SocraticGadfly: 3/17/19 - 3/24/19

March 23, 2019

What's next for Trump after the Mueller Report

Attorney General Bill Barr released his Mueller Report letter Friday. While we have yet to see the full, or nearly full, report, the key takeaway is no more indictments by Mueller. And, via Splinter, here is the full Barr letter.

That is no shock to me, and expected a month ago.

I know Kossack Dead Enders like Marcy have halfway accepted reality while at the same time dangling a bone or two to their followers. On Twitter, she claimed that maybe there was a "conspiracy" (finally dropping the word "collusion," for which there is no federal statute) but that Mueller couldn't see it through to charges — whether because it didn't clear a high enough legal bar or forces were arrayed against him.

Marcy's now butt-hurt again and making up BS, this time about the Barr Letter. Section 1? No, Trump has never officially dangled a pardon for Manafort, Marcy. There may have been elliptical talk, but nope, nothing close to explicit.

Meanwhile, Marcy's fans asked her if she was ever going to reveal the alleged threat against her or whatever. That, of course, assumes there was a real, actual threat.

Per this tweet:
Marcy, per the end of the post linked above, doesn't appear ready to name a name.

Reality? Even if Congressional Dems force the full report into public eye, there's still no Donut Twitter collusion "there" there. (Ben Wittes at Lawfare, who should know federal law better than Marcy Wheeler, still uses "collusion" in his spin on the report release. He goes Marcy-like otherwise on citing "reasonable doubt," in his case, referring to obstruction of justice."

That said, Barr can be faulted on other things. Like rushing to put out his cover letter as a possible spinning. Popehat takes him to task. So does Neal Katyal, including the rush to judge that Trump did not obstruct justice in firing Comey. I don't think he did, esp. since Rosenstein was on board. Plus, Barr's legal POV is that such can never be, in and of itself, obstruction. I halfway, but not totally, disagree with Barr.

Whether Trump obstructed justice elsewhere may still be an open question. But, I don't have to subscribe to Barr's version of broad executive branch powers on hiring and firing subordinates to say that in this particular case — because Rosenstein agreed — there was no obstruction. (That is, if Rosenstein had not signed off on the Comey firing, I'd have charged Trump.) **

Renato Mariotti also piles on Barr. And, IMO, goes too far. The standard of justice for criminal vs civil law, "beyond a reasonable doubt" vs "preponderance of evidence," was written precisely for this. And, frankly, I don't think 11 open-minded federal jurors would civilly convict Trump on an election-related conspiracy between Putin and Trump. (Mariotti uses the criminal law standard in his piece, but IMO, he clearly wants to frame things in civil law standards. And, he's far from along.)

It does seem clear that Barr's "broad powers" take may have hamstrung the "legally conservative" Mueller. And, perhaps intentionally.

What we really have, as I see it, is a lot of Donut Twitter wishing criminal law worked like civil law — preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt. But, that AIN'T the way it works, quite fortunately.

Speaking of that, the Disease of Marcy has spread to The New Republic. There, she assumes facts not in post-conviction legal evidence about Roger Stone, among other things.

Outside of legal theories, though, Trump's repeated public dialog on Twitter, per the Washington Post, means that obstruction would be hard to prove for other reasons. I don't see "corrupt intent" in the Comey firing, again. And, since Mueller did not find "collusion" (in the generic sense) other obstruction charged folded like a cheap deck of cards. Marcy? Talk to the hand of Rosenstein. As I said, with no "collusion," everything else related to that falls apart.

Per Katyal, I fault Mueller most for never pushing for a direct interview with Trump. There was no "collusion," but ... as the investigation morphed, Mueller shouldn't have shut it without this. Popehat is right that Mueller is "legally conservative," but this was too far.

Rick Hasen also weighs in with other concerns at Slate. Did Don Jr. offer a thing of value in the Trump Tower meeting? Did he even solicit the Russian information? I disagree with Rick, respectfully. I do agree that campaign finance charges were a possibility but ... see below.

That said, I do think the House needs to haul Barr in front of it. And with a subpoena, not just an agreement to talk. I also think Nadler or whomever should call Mueller up, too. And, again, under subpoena. If he really is "legally conservative," per Popehat, he'll be fully responsive to everything asked under a subpoena. More so than just under general oath-taking.

And, as others note, Trump isn't out of the woods.

It is true that federal district court in New York has cases still to investigate. And, with state courts there looking at other items, who knows what could still happen. Campaign finance charges could be part of this indeed, per Hasen. Remember, the Stone case is now in those hands. (Constitutional sidebar: Nothing's stopping a state court from indicting a sitting president, as I see it, any more than SCOTUS said that there was nothing stopping the Paula Jones lawsuit.) But, while those may be about things like money laundering and campaign finance violations, none of them involved the "collusion" claims of Donut Twitter, Hillary and the Hillbots or the Kossack Dead Enders.

As for the Steele Dossier that lurks behind the "collusion" claims? Who's not to say that Russian intelligence didn't play Christopher Steele like a landed fish from the moment he started looking for info?

Speaking of, Corey Lewandowski goes on the Dems-only attack at Faux even though he damn well knows that Never Trumper Republicans, starting with Jeb! asked for the work, not just the information, but Steele's actual work to get it, months before Fusion did for the Dems.

Otherwise, we did get to see Ken Starr make a bigger ass out of himself than normal.

Contra Marcy and others dangling bread crumps, top Dem prez candidates  pretty much gone radio silence about the letter and report. And, that's because they're not being asked that much about it. Single-payer is a big talking point, as are others.

Of course, Miss Nancy Pelosi already stupidly pulled impeachment off the table. NOT just for alleged collusion, but ... period, basically. That's even as Emoluments Clause lawsuits remain active in court and give the House a starting point on this issue, which is quite impeachment-worthy. Some Dem prez critters, like R.F. O'Rourke, have signed off on Miss Nancy, calling impeachment a "last resort," and taking the wrong lessons from Slick Willie vs Newt et al 1998.

(It's not the first time Congress has had legitimate reasons to impeach a president and used the wrong grounds. Instead of the flimsy Tenure of Office Act, radical Republicans should have impeached Andy Johnson for obstruction of justice, malfeasance of office and violation of his oath of office after he failed to enforce the 1866 Civil Rights Act passed over his veto.)

Pelosi needs to do what Mueller didn't — learn from Jack Brooks, who knew the difference between impeachment and a criminal case.


Per former presidential legal spox Ty Cobb, sure Trump was thin-skinned about the idea Putin put him on the throne. Add that to his general ego and thin-skinnedness. That said, Hillbots went down this road.

Since Putin did NOT try to help Trump win, contra the post-letter and report backhanded swipe by Blake Hounshell (and Politico is really doubling down on MSM stupidity on this, I guess), he has good reason to be touchy. As for Blake's other idiocies? Selling weapons to Ukraine (which Obama refused to do), further tightening sanctions on Russia, and looking to opt-out of the intermediate forces nuclear treaty are far short of "cooperating" with Putin.

And shit, not that anywhere near 100 percent of his insinuations are true in a criminal court of law, but when wingnut whackjob VD Hanson is telling more truth about this than Marcy, the Hillbots, Donut Twitter and the Beltway stenos, you know it's bad.


** Should Obama be blamed for saying more than "knock it off" in late summer 2016? Well, yes, he should. He should have intervened when his AG, Loretta Lynch, met Slickster Clinton on the Phoenix tarmac. Without that happening, I presume Comey doesn't presume he has to bigfoot everything. Hillary loses EC but wins PV, or wins both, as it is.

Maybe Dear Leader was trying to have his cake and eat it too. It's possible that Sepp Blatter's, I mean ?? "17 agencies" may actually have known that Vlad the Impaler's meddling was bipartisan already before the November 2016 election.

And, if the Dragon Lady herself were really as much that as claimed, she would have put Huma Abedin on leave as soon as Anthony Weiner's Twitter weiner popped up.

As for Trump being pro-Russian? Jacobin puts paid to that bullshit. As have I in these spaces, and many people, some of them listed below. Cruise missiles launched on Syria? Arms sales to Ukrainian fascists? (Neither of which Obama did.)

Yet, the MSM continues, even after the report and letter, to lie through its teeth. Whether the Old Gray Lady NYT or Madcow Maddow, it's all about $$$ from Donut Twitter, Hillbots and Never Trumpers.

As for claims the Washington Free Beacon, on behalf of Never Trumper Rethugs, ended its association with Fusion before Fusion contacted Steele? Well, all we know for public consumption is that Fusion's Glenn Simpson did not start paying Steele for work until he got Democratic money. It's quite possible that Simpson, who already knew Steele, had contacted him and put him on "standby," before the WFB pulled out. And Rethugs trying to distance themselves from Steele know that Fusion had been retained, in any case, for oppo research on "various Republicans," but above all, Trump, and that Steele in part repackaged rumors already in the public domain.

Update, May 14: Former Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein has turned both barrels on Comey, calling him a "partisan pundit" who trampled "bright lines that should never be crossed."

The specific target of his ire is how Comey handled reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails adn server after then-AG Loretta Lynch had had her conflict-of-interest inducing meeting with Bill Clinton on the Phoenix tarmac.

Rosenstein is totally right. It was grandstanding, as I said at the time, and not SOP, either. Then-Assistant AG Sally Yates should have been contacted by Comey and she should have been asked to get Lynch to officially recuse herself, then take over.

Rosenstein said he would have handled Comey's firing differently had it been just him, not Trump, but that Comey deserved to be fired.

He did.

Period and end of story, Donut Twitter and Resistance.


Few more thoughts hither and yon. Glenn Greenwald was far from alone on this issue. Others, such as some of the folks at Consortium News, Aaron Mate, Ken Silverstein, Mark Ames, Matt Taibbi, Yasha Levine and others, were there. A lot of the stuff above is my own analysis without them. Don't mention Caitlin Johnstone. She's a nutter who probably read her own horoscope to decide where to jump in. Anybody who salutes her, a conspiracy theorist of a bit, and a red-brown alliance nutter, needs to rethink.

March 22, 2019

2020 Democratic prez race on social media:
Progressive jostling on candidate support, openness

Maybe I should have "progressives" in scare quotes, especially speaking from outside the duopoly.

Or use the good old Fauxgressives label.

There are few actual progressives, and not a tremendous amount of Fauxgressives, supporting Kamala Harris.

But, in other cases?

Tulsi Gabbard is still drawing support from people who should, IMO, know better. People who are accepting her past apology for homophobia and not digging deeper, to note her support for the RSS and her support for neocons on Israel? Maybe I should call them Failgressives instead of Fauxgressives. In either case, they exist, and in abundance. That said, she's been good on Venezuela and other things. It still leads me to a question of whether she's truly antiwar or more anti-Americans getting killed in war.

Marianne Williamson? Down with Tyranny loves them some Marianne. Shock me. People I thought knew better do as well, though.

Bernie Sanders? Yes, the best among Democrats. But, still with plenty of holes in his foreign policy world, and the Trump / bipartisan foreign policy establishment's push for a coup in Venezuela — followed by Bernie's response, or rather, largely his non-response on social media — has showed some of those holes are pretty big. Not that a lot of Berniebros will accept that.

Betomania? Some here in the Pointy Abandoned Object State still lust for him, including some I thought were more progressive than that. This is part of why I may do a Facebook cleanup soon.

At the same time? In Bernieville, David Sirota has IMO committed an ethical faux pas. And after me standing up for him on Twitter.

Turns out he WAS secretly advising Sanders before taking a spox position with him.

Now, as I said on Twitter:

But, the damage is done.

Now, plenty of MSM flaks have been flakking for Beto without sekrutly working for him, other than the MSM likes style points candidates of the neoliberal Democrats in general. But it does, yes, raise a small bit of Credibility Gap issues with Sirota.

Maybe not huge. What he said about Beto, Kamala and others is true. But, he was doing it while advising Bernie.

That also puts into light that Sirota only addressed campaign financing issues, and a little bit other domestic policy issues.

Hence this:
Regular readers know that I've blogged about Bernie and things like his F-35 bromance, his weak knees, or downright opposition to, BDS, his weak knees on "Putin Did It" collusion claims, and also, his recent weak knees on Venezuela.

Sirota's not that uninformed on foreign policy. 

Maybe he just didn't care to write about it, whether at Capital and Main or The Guardian. Maybe he made a deliberate choice, though.


Outside of the presidency? AOC is still a lightning rod. And she's still botched some things. But, just because she doesn't talk about every environmental issue in the world, and is focused on the Green New Deal, doesn't mean she's an anti-environmentalist. Nor do I think she was "forced down" any throats. A Google Trends shows a spike when she beat Crowley, and a bigger spike at the general election, then a drop again until the kerfuffle with the pre-swearing in workshops for freshman Dems followed by the Green New Deal. And, part of those spikes were wingnuts posting pictures of her dancing, then getting pwn'ed.

I'm going to call out what I see as wrong where I can. I will try not to slip up in how I do it. That's my bad.

March 21, 2019

TX Progressives assess Betomania 2.0, Senate 2020
Greg Abbott's latest hypocrisy, bathroom bill 2019, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands against the threat of white nationalist violence as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the anti-sick leave bill that may serve as a stealth "bathroom bill".

SocraticGadfly takes note of Beto O'Rourke entering the presidential race, notes that he still is not unequivocally for single-payer, and wonders when Sema Hernandez will apologize for endorsing him last fall and claiming he did support it. **

Stace at Dos Centavos wonders if people may be "Beto'd out".

John Coby lists some people he'd prefer not run for Senate in 2020.

Brains and Eggs also takes a whack at Beto, but gives Sema a pass on that Just.Another.Politician.™ endorsement of R.F. O'Rourke last year. **

And here are some posts of interest from other blogs and news sties about Texas.

Jim Schutze calls out Gov. Abbott’s self-righteous fake indignation over the college cheating scam with two words: “TCEQ Wallace Hall.”

Mile Coleman analyzes the 2018 Texas Senate race to see what it may mean for a Beto Presidential run in 2020.

Juanita cheers the news that Sandy Hook parents will be allowed to sue Remington in Connecticut state court over how it marketed its guns.

Sanford Nowlin is also on the sick leave/bathroom bill beat.

Vice, starting in Marble Falls, talks about underground marijuana doctors.

Michael Li previews the return of racial gerrymandering before SCOTUS.

Texas Observer has the latest on antivaxxers in the Lege. (Note: The anti-science from the wingnuts may be greater than climate change anti-science.)

The Texas Trib says Gov. Strangeabbbot apparently wants personal control of bail reform. (Your blogger knows bill author Kyle Kacal; Abbott is surely behind this.)


** Brains, in his version of the Wrangle, claims I don't have my targets correct. I think I do. Scap was the flack-runner for Sema, but Sema's the ultimate target and I've got her "endorsement letter" on my linked post. He can, instead, worry about posting a link to Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Ty Clevenger's SLAPP lawsuit against Seth's family as well as media people without identifying Clevenger as a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist or the lawsuit as a SLAPP lawsuit. (I suspect Ty listed Seth's parents beneath the media folks to try to gain more sympathy for his cause and to hide that this is a SLAPP suit; unfortunately, there is no anti-SLAPP law in federal jurisdiction, and may not be in the states in which Ty filed, as the feds will sometimes kind of align with state law.)

I've profiled Clevenger in depth here, where there's this comment:

Hey, I just link to his blog and put him in the Wrangle once in awhile. As with Ted and Kuffner.
Got it. Dunno about you, but I put Kuff in because he organizes the Roundup, no matter what you think of his neoliberalism or other things. (Where I may often agree.) You normally do the same. When you have put Ted in at any time from the 2016 Dem primaries on, it's usually been to laugh at a Hillbot.

I don't think you, this week, put Ty in for those reasons. Especially since, from commenting on my profile, you don't have an excuse for knowing Clevenger's background.

March 19, 2019

Your latest climate change hell news

First, if you think China is blazing great guns on fighting climate change in a way the US is not, you need to think again. China has increased GHG emissions 4.7 percent from 2017. India even more.

Land use reforms to fight climate change? A laugh. And, as long as neoliberal capitalism is the end game, who can blame Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia or Congo for paving over traditional forests with soybeans, palm oil trees or whatever.

That all said, we may be FAR more screwed than previously reported.

New computer simulations say that, in a century or so, if business as usual (which it seems to be) puts the world at 1200 ppm on carbon dioxide (at which point we will be at 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4C, of warming), we could SO destroy cloud cover, and the reflectivity that will help us, as to add an ADDITIONAL 15 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT on top of that 7F/4C!

Picture our planet, for Merika that still can't use metric measurements, TWENTY DEGREES HOTTER than it is today.

Red-state Texas? UNinhabitable. Period and end of story.

And, the authors of the simulations story are writing as if all of that additional 15/8 degrees will happen at the end. Isn't it just possible that bits of that cloud decimation happen on the way to 1200 ppm/7F? In other words, let's say that by 2060, we've added the second full degree C, to switch back to the scientific numbers. Isn't it possible that we've already affected clouds enough to add another 2/10ths C on top of the 2C by that point? That's not much, but ... it is an extra 1/3 degree F.

And, it also would cook a little more feedback into feedback loops.

Per the first link?

I'll offer 50-50 odds the world hits 1200 ppm within 100 years. Fortunately, I won't be alive then to see if I win the bet.

That's because, at least among Merikans viewed on social media, Pacific Standard reports on a sort of "weather becomes climate" version of Kahneman's fast thinking, or short-term emphasizing vs long-term discounting or similar. Wiki has the entry of "shifting baseline" with more details. Beyond such discounting, of course, humans just turn up the heat or AC, as well.


Some climatologists are suggesting that "geoengineering-lite" can deliver most of the expected benefits of full-on geoeingeering and few of the headaches. Color me skeptical.


Carl Beijer, whom I still find puzzling at times, claims that leftist types who worry that touting geoengineering will encourage the moral hazard of more carbon dioxide emissions, are simply wrong.

Instead, I think he's wrong, so wrong that I'll eat my fucking hat — and his — if he's ever proven right.

Most of Merika is morally lazy in general, first. Second, per the third tag here, most of Merika — including both right AND left neoliberals as well as various shades of rightists, with a few exceptions — believes in "salvific technologism," that is, the idea that the technology cavalry will always come running over the hill to save us.

The combination of both in a Venn diagram intersect on geoengineering is a big deal. Related to that, Beijer is putting the cart before the horse. He does offer the handwaving caveats of we don't know if some types of geoengineering might not be either safe or effective, although without noting that some might be positively unsafe in having backfire effects. BUT, he doesn't extrapolate from there to say that a good precautionary principle tied with moral hazard issues says that we shouldn't tout geoengineering until some version of it POSITIVELY PANS OUT.

The moral laziness will otherwise ride in the saddle.

March 18, 2019

News deserts

The Texas Observer has a good piece about news deserts — entire counties without a newspaper — and what happens with that.

What happens is that
1. Fewer people turn out to vote, especially in local elections, but a bit in state/national ones, too.
2. More gossip gets mongered on Facebook. Just as news aggregators became the enemy of daily papers cuz AP news was there, free and instantaneous, Facebook Groups are an enemy of local newspapers. But, the AP was news; it was just the issue of where you saw it. Facebook Groups generally aren't.  And, even on something like a local city, county or school district Facebook page, factually accurate items may lack context.
3. Clubs lose membership with lack of news about their meetings.
4. Advertising loses reach. (I say this not just to tout newspapers as a business, because, more and more, more and more newspapers blindly kiss advertisers' butts at the least bit of worry, as circulation continues to drop.

In counties that aren't too, too, small, a local radio station may still partially pick up the slack. But, what if there's not even a radio station?

The paper in the next county may help, but at times, they're stretched.

And, contra Duval County, no, having residents write your stories doesn't cut it. They don't know libel law, first, in all likelihood. Second, given national sites like Vox et al, they don't know, or have unlearned, the difference between news and editorial.

Third, what if George Parr or his equivalent were around today? You'd have Landslide Lyndons every election, and no newspaper to challenge that; George would be supplying all your volunteer writers.