Monday, August 21, 2017

Two Comedy Giants Pass On

Over the weekend the world lost not one but two comedy greats, with over a century of combined work between them.  First, legendary civil rights activist, author, satirist and stand-up comedian Dick Gregory passed at the age of 84.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who broke barriers in the 1960s and became one of the first African-Americans to perform at white clubs, died Saturday. 
He was 84. 
Gregory recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta because he was hospitalized. He died in Washington, his son posted on social media without giving details. 
"The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time," Christian Gregory said. "More details will be released over the next few days." 
Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts, and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

Dick Gregory paved the way for pretty much every black comedian in America these days, from Cosby to Chappelle, from Pryor to Rock and everyone in between.  He was also a prolific author and activist and spoke out on injustice up until his death.  Comedy, sometimes biting and savage, sometimes subtle and thought-provoking, was his weapon of choice to change American hearts and minds.  If you can make a person laugh, you can make them understand a lot of things.  Dick Gregory will sorely be missed.

The other comedic legend that left us this weekend was none other than the legendary Jerry Lewis, who I had more than a few issues with.

Jerry Lewis, the brash slapstick comic who became a pop culture sensation in his partnership with Dean Martin and then transformed himself into an auteur filmmaker of such comedic classics as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy,” has died in Las Vegas. He was 91.

Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning, his agent confirmed.

For most of his career, Lewis was a complicated and sometimes polarizing figure. An undeniable comedic genius, he pursued a singular vision and commanded a rare amount of creative control over his work with Paramount Pictures and other studios. He legacy also includes more than $2.5 billion raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the annual Labor Day telethon that he made an end-of-summer ritual for decades until he was relieved of the hosting job in 2011.

But Lewis’ brand of humor did not always wear well as times and attitudes changed. Over the last 10 years of his life, his reputation soured slightly as he was forced to apologize for making a gay slur on camera during the 2007 telethon, continued to make racist and misogynistic jokes, and didn’t hesitate to share his right-wing political views.

Lewis too paved the way for a lot of comics, and there's no doubt his work and his charity left a huge mark on the world, but it also left a darker stain because of his problems.  He was definitely a product of his age, and a world with President Obama didn't exactly sit well with him and he made damn sure everyone knew it.

In a way, Gregory and Lewis were opposites.  Sometimes humor can change minds for the better, and sometimes it can be hurtful.  That they both passed on the same day is about as American as coincidences get.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Last Call For Running A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Staffers from Obama agencies are getting involved in running for Congress, and given how many Republicans ran unopposed in the House in the last midterm cycle in 2014 (30 House, and Jeff Sessions in the Senate) it's good to see Democrats lining up to take on Trump regime Republicans.

Some House races have even drawn multiple former Obama hands into the arena. In Texas, former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough and ex-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have lined up behind Ed Meier, a former State Department official, while ex-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is backing his former employee, Colin Allred, who was also an Obama White House intern and professional football player. Meier and Allred are competing in a crowded primary to take on Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who didn’t attract a single Democratic opponent last year.

Alums of Obama’s State and Veterans Affairs departments are also among nine candidates facing off for the Democratic nomination in a Northern Virginia battleground district. And outside Detroit, the former chief of staff for the Obama administration’s auto bailout raked in donations from a host of former White House officials to get her campaign off the ground.

“What drew them to the Obama world are the same qualities that make them want to run for office,” said Erik Smith, a former Obama presidential campaign consultant. “But their participation is accelerated as the Obama diaspora moved home — more so since some would’ve stayed under a Democratic administration — and with Obama’s call to action in their heads, it drove people to run earlier than they would’ve otherwise.”

They're also getting the money to take the fight to the GOP from fellow Obama folks.

Fundraising disclosures for these candidates are littered with familiar Obama-era names: Antony Blinken, Obama’s deputy secretary of state; Tara McGuinness, a senior White House communications adviser; Cheryl Mills, former State Department counselor to Secretary Hillary Clinton; and Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, all gave to various congressional candidates who worked in the Obama administration. Donors hail from all parts of the administration, from agencies to inside the White House.

They’re giving to candidates like Andy Kim, who served on Obama’s NSC and is challenging New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur. In Michigan, Elissa Slotkin, a former Defense Department official, is running against Rep. Mike Bishop, and Haley Stevens, who helped administer the bailout of the automotive industry, is taking on GOP Rep. Dave Trott.

Lindsey Davis Stover, who served in the Department of Veterans Affairs under Obama, is in a nine-way primary to take on Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, which also features former State Department official Alison Kiehl Friedman. This week, another administration official — former Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador Dan Baer — started a campaign for an open seat outside Denver.

“Being on people’s radar — who either know me or are one degree away from me and who know this campaign world and know that money makes a difference and that you need resources to put up the fight — is a really wonderful resource,” said Kim, whose opponent MacArthur is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. “The reality is that money is important as a first-time candidate.”

And of course the next question is "What about state races?"  Yep. Gotcha covered.

It’s not limited to congressional candidates. Further down the ballot, Buffy Wicks, who helped craft Obama’s grass-roots-centric presidential campaigns and served in the White House, is running for a Berkeley-based state Assembly seat in California.

Her early donors include both of Obama’s presidential campaign managers, David Plouffe and Jim Messina, as well as a host of other colleagues from 2008 and 2012.

Informal listservs started by various Obama officials spread campaign announcements and donation requests. The Obama Alumni Association, which doesn’t endorse candidates, regularly sends emails to “update you on Obama alumni who are running for office," adding that it’s “thrilling to see so many alums willing to run, just as Barack Obama did more than 20 years ago.” In its July email, it flagged 23 new candidates.

“There’s no doubt we’ll see Obama alums run at a much higher rate in 2018 and 2020,” said Brent Colburn, a former Obama campaign and administration official who has hosted candidate meet-and-greets in the San Francisco Bay area.

Even those of us who aren’t running are looking for ways we can give back and support the legacy of the president, so you’re not only seeing more people likely to run, but there’s also more of us who are more likely to hold fundraisers, host events for candidates and connect people to contacts in our network,” Colburn said.

I can't stress how much of a great idea this is.  I also sense President Obama's hand informally behind this as well.  The Dems need to run folks outside Obama's network too, in places where Obama had trouble, yes.  But Dems also need to go after the places Barack Obama did well in too.

We need both, and I'm glad to see Obama alumni are holding up their end of the deal.   The win the House back, we have to field candidates, period.  No more freebies for the GOP.

The Dog Days Of Trump's Summer

Once again it's important to remember that Trump's constant garbage is just that: constant.  We keep moving on to his next daily outrage on a regular basis, but those outrages individually add up to a man who will easily go down as the worst in history.

Easily the worst. And it's been only seven months.

Sunday Long Read: A New World Record

Forty years ago this month, NASA sent Voyager I into the stars, with Voyager II following the month after, and probably the most famous passengers aboard each probe are a pair of golden record discs that contain sights and sounds of Earth.  Our Sunday Long Read is Timothy Ferris's New Yorker piece on the story of the creation of those records, and how they came to represent an entire planet.

I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He’d sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we’d listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.

In the winter of 1976, Carl was visiting with me and my fiancée at the time, Ann Druyan, and asked whether we’d help him create a plaque or something of the sort for Voyager. We immediately agreed. Soon, he and one of his colleagues at Cornell, Frank Drake, had decided on a record. By the time nasa approved the idea, we had less than six months to put it together, so we had to move fast. Ann began gathering material for a sonic description of Earth’s history. Linda Salzman Sagan, Carl’s wife at the time, went to work recording samples of human voices speaking in many different languages. The space artist Jon Lomberg rounded up photographs, a method having been found to encode them into the record’s grooves. I produced the record, which meant overseeing the technical side of things. We all worked on selecting the music.

I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.) Second, Lennon’s trick of etching little messages into the blank spaces between the takeout grooves at the ends of his records inspired me to do the same on Voyager. I wrote a dedication: “To the makers of music—all worlds, all times.”

To our surprise, those nine words created a problem at nasa. An agency compliance officer, charged with making sure each of the probes’ sixty-five thousand parts were up to spec, reported that while everything else checked out—the records’ size, weight, composition, and magnetic properties—there was nothing in the blueprints about an inscription. The records were rejected, and nasa prepared to substitute blank discs in their place. Only after Carl appealed to the nasaadministrator, arguing that the inscription would be the sole example of human handwriting aboard, did we get a waiver permitting the records to fly.

In those days, we had to obtain physical copies of every recording we hoped to listen to or include. This wasn’t such a challenge for, say, mainstream American music, but we aimed to cast a wide net, incorporating selections from places as disparate as Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Congo, Japan, the Navajo Nation, Peru, and the Solomon Islands. Ann found an LP containing the Indian raga “Jaat Kahan Ho” in a carton under a card table in the back of an appliance store. At one point, the folklorist Alan Lomax pulled a Russian recording, said to be the sole copy of “Chakrulo” in North America, from a stack of lacquer demos and sailed it across the room to me like a Frisbee. We’d comb through all this music individually, then meet and go over our nominees in long discussions stretching into the night. It was exhausting, involving, utterly delightful work.

In selecting Western classical music, we sacrificed a measure of diversity to include three compositions by J. S. Bach and two by Ludwig van Beethoven. To understand why we did this, imagine that the record were being studied by extraterrestrials who lacked what we would call hearing, or whose hearing operated in a different frequency range than ours, or who hadn’t any musical tradition at all. Even they could learn from the music by applying mathematics, which really does seem to be the universal language that music is sometimes said to be. They’d look for symmetries—repetitions, inversions, mirror images, and other self-similarities—within or between compositions. We sought to facilitate the process by proffering Bach, whose works are full of symmetry, and Beethoven, who championed Bach’s music and borrowed from it.

I’m often asked whether we quarrelled over the selections. We didn’t, really; it was all quite civil. With a world full of music to choose from, there was little reason to protest if one wonderful track was replaced by another wonderful track. I recall championing Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night,” which, if memory serves, everyone liked from the outset. Ann stumped for Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” a somewhat harder sell, in that Carl, at first listening, called it “awful.” But Carl soon came around on that one, going so far as to politely remind Lomax, who derided Berry’s music as “adolescent,” that Earth is home to many adolescents. Rumors to the contrary, we did not strive to include the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” only to be disappointed when we couldn’t clear the rights. It’s not the Beatles’ strongest work, and the witticism of the title, if charming in the short run, seemed unlikely to remain funny for a billion years.

The Golden Anniversary edition of the Voyage Golden Record is out, by the way, to celebrate these songs.   Good listening anywhere in the universe.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Last Call For Beantown Roasters

So Donald Trump's "fine people" from Charlottesville showed up in Boston on Saturday and the result was about 150-200 white supremacists and about 40,000 annoyed Bostonians who decided to heckle them like a guy in a Yankees jersey at Fenway Park.

One week after violent protests rattled Charlottesville, Virginia, a scheduled free speech rally in Boston today was met with thousands of counterprotesters, but the day went off mostly smoothly, police said, with 33 arrests but few injuries.

The free speech rally was deemed "officially over" by police ahead of its official end time, but thousands of counterprotesters continued to spread out in the city throughout the afternoon, with some protesting peacefully but others confronting officers and people.

A total of 33 arrests were made today, mostly from disorderly conduct and a few assaults on police officers, the Boston Police Department announced. Police Commissioner William Evans said at a news conference this afternoon that some urine-filled bottles were thrown at officers, and police indicated on Twitter that some demonstrators were throwing rocks at police.

But for the most part, Evans said, the day of direct action went off smoothly as police planned, with very little injury and property damage.

"Overall I thought we got the First Amendment people in, we got them out, no one got hurt, no one got killed," he said.

Police did stop three people with ballistic vests and a gun, Evans said, "but we were lucky to get those three out of here and confiscate the vests."

Evans said roughly 40,000 people descended on Boston today, "standing tall against hatred and bigotry in our city, and that's a good feeling." He added that he wished the "trouble makers stayed away," who he said weren't there for either the free speech side or the counterprotesters' side, but "were here just to cause problems."

Evans said that "99.9 percent of the people here were for the right reasons -- that's to fight bigotry and hate."

Well done, Beantown.  Well done.

The Never Trump Illusion

Here's my problem with "Never Trump" conservative Republicans like the Daily Beast's Matt Lewis, who rips into his fellow GOP voters for supporting Trump:

Whether Trump is obfuscating about Russia, failing to specifically condemn racism and white nationalism in Charlottesville, Virginia, opining about the beauty of Confederate memorials, or attacking fellow Republicans (the list is long and includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sen. Jeff Flake), his administration is an utter disaster for the GOP and the cause of conservatism.

This is especially amazing when you consider the GOP controls all levers of power (talk about missed opportunities!), the economy seems to be humming along, and (knock on wood) Trump’s foreign policy of peace through saber-rattling is, for now, working.

Now look, I realize that a lot of good Republicans voted for someone other than Trump in the GOP primary. Further, I realize that Trump lost the popular vote in the general election. So I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush when I say that you were warned about this man—and you ignored our warnings. We were right; you were wrong.

The masses, it turns out, sometimes are asses. Sometimes the people who actually pay close attention to politics know more than the disgruntled populists and nationalists who are willing to gamble on the future of this great republic—and on the reputation of a conservative philosophy that goes from Aristotle to Burke to Buckley—in order to boost a reality show host. You elected your guy, and look where it got us.

Congratulations, or something.

Somebody has told Lewis that 1) there is no way that any Republican will ever be able to divorce themselves from being the party of Trump right now and that 2) they're the side that's winning, right?

He has the same problem Ben Sasse has, as Steve M points out.  There's no "disengagement" from this monster.

What Sasse doesn't understand is that we're not going to have "an orderly debate." Defenders of these monuments aren't going to limit themselves to peaceful discussion of the question. If it's agreed that the monuments have to come down, they're not going to accept the outcome. And I'm not just referring to white nationalists -- in many cases, state law prevents cities from removing Confederate monuments or changing street names. What's the point of "orderly debate" if localities can't make their own decisions?

Sasse proceeds to defend Trump against liberals and members of the media who are presumed to hold extreme positions, although Sasse offers no evidence that they do.

This is what America is now in 2017.

Sasse is savvy and ambitious. He's going to run for president eventually, and he's very determined to make a name for himself now. I appreciate the fact that he expresses anti-racist sentiments, but over the years a lot of national Republicans have been overtly anti-racist while supporting vote suppression, brutal law enforcement policies, and scapegoating and stereotyping of non-whites as criminals and "takers" of public assistance. Moreover, the party has allowed its messaging to be disseminated primarily on Fox News and talk radio, which vacillate between racist dog whistles and more overt appeals to racial fear and anger. And, of course, the party -- with Sasse admittedly one of the few exceptions -- rallied behind a birther who's now president.

If Republicans reject all that -- or if Sasse and others reject the Republican Party because it won't -- then we can have a civilized discussion of race. But we can't have one before then. 

The bad guys are in charge.  Sasse, Lewis, and countless other "Never Trumpers" built this creation and it is currently destroying America.  I don't blame Trump for being Trump any more than I blame the nature of the scorpion to sting.  I blame the Republicans like Lewis and Sasse who take zero responsibility for their part in putting Trump in the White House by shifting the GOP fully to being the party of not just white resentment, but white power.

Until they start with that admission, nothing will change.  Republicans can't do anything about impeaching and removing Trump from office until they admit they are the guilty ones.

Trading Blows With The Dragon

Don't look now, but it looks like on top of everything else, the Trump regime just started a trade fight with China over intellectual property.

The US has initiated an investigationn into China's theft of US intellectual property (IP) using Section 301 US Trade Act of 1974. 
That may sound like a bunch of jargon, but what it boils down to is that the US just fired the first shot in a trade war with China. 
"On Monday, President Trump instructed me to look into Chinese laws, policies, and practices which may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development," said Ambassador Robert Lighthizer in a statement on the US Trade Representative website. 
"After consulting with stakeholders and other government agencies, I have determined that these critical issues merit a thorough investigation. I notified the President that today I am beginning an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974."

China sees the use of Section 301 as an act of aggression because it allows the president of the United States to act against the Chinese economy without consulting the World Trade Organization. China has been a member of the WTO since 2001. The use of Section 301 fell out of fashion around the same time. US leaders didn't see the point of using it anymore because the WTO's framework had more legitimacy, and even allies were complaining about its use.

China has been warning the Trump administration against bypassing the WTO since January. Earlier this week Chinese state media was alive with condemnation for even the thought of the US activating Section 301.

"We urge the US side to respect the facts and act prudently. If US ignores the facts and disrespects multilateral trade rules, thus jeopardizing the two nations’ trading ties, China will not sit on its hands and will take all appropriate measures to protect its own legitimate rights," said a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday.

So that'll be fun.  I don't know if it will result in a full-blown trade war, but it definitely looks like China will retaliate.  How hard and how costly it will be, we'll see.  In the Obama and even the Bush era, both sides went to the World Trade Organization, and both sides have won and lost over the years.

But dragging up Section 301 from the swamp seems like a bad idea, and it's going to cause a lot of problems, and I wouldn't bet on Trump to show retraint in this arena.  The GOP base has long wanted a trade fight with Beijing CAUSE THEY TOOK OUR JORBS and it looks like they will get it.

Oh, by the way, you know who's the happiest to see a China/US trade war that could potentially cause billions in damage to both countries?

You got it.  Our old friend Vlad.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Last Call For Grief Versus Cynicism

As Greg Sargent points out, the mother of Heather Hayer, who was killed last weekend in Charlottesville, absolutely destroyed Donald Trump in an inerview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts today.

Speaking on “Good Morning America,” Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, said the White House had tried to reach her with “frantic” messages, presumably to set up a call with Trump, but added that she would refuse any communications, now that Trump has suggested a moral equivalence between the racists, Nazis, and white supremacists in Charlottesville and those protesting them.

QUESTION: Have you talked to him directly yet? 
SUSAN BRO: I have not. And now I will not. At first, I just missed his calls. The first call looked like it actually came during the funeral. I didn’t even see that message. There were three more frantic messages from press secretaries throughout the day. And I didn’t know why. That had been on Wednesday. And I was home recovering from the exhaustion of the funeral. So I thought, ‘well, I’ll get to him later.’ And then I had more meetings to establish her foundation. So I hadn’t really watched the news until last night. 
And I’m not talking to the president now. I’m sorry. After what he said about my child. It’s not that I saw somebody else’s tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters, like Ms. Heyer, with the KKK and the white supremacists. …You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’

White supremacists like Steve Bannon believe that Republicans will continue to dominate out politics as long as Democrats talk about race and that more and more white voters, especially Millennials, will abandon the Dems because they think the Democrats see all white people as the problem in this country.

That's not true, as Heather Hayer proves.

But the perception of that continues to be our political reality heading into the 2018 midterms.

No Longer A Bannon Ship, But A-Bannon Ship!

It was nice to get our Friday News Trump Dump early this week, and it's a doozy: Steve Bannon is history.

Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday. 
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” 
Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Not everyone is happy to see him go, of course.

The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year. 
Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

So as I said yesterday, Bannon either dared Trump to fire him (and lost!) or he wanted to get back to Breitbart to help Trump from the outside (which I think it is.)  Don't expect Bannon to go gently into that white supremacist night.

And he may not go alone, either.

Some White House officials also said Friday they expect some of Bannon’s allies inside the administration to exit with him. Bannon works closely with a number of White House officials, including national security aide Sebastian Gorka and assistant Julia Hahn. 

Regardless, he's going to be causing trouble for years.  We'll see who's left standing in this game of musical racists when the tune stops playing.
Continue reading the main story

The Battle Of Lexington, Con't

While Gov. Matt Bevin is doubling down on refusing to remove Jefferson Davis's statue from the State Capitol in Frankfort, the rest of the Bluegrass State is moving on without him.  Lexington's City Council has unanimously voted to follow through with Mayor Jim Gray's request to move two Confederate statues.

Government leaders in Kentucky's second-largest city took a decisive stand Thursday night in favor of moving two Confederate statues from their prominent places outside a former courthouse being converted into a visitors center.

The proposal to relocate statues honoring Confederate officers John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge won unanimous approval from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council after nearly three hours of public testimony that overwhelmingly supported the resolution.

The statues will not be moved immediately, CBS affiliate WKYT reports. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has 30 days to pick a new location. 
The action showed the city is "taking responsibility to do the right thing," Gray said.
"Confronting our history is often difficult ... and uncomfortable," Gray said. "We all know, in many ways, this war is unfinished. It did not put an end to the vicious and violent reach of unrepentant racism. An important step we can take toward finishing it means facing up to our history."

People in the packed council room stood and applauded after the vote. 
The council's action isn't the final word on the issue. The city still has to ask a state military heritage commission for permission.

The problem is 4 of the 5 members of the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission are state officials appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin, and serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

In 2002 the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission was created by an act of the General Assembly as an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Kentucky but attached to the Kentucky Heritage Council for administrative and support purposes. The commission consists of the Adjutant General, the State Historic Preservation Officer, the Director of the Kentucky Historical Society, the Director of the Commission on Military Affairs and the Commissioner of the Department of Veteran's Affairs. 
As a means of protection, the commission is charged with maintaining a registry of Kentucky military heritage sites and objects significant to the military history of the Commonwealth. The commission accepts requests from the public for designation of military heritage sites and objects – including buildings, monuments and community resources – that represent all eras of Kentucky’s military history. Most sites registered by the commission are military monuments and memorials, but the legislation gives the commission some latitude as to what may be considered for recognition.

Once accepted to the registry, these sites and objects by law cannot be damaged or destroyed, removed or significantly altered, other than for repair or renovation, without the written consent of the commission. Failure to do so is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class D felony for each subsequent offense.

All but the Director of the Kentucky Historical Society are appointed by Bevin and moving the statues will require at least three members, if not all five.

This same commission stopped the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue years ago, so who knows what will happen now.  The point is the commission was created to prevent cities in Kentucky from doing this in the first place.

We'll see, but I'm betting Bevin's office has already been on the phone to most of these members telling them what he expects.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Last Call For The Lowest Common Trumpnominator

If you want to know why Donald Trump turned his Charlottesville press conference into a stirring round of "what about the violent left?" it's because the vast majority of Republicans agree with him.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans consider the attack that led to loss of life in Charlottesville an act of "domestic terrorism," a view that spans partisan lines. But President Trump's response to Charlottesville finds more division. 

He gets majority disapproval overall for his response to the events, while most Republicans approve. Republicans interviewed following Tuesday's press conference also feel Mr. Trump is assigning blame accurately in the matter, while Democrats and Independents, and the country overall, disagree. 
Post-Tuesday afternoon, views on the president's description of events are tightly tied to overall views of his handling of the matter. Independents and Democrats, and the country overall, feel his description of blame in the events is inaccurate; Republicans feel it is accurate. 
Interviewing for this poll began the night before Tuesday's press conference and continued for two nights after it. Disapproval of the president's handling of events rose following the press conference. 
Republicans interviewed prior to Tuesday's press conference were at 68% approval of President Trump's overall handling of the response to Charlottesville and 66% following it — ending up at 67% approval. 
Democrats were at 12% approval prior to the Tuesday conference and ended up at 10% approval.

Trump doesn't care because the people who elected him don't care, and the party he controls refuses to do anything about him.

They never will.

All of them have to go.

Race Bannon And The Temple Of Boom

Either Steve Bannon is daring Donald Trump to fire him in order to put this fight with National Security Adviser HR McMaster and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to bed, or Bannon's getting out to go back to Breitbart to help Trump from the outside.  I'm not sure which one yet, but Bannon burned all his bridges in an interview with the American Prospect's Robert Kuttner published last night.

Needless to say, I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me. I’d just published a column on how China was profiting from the U.S.-North Korea nuclear brinkmanship, and it included some choice words about Bannon’s boss. 
“In Kim, Trump has met his match,” I wrote. “The risk of two arrogant fools blundering into a nuclear exchange is more serious than at any time since October 1962.” Maybe Bannon wanted to scream at me? 
I told the assistant that I was on vacation, but I would be happy to speak by phone. Bannon promptly called. 
Far from dressing me down for comparing Trump to Kim, he began, “It’s a great honor to finally track you down. I’ve followed your writing for years and I think you and I are in the same boat when it comes to China. You absolutely nailed it.” 
“We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.” 
Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula, but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China. 
Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim. 
To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.” 
Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.” 
But what about his internal adversaries, at the departments of State and Defense, who think the United States can enlist Beijing’s aid on the North Korean standoff, and at Treasury and the National Economic Council who don’t want to mess with the trading system? 
“Oh, they’re wetting themselves,” he said, explaining that the Section 301 complaint, which was put on hold when the war of threats with North Korea broke out, was shelved only temporarily, and will be revived in three weeks. As for other cabinet departments, Bannon has big plans to marginalize their influence. 
I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”

Trashing McMaster, Kelly, and the Pentagon while vowing that he runs Tillerson's China policy at state?  The boss isn't going to like this one bit and yet Trump was busy screaming at Arizona's senators (and Lindsey Graham) this morning ahead of Trump's planned rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Bannon knows what he's doing.  What he's trying to accomplish I'm not sure of yet, but he knew damn well what he was saying to a liberal reporter like Kuttner.

I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base. 
He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.” 
These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added. 
From his lips to Trump’s ear. 
The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Like I said, Bannon knows full well what he's saying here.  The question is why.

Or hey, maybe Bannon is just crashing and burning.

Trump's Race To The Bottom

Donald Trump's inner circle isn't even bothering to hide its open support for white supremacists anymore.  They simply don't care because they know Republicans won't lift a finger to stop him. Anyone who does won't have a political career.

President Trump’s personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda and declared that the group Black Lives Matter “has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.”

The email forwarded by John Dowd, who is leading the president’s legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South’s rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England. Its subject line — “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” — was a reference to comments Mr. Trump made earlier this week in the aftermath of protests in the Virginia college town.

“You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”

The contents of the email are at the heart of a roiling controversy over race and history that turned deadly last weekend in Charlottesville, where white nationalist groups clashed with protesters over the planned removal of a statue of Lee. An Ohio man with ties to white nationalist groups drove his car through a crowd, killing one woman and injuring many others, authorities say.

In a fiery news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for that violence. He said many of those who opposed the statue’s removal were good people protesting the loss of their culture, and he questioned whether taking down statues of Lee could lead to monuments of Washington also being r

His words were widely criticized in Washington but were praised by white supremacists, including a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Mr. Dowd received the email on Tuesday night and forwarded it on Wednesday morning to more than two dozen recipients, including a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and journalists at Fox News and The Washington Times. There is no evidence that any of the journalists used the contents of the email in their coverage. One of the recipients provided a copy to The New York Times.

You’re sticking your nose in my personal email?” Mr. Dowd told The Times in a brief telephone interview. “People send me things. I forward them.” He then hung up.

The email’s author, Jerome Almon, runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists. He once unsuccessfully sued the State Department for $900 million over claims of discrimination.

Mr. Almon’s email said that Black Lives Matter, a group that formed to protest the use of force by police against African-Americans, is being directed by terrorists. Mr. Almon blamed the group for deadly violence against police last year in Texas and Louisiana.

The email’s comparison of secessionists to the nation’s Founding Fathers echoes an early Confederate rallying cry, said Judith Giesberg, a Villanova University historian and editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era. Washington’s face appeared on Confederate money, she said, and secessionists were eager to place their rebellion in the context of the American Revolution.

“The first states to secede drew a straight line back to the Revolution,” she said in a telephone interview. “They said they were the inheritors of this revolutionary tradition that traces back to Washington.”

Mr. Almon listed several reasons Lee is no different from Washington. “Both rebelled against the ruling government,” the email reads, adding, “Both saved America.”

Mr. Almon, who is black, said in his email to Mr. Dowd that the protesters should “go back to the ghettos and do raise their children and rebuild places like Detroit.”

Jerome Almon has been in the Sunken Place for a while now.   But notice that "Black Lives Matter are terrorists" is a standing theme with this regime.  It really won't be long before Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions act on that.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Confederate Commonwealth Of Bevinstan

Trump needs to resign.  KY GOP Gov. Matt Bevin needs to join him.

Gov. Matt Bevin appeared to change his position Tuesday on moving the statue of Jefferson Davis — the president of the Confederate States of America — from the rotunda of the state capitol building in Frankfort. 
While campaigning for governor in 2015 he said the Davis statue should be removed, and that “parts of our history are more appropriately displayed in museums, not on government property.” However, in a radio interview Tuesday morning he said that he absolutely disagrees with attempts to remove confederate statues, calling it the “sanitization of history.” 
In a press conferencelater that day, Bevin denied that statement, saying, “I said ‘revisionist history.’ Again, ‘sanitize’ is your word.” The governor also said that he never supported removing confederate monuments from government property, comparing this “dangerous precedent” to that of genocidal movements of the past. 
When you look at what people like a Pol Pot did, or a Stalin did, or a Hitler did, one of the first things you do is you remove any semblance of culture and of history, you try to be revisionist,” said Bevin. “You look what people are doing with ISIS, with the destruction of any kind of history of a different culture when they move into a new territory. I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history.” 
Sen. McConnell had also come out in support of moving the Davis statue in 2015, but unlike Bevin, his spokesman Robert Steurer told IL that the senator still stands by his statement. 
Brad Bowman, the spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party, issued a statement expressing support for moving the confederate statues in Frankfort and Lexington: “We are not sanitizing history. We are standing against racism, hate and bigotry. This issue rises above politics. We owe that to every Kentuckian.” 
In the same press conference on Tuesday, Bevin also said that it was important to call out any bigotry, whether it comes from a white nationalist or “if it comes from a Black Lives Matter person.” 
There should be no tolerance of people that are intolerant of other people as it relates to their race — in this case is what we’re talking about, supremacy of either side of the equation,” said Bevin. “The people can pretend there’s not two sides. There’s people that are as hateful of people based on their color on all sides of the color spectrum. It’s unacceptable, unacceptable.”

Bevin's twin false equivalence arguments, that 1) removing Confederate monuments is "erasure of history" that only tyrants and terrorists do, and that 2) Black Lives Matter and other groups standing up to white supremacists are just as violent somehow, are both part and parcel of the white supremacist playbook.  The goal is to normalize these views and it's yet another example of Republicans moving to demonize their political opponents for daring to oppose them.

Why Gov. Bevin would make these demonstrably false arguments especially given Donald Trump's awful behavior is beyond my comprehension other than to lead one to believe that Bevin too sympathizes with white supremacist traitors who lost a civil war 150 years ago over the continuation of slavery.

As such, I expect his swift resignation from his office in Frankfort.

This won't happen of course, but this is another direct effect of Trump's garbage: other Republicans are copying his racist nonsense.

How many will continue to get away with it?  The worse the Kentucky Democrats are saying is that we need to "rise above politics".

That's not going to cut it, guys.

Hope And No Change With Trump

After the disaster that was Hurricane Scaramucci blew through the White House last month, it looks like long-time Trump loyalist Hope Hicks will be named as the Trump regime's new Minister of Propaganda.

President Donald Trump has struggled to find staff that will work with him. Famously, he blew through a communications director Anthony Scaramucci in less than two weeks. Perhaps that is why he’s decided to name longtime loyalist Hope Hicks to the post.

The Daily Caller cites a White House insider that revealed 28-year-old Hicks has accepted the position. The former model has stayed close to Trump’s side, though largely out of the spotlight. She has been doing “strategic communications” for Trump since entering the White House, according to her Twitter biography.

Hicks drew criticism in July after it was disclosed that her salary is equal to the senior-most aides in the White House, despite having little experience.

Hicks previously worked for Trump and was named among the top 30 under 30 by Forbes.

GQ's Olivia Nuzzi profiled Hicks last year, Trump's personal press secretary, who had zero political experience (like her boss!) and found herself thrust into the role, is extremely reclusive and has remained so while the professionals all have fallen by the wayside for not being sufficiently loyal to Dear Leader.

Hicks's big job in politics started—not that long ago—with a comparatively tiny gig in Trump Tower. In 2012, two years after she'd graduated from Southern Methodist, Hicks was working for a New York PR shop when she was dispatched to help one of the firm's major clients: Ivanka Trump.

At the time, Trump's daughter was expanding her fashion line, and Hicks was enlisted to pitch in—and even do a bit of modeling, appearing online in a practical mint-colored dress, black clutch, and heels, all from the Ivanka Trump collection.

Hicks grew close to Ivanka and began dressing like the heiress, who seemed worthy of the emulation. Ivanka was that rare female corporate leader who is also kind to other women, and she affected an air of competence that seemed to temper the boorishness of the Trump brand. Conveniently, as Hicks ingratiated herself to Ivanka, she won over The Donald as well—helped by the eager-to-please disposition she'd displayed since childhood.

In Greenwich, Connecticut, as a kid, she was an athlete and a model who—after appearing in a Ralph Lauren ad—told a local magazine she intended to be an actress. By high school she was swimming, rowing, and captaining the lacrosse team. (She'd go on to play on SMU's club team.) Kylie Burchell, Hicks's lacrosse coach, recalled her as one of the only players to abide by a no-alcohol policy. “I think the girls were annoyed at her a little bit,” she said. “She was trying to be a leader. She was showing by example what to do.” She wasn’t always so earnest, however. In her senior yearbook, she mistakenly attributed the words of Eleanor Roosevelt—“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams”—to Jimmy Buffett.

That Hicks, a pretty young lady from a tony town, would gravitate toward PR after college might have seemed obvious. Warranted or not, the PR Girl has become a kind of stereotype—the land-bound stewardess of the aughts. A profession thought to require little more than the ability to walk in a pair of Louboutins and harass people via e-mail. But the sorority-girl caricature wasn't what Hicks had in mind, or in her pedigree. In addition to her father, Paul, who directed PR at the NFL and now works for the D.C. power firm Glover Park Group, both of Hicks's grandfathers worked in public relations.

After meeting Matthew Hiltzik, a New York PR shark, in 2011, Hicks landed a job at his firm. It was here that she began working with Ivanka, putting her in the orbit of The Donald, who was quickly impressed. “I thought Hope was outstanding,” Trump told me, recalling his decision to tell Hiltzik that he was poaching Hicks to work for him. In Trump's telling, Hiltzik was powerless to deny him what he wanted. “I wouldn't say he was thrilled,” Trump told me, “but, you know, we give him a lot of business.” (Hiltzik says the parting was amicable all around.)

So Hicks joined the team at Trump Tower in October 2014, without any idea her new boss intended to become president. Or that she had just signed on to his campaign.

Now the "PR girl from Connecticut" is more than happy to manage Trump's messaging machine just a day after Trump sided with neo-Nazi white supremacists in Virginia.  And she's more than happy to still work for the man.

It tells you everything I need to know about her and the rest of Trump's employees.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Last Call For The Man We Warned You About

I've been around for a few decades, growing up in the Reagan years, high school in the Poppy Bush Desert Storm era, and college and entering the workforce during the Clinton years and the dot com bust and I've never been under the illusion that presidents could fix everything.  Dubya showed me they have limitations, and that the best outcome is somebody who truly cared like Obama, that's as good as we're going to get.

But I've never been party to a person in the Oval Office who I considered a sworn enemy.  Dubya was a jackass and I started this blog to help make sure he wasn't succeeded by a Republican, and I went through Obama's highs and lows, but I never felt that the person in the White House was irredeemable garbage.

Then Trump came along and kept proving me wrong on a daily basis, and today is the day I became despondent about the future of my country, this planet and myself.

The man in the Oval Office is an unapologetic white supremacist-enabling bigot narcissist of the worst order.

President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.

Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat, wasted little time in accusing the president of adding to the divisions that put an unwanted spotlight on the normally peaceful college town.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’”

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as “unprecedented.” But members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.

“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis,” Mr. Trump told reporters, who interrupted him repeatedly when he seemed to equate the actions of protesters on each side.

He spoke of “very fine people on both sides.” And of the demonstrators who rallied on Friday night, some chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans, he said, “You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.”

This is a man who openly defends neo-Nazis in the most insidious manner, by equating them to those who oppose them.  It's a tactic long-used by these scumbags, one as old as America itself, an equivocation that empowers hate by normalizing it.

And now we have somebody in the White House doing it openly and brazenly, with no regard for anyone but himself.

We have seen the face of evil.  I thought Bush Senior was a bad man who occasionally did good things, I thought his son was led astray but that he never truly hated the country, he just looked the other way too often and let the David Dukes and Richard Spencers of the world in the door.

Trump put them in his goddamn White House staff.  He is an evil man, and anyone who thought that somehow Clinton would be worse needs to have a good, long talk with the shreds of their own conscience and with the ghosts of their tattered credibility.

Donald Trump is an evil man.  Full stop.  If you wondered how the people of Germany became lost to the Third Reich following World War I, you are living it right now as an American.

Trump Watches The Trump Watchers

If Trump has his way, the Department of Justice will be doing just that.  In the regime's latest authoritarian move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is requesting information on 1.3 million internet visitors to an anti-Trump website accused of aiding the organization of dozens indicted on felony rioting charges while protesting Trump's inauguration in January.

The Department of Justice has requested information on visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Trump, the Los Angeles-based Dreamhost said in a blog post published on Monday. 
Dreamhost, a web hosting provider, said that it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request, which believes goes too far under the Constitution.

DreamHost claimed that the complying with the request from the Justice Department would amount to handing over roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government, in addition to contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors to the website, which was involved in organizing protests against Trump on Inauguration Day. 
“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” DreamHost wrote in the blog post on Monday. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”

When contacted, the Justice Department directed The Hill to the U.S. attorney's office in D.C. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment but provided the filings related to the case.

The company is currently challenging the request. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington. 
“In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website,” the company’s general counsel, Chris Ghazarian, said in a legal argument opposing the request.

Yeah, this seems like a textbook case of First Amendment rights being willfully violated in order to support the government's case that clearly violates...First Amendment rights.

This is not what democratically elected leaders do, this is what authoritarian tyrants do.

How long before Trump demands the information on anyone who has visited one of the news sites of the companies that employ the media figures he openly views as his enemies?  How do the people claiming that white supremacy views must be protected as political free speech/vile speech still support the regime after this?

The answer's pretty clear, and it's clearly ugly.

Hunting The Mythical Swing Voter

Over at the NYT Upshot, Nate Cohn argues that not only does the Trump 2016 voter who voted for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 exist, but that there were enough of them to decisively help the GOP to near total power since 2010, including shifting the 2016 Rust Belt swing states into the red column. Who are these voters?  Angry, white, without a college degree, and they blame Obama for failing them.

THEY HAD SOURED ON MR. OBAMA Just 29 percent of white, no-college Obama-Trump voters approved of his performance, and 69 percent disapproved. Similarly, 75 percent said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Only 15 percent believed the economy had improved over the last year, and just 23 percent said their income had increased over the last four years. 
THEY LARGELY BACK THE TRUMP AGENDA The Obama-Trump voters generally support Mr. Trump’s key campaign pledges on immigration, police, infrastructure spending, trade and the environment. This isn’t too surprising: Surveys conducted long before the 2016 election showed that a large share of white working-class Democratic-leaning voters backed the conservative-populist position on these issues. 
THEY’RE NOT NECESSARILY RELUCTANT TRUMP VOTERS Among those who voted in the 2016 primary (65 percent of the Obama-Trump vote), 54 percent of Obama-Trump voters reported backing Mr. Trump in the Republican presidential primary, according to the C.C.E.S., a sign that many of them are pretty strong and consistent supporters of Mr. Trump. Only 9 percent supported another Republican, less than the share that supported Mrs. Clinton or Bernie Sanders. 
Taken together, the data indicates that Mr. Trump had considerable and possibly unique appeal to an important slice of Democratic-leaning voters. Mr. Trump adopted a platform tailored to white working-class Democrats. In doing so, he neutralized many traditional Democratic lines of attack against typical Republicans like Mitt Romney. Many of these voters backed him in the primary and seemed to prefer his brand of populism, suggesting they probably would have backed Mr. Trump no matter which Democrat he faced. 
MANY NOW CONSIDER THEMSELVES REPUBLICAN-LEANERS A Pew Research Center panel study found that fully 18 percent of white working-class voters who leaned Democratic as late as December 2015 reported leaning Republican by December 2016. That timing is significant: It implies that these voters continued to tilt toward the Democrats all the way until the 2016 campaign. 
Similarly, the C.C.E.S. found that 45 percent of Obama-Trump voters identified as Republican-leaners in their postelection study. 
The voters who both voted for Mr. Trump and say they lean Republican have probably taken a big step toward becoming consistent Republican voters. They seem relatively difficult for Democrats to lure back. 
RACIAL RESENTMENT WAS A BIG FACTOR Using this and other data, political scientists have argued that racial resentment is the strongest predictor of whether voters flipped from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump, and the biggest driver of Trump support among these voters. 
Yes, racial resentment is the strongest predictor of the Obama-Trump vote in this survey data. White, working-class Obama voters with racially conservative views were very likely to flip to the Republicans. For example, Mrs. Clinton won just 47 percent of white Obama voters without a college degree who disagreed with the idea that “white people in the U.S. have certain advantages because of the color of their skin.” In contrast, she retained 88 percent of white Obama voters without a college degree who agreed that white people have certain advantages. 
Nonetheless, voters with high racial resentment did not necessarily represent the preponderance of the Obama-Trump vote, because Mr. Obama had already lost nearly all such voters by 2012. To take the prior example: 49 percent of white, no-college Obama-Trump supporters at least somewhat disagreed with the notion that white people had certain advantages. 
MANY REMAIN PERSUADABLE The C.C.E.S. found that 26 percent of Obama-Trump voters identified as Democrats in their postelection study, while 35 percent were Republicans and 37 percent were independents. Including those independents who lean toward a party, Republicans led by a wider margin of 45 percent to 30 percent. Even so, that’s a significant share who continue to identify with the Democratic Party despite voting for Mr. Trump. 
Democrats were probably still winning a lot of these voters in 2016. The results speak for themselves to some extent. Jason Kander lost his Senate race in Missouri by just three percentage points, even as Mrs. Clinton lost by 20 points. Even Democrats who didn’t run ahead of Mrs. Clinton over all — like Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Russ Feingold in Wisconsin or Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania — nonetheless ran far ahead of Mrs. Clinton in traditionally Democratic, white working-class areas.

Cohn adds that the Democrats now have to decide how much of their resources they need to dedicate in order to win at least some of these voters back, because until they do, Cohn says, the Democrats are effectively done.

It's an argument made by others, mostly in support of Bernie Sanders, but Cohn goes further to say that the Dem problem is systemic and Sanders would have lost to Trump as well.

The problem with that is when you believe the issue is systemic, the solution has to be systemic too.

What that means is that Cohn is strongly suggesting that in order to be competitive, Democrats have to make a sea change to attract voters that harbor no small amount of racial resentment. Trump was able to leverage that resentment into massive distrust of the Obama administration and Democrats in general.

The problem is that this will come at a cost, and the cost will be borne by black, Latinx, and Asian voters and candidates.  I've said before that this path is suicidal for the Dems and so far Trump is making it incredibly easy to make the Democrats be the party of inclusiveness in comparison by simple dint of Trump's overwhelmingly awful racism, if not open support of white supremacists.

Whether or not the Democrats will do the right thing remains to be seen.  Making the gains Cohn says that the Democrats need at the expense of non-white Democratic voters is something that I wouldn't put past the party, but that leaves us in a "what is the greater good" scenario that only threatens to leave the GOP gains over the last seven years as locked in, allowing even greater damage to civil and voting rights.  If those GOP gains continue through another presidential cycle and 2020 state redistricting battles, the Dems could be wiped out.

So what do we do as liberals and Democrats here other than continue to vote and support the party?

The answer is right now, I don't know.  The normal political discourse in America is shattered.  And that terrifies me more than Trump does.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Last Call For Hatred Unleashed

Yeah, I know today's coverage has been all about Charlottesville and the nasty neo-Nazi problem we have in the country and in the White House, but it bears repeating that the FBI and DHS warned the White House of white supremacist attacks back in May and Trump hasn't lifted a finger.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy. 
Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.” 
The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the so-called alt-right, sparked violent clashes over the weekend. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally. 
James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck Heyer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. 
Since the outbreak of violence over the weekend, President Trump has been heavily criticized for not condemning racist groups. “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” he tweeted
The FBI, on the other hand, has already concluded that white supremacists, including neo-Nazi supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan, are in fact responsible for the lion’s share of violent attacks among domestic extremist groups. White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement,” reads the joint intelligence bulletin. 
The report, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” was prepared by the FBI and DHS. 
The bulletin’s numbers appear to correspond with outside estimates. An independent database compiled by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute found that between 2008 and 2016, far-right plots and attacks outnumbered Islamist incidents by almost 2 to 1.

I take that back, Trump did lift a finger to do something about the white supremacist threat in America: he directed federal law enforcement to ignore it.

The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters. 
The program, "Countering Violent Extremism," or CVE, would be changed to "Countering Islamic Extremism" or "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Now begins the bloody harvest as America reaps the whirlwind that Trump helped to sow.

The Revenge Of Both Sides

The Wall Street Journal editorial board bravely reminds us that while Nazis are bad, bad people who caused at least one death in Charlottesville....

The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.

...maybe those Nazis had a point about the evils of political correctness and diversity!

The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions.

Sigh.  Always gotta punch some hippies.  Steve M has more.

Trump set the gold standard on "both sides" over the weekend, and again, what the neo-Nazi assholes really wanted was white America openly questioning whether or not diversity is worth it anymore if it leads to violence from white supremacists.

That's exactly what we're getting, and it's happening on purpose.  It's being driven by Trump, and being driven by a reason. Jeff Sessions and the GOP in Congress will work to enable it.  It's the same story we've seen before: weaken the federal government to the point where efforts fail, then "re-examine whether the effort is worth taxpayer dollars".

"We have to take a serious look at diversity" is code for "We have to end the civil rights era."

Take that to the bank.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The reaction from the neo-Nazi scumbags to the deadly terrorist violence they carried out in Charlottesville over the weekend?  Hey, it's a win for us thanks to Trump.

It was a deadly weekend of rage-fueled street battles. And after the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., leaders of white nationalist groups claimed success.

“It was a huge moral victory in terms of the show of force,” said Richard B. Spencer, the far-right figure who had come to Charlottesville to speak at Saturday morning’s “Unite the Right” rally.

The declaration from Mr. Spencer, in an interview late Saturday, was typical of the man who has rhetorically elbowed his way into the national conversation with his use of Nazi language and his unalloyed contention that America belongs to white people.

And indeed, the demonstrations in Charlottesville were perhaps the most visible manifestation to date of the evolution of the American far right, a coalition of old and new white supremacist groups connected by social media and emboldened by the election of Donald J. Trump.

Yet it is by no means clear what the demonstrations mean for the future of this movement and what, if any lasting effect, they will have. Will the overt displays of racism return the extreme right-wing to the margins of politics, or will they serve to normalize the movement, allowing it to weave itself deeper into the national conversation?

I understand the rhetorical question here, but it's one that needs to be directly asked of Donald Trump this morning.  These awful people count the weekend as a win because Trump condemned violence "on many sides" on Saturday.  That's exactly what his allies in the white supremacist movement wanted, and he gave it to them.

We achieved all of our objectives,” Matthew Heimbach, a founder of the Nationalist Front, a neo-Nazi group that bills itself as an umbrella organization for the white nationalist movement, said in an interview Saturday. “We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America. We had zero vehicles damaged, all our people accounted for, and moved a large amount of men and materials in and out of the area. I think we did an incredibly impressive job.”

Jason Kessler, a Charlottesville conservative and the main organizer of Saturday’s rally, has been fighting for months against the City Council’s plan to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, which once bore Lee’s name.

Although he is a relative newcomer to the white nationalist movement, Mr. Kessler is well known in his hometown. He has attacked the city’s status as a sanctuary for immigrants and has waged a public battle against Wes Bellamy, the black vice-mayor of Charlottesville and one of its city councilmen.

For weeks, a flier for the Unite the Right meeting made its way around the internet. It featured Pepe the Frog-styled soldiers bearing Confederate battle flags, and promised featured speakers like Mr. Spencer and Michael Hill, president of the Southern pro-secession group League of the South.

And why wouldn't they be thrilled?  Actual, literal white supremacists giving Nazi salutes and chanting Nazi slogans being falsely equivocated to Black Lives Matter and the Left is what they've wanted for years, and that's exactly what Trump did Saturday.

Compare that to Charlottesville's mayor, Michael Signer, who called these assholes and Trump out for their roles in the death of Heather Heyer.

Trump has surrounded himself with white supremacists like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, and as at absolute minimum they need to be fired.  Maybe that will happen soon, but I doubt it.  We've seen Bannon in particular in trouble before, only to be saved by Trump focusing his anger on somebody else who has "failed" him in some way as Bannon's allies outside the White House promise retaliation if Bannon is fired.

Of course the core problem remains Trump and the tens of millions who voted for him knowing full well that he had tied himself to white supremacists, and had no problems supporting him up until this weekend.

Those are the people who are the real problem.
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