Might Want to Make that 236 to 199: Serious Voter Fraud by the Melanin-Deficient in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District

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North Carolina’s 9th congressional district leans R+8. But Trump did a terrific job of rousing the rabble there, back in 2016, defeating Hillary by 12 percent—four percent more than the norm for the district.

This year, one Mark Harris defeated the Republican incumbent to become the nominee of the party in the ninth district. Reverend Harris is a prominent Southern Baptist minister, whose views of various matters of public interest may be savored in his Wikipedia entry.

This year, however, the current voting data show that the arrow of change swung back in a blue, leftward direction, by 11.7 percent—almost, but not quite, enough to elect the Democrat.

This, clearly, was something up with which Got would not put.

It now appears that, in the state where white folks seem to be most terrified of black voter fraud, the melanin-challenged among the North Carolinians decided to do some serious voter fraud of their own, in order to juice up God’s clear plan to elect Reverend Harris. In consequence, the election remains in doubt

When the Bough Breaks the Cradle Will Fall

This evening Jonathan Bernstein, a columnist at Bloomberg Opinion, discusses how Trump Is Losing His Influence. To sum up,

I’m not predicting anything. Just noting some obvious facts. The incentives for supporting Trump that have held since his election have suddenly become a lot weaker. In mid-July of 1974, President Richard Nixon could still count on virtually every conservative Republican in Congress to oppose his impeachment and removal, even if they weren’t exactly thrilled with him. By early August, he had only a handful of supporters remaining. That’s not to say that Trump’s support will necessarily evaporate — just that if it does, it could happen extremely quickly, perhaps in days. And nice, reliable, normal Mike Pence will be sitting right there.

Sounds about right to me. I have gone out on a limb several times to predict that Mike Pence will be our 46th President—after lots Republican politicians come begging senators of both parties to get on board with impeachment.

In the meantime, things are getting hotter and hotter for Orange Man. The craven time-servers among the empty-suited Republican professional politicians will cravenly serve time and wait for the denoument of the Mueller investigation. As the days go on, it will become ever more evident that, while they aren’t denouncing Orange Man, they aren’t affirmatively supporting him either. Ditto for the Acting Attorney General. Ditto for the Federalist Society judges. It will dawn on the Orange Man that his peeps are no longer his peeps. He will freak out. Faux News will freak out. And, one fine day, just like in August, 1974, the wind will blow him out of the tree.

How Did the Baby Get in the Tree in the First Place? And Does it Matter How He Got in the Tree?

The old nursery rhyme is surreal and disturbing, and it poses a lot of questions. Why did someone hang the cradle from a weak limb at the top of the tree, and then leave it there on a windy day? That seems like a rally bad idea, doesn’t it?

Kind of like the question, why did all those empty suits accept the Orange Sociopath in the first place?

But at a certain point, questions like that become moot. There is is, up in the tree, rocking from side to side, ever higher, as the wind’s velocity increases.

There he is. And the laws of physics determine his fate.

Tokyo Rose with a Smart Phone

The nursery rhyme also invites, but does not answer, the question, what happened to the baby? Probably nothing good.

In the case of Orange Man, I think Air Force One is going to whisk him off to his new dacha on the Black Sea, where, like Tokyo Rose with a smart phone, he will spend the remainder of his days tweeting out Russian propaganda.

But Three Rights Do Make a Left

Zinke responds to ethics criticism by calling Democratic lawmaker a drunk

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday accused the House Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat of “drunken” behavior and paying “hush money” after the Democrat called for the secretary to resign for his series of ethics scandals.

“It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke wrote on Twitter after Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) published an op-ed asking for Zinke’s resignation — a remark that in most eras would be a stunning breach of decorum for a Cabinet member.

Of Joint Defense Agreements

joint defense agreement

There has been much talk lately about joint defense agreements, and specifically about the Trump/Manafort agreement. (I remember a talking head saying that there are actually 32 people involved.) See, for example, this explanation in the New York Times.

Unlike some of you, I have been party to many joint defense agreements, mostly in connection with civil proceedings but sometimes in connection with criminal defense of multiple targets. To bring the discussion down to earth, you may find the following word picture helpful and interesting.

A Real, Live Joint Defense Agreement

There have been scurrilous and wholly unjustified accusations of price-fixing in the widget industry. The lawyers for the various investigative targets enter into a multi-page joint defense agreement. After the grand jury begins to hear witnesses, a meeting takes place in a large conference room.

Seated around the conference table are a couple of outside counsel for each of the target companies. The chair convenes the meeting, reminds those assembled that the discussion about to take place is governed by the terms of the written agreement and that they must strictly observe it, and all the counsel nod their heads and say yes.

The chair then calls the first speaker, who identifies himself as Arius Aardvark, Esq., of Dewey Cheatum & Howe, counsel for the Alpha Widget Company. Arius continues by stating that on July 27 Mr. Adam Alpha, Alpha Company’s vice president for marketing, testified for about four hours before the grand jury. As per usual, Arius was not permitted in the grand jury room, but sat right outside. When Mr. Alpha was done testifying, Arius and an associate immediately took Mr. Alpha aside, and debriefed him extensively on what questions he was asked and what answers he gave the prosecutor.

Arius and his associate took detailed notes of the debriefing, but these notes are presented in a highly edited way. Reading from a carefully prepared text, Arius speaks for about twenty minutes, summarizing, or purporting to summarize, the gist of the testimony. Probably, this summary will contain no outright lies, but Arius may or may not be  economical with the truth, depending on what his client’s tactical interests may be and what they want their fellow investigative targets to know.

After Arius finishes his talk, there are might be a few followup questions from counsel for other companies about exactly what was asked and what was answered. There is, however, no discussion about, for example, whether Mr. Alpha testified truthfully or falsely, about how his answers might have been improved, and so on. That’s because the outside counsel don’t want to be charged with conspiring to suborn perjury. .

After Arius speaks, the chair calls on outside counsel for Beta Enterprises, and more of the same ensues.

What if Alpha is Guilty as Sin?

I’d also note that if Arius thinks his client can likely be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he is going to encourage Mr. Alpha, and the corporation for which he works, to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for leniency.

At that point, Arius will give formal notice of withdrawal from the joint defense agreement, in accordance with its terms.

Context

I hope this is helpful in providing some context for what looks so fishy about the continued cooperation between Trump and Manafort, while Manafort was cooperating with the government, or pretending to do so.

My own suspicion? As some others have suggested, my guess would be that Mueller found out, one way or another, that Manafort’s and Trump’s lawyers were continuing to have improper conversations, and used his interactions with Manafort to provide information to the Trump team that would misdirect them about how much Mueller really knew, and about what directions he was pursuing.

Remember that Title 18, Section 1001, makes it illegal for you to lie to the government, but not for the government to lie to you.

Character is Destiny

character

There are many things that might be said about the moment we are in. One is that we are witnessing a compelling morality play.

Michael Cohen Finds His Inner Moral Compass

I just watched the first part of Morning Joe, where Donny Deutch and Emily Jane Fox—both claiming much personal knowledge of Michael Cohen—assert that Cohen, Trump’s consigliere for many years, has truly repented for his sins and decided to join the side of the angels.

I, myself, don’t know whether that is true. But I know that repentance does happen, on rare occasions. And the conclusion that Cohen has repented is consistent with the currently available evidence.

Mark Whitaker Finds His Inner Fear of God

Whatever power he might theoretically have to slow down Mueller, as of this point, Whitaker has so far elected not to use that power for Trump’s ends. I don’t know what he will do in the future, and I don’t know on what bases he will make his decisions going forward. But it’s reasonable to assume that Mueller has told Whitaker some of what Mueller knows about Trump’s legal vulnerability. And that Whitaker, having befouled his pants, has decided not to go down with the ship.

Newly Minted Federalist Society Justices Look for their Inner Madison

Trump, being Trump, clearly thinks that all those Federalist Society judges he appointed will have his back, no matter what the facts are, and no matter what the law is. There is a metaphysical possibility that Trump is right.

But it’s more likely that Trump has made what is, from his perspective, a catastrophic error.

Whatever their faults—and they are many—Federalist Society folks like Bret Kavanaugh are not hacks.

The object of their affection is not Donald Trump, it is James Madison. James Madison, who warned of demagogues and based the Constitution on a system of checks and balances.

And don’t forget this. Trump can fire Whitaker whenever he likes. Trump cannot fire the federal judges whom he has appointed for life.

Republican Professional Pols Keep Cultivating their Inner Bobbleheads

There will come a time when they jump off the sinking ship. But they will be the last off. That will be after most of the lifeboats have been taken.

Donald Trump Continues to Embrace His Inner Clueless Idiot

Some great politicians are saints, some are devils, and some are in between. But they all have this in common: just as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic has the mental capacity to listen to the violins and the oboes and the cellos all at once, so also the great politician has an acute awareness of how the various parts of her constituency think, what motivates them, and what keeps them loyal.And, by the way, the great politician, whatever her moral underpinnings, fully understands the practical downside of bald faced lying and bad faith negotiation. The good politician makes the deals she needs to make, and then keeps her word.

Want an example of a great politician? Nancy Pelosi.

Trump, the black swan who got himself elected even though he is a clueless idiot, never foresaw that his consigliere might strive for sainthood, that Mark Whitaker might be shitless with fear, that “his” judges might not feel the need to overturn the rule of law in thanks for their appointment, or that the lickspittle professional politicians who once embraced him might be compelled to abandon ship.

Character is destiny. And so our destiny as a nation is being determined by the widely varying characters of the characters on the stage.

I am sorry to say that it is also a tale told by an idiot.

Republican Governors Association Meets, Flails Around

GOP governors call out Trump after midterm drubbing: Republican governors say the president and the party has to find a way to appeal beyond a narrowing conservative base to avoid losing in 2020:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Republican governors are warning President Donald Trump that he and the GOP need to make a sharp course correction after their midterm shellacking to avoid losing again in 2020. …

In interviews, more than a dozen of the GOP’s most prominent governors and officials implored the party to address its plummeting support among women and upper-income suburban voters, pleaded with the president to ratchet down his rhetoric, and urged a rethinking of the party’s widespread use of slash-and-burn TV ads that fell flat in 2018.

The Bobblehead Makes a Fateful Career Move

bobblehead.gif

Today’s Michael Cohen guilty plea was a very big deal. Feels like the beginning of the end for the Trumpster. You will tell me that that it has seemed that way many times before, yet here we are. And you will be right to express that caveat.

The big picture of Trump’s wrongdoing is still being put together. I think I know what it will show, and so do you. But there would be little point in writing an essay based on gut feelings. The big picture will be what the big picture will be.

But I do think this merits mention. This afternoon WaPo reported,

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker was notified in advance that President Trump’s former personal attorney would plead guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued while he was running for president, a person familiar with the matter said.

A few paragraphs later the story noted that the newspaper doesn’t know when Mr. Whitaker got the word on the Cohen plea, what if anything he said or did about it, and what he did or didn’t tell Trump about the development—or indeed about any other knowledge he had concerning the Mueller investigation, which he nominally supervises.

But we know enough reasonably to speculate that Whitaker—the nonentity whom Trump raised to high office for the express purpose of shitcanning the Mueller investigation—looked down into the abyss and decided he did not want to go to jail for Donald J. Trump.

Many others will soon face a like personal crisis. Which will it be? Loyalty until death to Dear Leader? Or a narrow escape from the long arm of the law?

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The Correlation Between Masculine Gender-Role Discrepancy Stress and Support for Trump

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NOW I NO LONGER NEED WONDER WHY I AM NOT A TRUMP SUPPORTER

How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood

Just reportin’ the news, folks. Just reportin’ the news.

But did I ever tell you what big hands I have?

Eight Point Four Percent

As of this morning, the 2018 House Popular Vote Tracker shows that Democrats received 60,084,723 votes, or 53.3 percent of the total, while Republican candidates for the House received 50,671,967 votes, or 45.0 percent.

The blue arrow, pointing left, has expanded by several tenths of one percent since my last look. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is now 8.4 percent, compared with Hillary’s popular vote margin of 2.1 percent.

Over two years, national disapproval of Trump, as registered at the ballot box, increased by 6.3 percent.

It should be a lot more. But the fever has broken. The body politic is weak, but the prognosis is good.

Why This Particular Shark?

jumping the shark

We are told that Congresspeople of both parties are having a tizzy over Khashoggi’s muder, and the Trump Administration craven response. I am glad some Republicans are finally standing up to Trump. It’s possible they are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, but it’s not unusual for someone to do the right thing for the wrong reason. And that’s better than doing the wrong thing.

That said, I find it puzzling that Republican senators have picked this particular issue as the occasion to stand up to Trump.

Trump has jumped the shark so many times. Why get upset over this particular shark?

Unobjectionable Sharks: Two Examples

Threats to Journalists

I think you take my point, but to illustrate briefly: I am glad to see Republicans standing up for journalists against tyrants. But Trump has repeatedly described the reality-based press in the United States as “enemies of the people.” And, time and again, he has used bellicose language reasonably calculated to incite the more irrational among his mob to commit bodily harm to reporters. I didn’t hear many complaints about that from Republicans.

Torturing Babies

And another example: The Nazis gave Sophie a choice, but ICE took all the immigrants’ babies from them. I didn’t hear many complaints about that from Republicans.

Last evening Politico, the house organ of the professional politicians, published a long piece describing the situation—Tensions over Trump and Khashoggi erupt in the Senate—without ever noting the anomaly of selective outrage, let along providing any explanation for it. The implication, I suppose, is that the Republicans were expressing simple moral outrage.

I don’t buy it.

Cause, Meet Effect

Now, my point here is not to make the simple argument that Republican senators are, generally speaking, a bad lot. Dog bites man. Not news. They have risen through the ranks of a system that rewards the spineless and spits out those with a degree of courage and decency, viz. Senators Flake and Corker. So what would you expect? If your organization rewards and promotes assholes, then you get an organization run by assholes. Cause, meet effect.

Two Possible Explanations for the Anomaly

My point is rather, why abandon the assholery on this particular topic?

And I really don’t know the answer. But reason suggests two possibilities. (The two possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive, nor do they exclude other additional factors.)

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back?

Explanation one is that some of the Republican senators have had it up to their eyeballs with Donald J. Trump, but have not acted before out of fear of his mob. This time, they may think, the folks at the rallies won’t be offended if they stand up to a medieval Muslim murderer.

In short, maybe they’re just getting it out of their system.

The Benefits of High World Oil Prices

Explanation two is inspired by the maxim cherchez l’argent—never a bad idea when thinking about why politicians do what they do. There is some possibility that sanctions against the Crown Prince might, through one mechanism or another, lead to higher world oil prices.

Cherchez L’Argent

Now, who would benefit from higher world oil prices?

Think hard, children.

Think really hard.

And I’ll bet you can Sherlock it out.

A Postscript on the “2018 McSally for US Senate Post Election Review”

weasel

To follow up briefly on the immediately preceding post, I note that the sniveling weasels who wrote the above-described memo whine that, in addition to the fact that twenty percent of Arizona Republicans hate Trump’s guts, their candidate was also badly outspent:

Starting in April of 2018, Sinema spent a total of $4.7M before the primary. Sinema was a fundraising magnet for national Democrat donors, drawing millions from major out of state donors. She had four months of positive reinventing ads running before McSally was up on TV at all starting July 31. McSally spent a total of $2.4 million in the primary with conservative messaging focused on winning a primary battle against two well-known Arizona Republicans.

In total, the Sinema campaign was able to create a commanding lead in fundraising against her would be opponent Martha McSally. National Democratic money enabled pro-Sinema forces to be able to begin attacking McSally during the Republican primary in August, with Soros and Schumer funded entities spending over a million dollars attacking McSally while she was still enmeshed in a tough GOP primary.

Point noted. But why didn’t the plutocrats come to McSally’s aid? Why was she so badly outspent?

I take this as another hopeful sign that the smart money has begun to act on the insight that, going forward, the Republican brand and the Republican organization will no longer be much of a help in imposing their will on the country. That you don’t get rich and stay rich by throwing good money after bad. That it’s time to buy them some Democrats.

 

Losing Senate Candidate McSally’s Advisors Explain the Reasons for Her Defeat

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HINT: IT HAS MUCH TO DO WITH ORANGE MAN

Among other things, McSally’s advisers write,

Unrest within the Arizona GOP electorate

A significant segment of the AZ GOP was hostile to the President. In internal polling during the primary, President Trump never broke 80% favorability among Republican voters. A certain segment of AZ Republicans was outright hostile to President Trump, and was against the Kavanaugh appointment. This segment of moderate Republicans, especially woman, proved very difficult to bring home to a Republican candidate that supported President Trump and the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. These factors, coupled with an opposing candidate who portrayed herself as willing to work with President Trump and who often tweeted her respect and admiration for Senator McCain’s legacy, were significant challenges to McSally’s candidacy.

If you want to read the whole thing, you will find it here.

 

A Stable Genius

stable genius.jpg

A friend from across the sea is moved by this article—Trump on climate change: ‘People like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers.’—to remark thusly,

You have one of a kind up there. When you think he cannot get more idiotic, he does. My condolences.

In that vein, my friend, and the rest of you, might enjoy The Russia scandal was a bumbling conspiracy. But it was still a conspiracy:

Now let’s step back from these details. The story coming from Trump and his defenders all along has been that there was no collusion, nobody did anything wrong, and any actions that might look questionable were in fact perfectly ordinary. But if that were true, why did so many people involved lie about what they did when it first came to light, whether it was to investigators or to the public? President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Corsi — all have been caught lying about what they did with regard to some part of this scandal. That’s not how innocent people act.

Of course, if it was a conspiracy, it worked — after all, Trump is president. The Russian government can be rightly proud of what it accomplished: For a modest investment of resources in gaming Facebook and hacking Democratic emails, they helped nudge the election in Trump’s direction and throw the American political system into the kind of chaos we could expect when the president of the United States is the kind of clown who replaces the head of the Federal Reserve because he thinks she’s not tall enough for the job.

The Root of All Evil, The Root of Fascism

mussolini quote

This afternoon’s scripture reading comes from Saint Paul:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

One important kind of evil engendered by the greed of the plutocrats is the evil caused, time and again, when they embrace the demagogue, in the vain hope that they can control him.

There are two suggested readings on that topic today.

Jonathan Chait, An Insider Book Tries to Praise Trump, But Instead Exposes His Corruption

Trumponomics is a damning exposé of the corrupt bargain between Donald Trump and the party’s wealthy insiders. The odd thing is that the book is not intended as an exposé at all, but as an auto-hagiography written by three Republican policy entrepreneurs who helped win Trump over and shape his program, and are so lacking in self-awareness that they earnestly believe they are defending both Trump and his partners.

I encourage you to read the whole post. It is the mother and father of all takedowns.

This afternoon’s other recommended read is Jens Kruse, What an Obscure German Novel Taught Me About Dictators, which recounts how blind faith in normality and human decency can dampen timely resistance, and bring about disaster.

Don’t Sell Your House!

As we await the results in Mississippi, I would like to register my deep disappointment over the tone of Trump’s rallies last evening: not nearly enough red meat, way to much incoherent word salad. (Check out The 35 most shocking lines from Donald Trump’s Mississippi speech.)

But The Donald is to be congratulated on wondering out loud, “How does Espy fit in in Mississippi?”

How, indeed? There’s just something about him. A certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Something to do with his appearance, maybe? It’s puzzling and a little elusive.

Meanwhile, Trump reserved his apeshit nuttiness today not for Mississippi, which he thinks he has in the bag, but for the General Motors plant closings.

As  one observer astutely observed, “I don’t know if that’s enough to weaken Trump’s bond with working-class whites, but if there’s anything that can begin to loosen that bond, you’d think [the big plant closings are] it.”

**

I see that I have a reader in Russia this evening. Fancy Bear or Cozy Bear?

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

Week before last, 43 percent of those Gallup polled “approved” of Trump, while 53 percent “disapproved.” A week later 60 percent said they “disapproved,” and the “approvers” had declined to 38 percent.

According to this data set, five percent of the American population, who “approved” week before last, decided that they now “disapprove” of Trump. They joined the previous “disapprovers” to push that number up to 58 percent. And, it appears, another two percent who, week before last, didn’t know whether they “approved” or “disapproved,” joined the “diapproval” bandwagon, pushing it to 60 percent.

In other words, in one single week, the disapproval/approval gap increased from 10 percent to 22 percent.

I don’t know whether next week’s poll will bear out these results. I don’t know whether the new Gallup poll is an outlier. But, for the sake of the discussion, let us entertain the possibility that these numbers are a somewhat accurate reflection of evolving political reality.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

A week or so before the election I read a long interview with an affluent female Republican voter. I don’t remember the publication and I don’t remember her name, so I’ll call her Mrs. Jones. In the interview Mrs. Jones laid out in fulsome detail all the character defects she perceived in Donald Trump. But she went on to declare that she was an unshakeable Trump supporter. Why? Two reasons, she allowed. One was fetuses, the other was religious liberty. By the latter, she meant her God-given right to be mean to gay people. One might infer from her remarks that, if given the choice (a) to live in a democracy where women were not forced to bear unwanted children and where she couldn’t spit on lesbians or (b) a banana republic with no abortion and no gay rights, she would take the banana republic any day of the week.

And let us consider the views of her hypothetical husband, Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones tells his good wife that he also feels deeply about abortion and gay oppression, and perhaps he does, but what he really cares about is distributing wealth upward, by means of the tax system. Week before last, Mr. Jones joined his lady wife in holding his nose and “approving” Trump.

What the Joneses Learned in the Course of a Week

Let’s begin with what they did not learn, because they already knew it. They did not have a sudden epiphany that Trump is a vile and shameless charlatan. It was not revealed, all of a sudden, that Trump is a delusional narcissist. They did not grasp, out of the blue, that pretty much everything he says is bullshit, or that he does everything he can to encourage racism, or that he yearns to tear down the republic. All these things they well knew, week before last.

No, gentle reader, what they learned over the course of a week, as all the returns came in, is that Trump is a loser. They learned that if they keep on sticking with Trump, their beloved agenda is headed down the crapper.

From Stacy Abrams’ Lips to Aardvark’s Ears

Arius,

Let me be clear: What happened on November 6th was anything but a free and fair election.

It was not fair to the millions of Georgians who were purged from the voting rolls.

It was not fair to the thousands who were forced to wait in line to vote for two, three, four hours because polling places were underresourced and unprepared. Or worse, to those who had no polling place available to them because more than 300 had been closed down.

It was not fair to the thousands of Georgians who had their voter registrations put on hold, or to those who did not receive their absentee ballots in time – or at all – despite having requested them far in advance.

For eight years, Brian Kemp oversaw the systematic dismantling of our democracy and of voting rights in Georgia. But make no mistake, what happened on November 6th will not happen again.

To that end, I am launching Fair Fight Georgia, an operation that will pursue accountability in Georgia’s elections and integrity in the process of maintaining our voting rolls.

Tomorrow, we will file a major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions.

Can I count on your support as we embark on this next phase of our shared mission?

Make a donation to Fair Fight Georgia before we file our lawsuit tomorrow.

Georgia has always been at the center of the fight for civil rights. We have always been willing to stand up and speak truth to power. Now is no different.

We must continue to fight the battles that generations of Georgians before us have waged. We must never lose faith in our own strength.

These votes are our voices. We must win. And with your help, we can.

Sincerely,

Stacey Abrams