Monday, December 17, 2018

Last Call For It's Too Early For This Nonsense

The rodent coitus is starting early for 2020, and I want nothing to do with the looming disaster that is Tulsi Gabbard.

Tulsi Gabbard is known — insofar as she is known — for bucking her party. She criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of ISIS. She was widely criticizedfor meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused by the US government of using chemical weapons against his own people, when she traveled to Syria for a fact-finding visit in 2017. She rebuked the way the Democratic National Committee handled the 2016 presidential primary, and then publicly resigned as vice chair to endorse Bernie Sanders.

Now, nearly three years later, the Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii is poised to try to convince Democratic primary voters that they should turn the page not just on status quo politics, but on the Vermont senator whom she championed.

Gabbard has acknowledged that she is “seriously considering” a presidential bid. Her team is actively seeking to staff senior roles on a potential presidential campaign, according to a person briefed on the outreach, and has indicated that an announcement could come as soon as this week.

She’s in discussions with the Des Moines–based Asian and Latino Coalition about organizing an event with them sometime in the first two weeks of January. She did several events in New Hampshire earlier this month, on the heels of trips there before the 2018 election. She also made a trip to Nevada the week before the election to connect with “progressive” candidates and causes, and was set to hit early state bingo with a trip to South Carolina, but that trip was scotched due to plane trouble.

Even in a barely formed presidential field, Gabbard would enter the race as an underdog. She did not rate a mention in a Des Moines Register/CNN poll of the Democratic presidential field last week. House members have an inherently difficult time running for national office, as they are often little known outside their district. The last one to successfully do it was James Garfield — in 1880. In a field that could number more than two dozen candidates, Gabbard stands out as the only one to have met with Donald Trump, then the president-elect, to discuss her foreign policy views at a moment when she was reportedly being considered for a cabinet post in his administration. And for all her Sanders campaign bona fides, she has a much more conservative political history, and she would hardly be the only one to claim the progressive mantle — with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Sanders himself considering bids.

But conventional political wisdom proved to be a poor guide in the last crowded presidential primary, when Trump upended the field of favorites to win the whole thing.

“The more progressives, the better,” said former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, a stalwart Sanders supporter who spent time on the 2016 campaign trail with Sanders and Gabbard, adding: “Hopefully then that means that we will get a real progressive elected to president.

Let's get this out of the way right now.

Tulsi Gabbard is not a progressive in any way, shape, or form.

I didn't trust her in early 2016, and my hunch was correct.

So the same time this article drops,  Rep. Gabbard resigns from the DNC to back Bernie over Hillary's hawk positions, both dropping the day after Bernie gets cremated in SC by 45 points.

That's not a coincidence, considering Super Tuesday is in less than 72 hours.  Taken collectively, that bothers me.

It only got worse in 2017.

Democrats were silent on Thursday as Tulsi Gabbard, one of the party’s sitting lawmakers in Congress, announced that she had met with Bashar al-Assad during a trip to war-torn Syria and dismissed his entire opposition as “terrorists”.

Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, disclosed her meeting with the Syrian president on Wednesday, during what her office called a “fact-finding” mission in the region.

“Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”

Democratic leaders were mum on the decision by one of their sitting lawmakers to meet with a dictator whom the US government has dubbed a war criminal for his use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Gabbard’s trip raised alarms over a potential violation of the Logan Act, a federal statute barring unauthorized individuals from conferring with a foreign government involved in a dispute with the US. The US currently has no diplomatic relations with Syria.

It got even worse in 2018.

But a steady drumbeat of criticism from progressives claims that Gabbard also has sympathies with Steve Bannon–style nationalists on the hard right, whose foreign-policy view is also fundamentally anti-interventionist. Her detractors argue that her policy overlap with the hard right is consistent and substantive enough that it ought to undermine her credibility as someone who could represent consensus progressive values in the White House.

If “Gabbardism” is a foreign-policy school of thought, it is perhaps best captured by her own words. “In short, when it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” Gabbard told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in 2016. “When it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.” It’s a sentiment that wouldn’t be out of place in Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign — or in Pat Buchanan’s in 1992.

In Gabbard’s own telling, her non-interventionist views are the result of her seeing the cost paid by American soldiers while deployed in Iraq — the cost paid by the Iraqis themselves goes unmentioned. And according to her critics, Islamophobia underlies her hawkishness. Gabbard’s idiosyncratic foreign policy is an uneasy fit next to her orthodox economic populism, and suggests a deeper question: what are progressives’ foreign-policy priorities in the first place? America is still fighting the borderless and interminable War on Terror, launching surgical strikes and drone attacks in countries around the world with impunity — in such an environment, is it enough to be just against wars of regime change?

I don't trust her, I especially don't trust her relationship with India's Narendra Modi, particularly when it comes to Pakistan.  She's shown bad judgment when it comes to Syria as well.  She's way too close to the Ron Paul/Steve Bannon school of foreign policy, and that's bad news all around.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Following up on yesterday's Washington Post story on the details of Russia's propaganda operation to help Donald Trump, we learn from the NY Times that the primary thrust of the operation was to get black voters to abandon Hillary Clinton, or better, vote for Jill Stein.

The Russian campaign was the subject of Senate hearings last year and has been widely scrutinized by academic experts. The new reports largely confirm earlier findings: that the campaign was designed to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Mr. Trump and exacerbate existing divisions in American society.

But the New Knowledge report gives particular attention to the Russians’ focus on African-Americans, which is evident to anyone who examines collections of their memes and messages.

The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” the report says. Using Gmail accounts with American-sounding names, the Russians recruited and sometimes paid unwitting American activists of all races to stage rallies and spread content, but there was a disproportionate pursuit of African-Americans, it concludes.

The report says that while “other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the black community was targeted extensively with dozens.” In some cases, Facebook ads were targeted at users who had shown interest in particular topics, including black history, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. The most popular of the Russian Instagram accounts was @blackstagram, with 303,663 followers.

The Internet Research Agency also created a dozen websites disguised as African-American in origin, with names like,, and On YouTube, the largest share of Russian material covered the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, with channels called “Don’t Shoot” and “BlackToLive.”

The report does not seek to explain the heavy focus on African Americans. But the Internet Research Agency’s tactics echo Soviet propaganda efforts from decades ago that often highlighted racism and racial conflict in the United States, as well as recent Russian influence operations in other countries that sought to stir ethnic strife.

Renee DiResta, one of the report’s authors and director of research at New Knowledge, said the Internet Research Agency “leveraged pre-existing, legitimate grievances wherever they could.” As the election effort geared up, the Black Lives Matter movement was at the center of national attention in the United States, so the Russian operation took advantage of it, she said — and added “Blue Lives Matter” material when a pro-police pushback emerged.

They knew just where to hit us, and all they needed to do in an election where 125 million votes were cast was to affect a fraction of a percentage point towards Trump in a few key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Trump won in part because of the effectiveness of these targeted efforts.  Going after the most reliably Democratic bloc of voters in America worked.  And Steve Bannon told us exactly what the Trump campaign was doing.

To compensate for this, Trump’s campaign has devised another strategy, which, not surprisingly, is negative. Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are “super predators” is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls—particularly in Florida.

On Oct. 24, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations. In San Antonio, a young staffer showed off a South Park-style animation he’d created of Clinton delivering the “super predator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, “only the people we want to see it, see it.” The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. “We know because we’ve modeled this,” says the official. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out. 

We now know that Parscale and Bannon had help from Russians doing the same thing, specifically targeting black voters to get us to stay home.  It worked well enough that Trump won the election.

They knew the Russians were helping, and they welcomed it.

Shutdown Countdown, Con't

The government shuts down Friday night at midnight, just days before Christmas, and Republicans not only seem to lack any actual plan to keep the government open, they may not have enough people actually physically in DC right now to pass a vote in either chamber without support from Democrats.

Just days before a deadline to avert a partial government shutdown, President Trump, Democratic leaders and the Republican-controlled Congress are at a stalemate over the president’s treasured border wall. But House Republican leaders are also confronting a more mundane and awkward problem: Their vanquished and retiring members are sick and tired of Washington and don’t want to show up anymore to vote.

Call it the revenge of the lame ducks. Many lawmakers, relegated to cubicles as incoming members take their offices, have been skipping votes in the weeks since House Republicans were swept from power in the midterm elections, and Republican leaders are unsure whether they will ever return.

It is perhaps a fitting end to a Congress that has showcased the untidy politics of the Trump era: Even if the president ultimately embraces a solution that avoids a shutdown, House Republican leaders do not know whether they will have the votes to pass it.

The uncertainty does not end there. With funding for parts of the government like the Department of Homeland Security set to lapse at midnight on Friday, Mr. Trump and top Republicans appear to have no definite plan to keep the doors open. It is clear that as Democrats uniformly oppose the president’s demand for $5 billion for his border wall, any bill that includes that funding cannot pass the Senate, and might face defeat in the House, too.

“That’s me with my hands up in the air,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters last week, in case there was any confusion about the meaning of the exaggerated shrug he offered when asked how the logjam might be broken. “There is no discernible plan — none that’s been disclosed.”

In the final moments of complete Republican control of government before Democrats assume the House majority in January, Republicans find themselves once again trapped between Mr. Trump’s messaging and their own political reality.

The president’s declaration in the Oval Office last week that he would be happy to take sole responsibility for a shutdown undercut Republican leaders who had hoped to blame Democrats for any unresolved spending impasse — a point that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, reiterated Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“They just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he’s off on the deep end here,” Mr. Schumer said of Republican leaders, “and all he is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall.”

While Mr. Trump insisted that he had the votes to push $5 billion in wall spending through the House, Republican leaders in the chamber are keenly aware that their rank-and-file members are in no mood to return to Washington days before Christmas to battle over his long-unfulfilled signature campaign promise.

Republicans who were beaten by the blue wave last month have no reason to save Trump or to help the party that allowed him to destroy their political careers.  They deserved the drubbing for enabling the party of racist bigotry and fearmongering, not to mention criminal activity of course, but it doesn't mean that they're going to be graceful losers as they burn those bridges behind them.

Trump doesn't exactly inspire loyalty, you know.  Trump wanted that shutdown, all indications are that he's going to get it.

Parting thought:  A shutdown on Friday night would be the capstone on Paul Ryan's reign as Worst House Speaker Ever™, a man so completely inept at the job that he let his members skip town without securing a vote to keep the lights on.


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