Sunday, July 31, 2016

Last Call For Trump, Master Debater

With the first presidential debate scheduled in just under two months, Donald Trump is already doing everything he can to try to get out of them because he's terrified of Hillary Clinton embarrassing him on live television.

Donald Trump says the fall debate schedule is "unacceptable," raising the specter that he may try to skip them.

In a tweet on Friday night, Trump incorrectly said that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are "trying to rig the debates."

In fact, the fall debate schedule was determined almost a year ago by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, a private group made up of both Republicans and Democrats.

His primary complaint is that two of the debates are scheduled on the same nights as NFL games.

That's true. (It was also true in 2012, and the debates were still high-rated.)

In an interview with ABC News, Trump said he's "fine" with the commission's three debates, but objected to the specific dates.

"I'll tell you what I don't like. It's against two NFL games," he said. "I got a letter from the NFL saying, 'This is ridiculous.'"

An NFL spokesman said Saturday: "While we'd obviously wish the debate commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Trump." 
On Sunday morning, a Trump aide said that "Mr. Trump was made aware of the conflicting dates by a source close to the league."

"It's unfortunate that millions of voters will be disenfranchised by these chosen dates," the aide added.

Let's get this out of the way now: Trump will show up for maybe, maybe one debate.  He'll scream and whine that debates are part of the "rigged system" (thanks Bernie!) and will declare that he's winning and doesn't need to do them.  The American people, he'll say, already know exactly what the candidates stand for, the campaign's been going on since Spring 2015.

The real issue of course is that Trump will get smashed in a one-on-one debate.  Clinton will ridicule him and get him to rise to the bait so quickly that he may actually drop bad language in front of a live audience with tens of millions watching.  He'll be destroyed and he knows it.

Therefore, he will do everything in his power over the next several weeks to neuter the debates as much as possible, casting them as un-American and rigged as possible against not just him but "the people" as well and it will most likely work.  The story will be Trump refusing to do it, but what price will the rest of us make him pay?  Only the voters will do that, and his racist, hateful supporters will find a way to back him up on not debating like they have everything else.

Indeed the GOP is already backing Trump on his call.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus said he will stand by Donald Trump in his protest of the presidential debate schedule. 
"We're not going to agree with anything our nominee doesn't agree with," Priebus said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We're not going to be having debates on Saturday and Sunday night."

And we're not going to have debates on the weekends will become "we're not going to have debates at all."  Watch.

If Trump doesn't play the game, he can't lose it.

Trump's Buckeye Bullseye

Any path to a Trump victory in November goes through Ohio, period.  It's the one state he absolutely has to win, no Republican has ever claimed the White House without it.  If Trump wins Ohio, he could certainly lose the presidency and almost certainly will if he loses Pennsylvania and Florida as I expect he will.  But if he loses Ohio, he's done for, and as usual the Cincinnati suburbs up in Boehner Country will decide the state.

Take the cluster of counties around Cincinnati, in southwestern Ohio, which constitute a crucial Republican counterweight. Trump needs to run up large margins there to offset Clinton’s built-in advantages in the cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Warren County, Ohio, hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. A typical Republican nominee is expected to notch 70 percent of the vote there.

This year, however, there is a prominent Never Trump movement in Warren, and the county’s Republican chairman, Jeff Monroe, indicated that that dynamic could cut into what are typically strong turnout numbers for the GOP nominee.

“We anticipate our folks will certainly turn out for a Trump campaign,” he said. “Whether or not they turn out in the numbers we want is another question, and that’s yet to be answered.”

Winning the bulk of the rank-and-file — which Trump currently looks poised to do — isn’t enough.

If we don’t get Republicans to turn out in Warren County, it is extremely difficult for the Trump campaign to win Ohio,” he said, adding that even an underperformance of 2 percent there could make a difference in a state that Obama only won by around 100,000 votes in 2012—and it would also signal an enthusiasm gap in a critical region for Republicans.

“Warren County is important because it provides a net gain for Republicans to offset where Republicans are disadvantaged,” he continued, pointing to the major urban areas. “If we don’t show up to vote, it does two things: One, it tells us we can’t have the net gain, and second, it’s likely indicative of what we’re seeing elsewhere, which means their Republican vote would also be down.”

That worry is playing out in suburban and exurban areas across the state, in counties like Delaware and Licking, outside of Columbus; and in Lake County, near Cleveland, Weaver said.

In those places, “Donald Trump has many people on the sidelines wondering whether to vote Republican this year. These are folks who voted for Romney last time, John McCain the time before that. One of Trump’s biggest challenges is to convince these Republican-leaning voters that it’s OK to vote Republican this year.”

Trump doesn't need to piss off a lot of Republicans in order to lose in November.  He just needs to do so in the right counties in the right key battleground states to flip it to Clinton.  I believe that's how she's going to win and win big.

They don't have to vote for Clinton, but if they don't vote for Trump, he's toast.

Sunday Long Read: Gold Fever

This week's Sunday Long Read is a good old fashioned treasure hunt mystery, as a Colorado man named Randy Bilyeu was convinced he was on track to find a fortune in gold and jewels hidden in the deserts near Santa Fe, a belief that eventually led to his disappearance and death.

One night early this year, Randy Bilyeu was on the phone with his best friend. He wanted to share some good news: After more than two years of searching Colorado and New Mexico for a hidden treasure chest filled with gold and jewels, he thought he’d finally discovered its location. It wasn’t too far from Santa Fe. Now he just needed to go get it.

Bilyeu was looking for the celebrated Fenn treasure—a 12th-century Romanesque chest hidden by an eccentric arts and antiquities collector that’s said to be packed with 42 pounds of gold coins, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, ancient jade carvings, pre-Columbian bracelets, and gold nuggets. Between 2014 and 2015, Bilyeu made nearly a dozen trips from his Broomfield apartment to Santa Fe in search of the chest. During his hunts, Bilyeu, who was 54 years old and twice divorced, had sent photos to his two adult daughters and to a dwindling number of close confidants, most of whom worried about his safety during his excursions and had become skeptical of the fortune’s existence.

Among them was Tom Martino, a longtime friend in Orlando, Florida, who talked to Bilyeu on January 4. The stash, Bilyeu said, was near the Rio Grande, in a place called Frijoles Canyon on Bandelier National Monument land between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. It would be difficult to get, though. In early January, temperatures, especially at night, would fall far below freezing. He’d been near the spot in the past month, and Bilyeu knew he would need a raft to move down the river and deliver him to a sandy patch from which he could begin his search. Further complicating matters was the fact that Bilyeu wanted to bring his traveling companion, Leo, a nine-year-old poodle-terrier mix. Bilyeu had never piloted a raft, and Leo was afraid of water. “It was the craziest thing I’d ever heard,” Martino says of Bilyeu’s plan. He told Bilyeu the search seemed risky. Bilyeu agreed: It was too cold and the weather was too dangerous to make a hasty search. Even still, he wanted to try.

In fact, he was already close. Bilyeu had driven the roughly 400 miles from Broomfield to Santa Fe with Leo, he explained to Martino. He was staying in a Motel 6 outside downtown. He’d purchased an $89 raft from a local sporting goods store, and he had waders, a wet suit, a backpack, maps, and his phone. Bilyeu sounded impatient. The Rio Grande was fewer than two dozen miles away. Bilyeu would drive there, inflate the raft, and begin his search despite his misgivings about the dangers he might face.

The next morning, a light dusting of snow covered the ground. Bilyeu backed his 2011 Nissan Murano into a space near a well field just off the Rio Grande. A thick cottonwood tree, its bare branches exposed to the elements, stood almost directly in front of him. The river was at least 50 yards wide and likely barely above freezing. Leo wore a miniature white sweater to protect him from the chill.

Bilyeu inflated his new blue-and-gray raft, then loaded the dog, two metal oars, and a manual air pump into it. His phone was turned off, perhaps to conserve battery power. Bilyeu finally lowered himself into the raft and shoved off. Within seconds, he and Leo began moving down the Rio Grande. A few minutes later, they disappeared into the canyon.

Bilyeu's body was found only a few weeks ago and identified last week, but the story of what led him to the Rio Grande canyons of New Mexico is a definite page-turner, the legendary Fenn treasure, worth millions, hidden by a reclusive author.  It's the stuff dreams are made of, even when those dreams become a nightmare that can claim lives.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Last Call For Trump's Lonely Road

As I've been saying for months now, Hillary Clinton has a distinct electoral college advantage, where she can win only a couple of swing states and take the White House.  Donald Trump on the other hand has to run the table and things have gotten so bad for him now that there's effectively only one path Trump has to the White House, and it goes through the traditional "Big Three" swing states of American presidential politics: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Even as Mr. Trump has ticked up in national polls in recent weeks, senior Republicans say his path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed for election has remained narrow — and may have grown even more precarious. It now looks exceedingly difficult for him to assemble even the barest Electoral College majority without beating Hillary Clinton in a trifecta of the biggest swing states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

President Obama won all three states in 2008 and 2012, and no Republican has won Pennsylvania in nearly three decades.

With a divisive campaign message that has alienated many women and Hispanics, Mr. Trump appears to have pushed several traditional swing states out of his own reach. According to strategists on both sides of the race, polling indicates that Mrs. Clinton has a solid upper hand in Colorado and Virginia, the home state of Senator Tim Kaine, her running mate. Both states voted twice for George W. Bush, who assiduously courted Hispanic voters and suburban moderates.

In addition, Trump allies have grown concerned about North Carolina, a Republican-leaning state that has large communities of black voters and college-educated whites — two audiences with which Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular.

While Mr. Trump is not ready to give up entirely on any of the major battlegrounds, advisers have become increasingly convinced that his most plausible route to the presidency, and perhaps his only realistic victory scenario, involves capturing all three of the biggest electoral prizes on the map, and keeping North Carolina in the Republican column.

Right now Trump has basically given up on Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.  Taking the four states Trump needs aside, that gives Clinton 265 of 270 Electoral votes:

Click the map to create your own at

In other words, this is the map that's now Trump's best case scenario.  Trump needs all four states to win, and that only actually matters if he doesn't lose any more states to Clinton, like Arizona, Missouri, Utah or Georgia.  If Clinton swipes even one of those eight states, Trump loses.

Trump has the run the table just to squeak out a win.  I don't think he can do it, I think he can maybe pull off Ohio and edge out NC but he'll lose both PA and Florida and that will end him.

Clinton's best case scenario however looks like this:

Click the map to create your own at

It would be a bloodbath, and if she runs the table, she gets to 390. Like it or not, the electoral college may be what ultimately saves up from Trump.

Trump Cards, Con't

It's a good thing Hillary Clinton wasn't right about Donald Trump being someone you could "bait with a tweet" or anything, because otherwise we would see all sorts of nasty attacks on DNC speakers or something.

In his first response to a searing charge from bereaved Army father Khizr Khan that he’d “sacrificed nothing” for his country, Donald Trumpclaimed that he had in fact sacrificed by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” He also suggested that Khan’s wife didn’t speak because she was forbidden to as a Muslim and questioned whether Khan’s words were his own.

“Who wrote that? Did Hillary's script writers write it?” Trump said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.”

Oh, well, there goes that theory.

Trump appeared to try to brush the speech aside, saying that Khan “was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me.”

Trump also said, “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

Pressed by Stephanopoulos to name the sacrifices he’d made for his country, Trump said: “I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.”

Trump also cited his work on behalf of veterans, including helping to build a Vietnam War memorial in Manhattan, and raising “millions of dollars” for vets.

You mean the millions of dollars for veterans that the Trump campaign didn't actually raise and in fact cannot tell us he did raise for sure or not?  Those millions?

Good thing this guy is stable.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

This month both Texas and Wisconsin voter ID laws were partially struck down, now an appeals court has found North Carolina's GOP-created voter suppression law (and I know I keep calling it that for a reason) really actually is a voter suppression law and is unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has found North Carolina's controversial GOP-backed voting restrictions were intended to discriminate against African American voters. 
The Friday ruling is a huge win for voting rights activists in a closely watched case in a potential 2016 swing state. The appeals court reversed the ruling of a district court siding with the state. 
"In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with
discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees," the opinion said. 
In the opinion, the panel of judges said that the law restricted voting in ways that "disproportionately affected African Americans" and that its provisions targeted "African Americans with almost surgical precision." It said the state's defense of the law was "meager.
"Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the state’s true motivation," the opinion said. 
It noted that the legislation was passed as African American voter turnout had expanded to almost the rates of whites, and that the legislature enacted the legislation after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which had required North Carolina to seek federal approval for changes to its voting policies. The appeals court -- citing a lower court's findings -- pointed out that state lawmakers sought data breaking down voting practices by race. The judges said that the law's provisions singled out the practices disproportionately popular among African Americans, such as preregisteration and provisional voting. 
"The district court found that not only did SL 2013-381 eliminate or restrict these voting mechanisms used disproportionately by African Americans, and require IDs that African Americans disproportionately lacked, but also that African Americans were more likely to 'experience socioeconomic factors that may hinder their political participation,'" the opinion said.

In other words the court affirms everything I've been saying about GOP voter suppression laws over the years, chiefly that Republicans use them to limit black and Latino voter turnout as much as possible in order to hurt Democrats.

Finally, finally we have a court stating the obvious.

For example, the circuit-court decision makes much of the fact that legislators requested relevant data before passing the bill. 
Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans,” Motz wrote. “Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.” 
For example, the voter-ID law was both “too restrictive and not restrictive enough.” The circuit court found that the law harmed African American participation, but did little to combat fraud, the stated purpose, because fraud was more common in mail-in absentee voting, which was not affected.

Again, the 4th Circuit found that this was deliberate racism on the part of North Carolina Republicans, designed specifically to limit black turnout.  Practices like analyzing voter data to see that black voters took advantage of the first week of early voting in the state, and then Republicans specifically eliminating the first week of early voting.  This isn't something that was being done in the state's dark past or during Jim Crow, this happened two years ago after Republicans took over the state in 2010 in the backlash against a black president winning the state in 2008.

Republicans tried to make sure that North Carolina would never go blue again.  They were caught.

Where this goes now is still up in the air.  I'm sure Pat McCrory would like to see the Supreme Court step in and put the 4th Circuit's order on hold until after November's election, and that could very well happen.

We'll see in the weeks and months ahead, but let's not lose sight here of the sheer scope of this ruling, that Republicans in North Carolina passed an omnibus voter ID law with the express intent of limiting the black and Latino vote and hurting Democrats in a southern state.

Even the gutted Voting Rights Act would still allow the Justice Department to take over NC's voting process if that ruling holds.

More detailed analysis from Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog here.

Water We Waiting For, Con't

After nearly a year, it looks like somebody's finally going to be held responsible for the Flint water crisis in Michigan, just not anybody from GOP Gov. Rick Snyder's administration.

Six state employees were criminally charged this morning in district court in connection with the Flint water crisis
Charged are Michigan Department of Health and Human Services workers Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller and Robert Scott, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Liane Shekter-Smith; Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook, according to testimony this morning in Flint’s district court. 
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Todd Flood, the Royal Oak attorney heading the AG's investigation, have called an 11:30 a.m. news conference at U-M Flint to further discuss today's criminal charges. 
In April, Schuette announced felony charges against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials and one City of Flint official. At that time, he promised more criminal charges would be forthcoming.
The city employee, Mike Glasgow, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and is cooperating with the investigation as other charges were dropped. The two DEQ employees, Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby, are awaiting preliminary examinations. 
He later brought a civil lawsuit against engineering and consulting firms who had consulted on the Flint Water Treatment Plant. 
The civil lawsuit, filed in Flint in Genesee County Circuit Court, accuses engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam and environmental consultant Veolia North America, plus related companies, of causing "the Flint Water Crisis to occur, continue and worsen." Both companies have denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the lawsuit.

What I'm seeing here is all the blame being put on testing and quality workers and not anyone actually responsible for the decisions that led to the problem in the first place.  However I'm hopeful that some sort of plea deal can be reached where these six workers turn states' evidence on the Snyder administration.

We can hope, at least.  Meanwhile, as Chris Savage at Eclectablog reminds us, Gov. Snyder continues to do nothing in order to try to fix Flint's water supply, and won't until Republicans are thrown out of power in Michigan.

Team Orange Is Running Scared

With America witnessing Hillary Clinton's powerful acceptance speech last night, it's finally sinking in with Republicans just how much trouble they are in right now having The Donald as their standard.bearer.

Something strange happened on the last night of the Democratic National Convention. 
After the GOP nominee lambasted the Democrats on Twitter for displaying what he viewed as too few American flags, there was a sea of waving flags as far as the eye could see when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept a major party's nomination on Thursday. 
A small faction of protesters chanting "no more war" as General John Allen spoke were quicklydrowned out by chants of "USA!" filling the Philadelphia arena. The most notable refrain from the RNC crowd last week: "Lock her up." 
The evening also hammered home the stark tonal difference between the two conventions. After Trump painted America as a downcast country in need of a billionaire savior, night after night of all-star DNC speakers preached a sermon of American exceptionalism, with values that unify us all – talking points once exclusively owned by Republicans. 
It was enough to give a lot of conservatives whiplash.

And indeed, conservatives know they're done for.  The speech of the night before Clinton's belonged to Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim US Army Captain who died in Iraq.

From the Muslim ban to his open embrace of racial profiling, fearmongering about Muslims has been a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s campaign. But during the last night of the Democratic National Convention, the father of a Muslim U.S. Army Captain who died in Iraq while trying to protect his men during an attack reminded Trump about some relevant passages from the Constitution. 
“We are honored to stand here as the parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country,” Khizr Khan, father of Humayun, said. 
Onstage with his wife, Khan asked whether Trump has “even read the United States Constitution.” 
“I will gladly lend you my copy,” Khan said, pulling a pocket-size constitution from his jacket. “In the document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.'”
Khan also said Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one” and suggested he take a trip to Arlington Cemetery to see how people of “all faiths, genders and ethnicities” have “died defending the United States of America.”

It was the Democrats who staked out this week that America is a pretty good country, solidly taking over the realm of God, baseball, apple pie and yellow ribbons.  



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Last Call For Bevin's Dis-Kynect-ion

It looks like KY GOP Gov. Matt Bevin's plan to throw 400,000-plus people off Medicaid while pretending he's doing them a huge favor isn't going over very well with the federal government.

Sylvia Burwell, U.S. secretary of health and human services, raised concerns about Bevin's plans for Medicaid expansion, citing the "historic improvements" in health coverage for Kentuckians. She also questioned Bevin's plans for dismantling kynect, the state health insurance exchange where people may shop for private plans or enroll in Medicaid. 
Burwell addressed the proposed changes in two separate letters last week – one to Bevin and one to [KY Attoney General Andy] Beshear. 
In a July 20 letter to Bevin, Burwell described his plans to dismantle kynect as "highly aggressive" and said it is uncertain whether "we can confirm a transition will be possible this year." 
As for Bevin's plan to restructure the Medicaid expansion, Burwell, in a separate letter to Beshear, said her agency will review Bevin's request in light of federal law directing that any changes strengthen coverage and increase access to health care. 
"As you know, Kentucky's Medicaid expansion has led to one of the biggest reductions of uninsured people in America," said Burwell, responding to a May 9 letter from Beshear questioning Bevin's plans for Medicaid. "We are committed to the principle that any changes to the program maintain or build on the historic improvements Kentucky has seen in access to coverage, access to care and financial security, rather than take the state backward." 
The Bevin administration said it expects to meet all federal deadlines for dismantling kynect and said Kentuckians should plan to use the federal website to shop for health coverage this fall. 
It disputed Burwell's characterization of the Medicaid expansion. 
"There has not been a historic drop in uninsured – this is misleading," West's statement said. "Medicaid is not health insurance – it is a benefit program like SNAP (food stamps) or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) ... What we have seen is a historic rise in people on taxpayer-funded Medicaid."

In other words, Bevin is trying to sell the state's Medicaid expansion not a health insurance, but welfare or food stamps: something that only those people use and people like us pay for.

I'm glad to see Secretary Burwell isn't having any of it, especially bringing up the very real possibility that HHS will call Kentucky out and say that Bevin's plan to destroy kynect and have everything ready by October isn't realistic, considering October is only two months and change away.

But for Bevin's team to sell the Medicaid expansion as not helping to insure Kentuckians, rather to view it as awful icky welfare, is absolutely incorrigible.

I hope Burwell calls his bluff.

Tightening Up The Ship

WaPo columnist and right-wing scold Marc Thiessen makes the argument that the WikiLeaks attack on the Democratic party came about precisely because President Obama hasn't done what the organization has repeatedly accused him of: using the full resources of the federal government to systematically go after Julian Assange and his allies and tossing them in the nearest dark hole.

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of emails showing that, while presenting itself as an impartial arbiter during the primaries, the DNC was, in fact, working overtime on Hillary Clinton’s behalf to undermine Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In one leaked email, DNC officials said they planned to expose Sanders as an atheist with Baptist voters in Kentucky and West Virginia. Others showed DNC staffers mocking Sanders supporters as “Bernie Bros” and plotting how to spin the narrative of his failure. Others reveal that the DNC and the Hillary Victory Fund apparently channeled money through state Democratic parties, perhaps in an effort to avoid contribution limits to her campaign. Other leaks include spreadsheets that appeared to match Democratic donors and fundraisers with appointments to federal boards and commissions once Clinton was elected. Still others show DNC staffers calling their donors “clowns” and promising to have one “sitting in the [s-----est] corner I can find” at a DNC event. The convention in Philadelphia has been roiled by the revelations, which caused Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to step down as chair.

Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this debacle. As I pointed out in The Post on August 2010, there were many steps the Obama administration could have taken to stop WikiLeaks. It could have indicted Assange and his fellow WikiLeaks staffers and made clear that the United States will not tolerate any country — particularly NATO allies — providing them with a haven. They could have sought their extradition and — if the countries where they were hiding refused to cooperate — used existing Justice Department authorities to arrest them anywhere in the world, with or without those countries’ consent. They could have used the assets of U.S. Cyber Command to carry out cyberattacks on WikiLeaks servers to disrupt its ability to disseminate classified information that puts lives at risk. 
But it appears that the administration has done none of these things. In 2013, The Post reported that “The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists . . . unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top-secret military and diplomatic documents.” Seriously?
As for using our nation’s offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt WikiLeaks’s ability to disseminate classified information, that clearly has not happened. To this day, WikiLeaks’s entire archive of stolen classified documents remains available on its website for anyone to read. 
Now Democrats are paying the price for Obama’s inaction. And WikiLeaks promises there is more to come. In an interview with CNN this week, Assange said he might soon release “a lot more material.” That should have Democrats terrified
Apparently, exposing intelligence sources and methods has not mattered enough for the Obama administration to do something about WikiLeaks. Maybe saving Hillary Clinton from further embarrassment, or worse, will finally spur them to action.

My immediate reaction is that Thiessen works for the Washington Post, arguably the world's largest beneficiary of exposing federal government leaks in existence.  Hell, it's their profit model for crying out loud. Perhaps he's being a bit hard on Assange and at least owes the guy the kind of professional courtesy that mobsters, lawyers, and sharks reserve for one another. At the very least I think the reporter doth protest too much for a business that's built on exposing information that people may not want to see the light of day. Even if you're a DC think-tank pundit like Thiessen, you operate on leaks on a daily basis.

I mean, reporters have been pretty critical of the Obama White House for supposedly being very unkind to the press, particularly in the president's second term.  That's always seemed very odd to me considering the previous administration's repeated admissions that manipulating the press for things like, oh, I dunno, starting a war with Iraq was always a chief goal. I've long postulated that the press had to find some similar accusations to hurl at Obama in order to prove that they were dupes of both parties along with the rest America, rather than willing participants along with Bush/Cheney.

That's why it strikes me as very odd to see any major newspaper columnist advocate extradition, arrest, even counter-cyberattacks to shut WikiLeaks down, especially taking the position that WikiLeaks should have been dealt with in 2010.  But it turns out Thiessen is something of a special case in this regard, to his credit he had Assange pegged as a criminal six years ago:

Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible -- including to the United States' enemies. These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism. The Web site must be shut down and prevented from releasing more documents -- and its leadership brought to justice. WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, proudly claims to have exposed more classified information than all the rest of the world press combined. He recently told the New Yorker he understands that innocent people may be hurt by his disclosures ("collateral damage" he called them) and that WikiLeaks might get "blood on our hands."

So in the end I guess that Thiessen is just continuing his call for the President to do something about putting Assange in decidedly substandard federal housing for a long time.  Perhaps now that WikiLeaks has gone after Obama and the Democrats personally and is obtaining help from our good friends the Russians, that might get moved up the priority list.

It's a kick square in the crotch to have to agree with Thiessen on anything but yes, Obama should have scooped up Assange some time ago.

The Case For His Successor

Last night several big names in the Democratic Party (and for some unfathomable reason, Michael Bloomberg) laid out their respective cases for Hillary Clinton's election at the Democratic National Convention in Philly, including arguably Clinton's most powerful proponent, the current POTUS himself.

President Barack Obama painted an optimistic picture of America's future and offered full-throated support for Hillary Clinton's bid to defeat Republican Donald Trump in a speech that electrified the Democratic National Convention.

He urged Democrats to enable Clinton to finish the job he started with his election nearly eight years ago in a rousing speech that capped a night when party luminaries took to the stage to contrast the party's new standard-bearer with Trump, whom they portrayed as a threat to U.S. values.

"There has never been a man or woman, not me, not Bill - nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States," Obama said to cheers at the Philadelphia convention on Wednesday night.

Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, will accept the party's White House nomination in a speech to end the convention on Thursday night. The election is on Nov. 8.

Her address will be closely watched to see if she can make a convincing argument for bringing about change while still representing the legacy of Obama, who is ending his second term with high approval ratings.

"Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me," Obama said. When he finished, she joined him on stage where they hugged, clasped hands and waved to the crowd.

I saw this speech and as far as Obama speeches go it was pretty decent, not among his top ten by any means, but a good one nonetheless.  But he did what he set out to do, which was to endorse Clinton as someone who can and should follow him, and to go after Donald Trump, hard.

In fact that was the theme of the night. VP Joe Biden, Clinton running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, and retiring Senate minority leader Harry Reid all ripped Donald Trump to bits. Even Bloomberg got in on the festivities, declaring that as a New Yorker, he knew a con when he saw one.

All in all it was a good night for the Dems.  We'll see what Clinton herself has to say tonight.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Last Call For Grayed Out

Prosecutors in Maryland are dropping all charges against the officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Charges against the remaining three Baltimore Police Officers in the Freddie Gray case were dropped Wednesday morning. 
The decision was announced at the start of a pretrial motions hearing for Officer Garrett Miller, who was the next scheduled officer to stand trial. Officer William Porter was to be retried in September, and Sgt. Alicia White was scheduled for trial in October. 
Officers Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson Jr. and Lt. Brian Rice have previously been acquitted of all charges in the case, and the trial of Porter ended in a hung jury and mistrial last December. 
The six officers were charged in the arrest and death of Gray, a 25-year-old who suffered a severe spinal injury in the back of a police van on April 12, 2015, and died a week later. His death touched off citywide protests against police brutality, which were followed by rioting, arson and looting on the day of his funeral.

So that's it.  Nobody will go to jail for Gray's death.  Nobody.

Black lives barely matter in America.

Black deaths matter even less.

I am numb.

Assange Gives Away The Game

Whether or not you buy the overwhelming evidence that Russia and Vladimir Putin provided WikiLeaks with stolen DNC emails in order to help throw the election, can we at least all stop pretending that the DNC leaks weren't timed by Julian Assange to specifically hurt the Clinton campaign as much as possible, especially when Assange himself has admitted he would rather see Trump elected?

Six weeks before the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks published an archive of hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the Democratic convention, the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, foreshadowed the release — and made it clear that he hoped to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency.

Mr. Assange’s remarks in a June 12 interview underscored that for all the drama of the discord that the disclosures have sown among supporters of Bernie Sanders — and of the unproven speculation that the Russian government provided the hacked data to WikiLeaks in order to help Donald J. Trump — the disclosures are also the latest chapter in the long-running tale of Mr. Assange’s battles with the Obama administration.

In the interview, Mr. Assange told a British television host, Robert Peston of the ITV network, that his organization had obtained “emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,” which he pronounced “great.” He also suggested that he not only opposed her candidacy on policy grounds, but also saw her as a personal foe.

At one point, Mr. Peston said: “Plainly, what you are saying, what you are publishing, hurts Hillary Clinton. Would you prefer Trump to be president?”

Mr. Assange replied that what Mr. Trump would do as president was “completely unpredictable.” By contrast, he thought it was predictable that Mrs. Clinton would wield power in two ways he found problematic.

First, citing his “personal perspective,” Mr. Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as secretary of state.

“We do see her as a bit of a problem for freedom of the press more generally,” Mr. Assange said.

(The cables, along with archives of military documents, were leaked by Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence. WikiLeaks also provided the documents to news outlets, including The New York Times. Despite a criminal investigation into Mr. Assange, he has not been charged; the status of that investigation is murky.)

In addition, Mr. Assange criticized Mrs. Clinton for pushing to intervene in Libya in 2011 when Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was cracking down on Arab Spring protesters; he said that the result of the NATO air war was Libya’s collapse into anarchy, enabling the Islamic State to flourish.

“She has a long history of being a liberal war hawk, and we presume she is going to proceed” with that approach if elected president, he said.

Guys, WikiLeaks has been part of Russia's counter-operations against Obama and the US for years now.  Assange went on TV six weeks ago to brag about how those emails were going to hurt Clinton and he made good on his boast.  All indications are that they were given this stuff by the Russians too.

Ask yourself why both Assange and Putin so badly want to see Trump elected.

Absolution Row, Or Roy's Lament

Our old friend Avik Roy, professional Forbes columnist, political operative and Obamacare liar, has finally come to terms with the demise of the GOP.  Now the Party of Trump, Roy admits to Vox's Zack Beauchamp that the Republican party is suffering through its McGovern moment.

Avik Roy is a Republican’s Republican. A health care wonk and editor at Forbes, he has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls — Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio. Much of his adult life has been dedicated to advancing the Republican Party and conservative ideals. 
But when I caught up with Roy at a bar just outside the Republican convention, he said something I’ve never heard from an establishment conservative before: The Grand Old Party is going to die. 
“I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he said. “There’s going to be a disruption.” 
Roy isn’t happy about this: He believes it means the Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time. But he also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans. 
“Until the conservative movement can stand up and live by that principle, it will not have the moral authority to lead the country,” he told me. 
This is a standard assessment among liberals, but it is frankly shocking to hear from a prominent conservative thinker. Our conversation had the air of a confessional: of Roy admitting that he and his intellectual comrades had gone wrong, had failed, had sinned.

There's a lot of that going around these days, and I'll say what I always say to Republicans looking for absolution: you will never find it from me.  You created this monster and did everything you could to empower it with the ability to destroy this country and 99% of the people in it, including yourselves.

You lost control of the Rough Beast and once again you are looking to the rest of us to clean up the mess it made. I'm wholly uninterested in your confessions, Mr. Roy, or your apologies.  What I want you to do is to have the good grace to shut the hell up and sit the hell down while the rest of us fix this country, and then the wisdom to stay silent while we make your miserable failures into a country worth being proud of.

Most of all, you preyed on this country and gave voice to the hatred, the bigotry, the divisive rancor and the outright racism that fed and watered an electorate that gave rise to Trump.  You made them powerful.  We have to deal with that now because of people like you.

Please take your analysis and your lament, cover them with broken glass and lemon juice, and shove them up your ass sideways.

Thanks for that ahead of time.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Last Call For Operating In A Grayson Area

The Democratic primary in Florida next month (I know, why can't Florida just have one primary) to decide who will take on GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is between Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Or that was until today, when Politico dropped this dynamite all over the race and blew up what final shreds of respect I had for the man I once tagged as being one of the few Dems left with a spine.

Rep. Alan Grayson's ex-wife repeatedly went to police with accusations of domestic abuse over a two-decade period, according to documents she has provided to POLITICO, revelations that come as the Florida congressman enters the final weeks of his Democratic primary campaign for Senate
Lolita Grayson called police on her husband at least two times in Virginia and two more times in Florida, sought medical attention on at least two occasions and said that, in one instance, he had threatened to kill her, according to a police report.

The congressman, who also asserted Lolita Grayson battered him in 2014, vehemently denies he engaged in any abuse during their 25-year marriage, which ended last year in a bitter annulment that she is now appealing. 
The first reported incident described by the documents was in 1994, the final one was in 2014. She also called Orange County sheriff’s deputies in 2005 to lodge another abuse complaint, but prosecutors filed no charges in that incident or any of the others. Only the 2014 incident has been previously reported. 
“I want the people to know my story so they know what kind of man Alan Grayson really is,” Lolita Grayson, 56, said in an email to POLITICO, her first public comments on the issue. She provided police and medical records related to 1994 and 1999 incidents in Fairfax County in Virginia, and sheriff’s reports concerning 2005 and 2014 incidents in Orange County, Florida. 
“I requested the medical records and police records so people could read what doctors and police officers wrote,” she stated. “I read many of these records for the first time. These are very painful memories and horrible experiences.” 
Through his lawyer, Mark NeJame, Grayson denied ever striking or abusing Lolita Grayson. 
"Lolita is a disturbed woman. She has made one false allegation after another. Her own daughter refutes her," said NeJame, referring to a statement from the couple’s oldest child.

This story of domestic abuse in the Graysons' marriage is horrible, but if Lolita Grayson went to police multiple times over two decades in order to do something about her husband abusing her, then I have to say that not only does Lolita Grayson need to be believed and her charges examined, but that Grayson sure as hell needs to drop out of this Senate race and find a replacement for his current House seat as well.

I want Grayson gone from Congress at the very least.

Trump Cards, Con't

Remember, there's no reason to believe Donald Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin is anything but on the level, and that there would be no quid pro quo if he were elected president. Certainly there's no evidence that his nationalism is really indicative of a pattern of willingness to walk away from NATO responsibilities and to cede territory to a hungry Moscow or anything nefarious like that.

At a Monday rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Donald Trump doubled down on his previous controversial remarks regarding American support for NATO allies.

In an interview with The New York Times last week, Trump hesitated to commit to a defense of Baltic states in the case of Russian aggression, saying that it would depend on whether or not those NATO allies had "fulfilled their obligations" to the United States. 
On Monday night, however, Trump offered an even more explicit ultimatum to NATO allies. 
"I want them to pay," he said. "They don’t pay us what they should be paying! We lose on everything. Folks, we lose on everything." 
He went on to criticize former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy record: "She makes it impossible to negotiate. She’s not a negotiator. She’s a fool.” 
"We have to walk," Trump added. "Within two days they're calling back! Get back over here, we’ll pay you whatever the hell you want.
"They will pay us if the right person asks," he said. "That’s the way it works, folks. That’s the way it works."

This of course is the not the first time Trump has been trying to sell NATO as a rip-off of American taxpayer dollars that's somehow a one-sided arrangement where all these puny, weak Baltic states are sponging off Joe Six Pack in Muncie.

It's pretty dangerous stuff, and despite all the evidence that Russia is actively helping to sabotage the Democrats, here's Trump saying America doesn't need to meet its military contributions to protect NATO allies.

You know, from Russia. "We have to walk" instead.

I'm sure it's nothing.

Revolutions Keep Coming Around

If it seems like history is repeating itself in the way Donald Trump is running against Black Lives Matter, that's because as Victoria Massie at Vox points out, Goldwater ran against the civil rights movement in 1964 as the "law and order" candidate.

Three years after the Black Lives Matter movement began, not everyone understands the movement’s mission. And as evidenced during the Republican National Convention, some people like Donald Trump are invested in exploiting those misunderstandings for political points.

But the fire Trump’s igniting is fueled by a country that has historically resisted black social justice movements.

According to American National Election Studies, 57 percent of Americans in 1964 said most of black people’s actions during the Civil Rights Movement in the most recent year were violent. Sixty-three percent of Americans believed that the Civil Rights Movement was moving “too fast.” And a majority of Americans (58 percent) believed that black people’s actions for the movement hurt their own cause.

Sound familiar?

And just a reminder: Two of the key actions by civil rights activists in 1963 were the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech; and “Bloody Sunday,” where Alabama state troopers brutally beat peaceful protestors attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery for their right to vote.

But Americans today share similar attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Thirty-six percent of Americans of who have heard about Black Lives Matter don’t really understand its goals.

And Americans are split on the effectiveness of the movement in achieving racial equality in the long run: while 8 percent say Black Lives Matter will be very effective, 30 percent say Black Lives Matter will be somewhat effective, compared to 33 percent who doubt the movement’s effectiveness. The remaining 29 percent either weren’t familiar with the movement or did not provide an opinion.

The practical upshot is that while Barry Goldwater got smoked in 1964 by Johnson, Nixon won in 1968 running against the civil right movement too when Americans had an even dimmer view of both Johnson and the civil rights movement he helped to propel.

That Pew Research poll also finds that a plurality of white Americans believe Black Lives Matter isn't helping achieve racial equality with only 14% strongly supporting it.

We still have a long way to go.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Last Call For An Old Friend

It was good seeing Jon Stewart back at the desk last week as Stephen Colbert pulled his friend out of retirement Thursday night on the Late Show to sum up the Republican National Dumpster Fire and the departure of FOX News head vampire Roger Ailes.

At that point, a bearded, T-shirt-wearing Stewart appeared beside Colbert. “I was wondering if I could just maybe talk about the election for a little bit,” he said, asking the Late Show host to step aside so he could take over. After strapping on a jacket and clip-on tie, he seemed to finally feel back at home delivering the type of scathing political commentary we haven’t heard from Trevor Noah or Colbert since Stewart entered retirement last year.

Starting with the RNC, Stewart said, “The Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America. One, jail your political opponent. Two, inject Rudy Giuliani with a speedball-and-Red Bull enema, and, three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejesus out of everybody.”

But instead of that, Stewart said he wanted to focus on the “contortions many conservatives will have to do to embrace Donald J. Trump, a man who clearly embodies all the things that they have said for years that they have hated about Barack Obama.” After playing a series of Fox News pundits ripping the Democratic president, he said, “A ‘thin-skinned narcissist’ with ‘no government experience?’ Yes, that sounds exactly like Barack Obama.”

To trace the journey of how the conservative media have been and will continue to “justify” the choice that Republicans have made, Stewart homed in on a single target: Fox News host Sean Hannity, whom he referred to as “Lumpy.”

Watch the clip, and remind yourself just how much we miss the guy.

The Roads Past Obama

Jonathan Martin of the NY Times asks where do the Democrats go should they win in 2017, and the best he can come up with is "maybe we'll have roads."

It is hardly the stuff of the Great Society, a moonshot or even “a chicken in every pot.” But there is a view among Democrats that rebuilding the country’s roads, bridges, airports and railways represents an opportunity to use government in a way that can create jobs, appeal to both wings of their own party and win over some Republicans, who may have a difficult time saying no to an infusion of money for their states and districts.

“Who’s against infrastructure?” Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia said.

Mr. McAuliffe, a close friend and ally of the Clintons, said that in his new capacity as chairman of the National Governors Association he would convene an infrastructure summit meeting with the nation’s governors immediately after the election to build momentum for a bill and exert pressure on congressional Republicans.

Yet beyond this short-term objective, there are clashing views about how to further the cause of economic equality at a moment of technological transformation. Centrist Democrats are focused largely on changes to the tax code, work-force development and other incremental steps to help people adjust to a shifting workplace.

“We all believe in economic opportunity for everybody,” Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware said. “The difference between myself and Senator Sanders and Senator Warren,” he added, referring to Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, “is they think that’s not happening because the system is rigged, and I think it’s not happening because the system is changing.”

The strength of Mr. Sanders’s campaign, however, has emboldened liberals and made them unwilling to settle for small-bore changes to the political system.

“Many working people were inspired by his message of aiming higher, not for continuity,” said Larry Cohen, the former president of the communications workers’ union and a prominent backer of Mr. Sanders. Echoing the former candidate, Mr. Cohen said major changes were needed to the country’s campaign finance laws, banks and trade laws.

“The way we put food on the table and higher education within reach is to create a democracy where working people count as much as wealthy people,” he said.

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the service workers’ union, said the party’s liberal platform reflected Democrats’ “choice to meet the moment” and the pressure that progressive activists have applied to the party elite.

“We think that government now has to play a role in backing the collective action happening all across the progressive movement,” Ms. Henry said, pointing to efforts to organize fast-food workers as one example.

Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of the progressive, said it would be incumbent on Mrs. Clinton to fight for the parts of Mr. Sanders’s populist agenda she has embraced. “If she runs on those ideas, forces Republicans to take tough votes, then ultimately the voters will reward the party that speaks to their economic concerns,” he said.

But for Democrats facing re-election in two years, especially in more competitive parts of the country, there is more of an appetite for conciliation than for confrontation.

“It’s important to show the American people that Washington can work,” said Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. “I personally feel urgency about getting some things done.”

The problem is as long as Republicans control either or both chambers in Congress, or God help us the White House, government will not work.  Really, all the heavy lifting President Obama did came in 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats were in charge.

I'm much more worried about a post-meltdown GOP than I am a post-Obama Democratic Party. As i keep saying, the 60 million or so people who will vote for Trump aren't magically going to vanish on November 9th.

Keeping bridges from collapsing may be too much to hope for.

Bouncy House Of Cards

It looks like Donald Trump's message of fear and loathing in America at last week's convention has given him the campaign boost he was looking for, particularly among white voters, according to CNN's latest polling.

Donald Trump comes out of his convention ahead of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups. 
There hasn't been a significant post-convention bounce in CNN's polling since 2000. That year Al Gore and George W. Bush both boosted their numbers by an identical 8 points post-convention before ultimately battling all the way to the Supreme Court.

The new findings mark Trump's best showing in a CNN/ORC Poll against Clinton since September 2015. Trump's new edge rests largely on increased support among independents, 43% of whom said that Trump's convention in Cleveland left them more likely to back him, while 41% were dissuaded. Pre-convention, independents split 34% Clinton to 31% Trump, with sizable numbers behind Johnson (22%) and Stein (10%). Now, 46% say they back Trump, 28% Clinton, 15% Johnson and 4% Stein.  
Trump's newfound lead is also boosted by a sharp increase in support from whites without college degrees. In the new poll they break 62% for Trump to 23% for Clinton, while whites who hold at least a bachelor's degree have actually tilted more pro-Clinton since the convention (from a 40% to 40% split pre-convention to a 44% Clinton to 39% Trump divide now). 
The poll also reflects a sharpening of the education divide among whites that has been prevalent throughout the campaign. Among white voters with college degrees, Clinton actually gained ground compared with pre-convention results, going from an even 40% to 40% split to a 44% to 39% edge over Trump. That while Trump expanded his lead with white voters who do not hold a college degree from a 51% to 31% lead before the convention to a 62% to 23% lead now.
Beyond boosting his overall support, Trump's favorability rating is also on the rise (46% of registered voters say they have a positive view, up from 39% pre-convention), while his advantage over Clinton on handling top issues climbs. He now holds double-digit margins over Clinton as more trusted on the economy and terrorism. Trump also cut into Clinton's edge on managing foreign policy (50% said they trusted her more, down from 57% pre-convention). 

So yes, Trump actually scared off white voters with college degrees and gave Clinton a five-point edge from a tie, but he effectively doubled his 20-point lead among white voters without a college degree to nearly 40 points.

That's what he was shooting for, and that's what he got.  Despite the notion that the GOP convention was a dumpster fire, it was actually extremely successful in solidifying the working-class white vote behind Trump.  The 50-state Southern Strategy is starting to pay off.

Fear.  It works, at least in the short term. Morning Consult's polling finds a similar bounce for Trump as a result.

Now we'll see what Clinton can do to in order to swing things the other way as we head into the final three months of the campaign.  I have some issues with CNN's sampling that raises a few questions too,

Finally, after saying all that some perspective here: if this is the best Trump can do after his convention bounce, then he's still in trouble come November.

You're up, Madam Secretary.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last Call For Debbie, Done

For better or for worse, I've been calling for the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair since leading the Dems' disastrous midterm efforts in 2014 resulting in the lowest election turnout in modern history and the loss of the Senate to Mitch McConnell and the GOP, and this week's events finally proved too much to save her position.

The controversial chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced she would resign at the end of her party’s convention this week, a victim of her toxic relationship with peers and a trove of embarrassing internal emails.

“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals [of winning the presidency for Hillary Clinton] is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” Wasserman Schultz said in a written statement. “As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”

Donna Brazile, a Democratic Party stalwart, is expected to run the DNC through the election, according to multiple sources briefed on the plan. Brazile, who briefly served as chair in 2011, is a CNN contributor, and must forgo that contract to take the reins of the DNC. And she's still subject to a party vote this week in Philadelphia.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to her in a statement: For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back. This afternoon, I called her to let her know that I am grateful."

And that she was fired, of course.

The WikiLeaks story was the last straw in a string of screw-ups.  It's easy to blame the Russians or Assange over this, and yes, it was the mother of all dirty tricks, but Schultz botched the handling of the leak from hour one, and let's not forget that she sandbagged President Obama on the Iran nuclear deal last year, which was when I started calling for her resignation.

Again Donna Brazile will be taking over, and I believe she's infinitely more competent than Schultz at this point (and I think she should stay on.)

This is something that should have happened early last year after the midterms, and now the Dems can correct it and move on.  Not thrilled about Schultz joining the Clinton campaign as an adviser, but I guess that was the price of her stepping down.

We'll see how this goes.

Comic Relief

Marvel rolled out the big guns Saturday at San Diego Comic Con for their Cinematic Universe presentation, focusing on their upcoming 2016, 2017 and 2018 films, including Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and more.

Amid fog and lasers on Saturday, Marvel gave frenzied fans at Comic-Con their first look at a new Black Panther movie cast, the mysterious Doctor Strange, a Spider-Man teen movie and an Oscar-winning actress as the new Captain Marvel.

The 6,500-plus audience, many of whom had queued overnight at San Diego's annual film and pop culture event, were introduced to the lead cast of the "Black Panther" movie, directed by "Creed" filmmaker Ryan Coogler.

Chadwick Boseman plays the titular hero while Michael B. Jordan is his arch nemesis, Erik Killmonger, and Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o plays the warrior Nakia.

"I'm looking forward to kicking some ass," Nyong'o said.

Walt Disney Co-owned Marvel showcased diverse casts for its upcoming films after facing criticism over recent years for a superhero franchise dominated by white male actors.

Oscar-winning "Room" actress Brie Larson was revealed as "Captain Marvel," but no details were given on the 2018 movie.

Benedict Cumberbatch entered amid a cloud of fog to show a scene from "Doctor Strange," out in November, in which neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who lost the use of his hands in an accident, meets the Ancient One to harness the mysterious world of magic and alternate dimensions.

Director Scott Derrickson said "Doctor Strange" comics brought "a whole new voice" to the Marvel universe.

"It's very, very different and the scale is something else," Cumberbatch said.

All of this plus Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, along with Thor: Ragnarok, all will be leading up to the Avengers: Infinity Wars movies in a few years.  I really can't wait.

Sunday Long Read: Attention To Derail

This week on Sunday Long Reads we have author Laurie Penny's piece in Medium about the "attention economy", the world of professional right-wing social media trolls who only exist to self-aggrandize and cause as much chaos as possible to their own benefit.  Donald Trump has lead the way on monetizing this mindset, and if Trump is king, the Crown Prince is right-wing bomb-juggler Milo Yiannopolous.

This is a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown car of modern politics. It’s a story about the insider traders of the attention economy. It’s a story about fear and loathing and Donald Trump and you and me. It’s not a story about Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional alt-right provocateur who was just banned from Twitter permanently for sending racist abuse to actor Leslie Jones.

But it does start with Milo. So I should probably explain how we know each other and how, on a hot, weird night in Cleveland, I came to be riding in the backseat of his swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the RNC.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a charming devil and one of the worst people I know. I have seen the death of political discourse reflected in his designer sunglasses. It chills me. We met four years ago, before he was the self-styled “most fabulous supervillain on the internet,” when he was just another floppy-haired right-wing pundit and we were guests on opposing sides of a panel show whose topic I don’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. Afterwards we got hammered in the green room and ran around the BBC talking about boys. It was fun.

Since that day, there is absolutely nothing I have been able to say to Milo to persuade him that we are not friends. The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities, the more I tell him I hate him and everything he stands for, the more he laughs and asks when we’re drinking. I’m a radical queer feminist leftist writer burdened with actual principles. He thinks that’s funny and invites me to his parties.

“Feminism is cancer” is one of Milo’s signature slogans, and yet it took him only seconds after learning we’d both be at the Republican Convention in Cleveland to offer me a lift to his ‘Wake Up!’ rally, billed as the most fabulous shindig at the end of America. This time—god help me and the things I do for journalism—I said yes.

So here we are at the Convention, where howling psychopath Donald Trump has just been confirmed as the presidential nominee, to the horror of half of the party and every remaining moderate conservative in America as well as the 15,000 members of the international press who flocked to see the circus in realtime. Milo is loving every second of it. He lost no time climbing on the back of the clown car of the billionaire demagogue who, with ghoulishly oedipal glee, he calls ‘Daddy.’

These are the nihilists and nutjobs riding the Trump Train, and they're surfing the wave after destroying the dam and flooding the country with chaos and hatred.  Some of Milo's fellow travelers are convinced he'll help them build a new twisted version of America, but Penny is right about Milo himself.

Some people just want to see the world burn.

Putin Together The Pieces

TPM's Josh Marshall constructs a pretty good case that the public relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is more than just being members of a mutual admiration society, rather that the relationship involves a great deal of money and that Trump's closest advisers are at the very minimum doing everything they can to favor Moscow.

Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin's increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there's quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.
Let me start by saying I'm no Russia hawk. I have long been skeptical of US efforts to extend security guarantees to countries within what the Russians consider their 'near abroad' or extend such guarantees and police Russian interactions with new states which for centuries were part of either the Russian Empire or the USSR. This isn't a matter of indifference to these countries. It is based on my belief in seriously thinking through the potential costs of such policies. In the case of the Baltics, those countries are now part of NATO. Security commitments have been made which absolutely must be kept. But there are many other areas where such commitments have not been made. My point in raising this is that I do not come to this question or these policies as someone looking for confrontation or cold relations with Russia.

Marshall lays out facts here, that Trump has been receiving significant financing over the years from Russian oligarchs as investors., that Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russia policy advisor Carter Page are both on the payroll of Russian interests (in Page's case, Gazprom), and that Trump's convention staff made a huge deal about opposing US military aid to Ukraine and effectively ignored the entire rest of the GOP platform battles.

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump's direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin's policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He's the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out 'what's going on' as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

So yes, as if we needed yet another reason not to see the man elected president, there's all this somewhat sinister relationship between Trump and Putin.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Last Call For Sour Grapes

Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver is outright accusing the Democratic National Committee and chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of fraud in the 2016 Democratic primary process, demanding that "someone" be "held accountable" for the information contained in the leak of DNC emails stolen by Russian hackers and released by WikiLeaks.

Weaver said the emails showed misconduct at the highest level of the staff within the party and that he believed there would be more emails leaked, which would "reinforce" that the party had "its fingers on the scale."

"Everybody is disappointed that much of what we felt was happening at the DNC was in fact happening, that you had in this case a clear example of the DNC taking sides and looking to place negative information into the political process.

"We have an electoral process. The DNC, by its charter, is required to be neutral among the candidates. Clearly it was not," Weaver said, responding for the first time to the growing controversy. "We had obviously pointed that out in a number of instances prior to this, and these emails just bear that out."

Another member of Sanders' staff, Rania Batrice put it this way: "Everything our fans have been saying -- and they were beaten down for and called conspiracy theorists -- and now it's in black and white."

I've been asked to comment on this by Sanders supporters here, and my response is this:

Are you serious?

Are we seriously going to let Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump play Sanders supporters like the idiots you are here over this non-story?  Leave it Trump and the Russians to actually make me have to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a person whose resignation I've called for on numerous occasions as DNC chair, when it's painfully clear Weaver is more than happy to take a bit from this poison apple in order to try to give Putin his preferred candidate in November.

Let me be absolute about this: this was an operation by the Russians to steal email from the Democrats in order to sow discord, and a purposeful leak in order to try to wreck the DNC convention.  The timing was 100% on purpose here, and if you can't see how ridiculously obvious this is, I can't help you.


The Gunmerican Disease Spreads

Friday saw yet another mass shooting, this time in Munich, Germany. Nine people were killed in a McDonald's near a shopping center by what looks like an 18-year-old obsessed with mass shootings. Plenty of those in the news, yes?

The 18-year-old gunman who killed nine people in Munich was obsessed with mass shootings but had no known links to the Islamic State group, German police say.

Written material on such attacks was found in his room. Munich's police chief spoke of links to the massacre by Norway's Anders Behring Breivik.

The gunman, who had dual German-Iranian nationality, later killed himself.

His name has not been officially released but he is being named locally as David Sonboly.

He had a 9mm Glock pistol and 300 bullets in his rucksack.

Police do not yet know how the weapon was acquired, but said he had no permit for it and the serial number had been obliterated.

They are investigating whether he may have lured his victims through a Facebook invitation to the McDonald's restaurant where he launched his attack on Friday evening.

 He ended up injuring 27 more, some critically, including kids.

The disease is spreading around the world, it seems.

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