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What Kamala Harris can learn from watching Madam Secretary @spockosbrain

What Kamala Harris can learn from watching Madam Secretary

by Spocko

In the last week Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tulsi Gabbard announced 2020 presidential runs. Tonight Harris will be on the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about what she wants to accomplish.

Right now all the candidates are putting out their messages. As Michael Brooks of The Majority Report put it, they are "cutting a lane for themselves" in the primary.  (We used to call it their core brand proposition, but that's so 2000 and late.)

Here's a New York Times summary story on who has announced they will run and who might run.

The Times summary has the conventional wisdom on each candidate and their signature issues.  For example: Warren, middle class under attack from big corporations and Wall Street's influence on politics;  Sanders, “Medicare for All,” and free college tuition.

But what I didn't see in any summaries or signature issues were candidates' views on National Security. This issue is critical and must be addressed because the United States spends an estimated $1.2 trillion per year on defense.  

Pentagon spending now consumes nearly 70 percent of the discretionary federal budget.
Even if we just count direct US military spending, the figures are enormous. At $610 billion in 2017, US military spending accounted for more than a third of the world total. This dwarfs the $294 billion spent by our potential adversaries—Russia spent $66 billion; China, $228 billion.

From Progressives Need a New Way to Talk About National Security , by Joe Cirincione and Guy T. Saperstein

Now is the time for democratic candidates to get this and start talking about better ways for the country to use that money.  Will Harris talk about this?  Gillibrand and Gabbard didn't. Maybe someone like Washington Governor Jay Inslee will bring it up.

What all Democratic candidates need to know is that the polling shows that the voters would rather money go to infrastructure and social programs than policing the world. 

But of course the Military Industrial Complex won't let go of any money without a fight. Last week's Madam Secretary, Strategic Ambiguity, was a great illustration of how defense contractors will lie, cheat, steal, threaten and scare people into voting for weapon systems that are inadequate, aren't wanted or needed, and make us less safe.

My favorite scene from the episode is this short clip. 

The Madam Secretary writers, Barbara Hall and Matt Ward, explain the issue and put Presidential Candidate Elisabeth McCord in the position of pointing out the problems with the whole system while the Secretary of Defense and the President explain that yes, a defense contractor can "shake them down."

My favorite line in the clip is when the secretary of defense defends the fighter jet and the shakedown for more money by saying, "Cost overruns are a feature of defense contracts."

In this next clip the head of the group within the state department who works with the military on allocation for defense spending explains how untrammeled corporate greed distorts our foreign policy.

Show Me The Brightest Timeline

Madam Secretary shows viewers possible solutions and what the characters are up against. If Elizabeth is going to fight the Military Industrial Complex when she is President, she needs to realize she will be attacked, both behind the scenes and in public.

If President McCord cuts funds for a jet fighter 200 people making the wing fluid delivery system for the jets in a congressional district in North Dakota are going to need jobs. What can they do instead? Fluid delivery systems for commercial jets? High speed rail? Solar heating and cooling systems?

President Elisabeth McCord needs to have a vision that acknowledges the current national security budget and a way to redirect it to positive things.

Maybe she makes a Climate Change Service Corp to deal with emergencies and a cabinet post to prepare and manage climate disasters. 

The Madam Secretary writers showed that Eisenhower predicted and understood the problem.  The interstate highway system had long straight stretches so that the military could land a bomber on them if necessary. Probably not going to happen, but it helped justify the money for the interstate under "National Security".

The Climate Race Is Like The Space Race 
Johnson split up jobs for the space program for political power. The "Space Race" against the Russians provided an urgency that going to the moon for scientific and exploration purposes didn't.

We need infrastructure hardening and replacement in communities around the country right now.
Maybe President McCord rebuilds the Civil Defense system. Our enemy is Severe Weather. Having  severe weather as the enemy helps deal with the issue of climate change and could provide the kind of jobs that defense contractors have now.

President McCord could SAY we must prepare cities in case they will be being hit by a nuke from Russia or North Korea. That is probably not going to happen, but it is an excuse to prepare us for being hit by the equivalent of 10,000 nuclear bombs from a hurricane. (Link Scientific America article on the power of hurricanes.)

The 2010 demolition of Savannah River Site's K-reactor cooling tower.DOE

President McCord could SAY she is worried about Terrorists bombing our nuclear power plants and chemical plants, so we need to harden them. That is possible but a rare event, however it is an excuse to prepare them for the more likely events, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

She would need people to design, develop and implement emergency power grids and communications systems. Remember Puerto Rico? We needed this last year. Coastal communities need hardened seawalls, inland cities need strengthened levees.

Photo: Erika P. Rodriguez 

President McCord could SAY we don't want hackers from China or Russia to take down our power grid and communication systems, so we must spend money creating distributed and redundant systems. That work prepares us for what really takes down our power grids and communications systems, severe weather.

The reality in America today is that all communities could benefit from better power grids and communication systems in the event of emergencies, it doesn't just have to help the "coastal elites."

In our current political situation when you say, "National Security" the money is allocated with no questions asked, no audits demanded. That should change. Until then President McCord could still use that model to get money.  She just needs to change what national security includes.

Fiction has the power to show us what is possible. In the end the President fought the defense contractor to a draw, but Secretary McCord vowed to do better when she is President McCord.

I think she will. Elisabeth McCord 2020


No big speech?! Whaaa!

No big speech?! Whaaa!

by digby

Trump continues to believe that the Speaker of the House is a presidential employee. She is not:

President Trump said he would look for alternative venues for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, appearing to capitulate after Speaker Nancy Pelosi again told him she would not invite him to deliver it at the House until the government reopens.

The decision came after a tit-for-tat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi over the State of the Union address. Mr. Trump told Ms. Pelosi on Wednesday that he would deliver the speech in the Capitol next week as originally scheduled. Ms. Pelosi fired back that he was not welcome unless the government was fully open.

It had concluded, at least by late afternoon, with Mr. Trump declaring at the White House, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”

Ms. Pelosi had invited Mr. Trump to deliver the speech in a letter on Jan. 3. But on Jan. 16, she warned that there were security concerns about the president’s coming to Capitol Hill because of the partial government shutdown, which began about a month ago.

[Democratic leaders said they were prepared to match the amount requested by President Trump, but only if the money was used for security measures like drones and refitted ports of entry — not a wall.]

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump responded, sending Ms. Pelosi a letter in which he said that he had checked — and that there were no such concerns from the Secret Service.

“Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union,” the president wrote.

“It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote.

Within hours, Ms. Pelosi fired back with a letter of her own, telling the president she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come until the government has reopened. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” she wrote.

Back at the White House, Mr. Trump appeared to have gotten the message, saying he would explore alternatives.

“She’s afraid of the super-left Democrats, the radical Democrats. What’s going on in that party is shocking,” he said. He called her refusal “a great blotch on the great country we all love.”

Mr. Trump’s announcement that he would come to the Capitol despite Ms. Pelosi’s concerns seemed meant to put the Democratic leadership on the spot. Republican leaders in Congress piled on. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, released a video on Twitter of him signing the resolution formally inviting the president to the House.

“Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned,” he wrote.

He put out a tweet. Seriously.

Anyway, none of that worked. Obviously. So they're looking for a different venue. Hannity has offered up his show. Sounds good.


Nice little family you have here

Nice little family you have here

by digby

Before they came up with the game show format of The Apprentice, Trump said he didn't want to do a reality show because:

“I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room. It would play well on television, but it doesn’t play well with them.”

Just saying... we knew he was a snake before we let him in.


Will he wag this dog?

Will he wag this dog?

by digby

I have a bad feeling about this:

Remember this?

Donald Trump repeatedly raised the possibility of invading Venezuela in talks with his top aides at the White House, according to a new report.

Trump brought up the subject of an invasion in public in August last year, saying: “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.” But the president’s musings about the possibility of a US invasion were more extensive and persistent than that public declaration, according to the Associated Press.

The previous day Trump reportedly took his top officials by surprise in an Oval Office meeting, asking why the US could not intervene to remove the government of Nicolás Maduro on the grounds that Venezuela’s political and economic unraveling represented a threat to the region.

Quoting an unnamed senior administration official, the AP report said the suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, which included the then national security adviser, HR McMaster, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Both have since left the administration.

The administration officials are said to have taken turns in trying to talk him out of the idea, pointing out that any such military action would alienate Latin American allies who had supported the US policy of punitive sanctions on the Maduro regime.

Their arguments do not seem to have dissuaded the president.

A grim-faced Tillerson stood alongside Trump the next day at his New Jersey golf course at Bedminster as the president warmed to his theme.

“We have many options for Venezuela, this is our neighbour,” Trump said.

“We’re all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away, Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”

The White House announced later it had refused to take a call from Maduro. The Venezuelan defence minister, Vladimir Padrino, described Trump’s threat as an “act of craziness” and “supreme extremism”.

In the weeks that followed, Trump remained preoccupied with the idea of an invasion, according to AP. Shortly after the Bedminister remarks, he raised the issue with the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, and then brought it up again at that year’s UN general assembly in September, at a private dinner with allied Latin American states.

At that dinner, Trump made clear he was ignoring the advice of his aides.

“My staff told me not to say this,” Trump said and then asked the other leaders at the table in turn, if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution.

McMaster finally succeeding in persuading Trump of the dangers of an invasion, the report said, and the president’s interest in the notion subsided.

What reason would he give? Well... Venezuela has a lot of oil:


In Case You Hadn’t Noticed, Mitch McRommel Is Currently Losing

At this moment, GOP's "Butt-hurt Fox" appears to be having his ass sawed off in public and served to him on the good china by a Democratic party united behind a woman who controls one half of one branch of the federal government.

From The Hill:
McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked legislation on Wednesday that would reopen most of the government currently closed during the partial shutdown.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) went to the Senate floor to ask for consent to take up the House-passed bill that would fund every agency and department impacted by the partial shutdown, except the Department of Homeland Security, through Sept. 30...

Looks like Nancy Pelosi read your book there, Mitch.

Behold, a Tip Jar!


QOTD: Kellyanne Conway

QOTD: Kellyanne Conway

by digby

“I think fundamentally [Pelosi] is someone who doesn’t always have control of her temper about the President, but she often doesn’t have control of her own chamber. I think she’s afraid that many people are not going to show up, and that’s embarrassing to her.”

Lol. Temper? I'll just throw one little example out:

British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party’s wins in the midterm elections — never mind that Democrats seized control of the House — but her appeal to the American president’s vanity was met with an ornery outburst. Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump’s churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.

During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a “big victory.” He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I. The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran.

Here's some twitter tantrums from just the last few days:

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 – which they are not going to win. Best economy! They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work.”

“Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat. She is so petrified of the ‘lefties’ in her party that she has lost control,” he said in a posting. “And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!”

But sure, try to compare Pelosi to the Toddler in Chief. It's sure to get all the misogynists in the Trump coalition all excited. That's Kellyanne's job.
I won't even dignify the "cpntrol of her own chamber" business. Considering the out of controldumpster fire of the White House, it's cleear they've decided once again on the "I know you are but what am I strategy.

Even Their Logo Screams “Lifeboat!”

Burn The Lifeboats.

Witness tampering works

Witness tampering works

by digby

Sure, this is fine:

Michael Cohen is postponing his scheduled February 7 testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing “threats against his family” from President Trump and his allies, Cohen’s lawyer announced Wednesday.

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Cohen representative Lanny Davis said in a statement. “Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the House Oversight Committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time.”

According to MSNBC Cohen's wife and his father-in-law are afraid for their personal safety.

That's cool. I'd imagine the president of the United States knows a lot of things about a lot of people. And he's clearly not afraid to threaten them publicly and obviously. His cult knows exactly what he wants. I'd be scared too.

Update: This is the recent Giuliani threat:

TAPPER: OK. But let me ask you a question.

You're talking about these threats that the president did not commit, and as to why that would be inappropriate, but the president has not done that.

The president is repeatedly calling publicly, on Judge Jeanine's show, on Twitter, he is repeatedly calling for an investigation into Michael Cohen's father-in-law ahead of Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress.

By your own definition, isn't that obstruction...

GIULIANI: No, it's defending himself.

TAPPER: ... or attempting to intimidate a witness?


Now, if you -- if you made that obstruction, I can't defend anybody.

TAPPER: To say...


GIULIANI: You're telling me...

TAPPER: ... this guy is testifying against me, his father-in-law should be...

(CROSSTALK) GIULIANI: No, wait, now. Wait, wait. Jake, Jake, we are so -- we are so distorting the system of justice just to get Donald Trump, it's going to hurt us so much.

TAPPER: So, it's OK to go after the father-in-law?

GIULIANI: Now -- now, of course it is, if the father-in-law is a criminal.

And the Southern District of New York, in the plea, wanted him to go to jail and said he's lying. They don't buy the special counsel's approach. They say he's lying because he's holding back information that is far more damaging than the lies that he is sharing with them now.

Now, what is that information about?


GIULIANI: It's about his father-in-law. We talked about Ukrainians. His father-in-law is a Ukrainian.

TAPPER: That's not a crime.

GIULIANI: His father-in-law has millions and millions -- of course it's not. I'm telling you, he comes from the Ukraine.

This reason that is important is, he may have ties to something called organized crime.

TAPPER: Because he's Ukrainian?

GIULIANI: Michael Cohen is refusing -- well, there's an organized crime group in Ukraine, organized crime group in Russia.

TAPPER: Organized crime everywhere, organized crime in Brooklyn, organized crime in the Bronx.

I mean, you know, that -- that -- I think that's making the leap.


GIULIANI: Oh, well, that's OK. He can have ties to organized crime. They can have bank fraud. That's just fine.

When somebody testifies against your client, you go out, and you look at what's wrong with them. Why are they doing it, if they're not telling the truth?


GIULIANI: He's not -- he's doing it because he's afraid to testify against his father-in-law, because the repercussions for that will be far worse than the repercussions for lying here...

TAPPER: I think... 

GIULIANI: ... because now he gets applauded in New York, where the crazy anti-Trumpers applaud for him.


TAPPER: So, I think...

GIULIANI: He goes and testifies -- he goes and testifies against some people -- let me finish.


GIULIANI: He goes and testifies against some people that are possibly in organized crime, they ain't going to be applauding for him when he goes into a restaurant in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, believe me.

TAPPER: I think...

GIULIANI: I did this for 15 years of my life.

That's the lawyer for the President of the United States.

Don’t back down. This is another assault on democracy.

Don't back down. This is another assault on democracy.

by digby

Via Vox:

The Politico/Morning Consult poll finds that a majority of voters — 54 percent — blame Trump and congressional Republicans for the shutdown, compared to 35 percent who blame Democrats.

In a statement, Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president, said, “As the government shutdown enters its second month, President Trump continues to carry the bulk of the blame among voters for the stalemate. ... In this week’s poll nearly half of voters (49 percent) say the president is responsible — up 6 points since the shutdown began. At the same time, 35 percent of voters blame congressional Democrats, up 4 points, while 4 percent of voters blame congressional Republicans, down 3 points.”

The second poll, conducted by CBS News, finds that 71 percent of Americans “don’t think the issue of a border wall is worth a government shutdown, which they say is now having a negative impact on the country.”

I'm hearing from anchors on all the cable news shows that people are suffering so it's time for the Democrats to fold. After all, the president is holding his breath until he turns blue and is clearly ready to do it until doomsday so they might as well accept that they have to capitulate to him.

On the other hand, Ben Wikler of Move On says he's hearing there is a remote chance that enough Republican Senators will sign on to a clean Continuing Resolution (one withou the wall) tomorrow that they might be able to force the situation. They are calling for people to get in touch with their Senators:

Today may be the day to weight in. The heat is on the Republicans far more than the Democrats and it's important not to let the media hector the Democrats into weakening. Trump is doing a dominance play --- insisting that he will win no matter how much chaos and pain he causes millions of people. It's what his base loves and it's all he knows. If it wasn't he would take the easy way out and declare an emergency and throw it to the courts. He might not get his wall but he could easily spin it as a strong move. Instead he's insisting on playing chicken because he believes that unless he puts Nancy Pelosi in her place, he will have lost face.

The Republicans can't be allowed to use these extreme measures to enact policies that are disapproved of by the majority of the country. It's another assault on democracy. If the Democrats don't stand against these actions we are well and truly screwed.


The wall is just a symbol for their bigotry

The wall is just a symbol for their bigotry

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been roundly criticized on the right for saying that Trump's wall is immoral as a reason for refusing to capitulate to his demands.She's been saying it for some time, but was taken to task most recently when she said, "a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation."

President Trump issued the most puerile response, naturally:

Setting aside the nonsense about tearing down the existing fencing, the last part of his comment about "strangers" flowing into the country is actually important. These two comments from the Democratic and Republican leaders are an excellent illustration of the underlying dynamics of this border wall fight. When Senator Lindsey Graham R-SC said the other day that the wall had become a metaphor for border security he was half right. It's become a metaphor for the political divide.

Polling from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveals that the wall represents something very different to those who support it and those who don't, and what it means goes right to the heart of how these different Americans see themselves, their future and their country.

According to the polling, among all Americans, 58 percent oppose building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, compared to 41 percent who favor the policy. White Americans without a four-year college degree favor this policy 55 percent vs. 35 percent.  And 55 percent of white men favor the wall, compared to 42 percent of white women. (These numbers closely align with other polls from CNN, the Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac and ABC/Washington Post) That breaks down to 80 percent of Republicans in favor of building a wall along the border, 80 percent of Democrats oppose and 62 percent of Independents oppose.

But the wall is a symbol for something much more fundamental. CNN's Ron Brownstein wrote a comprehensive analysis of these findings which back up his central thesis of a nation divided between what he calls the Republican "coalition of restoration" vs the Democratic "coalition of transformation." He writes:

In this sharply divided political alignment, the wall looms as a concrete (literally, in earlier versions of Trump's plan) manifestation of deeper views about whether these changes are rejuvenating the country or threatening its traditions.
You won't be surprised to learn that the PRRI poll shows that wall supporters are just as hostile to legal immigration as they are to undocumented immigrants who cross the border illegally. Or that they are upset when they are exposed to people who don't speak English and believe they are threatening our traditional values. So all this folderol about "border security" isn't really about crime. It's just about keeping foreigners out of the country.

These folks have similar attitudes about race and gender too. Wall supporters see no problems with systemic racism or police violence, and in fact believe that whites are more discriminated against than African-Americans. They don't believe feminism reflects what most women believe, and a majority of them think men are just as discriminated against as women.

Wall opponents believe the opposite on all those issues. Indeed, it appears that one can fairly well determine what a person's values and beliefs about what America stands for simply by asking their position on the wall.

Starting to feel the heat over the government shutdown from Republicans, President Trump gave a desultory speech over the weekend in which he pretended to offer a compromise on the government shutdown. This would allow DACA recipients as well as immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, a three-year reprieve in exchange for a bunch of money to put even more equipment, people and other resources on the border -- as well as, of course, the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding for his wall. Considering that he's the one who withdrew the protections for the DACA and TPS immigrants in the first place, it took some nerve for him to "offer" to allow them to stay in the country temporarily. No one has ever accused Donald Trump of not having chutzpah.

When the White House finally released its full plan on Monday, of course, it turned out to be yet another bait and switch.

As Spencer Ackerman and Scott Bixby of the Daily Beast explain it, this proposal would balloon the ICE budget, with at least $1 billion more than previously allotted, along with an additional 2,000 agents. But that's not the worst of it. The proposal severely limits legal immigration while increasing detention and deportation. Worst of all, it eviscerates the asylum protections for refugees, taking particular aim at Central American children, pretty much making it impossible for them to seek safety in the United States. According to Ackerman and Bixby:

The bill’s stipulations include the “Central American Minors Protection Act of 2019,” which would create a “new system” for seeking asylum promised by President Donald Trump in a 20-minute speech outlining the proposal. That act would legally bar minors hailing from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras from applying for asylum inside the United States, and instead require them to apply at “a Designated Application Processing Center in Central America.”
Remember, the young people in question are fleeing their home countries because they are in mortal danger. As Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told the Daily Beast, “The first and most critical step in not dying in a house that’s on fire is to get out of the house.”

The proposal is contradictory and logically absurd, filled with Catch-22s that would leave a bunch of kids stranded at the border for months. It also eliminates judicial review, leaving all decisions in the hands of the Director of Homeland Security, whose job under the Trump administration seems to be completely focused on punishing children who cross the Mexican border.

The Democrats have rejected this proposal for obvious reasons. The "deal" to reopen the government is getting more unacceptable to them by the day. It didn't take a genius to see that if they believe the wall is an immorality, doubling down on the cruelty toward Central American children seeking protection and refuge in was not an effective way sweeten the deal.

As we can see in those PRRI poll results, this isn't really about a wall for anybody. Since the supporters only represent 40 percent of the population, if they want to prevail they have to force their worldview on the majority against its will. Holding the government hostage to the point of pain for millions of Americans -- in order to inflict pain on vulnerable refugees and immigrants -- is an exercise of power to prove just whose country this is. That too is an immorality.


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