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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"Embers?" Seriously, Mr. Remnick? 

by tristero

David Remnick, editor-in-chief of the New Yorker this week (which, incidentally, has an awesome cover):
For half a century, in fact, the leaders of the G.O.P. have fanned the lingering embers of racial resentment in the United States.

As lovely a phrase as "lingering embers" is, it's complete and total nonsense.

Although Clinton won the popular vote 48%-46%, nearly 63 million Americans voted for a presidential candidate that made his sympathies with white supremacists crystal clear.

My suspicion is that very few people of color would describe 46% popular support for Donald Trump as evidence that the American racial fire was ever reduced to "lingering embers."

QOTW: Mitch McConnell

by digby

Ya feel me?
“The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate,” said Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former McConnell chief of staff.

Yes, I know the words didn't come out of the mouth of Mitch McConnell, but he said them nonetheless.


An adorable headline from an earlier time

by digby

So sweet. Yes, there are laws against cabinet officials doing political work but those don't apply to the Trump administration.

Ethics, norms and laws are no longer operative. They will remain on the shelf until the next Democrat enters the White House when Republicans will suddenly rediscover them and will hold hearings and investigations into the smallest hint that the president or anyone he or she has ever known might have violated something, anything. They will not have even the slightest bit of shame or embarrassment about it, even though Democrats will scream "what about Trump!" until they are hoarse.

Indeed, they will smirk and shrug their shoulders and laugh behind their hands at the stupid people who will help them uphold the rule of law when it suits them and stand by impotently when they use any means necessary to maintain power. They play an entirely different game.

Anyway, that headline is adorable. But completely irrelevant. We have a president who is currently making cold hard cash from businesses from which he refused to divest. He makes personal appearances at his properties on the week-ends where people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege.

"A total eclipse of the facts"

by digby

Trump attacked the media more viciously at his Phoenix rally than I've ever seen him do it before and that's saying something. I watched on CNN because they were carrying the live feed and I had to write about it for Salon and happened to be on it when Don Lemon of CNN had this to say as it ended:
"Well, what do you say to that? I'm just going to speak from the heart here.

What we witnessed is a total eclipse of the facts. Someone who came out on stage and lied directly to the American people and left things out that he said in an attempt to rewrite history, especially when it comes to Charlottesville.

He's unhinged, It's embarrassing and I don't mean for us, the media because he went after us, but for the country. This is who we elected President of the United States.

A man who is so petty that he has to go after people he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a 6-year-old.

His speech was without thought, without reason, devoid of facts, devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas.

He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. He did it. I didn't do it.

And certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville.

A man clearly wounded by the rational people abandoning him in droves, meaning the business people and the people in Washington now questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable.

A man backed into a corner it seems, by circumstances beyond his control and his understanding. That's the truth.

If you watch that speech as an American, you had to be thinking what in the world is going on? This is the person we elected as President of the United States? This petty, this small, a person who who's supposed to pull the country together? Certainly didn't happen there."

That's about right.

Voices of the cult

by digby

The Guardian talked to some of the people at the Trump rally. Here are some of their comments:
  • Trump is breath of fresh air. He’s totally not a political person. He’s a businessman: he’s anti-left, he’s anti-PC, he’s anti-stupid. He just wants to go in and make the best deal for Americans that he can. 
  • Of course he’s not racist. That’s a label people want to put on someone when they don’t agree how to solve a problem. You don’t see the issue, so you attack. That’s the way the left has operated in our country very effectively. 
  • Both sides were wrong in Charlottesville. Everyone has a right to peacefully protest under the first amendment but this was a form of domestic terrorism: the left started it and the white supremacists helped it explode. Trump was trying to say Nazism and Marxism are on the same spectrum: they want to control how you think, how you live. 
  • Middle America, the middle class, the blue-collar workers, the small-business owners like hearing from our president, but the media in our country is leftist. They can’t get the real story. The media has lost all integrity: they’re a disgrace. They’ve sold their souls for political gain. People want a president who is not politically correct, who will say it like it is and will not do it because he wants to get elected. 
  • He’s trying. Politicians are getting in the way, and sometimes his mouth gets in the way. When you put in someone who’s not a polished politician, that’s what you get. He tells it like a normal person, not someone raised to be politically correct 100% of the time. 
  • Social media is the way of the future. It should be used. I don’t think he’s always thinking right when he does it. But he’s not a politician, so I forgive it. I approve of the fact he’s willing to take on social media. 
  • I voted for him because he was the best candidate running. I agreed with him on border protection and didn’t want someone being investigated by the FBI sitting in our president’s seat. He’s doing pretty good so far. Healthcare is Congress’s fault mainly, because they can’t decide what they want and need to figure it out. 
  • I don’t think he’s a racist. I think if they’re calling him a racist, they may be racist 
  • I’m pleased so far except for Congress. He’s tried as hard as he can. He never stops working. He cares about the country and the people. We have too many Never Trump Republicans. John McCain really messed it up on healthcare. They weren’t voting to pass the bill, they were just going to take it away and look at it. I think McCain should be a Democrat and Jeff Flake isn’t strong on immigration. 
  • I watched Charlottesville from the beginning to the end and there was violence on both sides. Neither retreated. The extreme left and the extreme right, they punched each other out. When Trump made statements about it, he told the truth on everything. 
  • You go back and look over the years and Trump is not a racist. Last week, Sean Hannity pulled videos of him denouncing the KKK and neo-Nazis. He used to get awards from some of the black organisations because he would go in and help them. When the left can’t win in debate, the only thing they can say is, “You’re a racist.” Sometimes it’s an excuse. 
  • Is Trump racist? Hell, no. The stuff about Charlottesville is bullshit and I agree 100% with what he said. There are haters on both sides. The KKK had the legal right to express their opposition and they got a permit and everything would have been fine except that counter-protesters came with baseball bats and rocks. It’s not the KKK that started it. If they’d just let them kick around in the streets, that would have been it. Paid protesters started it and the media does not want that narrative to be told. 
  • I voted for him because it was an obvious choice. Hillary Clinton had decades of foul play and illegal acts, and she was attached to Bill Clinton, who had decades of foul play and illegal acts. I’ve got nothing good to say about either of them. 
  • The American people are sick and tired of a namby-pamby politician who is politically correct. Want a businessman who can make decisions. Best leave if it hurts your feelings. I want Trump to continue to call it like it is. I would vote for him if he quit the Republicans and started his own party. 
  • I think Trump is doing as well as he possibly can considering all the foot-dragging and whining and non-belief in his election, with the media doing all it can to delegitimise him. The stock market has confidence in him and unemployment has plummeted 
  • I agree with him about a border wall. Immigration needs to be under control. We have to know and approve who’s going in and who’s coming out. If you have no border, you have no country. We don’t have a problem with Canada. 
  • I want [Arizona senators] Jeff Flake and John McCain gone as soon as we have the next vote. Both are anti-Trump and are trying to sabotage Trump at all costs. I’ve been disappointed with McCain for decades. I admire his military service but being a good soldier does not make you a good politician. This vote on healthcare was just a slap in the face to Trump. 
  • The media has been distorting the truth for decades. They’re so leftwing. If you said the glass was half full, they’d call you a Nazi and say it’s half empty. Now they don’t make sense any more and CNN is fake news. This Russia thing is made up: they don’t have a shred of evidence after a year. 
  • Do you have any doubt there’s blame on both sides in Charlottesville? When you have half the country calling everyone racist, when everyone in the Democratic party is racist, I don’t know what you expect. If you have an agenda when you put words in people’s mouths, people aren’t happy. If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had said the same things that Trump did, it would have been wonderful. 
  • Given the situation he is dealing with, anybody is better than Obama or Clinton. If you don’t like the way Trump is acting, you always have the option to leave the country. A lot of people promised to and none of them did, which is too bad. 
  • The media are very biased. I have never met an honest journalist in my life. Your profession is more for ratings than reporting. You can’t turn on the news without things being slanted one way or another. Let people make their own decision. 
  • The Democrats are going to continue to protest and in the process they’re going to tear this nation apart. The protesters against Trump are haters. I fought for free speech all my life and they don’t believe in free speech. 
  • Trump is absolutely not a racist. I tend to agree with what he said about Charlottesville. If you look at any situation there’s usually three sides: yours, mine and the truth. It’s not just one side doing something. Everybody has a right to their opinion. It’s freedom of speech. If I recall correctly, one side has a permit to be there legally while the other tore a statue down illegally. 
  • There needs to be some type of barrier put up between us and Mexico. There’s got to be some kind of regulation to stop people coming into America illegally. There have always been walls throughout history. If you can do it the right way, I’m all for that.. 
  • You’ve got to give him a chance. It’s a learning job and you’ve got to take things as they come. I like a man who has the ability to speak his mind. We’ve all been in the position of working in a company where we wish we could speak our mind without worrying about the consequences. He can speak his mind without worrying about scaring somebody or worrying about offending somebody. 
  • I voted for him because I was tired of politicians. He spoke to me on a personal level, not a political level. Considering some of the things he’s got in front of him, I think he’s done quite well. He hasn’t had the support of the Republican party to do the things he wants but he’s made a huge difference to the economy in particular. 
  • In true Trump style, he spoke what he felt about Charlottesville. It might not be the political thing to say, but he was correct. I don’t believe he’s racist. 
  • Nobody knows what he is going to do, like the North Koreans, which is a good thing. We’ve been predictable for too long. 
  • He’s got a point about the media. It’s hard as a consumer to find an outlet that tells you the basic facts. They should be giving us the facts so a human being with a little bit of brains can make their own minds up. 
  • I voted for him because of diversity. He actually practices diversity unlike liberals, who don’t practice diversity. Obama had this whole country thinking about skin colour. Trump doesn’t look at skin colour. He doesn’t label anyone who’s non-white a minority, just people. Skin colour is colour, not culture. His cabinet is nothing to do with skin colour: they’re right for the job. 
  • Antifa is the KKK, just without the history 
  • Both sides in Charlottesville are bad. He’s absolutely right. The Antifa [anti-fascist groups] are the equivalent of the KKK and both were responsible. Antifa is the KKK, just without the history. The Confederate flag is not racist: only 5% of slave owners had the Confederate flag; the US flag is more racist. Do you think I’d be that stupid to vote for an actual racist to be in office?
Those last few are the words of a young Trump voter whose mother is Japanese Amrican and father is African American.


The one who said this is a young white woman:
I didn’t want someone being investigated by the FBI sitting in our president’s seat. 
Well that certainly worked out.

And then there's this guy:

They have just as many excuses as their Dear Leader for why he is such a failure. He can do no wrong in their eyes.


Feeding his empty soul with hate and fury

by digby

I wrote about the Arizona rally for Salon this morning:

On Monday night Washington Post reporter Phillip Rucker tweeted this:

This is a tiresome cliche at this point ("tonight he became president," "he's pivoting" etc.) and Rucker was, for good reason, immediately barraged with criticism. But when asked how long he thought this new Trump would last, he answered this way:

The assumption on the part of well, everyone, even those who complimented him for his presidential mien, was that teleprompter Trump was not permanent and he was going to immediately revert to his natural state: racist, immature and crude.

This is progress. It took the media and the establishment over two years to absorb the fact that the Trump we saw on the campaign trail was the real Trump. There is no hidden statesman, his antics weren't an act. And just because he is capable of woodenly delivering an unconvincing speech written by someone else, it doesn't mean that he will stop tweeting every outrageous thought that passes through his mind while watching Fox and Friends during his obviously elaborate morning hair and man tan ritual.

Trump made the decision to go to Arizona solely to bathe himself in the febrile adoration of his followers after a tough couple of weeks defending Nazis from the hostile elites in Washington. Many people were aghast that he was going to hold one of his raucous campaign rallies in the wake of those odious comments about Charlottesville where he was sure to employ his usual divisive rhetoric and protesters from all sides would undoubtedly gather outside and possibly mix it up with one another.

Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton took to the pages of the Washington Post to beg Trump to let feelings cool before coming back to his town:

America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.

That’s why I asked the president to delay his visit. It’s time to let cooler heads prevail and begin the healing process.I’m not optimistic the White House will heed that call.

They did not. Trump chose Arizona for a reason. Signaling last week that he planned to pardon the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a staunch Trump supporter, who has just been convicted of criminal contempt in federal court for violating a judge's order to stop profiling and illegally stopping latino drivers, Trump obviously needs to get back in touch with his anti-immigrant base where he feels he can let his racist flag fly more freely. He touched a third rail with his defense of Nazis and got zapped.I think most of us expected that he was reminded by that experience that the politically correct right wing way to express those ugly sentiments in America today is to slag immigrants and Muslims and let people sublimate their loathing for blacks and Jews within those categories. Everybody gets the message and you don't have to overtly side with Nazis and the KKK.

Well, he did slag immigrants, as usual. And while he didn't literally pardon Arpaio, he made it very clear that he intended to do so saying, "I'll make a prediction, I think he's going to be just fine. But, but I won't do it tonight because I don't want controversy." He didn't say it was because Arpaio is an old guy who deserves mercy after years of public service or something like that. He said it was because Arpaio did the right thing in defying the court. So much for the president defending the rule of law.

And in what was probably the most substantive piece of news, he said in passing "if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall." (No "who's going to pay for it? Mexico!" call and respond in the rally.) That has been mentioned in the press as a possible Freedom Caucus tactic but it appears the president is eager to join that nihilistic band of miscreants. He said that the Democrats have "nothing but socialism" and "maybe a step beyond socialism from what he's seeing."

He never mentioned the 10 sailors who died two days ago in the Singapore straits, not even another "oh that's too bad" which is truly sad considering that he constantly uses veterans and active duty military as his favorite prop.

But all that was just the tip of the iceberg. He gave a rousing 2016-style campaign rally that was as angry, divisive, unrepentant and crude as anything he did during the campaign. His attack on the media was fierce and sounded even more threatening than usual. There was even a "lock her up chant" just for old times sake. What set this one apart was the 42 minutes he spent recapitulating his response to Charlottesville and throwing salt into the still raw wounds of that ugly episode. He just cannot leave it alone.

He tediously repeated verbatim what he insisted was his message of love and unity in the wake of that Nazi and neo-confederate rally, interspersed with commentary about how the press never covered what he said .He completely elided the fact that he had blamed "many sides" and called those who marched with Nazis and the KKK "good people." He could barely find a moment to mention that the killing of Heather Heyer was "terrible" before he moved on to how the media had unfairly crucified him and pointed more fingers at the counter-protesters. It was all about him.

He said that "they" will not stop until they take down the statues of George Washington, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt (for whom they said they are still looking for an excuse.) And then he went all in saying: "they are trying to take away our history and our heritage."

Of course nobody's trying to take down statues of Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. There is a movement to remove the statues of confederate leaders who fought a war to defend slavery, most of which were erected nearly a hundred years after the war was over to protest civil rights for African Americans. Our president stood before a crowd of cheering supporters and claimed that noxious "history and heritage" for them and for himself.

We always suspected that when he said "Make American Great Again" he meant "Make America White Again." After last night in Phoenix, there's no longer any doubt.


Perchance to dream

by Tom Sullivan

Ron Brownstein at CNN has an analysis of voting patterns that is at once unsurprising and eye-opening. With exceptions, of course, the coalition of states pushing to end the Obama administration's protections for "dreamers," undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their parents, is composed primarily of states with the lowest percentages of them. These states, which form the core of GOP strength, are those with the lowest exposure to non-native-born residents.

"Most Americans know and love the José or Mohammed they know; but are afraid of the José or Mohammed they don't know," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. His book, "There Goes The Neighborhood," explores the impact of changing demographics. We fear what we don't know. Who knew?

Brownstein writes:

Democrats rely on what I have called a "coalition of transformation" that is largely comfortable with these changes, from increasing racial diversity and tolerance for diverse lifestyles to the transition toward a post-industrial economy. This coalition revolves around voters who are younger, more diverse, heavily urbanized, and among whites, both more secular and more tilted toward white-collar professions.

Republicans mobilize a competing "coalition of restoration" centered on voters who feel eclipsed, or even threatened, by these same changes. This coalition tends to be older, preponderantly white, religiously devout, strongest outside of major cities, and increasingly tilted toward blue-collar workers.
Hillary Clinton carried over three-quarters of states with the highest percentages of non-natives. Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona were exceptions.
Nationwide, according to the 2011-2015 estimates, residents born in the US comprise 87% of the population while foreign-born residents contribute 13%. But as my CNN colleague Ryan Struyk has calculated, native-born residents account for 91% of the population in the states that Trump won and only 81% of the population in the states Clinton carried.
Similar patterns hold for representation in both the House and Senate. Again with exceptions, Democrats represent areas where immigrant populations exceed the national average. Republicans with large immigrant constituencies are in the minority in the GOP caucuses.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa all rank in the bottom half of states in the share of their population born abroad. But with virtually every Midwestern metropolitan area suffering an exodus of native-born adults in their prime working years, many communities across the Rust Belt in recent years have actively recruited immigrants to stabilize their population base and revitalize their economies.

As a result, Republicans from this politically pivotal region have shown less enthusiasm than their counterparts in the South, Plains and Mountain West for restricting immigration: no Rust Belt state, for instance, joined the Texas-led lawsuit against DACA. Some, like Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, have even established initiatives to attract and integrate immigrants. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has been a vocal early critic of the Senate proposal to slash legal immigration.
Immigration continues to be a fraught issue for Republicans, the New Republic reports:
On Tuesday, McClatchy reported that a group of White House officials, including yesterday’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, today’s Chief of Staff John Kelly, and the dynamic duo Javanka are urging the president to strike a larger immigration deal with Congress in exchange for protecting Dreamers. According to McClatchy, other top officials—Mike Pence, H.R. McMaster, and Gary Cohn—“are thought to agree” with the plan. So far that deal would include funding for the border wall, more detention beds, reducing legal immigration, and implementing the intrusive E-Verify program.
Democrats refuse to allow the president to use dreamers as bargaining chips.
So that added to the split among Republicans on the issue and Mitch McConnell's doubts that the president can salvage his administration, we can expect the newest White House proposal to be as successful as the others.

So much winning.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A reprieve

by digby

Via The Daily Beast
Missouri’s governor stayed the execution of a death-row inmate on Tuesday, just hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Marcellus Williams was sentenced to death in 2001, after being found guilty of stabbing reporter Felicia Gayle to death in 1998. The prosecution argued that Williams had been burglarizing her home when Gayle surprised him, prompting him to stab her 43 times as she tried to fight back.

Over the past year, however, recently tested DNA evidence has raised questions regarding Williams’s guilt. DNA on the murder weapon did not match Williams and instead was found to belong to an unknown male.

Greitens said he will appoint a board of inquiry to review the case and the “newly discovered DNA evidence, which was not available to be considered by the jury that convicted him.” The board will recommend whether Williams’s death penalty will remain or be commuted.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt,” Gov. Eric Greitens said in a statement.

The Missouri Supreme Court previously gave Williams a stay of execution in 2015 to allow time for the new DNA testing, which had not been available at his trial. Williams’s attorneys have maintained his innocence and argue that the DNA evidence exonerates him, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Just last week the state’s highest court denied petitions to stop the execution due to the new evidence. A spokesperson for Attorney General Josh Hawley arguedthat the DNA tests made no difference since the state had enough non-DNA evidence proving Williams is not innocent. The state said it has two witnesses who said Williams confessed to them, and can also prove that he sold Gayle’s laptop after her murder, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“The item was a kitchen knife with both male and female DNA on the handle,” Hawley’s office argued in a court filing. “It is reasonable to assume people not involved in the murder handled the knife in the kitchen. And there is no reason to believe Williams would not have worn gloves during a burglary and murder, as he wore a jacket to conceal his bloody shirt after he left the murder scene.”

They are saying that eye witness testimony is enough to execute someone even when there is DNA of an unknown person on the murder weapon. If it's not enough to get him a new trial the state should certainly have found that it's enough to commute his death sentence. Prosecutors cling to their convictions no matter what and it's sick. They are supposed to have a higher calling than defending their record.

To go ahead and kill when there is any doubt at all about guilt is barbaric. Of course, it's always barbaric.

The alt-right platform back in bidness

by digby

Not that it ever went away ...
During Steve Bannon’s first full weekday back running Breitbart, the website he once called “the platform for the alt-right” published a defense of the VDare Foundation, a white supremacist organization that cancelled a conference scheduled to take place in April 2018 after a Colorado Springs resort owner warned they couldn’t ensure attendees’ safety.

The piece, written by openly xenophobic former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, claims the resort owners’ decision — which came in response to pressure from local officials — shows that “the left does not need to show up and disrupt an event, they can merely threaten to do so and city officials run for cover like cockroaches.”

Though Bannon tried to distance himself from white nationalism shortly after the election, Breitbart’s decision to run the Tancredo column on his first full day back indicates that the site will continue to defend and promote white nationalism — sometimes under the guise of the First Amendment.
Bannon’s return comes after a tough stretch of time for Breitbart. According to Sleeping Giants, a online group that has successfully pressured hundreds of advertisers to abandon Breitbart.com, the site has lost more than 2,500 advertisers in recent months.

They have multi-billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer. They don't need advertisers.

All Hail Trump

by digby

Have a drink handy before you watch this focus group of Trump voters on CNN this morning:

Trumpism is a cult. He can do no wrong. He is their Emperor God.

Trolling 101

by digby

This is Bannon's real insight --- understanding the shallow, bitchy, adolescent mind of the right winger:

This is their audience:

The world is being taken over by teen-age bullies.

Unctuous enabler in the wings

by digby

The crown prince of oleaginous sanctimony weighed in on Trump again this morning:
LAUER: You are a loyal defender of this president and you should be commended for that. But other top Republican leaders have rebuked him. Top military leaders have rebuked him. Business leaders have rebuked him for his comments on Charlottesville, and you continue to defend him. Are you putting your loyalty above, and in front of, what’s in your heart and your gut? 
PENCE: Matt, I know this president, I know his heart. And I heard him on the day the Charlottesville tragedy happened when he denounced hate and violence in all of its forms from wherever it comes. I heard him on that Monday, and I heard him as well on Tuesday, like millions of Americans did, where he condemned the hate and the bigotry that was evidenced there. 
LAUER: But [he] went back to saying there’s blame on both sides. 
PENCE: Look, we understand that criticism comes with this job and this president has the kind of broad shoulders to be able to take it.

Pence’s claim that Trump has “broad shoulders” and can take all the criticism is especially comical. Trump reportedly raged in private that his early comments were deemed insufficient, and he spent most of last week lashing out wildly as the condemnations, and defections, rolled in.

If Pence somehow succeeds Trump in the White House it will just be a slightly lower number of the seven circles of hell.


There's one Trump adviser who really gets him

by digby

Michael Anton, National Security Council spokesman:

Trump “didn’t run as a pacifist and he didn’t run as an isolationist,” the spokesman said, nor did he “say America was going to cut and run out of every theater of war where we’re fighting.” Instead, Anton insisted, the president promised a smarter, more focused use of the U.S. military and an end to nation-building policies. 
“This is consistent with the president’s campaign promises and themes from 2016. I think there’s an impulse among some to try to paint this as a departure, as a break,” Anton said of Trump’s Monday night announcement. “This idea that there’s some, you know, huge gap between what he promised and what he talked about in 2016 and what he laid out last night, I personally don’t see it. I was involved in the strategy development all throughout this process, never saw it."

He's right. Trump talked endlessly about building up the US Military, torturing, bombing the shit out of places, stealing resources,  making sure that nobody "laughed at us anymore" during the campaign but for some reason nobody thought that meant anything. They kept looking at his tweets during the Obama administration and taking his word that he had secret plans that he wouldn't reveal because it would be "stupid."

Trump's previous complaints about Afghanistan and other wars were just trolling Obama and Bush. That's the extent of his strategic vision. Now he's got a chance to "win" and he is perfectly willing to use lethal force to do it.

"Shorter, more focused" means "bomb the shit out of 'em."

"No nation building" means "to the victors belong the spoils."

Why, after observing him for more than two years, would anyone doubt that?

Trump's super duper secret Afghanistan plan

by digby

I wrote about Trump's big speech for Salon this morning:

According to NBC News, last month President Donald Trump met with his generals and angrily demanded to know why we haven’t “won” the war in Afghanistan since he became president. He wanted to fire the commander there and find someone who could get the job done.
Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth [sic] and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.
As with everything else on earth, Trump is clueless about the history of Afghanistan, the conditions on the ground or the war’s ostensible objectives. To call it complicated is to understate it by a factor of a thousand.

Trump had been talking to some veterans who complained, as soldiers have been doing since time immemorial, about the generals not knowing their top brass from a foxhole in the ground. He believed them. But since his only frame of reference in life is that of an heir to a fortune who lives between Manhattan and Palm Beach, he explained his position by recounting a story about how the 21 Club had hired an expensive consultant to come up with a renovation plan when they should have just consulted with the waiters.

Trump’s complaining about NATO was more of the usual ill-informed crankiness about U.S. allies, and the questions about why we aren’t stealing minerals from Afghanistan (which would be a war crime) are par for the course. He’s always said that his military strategy is to “bomb the shit out of ’em and take the oil,” so one assumes that after dropping the MOAB, the biggest bomb short of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, he logically felt the next step was to take whatever he wanted.

In any case, the Pentagon’s plan to have Trump sign off on a plan didn’t happen that day. It took military brass until this past week to finalize one and get the president to approve a new “surge,” which will probably do the same thing as the last surge: Not much. Politico reported that National Security adviser H.R.McMaster and Vice President Mike Pence actually rehearsed their pitch to Trump last Friday to get him to agree to the consensus. One imagines that it consisted of lots of pictures, small words and flattery. Apparently it worked.

Thank goodness for small favors. As useless as another surge in Afghanistan might turn out to be, it could have been a whole lot worse. A few weeks ago I wrote about the plan Steve Bannon and Eric Prince had reportedly cooked up, which Bannon and Jared Kushner were reported to have delivered personally to Defense Secretary Mattis. That plan was to privatize the war by hiring a mercenary army under the auspices of an American “viceroy,” modeled on the old colonial British East India Company. They would then “take the minerals” as payment to finance the war, ostensibly on behalf of the locals.

Mattis told Bannon and Kushner that he wasn’t looking for any “outside” plans at this time. Although the president was said to have been intrigued, this idea lost favor in the end, for unknown reasons. Perhaps the fact that the Trump Organization wouldn’t be allowed a piece of the spoils soured the president on the scheme.

In any case, after some final deliberation over the weekend, on Monday night Trump took to the airwaves to announce his new strategy. He spoke stiffly from the teleprompter in flowery words that sounded nothing like his own and omitted the magic words “radical Islamic terrorism,” which, according to his own campaign rhetoric means he supports the terrorists.

He cranked up the temperature on Pakistan and asked India to “help” more, which may very well have serious repercussions down the road. Apparently the Trump administration has decided that the nuclear standoff with North Korea and destabilizing the nuclear deal with Iran isn’t enough of a challenge. Now it wants to get into the middle of that ongoing mess between two nuclear powers as well.

Trump also made some vague references to “defraying the costs” of the war, which may very well translate into grabbing Afghanistan by the minerals. And somebody definitely needs to answer for letting him say that the country has a prime minister when it has a president. Overall the whole thing was very light on details, which he once again explained away as his secret, special, super-duper surprise attack strategy.

Essentially Trump told us, “We have a plan, we won’t tell you the plan and the plan will cost a lot of money.” In other words: “Trust me.”

Trust him? Let’s review why those might be the scariest words in the English language right now. Two weeks ago, Trump inexplicably escalated the war of words with North Korea to the point at which Guam was issuing warnings to residents not to look up at incoming missiles in case Kim Jong-un came through with his threat to launch bombs in their direction. The possibility that one of the unstable men in charge of either the U.S. or North Korea might miscalculate and start World War III was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in recent memory. This was particularly true since Trump clearly didn’t understand the nature of the nuclear threat during the campaign and obviously hasn’t learned anything since becoming president.

But Trump’s campaign promises were full of chilling messages that seemed designed to make our allies frightened of us and our enemies hate us even more. As I mentioned above, he’s threatened to bomb, raze, torture, execute and pillage any country and any people he deems to be an enemy or a friend of an enemy. He routinely endorsed war crimes, even repeating one of the most lurid of them all just five days ago, when he tweeted his oft-repeated apocryphal tale about Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing dipping bullets in pig’s blood and staging a mass execution of Muslims in the Philippines. Doing this just days after pronouncing that Nazis marching in the streets was no worse than your average protest march undoubtedly reinforced the message that the U.S. military answers to a bloodthirsty thug no better than the worst banana-republic tyrant.

Trump is impulsive and lies constantly without remorse. He often behaves like a child. He looked up at the eclipse without glasses, and acted proud of his juvenile rebelliousness. Trusting him, ever, about anything, is suicidal.



I never said that ...

by Tom Sullivan

Image by Jérôme Dessommes via Creative Commons.

The New York Times' Emily Badger examines the processes by which we identify beliefs as "fringe." Tina Fetner, Associate Professor of Sociology at McMaster University in Ontario, believes white supremacist groups are actively trying to mainstream views once considered taboo. By staging events that get press national coverage, they are doing just that. Having a president and a major party slow to condemn those views helps normalize them as well.

Badger writes:

When norms change, the highly educated tend to adopt them the fastest. And when political leaders agree, those attitudes spread through the population the more information people have about them. When political leaders don’t agree, attitudes tend to polarize (for example, liberals say climate change is human-driven; many conservatives say that it’s not).

Polarized issues have two-sided information flows, as John Zaller, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has described it. Mr. Trump’s comments about Charlottesville raise the possibility of creating a two-sided issue out of racial equality.

“That’s what really dangerous about what’s happening right now,” said Michael Tesler, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “There should be a one-sided information flow condemning Nazis. And when there’s not, it’s very problematic.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting's "Reveal" radio program last weekend revisited the alt-right and an interview with white nationalist Richard Spencer. Host Al Letson questions Spencer's giving a straight arm salute and saying "Hail Trump" during a speech after the president's inauguration. That was just "being provocative," Spencer insists, and finds it unreasonable that people might think him a Nazi because of it.

Like Grover Norquist and Ann Coulter, Spencer seems to enjoy being provocative in public appearances. It gets him attention and press. It makes him marketable. He tut-tuts any notion that his actions and statements make him complicit in inciting violence. When Coulter gets blowback, for example, she tosses her hair, rolls her eyes, sighs, and claims she was just joking. Her stock reply is lefty critics are so humorless they simply don't get it. But a tone is set. Signals have been sent. Plausible deniability is part of her shtick. And Alex “the performance artist” Jones' shtick, too. And Spencer's. Personal responsibility can be shrugged off should some overzealous fan kill and injure people with a car. No one told them to do that. In the "Reveal" interview, one can almost hear Spencer toss his hair, roll his eyes, and sigh.

The exchange that most caught my attention was Spencer's complaint that white people are losing their power in America. Letson asks, isn't Spencer's being "provcative" giving license to his followers to engage in violent behaviors he doesn't expressly condone while winking at it? Spencer replies [timestamp 21:04]:
"I actually fundamentally disagree with you. I would actually say the opposite is the case. The fact is, when people have a suppressed identity -- and I am referring to white people -- when they are not allowed to express their sense of themselves, their sense of their extended family, and so on, in the real world ..."
Letson (himself black) interrupts to point out that power in this country is solidly in the hands of the white majority. Who's suppressing them?

Spencer replies that white people are bringing about their own demise:
"I don't really blame black people for this. I really don't. I blame ourselves. We are bringing about our own demise. We are removing ourselves from cultural and social power. If you say white people have accumulated a lot of wealth, yes. Where is that arrow pointing? Which direction are we headed? It is toward the loss of power for my people in North America and around the world."
In a couple of interviews, Letson says, he never got a satisfactory answer from Spencer to the question of who he thinks is suppressing white people.

But by the provocative symbols and signals white nationalists employ, it is understood who they think is suppressing them: anyone who isn't white. By definition. Loss or dilution of white majority power after enjoying centuries of unchallenged dominance equals "white genocide" committed by Others against them, not auto-genocide, as Spencer argues when pressed. That genocide demands a response, perhaps a violent one, is also understood, even if Spencer coyly never calls for one.

It is a perspective white nationalists, the KKK and Nazis hope to mainstream with the help of the sitting president. Because sharing power is a bad deal. Sharing isn't part of their social contract. They scratched through that clause and initialed in the margin, or didn't you notice?

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Accept the obvious: R.I.P Dick Gregory

by Dennis Hartley

“The most difficult thing to get people to do is to accept the obvious.”
-Dick Gregory

Man, did Dick Gregory pick a bad weekend to go. With the passing of Jerry Lewis and eclipse mania building to a fever pitch, his death in Washington D.C. this past Saturday earned him but a few perfunctory thirty second obits on network and cable newscasts.

Truth be told, Gregory was not so much a “comedian” who went out of his way to make you laugh as he was a righteous, erudite truth teller, who also happened to be very funny. He was a trickster of a sort; he would lower your guard with a perfect zinger, then seconds later he would raise your consciousness with a sharp social insight.

“Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said, ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘that’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ “
-Dick Gregory

When it came to his political activism, he didn’t just talk the talk:

[From The Los Angeles Times]
An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.” 
He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters. 
In the late ’60s, he began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War. 
In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.

Not exactly your everday “ha-ha funny” type of clown, was he?

His activism never stopped. From today’s Democracy Now tribute (I’d recommend watching the entire tribute-its quite moving)…

Gregory became one of the most popular comedians in the country, paving the way for generations of African-American comedians. On Sunday Chris Rock wrote on Instagram, “We lost a king. They’ll never be another. Read his books. Look him up you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately the America that produced Dick Gregory still exists.” Dick Gregory was the first African-American comedian to sit on the couch of The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Parr. As his popularity grew, so did his activism.
More recently, his face appeared in newspapers across the country for his community action to — approach to investigate allegations behind the CIA’s connection with drugs in the African American community. He camped out in dealer-ridden public parks and rallied community leaders to shut down head shops. He protested at CIA headquarters and was arrested. Throughout his life, Dick Gregory has been a target of FBI and police surveillance. And he was virtually banned from the entertainment arena for his political activism.

The last sentence above explains in part (sadly) why, despite his long career, you’ll find virtually no Dick Gregory performance clips on YouTube. That’s because he has essentially been blacklisted for years; there are very few archived TV or club appearances that exist.

Here’s a little taste of his early standup days:

Here’s a rare latter-day television appearance, on Arsenio in 2014:

There’s a lot of truth-telling going on in that interview. Interesting to note that Arsenio Hall’s “revival” run (that started in 2013) was cancelled soon after (file under “Things That Make You Go: ‘Hmm.'”)

To me, seeing a great comedian is a bit like watching a musician or a poet.”

-Dick Gregory

Accept the obvious: America’s conscience has lost its Poet Laureate. R.I.P.

--- Dennis Hartley

He's joking, right?

by digby


Donald Trump will ask Americans Monday to trust him on his new Afghanistan strategy, exercising a president's most somber duty, a decision on waging war, at a time when his own political standing is deeply compromised. 
Trump will make his first prime-time broadcast on a specific policy issue to the nation as president at 9 p.m. ET to unveil his new plan, and a potential escalation of the nation's longest war, after a lengthy period of deliberations that carved deep splits within his administration. 
The speech will test the President's capacity to convince Americans that he has settled on the right course of action on a major national security issue, and to unify the nation around it, despite his own depleted approval ratings and behavior that has alienated many voters in his first seven months in office. 
Trump's first major national security address will also begin to show whether the credibility that the President has squandered, with his provocative rhetoric and frequent resort to falsehoods, will hamper his capacity to lead.

After all he said on the campaign trail the American people would be more likely to trust Carrot Top than this bozo when it comes to any military matters.

I doubt he'll mention it in the speech but we know what he would order if he could --- torture, bomb the shit out of 'em, dip bullets in pig's blood and stage mass executions --- and take all the natural resources because to the victors belong the spoils. I don't know if that's what they're going to do but it's most certainly what HE wants to do.

Shocker: The blue collar billionaire acts like Louis XIV

by digby

Not only that, they're being worked to bone:
The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump's family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.

Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.

The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump – who has traveled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia – and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.

"The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,'' Alles said. "I can't change that. I have no flexibility.''

Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That's up from 31 during the Obama administration.

Overwork and constant travel have also been driving a recent exodus from the Secret Service ranks, yet without congressional intervention to provide additional funding, Alles will not even be able to pay agents for the work they have already done.

The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump's first term.

But even if such a proposal was approved, about 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed, according to the agency.

"I don't see this changing in the near term,'' Alles said.

I think many people thought he'd be picking up the tab for some of this stuff. He says he's a billionaire. Instead, the taxpayers are picking up the tab to protect Uday and Qusay as they go all over the world selling the presidency and making corrupt deals on behalf of the family business. Sweet little scam.

It's so stupid not to be nice to the people who protect your life. I'm sure they'll do their jobs anyway. But it's not smart. Of course, this is Trump and his travelling family freaskshow so what do we expect?

He likes destroyers that don't collide with other ships, ok?

by digby

President Donald Trump on Sunday called the collision between the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and a tanker that left at least 10 sailors missing “too bad” before tweeting support for the sailor's families.

“That’s too bad,” the president said when asked about the incident, according to a pool report.
Honestly, I think even Sarah Palin could do better than that.

Naturally, Breitbart blamed McMaster and Kelly both of whom Steve Bannon is clearly on a crusade to destroy:
A source with direct knowledge of these matters told Breitbart News that the original mishap from Trump that caused the “that’s too bad” flap comes because senior staff originally kept the president in the dark about the incident. The source specifically fingered new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly and embattled National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster. Kelly is a retired four star Marine General who served later as President Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security before his promotion to White House chief of staff. McMaster is an active duty three star U.S. Army Lieutenant General.

“What went wrong is the president was not briefed and was not kept abreast as the incident developed,” the source with direct knowledge told Breitbart News late Sunday evening. “This is part of a bigger pattern of growing evidence of disrespect for the president and manipulating the information that is given to him similar to the decision with Afghanistan. The blame for this rests solely on the shoulders of two individuals — General H.R. McMaster and General Kelly — both of whom as flag officers should know better than to keep the commander-in-chief in the dark on these types of issues.”

You know, Trump should not have to be briefed to understand that when someone asks the Commander in Chief about a naval accident, even if it's the first he's heard of it, the correct answer isn't "that's too bad."

He could have just said "no comment" and then later told the press he didn't want to say anything because the facts were still coming in or he had to tell the families or any number of excuses. But he doesn't know how to be president and has no ability or desire to learn. That's not Kelly or McMaster's fault. And there's nothing they can do to change him.

The Prince of Darkness has a bold new plan

by digby

I wrote about Bannon's next move for Salon this morning:

One thing you can say for Steve Bannon, the former presidential adviser and newly returned Breitbart News executive editor, is that he knows how to make an exit. Bannon’s series of interviews both before and after being fired last Friday put chief antagonist Anthony Scaramucci’s diva departure to shame (although Twitter wags were quick to point out that the first headlines from Breitbart News certainly evoked the memory of some of “The Mooch’s” choice comments about Bannon).

Rumors had been out there since the spring that Bannon was on thin ice. And the reason given, then and now, that makes the most sense is that Donald Trump didn’t like his minion receiving so much attention. He was angry last spring when Bannon made the cover of Time, which Trump considers to be such a tremendous honor that he constantly boasts about his own covers, even going so far as to mock up fake ones for Trump properties. The headline for Bannon’s Time cover was even worse: “The Great Manipulator.”

They seemed to have papered that over until recently, when Bannon was the subject of considerable press coverage after reporter Joshua Green’s new bookabout him was published. Trump was reportedly upset that the cover featured an unappealing picture of him and that the title put Bannon’s name first. Considering the president’s overwhelming vanity and narcissism, I’m inclined to believe that was the ultimate reason he was fired.

Bannon’s departure will have little effect on the Trump administration. Even if John Kelly succeeds in making the trains run on time, that doesn’t solve the central problem of the Trump administration. Bannon was not the reason this dumpster fire of a presidency has exploded into a raging conflagration. He wasn’t mouthing the words President Trump spoke in that odious press conference last Tuesday. He didn’t force him to play chicken with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un the week before that. He certainly didn’t have control of Trump’s Twitter account, the window to the president’s frightening mind. Other than convincing the newbie Trump that the entire government bureaucracy is a “deep state” out to get him, Bannon has been no more influential on Trump’s behavior than the latter’s son Barron.

Bannon is, however, highly influential among Trump supporters, although not as much as when he was building the Trump mystique. As conservative talk show host and Never-Trumper Charlie Sykes has been pointing out for some time, Trumpism is not a movement — it is now a full-fledged cult of personality in which the president’s followers believe themselves to be under siege from the same forces Donald Trump rails against: the media, political correctness, elites of both parties, liberals, racial and ethnic minorities. The more they see Trump being attacked the more they identify with him.

Nonetheless, as I pointed out on Friday, Bannon is a professional propagandist with a feel for the right-wing Zeitgeist. We can expect that he will be a player going forward. He told people different things in his manic series of exit interviews, at once claiming the Trump presidency was effectively over and promising to go to war on its behalf. But it’s pretty clear that Bannon is going to war for Bannon, and for a movement that he apparently believes still exists outside of Trump: “In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” Bannon told The New York Times. (Emphasis mine.) “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

If the early stories coming out of Breitbart (which Bannon officially rejoined on Friday night) are any indication, he will first concentrate on settling scores. Here are a couple of headlines from over the weekend: “McMaster Of Disguise: Nat’l Security Adviser Endorsed Book That Advocates Quran-Kissing Apology Ceremonies” and “Report: Ivanka Trump Helped Push Steve Bannon out of the White House.”

The New York Times reported that Bannon had met with Breitbart benefactors Robert and Rebekah Mercer on Monday night to plan his post-White House strategy. According to Axios, it’s a much bigger deal than little old Breitbart.com:

Bannon has told friends he sees a massive opening to the right of Fox News, raising the possibility that he’s going to start a network. . . . He believes Fox is heading in a squishy, globalist direction as the Murdoch sons assume more power. . . . His chief financial backer, Long Island hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer, is ready to invest big in what’s coming next, including a huge overseas expansion of Breitbart News.

Bannon may be right that Fox is a shadow of its former self. But the problem isn’t that it’s become squishy and “globalist.” It’s that for the last 20 years the whole network was pretty much a brothel, and since the departure of the sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly and the sexually harassed Megyn Kelly, its only “star” is Trump’s smarmy sycophant Sean Hannity. Most importantly, the network lost Roger Ailes at the helm, the TV impresario who understood the Fox audience and would have understood how to effectively surf the Trump wave. Ratings are down and the network seems lost without him.

So, there’s an opening in right-wing television news for something fresh. Bannon perceives of himself as an all around agitprop genius, but his terrible movies certainly don’t demonstrate that. He may turn out to be more Trump hot air than Ailes-style brilliance.

As for the Breitbart new media extravaganza, back in October, Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg previewed Bannon’s post-election plans (presuming Trump wouldn’t win) with a big story about the site’s plans for European expansion and a Mercer-funded merger between the Trump digital operation and Breitbart.com. Bannon told Green, “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine. Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Whether Bannon will have access to all that juicy campaign data is unknown, but since he’s funded by Mercer, a partial owner in the data mining company Cambridge Analytica, odds are he’ll have plenty of technology to work with.

It’s a new era for right-wing media (as for everyone else). For the last couple of decades the conservative media barons have been ahead of the political curve. We’re about to find out if they’ve lost their touch.

QOTD: Roxane Gay

by digby

We are on a precipice. What happened in Charlottesville is not the end of something but, rather, the beginning. And it is from this precipice that I am reminded of everything I did not do during the 2016 election. Hindsight reminds me that resistance must be active, and constant. Resistance is the responsibility of everyone who believes in equality and demands the eradication of racism, anti-Semitism and the hatred that empowers bigots to show their truest selves in broad daylight. I am reminding myself that I should never allow my fears to quiet me. I have a voice and I am going to use it, as loudly as I can.



A few minutes of spectacular darkness

by Tom Sullivan

If you are reading this, we are setting up already up for today's total eclipse at an undisclosed location in the path of totality. Three hours' drive east of here, information signs on I-40 Saturday morning between Winston-Salem and Greensboro warned of high traffic on Monday.

It's going to be a zoo out there. The I-85 corridor in South Carolina will be inundated with visitors for the eclipse scheduled for 2:38 p.m. EDT. The path of totality spans from the Georgia welcome center nearly to Spartanburg, SC. Visitors are coming from Charlotte and points east to Atlanta and points west. From there the shadow tracks down I-26 through Columbia to Charleston, SC and out to sea.

Closer to home, mountain ridges on the Blue Ridge Parkway would make for spectacular viewing if one can get up there. But it's two lanes and 45 mph. We expect a parking lot. Blue Ridge Public Radio advises:

Unless you're walking to your spot to watch Monday's total solar eclipse in Western North Carolina, you will be sitting in some kind of traffic. Authorities are expecting heavy traffic just about everywhere in the region, compounded by the fact many of the rural roads in the path of totality are only two lanes.
People I know are leaving at dawn. The eastern edge of totality passes less than an hour east of Asheville, NC.

Please pass along any reports of animal or human sacrifice to the proper authorities.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Day the Clowns Cried: R.I.P Jerry Lewis

by Dennis Hartley

“Jerry Lewis is never just OK or adequate; he’s either very funny or he’s awful.” – Jerry Lewis, commenting on his film oeuvre.
Yes, I used “Jerry Lewis” and “oeuvre” in the same sentence. “Ouevre” is fancy French word that means “Hey, LAAY-DEE!”

I’m kidding. Mirriam-Webster defines it as “…a substantial body of work constituting the life work of a writer, an artist, or a composer.”

Jerry Lewis, who died this morning in Las Vegas, certainly left behind a substantial body of work. From 1949 to 2016, he acted in over 50 films; out of those he directed 23, and wrote 20 of them. And, as Lewis himself observed, some were very funny, others not so much.

Some of Lewis’ early, funnier movies include 1952’s The Stooge, 1955’s Artists and Models, 1959’s Don’t Give Up the Ship (those three co-starring his decade-long stage and screen comedy partner Dean Martin), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Disorderly Orderly (1964).

Martin Scorsese gave Lewis a second wind when he offered him a juicy part in his brilliant 1982 show biz satire The King of Comedy (highly recommended). It not only introduced Lewis to a new generation of fans, but allowed him to demonstrate that he had chops as a dramatic actor (when he wasn’t pulling faces, that is). Two more post-Scorsese Lewis performances worth a rental are Emir Kusturica’s 1993 off-the-wall sleeper Arizona Dream, and Peter Chelsom’s 1995 dramedy Funny Bones.

While he had continued writing, directing and starring in films through the early 70s, Lewis floundered at the box office as his particular brand of shtick went out of vogue in Hollywood. “Hollywood” is the key word here; as everyone and their grandmother knows, it was the undying admiration by the French that ultimately kept Lewis’ rep as a film maker afloat during his wilderness years (they gave him the Legion of Honor award in 1983).

Despite all the joking and ridicule spawned by France’s love affair with Jerry Lewis, they were on to something. He was, by definition, an auteur, having written, directed and starred in so many films. A lot of people are not aware that he was also an innovator. He essentially invented the “video tap”, a signal-splitting device that attaches to a movie camera and allows the director to share the camera operator’s view in real time, via a separate video monitor.

I am aware that Lewis’ self-appraisal as being either “very funny or awful” as an artist could apply on occasion to his off-stage life. He didn’t always think before he spoke. That noted, stepping back to look at the big picture, this was a human being who devoted well over 70 years of his long and productive life to making people laugh.

And that’s a good thing. Going up?

And they call us snowflakes

by digby

Why are young white men radicalized by white supremacy? German Lopez at Vox delves into the question and it's interesting. But it always comes back to this, doesn't it?
If radicalization is a result of messaging that extremists deploy to attract people with specific grievances, then one way to prevent radicalization may be to develop countermessaging that addresses those grievances in a way that avoids radicalization.

In the context of white supremacists, part of addressing this may mean expanding the Overton window — meaning what’s acceptable to talk about in public discourse. “The more we put things off limits, the more we empower bad actors who will talk about things other people aren’t willing to,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

For instance, right now it’s difficult for a white man to bring up concerns about changing racial demographics without getting labeled as racist. But maybe his concerns don’t have anything to do with race. He may be concerned that as the group he belongs to loses status, he will as well — economically, socially, and so on. A good response to this could point out that, for example, New York City is very diverse and still people, including white men, lead prosperous lives (and it has a below-average crime rate, contrary to what some dog whistles may suggest).

But if that person never has that kind of discussion because he’s dismissed as a racist, his concerns about changing demographics won’t go away. So he might search for answers outside the mainstream, and that might lead him to an extremist group. That is especially true if he experiences what sociologists call “white fragility”: When white people are asked to answer for potential racism, some become defensive — pushing them into denial that they’ve done anything wrong and, in some cases, hardening their racist attitudes. (Much more on that in a previous piece I wrote about this research.)

I know I'm supposed to be empathetic toward all this. But racism has been with us forever and it's really hard for me to believe that if we only allow racists to express their hatred without passing judgment and then offer them some statistics about how they're wrong, they'll come over to the light. But that's just me --- I'm not terribly tolerant of this idea that we have to be kind to racists because nobody know the trouble they've seen.

When I see these young dudes sneering at the Korean immigrants who work 14 hour days 7 days a week down at the corner store in my neighborhood or condemning Latina maids sending most of their paychecks home to their families or treating hard working middle class African American men like lackeys I'm not inclined to feel sorry for them because their granddads lost their factory job back in the 1970s. We are at 4% unemployment right now. I know there are still places where the jobs are scarce but those white college boys and their KKK pals shouting "Jews will not replace us" the other night don't live there.

Maybe we could offer more mental health care, better schools, and drug treatment to communities full of hopeless, directionless people. I've always been for that. But racism didn't cause those problems and coddling people in their belief that their lives have gone to hell because people of color, foreigners and uppity women have ruined everything isn't going solve them.