Nov 17

Morning Digest: Bob Menendez’s trial ends in a mistrial a year away from Election Day

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

NJ-Sen: On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial ended with the judge declaring a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict. It’s unclear if the government will seek a new trial, though GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Menendez. Menendez has been under indictment since April of 2015 on charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements. Prosecutors allege that Menendez used his office to benefit a friend of his, wealthy eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, who had provided Menendez with lavish gifts, including private air travel.

Menendez has maintained his innocence and made it clear for years that he plans to seek re-election in 2018. Menendez remained as feisty as ever after the trial ended, with him accusing the FBI and Department of Justice of being unable to “understand that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States senator and be honest.” New Jersey’s powerful Democratic leaders have been supporting his campaign this whole time, and that hasn’t changed. On Thursday, just after the mistrial was declared, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy made it clear that he’d support Menendez if he runs again.

For the last two years, Democrats have worried that Menendez would be found guilty and resign while Republican Gov. Chris Christie was still in office, which would allow Christie to appoint a Republican senator in his place. But Murphy will replace Christie in January, and it looks very unlikely that anything could compel Menendez to step down before then. However, if Menendez is the Democratic nominee next year, he could cause his party problems even without a conviction hanging over his head. A recent Quinnipiac poll gave Menendez a negative 31-49 approval rating, while Suffolk gave him a bad 23-47 favorable rating last month.

New Jersey is a blue state, but Menendez may have just taken enough damage to put him in danger even in a good Democratic year. Even if Menendez runs and wins, Democrats won’t be happy if they need to spend heavily in this expensive state to save him while other incumbents need help. However, it may be just too much to hope that Menendez loses renomination. New Jersey is a state where party leaders still have a great deal of influence in primaries, and as long as Democratic leaders stay with the senator, he won’t be easy to beat. It also won’t be easy for an outsider to raise the vast sums of money needed to get their name out here. We’ll see how things develop, but no matter what happens next, Menendez may be in for some turbulence next year at the ballot box.

Daily Kos

Nov 17

Don’t Be Fooled by These 12 Foods With Really Tricky Names

Rocky Mountain oysters aren't actually oysters.

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked. Well, everything. Food-wise, when it comes to names, the particular label or nickname an ingredient or dish carries can mean the difference between enjoying your meal or being repulsed by testicles when you really wanted seafood. Naming mistakes can also lead you to miss out on the treats of the world, like Russia’s herring in furs (?!).

When it comes to the following foods, the names just don’t suit the edible item they’re describing. Read on so you won't be misled the next time you look at a menu.

1. Rocky Mountain Oysters

These rustic-sounding fruits de mer may appeal to the Western-loving diner, but don’t be fooled by this dish's regional appeal. Not bivalves or seafood in the least, Rocky Mountain Oysters (also called prairie oysters) are the cooked testicles of bulls, sheep and other animals, with, well, meatballs. 

Rocky Mountain Oysters made with bison testicles, served at the Fort in Morrison, Colorado. (image: Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Typically served deep-fried, this dish is indeed more popular in land-locked regions, where the thought of swallowing an entire piece of seafood raw may inspire some gagging.

2. Herring in Furs

This traditional Russian dish sounds… fuzzy? “No one knows how it originally got this name, but herring in furs—also known as herring under a fur coat—was most likely some kind of culinary joke made over 100 years ago,” says Ilya Denisenko, the chef at Teremok in the United States. (The chain has more than 300 locations in Russia.)

Herring in furs, also known as dressed herring, is a traditional dish served at Christmas and New Year celebrations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries of the former USSR. (image: Paul Frankenstein/Flickr)

The name refers to a salad made with diced pickled herring covered with layers of grated vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, beetroots and chopped onions. It's comparable to whitefish salad or egg salad, Denisenko says of the fur-free dish. “The vegetables add a nice textural contrast to the herring.”

3. Sweetbreads




One of the most misleading culinary names on menus today, sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread. Instead, sweetbreads are made from the pancreas and thymus glands of animals, usually lamb or calf.  

Country-fried sweetbreads served with a honey-mustard cucumber salad and hot sauce. (image: Lucas Richarz/Flickr)

These tender nuggets of meat are often served fried and savory, not sweet, and are served at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.

4. Spotted Dick

Though it may sound more like an STI symptom than a dessert, spotted dick is a traditional English cake made with mutton fat and raisins or dried fruit for the spots, and rolled into a circular shape.

Spotted dick was first mentioned in Alexis Soyer's The Modern Housewife or Ménagère, published in 1849. (image: SarahPresleey/Flickr)

5. Toad in the Hole

While the name of this breakfast dish may evoke images of an adorable toad peeking out of a lily pad, it is completely amphibian-free. Toad in the hole is made in a variety of forms; the English places sausage links in Yorkshire pudding, while Americans fry an egg in a piece of toast with the center cut out.

A cooked toad-in-the-hole in a baking dish. (image: Robert Gilbert/Wikipedia)

6. Blood Oranges

These gorgeous ruby-hued oranges may be the gem of the citrus family, but blood? Pass. Scarlet oranges, crimson oranges or vermilion oranges may be more appetizing names for this sweet and visually appealing fruit.

Blood oranges. (image: Jessie Pearl/Flickr)

The dark red color of blood oranges comes from anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant pigment common to many flowers and foods, like blueberries, black rice and purple cauliflower.

7. Grapefruit

We already have grapes. We already have fruit. If anything should be called a grapefruit, it should be actual grapes. If oranges get to be named by their color, why can’t grapefruits be called yellows or pinks? Or tart oranges?

The grapefruit started as a hybrid of the Jamaican sweet orange and the Indonesian pomelo. (image: liz west/Flickr)

Its name, etymologists suggest, comes from the fact that grapefruits grow in clusters, like grapes on a vine. 

8. Chicken Fingers

Cows are beef, pigs are pork and sheep are mutton, but there is no euphemism for chicken flesh. Some perverse cook decided to let us delude ourselves even further into eating parts of a chicken it doesn’t even have.

Chicken fingers are made from the pectoralis minor muscles of a chicken. (image: raymondtan85/Flickr)

Chicken talons or chicken feet may be a more accurate way to describe chicken fingers. Chicken tenders, on the other hand, refer to a piece of the chicken breast that is indeed called a tender.

9. Submarine Sandwich

There’s probably no worse food to eat underwater than a sandwich loaded with meats and mayo and who knows what else, because a sub sandwich can refer to pretty much anything slapped between two slices of bread. Even a foot-long turkey provolone on a baguette does not look like an actual submarine.

Submarine sandwiches are also known as subs, hoagies,heros, grinders, spuckies,po' boys, and wedges. (image:jeffreyw/Flickr)

10. Ants on a Log

This nickname for celery sticks filled with cream cheese or peanut butter and often topped with raisins or other crunchy snacks isn’t super appealing, nor is it helpfully descriptive. Ants on a log has no standard preparation, nor does the dish involve ants or logs. Unless you’re an upscale New York chef, that is. Alex Stupak, at Manhattan’s Empellón, recently debuted an “ants on a log” rendition that indeed uses the protein of the future: Ants.

Ants on a log served in a bento box. (image: Bunches and Bits {Karina}/Flickr)

11. Head Cheese

Not in any way a dairy product, this charcuterie item, often found chilled in the deli case, is indeed made from boars' (or pigs') heads. A sustainable way to practice snout-to-tail eating, head cheese uses the entire pig’s head, cooking it in a stock pot with vegetables and aromatics in order to gelatinize and form the loaf that will later become a sandwich ingredient.

Head cheese, also known as brawn, originated in Europe. Above, commercially sold Dutch preskop (a type of head cheese) as a cold cut on bread. (image: Takeaway/Wikipedia)

12. Duck Sauce

Unlike oyster sauce, this ingredient typical to American Chinese restaurants does not have any duck in it. In fact, the jelly-like, sweet orange sauce is completely vegetarian. Originally served alongside fried duck, the sticky condiment gets its name from its ideal protein pairing, rather than how it’s made, and is often served as a sugary complement to egg rolls, wonton strips or other fried foods.

Packets of duck sauce commonly accompany Chinese takeout meals. (image: Plastic klinik/Wikipedia)


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Nov 17

Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!

Well, at least it’s Friday! By which I mean next Friday!

I don’t even want to try to predict or imagine where we’re going today. Holy moly. We’re just going to have to wing it, and see if the president vomit-tweets anything in the middle of our catch-up game.

Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET!

Podcasts! Am I right, people? Ha ha! I know, right!

Well, screw all of those other ones! This one has Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando. Plus also, me. And you! Yes! You know how things are, these days. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. Sit down with your smart phone or other electronic recording device and send us your stories and commentary to share with the audience. There’s no easier way to try your hand at podcasting, without all the hassle!

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Al Franken Roy Moore, who? Fox finally has a 24/7 target that is in office, as do we, because we know we have high standards that we really need to hold ourselves to. But before we leave, David Waldman has a little retrospective on the Roy Moore saga: Two more women come forward on Moore, and then another two, for a total of what, 8? 9? This still doesn’t account for Roy getting kicked out of the Y. Roy’s wife found 50 pastors to vouch for him, but that was before they heard about the creepy stuff. So, if the plan to “Whatabout JFK Bill Clinton Al Franken?” in order to send Moore into a landslide win falls through, the Gop still has other tricks up their sleeve, including racism. “Trump’s land and hotel deals with the Russians need to be examined!” David has told you time and again. Christopher Steele backs him up on this.

(Thanks to Scott Anderson for the show summary! Please help me pay him more!)

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

Daily Kos

Nov 17

An Upstart Saudi Prince Threw a Tantrum Felt Around the World

It is remarkable how this nation of 33 million has so easily been taken hostage by the whims of its Crown Prince.

What ails the royal court of Saudi Arabia? The Crown Prince—Mohammed Bin Salman—has arrested 11 rich and powerful princes and about 200 businessmen. These men of great wealth and might are being held in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Their assets are being seized in stages. Among these men is Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men on the planet—whose holdings include Twitter and Citigroup, and Miteb bin Abdullah (Minister of the National Guard), Adel Fakeih (Minister of Economy and Planning), Bakr bin Laden (head of the Saudi Binladin Group) and Mohammed al-Amoudi (a businessman with substantial holdings in Ethiopia).

A tremor has gone through the hundreds of princes. Who is next? Will the Crown Prince’s loyal forces come for them next?

Why has the Crown Prince MBS—as he is known—arrested these men of great wealth and power? Was he afraid of a palace coup against him and his father, King Salman? It is certainly the case that the Crown Prince has arrested men who controlled sources of power (such as the National Guard) that were not seen to be loyal to his side of the palace. Having taken control of these forces, the Crown Prince has now made sure that there are no armed guards capable of undertaking a coup against him and his father. Military power is now consolidated around MBS.

The arrest of Alwaleed bin Talal and al-Amoudi suggests that this is also a crackdown on corruption in the Kingdom. Alwaleed bin Talal boasts of his billions, but there is ample evidence that when he has been caught flatfooted in a trade, he has turned to the Saudi banks for liquidity. It is pretty clear that he has used Saudi royal funds to stay afloat. He had trouble with his United Saudi Bank and with his investments in Teledesic and Planet Hollywood. Al-Amoudi, meanwhile, has been surrounded by the whiff of corruption over his investments in Ethiopia (his large farms and his gold mine). There is about $ 33 billion of personal wealth in the Ritz Carlton. Will the Crown Prince be able to take some of this money towards his project—Saudi Vision 2030?

Saudi Arabia’s attorney general Said al-Mojeb said that about $ 100 billion has been ‘misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement.’ He hopes that these arrests and the investigations that continue will result in the return of some of this money to the treasury.

A week before the arrests, Saudi Arabia hosted an investment conference attended by IMF chief Christine Lagarde and various bankers (including HSBC head Stuart Gulliver and SoftBank chair Masayoshi Son). At this conference, the Saudis presented their Vision 2030 plan to cut subsidies, increase taxes and offer its oil company—ARAMCO—to an initial public offering (IPO) sometime next year. The Saudis hope to raise $ 2 trillion in the IPO, a figure that is four times larger than the record-breaking Alibaba IPO in 2014.

Collapsed oil prices, largely by Saudi Arabia’s aggressive oil sales, have hurt the balance of payments in this oil-dependent monarchy. The kingdom is now running deficits of around $ 100 billion per year. The IMF has estimated that Saudi growth is ‘close to zero,’ with limited prospects for improvement in the future.

The Vision 2030 document—about which I wrote last year—was crafted by the consulting firm McKinsey. The prescriptions in the document called for diversification of the Saudi economy, a cut in public sector employment and a decrease in low-wage guest workers. The Saudi royals found this plan to be far too difficult to implement. The government tried to cut wage and benefits for the ministers and for public-sector workers. Discontent pushed the government to roll back these cuts in April 2017. To discourage guest workers is impossible, since the Saudi workforce is neither willing to do the low-end jobs nor does it have the skills to do the high-end jobs. There are too many structural barriers for the easy implementation of Vision 2030.

Which is perhaps why the Crown Prince decided to unveil his plans at the investment conference for the construction of a new city—NEOM. This city, which will extend across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, will be powered by wind and solar energy. It is intended to be a global hub for innovations of various kinds. To build this city, the Saudis will plan to invest $ 500 billion and seek support from outside investors. The SoftBank Vision Fund’s Son called this a ‘fantastic opportunity’ and planned to invest in it. Others will follow. But there is a quixotic element to this plan. It looks good on paper but will once more rely upon a work force that comes from elsewhere, including other parts of the Arab world (such as Lebanon). There is no plan for a domestic high-tech workforce to be created for this tech-hub. That means that the fundamentals of Saudi Arabia’s economy will remain the same and its structural crisis will not be averted.

Which is perhaps why the Crown Prince attacked the clerics and the obscurantism in the kingdom. He made clear that before 1979 Saudi Arabia was not as backward looking and that this backward looking culture and strangled the possibility of modern education from creating a modern workforce. Of course, this obscurantism is not accidental. It has been a key part of Saudi ideology, which the Saudis exported across the Islamic world. To undo the power of the clerics without a major upheaval in the Kingdom is unlikely. Will the Crown Price dare to arrest the obscurantist clerics that oppose his new vision?

There is incoherence in the Crown Prince’s vision. On the one hand he wants to weaken the hold of the obscurantist clerics, but on the other hand he has taken a hard line against Iran—the very position that fans the flames of obscurantism in the Kingdom. It is sectarianism that is tinder for the clerics, a sectarianism that drove Saudi Arabia’s failed policies in Iraq, Qatar, Syria and Yemen. The Crown Prince’s sectarian wars have not succeeded. He has failed to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria and failed to pacify the Yemeni people. He has failed to bring Qatar to heel and failed to lessen Iran’s power in Iraq. His tantrum over Lebanon has resulted in a serious political crisis in that country, but it will not succeed in weakening Hezbollah. All this only provides fodder for the obscurantists inside Saudi Arabia. Allowing women to drive is of course an important forward step, but it is hardly going to break the power of the obscurantist clerics over Saudi society.

ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Iraq. Iran is certainly more powerful in the region than ever before. Saudi Arabia does not like the way the geo-politics have turned out. Its tantrums from Qatar to Lebanon will not, however, change its position of weakness. The termites of corruption and social waste within the Kingdom have set its economy in a negative direction. These arrests as well as the attack on Lebanon are signs of great vulnerability in the royal household. It is unlikely that there will be any major collapse of the monarchy or a coup against the current king. This is unlikely. What is more likely is that Saudi Arabia—unable to move towards its Vision 2030—will create more mayhem in the region and create chaos inside its own society.

It is remarkable how this nation of 33 million has so easily been taken hostage by the whims of its Crown Prince and his phantasmagoric agenda.


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Nov 17

Day 47: Still no funding for children’s health, but a $1 billion tax cut for the Trumps

So this happened today. No, not Republicans deciding they had to take care of the nation’s children and finally passing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. No, not that at all.

This: House Republicans voted on their tax cuts bill that would immediately slash $ 25 billion from Medicare should it pass the Senate, and would give the wealthy a pretty major cash infusion. Like $ 1 billion to one specific wealthy family.

In fact, Trump and his heirs potentially could save more than $ 1 billion overall under the GOP tax proposal that the House of Representatives passed Thursday, with most of that amount coming from a repeal of the estate tax, according to an analysis NBC News commissioned of Trump’s one known 2005 tax return and his estimated net worth.

Nine million children could lose coverage in a matter of weeks. Additionally, 25 million people could lose health care at community health centers, which also haven’t been funded since Sept. 30. States are now preparing letters to send to families to tell them their coverage is going to end. In some states coverage will end next month, in some the month after. So that’s some Christmas greeting for these families to be receiving.

Jam the phone lines of House and Senate Republicans. Call (202) 224-3121, and tell them to stop holding kids hostage and to pass a clean funding bill for CHIP and community health centers.

Daily Kos

Nov 17

Thomas Frank: We’re Still Aghast at Donald Trump—but What Good Has That Done?

Declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House.

It has been one year since the US slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and chose as its leader the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time. Every now and then you get a bracing reminder of the crazy that has been transpiring ever since.

One of these came to me while I was flipping through Donald Trump’s 2015 campaign book,Crippled America, the cover of which displays his proud pompadour and the first few pages of which assert that “As for the presidency and the executive branch” – meaning the executive branch of Barack Obama – “the incompetence is beyond belief.”

To recapitulate, that’s Trump calling Obama incompetent. What do you say when confronted with a big-league, flat-out, beyond-belief distortion like that? Do you get all sincere and point out that, no, Obama was actually good at the job and Donald Trump is the incompetent one … that Trump gets all kinds of things wrong and doesn’t know what’s in the constitution and is unaware that the executive has this power and that power and is ignorant of everything else on this-here long, long list of examples extending the entire length of the page?

That’s certainly how the liberal wing of America’s pundit class has dealt with Trump. They have been at it every day for a year now, and the literature of Trump-denunciation they have produced is enormous, a vast Alexandrine library of lamentation and deploring.

Pundits pronounce him dangerous, if not “F*cking Crazy”. They explore the depths of his stupidity. They apologize for him to Muslims. They compile long lists of the man’s falsehoods and misrepresentations. They look to the past and compare him to Hitler, to Mussolini, to Nero and Caligula. They look to the future and try to imagine the exact nature of the apocalypse the dunce will surely precipitate.

They are aghast, almost every one of them, and they compete fiercely with one another to say just how aghast they are. It is a “parade of the aghast”, as an acquaintance calls it, with all the skills of the journalist reduced to a performance of perturbation and disgust.

The parade of the aghast is the obverse of the gullible way our pundits usually contemplate American leaders – lionizing them as men of crisis, admiring their gravitas as they go from international summit to emergency bank bailout. And now the buffoon Trump has exposed it all as a fraud.

A solid year of the aghast has been a good thing overall. It’s healthy for the country to have pundits periodically choose to despise our leaders instead of honor them.

But the parade of the aghast is also sharply limited. In the race to depict Trump in the worst possible light, the parade of the aghast conceives his iniquity to be a thing unique and unprecedented.

In certain ways, of course, this is correct: Trump’s incompetence is one-of-a-kind. He is also the first tycoon president, the realization of a long-running Republican dream that has brought with it many unforeseen conflicts of interest and constitutional issues. And if it turns out he colluded with the Russian government during last year’s election, that will make him, shall we say, singular.

Yet in other ways, Trump’s sins are continuous with the last 50 years of our history. His bigotry and racist dog-whistling? Conservatives have been doing that since forever. His vain obsession with ratings, his strutting braggadocio? Welcome to the land of Hollywood and pro wrestling.

His tweeting? The technology is new, but the urge to evade the mainstream media is not. His outreach to working-class voters? His hatred of the press? He lifts those straight from his hero Richard Nixon. His combination of populist style with enrich-the-rich policies? Republicans have been following that recipe since the days of Ronald Reagan. His “wrecking crew” approach to government, which made the cover of Time magazine last week? I myself made the same observation, under the same title, about the administration of George W Bush.

The trends Trump personifies are going to destroy this country one of these days. They’ve already done a hell of a job on the middle class.

But declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House. Waving a piece of paper covered with mean words in Trump’s face won’t make him retreat to his tower in New York. To make him do that you must understand where he comes from, how he operates, why his supporters like him, and how we might coax a few of them away.

The parade of the aghast will have none of that. Strategy is not the goal; a horror-high is. And so its practitioners routinely rail against Trump’s supporters along with Trump himself, imagining themselves beleaguered by a country they no longer understand nor particularly like.

They denounce people who tell the truth about how the Democratic party operates on the grounds that such knowledge is an “obstacle” to anti-Trump efforts.

A year of this stuff, and never has mainstream opinion journalism seemed so inconsequential, so powerless to envision anything useful about our national predicament.

Look at the grand sweep of history: this is an angry, populist age, and with every year – with every little tightening of the inequality index – it grows angrier and more populist still. To the satisfied and comfortable American pundit class, these are alien and deplorable sentiments, and so they fall back on high-decibel moral aghastitude. They scold and they scold and they scold. But if they really want to send Trump and the Republicans packing, they will make an effort to understand.


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Nov 17

Congress is a cesspit of sexual harassment, dozens of lawmakers and aides say

Congress has a great system for covering up sexual harassment in its own ranks, and according to CNN, members of Congress and their aides alike are really taking advantage of the freedom that offers them to harass women at will:

CNN spoke with more than 50 lawmakers, current and former Hill aides and political veterans who have worked in Congress, the majority of whom spoke anonymously to be candid and avoid potential repercussions. With few exceptions, every person said they have personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have. […]

The dozens of interviews that CNN conducted with both men and women also revealed that there is an unwritten list of male lawmakers — made up primarily of House representatives where there are many more members than the Senate — notorious for inappropriate or predatory behavior. Several people simply referred to that roster as the “creep list.”

More than half a dozen interviewees independently named one California congressman for pursuing female staffers; another half dozen pointed to a Texas congressman for engaging in inappropriate behavior. CNN is not naming either of those lawmakers because the stories are unverified.

You know what, CNN? Name names! Put those creeps on the defensive—and I don’t care if they’re Republicans or Democrats. Creeps are creeps.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) have both proposed bills to improve the process for filing complaints. But even if Republicans let that legislation through, it sounds like there’s a huge amount of rot to cut out, and it won’t happen quickly.

Daily Kos

Nov 17

If Trump Collapses, Will Scott Walker Get a Comeback Chance?

After many gaffes and wasted millions, Walker flamed out early in 2016. Now he’s back, as a Trumpian zombie.

It seems like a million years ago that the political world was convinced that the most formidable Republican in all the land was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He was the ultimate mainstream Tea Party “reformer” of the Obama era, slashing taxes and regulations and defeating his state's Democratic machine up and down the ballot. He was what I called the Great White-Bread Hope, a nice young conservative Christian Midwestern governor with appeal across all factions of the Republican Party. For many months he led in the early polling, and political pundits considered him to be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2016.

Walker first vaulted to political superstardom back in 2012, when he faced a recall election during his first two years as governor and managed to survive. Why this was considered to be a sign of his tactical genius was always a mystery, since facing a recall in the first place would normally suggest that an elected official has done something wrong. But that made Walker's name as a politician destined for greatness. As the New Republic swooned back in 2014:

Scott Walker, the battle-hardened governor of Wisconsin, is the candidate that the factional candidates should fear. Not only does he seem poised to run — he released a book last week — but he possesses the tools and positions necessary to unite the traditional Republican coalition and marginalize its discontents.

The bloom began to come off the rose just a little when Walker was hit with corruption scandals that dented his “reformer” image, including charges that he illegally colluded with some big-money national conservative groups, including the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. Three of Walker's close aides were indicted for felony embezzlement, and charges were brought against a major campaign donor along with one of his appointees. It was a mess that had the Walker boosters at the Wall Street Journal editorial page screeching about suppression of free speech and warning him that he'd better not settle the case or he'd risk losing his luster as a right-wing hero. (He settled it and they forgave him.)

Walker was a gaffe machine, churning out memorable lines such as his response to a question about what he would do about ISIS: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.” He once said that Ronald Reagan's greatest foreign policy achievement had been taking on the air traffic controller's union. Nonetheless, Walker was widely assumed to be the choice of the Koch brothers, the right-wing bogeymen of the Tea Party era. They had talked him up for years, and their PAC had backed him to the hilt in Wisconsin.

But Walker made an aggressive move in the spring of 2015 that apparently alienated the Kochs and many members of the Republican mainstream — he consulted with then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and adopted an extremely hard line on immigration. At the time, it seemed to be an appalling lurch rightward into Ann Coulter territory, but it turned out Walker was actually prescient about where the 2016 race, and the Republican Party, were heading.

Walker abruptly dropped out of the race in September 2015, surprising everyone by being the first casualty of the primaries. Then he shocked the political world with the revelation that he'd burned through vast sums of money during his short run. According to the Washington Post:

[M]oney went toward a payroll of more than 80, generous paychecks for top staffers, dozens of consultants and vendors who were paid tens of thousands of dollars, and elaborately staged campaign events. For a candidate who bragged on the campaign trail about finding deals at Kohl's and packing sack lunches to save money, the reports show that the campaign spent lavishly even as fundraising dollars began to disappear.

Recall that Walker had risen to fame as a fiscal conservative who drastically cut services and government jobs as governor. After that spectacular crash and burn, national office did not seem to be in his future.

Well, it looks as though he may be planning a comeback. The Washington Post reported that Walker is running for a third term as Wisconsin governor, and he seems to be dazzling Beltway journalists, just like in the good old days. He may have spent like a Saudi prince during his presidential campaign, but once again reporters are taken with his “regular Joe” ways, talking about how he doesn't have any money of his own and charmingly eats homemade ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day, which he charmingly tweets on his charmingly homespun Twitter feed.

Walker went back to Wisconsin after his fall from grace, where his approval rating was mired at 37 percent, and then traveled the state on a “listening tour.” He's now in the mid-40s and believes he can win again, despite his unpopularity, because he “gets things done,” unlike those losers in Washington. He's counting on his enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump and his close relationship with Vice President Mike Pence to put him over the top.

Well, so what is Walker's assessment of the president today?

His actions speak louder than words. A lot of people get hung up on his words or his tweets. If you look at the actions from where I sit in Wisconsin, this is a solid administration with a good Cabinet.

Walker hopes to put together the “Trump coalition” for the Wisconsin governor's race, which essentially means running up huge numbers in rural areas and suppressing the vote in the cities. He's raising tons of money already, with the Koch brothers back on the team. Walker is a Trump man through and through, which means he's happy to wallow in the swamp while pretending to be a populist. Republicans seem to like that.

But by affiliating himself so closely with President Trump in what has always been a purple state, which Trump won by the narrowest of margins, Walker is taking a huge risk. There are a number of Democrats already running, and the hope is that one of them will finally be able to take down Walker in the “big blue wave” that everyone prays will continue to swell into 2018. Clearly, Walker still has presidential hopes, and if Trump is not on the ballot in 2020 — which remains a possibility — it's unlikely that any Republican who backed him so fervently will be chosen to replace him.

Still, Walker has some things going for him. For obscure reasons, the media can't get enough of this guy and rich people just love to throw millions his way. He's still very young by political standards — he will only be 59 years old in 2024. If the Democrats are smart and focused, they'll be sure to put a stake in his zombie career so they don't have to face him later when he's regained full strength.



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Nov 17

Witnesses to Senate: Don’t worry, if Trump orders a nuclear strike surely somebody would stop him

How bad is 2017? Bad enough that a Senate hearing held to discuss Trump’s ability to single-handedly start a nuclear war went by mostly unnoticed. The good news, and we are definitely in the mood for good news, is that witnesses were quick to assure the assembled lawmakers that the military won’t be letting Trump launch nuclear strikes without good reason.

During Monday’s hearing, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, former commander of Strategic Command, emphasized that a presidential order to use a nuclear weapon must be legal. The basic legal principles of proportionality and necessity apply to the use of nuclear weapons, he said, and “if the order was considered to be illegal, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it.”

“The U.S. military doesn’t blindly follow orders,” Kehler said in his opening remarks.

Among those senators alarmed by the idea that our nuclear arsenal is in the hands of a demonstrably ever-irritable lunatic is the committee’s chair, Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Despite these reassurances, he apparently remains alarmed.

By the time Corker emerged from the hearing — the first to address the president’s nuclear authority in over four decades — he was at a loss for what to do next. “I do not see a legislative solution today,” Corker told reporters.

The reason he doesn’t see a legislative solution is because in general, the witnesses were very insistent that if a president attempted to launch an illegal nuclear strike, he is surrounded by Not Fucking Insane people who would refuse to carry out the order—and that attempting to rein in this power by barring a nuclear first strike without prior approval by Congress would unfairly tie the hands of future presidents who might need to fire off the nukes because reasons.

Daily Kos

Nov 17

The Roy Moore Debacle in Alabama Is a Showcase of the GOP’s Playbook to Rig Elections

This time there's no fake Democratic threat, just a Republican they want to stop any way they can.

The strange saga of Roy Moore’s senatorial bid in Alabama has made one thing clear: Nobody should doubt that the GOP is the modern political party most eager to rig election results—even when the target is a fellow Republican.

Recent days have seen the best minds in the current generation of Republican strategists contorting election rules in every imaginable way to try to stop Moore from becoming Alabama’s junior U.S. senator next month.

Some of these exchanges have been chronicled on election law blogs, where for years, Republicans have defended their catalog of partisan voter suppression tactics (led by the big lie they were protecting the process from hordes of Democrats impersonating other voters, despite never offering serious proof). But now that an apparent sexual predator is refusing to exit the race, despite calls by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans, the party’s best and brightest have been exploring every possible angle, including canceling December’s special election.

Astoundingly, as of Thursday, the stop-Moore contingent has come up empty-handed. They have been thwarted by the calendar, Alabama’s sitting Republican governor and small details like the U.S. Constitution's 17th Amendment (in part governing the election of senators after a vacancy). But how they tried!

Perhaps the best exchange was captured on, where scholar and blog founder Rick Hasen recounted his to-and-fro tweets with conservative media personality Hugh Hewitt, who, “at first… suggested canceling the election altogether, and letting [Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who lost a primary to Moore] just complete the term.”

That was a wonderful addition to Republican voter suppression canon: don't hold an election at all.

“I protested that canceling an election already underway (military and other absentee voters have already voted) is profoundly undemocratic and dangerous,” he replied. “It also appears to violate the 17th Amendment, which requires that an appointment of a temporary senator be temporary, and that the state schedule a replacement vote.”

Hewitt relented, Hasen noted, but not until a better idea emerged: “Eventually Hewitt relented on this point; not because he thought it was undemocratic—indeed he seemed to believe Republicans are somehow entitled to Alabama’s two Senate seats without an election—but because he thought it would violate the 17th Amendment,” Hasen wrote. “So he hit on another idea, and according to Politico it is an idea Republican leaders nationally are now weighing: get Luther Strange, the temporary senator appointed to replace Jeff Sessions, to resign, and then with the new vacancy, declare this election void and start over.”

Here’s where the GOP got blocked by the weedy details. After Sessions resigned, the state’s previous governor appointed Strange to the Senate and set a date for a special replacement election. The big surprise, to Senate Republicans like McConnell, was that Strange lost that race’s primary to Moore.

These Washington Republicans weren’t excited about Moore before half a dozen women accused him of predatory sexual behavior. But Alabama’s Republican Party was standing by its nominee, frustrating the Senate Republicans. So then GOP leaders started looking at other scenarios, such as, could they get Sessions to resign as Attorney General to run for his old Senate seat? No. Could they get find another well-known Republican to run a write-in campaign? Not likely. Could Strange resign before December’s special election, triggering a new vacancy and possibly a new election?

“The election date is set for Dec. 12. Were he to resign I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on Dec. 12,” Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey told on Wednesday, dashing that last theory.

That left two possibilities. Moore could lose the election to Democrat Doug Jones, narrowing the GOP’s Senate majority to one seat. Or, should Moore win, the McConnell gang could seek to expel him from the Senate, but that takes time and a two-thirds vote.

“There’s a Senate norm, apparently, of not expelling for conduct before taking office that voters knew about,” Hasen blogged, noting Senate tradition. “Do senators violate this norm? It takes two-thirds to expel. What if Democrats, either following this norm or sticking it to Republicans, don’t vote to expel? Then Moore is a constant national story, and a reminder of what the Republicans are trying to avoid… No wonder Republicans are contemplating a constitutional Hail Mary.”

Thus the GOP has once again seized the spotlight as the party most enthusiastic about rigging elections—or doing whatever it takes to get the outcome they seek.


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