Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Police Shootings By The Numbers

VICE News takes an in-depth look at the nation's 50 largest police departments and finds that police shootings are, quite literally, criminally under-reported by the cops.

An exclusive analysis of data from the 50 largest local police departments in the United States shows that police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known
Police shootings aren’t just undercounted — police in these departments shoot black people at a higher rate and shoot unarmed people far more often than any data has shown. Recent reform efforts have already worked to bring down police shootings, our investigation shows. Yet Attorney General Jeff Sessions is moving away from these reforms, to the dismay of advocates, experts, and some local law enforcement officials. 
VICE News examined both fatal and nonfatal incidents to determine that cops in the 50 largest local departments shot at least 3,631 people from 2010 through 2016. That’s more than 500 people a year. On more than 700 other occasions, police fired at citizens and missed. Two-thirds of the people cops fired at survived. 
In Los Angeles, an officer shot a 13-year-old boy playing with a replica gun, leaving him paralyzed. In Philadelphia, an off-duty cop shot his own son. Officers in Baltimore killed an off-duty colleague and struck three women with errant bullets while responding to a fight outside a nightclub. A cop in Seattle accidentally shot a teenage girl in the leg while drawing his gun; the teen was promptly arrested and jailed on an outstanding warrant.
Police shootings on the whole are rare, but experts say nonfatal shootings are just as important to understanding police violence as fatal encounters are. 
“We should know about how often it happens, if for no other reason than to simply understand the phenomenon,” said David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer and a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “How often is it that police are putting bullets in people’s bodies or trying to put bullets in people’s bodies?” 
After the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and other high-profile cases where police shot and killed unarmed black men, the Washington Post and the Guardian began keeping a running tally of fatal incidents. Then-FBI Director James Comey called the lack of federal data on police killings “embarrassing” and committed the agency to a new initiative to collect statistics from police departments. A handful of state and local agencies also made their data public. The Tampa Bay Times and the Texas Tribune counted all police shootings in Florida and the major cities in Texas. 
But just 35 police departments participate in the federal initiative today, out of 18,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies. And as VICE News found, some departments don’t have systems in place to track nonfatal shootings by their own officers. Others wouldn’t provide data on demographics or whether the people they shoot are armed, making it hard to judge why and how often cops use deadly force or the efficacy of reforms. 
Until now, there has never been a national reckoning of police shootings that includes Americans who are shot by cops and survive. 
VICE News’ investigation is the first attempt to count both fatal and nonfatal shootings by American police in departments across the country. The data isn’t comprehensive — it covers about 148,000 police officers who serve more than 54 million Americans — but it offers the most complete picture yet of when cops shoot and who they shoot. The national tally of police shootings beyond our data is likely far higher.

And yes, Jeff Sessions has already reversed many of these initiatives to the point where police shootings will only go far higher in the years ahead.

Black lives still matter, especially the ones that are taken by police and not recorded as such.  And there are many.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Last Call For It's Mueller Time

Panic mode is now settling in at the White House as Mueller is closing in on Trump and his family, and Trump's people know damn well their necks are on the block too. Trump's legal eagles are in way over their heads.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of a dozen-plus lawyers and investigators have proven stealthy in their wide-ranging Russia probe. They have surprised the White House with one indictment after another, and summoned President Trump’s confidants for lengthy interviews. In the case of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort alone, court filings show, they have collected more than 400,000 documents and 36 electronic devices. 
Mueller and his deputies are, in the fearful word of some Trump loyalists, “killers.” 
Trump’s response, by contrast, is being directed by John M. Dowd, the president’s personal lawyer retired from a large firm who works essentially as a one-man band, and Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who works out of a small office in the West Wing basement, near the cafeteria where staffers get lunch. 
Dowd and Cobb, along with attorney Jay Sekulow, serve not only as Trump’s lawyers but also as his strategists, publicists, therapists — and, based on Dowd’s claim that he wrote a controversial presidential tweet, ghostwriters. 
When Mueller requests documents, they provide them. When Trump reacts to new twists in the Russia saga, they seek to calm him down. When he has questions about the law, such as the Logan Act or Magnitsky Act, they explain it. And when the president frets that Mueller may be getting too close to him, they assure him he has done nothing wrong, urge him to resist attacking the special counsel and insist that the investigation is wrapping up — first, they said, by Thanksgiving, then by Christmas and now by early next year. 
As counsel for the world’s highest-profile client, every move and utterance by Dowd and Cobb has been scrutinized — and the criticism has been harsh. 
Many in the Washington legal community chide them as being indiscreet, error-prone and outmatched. They say public blunders — such as Dowd and Cobb casually chatting about their legal strategy on the patio of a downtown Washington steakhouse in September within earshot of a reporter — suggest a lack of discipline
Critics also question why, seven months into Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, they have not assembled a battalion of lawyers as former president Bill Clinton had when he was being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. And some Trump loyalists, spoiling for a fight, say the president’s lawyers should be combative rather than cooperative with Mueller. 
“There certainly have been gaffes,” said Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor who has won praise from Trump for his television appearances defending a president’s constitutional prerogative to fire his FBI director.

“These are not the kinds of things that one would expect from the most powerful man in America, who has a choice of anybody to be his defense counsel,” Dershowitz said. “Well — almost anybody,” he added, saying that he is not interested in the job.

Nobody wants to come in to quarterback the 0-10 franchise, guys.   But Trump wants better lawyers, so he's going to get them from the Justice Department.

Not ready to fire Mueller outright just yet, Trump's lawyers are settling for the next best thing: a new special counsel appointed to investigate the Mueller probe...and Hillary Clinton. It looks like this will be Trump's move against Mueller, with GOP blessing. Politico 2.0's Mike Allen (also 2.0 revision):

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election." 
Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate." 
Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump's lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him. 
In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia." 
Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, and insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and expect the president to be fully cleared early in the new year. 
Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some tell me that they assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant. 
Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."

With Trump's lawyers now calling for that second special counsel, I expect it will be appointed soon in order to try to muddy the waters.  It was one thing for rumors about another special counsel and for Lindsey Graham to grouse about it on Twitter, but for the President's lawyers to officially take that legal position means that this will most likely be going forward, and Republicans will applaud it. Lord knows Trump's current legal team is headed for destruction.

Luckily for Trump, if he does go through with this, he can rely on allies he can easily manipulate. Expect "both sides are now under investigation" stories and screaming by Trump that the FAKE NEWS isn't covering the second special counsel enough.  "Lock her up!" will be back in a big way in 2018 if what I suspect will happen does indeed materialize.

Most importantly, Republicans will say that Congress cannot act on Mueller's coming recommendations involving Trump/Russia until the second special counsel investigation is complete, and that will of course be long after the 2018 midterms next year.  It may not be done until after the 2020 election, even.  That's the best-case scenario for Trump under this.

It's very easy to imagine the Mueller probe relegated to political irrelevance in this fashion, especially if Trump manages to get his shooting war in Iran or North Korea next year, too.

Mueller doesn't have to be fired for the investigation to essentially disappear into the BOTH SIDES DO IT void of history.  Our press will most likely do it for us.

The Pope Of Kentucky

If you haven't heard the name Dan Johnson, you'd be forgiven.  But around Kentucky, the long-time preacher, self-promoter, political activist, avowed racist and now State Representative is in a lot of trouble.

Disavowed from the state GOP last year after making comically racist Facebook campaign posts, the people of Bullitt County south of Louisville elected him to the General Assembly anyway from the 49th state House district.  Johnson immediately filed legislation to outlaw abortion in the state and recently a bill to require pornography filters for all internet capable devices in the state that would require a $20 state fee to deactivate.  He's been a giant pain in the ass on the state since the word go.

But now Johnson is facing calls from both parties to resign after a new bombshell story that he molested a 17-year-old girl in 2012.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is calling on a GOP member of the Kentucky House of Representatives to resign from office following a news report Monday that revealed he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl in 2012. 
“Last October, after local media reports about reprehensible and racist posts on his Facebook page, we asked then-candidate Dan Johnson to drop out of the race for State Representative,” said Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Following today’s extensively sourced and documented story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, we once again find ourselves in a position where we must call for him to resign, this time, from the Kentucky General Assembly.” 
The Kentucky Democratic Party also called on Johnson to resign, saying “Kentucky families deserve better.” 
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, Rep. Johnson should step down immediately,” said Mary Nishimuta, executive director for the Kentucky Democratic Party. “This is indicative of a corrupt culture in Frankfort that the Republican party continues to accept.”
On New Year’s Eve in 2012, Dan Johnson, who was elected to the state House in 2016, allegedly forcibly kissed and digitally penetrated then 17-year-old Maranda Richmond, despite her asking him to stop, according to a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
Johnson, who goes by the nickname “Pope,” is the “bishop” of the Heart of Fire Baptist Church in Louisville. He now represents the 49th House District in a portion of Bullitt County. 
Richmond, who belonged to the church at the time, told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that she saw Johnson as a “second Dad.” 
Richmond went to police about the allegations in April 2013, according to KyCIR. After Richmond and her father Cliff failed to get Johnson to confess on tape, the Louisville Metro Police Department closed its case without ever interviewing Johnson, KyCIR reported. 
The LMPD has since reopened the case, according to KyCIR. 
Richmond and Johnson could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.

Considering sexual misconduct allegations have already cost the Kentucky GOP the job of former House Speaker Jeff Hoover just a few weeks ago, I can't imagine how Johnson survives this.  Racism is acceptable here in Kentucky.  Assaulting a 17-year-old girl, not so much.

By the way that Kentucky Center for Investigating Reporting story on Johnson is one of the most impressive pieces of journalism that I've read in a long time.  It's also very graphic, and Dan Johnson is extremely repugnant as a human being, so you've been warned.

Johnson said earlier today that he has no intention of resigning and plans on running for re-election in 2018, and that only God can judge him or something, so good luck with your pet racist pedophile there, Kentucky GOP.

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

If Roy Moore wins today in Alabama, he will do so in large part because of black voter suppression by the GOP in the state.  I talked about this two years ago, where Alabama required strict voter identification starting in 2012 and then closed all the drivers' license offices in the state's Black Belt in 2015.  Voting rights activist Scott Douglas details Alabama's plan to rob thousands of black voters of their voices and votes.

In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. But “voter impersonation” at polling places virtually never happens. The truth is that the lawmakers wanted to keep black and Latino voters from the ballot box. We know this because they’ve always been clear about their intentions
A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.” 
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves. 
Photo ID laws may seem innocuous. For many of us, it might be easy to take a few hours off from work, drive to the nearest department of motor vehicles office, wait in line, take some tests, hand over $40 and leave with a driver’s license that we can use to vote. But this requires resources that many rural, low-income people around the country simply do not have.

I work with poor, black Alabamians. Many of them don’t have cars or driver’s licenses and make under $10,000 a year. They cannot afford to pay someone to drive them to the motor vehicles or registrar’s office, which is often miles away. 
Photo ID laws are written to make it difficult for people like them to vote. And that’s exactly what happens. A study by Zoltan Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, comparing the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, found that the voter ID law kept black voters from the polls. After Alabama implemented its strict voter ID law, turnout in its most racially diverse counties declined by almost 5 percentage points, which is even more than the drop in diverse counties in other states
The study controls for numerous factors that might otherwise affect an election: how much money was spent on the races; the state’s partisan makeup; changes in electoral laws like early voting and day-of registration; and shifts in incentives to vote, like which party controls the state legislature. 
In Alabama, an estimated 118,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID they can use to vote. Black and Latino voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to lack such documentation. 
In other words, Alabama’s law is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color. That’s why my organization, Greater Birmingham Ministries, with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has sued the state to block the photo ID law. The case will go to trial in February. 
When the law was passed in 2011, it so reeked of discrimination that state politicians didn’t bother to submit it to the federal government for approval, as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required. For decades, Section 5 had acted as a crucial prophylactic, stopping discriminatory voting laws before any election. Instead the ID law remained dormant until June 2013, when the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County v. Holder suspended Section 5’s preclearance requirement.

It's all well and good to blame low black turnout for a Moore victory because that's going to be a factor in a spacial election like this, but people doing that without asking why that turnout is low are also part of the problem.

Moore's going to win, no doubt there, and GOP voter suppression laws were manufactured to keep just such a race from slipping to the Democrats.  It won't be the last, either.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Last Call For Chew On This, America

A third of Americans lack dental coverage, far more than lack health coverage, so here in the wealthiest, most prosperous country in human history, people like Shanda King camp out in parking lots a day in advance for a chance at getting their teeth looked at.

King, 41, couldn't believe it when a friend told her about the two-day mobile clinic held Saturday and Sunday at the Chua Viên Thông Tu Buddhist Temple in west Houston. Free medical care. Free vision screenings and prescription glasses. And, most important to King, free dental. 
This was the chance she'd been waiting for. To gain access to the Remote Area Medical clinic, she just needed to be one of the first 400 people in line before it opened 6 a.m. Saturday. 
King wasn't taking any chances. 
When she arrived at 4 p.m. Friday — a full 14 hours early — she was the first. Thirty minutes later, another car parked behind her outside the temple, a retired husband and wife who'd driven four hours from Dallas, hoping for new dentures. An hour later, another car pulled up, this one driven by a retail worker from Pearland who'd gone four years without new glasses. Then another, a 19-year-old construction worker from Dickinson who for more than a year had suffered the constant pain of an untreated toothache. 
By 3 a.m., a few dozen cars had lined up behind King, each carrying a story of despair.
Similar scenes play out every time Remote Area Medical arrives in a town. The Tennessee-based nonprofit, better known as RAM, has hosted similar clinics across the country, each time drawing massive crowds. In a country where more than 114 million people have no dental coverage — far more than the 28 million who lack medical coverage — RAM clinics and others like them are a lifeline for those most desperate for help. 
"There are tens of thousands of people in Houston who lack access to affordable care," said Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 and, of late, has made headlines by inviting President Donald Trump to attend one of his events. "No matter how much we talk about improving our health care system, unless we add vision and dental coverage, people will continue to be in pain and suffering." 
King has endured her share of pain and suffering, but she didn't want to dwell on her past as she waited at the front of the line Saturday morning. She leaned back in her driver's seat and tried to sleep, but she couldn't. She distracted herself by reading on her phone or listening to the radio, but mostly she just sat in silence, daydreaming. 
She thought about what her life would be like after RAM's volunteer dentists implanted bridges and crowns in her mouth to replace the teeth that she'd lost to tooth decay. She imagined how she'd look without the "ragged smile" that has made her embarrassed to even smirk in public. King described the hopeless cycle that's led her here: Without a steady job and dental coverage, she can't afford to see a dentist; as a result, her teeth look terrible, which makes it harder to land a job. 
She doesn't blame employers for passing her over after they see the gaps in her teeth. 
"A person's smile is like a window into their soul," King said around 4 a.m. "This is a chance for me to regain that and to start letting people see me for who I really am. This is my big break."

I agree with Erik Loomis on this, there's no greater indictment of American late-stage capitalism than a government that prioritizes tax cuts for billionaires and corporations over basic dental care.  The great breakdown is coming, millions of us living on the same cliff as Shanda King are going to go over the edge and the America that will follow will not be a pretty sight.

Yes, right now they are willing to vote for Trump and even fight for him.  Whether they are ready to die for Monsanto or Merck or Apple on the streets in a Great Depression is another matter entirely.  Some will.  I'm betting most won't.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Mueller probe is closing in on Trump, with multiple interviews of Trump regime staffers in the White House over the last several months.  The focus of those interviews, according to NBC News at least, is on the two-and-a-half weeks between when the FBI informed Trump that his national security adviser Michael Flynn was a massive security risk to the nation, and when Flynn was actually fired.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. 
The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. 
Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn. 
Some of those interviewed by Mueller's team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical to federal investigators trying to piece together a timeline of those 18 days. 
Neither McGahn's lawyer nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Special Counsel's office declined to comment.

It ain't the crime, as they say, but the cover-up.  The key to this is Sally Yates.

The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn's conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates's warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe. 
Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI on Jan. 24, an interview that took place the day after he was sworn in as national security adviser. 
Yates has testified to Congress that she informed McGahn on Jan. 26 that Flynn had not been truthful in statements to senior members of the Trump team, including Vice President Mike Pence, when he said he did not discuss U.S. sanctions with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Yates said Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by the Russians because he had lied about the contents of a phone call with Kislyak.

Yates was later fired by Trump.

Justice Department officials who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said they had expected the White House to fire Flynn on Jan. 26 upon learning that he had lied to the vice president. 
Instead, Trump fired Yates on Jan. 30, citing her refusal to enforce his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the U.S. Before she left, however, she made available, at McGahn's request, evidence she had that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Kislyak, according to her congressional testimony.

Again, if the Trump regime knew Flynn was a national security threat and it took almost three weeks to fire him because Trump was actively trying to cover up that assessment, then that's your obstruction charge right there.  Ball game.

And that's just the tip of this iceberg of toxic waste.  It also points the finger at what Mike Pence knew, meaning he too could go up on obstruction charges.  And speaking of toxic waste, it looks like it's Steve Bannon's turn on the carousel.

Bannon was a key bystander when Trump decided to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with foreign officials. He was among those Trump consulted before firing FBI Director James Comey, whose dismissal prompted Mueller’s appointment — a decision Bannon subsequently described to "60 Minutes" as the biggest mistake “in modern political history.” 
And during the campaign, Bannon was the one who offered the introduction to data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO has since acknowledged trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. 
Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner — who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team — or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections. 
People close to Bannon, who left the White House in August and returned to his former perch as head of Breitbart News, say he’s told them he doesn’t have a lawyer and isn’t worried about potential exposure. But others say it’s inevitable he’ll be called in as a witness in the ongoing investigations. He has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing or named as a target of the investigations.
Stay tuned.  The Trumpies are getting scared, so scared in fact that they are desperately trying to discredit Mueller and to goad Trump into firing him.  Trump's ham-fisted attempt to do so is coming very soon.

Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro called for the “cleansing” of law enforcement officials who are investigating the president on her show Saturday night. She said the FBI and Justice Department have too many "political hacks" embedded and called on a whole bunch of federal law enforcement officials to be arrested.

"There have been times in our history where corruption and lawlessness were so pervasive that examples had to be made. This is one of those times," she said. "I for one am tired of investigations, politicians posturing. Something more has to be done."

Pirro singled out Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI official Peter Strzok. Fox News opinion hosts have been using the discovery of “anti-Trump text messages” from Strzok as an excuse to undermine the entire Mueller investigation as corrupt.

“The stench coming out of the Justice Department and the FBI is like that of a third-world country where money and bullies and clubs decide election,” she said. “It all started with cardinal [James] Comey destroyed our FBI with political hacks to set events in motion to destroy the republic because they did not like the man we chose to be our president.”

Pirro called Comey a “political whore” during her show last week.

She continued on Saturday: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice — it needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in cuffs!

"Handcuffs for Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI. The man at the hub, protecting Hillary and attempting to destroy Trump."

Trump regime state TV calling for a mass purge of the FBI, but let's keep pretending that we're not headed for a near-guaranteed constitutional crisis and very possibly a bloody and violent one.  But that's what they want, of course.

And the Mueller probe rolls on.

The Deplorables Have Always Been There

Author and journalist Jared Yates Sexton grew up in rural Indiana and has a pretty good idea of how Donald Trump rose to power, his August 2017 book The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore is a solid account of the rise of the "deplorables" who, as Sexton reminds us this week at the Daily Beast, have always been with us.

My experiences on the 2016 campaign trail were pretty standard before I went to my first Donald Trump rally. Like others, I’d considered Trump to be a sideshow that would run its course before the field narrowed to more serious competitors. And, like others, I’d heard his speeches that ran around the clock on cable news and was certain someone expressing such vulgar and offensive ideas didn’t stand a chance of winning the office.

I was wrong.

Trump maintained his momentum in the polls largely because of his offensive statements. People like my family loved that he called Mexicans rapists, that he said African Americans are “living in hell,” that, at my first Trump rally, he rolled out his plan to ban Muslim immigrants. Here was a man who spoke their language. Here was a man who lived in their world.

For too long they’d been manipulated by a Republican Party that played on their worst fears but never intended to give them power. They’d voted out of fear for decades. Fear of African Americans. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the world changing. They supported Republicans even though, in their guts, they never trusted them. The GOP was the party of wealth, and many of them, like my family, had been raised to be suspicious of Republicans altogether.

Now, Donald Trump wasn’t just placating them, he was one of them. He said the things they said, believed the things they believed. His “tough talk” and “straight shooter” delivery sounded a lot like the racist and misogynistic conversations taking place at my family’s dinner table.

As a result, Trump dominated the Republican primary while his rallies turned into mobile safe spaces for people to be as ugly and offensive as they wanted.
Inside those rallies, Trump’s faithful were free to spout racial slurs, demean anyone they disagreed with, and call for political opponents to be locked up or hung. I heard them shout “hang Hillary,” or talk about Clinton being stood in front of a firing squad, some of them saying they’d like to fire the last shot or miming the pulling of a trigger. In other rallies, as the media ran stories detailing Trump’s scandals, they discussed how good it would feel to torture and ultimately murder journalists they believed to be traitors.

Meanwhile, the alt right, a group of white supremacists hiding behind the new, cleaned-up moniker of “white nationalists,” were gaining power and influence. In Cleveland, at the Republican National Convention, I saw rising stars of the alt-right flaunt their newfound stardom among the Republican faithful. They held packed events, partied until dawn, and toasted the death of the old guard.

My family bought in big. In addition to Trump signs and hats, they were on social media posting more racist memes, articles from Breitbart, the home of the alt-right, that regurgitated racist ideology. When Steve Bannon came on the campaign and leashed Donald Trump to teleprompters and his speeches, my family was absolutely hooked. The rhetoric he pushed, the soft appeal of white nationalism, was what they had been looking for, what they had been spouting, their entire lives.

Having grown up in small town NC and now living in Kentucky, I know the people Sexton is talking about. Donald Trump won in large part because he Made Racism Okay Again.  And even if he resigned tomorrow, the tens of millions who voted for him will expect their America to continue down this path of generational backlash against electing a black president.

And as Sexton says, these folks will always be with us.  Up until now we've been largely able to keep them out of power.  That has failed. There's a reason why Trump's domestic policy is "reverse everything Obama did and erase him from the history books".  It's what he wants, it's what Sexton's racist relatives want, it's what they voted for Trump to do, and he's doing it.

Somehow, people are still surprised by all this. And should America survive Trump, we'll have to deal with his voters too.  They will not go quietly either, not now.  It's going to be brutal, ugly, and bloody, and I don't think people are anywhere near prepared for what it will take to get things back to some semblance of pre-Trump normalcy.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Last Call For Haley And The Comments

After being made to look stupid and foolish by being the Trump regime grunt to float the notion that the US would be dropping out of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea in February because of "security issues with North Korea" (and totally not because Putin and the Russians were kicked out for doping and Russia demanded Trump abandon them in order to delegitimatize the Games) UN Ambassador Nikki Haley suddenly has an issue with her boss, the serial abuser of women.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday, in light of a growing number of probes into sexual misconduct against lawmakers, that "the time has come" to start bringing "a conscience" to the situation surrounding the treatment of women in the workplace as well as on Capitol Hill.

When asked what she thinks of the "cultural shift" taking place in the U.S., Haley said she is "incredibly proud of the women who have come forward." 
"I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage," Haley said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Haley's comments came after three lawmakers in one week, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, announced they would step down from office following allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. 
When asked to assess similar allegations of misconduct leveled against President Trump during the 2016 campaign, Haley replied, "Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with."

"I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up," she added.

Considering the White House's official position on the more than dozen women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct is "every single one of these women is lying and should not be believed" Haley's statement is a serious problem for the Trump regime now.

How much of a problem remains to be seen, but this is the first real crack in the unified regime defense of Trump's admitted sexual assault.  I have a feeling that the first woman that the regime will "hear and deal with" is Haley herself.

Meanwhile, Democrats are at least starting to say in the post-Franken era that Trump should actually resign, to his credit, Bernie Sanders did on Twitter last week but now NJ Dem Sen. Cory Booker has called for Trump to resign.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker called on President Donald Trump to resign Saturday night over the allegations of sexual harassment that have dogged him since the presidential campaign.

Booker made the comments at a campaign appearance in Alabama for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who is locked in a tight race against a Republican candidate facing his own allegations of sexual abuse, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. 
Sen. Al Franken resigned this week under growing pressure from members of his own party after multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. But Booker said Trump’s record was worse. 
“I just watched Sen. Al Franken do the honorable thing and resign from his office. My question is, why isn’t Donald Trump doing the same thing — who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward. The fact pattern on him is far more damning than the fact pattern on Al Franken,” Booker said in an interview with VICE News.

Oregon Dem. Sen Jeff Merkley is also calling for Trump's resignation.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley on Thursday called on President Trump to resign due to accusations by multiple women that Trump sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. 
"The president should resign because he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct," Merkley said during an appearance on MSNBC's Meet The Press. Merkley joins Sen. Bernie Sanders in calling for Trump to quit his office. Sanders said Thursday that Trump should "think about resigning" because he faces multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

This is a no-brainer for all Democrats in DC right now:  Al Franken and John Conyers (and Republican Trent Franks now) resigned over much less.  When does Trump step down?

Trump Cards, Con't

Earl Ofari Hutchinson makes the case that while 2017 has been an overall disaster for Trump and America, here in December Donald Trump is winning.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write and admit: Trump is winning. In the brief space of a week, he won a brief court fight to shove Mick Mulvaney to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney wasted no time in unhinging a spate of consumer protection rulings, regulations, and personnel hires made during the Obama years.

His SCOTUS pick, Neil Gorsuch, eagerly cast a vote to impose the Muslim travel ban. His EPA head, Scott Pruitt, delivered a couple million acres of public monument land in the West to oil, gas, and coal industry developers. Trump busily continues to pack the federal judiciary with a parade of ultra-conservative, strict, constructionist Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia clones.

He switched gears and backed alleged pedophile Alabama judge Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, who almost certainly will win. The Republican National Committee, which had practically declared Moore a pariah, quickly jumped in and said it would back him. He got another sweet perk when Senate Democrats turned with a vengeance on Minnesota Senator Al Franken and virtually ordered him out of office. His subsequent resignation got rid of a pesky thorn for Trump. Franken had a big voice, lots of name recognition and popularity, and was not afraid to take shots at Trump.

He pooh-poohed the guilty plea of his former National Security Advisor Mike T. Flynn as no big deal while shouting “no collusion, no collusion” and got away with it.

He got his tax heist for the rich and corporations through the Senate, and as an extra bonus, brought his long-held dream of dumping the Affordable Care Act closer to reality when the Senate tacked on a provision to the bill wiping out the mandate requirement. When the markets took another tick up he crowed even louder that he was the man who brought the good times rolling to America. As always, he did all this with the sheepish connivance of much of the mainstream media, which is always off to the races in giving round-the-clock coverage to his self-serving, vapid tweets as if they were the word from the Mount.

And Roy Moore's coming victory Tuesday will only make this worse.  There should be ten million people on the National Mall screaming for Trump's resignation.  There should be nationwide strikes grinding entire regions of the country to a halt.  There should be a National Day of Rage every day until Trump and the GOP are gone for good.

But we lost that chance.  We're just trying to make it to the next day, now.  We've been beaten down for so long and with such stunning force that any brief period where we're not being directly kicked in the crotch looks like a victory to us, and as Hutchinson points out, even if Trump resigned tomorrow, in less than eleven months he has done generational, if not lifetime damage to the country that we may never be able to fix.

We are now led by an "addled couch potato" who chain-slams a dozen Diet Cokes and 4-8 hours of FOX News daily and golfs all the time

We have no future but destruction.  It's just a question now of how awful the damage will be.

And 2018?  It will be worse.  Far worse.

Sunday Long Read: When Birth Becomes Death

Dr. Shalon Irving was a black research epidemiologist in Atlanta, her area of expertise focused on why black women in the United States have a maternal mortality rate so high that it approaches Mexico or Uzbekistan. She had friends, family, insurance, a good hospital, training to see issues, and yet three weeks after she gave birth to her daughter Soleil in February, she died.

She was far from being alone.

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortalityin the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; from 2001 to 2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

The disproportionate toll on African Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

What’s more, even relatively well-off black women like Shalon Irving die or nearly die at higher rates than whites. Again, New York City offers a startling example: A 2016 analysis of five years of data found that black college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school

The fact that someone with Shalon’s social and economic advantages is at higher risk highlights how profound the inequities really are, said Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who met her in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and was one of her closest friends. “It tells you that you can’t educate your way out of this problem. You can’t health-care-access your way out of this problem. There’s something inherently wrong with the system that’s not valuing the lives of black women equally to white women.”

For much of American history, these types of disparities were largely blamed on blacks’ supposed innate susceptibility to illness — their “mass of imperfections,” as one doctor wrote in 1903 — and their own behavior. But now many social scientists and medical researchers agree, the problem isn’t race but racism.

The systemic problems start with the type of social inequities that Shalon studied — differential access to healthy food and clean drinking water, safe neighborhoods and good schools, decent jobs and reliable transportation. Black women are more likely to be uninsured outside of pregnancy, when Medicaid kicks in, and thus more likely to start prenatal care later and to lose coverage in the postpartum period. They are more likely to have chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension that make having a baby more dangerous. The hospitals where they give birth are often the products of historical segregation, lower in quality than those where white mothers deliver, with significantly higher rates of life-threatening complications.

Those problems are amplified by unconscious biases that are embedded throughout the medical system, affecting quality of care in stark and subtle ways. In the more than 200 stories of African-American mothers that ProPublica and NPR have collected over the past year, the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme. The young Florida mother-to-be whose breathing problems were blamed on obesity when in fact her lungs were filling with fluid and her heart was failing. The Arizona mother whose anesthesiologist assumed she smoked marijuana because of the way she did her hair. The Chicago-area businesswoman with a high-risk pregnancy who was so upset at her doctor’s attitude that she changed OB-GYNs in her seventh month, only to suffer a fatal postpartum stroke. 

There are systemic biases in our medical system, just like there are in education, criminal justice, finance, and everything else.  And as it often is with black folks, that racism is fatal. The subject of black women and childbirth is actually much worse, because of how invisible black women are when it comes to policy in America. The deck is so stacked that we don't even think about it.

But it's there.  And it's one of the most egregious examples of institutionalized racism I've seen in America.  Black lives matter so little that they are snuffed out when giving birth.

The Darkest Timeline

I know at this point people are probably sick of hearing me compare the alt-right to the Nazi party of 1930's Germany but not only do they keep inviting the comparison, they revel in it

On the way to Richard Spencer’s top-secret white-supremacist conference on November 19, a young African-American woman drove me in her Uber from Washington, DC, to the rolling hills of Maryland horse country. On the peaceful drive past large, beautiful estates, she told me how she’d had to work three jobs—as a DHL courier, Amazon-warehouse deliverywoman, and Uber driver—just to continue to live in ever-more-expensive DC, where she’d grown up. When we finally got to the winery that Spencer’s National Policy Institute had booked, Mike Enoch of the Daily Shoah podcast, who promulgated the slur “dindu nuffins” for African Americans, was holding forth on the horrors of “corporate neoliberalism.” 
Then Eli Mosley of the campus group Identity Evropa, who calls Jews “oven-dodging…kikes,” took Enoch one further: “We need to be explicitly anti-capitalist. There’s no other way forward for our movement.” As 60 mostly young, male racists gathered around him, Mosley, whose real name is Elliott Kline, confidently predicted, “Twenty eighteen is going to be the year of leftists joining the white-nationalist movement!” 
These were clear examples of the alt-right’s seductive, and highly contradictory, new emphasis on economic issues. Fascism has often incorporated a pretense of holding “socialist” positions, but some members of the alt-right seem to genuinely believe that the racist state they’re fighting for will benefit what one recently called “the proletariat.” 
That same afternoon, in an interview in the winery’s unheated barn, Spencer said, “I support national health care. Becoming alt-right means…we have duties to our fellow [white] people. And the trillions spent in insane wars, I would much rather spend that on something that is immediately useful to whites.” About the concept of a guaranteed minimum income provided by the government, Spencer told me, “I actually really like this idea.” In the whites-only, Jews-out, no-votes-for-women ethnostate that he is trying to create, Spencer said, “We need to have a kind of altruism. We need to be willing to take care of people and not simply think of ourselves as individuals who can acquire as much wealth as possible.” 
A few minutes later, Spencer’s co-panelists told the gathering exactly who “the capitalists” and “the corporations” were who were hurting “the people”: “Jewish interests,” Enoch, whose real surname is actually Peinovich, enunciated deliberately. 
This cosmopolitan clique of elites!” he boomed, as Spencer giggled. “The left will not…name the people behind this…but we can!” he went on. “We can…speak for white Americans who don’t want to sacrifice any more of their children for Jewish wars!” 
Yes, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Trump’s bombing of Syria, had become “Jewish” wars to the white people in the barn, some of them veterans. To Enoch/Peinovich, it seemed that any unnecessary, unjust, or imperialist war had been secretly started by the Jews. 
“This rootless! cosmopolitan! clique!” Peinovich vociferated, as Spencer nodded vigorously and laughed. On Twitter and his podcasts, Peinovich frequently exhibits a sadistic streak when he goes after individual women, Jews, and people of color. On one podcast, he attacked criticisms of rape as “this bullshit fantasy of the media, academic elite.… It’s been done, it’s what happens.… Whatever.” But here, in addition to his usual violent bombast, Peinovich spoke with what appeared to be real passion about the enormous misery that George W. Bush’s wars had wrought. His voice quaking, the bearded founder of the white-nationalist blog The Right Stuff said, “I’m against these wars, which…are not [in] our interests.” Kline, an Army veteran, added, “You want to know why there’s so much PTSD, drug abuse, suicide…among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Because they come back and they don’t know why. ‘Why were we there, what did I do, why did my friends die?’ The answer is no more of these wars!” Then Kline screeched, “Jewish wars!” 
Next, the white nationalists went after the Trump-backed Republican tax plan. “We need to reduce taxes on the Apple Corporation that is sitting on $200 billion!” Spencer mocked the GOP. “They just don’t have enough money!” While Spencer blasted the plan as “stupid.…Reaganite nostalgia,” Peinovich talked about how hard it is to live in this culture, where “everything” runs the risk of getting “corporatized and capitalized.” The Upper East Sider said, sounding haunted, “Everything is empty and fake.… One of the great struggles that everyone has in this corporate neoliberal world is for meaning in their life. Our struggle provides that for us. Everything else is empty…but our movement.”

And this is why I shake my head when the left says "We need to emphasize the class struggle" and pretend racism and misogyny are ancillary to that, because there's a group already using that tactic and they're much more effective at selling it to the kind of folks that argument appeals to.

America 2017 as Germany 1937 is very, very apt.  And there's little to make me think America 2018 won't be Germany 1938, either. And I'm far from the only voice making this comparison.

Former President Barack Obama urged voters this week to stay engaged in democracy, warning that complacency was responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany. 
"You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we've seen societies where that happens," Obama said at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, according to video of the event. 
"Now, presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or '30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos," Obama said. "So you got to pay attention -- and vote."

I only hope we can find a way to derail these assholes, because if we don't do it and soon we're heading for absolute destruction.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

VICE News and HBO sent Republican pollster Frank Luntz to Alabama this week to talk to Moore voters, and to a person they believe the women that came forward to accuse Roy Moore of decades of sexual misconduct are all paid liars.

Twelve conservative voters gathered inside a Birmingham coffee house Thursday for a candid discussion about the Alabama senate race.

During the frank discussion, some said they were voting for him primarily because he is not Doug Jones. But other participants dismissed the allegations against Moore and excusing others by reasoning that behavior now seen as unacceptable wasn’t a problem in Alabama decades ago.

The panel was compiled and moderated by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster well known for arranging focus groups with GOP voters.

“Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lotta mamas and daddies that would be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney,” one voter said. “The women’s reputations were questionable at the time,” another voter said.

“There was still clothes on,” she added, dismissing allegations made by a woman who said Moore molested her when she was 14 years old. “As soon as the girl said she wasn’t comfortable, he took her home.”

If you want to know why I think Roy Moore will win easily on Tuesday, it's because white Republican "Christian" assholes like this are 100% motivated to show up at the polls to elect him, and by doing so "prove" they are right and that the "the liberals" are the liars and criminals here. 2016 proved hate voting beats logic in America now.

Being Doug Jones, a Democrat, was worse than being Roy Moore, accused child molester. Period.  Full stop. 

How can you possibly reach people like that?

The one thing I hope Democrats learn from Tuesday, whether Doug Jones win by some miracle of turnout or not, is that there are tens of millions of American voters that will never, under any circumstances, vote for the Democrats.

They are lost to you.  Stop pursuing them.  Get the people who you can still reach and get them to the polls.

The Prince Of Loot

I've talked several times on the blog about Erik Prince, the closest we've got to a James Bond villain/video game bad guy around, founder of Blackwater security and the kind of guy who has his own private army for hire.  He's neck deep in Russia too, having pitched his services to some of our friends in the Gulf and using his contacts there to arrange off-the-record meetings with Moscow. His sister, Betsy DeVos, married into the Amway fortune and is now Secretary of Education, and Erik wanted to hustle his way into replacing the US military in Afghanistan. 

It's that last part that the crew at BuzzFeed News have a story on this week, having obtained the presentation that Prince made to the US military and as you can probably expect from a mercenary warlord literally named Prince, it's all about looting the country.

Controversial private security tycoon Erik Prince has famously pitched an audacious plan to the Trump administration: Hire him to privatize the war in Afghanistan using squads of "security contractors." Now, for the first time, Buzzfeed News is publishing that pitch, a presentation that lays out how Prince wanted to take over the war from the US military — and how he envisioned mining some of the most war-torn provinces in Afghanistan to help fund security operations and obtain strategic mineral resources for the US. 
Prince, who founded the Blackwater security firm and testified last week to the House Intelligence Committee for its Russia investigation, has deep connections into the current White House: He’s friends with former presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, and he’s the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary. 
Prince briefed top Trump administration officials directly, talked up his plan publicly on the DC circuit, and published op-eds about it. He patterned the strategy he's pitching on the historical model of the old British East India Company, which had its own army and colonized much of Britain's empire in India. "An East India Company approach," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support." 
But the details have never been made public. Here is the never-before-published slide presentation for his pitch, which a source familiar with the matter said was prepared for the Trump administration.

One surprising element is the commercial promise Prince envisions: that the US will get access to Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, used in batteries; uranium; magnesite; and "rare earth elements," critical metals used in high technology from defense to electronics. One slide estimates the value of mineral deposits in Helmand province alone at $1 trillion. 
The presentation makes it plain that Prince intends to fund the effort through these rich deposits. His plan, one slide says, is "a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle." The slides also say that mining could provide jobs to Afghans.

It's the best of "the oil will pay for the war!" days of Dubya.  Only it's rare earth metals.

And man, this slide show is something.

"What is laid out in the slides is a model of an affordable way for the US to stabilize a failed state where we are presently wasting American youth and tens of billions of dollars annually," a Prince spokesperson emailed BuzzFeed News Thursday.

Defense Secretary James Mattis “did meet with Mr. Prince earlier this year,” a Defense Department spokesperson said. “He meets with people all the time to listen and hear new ideas.” The CIA declined to comment. It’s been widely reported that the Pentagon pushed back against Prince’s concept, and that national security adviser H.R. McMaster was opposed to it as well. 
Prince currently runs a Chinese security and logistics company, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported. Still, in his pitch to America's policymakers, he plays the US against China. One slide, devoted to "market manipulation in rare earth elements," presents China as dominating the market for the valuable minerals. 
Ironically, the statement from Prince's spokesman that said Prince's Chinese company, Frontier Services Group, would participate in the Afghanistan plan, and "would provide logistics support to the extractive firms with secure transportation and camp support."

Not only will Prince help you get the loot, he'll help you move it as well.  I mean mercenary armies already have to be pretty good at large-scale logistics, right?  For a percentage of the take, that is.

A pretty good scam if you ask me.  Guess Trump didn't get enough of the pie to pursue it.  He's all about real estate, not commodities.  Can't build a luxury hotel on a strip mine, ya know.  Bad neighborhood.

The Shine Comes Off The Orange

The latest comprehensive polling from Pew Research shows Donald Trump is in far worse position than he was in February.  In other words, Trump being in the mid-40s was, as many of us predicted, the high point of the regime's popularity.

Trump’s job rating of 32% is lower than those of recent presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan near the end of their first year in office. In follow-up questions, those who approve of Trump were asked if he has done things that have disappointed them, while those who disapprove (63% of the public) were asked if he has done things they have been happy with. 
Overall, 37% of Trump approvers cite something Trump has done to disappoint them (62% say they can’t think of anything). In December 2009, by comparison, somewhat fewer (30%) of those who approved of Barack Obama’s job performance said there was something Obama had done that had made them unhappy; at the time, Obama’s job approval was 49%. 
The criticisms raised by Trump supporters are quite different from those cited by Obama’s backers eight years ago. About a quarter (26%) say they have been disappointed by aspects of Trump’s personal style, with 14% specifically mentioning his use of Twitter or social media. An identical share (14%) points to his behavior or speech. Only 13% of those who approve of Trump cite a disappointment related to policy. 
In December 2009, disappointments among those who gave Obama a positive job rating were mostly about policies, not Obama’s personal style. Just 5% of those who approved of Obama cited an aspect of Obama’s personality or style, while 29% said they had been disappointed by policies such as Afghanistan or health care. 
Among the majority of Americans who disapprove of Trump’s job performance, 14% say there is something he has done that they have been happy with (84% say they are unable to think of anything). The most frequent responses focus on Trump’s domestic policies (8%), while just 3% mention his personal style. Eight years ago, a higher share of those who disapproved of Obama (24%) said there was something they had been happy with; as with Trump, most who disapproved of Obama’s job performance in 2009 cited policies, rather than his style, as what they had been happy with.

But the most interesting part is that Trump is starting to lose his core supporters.  After all, he doesn't have much of anyone else to lose as his numbers keep dropping.

Since February, Trump’s job approval has ticked down among Republicans, Republican leaners

You catch that?  Trump has a big drop with moderate Republicans,  losing 16 points with them down to 55% approval.    He's also lost a huge chunk, 17 points, with white evangelical Christians, down from 78% approval to 61%.

But he's now underwater with non-college white voters, down from 56% to 46%.  That's the big one.

And that overall 32% approval rating?  Trump is the least-liked president in generations.  Here's the thing though, there's room for it to fall even further should Mueller drop the hammer.

Of course, there's also plenty of room for a Dubya-style boost into the 70-80% range should we end up in a Great Patriotic War or something.  If there's anyone left after the bombs drop to praise him, that is.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Time for our pretty regular Friday round-up of this week's news dumps on Trump/Russia collusion, and once again our star is America's favorite knucklehead son, Donald Trump Jr.  Young Donnie can't seem to tell the truth, and he was grilled this week by the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, and the conversation was on Donald Trump Jr's conversations with WikiLeaks.  CNN posted a story on an email Junior got on it, but The Washington Post followed up on the CNN story, clarifying that the email in question was sent September 104h, not on September 4th of last year, meaning it was after the DNC leak was made public.

A 2016 email sent to President Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier. 
The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and included a link and a “decryption key,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. 
The writer, who said his name was Michael J. Erickson and described himself as the president of an aviation management company, sent the message to the then-Republican nominee as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers.
The day before, WikiLeaks had tweeted links to what the group said was 678.4 megabytes of DNC documents. 
The full email — which was first described to CNN as being sent on Sept. 4, 10 days earlier — indicates that the writer may have simply been flagging information that was already widely available.

The message also noted that information from former secretary of state Colin Powell’s inbox was available “on” That development, too, had been publicly reported earlier that day. 
Alan S. Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr., described it as one of “a ton of unsolicited emails like this on a variety of topics.” 
Futerfas said Erickson was unknown to Trump Jr. or the campaign. The message was one of thousands turned over to the House Intelligence Committee and others investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, emails that included spam and junk emails. Trump Jr. was asked about the email Wednesday, when he spent about seven hours behind closed doors answering questions from members of the committee. 
“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said. “It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email.” 
Futerfas said that he and Trump Jr. had been required to surrender their electronic devices during the interview for security reasons. He expressed anger that details of the session leaked out before it had even concluded.

“We are concerned that these actions, combined with the deliberate and misleading leak of a meaningless email, undermines the credibility of the serious work the House Intelligence Committee is supposedly undertaking,” he said.

And while CNN definitely got it wrong (again) it doesn't change the fact that the Trumps are in real trouble.  Meanwhile, Jon Chait believes the Mueller firing is imminent:

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s carelessness and has also worked for Mueller. 
His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions. 
When Mueller was appointed, legal scholars debated whether Trump had the technical authority to fire him, but even the majority who believed he did assumed such a power existed only in theory. Republicans in Congress, everyone believed, would never sit still for such a blatant cover-up. 
Josh Blackman, a conservative lawyer, argued that Trump could remove the special counsel, but “make no mistake: Mueller’s firing would likely accelerate the end of the Trump administration.” Texas representative Mike McCaul declared in July, “If he fired Bob Mueller, I think you’d see a tremendous backlash, response from both Democrats but also House Republicans.” Such a rash move “could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed. 
In August, members of both parties began drawing up legislation to prevent Trump from sacking Mueller. “The Mueller situation really gave rise to our thinking about how we can address the current situation,” explained Republican senator Thom Tillis, a sponsor of one of the bills. By early autumn, the momentum behind the effort had slowed; by Thanksgiving, Republican interest had melted away. “I don’t see any heightened kind of urgency, if you’re talking about some of the reports around Flynn and others,” Tillis said recently. “I don’t see any great risk.” 
In fact, the risk has swelled. Trump has publicly declared any investigation into his finances would constitute a red line, and that he reserves the option to fire Mueller if he investigates them. Earlier this month, it was reported that Mueller has subpoenaed records at Deutsche Bank, an institution favored both by Trump and the Russian spy network.

Both the Strzok poutrage and Deutsche Bank financial dealings lead Chait to believe that this is a concerted effort to influence Trump to pull the trigger on his Saturday Night Massacre, and a GOP that not only blithely accepts Roy Moore but actively champions him won't take any action whatsoever when he does.

If that's the case, it's a good think Mueller is taking precautions.

As Mueller’s probe has gotten closer to Trump’s inner orbit, speculation has risen over whether Trump might find a way to shut it down. The Flynn deal may make that harder. For one thing, it shows that Mueller is making progress. “Any rational prosecutor would realize that in this political environment, laying down a few markers would be a good way of fending off criticism that the prosecutors are burning through money and not accomplishing anything,” says Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor now at Duke Law School.

The Flynn plea also makes it difficult for Trump to fire Mueller without inviting accusations of a cover-up and sparking a constitutional crisis, says Michael Weinstein, a former Department of Justice prosecutor now at the law firm Cole Schotz. “There would be a groundswell, it would look so objectionable, like the Saturday Night Massacre with Nixon,” Weinstein says, referring to President Richard Nixon’s attempt to derail the Watergate investigation in 1973 by firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox. 
Even if Mueller goes, his team is providing tools that other prosecutors or investigators can use to continue inquiries. Flynn’s deal requires him to cooperate with state and local officials as well as with federal investigators. That includes submitting to a polygraph test and taking part in “covert law enforcement activities.” Mueller also has provided a road map to state prosecutors interested in pursuing money laundering charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. 
Mueller’s case against Manafort lays out a series of irregular wire transfers made from Manafort’s bank accounts in Cyprus to a variety of companies in the U.S. The sums that Manafort transferred suggest the possibility that some of the money was diverted for other purposes. Mueller stopped short of filing charges related to where the money went. But by including the details in his indictment, he left open the possibility of bringing charges in a follow-up indictment and perhaps left breadcrumbs for state authorities to pursue.

Mueller's not stupid, he knows Trump is going to try to fire him and end the investigation.  I'm confident he has mutually assured destruction tactics set up just in case.

Let Them Eat Austerity

With Republicans feeling very confident now that they can pass their horrid tax scam bill, talk is moving towards the long-predicted other shoe dropping: Paul Ryan's cruel and draconian austerity budget for 2018.  Republicans are feeling so confident right now that Ryan is openly saying now that he will destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and federal welfare programs and he fully expects to make it happen.

The House GOP caucus plans to work on entitlement reform next year as a way to "tackle the debt and the deficit," according to House Speaker Paul Ryan. 
Speaking to Ross Kaminsky on his talk radio show, the Wisconsin Republican said Wednesday that the House would be working to reform health care entitlements in 2018, calling them "the big drivers of our debt," during a discussion about the Republican tax bill. 
"Tax reform grows the economy," Ryan said. "So we basically planned in this term three big budget bills: two entitlement reform bills, one economic growth tax reform bill. The first one passed the House, failed the Senate, this one, both tax bills have passed the House and the Senate, we're on track with that, and then next year we're going to have to get back at entitlement reform." 
Ryan specifically mentioned Medicare as being the "biggest entitlement that's got to have reform." 
"Really, what it is is we need to convert our health care system to a patient-centered system, so that people have more choices, we have more competition," Ryan later said. 
Ryan also noted that, in addition to health care, the GOP plans to work on reforming the US welfare system
"We think it's important to get people from welfare to work," Ryan said. "We have a welfare system that's basically trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work, and we've got to work on that." 
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to Ryan's comments critically on Twitter, arguing that the Republican Party planned to pay for its tax bill with cuts to entitlements. 
"There it is. Paul Ryan just admitted that after providing $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1% and large corporations, Republicans will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and help for the most vulnerable Americans," Sanders wrote.

I have plenty of problems with Sanders, but he's 100% right about Ryan's plans.  As it is the GOP tax bill will make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over the next decade, and Republicans will not stop the carnage there.  Anyone my age or younger can forget about retirement or health care at age 70, and that's if we make it there at all.

This is why tens of millions of Americans, including myself, said that we needed Hillary Clinton to stop Ryan and the GOP from doing exactly what they are planning right now. Another four years of gridlock would be preferable to Ryan's scorched earth economics and trillion in austerity spending cuts.

Instead, America said "Hey, let's elect Trump, he's a populist.  He won't screw us over."

Still feeling good about that choice, guys?
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