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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,635

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Joe Biden's Digital Ads Are Disappearing. Not a Good Sign, Strategists Say.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign has sharply scaled back his online advertising, cutting spending so severely since August that he is now investing only a fraction of what his top rivals are on Facebook and Google, the two dominant internet platforms.

In a race where many voters are following politics on their smartphones, Mr. Biden’s pullback is an unusual and potentially worrisome sign about his appeal among the Democratic activists, young people and donors who are especially engaged on social media. Candidates rarely withdraw so much money from their online campaigns unless they are seeing weak results in online fund-raising, according to interviews with digital strategists.

As the candidates make their final pitches to donors before a quarterly fund-raising deadline at midnight Monday, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other top rivals are outspending Mr. Biden online. He was only the sixth-biggest Democratic spender on Facebook ads in the seven days ending Thursday, even as he was at the center of a swirling national controversy involving President Trump, Ukraine and impeachment.

Instead, he has shifted his spending priorities toward traditional tactics like buying television ads in Iowa. But that strategy has not paid dividends so far: Ms. Warren, a leading rival for the 2020 nomination, recently surpassed him in a key Iowa poll.


What's the Matter With Republicans?

In a sane world, the reaction of Republicans to the “memorandum of telephone conversation” between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, combined with the whistle-blower complaint filed by an intelligence officer describing a White House cover-up, would be similar to the response of Republicans after the release, on Aug. 5, 1974, of the “smoking gun” tape that finally broke the Nixon presidency. Republicans would begin to abandon Mr. Trump, with senior figures urging him in private and in public to resign.

This may be asking too much of Republicans, who have lost their way in the Trump era. One might hope that some of the party’s elected officials would forcefully condemn the president on the grounds that there is now demonstrable evidence that he had crossed an ethical line and abused his power in ways even beyond what he had done previously, which was problematic enough.

But things are very different today than they were in the summer of ’74. Mr. Trump was on to something when he famously said, during the 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.? It’s, like, incredible.” What most people took to be hyperbole turned out to be closer to reality.

This isn’t to say that some Republican members of Congress aren’t deeply uneasy with Mr. Trump’s conduct. A few, including Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, have expressed their concern. But many others, from Senator Lindsey Graham to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, are aggressively defending Mr. Trump, going so far as to argue that the notes from his July 25 conversation with Mr. Zelensky are exculpatory.


Republicans, the Time Has Come

To the Republican members of the United States Senate:

You have always told us that you believe in the distinctive greatness of the United States of America. “America is different,” as Senator Marco Rubio has said. Ben Sasse likes to say that “America is an idea” — a commitment to universal dignity over brute power.

You have also told us that you went into politics to serve a higher purpose. Well, your moment has arrived.

The president of the United States is betraying his oath of office in the most fundamental way, by using the presidency for personal gain at the country’s expense. He has corrupted our foreign policy with grubby attempts to help himself that his own White House staff immediately recognized as improper. He is telling the world that America does not, in fact, stand for any higher ideal. Can you for a moment imagine the icons of your party, like Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower, risking the security of a country threatened by Russia, for the sake of smearing a political rival?

President Trump must go, and you — only you — have the power to make it happen.


Impeach the Malignant Fraudster

It is the clarity of Donald Trump’s transgression that is most remarkable.

By his own admission, and backed up by the quasi-transcript released by the White House and by the whistle-blower complaint, he abused the power of the presidency to enlist a foreign government to help him politically.

People don’t have to wade through the tome that Robert Mueller produced, through the murky parts and the fine legal points. This is as clear as a bell. Trump has confessed to the central allegation.

No matter how much his defenders squirm — and they certainly are squirming — to justify or diminish that fact, it is nevertheless a fact. He did it.


Note to the Impeachment Investigators: Trump Rarely Acts Alone

President Trump’s assaults on democracy are rarely solo endeavors. His schemes often entangle, by chance or by choice, an array of accomplices, enablers, observers and victims — many of whom will need to be heard from as House members begin investigating the Ukraine scandal as part of the impeachment inquiry announced last week.

“There is a whole host of people apparently who have knowledge of these events,” Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is spearheading the inquiry as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Thursday. Fortunately, said Mr. Schiff, the complaint filed by the administration whistle-blower provides “a pretty good road map of allegations that we need to investigate.”

Indeed it does. Among the many persons of interest in this investigation: whichever White House and State Department staff members who were listening in on Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky; those who subsequently received a readout of that call; and those involved in the effort to “lock down” the record of it. The lines of inquiry quickly spiral. But here are a few notable figures — in addition, of course, to the whistle-blower himself — who could prove particularly useful to House investigators.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney/fixer. As the point person on the push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Mr. Giuliani likely knows more about the origins, scope and details of the effort than almost anyone. Some of the more targeted mysteries he could shed light on include: When and from whom did the president first get the idea to pressure Ukraine? How did Mr. Giuliani first become involved? Was he being paid for his work, and if so, by whom?


Trump is making himself expendable

It was the question of the week, and Frida Ghitis posed it best:

"How is it possible that after the country was torn apart by the Russian interference in the 2016 election and its aftermath, and after (President Donald) Trump himself endured almost two years under the searing spotlight of an investigation into that very thing, how is it possible that he could reach out to another country and -- according to a whistleblower complaint -- attempt another round of election interference? How is that possible?"

Her answer: "Trump has apparently come to believe that he is so brilliant, so talented, so invincible, that he could get away with defying every norm, every practice, every institution of the democracy he is charged with leading." In a word from ancient Greece: hubris.

Michael D'Antonio described it another way: "Trump's decision to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political opponent one day after the country heard special counsel Robert Mueller testify before Congress suggests a man with a political death wish."


Trump isn't loyal to Russia -- or America. Only to himself.

Ever since the revelation in the summer of 2016 that Russia was hacking the Democratic National Committee to help elect Donald Trump, his critics have been searching for evidence that he is loyal to Russia. We still don’t know the full story of President Trump’s ties with Moscow; an FBI counterintelligence investigation is apparently still going on. But from what we know, it’s a mistake to imagine that Trump is loyal to any country — whether the United States or Russia. His only loyalty is to himself. His policy is not “America First.” It is Trump First.

That message was hammered home by the revelations of last week. The week’s major news story — the one that has made impeachment inevitable — is that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden. The president’s own words, in the rough transcript released by the White House, convict him of two offenses against U.S. interests. First, he encouraged a foreign country to interfere in a U.S. election despite a federal law that makes it a crime to “knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation.” Second, apparently as a pressure tactic, he held up military aid for Ukraine that was authorized by Congress to help this front-line ally defend itself against Russian aggression.

Whether it can be proved that Trump acted criminally (and it will be hard to put a value on the campaign aid that Trump wanted from Ukraine), he deserves to be impeached because he violated his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He subordinated the public’s interest — in holding free and fair elections and ensuring that foreign aid is used for the purposes intended by Congress — to his own personal interest in getting reelected.

Trump acted with similar disregard for the national interest during and after Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election. Though former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump was part of a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, there remains ample evidence of his willingness to encourage Russian interference. “Russia, if you’re listening,” Trump said on July 27, 2016, encouraging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The Mueller report revealed that Russian hackers tried to do that just hours later.


No, the GOP won't abandon Trump no matter what for one reason: he's the last.

Long before Trump, today’s GOP lost any ability to be constructive on just about anything. If something is good, they reflexively oppose it. People having healthcare? Oppose. People going to college? Oppose. Stopping gun massacres? Oppose. Renewable energy? Oppose.

Their entire policy on immigration is bigotry and hate. Their policy on the budget is to cut taxes for the wealthy. Their policy on elections is to have as few people as possible voting. Also, I’m not quite sure how a political party would be opposed to saving our environment, but here we are.

Then 2016 happened. Republicans have surrendered everything--their duty, their patriotism, and their principles—in order to pledge fealty to a man too stupid to be trusted to manage his own social media account. He remade the party in his ugly image, so now those who haven't left can largely be divided into just three groups: the rich, the racists, and the rubes. This is who they have to work with now.

Every demographic the GOP had been working on gaining has been forever lost. When the Democratic Party became the party of civil rights in the 1960s, the southern conservatives switched allegiance to the GOP, and haven’t looked back. As recently as 2012, the GOP was determined not to lose the fast growing Latinx community in the same way they lost the African-Americans, so they pandered. Even Sean Hannity argued that the GOP should go for amnesty. All of that outreach ended under Trump, who has smeared and insulted them continuously since day one.


SpaceX Unveils Silvery Vision to Mars: 'It's Basically an I.C.B.M. That Lands'

As you drive east along Texas State Highway 4, it looks like a giant, shiny and pointy grain silo is rising out of the scrubby flatland at the tip of southern Texas.

But it is the first version of a spaceship design that Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and founder of the rocket company SpaceX, hopes will be humanity’s first ride to Mars.

Within a month or two, he says optimistically, this prototype of the Starship spacecraft — without anyone aboard — will blast off to an altitude of 12 miles, then return to the ground in one piece.

“It’s going to be pretty epic to see that thing take off and come back,” Mr. Musk said late on Saturday at a SpaceX facility outside Brownsville, Tex., where Starship is being built.


Ex-GOP chair for North Carolina to plead guilty to lying to FBI

A former North Carolina GOP chairman will admit in court that he lied to federal agents conducting a bribery investigation of a major political donor, according to court documents filed Friday.

The federal court docket shows that Robin Hayes is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next Wednesday. Hayes has agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lia Bantavani.

A factual basis document prepared as part of the plea agreement and signed by Hayes' attorney said Hayes knew he was making false statements to FBI agents conducting the bribery probe in 2018. He was initially also charged with conspiracy and bribery.

Prosecutors have accused Hayes, a former congressman, of involvement in an insurance executive's plan to funnel campaign contributions to the state's top insurance regulator in exchange for special treatment. The executive, Greg Lindberg, and two of his associates have been charged with attempting to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.

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