Friday Talking Points [458] -- Gold Star Lies

[ Posted Friday, October 20th, 2017 – 17:41 UTC ]

Call this the week when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly lost all remaining shreds of credibility. Kelly, as we all know, was supposed to bring the adult supervision to the White House that would magically transform Donald Trump into a serious president. A retired Marine Corps general was going to whip the White House into shape, and clear sailing ahead would thus quickly ensue.

That was the plan, at any rate. But this week Kelly was used as a political pawn by Trump, and it didn't exactly go well. By the end of the week, Kelly was just as guilty as his boss of making stuff up when talking to the press, or (to be less polite but more accurate) just flat-out lying. Kelly was supposed to elevate Trump up to his level of competence, but instead what has happened is Kelly got dragged down into the sewer with Trump.

Hey, he knew what he signed up for, right?

Donald Trump started this whole ugly mess when he was asked at an impromptu press conference on Monday why he hadn't said a single word about the deadliest military loss the United States has suffered since he became president in the intervening twelve days. Trump responded by insinuating that he did far more than all previous presidents when it came to contacting the Gold Star families of dead soldiers. He later also stated that he had called every family of every soldier who had died in combat since he had become president. Neither of these claims was true, as the media quickly uncovered.

This put the White House on the defensive, scrambling to correct all of Trump's many mistakes. Letters were hastily signed and sent out. Calls were hastily made to (some) Gold Star families. And a $25,000 check was finally sent to a dead soldier's father, a full four months after Trump had promised him the money (and mere hours after the story broke in the Washington Post). No word yet on whether all the Gold Star families have gotten phone calls from Trump yet, but as of midweek there were at least four or five who hadn't heard from him at all.

General Kelly was in the middle of this whirling disaster. Not only because he is Trump's chief of staff, but because he was apparently the source of the notion that Barack Obama hadn't contacted any Gold Star families. Kelly's 29-year-old son was killed in action and he hadn't been called by Obama (although he was invited to a Gold Star families meal at the White House later on and sat at Michelle Obama's table). So Kelly was trotted out in the White House press briefing room in an attempt to get beyond the issue.

Unfortunately for him, he decided to channel his boss, and attacked a congresswoman from the podium. His attack contained two huge lies, neither of which has been yet answered by the White House.

The congresswoman in question, Frederica Wilson, had been a lifelong friend of the Gold Star family. She had mentored the dead soldier and helped him get into the military through a youth outreach program she runs (the "5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project"). She had even been the principal of a school the soldier's father had attended, and had known the family for decades. These people are not just random constituents of a random congresswoman, in other words. This was obvious because she was present with the family when Trump's condolence call came in. She had been invited by them to listen in, in other words.

Since the call, she has been quite vocal over the content of the call, which she called "insensitive" and "horrible." According to her, the pregnant wife of the dead soldier was in tears by the end of the call, not through grief over her loss but rather from the disrespect the president had shown. "He didn't even remember his name," the widow told Representative Wilson.

This was John Kelly's first mistake. During his appearance in front of the press, Kelly stated: "It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. It stuns me. I thought at least that was sacred." For the record, on the other end of the phone line, John Kelly was sitting in the room with Trump, listening in to the call. So he's shocked that someone would listen in to a "sacred" call that he himself was listening in to. Got it.

But Kelly didn't stop there. Ignorant of her connections to the family, and apparently still too lazy to research the matter, Kelly has not since backed down from his position that the congresswoman had committed some sort of impropriety by listening to the phone call she had been invited to listen to by the dead soldier's pregnant widow. Even that wasn't enough, though. Kelly, in true Trumpian fashion, then attacked the messenger even further:

And a congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building [a Miramar, Fla., FBI building named after two slain FBI agents], and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.

Wilson responded, on CNN:

I feel sorry for General Kelly. He has my sympathy for the loss of his son, but he can't just go on TV and lie on me. I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured, so that's a lie. How dare he!

That's where things stand, today. Trump lies about Gold Star families, lies about all past presidents (but most especially Barack Obama), and was caught in a lie he told to a Gold Star father's face to the tune of $25,000. Kelly was then sent out in the teeth of all these lies and made things worse by telling a few whoppers of his own. And, astonishingly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now suggesting that it is "highly inappropriate" to "get into a debate with a four-star Marine general" over whether he had flat-out lied to the press and inaccurately smeared a member of Congress.

The moral of this story is: When you lie down with dogs, don't be surprised when you wake up with fleas. John Kelly has become more than just another enabler of Trump's lies, he is now making up his own lies to supplement them. That sound you just heard was the last shred of Kelly's respectability and trustworthiness flying out the window, in other words.

Trump, during the 12 days between when the soldiers were killed and when he uttered a single word about them, was busy playing lots of golf and amping up the fight over professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem. So perhaps it was appropriate that the best takedown of Trump all week came from the coach of the San Antonio Spurs:

This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner -- and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers -- is as low as it gets.

The Gold Star story dominated the political news this week, but there were plenty of other things happening as well. Republican Senator Bob Corker led the week off with a rather extraordinary quote: "You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state." This led to an even-more-extraordinary quote, when Rex Tillerson responded after being asked about the castration charge: "I checked. I'm fully intact." Just another day in the Trump cabinet, folks!

Last Sunday, CBS (in a joint effort with the Washington Post) aired a story on 60 Minutes about how Congress kneecapped the D.E.A.'s efforts to rein in the flood of opioids, and this quickly resulted in the withdrawal of the nomination of Tom Marino to be the nation's new "drug czar." Marino was the one who came up with this odious piece of legislation in the first place, so it's good to know a Big Pharma shill won't be watching the henhouse.

Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban 3.0" was shot down by two federal judges this week, meaning his record of losing in court over the issue remains unbroken. Please remember, this was supposed to be a temporary 90-day ban, and Trump's been pushing it for over 9 months now....

Puerto Rico is still in dire straights, as a full month after Hurricane Maria hit fewer than twenty percent of the people have electricity. Trump held a joint appearance with the governor of Puerto Rico, in which he gave himself a 10 for his efforts. The governor refused to agree that Trump was the best president of all time, and the public currently only gives the president a 4 out of 10 for his lackadaisical and ineffective recovery efforts.

Fox News blows it (part 1): Fox aired a story featuring a Navy SEAL with two Purple Hearts, but as it turns out none of that was true. They were forced -- belatedly, after over 10 days -- into issuing a retraction: "The fact is that he did not serve in Vietnam. He was never a U.S. Navy SEAL. Even though he showed us medals, [John] Garofalo was not awarded two Purple Hearts or any of the other nearly two dozen commendations he claimed to have received, except for the National Defense Service Medal." In other words, it was all fake news.

Fox News blows it (part deux): John McCain smacked down Peter Doocy on Fox this week, after Doocy asked him: "Has your relationship with the president frayed to the point that you are not going to support anything that he comes to you and asks for?" McCain shot back:

Why would you say something that stupid? Why would you ask something that dumb? Huh? My job as a United States senator, is a senator from Arizona, which I was just reelected to. You mean that I am somehow going to behave in a way that I'm going to block everything because of some personal disagreement? That's a dumb question.

What else? Steve Bannon announced he's conducting open warfare against the GOP establishment, and will be primarying every Republican in the Senate. Trump didn't seem too concerned about this, when asked. But then he said almost the exact opposite thing later in the day, so who really knows?

A budget bill made it through the Senate which will blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit. But then again, Republicans never seem to care about balancing the budget when a Republican is in the White House, do they?

And finally, we end on an amusing note about one Republican running to replace Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida. Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera has a colorful history, according to her. When she was a small child, she was kidnapped by tall, blond aliens, who "wore robes, spoke telepathically and were in a round spaceship." She saw them again as a teenager, too. As if this weren't enough:

She also claimed that the center of energy is in Africa; that 30,000 skulls different from human skulls are in a subterranean cave on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean; and that Coral Castle, a limestone structure in South Florida, is an ancient pyramid.

Um... Oooo-kay. Can't wait to see what her opponents have to say about all of this!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got a whole slew of Honorable Mention awards to hand out before we get to the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, so let's just get right to it, shall we?

Barack Obama was back on the campaign trail this week, pleading with Virginia voters: "We need you to take this seriously. Our democracy is at stake... Elections matter. Voting matters. You can’t take anything for granted. You can’t sit this one out." But the real reason he gets an Honorable Mention is that he got a school named after him -- the Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School, in (of all places) Mississippi. The reason this is so impressive? It used to be named for Jefferson Davis.

Bernie Sanders sat down for a debate with Ted Cruz on taxes and the budget this week, where he also sounded like he was on the campaign trail. We'll have excerpts from this later, in the talking points.

Al Franken was part of a Senate committee questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, and Franken pointed out how Sessions had changed his answer on his contacts with Russians during the campaign several times, calling this "moving the goal posts... We're starting off with an extra point, and by the end we're going to a 75-yard field goal." Here was the best question Franken asked Sessions:

First it was, "I did not have communications with Russians," which was not true. Then it was, "I never met with any Russians to discuss any political campaign," which may or may not be true. Now it's, "I did not discuss interference in the campaign," which further narrows your initial blanket denial about meeting with the Russians. Since you have qualified your denial to say that since you did not, quote, "discuss issues of the campaign" with Russians, what in your view constitutes "issues of the campaign?"

Franken also later snarkily pointed out to Sessions: "The ambassador to Russia is Russian." Hoo boy.

Larry Flynt deserves mention, for running an ad in the Washington Post last Sunday promising up to $10 million for anyone who brings him solid proof that leads to the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump. As we noted earlier in the week, Flynt has already successfully used this tactic previously (see: Bob Livingston, David Vitter).

We have one final Honorable Mention award, for a legislative accomplishment. It goes to Senator Tom Udall and Representative David E. Price, for introducing the "We The People" Democracy Reform Act of 2017 [PDF download]. This bill is targeted at multiple problems with American elections:

As a summary of the House version of the bill notes, "Corporations, labor unions, Super PACs and other groups would be required to have their top official appear in and take responsibility for the ads, and the top five donors to a group would have to be listed in the ads." Voters should know who is trying to influence them.

The bill also takes on gerrymandering by requiring states to establish independent citizen redistricting commissions to draw congressional district boundaries. It fights voter suppression by establishing automatic and same-day voter registration nationwide. And it addresses some of President Trump’s specific abuses. It requires all presidential nominees to release their income-tax returns. Both the president and vice president would have to divest themselves from any financial interest posing a potential conflict. Presidential visitor logs would also be made public.

This bill probably has no chance of passing in the current Congress, but when Democrats are back in control, it'll still be waiting patiently for a vote.

We have three Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards this week (as you can tell, Democrats have been pretty impressive this week). The first two go to Senators Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine, for looking beyond the short-term fight over healthcare reform and introducing a bill to create a real "public option," or (as they call it) "Medicare-X." What would this plan do?

It would allow anyone to buy into a publicly provided plan using the network of Medicare providers and physicians, at similar rates, with lower-income workers receiving tax credits for the plan. In its first years of operation, this new Medicare option would be available only in counties that have one or no providers offering insurance on the ACA's private exchanges.

It would eventually phase in to all counties and would effectively serve as what Democrats called the "public option" in 2009 and 2010, when they debated and passed the health law under President Barack Obama. The public option, passed in the original draft by the House, could not clear a filibuster in the Senate and was dropped from the final bill. That came even though Democrats had 60 members in their caucus, enough to clear a filibuster, because several opposed a public option.

Bennet and Kaine are offering a proposal that they believe is both realistic and politically viable. The original targets for Medicare-X would be in rural areas that have been hardest hit by insurance providers fleeing ACA exchanges.

This would create, Bennet said in a statement given to The Washington Post, "a plan that begins to fix this problem by giving families and individuals a meaningful and affordable alternative."

"Consumers can compare it with available private options and make the choice best for their health," Kaine said.

Since we have long been calling on Democrats to do exactly this, we had to award (and applaud) the efforts of two senators who drafted actual public option legislation.

But the public option plan is another one that will likely sit on the shelf until Democrats retake Congress. Our final MIDOTW goes to Senator Patty Murray, for coming up with a short-term compromise with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander to stabilize the Obamacare markets and restore the cost-sharing payments Trump just unilaterally ended.

Alexander and Murray have been working on this effort since the summer, when it became obvious that the Republican-only "repeal and replace Obamacare" was going to fail. There is no guarantee this short-term plan will pass both houses of Congress, especially since Donald Trump has been all over the map on the issue within the space of a few short hours. First he was for it, then against it, then maybe for it again or maybe it'll get done by the end of the year somehow. This led Chuck Schumer to make a rather extraordinary statement on the Senate floor: "This president keeps zigging and zagging. Our only hope is maybe tomorrow, he'll be for this bill."

But no matter the chances Trump will support it and no matter the chances of passage, Patty Murray deserves to be applauded for the effort it took to hammer out a compromise over such a contentious issue. It isn't perfect, but it's a whole lot better than what Trump is about to cause. For this rare bipartisan achievement, Murray certainly deserves a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Senator Michael Bennet on his Senate contact page, Senator Tim Kaine on his Senate contact page, and Senator Patty Murray on her Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. While the D.N.C. met for their annual meeting this week, Perez pushed out a whole bunch of progressives from key committee positions, in favor of giving these jobs to people like Donna Brazile:

The latest argument began after DNC Chairman Tom Perez nominated a new slate of members for little-known but influential party committees. That slate, slightly younger and more diverse than the last one, did not include some of the highest-profile supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential bid and Rep. Keith Ellison's failed bid to run the DNC, which had been backed by Sanders (I-Vt.).

"It's a lot of really good people who deserved better," said James Zogby, a longtime DNC member who is being replaced on the executive committee. "I'd say they're making way for new blood, but it's not that at all. We were Keith Ellison supporters. The optics of it are bad."

Ellison (D-Minn.), who was made deputy chair of the party after his defeat, was among the new nominees to replace Zogby, and through a spokesman he noted that he'd given Perez a list of contenders for the jobs. One of the highest-profile Democrats removed from the new list was Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender member of the DNC. The new list -- which, according to DNC spokesman Michael Tyler, was based on recommendations from state parties -- included a different transgender member, Marisa Richmond.

Nonetheless, a meeting that Democrats hoped would close the door on the bitter 2016 primary produced yet another activists-vs.-establishment fight. What was reported as a "shake-up" by NBC News became, in Vanity Fair, "DNC chair purges dissenters." At Splinter, it became "The DNC Cuts High-Profile Trans, POC Members From Party's Left Wing in the Name of 'Diversity.'"

Some Sanders supporters attacked the DNC for making former chair Donna Brazile an at-large member, pointing to a 2016 scandal in which Brazile passed the Clinton campaign rough drafts of two questions at CNN candidate events. Brazile, then a CNN contributor, left the network after WikiLeaks published her emails to the campaign.

Just what we need to put a new face on the Democratic Party! Now, this is pretty esoteric stuff, but one of the committees in question will deal with changes to the superdelegate system. As the article later points out: "Five of the Clinton-appointed members of the Unity Commission are on that committee; none of the Sanders-appointed members are."

Tom Perez had the Herculean job of bringing the party back together, but this really isn't the way to go about doing that. Which is why he gets this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on his contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 458 (10/20/17)

We're going to start this week's talking points with Bernie Sanders quotes, and end it with quotes from John McCain and George W. Bush. That's a pretty rollicking ride, so we'd advise you to buckle up!


   Bernie v. Ted Cruz (part 1)

These first two come from the epic debate between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Salon has a list of the eight best moments of the debate, if you want more. Nobody explains budgetary stuff in clearer language than Bernie, that's for sure.

In two minutes, Senator Cruz is going to tell you that if we give tax breaks to the billionaires like George W. Bush did, like Ronald Reagan did, we're going to create zillions of jobs and you're all going to become very, very rich, that we have a trickle-down economic theory, tax breaks for the wealthiest people, the largest corporations, and, whoa, everything is good. That is a totally fraudulent theory.


   Bernie v. Ted Cruz (part 2)

Bernie gets a little more specific in this one, and every Democrats should also memorize these facts because they make great talking points.

Let's examine what Senator Cruz really wants to do. He wants to see legislation passed that would give $1.9 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, significantly increase the national debt being passed on to our kids and our grandchildren. And in order to pay for these tax breaks for billionaires, he wants to throw 15 million people off of Medicaid, cut Medicare by over $450 billion, cut Pell Grants, cut programs like the WIC program -- women, infant and children program -- designed for low-income pregnant women and their little babies.


   Deficit hawks actually chicken hawks

Hit Republicans where it hurts them the most -- in their hypocrisy.

"Whenever a Democrat is in the White House, we can't seem to hear enough from Republicans about the deficit and the national debt. 'Balance the budget!' they repeatedly scream. But the Republican Congress just passed a budget with a gigantic $1.5 trillion hole in it, so they can cut taxes on their billionaire friends some more. All the GOP deficit hawks have morphed into chicken hawks, it seems. Deficit spending is hunky-dory, as long as it all goes to Wall Street and the wealthiest of the wealthy. Or, I guess, whenever a Republican is in the White House. The hypocrisy is just staggering, folks."


   Legalize it and save lives

There's not much data yet, but if this turns out to be the case everywhere, then it creates a rather strong argument for legalization.

"President Trump promised he'd be officially declaring a national emergency on the opioid abuse problem which is killing so many Americans. But there's one thing that could immediately be done to reduce the number of deaths -- legalize marijuana. Numerous studies have already shown that states with medical marijuana available have reduced opioid deaths, but a new study in the American Journal of Public Health shows that recreational legalization also has a beneficial effect. Quoting from the study: 'After Colorado's legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6 percent in the following 2 years.' So the experts have proven that legalizing recreational marijuana saves lives. If the federal government were serious about reducing the death rate, it would wholeheartedly support state legalization efforts."


   Speaking of marijuana...

This was a pretty stunning story, that was almost completely ignored by the media.

"In the 'Kettle Falls Five' federal court case against five people who were growing marijuana in accordance with Washington state law, the federal government just admitted that they were the ones in the wrong. In a court filing, the Department of Justice admitted that they were, quote, 'not authorized to spend money on the prosecution of the defendants after December of 2014 because the defendants strictly complied with the Washington state medical marijuana laws,' unquote. As the spokesperson for the accused put it: 'This case has turned the justice system completely on its head. Here we have prosecutors admitting that it's the D.O.J. who is breaking federal law, not the other way around.' This case should have been closed long ago, in other words, because not closing it was actually illegal."


   Republicans criticize Trump (part 1)

Two prominent Republicans both took the opportunity to slam not only Donald Trump, but pretty much everything he stands for this week. The first to do so was John McCain, speaking while accepting a freedom award. McCain minces no words, essentially calling Trumpism unpatriotic.

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain "the last best hope of Earth" for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history. We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't.


   Republicans criticize Trump (part 2)

The second Republican to berate Trump (without ever mentioning him by name) was none other than George W. Bush. His speech is worth reading in full, in fact. Here are the highlights:

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions -- forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism -- forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade -- forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments....

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values....

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.

-- Chris Weigant


All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


36 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [458] -- Gold Star Lies”

  1. [1] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    So, exactly how does a federal requirement of same-day registration affect all-vote-by-mail states. Ignoring whether it's constitutional for the feds to mandate states in such a manner wrt voting, vote-by-mail states would find such a requirement difficult/impossible to implement.

  2. [2] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Vote-by-mail has been shown to increase turnout. Any fed recommendation that harms that movement is definitely NOT worthy of an honorable mention in the MIDOTW category!

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Trump is an excremental Midas: anything he touches turns into shit. The unfortunate General Kelly was no exception.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Hey, he knew what he signed up for, right?

    Aren't we clever? Very well done, sir.

    I'm sure we've all heard the idiom "you don't know the half of it." Well, Kelly does know "half of it," but it'll be interesting as all "get out" to see his reaction when he gets wind of the other half. :)

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:

    Oh where oh where is "Punk" a.k.a. "altohone." It was he who predicted General Kelly's exit would be around Halloween.

    Trick or Treat, Punk! The end draws nigh. :)

  6. [6] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Shame on you!

    Quoting from the study: 'After Colorado's legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6 percent in the following 2 years.' So the experts have proven that legalizing recreational marijuana saves lives.

    As in favor of legalization as you are, I’d hope that you wouldn’t fall for and promote false facts like this! My dog died in the following 2years as well; so does that prove that he was killed by marijuana? NO! (He died from an OD of catnip and Grey Goose, sadly.)

  7. [7] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    I live in WA and I love that we vote by mail here! It has made it so much easier to vote! For those that worry that this could lead to people stealing ballots as they are mailed out and falsifying votes, a ballot must have a signature that matches your signature that is on file with the Sec. Of State’s office.

    And I can attest that it works: I put it to the test this past year by signing the ballot differently — and by “differently” I mean that I got a friend to sign my ballot for me. A week or so later, I got a letter from the Elections Board saying that my ballot was being held and they needed me to turn in a new signature card before they would count my vote since the signatures did not match. I was happy to see that they caught the difference in my signatures.

  8. [8] 
    andygaus wrote:

    "Puerto Rico is still in dire straights." Straits are tight places; straights are men who like to have sex with women. Some of those can be dire, as we have seen, but I don't think that was your point. By the way, as a bit of preventive medicine, straitjackets are not straightjackets for the same reason. They're supposed to be tight, rather than having clean simple lines.

  9. [9] 
    BigGuy wrote:

    CW -Your "deadliest loss of military life" needs further narrowing as the Department of the Navy has had tpat least three unfortunate incidents claiming more than four lives each. Sure they were not in combat, but they were on duty.


  10. [10] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Listen [8]
    Yeah, I'm in OR and Vote-by-Mail is great.

    I was less worried about stolen ballots.

    Where I saw the greatest potential for "fraud" was coercion by a family member. Husband coercing wife, in particular, in the eastern part of the state. That doesn't seem to be happening too much, though.

    I'm not sure about Don [4] and same-day registration working so well. Should it come to pass, we'll see what happens.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I wonder if General Kelly is stunned by how the GWOT has developed over the past 16 years ...

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Do you have anything to contribute here other than correcting the presumed mistakes of others?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    See [15]

  14. [14] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    My ballot was tossed. I could have included a letter explaining that I had shattered my hand and had to have screws put in my hand which is why I had authorized my friend signing on my behalf, but did not since my ballot would not have changed the outcome of any races. (Who knew ultimate frisbee was such a dangerous sport? ; D )

    My decision not to support One Demand is because I refuse to only have ONE demand of candidates in order to gain my support!

    Are those votes for Homer Simpson or Deez Nuts that are written in for elections all over the country all from One Demand supporters?

    Here’s a thought: Maybe you have your supporters write in “One Demand” on the ballots instead of their own name so that people realize that they aren’t being narcissistic or silly — they are actually protesting something!!! Protests tend not to have much influence on people if no one realizes a protest is occurring!

  15. [15] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Here’s the thing about Rep. Wilson that I think most publications have missed — She wasn’t reacting like a politician; she was reacting like a mother bear to an insensitive asshat who had upset and hurt the grieving family of a fallen soldier!

    When the story first broke, I read one account where she had supposedly said she tried to get the family to hand her the phone so she could cuss Trump out! This wasn’t a woman who had simply listened to the words Trump said and twisted their meaning for her own benefit — she witnessed firsthand the effect that Trump’s callous words had on people she cared about and she was furious!

    Wilson just needs to ask Kelly if he was sitting with the Gold Star family when Trump called them, because she didn’t know he could see their reactions to Trump’s words like she could. The fact that Kelly had to explain what is was that Trump was attempting to convey to this family is proof enough that Wilson’s account of the conversation was accurate!

  16. [16] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    If you haven’t seen this new ad from Burger King addressing bullying, you should give it a look! My hat is off to BK for this one!

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Steve Bannon announced he's conducting open warfare against the GOP establishment, and will be primarying every Republican in the Senate.

    Except Ted Cruz! What the hay? Bannon finally decides to make himself somewhat useful but declines to mess with Texas. We feel neglected.

    Go Astros!

  18. [18] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller [16]
    Hey, andygaus [11] was funny. You always have to cut some slack for funny.

  19. [19] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Kick [20]
    The Mercers really like Ted Cruz. They're major financial benefactors of Bannon. What? Did you think Bannon was acting from some sense of right and wrong (in his mind)? Get real!

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i used to play ultimate at a fairly high level (open regionals), so i'm fully aware that the level of physical exertion ultimate requires is nothing to sneeze at. sorry about your injury though.


  21. [21] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    Kelly said he didn't get a call from President Obama when his son was killed. Was his son married? Did his son's wife get the call? If not, then did his son's mother get the call? Just because Kelly didn't get the call does not mean no call was made.

  22. [22] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don H

    Help an old fogey/newcomer, what exactly is "One Demand"?

  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:


    The Mercers really like Ted Cruz.

    Yes, Speak, I know about the hedge fund billionaire Mercers/Cambridge Analytica and their connections with Cruz/Conway/Bannon/Trump and his campaign.

    What? Did you think Bannon was acting from some sense of right and wrong (in his mind)? Get real!

    What? Did you assume that just because I opined that Bannon "finally decides to make himself somewhat useful" that it meant I thought he was doing it out of a sense of moral rectitude, honesty, or integrity?

    I needed a good laugh. Thank you. Even spiders make themselves useful by eating bugs. :)

  24. [24] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Got blindsided the other day by a Republican who was talking about "Uraniumgate", a scandal that he said involved Clinton, Obama, Mueller and Comey selling our nukes to the Russians.

    I had no idea of what he was talking about.

    It turns out that last Wednesday, The Hill published an article headlined:

    FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

    and that article set Fox off, and Fox set my friend off. Dominoes.

    I'm going post a link in the next comment to a very good article in Slate about what Fox did with the story. Needless to say, the Hill story was music to their ears.

    But there are several problems up front with that Hill story, which conflates upfront an FBI investigation that nobody knew about at the time (I'll get to that), and the multiagency review of the partial sale of a Canadian mining company, Uranium One, to the Russian energy company Rosatom, which, the authors added, "(gives) Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply."

    But that's just false. Uranium One remained under the control of the Canadians. The mines are on Canadian soil, for chrissake. Moreover, America has lots of places it could buy Uranium from; we even have Uranium mines that we could stimulate to boost production if we needed to. I heard one expert say just now on the BBC that the amount of Uranium involved in this deal, total, is only about 2% of the world's supply. In other words, we bought some of our Uranium from Canada because that's handy, and we like Canadians.

    The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which (gasp!) included both Clinton (i.e., the State Dept.) and Eric Holder (i.e., the Justice Department), unanimously approved the transaction, because they could find no reason not to - there are no allegations even to this date that there was anything wrong with the deal itself. It's worth noting that Canada had given the matter a fairly rigorous review themselves, before it even reached the Americans for sign-off.

    For her part, Clinton had nothing to do with the matter, according to her spokesman. The State Department official who regularly handled those sorts of matters, and had prepared this one, said she “never intervened ... on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”

    So much for the Russian money given to the Clinton Foundation that was supposed to influence the deal. Money down the drain, apparently, unless it happened to come up at a staff meeting.

    Besides, the reporters source the allegations of impropriety regarding the Clinton Foundation to "conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times", who first raised the issue in 2015, during the campaign.

    Schweitzer, you might recall, is the author of the Anti-Clinton bestseller titled "Clinton Cash", a book so riddled with inaccuracies and so thoroughly debunked so often that it truly deserves zombie status by now, at least.

    So there's that half of the Hill story, so I'll continue in the next post -

  25. [25] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    So the other half of the Hill story that I've described in my previous post is the story about a Russian named Vadim Mikerin. Mikerin, the article says, was a director of Rosatom’s Tenex in Moscow since the early 2000s, where he oversaw Rosatom’s nuclear collaboration with the United States under the Megatons to Megwatts program and its commercial uranium sales to other countries.

    But Mikerin apparently defined 'collaboration' as 'bribery, extortion and kickbacks', and was on the FBI's screens as early as 2009, when (gasp!) Robert Mueller was still the head of the agency.

    In late 2009, the FBI recruited an American Businessman doing business with Mikerin as an informant. The first kickback payment recorded by the FBI through its informant was dated Nov. 27, 2009 (nearly a year before the CFIUS rendered its decision, if you're keeping track).

    I imagine the agency was overjoyed, then, when in 2010 Mikerin was sent to the US on a work visa (approved by the gasp! Obama Administration, the article notes, unnecessarily) to open Rosatom’s new American arm called Tenam.

    It is at this point, I assume, that the authors of the article believe that the DOJ should have lowered the boom on Mikerin and Rosatom, alerting government officials to the corruption going on in America's heartland on the Russians' behalf. They write that the agency: "continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions."

    So are the writers of this piece suggesting some sort of collusion between the White House, State Department and Justice department to deliberately withhold critical information from decision makers, so that the Canadian deal would be approved?

    Rather, are they suggesting that the FBI should have cut short an investigation that had essentially just gotten started and had experienced a recent windfall in the person of Mikerin, whom they could follow and wiretap to their hearts' content, now that he was on US soil, in order that a Russian company not be allowed to establish a minority stake in a Canadian mining company?

    Neither scenario makes any sense to me.

    The investigation into Mikerin's activities, ultimately supervised by (gasp!) then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, not only netted Mikerin, who ended up, after a plea deal, paying a $2.1 million fine, and having to serve four years in one of our finest Federal Corrections institutions, but also according to the article, "proved a gold mine, in part because it uncovered a new Russian money laundering apparatus that routed bribe and kickback payments through financial instruments in Cyprus, Latvia and Seychelles."

    This is information that could prove mighty useful in Mueller's current Russia investigation, wherein, for instance, Manafort's dealings with a bank in Cyprus is a thing.

    So to sum up, the article in the Hill on which the current Republican "Uraniumgate" scandal is predicated is either a deliberately confusing hit piece or tragically confused piece of reporting that suggests connections that don't actually exist, provides information that isn't relevant, and darkly suggests corruption by Obama administration officials without any supporting evidence. It's not only fake, but also recycled news. I rest my case.

    Now, here's the link that I promised:

    Fox News Found a Russia Story It Likes: Obama and Clinton Were the Real Colluders!

  26. [26] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Nice work Balthasar!

  27. [27] 
    Paula wrote:

    Balthasar: Good rundown. I haven't followed this story closely because its pretty clearly another false equivalency attempt. It seems the righties, as usual, are more intent on trying to prove Dems also-do-bad-things then they are to prove Repubs haven't. They seem to think they can't be judged for anything they do so long as somewhere in time some Dem did something "similar". Two wrongs make a right for them, but a wrong for Dems.

  28. [28] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don H Thanx, but you may not be living in the harsh reality of the real world of politics.

  29. [29] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    conventional political wisdom said that Bernie could not raise enough money through small contributions and was only supposed to get about 3% of the primary vote and Trump had no chance of winning the Republican primary much less the presidency.

    And then Vladimir said, "let's see what we can do to even those odds", and spent a billion dollars on an underground smear campaign against Clinton.

    And we now know that Trump was taking big money from his billionaire buddies all along. You didn't think he was really paying for all that with his money if he didn't have to, did you?

    Why the value of having Mercer's data mining operation at his disposal alone was worth tens of millions of dollars, and Trump's own polling/data operation mirrored it(or, by some accounts, outdid it).

    The main problem with One Demand is that, since Republicans wouldn't in a million years support it, it amounts to unilateral disarmament by the Left at the very same time that Citizens United and other easing of campaign finance laws have flooded the Right's coffers with cash.

  30. [30] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Thank you Stig, and Paula for your nice words about my 'Uraniumgate' rundown at [29-30].

    Like you Paula, this wasn't even on my radar, until I was confronted with it. Once I realized that they were deliberately convoluting the story in order to obscure the flaws in their logic, I felt that it was my civic duty to try to sort it out here.

    It seems the righties, as usual, are more intent on trying to prove Dems also-do-bad-things than they are to prove Repubs haven't. They seem to think they can't be judged for anything they do so long as somewhere in time some Dem did something "similar".

    Yeah, the old 'equivalency' argument is a favorite, because it plays to that base instinct of 'fairness' that makes a twin throw a fit when her sibling is allowed to do something she can't.

    Her parents may know that, based on past behavior, the one is more trustworthy with certain things than her sibling, but that doesn't stop the tears.

    Similarly, the Right throws a fit whenever their agenda is challenged, but everyone knows that if you don't keep a legal and legislative eye on them, they'll start passing laws that grant windfalls to billionaires, disadvantage already oppressed communities, or militarize and/or privatize government functions. That's just fact.

    And in this case, they don't seem to understand that colluding with a foreign power to undermine democratic institutions is not the same as allowing that same foreign power to conduct legal business transactions in Canada, with standard restrictions.

    But I've given up believing that Republicans actually have 'principles' - not since they elected a this dim-witted playboy bigot to the White House, anyway. They just want to be pulled along in the wake of his populist, mindless, juggernaut as long as they can. It's despicable.

  31. [31] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don Harris

    I've always suspected that money is grossly overrated as a dominant influence on voters. I, and pretty much everybody I've ever known, cast our votes based on either ideological or economic (pocketbook) issues.

    The fundamental political division between the right and the left will always be, does the voter in question expect to get more back from the common pot than he contributes, or does he expect to get back less than he kicks in.

    The former always vote left, the latter always vote right, and nobody much ever changes his mind based on political advertising.

    If politicians recognized that verity, they could spend a great deal less time and money on campaigning.

  32. [32] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    P.S. BTW, don't make the mistake of concluding from that, that I don't think money has a major influence on politicians. It has a HUGE influence on those who manage to get elected. I just don't think it changes the minds of many voters as to whom to vote for.

  33. [33] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    So then you are saying that because Republicans take Big Money that it's all right for Democrats to take Big Money?

    Actually, yes, if that's what it takes for Democrats to compete. Money is not inherently evil: charities, for instance, regularly solicit, manage and distribute large piles of it every day. Of more importance is who the donors are. That's why I do believe in total transparency by politicians.

    It has been established that candidates can raise enough money from small contributions.

    I don't think that's true on the national level, and state races are increasingly expensive. Bernie may have actually proved the opposite, because even though he did well enough early on with smaller donations (and some free network time), to compete with Hillary in California, for instance, required that he accept significant cash infusion from bigger donors. Political advertising ain't cheap.

  34. [34] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    My take is more people were influenced by the truth than by lies spread by Putin.

    But enough folks may have been influenced by the lies being spread around the internet to affect the election (which, remember, was won by just 0.02% in Wisconsin). Getting to the 'truth' about the Clintons requires that one wade through so much untruth, demagoguery and partisan bullshit that I fear that mere mortals such as you and I can never be assured that we have the full unvarnished picture.
    I know this: she'd have been light years better for our futures than the present idiot-in-chief.

  35. [35] 
    Paula wrote:

    Mixed in all these issues IS not only Russian covert activities in media/social media, but it now turns out Iran may also have been doing something similar.

    Per a long tweetstorm by J.J. Mcnab, Russians have been inserting themselves into media and social media for the last NINE years, spreading disinformation and actively fomenting anti-government (to both left and right) and anti-everyone-not-white (to the right). Jill Stein and Alex Jones have been appearing on Russia Today for years as well as in some kind of Iranian media outlet. (David Walman reports on this here:

    This is a big deal and must be both exposed and addressed -- once, and if, the traitors currently in the WH are gone. Among other things, Blotus himself is swallowing a lot of this crap which makes its way to FOX/Breitbart, etc.

  36. [36] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    now turns out Iran may also have been doing something similar.

    Good lord, what is this, the Orient Express? Next we'll hear that North Koreans were posing as Wisconsinites, and that ISIS had a mailing campaign!

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