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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

 
Justice Gorsuch, please come to the white courtesy telephone.

by digby




I have to wonder if these Republican justices and judges all over he country are ok with this crude, disrespectful partisan language coming from the Department of Justice:

Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation. Federal law explicitly states that “a Federal, State or Local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S.C. 1373(a). That means, according to Congress, a city that prohibits its officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities -- a sanctuary city -- is violating the law. Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation. These cities are engaged in the dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders.

Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the 5-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father's arms. San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. This San Francisco judge's erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.

This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping. But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.

In the meantime, we will pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens, and continue our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country. Ultimately, this is a fight between sovereignty and open borders, between the rule of law and lawlessness, and between hardworking Americans and those who would undermine their safety and freedom.
Apparently, they really think that the system by which laws are challenged in this country is illegitimate. District Court judges have no authority to rule on any order proposed by Donald Trump but it's unclear what they think should be done about this. Either they believe the judiciary should have no power to question the president, which means we really are living in a police state, or they want to change the way it works so that only certain judges are allowed to do it. Clearly, they can't have a Mexican heritage or belong to the 9th circuit or live in Hawaii or San Francisco.

Perhaps the most likely answer is that only judges who agree with the president are legitimate. And frankly, that what I expect from Donald Trump. It's rather unnerving to see such an authoritarian official statement by the Department of Justice, however. Even anodyne norms of respectable bureaucratic speech are now being thrown out the window. Breitbart has taken over the Justice Department.

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DHS must have thought better of the first acronym: VERMIN

by digby

































They really missed the boat with their acronym though. This one is much more to the point:

Violent Evil Rapist Mexican Immigrants No! aka: VERMIN

Here's a little reminder of some unfortunate historical precedents for this:

Adolf Hitler also published a list of crimes committed by groups he didn’t like: 


There's a reason Trump's opponents are so worried. This strategy — one designed to single out a particular group of people, suggesting that there's something particularly sinister about how they behave — was employed to great effect by Adolf Hitler and his allies. In the 1930s, the Nazis used a similar tactic to stir up anger and hatred toward Jews. Professor Richard Weikart of California State University explained that Nazi leaders used different kinds of communication tools to sell the message that “Jews are criminal by disposition,” as a 1943 Nazi directive to the German press put it. “The Jews are not a nation like other nations but bearers of hereditary criminality,” the order said. Germany, in other words, was out of control, and only Nazi anti-Semitic policies could “restore order.”

To spread these ideas, there were books (like the pamphlet pictured above) and films that portrayed Jews as subhuman. “The Eternal Jew,” released in 1940, depicted Jews as wandering cultural parasites, consumed by sex and money. Newspapers such as Der Stürmer printed anti-Semitic cartoons regularly. “By the late 1930s, the increasingly fanatical tone of Nazi propaganda reflected the growing radicalization of the regime's anti-Semitic policies,” the BBC explained. “The Jewish stereotypes shown in such propaganda served to reinforce anxieties about modern developments in political and economic life, without bothering to question the reality of the Jewish role in German society.”

You'll notice that the VOICE acronym doesn't say anything about immigrants being illegal. Neither does Trump's order.


 
GOP sneaks Obamacare regulations in their plan. But only for themselves

by digby




Vox has the goods:

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts Members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on pre-existing conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) who authored this amendment confirmed this was the case: members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping this Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged me to this particular issue.

A bit of background is helpful here. Obamacare requires all members of Congress and their staff to purchase coverage on the individual market, just like Obamacare enrollees. The politics of that plank were simple enough, meant to demonstrate that if the coverage in this law were good enough for Americans than it should be good enough for their representations in Washington.

That’s been happening for the past four years now. Fast-forward to this new amendment, which would allow states to waive out of key Obamacare protections like the ban on pre-existing conditions or the requirement to cover things like maternity care and mental health services.

If Congressional aides lived in a state that decided to waive these protections, the aides who were sick could be vulnerable to higher premiums than the aides that are healthy. Their benefits package could get skimpier as Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement may no longer apply either.

This apparently does not sound appealing because the Republican amendment includes the members of Congress and their staff as a protected group who cannot be affected by this amendment.

They're special, vital people who need those protections. The rest of us don't. We're expendable.

This is a very revealing moment and one which would be nice to see blown up in the media. It's so hard for anything specific to penetrate that it's difficult to make that happen. But it is a powerful illustration that Republicans know exactly what their plan is going to do to people.

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Watchdogs

by digby




























There is a lot of grassroots energy resisting the Trump administration but I thought I'd just post this for you, in case you were wondering what the liberal professional constitution and ethical watchdogs are doing in the face of the most blatantly corrupt administration in history:
Donald Trump won the presidency back in November, but for many liberal organizations, the battle continues. A loose network of lawyers and watchdogs has dug in to scrutinize issues involving the Trump administration's ethics and transparency.

Key topics include: the conflicts between Trump's business interests and his presidential duties; the constitutional questions raised by his foreign profits; and the performance of his appointees, many of whom now run agencies overseeing the industries they themselves came from.

The groups feel their work is essential, given that Trump's Republican Party controls both the House and Senate. So far, Republican lawmakers have made oversight of the executive branch's ethics a low priority. A central figure in the opposition network is Fred Wertheimer, of the research and strategy group Democracy 21. He says: "The common understanding in the watchdog community is that we're going to have to hold the Trump administration responsible, because no one else is going to do it."

Below is a list of some of the most active groups.

ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records on possible conflicts of interest and emoluments (gifts or payments from foreign, state or local governments or officials). Seeking perjury investigation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he failed to disclose meetings with a Russian official during confirmation hearing to be attorney general.

WHAT THEY BRING

The ACLU brings legal savvy and grass-roots clout to the ethics coalition. But it's busy battling Trump on other fronts as well, such as the travel and refugee bans and deportation of unauthorized immigrants.

American Oversight
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Files FOIA requests at federal agencies so it can monitor their activities. The Audit The Wall project intends to examine plans, contracts and construction of the Southern border wall. With the Environmental Working Group, examining FOIA'd records on EPA administrator's decision to reverse a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

WHAT THEY BRING

A new group of lawyers, including some who worked at agencies in the Obama administration.

Brennan Center For Justice
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Analyzes laws and standards that keep a president or appointee from profiting on the presidency. Research expected to lead to FOIAs, possibly litigation.

WHAT THEY BRING

Named for progressive Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr. and based at NYU Law School, this legal think tank digs into issues ranging from campaign finance and voter ID to mass incarceration in American prisons and the constitutional rights of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay.

Campaign for Accountability
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Petitioned to unseal divorce records of Trump's first nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, who later withdrew. Filed ethics complaint against Republican congressional aides who worked for the Trump transition team.

WHAT THEY BRING

A small D.C. nonprofit working to "expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life," focusing mainly on state governments.

Campaign Legal Center
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Analyzes and challenges administration actions on ethics, conflict of interest issues; researches long-term solutions.

WHAT THEY BRING

Legal and advocacy group specializing in ethics and election laws: ballot access, campaign finance, political advertising, voting rights, redistricting and related issues. President is former Federal Election Commission Chair (and Stephen Colbert lawyer) Trevor Potter.

Center for American Progress
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Monitors U.S. enforcement of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which controls overseas conduct of American corporations. Tracks lawmakers' letters to White House concerning ethics issues, and administration responses. Researches and publishes reports on Trump conflicts of interest.

WHAT THEY BRING

The think tank most closely aligned with the Democratic Party establishment; it has expertise in a vast array of issues from governmental to social, plus media, grass-roots and social media operations.

Center for Media and Democracy
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Litigating to uncover EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email traffic with energy companies, from his time as Oklahoma attorney general. Examining disclosures of Trump agency appointees for potential ethics concerns.

WHAT THEY BRING

Progressive watchdog group in Madison, Wis.; used leaked documents in high-profile investigations of Koch political network and corporate legislative group American Legislative Exchange Council.

Common Cause
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign over untruthful answers in his confirmation hearing. Urged Senate to delay confirmation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, saying he withheld documents revealing corporate influence in his decisions as Oklahoma attorney general.

WHAT THEY BRING

"Good government" lobbying and grass-roots group with a record reaching back to 1970. Active on voting rights, gerrymandering, other democracy issues. Was a key force in passage of 2002 McCain-Feingold law, other campaign finance and ethics laws.

Constitutional Accountability Center
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Researching U.S. Constitution provisions on foreign and domestic emoluments, to shape legal action by other groups.

WHAT THEY BRING

Primary mission is to promote progressive "textualist" interpretations of the Constitution, versus conservative "originalism."

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

One of several hubs of the network. Sued President Trump on his first full workday, alleging that Trump profited by taking payments from foreign diplomats and others at his hotels and golf courses, violating the Constitution's emoluments clause.

WHAT THEY BRING

If the Trump ethics network has stars, they are CREW's Norm Eisen, former ethics counsel for Obama's White House, and Richard Painter, who did that job under President George W. Bush.

Demand Progress
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Tracking White House activities, including disclosure reports of presidential appointees, nondisclosure of visitor logs, lobbying at Office of Management and Budget.

WHAT THEY BRING

A digital-democracy group that claims 2 million grass-roots supporters.

Democracy 21
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Another hub of the network. Works with CREW on emoluments. Urged New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the Trump Organization as a possible conduit of foreign emoluments. In letters to administration officials, lays out arguments to comply with ethics laws — e.g., why Ivanka Trump couldn't do her White House job as a volunteer.

WHAT THEY BRING

Headed by Fred Wertheimer, one of the progressive movement's leading strategists on ethics and campaign finance laws since the 1980s.

Every Voice
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Uses email, social media to mobilize a large grass-roots base to sign petitions, call lawmakers, go to demonstrations on Trump ethics issues and accountability.

WHAT THEY BRING

Advocacy group for tougher campaign finance laws, now has branched out to support challenges on Trump ethics. Also active on state issues.

Free Speech For People
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Called on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to revoke the state's corporate charter for the Trump Organization, alleging the company has long engaged in illegal conduct.

WHAT THEY BRING

FSFP, based in Amherst, Mass., began as a vehicle to fight the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. Unlike most groups battling the Trump administration, it explicitly calls for Trump's impeachment.

Government Accountability Project
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

"Know Your Rights" campaign aims to raise federal employees' awareness of legal protections against reprisals from superiors, celebrate "the role of truth and truth-telling" and encourage potential possible whistleblowers.

WHAT THEY BRING

Since 1977, helping governmental and corporate whistleblowers with strategic support and high-profile litigation.

Issue One
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Renewed a push for stronger ethics laws, including more power for the Office of Government Ethics, which oversees compliance with disclosure and conflict of interest laws in the executive branch. Would protect OGE director from being dismissed without cause.

WHAT THEY BRING

Issue One's primary goal is a reform package that includes more transparency of political money, increased political participation, stronger ethics enforcement. Emphasizes bipartisanship.

People for the American Way
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Looks into possible implications of ethics problems and conflicts of interest. Steers its grass-roots supporters to activities held by allied groups.

WHAT THEY BRING

Founded in 1981 to counter the emerging religious right; has diversified in its mission while maintaining one of the progressive movement's largest grass-roots networks.

POGO (Project on Government Oversight)
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Another hub. Works with Capitol Hill oversight committees and agency inspectors general and conducts its own investigations. Advises federal employees on legal rights, job protections and whistleblowing. Updating its handbook for federal workers, The Art of Anonymous Activism.

WHAT THEY BRING

Not your usual Washington nonprofit, POGO works down in the gears of governing. Has ties to Republican and Democratic investigators on Capitol Hill, trains Hill staff in how to do oversight of executive branch. Founded in 1981 as a watchdog on Pentagon spending.

Public Citizen
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Also a hub. Has taken action on White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's violation of ethics rules, presidential adviser Carl Icahn's potential conflicts of interest. Sued Trump over executive order to undo existing regulations. Chronicles corporate influence with website corporatecabinet.org.

WHAT THEY BRING

The network's most diversified group with its own litigation team, grass-roots network, plus staff experts in the hot-button issues: ethics, financial policy, environment, trade, health care. Founded in 1971 by consumer activist Ralph Nader.

Sunlight Foundation
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Monitors government websites to detect and catalog information that is deleted. Tracks open-government practices and FOIA compliance in Trump administration.

WHAT THEY BRING

Created in 2006 to increase disclosure of governmental and political records and make government more transparent. Pushed for enactment of FOIA Improvement Act, which establishes a presumption of openness for data.

United To Protect Democracy
WHAT THEY'RE DOING

Examines constitutional and legal concerns stemming from White House and agency actions — e.g., legal justification for Syria missile strikes, political hiring for attorney positions in DOJ civil rights division.

WHAT THEY BRING

New group created by lawyers from the Obama White House.

His corruption is being normalized so quickly that it's already obvious that many of the issue that would have initiated massive scandals and investigations are already being ignored.And the congressional oversight is a joke.  But there are professionals out there trying to keep track, if only for the record. And that's something.

The good news is that the Villagers are working night and day to keep Chelsea Clinton in her place so you can at least rest easy about that.


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Belief is truth

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by Christopher Daniels via Creative Commons.

Sociologist Nick Rogers just introduced me (via the New York Times) to a term I'd never heard. I'd never heard it because it is slang used by professional wrestlers. He uses it to explain why listeners eat it up when Alex Jones rants that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by the government or that Hillary Clinton runs a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor. It explains why no amount of fact-checking or voter education will correct their misapprehension.

The word is “kayfabe.” Oxford added it to the dictionary in 2015:

kayfabe
Syllabification: kay·fabe
Pronunciation: /’ka?fab/

noun

1. (In professional wrestling) the fact or convention of presenting staged performances as genuine or authentic:
“a masterful job of blending kayfabe and reality”
“he’s not someone who can break kayfabe and talk about the business”
Oxford believes the term originated in American traveling carnivals. (You see where this is going, right?)

Rogers writes:
Although the etymology of the word is a matter of debate, for at least 50 years “kayfabe” has referred to the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.

To a wrestling audience, the fake and the real coexist peacefully. If you ask a fan whether a match or backstage brawl was scripted, the question will seem irrelevant. You may as well ask a roller-coaster enthusiast whether he knows he’s not really on a runaway mine car. The artifice is not only understood but appreciated: The performer cares enough about the viewer’s emotions to want to influence them. Kayfabe isn’t about factual verifiability; it’s about emotional fidelity.
Alex Jones gets that. Ann Coulter gets that. Donald “truthful hyperbole” Trump gets that. Hollywood gets that every time it presents a multi-million dollar kayfabe that allows paying customers for two hours to immerse themselves in an alternate reality in which good triumphs, hope returns, the music swells, and you walk out of darkness back into the light. Horror fans pay good money for a good, safe scare. Trump rallies are free.

Hence, Rogers writes:
Ask an average Trump supporter whether he or she thinks the president actually plans to build a giant wall and have Mexico pay for it, and you might get an answer that boils down to, “I don’t think so, but I believe so.” That’s kayfabe. Chants of “Build the Wall” aren’t about erecting a structure; they’re about how cathartic it feels, in the moment, to yell with venom against a common enemy.
Push audiences only so far and it's entertainment, spectacle. Push them too far and you have a violent mob. In wrestling, the American hero taking on the "foreign menace" is a staple; the Iron Sheik or Ivan ‘The Russian Bear’ Koloff, for example. At Trump rallies, the "foreign" menace is Hillary Clinton. ("Lock her up!") Barack Hussein Obama is still the foreign menace.

In certain Christian circles, it's just not church without a preacher who can whip up a congregation until they feel the holy spirit and a cathartic release. Today's radio carnies have harnessed daily spectacles in the tradition of the evangelical altar call. Ostensibly to spread the conservative gospel, they provide fans with their daily fixes, a kind of "two minutes hate" that lasts three hours at a stretch. Good for your daily vent at the Other and good for selling penis pills and incontinence treatments. The rules of kayfabe are that no one acknowledges the line between sincerity and salesmanship.

Kayfabe, Rogers insists, is not satire. Satire involves a nod and a wink that the audience is in on the joke. Kayfabe is just the opposite:
Kayfabe isn’t merely a suspension of disbelief, it is philosophy about truth itself. It rests on the assumption that feelings are inherently more trustworthy than facts.
That feels about right. Of course, it does. Truthiness satirizes kayfabe. But kayfabe packs more emotional punch. And that's what fans return for each week.

Back when professional wrestling was more of a local auditorium and high school gymnasium event, I went once for the hell of it. But what I recall more from the days of "Nature Boy" Rick Flair is from a coffee table book of black and white photos of Greenville, SC from the 1970s when this happened. The image burned into my brain is of an older woman at Monday Night Wrestling, standing at ringside screaming and shaking her fist, the gold cross on her chest blazing as the flash caught her. They pay money for that experience. They know it's fake and they don't care. And they'll vote for it. Donald Trump knows. He used to own a piece of WWE.

"Don't make them feel dumb for spending their money to see you." Al Snow Explains "Kayfabe" to trainees.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 
About that Russian thing

by digby




The White House is refusing to cooperate with the congressional probe into the Flynn matter and it's very odd unless they have something to hide, don't you think? It's not like the guy still works there.

Anyway, it is probably a good thing if it pushed congress to appoint and independent commission since neither the tainted House probes or the slow-walking Senate probe are going to get the job done.

The people are already behind it:
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress. 
Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February's NBC/WSJ poll.
But they don't have much faith in the outcome:

There's good reason for this. The congress is investigating very haphazardly. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a member of the Trump transition and he talks a good game but he's doing as little as possible so I wouldn't get my hopes up:
The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records.

With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity.

A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more staff members were being added and a few others were involved less formally.

“We need to pick up the pace,” Senator Martin Heinrich, a committee Democrat, told Reuters on Monday. “It is incumbent on us to have the resources to do this right and expeditiously, and I think we need additional staff.”

While some directly involved in the investigation disputed characterizations of the probe as off track, the appearance of a weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.

The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Republican Trump’s favor, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates. Russia has denied such meddling.

With the House intelligence panel’s investigation for weeks stymied by partisan squabbles, the Senate committee’s parallel probe had appeared to be the more serious of the two, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr and top Democrat Mark Warner promising a thorough and bipartisan effort.

Burr, a member of Congress since 1995, last month called the Russia probe one of the biggest investigations undertaken in Congress during his tenure.

Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing than the one Burr is overseeing, according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries, which traditionally name every staff member involved.

A House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.

A special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.

A special Senate committee’s 1970s investigation into Watergate-era surveillance practices tapped 133 staffers.

A joint House-Senate probe of the 1980s Iran-Contra affair during Ronald Reagan’s presidency involving secret sales of arms to Iran to try to win the release of American hostages, with proceeds going to Nicaraguan rebels, had 181 staffers.

Spokeswomen for Burr and for Warner declined to comment on the staffing levels.

The listed sizes of various investigations may be an imperfect comparison because not all staffers listed may have actually had a substantial role, congressional sources said. Investigations often grow in size over time, and a committee aide said the panel had secured $1.2 million in additional funding for the Russia election investigation.

But the numbers are still broadly “relevant as indicators of a commitment to an investigation,” said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists.

“For this investigation to be successful, the committee must recognize the enormity of the job and provide the resources to tackle it,” Senator Ron Wyden, another committee Democrat, said in a statement.

Wyden sent a letter last month to Burr and Warner requesting that the probe include a thorough review of any financial ties between Russia and Trump and his associates.

None of the staffers possess substantial investigative experience or a background in Russian affairs, two of the sources said.

Apparently interference into American elections is no big deal to the Republican party. Well, as long as the Russians are trying to help them win. I guess they feel they're kindred spirits, which they are: authoritarian kleptocrats are the new right. So, it makes sense.

By the way, this piece by NBC from last week about that weird RT dinner is interesting. Flynn and Jill Stein were the American stars seated right there at the big table with President Putin for the event. Flynn was very enthusiastic.

This new story about Flynn's Turkish connection is also startling. It turns out the Turkish contact is also heavily connected to Russia. What in the hell was he thinking?

.
 
And now for the good news

by digby


























A LOT of people are getting up off the couch and participating in protests, demonstrations and marches:

For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.

Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that occurred. This is particularly true of the “A Day Without a Woman” strikes on March 8. It’s virtually impossible to record an accurate tally of participants for strikes, in part because many people deliberately conceal their motivations for skipping out on work or school when they participate.

Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month. In this case, we note that March 2017 saw fewer people protesting than February 2017, during which we observed 233,021 to 373,089 people participating in crowds.

Who demonstrated against and for what in March?


1) The opposition to President Trump


Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests. We estimate that 67 percent of the crowds we recorded were opposing Trump’s policies. Some of the main protests included: 
At least 77 demonstrations against the GOP health-care bill and in favor of retaining the Affordable Care Act. When Vice President Pence left his meeting with local leaders in Jeffersontown, Ky., he may not have seen the 600 protesters. As his motorcade departed, passing a quarter-mile of protesters lining the road, “two Jeffersontown firetrucks drove along, blocking the view of the vice president’s limousine.”

Dozens of rallies and strikes on March 8 associated with “A Day Without a Woman,” accounting for just over 10 percent of the protests on our list, in places such as Anchorage; Cleveland; Lawrence, Kan., and Naples, Fla.
A similar number of protests related to immigration, travel bans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detentions and the sanctuary movement.

2) The support for Trump

About 15 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies. This is a small increase from February, where about 12 percent of the crowds represented pro-Trump claims. Many took place during the March 4 Trump rallies held nationwide. For instance, hundreds gathered at Stumptown Park in Matthews, N.C.; Lake Oswego, Ore., and Des Moines.


March 25 saw a number of “Make America Great Again” marches, ranging from small rallies in Boston and Oklahoma City to thousands who came together in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Seaside Heights, N.J.


Overall, rallies for the president are less focused on one issue than anti-Trump demonstrations and focus instead on supporting the Trump administration as a whole.


Finally, February’s trend of corresponding protests and counterprotests continued into March. This was particularly true for the March 4 Trump rallies, which typically faced counterprotests along with the pro-Trump crowds.

3) Neither for nor against Trump

The greatest change came in the final 18 percent of the crowds that were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump. We found a broad range of such topics. That’s a big uptick from only 3 percent of crowds in February 2017.

For instance, in March, we saw about 500 people oppose the parking system at Reston Town Center; dueling protests at the University of Florida over whether the student body president should resign; and the 58th Annual Tibetan National Uprising Day in places like Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Where did people protest?

The most common locations for protests were parks and plazas; state capitols or statehouses; and on college campuses. Other popular locations included district offices of members of Congress, city or town halls, schools and school district offices, and courthouses. Some places lost prominence this month compared with January or February, with only five protests at airports and about 10 at Planned Parenthood clinics.

What symbols appeared in the protests?


Pink hats continue to appear at anti-Trump rallies, as do red baseball caps at pro-Trump rallies. And the Antifa (antifascist) protesters who confront Trump supporters typically wear all black.

How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds? 
At more than 550 events (94 percent), no arrests were made. Moreover, March saw a lower number of arrests than February. The numbers dropped from 314 arrests in February to 201 in March, with about 120 of those arrests coming in a few cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. For instance, 12 people challenging the cleanup process at two Missouri landfills were arrested trying to block access.

However, the number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to property destruction or violence increased slightly from February, with one or more such arrests at 17 events — close to 3 percent of all events — in March. Several of these incidents occurred in cases where protesters and counterprotesters clashed, causing some injuries.
You have to love this:

But not all standoffs between competing groups escalated in this way. The Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR) planned a “Trump is Your President” demonstration outside the Islamic Association of North Texas on Abrams Road in Richardson on March 18. Members of the mosque and its supporters were ready for a counterprotest when a third group, the Dallas Workers Front, showed up armed “with pipes or guns” and dressed in black. Members of the mosque asked the Dallas Workers Front to allow BAIR to continue their protest peacefully. In the end, the BAIR members and mosque members left the site to the Dallas Workers Front and met up at a Halal Guys restaurant to eat and talk.
See? We can all get along...

*Should note that this does not count the big national marches in April for tax day, science and the upcoming climate march this week-end.

.

 
A little pre-emptive nuke strike might be just what the doctor ordered

by digby



At least according to Fox News. John Amato caught this alarming little tid-bit from yesterday:


There was a lot of nervous chatter today in the Beltway after it was reported that the White House is hosting all one hundred Senators for a private briefing.

Some thought Trump was using this as a photo-op for his first 100 days benchmark since he's come up so short, but others were particularly nervous because of the administration's hard line stance on North Korea.

During the final round table of Fox News' all star panel on Special Report with Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer believes that if North Korea gets the capability to launch a nuclear weapon, Trump with preemptively strike North Korea with our own nukes.

Charles Krauthammer sent this chilling message close to the end of the program..

Charles said, "I think this is a full-court press, we do have a plan. I think it's a mistake to say we're going into this blind."

Krauthammer responded to Sec. Kelly's remarks to CNN when he said that when North Korea is capable of putting nukes on missiles, "the instant that happens, this country is at grave risk."

Charles continued, " What General Kelly just said, what we saw was a declaration that we're through kicking the can down the road."

"If they acquire an ICBM ballistic missile that can hit the U.S. with a warhead on top of it, this is a new world and we're not going to allow it, that's an amazing statement..." he continued.

He said this is all aimed at China, but the "fuse is lit."

Baier said we could shoot down their missiles and Mara Laisson asked, "What is it that the U.S. is going to do?" "If we make a preemptive strike?"

Krauthammer replied that if we come to the final point, "where they have a nuke on top of an ICBM, yes, a preemptive strike."

He continued, " We can't live in a world where Kim Jung Un can push a button and obliterate Seattle. That's what you just heard General Kelly say."

Click over for the video. It will make your stomach lurch just a little when you realize that Donald Trump refuses to read briefing books and is getting most of his information from Fox these days.


.
 
Paul Wolfowitz has high hopes for Donald Trump

by digby



























I wrote about the neocon dreams being rekindled for Salon this morning:


It was entirely predictable that as soon as President Donald Trump decided to drop some bombs on a Middle Eastern country, the neoconservative claque that had rejected him during the election would slither back into the GOP orbit. It’s true that Trump himself had nixed the appointment of Elliott Abrams, the man the Republican establishment had chosen to be Rex Tillerson’s right-hand man. That rejection had some people hopeful that Steve Bannon (whom Abrams blamed) would at least prove useful in keeping architects of the GOP’s tragic adventures in Central America and the Middle East out of this White House.

Bannon, of course, is the nationalist enemy of neoconservative global crusaders like Abrams and former George W. Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz. But it’s always struck me how much they actually have in common in terms of temperament, if not ideology. Bannon is well-known from his propaganda filmmaking and Breitbart days as a trafficker in conspiracy theories. And Wolfowitz for years insisted that 9/11 had been a collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, largely based on a discredited book called “Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War Against America” by a crank named Laurie Mylroie. They are both well-read and erudite conspiracy mongers who found their way into the most powerful offices on Earth.

Despite the obvious fact that Donald Trump is a torture-loving, “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil” kind of guy, his opportunistic distancing of himself from the Iraq War (despite evidence that he actually supported it) gave many people the impression that he wouldn’t support military intervention. That included members of the neocon establishment, who were leery of him. But now they’re back in the public eye, and one of the main architects of the Iraq War is once again making his presence known. According to Susan Glasser of Politico, Wolfowitz can take some credit for the action. In an interview with him she said:


Paul, you’ve jumped back into the fray as it were with what appears in hindsight to be an extremely well-timed intervention in the Wall Street Journal, saying Donald Trump should go ahead and do something in Syria, should intervene militarily in some way to respond to the chemical weapons strike. Miraculously enough, perhaps, he surprised much of the world by going ahead and taking your advice and doing so.

Wolfowitz modestly replied that he’s not sure Trump took his advice but he’s awfully glad he did bomb Syria because the U.S. is back in business:


I don’t think anyone would deny that he’s opportunistic, and I don’t think anyone would deny that he would like to be “the greatest president in modern times” or “huge” or you pick your adjective. And I think to achieve a Dayton-like peace settlement in Syria would not only be something that would be widely acclaimed, it would be hugely in the interest of the United States.

That does show a certain understanding of how to appeal to this president. But it’s mind-boggling to believe he could ever be capable of brokering the kind of complicated agreement that Wolfowitz goes on to describe, in which every country, faction and religious sect in the Middle East would be involved (except Iran and Russia, which makes no sense at all.) Apparently Wolfowitz doesn’t know that Donald Trump can’t even hammer out a deal between Republican congressmen who voted for him.


Wolfowitz places a great deal of faith in Trump’s generals, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, to run foreign policy and guide Trump to the right conclusions. He is impressed that Tillerson told Vladimir Putin that lining up with Syrian president Bashar Assad is “lining up with a loser.” Said Wolfowitz: “It may not get through any better than telling him that what he’s doing is criminal and immoral, but I think at least may resonate a little bit better with people around him.” Apparently, Wolfowitz thinks Putin is Russia’s Donald Trump, which is probably a wrong assumption.

The scariest part of the interview, however, involved Wolfowitz’s views on Iraq. He seems eager to get right back into the quagmire and stay there. Mentioning in passing that comparing Iraq to Germany and Japan in the post-World War II period had been the wrong comparison, he said it should have been compared to Korea — where we still have 30,000 troops stationed 60 years later and war is threatening as we speak! Wolfowitz recalled the period after the Iraq “surge” with great nostalgia as a sort of golden era:


[W]e do have a model there. I think it’s a model that worked dramatically. When Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker was Bush’s last ambassador to Iraq and General Petraeus was there commanding the U.S. forces, the two of them — they had offices, I think, in the same building deliberately. I think every night they would go to [Nouri al-]Maliki when he was, I think the way they put it, too tired to fight back.

Wolfowitz said Petraeus and Crocker would tell him things about his own country he didn’t know and would instruct him to fire this or that general and “stop these corrupt practices” that were going on in places around the country and it worked perfectly. If we don’t go back in there and repeat that, Wolfowitz said, “the alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence.”

This is a man who says in the same interview that “if we give up the Western idea of freedom, we’re giving up one of the most important diplomatic tools in our arsenal.” It doesn’t sound a great deal like freedom and democracy if a foreign government puts its generals in offices next door to the president so they can conveniently whisper orders in his ear when he’s tired.

In other words, Wolfowitz didn’t learn a thing from America’s disastrous experience in the Middle East. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the neocons seem to think the Iraq War is a “model that worked.” The smoldering wreck that’s left in the region can be fixed up promptly with a few thousand troops and some savvy military leadership.

There’s no reason to think that Trump is going there just yet. But with Bannon on the wane as an influence and Jared Kushner (who is more in sync with the neoconservative worldview) on the rise, that could change. These old neocon hands certainly have Trump’s number anyway. On the day after the Syrian airstrikes, Elliott Abrams wrote in The Weekly Standard that the president had “finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.”

They have good reason to be confident. After all, they got one president to invade a country that hadn’t attacked us. Why wouldn’t they believe they can do it again?
 
What the world sees in Trump

by digby






I knew the world would be completely different on the morning after Donald Trump won the election. I've been waiting for the media to survey someone other than Trump's cult and this one by the AP actually goes out into the wider world to ask people in other countries what they are seeing. It's very interesting.

An excerpt:

DO YOU FEEL MORE SECURE UNDER A TRUMP PRESIDENCY, OR IN DANGER?

YULIYA KONYAKHINA, Moscow: "I have a feeling that the world became more dangerous in general, not because Trump got elected, but in general it (the world) became more dangerous. When I go down to a metro I have sort of thoughts that something bad can happen."

SHAHRZAD EBRAHIMI, Tehran, Iran: "(The world) is 100 percent a more dangerous place. The U.S. threats to the world had been lessened during (Barack) Obama's presidency and policies of that country were based on moving toward peace for at least eight years. But as soon as Trump took office, demonstrations began against him and the situations in Syria, Palestine, bombings, military and war threats all got worse. The more he sticks with his current policies, the more insecure and non-peaceful the world, especially the Middle East, will become. As you can see, now he is exchanging verbal blows with North Korea. Sometimes one can assume that this situation can even trigger a third world war."

KIM HYANG BYOL, Pyongyang, North Korea: "It's coming to 100 days since Trump became president, but we don't care who the president is. The problem is whether they're going to stop their hostile policy against North Korea, and whether they will do anything to help us reunify our country."

RUSTAM MAGAMEDOV, Moscow: "(Trump is) agent provocateur, but in reality, he is just a good showman, as they say in the U.S. The fact that he became a president is rather scary, because he can start a war. It seems like that he is already moving toward the Korean borders. I think it is dangerous, first of all for Russia, because as a president and politician he is a bad person, a bad politician who has little understanding of politics.

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv, Israel: "Yeah, well maybe a little bit more dangerous. But I think that the steps that he took should have been taken a long time ago. And if it became more dangerous then it's not only because of Trump. Although, he has other drawbacks."

____

IS THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MORE BARK THAN BITE?

DIANE LALLOUZ, Tel Aviv: "It's true that Donald Trump has a loud bark and you can say it's more bark than bite. But, not really. It's enough that he takes a few actions as opposed to not doing anything. He talks a lot, sometimes way too much and right off the sleeve without actually thinking about it and that may be a problem. But, at least the world knows that Donald Trump is going to take action when required."

RAYA SAUERBRUN, Tel Aviv: "If it's barking or if it's doing, at least it shows that it's doing something. If it will sustain for a long time, we don't know."

MOHAMED SHIRE, Mogadishu, Somalia: "This might be a new step; this might be a new strategy. We probably have to wait and see, but I think the United States administration needs to be very careful in just getting involved in Somalia without having a clear strategy and program that they align with the current Somali government."

YADOLLAH SOBHANI, Tehran: "Trump comes out with a lot of hype at first but eventually backs down from some of his stances on issues such as Russia, Middle East, Syria and so on. His inconsistent actions have proven that his bark is worse than his bite and he should not be taken very seriously."

MAJED MOKHEIBER, Damascus, Syria: "This is why we cannot predict whether there will be stability or more military security. In addition to that, we see that there are military tension spots around the world in other areas such as North Korea ... that frankly may lead to a big explosion and a world war."

JUAN PABLO BOLANOS, Mexico City: "I think it's a bit of both. On the issue of sending Mexicans back, it is being fulfilled by the guy, Trump, and on the issue of building the wall, I definitely think he will not achieve it."

___

HAS TRUMP CHANGED YOUR VIEWS ABOUT AMERICA?

RA SO YON, Pyongyang, North Korea: "After Trump became president, there has been no improvement in America's image. If America doesn't stop its aggression against us and pressure on us, then we'll never have any good image of America; it will only get worse. We'll never be surprised, whatever America does. And we're not expecting any surprises from Trump."

YURI (no last name given), Moscow: "Nothing actually had changed, for real. Nothing had changed in Russian-American relations. They aren't our friends or enemies. Geopolitical enemies, maybe, that's it."

MARGRET MACHNER, Berlin: "My trust at the moment is a lot less than it was earlier. One had the feeling that America was a strong, safe partner and I do not believe this anymore."

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv: "I think that the U.S. remains the beacon of democracy because the U.S. itself is much more than its president. The president can be less or more of a beacon. But, America is a beacon."

HAMZA ABU MARIA, Hebron, West Bank: "I'm about 30 years old, and since I grew up and started to understand and follow news, I don't think the United States up until today was a beacon of democracy. If it was truly democratic, then from a long time ago they would have done justice to the Palestinian people."

MOHAMMAD ALI, Damascus: "We should never bet on any American administration, either Republican or Democrat. It's the same front, supposedly to fight terrorism, but they didn't do any of that. Instead they carried out an aggression against a sovereign state, which is Syria. They attacked Syria and they attacked the air base of a sovereign state and a member of the Arab League."

DEQO SALAAD, Mogadishu: "The U.S. was once both the beacon of democracy and human rights, but nowadays, a big change has happened as we can see more segregation committed by President Trump, especially when he said he was going to ban Muslims coming to the U.S. And with that, he has damaged the reputation of the U.S. of being the beacon of democracy and human rights in this world that the U.S. government promoted for ages now."

___

ARE WE NOW LIVING IN A "POST-TRUTH" WORLD?

DIANE LALLOUZ, Tel Aviv: "I don't think that we're existing in a post-truth world and I don't think that the way we consume information has anything to do with Trump. Actually over the last several decades we are getting information more and more on social media, so people are getting small amounts of information. Not too much real knowledge and that's part of the problem. People are making judgments based on tiny amounts of truth or half-truth or non-truths, and it's impossible to know, by the social media, what is really true. Is Trump the cause of this? I don't think so. I think Trump is just a part of the picture that we live in today."

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv: "I don't think it affects the way that I consume information but it certainly changes the way in which the information is delivered, and the fact of alternative truth, alternative facts is a new invention, so we have to apply filters more than before."

MAHMOUD DRAGHMEH, Nablus, West Bank: "The world is far from the truth, despite the fact the technological development helped the news to reach. But I think that there is a distance from the truth, because the media, with all my respect to the different media outlets, everyone adopts his idea and exports it to the world."

___

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT PRESIDENT TRUMP?

UTE HUBNER, Berlin: "I find he is very honest — more honest than I thought in the sense that a lot isn't pushed under the table. He says it like it is, while here in our case so much is said and talked about that "everything is fine, wonderful and all is good," while we know that the reality is more often than not something else."

FATMEH (full name not given) Damascus: "Trump increased problems in the Arab world and the first proof is the strike on Syria. This has increased problems and confusion. He didn't do anything against terrorism; he only increased it. There is nothing new. His policy has been to oppress people, especially the Arab people. We didn't see anything new."

YADOLLAH SOBHANI, Tehran: "What shocked me most from Trump was a sudden shift in his policies toward Russia from a friendly position to a clash. I did not expect such instability in a politician's behavior."

PAYAM MOSLEH, Tehran: "What scared me most was the classification of human beings (under Trump's proposed Muslim ban). I think history has taught and shown us enough times that separating people from each other has never done anyone any good. Building walls either in Berlin or America has no results and is disastrous."

MAHDIEH GHARIB, Tehran: "What surprised me most was preventing Iranians from entering the United States or even barring those Iranians who were U.S. residents and had temporarily left that country. Bombing Syria was the second thing that surprised me."

SHIMON ABITBOL, Tel Aviv: "He's playing too much golf. That's the only thing I'm surprised by. I mean, how can he have so much time to play so much golf?"


It's interesting, isn't it, that people see him pretty much the same way all around the world. Some like him, some hate him, nobody really knows what to make of him.

I hope they go back and check in with some of these people in a year or so.

.



 
Poor Ivanka

by digby

She's a politician now:

As Ivanka Trump’s influence grows within the administration of her father, President Donald Trump, so too will the degree to which people hold her personally accountable for his actions.

This was evident in Germany on Tuesday, when Ivanka was booed at a women’s panel she attended along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“He’s been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive,” Ivanka said, as murmuring and booing became audible from the crowd. When the moderator asked Ivanka for her reaction to this — specifically mentioning Donald Trump’s history of misogynistic comments — the first daughter replied that “I certainly heard the criticism from the media and that’s been perpetuated by —”

After trailing off for a moment, Ivanka resumed, “I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women, and their ability to do the job as well as any man.”


Here's how he acts with women on the job:

Unknown: "She used to be great, she's still very beautiful."

Trump: "I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try and fuck her, she was married."

Unknown: "That's huge news there."

Trump: "No, no, Nancy. No this was [inaudible] and I moved on her very heavily in fact I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I'll show you where they have some nice furniture. I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn't get there and she was married. Then all-of-a-sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look."

Bush: "Your girl's hot as shit. In the purple."

Multiple voices: "Whoah. Yes. Whoah."

Bush: "Yes. The Donald has scored. Whoah my man."

Trump: "Look at you. You are a pussy."

Bush: "You gotta get the thumbs up."

Trump: "Maybe it's a different one."

Bush: "It better not be the publicist. No, it's, it's her."

Trump: "Yeah that's her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything."

Bush: "Whatever you want."

Trump: "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Bush: "Yeah those legs. All I can see is the legs."

Trump: "It looks good."

Bush: "Come on shorty."

Trump: "Oh nice legs huh."

Bush: "Get out of the way honey. Oh that's good legs. Go ahead."

Trump: "It's always good if you don't fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?"

[As Mr Trump attempts to leave the vehicle he struggles with the door]

Bush: "Down below, pull the handle."

[Mr Trump exits the bus and greets actress Arianne Zucker]

Trump: "Hello, how are you? Hi."

Zucker: "Hi Mr Trump. How are you?"

Trump: "Nice seeing you. Terrific. Terrific. You know Billy Bush?"

Bush: "Hello nice to see you. How are you doing Arianne?"

Zucker: "I'm doing very well thank you. [Addressing Trump] Are you ready to be a soap star?"

Trump: "We're ready. Let's go. Make me a soap star."

Bush: "How about a little hug for the Donald, he's just off the bus?"

Zucker: "Would you like a little hug darling?"

Trump: "Absolutely. Melania said this was okay."

Bush: "How about a little hug for the Bushy, I just got off the bus? Here we go, here we go. Excellent."

[Mr Bush gesticulates towards Ms Zucker as he turns to Mr Trump]

Bush: "Well you've got a good co-star here."

Trump: "Good. After you. Come on Billy, don't be shy."

Bush: "Soon as a beautiful woman shows up he just, he takes off. This always happens."

Trump: "Get over here, Billy."

Zucker: "I'm sorry, come here."

Bush: "Let the little guy in there. Come on."

Zucker: "Yeah, let the little guy in. How you feel now, better? I should actually be in the middle."

Bush: "It's hard to walk next to a guy like this."

Zucker: "Wait. Hold on."

[Ms Zucker changes position and walks between the two men]

Bush: "Yeah you get in the middle. There we go."

Trump: "Good. That's better."

Zucker: "This is much better."

Trump: "That's better."

Bush: "Now if you had to choose, honestly, between one of us. Me or the Donald, who would it be?"

Trump: "I don't know, that's tough competition."

Zucker: "That's some pressure right there."

Bush: "Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date."

Zucker: "I have to take the Fifth [Amendment of the US Constitution] on that one."

Bush: "Really?"

Zucker: "Yep. I'll take both."

[They reach the end of the corridor]

Trump: "Which way?"

Zucker: "Make a right. Here we go."

Bush: "Here he goes. I'm gonna leave you here. Give me my microphone."

Trump: "Okay. Okay. Oh, you're finished?"

Bush: "You're my man. Yeah."

Trump: "Oh. Good."

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Freedom sans democracy

by Tom Sullivan

As I was saying: they want to rule.

When news came over the transom yesterday that NC Governor Roy Cooper had appointed Judge John Arrowood to the NC state Court of Appeals, the occasion for it and the context was a bit lacking. Think Progress provides some:

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the latest power grab by the North Carolina legislature: an attempt to reduce the number of judges on the state’s Court of Appeals to prevent Cooper from appointing judges to it.

GOP legislators haves enough votes in the legislature to override a veto. But even if they do, a Republican judge just retired early in an attempt to thwart the “court unpacking” scheme.

Judge Douglas McCullough faced the mandatory retirement age next month, but he instead resigned early, allowing Gov. Cooper to appoint a younger judge to replace him. If Judge McCullough had stayed and the court unpacking bill became law, then the governor would not have been able to replace Judge McCullough next month. Gov. Cooper appointed Judge John Arrowood, the first openly gay member of the court of appeals.
McCullough is a Republican.

“I did not want my legacy to be the elimination of a seat and the impairment of a court that I have served on,” McCullough said in a statement.

Think Progress continues:
Ever since the state’s voters elected Cooper and a newly-liberal state supreme court in 2016, the gerrymandered state legislature has passed a series of bills to limit the powers of the other branches of government.

The legislature has passed bills that curb the governor’s authority to appoint justices to empty seats on trial courts and specialized courts. The legislature even considered a bill to gerrymander judges in Charlotte in ways that could make it harder for African American judges there to keep their seats.
The Charlotte Observer provides more:
Republicans in the legislature have said the court should shrink to match what they have described as a reduced workload for the appeals court. McCullough said the statistical information the lawmakers have relied on is inaccurate and incomplete.

McCullough, while stressing that he was honored to serve on the bench, recalled a time when Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican, was in the executive office and the Democrats at the helm of the General Assembly “did not interfere with his power to make appointments to the judiciary.”
For all the "freedom fries" this and "Freedom Caucus" that and liberty (like Lubbock) on everything, there is not a lot of respect for the institutions of democracy across the aisle. Even with all the power Republicans now have in Washington and in legislatures across the country, it's not enough to assuage their internalized sense of grievance. They need to rule the way Trump the Insecure needs to be praised. They'll twist themselves and the law into pretzels to ensure they do.

In a Twitter thread last night, Chris Hayes focused on conservtive obsession with campus controversies: "You'd think liberals arts undergrads had the nuclear codes," Hayes continued.

A senior contributor at The Federalist replied that her concern over education is what the future may bring if "the next generation is not built for freedom," whatever in the world that means. Mandy Patinkin has a famous rejoinder for that.

It's not only Sen. Mitch McConnell and his merry band of SCOTUS seat thieves as transparent as the emperor's clothes. In North Carolina and other states where Republicans dominate the legislatures — and I choose that term deliberately — it is increasingly clear that elected Republicans have no use for democracy nor for the normal processes of governing when they cannot control the outcome. No amount of blathering about freedom can conceal that.


Monday, April 24, 2017

 
There is Only One President That Matters

by tristero

It's simply unbelievable. Barack Obama (who, whatever your politics, was a substantial public figure with actual accomplishments) gives his first post-presidential speech and the only thing - the only thing- that matters as far as the headline goes is - you guessed it:

Obama Steps Back Into Public Life, Trying to Avoid One Word: Trump

What the hell is wrong with the media? There really is one and only one person that matters as far as they're concerned, and there has been for over a year and a half. The amount of free unasked for publicity that fellow gets staggers the imagination. 

And as always, it doesn't matter at all what is written. What matters is that this one single individual crowds out everyone and everything else. It's utterly amazing, mass hypnosis on a global scale. And dangerous beyond calculation.


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Why is Ivanka there?

by digby


I find this very strange:





I guess because he was talking to a woman in space he needed his daughter there to show how much he cares about women?

And she needed to be behind the desk with him along with another female astronaut because ... ?

I don't get it. But it could have been worse...



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And then unicorns will fly out of his pants and give us all a million dollars

by digby




So the word is that Trump will introduce his "tax reform" plan so that he can say he has something on the table for his 100 days of executive order photo-ops. It looks as though they're going to call for huge tax cuts. Surprise.

As Jon Perr reminds us, Trump made a very big promise during the campaign:

Last April, lunching amid construction debris at his new hotel five blocks from the White House, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Washington Post he would get rid of the national debt “over a period of eight years.” It may have been the boldest promise he’s ever made, considering the U.S. hasn’t been debt-free since 1835. The debt at the time was more than $19 trillion, and rising.

Trump predicted he could turn back the tide even though he thought the country was headed for a “very massive recession.”

His great TV performance as President has turned the economy around, we know that. We're in great shape. But business needs to be unshackled from all its taxes and regulations so he's going to get that done. And then the national debt will start to shrink because of all the coal and steel jobs he's bringing back from China. Also, oil and Mexicans and something something.

AND THEN AMERICA WILL BE GRRRRREAT AGAIN!

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A dispatch from the Resistance

by digby




Michelle Goldberg went down to the 6th district in Georgia to observe the Ossoff primary campaign. What she found was pretty interesting.  Remember, this is a district that hasn't voted Democratic since 1979.

[I]t’s not just Democratic spin to say that a remarkable political transformation is happening in Georgia’s 6th District: an affluent, highly educated suburb of Atlanta. Nearly overnight, progressive organizing has become the center of social life for thousands of previously disengaged people in the area. Whether or not the movement is enough to swing this election, Republicans may never again be able to win local offices here without a fight. And the intense activity in the 6th District is a sign of how the anti-Trump resistance is building a new, locally rooted progressive infrastructure nationwide.

[...]

Meanwhile, a tightly networked progressive movement has sprung up in the district with little help from national Democrats. Last year Elizabeth Murphy, a 35-year-old mother of three, wanted to get involved in politics to help stop Trump but said it was hard to figure out how. Progressive groups, she said, were “nonexistent here in Cobb County. There was no infrastructure.” That all changed once Trump was elected, horrifying many 6th District women. “Since Nov. 9, the fire and the energy has come into this area like I’ve never seen before,” Murphy said. Before the election, a typical Democratic Party meeting would draw 25 or 30 people. “They now have 400 to 500 people attending in one county. It’s incredible.” (Ossoff ultimately won 41 percent in the parts of Cobb that fall in the district, 8 points higher than the Democrat did this past fall and 1 point better than Clinton’s total.)

As Ossoff readily acknowledges, women are leading the progressive renaissance that made his near-victory possible. “This is a story about women in this community,” he said in his election night speech. “Those strong and determined women who have picked us all up, who are carrying us forward, who are going to carry us to victory tonight or in June.” Women lead the local Indivisible chapter. In March, two women formed a women’s group, called Pave It Blue, devoted to running progressive candidates in local races—contests where, in the past, Republicans often ran unopposed. A private, invite-only Facebook group called Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb, or LMRC, has swelled to 1,700 members. You see LMRC magnets on cars and minivans all over town, and its members have developed a ritual: When they come across an LMRC decal on a parked car, they turn it upside-down, so when the driver returns, she’ll know a friend was there.

A first-time candidate and LMRC member named Christine Triebsch ran for the state Senate seat vacated by one of the Republican candidates in Tuesday’s congressional election. Like Ossoff, she came in first and will proceed to a runoff.

This surge of progressive activity marks a social sea change in an area when many Democrats said they once kept their political sympathies quiet, assuming they were alone among their conservative neighbors. “I felt like I was a closeted Democrat,” said Rebecca Sandberg, 43, who I met on Monday as she stood with a cluster of other women holding Ossoff signs near a busy intersection. “The label ‘liberal’ always seemed like a bad thing. And now I’m realizing, the more we have this community, that it’s actually a good thing. Being surrounded by all of these ladies in this area—and men, too—has really empowered me to be more involved.” She’d joined Pave It Blue and become a precinct captain for the Ossoff campaign.

These newly minted progressive activists are drawing on the organizing skills they’ve learned in the PTA and the ties they’ve forged to each other as parents. I was introduced to Saravanan by Tricia Madden, 39, who helped coordinate LMRC volunteers for Ossoff; they knew each other because their kids went to preschool together. “The woman that’s in charge of the school auction and the PTA knows the room mom, [who] is also the woman that’s in charge of the homeowners association,” said Madden. “Those are also the people who are going to volunteer. This is years and years of built-up relationships. You can’t replicate that.”

I don't know where these mostly middle aged and older women fit in the ideological mosaic of the Democratic party. I'm sure we'll find out and it will likely be cause for much handwringing and disagreement. This is, after all, the Democratic party. But whether or not all these women pass the progressive litmus tests, there is no denying that this is authentic grassroots organizing. And it has sprung out of a very large faction of the public for whom this last election was an affront to their very beings.

That pig in the White House is so insulting to millions of women that they simply can't live with themselves if they don't do something to fight back. This movement isn't sexy but then doing the grunt work to get things done rarely is. These people are serious and they aren't waiting to be led by anyone.

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Trump see the presidency only as a performance

by digby













I wrote about the media and their muse for Salon this morning:

Over the weekend the New York Times published a major story about FBI Director James Comey’s decision, in the final 10 days of the election campaign, to announce the investigation of some Hillary Clinton emails found on the laptop of her aide Huma Abedin. It’s an interesting story as far as it goes, suggesting that Comey and others in the FBI were sure that Clinton would be elected and therefore they needed to appease congressional Republicans by proving their willingness to keep after her once she took office. Evidently they were surprised to find out that rules against the Department of Justice or the FBI interfering in the period leading up to the election existed because such interference might actually affect the outcome.

I don’t want to get into the tiresome debate about whether or not the Comey letter was decisive. It was, as even Trump’s own analysts agree. Sure, Clinton might have run populist ads in the Rust Belt or spent her final days in Wisconsin, and it might have changed history. And certainly Comey could have followed the rules and kept his mouth shut. There have been millions of words written about both of those counterfactuals but very little, so far, about the mainstream media’s contribution to the unexpected election outcome.

With the benefit of hindsight it’s clear that the endless hand-wringing over Clinton’s emails was overblown, especially since we now know that the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus was on high alert over potential collusion between a foreign government and the Trump campaign. But like Comey, the editors of the New York Times apparently also believed that Clinton couldn’t lose. And that led to this collaboration between the FBI and the New York Times that changed the world:




It's a fairly open-and-shut case. But the media's election post-mortems have mostly ignored it because it implicates the media's judgement. pic.twitter.com/cBLifP9WLu

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 22, 2017



The media and the FBI are clearly not going to admit their complicity in the events that led to Trump’s upset victory so that’s a judgment that will have to be left to the historians. But it does raise the question of how these relationships will be handled going forward.

We have no idea where the FBI investigation of the Russian hacking of the campaign and its possible connections to Trump is going. We will have to wait and see. But we can judge the relationship between Trump and the press right now — and it’s not what it appears to be.

According to the Washington Post, Trump sees the presidency as a performance and he spends most of his time watching himself on TV and checking his reviews:
For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.
We knew that he watched TV obsessively during the campaign. But one might have expected that he would be too busy with the actual job of being president to keep it up once he was in the White House. He not only watches it in the early morning and all evening late into the night, but he checks in periodically during the day, sometime interrupting meetings to focus on what’s being said about him. And from the description of his habits, it’s not a matter of trying to manipulate the politics of the day or strategically influence other political players through the media. He’s just judging the public performances of his staff and seeing how he is personally being portrayed. That’s all he cares about

In a disturbing interview with the Associated Press on Friday, Trump seemed to indicate that he literally assesses his own success as president by the ratings he gets on television:
No I have, it’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know, Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning … It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.
The president of the United States actually compared his TV ratings to 9/11.

The image we have of Trump and the media is of an abusive relationship in which Trump continuously insults the press but they are forced to endure his scorn and disrespect because it is their job to cover him. But it’s really more like a phony wrestling match or a reality TV contest.

Politico also featured an article this weekend about Trump’s press operation and the media, and in this telling the relationship is not so much hostile as simply chaotic. This is mostly because nobody on Trump’s team knows what they’re doing and the entire administration is hard-wired to lie about everything, even if they are doing it simply for the fun of it, which they admit they do. It’s a profile of an organization that is dysfunctional on every level. And this is supposed to be the one area in which Trump is an expert.

A couple of major polls came out this weekend showing that Trump’s first hundred days have been disastrous. His base is still with him, but he’s lost independents and even many Republicans seem shaky. There was one decision that a solid majority supported: the Syrian airstrikes. That is very bad news. Trump reads polls as obsessively as he watches himself on TV, and he undoubtedly noticed that people liked him dropping bombs. For that we can thank the media as well. They were very excited about his “presidential” decision and conveyed that to their audience.

We’ve seen that reality show before too. It led us into the Iraq war, and the mainstream media has never fully accounted for themselves for their role in that disaster either. It’s not a good sign.

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