Category Archives: Editorial

The Trump Black(mail) House

By Michael Bryan

If Donald Trump is not someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia, he sure acts remarkably like someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia.

We know that Russia is a notoriously good blackmailer: their kompromat systems are finely tuned and effective. To successfully blackmail people two things are needed; a reason to blackmail someone (something you want them to do) and information with which to blackmail them (usually a financial or sexual impropriety).

Consider the case of Russia vis-a-vis Donald Trump — as President, Trump has many things Russia would want: control of the American foreign policy and national security apparatus chief among them. Russia is rumored to have information of a sexually compromising nature about Trump (see the Steele Dossier re the so-called “pee pee tape”), but much more damaging, I think, they are in a position to have a great deal of compromising financial information on Trump. The Trumps have admitted that they have gotten a great deal of funding for their projects from Russia over the past decade. Trump is notoriously lax about due diligence in his foreign deals and the Russians and others have likely used the Trump organization to launder money on a massive scale. They also are very likely to have access to financial statements and tax records that could be embarrassing to Trump by virtue of their influence over Trump partners in the former Soviet bloc.

So, Russia clearly has motive and means to blackmail Trump. Is there evidence in Trump’s behavior that he is actively being compromised by blackmail?

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9 out of 10 pundits agree: insane dentist Paul Gosar ‘is a disgrace to Arizona’

I recently posted about Arizona’s insane dentist, Rep. Paul Gosar:

Now that Arizona’s most embarrassing member of Congress, Rep. Trent Franks, has resigned in disgrace after soliciting his female staff members to be his sex surrogate (Eeew!), we have a new challenger for the title of Arizona’s most embarrassing member of Congress: Arizona’s insane dentist, Rep. Paul Gosar.

I’m glad to see that the GOP-friendly Arizona Republic editorial board agrees –you see, bipartisanship is possible! – in an editorial. Our View: Rep. Paul Gosar is a disgrace to Arizona. Somebody please unseat him:

Republicans in Congressional District 4 need to find somebody to defeat Paul Gosar in the primary.

His smash-mouth style brings serial embarrassment to our state.

Republicans in this rock-solid GOP district can end Gosar’s regrettable congressional career without losing this seat.

There is a precedent. A model. We’ll get to that later.

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Michael Bloomberg on the #GopTaxScam

Ady Barkan, an activist who has ALS and who works with the Center for Popular Democracy, has set up a web site titled stopgoptaxscam.com. It is a useful resource guide (h/t for the graphic, right).

Addressing the merits of the “GOP tax scam” is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an op-ed appearing at his Bloomberg News website. This Tax Bill Is a Trillion-Dollar Blunder:

Last month a Wall Street Journal editor asked a room full of CEOs to raise their hands if the corporate tax cut being considered in Congress would lead them to invest more. Very few hands went up. Attending was Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser and a friend of mine. He asked: “Why aren’t the other hands up?”

Allow me to answer that: We don’t need the money.

Corporations are sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. That figure has been climbing steadily since the recession ended in 2009, and it’s now double what it was in 2001. The reason CEOs aren’t investing more of their liquid assets has little to do with the tax rate.

CEOs aren’t waiting on a tax cut to “jump-start the economy” — a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company — or to hand out raises. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.

Instead, Congress did what it always does: It put politics first. After spending the first nine months of the year trying to jam through a repeal of Obamacare without holding hearings, heeding independent analysis or seeking Democratic input, Republicans took the same approach to tax “reform” — and it shows.

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USA Today declares war on Donald Trump

In November 2015, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post presciently warned How Trump is ‘defining deviancy down’ in presidential politics:

“Defining deviancy down.” That was the provocative title of a 1993 essay on crime written by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). He explained his concept succinctly a few months later at a breakfast of civic-minded New York City movers and shakers. “I wrote that there is always a certain amount of deviancy in a society,” Moynihan told the Association for a Better New York. “But when you get too much, you begin to think that it’s not really that bad. Pretty soon you become accustomed to very destructive behavior.”

Again, Moynihan was talking about the tolerance of crime. But as the 2016 Republican presidential contest drags on, his diagnosis fit politics in general and the campaign of Donald Trump in particular. Just when you thought the Big Apple billionaire couldn’t sink any lower, he does. He gleefully dances through the nativist, racist, misogynistic slop as if he were Gene Kelly  in “Singing in the Rain.” And to make matters worse, Trump is rewarded for it.

Little could this Cassandra, cursed to speak true prophecies that no one believed, forewarn just how much Donald Trump would “define deviancy down” over the next two years after his column.

It has been a daily assault on the senses of tweeted insults and shameless lies, and outrageous behavior that previously was considered taboo and would have been a career-ending scandal for any other politician. For Trump, it just another day that ends in “y.” Trump’s goal is to overwhelm the senses through chaos theory. Americans have become numbed to the daily dose of scandal and are physically and mentally exhausted.

Trump’s sycophant cult of personality supporters — in particular, the conservative media entertainment complex — are seeking to normalize his boorishness and belligerence and utter lack of character, and conduct previously considered outside the bounds of normal acceptable behavior and common human decency. These sycophants, in particular the conservative media entertainment complex, the conspiracy theory fever swamp from which Donald Trump emerged two years ago, are also “defining deviancy down.” They are systematically destroying the norms of a civilized democratic society.

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Mann and Ornstein: How the Republicans Broke Congress

Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, the high priests of “centrism” in Washington, D.C., warned back in 2012, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

This op-ed was a preview of the books that followed, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” (2012) and updated in 2016, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein are back with a new op-ed at the New York Times, How the Republicans Broke Congress:

In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

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The final countdown on the Senate GOP tax bill has begun: call your senators now

The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines Wednesday to begin debate on the Senate GOP tax bill. Several Republicans who have not committed to voting for the final bill, including Sens. Collins, McCain, Corker and Flake, voted in favor of moving forward to debate. But final passage could be another story.

Currently there is no firm agreement on the trigger provision Sen. Corker wants, no pay-for to partially keep the state and local tax deductions Sen. Collins wants, and no language on the pass-through changes for small businesses sought by Sens. Johnson and Daines. Senate Republicans are about to overhaul the tax code, and they don’t know what’s in their bill yet;

Senate Republicans are in such a rush to pass a tax overhaul in the next few days that they voted to start debate on a bill that could still undergo a bevy of last-minute changes they haven’t seen in writing — changes that could dramatically affect the US economy over the next decade.

But most Republicans aren’t letting some last-minute deal cutting that could mean billions of dollars in tax increases, tax cuts, or federal spending cuts get in the way of moving the bill along.

Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who’s one of the senators most skeptical of the bill and is pushing for the major addition of automatic tax hikes if the federal deficit grows too quickly, voted to start debate on the bill. He had told reporters earlier that he couldn’t describe the changes “until we get it in writing.” Corker later told reporters they could “throw away” anything they’d heard about the deal because it is “still evolving.”

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