Nov 15 2018

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</i

Robert Reich: What Amazon HQ2 tells us about America’s great divide

Amazon has decided that its much-vaunted “second headquarters” will be split between Long Island City in Queens, and Crystal City, across the Potomac from Washington DC.

Amazon’s decision coincides with America’s political tumult. Its main headquarters is in Seattle, one of the most liberal cities in the most liberal of states. Its picks – New York and metropolitan Washington – are liberal, too.

Amazon could easily have decided to locate its second headquarters in, say, Indianapolis, Indiana. After all, Indianapolis was one of the finalists in Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, and the city vigorously courted the firm. Not incidentally, Indianapolis is a Republican city in a bright red Republican state.

Amazon’s decision wasn’t based on political partisanship, but it does expose the real political and economic divide in America today.

David Sirota: Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side

The world’s leading scientists issued a report warning of total planetary dystopia unless we take immediate steps to seriously reduce carbon emissions. Then, oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use.

Though you may not know it from the cable TV coverage, this was one of the most significant – and the most terrifying – stories of the midterms. For those who actually care about the survival of the human race, the key questions now should be obvious: is there any reason to hope that we will retreat from “drill baby drill” and enact a sane set of climate policies? Or is our country – and, by extension, our species – just going to give up?

Before answering, it is worth reviewing exactly what happened over these last few months, because the election illustrates how little the fossil fuel industry is willing to concede in the face of a genuine crisis. While the dominant media narrative has been about Democratic voters euphorically electing a House majority and yelling a primal scream at Donald Trump, the loudest shriek of defiance was the one bellowed by oil and gas CEOs. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years to ward off an ecological disaster, those oil and gas executives’ message to Planet Earth was unequivocal: drop dead.

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Nov 15 2018

Exhibit Two

Exhibit One being of course the Lester Holt interview shortly after the Comey firing.

This is not rocket science. Trump has admitted in public and on tape that he’s Obstructed Justice, which is illegal.

All this crap about how a meeting with Mueller is necessary to determine if he had “criminal intent” is just that- crap. He’s confessed with his own lips at least twice now. All the garbage about how Mueller needs additional evidence to get an indictment for Obstruction of Justice is just that- garbage.

The only reason Trump wasn’t Impeached and Convicted months ago is that our craven and cowardly Congressional representatives don’t have the political will to do it.

He is guilty, guilty, guilty and the seats in the Jury Box wouldn’t even have time to cool off before the verdict was in.

Trump can’t stop blurting out his desire to obstruct justice
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post
November 15, 2018

The president’s dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointment of Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general — which was in large part, if not entirely, so that Whitaker could end or at least restrict Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal — is turning out to be a disaster. Whitaker’s appointment has produced a wave of embarrassing stories about the patent company he worked for that was shut down after allegations of fraud by the Federal Trade Commission. He’s even being mocked on late-night TV. Most importantly, Whitaker has now been hamstrung from fulfilling the purpose for which he was installed.

You might object that I can’t know for sure that Trump appointed Whitaker so that he could go after Mueller. But let’s look at Trump’s own words. Wednesday, the president sat for an interview with the Daily Caller, a conservative website. In this remarkable excerpt, the interviewers ask him what his thinking is on a permanent replacement for Sessions, and after referencing a memo written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel affirming that Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general is permissible, Trump suddenly shifts — unprompted — to talking about the Russia investigation.

THE DAILY CALLER: Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —

TRUMP: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?


TRUMP: A 20-page?

THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.

TRUMP: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody that’s very respected.

I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.

It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what happened when Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt of NBC News in May 2017 and he blurted out that he fired FBI director James B. Comey because of the Russia investigation. Like the Daily Caller interviewers, Holt didn’t mention Russia at all in his question; he asked Trump about a report that he had ordered Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to write about Comey (seemingly to offer justification for firing him), and inquired about whether Trump had already decided to fire Comey when he got that report. Trump then said, “But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Here we have two cases where Trump is asked questions about personnel moves at the Justice Department, and both times, without prompting, he makes it clear that he made the decision in order to quash the Russia investigation. He just can’t help himself.

The scenario Trump would have preferred for this whole thing would have been that the Whitaker appointment attracted little attention other than people saying, “Well, he seems like a capable fellow,” then Whitaker could either fire Mueller and shut down his investigation or find some other way to strangle it. But with Whitaker’s colorful past and his lengthy record of statements on TV criticizing the investigation before he joined the administration, everyone is now watching Whitaker closely, and if he moves against Mueller it will be considered a crisis.

Trump’s repeated insistence that the fact that Mueller wasn’t confirmed by the Senate somehow delegitimizes him may also be a tell that the confirmation issue is on his mind. When he does appoint a permanent attorney general, that person will be subjected to lengthy, detailed questioning about how he (and it will presumably be a man) plans to conduct himself with regard to Mueller — whether he has spoken to the president about the investigation, whether he believes there has been any misconduct on Mueller’s part, and so on. If he can’t answer those questions in a way that gives assurance of his objectivity, he might not get confirmed. Whitaker, on the other hand, has the benefit of not needing confirmation, so he won’t have to answer those questions.

But it may be too late. As each day passes, Mueller gets closer to reaching the end of his inquiries, and he has no doubt prepared for the moment when he’s fired by making sure the evidence he has gathered can either be passed to other prosecutors or made public in some form. According to CNN, Mueller has already begun writing his final report even as it looks like more indictments are coming.

It has been clear all along that Trump has desperately wanted to mount a frontal attack on Mueller, but he’s too impulsive to do it without telling everyone exactly what he’s up to, which then makes it harder to carry out his plan. He can’t even obstruct justice properly.

Nov 15 2018


Back In Black (Flat Earth)

“I was told my tax dollars were going to murdering monkeys in space.”

Nov 15 2018

The Breakfast Club (Means To An End)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Sherman begins ‘March to the Sea’ in American Civil War; Zebulon Pike spots namesake mountaintop; Anti-Vietnam War protesters gather in DC; Joey Buttafuoco gets jail time; Actor Sam Waterston born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of achieving a free society.

Felix Frankfurter

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Nov 14 2018

Smelling The Coffee

If you are a reader of regularity you must know by now that I think Republicans, all of them, are at best useless greed heads and more typically Bigoted, Misogynous, Racist Monsters. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party most of the ones that are merely scam artists and con men are abandoning their Party in droves leading to a sudden influx of people who can barely be called Democratic at all, let alone “progressive” or “Left”.

On the positive side the naked immorality and callousness of radical “Conservatives” has made collectivist social policies more credible with Media and Political Elites, so it’s not all bad. Certainly partisans would vote for a yellow dog if it had a (D) next to its name and if all you want (and it is by definition the primary goal of a Political Party) is to elect more Ds than Rs (something I find as relevant as choosing between the Blues and Greens in Constantinople) you could make the “Big Tent” argument if only your Institutional Leaders were not as feckless, incompetent, and ineffective as Democrats have shown themselves to be time and time again.

Both sides really do do it, just one side is actively malicious and the other merely stupid.

But there is no denying that the Republican Party is imploding under the weight of its racist baggage and while I may be apprehensive about the direction of Democrats, Republicans foresee a future where in many portions of the United States (all the ones where it’s fun to live) their party is as popular as…

Well, the Nazis. Remember when they used to be the bad guys? Fun historical fact- at peak they only represented 38% of the German electorate. This is heartening yet scary, sure it’s cool that they were never the sentiments of the majority, but it’s hard to deny that their minority had complete and total domination of the Government.

Among the respectable places where it’s hard to be a Republican anymore is California. This piece, by a former Assembly leader highlights just how low the Party’s fortunes have fallen.

GOP is dead in California. A new way must rise
By Kristin Olsen, CALmatters
Nov. 13, 2018

The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead – partly because it has failed to separate itself from today’s toxic, national brand of Republican politics.

Painful though it was, that was the message I delivered at the California Priorities Summit, sponsored by the Sacramento Bee in Sacramento last week.

I’ve spent my entire adult life in Republican politics, so for me to make such a comment wasn’t easy. But it doesn’t make it any less true. I and others have been warning people for years that this day of reckoning was coming if we didn’t do something different.

And as Election Night proved, that day has come. While the rest of the nation saw a mix of Republican and Democrat victories, we in California experienced a blue tsunami. It looks as if Democrats will win nearly every target seat, including some in districts that have been historically considered “safe” for Republicans.

Republican principles used to be about helping other people. We believed in lifting people up out of poverty by giving them robust and free economic opportunities and by providing a world-class education. We stood for giving people the freedom to run their own lives and businesses without undue government interference.

We welcomed people from all over the world who sought to live the American Dream and contribute to the economy and society. They could be secure in knowing that they would not be persecuted for who they are and that they could build strong families and vibrant neighborhoods.

Ok. Blah, blah, blah. Republicans never believed any of that crap, but it used to be you could shame them into at least lip service during elections. Not so much anymore.

Unfortunately, tragically, that is not the Republican Party promoted by President Donald Trump and his brand of national politics today. We have lost our way, and it’s killing any opportunity for political balance and thoughtful debate in California, elements that good public policy relies on.

One party rule is not good for any community, state or nation, but that’s what we have in California today. It’s because the Republican Party has failed to adapt to changing demographics and to get back to our basic fundamental belief in liberty and responsibility, freedom, economic opportunity, and educational excellence.

Without a viable second party to voice concerns about increasingly progressive policy proposals and to advance alternative policy solutions for addressing the many challenges facing California, our state will continue to veer leftward.

It is time for a New Way. And if the Republican Party can’t evolve, it may be time for a third party, one that will appeal to disenfranchised voters in the Republican and Democratic parties who long for better representation and a better California for all.

Centerism! That’s the ticket. Yellow lines and dead Armadillos. Nobody believes in “Centerism” except Neo Liberal 1%ers and their toadies and shills.

Individual Republicans are good, conscientious people dedicated to serving their communities, but they belong to a brand and a national party that is toxic and growing more toxic by the day.

No, they really aren’t, but she’s right that the Brand is toxic.

Millions of Californians, millions of Americans, want and deserve leaders who will shake up establishments and help those who have felt ignored for far too long.

These leaders must understand that words matter, that healing and unity is important to the sustainability, strength, and growth of our nation, that end goals do not justify vindictive or hateful or ill-conceived means.

As Californians and Americans, we must work together to find and promote such leaders— people with the courage to help us return to bold and civil discourse and who value and promote the fundamental principles and values of our American Republic and constitutional democracy.

We must hold people in both parties accountable for governing, truth-telling, and civility.

For Republicans, the first step is to acknowledge that we have a serious internal problem. Ignoring the toxicity is not enough, as California’s election results demonstrate. We must call it out and model a different and better way because that’s what our fellow Californians deserve.

Screw civility. When you stop being racist I’ll stop talking about it. In the mean time if you don’t want outraged citizens interrupting your meals maybe you should quit being evil.

Nov 14 2018

Rolex Xtreme

More about Peckers.

Nov 14 2018


Cats are evil

Nov 14 2018

The Breakfast Club (Tomorrow’s Dream)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Nazi Germany bombs English town of Coventry during World War II; ‘Moby-Dick’ published; Nellie Bly begins globe-trotting trek; Leonard Bernstein makes conducting debut; Composer Aaron Copland born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. Lyndon B. Johnson

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Nov 13 2018

One Night In Bangkok

Ok, so Chess is a sport in the same way that motor racing is a sport which is to say that while it has some athletic subtleties (hey, this maximus gluteus didn’t happen by accident, it took years and years of joystick work to develop these sitz skills) it doesn’t depend on physical ability as much as mental acuity.

It may surprise you to know that we’re in the middle of a World Championship between the reigning King Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of the United States.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Outside my jingoist sentiment I like Caruana because he plays Sicilian which is my favorite Opening (English from the White side of the Board).

Currently we’re at Game 4 of 12 scheduled, all of which have been draws (as in the Beautiful Game they give you points for draws to create the illusion that something is happening when it’s really just a bunch of people running around kicking a ball). Caruana is kind of a long shot to even be in the match beating out Shak Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian in the Candidate’s Tournament.

Should they draw out (actually kind of likely at this level) they’ll play some more strictly time constrained games (though hardly blitz chess) to decide a victor. Carlsen is expected to have an advantage in such a match as he plays blitz exhibitions quite frequently.

Long battle expected as world’s top two chess players meet in London
by Sean Ingle, The Guardian
Thu 8 Nov 2018

The last time an American challenged for the world chess championship it was seen as an almighty clash of civilisations: west versus east, capitalism against communism, a cold war by proxy fought over 64 squares between Bobby Fischer and the Soviet Boris Spassky.

Chess has never been as cool or relevant since that epic contest in 1972. But at the launch of the 2018 world championship match between the Norwegian champion, Magnus Carlsen, and his US challenger, Fabiano Caruana – which begins in London on Friday – organisers promised that a global audience of millions would tune in for the most anticipated match in a generation.

“Chess stars are the boxing champions of the 21st century,” insisted the CEO of World Chess, Ilya Merenzon, which has a accrued a €1m prize fund for the event. “Smart is sexy, and for three weeks we’ll have an amazing experience watching the smartest people in the world battle it out for the title.”

Carlsen, the highest-rated chess player in history, has held the world title since 2013. Such is his popularity in Norway that all 12 matches in London will be shown live on prime-time TV. He has also modelled for the fashion company G-Star Raw and endorsed Omega watches and Porsche.

But the 27-year-old, who was such a childhood prodigy that he was described as the Mozart of chess, has been struggling to hit the highest notes recently. And among experts there is a sense that Caruana, one year his opponent’s junior, might just spring an upset.

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen is defending the world chess championship against Fabiano Caruana of the United States. The best-of-12-games match is taking place at the College in Holborn between 9 and 28 November, with the winner earning a 60% share of the €1m ($1.14m) prize fund if the match ends in regulation (or 55% if it’s decided by tie-break games).

Carlsen, 27, has been ranked No 1 for eight straight years and was considered the world’s best player even before he defeated Viswanathan Anand for the title in 2013. Caruana, 26, is ranked No 2, having earned his place the table by winning the candidates tournament in March. No American-born player has won or even competed for the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

It marks the first title match between the world’s top two players since 1990, when Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov faced off for a fifth and final time.

The match will consist of 12 classical games with each player awarded one point for a win and a half-point for a draw. Whoever reaches six and a half points first will be declared the champion.

The time control for each game is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 1. Players cannot agree to a draw before Black’s 30th move.

If the match is tied after 12 games, tie-breaks will be played on the final day in the following order:

  • Best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
  • If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
  • If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armegeddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.

“It is like a boxing bout,” admitted Caruana, who was wearing the fashionable US label Thom Browne at the press conference. “There’s unlikely to be a quick knockout, so the aim will be mainly to try and outlast my opponent.”

Inevitably, the prospect of psychological warfare on the board came up – understandable given that both players will be sitting barely a metre from each other for up to eight hours a day. During the 1951 world championship match between Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein, for instance, one onlooker noted that at the end of each game both men were “wreathed in beads of sweat, such was their toil”. While during the Moscow Marathon between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov – which lasted five months and 48 games – Karpov lost 10kg in weight.

“Psychology will play a huge part,” Caruana told the Guardian. “Part of Carlsen’s success is that he has a very stable psychological demeanour. He rarely gets rattled, and when he loses a game he brushes it aside. Of course, the fact this is his fourth world championships is also in his favour. I will have to learn on the fly, but I feel I am more than ready for the challenge.”

To prepare for the biggest challenge of his career, Caruana has been running most days and doing yoga in between intense bouts of study. The American is known for his deep opening preparation and finding theoretical novelties that have never been played before – the chess equivalent of a thunderous serve in tennis – as well as deep calculating ability. When Carlsen was asked to describe him in one word he instantly replied, “computer”.

The Norwegian, however, is still widely regarded as the favourite. However, in recent years he seems to have been afflicted by a dangerous search for ultra-perfection. Recently his sister Illen even suggested that, if he loses, “the chance of him retiring, short-term, is a real possibility”.

However, when Carlsen was asked whether he saw himself as the favourite or underdog, the alpha dog in him finally came out. “It has been a while since I have considered myself an underdog, to be honest,” he said, smiling. “If you have been the No1 ranked player in the world for seven years and have won three world titles in a row, then there is something seriously wrong with your psyche, I think.”

It makes for an intriguing contest, especially given Carlsen’s official rating of 2,838 is just three points ahead of his challenger, according to the sport’s governing body, Fide. Most observers expect a long and attritional battle, which is right up the Norwegian’s street given he is famous for suffocating his opponents to a slow death over several hours.

“The ultimate test of mind and body.” Uhh… sure. I write things for fun sometimes.

Nov 13 2018

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</i

Paul Krugman: Truth and Virtue in the Age of Trump

Remember when freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose? These days it’s just another word for giving lots of money to Donald Trump.

What with the midterm elections — and the baseless Republican cries of voting fraud — I don’t know how many people heard about Trump’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, wife of casino owner and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The medal is ormally an acknowledgment of extraordinary achievement or public service; on rare occasions this includes philanthropy. But does anyone think the Adelsons’ charitable activities were responsible for this honor?

Now, this may seem like a trivial story. But it’s a reminder that the Trumpian attitude toward truth — which is that it’s defined by what benefits Trump and his friends, not by verifiable facts — also applies to virtue. There is no heroism, there are no good works, except those that serve Trump.

About truth: Trump, of course, lies a lot — in the run-up to the midterms he was lying in public more than 100 times each week. But his assault on truth goes deeper than the frequency of his lies, because Trump and his allies don’t accept the very notion of objective facts. “Fake news” doesn’t mean actual false reporting; it means any report that hurts Trump, no matter how solidly verified. And conversely, any assertion that helps Trump, whether it’s about job creation or votes, is true precisely because it helps him.

Neal KatyaL: The rules are clear: Whitaker can’t supervise Mueller’s investigation

The installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general isn’t just unconstitutional — although it is unconstitutional. Even if Whitaker’s appointment ever survived a court challenge on constitutional grounds for most of his day-to-day duties at the Justice Department, the fact that he’ll now be performing the sensitive work of supervising Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation raises other deep problems. Putting Whitaker in charge of the inquiry is sharply at odds with the special counsel regulations governing Mueller’s work and with the Justice Department’s rules about who may oversee an investigation.

I had the privilege of drafting the special counsel rules 20 years ago, when I was at the Justice Department. Recall the setting: The independent counsel statute was expiring in June 1999, and there was a robust debate about what should take its place. After the multitude of investigations of the Clinton administration, many in Washington clamored for renewal of the supercharged independent prosecutor in the act. Others, seeing what they believed were abuses by then-independent counsel Ken Starr (and prior independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, who oversaw the earlier Iran-contra investigation of the Reagan administration more than a decade before Starr), believed that something more accountable and less independent had to be created instead.

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