions. I’ve said before that Trump is an autocrat without an autocracy. But he’s working on it and the question is whether there will be any check.

Looking through my email I found this from a former federal public corruption prosecutor …

I am deeply concerned that the Kennedy retirement will put the rule of law and our democratic institutions at graver risk than ever before. The President of the United States is the subject of a serious federal criminal investigation into (1) whether he conspired with a foreign adversary to help him win a narrow electoral college victory; and (2) whether he has obstructed that very investigation by, among things, firing the FBI director in charge of the investigation. The President will now be able to choose the person who, in a very real sense, may be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not he and others are ever held accountable.

Consider that the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide, for example, whether the President can pardon himself or others to protect himself, whether a sitting President can be indicted, whether a sitting President can be compelled to testify before a federal grand jury, whether the appointment of the Special Counsel somehow violated the Appointments Clause (as some conservatives absurdly assert), and whether a President can ever obstruct justice. Even beyond the Mueller investigation, the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide whether the President’s acceptance of significant foreign funds through his businesses violates the Emoluments Clause. We have no idea how Justice Kennedy would have ruled on these questions (he hasn’t exactly distinguished himself in the last two days). But we have no doubt how a Trump appointee will. Never before has the selection of a Supreme Court nominee been so thoroughly compromised by the President’s profound personal interest in appointing a judge the President can count on to protect the President. This is DEFCON 1 for the rule of law in this country.

Democrats in the Senate seem to have missed this point, or are too feeble to effectively prosecute the basic conflict of interest case. Instead, they have fallen back on the “McConnell rule” as a justification to delay a vote. Make no mistake, the treatment of Judge Garland and the theft of President Obama’s nomination power was an outrage and a terrible precedent. But Democrats should not endorse it. They should not let McConnell’s mendacity become the norm. It should stand on its own in history as the flagrant abuse of power that it was. In any event, Democrats have a much stronger case to make: no vote should be taken until after the Special Counsel has submitted a report to Congress, or closed the investigation of the President. A President under federal criminal investigation for stealing an election should not be able to nominate the person who may decide his fate. There will be a cloud over the legitimacy of this nomination unless and until the cloud of the Mueller investigation has been lifted.


So Much For the Institutions

Kennedy’s retirement proves we can’t count on elites to constrain Trump’s worst excesses


JUNE 27, 20188:44 PM

When he heard that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was retiring on Wednesday, a friend in his twenties told me: “Today is the darkest political moment my generation has experienced.”

“What about the day Trump was elected?” I asked in surprise.

“This is worse,” he responded. “It’s the day Trump consolidates his power.”

My friend has a point. When Donald Trump was elected, “serious” social scientists argued that the institutions of the American Republic would constrain his power. The more historically literate among them even trotted out a quip Harry S. Truman reportedly made about Dwight D. Eisenhower: “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”

As we now know, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. Though Trump’s White House certainly faced a steep learning curve in its first months—and remains deeply dysfunctional even now—the administration has gradually grown to be surprisingly effective at turning the president’s instincts into public policy. From immigration to trade, and from foreign policy to health care, the past months have brought big and worrying changes.

It is not just that the administration that is proving to be more effective than we might have hoped; it is also that the institutions meant to constrain it are proving far more pliant than we might have feared.

This is obviously true of the Republican Party. At the time of Trump’s election, smart observers debated whether party elites would continue to disdain and regularly oppose the president (as the optimists claimed) or whether Trump would prove capable of building a slate of his own candidates and gradually changing the nature of the party (as pessimists like me feared). The truth turned out to be much more radical than either the optimists or the pessimists predicted: Members of the conservative movement who had spent decades professing their commitment to balanced budgets and constitutional values proved willing to sell out their principles with astounding rapidity.

The knock-on effect in Congress has been as immediate as it has been frightening. Even a year ago, institutions like the House Intelligence Committee still seemed to be animated by a sense of bipartisan mission; it was imaginable that, if only Special Counsel Robert Mueller found sufficiently compelling evidence of wrong-doing by the president, a large number of Republican representatives and senators might vote to impeach Trump. Today, the House Intelligence Committee is openly running interference for Trump; it is very hard to believe that 67 Senators would ever vote to impeach him.

Read more

California’s war on fossil fuel companies just faced a huge setback

But a judge ruled the science is still correct.

JUN 26, 2018, 11:36 AM

Two California cities suffered a major setback in their fight to make fossil fuel companies pay for costs associated with climate change after a federal judge threw out their lawsuit Monday evening. While the judge acknowledged that the risks of climate change are real and ongoing, he argued the courts were not suited to take such a case, handing a big win to oil companies.

In a 16-page opinion, William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco sided with fossil fuel companies over the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. The two north California hubs had argued that Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell should financially support local projects meant to protect against the effects of global warming caused by the companies’ product: fossil fuels. Suggested projects included efforts like reinforcing coastlines against sea level rise and similar endeavors.

The cities also argued that the oil companies knew about the dangers of climate change for decades, but chose not to act, instead prioritizing their own interests. They argued that the companies’ actions had interfered with the use of property, making the products they sell a public nuisance.

Judge Alsup agreed with both Oakland and San Francisco that climate change is real. “This order accepts the science behind global warming,” the judge wrote, going on to say that climate science “dates back 120 years.”

Ultimately, however, he argued that assessing blame for the damage caused by climate change is a political decision, not a judicial one.

“The court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches,” Alsup wrote, dismissing the lawsuit and arguing that fossil fuels played an important role in contributing to national development, regardless of their ultimate role in causing global warming.

“Reliable, affordable energy is not a public nuisance but a public necessity,” said Chevron vice president and general counsel R. Hewitt Pate.

Climate advocates, by contrast, cautioned that the ruling could have sweeping implications in the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in global warming.

“The case before the judge was never about how to solve global climate change but simply whether oil and gas producers should help San Francisco and Oakland pay for the costs of adapting to it,” Richard Wiles, executive director for the Center for Climate Integrity, said in a statement.

“By kicking the case to a do-nothing Congress and a climate denying White House,” Wiles continued, “the court essentially ruled that taxpayers alone should pay the massive costs of adapting to climate change.”

Read more

Trump is about to escalate his trade war with China

Trump wants to limit Chinese investment in the US. China will strike back.

By Zeeshan  Jun 26, 2018, 3:30pm EDT

President Donald Trump is on the verge of escalating his trade war with China.

By the end of this week, the Trump administration is expected to release details of plans to restrict Chinese investment in American businesses and block the ability of US businesses to sell some high-tech products to China.

The purpose of the move is to sharply limit China’s access to cutting-edge US technology and thwart the country’s ambition to become the world’s greatest tech hub.

Analysts say the new policies will escalate already sky-high trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies and are bound to provoke a forceful retaliation from Beijing. It comes after Trump announced on June 15 that his administration will impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods and after threats of tariffs on up to $400 billion more in the future.

Like the tariffs, Trump’s new move will also deal a blow to China’s economy, but it will target something different. It won’t make it harder for China to sell goods in the US and compete with domestic manufacturers. Instead, it strikes at China’s strategy for developing its economy in the future.

At a moment when tensions are running high, “this is a way of communicating to Beijing that the US has a lot of tools at its disposal and it will consider using all of them,” Todd Tucker, a trade scholar at the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, told me.

Trump is locked in a battle with China on many fronts
Over the past few months, Trump has begun to execute his promise to crack down on China’s influence on the US economy.

On June 15, the administration said that $34 billion worth of Chinese goods will be subject to tariffs starting July 6, with an additional $16 billion worth of products undergoing further review and public hearings.

Within a day, China promised to retaliate against those tariffs with its own tariffs of “the same strength,” and said it would purposely impose tariffs that will affect American farmers and industrial workers in the Midwest — states that have large populations of Republican voting Trump supporters.

In response, Trump threatened to impose tariffs on up to $400 billion of Chinese exports on June 18.

The recent back-and-forth puts the US and China in the early stages of what could be a sustained trade war, in which both countries continue to strike at each other’s economies with increasingly expansive tariffs.

Trump’s new planned restrictions on Chinese investment and exports to China open up yet another front in the US-Chinese clash.

Read more

A closer look at religion

Too many Americans misuse their 2nd Amendment right

News, opinions - FB and Twitter screen captures