Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Last Call For What's Up With Team Aftab?

Kind of a big local story here in Cincinnati as the House race for OH-1 between GOP Rep. Steve Chabot and Democratic challenger Aftab Pureval has gotten very strange, and definitely not in a good way for the blue side.

A resignation and two firings have cast a pall on the campaign of Democratic congressional Aftab Pureval six days before the election.

His campaign manager Sarah Topy resigned late Tuesday night and two staffers were fired.

Now some see his challenge of Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, in jeopardy.

Pureval wouldn't say why other than "new information" came to light.

"Yesterday, I learned new information that led me to believe that members of my staff may not have lived up to that standard," Pureval said in a statement "We have dismissed those staff members. I do not want this issue to be a distraction in the final days, and therefore have accepted the resignation of my campaign manager."

In an interview with The Enquirer, Pureval gave little additional information. He wouldn't say what the new information was. He also wouldn't reveal the identity of the two staffers.

The staff shakeup comes on the eve of a hearing Thursday in front of the Ohio Elections Commission about whether Pureval improperly spent money from his local election campaign fund for his federal campaign.

The campaign came under a bigger cloud of suspicion with allegations a worker on Pureval's campaign posed as a Chabot campaign worker and infiltrated his campaign.

"While the actions of a few are inappropriate, we're proud of the campaign we've run," Pureval said yesterday.

Republicans see Pureval's troubles as not only assuring a Chabot victory, but also helping their candidates in the other races, including the close gubernatorial race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Rich Cordray.

"When something like this happens so close to the election, his supporters are probably starting to walk away from him," said Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party. "That might mean fewer supporters for the other Democrats on the ticket."

When asked who will manage the campaign in the final week, Pureval said local political consultant Jens Sutmoller will serve as chief of staff.

The latest two NYT polls in the last few weeks show Chabot up by a comfortable nine points after surveys earlier this fall showed Pureval within a couple of points, but if this turns into a campaign finance scandal with days to go, Pureval's done blue wave or not.

If there is a blue wave, there's no sign of it in Cincy.  OH-1 is an R+9 district, and Chabot is leading by that margin.  Unless the NY Times polls are badly overestimating Chabot, he's going to win.

We'll see.  Cincy readers, get out and vote.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent takes a look at the Trump regime "strategy" to hold the House and keep damage to a minimum, which apparently involves crafting different groups of lies to different blocs of Trump supporters that manage to contradict each other and could bring the whole GOP House firewall crashing down under a blue wave.

Republicans are mostly on defense in districts that are both economically prosperous and are filled with voters who are badly alienated by Trump. Why this disconnect?

One likely answer is that the story Trump has told about the economy — and the country — just isn’t resonating in many of these districts. That narrative is that immigration and globalization pose major threats to the well-being of Americans, and Trump is now acting on those threats, via stepped-up deportations from the interior, efforts to slash legal immigration and refugee flows, and trade wars. That, plus his tax cut, has created the supposed “Trump boom,” in stark contrast with the economy under Barack Obama, which is uniformly depicted as a pre-Trumpian hellscape.

At the same time, Trump and Republicans have distilled down Trumpism’s core narratives into a series of ludicrous and menacing cartoons for the GOP base’s consumption. Why? Brownstein’s analysis provides an answer: Because the bulwark against truly large GOP losses in the House is made up of many districts that are competitive but are also heavily populated with blue-collar, rural, small-town, exurban and evangelical whites. Hold off Democrats in all those districts, and if they win the majority, it will be a limited one.

And so, to galvanize those voters, Trump has directed bread-and-circuses belligerence at euro-weenie elites and China. He has employed endless lies and hate-mongering to hype the migrant “caravan” into a national emergency, and will send in troops as props to dramatize the point. Republicans are running ads absurdly depicting immigrants as criminals and invaders alongside many other ones that indulge in naked race-baiting. Trump is vowing an end to birthright citizenship, confirming the ethno-nationalist underpinnings of Trumpism and further fanning the xenophobic flames.

But Trump’s political team recognizes that all this risks a backlash among more-educated white voters. So this is the $6 million ad campaign that his team is running right now, that appears to be targeting those voters.

The split in GOP messaging is notable. While Republicans employ garish race-baiting to galvanize the hard-core white GOP base, this ad’s soft-focus messaging directed at white suburban women features none of that imagery. The spot’s iconic white suburban woman is obviously conflicted over her vote — we aren’t told why, but we know full well why — but finally checks the “Republican” box out of concern over her child’s economic future.

Yet the ad’s core narrative — the contrast of the Obama hellscape with the Trump boom — is an invention, and as the first study noted above suggests, it might not even resonate in these districts. What’s more, the Trump/GOP economic agenda is being dramatically falsified as well: Trump is promising a huge middle-class tax cut that isn’t going to happen, to obscure the truly regressive nature of the actual Trump/GOP tax cut, which lavished a huge windfall on the wealthy and corporations and as such is deeply unpopular.

Republicans are also running ads vowing to protect people with preexisting conditions, yet they have also locked themselves into opposition to Obamacare, which Democrats are now campaigning on protecting. As Ezra Klein explains, this has left Republicans with no alternative but to lie relentlessly to obscure the real GOP health-care agenda, which is to deregulate insurance markets and regressively strip protections and economic assistance from millions. This, too, is deeply unpopular.

Trump and Republicans are closing by lying about health care and taxes to limit losses among suburban and well-educated white voters, and lying about immigration while race-baiting against individual Democratic candidates to keep the downscale white GOP base energized. This probably won’t be enough for Republicans to keep the House. But whatever is to be on this front, the need to lie so relentlessly about all these matters itself constitutes an admission of failure. The public has seen Trump’s fusion of ethno-nationalism and orthodox GOP plutocracy put into governing practice, and is rejecting it.

So there you have it:  In order to keep the House, the GOP has to appeal to white college graduate women to keep the house (44% voted GOP in 2016) and to white women without degrees (61% voted GOP in 2016).  Together, they made up 37% of the electorate.  You have two different campaigns, based on two separate sets of lies.  They're getting crossed up, and it's not working.

In the final week we'll see how it goes, but should the blue wave become a blue tsunami, you'll know why.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Once again, I guarantee that GOP operative Roger Stone is going to be indicted after the midterms by the Mueller probe, and it's going to get very ugly, very quickly.  There's a reason that the bizarre and ultimately fruitless right-wing hatchet job that emerged this week of paying former associates of Mueller to fabricate sexual assault allegations, and it was a last-ditch effort to save Roger Stone from the dock as Mueller's trap jaws close in.

The special counsel investigation is pressing witnesses about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone’s private interactions with senior campaign officials and whether he had knowledge of politically explosive Democratic emails that were released in October 2016
, according to people familiar with the probe.

As part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appears to be focused on the question of whether WikiLeaks coordinated its activities with Stone and the campaign, including the group’s timing, the people said. Stone and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied being in contact.

On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, about claims Stone is said to have made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.

In recent weeks, Mueller’s team has also interviewed several Stone associates, including New York comedian Randy Credico and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Both testified before the grand jury.

Investigators have questioned witnesses about events surrounding Oct. 7, 2016, the day The Washington Post published a recording of Trump bragging about his ability to grab women by their genitals, the people said.

Less than an hour after The Post published its story about Trump’s crude comments during a taping of “Access Hollywood,” WikiLeaks delivered a competing blow to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by releasing a trove of emails hacked from the account of her campaign chairman John Podesta.

The group trickled out new batches of Podesta’s private messages nearly daily through the campaign’s final weeks, ensuring the stolen documents would vex Clinton’s campaign until Election Day.

Investigators have been scrutinizing phone and email records from the fall of 2016, looking for evidence of what triggered WikiLeaks to drop the Podesta emails right after the “Access Hollywood” tape story broke, according to people with knowledge of the probe.

In an interview this week, Stone vehemently denied any prior knowledge of the Podesta emails. He said he did not play any role in determining the timing of their release by WikiLeaks or suggest they be used to blunt the impact of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

It is unclear whether the special prosecutor has evidence connecting Stone to WikiLeaks’s activities. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, could have concluded on his own that releasing the emails on that day would benefit Trump.

The results of Mueller’s inquiry could answer the central question of his probe: whether there was coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian activities. Trump has repeatedly declared there was “no collusion.”

Again, if Steve Bannon is being questioned about Stone, and if you somehow don't believe Bannon will give up Stone to save his own slovenly hide, November is going to be a fun education for a lot of people.  There's always the chance Trump will pull the trigger sometime next week and make his move trying to get rid of Mueller, but I don't think he'll beat Mueller to the punch when it comes to saving Stone.

Still, anything's possible once the midterms are done with.  We'll see.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Apparently a couple of right-wing smear job artists had a little October Surprise in store for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but he was wise to it last week and informed the FBI so that they could have a look.

A company that appears to be run by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist offered to pay women to make false claims against Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the midterm elections—and the special counsel’s office has asked the FBI to weigh in. “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the Mueller spokesman Peter Carr told me in an email on Tuesday.

The special-counsel office’s attention to this scheme and its decision to release a rare statement about it indicates the seriousness with which the team is taking the purported plot to discredit Mueller in the middle of an ongoing investigation. Carr confirmed that the allegations were brought to the office’s attention by several journalists, who were contacted by a woman who identified herself as Lorraine Parsons. Another woman, Jennifer Taub, contacted Mueller's office earlier this month with similar information.

The woman identifying herself as Parsons told journalists in an email, a copy of which I obtained, that she had been offered roughly $20,000 by a man claiming to work for a firm called Surefire Intelligence—which had been hired by a GOP activist named Jack Burkman—“to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.”

Parsons wrote in her letter that she had worked for Mueller as a paralegal at the Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro law firm in 1974, but that she “didn’t see” him much. “When I did see him, he was always very polite to me, and was never inappropriate,” she said. The law firm told me on late Tuesday afternoon, however, that it has “no record of this individual working for our firm.” 
Parsons explained that she was contacted by a man “with a British accent” who wanted to ask her “a couple questions about Robert Mueller, whom I worked with when I was a paralegal for Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro in 1974. I asked him who he was working for, and he told me his boss was some sort of politics guy in Washington named Jack Burkman. I reluctantly told [him] that I had only worked with Mr. Mueller for a short period of time, before leaving that firm to have my first son.”

She continued: “In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do. He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure. Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. He said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) ‘I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.’” The man “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do” it, she wrote. “He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out.” 

So who are the clowns behind this conspiracy of dunces?  Let's take a look.

Surefire Intelligence describes itself as “a private intel agency that designs and executes bespoke solutions for businesses and individuals who face complex business and litigation challenges.” Surefire’s domain records list an email for another pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, Jacob Wohl, who began hyping a “scandalous” Mueller story on Tuesday morning. Wohl told The Daily Beast that Burkman had hired Surefire to assist with his investigation into Mueller’s past, but denied knowing anything about the firm’s involvement in an alleged plot to fabricate allegations against Mueller when asked why his email address appeared in the domain records. He did not respond when asked by NBC why a telephone number listed on Surefire’s website referred callers to another number that’s listed in public records as belonging to Wohl’s mother. 
Parsons was not willing to speak to the reporters by phone, according to Scott Stedman, one of the reporters who received the letter. So portions of her story have gone uncorroborated, and her identity has not been independently confirmed.

Jack Burkman is the right-wing operative and radio host who opened his "own investigation" into the Seth Rich murder case and then tried to stiff his investigator, a former military man who did not take kindly to Burkman trying to blame him when things went wrong.  For his trouble, Burkman was shot and ran over.

Jacob Wohl is the Wall Street "whiz kid" who managed to get himself banned from the financial industry for good last year at the age of 19 for massive hedge fund fraud. And Wohl currently works guessed it...the only man on earth stupid enough to hire him: Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit, aka the Stupidiest Man On The Internet, who dropped this conspiracy story on his site only to retract things when it turned out that Wohl and Burkman are almost certainly headed for some time with the FBI.

And yes, Mueller has an alibi for the date that Burkman and Wohl claim he was in NYC...because he was in DC serving jury duty.

In other words, this is going to make a great comedy movie in a couple of years.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

With a week to go until midterm elections, Republicans are in full and total panic mode as they move to try to hold increasingly vulnerable House districts in Southern states. Paul Ryan is headed here to try to save Republican Andy Barr's Lexington House seat from Democratic retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, and if Republicans are relegated to defending states like Kentucky in the final week of the campaign, all bets are off as to how many dozens of seats they now expect to lose.

Ryan will be in Kentucky on Tuesday to campaign for Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr, whose 6th District stretches from Lexington to more rural areas. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath has given Democrats hope of flipping the seat, despite the district’s naturally conservative tilt.

Meanwhile, the NRCC plans to launch ads Tuesday in South Carolina’s 1st District, an area along the coast including Charleston that has leaned conservative in recent federal elections. But Republican nominee Katie Arrington has had trouble putting away her Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham.

Arrington, who defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in a primary defined by her support for Trump and the incumbent’s criticism of the president, has lost some GOP support to Cunningham, whose slogan is “Lowcountry over party” and who casts himself as a moderate.

C'mon, Republicans are now on defense in Kentucky and South Carolina?  It's going to be a bloodbath when we're done.

In Virginia’s 7th District, which Trump also carried, a new poll released Monday showed more possible trouble. The survey from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed 46 percent of likely voters picking Democrat Abigail Spanberger and 45 percent choosing Republican Rep. Dave Brat.

The NRCC also hit the airwaves for the first time last week in Georgia’s 6th District in the Atlanta suburbs, where Democrat Lucy McBath has received help from well-funded gun control groups. Trump narrowly won the district.

“We’re not trying to cover the spread,” said NRCC communications director Matt Gorman. “We’re looking at victories.” He added: “The name of the game is volatility. And we’ve seen it on both sides.” 
Democrats have raised huge sums of money, prompting Republicans to warn about a “green wave” of Democratic dollars, even in districts where the GOP has established a strong presence.

McBath started the final weeks of the campaign with $565,000 in her account; her Republican opponent, Rep. Karen Handel, had $402,000 left to spend.

The NRCC hit the airwaves for the first time last week in Washington’s 3rd District in the southwest corner of the state. Trump won there by seven points. Democrat Carolyn Long capitalized on a strong primary vote by outraising Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler by nearly $1 million.

Even in Florida’s 18th District, where Trump won by nine points and Rep. Brian Mast outraised his Democratic challenger, former diplomat Lauren Baer, Republicans are not taking any chances. The NRCC went up with an ad in the district that stretches north from Palm Beach County last week.

KY-6 and VA-7 are knife-edge toss-ups and have contested for months.  But if Republicans are only now worried about SC-1, GA-6, FL-18, and WA-3 (and you can add Utah's 4th to this list as GOP Rep. Mia Love is now behind to Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams) enough to commit an 11th hour defense to these districts, the GOP is now reduced to trying to stop a blue wave from becoming a total 2010-style wipeout.

I don't think they'll succeed.  With a week to go, we're still seeing the smart money on 35-45 Dem House pickups as an average and 55-60 if they overperform.

Five Thirty Eight now has Dems at 216 of the 218 they need to gain a House majority with more than 20 toss-ups left to fight over, another 16 "Lean R" seats in play and a whopping 49 "Likely R" seats that could fall, and it's these seats that the GOP is now moving to defend.  If the Dems get 80% of the toss-ups breaking their way, half the leaners and a quarter of the likely seats, that's 62 seats.  That's 2010 in reverse.

Guess who'a s also in trouble now?  GOP Rep. Steve King in IA-4.  Cook Political report has now shifted his race from "Likely R" to "Lean R".  King won in 2016 over Kim Weaver by 22 points, Trump won this district by 27 points two years ago.

Let's overperform.  Get out there and vote if you haven't already, and get somebody besides yourself to the polls while you're at it.

Deportation Nation, Con't

As I mentioned on Friday, Donald Trump is indeed going all in on militarizing America's southern border with Mexico.  Trump is putting more than 5,000 troops on the border this week, and these aren't National Guard call-ups either, these are military combat battalions.

Senior U.S. officials said Monday that some 5,200 additional U.S. troops will deploy to the border with Mexico by the end of the week, as President Trump likened a caravan of Central American migrants who are heading north to “an invasion.” 
The deployments, occurring under an operation known as Faithful Patriot, already are underway, said Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command. He said the military, working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will focus first on hardening the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California. 
The deployments will include three combat engineer battalions, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and troops who specialize in aviation, medical treatment and logistics, O’Shaughnessy said. He highlighted the deployment of helicopters, which will have night-vision capabilities and sensors.

“We’ll be able to spot and identify groups and rapidly deploy CBP personnel where they are needed,” he said. 
O’Shaughnessy said the Pentagon also will deploy military police units and cargo aircraft, including three C-130s and one C-17. Combined command posts will be established to integrate U.S. military and CBP efforts. 
“As we sit right here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas right now,” the general said. “They’re coming from Fort Campbell. They’re coming from Fort Knox. They’re moving closer to the border. They’re going to continue their training, and they’re ready to deploy to actually be employed on the border.”

Ahh, but we're only beginning this mess.  Last week I figured Trump would pick a legal fight for the last week of the midterm campaign by bypassing the Refugee Act and international law by sealing the border and refusing all refugees.  What he's actually planning is far, far worse.

President Trump said he was preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections, during which he has sought to activate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigrants and immigration.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,” Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration and whose work Mr. Trump’s advisers often cite.

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea Mr. Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges.

It is likewise unknown how serious Mr. Trump is about taking the action. In recent days, with the approach of the midterm balloting in which Republican control of Congress is at risk, he has sought to appeal to voters by making other dramatic claims that appear to have no chance of materializing, such as imminent action to grant a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class.

To accomplish the idea he floated on Tuesday, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Maybe he tries it, maybe not, but the message sent to his white supremacist base with a week to go before elections is 100% clear.  Remember that both MAGAbomber Cesar Sayoc and synagogue shooter Robert Bowers thought Trump wasn't sufficiently racist enough (especially Bowers, who railed against Trump being a "globalist").  This little hate-filled trial balloon is something white nationalists have wanted for years and they're cheering in the streets right now.  If there was any wavering from the purity slimebags about how maybe Trump was too soft on "illegals" or "globalists" all that just got put to rest with this stunt.

Red meat by the tractor-trailer load.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Last Call For The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King doesn't apologize for his white nationalist views because he's simply reflecting the will of his white nationalist constituents.

Across the 4th District — a highly conservative swath of Iowa nearly 200 miles wide, mile upon mile of fertile farmland dotted with towns the length of a two-block Main Street — King has widespread support. 
“Steve’s Steve. He’s a local guy. He graduated from high school here. He comes in for breakfast on Sundays,” says Crawford County Supervisor Eric Skoog, who with his wife, Terri, owns what they believe to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Iowa. 
At the counter of Cronk’s, which has been open since 1929, Skoog says he disagrees with King on immigration and hasn’t been afraid to share his conflicting views. Skoog has worked hard to help local schools adjust to the influx of immigrant children in Denison, one place in the heavily white district where a major meatpacking plant has drawn a sizable Hispanic community. 
Still, Skoog said, “I don’t see him as racist. I don’t know. He’s just Steve.” Come November, he said, he’ll probably vote for him. 
Some in the district welcome King’s blunt talk. 
We’re getting pretty happy in this country about kicking the white guy. Only one group of people haven’t achieved minority status, and it’s white men,” says Steve Sorensen, a former truck driver, watching the World Series in a Hampton bar. “You can fire a white man every time you want. He’s got no recourse. Try that with anybody else.” 
Mindy Rainer also believes that others get government benefits more easily than she does, as a white woman. “There are people out there that are desperate as hell, and I’m one of them,” she says, sliding up to the bar at the restaurant in the town of Cherokee where she works. 
Rainer’s husband was injured on a job site 25 years ago, she said, and denied disability benefits because of bureaucratic hurdles. She has supported them both, but now her kidneys are failing and she fears that she won’t be able to work for the eight years until her husband can collect Social Security. 
Rainer recalled lining up to try to get help with her utility bills when she lived in South Carolina and becoming suspicious of the others in line, almost all of them African American. 
“What upset me more than anything was all them black babies were dressed up in the best clothes,” she said. “When their kids are wearing $150 tennis shoes, what do you think?” 
She sides with King when he talks about immigration. “Why should we feed others when we can’t feed ourselves?” she asked.

Steve King is just representing the views of rural Iowans who want a political party that puts white people first, particularly white men, because that's how it should be in America.  The difference is thanks to Donald Trump, it's perfectly okay to say that you want to vote for the guy running on the platform of "white advocacy", and not a single one of them thinks it's racist because there's a generation of white folk in America who believe they have been discriminated against since birth.

This is America, the party of whites versus the party of those people and Steve King is happily running as a proud member of the former.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

With eight days to go, new CBS polling finds that three Senate toss-up races are still very much toss-ups.

Tight contests dominate the Senate landscape: In Florida, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott are tied among likely voters, 46 percent to 46 percent including those who have cast ballots already. Scott, the sitting governor, gets positive marks from voters on his handling of the recent hurricane and benefits from Republicans reporting that they're more likely to vote than the Democrats who haven't already.

Nelson's support, meanwhile, is underpinned by voters who place health care atop their issues list. The Republicans have a favorable map in their effort to hold their Senate majority, and winning two or three of these states would probably put them in strong position to hold it. Democrats would probably need wins in all three to have a good shot at taking the Senate. 
Health care concerns have helped Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to a slight three-point advantage over Republican Martha McSally, 47 percent to 44 percent. Sinema does well with voters who say health care is a very important concern and is also helped by nine percent of Republicans who say they're backing her — it's hardly an overwhelming number, but it could be essential for a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state like Arizona
But Republican chances of holding on to their Senate majority – or even adding to it – are helped by the prospect of picking up a seat in Indiana, where Republican Mike Braun leads incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, 46 percent to 43 percent. In Indiana, where many voters say that agriculture plays a role in their economy, three-quarters of Republicans feel that new tariffs will ultimately lead to better trade deals for the U.S. 
President Trump appears to be a large factor in these states. In all of them, large majorities say their vote for Senate will be either to support or oppose the president.

All three of these races are within the margin of error, so effectively they are all tied, at least using CBS's likely polling model.  Of course, it depends on how accurate that likely polling model is compared to who actually turns out in both early voting and next Tuesday.

CBS is right however that Democrats need to win all three of these races, plus Nevada, to have any chance of taking the Senate.  I continue to have a bad feeling about Heitkamp in North Dakota, but Dems can still get to 51 if they run the rest of the table and Phil Breseden and/or Beto O'Rourke come through.

I will admit however that the odds of that are not exactly favoring the Dems. A 50-50 split may be the best we can hope for, but if we reach that point there could be some horse trading in the lame duck session.  That would give any one single senator a tremendous amount of power. It's happened before, and it ended up a minor disaster for the Dems when it did.

We'll see.

Trumpsona Non Grata, Or Steeling For A Fight

Thousands have signed on to a letter from a group of Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh to Donald Trump saying that he is no longer welcome by the city's Jewish community until he denounces white nationalism.

More than 16,000 people have signed an open letter to President Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities after a mass shooting Saturday at a local synagogue left 11 dead.

The letter, which was published and shared on Sunday, was written by 11 members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a national organization for progressive Jews focused on social justice, following what is being called the deadliest attackon Jews in U.S. history. The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue also left several people injured, including law enforcement. As of early Monday morning, the letter had 16,533 signatures.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the Jewish leaders wrote. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence."

The letter continued: “Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment late Sunday night.
On Saturday, Trump strongly condemned the shooting as “pure evil,” adding that the “vile, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism” and all other forms of prejudice must be rejected, The Washington Post reported. The president also announced he would be making a visit to Pittsburgh.
The news of the president’s possible travel plans did not sit well with Josh Friedman, who is one of the leaders of Bend the Arc’s Pittsburgh chapter.

My immediate reaction was he is not welcome here,” Friedman, who does not attend services at Tree of Life, told The Post in a Sunday phone interview. “I immediately wrote to the rest of our steering committee that he is not welcome, we have to make that clear.”

That's a pretty hefty condemnation of Trump, I can't think of a time where the person in the Oval Office was flat out told they were not welcome by a group representing a community that suffered a deadly tragedy like this.  There's no question that Saturday's slaughter at Tree of Life was an atni-Semitic hate crime of the most awful level.

Good for Bend The Arc for saying this:

Four boldfaced lines stand out from the rest of the letter’s 338 words.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.”

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.”

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.

I absolutely guarantee you though that Bend The Arc is going to be immediately attacked by Trump's anti-Semitic trolls and dismissed by the White House for having a political action PAC being funded in part by George Soros and that PAC being chaired by Soros's son, Alexander, and there's extremely good odds that Trump is not only going to visit Pittsburgh, but that the visit is going to be followed by (or be morphed into) a pro-Trump rally for Pennsylvania Republicans ahead of midterms next week.

It's going to be horrid, just like everything else the man does.  It's possible that somebody talks sense into Trump and he stays away, but given his narcissism, the state's importance to the GOP keeping the House, and his screaming inchoate base howling "How dare those people tell my President that he's not welcome" I give it an 80% of a Trump visit to Pittsburgh this week and 50% chance of that visit being part of a ghoulish rally, Halloween or no. Once again last night, Trump called the media the "true enemy of America" so it's going to be a bad week no matter where Trump goes.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Last Call For Brazil Nuts

Brazil has elected its Trump today in Jair Bolsonaro, and the number of democracies in the West falls by one as the country's new president has made it abundantly clear that his word is now the only law.

Brazil on Sunday became the latest country to drift toward the far right, electing a strident populist as president in the nation’s most radical political change since democracy was restored more than 30 years ago. 
The new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has exalted the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture and threatened to destroy, jail or drive into exile his political opponents. 
He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative. 
“We have everything need to become a great nation,” Mr. Bolsonaro said Sunday night shortly after the race was called in a video broadcast on his Facebook account. “Together we will change the destiny of Brazil.”

If all these seems depressingly familiar, it's because it's 100% Trump's playbook.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s victory caps a bitter contest that divided families, tore friendships apart and ignited concerns about the resilience of Brazil’s young democracy. 
Many Brazilians see authoritarian tendencies in Mr. Bolsonaro, who plans to appoint military leaders to top posts and said he would not accept the result if he were to lose. He has threatened to stack the Supreme Court by increasing the number of judges to 21 from 11 and to deal with political foes by giving them the choice of extermination or exile
Mr. Bolsonaro, 63, a former Army captain who has been a member of Congress for nearly three decades, beat a crowded field of presidential contenders, several of whom entered the race with bigger war chests, less baggage, and the backing of powerful political parties. 
Part of the reason for his victory was the collapse of the left. Many cried foul after former President Luiz Inácio da Silva, the longtime front-runner in the race, was ruled ineligible to run after he was imprisoned in April to start serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Bolsonaro's battle cry was "lock them up" and he did.  Now, the bloody purge of his enemies will soon begin.  There's no question how we got here, Bolsonaro's takeover is just one more domino in the end of democracy 

It's only going to get exponentially worse over the coming years unless we begin the turn back to sanity in 9 days.

Meat The Press, Con't

NY Times reporter Jim Rutenberg admits that after three years, the American media still has no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and that Trump continues to use the media as targets to beat up on a near-daily basis and will basically always get away with it.

The question is, is it working?

The short answer is yes
. Increasingly, the president’s almost daily attacks seem to be delivering the desired effect, despite the many examples of powerful reporting on his presidency. By one measure, a CBS News poll over the summer, 91 percent of “strong Trump supporters” trust him to provide accurate information; 11 percent said the same about the news media.

Mr. Trump was open about the tactic in a 2016 conversation with Lesley Stahl of CBS News, which she shared earlier this year: “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you,” she quoted him as saying.

And with the president settling on “Fear and Falsehoods” as an election strategy, as The Washington Post put it last week, the political information system is awash in more misleading or flatly wrong assertions than reporters can keep up with. It’s as if President Trump has hit the journalism industry with a denial-of-service attack.

We have seen gross distortions aplenty during political low moments in this country. But something like the “Swift Boat” campaign against the Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 — with its accusations that the candidate had faked his war record — seems almost quaint in retrospect. That attempt drew scrutiny from major media organizations, and eventually led to broad condemnation, even from the candidate it was intended to benefit, President George W. Bush.

Now, partisan smears are a staple of every single news cycle. As crude pipe bombs were discovered at CNN headquarters and in mailboxes across the country, Mr. Trump’s supporters like the Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and the conservative writer Ann Coulter asserted that the crime was a frame job by Democrats.

Before pipe bombs and the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings dominated the news, the main story was the migrant caravan — and it was accompanied by wild speculation on talk radio, social media and from opinionated personalities on Fox News. A myth went viral: the thousands of desperate Hondurans making their slow way toward the American border were players in a drama hatched by Democrats and funded by the right’s all-purpose villain, Mr. Soros, a notion Mr. Trump seemed to nod to at a rally in Montana.

Reporters respond by pointing out that these assertions have no basis in fact, just as they attempt to knock back Mr. Trump’s manufactured content by producing running tallies of his false statements — more than 5,000, says The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column.

Now and then journalists will resort to the L-word, “lie,” as The New York Times has done on occasion. Other frequent targets of the president’s disdain, CNN and MSNBC, have debunked his claims with onscreen headlines and endless panel discussions.

Such good-faith efforts, however, seem increasingly ineffectual. The president has succeeded in casting journalists as the prime foils on his never-ending reality show, much to the delight of those who cheer him on at rallies.

“He has succeeded in creating a daily narrative in which he is the central figure,” Steve Coll, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker, told me. “And he uses props and invented opposition — whether they are migrants hundreds of miles from the U.S. border or the press right in front of him — to pursue this kind of idea he has about how his populism works.”

Again, the media has allowed themselves to be maneuvered into a position where 90% of Trump supporters don't believe a word they say, and more than half of everybody doesn't either. There are many reasons for this, the rise of online media that more easily manipulates people and that can be easily manipulated by people, increasingly corporate control of news outlets by a handful of companies, the consolidation of local newspapers and local TV news, and the massive layoffs in the news business over the last 15 years.  And all those actions were conscious choices.

In other words, everything the American media could have done in order to make themselves vulnerable to a proto-fascist demagogue like Trump, they did.  Trust in the media is in shambles means that not only are Americans being massively misinformed, it means there are Americans who know they are being fed lies, but the lies are convenient enough to allow them to hate who they want to, as Steve M tells us.

I want to know what percentage of the American public -- and, specifically, what percentage of the Republican electorate -- believes what's been reported about Cesar Sayoc. I assume that Democrats and independents will overwhelmingly say they believe what we've been told about him: that he's a Trump supporter who decided on his own to build and mail pipe bombs to people on the president's enemies list.

But what percentage of Republicans believe that? Is it even a majority?

A polling firm should lay out law enforcement's allegations and the conspiracy nuts' scenarios -- that Democrats or a certain billionaire Democratic donor paid the guy, or that the recipients sent the bombs to themselves -- and ask what respondents believe. Or the poll could ask whether law enforcement's story is true and then give doubters an open-ended chance to tell us their pet theories.

I think most Republicans will be doubters, or at least the number of doubters and "not sure" respondents will outnumber those who believe what law enforcement has told us.

That's exactly right.  Trump's lies are all the excuse bigots need to be bigots.

There is no longer shame in being a racist hatemonger in America when the elected leader of the country is arguably the most vocal example of one, and now that the trust in the news media has been lost, most likely irrevocably, there's little the media can now do to stop him.

You guys had your chance.  You blew it.  The time to ask these questions was in Summer, 2016.

Instead it became "But her emails."

The game's over, and we all lost.

Sunday Long Read: Kit Kat Crazy

A part of this week's New York Times Magazine "Candy Issue", here's the story of how Kit Kat bars became Japan's most beloved snack food in the 21st century, with flavors ranging from red bean bun to wasabi and everything in between.

The seven-story Don Quijote megastore in the Shibuya district of Tokyo is open 24 hours a day, but it’s hard to say when it’s rush hour, because there’s always a rush. A labyrinth of aisles leads to one soaring, psychedelic display after another presided over by cartoon mascots, including the mascot of Don Quijote itself: an enthusiastic blue penguin named Donpen who points shoppers toward toy sushi kits and face masks soaked with snail excretions and rainbow gel pens and split-toe socks. The candy section is vast, with cookies and cakes printed with Gudetama, Sanrio’s lazy egg character, and shiny packages of dehydrated, caramelized squid. It’s one of the few places where an extensive array of Japan’s many Kit Kat flavors are for sale. Though the chocolate bar is sold in more than 100 countries, including China, Thailand, India, Russia and the United States, it’s one of Japan’s best-selling chocolate brands and has achieved such a distinctive place in the market that several people in Tokyo told me they thought the Kit Kat was a Japanese product.

A Kit Kat is composed of three layers of wafer and two layers of flavored cream filling, enrobed in chocolate to look like a long, skinny ingot. It connects to identical skinny ingots, and you can snap these apart from one another intact, using very little pressure, making practically no crumbs. The Kit Kat is a sweet, cheap, delicately crunchy artifact of the 20th century’s industrial chocolate conglomerate. In the United States, where it has been distributed by Hershey since 1970, it is drugstore candy. In Japan, you might find the Kit Kat at a drugstore, but here the Kit Kat has levels. The Kit Kat has range. It’s found in department stores and luxurious Kit Kat-devoted boutiques that resemble high-end shoe stores, a single ingot to a silky peel-away sheath, stacked in slim boxes and tucked inside ultrasmooth-opening drawers, which a well-dressed, multilingual sales clerk slides open for you as you browse. The Kit Kat, in Japan, pushes at every limit of its form: It is multicolored and multiflavored and sometimes as hard to find as a golden ticket in your foil wrapper. Flavors change constantly, with many appearing as limited-edition runs. They can be esoteric and so carefully tailored for a Japanese audience as to seem untranslatable to a global mass market, but the bars have fans all over the world. Kit Kat fixers buy up boxes and carry them back to devotees in the United States and Europe. All this helps the Kit Kat maintain a singular, cultlike status.

The Kit Kat first came to Japan in 1973, but the first 100 percent, truly on-brand Japanese Kit Kat arrived at the turn of the millennium, when the marketing department of Nestlé Japan, the manufacturer of Kit Kats in the country, decided to experiment with new flavors, sweetness levels and types of packaging in an effort to increase sales. Strawberry! A pinkish, fruity Kit Kat would have been a gamble almost anywhere else in the world, but in Japan, strawberry-flavored sweets were established beyond the status of novelties. The strawberry Kit Kat was covered in milk chocolate tinted by the addition of a finely ground powder of dehydrated strawberry juice. It was first introduced in Hokkaido — coincidentally and serendipitously — at the start of strawberry season. Since then, the company has released almost 400 more flavors, some of them available only in particular regions of the country, which tends to encourage a sense of rareness and collectibility. Bars flavored like Okinawan sweet potatoes, the starchy, deep purple Japanese tubers, are available in Kyushu and Okinawa. The adzuki bean-sandwich bars are associated with the city of Nagoya, where the sweet, toasted snack originated in a tea shop at the turn of the 20th century and slowly made its way to cafe menus in the area. Shizuoka, where gnarly rhizomes with heart-shaped leaves have been cultivated for centuries on the Pacific Ocean, is known for its wasabi-flavored bars.

The most popular kind of Kit Kat in Japan is the mini — a bite-size package of two ingots — and Nestlé estimates that it sells about four million of these each day. In any given year, there are about 40 flavors available, including the core flavors — plain milk chocolate, strawberry, sake, wasabi, matcha, Tokyo Banana and a dark-chocolate variety called “sweetness for adults” — plus 20 to 30 rotating new ones. In August, Nestlé was preparing to release a shingen mochi Kit Kat, based on a traditional sweet made by the Japanese company Kikyouya, which involves three bite-size pieces of soft, squishy mochi packed with roasted soybean powder and a bottle of brown-sugar syrup, all assembled to taste. It seemed almost presumptuous for Nestlé to flavor a chocolate bar like shingen mochi, which is rooted in traditional Japanese confectionary, then stamp its brand on it and produce it en masse.

A sales clerk was restocking the Kit Kat display in Don Quijote when I asked her which were the most popular flavors. She shook her head. “They’re all popular,” she said. She gestured at the empty tunnels of matcha-, grape- and strawberry-flavored Kit Kats that she was filling as a small group of Chinese tourists carried armloads of glossy snack bags and boxes back to their shopping carts, undoing her work. An Australian father and son rushed by in a panic, their cart heaped with gifts to take back home. “Which one, Dad? Which one?” the child asked desperately, pointing to all the varieties. “It doesn’t matter,” the father shouted, as if the timer on a bomb were running out. “Just take one!”

Japanese Kit Kat bars are different.  Really different.  Not gonna lie.

But some of them are surprisingly good, so if you ever see these in your local Japanese food store or anime hangout give them a try.

Gabba Gabba Nope

I've said many times that social media networks have to get their stuff together before people get killed, but they're too lazy to self-police.  Now that eleven are dead in Pittsburgh, maybe people will start paying attention to people announcing they are going to hurt people on services like Gab, a social media platform for people kicked off other social platforms for being too bigoted.

Before Robert D. Bowers opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning, he posted a threat to the Jewish community online.

“HIAS [a Jewish non-profit organization] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote. Just hours later, he killed at least 10 people and wounded others in what the Anti-Defamation League declared the deadliest against the Jewish community in the history of the United States.

Bowers didn’t make his anti-semitic statements on Twitter or Facebook or even Reddit, but rather on a small social network called Gab. It was founded in 2016 as an alternative to Twitter and other large social platforms, and indeed looks and operates similarly to Twitter, allowing users to follow and reply to each other, and to reshare short status updates.

But while Twitter, Facebook, and other mainstream social networks abide by ever-evolving sets of community standards, Gab allows users to say pretty much anything they want. Andrew Torba, the Silicon Valley Trump supporter who created it, said that he wanted to offer an alternative to mainstream social networks which he and others feel are biased against conservatives.

“What makes the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly qualified to tell us what is ‘news’ and what is ‘trending’ and to define what ‘harassment’ means?” he told to BuzzFeed News in 2016 explaining his decision to create the company. “It didn’t feel right to me, and I wanted to change it, and give people something that would be fair and just.”

Since then, Gab’s maximalist approach to free speech has made the network the de-facto home to extremist figures who have been booted off mainstream social networks for threats, inciting violence, or promoting racist, sexist, and anti-semitic ideas. While Twitter has banned extremist figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, Alex Jones, and Andrew Anglin, Gab continues to welcome them and their followers with open arms. It has been called a “hate-filled echo chamber of racism and conspiracy theories” and “Twitter for racists.”

This has led to tension with some of the platforms hosting Gab amid increasing pressure for web companies to “deplatform” extremist groups and individuals. In 2017, the Gab app was banned from the Google Play Store for violating its policy against hate speech and in August of this year Microsoft threatened to stop hosting the platform on its servers over similar concerns. (Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday afternoon.) Shortly after Saturday’s shooting, Gab tweeted what appeared to be a notice from PayPal, saying that the payment-processing platform would be terminating its relationship with Gab “pursuant to PayPal’s user agreement.” Opponents of deplatforming argue that censoring extremist speech, actors, and platforms doesn’t stop, and in fact might incite, violence. “Free speech is crucial for the prevention of violence,” the Gab account tweeted Saturday. “If people can not express themselves through words, they will do so through violence. No one wants that. No one.”

That's the argument that Gab makes, that if Gab's not allowed to not only exist but to prosper, then crazies like Bowers will go straight to the violence part rather than just post anti-Semitic Pepe the Frog memes online, therefore you should want Gab around as a social media lightning rod, and also you should give the platform and guys like Andrew Torba lots of money, because they're effectively babysitting America's lunatics.

It's a fantastically cynical argument, and of course it insulates Gab from any possible culpability as an aside.  Pure glibertarian nonsense of the highest order.

Only of course, this time eleven people died.

I'm not stupid enough to think the Trump regime will lift a finger against Gab, but "monetizing hate speech" is nothing new, and the beast can be starved if all the sponsors and advertisers refuse to do business with them.

We'll see.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Last Call For Screen Passes In Silly Valley

The people who gave us the ubiquitous tech of smartphones, tablets, and screens everywhere with the internet on them are now mortally afraid that data will be the drug of choice for Generation Z, and they're banning their own creations at dinner tables, schools, and living rooms to the point where an army of nannies are now employed to give these kids a 100% no-tech childhood.

Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” said Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Ms. Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

Ms. Zimmerman likes these new rules, which she said harken back to a time when kids behaved better and knew how to play outside.

Parents, though, find the rules harder to follow themselves, Ms. Zimmerman said.

Most parents come home, and they’re still glued to their phones, and they’re not listening to a word these kids are saying,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “Now I’m the nanny ripping out the cords from the PlayStations.”

I actually understand.  Tech has made the parents miserable, the 24-hour, 7-day leash from work is something I've been though and I wouldn't wish that level of anxiety on a kid, well, ever.  But the problem is these are the people that create the tech and get paid to make it as ubiquitous and widely available as possible.

They're telling their kids that no, you can't use this.  It'll ruin your life.  We're actually hiring somebody to enforce this rule.

What does that say about the rest of us?

Trump Cards, Con't

Donald Trump remains the most cancerous symptom of the diseased Republican party, because the problem is the party refuses to rein him in and say "no more".  The Never Trump cowards denounce Trump and some have even left the party, but refuse to take any responsibility for his rise or for the fact that 98% of his policies they still agree with and that they're fine with the direction of the remaining GOP. This means of course that nobody bothers to stop Trump when he decides to make an already volatile situation exponentially worse, as he headed to my old neck of the woods in Charlotte to scream at the enemies of the state that Cesar Sayoc tried to assassinate this week.

For two days, the president toyed with a bipartisan message and watched as the news cycle focused not on him, and not on the midterm elections, but on at least 14 explosive devices delivered to prominent Democratic figures.

By Friday, he had had enough.

As he left Washington for his latest campaign rally here, President Trump made it clear that he was no longer going to sit through another news cycle without President Trump at the center.

“The Republicans had tremendous momentum, and then, of course, this happened, where all that you people talked about was that,” Mr. Trump said to reporters about the bomb scares. “But now we have to start the momentum again.”

His supporters in North Carolina appeared to agree. When Mr. Trump took the stage at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, hours after Cesar Sayoc Jr., a Florida man with a lengthy criminal record, was arrested in connection to sending the devices, chants of “Build the wall” and “CNN sucks” had already rung out repeatedly.

“The suspect has been captured — great job — and is now in federal custody,” Mr. Trump said. “These terrorist actions must be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.”

The president, who made a show on Wednesday of being “nice” as bomb scares were affecting several of his political enemies, resurrected some of his favorite political insults two days later. Taunts including “Crooked Hillary” and “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” were brought out once again in a pull-out-all-the-stops partisan effort 11 days before the midterms.

While Mr. Trump did spend a few minutes railing against the Democrats and their immigration policies — “A vote for Democrats is a vote for open borders,” he once again falsely claimed — he reserved special ire for the news media.

Touching on a “broader conversation about the tone and civility” of political discourse, the president said that “everyone will benefit if we can end the politics of personal destruction.”

He added, “The media has a major role to play whether they want to or not.”

He did not address the political leanings of Mr. Sayoc, 56, who was active in several pro-Trump Facebook groups and had attended at least one Trump rally, waving a “CNN Sucks” sign and wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Mr. Sayoc’s van was covered in pro-Trump stickers. He turned up in Washington, again with the red hat, for Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

But on Friday, Republicans, from Mr. Trump on down, made it clear that Mr. Sayoc was not one of them. In fact, the president said that the coverage of Mr. Sayoc’s political leanings was a result of the news media trying to pin the attempted bombings on his politics.

We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party,” Mr. Trump said. “The media has tried to attack the incredible Americans who support our movement to give power back to the people.”

Once again, Trump telling his screaming hordes that the Democrats are your enemy and that you will have to do something about them.  Once again, Trump telling his screaming hordes that the media is your enemy and that you will have to do something about them.  Once again, Trump telling his screaming hordes that those people are your enemy and that you will have to do something about them.

And so far in the last 72 hours, they did.

Just like Trump told them to do.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Another act of domestic terrorism in America, another white male suspect taken alive, and eight people dead in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue this morning.

Eight people have been killed and a number of others injured after a shooting situation at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller reports that a suspect, a white male, has surrendered. The SWAT team had been talking with the suspect, and he was crawling and injured.

Police sources tell KDKA’s Andy Sheehan the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews Must die.” Sheehan confirmed that eight people were confirmed dead. Others had been shot but the extent of their injuries in unknown at this time.

Police have requested that residents stay inside their home as they exchanged gun fire with a suspected gunman.

President Donald Trump Tweeted his thoughts to the Pittsburgh area amid the tragedy.

When officers arrived, the gunman reportedly shot at them, forcing officers to use their vehicles as a shield. Three police officers were reportedly shot.

The shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the conservative Jewish Synagogue, the building was full was reportedly full of people for a Saturday service and police say they’ve received several calls from people barricaded inside the Synagogue.

This looks very much like as awful a hate crime as the shooting in Charleston three years ago where Dylann Roof killed nine black worshipers at an AME church, and just another reminder that in addition to the racial component of Trump's white nationalism, there's the religious component as well, where non-Christians, especially Muslims and Jews, are targets.

I mean, guys, I don't know how much more obvious Nazi comparisons have to appear past the point of shooting up a temple during service and yelling "All Jews must die" before we do something about getting America off this track, but in about 10 days if we don't get this done right, America's not coming back anytime soon.

It'll happen again and again and again.

The Face-Eating Leopard Party Ate Her Face, Guys

In probably the best example of "Literally anyone on Earth could have told you that your opinion was 100% wrong", Caitlyn Jenner admits that since Donald Trump wants to redefine her and every other trans person in America (and possibly the Earth) out of existence that she may have been wrong about supporting him in 2016.

These past two years under President Trump have given me the opportunity to reflect on a lot of topics that have come up in the LGBTQ community and in our nation. Some of these are thorny issues still worth discussing; many should have been settled long ago. As I’ve watched and pondered, my outlook has changed significantly from what it was during my highly publicized and glamorized early Caitlyn days, when my life as an out trans woman was just beginning.

Since then, I have learned and continue to learn about the obstacles our community faces, the politics that surround us and the places my voice can help. I have reflected on what my unique position of privilege means and how I can best use it to make a positive difference.

Following Trump’s election as president, I saw fertile ground for change within the Republican Party on LGBTQ issues. Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to claim to support this valuable, vulnerable community, and I was encouraged by the applause he received when he said at the Republican National Convention in July 2016 that he would stand up for the LGBTQ community. Poll after poll showed that Americans’ views on LGBTQ issues were changing for the better — and that this groundswell extended even to the voter base of the Republican Party. I was optimistic that this was how I could leverage my privilege for change.

I believed I could work within the party and the Trump administration to shift the minds of those who most needed shifting. I made many trips to Washington to lobby and educate members of Congress, other Washington policymakers and powerful influencers. These meetings were generally positive and almost always led to encouraging conversations. Despite the criticism I received from segments of the LGBTQ community for engaging with this administration, I remained hopeful for positive change.

Sadly, I was wrong. The reality is that the trans community is being relentlessly attacked by this president. The leader of our nation has shown no regard for an already marginalized and struggling community. He has ignored our humanity. He has insulted our dignity. He has made trans people into political pawns as he whips up animus against us in an attempt to energize the most right-wing segment of his party, claiming his anti-transgender policies are meant to “protect the country.” This is politics at its worst. It is unacceptable, it is upsetting, and it has deeply, personally hurt me.

No matter how you feel about Caitlyn's gullibility, denial, self-hatred, whatever you want to call it, that last paragraph is absolutely correct.  She goes on to say that she no longer supports Trump (which, I mean, yeah) and that she does need to listen to others in the LGBTQ community (also, gigantic duh because they were screaming at her that she was wrong).

What I don't see in the opinion piece is the most important part: Jenner apologizing to the LGBTQ community for enabling Trump in hurting them.  The opportunity for a truly heartfelt apology and to beg for forgiveness was completely missed here.  Maybe that part comes later, and I'm not qualified to judge if she should be forgiven or not.

But I do know that most apologies contain an admission of responsibility as well as the willingness to take action to make the situation better, and while Jenner does show the latter, the lack of the former makes the whole thing ring hollow.

Bigger problem is this though, just just makes Jenner another Never Trump Republican who's still a Republican, which would also have rendered that apology completely useless, so a reminder to the newest member of the Never Trump brigade: if you think that a Mike Pence wouldn't continue this exact same policy, and that Republicans in Congress wouldn't support this atrocity, you're not just enabling the anti-trans bigotry, you are the anti-trans bigotry.

Have a nice day.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

With 10 days until the Midterms, Donald Trump plans to go all in on anti-immigrant racism next week in order to rally his fearful, hate-filled base.

President Trump is preparing to announce a sweeping border crackdown in a speech Tuesday, a week before the midterm elections, in which he is expected to invoke emergency powers to stop migrants from entering the United States and depict them as a grave national security threat, administration officials said Friday.

Trump is considering steps that would bar migrants from crossing the border and deny them a chance to apply for asylum in the United States, measures that legal scholars and immigrant rights groups say would contravene U.S. laws and international treaties, likely triggering challenges in federal court.

The president, undeterred, has been buoyed by rising approval ratings in recent weeks and eager to cudgel his Democratic rivals on border issues, depicting the migrant caravan moving through Mexico as a menace to U.S. security.

Administration officials with knowledge of the speech preparations said the exact measures Trump will announce remain under discussion, as attorneys from the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and White House attempt to craft policies that put the administration on the least-vulnerable legal footing.

Trump plans to approach the speech as a chance to lay out his vision for an overhaul of immigration policies and border security, according to aides, eager to whip up his base and convince voters his party will take a firm stand on border security.

Democrats have accused Trump and Republicans of “fearmongering” on immigration ahead of the election.

“President Trump’s immigration policies have been a failure from day one,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Unlike previous presidents, he has failed to work with our partners in the region, and we are seeing the consequences of his failure today.”

Trump will say he's going to seal the border and make a big production out of it, his base will buy it and go vote because they dream of the day when they can burst open heads like melons and they believe Trump will give them the chance to make that happen. 

Having such an order immediately blocked by a federal judge so that Trump can scream about the horde of evil brown people days before the midterms guarantees that the MAGAbomber gets off the front page too.

And if Hispanic or black folk get hurt or killed on the way to polling places as a result of the rhetoric, well that only means Trump is a manly man, doesn't it?  What they really want is for Trump to have to declare a national emergency and suspend rule of law, and then things get really fun, don't they?

Trump sure does love his autocrat playbook, because he's using every page in it on the way to his burgeoning dictatorship.

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