Sunday, December 4, 2016

Last Call For The European Disunion

Italian PM Matteo Renzi staked everything on a referendum to reform Italy's constitution on Sunday, and the referendum -- and Renzi's government -- have now both gone up in smoke.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi vowed to resign after suffering a crushing defeat on Sunday in a referendum on constitutional reform, tipping the euro zone's third-largest economy into political turmoil.

His decision to quit after just two and a half years in office deals a blow to the European Union, already reeling from multiple crises and struggling to overcome anti-establishment forces that have battered the Western world this year.

The euro fell to 20-month lows against the dollar, with markets worried that instability in the euro zone's third largest economy could reignite a dormant financial crisis and deal a hammer blow to Italy's fragile banking sector.

Renzi's resignation could open the door to early elections next year and to the possibility of an anti-euro party, the opposition 5-Star Movement, gaining power in the heart of the single currency. 5-Star campaigned hard for a 'No' vote.

"I take full responsibility for the defeat," Renzi said in a televised address to the nation, saying he would hand in his formal resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday.

Mattarella will have to embark on a round of consultations with party leaders before naming a new prime minister -- Italy's fifth in as many years -- who will be tasked with drawing up a new electoral law.

Brexit, now Renzi out in Italy, almost certainly to be replaced by a nationalist government.  France is almost certainly next.  The bright spot in Europe right now? Austria.

Austrian voters roundly rejected on Sunday a candidate vying to become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two, halting at least temporarily the wave of populism sweeping Western democracies.

The runoff vote was a litmus test, since it was a re-run of a vote held in May, before Britain voted to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president.

Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party lost the May election by less than a percentage point, and polls had for months shown the race too close to call.

But within minutes of polls closing it was clear he had lost to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who had put the June Brexit referendum at the center of his campaign, saying Hofer would lead Austria down the same road as Britain and warning voters not to "play with this fire".

"A red, white and red signal of hope and of positive change is being beamed from Vienna through Europe," Van der Bellen said in a victory speech, referring to the colors on Austria's flag. "I will be a pro-European president of Austria open to the world."

So there's that, but it's only a matter of time before France goes the way of the UK, and the EU falls.  They will get no help from America under Trump, as we will most likely be in the depths of a major war, major depression, or both, soon.

The Coming War On Democrats Being Allowed To Vote

On Sunday we received the clearest signal yet that the Trump administration will be running on perpetual outrage and conspiracy theories as they look to radically curtail voting rights across the country.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence defended President-elect Donald Trump's recent tweet claiming without evidence that "millions" of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.

"It's his right to express his opinion as President-elect of the United States," Pence told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on Sunday morning. "He’s going to say what he believes to be true, and I know he is always going to speak in that way as president."

When pressed about whether he believes the claim is accurate, Pence said, "I think one of the things that’s refreshing about our president-elect and one of the reasons why I think he had an incredible connection with people all across this country is because he tells you what's on his mind."

"But why is it refreshing to make false statements?" Stephanopoulos said.

"Look, I don't know that that is a false statement," Pence replied.

The vice president-elect also repeatedly cited a Pew Charitable Trusts study on voter registration records. "I think the President-elect wants to call to attention to the fact there has been evidence over many years," he said.

Same thing from Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

Reince Priebus, the outgoing Republican National Committee chair, defended Donald Trump Sunday over the president-elect’s charge last week, presented without proof, that “millions” of people had voted illegally during the general election.

“Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pressed Priebus on that specific illegal vote claim, asking the incoming White House chief of staff how he handles the president-elect’s statement “when you know that that’s not true.”

“I don’t know if that’s not true, John,” Priebus said, saying that “there are estimates all over the map” on undocumented immigrants voting in election.

“But you think millions of people voted illegally?” Dickerson asked.

Priebus’ response: “It’s possible.”

When the “Face the Nation” host pushed back, saying “there is not evidence that it happened in millions of votes in California,” Priebus defended the president-elect once more.

“I think the president-elect is someone who has pushed the envelope and caused people to think in this country,” he said. “He’s not taking conventional thought -- on every single issue and has caused people to look at things that maybe they have taken for granted.”

This is the VP-elect and the President-elect's chief of staff both saying without any evidence that millions could have voted fraudulently.  The implication here is that Republicans will have to take drastic steps to eliminate the "could have" part, and at a national level.

This will be repeated until tens of millions of Americans believe it is true, so when national "voter ID" suppression laws become a reality, it will be a necessary one.

That is if we're still having elections in 2020.  Which is anyone's guess at this point.

The Next DNC Chair Up Is In The Air

I don't honestly know who the next chair of the Democratic National Committee will be, but I can tell you who it won't be: Howard Dean has been kicked to the curb already, and Rep. Keith Ellison's national career is all but over.

Keith Ellison came to Colorado seeking to cement his position as the front-runner for Democratic National Committee chairman. But the Minnesota congressman ended the week in worse shape than when it started.

Just hours after Ellison’s role as the favorite was thrown into question by a stinging condemnation of his past statements about Israel by the Anti-Defamation League — a move Ellison and his allies vigorously rebutted — former Chairman Howard Dean dropped his comeback bid and bowed out of the race, scrambling an already complicated contest.

The three remaining announced candidates for the chairmanship — Ellison, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, and South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — spoke to state party officials from across the country for nearly two-and-a-half hours here at the Association of State Democratic Chairs meeting, exhaustively laying out their hopes for a rejuvenated party in displays that appeared to leave the DNC membership just as unsure of its next leader's identity as when it entered the room.

The result is a race that’s even more of a muddle, with the likelihood of additional candidates jumping in prior to February’s vote. Ellison himself appeared to recognize his tenuous position, and pledged in his strongest terms yet to consider giving up his House seat if he gets the chair’s role. He pleaded with attendees to keep an open mind as he insisted the DNC would be his top priority, while the other candidates — and Dean, in his pre-recorded video — insisted over and over that the decimated party needs a full-time chair.

I know "Dems in disarray!" is the obvious joke here, but it's not a joke.  There aren't any real candidates for the job at this point.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz was an unmitigated disaster. Donna Brazile lost all confidence with Clinton's defeat.  The state party chairs who are running haven't shown themselves to be exactly competent.  Honestly, South Carolina? New Hampshire?  These are early primary states who think they should be running things, not actual leaders.

It's a mess, and it's going to be a long time before the Dems can get their act together.  Which is too bad, because a united front to resist Trump is absolutely needed in order to keep the country in one piece.

Sunday Long Read: The View From Clay County

Author Brad King, a native of Clay County, Kentucky, argues that the revolt by Rust Belt white voters, particularly in coal country, really was solely economic in nature.

Let’s begin with a hypothetical.

Imagine you are in your mid-forties, you have two children, and you live in a place where there’s been no new businesses developed in the last thirty years. You live well off the beaten path, along one of myriad state routes that used to be the lifeblood of the country but now largely serve as a reminder of how forgotten you are. That lack of transportation infrastructure and cost of doing business due to regulations— oversight that you know makes your life better— discourages corporations big and small from coming into your town.

With no new businesses, increasingly you are forced to depend upon the government to provide you basic services like healthcare and unemployment insurance. You hate that, but you also have little choice. You don’t have the money — or connections — to move…somewhere else.

In each election season, you find yourself making a choice: continue receiving government help, which you know will not make your children’s life better, or forego those basic services in hopes that your town—one forgotten by the country— has the chance to create jobs that may provide you, and your children, the chance to carve out a life.

The choice each election season is the same, but the circumstances in which you live are getting worse because where you live isn’t part of the growth of the country.

So which do you choose: government help that you know will be there but that doesn’t provide a future, or the chance to maybe build something new (and knowing that if you fail, you will be worse off than you are)?

You must choose one or the other. If you decide not to choose, then you’re told you have no right to complain. And— by the way— no matter which you pick, people will chide you for being too stupid to know the right answer?

Here's the thing though: this falls apart on closer inspection.

Because if you wonder why people might vote for a political candidate that isn’t interested in social programs for Appalachia, maybe it’s because the people understand that it’s not social programs that are the problem. And if you wonder why the people may want an economy unrestrained by regulation, maybe it’s because the regulations have been set up in ways that help internal colonizers.

If we think back to the choice from the hypothetical, the idea of “self-interest” becomes something far more complex than just “vote for Medicaid because you need it” or “vote for more social programs.”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the people who are the problem at all.

Instead, it’s the fact that for whatever the deep-seated reasons are for the crushing poverty that has descended upon the Appalachian region, the twenty-four million residents know that what they really need is a fair chance against everyone else. And since the game has been rigged, the only way they know how to get out is to re-set all the rules

That's weird.  You know why I think the real issue isn't economic at all?  Because the situation he's describing absolutely defines black America and has for hundreds of years, and for some odd reason black America, trapped in cities like Flint that doesn't have clean water, trapped in places like Ferguson where the city literally uses the law to run its local economy by fining residents and running debtor's prisons, and yes, just like Appalachia, trapped in places with crumbling infrastructure, terrible schools, no economic opportunity, chronic drug and mass incarceration problems and on top of that hostile police forces that treat them as the enemy and can regularly kill black Americans with impunity.

If there's anyone in this country who should want to reset all the rules it's black America.  And yet we didn't vote to burn the place down, when we're even allowed to vote because on top of everything listed above we have a political party in this country dedicated to making sure we can't vote, either.

Appalachia is tired of being forgotten?  That's why they lashed out?  How about Appalachia was tired of being treated like a bunch of ni-CLANG and decided that as bad as things are for them, at least they're not black.  They voted to reset the rules to benefit them at the direct expense of people not like them, but you notice they don't have Republicans trying to keep them from voting.

No, sorry Mr. King, your theory is garbage.  It was about the zero-sum game offered by the GOP to benefit coal country by having them help put those people in their place, and they took it.

Anything has to be better than being black in America, after all.
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