Sunday, April 30, 2017

Last Call For Full Court Press

The signs of the Trump regime's growing authoritarianism continue to come at a rapid fire pace, now we have White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus suggesting on ABC's This Week to Jonathan Karl that maybe the Constitution shouldn't cover a free press any longer.

KARL: I want to ask you about two things the President has said on related issues. First of all, there was what he said about opening up the libel laws. Tweeting “the failing New York Times has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws?” That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?

PRIEBUS: I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. But when you have articles out there that have no basis or fact and we’re sitting here on 24/7 cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with Russia and all these other matters—

KARL: So you think the President should be able to sue the New York Times for stories he doesn’t like?

PRIEBUS: Here’s what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news. I am so tired.

KARL: I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. It’s about whether or not the President should have a right to sue them.

PRIEBUS: And I already answered the question. I said this is something that is being looked at. But it’s something that as far as how it gets executed, where we go with it, that’s another issue.

"We've looked at" giving the Trump the power to sue or take other action against a press that publishes stories critical of the regime, particularly involving Trump's Russia ties.  You'd better believe that this is a open threat to journalists across the country, and one that will be cheered by tens of millions.

This isn't just a threat, either.  It's a promise.  You should take Priebus at his word that the regime is looking for ways to limit free speech to friendly press only.  This is what authoritarian regimes do. This is what controls America now.

The Retirement Party Continues

Republicans in the age to Trump are falling like dominoes, and the most recent one is big: First House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz announced his retirement, now Florida's top House Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is leaving the House after 35 years.

“It's been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” the Miami Republican told the Miami Herald in an exclusive telephone interview Sunday. “We just said, ‘It's time to take a new step.’” 
Her unexpected retirement marks the end of a storied career in which Ros-Lehtinen repeatedly broke political ground as a Cuban-American woman -- and gives Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018.

Ros-Lehtinen, 64, was elected last November to Florida’s redrawn 27th district, a stretch of Southeast Miami-Dade County that leans so Democratic that Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points. It was Clinton's biggest margin of any Republican-held seat in the country.
Ros-Lehtinen defeated Democratic challenger Scott Fuhrman, a first-time candidate, by 10 points. It was her closest reelection race in years and forced her to deplete her $3.4 million campaign account, but she said Sunday she wasn't worried about 2018.

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that she would have been able to raise at least $2.5 million and win in a midterm election without a Democratic presidential candidate leading the ballot. 
But she said the prospect of another two or four or more years in Congress just didn’t appeal to her anymore.

There was no epiphany. There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I've said, “I've got to move on,’” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected — but it's not about getting elected.

But she's leaving, and when Republicans have total control to implement whatever legislation that they like with minimal Democratic interference.  Again, she's only 64.  She had another 10 years ahead of her easily, if not longer, during a time of near-total Republican dominance in her home state and the country.  Even Ros-Lehtinen herself was a Republican beloved by Democrats in her home district, where Clinton won huge, but Ros-Lehtinen herself won by double digits.

So when a lifelong politician who's been in office since I was a child says "It's not about getting elected", especially a House Republican, it's a massive lie.

Expect more mysterious, unexplained retirements of Republicans at the top of their political power in the era of Trump.

Trump Cards, Con't

Dear Leader Donald held a patriotism rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last night to tout his "most successful first 100 days in history" and his supporters in the Keystone State showed up to play along.

President Trump marked his 100th day in office with a campaign rally in Pennsylvania this evening, assailing one of his favorite targets from the electoral cycle, the media, as he skipped the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

He also revisited many other themes from his campaign: building a border wall, repealing and replacing Obamacare, ensuring border security and assailing the Obama administration and Democrats as weak leaders while touting "100 days of devotion hard work and love for our country."

Trump's remarks were interrupted by several protesters, and as had been the case during some campaign rallies, he paused his speech and told security officials to "get 'em out."

"There's no place I'd rather be than right here in Pennsylvania," Trump told the crowd in Harrisburg.

"As you may know there's another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington D.C.," Trump added. "Did you hear about that? A large group of Hollywood actors, and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's Capitol right now.

"They are gathered together for the White House Correspondent's Dinner -- without the president. And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp, spending my evening with all of you."

He went on to call the media "a disgrace" and "incompetent."

Trump said that many journalists are "trapped at the dinner, which will be very, very boring," but he suggested that he could "make it more interesting" next year by showing up.

He made it very clear who the enemies of America are now: the free press that dares question him, the Democrats who dare oppose him, and the people who dare not revere him.  They will be dealt with.

The phenomenon of a Trump rally is its collapsing of the space-time continuum. It’s timeless and timely with the recitations of the old themes—“does anyone remember who our opponent was?”—and the introduction of the new material—“Senator Schumer is a bad leader.”

Within these spaces, Trump is largely impervious to criticism. His failures are the faults of the Democrats and Republicans who won’t cooperate with him, and his successes are the result of a unique businessman’s approach to the presidency.

“What Donald Trump really is is an independent president, if you will, for lack of a better term hijacking the Republican Party,” Michael Avila, a Trump voter from New York City, told The Daily Beast. “Which I think is a good thing.”

“I think he needs to get rid of Paul Ryan somehow, someway,” Avila added. “I think he’s a big issue.”

For Edward X. Young, a 57-year-old actor from New Jersey, sporting an assortment of buttons including pictures of the president and his wife, Trump achieved a great deal in the first 100 days considering the “quasi-Marxist Democratic party” he had to work with.

His one major issue was that Trump didn’t fulfill the campaign promise of putting Hillary Clinton in jail.

“She’s behind the Resistance,” Young told The Daily Beast, referring to Clinton. Trump “should prosecute her and put her and her lousy husband behind bars, and her daughter too.”

 When our economy starts falling apart, the scapegoats are already lined up: "illegals", non-Christians, "the blacks", the Democrats,  They are Resistance, and as far as Trump's supporters are concerned, they have no rights because they chose to no longer be American, and who who never were in their eyes are less than human anyway.  In Trump's America, "those people" will not be mourned when they are gone.

It's dangerous enough with a semi-stable economy and decent unemployment, but the clouds are already on the horizon signaling a very bad time ahead, and with Trump at the helm the pain coming for everyone will be a crate of lit sparklers dropped in a field of dry tinder.  Very soon the creaming for blood at rallies and the calls for "give him some time" will not be enough to sate the Rough Beast.

And then America will become very dangerous, very quickly.

Sunday Long Read: When The Bullet Meets The Bone

Huffington Post writer Jason Fagone goes on the front lines of Gunmerica with Philadelphia trauma surgeon Dr. Amy Goldberg to see just what firearms are designed to do to flesh and bone, and what the doctors that try to repair that damage see on a daily basis.

The first thing Dr. Amy Goldberg told me is that this article would be pointless. She said this on a phone call last summer, well before the election, before a tangible sensation that facts were futile became a broader American phenomenon. I was interested in Goldberg because she has spent 30 years as a trauma surgeon, almost all of that at the same hospital, Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia, which treats more gunshot victims than any other in the state and is located in what was, according to one analysis, the deadliest of the 10 largest cities in the country until last year, with a homicide rate of 17.8 murders per 100,000 residents in 2015.

Over my years of reporting here, I had heard stories about Temple’s trauma team. A city prosecutor who handled shooting investigations once told me that the surgeons were able to piece people back together after the most horrific acts of violence. People went into the hospital damaged beyond belief and came walking out.

That stuck with me. I wondered what surgeons know about gun violence that the rest of us don’t. We are inundated with news about shootings. Fourteen dead in San Bernardino, six in Michigan, 11 over one weekend in Chicago. We get names, places, anguished Facebook posts, wonky articles full of statistics on crime rates and risk, Twitter arguments about the Second Amendment—everything except the blood, the pictures of bodies torn by bullets. That part is concealed, sanitized. More than 30,000 people die of gunshot wounds each year in America, around 75,000 more are injured, and we have no visceral sense of what physically happens inside a person when he’s shot. Goldberg does.
She is the chair of Temple’s Department of Surgery, one of only 16 women in America to hold that position at a hospital. In my initial conversation with her, which took place shortly after the mass shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and 53 injured by a man who walked into a gay nightclub with a semi-automatic rifle and a Glock handgun, she was joined by Scott Charles, the hospital’s trauma outreach coordinator and Goldberg’s longtime friend. Goldberg has a southeastern Pennsylvania accent that at low volume makes her sound like a sweet South Philly grandmother and at higher volume becomes a razor. I asked her what changes in gun violence she had seen in her 30 years. She said not many. When she first arrived at Temple in 1987 to start her residency, “It was so obvious to me then that there was something so wrong.” Since then, the types of firearms have evolved. The surgeons used to see .22-caliber bullets from little handguns, Saturday night specials, whereas now they see .40-caliber and 9 mm bullets. Charles said they get the occasional victim of a long gun, such as an AR-15 or an AK-47, “but what’s remarkable is how common handguns are.”

Goldberg jumped in. “As a country,” Goldberg said, “we lost our teachable moment.” She started talking about the 2012 murder of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Goldberg said that if people had been shown the autopsy photos of the kids, the gun debate would have been transformed. “The fact that not a single one of those kids was able to be transported to a hospital, tells me that they were not just dead, but really really really really dead. Ten-year-old kids, riddled with bullets, dead as doornails.” Her voice rose. She said people have to confront the physical reality of gun violence without the polite filters. “The country won’t be ready for it, but that’s what needs to happen. That’s the only chance at all for this to ever be reversed.”

She dropped back into a softer register. “Nobody gives two shits about the black people in North Philadelphia if nobody gives two craps about the white kids in Sandy Hook. … I thought white little kids getting shot would make people care. Nope. They didn’t care. Anderson Cooper was up there. They set up shop. And then the public outrage fades.”

Goldberg apologized and said she wasn’t trying to stop me from writing a story. She just didn’t expect it to change anything.

Odds are this story won't change anything either.  But you should read it anyway, because you should know the true cost of the Second Amendment and its fetishization in this country.
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