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Deadbeat Donald

[ 179 ] June 9, 2016 |


If you do business with Donald Trump you’re making a YOOOOOOOGE mistake:

During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah’s at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.

Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.

Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will “protect your job.” But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

What’s especially impressive about this is that despite not bothering with typical business expenses like “paying people who do work for you,” he still managed to go bankrupt running a business that involves customers giving you their money in exchange for nothing.

Donald Trump is the 2016 Republican nominee for president. His business experience is the closest he comes to having a credential for higher elected office.


Red-Baiting Hack Politician Endorses Neoliberalism

[ 177 ] June 9, 2016 |


The inevitable happens:

Senator Bernie Sanders met with President Obama on Thursday and said afterward that he would do everything within his power to stop Donald J. Trump from becoming president — and would work closely with Hillary Clinton to make that happen.

After the meeting with Mr. Obama, which lasted more than an hour, Mr. Sanders gave no indication that he was ready to leave the race just yet, insisting that he would compete in next week’s primary contest here in Washington. However, he made clear that party unity was on his mind.

“I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” Mr. Sanders told reporters, saying the billionaire businessman “makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign” and would be a “disaster” as commander in chief.

I said this earlier in the week, but Democrats worried about the precise timetable Sanders has for formally conceding the nomination really, really need to calm down. Losing is hard! People are often not at their best when seeing their hopes dashed! Sanders is not a nihilist. He is not a drooling moron cosplaying as an anarchist who thinks that “hard gun-toting anarchist redneck Amy Goodman progressives” are a meaningful category of people. He cares about the many people who will be put at risk by a Trump administration. He will fight to stop that from happening and he will be good at it.

Is Hearing An Appeal Based on Your Office’s Alleged Misconduct Consistent With Due Process? Views Differ

[ 47 ] June 9, 2016 |


The state of Pennsylvania had Terrance Williams and Marc Draper dead to rights for the murder of Amos Norwood. But just a conviction was not enough for the state; it wanted the aggravating factors that would lead the jury to apply a death sentence. According to statements made by Draper (who had previously refused to speak to Williams’s lawyers), Draper “had informed the Commonwealth before trial that Williams had been in a sexual relationship with Norwood and that the relationship was the real motive for Norwood’s murder. According to Draper, the Commonwealth had instructed him to give false testimony that Williams killed Norwood to rob him. Draper also admitted he had received an undisclosed benefit in exchange for his testimony: the trial prosecutor had promised to write a letter to the state parole board on his behalf.” Williams then sued, and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas found that the trial prosecutor had “suppressed material, exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, and engaged in ‘prosecutorial gamesmanship’” and ordered a new hearing.

The DA who approved the decision to seek the death penalty was Ronald Castille. Castille was the Chief Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court when the state appealed the PCCP’s ruling. Needless to say, Williams filed a motion asking Castille to recused himself given the conflict of interest. Castille not only refused to recuse himself but filed a rambling concurrence to the decision overruling the PPCA, reminiscent of late-period Antonin Scalia, railing against the “obstructionist anti-death penalty agenda” of Williams’s attorneys.

The Supreme Court today ruled that Castille’s failure to recuse himself violated Williams’s right to the due process of law. Speaking for the Court, Anthony Kennedy said some things that should be obvious:

The Court now holds that under the Due Process Clause there is an impermissible risk of actual bias when a judge earlier had significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision regarding the defendant’s case.


Due process guarantees “an absence of actual bias” on the part of a judge. Bias is easy to attribute to others and difficult to discern in oneself. To establish an enforceable and work-able framework, the Court’s precedents apply an objective standard that, in the usual case, avoids having to determine whether actual bias is present. The Court asks not whether a judge harbors an actual, subjective bias, but instead whether, as an objective matter, “the average judge in his position is ‘likely’ to be neutral, or whether there is an unconstitutional ‘potential for bias.’” Of particular relevance to the instant case, the Court has determined that an unconstitutional potential for bias exists when the same person serves as both accuser and adjudicator in a case. This objective risk of bias is reflected in the due process maxim that “no man can be a judge in his own case and no man is permitted to try cases where he has an interest in the outcome.”

The due process guarantee that “no man can be a judge in his own case” would have little substance if it did not disqualify a former prosecutor from sitting in judgment of a prosecution in which he or she had made a critical decision.

3 justices dissented from this holding. Unless you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s plausible that Donald Trump could govern to the left of Hillary Clinton, I don’t think I need to tell you which ones. I can tell you, though, that these three gentlemen also think that it doesn’t raise federal due process issues for a judge to hear an appeal involving a litigant who has spent millions of dollars to get that judge elected.

Race to the Center of the Earth

[ 99 ] June 8, 2016 |


Meet Renee Elmers, scourge of the Burlington Coat Factory Mosque and so much else:

Tea Party activist Renee Ellmers defeated Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge by less than 1% of the vote in North Carolina’s second district.

A self-declared “product of the tea party,” Ellmers ran on an anti-health care and anti-stimulus platform: she compared President Obama to “Louis XIV, the Sun King” and asserted that his administration is establishing “a socialistic form of government.” She blasted Democrats for their “imperial ruling class attitude,” and referred to the economic stimulus plan as “massive government takeovers of the economy.”

Ellmers believes that Obama puts the country at risk because he supposedly refuses “to recognize – and tell the American people – [that] he understands radical Islamic terrorism does exist.” She also launched an ugly and bigoted campaign ad equating all Muslims with the 9/11 terrorists, [] arguing that the planned Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan is a “victory mosque” and a symbol of Muslim conquest:

Narrator: “After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, and Cordoba and Constantinople, they built victory mosques. And now, they want to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Where does Bob Etheridge stand? He won’t say, won’t speak out, won’t take a stand.”

Ellmers: “The terrorists haven’t won, and we should tell them in plain English, ‘No, there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero.'”


Ellmers says she decided to run for Congress after she started campaigning against health care reform with Americans for Prosperity, a corporate front group tied to the Koch brothers. She told G. Gordon Liddy that the health care reform bill was “put in place simply to control our lives,” and maintained that “physicians are not going to be able to continue to practice” because of the reform law, which she said “is just a monster.”

According to Ellmers, insurance companies should be able to deny individuals coverage for pre-existing conditions. “Private insurance companies [should] decide how they’re going to handle the pre-existing conditions situation,” she said. Ellmers also attacked a requirement that insurance companies to cover maternity care and other health issues, calling such coverage “very costly.”

In a debate, Ellmers came out against emergency funding to protect the jobs of teachers, and suggested that diverting public funds towards private school vouchers through “school choice” would help prevent job losses among public school teachers.

She said that her plan to reduce the debt would be to cut taxes and end foreign aid. As a proponent of the “FairTax” she believes that the progressive income tax should be scrapped and replaced with a regressive national sales tax.

An avowed opponent of immigrant rights, Ellmers claimed that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer showed “the kind of leadership we have not seen in a long time” when she signed SB 1070, and suggested that Congress vote to defund the Department of Justice over their lawsuit against the draconian immigration law.

Ellmers told the conservative RedState blog that she is fiercely anti-choice and opposes the feminist movement. She was been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Concerned Women for America, and the Susan B. Anthony List.

And she was classy right to the end:

After Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers got out of her car to vote Tuesday, she greeted a woman by name and then told the woman she had “gained some weight.”

Ellmers continued walking by and said, “You’re eating a little bit too much pork barbecue. Whoo!”

The woman, Maggie Sandrock, is a former chair of the Harnett County Republican Party. Sandrock said she worked on Ellmers’ previous two runs for Congress, but is supporting Republican Congressman George Holding this time.

The good news is that Ellmers lost her primary campaign last night. The bad news is that she lost for being insufficiently wingnutty. But I’m sure that moderate center-right party Tom Friedman is hankering for will materialize any minute now.

Is Implying That Only Straight Conservative White Men Can Be Impartial Judges Racist? Views Differ!

[ 74 ] June 8, 2016 |


You may remember Jeffrey Lord from such classics as “3 police officers beating a handcuffed African-American to death with a 2-pound blackjack in Jim Crow Florida did not constitute a “lynching” and Shirley Sherrod was lying when she made this characterization” and “but voting against a conservative Supreme Court nominee in 1991 is totally a lynching.” By all rights, you would think he would be a footnote in the history of the wingnutosphere. But because of the felt needs for “balance” and Donald Trump’s tendency to say do whistles with an air raid siren next to a megaphone, Lord has found a niche as a CNN election commentator. This has gone as you might have expected, with assertions that Gonzalo Curiel is the REAL RACIST:

During a CNN panel discussion on Tuesday, former Reagan aide Jeffrey Lord argued that Donald Trump’s widely condemned comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel were not, in fact, racist and were instead pointing out racism.

“Will you denounce what Trump said as racist?” asked fellow panel member Van Jones.

“It wasn’t racist,” replied Lord. “He’s calling attention to racism.”

Both sides only one side does it, and it’s the Democrat Party!

The Trump campaign is going to be a test of the media’s attempts to apply “balance” to even the most dishonest and repellent arguments. It will be interesting to see who tries to normalize Trump’s racism and who doesn’t.

The Sanders Endgame

[ 326 ] June 8, 2016 |


This inside-baseball account of the Sanders campaign will get a lot of attention, and it’s certainly interesting reading. A few points:

  • One thing about pieces about losing or lost campaigns is that they inevitably tend to frame choices as mistakes, and to assume that these perceived mistakes are pivotal. For example: “He chose the knife fight over calling Clinton unqualified, which aides blame for pulling the bottom out of any hopes they had of winning in New York and their last real chance of turning a losing primary run around.” Did the “unqualified” line help? Probably not. Was there the slightest chance in hell Sanders was winning New York even had his campaign been flawless? Nah.
  • The problem with seeing the Sanders campaign through the lens of its mistakes (actual or perceived) is that the campaign surpassed any reasonable expectation. On balance, they did a lot more right than a lot more wrong, and if Sanders’s aides want to blame him for the inelegant endgame he has to get the vast majority of the credit for overachieving.
  • Sanders does come off as bitter and petulant at times in the article. But it’s worth putting this in context — as I’ve said before, Clinton’s campaign in 2008 didn’t handle it any better, and while Clinton lost more narrowly the ideological stakes were also lower.
  • I’m not at all concerned that Sanders will fail to strongly support Clinton in the general. Sure, he didn’t drop out tonight, but then Clinton in 2008 didn’t even concede until several days after the last primary. More important was that he opened fire on Trump while notably avoiding attacks on Clinton. He’s not, even in milder form, going Nader. And if he wants to stay in to D.C. that’s his privilege, he’s under no obligation to drop out.
  • He didn’t win, but he accomplished a lot.


“20 Minutes of Action”

[ 265 ] June 7, 2016 |

The apple didn’t fall far from the etc.

I assume the appalling behavior of the convicted defendant, his father, and the judge is self-evident to the audience here. I do have a couple of points:

  • I can imagine a different political context in which the sentence was not entirely unreasonable, although if I ran the etc. the minimum sentence for sexual assault would be more than 6 month minimum — it’s a serious violent offense. But in the context of the American penal system, the outrage is justified. A less privileged person would have almost certainly gotten more time for a similar offense, and many less privileged people are serving much longer sentences for less serious offenses in California.
  • I have no problem with saying that in terms of sentencing we should, in the long run, be leveling down rather than leveling up. But not only do arbitrarily and excessively lenient sentences (whether imposed by judges or agreed to by prosecutors) to privileged individuals do nothing to address mass incarceration, they help to sustain it. The de facto exemption that upper-class people have from draconian drug laws, for example, is critical to keeping them on the books to be arbitrarily applied to some less privileged people.
  • I am uncomfortable with the idea of recalling a judge over a particular sentence.  I can see an argument that it’s justified in this case because of the judge’s rationale as opposed to the sentence per se. But it still sets a pretty bad precedent.
  • Declaring that it’s “politically correct” to think that people should refrain from sexually assaulting others is pretty much perfect for the age of Trump.

St. Ralph Speaks: The Revolution Will Be Televised, And It Will Be Bob Hope Telling Polack Jokes Edition

[ 212 ] June 7, 2016 |


The Only True Leftist in America (TM) with the possible exception of Freddie deBoer looks like he has something to say:

Let’s start out with Bernie Sanders. Despite your similarity on issues, he’s running as a Democrat, rather than a third-party candidate, like you did. How do you think that’s influenced the race?

I don’t think it influenced him at all in terms of content. I think the difference is that he’s inside the Democratic Party, playing by the rules — but he’s getting frozen out by the establishment Democrats, which is remarkably similar. The Congressional Black Caucus turned against him; they turned against me. The members of Congress of the Democratic Party overwhelmingly are against him, which is pretty amazing, since he obviously represents a large segment of Democratic voters and independent voters.

1)Yes, it is very surprising that the Congressional Black Caucus has consistently opposed Ralph Nader’s efforts to throw presidential elections to the Republican Party, almost as if their constituents are more damaged by Republican administrations than rich octogenarian white guys from Connecticut or something. 2)I also don’t find it surprising that they would back Hillary Clinton, who has spent many years cultivating their support, in the Democratic primaries. 3)This is a view Nader seems to share with many of his supporters, but I’ve always found the idea that candidates who make it their primary cause to be “anti-establishment” (even when, as with Nader, the ideological differences with much of the “establishment” is narrow or non-existent) should expect the full support of the establishment ex ante to be…rather curious. “We demand an insurgency campaign that faces no resistance.” Oh.

So after it’s over I’ll make that point to them — say: “See, you didn’t want to return my calls. You didn’t want me to appear with you. You didn’t want to take any of my advice.”

So you tried to make these points to him?

Oh, yeah. I haven’t had a return call in 15 years, and I’m not the only one. He’s been a lone ranger.

Poor Bernie: he has committed what Ralph Nader has always considered the greatest sin in American politics, not returning Ralph Nader’s phone calls. It’s also hilarious to see Ralph Nader accuse Bernie Sanders of losing influence by being a lone wolf. Sanders’s actions during the ACA — fighting to make it more progressive and succeeding — as an instructive contrast to Nader’s theory that legislation that improves the status quo should be rejected until it meets his precise specifications. This helps to explain why Sanders has been a far more positive influence on the direction of the Democratic Party than Nader has had for decades.

Do you think he’s had any impact on her positions?

He’s gotten her to mimic him, in less-than-believable language, but she’s talking minimum wage; she’s saying, “I’m going to go to Wall Street and I’m going to nail them.” She’s talking that way because that’s the technique the Clintons use.

“He’s gotten her to move, but you can just tell she doesn’t mean it.” If the left of the party is never going to take “yes” for an answer, what’s the point? Why do you care so much if they return your phone calls?

The Clintons have gotten a long way on rhetoric — very clever rhetoric to African Americans, for example.

Those pesky, irrational African-Americans again, always been suckered, never understanding that their best interests lie in letting Republicans run the country until the Democratic Party comes to it senses and nominates Ralph Nader, the only remaining liberal in America.

Now that you mention it, Trump is a fascinating phenomenon. What does his popularity tell you about the electorate and what they want?

Well, and you see this when you walk past construction sites and you talk with white male workers, they feel they have been verbally repressed. It’s hard for someone your age to understand what I’m about to say. They like to stand on a corner and whistle at a pretty lady. They like to flirt. But they can’t do that anymore.

1)What planet is Nader living on that women never get harassed on the street anymore. 2)Calling harassment “flirting” is how you know that Ralph Nader is the Only True Liberal left in America.

You can’t say this about that, and you can’t say that about this. And the employer tells you to hush. And perhaps your spouse tells you to hush, and your kids tell you to hush. So they have a whole language that they inherited — ethnic words like Polack. A lot of these people grew up on ethnic jokes, which are totally taboo now. Do you know, Lydia, there are no ethnic-joke books in bookstores anymore?

There used to be?

All the time. There were Negro-joke books, Jewish-joke books, Polish-joke books, Italian-joke books. They used ethnic jokes to reduce tension in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s. And they’d laugh at each other’s jokes and hurl another one. But it still flows through ethnic America, you know. There are hundreds of things that people would like to say.

“I yearn for the days in which people told lots of racist jokes, which affected all people of all races and ethnicities in pretty much the same way.”

But maybe Ralph is merely describing something he forcefully condemns? Nope — Trump voters in fact Have A Point:

Do you think Trump has a point about political correctness? That we’ve gotten too uptight?

Oh, yeah. You see it on campuses — what is it called, trigger warnings? It’s gotten absurd. I mean, you repress people, you engage in anger, and what you do is turn people into skins that are blistered by moonbeams. Young men now are far too sensitive because they’ve never been in a draft. They’ve never had a sergeant say, “Hit the ground and do 50 push-ups and I don’t care if there’s mud there.”

We need to TOUGHEN THIS GENERATION UP with military discipline. Maybe if we still had the draft young African-Americans would realize that “Negro joke books” are a necessary way for white people to blow off steam.

Lest you accuse him of not being au courant, though, he does offer the definitive blanket opposition to trigger warnings. He doesn’t even necessarily know what they are, but he’s against ’em! No matter what the context, warning students before presenting potentially disturbing material is wrong in principle, and the wrong is so obvious it doesn’t even really have to be explained. Which is regrettable, since I for one still don’t understand what I’m supposed to be offended about.

And the third thing is, he’s a hybrid. I call him a Rep-Dem. He’s got Social Security, Medicare, he’s probably got a hidden single-payer guy, because he’s been around Canada, Western Europe, understands how it works, talks to business people, they don’t have to pay premiums, all of that. And then he’s big on public works.

You can’t believe Hillary Clinton when she supports mainstream Democratic positions. But you sure can believe that Donald Trump secretly supports single-payer and massive public infrastructure investments. And you can bet that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will totally pass laws putting these secret preferences into effect.

Ralph has to go now. His planet needs him.

Stating the Obvious

[ 446 ] June 7, 2016 |


Nate Silver is making sense:

It’s an emblematically annoying ending to the Democratic campaign, one that reflects both the acrimony between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the fact that Clinton, in the end, is winning her party’s nomination by every available measure.

At 8:20 p.m. EDT on Monday night, the Associated Press declared Clinton to be the presumptive Democratic nominee based on her having accumulated 1,812 elected (pledged) delegates and 571 superdelegates, for 2,383 total delegates, exactly the number needed to win the nomination. In the overwhelming likelihood that Clinton’s nomination is confirmed at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia next month, she will officially become the first woman nominated for president by a major American political party.

I don’t really see the point of the AP making an official call in advance of the primaries on Tuesday. On the other hand, the idea that superdelegates were going to overturn the will of the Democratic electorate was always absurd. Clinton won, not because the process was “rigged” but because she got the most votes, by a substantial margin. It was clear before primaries on Tuesday and it will be clear after. So on to November, where the stakes are much higher.

…to add what also should be obvious: 1)The early AP call was dumb but 2)about AP wanting a scoop and nothing else and 3)clearly not in the interests of the Clinton campaign, which was going to have a delegate majority after tonight no matter what but got its parade rained on while adding fire to conspiracy theories about the outcome of the primaries.

Republicans Attack Trump For Repeating Republican Orthodoxy

[ 167 ] June 6, 2016 |


The Donald is upset that Republicans are criticizing him for making racist comments about a federal judge:

Donald Trump said Monday it was “inappropriate” for Newt Gingrich to demand he drop the subject of an American judge’s ethnicity and start acting like “a potential leader of the United States.” But Trump did not comment on the other Republican leaders’ unanimous call for him to lay off the jurist, a sign that the GOP presidential candidate doesn’t want to blow up the fragile truce he has struck with them.

And, you know, Trump has a point. Not because his comments about Curiel aren’t racist — they certainly are. But it is fair to wonder when his arguments somehow became taboo within the Republican Party.

You may remember, for example, the discourse surrounding the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. Her formal credentials were impeccable, essentially identical to Sam Alito’s. And, yet, Republicans routinely described her as “unqualified” because her background meant that she couldn’t be an impartial judge. A particularly common talking point was to compare Sotomayor (Princeton, Yale Law, more than two decade’s worth of experience as a federal judge) with Harriet Miers (SMU, no judicial experience, no experience as a prosecutor, holder of elected office or legal scholar, favorite justice was either Warren Burger or Earl Warren, she’s not sure) because they’re both women and therefore presumptively equally unqualified.

I’m also old enough to remember the National Review‘s chief legal affairs writer arguing that a judge should recuse himself from hearing a same-sex marriage case because he was gay.

In other words, Trump probably got the idea that only straight, conservative white men could be truly impartial judges from…listening to how Republicans talk about judges. No wonder he thinks the circular firing squad is unfair.

Is Suggesting That Judges With Mexican Parents Cannot be Impartial Racist? Views Differ

[ 50 ] June 6, 2016 |


Your elite media:

On Friday’s edition of MSNBC’s “With All Due Respect,” two white guys had a spirited debate over a question that has America stumped: Were the comments Donald Trump made about Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnicity racist? To be fair, it seemed like a conversation only one of them wanted to be having.

The video, flagged by Media Matters, shows Bloomberg journalist Mark Halperin insisting that Trump’s comments were “not racial” because “Mexico is not a race.” His co-host John Heilemann maintains that Trumps’ comments engage in “racial politics” and are designed to “stir up racial animus.”

The co-hosts were responding to remarks Trump has made throughout the week arguing that Curiel should recuse himself from cases involving Trump University, claiming the judge’s “Mexican heritage” is a “conflict of interest.” Curiel was born in Indiana.

With the possible exception of Maureen Dowd’s, no political pundit’s prominence says more about our underachieving and overcompensated elites than Halperin’s.

…speaking of Dowd…

Bloody Bloody Andrew Cuomo

[ 99 ] June 6, 2016 |



The governor, who visited Israel in 2014, said he personally saw miles of sophisticated tunnels dug by terrorists to transport weapons.

“This just shows the determination, the single-mindedness, that these are people who are bent on destroying Israel. That is their purpose,” he said, adding, “How can you have a disproportionate response when you are dealing with an enemy who is obsessed and single-minded? By definition you can’t be disproportionate.

The idea that nothing Israel has done in response to terrorist threats has been disproportionate is, to put it mildly, hard to defend. The idea that nothing it could possibly ever do could be disproportionate…well, res ipsa loquitur.

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