Stormy Weather (Open Thread)

Here’s some hurricane trivia you probably don’t know if you’ve never lived in Florida or happened to be visiting when a hurricane is near: The weather is relatively pleasant for people lucky enough to dodge the bullet. Since the storms occur in the hot and steamy months, a cloudy, breezy day outside the path is a welcome relief, tempered by survivors’ guilt.

Shifting to a different kind of hullabaloo, it looks like Stormy Daniels may visit Capitol Hill this fall. From TPM:

House Dems Will Shift Focus To Trump’s Alleged Role In Hush Money Scheme

House Democrats plan to shift their focus this fall to President Trump’s alleged role in the hush money scheme that led to the imprisonment of his former lawyer, the Washington Post reported.

As early as October, the House Judiciary Committee intends to hold hearings and call in witnesses involved in the scheme to keep both porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about alleged affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election. According to people familiar with the plans who spoke to the Post, Democrats on the panel believe there is enough proof from special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to name Trump as co-conspirator in the case that put Michael Cohen in prison for campaign finance violations. He’s currently serving a three-year sentence for the hush payment ordeal, as well as for other financial wrongdoing and lying to Congress.

Democrats will reportedly point their laser focus on Trump’s involvement in the whole ordeal and they plan to dig into whether they can charge Trump if it weren’t for the Justice Department’s rule that prevents the indictment of a sitting president.

Trump’s “National Enquirer” pal, the aptly named David Pecker, may also be called to testify, according to the TPM report.

Is it a good idea to air this load of sordid laundry or nah? I’m not sure how it will play politically, but it’s about damned time, IMO. I’m old enough to remember when a candidate paying off women with whom he’d had an “affair” to keep quiet in the run-up to a presidential election would have been big news.

Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but I’m down with Making Blatant Campaign Finance Violations Scandalous Again. The real issue here is the corruption, and if the “corruption” entree needs “tawdry” as a piquant condiment to make it palatable to a public benumbed by routine corruption, so be it.

Open thread.

Late Night Open Thread: Mike Pence, GOP Mafia Underling & Natural Toady

There is no bottom to the GOP barrel; they’re excavating down towards the Earth’s molten magma core…

Read more

World’s Greatest Negotiator

As the trade war drags on, China’s President Xi has Trump’s shriveled little raisins in his fist, but Trump still seems to think he has the upper hand. CNBC summarizes this morning’s tweet-negotiations:

President Donald Trump pressured China on Tuesday to make a trade deal with the U.S. in the near future, warning talks will get much tougher if he is reelected in 2020.

Trump said in a series of tweets: “We are doing very well in our negotiations with China. While I am sure they would love to be dealing with a new administration so they could continue their practice of “ripoff USA”($600 B/year),16 months PLUS is a long time to be hemorrhaging jobs and companies on a long-shot…And then, think what happens to China when I win. Deal would get MUCH TOUGHER! In the meantime, China’s Supply Chain will crumble and businesses, jobs and money will be gone!”

Meanwhile, Xi, who despite being president for life in an autocratic country and thus above petty concerns like fluctuations in popular support and elections, probably knows how to read polls. One recent poll shows Trump losing by double-digits to Biden, Harris, Sanders or Warren — and that’s in an economy where Trump’s mismanagement hasn’t yet resulted in widespread pain, though signs are on the horizon.

The real question is what Xi thinks is in his own and China’s bests interests. Is China better off with a belligerent idiot in charge of their most formidable geopolitical foe or not? We’ll find out soon enough.

Open thread!

ETA: Speaking of world’s greatest negotiators…

Jesus. What a pair of clowns.

Senator Scott’s Amnesia

Since joining the US Senate, former Florida Governor Rick Scott has tried to pass himself off as a DC outsider and non-pol with new ideas and a refreshing lack of allegiance to party orthodoxy. It’s bullshit of a particularly pungent variety that will be familiar to anyone who has followed his career.

Scott won the governorship during the country’s Astroturf tea party era using a similar ruse, casting himself as a businessman with fresh ideas. He was and remains a thoroughly corrupt fraudster who regards the $150 million-plus of his personal fortune he spent on his campaigns as an investment that will pay off when he redirects the flow of government contracts toward his businesses.

In other words, Scott is just as corrupt and craven as every other Republican politician, just wealthier than most. In yesterday’s Post, opinions editor James Downie identified how Scott is a chickenshit on gun control, just like a common Republican:

Appearing on the Sunday talk shows a day after another mass shooting left seven dead in Midland and Odessa, Tex., would Scott tout the bill he signed as an example to fellow Republicans that the NRA need not be feared? No. Instead, he was too scared of the NRA to even talk about much of the law that he himself signed…

Scott described “what we did in Florida” in similar terms on CNN’s “State of the Union,” as well as in an August op-ed for The Post: “The steps we took in Florida, in addition to committing $400 million to increasing school safety, included a ‘red flag’ provision.”

You might be thinking at this point, “That’s doesn’t sound like all that much.” But Scott himself left out many of the key changes the law made. It also banned bump stocks (which increase the rate of fire for semiautomatic weapons), implemented a three-day waiting period for firearm sales and raised the minimum age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21. The latter change was significant enough that the NRA is suing over it, yet somehow it managed to slip Scott’s memory.

The truth is that after Parkland, then-Governor Scott and the Republican-majority statehouse would have been happy to do the NRA’s bidding as usual and sweep the latest massacre under the rug with “thoughts and prayers.” They’d done so after the Pulse nightclub massacre, which at the time was the single deadliest shooting spree in US history.

The difference in Florida was the Parkland survivors. They wouldn’t let the news cycle move on, and they were savvy enough to tie their protests to voter registration drives and political action.

Thanks to their efforts, for the first time in decades, Republican lawmakers in Florida feared backlash from disgusted citizens more than the NRA and gun nuts. That’s why meaningful gun safety laws were passed in the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Scott.

Trump and the Republicans in Congress are right where Scott and the FL statehouse were when Emma González gave her “We Call BS” speech. They’re hoping media attention from this latest spate of massacres blows over so they won’t be pressured to restrict access to guns in any meaningful way. Scott is part of that effort, which is why he’s omitting key details about what happened in Florida.

The guns are the problem, but Republicans will do anything to avoid taking the obvious steps the rest of the developed world has taken to stop the carnage we Americans routinely endure. But why is this still the case, when the NRA is in a weakened state and public sentiment is clearly shifting?

Yesterday in comments, Kay highlighted one possible motive for this hysterical paralysis: If gun nuts belatedly admit that guns are the problem, that’s tantamount to admitting they were wrong to insist on unfettered access to firearms for decades and that people died as a result of that mistake. She described it as a “sunk cost” situation.

I think that’s true, and because it is, nothing will budge rank and file gun nuts from their reflexive defensiveness on guns. Their own part in enabling the massacres is simply too horrifying to admit the possibility.

But Republican politicians can be moved, as the actions on which Scott developed selective amnesia demonstrate. The Parkland survivors made Florida Republicans more fearful of backlash from voters than they were of the NRA. Nothing will change at the federal level until we replicate that on a national scale. I believe we will.

Late Night Lovers’ Quarrel Open Thread (Rooting for Injuries)