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Updated: 6 hours 25 min ago

Lori Loughlin’s coming defense: I didn’t know bribery was illegal

13 hours 43 min ago

“I didn’t know that what I was doing was a crime” feels very on-brand for 2019 and the age of Trump.

Or, better yet, “I didn’t know that cheating was wrong.”

There were rumors last week that Loughlin and her husband were planning to plead ignorance, insisting that they never formed the intent necessary for a conviction in a case like this, but those rumors seem firmer today per reports in TMZ and People. As absurd as the defense sounds, it has a certain appeal. What’s the difference between rich trash making an exorbitant “gift” to a university and then finding their child’s been admitted “on the merits” and Loughlin and her husband handing fat envelopes to athletics officials to get her kids in on the pretense of joining the crew team?

Our sources say … lawyers for Lori and Mossimo Giannulli didn’t take a plea early on because they believe they have a solid defense on several fronts. First, ringleader Rick Singer did not tell them how he would use the $500k to get their daughters into the school. Fact … they were aware Rick Singer wanted pics of the girls on a rowing machine, but they say that doesn’t mean they knew the end game.

It’s true … knowledge and intent are key elements to proving bribery, and we’re told Lori and Mossimo’s lawyers are making that a centerpiece of their defense … their only intent is to generally get their daughters into USC by using a “facilitator” who got hundreds of other students into colleges…

And, we’re told, they have a more basic defense … colleges have horse-traded with relatives of prospective students for decades … e.g., fund the wing of a school building and your child will miraculously get accepted. It’s not only been tolerated by many schools … it’s aggressively encouraged by some of the schools, and parents know it.

“I get how it looks on paper,” said a source to People. Certainly they’re guilty of being “naive.” But…

“You read the complaint and they look like criminal masterminds,” the source tells PEOPLE. “But they really didn’t know the legalities of what was going on. They’re not lawyers and they’re not experts. They were parents who simply wanted to make sure that their daughters got into a good school.”…

“Calling in favors, donating money to the alumni association, hiring consultants. Those are all things that parents do,” says the source. “And so they gave money to this consultant, not entirely knowing everything that was going to be done. When it all fell apart, nobody was as surprised as they were that they were in trouble.”

The source continues, “She never intended to break any laws, and if she did, it was inadvertent.”

It’s true, they gave the bulk of their $500,000 to Rick Singer for his “foundation,” possibly not knowing how he’d spread it around or even whether he intended to keep it for himself as his fixer fee. But they didn’t give him the whole $500K. According to paragraphs 201, 202, and 212 of the federal affidavit, Loughlin’s husband sent two checks, each for $50,000, directly to Donna Heinel, the senior women’s associate athletic director at USC. What did they think that money was for? It’s one thing to make a “gift” to the university, a nonprofit, in the full light of day, another to start cutting checks to individuals who coincidentally would be perfectly positioned to get your kid admitted under the false pretense of joining the crew team. Another strange coincidence: Both of the checks sent to Heinel were sent within days or weeks of her securing provisional admission for the Giannulli girls as student-athletes.

And remember, according to the feds, the Giannullis provided Singer with photos of both of their daughters posing on ergometers. It’s impossible to believe they didn’t know that a fraud was being perpetrated to get the girls admitted, if the facts in the affidavit are true. Their defense, I take it, is that all schemes in which the rich make “donations” to schools in return for their children being admitted are a sort of fraud — that is, it’s not that they didn’t realize what they were doing is shady, it’s that they didn’t realize it was illegal. Consider the state of the law, though, if that defense were successful in this case. Rich parents everywhere could start openly bribing key personnel at American universities to get their kids in and so long as the word “bribery” or “illegal” was never used, they could claim ignorance and avoid criminal liability. “I never heard of the Lori Loughlin prosecution,” they could say. “I didn’t realize admissions payola was actually against the law.”

If you haven’t read the affidavit, incidentally, know that the feds used Singer in a sting on both Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin long after the girls were admitted to USC to try to prove that they knew the $500,000 they paid was illicit. Singer, now cooperating with the feds and acting at their behest, told Giannulli in October 2018 that his foundation was being audited but “of course, I’m not gonna say anything about your payments going to Donna Heinel at USC to get the girls into USC, through crew.” To which Giannulli replied, “Sure.” Singer continued, “I just want to make sure [our] stories are the same,” that “your $400K was paid to our foundation to help underserved kids.” Giannulli: “Uh, perfect.” How this guy didn’t realize at that point, as Singer weirdly recited all the pertinent facts of their joint fraud, that he wasn’t being set up is beyond me.

Singer spoke with Loughlin a month later pitching her the same story about an IRS audit of the foundation:

Presumably Loughlin will point to the fact that Singer used the word “donations” instead of “bribes.” Plainly, though, she and her husband knew that a false story involving athletics was used to get the girls into USC. And plainly, they knew that 100 grand was sent to someone in the athletics department at USC. As Ed noted yesterday, another USC athletics official, Laura Janke, who allegedly created the false athletic profiles of Loughlin’s daughters to get them admitted via the crew team, is also now cooperating with the feds and presumably willing to share anything she knows about the Giannullis’ intricate knowledge of this plot. Realistically it’s laughable that they didn’t realize what they were doing was bribery. What they’re going to have to argue is that they sincerely believed that bribery, at least when it comes to college admissions, just isn’t illegal.

Exit question: Are mom and dad going to end up turning on each other here? “Lori is taking Mossimo’s advice. She thinks she did nothing wrong,” said a source to Us magazine. “Her husband presented this to her like it wasn’t an illegal thing she was doing.”

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Cory Booker defends Ilhan Omar over AIPAC comments that Pelosi flagged for “anti-semitic tropes”

14 hours 23 min ago

A scene from today’s “She The People” presidential forum, where candidates are invited to show off their wokeness by whitewashing Jew-baiting, apparently.

Pay attention to the question.

Ilhan Omar’s involved in a new controversy practically every week — there was the “dual loyalty” crap about supporters of Israel, the old “some people did something” remarks about 9/11, etc — but the first tweets to land her in trouble were what she said in February about AIPAC setting U.S. policy towards Israel through the influence of its “Benjamins.” What’s memorable about that incident is that it’s the only time her own leadership has come down hard on her. It seemed at first that they would lower the boom on her again after the “dual loyalty” smear, but the left, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Omar pals, rose up in support of the right of progressive women of color to “speak their Jew-baiting truth” or whatever. In the end the House ended up passing an anodyne resolution noting that anti-semitism is bad, with no reference to Omar.

I mention that because Booker wasn’t being asked for a generic comment on Omar here. The questioner specifically mentioned the AIPAC remarks, the ones Pelosi and other House leaders condemned. Read the statement they issued at the time, which was forceful:

All Booker could offer by contrast is some paint-by-numbers Trump criticism, which was predictable for an event like She The People but disingenuous in the context of the question. His point that Trump is guilty of “selective condemnation” in singling her out for the things she says is complicated in the AIPAC incident by the fact that Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, had a problem with what Omar said too. Booker had all the political cover he needed to say something here about being careful not to let criticism of Israeli policies lead Americans into prejudicial stereotypes, but he didn’t have the nerve. The woman who put the question to him, and the wider audience before him, were clearly quite enthusiastic about Omar’s willingness to speak “truth” to power and Booker declined to challenge them. Pro-Israel Democrats should remember that when he asks for their votes, as the next Democratic president will doubtless come under heavy pressure from the left to adopt a view of Israel more in keeping with Ilhan Omar’s. What would President Booker say?

Speaking of fear of getting on the wrong side of She The People attendees:

Biden’s team had considered releasing a video announcing his 2020 campaign on Wednesday, the same day as the She the People Presidential candidate forum, according to two sources who had conversations with aides to the former vice president. The She the People event is focused on issues affecting women of color, a core constituency of the Democratic Party.

The sources, both critically involved with the forum, tell CNN they advised members of Biden’s team on the mission of the She the People event and the poor optics of overshadowing the forum with his video release.

“Wednesday is an important day to Democratic women of color,” one of the sources relayed to CNN about the conversation. “It would be a bad idea to stand in the way.”

He’ll announce tomorrow instead. Here’s the latest Ilhan Omar pronunciamento, a classic from 2017, which I haven’t had the energy to write about this week but which you should read about at the link. It’ll be important background for next year when the Democratic nominee claims that the UN-backed U.S. troops who tried to get humanitarian aid delivered to starving Somalis in 1993 kinda sorta deserved to have their bodies dragged through the streets.

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Middlebury College deplatformed a speaker last week citing security concerns

15 hours 3 min ago

Middlebury College was the scene of an ugly student protest against Charles Murray two years ago that left one professor in a neck brace. Professor Allison Stanger later said she feared for her life that night, though she wasn’t even the main focus of outrage and was, in fact, a liberal Democrat. Last week Middlebury made news again, this time for disinviting a speaker hours before the event was scheduled to take place on the grounds that the safety of students (presumably their physical safety) couldn’t be guaranteed. You can probably guess why. Because student activists were planning to protest. From Inside Higher Ed:

An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, “In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.

They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, “we didn’t have the staff capacity” to assure safety…

Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.

The heckler’s veto wasn’t completely successful as Legutko did give a speech in one professor’s classroom which was partially streamed online. Legutko is a Catholic who still has a traditional view of marriage. That position, held (at least publicly) by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton until a few years ago was one of the main reasons students wanted him disinvited. Princeton University professor Robert P. George tweeted this in response to the situation:

A "liberal arts college" that bans speech is like a "cigar bar" that forbids smoking. What's the point of the place? #middleburyyieldstothemob

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

Joshua Aronson, a professor at NYU, also chimed in:

They took the worst lesson abusing @charlesmurray and his sponsor: that most administrators and academics are cowards, too afraid to stand up to adolescent discomfort with viewpoint diversity. Ceding the freedom of speech and the and the mission of college adolescents is crazy!

— joshua aronson (@Nurtureofintell) April 17, 2019

Prof. Aronson of NYU nails it. Assuming that the administration of Middlebury at some level WANTS to do the right thing, it's now paying the price for the message of weakness it sent to the mob that attacked and injured Allison Stanger: there are no consequences for your crimes.

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

Sadly, it appears the administration at Middlebury has no interest in standing up for free speech. The College Fix reported yesterday that after the de-platforming of Ryszard Legutko last week, administrators held a listening session in which they seemed eager to agree with the student activists:

During the meeting, students voiced frustration at the fact that Legutko was invited to campus and at “white male” professors for the so-called educational violence they inflict, among other topics.

In response, the three administrators did not tell these students that college is a time of hearing differing opinions or having difficult conversations, but rather agreed with and apologized to the students and pledged to work to address their concerns.

“I hear you, and you should be outraged, and we should acknowledge that and apologize, because that’s the least we can do right now, because we can’t make it right in the moment. But in the future we will do everything we can to make it right,” an administrator told the students…

“You are absolutely right, me apologizing is not going to cut it,” an administrator told the students. “We have to change, and it’s not up to you to engage, it’s up to us … you should be frustrated. I’m just really frustrated too, and again that doesn’t make this right, doesn’t absolve me of my responsibilities in any shape or form, but we’re going to keep at it, because this is not the institution we want.”

The cosmic irony to all of this is that Legutko didn’t come halfway around the world to discuss gay marriage but his book as Rod Dreher pointed out:

What happened to Legutko goes a long way towards illustrating his thesis in his great book The Demon In Democracy, in which the professor cites ways that liberal democracy is coming to be a form of soft totalitarianism comparable to what the peoples of Eastern Europe endured under Soviet occupation. Legutko was a Solidarity trade union activist in those days. Legutko’s book is a big inspiration for my next book, which is going to be about the emergence of soft totalitarianism, and practical lessons on how to resist it.

So to sum this up. A professor who believes liberal democracy is turning into soft totalitarianism came to a college in America where students pay $74,000 a year to attend and was de-platformed on the grounds that if he were allowed to speak, someone might get hurt. Then the administrators apologized to the students for allowing him to almost speak. I’d say that’s case closed on his thesis.

Here’s a video clip which features some of the leaked audio of professors kowtowing to student activists:

The post Middlebury College deplatformed a speaker last week citing security concerns appeared first on Hot Air.

Flushed: Feds probing Illinois governor for tax evasion over … toilets?

15 hours 42 min ago

In a world of constant change, it’s a relief to know that some traditions continue. In Illinois, Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker will keep alive the tradition of federal criminal investigations, a tradition with a rich history of housing some of Pritzker’s predecessors in Club Fed for their retirement. Chicago radio station WBEZ broke the news this morning of a probe into tax claims by Pritzker and his family over a family mansion rendered uninhabitable by disabling all its toilets:

Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, his wife and his brother-in-law are under federal criminal investigation for a dubious residential property tax appeal that dogged him during his gubernatorial campaign last year, WBEZ has learned.

A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation confirmed to WBEZ that the probe, which has not been revealed publicly until now, began last October and remains active. There are no signs that criminal charges are imminent.

WBEZ has also confirmed that Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker’s personal assistant who was involved in the property tax appeal, Christine Lovely, is being represented by one of Chicago’s most high-powered lawyers. Her attorney, Reid Schar, is a former federal prosecutor who helped convict ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

It’s tough to tell the teams without a scorecard. Especially in Illinois.

The issue of the tax claims for the “uninhabitable” mansion came up in last year’s election campaign. In May 2017, the Chicago Sun-Times exposed the machinations that saved Pritzker and his family a fortune, even though Pritzker hardly needs the help:

J.B. Pritzker, billionaire would-be governor, bought the historic mansion next door to his even bigger home on Chicago’s Gold Coast, let it fall into disrepair — and then argued it was “uninhabitable” to win what so far have been nearly $230,000 in property-tax breaks, records show.

Pritzker, his wife and their two children live in a palatial, three-story home in the Gold Coast with more than 12,500 square feet of living space and a two-story coach house. They bought that for $14.5 million in May 2006 and spent an additional amount fixing it up — between $11 million and $25 million more, records show. …

Pritzker refurbished the outside of the Federal-style home, where the Gordons raised their family. But the inside has fallen into disrepair. The toilets have been disconnected, and the home has “no functioning bathrooms or kitchen,” according to documents Pritzker’s lawyers filed with the office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.

Arguing that the smaller mansion is “vacant and uninhabitable,” those lawyers convinced Berrios to slash its assessed value last year from $6.25 million to just under $1.1 million.

A month before the election, Pritzker remained the Democratic candidate, but the issue had not gone away. Just a few weeks ahead of the election, Cook County’s inspector general called this a “scheme to defraud” the county of badly needed real estate tax revenue and demanded action be taken to get the money. Patrick Blanchard also alleged that the “responsible parties” perjured themselves:

Cook County’s chief watchdog has concluded that more than $330,000 in property tax breaks and refunds that Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker received on one of his Gold Coast mansions — in part by removing toilets — constituted a “scheme to defraud.”

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard also recommends in the confidential report that Cook County should try to recover the money from the billionaire. …

Blanchard writes in the report — obtained by the Sun-Times — that the assessor’s office was “the victim of sworn affidavits containing false representations.

“The evidence indicates that the use of these affidavits was part of a scheme for obtaining money by means of false representations and, in executing the scheme, the responsible parties caused checks to be issued by the Cook County Treasurer and delivered by U.S. Mail according to the direction thereon.

Nevertheless, Illinois voters — led largely by Cook County — elected Pritzker governor anyway. Electing the crook is also a long tradition in Illinois, which is why the other tradition of federal prosecution for the office’s inhabitants exists.

In fact, Pritzker celebrated his first 100 days in office yesterday. Guess what policy he chose to promote to mark the occasion? Pritzker promoted his proposal to change the Illinois income tax to a progressive system rather than a flat tax, purportedly to instill fairness in its assessments:

One of Gov. Pritzker’s major goals during this legislative session is his plan to change the state’s income tax system from a flat tax to a graduated income tax, which he has dubbed the “fair” tax. To do so, Pritzker first needs legislative support and then 60 percent of voters to approve a referendum next year. He seems confident it will happen.

“I’m excited about where we are, we’ve got a lot of support for the ‘fair’ tax,” Pritzker said.

But Pritzker would not promise his controversial tax plan won’t later raise taxes on more than just those making over $250,000 a year.

You can’t make this up. Nor do you need to, because … Illinois.

Pritzker defended himself after the WBEZ report, claiming he has no reason to worry:

“Let me be clear that I’m very confident that any review of this matter will show that all the rules were followed,’’ Pritzker told reporters at an unrelated event in Chicago on Wednesday. “I have not been contacted by any law enforcement, neither has M.K.’’ …

“My opponents raised this issue, and it became a political subject last October,” Pritzker said at the Wednesday event, adding that he has “no concerns” that there will be criminal charges stemming from the investigation.

Instead, he is “laser focused” on his current job responsibilities, Pritzker said. “We have many bills that are focused on lifting up working families.”

They have bills, all right — just not the Franklins that the Pritzkers avoided paying by cutting off the toilets in their mansion.

The post Flushed: Feds probing Illinois governor for tax evasion over … toilets? appeared first on Hot Air.

Binders full of women: Cory Booker, Eric Swalwell vow to name a female VP

16 hours 23 min ago

“Anyone with a vagina will do, honestly,” snarks Emily Zanotti, paraphrasing them. It’s always fun when marginal candidates, one of whom is polling at zero, start picking out running mates. It’s far more likely that one of these chumps will end up as VP to Harris, Warren, or Klobuchar than that they’ll be in a position to deign to name a woman to the ticket.

But not nearly as likely as that they’ll both be gone after New Hampshire. Maybe Booker will try to tough it out through South Carolina.

I also find it amusing that each makes this pledge with an air of vaguely transgressive wokeness, as if they’re committing themselves to a course of action that’s bold rather than something they’d have absolutely no choice but to do if nominated. Let me remind you of the gender split in the 2016 exit poll:

Not only were women a majority of the electorate, if not for their lopsided support for Democrats Trump would have crushed Hillary on the strength of his appeal to men. And don’t be tempted to assume that that lopsidedness was only because the first woman major-party nominee was on the ballot that year. The 2018 midterm exit polls show that Democrats whipped the GOP even more overwhelmingly among women last fall:

Nineteen points. America had a woman on the ballot in 2008 with Sarah Palin, a woman at the top of the ballot in 2016 with Hillary Clinton, and has one top-tier woman candidate this year in Kamala Harris with another, Elizabeth Warren, capable of contending with a few breaks. The idea that Dems will ever again have an all-male ticket when they’re relying as heavily as they are on women voters, with progressives forever demanding more diversity among their leadership, is comical. All Booker and Swalwell are really saying here is that they won’t make a choice that would instantly infuriate the left and leave them scrambling for the balance of the election why they decided that the 2020 election should be a choice between two all-male tickets. Cory and Eric will do what they’re told, and what they’re being told by their base is, “You’d better name a woman if you’re the nominee.”

SPOILER ALERT: I'm a white man.

I know where I can't speak to someone else's experience and I pledge to:
1️⃣ Pass the mic
2️⃣ Ask a woman to serve as VP

— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) April 24, 2019

Booker: "I will have a woman running mate"


— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) April 24, 2019

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Hillary’s rise-above-partisanship op-ed on the Mueller report never mentions collusion

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 23:31

Hillary Clinton has written an op-ed for the Washington Post in which she offers her take on the Mueller report and how to proceed on the question of impeachment. There’s a current divide within the Democratic Party between those eager to start impeachment immediately and those in the leadership, like Speaker Pelosi, who believe impeachment isn’t worth the hassle while still allowing latitude for further investigation. Clinton comes down on Pelosi’s side, i.e. a go-slow approach.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systemic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say that I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

Hillary certainly has some skin in this game but notice how she’s framing this. In her view, Mueller’s report has two main points. First, sweeping interference in the 2016 election by Russia. And second, possible obstruction by Trump. Notice anything missing? What happened to the collusion narrative Hillary’s party has been flogging for the past two years? You’ll be shocked to learn the word “collusion” doesn’t appear in her op-ed even once. Apparently, that was never a thing and Mueller’s report had nothing to say about it. Her op-ed is like an article at Vox. You can always tell where the best arguments for the other side are by what has been conveniently left out of the discussion. In this case, it’s collusion.

So having set this up in a blatantly partisan way, Hillary says it’s time to rise above partisanship:

First, like any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Is the woman tone deaf? She literally wrote that now is not the time for “reflexive partisanship” and her next line is that slothful Republicans need to step up for once. And the line after that references another Democratic bogeyman, AG Barr. Having loaded up this paragraph with partisan jabs, she concludes that it’s time to rise above base political considerations. Sure, Hillary. Thanks for showing us what that looks like in this totally non-partisan attack on the GOP and the Attorney General. Her nonpartisan advice continues with the suggestion that Democrats should treat President Trump just like Nixon:

Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

In short, turn the Mueller report into a TV show. That’s really the core of her advice. And she’s probably right from a purely partisan viewpoint. We’ve got two cable networks (CNN and MSNBC) who have been doing pretty well financially on the back of the Russia collusion story. They’d be happy to see it become an ongoing battle in Congress that they can bloviate about until the 2020 election. But as much as I think Hillary’s response is entirely partisan she does say one thing I agree with:

The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future.

She, of course, blames that on President Trump rather than President Obama who was actually in office when most of this interference was taking place. Putting that aside, she’s right that Russia is an adversary and will certainly try this again. China and North Korea might be thinking about seeing if they can do the same. We do need to address the threat.

Here’s the twist I think a lot of Democrats, including Hillary, haven’t seen coming yet. Whether it’s in 2020 or 2024, at some point the candidate a foreign power seeks to help in a presidential election is going to probably be a Democrat. Why? Because what they want most is to sow discord and make more people distrust democracy. At some point in the future, we’ll find out that Democrats don’t really see the big deal in collusion so long as their candidate won the election.

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Are Bernie and Beto fishing in the same voter pond?

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 23:01

That’s a question discussed in an article published by the Houston Chronicle today. It’s an interesting question given that Bernie Sanders is battling it out with Joe Biden for the top spot in polls while Beto O’Rourke appears to be stalling out in the second tier of candidates. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Bernie is at 23% while Beto is at 6.3%.

Bernie is clearly the alpha dog in this comparison, though, with Beto scrambling to adjust his political opinions according to whatever the latest lurch to the far left Bernie takes. While Beto had to at least try and appeal to dissatisfied Republican voters during his run for the U.S. Senate, his venture into faking moderate political views soon ended and his run to the left resulted in a loss to Senator Cruz. Beto is the same man who voted for a spending bill that included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley though now he demands that the border barrier in El Paso be torn down. That was then, this is now.

As the 2020 campaign is joined, other top Democrats can oppose Trump’s call for more and larger walls as a straightforward wedge issue — something they say shows anti-immigrant feeling, intolerance and even racism.

But O’Rourke’s record on border walls is complicated. Last March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Buried in that was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including El Paso.

O’Rourke later explained the vote as a compromise to win approval of another proposal he backed, expanding access to mental health care for military veterans who had received other-than-honorable discharges. But his action attracted criticism from people who know the border best. Scott Nicol, co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s Borderlands team, called it “very disappointing.”

Many of the Democrat hopefuls for the 2020 Democrat primary nomination are attending a presidential forum at Texas Southern University (TSU) Wednesday afternoon. As I’ve written about previously, pandering, er, campaigning at TSU is mandatory for any candidate seeking the Democrat nomination. Wednesday’s forum marks Bernie Sanders’ first visit to Texas since he declared his candidacy. Sorry guys, it’s all about women of color. Will the intersection between Sanders and O’Rourke supporters be noticed?

Those similarities and contrasts will be on display in Houston Wednesday afternoon as Sanders makes his first campaign stops in Texas since he announced his 2020 campaign for the White House. Both O’Rourke and Sanders are part of a 1 p.m. presidential forum at Texas Southern University put on by a group called She The People that aims to give a stronger voice to women of color in politics. Six other presidential candidates are participating in that forum including U.S. Sens Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

A university setting is perfect for both Sanders and Beto. Both appeal to younger voters and donors. The Houston Chronicle found that 90 donors have given to both Bernie and Beto since 2016. That’s a small group, true, but it is a peek into evidence that the two are vying for the same voters. Both claim to not take PAC money or corporate donations. Both support term limits and abolishing gerrymandering. Each appeal to voters looking for outsiders, though Bernie is far from one.

Both men raise a lot of money, too. Both claim grassroots campaigns powered by small donations. Beto is depending on Texas donors so far. That makes sense because Texas Democrats are beholden to him for stoking the flames of Democrat voter enthusiasm and turn-out in 2018. And, let’s face it, most voters are only just beginning to get to know him outside of Texas.

Not surprisingly, O’Rourke’s is relying heavily on Texas donors so far. He collected at least $2.1 million from Texas, according to the Federal Election Commission. No other candidate in the race has raised even $1 million in Texas yet, FEC records show. Outside of Texas, O’Rourke’s second-best fundraising state has been California, where he’s raised just short of $400,000.

O’Rourke hired former Bernie campaign staffers in his Senate run. They show up at O’Rourke’s campaign events now. Some of the college students interviewed in the Houston Chronicle article point to Sanders’ ideas on free college tuition and student debt. O’Rourke sounds the same as Bernie on these topics, though, so choices here won’t be made based on that. All of them point to the lack of specifics from O’Rourke on policies. That’s where Bernie can gain ground because he’s been running since 2015 on the same issues. Most of the other candidates are now simply catching up to him, including Beto. Bernie won more than 70% of voters ages 18 to 34 in 2016. O’Rourke won more than 70% of voters under 30 in 2018 against Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke heavily prioritized college students in 2018 with lots of college campus rallies. Bernie does the same. However, according to a recent poll, creepy Uncle Joe leads with the college kids.

A poll of 1,005 college students released by the group College Reaction found that Joe Biden, who is expected to join the race this week, is the choice of about 19 percent of the younger voters. Sanders was second with 15 percent. The next highest Democrat was O’Rourke at 14 percent. No other Democrat in the race topped 10 percent.

It’s still really early in the process. Joe Biden hasn’t even formally declared his candidacy yet. Bernie is only now visiting Texas as a 2020 presidential candidate. Beto is stuck in the second tier of candidates and has an automatically enthusiastic audience in Texas. All that should make for an interesting afternoon on the Texas Southern University campus. After the forum at TSU, most of the candidates will head on over to the African American Mayors Association’s national conference to pander, er, speak to them. It’s a busy day for Democrats in Houston. The Harris County Republican Party plans to be at the TSU location to welcome the candidates in their own way.

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Poll: A majority now recognize the threat of Artificial Intelligence

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 22:31

I’ve certainly been yelling at all the sheeple and telling them to wake up for years now. Maybe it’s starting to sink in?

Perhaps so. One of the latest surveys from Scott Rasmussen polling shows that a majority of Americans now describe themselves as seeing Artificial Intelligence as either somewhat of a threat or a very serious threat to humanity. And statistically speaking, this almost certainly includes a few people who have never seen the Terminator movie series. (Rasmussen)

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters believe that Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is at least somewhat of a threat to the human race. A national survey found that 43% disagree and do not see it as a threat.

Those figures include 16% who consider A.I. is a Very Serious threat while 10% say it is not a threat at all.

Concern about A.I. threatening the human race has been a regular feature of science-fiction films, including classics such as The Matrix. The number currently considering A.I. to be a threat is up three points since November. Other recent studies show a significant increase in the number who believe A.I. and Robotics will lead to mass unemployment. There has also been a growing concern about the impact of A.I. on education, health care, and the economy.

The demographics on this one may be interesting. Younger people are more likely to see AI as a threat than people over fifty. (I’d have predicted the opposite, personally.) Also, Republican are more likely to be worried about it than Democrats. That one was a big surprise since party loyalty tends to skew the other way, with Republicans tending to be older and Democrats younger.

If you’re not concerned about this then you probably have a good life insurance policy. After all, we’ve already had one AI robot kill a worker at a VW plant. People have been debating both the technology and the ethics behind both robots and artificial intelligence for years. But at least for now, most of the real damage can still be plausibly written off as accidents.

The fact is that we still don’t know if true Artificial Intelligence will actually wind up being a massive threat because we haven’t created it yet. Oh, we have some clever algorithms out there to be sure, some of which can imitate humans to the point where they’re regularly passing the Turing Test. But they’re still just executing commands input by humans.

To date, at least to the best of our knowledge, there isn’t a single AI program that’s come up with an original thought. And until one does, we won’t have true Artificial Intelligence. What’s more, we’re not even sure if it’s possible, primarily because we don’t really understand how our own brains work all that well. No amount of science can explain the human soul or what it is that allows us to do so much more than simply retrieve and process data the way our computers do.

But assuming it’s possible (and for all we know, it’s already happened and it’s just lurking out there in the cloud, biding its time), the moment the first AI “wakes up” will either usher in an amazing new era for mankind or be the beginning of the end. My money is on the latter, but I tend to be a pessimist anyway. And I probably won’t live to see the full robot revolution, so I can dump the problem in the laps of you young people.

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NYT: Mulvaney told Nielsen Ixnay on the Ussians-ray around Trump

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 22:01

Did Kirstjen Nielsen really need to be told that the subject of Russia might be a wee bit sensitive to the man whom Democrats accused of being a Muscovite agent? According to “one senior administration official” talking to the New York Times, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had to intervene to keep the ousted Homeland Security Secretary from bringing up 2020 election security issues connected to Russian intrusions during Cabinet meetings. Nielsen eventually gave up discussing it with Trump at all:

In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election. …

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.” …

This account of Ms. Nielsen’s frustrations was described to The New York Times by three senior Trump administration officials and one former senior administration official, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity. The White House did not provide comment after multiple requests on Tuesday.

Mulvaney offered a rebuttal to this account — although an oddly qualified rebuttal:

Mulvaney said in a statement in response to The Times’ report, “I don’t recall anything along those lines happening in a meeting.”

He added that the administration “will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we’ve already taken many steps to prevent it in the future.”

So it didn’t happen in a meeting. It’s probably not much of a stretch to imagine that it could have happened in some other context, though. To this day, Trump seems incapable of distinguishing between the reality of Russian attempts to interfere in 2016 and his own innocence of participation in them. Trump often minimizes Russia’s actions — as Jared Kushner did yesterday as well — out of personal affront to the fact that Trump won the election on his own steam. The last thing Trump would want to sit through is another lecture on Russia’s hostile propaganda and intelligence efforts aimed at the next election cycle.

Even if that were the case, though, this analysis from the NYT is a stretch at best:

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.

Worth noting: It didn’t gain much urgency or widespread attention in the last administration either. If it had, perhaps we wouldn’t still be discussing Russia’s routine attempts to create mischief in Western elections, a track record which stretches back well into the Soviet era.

More to the point, however, Trump’s unhappiness with this topic didn’t prevent Nielsen from organizing an effective response to it. If she couldn’t raise the topic in a formal Cabinet meeting, Nielsen certainly could have connected with other Cabinet officials on her own to coordinate those efforts and plan effective countermeasures. It’s beyond silly to pretend that a Cabinet meeting is the only venue in which such matters can be discussed.

Furthermore, Homeland Security would primarily be dealing with voting infrastructure rather than counterintelligence. Counterintelligence would be in the purview of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — William Barr and Dan Coats, respectively. Dealing with Russian intel ops would fall to them first, with Nielsen in the loop to keep abreast of the threats. Nielsen’s primary task would be to focus on coordinating with states on hardening their voting systems to prevent intrusions and outside manipulation.

This leak seems gauged to cover Nielsen’s exit and offer a preemptive shield for any potential blame for failures. Needless to say, that’s not exactly a confidence-booster ahead of 2020’s elections. If those efforts were on track, why would anyone need to float this biscuit out now?

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Report: McCain family to endorse Biden — at some point

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 21:31

Not a surprise, and yet sort of a surprise. He’s a close family friend, as the Examiner story notes, and delivered a eulogy for Maverick that began with a profession of love. He consoled Meghan McCain publicly on “The View” while her father was still in the throes of his illness. The McCains palpably hate Trump and have made no secret of it. Of course they’re all voting for Uncle Joe over POTUS.

But to endorse him? Do that and they’ll squander whatever goodwill Republicans still have for them. And it’s not clear how valuable their endorsements would be to Biden, especially if — can this be right? — they’re planning to offer those endorsements during the Democratic primary.

Sources close to both Biden’s presidential campaign and the McCains said that at some point during the White House race, McCain’s widow Cindy, 64, and daughter Meghan, 34, a host on “The View,” will offer their public support in the hope of removing Trump from office in 2020.

A former McCain campaign official with close ties to the family said support for Biden was a given, but they needed to calculate how they could best help the former vice president. Both Cindy and Meghan McCain remain Republicans, and one consideration is whether endorsing Biden in the Democratic primary could do him more harm than good. “It’s undeniable that Joe Biden and the McCain family have a very close, personal relationship. It’s about what’s good for him [Biden].”…

The source said they expected Meghan McCain to speak out in favor of Biden should he get the nomination, but a Cindy McCain endorsement could come sooner.

A Biden campaign source said that Biden himself had talked about his support from the McCains and had discussed whether family members should appear with him during the Democratic primary battle.

It … does not sound like a Cindy McCain endorsement will be coming sooner:

Joe Biden is a wonderful man and dear friend of the McCain Family. However, I have no intention of getting involved in presidential politics.

— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) April 24, 2019

The McCains still have some influence over Arizona politics. Remember that Martha McSally didn’t get appointed to McCain’s vacant seat until she sought Cindy McCain’s blessing after being lukewarm in her praise for Maverick during the campaign. Cindy herself was mentioned as a possible appointee at one point. It’s not crazy to think one or more of the McCain children will run for office there someday. Whether they could make it through a Republican primary is an open question right now; if they were to endorse Biden, especially if that ended up tipping the state to the Democrats next fall, that question would likely be answered. The McCains would be finished as a political force.

And how much good would their endorsements do? They’ve already signaled their opposition to Trump as loudly as they can, denying him an invite to John’s funeral and then lambasting him via Meghan’s eulogy. She lays into him practically every day on “The View” too. If you’re a voter who cares what the McCains think, it’s already abundantly clear that they think you shouldn’t reelect you-know-who. The virtue of them formally endorsing Biden during the Democratic primary, I suppose, is that it would highlight Biden’s hypothetical appeal to centrist Republican voters. “If I can get the family of the 2008 GOP nominee to support me,” he could say, “I can get lots of other Republicans too.” But you know what Bernie and the left-wingers would say to that. The fact that the McCains are comfortable with Biden shows that (a) the political establishment is a lame monoculture, irrespective of party, (b) there’s no way Biden will enact bold progressive reforms as president if he’s dependent on centrist Republicans for support, and (c) the fact that close personal friends would endorse him says nothing about whether the average Republican voter would.

I can see the McCain endorsement maybe helping Biden once the field has narrowed and Democratic voters start looking harder at electability. Once the focus shifts for most from supporting the candidate they like best to supporting the candidate who stands the best chance of winning, there’s some value to prominent endorsements from the other party. And the McCains aren’t any random Republican family, of course. Maverick’s last big vote in the Senate was to save ObamaCare; he and Trump obviously despised each other, giving him some extra Democratic cred. His death generated public sympathy for him and his family even on the blue side of the aisle. The endorsement might be worth something to Uncle Joe. Just as not much as it’s likely to cost the McCains.

Note the fine print, though, about the McCains endorsing him “at some point.” I’m sure they’ll keep their powder dry for awhile to see if Biden’s polling holds up after he gets in. Imagine if they endorsed him and then all the worst fears about his viability proved true. And let’s face it: There’s a fair chance that those fears will prove true.

His leading rival in the Democratic primary, Senator Bernie Sanders, has amassed $26.6 million across his various political committees, including more than $10 million left over from his 2016 presidential run and 2018 re-election in Vermont. Mr. Biden begins at $0, and it would take his raising more than $100,000 every day until Christmas just to match what Mr. Sanders had banked at the start of April

Even before he formally enters the race, Mr. Biden is grappling with some internal tensions as he builds an organization: A launch video crafted by his new media consultant, Mark Putnam, was not favorably received by other advisers, and the former vice president’s longtime aide Mike Donilon devised an alternative video, according to two Democrats briefed on the dispute.

That’s almost satire. After months of waffling about whether to get into the race, then waffling about where to launch his campaign, now Biden’s waffling about which launch video to use. Breitbart points to a quote from a former Biden aide given to Time magazine last week: “I’ve never seen anything so half-assed. They’re improvising and doing last-minute planning. The guy has been running for President since 1987 and can’t figure the basics out, like where to stand on his first day? This should make everyone very nervous.” Added another former aide, “The guy’s best day is the day he announces. Everything after that gets worse.” Quite possible, and he’s not the only political pro who thinks so. If you were a McCain, how eager would you be to bet the family’s political prestige on him with an early endorsement? If he flames out of the race, you’d have enraged your own political party for nothing.

I think Cindy will end up staying out of it but Meghan will eventually endorse Biden, probably with the caveat that he’s the only Democrat she’s willing to endorse because the rest are all far too radical. That’ll appease Republicans to some extent, and if Biden ends up losing, which is likely, the endorsement will be excused on “no harm, no foul” grounds.

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George Papadopoulos on his long, strange path through the Russia investigation

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 21:01

George Papadopoulos sat down for an interview with Austen Fletcher yesterday to tell his story and also promote his just-released book. As we’ve all been told many times by now, the start of the Trump-Russia investigation was Papadopoulos telling an Australian diplomat that Russia was in possession of damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The Australians related that back to the FBI and the hunt for collusion was off to the races. But according to Papadopoulos, the whole series of events of how he came to hear about the emails and how he met with the Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, seemed like a rather odd set up almost from the start.

Shortly after Papadopoulos was told by Joseph Mifsud that Russia had information on Hillary Clinton, Downer contacted Papadopoulos out of the blue, apparently to rebuke him for an interview which had appeared in the Times of London a few days earlier. In that interview, Papadopoulos had said that UK Prime Minister David Cameron should retract and apologize for some negative comments about Donald Trump. When Papadopoulos met with Downer, he says the Australian immediately told him to leave David Cameron alone and to tell his boss (meaning Trump) to never talk about Cameron again.

Papadopoulos says at that point, Downer took out his phone and began quizzing him while also apparently recording him with his phone. “I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone,” Papadopoulos said of the experience. “He was so overt about it and I was so uncomfortable,” he added.

Papadopoulos says that months later when he was being interviewed by Mueller and some of his investigators that he told them he believed Downer was recording him. One of Mueller’s investigators, Andrew Goldstein, asked how he knew, suggesting to Papadopoulos that perhaps this was supposed to be some sort of secret. Papadopoulos says he demonstrated what Downer had been doing with his phone during the meeting.

“Flash forward, I get this bizarre story in the NY Times about Downer and after that I’m testifying to Congress in October of 2018,” Papadopoulos said. He continued, “Why is this important? Because Mark Meadows…is asking me a couple of questions like this: ‘Did you have any inclination that you were being recorded in any of your meetings?’…And two, ‘Were you ever presented with any transcripts of your meetings with people like Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer or Stephan Halper?’ And I was like, no, what are you talking about, basically. And I said the only thing I remember was Alexander Downer and Stephan Halper playing with their phones and I think they were recording me.”

You can read the transcript of Papadopoulos’ congressional testimony here (start around page 36). He did indeed describe the meeting with Downer in this way and said that he’d told investigators the same thing nearly a year earlier

Papadopoulos isn’t shy about what he thinks this all means. He describes it as an attempted coup and an attempt to subvert a duly-elected president. Here’s the interview with Papadopolous. It’s certainly a very different spin on events than most of what we’ve been hearing for the past two years.

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Another unaccompanied veteran receives hero’s sendoff at funeral

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 20:31

We’ve seen a few of these stories in the past year or so, and now another has shown up. If this is turning into a trend, I certainly hope that it continues to gain in popularity.

Robert Grala of Williamstown, New Jersey, was a veteran who served in the United States Army and served in Korea in the late sixties. Last week, at the age of 70, he passed away of natural causes alone in his home. A couple of friends and neighbors knew him, but a search by officials failed to locate any living relatives. It appeared that Mr. Grala would meet his final reward alone. But that’s when the local newspaper stepped in and put out the word as has been done for other unaccompanied veterans recently. Local veterans’ groups were contacted as well, determined that Grala would receive the honors due him. (Courier-Post)

Nearly 50 years after Robert Grala was stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army, the decorated serviceman died alone in Williamstown. Gloucester County’s veterans aren’t about to let Grala — a man awarded several military medals — to be buried without a final salute.

Gloucester County’s veterans’ groups are asking residents to join them at a Monroe cemetery Monday to honor Grala as he is laid to rest.

I suppose we should stop being surprised by this point because the milk of human kindness hasn’t dried up entirely in our country. That’s particularly true when it comes to our veterans. As the local CBS News outlet reported, the turnout was beyond impressive, with hundreds of people who had never met Robert Grala, along with a full military escort, showed up to see him off.

A United States Army veteran from New Jersey was laid to rest with full military honors on Monday. Hundreds of people who didn’t even know him attended the service.

“He had no family, he had nobody to say goodbye to him,” Joni Harrison, of Operation Yellow Ribbon, said.

Surrounded by complete strangers, Robert “Bob” Grala was honored at the Gloucester County Veterans Memorial Cemetery for his burial.

Here’s some video of the funeral from the local ABC News TV coverage.

It does my heart good to see stories like this. It’s an unfortunate fact that too many people outlive the rest of their relatives and wind up dying alone. Veterans are no exception, but expectations among the veterans community are higher for their final salutes. I will never, ever forget my father’s funeral. The family was there, of course, but the military showed up in force as well, along with members of both the VFW and the American Legion. Rifle volleys were fired, a pair of bugles played taps, one echoing the other from behind a small hill, and the flag was folded with care and placed in my mother’s lap. It’s how it’s done in the military community.

Bob Grala had no family left to see to these matters. But the community and the military stepped in to fill the void. And now another soldier’s journey has ended properly. Rest in peace, Robert Grala, and thank you for your service.

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Texas police: You’d better believe Beto tried to flee his DUI wreck

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 20:01

Remember this old saw from Watergate? It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. In this case, it’s the modified limited hangout from Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and his DUI from twenty-one years ago. O’Rourke has long acknowledged driving drunk in 1998, but he has insisted since launching his run for Ted Cruz’ Senate seat that he didn’t try to flee from police after crashing his vehicle. At one point, O’Rourke claimed that the other driver involved in the accident corroborated his account.

The police officers who respond beg to differ. The Texas Tribune dug around and found both cops and their sergeant, all three of whom stand by the description in the original report on O’Rourke’s arrest:

The former police officer who arrested Beto O’Rourke for driving drunk in 1998, along with the sergeant who signed the incident report, both say they believe now what they reported at the time: that O’Rourke tried to leave the scene of the wreck he caused. …

Neither the investigating officer, Richard Carrera, nor his former supervisor, Gary Hargrove, specifically recalls the events of that night more than 20 years ago. But both of the former Anthony Police Department officers told The Texas Tribune they have no doubt the report they compiled and signed is accurate.

“I believe we have contradicting stories here,” said Carrera, who arrested the 26-year-old O’Rourke and took him to a police station to undergo a breath test. “I stand by my report.”

Carrera, 49, said after reading the police report, in which an unnamed witness claimed O’Rourke tried to flee in his Volvo, he has “no doubt that he tried to leave the scene.”

O’Rourke keeps trying to put this to bed, but it keeps coming back because of his denials. When challenged during a debate with Cruz last September, O’Rourke insisted that “I did not try to leave the scene of the accident,” while admitting to the “terrible mistake” of driving drunk. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler dropped four Pinocchios on that claim, with a suggestion that O’Rourke’s memory may have been clouded by the alcohol:

At The Fact Checker, we place a high value on contemporaneous records. The police reports show not only that O’Rourke was highly intoxicated but that a witness to the crash said he tried to leave the scene.

O’Rourke was so drunk that he could barely get out of the car without falling, so perhaps he would not have gotten far — or he was simply confused. Perhaps in his memory, O’Rourke believes he did not try to leave. But, given his blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, O’Rourke’s memory 20 years after the fact is not nearly as credible as the police reports written just hours after the crash. Even if one is inclined to dismiss police reports as riddled with errors, it is the one contemporary record we have.

O’Rourke could have dodged the question during the debate or he could have said his memory of the night is not clear. Instead, he chose to dispute the factual record. We also believe in second chances, and O’Rourke should revise his answer if given another opportunity. In the meantime, he earns Four Pinocchios.

Kessler hasn’t let it go at that. He has updated this post occasionally to address more of O’Rourke’s arguments, including an update today to address the Texas Tribune story. So far, it’s not changing Kessler’s assessment of O’Rourke’s claim, unless it’s to fortify it.

Why bother flogging this modified limited hangout at all? The DWI was old news even during O’Rourke’s run at Cruz’ seat, and a full and undisputed apology would have neutered the issue. Perhaps O’Rourke is concerned over the political damage that such a display of cowardice could create, but if he was that drunk, there’s a handy excuse for it if not an explanation. (Stephen Green quipped at Instapundit: “Looks like Bobby, runs like Ted.”) Instead, O’Rourke keeps making this issue fresh with every denial that cuts against all the available evidence, and adds the issue of dishonesty to the problem as well. Take Kessler’s suggestion and chalk it up to bad memory and move on.

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Buttigieg hits Bernie: He doesn’t have the same novelty as in 2016 and it’s hard to see him winning a general election

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 19:31

This is a light jab, not a roundhouse, but I’m surprised to find Buttigieg antagonizing Sanders and his cultish fans. And not for the first time. Remember, he got into trouble with the left a few days ago by comparing Bernie to Trump inasmuch as each thrived in 2016 on voters who wanted to blow up “the system.” Buttigieg didn’t mean that as an insult, as I understood him. He wasn’t claiming that what drives Sanders voters are the same things that drive Trumpists. His point was that frustration with the status quo in America, economically and politically, is sufficiently intense on both sides to have supported not one but two credible challenges from supposedly unelectable populist insurgents three years ago.

But now here’s the Times with new quotes suggesting that, no, Buttigieg really did mean to characterize Bernie as a fringy figure who, contra to all progressive dogma, probably can’t win a national election. He’s going to make enemies here, and for what? Strategically, it makes no sense to me.

In an interview, Mr. Buttigieg said Mr. Sanders’s left-wing proposals were no longer as provocative as in 2016 — “people were refreshed by the novelty of that boldness” — and expressed skepticism that a self-described democratic socialist in his late 70s could win a general election.

“I have a hard time seeing the coalition ultimately coming together there,” he said.

(Responding to the critique, Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, trumpeted the senator’s populist record and said his “unifying progressive agenda” made him “the best-positioned candidate to defeat Donald Trump in the general election.”)

I’ve understood Buttigieg’s candidacy from the beginning as a sort of branding exercise. He has a heavy lift getting elected to statewide office in a state as red as Indiana, but if he runs for president and makes a good impression, that might earn him the sort of base loyalty and fundraising dollars he’d need to mount a plausible campaign for governor or senator in a few years. If he makes a really good impression, he might end up with a prestige job in the federal government courtesy of the next Democratic president, and he could use that experience as a credential to run for president again, this time more formidably, in 2028.

But if that’s the strategy, his top goal should be to not make enemies on his own side. Run hard, make a splash in polling, but don’t alienate anyone in the field who might otherwise be willing to give you that prestige job in 2021. And certainly don’t alienate supporters of that person whose dollars you’re counting on to help fund your eventual Indiana statewide run.

And for cripes sake, if you simply must pick a fight with some top contender, don’t do it with the de facto pope of the DSA contingent. Bernie fans aren’t going to shrug off slights to their man on grounds that “politics ain’t beanbag” or whatever. They’re cultists. They’ll respond to the cult leader being impugned the way cult members always do. They will have long memories about this, especially if Buttigieg meaningfully damages Sanders’s chances.

I can only assume that Buttigieg has begun to believe his own BS and thinks he has a real chance at becoming president. He doesn’t. For one thing, despite his movement in the polls, he’s no stronger than Bernie is among black voters and may even end up weaker as oppo on him begins to circulate. For another, although it’s understandable that a politician might believe that anyone can be elected president in a country that just elected Donald Trump, the fact remains that Buttigieg is 37 years old and has never governed anything except a modestly sized city. Trump was a household-name celebrity, widely perceived by voters as one of the most successful businessmen in the world, and — importantly — offered a genuine ideological contrast with the rest of the GOP field. Buttigieg doesn’t. Really the opposite — it’s hard to place him ideologically except “pretty left-wing but not as much as Bernie,” which applies equally to everyone running except possibly Biden.

Buttigieg-mentum is more about personal style than ideology, as this quietly brutal essay in the Times today explains. There’s a certain type of well-educated liberal, common to the media class, that recognizes Buttigieg as a more intelligent, better-read version of themselves. Who could be more fit to govern the free world, right?

In his weeks on the national scene, Buttigieg has built a brand squarely aimed at a certain kind of liberal intellectual — the type whose prose-driven, subjective, humanist view of the world has lately fallen out of style, replaced by data analysis and ideology. His unassuming face now seems to be everywhere. The blitz has felt less like a presidential campaign than a liberal-arts variety show — a best-case scenario for what happened to Max Fischer from “Rushmore.” A few weeks after the musician Ben Folds told a story about playing a duet with the candidate, a Buttigieg adviser tweeted a video of Mayor Pete “tickling the ivories” before a talk at Scripps College. Even his choice of song — Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” — fit the brand, nailing a demographic of upper-middle-class dads who wax nostalgic about their college radio shows and the professors who taught them to love James Joyce. As Notre-Dame burned, Buttigieg offered his sympathies in French…

Imagining yourself in a book club with Pete Buttigieg becomes this election’s having a beer with George W. Bush. If the news media has an “identitarianism” problem, it’s not so much that people bunker down into racial, gender or sexual groups, but that a whole class of journalists and thinkers never seems to be able to wander out past its own pool of references — all so admiring of the same things that some are blinded to the similar backgrounds of almost every other Democratic candidate for president.

That’s a little too brutal, as it’s not just reporters who are driving Buttigieg’s rise in the polls. As it happens, it’s recent college grads and left-wingers — Bernie Sanders’s base — who have gravitated towards him, another reason for the Sanders cult to resent him. Now, per the Times, we have Mayor Pete trying to attract more of them by politely implying that Bernie is old news and unelectable. It’s hard to see how that ends well for him. His hope, I guess, is that he continues to siphon off Bernie votes, Biden falters, and he shocks the world by ending up as the nominee, with angry Berniebros forced to swallow hard and grudgingly turn out for him next fall in the name of defeating Trump. But they may be less forgiving than he expects, especially if he comes to be seen as chief culprit in the derailing of Bernie’s and the revolution’s journey to political glory in 2020. And if he succeeds in blocking Bernie but doesn’t win the nomination himself, instead serving as a stalking horse for some centrist candidate like Biden to swoop in and win it, he’ll be pilloried by the left a bit like Ralph Nader post-2000. His chances of a progressive-fueled statewide candidacy in Indiana might be DOA.

Again, I don’t get it. But here he is a few nights ago trying to clean up his original Trump/Sanders comments.

The post Buttigieg hits Bernie: He doesn’t have the same novelty as in 2016 and it’s hard to see him winning a general election appeared first on Hot Air.

July trial date set for Yvette Felarca on assault charges

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 19:01

After months of delays, a trial date has finally been set for Yvette Felarca and two other men who were involved in a protest that turned into a bloody brawl back in 2016. The Sacramento Bee reports:

Trial for Michael Williams, Yvette Felarca and Porfirio Paz was set for July 15 at Sacramento County’s downtown courthouse, blocks from the violent June 2016 clash with members of the white supremacist groups Traditional Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads on the Capitol grounds.

Each faces assault charges in a case that Berkeley teacher-activist Felarca’s attorney again called a “witch hunt” Tuesday.

“The whole nature of this case is a witch hunt and another waste of time and taxpayers’ money,” attorney Shanta Driver said outside Sacramento County’s Patino Hall of Justice at the main county jail.

Felarca and her two compatriots were scheduled for arraignment back in February but the judge granted an extension so that the defendants and the DA could continue negotiating a possible plea deal. After the extension was granted, Felarca’s attorney said a plea deal seemed “relatively close.” Two months later it appears that didn’t work out since the case is now set for trial.

Felarca was initially charged with assault in 2017 but her attorneys claimed last February that the charges were part of a “political witch hunt” and asked a judge to dismiss them. Last May a judge refused and said in court, ” Simply nothing in these exhibits supports the defendants’ claims…that they were unjustly or unfairly culled out.”

Felarca’s attorneys filed a second request for dismissal and last December seemed intent on filing a third one, all with the same underlying claim that she was being singled out because of her political views. In fact, the case against Felarca is largely based on video of the incident which was broadcast by local television stations. Felarca’s attorneys have argued the video itself is “unauthenticated” which is a weird way of suggesting something about it could be fake.

The defense also argued that the video could just show part of the story, or could have been falsified.

“The video comes from either YouTube or social media,” Reichel said. “That’s the concerns we have, in terms of editing and authentification.”

Earlier this month Felarca was ordered to pay $20,000 in attorneys fees to the group Judicial Watch. She had filed what a judge eventually deemed to be a “frivolous” lawsuit to prevent the group from getting access to public records from the Middle School where she teaches.

Once again, here’s the video showing the attack by Felarca. The defense’s best argument against felony assault is that Felarca is too small to have done serious bodily harm. However, the idea that we shouldn’t believe what we can see happening with our own eyes in this clip is a bit much.

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Term limits on the basis of age? Tricky

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 18:31

USA Today has run a seriously hot take on the issue of term limits and public service from author and former police officer Marshall Frank. He’s turning 80 this year and wants to share a bit of perspective with you on the subject of both elected officials and Supreme Court justices. The long and the short of it is that at some point you’re simply too old to be entrusted with these responsibilities and we need to set limits on how long people can continue in public service.

I am turning 80 this month. I don’t care if I were the smartest politician in government and/or could still climb mountains — I would have no business being a president of the United States, a Supreme Court justice or a member of Congress at this age.

I feel in good shape, but I definitely have far less physical and mental stamina than I had 10 or 20 years ago, no matter how I try to fake it. While there may be exceptions, that’s the norm.

Of course, some lucky people are one-up in the genes, but the wear and tear of years on the mind and body have an effect on everyone and should not be risked in critical positions of power that affect all Americans. No offense to seniors, but it is important that our government employ the fittest and finest among our citizenry.

Well, this conversation is definitely veering into some dangerous territory, isn’t it? I’ll just start by saying that I tend to be sympathetic to what Frank is saying, at least in general terms. He’s got two decades on me, but I can attest that even reaching 60 years can take a toll on you. I too have noticed that I’m not only far from peak physical performance, but my mental acuity has already started to slip at times. Of course, I come from a family where that seems to run in our genes and others are no doubt far less affected. But given the differences between individuals when considering this question, is there a point where you’re simply “too old” to do the very important jobs in question? (Frank is talking about presidents, members of Congress and Supreme Court justices for the most part.)

One initial response many may have is that this can’t be constitutional, right? I mean, it would be age-based discrimination, wouldn’t it? But the fact is that the Constitution has some of that baked right into the cake. There are plenty of otherwise qualified, legal adults out there who are barred from being elected to the Senate or the Presidency. Granted, those are minimum age limits, but there’s nothing that specifically prohibits maximum age standards in every case.

The military rejects older applicants based on age all the time, though they allow themselves the option to make exceptions in special cases. You can’t join the Army (for the first time) if you are older than 35. It sounds to me like you’d need a constitutional amendment to establish a maximum age for federal offices, but I’m not entirely sure that a law doing so would fail under challenge.

If such a thing were to magically happen overnight, the immediate impact would be drastic. If the cap is set at 80, Ginsberg and Breyer would have to be shown the door immediately. But even if you’re a conservative, don’t cheer too loudly. Thomas and Alito would be the next two to go. If Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders are elected next year, neither of them could finish their first term. (Unless we’re only setting the maximum age when you are elected.) Either way, neither of them could run for a second term.

If we applied the rule to the Senate, five members would be out immediately. (Four Republicans and one Democrat.) Nine members of the House would have to go as well, though mostly Democrats. The point is, some people are still viable (if not the “fittest and finest” as Frank says) very late in life. Others may be of more questionable mental stability or acuity while still in their prime. Could Frank’s plan be legally put into place? Probably… particularly if we managed to pass a couple of Constitutional amendments. Should we do it? I think we’re on morally shaky ground there. The best method of enforcing term limits remains the voters. If we can put up with an old geezer doing an important job, then we’ve got what we asked for.

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Trump to Dems: Try impeaching me and I’ll go to the Supreme Court

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 18:01

To do what, exactly? Donald Trump issued this curious challenge earlier today on Twitter, part of an effort to rail against Democrats’ efforts to make the Robert Mueller probe interminable. If House Democrats start impeachment proceedings, however, Trump said he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Er …. who wants to tell him?

The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019

…..are there no “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” there are no Crimes by me at all. All of the Crimes were committed by Crooked Hillary, the Dems, the DNC and Dirty Cops – and we caught them in the act! We waited for Mueller and WON, so now the Dems look to Congress as last hope!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019

CBS found this threat curious, too, although this TV segment doesn’t spend much time on the idea. Its legal analyst declared a Supreme Court intervention “unlikely”:

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and a CBS News legal analyst, said that Mr. Trump may ask the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of impeachment because of the delay it would provide.

“While members are wrong to portray impeachment as a purely political process, the Supreme Court is unlikely to bar an impeachment process,” said Turley, who was lead defense counsel during the last impeachment process for a U.S. district judge in 2010.

“Impeachment is based on a legal standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but the process and the merits were committed to the legislative branch by the framers. It is a standard that does not lend itself to judicial review or intervention,” Turley said.

Unlikely is an understatement. The Constitution makes impeachment a clearly political process for accountability, not a legal process with appeals. It lays out no role whatsoever for the judiciary in the process of impeachment and removal except to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court act as the presiding judge in the Senate trial.

But don’t just take the Constitution’s lack of supporting text for judicial intervention at face value. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the judiciary has no role in impeachment at all. In the unanimous decision in Nixon v US et al, William Rehnquist denied an appeal from impeached federal judge Walter Nixon, noting that the Constitution’s language in giving the Senate “sole power to try all impeachments” meant that the judiciary had no role whatsoever in the process.

Furthermore, Rehnquist wrote, the theoretical case of a presidential impeachment made the situation even worse for judicial intervention:

Justiciability is also refuted by (1) the lack of finality inherent in exposing the country’s political life–particularly if the President were impeached–to months, or perhaps years, of chaos during judicial review of Senate impeachment proceedings, or during any retrial that a differently constituted Senate might conduct if its first judgment of conviction were invalidated, and by (2) the difficulty of fashioning judicial relief other than simply setting aside the Senate’s judgment of conviction.

That clearly applies to the House impeachment process as well. The same political baggage would get created, and the same delay in dealing with legalities where political consequences for misconduct are supposed to be the issue, would emerge in the lower chamber too. In fact, the House process might be even more resistant to judicial review since it isn’t a judicial process at all, unlike the Senate’s trial model for removal.

Now, anyone with an attorney and a filing fee can press a lawsuit in court, and with enough money can challenge the results all the way to the Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean it will do anything except burn through cash like a California wildfire. There won’t be a federal judge who will ignore the Nixon precedent and stick themselves in the middle of a food fight between Congress and the White House. Thanks to the addition of strict textualists like Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, along with conservative establishmentarians like John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, this Supreme Court won’t suddenly turn activist and claim this turf from the legislative branch. And under the present circumstances, it’s a lock that the four liberal jurists will be a hard pass on that invitation, too.

The big question will be who gets tasked to explain this to Trump. And the next biggest question will be who replaces that person when Trump fires the messenger.

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AOC’s chief of staff on prisoners voting: Why shouldn’t the people most affected by unjust laws have a say in those laws?

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 17:31

If there’s a bad idea floating around Congress, rest assured that it’s been endorsed by someone on Team Ocasio-Cortez.

“Seeing Bernie et al prat-fall into some dorm room bullsh*t session about prisoners voting has made my day,” says Twitter pal CuffyMeh. Elements of the Green New Deal also had an odor of dorm-room scat around them but at least that proposal sought to meet an urgent demand on the left for policies to address a problem. By contrast, letting felons vote from behind bars seems to have wandered into the national presidential conversation like a lost tourist. You should’ve just given it directions and sent it on its way, Bernie.

Now here’s AOC’s right-hand man ushering it in and seating it at the table.

What's the reason NOT to let incarcerated people vote? Shouldn't the people most affected by unjust laws have some say in electing people to change them?

— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) April 24, 2019

The Constitution names the right to vote five times. It talks about not infringing on the right, just like the right to bear arms: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) April 24, 2019

Weird but true: The Bill of Rights never squarely guarantees the right to vote the way the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms. Other parts of the Constitution guarantee that the right to vote, once granted, can’t be taken away for certain specific reasons (race, most notably, per the Fifteenth Amendment). But in practice Chakrabarti’s right: The Supreme Court ruled long ago that Article I, Section 2, which requires that members of the House be “chosen every second year by the people of the several states,” guarantees “the right of qualified voters within a state to cast their ballots and have them counted at Congressional elections.” The Court says it’s a fundamental right whether or not the Constitution explicitly says so. And if you’re a Ninth Amendment fan, it’s not a long leap to believe that voting is covered there.

But I digress. The uncharitable view of Chakrabarti’s point about “unjust laws” is that the merry band of radicals in AOC’s office, not content to question the legitimacy of national borders, now would have us believe that all U.S. prisoners are to some extent political prisoners, even good ol’ Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The more charitable view is that he’s talking about only some laws and some prisoners. Which, per his later tweets, seems to be what he meant:

Do people think that if you used marijuana and got caught, you shouldn't be able to vote, but if you smoked marijuana and never got caught, then you should? If you believe this, and don't think think this hurts black people disproportionately, do these charts change your mind?

— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) April 24, 2019

And for what it's worth, the US would certainly not be the first to allow voting while in prison. Much of the developed world already does this.

— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) April 24, 2019

You can imagine a system in which some felons get to vote while others don’t. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it. As Chakrabarti’s second tweet notes, some countries already do that via “selective restriction” of prisoner voting rights. One easy way to draw lines would be to let nonviolent felons retain the franchise and to deprive violent felons, on the theory that some offenses against the community are so grievous that they disqualify the offender from civic participation. A more nuanced approach would be to grant voting rights to anyone imprisoned for violating laws whose justness is under debate. Marijuana laws, as Chakrabarti notes, are an obvious example. A poll published five days ago claimed that 65 percent of Americans now support legalizing weed; if someone’s being held under a law which there’s reason to believe most of the public would rather do away with, arguably it’s only fair to give them a say in whether those laws are retained.

But how would we decide which laws are sufficiently “under debate” to justify granting voting rights to prisoners convicted under them? And more to the point, why the hell is Bernie Sanders taking an absolutist position on this instead of proposing a more defensible “selective restriction” scheme that would exclude the Boston Marathon bomber? I can’t tell from Chakrabarti’s tweets whether he’s with Sanders or with “selective restriction” but since maximalism is the DSA’s default mode, I’m guessing it’s the former.

Not every progressive feels the same way, though. Here’s Ro Khanna, another prominent left-wing member of the Democratic House caucus and a frequent ally of AOC’s on policy, coming out for letting some — but not all — felons vote. The fact that even Khanna’s skittish about this is the surest evidence yet that it’s electoral poison.

“I wouldn’t go that far” in giving the Boston Marathon bomber the right to vote, co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign Rep. @RoKhanna tells @johnberman in response to Sen. Sanders’ position that the right to vote should be extended to felons in prison

— New Day (@NewDay) April 24, 2019

The post AOC’s chief of staff on prisoners voting: Why shouldn’t the people most affected by unjust laws have a say in those laws? appeared first on Hot Air.

A driver plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in California, the FBI has joined the investigation

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 17:01

Tuesday night a driver in Sunnyvale, CA plowed into a crowd of people, injuring eight. Police are saying it appears the attack may have been an intentional act. From ABC 7:

Around 6:40 pm, a man in a dark sedan was seen by witnesses, speeding through the busy intersection before plowing through the group of people.

Sunnyvale DPS says the group was possibly targeted by the driver. A man who they believe purposely turned into the group while driving full speed.

“Looks like it might have been an intentional act,” Capt. Jim Choi with Sunnyvale DPS said. “All of that is under investigation at this time. The driver is in custody.”…

Witnesses say the driver made no effort to stop.

“We do have witness statements that show that vehicle did not attempt to slow down or brake,” Choi added. “And the scene itself doesn’t show any evidence of braking.”

After plowing through the group of people, the car struck a tree:

Sunnyvale Police say the driver who hit 8 people didn’t try to stop or try avoid the crowd. Police believe it was intentional. Update at 11. @nbcbayarea

— Jean Elle (@nbcjeanelle) April 24, 2019

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the driver has not been identified yet but the car belongs to a man named Isaiah J. Peoples:

The driver has not been identified. But the Corolla is registered to 34-year-old Sunnyvale resident Isaiah J. Peoples, according to state Department of Motor Vehicle records. That registration was revoked Wednesday, the records show. Peoples paid for the registration with a bad check on March 22, 2019, officials said.

Two officers with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety were standing outside Peoples’ home Wednesday morning.

Until police ID the driver, keep in mind the car could have been stolen or driven by someone else. We’ll have to wait and see.

The attack appeared intentional but the motive is still a mystery. Police are working to find out if the driver knew any of the people he hit.  All of the victims were adults with the exception of one 13-year-old girl. Some were seriously injured but their names have not been released. There is also the possibility that this was some kind of medical emergency, though if Peoples was the driver 34 would be pretty young for a heart attack.

Thus far, police are being careful not to use the T-word or to suggest that could be a motive, but it’s clear that’s one possibility under consideration. Police have contacted the FBI seeking information about the driver.

Sunnyvale police say a man intentionally drove into pedestrians, injuring 8. Cpt. Jim Choi, @SunnyvaleDPS

— Joe Vazquez (@joenewsman) April 24, 2019

Here’s a report from KPIX:

I’ll update this post as more information becomes available.

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The Masters golf tournament: so raaaaacist

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 16:31

This story deals with a curious interview that I happened to catch on CNN yesterday morning that sounded… odd. Aside from sending out a tweet about it at the time, I didn’t pursue it further because I wasn’t entirely clear what was going on. They had an ESPN sports reporter named L.Z. Granderson on their panel talking about issues of racism and (I presume) sports, particularly as such things apply to the recent flap over iconic singer Kate Smith. Nothing too unusual there, but when Granderson brought up the subject of Tiger Woods winning the Masters, he offered a strange take on it that caught the attention of many more people. Hey… you know why they call it “the Masters,” right? (Washington Times, emphasis added)

The Masters Tournament is called that as a reference to slavery and Jim Crow, a prominent ESPN sportswriter implied Tuesday.

L.Z. Granderson, in the context of a CNN “New Day” discussion of sports teams dropping Kate Smith’s iconic recording of “God Bless America” because the 1930s star recorded racist material, dropped a serious of rhetorical questions about the name of golf’s most famous tournament and the iconic course in Augusta, Georgia…

“We celebrated Tiger Woods recently returning back to glory winning at the Masters. We didn’t spend very much time asking ourselves, ‘Why was this tournament called the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, founded by two men that we know, in fact, were racist, who are quoted saying racist things?’ Ever wonder why it was called the Masters?” he said, without answering the idea he was planting in his listeners’ heads.

You can catch the video clip of the exchange here through the wonders of Twitter.

.@LZGranderson, weighing in on the Kate Smith controversy, suggests The Masters golf tournament is a reference to owning slaves.

— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 23, 2019

Even if you’re someone who spends a lot of time focusing on the history of racist and/or sexist membership policies at Augusta (of which there have been plenty, to be honest) this was being done in the context of Tiger’s victory. Wouldn’t you be happy that an African-American player was putting on the green jacket? Was that really the time to make such a suggestion?

Further, even if we acknowledge that August was definitely founded by white men in the deep south during a time when racial equality wasn’t exactly a priority (to put it mildly), that’s clearly not where the name came from. The tournament originally went by the rather clunky name of the Augusta National Invitational. It was changed to the Masters in the late 1930s and signified that only the best in the game – those who were masters of the sport – would be invited.

The term is ubiquitous in many aspects of the English language and sports is no exception. When someone achieves grandmaster status in chess, does that mean that they’ve become a racist? Are master craftsmen only producing nooses? It’s an intentionally provocative but unfounded claim.

What should have been more surprising was that neither the hosts of the show nor their other guest said a word in response. It was part of a conversation about Kate Smith’s version of God Bless America being banned by certain sports teams. (Granderson, of course, supported the idea of tearing down Smith’s statue.) John Berman jumped in after Granderson finished his Masters tirade and hustled the discussion straight back to the Kate Smith question. Shouldn’t that have been one of those “record scratch” moments where the conversation grinds to a halt and he at least offers to allow the guest to expand on his remarks?

Apparently not. You can just drop a rhetorical grenade in the middle of a panel discussion on CNN these days and walk away, provided it fits in with the narrative. This. Is. CNN…

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