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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Friday, February 24, 2017

 
Friday Night Soother: Grizzly pole dancing edition


by digby


Feel the funk ya'll:





Get down, get down ...





That's from the new BBC series Planet Earth II, which is just great. It's a wonderful reprieve from the political hellscape.

.
 

Can yellow dogs learn new tricks?

by Tom Sullivan


Midtown Atlanta from Georgia Tech. Photo by Isawooty via Creative Commons.

Saturday, Democrats meeting in Atlanta choose a new chair for the Democratic National Committee. Handicapping seems to make it a tossup between Rep. Keith Ellison (the early favorite) and former labor secretary Tom Perez who entered the race a month after Ellison at the behest of the Obama White House. At the New Republic, Clio Chang quotes a Clinton ally who told The Hill, “Perez and Ellison are cut from the same progressive cloth. Either one would be a strong leader.” That sounds about right. So why urge him to run at all?

Because the difference that makes a difference is over who stands to lose influence inside party ranks:

As Jeff Stein points out at Vox, Sanders supporters are likely overstating the power of the DNC chair. But that is all the more reason to throw them a win. If an Ellison victory is a modest, symbolic concession, the upside is that Democrats will signal to progressive and younger voters, who Democrats will be desperate to turn out in 2018 and 2020, that they are on their side. It would be a choice of utmost pragmatism.

But members of the Democratic establishment don’t quite see it that way. The Hill reports, “Perez supporters have expressed concern about handing the party over to the Sanders wing of the party, arguing that Ellison would move the party too far to the left.” And the New York Times suggests that Democratic leaders pushed Perez to run because they viewed Ellison as too close to the Sanders wing.

[...]

And it’s not just Obama- and Clinton-ites that could see some power slip away with an Ellison-headed DNC. Paid DNC consultants also have a vested interest in maintaining the DNC status quo. Nomiki Konst, who has extensively covered the nuts and bolts of the DNC race, asked Perez how he felt about conflicts of interest within the committee—specifically, DNC members who also have contracts with the committee. Perez dodged the issue, advocating for a “big tent.” In contrast, in a forum last month, Ellison firmly stated, “We are battling the consultant-ocracy.”

These concerns about power, control, and money echo of the dismal failures of 2008, when top Democratic operatives decided to fold Obama’s online grassroots behemoth, Organizing for America, into the DNC. The story is infamous now: Party regulars wanted to ensure control of the group, rather than allowing it to flourish as an independent entity, one that could challenge the party itself. The muzzling of Obama’s grassroots support has been blamed for being partly responsible for the Democratic Party’s enormous losses in state and local seats over the past decade. Chris Edley, who pushed for OFA’s independence, told the New Republic recently about the choice, “If you’re not really that committed, as a matter of principle, to a bottom-up theory of change, then you will find it nonsensical to cede some control in order to gain more power.”
At issue now is whether party leaders who squandered the opportunity Obama's army of volunteers represented are the ones to fill in the hole they helped dig. A Republican operative quoted in "Crashing the Gate" said, "I don't get it. When a consultant on the Republican side loses, we take them out and shoot them. You guys -- keep hiring them." Killing off OFA, Micha Sifry wrote at New Republic, was "a sin of imagination, one that helped decimate the Democratic Party at the state and local level and turn over every branch of the federal government to the far right." Is it time to turn the page?

Fear of an emergent grassroots movement is a familiar story in North Carolina. This one goes back a dozen years, but could have been written yesterday.

Jerry Meek, a tall, unmarried attorney in his early thirties, won his race for state chair over the opposition of virtually the entire state party establishment. He told Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong what he did in "Crashing the Gate" (2006):
Meek had won an upset victory in early 2005 over Ed Turlington, the former state cochairman of local-boy John Edwards' presidential campaign with John Kerry. Turlington not only had Edwards' and the state's entire congressional delegation's blessing to become state party chairman, but also the governor's, the state legislative leaders', and all but one statewide elected official. "Pretty much every single elected Democrat in North Carolina supported my opponent," Meek told us. Yet he won by bringing together a coalition of party activists that had been ignored.

"It was a weird mixture. It was part conservative, rural, and part very liberal urban progressive, and both of them felt the state party had excluded them," Meek said. "The rural people felt like the state party was the party that just invested in the urban areas and had an interest in the urban areas. The urban progressives felt like the state party they ignored them because of their philosophical perspective on politics."

And echoing the same sentiment we find in most components of the new movement, Meek was more interested in building a big tent party than in ideology. "I put together really two coalitions that ordinarily could not coexist in the same room, which made it tricky because during the campaign I never talked about issues-I never talked about whether I'm liberal or moderate or conservative. I just talked about the insiders versus the outsiders. I talked about the need to have a party that embraced everybody and that included people in the decision-making process. And that's what both sides were looking for. And they came together and created a majority."
Meek mobilized the marginalized and out-organized the "power" players. Although he had served as a state party officer, party stalwarts were horrified at Meek's effrontery. How dare he run against the governor's choice? Why, he was too young. He was too liberal. It would be the end the Democratic Party in North Carolina. "And you know," one party doyen whispered to me, "he's gay." (Which today might make his wife and kids roll their eyes.) As candidate and as chair, the "too liberal" Meek worked the state in his pickup, delivering grassroots support and training to state counties. In 2008 with Meek at the helm, North Carolina went blue for the first time since 1976.

In 2016, as in 2008, the fate of another grassroots army hangs in the balance. Indivisible, Our Revolution, and other groups are looking beyond mere engagement. The DNC chair contest Saturday is about more than just control. It is about direction, conviction, and about courage. A skittish party establishment reflexively clutches ever harder at what control it thinks it still has rather than embrace new energy at a time when it has little left to lose. Since I've been involved, "savvy," centrist Democrats have perpetually second guessed themselves, asking, "But if we fight for [fill in your progressive policy here], what will the Republicans do (to hurt us) at election time?" As if Republicans would leave them alone if they don't stick their necks out. As if they would run out of lies to deploy and hit Democrats over the head with facts instead.

No guts is not a good look for a party asking to lead the last superpower. People aren't going to vote for the abused spouse party. Democrats need to be showing voters, including millions taking to the streets, that they have the courage of their convictions and will fight for them. Let Republicans worry about themselves.

I used to love when the small liberal arts school I attended played football against bigger teams like Clemson. They had nothing to prove. They were expected to lose. Yet they would play their hearts out, use their heads, rise to the challenge, and play above their usual level. Sometimes against opponents a full head taller. It was as glorious as cheering for Rocky that very first time. That's what American voters want to see. That's who they want to vote for. Recklessness is a fault, but always playing it safe is not what leadership and heart looks like. And it is not what the times call for now. Legacy Democrats who call themselves "yellow dogs" risk being seen as just yellow. The question tomorrow and going forward is whether they capitalize on and not squander the opportunity before them. Can their party still learn new tricks?


 
"America? I don’t go there anymore! America is no longer America!"

by digby
















Yeah well, tell it to the American tourist industry Donnie.
We didn't have this kind of drop off even after 9/11.

YOU are so repellent and frightening that people around the world are refusing to come here:

The Travel Press is Reporting the 'Trump Slump,' a Devastating Drop in Tourism to the United States

Experts across the travel industry are warning that masses of tourists are being scared away from visiting the United States, and the loss of tourism jobs could be devastating.

By Arthur Frommer

Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.

While, earlier in the year, the Administration had boasted of saving 800 jobs in the Carrier Corporation, the drop-off in employment resulting from the travel ban would eclipse that figure.

According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.

Other observers, including local tourist offices, have reached similar conclusions. In referring to New York City’s $60 billion tourist industry alone, the head of the city’s tourist effort complained that his agency’s effort to portray the United States as a welcoming destination to foreign citizens “was all in jeopardy.” Several other tourist officials have made like statements.

As you can see, there is plenty of evidence for a negative conclusion.

You can imagine that foreigners of all stripes figure they can find friendlier places to visit on vacation. It won't be long before they figure they can find better places to do business too. After all, if you're a white nationalist who agrees with Trump --- and there are many --- you don't believe in travelling anyway and figure your money should be spent on your own volk, amirite? And if you are not a white nationalist, why in the world would you want to come to a country which just elected one who is proudly deporting people and talking about how he doesn't give a damn about anything but the United States being "respected" and "number one." I'm guessing you don't feel very welcome.









 
The Resistance IS the strategy

by digby
















I wrote about the usefulness of stoking the Resistance for Salon this morning:

I am generally reluctant to wade into the interminable internecine Democratic Party battles. My focus at the moment is on trying to document the atrocities of President Donald Trump and there are only so many hours in the day. There are legions of armchair strategists out there willing to fight and argue over it, so I doubt my two cents are needed in any case. My feeling right now is the same as it always is — that we should elect more progressives to office wherever possible. Trying to game out the future with any precision at the moment seems like a fool’s errand under this erratic, unstable, volatile administration .

Nonetheless I must admit that I find myself chafing at the constant drumbeat that I must be willing to “reach out” to Trump voters and summon up empathy for their plight. This New York Times article, which has been passed all over social media and commented upon by virtually every liberal pundit in the country, is just the latest in the genre. An intrepid reporter journeys deep into the heart of Trumpland and finds out that its denizens are just all-American folks who are fit to be tied that they’re being tarred as bigots, and it’s just not fair. The upshot of this particular article was that anti-Trump protesters were pushing these fundamentally decent people away with their resistance and that they really need to cool it if they expect to win over these voters at the polls.

I have no doubt that many Trump voters have good qualities and in their average daily interactions with people they are probably as polite and decent as can be. But their politics are, I’m sorry to say, deplorable. I cannot find it in myself to go out of my way to try to feel much sympathy for people who don’t think the following is out of bounds:







I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that unless feminists are ironing his shirt or making him some cookies, he’s not all that interested in anything they have to say, so trying to “reach” him is going to be a waste of breath. The same goes for the people surrounding him who clearly thought that was just fine and passed this vulgar misogyny on to their kids:






I suspect that most Latinos, African-Americans and American Muslims also feel their “outreach” might not be welcome. Moreover, people whose lives are being directly affected by the horrific policies for which these Trump voters cheered and clapped during the campaign should really not be asked to do it. It’s insulting and cruel, not to mention downright dangerous in some cases. If members of the Democratic coalition must show empathy toward these voters and try to persuade them that they have made the wrong choice, it probably should be done by members of the one group that doesn’t seem to offend these folks: white males. Luckily, there are a lot of them out there who can take on this task.

But all of this raises the fundamental question of whether it’s even necessary. Obviously, the Democrats have fallen short and need to do something to start winning majorities in the Congress and the presidency. There have been thousands of articles and posts written about whether they should try to boost the turnout of the party’s base, appeal to nonvoters, approach moderate Republicans or attempt to convert Trump voters. Many in the press seem obsessed with the last activity and pay little attention to the other approaches.


A piece by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect made a persuasive argument as to why Democrats shouldn’t bother with Trump voters, at least not yet. He described various types of Republicans such as the major Trump fans who wear those awful T-shirts, the party regulars who figured Trump would at least give them a conservative Supreme Court and cut their taxes and the “what the hell” voters who just took a flyer on disruption and change. He said if Democrats are going to reach out to Trump voters, those in the last group are the most likely to be amenable to outreach.

But Waldman explained that trying to appeal to any of those people is the last thing Democrats should do if they are seeking to create a wave election in 2018:

Right now, the Democrats’ constituents are feeling horrified, terrified, and generally pissed off. Which is just what produces the kind of midterm election they need.
That’s because midterm elections are all about enthusiasm — which almost always means anger. It’s the reason the president’s party usually loses seats in midterm elections: because the people who are angry enough to increase their turnout are the ones who dislike the president. Turnout in recent midterms has been in the 30s, meaning that nearly two-thirds of voters decide to stay home when there’s no presidential race. So it’s all a question of which voters get to the polls.
That’s why right now, if Democrats want to win in 2018, they need to highlight the things that will get their own voters as worked up about Trump as possible: his scary appointees, his retrograde executive actions, his constant lies, his self-dealing and corruption, and the tremendous damage he and Republicans in Congress are preparing to do. In other words, Democrats need to be as partisan as possible, and forget about “reaching out.”

He suggested that after the midterms will be the time to look to those “change” voters because by then Trump will have shown that he doesn’t have the magical powers necessary to turn back the clock to before the 1960s, and a few of them might decide they want to try “change” again or will just stay home.

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with someone like Trump is that he’s so personally and politically erratic it’s hard to know how to plan the opposition in advance. But it is safe to say he won’t be able to deliver on most of his promises — and what he will deliver is unlikely to be popular with anyone other than his diehard fans.

In the meantime, the most important order of business is to do everything necessary to take back the Congress in 2018 and stop him from doing his worst. Trying to appease Trump voters is exactly the wrong strategy. It only threatens to throw cold water on all the building energy that will get Democrats, independents and anyone else who is appalled by this presidency out to the polls.



Update: Chris Matthews and his panel yesterday tried to tell the audience that the protesters at Townhalls were just there to protect their own benefits and that was the only issue --- Obamacare, Social Security and medicare. But they are wrong. Those are big issues and the people who are protesting at the political events and marching in the streets are certainly demanding that those programs be left alone. But it's about a lot more than that --- mostly about Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he stands for and a defense of universal liberal values across the board. Nobody should cheapen this thing by making it seem like it's a cramped, selfish demand for everyone's own personal benefit. It's not.








The Village is, as usual, wrong. They are replaying the election. We're in a different world now. This is a much, much bigger fight.


.
 
 He's still ginning up the crowd to scream "lock her up"

by digby


















It's interesting that he's said he won't pursue putting Clinton in jail but he sure loves to get that chant going whenever he has a chance:




She called half of them deplorable after they screamed that despicable little witch burning slogan like a bunch of rabid drooling hyenas at the Republican National Convention. Think about that. It  started at the big gathering of delegates from all over the country, with all the luminaries of the GOP in attendance:
Nearing the end of his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, Chris Christie paused. 
It wasn't just that the crowd was chanting — that, he expected. The New Jersey governor was in the middle of an attack on Hillary Clinton, listing what he saw as her many missteps as secretary of state. After each perceived misstep, he asked the crowd, “Is she guilty or not guilty?” 
“Guilty!” the crowd thundered back again and again. 
But this time, it sounded different. Christie looked down and to his left, at the enormous California delegation, momentarily distracted. Or perhaps it was Pennsylvania, Ohio or Maryland delegates. They were chanting. 
His eyes narrowed for a moment, seeking out the disruption. But then a smile slowly took over his face. He nodded as he figured out what they were saying. The chant swelled to a roar, and delegates began standing up from their seats. They waved their red, white and blue “Trump” signs. They shook their fists. They screamed and hollered and made the building shake, in that now-familiar three-beat chant: 
“Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” 
It's hard to say definitively if that was the first time the most popular chant of Donald Trump's campaign was uttered, but by the next evening, it was a go-to refrain, punctuating every mention of Clinton's name. 
It fit right in with Trump's core pitch to voters: that Clinton couldn't and shouldn't be trusted. His fans broke out in the chant at any mention of the Clinton Foundation, the email server or any other of his attacks on her. 
Of course, that wasn't his only position. At times, Trump's rhetoric shifted, and he insisted that a better path would be beating her on Nov. 8. “Let's just beat her in November,” he told supporters at a rally on July 29 in Colorado Springs just after the Democratic convention — a line he repeated at various campaign rallies over the course of the fall. 
But for the most part, he took a hard line — including when speaking with Clinton herself. “And I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception,” he said at the Oct. 9 presidential debate. “There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” 
In Florida on Oct. 12, he told the crowd that “this corruption and collusion is just one more reason why I will ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor,” and later adding, “She has to go to jail.”

His followers turned it into their cult's pledge of allegiance at his Nuremburg rallies.  And yes, anyone who joined that disgusting two minutes of hate is irredeemable especially considering the corrupt imbecile they voted for.

Don't kid yourself. If Trump gets into real trouble and has to get his base excited this is a surefire way to do it. He's keeping it in his back pocket. Attorney General Sessions said he will recuse himself from any Hillary Clinton investigations but let's face it: he's not exactly a truthful, dependable fellow either. She'd better watch her back.

.
 
Trump's personal Nazi

by digby





























There are a lot of them, of course. But this one's in the White House:
When photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.

Gorka, who views Islam as a religion with an inherent predilection for militancy, has strong supporters among some right-leaning think tanks in Washington. “Dr. Gorka is one of the most knowledgeable, well-read and studied experts on national security that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told the Forward. Humire has known Gorka for nearly a decade, and considers him “top-notch.”
He has a web of deep ties to Hungary's far-right:
It was during his time in Hungary that Gorka developed ties to the country’s anti-Semitic and ultranationalist far right.

During large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Hungary in 2006, Gorka took on an active role, becoming closely involved with a protest group called the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gorka took on the roles of translator, press coordinator and adviser for the group.

Among the four Committee members named as the group’s political representatives was László Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Counties Youth Movement. Toroczkai founded that group in 2001 to advocate for the return of parts of modern-day Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine to form a Greater Hungary, restoring the country’s pre-World War I borders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involvement in the 2006 protests, Hungarian authorities opened an investigation into the Movement’s newspaper, Magyar Jelen, when an article referred to Jews as “Galician upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our country from them, take back our stolen fortunes. After all, these upstarts are sucking on our blood, getting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s publication, Toroczkai was both an editor at the paper and the Movement’s official leader.

Toroczkai currently serves as vice president of Jobbik and is the mayor of a village near the border Hungary shares with Serbia. Last year, he gained notoriety in the West for declaring a goal of banning Muslims and gays from his town.

In January 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his experience with the Hungarian National Committee, Gorka announced plans to form a new political party, to be known as the New Democratic Coalition. Gorka had previously served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister. But following Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Socialist government, Gorka grew disenchanted with Orbán’s Fidesz party.

In his email exchange with the Forward for this article, Gorka explained: “The Coalition was established in direct response to the unhealthy patterns visible at the time in Hungarian conservative politics. It became apparent to me that the effect of decades of Communist dictatorship had taken a deeper toll on civil society than was expected.”

Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.
There's more about Jobbik and Gorka's equally right wing splinter group. And here's some material about Gorka's articles for a right wing anti-Semitic newspaper:
Gorka’s articles for Magyar Demokrata focused not only on decrying Hungary’s then-Socialist government, but also on highlighting the perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the post-World War I agreement that led to the loss of two-thirds of prewar Hungary’s territory.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not responsible, and were punished to an extent that was likely even more unjust — with the exception of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire — than any other punishment in the modern age,” Gorka wrote in a 2006 article in Magyar Demokrata.

Asked about his choice of journalistic outlets, Gorka wrote, “I am […] unfamiliar with Bencsik. I believe it was one of his colleagues who asked me if I wanted to write some OpEds.” Gorka told the Forward that his writing at the time shows “how everything I did was in the interests of a more transparent and healthy democracy in Hungary. This included a rejection of all revanchist tendencies and xenophobic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfamiliar with Bencsik must be weighed against his deep immersion in Hungarian politics and Benscik’s status as a major figure in Hungary’s right-wing political scene. At the time, Gorka gave public interviews as an “expert” on the Hungarian Guard, which Bencsik helped to found. In one 2007 interview, Gorka clarified his own view of the Guard, saying, “It’s not worth talking about banning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minorities, Gorka said, “The government and media are inflating this question.”

It was in mid-February that Gorka’s affinity for Hungarian nationalist and far-right ideas first came to the American public’s attention. Eli Clifton of the news website Lobelog noticed from a photograph that the new deputy assistant to the president had appeared at an inauguration ball in January wearing a Hungarian medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal signifies a knightly order of merit founded in 1920 by Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s longtime anti-Semitic ruler and Hitler’s ally during World War II. Notwithstanding this alliance, and the group’s designation as Nazi-collaborators by the U.S. State Department, many within Hungary’s right revere Horthy for his staunch nationalism during the overall course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

This man is in the White Houyse as an adviser to the president. He is in Steve Bannon's Alt-NSC group which people assume has a special inside track to the president on foreign affairs.

Is this ok? Does it sound like Trump's foreign policy and worldview are benign expressions of American isolationism and working class economic anxiety?

I hope I'm wrong. But Donald Trump is an ignoramus and the fact that the fate of the world hangs on how much he is influenced by a group of fascists in his inner circle is keeping me awake at night. I guess YMMV.


.
 

The ears have it

by Tom Sullivan


@spockosbrain "Brain in a box. Half Human, Half Vulcan. Just want a piece of the Action."

In addition to having elected a morally, emotionally and intellectually stunted 70 year-old as their leader, the Wrongs of the Midas cult have made a fetish of freedom, the flag, capitalism, and the supposed free market.

These idols are all unvarnished goods so long as the Wrongs think they hold a controlling interest in them and can use them as tools for arrogating power and wealth for themselves. But every now and again somebody finds a way to leverage those tools against them.

Since late last year, the activist group Sleeping Giants has invited web surfers to report to advertisers when their fine products, services, and brand names appear beside the kind of retromingent views spewed at Breitbart that prompted one of the largest digital advertising services, AppNexus Inc., to ban the site for violating its policy on hate speech. AppNexus spokesman Joshua Zeitz told Bloomberg Technology, "We did a human audit of Breitbart and determined there were enough articles and headlines that cross that line, using either coded or overt language" that might incite violence.

Fortune reported days ago:

According to a leaked memo obtained by BuzzFeed, an Australian agency owned by the global advertising giant Omnicom -- which handles advertising and marketing campaigns for all of the major Fortune 500 brands including McDonalds and Apple -- has advised its staff that many of the firm's clients are asking that their ads not appear on Breitbart.
The Washington Post reports this morning that the former employer of Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos is seeing its ad revenues nose dive:
At Breitbart, the pullback in advertising has taken a toll on the site, staffers told Fox Business this week. More than 1,250 companies, including Audi, Harris Teeter, Greenpeace and Lyft, have recently pulled advertising from the controversial site, according to Sleeping Giants, an activist group that is tracking online data. A spokesman for Breitbart declined to comment for this report.

“People at the news outlet say that an effort is underway to make Breitbart more mainstream, by hiring reporters to cover news and devote less space to political commentary that has been its forte,” Fox Business reported. “People inside Breitbart say while the website may in fact be profitable, it is also suffering from a business standpoint with advertising dollars shrinking significantly.”
The Denver Post describes Breitbart News as Bannon's "media sledgehammer, an enforcer of orthodoxy that its fans praised for its swagger and that its critics labeled xenophobic or worse."
The site’s editorial thrust reflects Bannon’s nationalist, immigration-restrictionist beliefs and trumpets Breitbart’s continuing grievance and outrage against those who trespass against its worldview. The homepage focuses on a handful of thematic categories: praise for President Trump; attacks on his critics and on the news media’s coverage of Trump; praise for like-minded nationalist politicians such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen; stories critical of left-leaning political figures such as Michael Moore, Lena Dunham and George Soros; and random reports about immigrants and refugees causing trouble in their adopted lands, especially Europe and the United States.
They are free to do so even if Trump issues a proclamation rescinding the First Amendment. But All-American, capitalist advertisers are equally free not to soil their brands by association with this bile.

But it's important to give a tip of the fedora to our friend Spocko. He gets too little credit (and none of the "action") for having pioneered the techniques Sleeping Giants, Flush Rush and other activists adapted from his successful takedown of wrong-wing talkers on KSFO radio. As Spocko found a decade ago, most advertisers do not even know where their radio ads are appearing, and much less so in the age of Internet marketing. Rather than attempt to organize activists to boycott advertisers — cumbersome, innefficient, difficult to monitor, and indirect, since hate speech, not the advertisers is the real target — Spocko cut out the middleman and appealed to advertisers' bottom lines directly. He didn't need a massive rally or massive funding to do it. Just one guy.

Need a little inspiration for fighting back in the age of America's "deconstruction"? There you go.




Thursday, February 23, 2017

 
Don't mess with the Big Money fringe

by digby




Another dissenter bites the dust:
David Magerman says he was in his home office in suburban Philadelphia earlier this month when the phone rang. His boss, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was on the line.

“I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,” Mr. Mercer said. “That’s ridiculous.”

In the prior weeks, Mr. Magerman, a registered Democrat who calls himself a centrist, had complained to colleagues about Mr. Mercer’s role as a prominent booster of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Now word of Mr. Magerman’s criticism had reached Mr. Mercer, co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies LLC, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds.

David Magerman, at home in Merion Station, Pa., is an employee with Renaissance Technologies who has begun speaking out against President Donald Trump, though one of his top bosses, Robert Mercer, is a prominent supporter of the president.

“Those weren’t my exact words,” Mr. Magerman said he told Mr. Mercer, stammering and then explaining his concerns about Mr. Trump’s policy positions, rhetoric and cabinet choices. “If what you’re doing is harming the country then you have to stop.”

Mr. Mercer declined to comment through a spokesman. In a statement, Renaissance’s chairman and founder, Jim Simons, who has been a prominent financial backer of Democrats, said, “I have worked closely with Bob Mercer since he joined our firm almost 25 years ago. While our politics differ dramatically, I have always thought him to be of impeccable character.”

A presidential campaign that divided much of the country also has created tensions within companies. Some senior employees, accustomed to settling grievances behind closed doors, are rebelling in unusually public ways, the polarization playing out for the world to see. Days after the election, a partner at Peter Thiel ’s venture-capital firm, Founders Fund, wrote a blog post expressing fears of a Trump presidency, which Mr. Thiel had worked to promote. A spokesman for the firm declined to comment.

After the November election, Grub Hub Inc., chief executive Matt Maloney seemingly suggested in an email to staff that employees who supported Mr. Trump should resign, citing the “hateful politics” of the new president. He later said the message had been misconstrued.

Historically, some leaders of Renaissance, which is based on Long Island, N.Y., have leaned Democratic, including Mr. Simons, who donated to Hillary Clinton ’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Some Renaissance executives chafed at the unwanted publicity brought to the firm by Mr. Mercer’s activities during the presidential race, according to people close to the matter. In addition to providing crucial financial help when Mr. Trump’s candidacy was lagging, Mr. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah advised the campaign, suggesting the installation of two Mercer family confidantes, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, atop the campaign. Those two now hold senior White House positions.

Until now, however, nobody within the tight-lipped hedge fund has gone public with a grievance.

“His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do,” said Mr. Magerman, 48 years old, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the Dairy Café, a kosher restaurant he owns in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. “Now he’s using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview” by supporting Mr. Trump and encouraging that “government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.”

Mr. Magerman, a 20-year Renaissance veteran who helped design the fund’s trading systems, says he is speaking only for himself, and that there is no sign of a broad insurrection at the firm.

Mr. Magerman makes millions of dollars a year, drives a Tesla and says he gives more than $10 million in charity annually. A research scientist, he is one of 100 partners at the firm, but he isn’t one of Renaissance’s most senior executives.

“I’d like to think I’m speaking out in a way that won’t risk my job, but it’s very possible they could fire me,” he said. “My wife isn’t comfortable with me jeopardizing my job, but she realizes it’s my prerogative and agrees with my sentiments.”

He has concluded that every new piece of code he developed for Renaissance helped Mr. Mercer make more money and gave him greater ability to influence the country.

To try to counteract his boss’s activities, Mr. Magerman says he has been in touch with local Democratic leaders and plans to make major contributions to the party. He says he called Planned Parenthood to offer his assistance and contacted Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, to voice his concerns about Ms. Conway and Mr. Bannon. He says he failed to reach Mr. Kushner. 
Mr. Magerman says he first spoke with Mr. Mercer in January, when Mr. Magerman, who donates to local schools, called Mr. Mercer to ask for the opportunity to reach out to Rebekah Mercer to offer the administration help on education policy.

During the call, they talked politics, disagreeing about some of the administration’s early steps. After airing his concerns with others at the company, Mr. Magerman received the second call from Mr. Mercer two weeks ago.

The conversation grew strained. After telling Mr. Mercer to stop harming the country, he said Mr. Mercer responded that his goal had been to defeat Mrs. Clinton and that he wouldn’t remain very involved in politics.

“How can you say you’re not involved?” Mr. Magerman said, citing an outside group Rebekah Mercer was involved in that was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Magerman has one idea that would reduce the power of people like Mr. Mercer. He said he was thinking about reaching out to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to craft proposals to reduce speculative trading, which presumably would curtail Renaissance’s profits.

In conversation at his cafe, Mr. Magerman said he hoped his public statements wouldn’t cost him his job. But if he does get fired, he said, he would have more time to devote to politics and other causes.

“This is my life’s work—I ran a group that wrote the trading system they still use,” he said. “But I feel relieved I’m now doing something, and if they fire me, maybe it’s for the best.”

On Thursday morning, after an online version of this story appeared, Mr. Magerman received a new phone call from Renaissance. A representative told Mr. Magerman that he was being suspended without pay and no longer could have contact with the company.

 As I wrote about for Salon a few months ago, Robert Mercer is another full-fledged nutcase and so is his daughter. 
He may be a genius with computers and financial data, but when it comes to politics Mercer more closely resembles tinfoil-hat conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones. Indeed, it’s hard to find a fringe scientific theory he hasn’t thrown money at, from climate change denial to conferences that feature speakers presenting “evidence” that HIV does not cause AIDS and the disease is an elaborate government cover-up of the health risks of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

He’s also put a lot of money into groups promoting far-right economic theories, including the weird idea that “fractional reserve banking,” which is something banks have always done — lending their depositors’ money to others— is a massive fraud. He is also a huge proponent of returning to the gold standard, of course.

These are just the tips of Mercer’s icebergs of weirdness. Looking at the long list of crazy stuff he’s involved with, it seems that Mercer believes everything he reads or hears from right-wing kooks — and that con men and grifters can see him coming a mile away. Indeed, the Mercers seem to be financing pretty much every far-right fringe organization and wacky theorist in America, with causes including white nationalism, climate denial and quack medicine. So naturally they are major backers of our new fringe president-elect.

I had heard they were being frozen out of the inner circle, but who knows?

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All them furriners look alike

by digby



He was just making America great again ...












This is horrifying. And at this writing, I haven't seen any national press:
A 51-year-old Olathe man was charged Thursday in a Wednesday night shooting at an Olathe bar that left one man dead and two others wounded.

Adam Purinton was drinking at a bar in an Applebee’s in Clinton, Mo., when he was arrested early Thursday, about five hours after the shooting, police said.

The Star has learned that charges were filed early Thursday afternoon.

Johnson County prosecutors would not confirm that, but said they would make a formal announcement at a press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon with Olathe police and the FBI at Olathe Police Headquarters.

Purinton, a Navy veteran, was booked into the Henry County Jail. After the charges were filed, Purinton appeared before a judge in Henry County and waived his right to fight extradition.

It was not known how soon he would be returned to Johnson County.

Purinton allegedly told a bartender in Clinton that he had killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.

He reportedly told the bartender that he needed a place to hide out.

Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said that a bartender called police after the man talked about being involved in a shooting.

Clinton officers responded and took him into custody without incident. Lynch said the man was not armed when he was arrested.

At least one witness reportedly heard the suspect yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting men he thought were Middle Eastern. Both men, engineers at Garmin, appear to be originally from India.

The Star’s account of the 7:15 p.m. shooting Wednesday at Austins Bar and Grill in south Olathe near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road comes from law enforcement officials and witnesses at the scene.

The shooting left one man dead and two others injured.
He wasn't Muslim, thank God or we'd have to be very, very worried about our safety in this country. Thank God he was just a Real American with some problems who watched too much Fox News and Donald Trump. No big deal.

.


 
Trump Stops START (because he's an idiot)

by digby




















Hey happy days. Trump reiterated today that he plans to start another nuclear arms race.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the "top of the pack," saying the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

In a Reuters interview, Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea "very easily if they want to," ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang's increasingly bellicose actions.

In his first comments about the U.S. nuclear arsenal since taking office on Jan. 20, Trump said the United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity."

“I am the first one that would like to see everybody - nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack," Trump said.

The new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, between the U.S. and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.

The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons, and contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons.

Analysts have questioned whether Trump wants to abrogate New START or would begin deploying other warheads.

In the interview, Trump called New START "a one-sided deal.

"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran deal ... We're going to start making good deals," he said.

I suspect Russia won't be too upset about this. President Putin already pulled out of one nuclear agreement. He's with the program.

As this piece by Jeet Heer in the New Republic from last December points out, Trump has long seen an alliance with Russia on nuclear dominance but, as usual, he's an ignorant fool about the reality:
[G]oing back to at least 1987, Trump has believed that it is in America’s best interest to join forces with the Soviet Union to fight emerging powers. In a recently resurfaced interview from 1987 with Ron Rosenbaum, Trump laid out the case for the world’s two major superpowers to work as a team. “Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump told Rosenbaum. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries.” Trump then suggested that Pakistan, which at that point didn’t have nuclear weapons, could be prevented from doing so by the U.S. and Soviet Union’s “powers of retaliation.”

“You think Pakistan would just fold?” Rosenbaum asked. “We wouldn’t have to offer them anything in return?” Trump’s response was a chilling summary of how he thinks nuclear non-proliferation would work: “Maybe we should offer them something. I’m saying you start off as nicely as possible. You apply as much pressure as necessary until you achieve the goal. You start off telling them, ‘Let’s get rid of it.’ If that doesn’t work you then start cutting off aid. And more aid and then more. You do whatever is necessary so these people will have riots in the street, so they can’t get water. So they can’t get Band-Aids, so they can’t get food. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to do it—the people, the riots.”

Provoking instability and riots in countries that are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons is a risky policy, especially if it is done with the stated goal of keeping America and Russia in a position to “dominate” the non-nuclear countries. For one thing, such a policy would create an incentive for non-nuclear powers to join the nuclear club as quickly as possible, so that they won’t be destabilized. Further, destabilizing a nation like Iran (surely one of the potential targets for such a policy) would inevitably create safe havens for terrorist groups and generate refugee crises, as we’ve seen with George W. Bush’s Iraq adventure.

Much has changed since 1987. The Soviet Union is no more, and its successor state, Russia, is a diminished global power. But Trump’s vision of the world has remained strikingly static. In the ’80s, as now, he sees the U.S. and Russia as status quo powers beset by turbulent upstart nations, and thus, as having essentially similar goals. Writing in Quartz, the journalist Sarah Kendzior argued such a friendship could lead to “the new mutually assured destruction: the two states with the most nuclear weapons in the world, both backed by authoritarian leaders, may be partnering against as-yet unknown shared enemies.”

A U.S.-Russian alliance, with both nations building up their nuclear stockpiles and intimidating emerging powers, has a certain superficial coherence. But in practice, it would be nearly impossible to execute. Putin doesn’t have the same list of major foes as Trump does. In Syria, they do seem to agree about the need to bolster the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad to end the civil war there. But on Iran, Putin supports the nuclear deal that Trump and his team seem eager to challenge, if not rip apart. Since 2014, Putin has worked vigorously to improve Russia’s ties to China, leading to increased trade and military co-operation; Trump is flirting with a trade war with China. While Putin might be happy to work with a more amenable U.S. administration, there’s little reason to think he’s would join an American alliance against China. As a practical matter, Russia’s ambitions are clearly directed towards regaining a sphere of influence in central Europe and the Middle East.

Putin and Trump both dream of their countries dominating the globe, as they did in the Cold War. That might be enough to start them on the road to friendlier relations. An arms race wouldn’t impede that. But in terms of agreeing on global issues, Trump might yet find that working with Russia is a bright idea that quickly runs aground of reality. And if relations sour after an attempted rapprochement, there could be a return to superpower nuclear rivalries. After all, both America and Russia will be building up their arsenals, and if they go back to viewing each other with distrust, then nuclear weapons would be a logical terrain for competition. Trump’s proposed reconcilement with Russia is a genuinely ambitious gambit, but one that could take him down the exact opposite path he is hoping for.

And if it comes down to a mindgame between Trump and Putin, I think I'd have to bet on the ex-KGB agent over the gibbering imbecile. But that's just me.

Some more on what Putin has been up to on this issue, here and here.

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Amerika the beautiful

by digby













He is an ignorant fool so he doesn't know that he' violating he constitution if he's doing that. Surely some lawyers are taking notes.

Via Daily Beast, here's one of those bad dudes he's talking about:
The 26-year-old undocumented woman was in a detention center in Texas when she started complaining of headaches earlier this month.

The pain was caused by a brain tumor and, today, lawyers for the woman who remains in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fear she’ll die there without ever seeing or speaking to her family again.

It’s a scenario that advocates worry could become far more common under President Donald Trump’s new immigration enforcement rules.

According to her legal team, helmed by attorney Marcia Kasdan, the woman — who we will identify as Sara to protect her privacy — was being held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas, when she started complaining of terrible headaches.

In her court testimony, Sara acknowledged that she illegally crossed the border on Nov. 4, 2015, and border patrol agents apprehended her. A sworn statement from Border Patrol agent Roberto Gonzalez Jr. says Sara told him on Nov. 8, 2015 that she came to the U.S. to work, and not to seek asylum.

She told an immigration judge on Jan. 12, 2016, that she actually did come to the U.S. from her native El Salvador seeking asylum, and that she feared her aunt — who she said is gang-affiliated — would kill her because she was in a relationship with a Salvadoran police officer. But Sara missed the deadline to file her asylum claim, so the judge ordered her deportation. Her legal team, which began working with her after she missed that deadline and acknowledges that it was missed, appealed. She has been in detention since then.

Earlier this month, according to her lawyers, Sara’s head started hurting. And on Feb. 10, at the detention center, she collapsed. The detention center staff had her hospitalized at Texas Health Huguley Hospital in Burleson, Texas. And there, according to her lawyers, doctors concluded she had a brain tumor. The lawyers tell The Daily Beast that they expect doctors to perform surgery soon and say Sara told her mother in a 5-minute phone conversation on Feb. 19 that she had been bleeding profusely through her nose, as well as experiencing convulsions and some memory loss.

As of press time, she can’t talk to her lawyers or family. Sara’s lawyers are based in New Jersey, near where some of her extended family lives. They said they’ve also been blocked from speaking to her on the phone because of ICE rules limiting communication with hospitalized detainees––despite what they believe is a situation of medical urgency.

Danielle Bennett, an ICE public affairs officer, provided The Daily Beast with this statement:
“Requests by family members to visit ICE detainees who have been hospitalized are permitted but must be approved in advance with ICE and the appropriate consulate,” she said. “ICE is currently reaching out to the family’s attorney to explain the process.”
With scant information about her health situation, Sara’s family members fear the worst: that she could lose consciousness or die before they can get through ICE’s process.

In hopes of helping Sara, her lawyers asked Fatma Marouf—an attorney who heads Texas A&M’s Immigrant Rights Clinic—to try to gather more information about her health. Marouf told The Daily Beast that she went to Huguley Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, where two guards tried to stop her from entering Sara’s room. The guards told her Sara was on a no-contact list and couldn’t communicate with anyone—period.

Marouf told The Daily Beast that she entered Sara’s room over the guard’s objections.

“They couldn’t physically stop me from talking to her,” Marouf said. “I went over to her and I just said, ‘We want you to know that your family is working to get you out, and there are attorneys working on your case.’”

She then asked Sara how she was doing.

“She just said, ‘My head,’” Marouf said.

Then the guards threatened to call police if Marouf didn’t leave.

“She’s in this critical window right now,” Marouf said. “We don’t know if she’s going to stay conscious.”

Marouf added that along with blocking Sara from speaking with her family and lawyers over the phone, she also hasn’t been allowed to communicate with the hospital chaplain. Sara is a devout Evangelical Christian, according to court documents.

Marouf added that she’s gotten conflicting messages from ICE and the hospital about who specifically is responsible for blocking visits. She said that one ICE official told her it was the hospital’s decision — not the government’s — that kept anyone from seeing her in person or speaking with her on the phone.

ICE didn’t respond to a question about that statement.

Elijah Bruette, the hospital’s director of Business Development and Community Relations, told The Daily Beast, “The health, comfort and privacy of each patient we are entrusted to care for are our top priorities. We do not discuss specific patient information in compliance with HIPAA guidelines.”

Bruette did not respond to a follow-up question about the hospital’s policy regarding undocumented patients’ access to attorneys.

In the meantime, Sara’s family and attorneys say they face a Kafkaesque, bureaucratic nightmare: unsure who has the power to let them speak to her and unsure if she will maintain consciousness long enough to tell them what happened. They say her doctors haven’t spoken to any of Sara’s family members or anyone on her legal team.

Trump’s executive orders on immigration will dramatically expand the number of people facing detention and deportation — including people who haven’t been convicted of any violent crimes, like Sara, and people who have lived in the U.S. for years. Advocates say that means situations like hers will become much more common.

“You are bound to see more cases like this if ICE fulfills the government’s orders and dramatically expands detention,” said Bob Libal, who heads Grassroots Leadership, an activist group based in Austin that opposes immigrant detention and deportation. “You are bound to see more stories where people have suffered these kind of medical tragedies in detention.”


 
"A chaotic attempt at authoritarianism"

by digby






















Non-political staff are quitting and telling their stories. Here's one of them.
In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.

Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens.

I lasted eight days.

When Trump issued a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all Syrian refugees, I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat.

The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.

I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.

He looked at me and said nothing.

It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”

My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.

[...]

The climate in 2016 felt like it did just after 9/11. What made it worse was that this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power. Fifth-grade students at a local Sunday school where I volunteered shared stories of being bullied by classmates and teachers, feeling like they didn’t belong here anymore, and asked if they might get kicked out of this country if Trump won. I was almost hit by a car by a white man laughing as he drove by in a Costco parking lot, and on another occasion was followed out of the metro by a man screaming profanities: “Fuck you! Fuck Islam! Trump will send you back!” While cognizant of the possibility of Trump winning, I hoped a majority of the electorate would never condone such a hateful and divisive worldview.

Then, on election night, I was left in shock.

The morning after the election, we lined up in the West Colonnade as Obama stood in the Rose Garden and called for national unity and a smooth transition. Trump seemed the antithesis of everything we stood for. I felt lost. I could not fully grasp the idea that he would soon be sitting where Obama sat.

I debated whether I should leave my job. Since I was not a political appointee, but a direct hire of the NSC, I had the option to stay. The incoming and now departed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said things like “fear of Muslims is rational.” Some colleagues and community leaders encouraged me to stay, while others expressed concern for my safety. Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump's NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot.

The weeks leading up to the inauguration prepared me and my colleagues for what we thought would come, but not for what actually came. On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion.

The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing. As one staffer serving since the Reagan administration said, “This place has been turned upside down. It’s chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism––legally questionable executive orders, accusations of the press being “fake,” peddling countless lies as “alternative facts,” and assertions by White House surrogates that the president’s national security authority would “not be questioned.”

The entire presidential support structure of nonpartisan national security and legal experts within the White House complex and across federal agencies was being undermined. Decision-making authority was now centralized to a few in the West Wing. Frustration and mistrust developed as some staff felt out of the loop on issues within their purview. There was no structure or clear guidance. Hallways were eerily quiet as key positions and offices responsible for national security or engagement with Americans were left unfilled.Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous.

I might have lasted a little longer. Then came January 30. The executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries caused chaos, without making America any safer. Discrimination that has existed for years at airports was now legitimized, sparking mass protests, while the president railed against the courts for halting his ban. Not only was this discrimination and un-American, the administration’s actions defending the ban threatened the nation’s security and its system of checks and balances.

Alt-right writers, now on the White House staff, have claimed that Islam and the West are at war with each other. Disturbingly, ISIS also makes such claims to justify their attacks, which for the most part target Muslims. The Administration’s plans to revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Muslims and use terms like “radical Islamic terror,” legitimize ISIS propaganda and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism to go unchecked.

Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.

People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true––American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality.

American history is not without stumbles, which have proven that the nation is only made more prosperous and resilient through struggle, compassion and inclusiveness. It’s why my parents came here. It’s why I told my former 5th grade students, who wondered if they still belonged here, that this country would not be great without them.

Read it all. It's very interesting.

I don't ever recall people leaving a new administration and writing stories like this. She's not alone. This CIA officer did the same thing.  

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A shooting war, Mandrake?

by digby




I wrote about the possibility for Salon this morning:


On Wednesday NBC News released a poll reporting that 66 percent of Americans surveyed were worried that the United States will become involved in another war. One might think that’s surprising since President Donald Trump has famously been portrayed as an old-school isolationist, an image mostly based upon his lies about not supporting the Iraq War and his adoption of the pre-World War II isolationist slogan “America First.”

As I laid out for Salon a few weeks ago, that assumption is wrong. Trump is anything but an isolationist. He’s not much on alliances, preferring to strong-arm other nations into supporting the U.S. “for their own good.” But if they are willing to cough up some protection money, he might agree to fulfill our treaty obligations. His adoption of the phrase “America First” reflects his belief that the U.S. must be No. 1, not that it should withdraw from the world.

In other words, while Trump has no interest in perpetuating the global security system under which the world has lived since the dawn of the nuclear age, that’s not because he believes it hasn’t worked. He doesn’t know what it does, how it came to be or why it exists. He simply believes other countries are failing to pay proper respect and he is aiming to make sure they understand that America isn’t just great again; it’s the greatest.

This has nothing to do with American exceptionalism. Trump is happy to admit that American pretenses to moral leadership are hypocritical, and he’s openly contemptuous of anyone who believes that the U.S. should try harder to live up to its ideals. If you want to understand what Trump believes, “to the victor goes the spoils” pretty much covers it. He means it in terms of his family, which continues to merge the presidency into its company brand all over the world, and he means it in terms of the United States, believing that this is the richest and most powerful nation on Earth and we can take whatever we want.

One of his goals is to “defeat ISIS.” And when he says defeat, he means to do whatever it takes to ensure it does not exist anymore. That does seem like a nice idea. After all, ISIS is an antediluvian, authoritarian death cult and the world would be better off without it. The question, of course, has always been how to accomplish such a thing.

Thoughtful people rationally understand that “defeating” radical extremism of any kind isn’t a matter of killing all the people. Indeed, the more extremists you kill, the more extremists you tend to create. But while Trump simply sees the world by playground rules, his consigliere Steve Bannon sees the threat of ISIS as a preordained apocalyptic confrontation between Western countries and the Muslim world. In a notorious speech he gave at the Vatican in 2014, Bannon put it this way:
We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict . . . to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
He has called Trump his “blunt instrument” to bring about this global conflagration. Bannon is now a member of the National Security Council and is said to be running a parallel national security agency called the Strategic Initiatives Group, which he has stacked with kooks who share his views. He is a powerful influence.

Trump has promised to take the gloves off, and I think we all know exactly what he meant by that. He said it many times during the campaign: He favors torture. And he reiterated it just last month in his interview with ABC’s David Muir saying, “When ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”

And Trump went on to grudgingly promise that he would listen to the secretary of defense and hold back on torture if that was his recommendation. But Trump also claimed that he’s talked to people at the highest levels of the intelligence community who told him that torture works like a charm. So we will have to see if the president is really able to restrain himself. (His CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, has been all for it in the past. Maybe they’ll simply decide to leave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis out of the loop.)

But what about Trump’s promises to “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil?” What about Bannon’s desire to bring on WorldWar III? Will that really happen? It might, and sooner than we think.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday:
More American troops may be needed in Syria to speed the campaign against the Islamic State, the top United States commander for the Middle East said on Wednesday.

“I am very concerned about maintaining momentum,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters accompanying him on a trip to the region.

“It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves,” he added. “That’s an option.”
Despite his unfounded reputation for isolationism, it’s obvious that Trump is itching for a war. Responding to a debate question about whether he would follow a military commander’s advice to put troops on the ground, Trump said, “We really have no choice; we have to knock out ISIS. We have to knock the hell out of them.” When asked how many troops he thought might be needed, he replied that the number he had heard was 20,000 to 30,000.

Nobody thought much of Trump’s bluster at the time. But now he’s in the White House with an apocalyptic crackpot whispering in his ear and generals on the ground talking about taking on “a larger burden.” Whether his administration’s military advisers, Defense Secretary Mattis and his newly installed national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, are as eager for this battle remains to be seen. But it appears that the two-thirds of Americans who are worried that we’ll be dragged into another war are anxious for good reason.

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Get ready for a two-thirds cut to EPA personnel

by Gaius Publius


Shiva the Destroyer as the cosmic dancer at CERN. Credit: Kenneth Lu (source; click to enlarge)


We've already seen several indications that EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, will be stripped of its mission — protecting the environment, including the climatic environment — and turned into a profit protection agency instead. At best, as I noted here, EPA would be reduced to a kind of janitor for the fossil fuel giants, "sweeping up after the energy industry's mess-making" as the toxic wastes, perhaps exponentially, increase.

We certainly know that Trump's new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has sued the agency many times to prevent it from doing its legally mandated job. For example, from as late as 2015, via TulsaWorld (my emphasis):
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sues EPA — again

He says the Clean Water rule is illegal and burdensome.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed another lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, this time over the definition of water.

Pruitt’s lawsuit, filed in Tulsa federal court, claims that a new rule promulgated June 29 illegally redefined the “waters of the United States” in a move that he described as executive overreach and flatly contrary to the will of Congress.

Pruitt claims that the EPA’s broad redefinition of long-standing regulatory jurisdiction places virtually all land and water under an untenable regulatory burden, according to a statement released by his office.

Respect for private property rights have allowed our nation to thrive, but with the recently finalized rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry and individual property owners will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound, and often byzantine regulatory regime of the EPA,” Pruitt said in the statement. “I, and many other local, state and national leaders across the country, made clear to the EPA our concerns and opposition to redefining the ‘Waters of the U.S.’
And:
This marks the second lawsuit in as many weeks Pruitt has filed against the EPA in Tulsa federal court. Last week, he asked a federal judge to halt the EPA’s plan to enact new rules designed to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt is also a party to several previous lawsuits challenging the EPA’s regulatory limits.
We're also due to find even more about Scott Pruitt now that literally thousands of emails from his time as Oklahoma Attorney General are starting (thanks to court orders) to be released and analyzed. 

Now that Pruitt is the nation's EPA Administrator, the nation will soon find itself swimming in waste. But via Joe Davidson in a the little-noticed piece at the Post's "Federal Insider" a few weeks ago, we learn that even worse may be in the works. Davidson writes:
Trump transition leader’s goal is two-thirds cut in EPA employees

The red lights are flashing at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The words of Myron Ebell, the former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team, warn employees of a perilous future. Ebell wants the agency to go on a severe diet.

It’s one that would leave many federal employees with hunger pains, and jobless, too.

Ebell has suggested cutting the EPA workforce to 5,000, about a two-thirds reduction, over the next four years. The agency’s budget of $8.1 billion would be sliced in half under his prescription, which he emphasized is his own and not necessarily Trump’s.

“My own personal view is that the EPA would be better served if it were a much leaner organization that had substantial cuts,” he said in an interview. Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a small-government think tank where he pushes the notion of “global warming alarmism” and against the science that says it’s a crisis. He acknowledges cutting 10,000 staffers might not be realistic, yet he sees that as an “aspirational goal. … You’re not going to get Congress to make significant cuts unless you ask for significant cuts.”
The argument, as always, is too much "regulatory overreach"...
One reason he favors such drastic cuts is that what he [Ebell] calls the EPA’s “regulatory overreach” would be much harder “if the agency is a lot smaller.”
...to which one critic of this proposal replied, "slashing staffing makes sense only if a safe environment is no longer important."

I guess for Trump and his wrecking crew, a safe environment (for us) is no longer important.

Get ready to go swimming in waste — and please don't blame Trump voters. We all got us to where we are, and we all have to work to get us all out again. Needless to say, for the resistance to have the largest good effect — and there are several bad ones — it must be as broad as possible.

This really is a crucial point; more on that in a bit.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP



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