Just Do It Already

Every presidential scandal has at least one memorable line that everyone recognizes immediately. Nixon had “I am not a crook,” and Bill Clinton will be forever remembered for “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” The line that will likely be most remembered from the Trump regime is from the Mueller report: when Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Donald Trump that a special counsel had been appointed. He slumped in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

The Mueller investigation had Trump in despair from the very beginning. He was so anxious about it that he spent the next year and a half obstructing justice in a dozen different ways, publicly trashing everyone involved in it and attacking the reputations of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Whether that reflected his guilt over his behavior in the Russia matter or concern that the FBI was turning over other rocks he’d rather not be touched is still unknown. These are not the actions of an innocent man.

The debate about impeachment gets hotter wth Lord Dampnut’s every refusal to acknowledge congressional power under the Constitution. On Thursday the Washington Post reported that Nancy Pelosi held a closed-door meeting with the Democratic caucus, telling them to stick to policy issues that people really care about and forget about impeachment. She acknowledged that some Democrats are feeling a little down about the refusal to consider impeachment, but no one in the room objected to her edict. Evidently, they are all convinced that voters are not concerned about whether their president is a criminal or that American democracy is in peril.

Voters are not going to buy that. People understand that getting a conviction in the Senate in an impeachment trial will be nearly impossible, but they also know that passing any Democratic bills in the Senate, and then getting Trump to sign them, is just as unlikely.

Every Democrat knows that Donald Trump deserves impeachment. They just can’t decide whether it’s good strategy to do it. Pelosi obviously doesn’t think so. Others are saying they should.  Many legal observers believe that impeachment proceedings will give the House leadership the clout they need with the courts to force the administration to comply with subpoenas, so in that sense it’s almost a necessity.

Voters didn’t hand Democrats a big majority in the midterms for the purpose of passing a dream agenda only to watch it die in the Senate. There are currently 23 presidential candidates talking about the bread-and-butter issues every single day (the ones that will actually talk about policy anyway), and people will be hearing all about them. They sent the Democrats to Washington in 2018 for one reason: To stop Trump.

It’s becoming more important every day that Democrats focus on doing that. Trump is still the most powerful man in the world and downplaying the threat of impeachment gives him a green light to keep doing everything he’s doing. It’s not just about the 2016 election or even the pattern of obstruction of justice anymore. It’s about what he’s doing right now.

Even if Democrats never actually vote on articles of impeachment, holding hearings, using the power of their congressional mandate, and showing the Gröpenführer that they will turn over every rock whether he likes it or not is the only way to keep him from doing his worst.

Bullies only back down when someone stands up to them.

Drumbeats in the Distance

Has the American media learned anything since George W. Bush drove the country into the Iraq War on false pretenses and warped intelligence? Hopefully it has, but we are be on the verge of a high-stakes test of this hypothesis.

The Trump administration appears to be on the cusp of walking us into a conflict with Iran. And we need to be clear about how this all started: Against the advice of many of his top aides, Trump decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal crafted under President Barack Obama. The deal strictly limited Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon, a goal nearly everyone in the U.S. shares, but Republicans decided that anything with Obama’s name on it made them sad, so it had to go. Then, last month, the administration announced it was labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and unprecedented and aggressive move.

That brings us to this month, when officials have been trying to convince the public that there is intelligence suggesting that the threat from Iran is growing even though U.S. Central Command released a report saying the regime had no interest in going on the offense against the United States unless provoked.

So the administration decided to provoke them. National Security Adviser, and talking mustache, John Bolton announced that he would send aircraft carriers and bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to some new information. But Bolton is the quintessential unreliable narrator. He was, after all, a part of the administration that manipulated the intelligence to make the case for the Iraq War under Bush. Even Bush would later sour on his former ambassador to the United Nations, saying, “I don’t consider Bolton credible.”

The Associated Press credulously reported Monday that a U.S. official said that the military has assessed that Iran is likely responsible for a recent attack on oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates over the weekend. But the story was thinly sourced, relying only on one anonymous official citing a military assessment.

Bolton has never seen a regime that he didn’t want to overthrow and he is clearly gunning for Iran. And given how stupid and easy to manipulate Trump is, Bolton may well lead him into war.

Reporters must be particularly skeptical of what administration sources are saying, whether they’re speaking anonymously or before Congress. Who’s agenda are they serving? How reliable is the information they’re citing? We’ve seen how the government can manipulate the media into banging the war drums for them. And there are signs it is making such a mistake again.

The American role in any rising tensions, beginning with Trump’s tearing up of the nuclear deal, is the important context for understanding any emerging conflict. Reporters need to be particularly skeptical of any claims they’re hearing as the Trump administration, with John Bolton at the helm of national security, coalesces around the idea that Iran poses an imminent threat.

Long-Form Worth Certificate

We still haven’t seen Donald Trump’s tax returns, but on Tuesday, the New York Times published a detailed report examining information about his taxes between the years of 1985 and 1994.

The Times didn’t obtain his actual tax returns, but it did receive information about his taxes from a source who had legal access to the returns. And the paper was able to corroborate the validity of the returns by comparing it to publicly available records and information it had previously obtained.

Here are some…interesting findings from the report:

$1.17 billion in losses

The big take away of the piece is astounding: Over the ten years, Trump had more $1.17 billion in business losses. Keep in mind that a lot of this is during the late 80s, at time of strong economic growth. Not a time when rich white men typically lose money. Also, this was when Trump as running casinos, a business that is rigged in favor of the proprietor, which he bankrupted. More than anything, this report should put to rest the myth that Donald Trump is a smart business man.

Much of that was concentrated in 1990 and 1991

In just two years, Trump lost a staggering $250 million annually.

No income taxes for eight out of ten years

Because his businesses were arranged as partnerships, the losses were reported on his personal tax returns rather than through corporate filings. With such massive losses, Trump was able to avoid paying personal income tax for eight out of the ten years the Times reviewed.

No, that is not common

Trump defenders will say he had some tough times and some good times, and that this is just the life of a high-profile businessman. Not so. According to the Times, Trump “appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.” Again, this was during the economic boom of the 80s.

Trump’s father, by contrast, made money

One person who appears to have done much better than Donald Trump? His father, Fred Trump, the man who really made the Trump family wealthy and bequeathed the fortune to his children. Keep in mind, Donald was a millionaire before he was out of diapers.

“We now have tax info on Fred Trump & Donald Trump for a number of years,” said reporter Susanne Craig, one of the reporters in the story. “The upshot: Fred always made a lot of money. Donald always lost a lot of money.”

“It’s been good financially.”

One of the most amazing parts of the story is a graph that shows Trump’s accumulated losses as they rack up on his returns. Next to some of the bars, the chart includes quotes from Trump talking about his finances.

In 1990, the Times reported that Trump said, “It’s been good financially” a year in which he had lost $400 million.

Put simply, Lord Dampnut has always been an outrageous liar.

Trump made money in the stock market by lying

As his businesses were tanking in the late 1980s, Trump had to find other ways to rake in cash. One method, the Times found, was to buy stock in a company, claim he was going to take over that company, watch the stock rise, and then sell his shares. He would profit, and never buy the company after all. Eventually, the Times reported, this scam stopped working when investors gave up on taking his boasts seriously.

This is also a pretty strong reason, among many, that Americans should not look to the stock market as an indicator of how well the overall economy is doing.

Focus groups of Trump voters in 2016 thought the fact he was a ‘hugely successful’ businessman would make him an ideal president. The fact he was a loser in business will hurt him. And that is why he’s been doing everything he can to keep his taxes secret.

Another One Bites the Dust

Decades of Democratic politicians accepting the role of being the Washington Generals of politics, and generally being spineless cowards have lulled Republican politicians into false confidence in their intelligence. They’ve bought into their own hype about their success being a result of their cleverness and hard work, and not the result of being sellouts to the highest bidder.

How else to explain Republicans continued attempts to dunk on New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez only to be embarrassed when she effortlessly outmaneuvers them? Despite her undefeated record against Fox News, Right-wing twitter, and Republican politicians, they just keep lining up to take un-advised shots at the title, only to end up owning themselves half of the time.

Enter Ted Cruz, Republican Senator from Texas most famous for being a servile lapdog to a man who publicly insulted his wife and slandered his father.

It all started Monday when Ocasio-Cortez posted this tweet lamenting the cost of the buttery, flaky pastries at New York’s LaGuardia Airport:

When AOC tweeted about the high price of airport croissants as compared to the low wages of employees, Cruz thought he saw a perfect chance to score political points.

Fortunately for AOC, Ted Cruz is an idiot:

Not only did he faceplant in making SOCIALISM seem scary, but he even went the extra mile confirming AOC’s point that the GOP doesn’t care about workers. Maybe by backing hikes in the minimum wage so they can earn enough money to buy fancy rolls?

Needless to say, AOC was not put in her place:

It’s Time to Go pt. 2

For the first time in the country’s modern history, the existence of the Electoral College has now become a campaign issue.

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren recently called for the abolition of the Electoral College, while other Democratic presidential candidates, including former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke and Senator Kamala Harris, have said the Electoral College should be re-evaluated. Whatever that means.

I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear but for the sake of argument; here are four of the most common arguments I’ve noticed, and why they’re wrong.

  1. Electors filter the passions of the people

Some defend the Electoral College by citing its original purpose: to provide a check on the public in case they make a poor choice for president.

Obviously that failed miserably in 2016 and now we have the Childlike Emperor, Lord Dampnut.

Since winner-take-all laws began in the 1820s, electors have rarely acted independently or against the wishes of the party that chose them. A majority of states even have laws requiring the partisan electors to keep their pledges when voting. In presidential elections from 1992 to 2012, over 99 percent of electors kept their pledges to a candidate.

There have been a few scattered faithless electors in past elections, but they’ve never influenced the outcome. Even in 2016, when seven faithless electors broke their pledges, it didn’t move the needle.

  1. It forces candidates to campaign in rural areas

This one’s easy: no it doesn’t.

A popular argument on conservative websites and talk radio is that without the Electoral College, candidates would spend all their time campaigning in big cities and would ignore low-population areas.

In fact, because of the Electoral College, campaigning is generally limited to the urban areas of a handful of states.

Data from the 2016 campaign indicate that 57 percent of general election campaign events for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine were in only four states: Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio. During the general election campaign, 94 percent of campaign visits by the four candidates were in 12 “battleground” states.

And within these battleground states the candidates focused on campaigning in regions where the most voters lived. In Pennsylvania, for example, 59 percent of Pennsylvania campaign visits by Clinton and Trump in the final two months of the campaign were to the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, with all other campaign visits going to other cities and their suburbs in the state.

Meanwhile, during the entire period after the 2016 national conventions, the four candidates never once campaigned in 24 states, including rural states like South Dakota, Kansas and Wyoming.

Presidential candidates don’t campaign in rural areas no matter what system is used. Even in the swing states where they do campaign, the candidates focus on urban areas where most voters live.

  1. It prohibits a couple of states or cities from picking the winner

Some claim that the Electoral College prevents one state or prohibits a few cities from determining the winner of the presidential election.

With states, again the truth is the opposite.

Under the current Electoral College system, one state by itself determined the winner of the last presidential election. Without all of Texas’ 38 electoral votes, Trump would have lost the 2016 election. The same thing happened with Florida in 2000. Without its 25 electoral votes, George W. Bush would have lost the election.

Well, he did lose the election but you know what I mean…

Meanwhile, the combined populations of the three largest U.S. cities, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, account for less than 5 percent of the country’s population. Their combined metro area populations, including suburbs, are about 13 percent of the U.S. population. It’s not clear how 5 or 13 percent of the population would outvote the rest of the country in a national vote, and that’s assuming every voter in these metro areas votes the same way.

  1. It prevents the chaos of a contested election

Some, including the late historian Theodore H. White, cite the Electoral College as a way to prevent political chaos.

After the 1960 presidential election, John Kennedy’s nationwide share of the popular vote was only 0.17 percentage points higher than Richard Nixon’s share. If there had been the need for a nationwide recount, there could have been weeks or months of political deadlock. Kennedy’s clearer margin of victory in the Electoral College, 303 electoral votes to Nixon’s 219, prevented that.

Fair enough. However, during the 2000 presidential election, the opposite occurred. While Al Gore’s nationwide popular vote victory margin was clear, the number of votes separating Gore from George W. Bush in Florida was minuscule. And because of the Electoral College system, the outcome in Florida became the deciding factor.

After a month of court challenges, a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ordered the statewide recount be stopped and handed the presidency to Bush. The Electoral College was actually the cause of the chaotic and controversial outcome.

Campaigning on fixing the Electoral College is one thing. But how could it actually be abolished or amended?

Abolishing the Electoral College entirely would require a constitutional amendment involving two-thirds approval from both houses of Congress and 38 states. Given that a Republican has only won the national popular vote one time since the 1988 election, that’s unlikely to succeed. The Republican Party needs the Electoral College, as well as a healthy helpings of voter suppression and gerrymandering, to stay relevant as a national party.

Some advocate that all 50 states adopt Maine and Nebraska’s system of dividing up electoral votes by congressional district. But giving congressional districts a bigger role could lead to an even greater loss of voter confidence, especially in heavily gerrymandered states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

And of course, there’s my preferred solution; The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which  advocates passing legislation at the state level to award electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state popular vote.

Unfortunately, political self-interest seems to be the biggest roadblock to reform. Look no further than Donald Trump. Back in 2012, he tweeted that the Electoral College was “a disaster for democracy.”

By November 2016, after winning the presidential election despite losing the nationwide popular vote to Hillary Clinton, he’d changed his tune.

“The Electoral College,” he tweeted, “is actually genius.”