Category Archives: opinion

A Turning Point in the Trump Era?

The melodrama over the Trump border wall is now essentially over. Trump will not get funding for his wall. That is an important victory for Nancy Pelosi. and Chuck Schumer and the dems who have taken control of the House, not to mention the country as a whole. It is a major defeat for Trump and for Mitch McConnell.

And  something more important has happened. In the negotiations that produced the bipartisan budget bill that Trump has signed to keep the government open. Republican negotiators did not even try to defend the idea of funding the wall. They caved on that idea immediately. Moreover, instead of saying that he would only bring a bill to the Senate floor that Trump would sign, Mitch McConnell said to the president he was bringing this bill to the floor. Period. He didn’t care whether the president liked it.

Continue reading A Turning Point in the Trump Era?

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Yes Mr. President, We Have a National Emergency, But it’s Not About the Border

The latest news is that our beloved president will indeed sign the bipartisan budget bill that will avert yet another government shutdown.  Mich McConnell just announced this on the Senate floor.

Isn’t that just great?

That is the good news. But there is bad news as well. Our beloved president, frightened that signing such a bill will enrage his core group of wingnut supporters, will declare a national emergency in order to free up funding to build his border wall.

BTW, that is the border wall that just a day or so ago, our beloved president said was almost finished.

Huh?

And there is more! Mitch McConnell said that he supports the president’s decision to declare a national emergency.  This might seem peculiar in that the same Mitch McConnell sat on his butt in the Senate for two years doing nothing about border security before the midterm elections. In other words, he did not see any emergency back then. But he sure sees one now! And it is caused by the dems winning a majority in the House!

What is going on? It is painfully simple. Painfully so because yet again we see evidence that one of the two great political parties in the US has lost its sense of reality. Power games are more important to them than accountability.

The reality is that there is no national emergency on the Mexican border. Just ask people who live there. Or if there is any emergency, it is one created by Trump immigration policies that use extreme measures to harass and expel people, including but not limited to separating parents from their kids. That is a human rights emergency, not an immigration emergency or a security emergency. And building a wall on the border will not fix that emergency. Why not? Because that emergency is the assault by the president and his Republican supporters on fundamental values that hold the nation together. Lincoln called these the “better angels of our nature”.

Lincoln said that in his first inaugural address — at the close of his speech. The civil war had not yet started but it was about to. Lincoln said

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature

The the chorus of union depends on the better angels of our nature. We forget that at our peril.

Strap on your helmet because Trump’s impending declaration will prompt yet more litigation.

Democrats could mount a lawsuit against the White House using logic similar to that used by House Republicans in a 2015 lawsuit against the Obama administration, when officials attempted to use federal funds that had not been approved by Congress to pay out insurers under the Affordable Care Act. In that case, a federal judge ruled that Republicans had the grounds to sue the White House because its efforts infringed on Congress’s power of the purse.

Can the president declare a national emergency when there are no facts to support the declaration and to the contrary, based on his own words, the situation is under control?

Here is a quick peek at the legal issues that Trump will face if he goes forward.

And here are the five ways that the emergency declaration might be quashed either by Congressional action or litigation.

Stay tuned on that one, though I hear that it is highly likely that courts will not allow Trump to get away with this.

And should we care that if Trump gets away with this, he will divert funds needed to help people recover from real disasters (like the California fires) to address his fantasy crisis? Should we care that it would be a gross usurpation of power by the president from Congress? Does that sound even remotely like a good idea?

Whether you are a conservative or progressive or somewhere in between, you have to scratch your head and wonder whether folks like Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell are aware that they are playing with fire. Grasping for power solely for the sake of gaining more power leads to disaster in the end for all concerned.

Quick Follow up: Donald Trump has now gone ahead and declared a national emergency over the lack of funding for a border wall. After listening to comments on this, I find it highly unlikely that this declaration will have any effect. First,as Rachel Maddow points out, it is possible that Congress may act to block the declaration from going into effect. Second, there is no legal precedent or authority for a president to declare a national emergency against the express wishes of Congress. To the contrary, the Line Item Veto Case found that the president can only sign or veto laws – he cannot do anything to change them In this case, Congress has expressly denied that authority to Trump. There are more reasons why this is not going anywhere. But isn’t that enough?

The key point is this. Trump can say what he wants. But Mitch McConnell and Republicans in the Senate have decided to break from “Trump loyalism”. You might say that they have FINALLY decided. Why? Because they fear that sticking to Trump will cost them their seats. This means Donald rump is likely to suffer more setbacks in his dealings with Congress. It may even mean that if the Mueller Report is damning, Congress might vote to impeach and convict.

Stay tuned on that one.

Paul Manafort is Now Up to His Eye Balls in Dog Poop

Paul Manafort is not a dumb guy. But he seems to have a character flaw. He thinks he can get away with anything. And that character flaw is now laid bare for all to see.

Most people, for example, would have realized that the amount of documentation brought by the Mueller team about Manafort’s financial irregularities was overwhelming. Most people would have conceded the fight and copped a deal with Mueller. Manafort elected instead to fight it out. Why? He thought that somehow he would get away with what he did. Wrong. After a silly trial in Virginia, Manafort was convicted on numerous felony counts.

And there was more. The Mueller team had loaded up for a second trial on even more financial crimes in D.C. Manafort was going to get convicted of multiple felonies again. He finally did a deal with Mueller to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.

And there was more. After doing this deal — a deal where he essentially forfeited all of his property — Manafort lied to prosecutors. That was a serious mistake. Why did he do it? There could be only one explanation. He thought he would get away with it. Wrong. A federal judge has ruled that Manafort violated his plea deal. Prosecutors are now free to go after him for everything and anything. And Manafort ‘s legal defense is? Errr … he has none. Good luck with that one, Paul!

He has only one hope. The hope is that Donald Trump, a dude who has his own problems, will issue a pardon. Will Trump do that? The record shows that the Donald is not the kind of guy who empathizes with others. He might pardon Manafort if it somehow would help Trump. Would it? I can’t see how it would.

Put it this way. Much earlier, Trump might have thought that he could derail the Mueller investigation by suggesting he might pardon people who refused to cooperate with Mueller Trump might have been told that would be obstruction of justice. But no matter. At this stage, after all that has happened to the one guy who refused to cooperate (Manafort), it is too late. Mueller has sent his message. Screw around with me, and you will suffer. Manafort has already suffered and will suffer more.

Not only that, Mueller’s team most likely doesn’t need a lot more evidence about Trump himself. They have evidence from lots of witnesses and documents, probably enough witnesses to have a pretty clear idea of what Trump himself has done or not done. In other words, pardoning Manafort is not going to derail anything at this point.

The only scenario that I could see playing out is Trump pardoning all sorts of people on his way out the door. A last “up yours” to the system. Trump may find himself on the way out the door at some point, but not in the near term. In the meantime, Manafort will be put on the rack. And it is highly unlikely that Donald Trump will lift a finger to help the one guy who took a bullet for him.

So you might chalk up this story to the deadly effects of hubris. Manafort’s hubris. His sense that he could get away with anything. It looks like things will not play out that way. And to be honest, it is difficult to muster up some sympathy for the guy. To the contrary, Manafort symbolizes what is wrong with this administration —  a group of  dudes who came into power thinking that they could get away with anything.

Let’s hope that they are wrong on that score just as Manafort has been.

The Sixers Just Got Mugged by the Celtics

The new look Sixers were riding high when the Boston Celtics came to town for a key game. The Celtics, on the other hand, were grumpy, after having lost to the Lakers.  And Kyrie Irving was out with a sprained knee. Easy Sixer win, right?

Wrong.

The game reminded me a lot of last year’s rather ugly playoff series, when the Celtics mugged the Sixers in five games.

So what went wrong? The main problem was that that some of the new look Sixers still need to ask directions to get to the stadium. The team has not fully jelled. The Celtics, on the other hand, are a well coached team  team that has been together for a long time. And they play a physical game.

That cohesion enabled to Celtics to do something that most teams can’t do. They contained Joel Embiid for most of the game. You have to give old All Horford credit. Al is big enough, strong enough, quick enough, and smart enough to bump and grind with Embiid one on one in the paint. That makes Joel work a lo harder for shots. Add to that, the Celtics thew a lot of double teams at Joel. That combination disrupted the Sixer offense … a lot.  Joel can improve on how he deals with double teams and he will. He just was not that great at it last night.

That cohesion also enabled the Celtics to engineer switches where JJ had to guard Jalen Brown on isolations. That was not pretty to watch.  JJ will never be a great defender. But as the team gels, the other Sixers will get better at helping him out from the weak side. They don’t talk enough on defense yet to get that done. And, unlike last year, you don’t bring in Belinelli off the bench who is even a worse defender.

BTW, you can add to that  Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward  and Al Horfor shot lights out from 3 almost all night.  Morris has done this before against the Sixers. And it was nice to see Gordon finally in pretty good form. He seems finally o be coming back from his really tough injury (broken leg) from last year.

You also need to mention that the Celtics were sky high for this game. They came out to prove a point, and they did. They are not a push over.

Having said the above, this was a close game. The Celtics were not able to manhandle the Sixers. And in the last minute, the Sixers might still have pulled the game out. Two key moments. Jimmy Buckets was fouled shooting a 3 and missed 2 of 3 foul shots! Then Joel went one on one against Horford to tie the game. Horford fouled him in the act of shooting but it was not called. The Celtics go the ball and the game was pretty much over after that.

So unlike last year’s series, I am still very optimistic about the new look Sixers. They can and will  play a lot better than the did last night. And if Joel can learn how to deal with double teams more effectively they can beat the Celtics in a playoff series. And … in a best of five series, Tobias Harris will not shoot as poorly as he did last night.

One more thing. Ben Simmons took outside shots again! He is not making these yet. In fact, they are not even close. But he will get there. And when his outside shots start falling, he will force defending teams to guard him more closely. That will open up the floor and vastly improve the Sixer offense.

As I mentioned, JJ did not have a great game. But he still rand Rozier ragged with his perpetual motion offense. I love it! Can he each this to Korky? I hope so!

Are You Getting Bored with the So Called Immigration Crisis?

Here we go again. Several years ago, Donald Trump declared that the country was in crisis over immigration.  First it was Muslims. Remember the Muslim ban?  Then it was the border wall that Mexico was suppose to pay for. The Mexicans won’t cooperate, so Trump has to get money from Congress for the wall.

Here is the thing. When Republicans controlled Congress they did no authorize money for the border wall — even though a president from their own party said it was needed. Why not? The answer is simple. They knew that if they did, they would get blamed for wasting money. To be blunt, they knew then and know now that building a wall on the Mexican border is a really dumb idea.

But things have changed now that the dems control the House and Nancy Pelosi is Speaker. Suddenly Trump demanded $5 billion for the wall. He forced a government shutdown that turned into the longest shutdown in US history.

Over the border wall. An idea that is so stupid that his own party rejected it for 2 years.

So here we are again. Negotiations to finally get a budget have produced a bipartisan deal. A little money for border security with a give back from conservatives. It is the best deal that Trump will get.

Will conservatives swallow hard and accept it?

They are making noises that they will not. Trump should declare  a national emergency at the border.

A national emergency?

If Trump does this, expect a court fight. As important, expect a lot of blow back from dems on this issue. Why?

THERE IS NO BORDER CRISIS … except for those who are being harassed by US borer security officials (errr …. if you need reminding, for example, the whole separating parents from their kids sort of thing).

This is a figment of Donald Trump’s imagination.

We should keep that in mind as this story plays out one way or another.

A quick follow up — Apparently Mitch McConnell has called Trump to tell him that the Senate is prepared to pass the bipartisan budget deal. In other words, McConnell has flipped. He is no longer saying that he will only allow a budget deal to come to the floor if Trump’s ok’s it in advance. McConnell’s new position is “I don’t care whether you like it or not. This deal will become law.”

And what is Trump’s reaction? He doesn’t like the deal because it delivers a crushing defeat to him. There is no funding for the wall. But there is little to nothing he can do about it without McConnell’s support. So Trump is retreating to fantasy land. He is saying that the wall is already built, pretty much. It just has to be finished.

Huh? So much for declaring a national emergency to build the wall … if it is already built.

To my mind, this story tells us a lot about what is wrong with politics in the Trump era. An enormous amount of time and money is wasted on fantasy issues. And when the dust settles, one has to wonder what is next on the conservative agenda? Perhaps trying to elect a horse to the Senate?

Who is Michael Sanchez and What Did He Just Do?

Perhaps being the richest man in the world is not all that it is cracked up to be. Unlike the kings of old, for example, your wife can say “hit the road Jack” when it comes out that you have been canoodling with another female.

Kings canoodled to their hearts’ content and everyone accepted it as normal. Imagine the shock, for example, when Anne Boleyn refused to canoodle unless king Henry VIII married her! Get married to have sex? What nonsense! Charles II did so much canoodling that he needed to expand the royal apartments to keep track of his girlfriends …. errr …I mean confidential advisors.

But poor Jeff had his e mails hacked and then publicize by the loathsome rage, The National Enquirer.  BTW,  just how would you explain working for an outfit like that to your kids?   What’s the problem* The National Enquirer is in the market of acquiring embarrassing and sensational dirt on celebs and using that to strong arm them. One is reminded of … dare I say it … Charles Augustus Milverton!

But at some pont the National Enquirer began to realize that they had a problem. They had signed a plea agreement that removed potential criminal  liability for the Donald Trump boinking affairs that requires them to avoid doing anything criminal for 3 years. Was this criminal?

And do you wonder, as I do, whether Trump is still boinking sexpots on the side? After all, he was shall we say, pretty active even during the campaign. Why stop now?

The National Enquirer t folks got nervous and tried to strong arm Jeff Bezos to say that the publication of the materials had nothing to do with politics — or they would publish nude selfies that Jeff took of  himself.

Another aside. One wonders why people do that sort of thing. Ah well, they do. Jeff did. The photos exist.

And Jeff went public, creating a field day for the media.

But .. where did this dirt come from? Who got hold of Jeff’s privates … so to speak? It turns out that it may have been his lover’s brother. EEEUUUUUWWW! Michael Sanchez, the brother, is apparently an ardent Trumpster. And apparently he stole his sister’s emails and pics and gave it to the press.  Gross!

Can’ t wait to see what sis gives her dear brother Michael for Christmas next year!

The National Enquirer says, “See, we are in the clear!” But … maybe not. Stay tuned!

Would You Want to See Jeff Bezos in the Nude?

I am sure that Jeff Bezos looks perfectly …. normal,  in his birthday suit. But I do not understand why a news agency might want to publish photos of that. Worse still, photos of Jeff engaged in amorous encounters? Or Jeff admiring his nude physique? Please!

So of course, Jeff did the right thing by revealing that the National Enquirer is threatening him that they will publish this sort of thing unless … something.

Jeff is following the Dave Letterman approach to an attempted shakedown. Go public!

My only question … is Donald Trump furious about this?