One Month of Christmas, Day 10

Happy December 4th, 2018. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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R.I.P. Mr. President

So last night I went to the U.S. Capitol and paid my respects to President George H.W. Bush in the Capitol rotunda. It took me about 90 minutes to get through the line, and I spent a few minutes there at the casket, then moved along. It was the quietist I’ve ever heard the Capitol.

When I was five, the 1988 Election captivated my mind. I obviously knew nothing about it yet, but it was interesting to me. It’s weird to bury powerful people from my childhood, as it does really mark the passage of time.

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Don’t Lock Him Up?

Apparently Robert Mueller doesn’t want to lock up Michael Flynn, because he cooperated fully and he served the nation in uniform. He probably gave Mueller some great information. All the redactions suggest some juicy stuff is in there.

Luckily for Michael Flynn, Robert Mueller is a better man than he is. While he could have made an example of Flynn, he chose not to. He didn’t lead an arena in chanting to lock Flynn up. He allowed him due process. He treated him humanely. It was the right thing to do.

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Tonight’s a light night for writing. I’ll be back at it more tomorrow.

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One Month of Christmas, Day 5

Good day, today is Thursday, November 29th, 2018. It’s really windy out. Despite my rant yesterday about the Stones’ prices, my dad bought up a few seats for us today. My hypocrisy with things I want knows no end, I guess. On to today’s thoughts…

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Where the Action Will be, 2019 Governing

What will happen the next two years in government? The most common answer is nothing. Congress is divided, the nation is divided, the states are divided. Yet, in the past two days, I’ve sung a different tune to two PA State Reps I’ve advised in the past.

One is a newer representative (not a freshman), who asked me what committees she should ask for. I told her almost instantly “transportation.” I told her the only thing coming out of Washington the next two years is an infrastructure bill. When that money hits state capitols, you’ll want to be helping craft the state’s bill.

The other is a more senior state rep, who will be Democratic Chairman at Agriculture. My advice? Stay there. Trump will desperately want to help farmers across the Rust Belt heading into his re-election. The U.S. House Agriculture chairman represents probably the reddest Democratic seat in the country, and makes his political bones by being very engaged with the agriculture community. I think they may be sending some money to the states.

Just a hunch, though.

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The 30 for 30 Bobby Knight Special was Wow

I just watched the “30 for 30” on Bobby Knight and was absolutely stuck on it. It was incredibly well done, and paints a picture of an unlikable Bobby Knight. What an awful guy.

It was also a super sad story. Neil Reed was tortured by his experience at Indiana. He finally had escaped the shadow of his time with the Hoosiers, had happiness, and then he died. There was no happy ending.

The business of college sports was once again on trial. Like Ohio State and Michigan State’s recent problems, or Penn State and Baylor’s past problems, it’s clear that money causes questionable decision making. The NCAA never looks good when we view these sagas.

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Cohen Blows the Lid on Trump-Russia Connection

There is no question if Russia tried to help Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, only whether or not he and his associates knew. I’ve long since believed they did, but I had mostly assumed Donald Trump himself was largely shielded from that. I never thought he himself would get hit.

Today I’m not sure. Now we’re getting into connecting not only Trump’s campaign to Russia, we’re also connecting Trump’s company and finances to Russia. This is new territory for this case. Perhaps this was more than just an operation by Russia to influence an election, but also to control a foreign asset. If that is so, this is a new chapter, and not a good one.

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Back at it tomorrow…

One Month of Christmas, Day 3

Good day, today is Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. Christmas is now 28 days away. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Paul Manafort? #LockHimUp

Paul Manafort is going to prison. That was true when he was found guilty in his first trial. That was more true when he plead guilty before his second trial. Now that he lied to prosecutors? Lock.Him.Up.

There seems to be a convergence of events that is entirely circumstantial, but you can’t turn away from. First, the revelations that Manafort both violated his plea deal, AND that he had a secret meeting with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, before the Wikileaks attacks on the Clinton Campaign. Second, Jerome Corsi’s bizarre rantings about rejecting a plea deal for perjury- which both seems to be the least of his crimes, and not the crime he’s describing. Third, Donald Trump just submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions.

The only thing that makes clear sense to me is that Bob Mueller is trying to establish a back channel between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks, and Russia. Manafort probably wasn’t totally forthcoming about something related, Mueller had the goods on it, and the deal fell apart. Manafort is pretty much screwed. This isn’t great for Mueller either, as he loses a star witness. Things are at least beginning to become clear though.

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Goliath is Back, and Goliath is the Phillies?

As I write this, Twitter is buzzing with news that Patrick Corbin is at Citizens Bank Park. The elite left-handed pitcher on the market seems to be high on the Phillies wish list, along with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, every major free agent, and every major trade candidate.

The Phillies are a big market team, with a big market TV deal. In fact, they’re the biggest market with just one team. They have a low payroll and young team. While 80-82 isn’t a great season, it’s good enough to now buy your way back into the playoffs. They have plenty of prospects to work with, one of the richest owners in sports (John Middleton), and a fan base that can fill the seats in a hurry.

The expectations for the Phillies this off-season are high, but not beyond their abilities as a franchise. I’m obviously most interested in getting Bryce Harper, but Machado, Corbin, Kimbrel, and major trade targets are all fine too. I’m just ready to watch a major superstar hit upper deck homers to right again, like the good ole’ days. The possibilities seem endless, and so does John Middleton’s desire to win. Goliath is back in the NL East.

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Make Gritty the new Flyers GM

Here’s some real talk- the Flyers have been a directionless, “good enough” to make a profit franchise for a long time. Here’s some other tough talk- over that long time, the Flyers keep putting ex-players in charge of the team. They haven’t done so hot though. It’s been 40 years since the team won a Stanley Cup. It’s been almost a decade since they blew up a team that lost in the Stanley Cup finals. The team is perpetually disappointing. The most successful thing they’ve done is make Gritty their mascot.

So, I put in the title here “Make Gritty the new Flyers GM.” I’m not really suggesting that, but I guess I am if they’re really going to let Paul Holmgren call the shots in the organization. Holmgren, the ex-GM that failed in his previous role, was rewarded for losing by being promoted to the Team President. If this is the kind of decision making the Flyers do here again, why not let an orange mascot run the operation?

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Democrats Should Stop Fearing White Voters

Over the weekend, I was watching Roland Martin on MSNBC, and he said something profound- Democrats need to stop fearing white voters. His point wasn’t to ignore them, it was to actually campaign at them. His point was pretty simple- what are they getting for voting for their guns, or against immigrants, or any other social issues? Campaign to them on health care, on education, on wages- because these issues apply to them. Will Democrats win white voters? I don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Will they do better? Most likely. This doesn’t mean stop campaigning to the Democratic base, or stop talking about civil rights. It means walk and chew gum.

I do know this- this will work far faster than waiting for demographic changes to get us to victory.

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My Favorite Christmas Specials?

  1. Rudolph
  2. The Grinch
  3. California Raisin
  4. Frosty

I basically make my picks based on the music. You can’t hate.

For the Republic…

I never thought Paul Manafort would flip, but he did this morning. He plead guilty in Washington and agreed to cooperate with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. For Mueller to allow this, he must both have had Manafort dead-to-rights, and felt he had useful information to the prosecution. Manafort was already guilty on eight counts in Virginia and facing a long prison sentence. Mueller didn’t need this deal as bad as Manafort.

I’m still very skeptical of the Mueller probe getting Donald Trump. He’s going to be hard to impeach and remove, there’s no good reason for Republicans to go along, politically, as long as their base loves Trump unconditionally. They probably will indict him and try him after his Presidency, but there’s no guarantees of a conviction. Today certainly moves the ball forward. Manafort was the head man of a campaign that took aid from Russia. I think Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner should be terrified. Manafort can probably put them at the middle of it. If Mueller can convict them, the Republicans in Congress *might* start pushing Trump to get out of the way and let Pence govern.

It is important that we don’t lose sight of the bigger issue here though, which is not Donald Trump himself. The problem of Russian meddling and a fractured society that can fall victim to their misinformation is the issue. The gulf between the two sides allowed one side to fall victim to a con-man and Kremlin stooges, and the other side could fall victim too, if other stooges re-affirm what they want to hear.

I’m glad to see Manafort flip. He deserves jail, and the people he is exposing deserve this fate too. Hopefully this investigation will expose the traitors among us. Even if it does though, our civil society needs work.

Donald Trump, Impeachment, and the American Right

Donald Trump is in a lot of trouble. Ultimately speaking, he’s in serious jeopardy of being indicted and tried after his Presidency. His company and his Foundation have probably broken laws. His campaign almost certainly operated in a conspiracy with Russia to win the election, which is illegal, based on the statements of he and his son. He has probably used the powers of his office to obstruct justice. Many close associates of Trump’s are now facing prison. The situation for the President is full of peril.

This is probably the point where I remind you that none of that is likely to make a difference in your life. The only thing of impact to the public that can happen to Trump is his removal from office. That can only happen by his being defeated in 2020, or impeached and convicted in Congress before then. It’s too early to tell about 2020, but it is likely to be another cliffhanger finish, given how close 2016 was. That leaves the impeachment process, and the many pitfalls that Democrats could encounter along the way. Looking at them, I don’t believe Trump will be removed from office early, based on what we know.

The first step towards impeaching Trump is Special Counsel Robert Mueller issuing a report that details specific crimes that he believes Trump committed. For historical reference, the Starr Report leading to impeachment on Bill Clinton wasn’t issued until his second term, so we may be pretty far away. Then the House Judiciary Committee would draw up articles of impeachment, hold hearings on them, and have to vote them out. This step in the process really can’t begin until next year, and would probably require a Democratic House Majority to even have a chance. Only then would the full House consider impeachment, and again, a Democratic Majority is a pre-requisite to even consider that. After all of that, you get a Senate trial where 67 votes are needed to convict and remove Trump. There will not ever be 67 Democrats to push this. In other words, at some point Democrats will need some Republicans to hold Donald Trump accountable, as President.

So I guess I’m saying Trump is in real personal trouble, but the Trump Presidency is safe and secure as long as he’s sporting 90% support from Republicans. I suppose it is possible at some point that Senate Republicans will decide it’s in their self-interest to remove Trump, provided that Mike Pence is in no real trouble, and that their base turns on Donald Trump for some reason. What would that reason be though? Conspiracy with Russia? They’ve rationalized that. Crude conduct with women and paying hush money for cover-ups? They quite literally don’t care. Tax cuts for the rich and huge deficits? They’ve always supported that. Latino kids in cages? They think they shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The things that activist Democrats hate about Donald Trump are what his voters like about him. The societal change the left wants is what the Trumpers support, and what makes the “American Middle” squeamish. A large portion of the voters who will probably vote to give Democrats a Congressional majority are probably conflicted on the cultural issues that divide us, and will mostly be voting against Donald Trump for poor performance in office, not diametric opposition to his vision. The most offensive issues about Trump, to the left- his cheating and covering up affairs on his wives, his nationalistic view towards immigration, his “traditionalism” on social issues in general- are exactly the kind of things that probably make him safe from removal. Those in the “pink hats” hate him for it, those in the “red hats” love him for it.

Donald Trump is a reflection of the world view in Conservative America, and for that reason, Republicans in Congress won’t turn on him. Obviously things change, and something could change the calculus. That’s unlikely though. As a result, impeachment is really unlikely too.

Sinatra and the Kennedys, Tiger Woods Divorce, and the Trump-Putin Drama

One should not assume another person’s guilt based on indirect evidence, however one should also not neglect behavior that clear-as-day suggests something is happening. Not knowing what Robert Mueller knows, I can’t tell you if Donald Trump knowingly took material support from Russia during the 2016 election. What I do know is that his behavior does not suggest innocence. His behavior suggests that there is more to his relationship with Vladimir Putin than is clear to us.

We should start by at least acknowledging the possibility that Trump and Putin’s relationship is based on shared values and goals. Putin is the kind of “strong-man” dictator Trump tends to respect. Both men espouse very nationalistic world views and policies. Neither has much use for NATO, the G-7, UN, or any other global-view groups. Both men view the Western order of the world with disdain. That may be all there is to this. Evidence just suggests otherwise.

Trump’s performance in the Helsinki Summit with Putin suggests there is more to it. Given that Russian interference on Trump’s behalf is common knowledge to all who accept it, and that we know with near certainty that Donald Trump has accepted loans from banks with Russian ties, there really shouldn’t be much to hide. Trump’s base has heard this stuff at some point along the line, or just refused to, and they don’t care. Trump’s continual submissive deference to Putin, and his refusal to show his financial statements, suggests more is there than meets the eye.

When nothing more is present beyond rumor and innuendo, Presidential history suggests that Administrations don’t proceed as though they have guilt to hide. Perhaps the most famous example is the Kennedy Administration’s posture towards the mafia. Political legend has it that the Kennedys sent close friend Frank Sinatra to meet with Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana to secure his support in winning Illinois over Richard Nixon. Giancana seems to have delivered on his end of the deal, as JFK narrowly won that state in 1960. We have no way of knowing today if Giancana and the Kennedys has a deal in place at that time, but it was a well known rumor, even then. How did the Kennedy Administration treat the mafia once in office? Attorney General Bobby Kennedy prosecuted them across the country with no fear at all. If the rumors about Giancana’s help were real, they clearly didn’t scare the Kennedys. There just wasn’t anything more lurking there to scare them.

If you have nothing to hide, you don’t hide stuff. Trump’s behavior towards Putin and Russia don’t resemble RFK with the mafia at all. What does Trump’s actions resemble? The best pop culture example that stands out for me is Tiger Woods during his divorce proceedings. It was well known publicly in the press that Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren left him over the golfer’s serial infidelity. Woods infidelity was not a secret at the point he gave her a $100 million divorce settlement. Nordegren came from a well-to-do family and didn’t need his money. Woods still gave her a settlement rumored to be ten times as large as their pre-nuptial agreement specified, in exchange for her promise of silence about their marriage. Why would Woods give away so much money for silence? Clearly because there was more to the situation than we could see.

Even if Russia did help Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election, that doesn’t mean Trump himself committed a crime. He’s at very little risk of being removed from office, or being prosecuted, despite the clear bad behavior of others in his orbit. There’s no really good reason that Trump doesn’t behave like JFK and his administration did towards the mafia after the 1960 election- if we truly already have heard the worst of it. Trump is paying no political price for the widely reported Russian interference on his behalf. He’s unlikely to ever pay a legal price either. The only reason I can come up with for his behavior in Helsinki is that like Tiger Woods in his divorce, Trump has more to hide in his relationship with Russia.

I would suggest we don’t sensationalize this with talk of prostitutes and “pee tapes”- would that shock us? It is far more likely that Donald Trump’s fear of Russia stems from his financial entanglements, which may reveal he’s not actually that rich, or worse yet, crimes he committed prior to entering the White House. No matter what Trump’s hidden secret is, he seems intent to do whatever he has to in order to keep the Kremlin happy. He’s clearly compromised, and fearful of what they could do to him.

That should scare you a lot more than the thought of Russian escorts urinating on a rich American businessman.

Let’s Cool the Impeachment Talk- For Now

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No one wants to see Donald Trump out of the White House more than me- I never felt he should have been considered, by anyone. The man is incapable, doesn’t really seem interested in learning, and doesn’t represent the majority of America. I’d love to see him go home to Trump Tower and stay there, as soon as possible.

With all of that said, I’m not in favor of impeachment right now, or even in the medium term future unless the facts of the matter change. Even in a hypothetical world where Democrats win the House back in 2018 with a huge wave, I think a lot of things would have to change, and fall into place for impeachment to be a reasonable option.

The first thing we should wait for, before moving forward with impeachment, is a report from Bob Mueller. The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” is rather vague, and hasn’t been tested constitutionally very much, but it has to have some meaning. If Robert Mueller’s eventual report on either Russian involvement in the 2016 Election, or potential obstruction of justice from firing Comey, ends up saying that Donald Trump and/or his campaign/White House broke the law, obviously I think impeachment proceedings should proceed. It would be reasonable to begin hearings at that point.

It’s worth considering the plausibility of going down this road though. Even a huge Democratic majority in the House is only one piece of this puzzle. The current 51-49 U.S. Senate is not likely to radically change- perhaps Democrats get to 51 or 52 seats in a wave year, and maybe hold a 52-48 majority. The problem with that is that 67 Senators would have to vote to convict Donald Trump and remove him from office for it to matter. Democrats would need 15 Republicans to vote to convict the President. That’s a tall order, and one which they would have to force many Democratic House and Senate members to vote to remove Trump, even though he won their constituencies. That is a big ask for something that is unlikely to succeed.

I’d like to see Trump go. I’m not against impeaching him, if the eventual facts back up that assertion. I’d just wait to jump on that bandwagon. Let’s see what the facts say, before marrying ourselves to something that he will try to use to make himself into a victim to his (clearly approving) supporters. Perhaps the Mueller report will be so clear as day to cause a national reckoning, and it will be clear that Republicans need to support impeachment. It’s just as likely it will not. Let’s just cool our jets until we have enough information to make a smart decision here. I think we’d all hate to see a failed attempt at impeachment help Trump and the Republican Party win the White House and Congress back in 2018 or 2020.

How This Has to End

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The New Year has started off with a bang, or at least a lot of loud noises from the White House. Tweets threatening nuclear war. Book excerpts suggesting the President can’t read well, is losing his mind, and didn’t even want to win in the first place. Overt talk of Ivanka Trump being President some day. And of course, my personal favorite, the right-wing war on Steve Bannon- I’m having trouble figuring out who to root for. Every hour it seems like the New York Times and Washington Post are breaking new stories about the status of the Trump-Russia investigation, and what Robert Mueller knows or doesn’t know. I wonder if Donald Trump wishes he had stayed in South Florida on a longer vacation.

I am starting to feel for the many smart, capable Republicans I’ve known in my life. They’ve clearly made a mistake in nominating, let alone voting for this man to be the President of the United States. Say whatever you will about Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, at no point was their sanity and mental capacity questioned. At no point was there a reason to defend their family meeting with Russian agents. At no point did someone write a book talking about how upset they were when they won an election. My Republican friends voted for a lazy, entitled, stupid, and angry man, one who’s conduct on Twitter and beyond, makes them look bad to the world. What’s worse is, I believe many of them feel as though they’d do it again- because they just could not ever vote for Hillary Clinton to be President. They felt trapped into this mess.

There’s no good outcome for how this ends, but there’s only one acceptable one- complete humiliation. Never again can a figure like Trump be considered a viable option for the White House. Never again can being an ignoramus be considered a positive attribute for a President. That can’t happen if this President, and his hardcore 32%, are let down lightly. The best outcome is crushing electoral defeat in 2020, but that may not be the way this has to go down. Whether it’s impeachment, handcuffs, resignation, or electoral defeat, the bottom line is that Donald Trump must be discredited and humiliated for history- or we’ll see this happen again.