So, What’s Up Susan?

By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor

Over recent days we’ve seen reports Susan Rice repeatedly asked to unmask the identities of Trump transition members who were incidentally surveilled. Sources: Bloomberg, NYT, Fox, Wapo, The Atlantic.

From the Atlantic:

Ever since Devin Nunes’s mysterious announcement of supposed surveillance of Trump transition team members two weeks ago, the story has operated on two levels. The first is why Nunes behaved the way he did—with mysterious cloak-and-dagger maneuvers—and who he got his information from. It now appears that despite rushing to brief President Trump on his news, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee received his information from the White House in the first place.

The second, and more obscure, concerns the actual material that Nunes had. He was cagey about it, in part because it is apparently classified. He said that Trump transition team members were subject to “incidental collection,” which refers to U.S. persons being caught up in legal surveillance of foreign targets. There was no indication of illegality, but the names Americans who are incidentally collected are typically meant to be redacted, and Nunes said some names were possibly improperly revealed, or “unmasked,” by the Obama administration.

If that is true, who was behind the unmasking? Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake reports one answer Monday:

White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Lake further reports that Rice’s pattern of requesting unmasking was discovered by Trump National Security Council staffer Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom The New York Times reported last week was one of Nunes’s sources. Cohen-Watnick informed the White House Counsel’s office, Lake reports.

Rice has not commented on the report. It would likely be legal for Rice to request the unmasking — “The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything,” Lake notes.

As Lake notes, nothing he — or anyone else — has uncovered lends credence to President Trump’s outlandish and unsupported claim that Obama ordered surveillance of him at Trump Tower prior to the election. Nor does the new story suggest any illegal behavior on Rice’s part. As with each step in the story, this one offers only a small sliver of information. Many experts seem to think the Bloomberg View story does not imply anything improper or unusual. Others withheld judgment, saying there’s simply not enough information to judge.

The article goes on …

So what’s a poor Congress to do with this?  Rand Paul wants Susan Rice under oath about it before Congress.  My question is “Why?” Although the “revelation” is new, there is no indication anything Rice did was illegal, and I’ve seen nothing indicating it was outside normal channels.  Most importantly, it does nothing to back up Trump’s bogus claim about Obama surveilling Trump Tower.  The information should come out though – to determine if anyone on the Trump team was doing what Eric Prince (Betsy DeVos’ brother) was doing to open back channel communication with our enemies.  Now THAT would be worth investigating.

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Fake Newser in Chief

By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor

Well, so now it comes out. Barack Obama did not surveil, wiretap, or do anything else that our Fake Newser in Chief alleged he did. No, the charge didn’t even come from him. (Please ignore those early to early morning tweets.)

No, it was actually a fake news media in Russia who made the charge. And it was actually that right legal mind, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who made that charge in the fake US media, you know, Fox News.

And to continue the Fake News onslaught, he now claims he had a wonderful meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I guess that was after he refused to shake her hand and he criticized Germany’s commitment to its own defense. So good in fact that the German defense minister had to correct him on how NATO works and what Germany does and does not owe it.

Well, at least we now know that fake news in the US is from Russia through Fox through Trump.

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By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor

I have had the opportunity this past week to drive around to hearings in other counties and have spent a considerable amount of time listening to talk radio. I have to admit I’ve listened to about two minutes of Fox, and the rest of it was pretty much MSNBC with a little sprinkling of Progress radio, all on Sirius XM. And of course, my opening salvo of the day is the Washington Post, where I check back periodically during the day,and a few minutes (if I can stand it) of Morning Joe.

So what’s all this lead me to? It leads me to the acronym posted at the top of this post. What The Hell Is Going On Here? I frankly can’t make sense of it any longer. What have we heard this week?

– A healthcare insurance plan that will likely lead to the loss of more people having insurance than Obamacare added to the insurance rolls. A plan that Lyin’ Paul Ryan is trying to pass through Congress within a week without the CBO score and without any real debate – by the party who complained that Obamacare was rammed down their throat after nine months of debate.

– We have Trump surrogates admitting that they met with the Russian ambassador. I think the count’s up to about 10 now.

– We have drrumpf’s past national security advisor nominee Michael Flynn registering as a foreign agent, because he took money -$500,000 – from Turkey while he was campaigning for drumpf.

– We have Trump proposing to cut the budgets of the Coast Guard TSA and FEMA in order to finance a meaningless border wall.

Frankly, it’s exhausting.

But this being a conversation starter, I’m sure there are also other things that all of you have paid attention to not listed above. Feel free to chime in.

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My jumbled thoughts about the upcoming election

By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor

The colloquy yesterday between Bink and Craig got me to thinking, as they say in these parts. So below are my jumbled and disjointed thoughts about the choice we face 40 days or so from now.

I view this election as a binary election – it’s Clinton or Trump.  If that is establishment versus change, with the type of change drumpf foreshadows, I’ll take establishment any day and every day for a myriad of reasons, including her roots in and support for the middle class.

supreme1Clinton is an easy choice for me. Even putting that aside, the folks Hillary will put into the federal courts from bottom to top make the decision very easy for me as a lawyer who believes the Constitution is not embodied in one amendment (a point on which Craig and I agree).

Whether I, Craig, or anyone is in the top or bottom 1, 5, or 10 percent, or somewhere in the middle, so long as they vote for the one candidate IMHO who gives a crap about and represents any hope for the middle class I don’t care how many cars, homes, dollars, eyes or whatever they have or whether they are low, middle or high income, or are unemployed, working or living off dividends and trust funds, and I count among my friends folks who fall into all of those baskets and who support Hillary — and none are deplorable.

I reject the “change” meme in this election as illegitimate and not in the best interests of the country. Large scale change in the past 100 years or so has been a result of catastrophic events, and I don’t see that underlying cause now — eight years ago, yes, but the responses to the 2008 crash have stabilized the economy (hopefully) even if the middle class has not recovered to its pre-crash level, although I am somewhat skeptical of that. Manufacturing has been leaving the country since the 70s at least, long before Obama’s birthplace was questioned. That’s when Japan moved from trinkets and began competing with us in the steel and electronics industries. It could ship US scrap to Japan, manufacture steel products and ship them back to the US at prices below what we could produce the same products for using the same scrap without the transportation costs. It built better TVs and stereos we could afford (remember them?) and we bought them.

manufacturingChina’s inroads into our manufacturing economy have been dramatic, but we buy their crap at Walmart and everywhere else, and other countries including Honduras, Indonesia, Korea and India just to name a few have followed suit.  NAFTA didn’t do that.  I haven’t seen the US be overwhelmed by Mexican and Canadian goods, and there are competing studies that have reached conflicting results. (See this Politifact article).  Ironically, one of the major employers in our area is a Canadian company (Bombardiere) and the largest office building in our “downtown” area (I use the term advisedly) — which was effectively abandoned by Chase Bank is now Canadian owned (Olymbec). Americans provide the labor in both.

OK, to support US manufacturers and bakers I won’t eat Oreos any longer and any Fender guitar I buy will be made in the US – and I’ll pay double for it, but it will be 20% better made.  Have there been job losses as a result of emerging economic powers south of our border and across the Pacific?  You betcha.  Are Americans willing to compete with those markets?  Yes and no.  But regardless, if you think change as offered by the Cheeto Bandito (apologies to Frito Lay) will improve that, well, I’ve got a bridge to Queens to sell you.

Would bringing back the Glass-Steagall reforms help?  Probably.  Will they come back with an orange idiot repug in the white house and a repug congress?  Not in a million years.  Could Dodd-Frank be made stronger instead?  See my Glass-Steagall comment.

Will trump bring back coal?  Doubtful so long as natural gas is cheap.  Will Hillary kill coal?  With a repug congress and coal lobbying money to keep idiots like McConnell in Congress and in line?  No damn way. (Natural gas will do that if it happens).

But the most compelling reason to reject trump change (chump change is more like it) is what I can foresee 4-8 years from now.  With drumpf at the helm I cannot imagine what this country and the world will look like, but I can’t see it looking better for most Americans, or for the world as a whole for that matter.  Putin might disagree with me here.  But I can see drumpf and his brood carefully studying and analyzing moves for the US while profiting nicely and counting their money as it grows – they think a blind trust is having his 3 spawn run his companies. With Hillary at the helm I similarly can’t see where we go, but I know it will be through careful study and analysis and right or wrong, decisions based upon that. So in the end, I’ll be voting for Hillary, like I did 8 years ago, and again I’ll be doing it for what I see as the best choice for the country.

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And as the Campaigns Continue on, Both See the End

By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor

In Thursday’s Washington Post, Greg Sargent posted a piece with this title:  The End is Near: Clinton and Sanders Camps Signal Resolution.  It was inevitable wasn’t it?  While the ultimate outcome of the race may have seemed to be up in the air a month ago, now it seems like the outcome is all but certain and it’s time for the candidates to look toward the Fall election against … Trump.


The signs are everywhere this morning: The Clinton and Sanders camps are now signaling how the Democratic primaries might wind down without too much noise, contentiousness, disruption, and anger. Could things still get very ugly? Yes. But at this point, that’s looking less likely than the alternative.

In an interview with me, Rep. Keith Ellison, a top supporter of Bernie Sanders who is also the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, suggested the Clinton camp had some work to do in order to appeal to Sanders’s supporters. But he also carefully noted that Sanders would not do anything to imperil the party unity that will be required to defeat Donald Trump.

But Ellison added: “Every Bernie supporter knows that this Supreme Court issue is looming. We’ll have party unity….everybody has a responsibility to make sure there will never be a President Trump. Bernie has been around a long time….he’s not going to hand this country over to Donald Trump.”

Ellison’s a smart guy, and I certainly hope his words are prophetic. Bernie, of all people, should know exactly what is at stake should Trump pull off a win in November.  Hell, Citizen’s United has been one of his primary issues during the campaign.

On the Clinton side, the Post reports that a top Clinton backer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, is now calling for both camps to “work together, across our party, to have a platform that represents the views of Democrats.” And:

In 2008, after the divisive primary season concluded, Feinstein opened her Washington manse to host a secret unity meeting between Obama and Clinton. She said she would reprise that role for Clinton and Sanders. “I’d be very happy to offer that,” Feinstein said.

The other day, another top Clinton backer, Senator Sherrod Brown — who has great credibility among economic progressives — also offered in an interview with me to take part in any negotiating efforts to unite the camps. He even suggested that Clinton “should work with him on the platform,” and offered some areas of common ground they could reach on financial reform (an area of real disagreement), such as how to toughen up Dodd-Frank’s requirements for big banks’ plans to wind down in a crisis.

I have heard nothing of the sort coming from the Republican contestants or their surrogates.  Now that Cruz has picked Fiorina as his running mate there can be no doubt that he intends to continue to tear at Trump.  Tear away, I say.

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