Back To School

Sometimes people forget I used to work in Sandy Hook. They named a Sandwich after me at the General Store, Pepperoni and Swiss on a Poppy Kaiser, Onion, Brown Mustard.

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

Paul Krugman: The Roots of Regulation Rage

A lot of it is about psychology, not profits.

Modern conservatives hate regulation, and the Trump administration has channeled that hatred into policy. It has scrapped or emasculated rules designed to limit everything from predatory lending to exploitative for-profit education, and has moved on multiple fronts to undo environmental protection. Yesterday it took perhaps its most dramatic anti-regulation step so far, announcing that it would try to prevent California from setting strict rules on auto emissions.

But what’s behind this hatred of regulation? You might think that it’s all about profits, that corporations want to be free to pollute and rip off their customers because it’s good for the bottom line. In fact, however, the striking thing about many of Donald Trump’s deregulatory moves is that major corporations actually oppose his actions. [..]

No, there’s something happening here that goes beyond big money trying to get even bigger. Trump, I’d argue, is tapping into a grass-roots phenomenon — let’s call it regulation rage — that is more about psychology than about self-interest. It’s a syndrome that only afflicts a minority of the population, but it’s real, it’s ugly, and it can do a remarkable amount of damage.

What do I mean by regulation rage? It’s the startling anger evoked by government rules intended to protect the public, even when those rules aren’t especially onerous and the public interest case for the rules is overwhelming.

Amanda Marcotte: Fighting Trump on corruption is a winning strategy — but Democrats must lean into it

Painting Donald Trump as a criminal should be an easy win. Why are Democrats still fumbling around in the dark?

By any fair legal reckoning, the House Judiciary testimony of Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s unofficial aide and all-purpose jackass, was a disaster for Trump. As Salon’s Heather Digby Parton noted, despite Lewandowski’s theatrical performance, the actual substance of his testimony was damning. He admitted under oath that Trump had committed what would clearly be a prosecutable crime — if Trump weren’t protected by his office — that being obstruction of justice. Lewandowski then admitted to trying to get another aide, Rick Dearborn, to do the obstruction on the president’s behalf.

Yet, for some reason, it feels like this critical information — further proof that Trump is a criminal who is exploiting his office to commit more crimes — won’t break through to the general public who needs to hear about it. And frankly, the Democrats are to blame.

On Wednesday morning, Lewandowski’s testimony was not “above the fold” on the front page of either the Washington Post or the New York Times, which is where you might expect to find a story about a former White House aide telling Congress about the president doing crimes. CNN had the story on its main website, but with headlines about how “absurd” the hearing was and not, you know, about how Lewandowski admitted that he played along as Trump repeatedly instructed him to commit crimes.

CNN’s analysis is, sadly, correct: The reason this isn’t getting more coverage is that Democrats are failing to deliver a clean, simple narrative of Trump’s corruption.

Dahlia Lithwick: Corey Lewandowski’s Self-Immolation

The former Trump campaign manager’s disastrous performance shows that impeachment hearings work.

The most striking moment of Corey Lewandowski’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday came near the end of a long day, when the former Trump campaign manager was surprisingly open in revealing his disdain for the truth. For much of the testimony, Lewandowski alternated between filibustering by slow reading the Mueller report and filibustering by saying he was under White House orders to be silent. He clearly delighted in stymying House Democrats, even as he used the hearing to tease his potential run for Senate in New Hampshire. (During a break, Lewandowski tweeted out a link to the website for a brand new super PAC, “Stand With Corey.”)

At the end, though, came a few key moments when Lewandowski was made to all but openly confess his own lies. This critical portion of the hearing was a disaster for Lewandowski and showed why Democrats should be champing at the bit to hold more hearings like this one, rather than fulminating and hand-wringing over whether they are even taking part in an impeachment inquiry. Lewandowski’s confession should, at minimum, preclude him from ever being booked on a television news program again and in a sane world would instantly doom his nascent Senate run.

Jennifer Rubin: It was chaos, and then a real lawyer showed up

Corey Lewandowski sneered and dodged and raised phony privileges when questioned by members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. He did, however, make a fatal error (fatal to President Trump, that is) when he repeatedly said the White House had instructed him not to answer questions.

After the hearing, Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told CNN: “Article 3 of Nixon’s impeachment was obstruction of Congress, refusing to obey defined congressional subpoenas, pleading imaginary privileges. And obviously that’s what the president has been doing.” In short, Lewandowski’s own conduct provided evidence of obstruction.

The real excitement came, however, after the media decided it was all chaos and Democrats had accomplished nothing. Democrats’ counsel Barry Berke got 30 minutes to question Lewandowski and made the most of it. [..]

In short, Berke made perfectly clear that Lewandowski’s actions (refusing to deliver Trump’s instructions, demanding immunity, lying on TV, creating no record) demonstrated he knew he was being asked to do something wrong or illegal.

Bill McKibben: If the world ran on sun, it wouldn’t fight over oil

The climate crisis isn’t the only reason to kick fossil fuels – the prospect of a war to protect Saudi crude reminds us of that

We are sadly accustomed by now to the idea that our reliance on oil and gas causes random but predictable outbreaks of flood, firestorm and drought. The weekend’s news from the Gulf is a grim reminder that depending on oil leads inevitably to war too.

Depending on how far back you want to stand, the possibility of war with Iran stems from a calculated decision by Tehran or its Houthi allies to use drones and missiles on Saudi installations, or on the infantile rage that drove President Trump to tear up a meticulously worked out and globally sponsored accord with Iran and to wreck its economy. But in either case, if you really take in the whole picture, the image is rendered in crude, black tones: were it not for oil, none of this would be happening.

Were it not for oil, the Middle East would not be awash in expensive weapons; its political passions would matter no more to the world than those of any other corner of our Earth. Were it not for oil, we would not be beholden to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – indeed, we might be able to bring ourselves to forthrightly condemn its savagery. Were it not for oil, we would never have involved ourselves in a ruinous war with Iraq, destabilising an entire region. (I remember the biting slogan on a sign from an early protest against the war with Saddam Hussein: “How did our oil end up under their sand?”)

Berke v. Lewandowski

The part you didn’t see on TV (unless you were watching CSPAN or PBS).

Cartnoon

I read a piece that contends that this foreshadows a new kind of Blair Witch found footage treatment of the JPCU (Jurassic Park Cinematic Universe) by Colin Trevorrow (scheduled to direct the next installment).

I was never a big fan, like Ian Malcolm it strikes me a monumentally stupid idea from the git, doomed to fail spectacularly.

Battle at Big Rock

The Breakfast Club (Underrated Medication)

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

Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act; Anthrax tainted letters sent to NBC and the New York Post.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Friendship is a wildly underrated medication.

Anna Deavere Smith

Continue reading

States’ Rights My Ass

I told you this was coming.

Trump administration to revoke California’s power to set stricter auto emissions standards
By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Washington Post
September 17, 2019

The Trump administration will revoke California’s right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks on Wednesday, according to two senior administration officials, as part of a larger effort to weaken an Obama-era climate policy curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s auto fleet.

The move sets up a legal battle between the federal government and the nation’s most populous state, which for decades has exercised authority to put in place more stringent fuel economy standards. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have vowed to adopt California’s standards if they diverge from the federal government’s, as have several major automakers.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department proposed taking away the waiver California received under the Obama administration to set tailpipe emissions for cars and light-duty trucks, as part of a rule that would freeze mileage standards for these vehicles at roughly 37 miles per gallon from 2020 to 2026.

But in July, California reached an agreement with four companies — Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America — under which they pledged to produce fleets averaging nearly 50 mpg by model year 2026. That is one year later than the target set under the Obama administration.

Two senior administration officials, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public, said that the administration would finalize revocation of California’s waiver Wednesday.

By taking away the state’s waiver, Trump officials are forcing auto companies to choose whether they will take California’s side or the federal government’s. As part of July’s deal with the California Air Resources Board, the four carmakers agreed to support the state’s right to set its own tailpipe standards.

EPA declined to comment on the matter Tuesday. But in a speech Tuesday to the National Automobile Dealers Association, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made his intentions clear.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said. “To borrow from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, CAFE does not stand for California Assumes Federal Empowerment.”

Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, predicted in an interview that the move would make it easier for automakers to embrace the fuel efficiency rollback.

“That is the only thing that will remove the sword of Damocles over the automakers’ heads,” Lewis said. “The Trump administration really has to kick the bully off the playing field, and then the automakers will start talking more sensibly.”

But environmentalists said they were prepared to challenge the administration in court, and predicted that they would win.

“There’s nothing in the Clean Air Act or EPA regulations providing for this unprecedented action,” Martha Roberts, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview. “The legislative history is explicit about broad authority for California. This is very well established legal authority that’s firmly anchored in the Clean Air Act.”

You see, by States’ Rights they don’t mean States’ Rights at all. They mean respect the Rights of States to enact and enforce Jim Crow discrimination laws.

Bring On The Black Rod

Wait, that’s a British thing, I mean bring on the Staff as the Democrats get half an hour uninterupted…

Well what exactly?

The best evidence of obstruction of justice
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
September 17, 2019

The White House has no authority, legal or otherwise, to give these orders.”

To be clear, the president has no authority to tell a witness not to show up. The president has no absolute immunity to prevent ex-aides from testifying. And he really has no basis for instructing a private citizen who never served in the White House to obstruct an investigation. And that is what he did, according to Lewandowski.

In response to a slew of fact-based questions, Lewandowski responded: “The White House has directed me not to disclose the subject of any discussions.” In short, he is not answering questions under oath in an impeachment hearing because President Trump told him not to.

Lewandowski is on thin ice — well, maybe hip-deep in water — if the House goes to court. I cannot think of any basis for a court to allow him to get away with such nonsense. Lewandowski will appeal, and depending on whether the court stays the order or not, Lewandowski may be ordered back to testify. If he still refuses, then we will know Trump instructed Lewandowski to violate a court order.

And so it goes. At this point the most glaring obstruction, the most comprehensible, is the president’s obstruction of impeachment hearings. If a president can prevent the House from formulating impeachment articles, then the president has literally no constitutional restraint on his conduct.

“This is a circus. It’s Trump making a mockery of our system of government, and its checks and balances, because he is afraid of what will happen if the American people ever hear the truth,” says former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance.

Congress should go to court to compel Lewandowski’s attendance. One of the questions they can ask him, if he ever testifies, is who precisely told him not to answer questions. Was it Trump? If not, did he understand the order to come from Trump?

For now, the House seems prepared to pivot to another critical topic: Trump’s unconstitutional receipt of foreign emoluments and use of his office to direct business to his own properties. This is corruption, plain and simple, and because it is, this is another way to impress upon the public the president’s unfitness.

UPDATE: Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe weighs in: “Communications by the president to a crony asking the latter to carry out a criminal act on the president’s behalf are covered by no privilege and subject to no immunity, and the president’s lawyers as well as the Justice Department lawyers must know as much.” He added, “Today’s spectacle was just another chapter in the ongoing criminal obstruction of justice in which this president has been engaged for well over a year, obstruction of justice designed to cover up the president’s illicit dealings with a hostile foreign power to help him acquire his office and to hold onto.”

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

Paul Krugman: Republicans Don’t Believe in Democracy

Do Democrats understand what they’re facing?

Item: Last week Republicans in the North Carolina House used the occasion of 9/11 to call a surprise vote, passing a budget bill with a supermajority to override the Democratic governor’s veto. They were able to do this only because most Democrats were absent, some of them attending commemorative events; the Democratic leader had advised members that they didn’t need to be present because, he says, he was assured there would be no votes that morning.

Item: Also last week, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a subpoena to the acting director of national intelligence, who has refused to turn over a whistle-blower complaint that the intelligence community’s inspector general found credible and of “urgent concern.” We don’t know what the whistle-blower was warning about, but we do know that the law is clear: Such complaints must be referred to Congress, no exceptions allowed. [..]

What the stories have in common, however, is that they illustrate contempt for democracy and constitutional government. Elections are supposed to have consequences, conveying power to the winners. But when Democrats win an election, the modern G.O.P. does its best to negate the results, flouting norms and, if necessary, the law to carry on as if the voters hadn’t spoken.

Greg Sargent: Get ready for a spectacular display of Trump’s corruption

At a rally in New Mexico on Monday night, President Trump ridiculed the idea that Democrats might impeach him based on the special counsel’s findings. He claimed the investigation was run by “18 Trump haters,” but that “after two years, they found nothing.”

In so doing, Trump suggested that the investigation was deeply corrupt while simultaneously claiming it totally exonerated him — two big lies in one.

Yet even as Trump lied to his rallygoers’ faces, we learned that the White House counsel has ordered two top Trump advisers to defy subpoenas for testimony to the Judiciary Committee, which is considering articles of impeachment against Trump, while sharply limiting a third former adviser’s testimony to the panel.

Which raises a question: If the case against Trump’s corruption were so weak, then why would Trump and the White House have to go to such extraordinary lengths to stonewall Congress’ ability to exercise its most basic and fundamental oversight authority?

Eugene Robinson: The hardest job for the next president may be fixing Trump’s mess

I want to hear the Democratic presidential candidates explain, convincingly, how they’re going to beat Donald Trump. Then I want to hear how they propose to repair the devastating damage Trump has done to all three branches of government — and to our trust in our institutions.

First, Trump has to be sent packing. I shudder to think of what four more years of this chaos and decay would do to the nation. Trump is so unpopular, and has so neglected making any attempt to broaden his base, that the agenda of the eventual Democratic nominee is clear: motivate loyal Democratic constituencies to turn out in large numbers; win back at least some of the Rust Belt voters who chose Barack Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016; and invite independents and anti-Trump Republicans along for the ride.

None of these tasks is mutually exclusive, and none involves rocket science. With just a couple of exceptions, I can see any of the Democrats onstage last Thursday getting the job done. But then would come the hard part.

Perhaps the most straightforward and least complicated undertaking, since it would be entirely within the next president’s purview, is rebuilding the executive branch from the corrupted ruin Trump will leave behind.

Catherine Rampell: The Saudi-Iran crisis could end Trump’s lucky streak on the economy

So far, under the auspices of the Trump presidency, we’ve been quite lucky.

It’s a weird perspective, I know, given the doom and gloom that often fills these pages. But Americans have indeed enjoyed relatively good fortune in the following sense: Most of our crises, political challenges and public embarrassments thus far have been almost completely Trump-generated. That’s true both domestically (Cabinet scandals, administrative chaos, government shutdowns, etc.) and internationally (trade wars, diplomatic insults, Helsinki-gate, etc.).

But a major external economic or geopolitical shock? So far, President Trump — and thankfully the rest of us — haven’t yet been tested.

That means we haven’t had to deal with however this administration might handle, or more likely bungle, such a challenge. And we likewise haven’t seen how resilient his political support would be if the economy continued to weaken.

Unfortunately, our luck could be running out.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Democrats, don’t be afraid to go big in 2020

In 2016, Hillary Clinton infamously declined to make a campaign stop in Wisconsin. That decision proved disastrous, as Donald Trump stunned Clinton in the Badger State, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, on his way to capturing the electoral college. Now, almost four years later, Democrats are at risk of overlearning from Clinton’s mistakes.

No primary ballots have been cast, but a consensus is already emerging that next year’s presidential election will be decided by fewer states than any election in recent memory: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Democratic strategist Jim Messina, who managed President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, said the circumstances dictate an unusually narrow playing field. “We are now looking at the smallest map in modern political history,” he told The Post’s Dan Balz. [..]

Democrats can no longer take their “blue wall” in the upper Midwest for granted; that much is clear. But winning back the states that Trump turned red should not come at the expense of the party’s efforts to expand the electoral map, compete for new voters and build a more diverse coalition nationally. If it does, Democrats are likely to regret it even if they pull off a victory in the presidential race.

Cartnoon

Have I mentioned I’m a trained motivational speaker? I have a certificate around here someplace.

The Breakfast Club (Good Times)

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

The Battle of Antietam sets a bloody record during America’s Civil War; Work ends on U.S. Constitution; Israel and Egypt’s leaders sign Camp David Accords; Singer Hank Williams born; ‘MASH’ premieres.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There is a danger to judicial independence when people have no understanding of how the judiciary fits into the constitutional scheme.

David Souter

Continue reading

Not that big a deal.

I don’t trust Cy Vance Jr. any more than I do his Dad, a Card Carrying member of the Centrist Neo Liberal Establishment. Jr. has the additional baggage of being an Epstein/Weinstein Pervert Protector and to contend he’s taking over the Southern District’s investigation into Trump Trollop Payoffs with avenging intent is expecting a Daniel Kaffee transformation.

And Unicorns, or at least a Pony, it’s sure piled high and deep enough.

But maybe this is it, like a sign from the Invisible Pink Unicorn Herself (Invisible? You can’t see Her can you? Pink we take on Faith).

I find it a mite fragrant, not Downwind of a Bait Shack (only thing worse is inside a Bait Shack) but enough to notice.

8 Years of Trump Tax Returns Are Subpoenaed by Manhattan D.A.
By William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, The New York Times
Sept. 16, 2019

The subpoena was issued by the Manhattan district attorney’s office late last month, soon after it opened a criminal investigation into the role that the president and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the election.

Both Mr. Trump and his company reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, for money Mr. Cohen paid to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the affair.

It was unclear if the broad scope of the subpoena indicated that the office had expanded its investigation beyond actions taken during the 2016 campaign. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., declined to comment.

The state prosecutors are seeking a range of tax documents from the accounting firm, Mazars USA, including Mr. Trump’s personal returns and those of his business, the Trump Organization. The subpoena seeks federal and state returns for both the president and the company dating back to 2011, the people said.

The investigation by Mr. Vance has been focused on $130,000 that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, just before the election. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to breaking federal campaign finance laws and received a three-year prison sentence.

While the federal prosecutors who charged Mr. Cohen stated in a court filing in July that they had “effectively concluded” their inquiry into possible crimes committed by the company or its executives, Mr. Vance’s office is exploring whether the reimbursements violated any New York state laws.

In particular, the state prosecutors are examining whether the company falsely accounted for the reimbursements as a legal expense. In New York, filing a false business record can be a crime.

But it becomes a felony only if prosecutors can prove that the false filing was made to commit or conceal another crime, such as tax violations or bank fraud. The tax returns and other documents sought from Mazars could shed light on whether any state laws were broken. Such subpoenas also routinely request related documents in connection with the returns.

As part of its investigation, prosecutors from Mr. Vance’s office visited Mr. Cohen in prison in Otisville, N.Y., to seek assistance with their investigation, according to people briefed on the meeting, which was first reported by CNN.

Mr. Cohen also helped arrange for American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, to pay Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who also said she had an affair with the president. Prosecutors in the district attorney’s office subpoenaed American Media in early August, as well as at least one bank.

The investigation is not the first time Mr. Vance’s office has focused on members of the Trump family or its business. In 2012, his office declined to charge two of Mr. Trump’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., in an investigation into whether they misled buyers interested in the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium project, a decision that resulted in criticism of Mr. Vance.

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

Robert Reich: Trump is seriously, frighteningly unstable – the world is in danger

It is almost too late for impeachment. The 25th amendment is untested. The ballot box offers our only remaining hope

In retrospect, what’s most disturbing about “Sharpiegate” isn’t Trump’s clumsy effort to doctor a National Weather Service map or even his brazen move to get the same agency to lie on his behalf.

It’s how utterly petty his motive was. We’ve had presidents trying to cover up a sexual liaison with an intern and a botched burglary, but never have we had one who went to such lengths to cover up an inaccurate weather forecast. Alabama being hit by a hurricane? Friends, this is not rational behavior.

Trump also cancelled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting was to have been secret. It was scheduled for the week of the anniversary of 9/11. He cancelled it by tweet.

Does any of this strike you as even remotely rational? [..]

I wouldn’t completely rule out the 25th amendment, but the only thing that’s going to get Pence and a majority of Trump’s lieutenants to pull the plug before Trump pulls it on them may be so horrific that the damage done to America and the world would be way beyond anything we’ve experienced to date.

Which is to say, be careful what you wish for.

Pray that we make it through the next 14 months. Then do everything in your power to remove this man from office.

Charles M. Blow: Joe Biden Is Problematic

No amount of growth or good intentions will change this fact.

All five of these things are simultaneously true:

Joe Biden is the Democratic front-runner and may well be the nominee.

He is by far the favorite candidate among black voters.

He was a loyal vice president to Barack Obama, and the two men seem to have shared a deep and true friendship.

He, like the other Democratic candidates, would be a vast improvement over Donald Trump.

And, Biden’s positioning on racial issues has been problematic. [..]

It was the way he advocated for the 1994 crime bill, a bill that contributed to America’s surging mass incarceration, which disproportionately affected black and brown people in this country.

The bill did some good, but the harm it did cannot be overlooked or understated. Rather than fully owning up to to the disastrous aspects of the bill, Biden has over the years bragged about it and defended it.

It was in the way he described then-candidate Barack Obama in 2007 as an African-American who was “articulate and bright and clean.” Clean? As opposed to what?

This critique of Biden isn’t personal. I bear no ill will for the man. But, a fact is a fact, and no amount of growth, change or well-intentioned good-heartedness has the ability to erase it.

Paul Waldman: Can this president be trusted to prevent a spiral into war?

It sounds like the prologue of a cheap military/political thriller you’d find in an airport bookstore. A group of rebels in a war-torn Middle Eastern country launch a surprising drone attack on a neighboring country’s oil facility, leading to upheaval in world energy markets, which heightens tension between regional powers and threatens to pull the United States into a war with catastrophic consequences.

Fortunately, it couldn’t happen that way in real life because the president of the United States is a calm, reasoned, careful decision-maker who would never do something rash or impulsive. He and his national security team are united and focused, all working together to avoid unnecessary conflict, restore stability and make sure the interests of the United States are protected.

Just kidding — that’s a fictional version of the U.S. government. Our actual government is consumed by incompetence and riven by internal divisions, with the president himself the least rational and worst equipped of anyone to handle a foreign policy crisis. We’re left with only one hope to avoid the situation spinning out of control: that the president will once again talk tough for a while and then back down.

Harry Litman: A whistleblower filed a complaint to the intelligence IG. Why is it being withheld from Congress?

The developing drama involving a whistleblower complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community is particularly opaque, but we know some essential facts.

They reveal this episode to be of a piece with the White House’s governing principle of keeping any possibly derogatory information from view — lawlessly if necessary, as it is here, and often is.

On Aug. 12, consistent with the procedures established in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, an unidentified whistleblower sent a disclosure and complaint to the inspector general for the intelligence community.

The inspector general determined upon preliminary review that the complaint was credible and that it related to a matter of “urgent concern” (a statutory classification). The inspector general then transmitted the disclosure to the director of national intelligence (DNI), as required by law.

On Aug. 12, consistent with the procedures established in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, an unidentified whistleblower sent a disclosure and complaint to the inspector general for the intelligence community.

The inspector general determined upon preliminary review that the complaint was credible and that it related to a matter of “urgent concern” (a statutory classification). The inspector general then transmitted the disclosure to the director of national intelligence (DNI), as required by law.

But surprise. The DNI is refusing to do so. [..]

The administration’s contempt for clear legal mandates brings to mind Humpty Dumpty’s familiar insistence in “Through the Looking-Glass” that when he uses a word, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

We are less acquainted with the rest of Alice’s exchange, but it is even more on point:

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Simon Tisdall: The world ignored the warning signs – and now the Middle East is on the brink

Donald Trump’s hostility towards Iran and support for Saudi Arabia has made a delicate situation explosive

Like a furious maelstrom, roiled by opposing currents, the crisis in the Gulf gains in intensity and destructive power almost by the day. On Sunday, Donald Trump said the US was “locked and loaded”, ready to respond to attacks on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, in which it believes Iran was involved. But warning bells, akin to those used to alert fog-bound mariners steering towards rocks, have been ringing out for months. They have mostly been ignored. The daunting bill for multiple acts of political insouciance, measured in lives and petrodollars, is now coming due.

It’s easy and convenient to solely blame Iran, as American and British officials routinely do without conclusive evidence. Rather, it is serial western and regional miscalculations that have drawn us ineluctably into this dread vortex.

How can disaster be averted? Who can stop a slide into a wider war that could swiftly engulf regional states from Israel to Saudi Arabia, and drag in US, British and maybe even Russian forces? Clues can be found in the mistakes that led to this point. Answers, if they exist, will only come through informed statesmanship of the sort signally lacking so far.

 

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