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Gender: Male
Home country: USA
Current location: PA
Member since: Wed May 11, 2005, 09:48 PM
Number of posts: 10,619

About Me

I love spending time with my grandchildren and gardening.

Journal Archives

it's hard to overstate how large the Horowitz and Durham investigations loom in the right-wing mind

Bill Barr’s Own Top Investigator Privately Says Right-wing Conspiracy about the Russia Probe Is Baseless: Report

John Durham, the U.S. attorney picked by Attorney General Bill Barr, has privately said that he has no evidence to support the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was an intelligence community plot to take down President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Barr, who chose Durham to oversee a review of the origins of the investigation that has become a criminal probe, has fanned the flames of the conspiracy theories about Russia probe. His public comments have suggested he gives credence to claims made by Trump and many right-wing media figures that the whole investigation was an illegitimate effort to undermine the president. This theory has always been wildly far-fetched, but it’s been treated as received wisdom in some corners by Trump defenders.

Recent reports have suggested, though, that a forthcoming report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will refute the conspiracists and say the investigation was opened appropriately (though it will reportedly find some sloppiness and minor wrongdoing on the part of FBI officials). Following these reports, the Post found that Barr is prepared to dispute this key conclusion from Horowitz, adding to the perception that Barr is a partisan hitman trying to confirm Trump’s preconceived notions.


It cautions, though, that Horowitz’s report is not yet final and the Post has not seen the draft report.

For those not tuned in to conservative media, it’s hard to overstate how large the Horowitz and Durham investigations loom in the right-wing mind. A minor event on Wednesday gave just one indication of the build-up: During the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) suggested that the release of Horowitz’s report could provide grounds to impeach former President Barack Obama.

It's hard to be an optimist about America right now



There is another concerning trend that threatens America’s constitutional character: the ever-expanding power of the presidency. Whatever you think of the charges against President Trump on Russia or Ukraine, his position of resolute noncooperation with Congress should trouble you deeply. If Congress cannot exercise its core oversight capacity, obtain documents and subpoena administration officials to testify, the essential system of checks and balances has broken down. The presidency will have become an elected dictatorship.

We have been going down this road for a while. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote about “The Imperial Presidency” in 1973. The legislation and culture after Watergate led many to believe that matters were under control. People actually began worrying about a weakened and emasculated White House. In fact, as Schlesinger noted in a 2004 reissue of his book, the presidency in recent years has become stronger than ever. The fear after 9/11 proved to be the gateway for an out-of-control executive branch. The president gained the ability to snoop on private Americans, use military force at his whim, torture prisoners and detain people indefinitely. The president can now order the execution of American citizens who are deemed — by him — to be terrorists, without due process.

In Attorney General William P. Barr, Trump has found an extraordinarily useful aide, who appears to believe, despite all this history, that the great problem in the United States is that the presidency is too weak. He has enabled a policy of stonewalling and silence, in which top administration officials almost behave as though Congress does not exist. People often ask themselves what the founders would think of America today. It seems to me that the greatest shock to them would be the incredible growth of presidential power. Congress and the courts are recognizable from their times; the White House is not.

Tensions over profound demographic change, fierce political backlash and a presidency that refuses to be checked. My optimism is wearing thin.

Trump's GOP defenders cannot be shamed. It's time to try this instead.



It’s time to drop the posture that Trump’s defenders can be shamed into accepting what has been unearthed, or that they can be shamed into arguing from a baseline of shared democratic values, or into arguing over how to interpret a comprehensive set of shared facts.

Instead, let’s rhetorically treat Trump’s defenders as his criminal accomplices. Not just as “enablers” of Trump’s corruption but as active participants in it.

Once this is accepted, it becomes obvious why they can’t be “won over,” because they are actively engaged in keeping the corruption in question from getting fully uncovered, in the belief that they, too, benefit from it, and that they, too, lose out if it’s exposed.


"If those records had come out, the truth would have been exposed"



The trial before Judge Amy Berman Jackson is expected to last about two weeks. She has warned that any visible or audible response from those attending the trial will lead to expulsion from the courtroom, and after one break, Stone warned his supporters to “tone down the reactions — no smiling, no giggling, no rolling your eyes,” he said.

A trove of Stone’s communications with Trump insiders, including exchanges with Bannon, Manafort and Manafort deputy Rick Gates, will figure prominently in the case.

Zelinsky said the case’s most important evidence will not be the witnesses, but Stone’s own words.

“Amazingly, most of the evidence in this case is in the written record — it’s emails and text messages showing what really happened. If those records had come out, the truth would have been exposed,” the prosecutor said.

The trial will detail the eagerness of some in Trump’s orbit to find damaging information to derail Clinton’s presidential run, and how Stone then denied such efforts when asked about them.

“At a critical moment in this nation’s history,” as Congress sought to “find out the truth of what happened,” Zelinsky said, Stone “was doing his best to stop them.”

Sorry, pundits: The problem isn't "polarization" -- Republicans have lost their damn minds

Sorry, pundits: The problem isn't "polarization" — Republicans have lost their damn minds
Mainstream media loves the "both sides" narrative. But the real problem is that the GOP has snapped the tether

When the final vote tally on a formal resolution governing the impeachment inquiry concluded on Thursday with a party-line split — all Republicans present voted against the resolution, and all but two Democrats voted for it — one could practically hear the squeak of excitement from the mainstream media pundit class. Here was an opportunity to run with a "partisan polarization" narrative that neatly sidesteps the substantive disagreement between the two parties.

The situation is simple: The Republican Party, both its politicians and its voters, has collectively decided that it's fine for Donald Trump to use his office to run an illegal extortion scheme against a foreign leader in an effort to cheat in the 2020 election. The moral rot of the Republican Party, and its cultist loyalty to a criminal president is the sole reason for this situation. Democrats are — rather too reluctantly! — trying to do something to stop the bleeding.

But to read mainstream news coverage, one would think the real problem is that both sides are irascible and bitterly divided, and that there's some reasonable solution that involves everyone joining hands and finding some way to compromise.

"Analysis: On Impeachment Fight, Neither Side Seems Willing To Give an Inch," read the Friday morning front-page headline at the New York Times, which, as usual, was the most egregious offender when it comes to "both sides" pablum.

The article underneath, by Carl Hulse, focused exclusively on the failure to compromise, noting that "the two parties [are] pulling ever further apart as they dig in deeper on the righteousness of their respective causes" and that "[l]ittle evidence has emerged that either side is willing to give an inch."

How the parties are supposed to compromise on the issue of whether the president should be allowed to commit serious crimes is not even addressed. After all, to acknowledge that one side is for crimes and the other side is against them might expose how ridiculous this "compromise vs. polarization" framework really is.

The Associated Press covered the vote in a similar vein, writing that "Democrats swept a rules package for their impeachment probe of President Donald Trump through a divided House," and failing to note until the 22nd paragraph that Republicans have been calling for such a vote for weeks, as Media Matters pointed out.

Other outlets, including NBC News, CNN and the Washington Post, ran front-page stories on the way partisan polarization shaped the vote and is driving the polling on impeachment.

These stories are tough, because, in one sense, it's technically true that the vote and the polling shows that Americans are deeply divided, by party identity, on the issue of impeachment. But that framework misses the larger story: The reason for this deep division is that Republicans, both voters and their representatives, have completely abandoned any respect for democracy and rule of law, choosing instead the cult of personality around a flagrant criminal. It ignores that Democrats value the truth and Republicans are awash in lies. It equates the two sides in a way that is not justified by looking at the bigger picture.

The "both sides" frame, in other words, hides the fact that this situation is very a one-sided problem.


Kevin McCarthy is implicated in the scandal he doesn't want investigated


But perhaps the most telling aspect of the debate is that the Republican closing argument — yet another recital of that same Hamilton quote — came from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy is implicated in the scandal he doesn’t want investigated.

McCarthy received money both personally and in the guise of his Protect the House PAC from Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the grifters at the core of the influence operation that led to Trump’s quid pro quo conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky. He also keynoted an event with the grifters. While he has said he’d donate the money to charity (though has not yet, as far as I know, shown that he did that), there is no way to unring the bell of their support. He became Majority Leader with the support of men who have since been indicted for that support.

That is the face that is leading opposition to impeachment.


Suddenly Ken Starr doesn't like impeachment so much

Suddenly Ken Starr doesn’t like impeachment so much

Is there anything Republicans won’t say to make impeachment go away?

They attack the patriotism of decorated veterans. They decry rules that they devised. And they discard long-held principles as though the past never happened.

Comes now Ken Starr, responsible more than any other person on Earth for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, to tell us what a dreadful thing impeachment is.

“It just seems we need to ratchet the conversation down because of the evils of impeachment,” the former independent counsel said during an interview with conservative writer Byron York released on Monday. “Impeachment has become a terrible, terrible thorn in the side of the American democracy and the conduct of American government since Watergate. . . . Let’s at least have a reasoned and deliberate conversation about some lesser kind of response.”

Starr thinks Congress should consider censuring President Trump, and he says Republicans in 1998 should have considered “whether something short of impeachment would be appropriate.”

Now he tells us? He didn’t mention “censure” once in his referral to Congress in 1998 laying out “substantial and credible information that President Clinton committed acts that may constitute grounds for an impeachment,” nor in his November 1998 testimony. Then, Starr argued passionately that Clinton’s actions fit the “high-crime-and-misdemeanor” standard.

Starr wasn’t finished. During this week’s interview, he also absolved Trump of guilt, both for obstruction of justice in the Mueller inquiry and for wrongdoing in the Ukraine quid pro quo, saying Trump’s “intent” was pure. Starr protested that Trump “is being held to a remarkable standard” in which we are “over-criminalizing the conduct of the business of government.”

Seriously? From the man who pushed to impeach a president for lying about oral sex in a civil deposition? Back then, Starr rejected the argument that Clinton’s “intent” in lying was to avoid embarrassment, not to perjure himself.

Starr, still going, suggested this week that impeachment is a plot by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to seize the presidency. A “conflict of interest is that the speaker of the House is guiding this process when she is third in succession,” he argued. “She will do well if she can have the elimination of Donald Trump from office and then Vice President Pence somehow.”

The brazenness of Starr’s historical revision was largely lost amid a profusion of equally outrageous attempts to excuse Trump.


Bill Barr's alternate universe "investigation" has a goal: Right-wing authoritarian rule

Bill Barr's alternate universe "investigation" has a goal: Right-wing authoritarian rule
Barr's "criminal investigation" of the Russia probe is the fruit of a long-running far-right plan to kill democracy

Students of the modern conservative movement often date the recent supercharged radicalization of the Republican Party to the rise of Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution in the early 1990s. It's true that the GOP went seriously off the rails during that period and the craziness has been picking up speed ever since. But in reality, the conservative movement has been radical from its beginnings, starting with the anti-communist crusade after World War II all the way through Goldwater to Reagan, Gingrich and now Trump. Now it has finally shed all trappings of a sophisticated political ideology, culminating in this surreal parody of a presidency in 2019. The conservative "three legged stool" of small government, traditional values and global military leadership has completely disintegrated.

But one aspect of that earlier conservative movement has continued to chug along with its long-term project to transform the U.S. into an undemocratic, quasi-authoritarian plutocracy. That would be the group of far-right lawyers who started the Federalist Society, with the goal of packing the judiciary with true believers, along with a certain group of Reagan-era legal wunderkinds who came to believe that the GOP could dominate the presidency for decades to come. They developed the theory of the "unitary executive," originally advanced by Reagan's odious attorney general Ed Meese ( recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom) which holds that massive, unaccountable power is vested in the president of the United States.

Attorney General William Barr was one of those lawyers, along with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former appeals court judge Michael Luttig and others who encouraged Barr to take the job, particularly after his famous memo declaring that what any normal person would see as obstruction of justice doesn't apply to the president. (In a nutshell, Barr agrees with former President Richard Nixon, who said, "If the president does it, it's not illegal." )

Barr is described as supremely confident in his beliefs, which is to say that his overweening arrogance is not an act put on someone who is overcompensating to hide insecurity. He believes in this theory and when it became obvious that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not long for the job, Barr and his legal cabal appear to have seen the clueless and corrupt Donald Trump as a perfect instrument to test their theory, and perhaps set legal precedents that would enable future right-wing presidents to use the full power of the presidency to dominate American politics without regard to democratic norms or congressional checks and balances. Indeed, they had been setting the stage for such a man for decades.

It's also obviously the case that Barr, and perhaps his Reaganite cronies as well, are suffering from the malady known as Fox News Brain Rot, the symptoms of which are an extreme susceptibility to absurd right-wing conspiracy theories and an inability to believe anything that contradicts them. (Barr once said that there was more evidence for the bogus Uranium One charges than the Russian interference in the 2016 election, which confirms the diagnosis.)


You can't impeach me -- because I quit.

A shame Trump canceled his subscription. Here’s a perfect impeachment defense.


Republicans have been complaining that the White House lacks a consistent message on impeachment. The main defense — about the secrecy of the process — will become irrelevant when proceedings become public next month. “It’s hard,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham complained on Fox News. “‘It’s like you’re fighting a ghost, you’re fighting against the air.”

Or maybe it’s that there is no good defense.

Really, the problem is the White House has too many messages — and none of them very good. Consider some of the lines Trump and his allies have tried in recent days:

The call was perfect.

The emoluments clause is phony.

Adam Schiff is a corrupt liar.

Adam Schiff is the whistleblower’s secret informant.

Bill Taylor is part of a coordinated smear campaign by radical unelected bureaucrats.

Democrats are an angry pack of rabid hyenas.

What are Democrats hiding in their Soviet-style star chamber?

Human scum!

It’s a coup!

No, it’s a lynching!

No, it’s a witch hunt!


Trump’s solution to the stream of bad news: He ordered the White House to cancel its subscriptions to those two newspapers.

That’s too bad, because Trump and his aides now won’t be able to read this coherent, straight-from-the-soul message I have developed for him, guaranteed to put an end to impeachment:

I am in way over my head.

I have no idea what’s legal or illegal.

My staff is incompetent.

I wasn’t supposed to win the election.

You can’t impeach me — because I quit.

D.C. Press Whitewashes Its Role in 2016 Email Fiasco after State Department Exonerates Clinton

D.C. Press Whitewashes Its Role in 2016 Email Fiasco after State Department Exonerates Clinton

Page 16 and 649 words. That’s how The New York Times treated the recent news that a years-long State Department investigation concluded there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information via emails sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private server while she was secretary of state. The Times covered that story regarding a seminal event from the 2016 campaign by publishing a single, brief article buried deep inside its A-section last Saturday. It was almost like the Times newsroom was telling readers, “Nothing to see here, folks.”

The Times was hardly alone in aggressively downplaying the State Department's conclusion. Most of the press treated the latest Clinton absolution as nothing more than a passing footnote, giving the news little or no coverage (the word "emails," for instance, was never mentioned on Sunday's Meet the Press, or ABC’s This Week. Recall however, that during the final stretch before the 2016 campaign, the Times famously crammed three separate Clinton email stories onto its front page on the same day, signaling to readers that the story had reached epic, blockbuster proportions.

Today the topic, and the clearing of Clinton, is of little concern to the New York daily that likely churned out hundreds of thousands of words on the email topic in 2015 and 2016. Indeed, when the email story first broke in March 2015, the Beltway media's response resembled barely controlled hysteria. For example, Times columnist Frank Bruni wondered if the revelation meant Clinton had a secret political “death wish.”

Just as important today is how the press is washing its hands of the media malpractice from 2016 and pretending news outlets played no role in helping the GOP market its email smear campaign for 18 months. That campaign consisted of phony Republican allegations that have now been relegated to the trashcan of history.

But before the trash gets taken out, it’s worth reflecting on what happened, especially as the 2020 campaign season ramps up and the GOP readies its next round of smear campaigns. The sustained attacks that will only work if the Beltway press signs on as a co-sponsor, the way it did with the bogus email charade in 2016.


Basically, the Clinton emails became the new Whitewater—a "scandal" in search of a crime. Here’s the dirty secret about what fuels Clinton scandal coverage, and what has always fueled the wayward pursuit: journalists were invested. And when it comes to the email story, they’ve been deeply invested since March 2015. For the press, the hollow “scandal” allowed them to harp on Clinton’s supposed untrustworthiness. It also allowed them to show Republicans that they were putting the Democratic nominee under a microscope and prove they don’t have a "liberal media bias."

For the record, the fact that the entire email "scandal" was bogus was fairly evident in real time. (See this Newsweek piece,https://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-emailgate-312784 from March 2015.) It's just that most of the press opted to play dumb on an epic scale regarding the story because the press liked the email story. The press liked that it was hurting Clinton, whom everyone assumed would defeat Trump. Harassing her with endless email coverage was a way to make sure her historic victory didn't taste very sweet, and that she limped across the finish line. Part of that sprang from a never-ending attempt to criminalize the Clintons. In the end, the relentlessly incendiary email coverage helped get Trump elected.

Yet rather than addressing that gaping, stunning failure in its 2016 coverage, the news media have opted to quietly move on.

Nothing to see here, folks.
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