Six In The Morning Thursday 23 May 2019

Narendra Modi’s BJP eyes landslide in India vote count

By Ayeshea Perera, Aparna Alluri, Krutika Pathi, Simon Fraser, Vikas Pandey, Courtney Subramanian and Kevin Ponniah

Traditionally, the BJP has found its strongest support in India’s populous Hindi speaking states in the north. (Of the 282 seats the party won in 2014, 193 came from these states.)

The exceptions are Gujarat, Mr Modi’s native state and a BJP bastion, and Maharashtra, where the BJP has ruled in alliance with a local party.

Under Mr Modi, the BJP has expanded geographically.

They have formed governments in key north-eastern states like Assam and Tripura, which are primarily Assamese and Bengali speaking.

No voice, no future? Roma ignored as Europe goes to polls

Europe’s 10 million Roma badly underrepresented at a time when populist forces are trying to villify communities

Pata-Rât is just a few miles outside Cluj-Napoca, in north-west Romania, but it feels a world away from the pretty streets and baroque architecture of the bustling city centre. Here, rubbish from the city and region is deposited in vast mounds, and the air is thick with the smell of rotting waste.

About 1,800 people call Pata-Rât home, almost all of them of Roma origin, living in depressing and unsanitary conditions in a makeshift camp backing onto a landfill site. Many were evicted from housing in the city centre and forced into the camp’s crowded huts.

Linda Zsiga, a 37-year-old Roma woman who spent several years living in Pata-Rât after she and her family were evicted with just two days notice from dwellings in central Cluj back in 2010, has been campaigning to close the site, and rehouse its residents in social housing inside the city. So far, she has had little success, despite government promises and pressure from European bodies.

Biker gang raid: What do we know about Al-Salam-313?

In a dawn raid, more than 500 police officers stormed 49 properties in eleven cities across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. What exactly do we know so far about the group that was targeted? DW investigates.

The objective of Wednesday’s major raid on the Al-Salam-313 biker gang was to collect and prepare evidence, and its preparation took several months, said Herbert Reul, interior minister for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The gang is suspected of having committed a variety of crimes ranging from illegal weapons trading, people smuggling, passport forgery, and drug distribution. Police have identified 34 suspects, who are mainly of Iraqi and Syrian descent. The minister said the raid dealt a “blow to organized crime.”

Huawei’s own OS system may be ready this year: report

Chinese telecom giant Huawei says it could roll out its own operating system for smartphones and laptops in China by the autumn after the United States blacklisted the company, a report said Thursday.

The international version of the system could be ready in the first or second quarter of 2020, said Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business, told US channel CNBC.

The company was dealt a blow this week with Google’s decision to partially cut off Huawei devices from its Android OS following a US order banning the sale or transfer of American technology to the firm.

Botswana lifts ban on elephant hunting

Updated 0634 GMT (1434 HKT) May 23, 2019


Botswana has scrapped its ban on hunting, citing an increase in conflicts between elephants and humans during the five years the rule was in place.

The southern African nation, which is home to 130,000 elephants — or around one third of the continent’s population — imposed the ban in 2014 to deter poaching.
But while the elephants are popular with wildlife-loving tourists, locals have complained that they damage crops and affect livelihoods.

Japan hopes to avoid trade battle by wooing Trump with pomp

By Linda Sieg and Tim Kelly

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will treat U.S. President Donald Trump to an imperial banquet, front row seats at a sumo tournament and a trip to the country’s biggest warship on a state visit as Tokyo seeks to avoid a bust-up over trade.

New Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Harvard-educated Empress Masako will host a lavish dinner for Trump during his stay from May 25 through May 28, part of a display meant to showcase the two countries’ alliance.

The U.S. leader will become the first foreign dignitary to be so honored since the monarch inherited the throne this month. Trump will also play golf with Abe and inspect Japan’s Kaga helicopter carrier.

Calling A Tool For Digging Employed With The Foot A Card Suit Symbolizing Swords

Madam Zelda! Madam Zelda!

In common law legal systems, black letter laws are the well-established legal rules that are no longer subject to reasonable dispute.

Confidential draft IRS memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless president invokes executive privilege
By Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post
May 21, 2019

A confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch.

Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them.

But according to the IRS memo, which has not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee “is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.”

The 10-page document says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.

“[T]he Secretary’s obligation to disclose return and return information would not be affected by the failure of a tax writing committee . . . to state a reason for the request,” it says. It adds that the “only basis the agency’s refusal to comply with a committee’s subpoena would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege.”

“Executive Privilege”, in the best case, is designed to protect the ability to give honest and straightforward advice. Hard to see how it applies here, it might to a detailed discussion of how to prepare his returns with Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio’s Accountant but not the returns themselves which are (presumably) a neutral, factual, document; explicitly designated I might add as subject to precisely this kind of inspection and oversight by Congress in Law that has not been contested or challanged (successfully) in about 100 years.

Executive privilege is generally defined as the president’s ability to deny requests for information about internal administration talks and deliberations.

On Friday, Mnuchin rejected a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee to turn over the tax returns, a move that probably will now lead to a court battle. Mnuchin has criticized the demands as harassment that could be directed against any political enemy, arguing Congress lacks a “legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking the documents.

Breaking with precedent, Trump has refused to provide tax returns, saying without evidence they are under audit.

Mnuchin and other senior staff members never reviewed the IRS memo, according to a Treasury spokesman. But the spokesman said it did not undermine the department’s argument that handing over the president’s tax returns would run afoul of the Constitution’s mandate that information given to Congress must pertain to legislative issues.

The spokesman said the secretary is following a legal analysis from the Justice Department that he “may not produce the requested private tax return information.” Both agencies have denied requests for copies of the Justice Department’s advice to Treasury.

Some legal experts said the memo provides further evidence that the Trump administration is using shaky legal foundations to withhold the tax returns.

“The memo is clear in its interpretation of the law that the IRS shall furnish this information,” said William Lowrance, who served for about two decades as an attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office and reviewed the memo at the request of The Post.

Daniel Hemel, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who also reviewed the memo for The Post, said the document suggests a split over Trump’s returns between career staffers at the IRS and political appointees at that agency and the Treasury Department.

“The memo writer’s interpretation is that the IRS has no wiggle room on this,” Hemel said. “Mnuchin is saying the House Ways and Means Committee has not asserted a legitimate legislative purpose. The memo says they don’t have to assert a legitimate legislative purpose — or any purpose at all.”

“One potential basis” for refusing the returns, the memo states, would be if the administration invoked the doctrine of executive privilege.

But the IRS memo notes that executive privilege is most often invoked to protect information, such as opinions and recommendations, submitted as part of formulating policies and decisions. It even says the law “might be read to preclude a claim of executive privilege,” meaning the law could be interpreted as saying executive privilege cannot be invoked to deny a subpoena.

Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service published a review of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code that found the code “evinces no substantive limitations” on the Ways and Means Committee’s authority to receive the tax returns.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dahlia Lithwick: Democratic Reluctance to Even Utter “Impeachment” Is Becoming Untenable

There is perhaps no better encapsulation of the difference between the two modern American political parties than this one: Republicans start from the presumption that “treason” and “spying” will be prosecuted without actual evidence, while Democrats start from the presumption that only once they have seen all the evidence of everything ever, they might conclude that some further investigation is warranted. Donald Trump leads deranged stadium rallies in chanting “lock them up” without ever specifying who committed what alleged crime. Democrats, faced with a case of what would be felony obstruction of justice but for a legal guidance against prosecuting a sitting president, insist that they cannot initiate impeachment proceedings because they need to gather more information. Republicans standing two inches away from a Seurat painting see a still life in crimes committed, while Democrats standing six feet back are certain that just one more blue dot would help them see the whole picture. [..]

Democrats in leadership pretend at conviction and lack courage. The president is lawless and corrupt and surrounding himself with the machinery of lawlessness and corruption. These same Democrats are waiting for the full picture staring them right in the face to emerge. Every step they take closer allows them to miss the big picture, distort the narrative, and chase an ever more elusive final dot. If the public isn’t with them yet, it’s because the public doesn’t have all day to spend in a museum and needs to have the picture presented to them where they live. Congressional Democrats have to repaint the picture that is already directly before them. This shouldn’t be complicated. It’s proving beyond their competence.

Bob Bauer: William Barr’s Bet on Don McGahn Is Likely to Backfire

This administration now seems fully dug in against former White House counsel Don McGahn’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. Evidence to the contrary may still surface, but it appears that the White House is not maneuvering for an eventual compromise. Consistent with the president’s political—and probably his attorney general’s constitutional—preferences, it is fighting any request or subpoena on the broad ground that the committee does not have the authority to compel McGahn to appear before Congress in the Russia (or any other) matter. The current White House counsel requested an opinion to this effect from the Office of Legal Counsel and got what he wanted and no doubt expected.

What OLC produced is not surprising. It reflects the position that the executive branch has routinely taken over time. Whether, if push came to legal shove, the White House could sustain this position in a core challenge is another question.

It’s highly unlikely the Trump White House will find vindication in the courts. At least one court has confronted an absolute immunity claim advanced by a prior administration. George W. Bush sought to prevent testimony from a White House counsel and another senior adviser about controversial firings of U.S. attorneys, but in a lengthy and carefully reasoned opinion, the court found that any such immunity was qualified only and had to yield to demonstrated congressional need for the information. It did not find that it was a close call: “The Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law.” The White House and Congress eventually reached an accommodation consisting of closed-door interviews coupled with the requirement of an interview transcript for public release. OLC dismisses this case as entitled to no or little weight, since the accommodation cut short the appellate process and prevented a definitive resolution of the issue.

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Work is Work

And you’re waaay too obsessed about sex. Makes me think you’ve never had any you freakish Incel.


The thing about my jokes is, they amuse me.

The Breakfast Club (Improbable Truth)

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

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sign the ‘Pact of Steel’; Richard Nixon is the first U.S. president to visit the Soviet Union; Actor Laurence Olivier born; Johnny Carson hosts his last ‘Tonight Show.’

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Arthur Conan Doyle

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Six In The Morning Wednesday 22 May 2019


A look inside Huawei, China’s tech giant

Photographs by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Story by Kyle Almond, CNN

The Chinese company Huawei is one of the giants of the tech industry. It’s the world’s largest provider of telecommunications equipment, a leader in next-generation 5G technology, and last year it passed Apple to become the second-biggest smartphone seller in the world.

But to many, especially in the West, there’s still an air of mystery around it.

And in the United States, suspicion.

Far-right Facebook groups ‘spreading hate to millions in Europe’

Avaaz uncovers 500 accounts using fake news to spread white supremacy message

A web of far-right Facebook accounts spreading fake news and hate speech to millions of people across Europe has been uncovered by the campaign group Avaaz.

Facebook, which is struggling to clean up the platform and salvage its reputation, has already taken down accounts with about 6 million followers before voting in the European elections begins on Thursday. It was still investigating hundreds of other accounts with an additional 26 million followers, Avaaz said.

In total, the group reported more than 500 suspect groups and Facebookpages operating across France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Poland and Spain. Most were either spreading fake news or using false pages and profiles to artificially boost the content of parties or sites they supported, in violation of Facebook’s rules.

Philippines election: Duterte wins backing for authoritarian regime with midterms victory

The Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte won a convincing victory in midterm elections that were seen as a referendum on his controversial administration, official results show.

Announcing the tally of results that was delayed by glitches in the automated counting machines, election officials said the winners included nine candidates backed by Mr Duterte for the 12 Senate seats up for grabs. The other three went to independents.

Only half the upper house’s 24 seats were being contested at this election, alongside positions for a total of 18,000 mayors, governors and local officials.

Eternal PoisonVietnam’s Ongoing Fight Against Agent Orange

Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese suffer from gene mutations resulting from the Americans’ use of Agent Orange during the war. Birth defects are still a regular occurrence. Now, 44 years later, the U.S. has suddenly pledged more aid.

By   and Hai Thanh (Photos)

Once the war came to an end, former Vietcong fighter Nguyen Van Bat fathered four children. Three of them suffer from memory loss, as does he. The fourth, Nguyen Thanh, spends most of her time in bed staring into nothingness.

Nguyen Van Bat, 69, is sitting in the living space of his bungalow in the city of Bien Hoa, around an hour’s drive north of Ho Chi Minh City. He is barefoot and the pattern of his shirt has faded. It smells faintly of sewage in the semi-open room and clothes hang in garbage bags above shared beds. The family is unable to afford wardrobes: They must bear the costs of caring for their disabled children largely on their own.

Protesters killed in clashes over elections, soldiers on the street in Jakarta

By Karuni Rompies


Six people have been killed on the streets of Jakarta while protesting against the election victory of Indonesian president Joko Widodo in the worst political violence in the country in decades.

National police chief Tito Karnavian late yesterday confirmed reports that people had died, but urged Indonesians not to immediately conclude that they had been killed by riot police.

In the days leading up to the protest, he said a number of weapons had been found among people planning to protest. He urged Indonesians to “remain calm and not to be provoked”.

Brexit: PM under fire over new Brexit plan

Theresa May will make the case for her new Brexit plan in Parliament later, amid signs that Conservative opposition to her leadership is hardening.

The prime minister will outline changes to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – including a promise to give MPs a vote on holding another referendum.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the offer was “too weak”.

Some senior Tories will today ask party bosses for a rule change to allow a no-confidence vote in her leadership.






You know, not everyone knows how to play.

To begin the dominoes are placed face down and “shuffled.” Players draw one domino. The player drawing the highest double or if no double, the highest domino plays first. Re-shuffle and then begin drawing the first hand.

Each player then draws seven dominoes for his hand. The remaining dominoes (the boneyard), if any, are left face down on the table to be drawn later if a player is unable to play from his hand.

The player who drew the highest double or the highest domino plays first, playing any domino he wishes from his hand that matches the initial double on one end. If you can not match from your hand you must draw additional Dominoes from the “Boneyard” (some variations restrict this to one but it can be limitless and many people play that way, you should inquire so there are no disputes).

You score points by laying the dominoes end to end (the touching ends must match: i.e., one’s touch one’s, two’s touch two’s, etc.). If the dots on the exposed ends total any multiple of five the player is awarded that number of points. All sides of the first double (the spinner) may be used one piece to each side and later one to each end. All other doubles are played at right angles to the line and the total points on both ends are counted. Dominoing occurs when one player goes out by playing all of his dominoes. The sum of the spots of all opposing players is computed and added to the dominoing player’s score (rounded to the nearest five).

It is entirely possible to win the game and not Domino a round. My Great Grandmother who had portraits of Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan over her Treadle Singer played that way and it suckered the kidlings but not me.

I’m very good.

Judge rules against Trump in fight over president’s financial records
By Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post
May 20, 2019

President Trump on Monday lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority.

Trump called the 41-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of the District of Columbia “crazy” and said he would appeal, adding: “We think it’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge.”

Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump.

Congressional Democrats have vowed to fight for evidence of potential misconduct by Trump and those close to him, and the president’s legal team is broadly resisting those efforts. How those fights play out in court in the months ahead could impact the 2020 presidential race.

In his decision, Mehta flatly rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers that the House Oversight Committee’s demands for the records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, were overly broad and served no legitimate legislative function.

“It is simply not fathomable,” the judge wrote, “that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

Trump has argued those congressional inquiries are politically motivated attacks on the authority of the presidency, while Democrats insist the subpoenas are essential to ensuring no president is above the law.

When the lawsuit was filed, Trump’s private attorney Jay Sekulow said the president’s team “will not allow Congressional Presidential harassment to go unanswered.”

The company said in a statement that it will “respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”

While Democrats scored the first court victory in the fight over the president’s financial records, it is unclear how many of these disputes will reach higher courts, or how those courts might rule.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the ruling “lets America know that we have ground to stand on and that we have a legitimate argument and the courts support them. . . . I’m glad it was a strong decision; that bodes well, hopefully, in the future for an appeals process.”

Mehta’s ruling drew comparisons between Trump and President James Buchanan, whom historians have blamed for failing to prevent the Civil War and who is generally considered one of the country’s worst leaders. Buchanan, too, complained bitterly about “harassing” congressional inquiries.

Mehta noted that Congress also launched an investigation into the conduct of Bill Clinton before he entered the White House.

“Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office,” he wrote. “This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.”

The judge gave the White House a week to formally appeal the decision, adding that “the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail.”

An appeal could test decades of legal precedent that has upheld Congress’s right to investigate — a legal battle that is just one part of a broader effort by House Democrats to examine Trump’s finances, his campaign and allegations that he sought to obstruct justice in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

In the Mazars case, Mehta cut down Trump’s lawyers’ complaint that Congress was usurping the Justice Department’s powers to investigate “dubious and partisan” allegations of private conduct by inquiring into whether Trump misled his lenders by inflating his net worth.

Rather, Mehta said, a congressional investigation into illegal conduct before and during a president’s time in office fits “comfortably” with Congress’s broad investigative powers, which include an “informing function,” or the power to expose corruption.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Monday that his panel will vote Wednesday to enforce its subpoena seeking the release of still-redacted portions of Mueller’s report, along with certain underlying materials.

Schiff accused the Justice Department of granting Republican lawmakers’ document requests and denying demands from Democrats.

“The refusal by the department, if it persists, will be a graphic illustration of bad faith and a unwillingness to cooperate with lawful process,” Schiff said.

On Monday, the Justice Department issued a formal legal opinion saying that McGahn, the former top White House lawyer, could not be required to appear before lawmakers in response to a congressional subpoena.

Democrats subpoenaed McGahn to testify Tuesday morning, hoping he would become a star witness in their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. As detailed in Mueller’s report, McGahn provided critical testimony about several instances of potential obstruction by Trump.

“The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “This action has been taken in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the office of the presidency.”

The 15-page legal opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel argues McGahn cannot be compelled to testify before the committee, based on past Justice Department legal memos regarding the president’s close advisers.

The memo says McGahn’s immunity from congressional testimony is separate and broader than a claim of executive privilege.

The immunity “extends beyond answers to particular questions, precluding Congress from compelling even the appearance of a senior presidential adviser — as a function of the independence and autonomy of the president himself,” Engel wrote.

Trump told reporters the action was taken “for the office of the presidency, for future presidents. I think it’s a very important precedent. And the attorneys say that they’re not doing that for me; they’re doing it for the office of the president.”

Those comments underscore the high stakes of Trump’s current standoff with Congress — if either side loses a legal ruling by an appeals court or the Supreme Court, the reverberations could be felt far beyond the Trump administration, changing the balance of power between the executive and the legislative branches of government for years to come.

In the fight over McGahn’s testimony, the Justice Department insists that immunity from testimony does not evaporate once a presidential adviser leaves the government because the topics of interest to Congress are discussions that occurred when the person worked for the president.

As a private citizen, McGahn is not necessarily bound by the White House directive, or the Justice Department memo, to refuse to comply with the subpoena. McGahn’s lawyer notified the committee that he would not appear.

The move to bar McGahn from answering lawmakers’ questions angered House Democrats eager to hit back at what they view as White House stonewalling. The defiance raises the possibility that the House will hold McGahn in contempt of Congress, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has threatened — a threat he reiterated Monday night.

“It is absurd for President Trump to claim privilege as to this witness’s testimony when that testimony was already described publicly in the Mueller report,” Nadler said in a statement. “Even more ridiculous is the extension of the privilege to cover events before and after Mr. McGahn’s service in the White House.”

In the fight over McGahn’s testimony, the Justice Department insists that immunity from testimony does not evaporate once a presidential adviser leaves the government because the topics of interest to Congress are discussions that occurred when the person worked for the president.

As a private citizen, McGahn is not necessarily bound by the White House directive, or the Justice Department memo, to refuse to comply with the subpoena. McGahn’s lawyer notified the committee that he would not appear.

The move to bar McGahn from answering lawmakers’ questions angered House Democrats eager to hit back at what they view as White House stonewalling. The defiance raises the possibility that the House will hold McGahn in contempt of Congress, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has threatened — a threat he reiterated Monday night.

“It is absurd for President Trump to claim privilege as to this witness’s testimony when that testimony was already described publicly in the Mueller report,” Nadler said in a statement. “Even more ridiculous is the extension of the privilege to cover events before and after Mr. McGahn’s service in the White House.”

And then, there is the money.

The reason I’m down on the Dominoes theme is that Mehta’s ruling is both forceful and Black Letter, I can’t think of a Court that would rule against it (except maybe the bought and paid Supremes) and there are at least 4 or 5 other pivotal cases pending that are likely to go the same way.

Did I mention Black Letter?

Frankly the only question is if we want to allow a Racist Republican Minority Coup and a Fascist Nazi Government.

Nancy, are you up for that?

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Eugene Robinson: Republicans may never forgive Justin Amash. The nation should thank him.

Justin Amash finally said out loud what many other Republicans know but will only whisper: “President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.” Amash’s party may never forgive him. His nation ought to thank him.

The Michigan congressman on Saturday became the first significant GOP official to acknowledge the clear implication of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. Every Republican member of Congress should be pressed for an on-the-record response. How does the president’s conduct not amount to obstruction of justice? Where does the Constitution give Congress the right not to act?

Democrats should be asked these questions, too. I understand that many, apparently including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), think that starting impeachment proceedings would damage the party’s prospects in the 2020 election. But isn’t duty supposed to take precedence over political expediency? It clearly did for Amash, whose reward for his principled stance was a Twitter blast from Trump and a primary challenge for his seat.

Michelle Goldberg: ‘I Don’t Want an Exciting President’

Joe Biden makes his supporters feel safe, but nominating him is risky.

On Saturday afternoon, at Joe Biden’s official campaign kickoff rally in Philadelphia, I asked every attendee I met why they were supporting, or at least considering supporting, the former vice president. Often, they mentioned other people whom they thought Biden might appeal to. Again and again, they said they cared about beating Donald Trump above all else.

“On my list of 10 things, 1 to 10 is beat Donald,” said Shyvette Brown, 63. “Health care is 11. And everything else comes after that.” Brown said that she likes Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, but 2016 made her think that Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman. “I don’t like it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.” But given the stakes, she wants the surest possible bet. “We can’t play. This is all or nothing. This is the end game right here.”

I agree with Brown’s priorities. Nothing is more important than voting Trump out next year, and I suspect that Biden is surging in the polls in part because, rather than pretend that the election is about so-called kitchen table issues, he’s taking on Trump’s desecration of the presidency directly. What worries me about Biden — above and beyond policy disagreements — is that, in contemporary politics, the quest to find an electable candidate hasn’t resulted in candidates that actually win. Voters don’t do themselves any favors when they try to think like pundits.

Catherine Rampell: We don’t know what Trump’s tax returns are hiding. But the hints are troubling.

When you look at the short span of President Trump’s political career, one question jumps out: How much of his craziest, most paranoid and norm-violating behavior is motivated by a desire to keep his financial arrangements secret?

It began with Trump’s bizarre refusal to release his tax returns, in defiance of both a nearly half-century practice and Trump’s own promise that he’d do so.

Then there was his refusal to divest from his sprawling multinational empire, or even put it into a blind trust — either of which would have forced at least some information disclosure to a third party.

There were also the interviews and tweetstorms calling journalists who report on his finances “enemies of the people,” and suggestions that federal officials who audit him are anti-Christian. [..]

We don’t know what Trump is working so hard to hide, but we have a lot of hints. They’re all troubling. Which is precisely why it’s so important that Congress — as part of its constitutionally mandated oversight duties — conduct a forensic audit of Trump’s worldwide financial dealings. That means learning whom he’s been getting money from, whom he owes money to, and what individuals or entities could be using financial influence to exert pressure over policy.

Almost as troubling as whatever it is Trump is trying to hide: Why do all those supposed national security hawks in Trump’s party exhibit so little curiosity about the answers?

Nathan Robinson: Rich white men rule America. How much longer will we tolerate that?

Minority rule has always been a feature of American democracy. These days, however, it is getting worse

he core democratic principle is that people should have a meaningful say in political decisions that affect their lives. In Alabama, we’ve just seen what the opposite of democracy looks like: 25 white male Republicans in the state senate were able to ban almost all abortion in the state. The consequences of that decision fall exclusively on women, who will be forced to carry all pregnancies to term if the law comes into effect. And, as has happened in other countries with abortion bans, poor women will be hit hardest of all – the rich can usually afford to go elsewhere.

There is no reason to respect the legitimacy of this kind of political decision, in which those in power show no sign of having listened to the people they’re deciding on behalf of. Though plenty in the pro-life movement are female, the people who will be most affected are nowhere in the debate. Unfortunately, structural problems with the US government mean that we’re heading for an even more undemocratic future.

Nouriel Rubini: Could the US-China trade row become a global cold war?

If Donald Trump and Xi Jinping slide into ongoing animosity, the world will pay the price

A few years ago, as part of a western delegation to China, I met Xi Jinping in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. When addressing us, Xi argued that China’s rise would be peaceful, and that other countries – namely, the US – need not worry about the “Thucydides trap”, so named for the Greek historian who chronicled how Sparta’s fear of a rising Athens made war between the two inevitable. In his 2017 book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, Harvard University’s Graham Allison examines 16 earlier rivalries between an emerging and an established power, and finds that 12 of them led to war. No doubt, Xi wanted us to focus on the remaining four.

Despite the mutual awareness of the Thucydides trap – and the recognition that history is not deterministic – China and the US seem to be falling into it anyway. Though a hot war between the world’s two major powers still seems far-fetched, a cold war is becoming more likely.

The US blames China for the current tensions. Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has reaped the benefits of the global trading and investment system, while failing to meet its obligations and free riding on its rules. According to the US, China has gained an unfair advantage through intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, subsidies for domestic firms and other instruments of state capitalism. At the same time, its government is becoming increasingly authoritarian, transforming China into an Orwellian surveillance state.

Profiles In Courage

I mean it both sardonically and sarcastically. The main difference between the two is sardonic is more strictly contemptuous and sarcasm has an admixture of irony.

I’ve told you I like The Magicians, right?

We have to work together and we have to do it now. This is going to sound weird, but just go with me. You’re going to hear music and we’re going to make sure that everybody knows the words but every single one of us is going to have to sing.

God I hate you.

Pressure: pushing down on me,
Pressing down on you, no man ask for.
Under pressure that burns a building down,
Splits a family in two,
Puts people on streets.

That’s OK.

That’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming,
“Let me out!”

Tomorrow gets me higher.
Pressure on people, people on streets.


Chippin’ around, kick my brains ’round the floor.
These are the days: it never rains but it pours.

People on streets.
People on streets.

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming,
“Let me out!”

Tomorrow gets me higher, higher, high!
Pressure on people, people on streets.

Turned away from it all like a blind man.
Sat on a fence, but it don’t work.
Keep coming up with love, but it’s so slashed and torn.

Why, why, why!?

Love, love, love, love, love.

Insanity laughs under pressure.
We’re breaking.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word,
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night,
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.
This is our last dance.
This is our last dance.
This is ourselves.

Under pressure.
Under pressure.

Some in Pelosi’s leadership team rebel on impeachment, press her to begin an inquiry
By Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Washington Post
May 20, 2019

Several members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team pressed her to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Trump in a series of Monday night meetings, according to multiple officials in the rooms — an effort the speaker rebuffed each time.

At least five members of Pelosi’s leadership team — four of whom also sit on the House Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over impeachment — pressed Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a closed-door leadership meeting to allow the panel to start an inquiry, which they argued would help investigators attain documents and testimony that Trump has blocked.

Several hours later, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler met with Pelosi as well and made the case to start the inquiry, he later told his panel member on a call.

Pelosi declined to endorse the idea both times, according to the officials either in or familiar with what happened in both meetings. She and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that such an inquiry would undercut other House investigations — or that the idea was not supported by other members in the caucus.

Pelosi has long been an impeachment skeptic and tried to tamp down impeachment talk in her ranks as recently as last week by encouraging members to focus on their legislative agenda. But members of the House Judiciary panel appear to have had enough after the White House on Monday again blocked a key witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report from cooperating with their investigations.

“It’s a fact-finding process,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) of the push to start an impeachment inquiry. Cicilline was one of the lawmakers who make the case to Pelosi in the meeting. “There’s no doubt that opening an inquiry strengthens the hand of Congress in forcing compliance with subpoenas, whether it’s for documents or individuals.”

The meeting marks the first time a chairman and top rank-and-file lawmakers — including members of Pelosi’s leadership team — have lobbied her to change her long-held position on impeachment. Judiciary Committee members for days have discussed how to move the speaker toward their thinking, but few have been willing to break with her publicly.

However, a core group of Judiciary Democrats plans to begin calling Tuesday for an impeachment inquiry if former White House counsel Donald McGahn does not show for subpoenaed testimony at 10 a.m., according to multiple sources familiar with the plan. The White House on Monday moved to block McGahn from showing up, arguing that he is exempt from testimony.

“We should be having the conversation about . . . how this will help us break through the stonewalling of the administration,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a Judiciary Committee member, referring to an inquiry.

Deutch was not in the meeting but agreed with those who made the case to Pelosi on Monday night: “If the answer is, ‘No, you can’t talk to anyone, you can’t have anything, we’re simply not going to cooperate,’ then at that point the only avenue that we have left is the constitutional means to enforce the separation of powers, which is a serious discussion of impeachment.”

During the Monday night leadership meeting, Pelosi spoke about how Democrats’ messaging isn’t breaking through because everyone is talking about corruption, Mueller’s report and impeachment. She bemoaned the fact that last week the investigations were making page one news while the House’s passage of the Equality Act — a bill aimed at ensuring that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are not discriminated against — was on “Page 26.”

That’s when Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), chairman of a Judiciary subcommittee, jumped in to tell Pelosi that it amounted to a good case for launching an impeachment inquiry, according to people in the room who recounted the exchange. Raskin argued that such an inquiry would allow leadership to streamline and centralize all of the investigations into one — and let everyone else focus on the Democratic agenda items that won them the majority in 2018.

Pelosi and Hoyer retorted that the panel shouldn’t cut off other committee investigations, which they said are bearing fruit. Judiciary, after all, is not the only panel investigating Trump. Five others are as well, and an impeachment inquiry might undercut those probes, some think.

“You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?” Pelosi said, referring to the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman.

Later, in a third leadership meeting where members again confronted Pelosi, she argued that the courts are coming to help Democrats.

“Today, we won our first case,” she said, referring to a federal judge’s move to uphold the Oversight Committee subpoena despite Trump’s objections. “We’ve been in this thing for almost five months, and now we’re getting some results . . . We still have unexhausted avenues here.”

During the leadership meeting, three other Judiciary Committee members — Cicilline, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) — backed Raskin. Neguse argued that the panel’s role in investigating Trump is being severely impeded by all the stonewalling.

At one point Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), a fierce Pelosi defender and ally, grew angry and scolded the lawmakers that an impeachment inquiry would further distract from legislating. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (Ill.) — who has argued before that legislators should move on from impeachment talk — pushed back as well, noting that when the DCCC asked voters in focus groups what topics they cared about, Mueller’s inquiry ranked near the bottom.

It wasn’t just Judiciary Committee members making the push, however. When the top leaders said that voters don’t care about this issue, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) defended the group of Judiciary members. While she agreed that her constituents are more interested in matters like prescription drug prices, she argued that they elected representatives to come to Washington and take care of big problems. She said voters put trust in leaders that they will tell hard truths — including hard truths about Trump.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment.

Judiciary Committee members argue that there is a distinction between an impeachment inquiry and impeachment proceedings that require a vote. Lieu, in an interview, declined to comment on the meeting but said that an inquiry “could lead to nothing” — or it could lead to impeachment.

“That inquiry is also what happened during Watergate,” he said. “It’s not like the House Judiciary Committee just dropped articles of impeachment. There was an investigation that preceded it. This inquiry could lead to impeachment, or it could lead to nothing. But I think if McGahn doesn’t show, we have to at least start it.”


Justin Amash dismantles Barr’s and the GOP’s defenses of Trump
By Aaron Blake, Washington Post
May 20, 2019

Rep. Justin Amash’s statement that President Trump has met the threshold for impeachment was obviously a setback for Trump, given that there is now a congressional Republican saying Trump’s actions went too far. But it was also a stated rebuke of Attorney General William P. Barr and his actions in pre- and post-spinning the results of the Mueller report.

And after getting blowback from fellow Republicans — and a pro-Trump primary challenger in his Michigan district — Amash isn’t backing down. On Monday, he expanded on his case against Barr and those echoing Barr’s defense of Trump. In doing so, he raises some important points.

“In making this determination” that Trump would not be accused of obstructing justice, Barr wrote in his initial letter summarizing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, “we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that ‘the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,’ and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.”

Barr would also refer to the lack of an underlying crime in his news conference before the Mueller report was released and in his later congressional testimony. While perhaps not “determinative,” it’s clear he’s arguing that this is important.

But while Mueller decided there was not enough evidence to support an accusation of conspiring or coordinating with Russia, there are in fact underlying crimes that Trump clearly had an interest in obscuring, as evidenced by his campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s convictions and his personal lawyer/fixer’s convictions.

What’s more, as Barr conceded, the lack of an underlying crimes does not mean there can’t be obstruction. There can be other reasons you would obstruct an investigation, including that you are worried how the mere appearance of potential wrongdoing could hurt you politically — which Trump clearly had to be concerned about.

Another very important point. While Barr has emphasized that the White House cooperated extensively with the Mueller investigation, there were some areas in which the cooperation was less than complete. Trump didn’t submit to questioning, for instance, nor did his personal lawyers or Donald Trump Jr.

What’s more, when leaning on people to not testify truthfully (which Cohen has alluded to) or retaliating against people who run afoul of you (as Trump has done repeatedly), the point is to conceal potentially unhelpful evidence. The most successful obstruction means there will not be a provable underlying crime, because you were able to obscure it.

Barr has been careful to note that the lack of an underlying crime doesn’t mean there could be no obstruction, but his and others’ focus on this point has been curious, to say the least.

Amash lays waste to another argument against impeaching Trump. But unlike the others, this one actually isn’t so much about Barr. Instead, it’s about those who say Trump needs to be charged with a crime to be impeached. And it’s as much a rebuke to Trump’s defenders as some Democrats who have slow-walked the possibility of impeachment.

The first problem with this argument is that Mueller expressly didn’t rule out that Trump had committed a crime; instead he said it wasn’t his place to make that determination. And in fact, if you look closely at his report, there are five episodes that he seems to have found evidence to satisfy the three criteria for obstruction.

The second problem is that, as Amash notes, you don’t need an actual “crime” to impeach. Impeachment is an inherently political process that asks lawmakers to determine whether a president has violated a very undefined standard of misconduct in office. Bill Clinton was accused of several crimes by Kenneth Starr, and he was impeached but not convicted. Trump’s actions were problematic enough that Mueller determined he couldn’t clear him of obstruction, but even if none of that were criminal, it’s really up to Congress to decide.

So now you Profiles In Courage have your Edmund G. Ross.

Process stuff. Meta.


Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian

Freedom of Religion

The Breakfast Club (Being Human)

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

Dr. Martlin Luther King, Jr. begins march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama; the Sharkville massacre in South Africa occurs; Wrongly incarcerated Randall Dale Adams is released from prison; Musician Johann Bach born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.

Al Franken

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