A definition

American exceptionalism is an ideology holding the United States as unique among nations in positive or negative connotations, with respect to its ideas of democracy and personal freedom.

By that definition the United States (America is two continents) can be exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

Here’s an example from the same Wikipedia article on a way some people think we can be exceptionally good.

Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh has identified what he says is “the most important respect in which the United States has been genuinely exceptional, about international affairs, international law, and promotion of human rights: namely, in its outstanding global leadership and activism.” He argues:

To this day, the United States remains the only superpower capable, and at times willing, to commit real resources and make real sacrifices to build, sustain, and drive an international system committed to international law, democracy, and the promotion of human rights. Experience teaches that when the United States leads on human rights, from Nuremberg to Kosovo, other countries follow.

And here’s an example from Charlie Pierce on how we are today.

The United States Is a Country That Tortures People
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine
May 9, 2018

The children of the Senate Intelligence Committee certainly were treated to some ripping yarns on Wednesday, when Gina Haspel came to tell them the scary bedtime stories that qualify her to run the CIA. We had shadow warriors, and far-flung outposts, brush passes, dead drops, and dusty alleys, and dark moonless nights. If the hearing had gone on 10 minutes longer, John le Carré’s attorneys might have dropped in with an intellectual property action. Then, of course, they all went into executive session, where they could all talk about the really cool, really super-secret spy stuff that the rest of us can’t know about, but are obligated to pay for. And, ultimately, there was one basic message to come out of this hearing to the world.

The United States is a country that tortures people. It is also a country that arranges for other countries to torture people. We did in back in the Bush administration and we’ll do it again, if you scare us deeply enough and there are enough hack lawyers in the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s office to draft memos to cover our asses. The United States is a country that tortures people, and we’ll do it again, under the right circumstances. We’d just rather it not make the papers, is all.

Haspel, it is said by the very serious people who think serious thoughts on television, did very well. She pledged that the CIA would never “go back” to torturing people again, a worthless promise under any president, but particularly under this one. Who is going to stop them next time? The same people who failed to stop them the last time? It is to laugh. The statement was also stunningly beside the point. The question was about torture that we’ve already inflicted, and that she was intimately involved in.

She made sure we all knew the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was a very bad man who killed “a Wall Street Journal reporter who was an American.” (Curiously, she never mentioned Daniel Pearl’s name.) KSM came up every time the questions about torture came too close to being about actual torture, the subtext being, of course, that there are people who deserve to be tortured, even though we don’t torture anyone anymore, and we never will, and we can depend on Gina Haspel and Donald Trump for that. I’m convinced.

The problem with torture is not that it is inefficient, though it is. The problem with torture is that it is a violation of moral and ethical codes to which this country abided literally since its founding. (George Washington didn’t forbid the torture of British captives because torture “doesn’t work.’ He did so because it was wrong.) This simple formulation got lost in all the spy novel underbrush, and Haspel’s endless repetition of how it was bad, and we’ll never do it again, but, while we’re on the subject, let me tell you how bad the people we tortured really were, and how many lives we saved by waterboarding someone over 100 times.

That was the basic pitch and yaw of the whole morning. Her presentation was logically absurd and morally preposterous, but people listened and nodded along as though what she was saying made perfect sense. But it didn’t, as this exchange with Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, made clear.

REED: If one of your operatives was captured, and subjected to waterboarding, would you consider that to be moral since, perhaps, the other entity did not have legal restrictions, and good tradecraft, as you appeared to do when you were involved in it previously?

HASPEL: Senator, I don’t believe the terrorists follow any guidelines or civilized norms, or the law. CIA follows the law.

REED: You seem to be saying you were not following civilized norms and the law and anything else when you were conducting those self-same activities, if that’s the analogy you’re going to draw.

HASPEL: Senator, I’m sorry, can you repeat that?

REED: Very simple. You have an operations officer who’s being waterboarded. I’ve asked you very simply, would you consider that to be immoral, and something that should never be done, condoned, in any way, shape or form? Your response seems to be that civilized nations don’t do it, but that uncivilized nations, or uncivilized groups, do it.

REED: This civilized nation was doing it until it was outlawed by this Congress.

HASPEL: Senator, I would never obviously support inhumane treatment of any CIA officers. We’ve lost CIA officers overseas to terrorists. I just gave an example. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad personally killed a Wall Street Journal correspondent and filmed that. I don’t think there’s any comparison between CIA officers serving their country, adhering to US law, and terrorists who, by their very definition, are not following anybody’s law.

A few things.

First of all, we filmed our torture, too, but those videos were destroyed. Gina Haspel supervised the destruction of some of them and, if you think her answer to Reed was lame, you should go back and see the tap-dance she does on that issue.

Second, she only answered half of Reed’s question before ducking behind Daniel Pearl’s corpse to hide from the rest of it.

Third, by her very answer, she is saying that, if the United States tortures people, it is somehow a morally superior act to random butchery, because we have compliant lawyers drawing government salaries far from the black sites of Poland and Thailand. What distinguishes us morally from butchers in the desert is that our government used to employ John Yoo. Glorious.

So the question is- exceptionally good or exceptionally bad?

Feel free to note that Harold Hongju Koh was Legal Adviser of the Department of State in the Administration of Barack Obama who, along with Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, are Accessories After The Fact for Torture because they conspired to cover up this War Crime.

Bonus points for including that the torture regime implemented by Gina Haspel, Station Chief at a CIA Black Site in Thailand, included involuntary Rectal Hydration and Feeding- in other words, Anal Rape.

2018 Election Results: Gerrymandering Takes a Hit in Ohio

As we reported in Tuesday night primary election coverage, Ohio voters were deciding a ballot measure, Issue 1, that would overhaul Ohio’s congressional redistricting process.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution would require districts to be compact, limit the number of counties split between districts and give the minority party more leverage in passing a new map. Issue 1 has garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, so it hasn’t generated much campaign activity. But some reformers have complained that it doesn’t go far enough. For example, if a redistricting plan fails to pass with minority-party support, then the majority party can still unilaterally pass its own map (although it would expire after four years rather than the usual 10). Polls suggest the measure will pass easily.

That initiative easily passed garnering 75% of the vote. Unfortunately, the new map will not go into effect until after the 2020 General Election.

1. To start off, the Ohio legislature would be tasked with drawing a new map. But they could no longer pass it with a simple majority vote. They’d need three-fifths support and the support of at least half the members of both major parties, in each chamber, as well as the governor’s signature.

2. If there’s no deal, the congressional map-drawing would be punted over to the seven-member Ohio commission that exists to handle the state legislature’s redistricting. Here, again, bipartisanship would be necessary — at least two minority-party members would have to agree to approve a new map.

3. If the commission fails, the job would be tossed back to the Ohio legislature. In that case, the threshold for success would fall, but bipartisanship would still be necessary to pass a map — at least one-third of each party’s members would have to vote for it, to pass it and send it for the governor’s signature.

4. Finally, if all these efforts fail, the legislature would be permitted to pass a map with simple majority support. But the catch is that this new map would only last four years, rather than the usual 10. And again, the governor’s signature would be required.

Issue 1 has other reforms too. It restricts how often counties and other local governmental units in the state can be split up in the new map, and declares that any plan must not “unduly” favor or disfavor a political party or its incumbents.

It is far from perfect and has some major flaws as the article in Vox.com points out

The new redistricting process looks elaborate and could well result in a bipartisan deal. But the key stage in the plan is really No. 4 above. It ensures that if the majority party really wants to, it can still pass a new map with no votes from the minority — meaning the leverage in the overall negotiations will, in the end, remain with them. “The majority’s probably going to get most of the map that they like,” (Republican state Sen. Matt) Huffman says.

However, the deal does force any map without significant bipartisan support to expire after just four years rather than lasting for 10. Reformers also say the new rules about not splitting counties, and not “unduly” favoring any party or incumbents, could let them bring legal challenges to maps they find egregious. (Huffman is more skeptical of this, asking, “The question, of course, is, what does ‘unduly’ mean?”)

Democratic supporters of reform generally view the outcome as a win. “I think it is an example of what can happen in a good faith effort to come up with a process that is fair and just for both sides,” says Kelly Ward of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “Republicans in the legislature realized that voters were paying attention.”

But while opposition to the measure hasn’t been particularly prominent, the arguments against it that do exist mostly come from the left.

Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections wrote a biting critique of the deal, calling it “fatally flawed” because it “essentially still leaves one party in charge of the redistricting process.” Wolf believes the redistricting process should be taken away from the state legislature and state parties entirely and handed over to an independent commission — and he thinks the passage of this deal will make that less likely to happen.

“Republican legislators shrewdly accepted that momentum was building against partisan gerrymandering,” he writes. “This compromise is quite simply a way to blunt that momentum while preserving as much of their advantage as possible under a false veneer of bipartisanship.”

The ACLU of Ohio has also said it “neither supports nor opposes” the measure because it doesn’t go far enough. “While there are some benefits to Issue 1, it still allows for partisan gerrymandering,” the group’s policy director, Mike Brickner, has said. Attorney Paul DeMarco has also written an op-ed calling on reformers to hold out for a better ballot initiative in 2020.

While Issue 1 is certainly far from perfect, 75% of Ohioans think it’s worth a try.

The Russian Connection: Where Did $4 Million Go?

Tuesday evening, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti dropped a bombshell revealing that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen received $500,000 from Russia oligarch Viktor Vekselberg after the 2016 presidential election. The story was corroborated by The New York Times and The Washington Post

Today it was reported that there were also payments from AT&T, who is trying to merge with Time Warner, and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis that brought the total number of payments to $4.4.

In all, according to the materials released by Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, roughly $4.4 million flowed through Cohen’s LLC’s bank account over the course of about a year.

Why anyone, least of all corporate giants like AT&T and Novartis, would see value in putting money into Cohen’s little shell company – the vehicle for porn-star hush money – is a question that probably deserves an answer. Maybe it had something to do with trying to influence Cohen’s client in the Oval Office.

Finally, there’s the question of the timeline. The Washington Post reported overnight that when Cohen withdrew $1 million from his shell company for reasons unknown, Essential Consultants LLC “hadn’t yet received the $750,000 paid by AT&T, Novartis and Korea Aerospace.”

In her opening segment Tuesday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on a set of payments to Cohen that were exposed in an online posting by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti, from corporations like AT&T, Russian oligarch-connected firms, and some as yet unexplained sources.

Besides paying off Trump’s extra-marital partners, Cohen was also promising access to Trump.

A new report from Stat News reveals that longtime Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen promised pharmaceutical giant Novartis direct access to President Donald Trump in exchange for cash.

According to a source within the company, Cohen approached them last year and let them know he could set up meetings between the company and Trump administration officials, including the president himself.

“He reached out to us,” the source claimed. “With a new administration coming in, basically, all the traditional contacts disappeared and they were all new players. We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”

Of course, Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, which could put the company’s payment to him in murky legal territory.

Of course Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was already questioning the Novartis payments.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team sought information last November from Novartis, a major pharmaceutical company that paid a company created by President Trump’s lawyer, the drug company said Wednesday.

The interest by Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, indicates that the special counsel is scrutinizing clients that paid Michael Cohen while he served as Trump’s personal attorney.

The leak of Cohen’s banking records is also being investigated by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, said that in response to media reports the office is “inquiring into allegations” that Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated.” [..]

Experts say the information Avenatti published could have come from a SAR filed by Cohen’s bank to Treasury.

“This has the appearance of a leak,” said Daniel P. Stipano, former deputy chief counsel in the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “It shouldn’t happen, but things leak.”

It is not uncommon for journalists, lawyers and others in the public eye to receive unauthorized leaks of sensitive information, and there is nothing improper in receiving such information. Stipano said hundreds, if not thousands, of officials in law enforcement and government have access to a database of SARs.

According to reports from The Daily Beast via the Wall Street Journal, it was First Republic Bank who reported the suspicious activity on the account.

The bank used by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 flagged the transaction as suspicious and alerted the Treasury Department, a source told the Wall Street Journal. Daniels received the wire transfer from First Republic Bank in October 2016, 12 days before the presidential election. It is not clear when First Republic Bank flagged the transaction and reported it to the Treasury Department. Cohen reportedly missed two deadlines to pay Daniels because he couldn’t get in touch with Trump in the lead up to the election. Cohen paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket as part of an agreement that bars Daniels from talking about her alleged 2006 affair with then-candidate Trump. He reportedly complained to friends when he was not immediately reimbursed after the election.

When reached for comment, Cohen, naturally called in “fake news.” Yeah, right. Indictments are coming.


The Illusion Of Free Thought

The Breakfast Club (Credibility)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

The FDA approves the first birth control pill; FCC chief Newton Minow condemns TV programming; Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett fly over the North Pole; Journalist Mike Wallace and singer Billy Joel born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If there’s anything that’s important to a reporter, it is integrity. It is credibility.

Mike Wallace (May 9, 1918 – April 7, 2012)

Continue reading

2018 Election: May 8 Primary Results

Starting with Indiana where all the results are in for the races we are watching.

The very expensive three-way GOP feud for the GOP nomination goes to wealthy businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun who handily trounced his squabbling two opponents, Reps. Luke Messer and Tod Rokita with 42.2% of the vote to their respective 29.9% and 29%. He will now face the incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in November.

In Messer’s 6th Congress District, the prize goes, not unexpectedly, to Greg Pence the elder brother of VP Mike Pence who won with 65% of the vote. In November he will face Democratic nominee Jeannine Lake.

For the vacant governor’s seat in Ohio, former director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Democrat Richard Cordray beating former Rep. Dennis Kucinich with a very comfortable with 62% of the vote. Over on the GOP side, Attorney General Mike DeWine defeated Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor with 59.4% to 40.6%.

Incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown will face Trump backed Rep. Jim Renacci (OH-16).

The results for the 12th and 16th CD‘s are still too close to call for the GOP candidates, although the Democratic race in the 12th has been called for Danny O’Connor.

No results for Issue 1, a ballot measure that overhauls Ohio’s congressional redistricting process, yet.

Finally, the West Virginia GOP senate race has been called for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) (34.5%) which has to be some relief for the Democrats who did not want Sen. Joe Manchin to face Rep. Evan Jenkins (29.2%). Ex-con Don Blankenship came in 3rd in a field of five candidates with (20.1%). That translates to 25,215 really dumb West Virginians.

In West Virginia’s open 3rd Congressional District, as expected, the Democratic nomination was won by state Sen. Richard Ojeda. The GOP race has yet to be decided.

2018 Elections: Let The Primaries Begin

There are major primaries if three states, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana . Here are the more important races to watch.

West Virginia: Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 3rd Congressional District; Polls close: 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

We discussed this here yesterday how the fringe has become the new normal. There are three candidates for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia. The candidates are:

Ex-con and coal baron Don Blankenship who has garnered the opposition of not only the GOP leadership but also Donald Trump’s. They feel that Blenkenship’s nomination would be a sure win for Manchin. The GOP as threatened to withhold their support should he win. Democrats, natrually, would be delighted if Blankenship was the voters choice.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), a Democratic state legislator turned Republican congressman, is the candidate that would give the Democrats the most to worry about. Democratic PACs have spent nearly $4 million to derail his campaign. Republicans will also pick a replacement for Jenkins in his safely GOP seat.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is the third name on the ballot and the other candidate Democrats would prefer to face.

While there are claims that the race is a dead heat, according to FiveThirtyEight, the numbers rely on “the biggest tease in politics – internal polling.”

Flying under the radar is West Virginia’s open 3rd Congressional District (R+48), as per FivethirtyEight:

Although Trump carried the district by a whopping 49 points in 2016, it encompasses ancestrally Democratic “coal country”; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin won it by 34 points in 2012, and a Democrat represented the 3rd District as recently as 2014. Four Democrats are vying to be the next to do so, with the biggest name being state Sen. Richard Ojeda. Not only has Ojeda dramatically outraised the Democratic field, but he also has an Avengers-worthy origin story: After being attacked and brutally beaten two days before the 2016 primary, he surged to a shocking victory over an incumbent Democratic legislator, then won a 78-19 Trump seat in the general election. On the Republican side, three seasoned politicos have the resources to pull off a win: state Delegate Rupie Phillips, former state party chair Conrad Lucas and, most flush with cash, state House Majority Whip Carol Miller.

Indiana: Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 6th Congressional District; Poll closings: most at 6 p.m. Eastern, the rest at 7 p.m.

Indiana is the other GOP three-way race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Donnelly and is one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the country in 2018. This race has been called the one of the most expensive Senate races of 2018. The GOP candidates are:

Rep. Luke Messer, who has represented Indiana’s 6th CD since 2013, is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment conservative and the GOP favorite.

Rep. Todd Rokita has represented the 4th Indiana CD since 2011 and has been a nasty feud with Messer that has sunk to nasty name calling.

Their fight left the door open for a third candidate to emerge, wealthy businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun who has spent about $4.5 million in the race, mostly his own money. He has been caught in the crossfire of Messer/Rokita battle and criticized for his vote in favor of road funding legislation that increased the state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.

Politically, there is very little difference between the three conservative white men.

The other race to watch is the 6th CD which Messer currently holds. The seat was Vice President Mike Pence’s before he became governor and now his older brother, Greg Pence, is running for the seat.

His challenger is Jonathan Lamb, another wealthy businessman who has lent his campaign $800,000.

Pence is considered the front runner thanks to the $1.2 million that was raised with the help of his powerful brother and other GOP bigwigs; half of his fundraising haul has come from out of state. The seat is strongly Republican (R+39), so either candidate is a most likely to win.

Ohio: Races to watch: governor; Issue 1; U.S. Senate; 12th and 16th congressional districts; Polls close: 7:30 p.m Eastern.

Republican Gov. John Kasich is term limited. Here are the candidates for both the Republican and Democratic primaries with analysis from FiveThirtyEight:

A few months ago, it looked like Attorney General Mike DeWine had the Republican nomination locked up, but Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has whittled a 40-point polling lead down to 17 points since loaning her campaign $3 million in January. She has deployed the funds on an onslaught of TV ads attacking “D.C. DeWine” as insufficiently conservative. DeWine responded with a $4.7 million media broadside of his own: His campaign has tarred Taylor as a “phony conservative,” called her “unfit, unqualified” and even tweeted “#LockHerUp” over her alleged misuse of a state airplane. The race to the right has gone so far that Taylor has taken to disavowing the moderate Kasich administration (in which she serves) and reportedly claimed that Kasich had endorsed DeWine. (Taylor denies making the claim, and Kasich has reaffirmed his endorsement of Taylor.)

The Democratic primary also features a well-funded front-runner and a scrappy ideologue, and both candidates’ names are familiar to observers of national Democratic politics. The favorite is former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, fresh off a contentious stint as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The underdog is former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich — yes, the same Dennis Kucinich who ran for president in both 2004 and 2008 touting a far-left policy platform that now looks ahead of its time.

Polling show Cordray with a 15 point lead over Kucinich but there are four other Democratic candidates on the ballot: state Sen. Joe Schiavoni; former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill; Larry Ealy and Paul Ray.

FiveThirtyEight sees Cordray as the strongest candidate for the Democrats in a “reddening state” R-8.

Ohioans will have another important decision with Issue 1, a ballot measure that overhauls Ohio’s congressional redistricting process.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution would require districts to be compact, limit the number of counties split between districts and give the minority party more leverage in passing a new map. Issue 1 has garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, so it hasn’t generated much campaign activity. But some reformers have complained that it doesn’t go far enough. For example, if a redistricting plan fails to pass with minority-party support, then the majority party can still unilaterally pass its own map (although it would expire after four years rather than the usual 10). Polls suggest the measure will pass easily.

All of Ohio’s congressional House are up for grabs. The ones to watch closely are the 12th Congressional District (R+14) and 16th Congressional District (R+17):

Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned to lead a local business group, has spent handsomely to promote his chosen successor, state Sen. Troy Balderson, in the GOP primary. But insurgent Republicans have other ideas. House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan supports diehard Trump follower Melanie Leneghan, who business-friendly Republicans worry could cost them the general election in this well-off, well-educated district. The conflict has sparked a $1.3 million TV ad war that has been joined by several super PACs. Veteran and economist Tim Kane is also on the air with his message eschewing career politicians, and state Sen. Kevin Bacon could also cause tremors with his high name recognition. But private polling agrees Balderson and Leneghan are one and two for now.

The Democratic primary has been much quieter. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor is the front-runner and establishment favorite in a place where the local party’s support still carries tangible material benefits. Former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, a moderate, has a familiar name from running in two high-profile races in recent years (on the other hand, he lost them both), but the local party is not a fan. Also keep an eye on Indivisible activist John Russell, who has grassroots appeal but has also snagged some high-profile endorsers.

Ohio’s other open House seat is in the 16th Congressional District (R+17), where a fight similar to the one in the 12th is playing out on the Republican side. Anthony Gonzalez, who is a former Ohio State football star and briefly played in the NFL, has collected $1.1 million in contributions from the likes of House GOP leadership and old co-worker Peyton Manning. But Freedom Caucus founder Jordan has planted a flag in this district too, endorsing firebrand state Rep. Christina Hagan. Hagan has embraced Trump tightly — and, in turn, Trump associates like Anthony Scaramucci and Sebastian Gorka have embraced her — but she has raised less than $400,000 for the cycle. Meanwhile, Democrats, who have an outside shot at winning this seat in November, will choose between six candidates, with veteran and clean-energy researcher Grant Goodrich perhaps a modest favorite. [..]

Finally, Ohio’s 1st, 7th, 10th, 14th and 15th congressional districts — all Republican-held — will be races to watch in the fall, but there’s not much suspense about which Democrat will win their primaries. It’s a similar story in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. Armed with Trump’s endorsement, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci is the clear favorite in the Republican primary and is expected to give Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown a tough race in the fall. However, the nearly $2 million that investment banker Mike Gibbons has spent in the campaign could put a dent in Renacci’s margin. An April poll gave Renacci 21 percent, Gibbons 7 percent and “undecided” 65 percent.

We will have the results of the races later tonight.


More Stupid

Sanctions won’t hurt. All the other parties will ignore them (even if you have hopes for the Europeans, the Russians and Chinese will not participate).

Military action is useless. Even proponents like Bolton admit it could only delay development of a nuclear device for 5 years. 0 < 10 as TMC puts it.

Not only that, we’ll get our ass kicked. Losing the limited Shia support we have in Iraq will make it impossible to maintain our presence there (that’s actually a good thing- Out. Completely. Now.). It will make Syria and Lebanon an incredibly hostile environment. Iran can at will shut down the Persian Gulf and can probably sink an Aircraft Carrier or three (that’s how it usually games out at the Pentagon). Any airstrike is likely ineffective and very dangerous since Iran has the latest and greatest Russian AA. A Ground Campaign is a recipe for disaster, we have about 600,000 troops, all branches, worldwide. They are a nation of over 66 Million.

Oh, and North Korea has demonstrated Inter Continental nuclear capability today, right now. What incentive do they have to negotiate with a Nation of Liars who will not keep their agreements?

This is a very bad idea.

Behind Trump’s Termination of Iran Deal Is Risky Bet That U.S. Can ‘Break the Regime’
By DAVID E. SANGER, The New York Times
MAY 8, 2018

For President Trump and two of the allies he values most — Israel and Saudi Arabia — the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized the clerical Iranian government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq, and support of terror groups.

Now, with his announcement Tuesday that he is exiting the Iran deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on the country and firms around the world that do business with it, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment.

Mr. Trump and his Middle East allies are betting they can cut Iran’s economic lifeline and thus “break the regime” by dismantling the deal, as one senior European official described the effort. In theory, America’s withdrawal could free Iran to produce as much nuclear material as it wants — what it was doing five years ago, when the world feared it was headed toward a bomb.

But Mr. Trump’s team dismisses that risk: Tehran doesn’t have the economic strength to confront the United States, Israel and the Saudis. And Iran knows that any move toward “breakout” to produce a weapon would only provide Israel and the United States with a rationale for taking military action.

It is a brutally realpolitik approach that America’s allies in Europe have warned is a historic mistake, one that could lead to confrontation, and perhaps to war.

Exiting the deal, with or without a plan, is fine with the Saudis. They see the accord as a dangerous distraction from the real problem of confronting Iran around the region — a problem that the Saudis believe will be solved only by regime change in Iran. They have an ally in John R. Bolton, the president’s new national security adviser, who shares that view.

Israel is a more complicated case. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed Mr. Trump to abandon an arrangement that he has always detested. But Mr. Netanyahu’s own military and intelligence advisers say Israel is far safer with an Iran whose pathway to a bomb is blocked, rather than one that is once again pursuing the ultimate weapon.

As a last-minute lure to convince Mr. Trump to pull the plug on the Iran deal, Mr. Netanyahu last week released Iranian documents, stolen from Tehran in January, that proved what Western intelligence agencies long knew: A decade ago or even longer, the Iranians were working hard to design a nuclear warhead.

To Mr. Netanyahu, this was proof that Iran could never be trusted and that it had reached the nuclear deal under false pretenses by pretending it never had a weapons program.

To Mr. Trump and his allies, the Israeli discovery said less about Iranian nuclear capability than it did about Iranian perfidy.

At the core of Mr. Trump’s announcement on Tuesday is a conviction that Iran can never be allowed to accumulate enough material to assemble a bomb. When the Europeans said that would require reopening the negotiations, Mr. Trump balked, and decided instead to blow up the entire deal.

It was a classic Trumpian move, akin to the days when he would knock down New York buildings to make way for visions of grander, more glorious edifices. But in this case, it is about upsetting a global power balance and weakening a regime that Mr. Trump has argued, since he began campaigning, must go.

How much luck have we had with “regime change” so far?

Oh, that’s right. None.

NY AG Schneiderman Resigns

After allegations of sexual abuse by four women that appeared in an article in The New Yorker, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday night. The article by Jane Mayer and Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow reported that he allegedly choked, slapped, and beat them and during sex, then threatened them to remain silent. Very shortly after the article was published Monday night, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for Schneiderman’s resignation and for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to launch an investigation into the allegations. The irony there is, just days ago, Cuomo requested Schneiderman to probe Vance’s office for its handling of a 2015 investigation into accusations of sexual assault against move mogul Harvey Weinstein, whom more than 50 women have accused of sexual harassment or assault in the past year. Three hours later, Schneiderman resigned.

Schneiderman has long championed women’s causes and has been a vocal supporter of the Me Too movement. One of his more notable actions as a state senator involved legislation to protect women from domestic abuse, including his sponsorship of the Anti-Strangulation Act in 2010. [..]

As New York’s senior law enforcement official, Schneiderman took large steps to combat President Donald Trump’s agenda, including pushing to change state law so any Trump aides can be tried for criminal acts they’ve committed in New York even if they have been given a presidential pardon. His office also filed a suit against film producer Harvey Weinstein in February, alleging that Weinstein had sexually harassed women for years.

He was also instrumental in removing criminal cases against law enforcement officer out of the jurisdiction of local prosecutors. It would allow him to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation. Schneiderman, who has had a long running disagreement with Cuomo, was seeking reelection to what would have been his third term. It now up to the state legislature to select his replacement. One of the names being bandied about is former US Attorney for the Southern District of NY Preet Bhahara who was fired by Donald Trump. Charlie Pierce had his own suggestion

And, just for fun, and for the possibility that the mere rumor would cause the president* to paint his body blue and dance a naked tarantella on the Truman Balcony, I suggested that we get the hashtag, #HRCforNYAG trending.

Rather than a name that would cause Trump to paint his body blue and dance a naked tarantella on the Truman Balcony,” Charlie also had a more reasonable choice:

In truth, however, the search for a replacement should not be the search for A Name. For example, there are a lot of people saying good things about Ben Lawsky, a former U.S. Attorney and New York’s first Superintendent of Financial Services, an office created in response to the economic meltdown of 2008-2009. Just a cursory search of the Intertoobz reveals Lawsky to have exactly the kind of attitude that this job needs going forward. In 2014, he said this to The Financial Times:

“Corporations are a legal fiction. You have to deter bad individual conduct within corporations. People who did the conduct are going to be held accountable.”

Hire this man immediately.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump still sits in the Oval Office and Eric Greitens is still governor of Missouri.

The Breakfast Club (Come To America)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Allies celebrate the end of World War Two; Indians holding the hamlet of Wounded Knee surrender; Coca-Cola invented.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.

Naomi Klein

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The Fringe Is Now the Normal

Tomorrow there is a primary for who will be the Republican nominee to challenge Senator Joe Manchin (D) for the senate seat in West Virginia. There are three candidates for the seat but the one that is giving the GOP the biggest headache is a racist ex-con millionaire and coal baron Don Blankenship who hasn’t resided in the state for nearly a decade. In 2018, Blankenship was found guilty in federal court of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards. That violation was the direct cause of the mine explosion in 2010 that killed 29 miners. His one year probation ends on May 9, one year after hid release from prison.

It has been a really nasty campaign with Blankenship involved in a high profile fight with GOP leaders who fear if Blankenship wins the nomination the result would be another Alabama. Both Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have urged voters to back either of the other two candidates, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who have been engaged in their own battles. Manchin has been running ads attacking Jenkins, the candidate Democrats least want to face. Right now the race is a dead heat.

So why is Blankenship even a thing? He has been running a typical Trumpian campaign stating that he is “Trumpier that Trump” that even has Trump campaigning against him. His campaign ads have been mono-tonal, nasty and racist. In one he called McConnell “Cocaine Mitch,” an apparent reference to a report that, years ago, drugs were found on a shipping vessel owned by his wife’s family. He claimed that McConnell’s “China family” gave him “tens of millions of dollars” and that Mitch “got rich creating jobs for China people.” When Blankenship was called out by the press over the racist term “China people”, he was nonplussed stating:

“We’re confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there’s no mention of a race,” he said, according to Roll Call. “There’s no race. Races are Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian. There’s no mention of a race. I’ve never used a race word.”

In a last ditch effort to stop Blankenship, Morrisy is running a campaign ad with a mug shot of Blankenship labeling him a convicted criminals. There are also robo calls with the same theme and during a Sunday press conference he reiterated his opponent’s past.

In his Sunday “Last Week Tonight” opening segment, John Oliver explains how the “fringe guys are no longer the fringe.”

About Those War Crimes

The United States commits War Crimes. To this day. Our air strikes against and ground force presence in Syria, for example, are an instance of Aggressive War.

“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”- Norman Birkett, 1945

There is no declaration of War, no U.N resolution, no Authorization to Use Military Force, simply a whimsical War Criminal President who decided to use the Intelligence Assets and Armed Services of the United States to overthrow a sovereign government that represents no threat to our country or citizens.

I am talking of course about Barack Obama.

But, you know, the Nazis and Japanese did other criminal things like torturing and executing Civilians and Prisoners of War.

The United States does that too.

One notable illustration is what is euphemistically termed “enhanced interrogation” but specifically labeled torture by many International Treaties we have signed and had ratified in Congress, making them co-equal with the Constitution itself as the supreme law of the land.

Now our current War Criminal in Chief proposes placing Gina Haspel, a woman whose crimes are different only in volume from Reinhard Heydrich and Henrich Himmler, at the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

I’ll let Charlie Pierce take it from here-

Gina Haspel’s Confirmation Hearings Are an Opportunity to Confront a Moral Disaster
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine
May 7, 2018

There was an unfortunate panel discussion on Kasie Hunt’s new MSNBC joint on Sunday night. The topic was the nomination of Gina Haspel to head the CIA in the face of her active participation in the program of torture initiated by the Bush Administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. What we know is that Haspel oversaw the operation of a CIA “black site” in Thailand, and, on orders from her superiors, destroyed videotapes of the “enhanced interrogation” that took place there so that the country wouldn’t find out exactly how “enhanced” was the interrogation that took place in our names.

Over the weekend, it appears, Haspel offered to take her name out of nomination, not out of concern for the war crimes with which she might have been complicit, but out of concern for the reputation of the CIA. As of now, her nomination remains viable as the president* blessed it on the electric Twitter machine Monday morning.

My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018

Yeah, right. Whatever, Knocko.

On Sunday night, then, Hunt put together a panel to discuss the Haspel nomination, and the issues arising from it. The panel consisted of MSNBC’s Ken Dilanian, the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein, and two of the network’s stable of experts: Jeremy Bash, a Democratic lawyer who also served as Leon Panetta’s chief of staff at the Department of Defense and at CIA during the Obama years, and John McLaughlin, who served as both deputy director and interim director at CIA during the Bush administration.

To his credit, Stein pushed back, only to have Bash ask him if he’d “read the entire report,” which is the bureaucrat’s equivalent of some half-bright outfielder asking a reporter if he ever “played the game.” Of course, some of the evidence that might have been included in that report isn’t there because it was destroyed by people like Gina Haspel.

Bash led off, having just spoken to Haspel. (The initiates stay in touch.) And he explained, blandly, that Haspel was afraid that her confirmation hearings would damage the image of the CIA by “reopening old wounds from 2002 and 2003.” He sounded like he was talking about the covert warfare of the Assyrian Empire rather than an abandonment of American principles that took place within the last 15 years. As with most people carrying the brief for torture, Bash also made sure to mention that one of the people that was waterboarded in Thailand was “Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who beheaded the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.” This demagogue’s trick, too, is one of the ceremonies of the priesthood—flogging your arguments with a corpse.

McLaughlin chimed in that the “danger” is that “this will all be reopened and it’s not really well understood. It’s difficult to get at the facts of what happened during this period of time.” (McLaughlin, we must presume, knows damned well what happened, since he was deputy director at CIA at the time.) Then he went long on the siren call that led America onto the dark side from which we have not entirely returned.

“What you have to remember is that this was an extraordinary moment in the history of the country. Three thousand people had died. We had reliable reporting that there was a second wave attack planned. Bin Laden had met with nuclear scientists. We had forensic evidence that al Qaeda had an anthrax program under way in Afghanistan. We found that after we went in. This was an extraordinary time and this program that everybody is focused on is not well-understood. It was not well-examined by the Senate and that report is very controversial among people involved in the program who look back at it and say, ‘All of that context is missing.’”

Oh, shut up, please. This is Torturer’s Bingo. We have the Ticking Bomb. The We Know More Than You tap-dance, and the remarkable assertion that America’s torturers find the Senate’s conclusion that they tortured “controversial.” I’m sure that Whitey Bulger’s crew found federal indictments controversial, too.

Just to supply some context, because McLaughlin asked for it, here are some of the CIA’s wounds that Bash and McLaughlin have pronounced too tender to be reopened, courtesy of The New York Times.

The report describes extensive waterboarding as a “series of near drownings” and suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three prisoners the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The report also describes detainees being subjected to sleep deprivation for up to a week, medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” and death threats. Conditions at one prison, described by a clandestine officer as a “dungeon,” were blamed for the death of a detainee, and the harsh techniques were described as leading to “psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.”


The report says that the C.I.A. provided false and misleading information to members of Congress, the White House and the director of national intelligence about the program’s effectiveness. It asserts that a review of cases, in which the agency claims to have collected “actionable intelligence” it would have been unable to obtain by other means, calls into question the connection between the information and any “counterterrorism success.”


The report found that the C.I.A. provided classified information to journalists but that the agency did not push to prosecute or investigate many of the leaks. C.I.A. officials asked officers to “compile information on the success” of the program to be shared with the news media in order to shape public opinion. The C.I.A. also mischaracterized events and provided false or incomplete information to the news media in an effort to gain public support.

Things were particularly spirited at the Thai prison over which Haspel eventually would come to preside.

Mr. Zubaydah remembered the box experience in more vivid terms. “I felt I was going to explode from bending my legs and my back and from being unable to spread them not even for short instants,” he wrote to his lawyers in 2008, noting that the box was so short and tight he could not sit up or change positions. “The very strong pain made me scream unconsciously.” Other C.I.A. cables also clinically recount applying torture methods like the suffocation technique known as waterboarding. (Previously disclosed documents and the Senate report executive summary had already discussed Mr. Zubaydah’s waterboarding in extensive detail, including that he was subjected to the treatment 83 times in one month.) The contemporaneous cables describe him crying, but generally use bland descriptions, like: “Water treatment was applied.”

Quite simply, there is no reason to believe anything the Bush-era CIA says about anything concerning the 9/11 attacks and everything that came out of them. The CIA botched the pursuit of the men who became the 9/11 hijackers. It failed to push back hard enough on the concocted case for the invasion of Iraq, and it became a willing partner in the perpetration of atrocities overseas for which we hung Japanese generals after World War II. Even in the long, corrupt history of the CIA’s off-the-charter activities, this was a particularly grotesque time.

All of this should be re-litigated in the hearings this week, no matter how much it discomforts the nominee and or how much it angers the members of the priesthood. This wound is not closed. There is no healing. There is just moral suppuration, barely below the surface.

Gina Haspel is a stone cold murderer and a sadistic torturer. She deserves no special consideration because of her gender (looking right at you Feinstein). What she deserves is to be locked up in Spandau.

“We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”- Robert H. Jackson, 1945

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