As the site describes the talk, they :"discuss voter suppression, the Wall, and immigration. At turns funny, then tragic, and angry. A fun and moving interview."
Last week, I mentioned that Al Franken has a new podcast and posted a sort of "coming attractions" from the series. Here's the first, full official conversation with Maria Teresa Kumar, the president of Voto Latino.
As the site describes the talk, they :"discuss voter suppression, the Wall, and immigration. At turns funny, then tragic, and angry. A fun and moving interview."
For the past year or so -- but most-especially over the past few weeks -- we've seen Trump slam people who have been critical of him. Calling them either stupid, "a very bad guy," irresponsible, "I'm not the biggest fan" (tm) or a combination of all the above, and more.
To be clear, there have been others he's smeared, as well, though they hadn't said anything about him publicly -- people like Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, H.R. McMaster, Tom Price and more. I'm referring instead to those who Trump demeaned specifically because they criticized him -- among them Rex Tillerson just yesterday, Michael Cohen, Don McGahn, Christopher Wray, and even Steve Bannon and Amarosa Manigault Newman. And more. People who Trump sees as enemies, out to get him, the opposition.
For the record:
Rex Tillerson Michael Cohen, Don McGahn, Christopher Wray, Steve Bannon and Amarosa Manigault Newman are not the opposition. They are not Trump's enemies. They are ALL people who Trump has hired to work for him. They are all people who served him and did his bidding. They may have come to loathe him (or did so before but were happy to be on the same side, grab the power, and cash the pay check), but they are ALL people who Trump thought were wonderful, talented, smart, and who he wanted with him.
Trump has plenty of very real enemies. All he need do is look at the entire Democratic members of Congress. Or, for that matter, most of the majority of voters who didn't vote for him in 2016. But we must draw a line and distinguish between them and the long line of people who Trump hired and is now trying to smear. Being among the "very real enemies" who are lashed out at by Trump speaks loudly about them. Being among the latter -- those hired by Trump who he is now smearing -- speaks volumes about him.
It's very easy to bunch all people who Trump tries to slam under the same umbrella. But they're not the same. Every time Trump has a meltdown against the people on his own side who he actually, literally hired and praised, it only serves to provide further evidence (not that it is really necessary) of his own emptiness. When you are reduced to trying to demean the people you like enough to hire -- because they've had enough of you and spoke out -- you are standing on a chimera. You have built a foundation of air.
No wonder Infrastructure Week never gets off the ground.
Cleverness must be rewarded...
The state of New York is at it again. First they shut down the Trump Foundation for illegal activities. Then, they passed a state law to make a president's state income taxes public. And now, they just ratcheted things up once more.
This didn't get much attention yesterday -- close to none of television -- amid all the other grander news, but it's critically important nonetheless.
One of the concerns of many is that Trump would pardon his associates of crimes they either are convicted of or might be charged with, thereby obstructing justice by giving them in essence a "Get out of jail free card." Because a presidential pardon only covers federal crimes, though, some saw a safety net in state prosecutions, most particularly in New York where Trump has long been based, along with his associates, and where many of the alleged crimes may have been committed -- notably those in Trump Tower. Alas, there is a state law in New York that didn't allow for such a thing, called the "double jeopardy loophole." Basically, if someone is convicted of a federal crime and pardoned by the president, the person can't be charged in New York with the same state crimes.
The New York Assembly, by a vote of 90-52 closed that loophole yesterday. The state senate had previously passed the measure earlier in the week. And Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the bill.
When State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, introduced his bill, he said -- "Every day it seems there is more and more evidence that the President and his underlings intend to corruptly use the pardon power to undermine the rule of law. We must move quickly to close the double jeopardy loophole so those who broke New York laws may be held accountable. If we do not close this loophole, and close it soon, New Yorkers may never realize the justice they deserve.”
When signed by Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, state prosecutors -- including the Attorney General -- will then be allowed to charge anyone pardoned by a president for state crimes committed in the State of New York against its citizens.
And a presidential pardon can't get them out of jail if convicted.
A Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said --.“Since there’s inaction in Washington to stop any of this power of the pardon being abused, or in any other way stopping the president from doing whatever he wants, it’s kind of ironic that the state has to step in and enforce the state’s rights to change the law so that we can check the power of the president,”
And we'll add another wrinkle in the mix. Remember way back when (as I wrote in this article here last August) when it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was coordinating with that Attorney General of New York? Well, I think it's a safe bet that the state has held onto all the documents.
Clearly this new bill can work both ways. If a Democratic president ever pardons someone of federal crimes that were committed in New York State and broke state laws, they too can now be charged in New York -- as well they should. And the New York governor will have the opportunity to pardon the person there.
But for now, Trump associates who may have committed crimes in the state of New York (and by the term "Trump associates" this should be read to include Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Among other associates.)
Start spreading the news. Apparently, it really is up to you -- New York, New York.
Don Don da-dee-dah, Don Don da-dee-dah...
“I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump.”
-- Attorney General Bill Barr explaining to the Wall Street Journal why he isn't protecting Trump, but the presidency.
Well, la-dee-fricking-dah. How telling -- in his "explanation" that he is not protecting Trump, Attorney General Barr by his own words explains that he felt "Trump" was being hurt (specifically Trump, not "the presidency") and wanted to help him!!
From this morning's Los Angeles Times --
"U.S. officials say new North Korean missile appears aimed at evading U.S. defenses."
This news headline brought to you courtesy of crack "negotiator" Trump in love with murderous dictator Kim Jong-Un who he says he believes and will honor their "agreement".
To be clear, it's not just that North Korea launched a new missile last week contrary to its "agreement" with Trump, but that it was designed to be undetected by current U.S. technology.
Kind of puts "I believe Putin" in perspective, too.
Here's the full story.
And so Alabama has voted to ban pretty much all abortions for any reason. It's left up to the governor now to sign the bill, which will be interesting since the governor is a woman. Clearly, the sole intent here is not to jail doctors for 99 years, but to force a challenge which will ultimately get a hearing in the Supreme Court with the hope that, being a conservative bench, Roe v. Wade will be overturned.
All the legal ramifications aside, my initial reaction to the news was how cowardly the state action was, but for an unlikely reason. If Alabama state representatives think that abortion is literally murder and doctors are deserving of 99 years in jail for committing that crime -- indeed if anyone thinks that abortion is literally murder and doctors are deserving of 99 years in jail for committing that crime -- then the state legislators (and everyone supporting them) should have stood by their high moral convictions and included the mothers in their penalty. After all, abortions don't occur out of the blue on a whim. A woman had to have made the decision to specifically and intentionally have an abortion and bring her fetus or zygote into the operating room. By the logic of the Alabama legislators, she is an accessory to murder, no different than if a mother brought her 10-year-old child to a paid assassin with the sole intention of having the kid killed. If the legislators or anyone truly, honestly, and actually believe that abortion is the murder of a full-blooded human being, then the only true moral and legal action they could have taken is to also charge the mother.
But they're cowards, all of them. Because they know the outrage would be so otherwordly that the cause of abortion would likely be dealt blow so powerful it would end the issue politically once and for all -- and probably end it morally, too. Because if you couldn't dare try, let alone convict a mother of accessory to murder for an abortion, then you can't stand on your moral foundation that abortion is murder of a human being. But by just charging a doctor, you get to cowardly hide behind a false reality.
As I said, I'm certain that this action by the state of Alabama is just an attempt to get to the Supreme Court. And this is only a single issue of a single state. But it's actually more than that. And I think what every Democratic candidate, every Democrat in Congress, in fact every reporter should do is ask every single Republican candidate in 2020 -- whether for federal, state or local races -- if they support the Alabama law.
Who knows, some Republican candidates may. And if so, they should stand on their convictions and let voters know. Let voters know that they too believe all abortion should be illegal, and doctors should get prison sentences of 99 years. Mind you, I don't think many will say they believe that because it's all just one big lie, since after all I don't think many Alabama legislators believe it themselves, only wanting to force Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court.
(And by the way, they should all get a follow-up question: if you do support the Alabama law, why don't you think mothers should be tried for accessory to murder, too, since they're bringing their fetus, or zygote, in to be aborted?)
That leaves all the other Republicans who would not support the law. Which would put most of the Republican Party officials on the record against banning all abortion.
I suspect that most Republicans would try to tap dance their way around it. But an answer of "Well, this is a States Rights issue and up to the people of Alabama" should not be accepted by anyone. Because at issue is not Alabama but whether that candidate believes banning all abortion -- as a law -- is a good law, regardless of the state. Would the candidate support a similar law in their own state? And if the best they can offer is wiggling they're way out of replying, then their answer on the record is NOT "No, I wouldn't support such a law." And the voters should know.
It appears that the cowardly far-right Republican Party wants this issue. Well, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Yesterday, in an interview on CBS This Morning, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-OK) was asked about how the Trump trade war with China could end up hurting farmers, particularly those in Cotton’s home state.
His response was...well, surprising. It was perhaps even more surprising than if he'd given the normal GOP response to one of Trump's disastrous, cold and heartless programs and denied there was any concern and said that all will be well. But in the face of too much evidence to the contrary, Cotton clearly didn't feel he could risk his entire credibility (or what counts as "credibility" among Republicans today) andget away with that, so instead he took a different cold and heartless approach and hoped he could sneak that one through the cracks. He tried the concept of perspective.
“There will be some sacrifice on the part of Americans, I grant you that,” Cotton began, but then swerved and took a sharp u-turn. “But also that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas that are fallen heroes or laid to rest.”
According to Republican Senator Tom Cotton, your sacrifice and pain really isn't too bad at all because you're not dead.
Y'know, in the grand scheme of philosophy, he does have a reasonable point -- along the lines of the kind of "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger" philosophic bromides you get embroidered on sofa cushions.
Mind you, if we go by the Cotton Standard, one would be hard-pressed to find much of anything in life that isn't "pretty minimal" compared to dying, so suck it up and move on. In fairness, Cotton isn't suggesting that all personal tragedies that people face are "pretty minimal," though to be equally fair, he's the one who made the comparison to dying, so that is his bottom-line standard. And by it, pretty much everything is "pretty minimal" as long as you haven't actually died.
Still, even if we play the game with a graceful gentility and only look at the financial sacrifice Cotton was referring to, rather than human tragedies, it's still pretty cold and heartless. Putting aside low-income Americans for whom the rising cost of food and goods will put them in a financial difficulty that is, in fact, "pretty minimal" compared to death, there will still be farmers and other businesses who are so problematically hurt that they could risk losing their farms and livelihoods and the futures they've been building for their children. And while even that too is "pretty minimal" compared to dying ("because, kids, your mom and I love you, and we still have each other"), it's small comfort that someone is dead and you are only destitute.
But there's another problem here that's too easy to overlook.
Since when have Republicans started asking Americans to "sacrifice"?? That isn't part of the GOP credo. Indeed, one could suggest that the same argument here about making a "pretty minimal" sacrifice could be given towards most Democratic and liberal proposals for the betterment of the country that Republicans revile -- higher taxes, food stamps, increasing the minimum wage, protecting the environment, foreign aid, civil rights, workplace protections, saving endangered species, safer gun laws, affirmative action, voters rights, and on and on -- all of them requiring "pretty minimal" sacrifice for Americans compared to dying.
But the Official Republican Playbook for the past several decades has largely been: "If I don't benefit from it and most-especially if I have to sacrifice anything personally so that others can have a better life, then I'm against it, it's bad for America because it's bad for me, and it's probably socialist."
Yet now, according to Tom Cotton, and it appears the Republican Party in Congress since they are supporting Trump in this (like everything), Americans should sacrifice for a trade war with China because it's "pretty minimal" compared to...well, forget what it's compared to -- Republicans now want Americans to just sacrifice, whatever the reason, period.
By the way, I'm all for personal sacrifice on behalf of the Greater Good. I just haven't seen Republicans believe that for a very long time. And I find it an utterly disingenuous position by Mr. Cotton and the GOP.
Also, to be clear, while I'm all for personal sacrifice on behalf of the Greater Good, I don't find an insane trade war with China based on increasing tariffs against all reasonable economic advice which could push the U.S. economy towards a Recession and maybe even increase the national debt if Trump does what he says (a long shot, admittedly) and gives back subsidies to be something that is actually for the Greater Good.
So, it not being for the Great Good but rather for Republicans to continue enabling Trump at his most manic, that whole "sacrifice" Cotton gambit because, hey, the sacrifice is "pretty minimal" compared to death seems a really cold and heartless idea. And idiotic, too.
Sunday night's main story on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dealt with the Green New Deal. It wasn't so much an in-depth analysis, but took a more focused look at certain aspects of it -- including an effort to clear up some of the Republican mis-representations of it. The piece isn't as substantive as some of their others, but it's thoughtful, very enjoyable and often very funny.
This video comes from the fine folks at Now This, but all praise really goes to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) who gave a blistering, impactful statement a few days ago on how Trump has "destroyed the norms and values" of the United States. The list is so long and ongoing that it's so easy to move on from things long in the past because you're trying so hard to just keep up. But Rep. Raskin puts it all in galling perspective -- not just as a reminder, but warning, deposition and opening argument to the jury.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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