Monday, February 24, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/21/2020

"Shields and Brooks on Las Vegas debate, Trump’s pardons" PBS NewsHour 2/21/2020


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including how the Las Vegas debate changed the 2020 Democratic race, new reports of Russian election interference and President Trump’s response to them, the sentencing of Trump ally Roger Stone and the outcry over Trump’s flurry of pardons and commutations.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, speaking of Bernie Sanders and the Russians, today, David, late today, we learned that — first a news report and then Sanders confirmed it — that his campaign has been — he's been briefed by intelligence officials about the Russians trying to help his campaign.

So, now we know it's not just President Trump.  It's one of the Democrats.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

It happens to be a fact that the two campaigns the Russian are trying to help are the two campaigns that are — might end up with the nominations.

I remain a little skeptical of how effective the Russians are at getting people to — persuading people to change their mind on a certain candidate.  There is no magic formula for that.  We try here every week, and it doesn't work.


And so — and so I'm not sure the Russians are really effectively changing a lot of votes.

I really wish the intelligence agencies would tell us explicitly what they're doing.  Like, they say they're undermining institutions, undermining trust, spreading conspiracy theories.

I'd love to be able to know, as a consumer of social media and all the rest, what do I look out for?  What do I do?  How can I tell?  I think they haven't — they have been too vague about what actually is happening and what countermeasures we, as individuals, can take.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes, they talk about taking disinformation and repeating it and repeating it through social media.

So that's one of the things.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  One of the things we could do as a people is just pass what the House has passed, which is simply that any campaign that is approached by a foreign power, foreign source to help it, to be involved in any way, has to report it.  There's a responsibility.

That's died in the Republican Senate.  That's been killed by Mitch McConnell.

But, no, I really — I really think that, Judy, it's unthinkable, if you really just take the sense of, the President of the United States is told that a foreign country is interfering and trying to change the most — the sacrament of democracy, which is our public voting, the secret ballot, and they are trying to tamper with it and tamper with the results.

And what is his reaction?  Fury at the foreign power?  Anger?  Let's get them?

No.  Who divulged this?  An admiral, a decorated admiral, who took this, as a public servant, and an honored his constitutional and statutory responsibility to inform the Congress of the United States.

I mean, that's just unthinkable, what's going on.

Judy Woodruff:  You're contrasting the President's reaction to this to Bernie Sanders, who announced today and rejected…

Mark Shields:  Yes.

Bernie Sanders, to his credit, I mean, having honeymooned in Moscow in 1988…


I mean, you got to explain that someday, Bernie — the trip to Nicaragua in '85.

But, I mean, he's — he came and said, no way.  I mean, you stay out, Putin.  And if I'm President, I will make absolutely sure.  I don't want your help and you shouldn't be involved or whatever.

That was a strong statement, the kind you would expect from any political leader in this country of either party, and that the President United States refuses to give.

David Brooks:  Yes, and then appoint somebody as head of the — or acting head of the national intelligence — or intelligence service, someone with no experience, who is politicizing that relationship even more.


Mark Shields:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, the other thing — many things to ask you about, but one thing I do want to touch on is, this was the week the President's longtime friend Roger Stone was sentenced to prison by a federal judge here in Washington, more than three years.

Remains to be seen whether the President's going to pardon his sentence.  But what the President did do this week was pardon or commute the sentences of 11 individuals who seem to all have some connection, David, with the Trump White House.

What do we make of this?  I mean, this is — the President's within his power, his rights to do this, but what do you make of it?

David Brooks:  Yes.

I mean, the naked politicization of this is — again is the — Trump is, as some have predicted, really is unleashed by impeachment.  His behavior has really shifted in the last month in all sorts of ways, much more attack on the institutions of our society.

I happen to — the only person I know — and I don't know him at all well — is Michael Milken among those who've been pardoned.  And I thought the pardon was legitimate in that case.  This is a guy who had his Wall Street problems in the '80s, prosecuted by Rudy Giuliani.

But as far as I can see, the Milken Institute is out in California.  He's really dedicated last 20 or 30 years to serving the public, running a think tank, trying to spread ideas.

And so in the case of somebody like that, who really spends decades in public service after whatever he did years ago, a pardon doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you see this?

Mark Shields:  Well, I think we owe a certain tribute to Joni Ernst and to Rob Portman and Susan Collins, who told us that the President would be chastened and changed by that simmering experience of going through the impeachment.

He is.  He's unbridled.  He's unfettered.  He has only around him enablers now.  There is nobody to hold him back.  There's no Kelly or Mattis or anybody else there to say, no, Mr.  President, argue another point of view.

And what they have in common, I guess, white-collar crime, fraud, tax deception, and ability to give money to Republican causes.  I mean, it's — there is almost a self-identification with many of these cases, because the President has not gone uncharged on some of these actions or similar actions.

And so it's — I really think that it's not a question of — I don't know Michael Milken.  But he certainly did change American finance while he was there.

Judy Woodruff:  The junk — they called him the junk bond king.

David Brooks:  It should be said, I mean, just to get back to Roger Stone, we're all made in the image of God, but it's hard to think of somebody whose public career has shown fewer redeeming qualities.

And the President has surrounded himself with reasonably shady characters.  And Roger Stone is almost apically shady.

Judy Woodruff:  And this is the third individual who was considered close to the President who — sent off to prison, at a time when — there's a lot of focus on what the President can do.

Again, he has the power to commute sentences, to pardon people.  And we remember, at the end of the Bill Clinton administration, there was a flurry of pardons.


Mark Shields:  Usually, it's on the way out, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Mark Shields:  There's just one thing about the Democrats that I just want to — that kind of fits in here.

And that is, the Democrats, I think, after that debate, are in danger of fragmenting and fracturing themselves.  And I think there's a page in American history, the Revolutionary War.  The revolutionists sought the active alliance with Charles XVI of — the king of France — Louis XVI and Charles III in Spain, monarchies, to help them.

I mean, but one — they had a single objective, and that was to defeat the king of England, to get independence.

Judy Woodruff:  The monarch.

Mark Shields:  The monarch.

The Democrats better say — they better come together in a hell of a hurry, because their sole purpose in 2020 is to defeat the monarch, to defeat Donald Trump.

And I just — I think the danger of fracturing is severe.

Judy Woodruff:  We hear you.

Mark Shields:  OK.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

Mark Shields:  Thank you.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL - Baseball's Black Eye

"Why MLB players are frustrated over Astros’ lack of punishment" PBS NewsHour 2/21/2020


SUMMARY:  The fallout from a major cheating scandal in Major League Baseball continues.  After investigators found that the Houston Astros used an elaborate sign-stealing scheme in 2017, when they won the World Series, members of the team's front office were disciplined.  But players, and the championship title, remain unscathed, prompting resentment within the league.  John Yang talks to ESPN’S Jeff Passan.

TRUMP AGENDA - Getting Re-elected With Russia's Help

Trump: 'U.S. intelligence agencies are staffed with crocked never-Trumpers and need to be cleaned out.'  aka 'Everyone is against me.  WAAAA!'

"Amid reported Russian meddling, a ‘deeply damaging’ politicization of U.S. intelligence" PBS NewsHour 2/21/2020


SUMMARY:  Multiple news outlets report that U.S. intelligence officials told House lawmakers recently that Russia is actively trying to help President Trump be reelected.  In response, Trump has lashed out at Democrats, saying they are starting a “rumor” about Russian election interference.  Yamiche Alcindor talks to Laura Rosenberger of the Alliance for Securing Democracy about what’s at stake.

RETIREMENT - Unfinished Business

"Why more older workers are finding themselves unemployed as retirement approaches" PBS NewsHour 2/20/2020


SUMMARY:  Many Americans plan to save for retirement in their 50s.  But what happens if you're laid off at that age instead?  According to researchers, the situation is common, and older workers have a harder time finding a new job -- especially one that pays their previous salary.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman talks to 59-year-old Jaye Crist, who works three jobs for 70 percent of his former income.

CALIFORNIA - Without a Home

Note that just one contributing factor to the size of the homeless is the weather.  This 'winter' we in Southern California haven't really experienced a winter, weather in the mid-50's to mid-70's is not 'winter' in common terms.  So if you're homeless, this is the place to be.

"Can California figure out a way to house its growing homeless population?" PBS NewsHour 2/20/2020


SUMMARY:  Roughly a quarter of all homeless Americans live in California, where the rate of homelessness has increased 16 percent in the past year.  Facing pressure from his constituents and President Trump, Gov. Gavin Newsom has made the issue his top priority and proposed an array of potential policy solutions.  John Yang sits down with Anita Chabria of the Los Angeles Times to discuss the details.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "Nothing to See Here"

"This novel makes fun of your child’s meltdown" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2020


SUMMARY:  A new, acclaimed novel takes a young child's meltdown and turns it into a surreal satire of modern life.  In "Nothing to See Here," author Kevin Wilson uses a universal experience of parenthood to explore some incendiary family dynamics.  Wilson sits down with Jeffrey Brown for a conversation.


"A risky expedition to study the ‘doomsday glacier’" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2020


SUMMARY:  The Thwaites Glacier is the largest, most menacing source of rising sea levels all over the world, and it is melting at an alarming rate.  For years, scientists have warily watched it from afar, but in November, a team set out on a perilous journey to investigate what is happening below.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on what they discovered.

DIFFERENT BY DESIGN - Cutting-Edge Art Exhibit

"Her son’s language disorder inspired this cutting-edge art exhibit" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2020


SUMMARY:  At the exhibition "Speechless: Different by Design," touching pieces of art is actually encouraged.  As Jeffrey Brown reports, the Dallas Museum of Art show -- created as a collaboration between designers and brain researchers -- explores how people interact with their surroundings and how they communicate with each other.

CRISIS IN SYRIA - War Criminal Assad's Idlib Offensive

"Assad’s Idlib offensive drives nearly 1 million from their homes — and into the cold" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2020


SUMMARY:  In Syria, only one pocket of resistance to the Assad regime remains, in Idlib provinceBut since late last year, Assad’s military has been relentlessly attacking the region, and now, nearly a million people have been forced from their homes in the freezing cold.  In a war defined by displacement, this is the largest movement of people in the entire years-long conflict.  Nick Schifrin reports.

AMERICAN POLITICS - Criminal in White House Pardons Other Criminals

"How unusual are Trump’s pardons and DOJ criticism? 2 former judges weigh in" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2020


SUMMARY:  On Tuesday, President Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people he said had served enough time or been treated unfairly.  The moves come as the President has sharply criticized the Department of Justice for its handling of the case of longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone.  William Brangham talks to two former judges, Harvard Law School’s Nancy Gertner and University of Utah’s Paul Cassell.

THAT MOMENT WHEN - Steve Martin and Martin Short

"The enduring and spectacular friendship of Steve Martin and Martin Short" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2020


SUMMARY:  Comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short first connected in the 1980s while filming “The Three Amigos” and have remained close friends ever since.  For the NewsHour’s “That Moment When,” Martin and Short join Steve Goldbloom to discuss the moment they met, how they prioritized their relationship and managed to avoid competing with each other and which comedian they would pick to join their act.

DESPERATE JOURNEY - Greek Residents vs Migrants

"In these parts of Greece, crisis is building between residents and migrants" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2020


SUMMARY:  Amid growing unrest in Greece, the government there is temporarily halting construction of permanent detention centers for asylum seekers.  Tens of thousands of migrants have been stranded in the country for more than four years, since its border with Macedonia was sealed and the European Union failed to find enough alternative destinations.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

"Yearning for ‘peace,’ when a Greek refugee camp has become hell" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2020


SUMMARY:  Five years into Europe's migration crisis, the conditions in the notorious Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos are hellish.  Refugee children are especially vulnerable, facing hunger, bad sanitation and the threat of violence.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports that angry local residents are demanding a solution.

OUTBREAK - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

"How U.S. health officials are responding to the threat of novel coronavirus" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2020


SUMMARY:  With the novel coronavirus crisis gripping parts of Asia, thousands of passengers have been quarantined aboard cruise ships.  Among them were several hundred Americans, who are now being evacuated back to the U.S., where they will undergo another quarantine in case they are infected with the virus.  Amna Nawaz reports and talks to Vanderbilt University’s Dr. William Schaffner for insight.

"The big question that researchers are trying to answer about novel coronavirus" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2020


SUMMARY:  There are many unanswered questions about the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, but the Chinese government has released new information about the mortality rate and other important concerns.  William Brangham talks with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health about whether some patients are catching the virus without getting sick and the global effort to contain it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

GOP - Wants One-Party Rule, A Warning

1934 Nazi Rally at Nuremberg were orderly by comparison to the Trump campaign
but they are both built around a cult of an infallible leaders. (Bundesarchiv)
"Congressional GOP Wants One-Party Rule for a Thousand Years.  They Aren't Fearful of Trump.  They Want Him to Succeed." by Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash 2/17/2020

No, Congressional Republicans (with the exception of Mitt Romney) will not suddenly reveal themselves as principled even if Trump were to resign, which is near impossible to consider.  Democrats who pride themselves on civility and honorable behavior make the mistake of projecting those virtues onto Senate and House Republicans.

Yes, the rumors of some Senate Republicans who only voted to acquit Trump out of fear may have some truth, but then again, it may be nothing more than Bill Barr’s contrived claim that Trump’s tweeting was making his job more difficult.  In the end, Barr has just been engaging in a cover-up, most likely coordinated with the White House, of multiple cover-ups of acts of injustice to get Trump capos not to reveal evidence of Trump’s criminal behavior and to investigate Trump’s “enemies.”  Not to mention Barr’s dishonest summaries of DOJ investigations that concern Trump.

There is no reason to believe that Congressional Republicans want to rein in Trump anymore than to believe Barr is engaged in carrying out impartial justice.

No, Republicans didn’t acquit Trump just our of fear.  To the contrary, they share Trump’s goal of one-party rule — attained through stolen elections and massive disinformation campaigns — that would last, as Hitler declared for his Third Reich, a thousand years.  Lost in Democratic leadership speculation that it was Trump’s vindictiveness and fear that he would support primary challengers to anyone who voted against him on impeachment, lost to that simplistic explanation is that the Republican Party has been engaged in trying to suppress the two-party system for decades.  Not to mention, the Neo-Confederacy brand of the Republican Party since Nixon.

With the advent of an unhinged vengeful despot demagogue in the White House, who is openly soliciting help in stealing the 2020 election, the Congressional Republicans probably have two thoughts: 1) The Trump campaign’s open commitment to use dirty tricks, voter suppression and foreign interference to steal the election for Trump will help those up for re-election down ballot; and 2) The Republicans know that they are now a minority and cannot win a popular vote nationally and that they control the Senate only because of the artifact of (at the time of the Constitution) slave states (now including rural Western and Midwestern Red States) being granted two senators.

Thus a state such as Wyoming has two senators as a population of 580,000, while California has two senators, with the same power, with more than 40 million people.  So the Senate Republicans control the Senate under the pernicious and underhanded Mitch McConnell even though Democratic Senate candidates received 12 million more votes than Republican candidates in 2018.  So don’t rule out that the vast majority of Republicans in the Senate were thinking more about a strong man who would preserve minority Republican rule without the least compunction of fair play.

It is hard for many Democrats who believe in the Constitution and the lore of American democracy being a role model for the world to accept that the Republican white Christian minority are looking to hold on power at all costs even it means they are helping dismantle democracy and emboldening an aspiring dictator.  The reality is that democracy is a threat to their rule, and Trump is their leader in suppressing majority rule and enfranchisement, and a Republican dictatorship preserving minority rule would be just fine with them.

As Barry Craig noted in LA Progressive“Trump isn’t driving Republican opinion.  He’s just reflecting it.”

In 1947, while a Congressman John F. Kennedy said in a speech:  “There is nothing in the record of the past two years when both Houses of Congress have been controlled by the Republican Party which can lead any person to believe that those promises will be fulfilled in the future.  They follow the Hitler line – no matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth.”

For those Democrats who are squeamish about any comparisons to Hitler and the Third Reich, JFK was right on the money.  Trump is, it goes without saying, the master of the big lie, more than 15,000 and counting.  Like Hitler, he believes in one party rule.  Like Hitler, who damned the democratic Weimar Republic, Trump believes Democratic leaders are “vermin” and “scum” and should be imprisoned.  Like Trump, Hitler used mass audiences to appeal to the basest instincts of his followers, to lure them into the fanciful notion of a pure German bloodline, to promise them that he would make Germany great again (ergo The Third Reich).

Don’t for a minute think that the Republicans in Congress are abandoning principles out of fear alone.  Trump is their leader advancing the minority white Christians into a thousand years of one-party rule.

Monday, February 17, 2020

AMERICAN SAMOA - The Tuna Industry

NOTE:  American Samoa is a U.S. territory and Samoans are American citizens.

"Sea of obstacles imperil American Samoa’s tuna industry" PBS NewsHour 2/15/2020


SUMMARY:  Locally based fishermen who supply the lone Starkist tuna cannery in American Samoa are facing a perfect storm of obstacles that are threatening their economic survival.  A battle is now on in the U.S. territory to fend off those looming challenges, from rising fuel costs to international competition.  Special correspondent Mike Taibbi reports with support from Pacific Islanders in Communications.

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 2/14/2020

"Mark Shields and Michael Gerson on New Hampshire primary, Trump vs. DOJ" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2020


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including Sen.  Bernie Sanders’ victory in the New Hampshire primary and how it shapes the race for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, President Trump's strategy for reelection and the political conflict surrounding the Justice Department.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Gerson.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  David Brooks is away.

Hello to both of you.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Judy.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post:  Good to be here.

Judy Woodruff:  So, we have had a primary, New Hampshire.  We now know what happened in the first-in-the-nation contest, after Iowa, where there was some confusion about the results.

Mark, what do we make of it?

Mark Shields:  Judy, here's the bright side for the Democrats.  It broke the turnout record, after a disappointing turnout in Iowa the week before.  Among Democrats, there was a new turnout record.  So, enthusiasm was up.

Bernie Sanders got half as many votes as he got four years ago against Hillary Clinton.  He beat Hillary Clinton by 57,000 votes.  He beat Pete Buttigieg by 3,900 votes.  And yet winning is coming in first.  And Bernie won.  So, Bernie coming, out of a popular vote, if not a delegate vote, win in Iowa, and a popular vote win in New Hampshire, has to be considered the front-runner at this point.

Judy Woodruff:  Has to be considered the front-runner.  Any doubt about that?

Michael Gerson:  No.

I think the biggest results of New Hampshire were results of exclusion.  I think that Warren is now not competing very effectively for the left lane of the Democratic Party.  Sanders really solidified that.  And I think Biden took a real blow in the results, coming in fifth, it was.

Judy Woodruff:  Fifth.

Michael Gerson:  That — for the former vice President to do that.

So you have clarity on the left in the Democratic Party, but you do not have Bernie Sanders proving yet that he can go beyond his traditional coalition of young people and very — and liberals.  These results didn't prove he can move beyond that.  And if he's going to unit the party, he's going to need to do that.

Judy Woodruff:  And can he do that?  That's the big — that's the question.

Mark Shields:  Well, I'm not sure he can, but I think it's also — we ought to at least mention the other candidates quickly.

Judy Woodruff:  For sure.

Mark Shields:  Amy Klobuchar, after really having a disappointing showing in Iowa in her next to home state of New Hampshire with a fifth, had a strong third, a surprising third, and did it on those who disparaged debates as being important events.

I mean, it was her Friday night debate and her performance there that probably saved Bernie Sanders, if you think about it, because Joe Biden was collapsing, as Michael pointed out, and the Biden votes were up for grabs.  They either have to probably go to Buttigieg or to Amy Klobuchar.

Amy Klobuchar got the lion's share, based upon, in my judgment, her performance that night, and Buttigieg's less-than-spectacular performance in the debate.  He did very well.  He had a strong second.  He's been exceeding expectations more than anybody else in this rate, has Pete Buttigieg.

But now we go from what's called retail to wholesale.  In retail, in Iowa, New Hampshire, by effort and energy, you can meet enough voters.  You can talk with them.  You can…


Judy Woodruff:  Coffee shops, door to door.

Mark Shields:  Coffee shops, exactly.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Mark Shields:  And you do it.  And you have the time to do it.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Mark Shields:  And that's what the premium is upon.

Now, Judy, it's landing on tarmacs, it's going to TV studios, 14 states on one day, on Super Tuesday.  It changes.  And the premium becomes money and resources, a lot more than it does time and effort and human energy.

Michael Gerson:  I agree with that, except for one thing.

Mark Shields:  OK.

Michael Gerson:  I think Buttigieg and Klobuchar need to prove they can go to minority communities and get a significant amount of support.

If I were Buttigieg, I would have his supporters from Indiana down in South Carolina right now spreading the word that this guy is acceptable.

Mark Shields:  Yes.  Yes.

Michael Gerson:  So, I…

Judy Woodruff:  You think that's his main challenge, Buttigieg's main challenge?

Michael Gerson:  Well, his main challenge is that he's the mayor of a small town and — was the mayor of a small town — and has to keep proving that he can play in that league.  So he has to keep winning in order to do that.

But I think, in order to do that, he's going to have to show that he can appeal to Hispanic and black voters.  And I think that's a requirement.

Judy Woodruff:  And Nevada coming up a week from tomorrow, the 22nd of February, Mark.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  There's a powerful culinary workers union there which said it's not endorsing in the race.

Mark Shields:  Not endorsing.  Did take a shot at Bernie Sanders.

Judy Woodruff:  Did take a shot.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  They put out a flyer saying they don't like his single-payer…

Mark Shields:  They have got a Cadillac health plan.

Judy Woodruff:  I interviewed him on the program yesterday, and he said he does protect their workers.

But the point is, he didn't get that boost that he would have liked.

Mark Shields:  No, nor did Joe Biden.

Judy Woodruff:  Nor did Joe Biden.

Mark Shields:  No.  And they are important.

But you're right.  And that is a Latino, Hispanic constituency, largely.  And…

Judy Woodruff:  But coming back to Klobuchar quickly, though, Mark.

Mark Shields:  Sure.

Judy Woodruff:  I mean, Pete Buttigieg has a lot to prove.  She [Klobuchar] has something to prove, doesn't she?

Mark Shields:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes.

No, I mean, Michael spoke of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for the liberal wing.  For the woman alley, she seems to have prevailed over Elizabeth Warren at this point.

What she has to do, Judy, is put together a national campaign on the fly.  You don't have — time is your enemy.

Judy Woodruff:  Klobuchar.

Mark Shields:  Klobuchar.

She doesn't have the resources.  She's got to raise money, hire people, and campaign in places all at the same time.  What she's got to do is figure out, picking one or two states on Super Tuesday and figuring, I'm going to make my fight here, challenging Bernie.

And Buttigieg, to the same degree, has to do the same thing, and making those — we can't cover 14 states at once.  OK?  There's going to be two or three that are going to emerge as the battleground.  And it's going to be strategic convincing the press and public that these are the two or three states.  And that's where I think Buttigieg and Klobuchar's chances lie.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Michael, we have got — we have a week from tomorrow is Nevada, and then the Saturday after that is South Carolina…

Michael Gerson:  That's right.

Judy Woodruff:  … where you do have a different electorate.  Something — more than 50 percent of the Democratic vote there is African-American.

So Buttigieg has his work cut out for him.  So does Sanders, for that matter, and Klobuchar.  But let's not forget — I do want to come back to Biden, and Elizabeth Warren, who faded.  She came in ahead of Joe Biden, but far back, I think, from where some thought she might be.

Michael Gerson:  Yes, I agree with that.

South Carolina is Joe Biden's last stand.

Mark Shields:  Absolutely.

Michael Gerson:  I think that Warren has invested some time and attention in Nevada.  And I think she's going to need to show some strength there in order to feel like that she can move along.

But there is going to be a fight for that moderate, liberal lane right now.  Biden seems out of the running.  Buttigieg and Klobuchar seem in the running.  But then you have Bloomberg in the wings, essentially betting that all of them will fail, and that he will be the ultimate alternative to Bernie Sanders.

And I don't know if that strategy works or not, but, so far, it's coming — some of the steps have taken place.

Judy Woodruff:  But, before we get to Bloomberg — and I want to ask you about that, Mark — Joe Biden.

He has come in a distant, what, fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire.  He argues he can come back.  That's only two states out of 50.

Mark Shields:  It is only two states out of 50.

Judy Woodruff:  I mean, has that been done before?

Mark Shields:  They're the two that gets the most attention every four years.

I agree with Michael.  South Carolina is it.  There are no moral victories in South Carolina.  Joe Biden has to win.  And he was basing his confidence on his strong support in the African-American community.

We saw the African-American community turn on a dime in 2008, when they were overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton until Barack Obama won in Iowa.  And once he won in Iowa, the African-American community in South Carolina said, my goodness, this fellow really does have a chance, and they switched.

I think Joe Biden now, who is running on electability, a no longer relevant thesis, has to bank on the loyalty of the African-American community and his long service and identity there and his service with Barack Obama.

But that's it.  I mean, that's it for him.

Judy, when he said at the beginning of the debate, we took a gut punch in Iowa and I'm probably going to lose here, anybody who was going to go door to door for him that weekend just said, wait a minute.

Judy Woodruff:  And then left New Hampshire before…


Mark Shields:  And left New Hampshire and said, well, maybe I ought to look at Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

Judy Woodruff: So, now — so, let's come back to Michael Bloomberg, because you're right, Michael, he does seem to be out there waiting, spending, what, $300 million on advertising.

Mark Shields:  Three-fifty.

Judy Woodruff:  A modest amount.

Is he in a position to benefit if this race remains muddled coming out of these next…

Michael Gerson:  Well, as the focus comes to him, he has baggage, stop and frisk baggage, baggage as the mayor.

He has — if you watch commercials, at least where I am, in Virginia, you see him with Barack Obama all the time.  He's trying to establish that he cooperated with him.


Mark Shields:  … his running mate.


Michael Gerson:  Yes, exactly.  Yes.

And, so, I think he's trying to, you know, take care of that.  And he's going to have a unique advantage, completely untested, with those 15 or 16 states on Super Tuesday.  He's going to be able to spend a lot in each one of them.

Judy Woodruff:  And he suggests, Mark, that he's in his — whenever you see him making a speech, every time he's out there, he's prepared to go toe to toe with President Trump.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

In a strange way, I think that's a mistake and one of the few mistakes he's made.  Americans do not want a Trump vs. Trump race.  They don't want an insult race.  I think one of the great appeals, sleeper appeals, of Pete Buttigieg in this entire campaign is that he lowers the emotional thermostat in the room, that he speaks reasonably.

Coming back to Michael Bloomberg, Judy, you're absolutely right.  I have never seen anybody spend like this before.  But his campaign has been totally controlled.  He's never mixed it up.  Now there's even some mention that he might not even go to the debates, where you get a sense of people and how you feel about them.

And Americans, in the final analysis, Michael worked with George W. Bush, of the last seven Republican nominees, the only one to win a popular majority of the vote in a Presidential election in 2004.

Why did they vote for George W. Bush over John Kerry, who, I think, by most testaments, won the three debates between the two men?  Because they prefer, I-like over I.Q.  They were more comfortable with George W.

There's no comfort level with Michael Bloomberg at this point.  Nobody knows him.  We don't know if he's got a temper, if he's got a sense of humor, if he's self-deprecating.  Can he mix it up?

He's never mixed it up in a debate or in Iowa or New Hampshire.  I think that's what we're going to have to find out.  And if in a month from now, we're talking about his spending, rather than his ideas and how he's different and what he's going to do differently, we know where he is on climate change and gun control, then I think his campaign will be in trouble.

ON THE BORDER - Asylum Seekers

Again, I do not dislike the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on principle.  I DO dislike how some Boarder Patrol Agents act, they have in effect become Trump's Storm Troopers treating all immigrants as criminals (5 year old children?!) just because they are seeking a better life in America.  Asylum is the law and Asylum seekers should NOT be treated as criminals.

"What’s happening to U.S. asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2020


SUMMARY:  A new report from Human Rights Watch finds that the Trump administration’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy forces asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to wait in crowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions.  Many said they lived in constant fear of violence, with some reporting that they had actually been attacked.  Amna Nawaz speaks with Human Rights Watch's Michael Garcia Bochenek.

AFGHANISTAN - The Longest War

"Will short-term deal between U.S., Taliban pave the way for Afghan peace?" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2020


SUMMARY:  The U.S. has reached a short-term agreement with the Taliban that could pave the way for ending the war in Afghanistan that has endured for nearly 20 years.  Under the plan, U.S. forces and the Taliban agree to a temporary cessation of violence and a phased approach to the withdrawal of American troops.  But is the Afghan government on board?  Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff from Munich to discuss.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "A Very Stable Genius"

"‘A Very Stable Genius’ illuminates administration officials’ worries about Trump" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2020


SUMMARY:  The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig published a book about the Trump presidency earlier this year.  “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America” goes beyond the headlines to expose President Trump’s chaotic first years in office.  Philip Rucker sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss why some administration officials are “worried for the country” under Trump.

VACCINE WARS - The Deadly Measles Resurgence

The Anti-Vax movement is based on misconceptions and lies, and is believed by people who do not understand nor believe in science.

"How vaccine hesitancy is contributing to deadly measles resurgence" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2020


SUMMARY:  As health care officials around the world struggle to respond to novel coronavirus, another deadly -- and far more contagious -- disease is on the rise, fueled in large part by insufficient immunization.  In some countries, military conflict diminishes access to vaccines.  But in other parts of the world, misinformation and vaccine hesitancy allow the disease to flourish.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

BUILT TO LAST - Super Strong Concrete

"This super strong concrete could repair aging bridges.  Here’s what’s standing in the way" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2020


SUMMARY:  There's a dire need to repair aging infrastructure in the U.S., and an innovative building material could be a game changer.  Embedded with steel fibers, ultra-high performance concrete [UHPC] is about five to 10 times stronger than standard concrete -- and unaffordable for most government-funded projects.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Iowa on how researchers are working to bring costs down.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - Morgan Stickney

"How a competitive swimmer is helping perfect a new amputation procedure" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020

Inspiration story of the year.


SUMMARY:  Bionic limbs, long the stuff of science fiction fantasy, are becoming reality.  An extremely rare vascular disease caused New Hampshire’s Morgan Stickney, a pre-med student and elite swimmer, to have both legs amputated.  But she underwent an experimental amputation [Ewing amputation] surgery that reconnects muscles and nerves, enabling them to more effectively control prosthetic limbs.  WGBH’s Cristina Quinn reports.

INDIA - The Polluted Ganga River

"India’s effort to clean up sacred but polluted Ganga River" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020


SUMMARY:  The Ganga River, known as the Ganges under British rule, is one of the most revered waterways in the world -- and also among the most polluted.  Stretching from the Himalayan foothills to the Bay of Bengal, it provides water to nearly half a billion people, more than any other river in the world.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from India on the latest efforts to clean the river.

WAR CRIMES - International Trial of Omar al-Bashir

"Why prosecution of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir is an international matter" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020


SUMMARY:  Sudan's former president is one step closer to prosecution for the egregious war crimes he allegedly committed.  During Omar al-Bashir’s 30 years in power, Sudan descended into civil war.  Now, as the country’s transitional government conducts peace talks with rebel leaders, it has agreed to send Bashir to [ICC] trial.  Amna Nawaz gets analysis from Salih Booker of the Center for International Policy.

TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAYER - Roger Stone Sentencing

No matter what William Barr says, his actions (including his 6/8/2018 'memo' [download link] to Trump via AG Rod Rosenstein, that got him his job, saying Presidents can do anything they want) has demonstrated loud and clear the he is Trump's personal layer, and NOT the layer of the American people or protector of he Constitution.

"The ‘remarkable’ DOJ controversy over Roger Stone’s sentencing" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020


SUMMARY:  Roger Stone, the sixth former associate of President Trump to be convicted on charges stemming from the Mueller probe, is again at the center of controversy.  Federal prosecutors recommended Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, but senior Justice Department officials intervened.  Now, all four line prosecutors quit the case.  John Yang talks to The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky.

"Prosecutors quit Roger Stone case after DOJ lowers recommended prison time" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020

WASHINGTON (AP)Four lawyers who prosecuted Roger Stone quit the case Tuesday after the Justice Department said it would take the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant.

The decision by the Justice Department came just hours after Trump complained that the recommended sentence for Stone was “very horrible and unfair.”  The Justice Department said the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump’s tweet — and prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it.

The four attorneys, including two who were early members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia team, had made up the Justice Department’s trial team and had signed onto a Monday court filing that recommended up to nine years in prison for Stone.

The department’s decision to back off the sentencing recommendation raised questions about political interference and whether Trump’s views hold unusual sway over the Justice Department, which is meant to operate independently of the White House in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Attorney General William Barr has been a steady ally of Trump’s, clearing the President of obstruction of justice even when special counsel Robert Mueller had pointedly declined to do so and declaring that the FBI’s Russia investigation — which resulted in charges against Stone — had been based on a “bogus narrative.”

On Monday night, prosecutors had recommended Stone serve seven to nine years behind bars after being convicted of charges including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.  The recommendation raised the prospect that Stone could receive the harshest sentence of any of the half-dozen Trump aides charged in Mueller’s probe.

In a tweet early Tuesday, Trump said the case against Stone was a “miscarriage of justice.”  A Justice Department official said authorities decided to step in and seek a shorter sentence because they had been taken by surprise by the initial recommendation.  The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said prosecutors had told the department to expect a shorter recommendation.

It is extremely rare for Justice Department leaders to reverse the decision of its own prosecutors on a sentencing recommendation, particularly after that recommendation has been submitted to the court.  Normally, United States attorneys have wide latitude to recommend sentences on cases that they prosecuted.

The departures came abruptly after the decision by Justice.  Jonathan Kravis resigned his position as an assistant U.S. attorney.  He had been a veteran prosecutor in Washington [DC], and though not part of Robert Mueller’s original team, was nonetheless involved in multiple cases brought by the special counsel’s office.  Besides the Stone prosecution, Kravis had also signed onto the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, which resolved with a guilty plea, and against a Russian troll farm accused of sponsoring a cover social media campaign aimed at dividing public opinion during the 2016 presidential election.

Aaron Zelinsky quit the case and his job in Washington [DC], and would go back to his job as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore.  He was working there when he was selected in 2017 for the Mueller team.  He was involved in cases aimed at determining what knowledge the Trump campaign had about Democratic emails that were hacked by Russia and what efforts Trump aides made to get information about them.  He was also involved in the prosecution of George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign aide who played a critical role in the FBI launching its investigation in the summer of 2016.

A third prosecutor, Adam Jed, who was an original member of Mueller’s team, also withdrew from the case.  His status at the Justice Department was not clear.  Before joining Mueller’s team, he worked on civil cases at the Justice Department.

After the attorneys quit the case, Justice Department officials filed a revised sentencing memorandum with the judge, arguing its initial recommendation could be “considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances,” but that it would defer to the court.  None of the original prosecutors in Stone’s case signed onto the revised memo.

Sentencing decisions are ultimately up to the judge, who in this case may side with the original recommendation.  U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has repeatedly scolded Stone for his out-of-court behavior, which included a social media post he made of the judge with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun.

The judge barred Stone from social media last July after concluding that she repeatedly flouted his gag order.

Meanwhile, Democrats decried the decision, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for an investigation by the DOJ’s Inspector General.

“The rule of law and this grand, grand tradition of this wonderful Justice Department is being totally perverted to Donald Trumps’ own personal desires and needs,” the New York Democrat said.  “And it’s a disgrace.’’

House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said it would be a blatant abuse of power if the Justice Department intervened on behalf of Trump.

“Doing so would send an unmistakable message that President Trump will protect those who lie to Congress to cover up his own misconduct, and that the Attorney General will join him in that effort,” the California Democrat said.

Trump later told reporters that he didn’t speak to Justice officials.  “I would be able to do it if I wanted,” he said.  “I have the absolute right to do it.  I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe, but I didn’t speak to them.”

Federal prosecutors also recently softened their sentencing position on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying that they would not oppose a probation of punishment after initially saying that he deserved up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI.  The Flynn prosecution is also being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington.

In the initial memorandum Monday evening, prosecutors asked for Stone to serve between 87 and 108 months in federal prison — the sentence they said was in line with federal guidelines.  Such a sentence would send a message to deter others who might consider lying or obstructing a congressional probe or tampering with witnesses, they said.

The prosecutors wrote in the court papers that “Stone’s actions were not a one-off mistake in judgment” and that he “decided to double – and triple – down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful.”

Stone has denied wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated.  He did not take the stand during his trial and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.

Witnesses in the case testified that Trump’s campaign viewed Stone as an “access point” to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, which was in possession of more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee and tried to use him to get advance word about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutors charged that Stone lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host Randy Credico — who had scored an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 — and conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

"Does the Roger Stone fight hurt the Justice Department’s credibility?" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2020


SUMMARY:  Outrage over the Justice Department's new, shorter sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, an ally of President Trump, bubbled over on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where congressional critics of the president say he unfairly interfered to help a friend.  Are the Justice Department's moves justified?  Yamiche Alcindor talks with two former Justice Department officials, Mary McCord and James Trusty.

2020 OSCARS - Best Picture

"What best picture Oscar for ‘Parasite’ means for foreign films" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2020


SUMMARY:  Questions of diversity and inclusion among nominees still lingered at the Oscars on Sunday night -- but still, the Academy’s choice for the best picture of the year, “Parasite,” was a big deal.  Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the significance of that pick, the first non-English language film to receive the honor, for Asian Americans in the entertainment industry.

DENMARK - Lament Rise of Anti-Semitism

"In Denmark, Auschwitz survivors lament the rise of anti-Semitism" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2020


SUMMARY:  January marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but there is growing concern throughout Europe that anti-Semitism is on the rise.  Historically tolerant Denmark, for example, has seen a resurgence of neo-Nazi groups opposed to immigration.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Denmark, where he met a Jewish Auschwitz survivor worried about her family amid the hate.

TRUMP BUDGET - The Rich First, the People Last

[Advertisement]  "Fire Sale, bargain basement prices! National Monuments and Parks, Easy Access to all agencies!"  Contact 'Trump Sales" at 1-800-666-SALE (all payments made through Trump PAC)  Brown people need not apply.

"What Trump’s proposed 2021 budget says about his policy priorities" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2020


SUMMARY:  President Trump unveiled a $4.8 trillion budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year on Monday.  His plan includes cuts to Medicaid and other social safety net programs, as well as an increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Amna Nawaz to discuss how the president’s “wish list” illustrates his continued commitment to a hardline stance on immigration policy.

OUTBREAK - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

FOR CONSPIRACY THEORISTS:  Is COVID-19 a natural virus or an escaped bio-weapon?  Will China turn it into a weapon?  Note that there is NO evidence of this theory.

"Can China’s information about the novel coronavirus be trusted?" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2020


SUMMARY:  China is struggling to contain an outbreak of novel coronavirus that has now spread in small numbers to at least 25 other countries or territories.  Both the official death toll and the number of confirmed cases have doubled in recent days, and there are doubts about the accuracy of data the Chinese government is reporting.  William Brangham is joined by Georgetown University’s Lawrence Gostin.

"How novel coronavirus outbreak has disrupted life across China" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2020


SUMMARY:  China continues to struggle with novel coronavirus and is only now starting to allow scientists and public health officials from outside to assist in its efforts.  While the majority of infections and fatalities are centered in Hubei province, the illness is increasingly being felt across China.  William Brangham talks to The Economist’s David Rennie for an inside look at how the country is coping.

"In China, political fallout from novel coronavirus outbreak continues" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2020


SUMMARY:  As novel coronavirus continues to plague China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, fired two high-level Communist Party officials in the region at the outbreak's center.  The move comes as both death toll and number of cases are surging, partly as a result of changes in the way infections are defined.  John Yang sits down with Jude Blanchette of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.