Sunday, February 26, 2017
Policy anarchy with people's lives in the balance
This would be how the sausage is made when the president is an imbecile:
A meeting Friday afternoon between President Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his former rival in the GOP primaries, had no set agenda. But Kasich came armed with one anyway: his hope to blunt drastic changes to the nation’s health-care system envisioned by some conservatives in Washington.
Over the next 45 minutes, according to Kasich and others briefed on the session, the governor made his pitch while the president eagerly called in several top aides and then got Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the phone. At one point, senior adviser Jared Kushner reminded his father-in-law that House Republicans are sketching out a different approach to providing access to coverage. “Well, I like this better,” Trump replied, according to a Kasich adviser.
The freewheeling session, which concluded with the president instructing Price and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to meet with Kasich the next day, underscores the unorthodox way the White House is proceeding as Republicans work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else. The day after Kasich delivered his impromptu tutorial, Trump spent lunch discussing the same topic with two other GOP governors with a very different vision — Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.
Scott said Sunday that he used the lunch to press for principles he has pushed publicly, such as financial compensation for states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA and the importance of providing competition and cutting required benefits to allow people to “buy insurance that fits them.”
While leaving most of the detail work to lawmakers, top White House aides are divided on how dramatic an overhaul effort the party should pursue. And the biggest wild card remains the president himself, who has devoted only a modest amount of time to the grinding task of mastering health-care policy but has repeatedly suggested that his sweeping new plan is nearly complete.
This conundrum will be on full display Monday, when Trump meets at the White House with some of the nation’s largest health insurers. The session, which will include top executives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Cigna and Humana, is not expected to produce a major policy announcement. But it will provide an opportunity for one more important constituency to lobby the nation’s leader on an issue he has said is at the top of his agenda.
Democrats and their allies are already mobilizing supporters to hammer lawmakers about the possible impact of rolling back the ACA, holding more than 100 rallies across the country Saturday. And a new analysis for the National Governors Association that modeled the effect of imposing a cap on Medicaid spending — a key component of House Republicans’ strategy — provided Democrats with fresh ammunition because of its finding that the number of insured Americans could fall significantly.
Trump, for his part, continues to express confidence about his administration’s ostensible plan. He suggested Wednesday that it would be out within a few weeks.
“So we’re doing the health care — again, moving along very well — sometime during the month of March, maybe mid- to early March, we’ll be submitting something that I think people will be very impressed by,” he told reporters during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room.
Yet some lawmakers, state leaders and policy experts who have discussed the matter with either Trump or his top aides say the administration is largely delegating the development of an ACA substitute to Capitol Hill. The president, who attended part of a lengthy heath-care policy session his aides held at Mar-a-Lago a week ago, appears more interested in brokering specific questions, such as how to negotiate drug prices, than in steering the plan’s drafting.
“The legislative branch, the House first and foremost, is providing the policy,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who noted that the White House lacks “a big policy shop” and that Price and some key principals just recently got in place. Seema Verma, whom Trump has nominated to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, should play a key role in any reform effort if she is confirmed.
In the current process, the White House becomes “the political sounding board” in altering Obamacare, as the 2010 law is known, “and the final voice of reason is what the Senate can accept,” Cole said.
Within the administration, aides are debating how far and fast Republicans can afford to move when it comes to undoing key aspects of the ACA. White House officials declined to comment for this story.
Several people in Trump’s orbit are eager to make bold changes to reduce the government’s role in the health-care system. That camp includes Vice President Pence, who told conservative activists last week that “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” as well as Domestic Policy Council aides Andrew Bremberg and Katy Talento and National Economic Council aide Brian Blase.
Blase, who most recently worked as a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, published a paper in December titled “Replacing the Affordable Care Act the Right Way.” Its conservative blueprint emphasized the “need to reduce government bias towards comprehensive coverage” for all Americans and a revamping of Medicaid, which was expanded under the ACA and added 11 million Americans to the rolls.
“Medicaid needs fundamental reform with the goals of dramatically reducing the number of people enrolled in the program and providing a higher-quality program for remaining enrollees,” Blase wrote.
Other White House advisers, according to multiple individuals who asked for anonymity to describe private discussions, have emphasized the potential political costs to moving aggressively. That group includes Kushner, NEC Director Gary Cohn, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
Asked by George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” whether Trump “won’t touch Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid,” White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Look, the president is committed to doing that. . . . And I don’t see any reason to start thinking differently.”
Kasich has proposed paring back some of the ACA’s more generous aspects, such as reducing the number of benefits insurers are required to offer and potentially cutting the eligibility level for Medicaid recipients from 138 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent if there is a stable marketplace with adequate subsidies they can join. He also wants states to have more flexibility in how they manage their Medicaid programs, as well as aspects of the private insurance market.
But he has expressed skepticism about turning Medicaid funding into a block grant and opposes any move that would eliminate the coverage many adults in his state now have without a clear path to transition them to new plans.
“Frankly the reason why people are on Medicaid is because they don’t have any money,” he said Friday. “So what are we supposed to say, ‘Work harder?’ ”
Asked to describe Trump’s reaction to his overall approach, the Ohio governor replied, “What he said is, he found it interesting. . . . It takes time, so you have to explain it, and explain it again.”
What a trainwreck.
digby 2/26/2017 05:00:00 PM
A fine tuned machine
Gosh this seems like such a fun place to work:
Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing, with increased security measures that include random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys.
The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticized the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorized sharing of information by individuals in his administration.
Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.
Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide.
Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.
There, he explicitly warned staffers that using texting apps like Confide — an encrypted and screenshot-protected messaging app that automatically deletes texts after they are sent — and Signal, another encrypted messaging system, was a violation of the Presidential Records Act, according to multiple sources in the room.
The phone checks included whatever electronics staffers were carrying when they were summoned to the unexpected follow-up meeting, including government-issued and personal cellphones.
Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media. It's not the first time that warnings about leaks have promptly leaked. The State Department's legal office issued a four-page memo warning of the dangers of leaks, and that memo was immediately posted by The Washington Post.
But with mounting tension inside the West Wing over stories portraying an administration lurching between crises and simmering in dysfunction, aides are increasingly frustrated by the pressure-cooker environment and worried about their futures there.
Within the communications office the mood has grown tense. During a recent staff meeting, Spicer harshly criticized some of the work a more junior spokesperson, Jessica Ditto, had done, causing her to cry, according to two people familiar with the incident. "The only time Jessica recalls almost getting emotional is when we had to relay the information on the death of Chief Ryan Owens," Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL killed in action in Yemen.
Spicer declined to comment about the leak crackdown.
The campaign to sniff out a series of damaging leaks, which Spicer is convinced originated from his communications department, has led to a tense environment in the West Wing. During meetings, the press secretary has repeatedly berated his aides, launching expletive-filled tirades in which he’s accused them of disclosing sensitive information to reporters and saying that they’ve disappointed him.
As word of the hunt has ripped through the office, talk has turned to the question of whether firings are to come.
Spicer was particularly incensed by revelations last week that Michael Dubke had been tapped as the new White House communications director — a hire that became public before it was officially announced.
“In general,” said one senior administration official, “there is a lot of insecurity.”
While other parts of the White House appear to be stabilizing, the press shop is often a center of frustration about how things are going — and not just from Spicer, who fumes to aides about stories he doesn’t like.
For Trump, a cable TV addict who has long obsessively tracked news coverage about himself, the ongoing turmoil in the White House communications wing threatens to derail the media narrative that will help to define the opening days of his presidency. His decision to hold a free-flowing news conference last week, two senior officials said, stemmed from a recognition that he was no longer breaking through in a news cycle that had turned against him.
“He reached a breaking point where he wanted to do it himself,” said one senior White House aide.
It has not been lost on senior White House officials that Spicer is overseeing an overwhelmed press office, where work often begins just after 6 a.m. and ends close to midnight.
To help streamline the office, the administration has tapped Dubke, a veteran under-the-radar Republican operative known for his organizational skills. Yet the move has infuriated Trump campaign aides, who argue that someone who’d been a vocal Trump supporter — which the establishment-minded Dubke hadn’t been — should have gotten the job.
“People are on fire about it,” one campaign veteran said of the Dubke hire.
Multiple former campaign aides said they were under the impression that RNC veterans pushed through Dubke, who is close with Republican strategist Karl Rove, with relatively little consultation with others in Trump world. (Several other people interviewed for the post, including Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence, and Scott Jennings, a former political aide in the George W. Bush White House.)
To some degree, the challenge Spicer and other press aides face is unique — they are working for a president who takes an unusually intense interest in the work his communications office does. Trump is known to watch Spicer’s daily press briefings while eating lunch in the White House dining room. While the president was critical of his press secretary in the administration’s first month — especially after he was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” — he more recently has offered the press secretary his private assurances that his job is safe.
The push to crack down on leaks follows a week in which the president ratcheted up his criticism of the press and condemned the free flow of information from parts of his administration. On Friday, Trump called the media the “enemy of the American people” during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he railed against journalists for using anonymous sources.
“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”
Later on Friday, Spicer blocked certain media, including CNN, The New York Times, BuzzFeed and POLITICO, from attending an off-camera press briefing in his office. Time and The Associated Press boycotted the briefing out of solidarity.
On Saturday, Trump said he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington.
He's running the government like he ran the Trump Organization. Into the ground. Just as he promised.
Remember folks, this isn't normal.
digby 2/26/2017 03:00:00 PM
Commander in Tweet
Oh my. It appears this sort of thing isn't just for Republicans after all:
The father of a Navy SEAL killed during a mission that Donald Trump approved just a week into his administration blames the president for his son’s death.
William Owens told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with Trump when the remains of son, William “Ryan” Owens, were returned to Dover Air Force Base.
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,” Owens recalled explaining to the chaplain. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president.”
“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.”
Owens questioned Trump’s motivation for signing off on a mission just six days into his presidency.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” he asked. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
Although U.S. military officials told The New York Times that “everything went wrong” during the mission, the Trump administration has called the operation a success. Administration officials have claimed that an investigation would tarnish the memory Owen’s son, but the father disagrees.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he remarked. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation.”
In any other administration this would be a huge scandal, especially the fact that Trump was reportedly gobbling dinner when he made the decision and didn't even bother to go to the situation room when it was happening:
Amid claims that Mr Trump ordered the operation in the early hours of Sunday morning without sufficient intelligence, ground support or back-up, it has emerged that the President was not in the Situation Room at all.
“The President was here in the residence. He was kept in touch with his national security staff,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.
“Secretary Mattis and others kept him updated on both the raid and the death of Chief Owens as well as the four other individuals that were injured. So he was kept apprised of the situation.”
It has also been pointed out that in the morning after the attack, one of the first things Mr Trump did was tweet angrily about the New York Times, writing:
Experts suggest different presidents have taken a different approach on how hands on they want to be in such situations. But as questions have emerged about who is leading America’s national security policy – Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s white nationalist political advisor, has been made a member of the national security council’s so-called principals committee – US media has seized on the President’s absence.
“Usually, a President goes down to the Situation Room and is presented with what they call a full package for the attack. There’s a legal assessment of the legal authorities under which they’re doing these,” David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times, told PBS.
“There’s a risk assessment to the commandos who would be doing it. There is a risk assessment of what could happen to civilians who are in the area.”
He added: “It looks like President Trump got briefed on it, by and large, at a dinner, not in the Situation Room, not with legal advisers around.”
Mr Sanger said that present along with Mr Trump were Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence, and Mr Bannon.
Remember this despicable lie?
In a June 22 speech, Trump said Clinton’s decisions as secretary of state "spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched. Among the victims was our late Ambassador Chris Stevens. I mean what she did with him was absolutely horrible. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed. That’s right. When the phone rang, as per the commercial, at 3:00 in the morning, Hillary Clinton was sleeping."
Yeah, that was bullshit:
The, attack took place at about 9:30 p.m. Benghazi time, or 3:30 in the afternoon Washington time on a Tuesday. Clinton was at her State Department office.
None of the numerous congressional investigations into the attacks have faulted Clinton for her actions as the attacks unfolded that day or said she could have done something different on Sept. 12 that would have saved lives.
Trump couldn't be bothered to walk down to the Situation Room for his first action as Commander in Chief. Which he causally ordered over dinner in between the appetizers and the soup.
digby 2/26/2017 01:00:00 PM
Traister and The Handmaid's Tale
Rebecca Traister recently re-read "The Handmaid's Tale" in the wake of the Trump election:
In the first few weeks of the Trump administration, I reread The Handmaid’s Tale.
It had been almost exactly 30 years since I’d last visited Margaret Atwood’s fictional feminist dystopia, but I’d been thinking a lot about it. The book, like its authoritarian forerunner 1984, has recently returned to best-seller lists, only in part because a television adaptation is scheduled to air on Hulu in April. It will star Elisabeth Moss in the role of Offred, the heroine whose life, body, husband, daughter, and original name have been stolen from her in the futuristic, religiously ordered Republic of Gilead.
“We never wanted the show to be this relevant,” Moss has said of the television adaptation, which was written, green-lit, and already in production before Donald J. Trump was elected president. Before an Oklahoma lawmaker described women as “hosts” while defending his bill that would require women seeking abortions to gain written permission from the father of the child; before a Texas woman reporting abuse at the hands of her boyfriend was detained by immigration forces in the courtroom reserved for domestic-violence cases; before a report was released showing that violence and threats directed at abortion clinics are at their highest in 20 years; before Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren while she read a letter by Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor; before a secretary of Education who has said she sees education as a means “to advance God’s kingdom” was confirmed; and before the First Lady of the United States opened her husband’s rally in Florida with the Lord’s Prayer. And these examples are just from the span of days during which I was rereading the book.
But the decision to bring The Handmaid’s Tale to screen, in advance of our present political circumstances, did not require some sort of mystical clairvoyance. The Handmaid’s Tale was born of, and now has been revivified in, a period of anti-feminist backlash — a response to the gains of women that certainly affected the 2016 election, but which had been playing out long before.
It's great stuff. Read the whole thing. She goes on to relate an interview with Phyllis Schlafly at the RNC six weeks before she died --- the same day the crowd spontaneously started chanting "lock her up!" and "Trump that bitch!" Schlafly was the model for one of the man characters in Atwood's book.
Traister has a more optimistic view of things than I do at the moment. (I'm usually fairly optimistic, but right now I'm having a hard time summoning up anything other than terror and despair.) She sees our story diverging from Atwood's dystopia because unlike the way Atwood portrays average women in the book in the pre-dystopian period, today's women are not apathetic about what's happening. I hope she's right. Certainly, if the resistance can keep up the level of energy we have been seeing, it's far more likely.
digby 2/26/2017 11:30:00 AM
Anonymous fake news
“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. Because they have no sources. They just make it up when there are none. They make up sources. They’re very dishonest people. They did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people. They dropped off the word fake. That’s the way they are. I’m not against the media. I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories, if I deserve them. I love good stories. I don’t get too many of them. I am only against the fake news media or press. I’m agains the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. There are some great reporters out there. You have no idea how bad it is. You have a lot of them…the Clinton News Network is one.”
Trump back in the day. Or should I say "John Barron" or "John Miller":
The rule of thumb is that anything he accuses of others of doing is something he is doing or has done himself. There's never been a more clear cut case of projection in history.
digby 2/26/2017 09:00:00 AM
"This is my ballot."
by Tom Sullivan
During early voting here in 2008, this happened.
A young African-American woman approached one of our poll greetsrs outside the Board of Elections station downtown. The woman was nervous, almost trembling. This was her first vote, an important vote. She had lots of questions.
The greeter explained the voting process several times. Finally, the young woman practiced on a sample ballot before lining up inside to vote.
When she finished, she rushed back out onto the sidewalk and blurted, “You won’t believe what happened to me in there.”
An older white woman in line saw her sample ballot and snatched it and the pen from her hands. Telling the young voter she didn’t have to vote just for Democrats, the older woman filled in the “straight Republican” oval. (This was before GOP-led legislature eliminated straight-ticket voting in NC.)
The young woman pulled it back and said, “This is my ballot. I’m going to vote the way I want. You have your own ballot. You can vote the way you want.”
My wife took the younger woman by the shoulders and said, “I am so proud of you.” They hugged with tears in their eyes.
We are sometimes so cynical. We get so caught up in candidates and factions and policy fights we sometimes lose touch with what voting means to people. People bled and died to enforce that young woman's right to a voice in governing this country. As the story shows, there are still plenty of people out there not happy about sharing power with her or anyone else who looks different from them.
Yesterday's turnout was epic. As the Democratic National Committee went through the interminable process of electing new officers (Tom Perez won the chair's slot), Democrats here held annual precinct organizing meetings — usually pretty boring stuff. We had planned for large. What we got was huge. At our "cluster" meetup, 250 people showed up for meetings of eight precincts. The mayor was there and a city councilman, plus the district attorney and a superior court judge. And a lot of younger voters. When I asked how many were attending for the first time, almost half in the grade school auditorium put up their hands. As I wrote last Sunday, something (or someone) has brought people off their couches.
Many have voted for years. Others have not. Now they want to know how all this works.
One man wanted to know when we craft policy at the local level. Organizing strategy and election mechanics, yes. We don't really set policy. Voters elect candidates who do that. But it's funny, once they count on you to get them elected they are a lot more receptive to policy suggestions for some reason. I wrote about what that work looks like in North Carolina during the DNC platform fight last summer:
There is a massive logistical effort behind putting on elections, a lot of it volunteers and party-organized. Most voters are accustomed only to seeing the 4 or 5 retirees who work the polling station in their neighborhood on Election Day. Three election judges (a Republican Judge, a Democratic Judge, and a Chief Judge) plus an assistant or two. These people get paid (poorly) for the day, but that's not why they do it. They are putting in a 14-hour day because they believe what they are doing matters, that their community matters, and that democracy is important.
That's virtually an army division mobilized to put on a general election. In a single state.
The handful of people you see every Election Day don't appear out of thin air. Precinct leaders from each party recruit them (plus multiple backups) in the odd-numbered years here and provide a list of their names to the county Board of Elections. I spend six weekends every other summer compiling the list for local Democrats. It's a chore and a half. Four or 5 people per precinct, plus backups. In my county there are 80 precincts. In North Carolina alone there are 2,709 precincts.
But it's the small, human stories that make the work worth the effort. My wife got choked up last night talking about another of those "moments" outside the polling station.
She and a partner saw a sullen-looking, African-American teenager round the corner. He didn't seem happy to be there.
"Are you coming to vote?" they asked.
He looked down and said nothing. They explained the ballot gently and mentioned candidates they knew personally. By his age, it would have to be his first time. Barack Obama was running for reelection. It was 2012.
A well-dressed couple approached from another direction. His parents. Attorneys maybe. The three went in to vote together.
When the young man came out, he carried himself differently. The sullenness was gone.
"Did you get voted?" the team asked.
"Yeah!" he said, and broke into a wide grin.
"Feels good, doesn't it?"
"Yeah!" he said.
Broad grins all around.
Undercover Blue 2/26/2017 06:00:00 AM
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Saturday Night at the Movies
Pre-Oscar marathon: Top 10 Movies about the movies
By Dennis Hartley
I felt it apropos on this Oscar Eve to honor Hollywood's annual declaration of its deep and abiding love for itself with my picks for the top 10 movies that are all about...the movies. As usual, in alphabetical order:
Cinema Paradiso - Writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 love letter to the cinema may be too sappy for some, but for those of us who (to quote Pauline Kael) “lost it at the movies” it’s chicken soup for the soul. A film director (Jacques Perrin) returns to his home town in Sicily for a funeral, triggering flashbacks from his youth. He reassesses the relationships with two key people in his life: his first love, and the person who instilled his life-long love of the movies. Beautifully acted and directed; keep the Kleenex handy!
Day for Night- The late French film scholar and director Francois Truffaut was, first and foremost, a movie fan. And while one could argue that many of his own movies are rife with homage to the filmmakers who inspired him, this 1973 entry is his most unabashed and heartfelt declaration of love for the medium (as well as his most-imitated work). Truffaut casts himself as (wait for it) a director who is in the midst of a production with an international cast called Meet Pamela. His “Pamela” is a beautiful but unstable young British actress (Jacqueline Bisset) who is gingerly stepping back into the spotlight after recovering from a highly publicized nervous breakdown. His petulant, emotionally immature leading man (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a fool for love, which constantly distracts him from his work. He also has to coddle an aging Italian movie queen (Valentia Cortese) who is showing up on set three sheets to the wind and flubbing her scenes. Truffaut cleverly mirrors the backstage travails of his cast and crew with those of the characters in the “film-within-the-film”. Somehow, it all manages to fall together…but getting there is half the fun. Truffaut gives us a genuine sense of what a director “does” (in case you were wondering) and how a good one can coax magic from seemingly inextricable chaos.
Ed Wood - Director Tim Burton and his favorite leading man Johnny Depp have worked together on so many films over the last 20-odd years that they must be joined at the hip. For my money, this affectionate 1994 biopic about the man who directed “the worst film of all time” remains their best collaboration. It’s also unique in Burton’s canon in that it is somewhat grounded in reality (while I wish his legion of fiercely loyal fans all the best, Burton’s predilection for the overly-precious phantasmagoric and quirkily macabre is an acquired taste that I’ve personally failed to acquire). Depp gives a brilliant performance as Edward D. Wood, Jr., who unleashed the infamously inept yet 100% certified camp classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space on an unsuspecting movie-going public back in the late 1950s. While there are lots of belly laughs, none of them are at the expense of the off-beat characters. There’s no mean-spiritedness here; that’s what makes the film so endearing. Martin Landau nearly steals the film with his droll Oscar-winning turn as Bela Lugosi. Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette and Jeffrey Jones also shine.
8 1/2 - Where does creative inspiration come from? It’s a simple question, but one of the most difficult to answer. Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical 1963 classic probably comes closest to “showing” us…in his inimitable fashion. Marcello Mastroianni is fabulous as a successful director who wrestles with a creative block whilst being hounded by the press and various hangers-on. Like many Fellini films (all Fellini films?), the deeper you go, the less you comprehend. Yet (almost perversely), you can’t take your eyes off the screen; with Fellini, there is an implied contract between the director and the viewer that, no matter what ensues, if you’ve bought the ticket, you have to take the ride.
Hearts Of The West - Jeff Bridges stars as a Depression-era Iowan rube, a wannabe pulp western writer with the unlikely name of Lewis Tater (the scene where he asks the barber to cut his hair to make him look “just like Zane Grey” is priceless.) Tater gets fleeced by a mail-order scam promising enrollment in what turns out to be a bogus university “out West”. Serendipity lands him a job as a stuntman in Hollywood. The film also features one of Andy Griffith’s best performances. Veteran scene-stealer Alan Arkin is a riot as a perpetually apoplectic director. The breezy direction by Howard Zeiff (Private Benjamin), witty script by Rob Thompson and a great cast help make this one a winner.
The Kid Stays in the Picture- Look in the dictionary under "raconteur" and you will likely see a picture of the subject of this winning 2002 documentary by co-directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen. While it is basically a 90-minute monolog from legendary producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story , Chinatown , etc.) talking about his life, loves and career, it adds up to a surprisingly intimate and fascinating "insider" purview of the Hollywood machine. Evans spins quite the tale of a powerful mogul's rise and fall; by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. He's so charming and entertaining that you won’t stop to ponder whether he's making half this shit up. Visually inventive, thoroughly engaging, and required viewing for movie buffs.
Living in Oblivion- This criminally underappreciated 1995 sleeper from writer-director Tom DiCillo deserves a wider audience. Sort of the Day for Night of indie cinema, the film centers on a NYC-based filmmaker (a wonderful Steve Buscemi) helming a no-budget feature. Much to his escalating chagrin, the harried director seems to be stuck in a hellish loop chasing an ever-elusive “perfect take” for a couple of crucial scenes. DiCillo uses a clever construct that really keeps you on your toes (that’s all I’m prepared to say…no spoilers). DiCillo’s smart screenplay is full of quotable lines, and quite funny. Fabulous performances from a cast that reads like a “Who’s Who” of indie filmdom: Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Kevin Corrigan, James Le Gros and Peter Dinklage (in his first billed film role!). Dinklage delivers a hilarious rant about the stereotypical casting of dwarves in dream sequences. It has been rumored that Le Gros’ character (an arrogant Hollywood hotshot who has deigned to grace the low-budget production with his presence) was based on the director’s experience working with Brad Pitt (who starred in DeCillo’s 1991 debut feature, Johnny Suede). If that is really true, all I can say is…ouch!
The Story of Film: An Odyssey is one long-ass movie. Consider the title. It literally is the story of film, from the 1890s through last Tuesday. At 15 hours, it is nearly as epic an undertaking for the viewer as it must have been for director-writer-narrator Mark Cousins. Originally aired as a 15-part TV series in the UK, it made the rounds on the festival circuit as a five-part presentation. While the usual suspects are well-represented, Cousins’ choices for in-depth analysis are atypical (he has a predilection for African and Middle-Eastern cinema). That quirkiness is what I found most endearing about this idiosyncratic opus; world cinema enjoys equal time with Hollywood. The film is not without tics. Cousins’ oddly cadenced Irish brogue requires steely acclimation, and he has a tendency to over-use the word “masterpiece”. Of course, he “left out” many directors and films I would have included. Nits aside, this is obviously a labor of love by someone passionate about film, and if you claim to be, you have an obligation to see this.
The Stunt Man - “How tall was King Kong?” That’s the $64,000 question, posed by Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole), the larger-than-life director of the film-within-the-film in Richard Rush’s 1980 drama. Once you discover that King Kong was but “3 foot, six inches tall”, it becomes clear that the fictional director’s query is actually code for a much bigger question: “What is reality?” That is the question to ponder as you take this wild ride through the Dream Factory. Because from the moment our protagonist, a fugitive on the run from the cops (Steve Railsback) tumbles ass over teakettle onto Mr. Cross’s set, where he is in the midst of filming an art-house flavored WW I action adventure, his (and the audience’s) concept of what is real and what isn’t becomes hazy, to say the least. O’Toole chews major scenery, ably supported by a cast that includes Barbara Hershey and Allen Garfield. Despite the lukewarm reviews from critics upon original release, it has since gained status as a cult classic. This is a movie for people who love the movies.
Sunset Boulevard- Leave it to that great ironist Billy Wilder to direct a film that garnered a Best Picture nomination from the very Hollywood studio system it so mercilessly skewers (however, you’ll note that they didn’t let him win…did they?). Gloria Swanson’s turn as a fading, high-maintenance movie queen mesmerizes, William Holden embodies the quintessential noir sap, and veteran scene-stealer Erich von Stroheim redefines the meaning of “droll” in this tragicomic journey down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
digby 2/25/2017 06:30:00 PM
Little men in uniforms
Remember when Trump said he was going to be the "law and order"president? Well, he's making good on that promise:
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to “take the shackles off” of agents, an expression the officers themselves used time and again in interviews to describe their newfound freedom.
These are your American gestapo. I'm sorry to have to bring that allusion into it, but there's just no avoiding it.
“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month.
Two memos released this past week by the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE and the Border Patrol, provided more details about how it would carry out its plan, which includes Mr. Trump’s signature campaign pledge — a wall along the entire southern border — as well as speedier deportations and greater reliance on local police officers.
But for those with ICE badges, perhaps the biggest change was the erasing of the Obama administration’s hierarchy of priorities, which forced agents to concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals, and mostly leave everyone else alone.
A whirlwind of activity has overtaken ICE headquarters in Washington in recent weeks, with employees attending back-to-back meetings about how to quickly carry out President Trump’s plans. “Some people are like: ‘This is great. Let’s give them all the tools they need,’” said a senior staff member at headquarters, who joined the department under the administration of George W. Bush.
But, the official added, “other people are a little bit more hesitant and fearful about how quickly things are moving.”
Two officials in Washington said that the shift — and the new enthusiasm that has come with it — seems to have encouraged pro-Trump political comments and banter that struck the officials as brazen or gung-ho, like remarks about their jobs becoming “fun.” Those who take less of a hard line on unauthorized immigrants feel silenced, the officials said.
ICE has more than 20,000 employees, spread across 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries, and the Trump administration has called for the hiring of 10,000 more. ICE officers see themselves as protecting the country and enforcing its laws, but also, several agents said, defending the legal immigration system, with its yearslong waits to enter the country, from people who skip the line.
John F. Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement after the first large-scale roundups of the Trump administration: “President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of D.H.S. in protecting the nation.”
“There is no greater calling than to serve and protect our nation,” he added, “a mission that the men and women of ICE perform with professionalism and courage every single day.”
Agents are, in fact, predominantly male and have often served in the military, with a police department or both. New agents take a five-week Spanish language program as well as firearms training; they also learn driving maneuvers and have to pass seven written examinations and a physical-fitness test that includes an obstacle course.
The element of surprise is central to their work, and the sight of even a single white van emblazoned with the words Department of Homeland Security can create fear and cause people to flee. To minimize public contact, the arrests are frequently made in the early morning hours.
A supervisor in Northern California described a typical operation, with teams of at least five members rising before dawn, meeting as early as 4 a.m. to make arrests before their targets depart for work. To avoid distressing families and children, the agents prefer to apprehend people outside their homes, approaching them as soon as they step onto a public sidewalk and, once identified, placing them in handcuffs.
But arrests can appear dramatic, as agents arrive in large numbers, armed with semiautomatic handguns and wearing dark bulletproof vests with ICE in bright white letters on them. When they do have to enter a home, officers knock loudly and announce themselves as the police, a term they can legally use. Many times, children are awakened in the process, and watch as a parent is taken away.
Some of the more visible ICE operations in recent weeks have ricocheted around the internet, and sometimes drawn a backlash. At Kennedy Airport, Customs and Border Protection agents checked documents of passengers getting off a flight from San Francisco because ICE, a sister agency, thought a person with a deportation order might be on the plane. They did not find the person they were looking for.
After the arrests outside the church in Alexandria, Va., Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, wrote a letter to Mr. Kelly, saying the action “raises a concern that, unlike previous actions, ICE agents are detaining Virginia residents without cause or specific allegations of criminal activity.”
Bystanders are now being taken in if they are suspected to be undocumented, even if they have committed no crime, known within the agency as “collateral” arrests. While these arrests occurred under the Obama administration, they were officially discouraged, to the frustration of many agents. “Which part of illegal don’t people understand?” an agent in Arizona asked.
But officers said their work had become more political than ever, and they bristled at what they considered stereotypes of indiscriminate enforcers who want to sweep grandmothers off the street or separate families.
Perhaps their biggest challenge, said the supervisor in California, is the agency’s steadily deteriorating relationship with other law enforcement agencies, especially in liberal-leaning cities that have vowed to protect immigrants from deportation, known as sanctuary cities.
In one city alone, the supervisor said, the police once transferred 35 undocumented immigrants a day into federal custody, compared with roughly five per week during the final years of the Obama presidency.
On Thursday, Los Angeles, a sanctuary city, asked that ICE agents stop calling themselves police officers, saying it was damaging residents’ trust of the city’s own police officers.
Although all of the agents interviewed felt the old priorities had kept them from doing their jobs, John Sandweg, an acting director of ICE in the Obama administration, defended the rules as making the best use of limited resources. Without them, he said, fewer dangerous people might get deported. “There are 10 seats on the bus, they go to the first 10 you grab,” Mr. Sandweg said. “It diminishes the chances that it’s a violent offender.”
He said that he had spent a lot of time on the road, speaking at town halls where he heard a great deal from the rank-and-file agents about the priorities. “Certainly they were not terribly popular,” he said. “They wanted unfettered discretion.”
Agents said that even with the added freedom, they would still go after the people who presented the greatest danger to the public. And what Mr. Sandweg called unfettered discretion, they called enforcing the law.
“The discretion has come back to us; it’s up to us to make decisions in the field,” a 15-year veteran in California said. “We’re trusted again.”
*Note that tweet above refers to a domestic flight. No border involved.
digby 2/25/2017 05:00:00 PM
The jerk at the end of the bar
I've always said that's who he is....here's proof:
digby 2/25/2017 03:30:00 PM
Idiocracy at the border
This is so stupid I don't even know what to say:
The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials earlier this month at a Florida airport, according to a family friend.
Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.
Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo and wasn't as lucky.
Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"
What the hell?????
When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.
"To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Mancini said, referring to President Trump's executive order signed Jan. 27 that instituted a ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
He's clearly an American. An African-American. The son of the most famous American Muslim in the world.
I don't know how stupid you have to be to not know that or realize that if you just let his mother, the former wife of the most famous American Muslim in the world go through, that means he is the son of the most famous American Muslim in the world, but apparently it's not so stupid that you can't be given a uniform and told to guard our borders.
This is the kind of stuff that's making me actually feel afraid. Obviously these people are so dumb that a smart terrorist would be able to talk circles around them. It's just average Americans and foreigners who still believe the world makes sense who are getting caught in this web.
Update: More morons
A visiting scholar to Texas A&M was detained by customs officials in Houston this week while on his way to speak at a symposium in Aggieland, officials said Friday at the conference.
Henry Rousso was flying in from Paris to participate in the Hagler Institute Symposium when he was “mistakenly detained” Wednesday evening upon his arrival, according to Richard Golsan, director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M.
“When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out,” said Golsan during his introduction to the session which Rousso was set to participate in.
After learning about the dire situation, Golsan said he immediately called university officials, leading A&M President Michael K. Young to enlist the help of Texas A&M Law School professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic Fatma Marouf.
“Due to her prompt and timely intervention, Rousso was released,” Golsan said.
Rousso, 62, is a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, or CNRS, which the Egyptian-born scholar and author joined in 1981.
His work centers on the history and memory of traumatic pasts, France in WWII and the post-war period, his profile on the CNRS website says. Rousso's current study involves the relationship between history, memory and justice.
Oh who needs a guy like that, amirite?
digby 2/25/2017 02:00:00 PM
Tweet O' The Day
Can you believe this stuff? Anyway, here's the fact check:
In President Donald Trump's estimation, the U.S. border isn't merely porous, it's "wide open." Darkness and danger are everywhere, even Sweden. American infrastructure isn't just in need of improvement but it's in "total disrepair and decay." The health law is not only flawed, but it's an "absolute and total catastrophe."
His apocalyptic view of everything he intends to fix leaves no nuance, but that's where reality often resides. For example, Trump himself actually likes parts of former President Barack Obama's health overhaul, such as the extended coverage for older children. And the U.S. remains an economic powerhouse able to transport goods in a stressed system of roads, bridges and ports that are not in total decay.
But the president is one to overreach for superlatives, whether describing the state of things as he found them or what he plans to do about them — or claims to have done already.
Some statements from the past week:
TRUMP: "Obamacare covers very few people."
THE FACTS: That's only true if you consider more than 20 million people to be "very few." That's how many are covered by the two major components of the law: expanded Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance.
The Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states and the District of Columbia, covers about 11 million low-income people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The other, more visible, component is HealthCare.gov. The federal website and state-run online insurance markets have signed up 12.2 million people for this year, according to an Associated Press count this month, based on federal and state reports.
Altogether, since Obama's law passed in 2010, the number of uninsured people has dropped by about 20 million and the uninsured rate has declined below 9 percent, a historic low.
TRUMP, repeating a week-old assertion that Sweden is an example of violence and extremism due to immigration: "Take a look at what happened in Sweden. I love Sweden, great country, great people, I love Sweden. But they understand. The people over there understand I'm right."
THE FACTS: Trump was ridiculed in Sweden after he warned at a rally in Florida that terrorism was growing in Europe and something terrible had happened in Sweden the previous night. But there had been no extraordinary trouble that night in Sweden, a country welcoming to immigrants.
Two days later, though, a riot broke out after police arrested a drug crime suspect. Cars were set on fire and shops looted, but no one was injured. Attacks in the country related to extremism remain rare. The biggest surprise for many Swedes was that a police officer found it necessary to fire his gun.
TRUMP: The U.S. is providing security to other nations "while leaving our own border wide open. Anybody can come in. But don't worry, we're getting a wall. ... We're getting bad people out of this country."
THE FACTS: His wide-open border claim is bogus. The number of arrests of illegal border crossers — the best measure of how many people are trying to cross illegally — remains at a 40-year low. The U.S. government under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol in the past decade or so.
In addition, the number of people expelled from the country since Trump took office Jan. 20 has not been disclosed. No available data support his claim, made Thursday, that immigrants in the country illegally are being expelled at a rate "nobody has ever seen before." Deportations were brisk when Obama was president.
Altogether in January, 16,643 people were deported, a drop from December (20,395) but a number that is similar to monthly deportations in early 2015 and 2016.
This month, Homeland Security officials have said 680 people were arrested in a weeklong effort to find and arrest criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally. Three-quarters of those people had been convicted of crimes, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. The remaining 25 percent were not.
The government has not provided information about who was arrested in that roundup, so it's impossible to determine how many gang members or drug lords were in that group. It is also unclear how many of those "bad people" have actually been deported.
That roundup was largely planned before Trump took office and was alternately described by the Trump administration as a routine enforcement effort and a signal of his pledge to take a harder line on illegal immigration. During the Obama administration, similar operations were carried out that yielded thousands of arrests.
TRUMP: "We have authorized the construction, one day, of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. And issued a new rule — this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said who makes the pipes for the pipeline? Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn't that wonderful? I said nope, comes from the United States, or we're not building it. American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States."
THE FACTS: It's not that straightforward. Trump's executive order leaves lots of wiggle room on how much U.S. steel is actually used. The order states new, expanded or repaired pipelines in the U.S. must use U.S. steel "to the maximum extent possible" and allowed by law. That's not an all-USA mandate.
What's judged possible in the Keystone XL project remains to be seen. Pipes are already purchased. Contrary to his statement, Trump has not approved the project. Rather, he revived it by asking TransCanada to resubmit its application.
TransCanada did so in late January while saying it needs time to review how any buy-American plan would affect the company. It has said the majority of steel would be from North America, but that includes Canada and Mexico.
Trump's Jan. 24 order on U.S. steel has little effect on the Dakota Access project because it is nearly complete.
TRUMP on arrests of people in the country illegally: "It's a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they're rough and they're tough, but they're not tough like our people. So we're getting them out."
THE FACTS: He was wrong in calling immigration enforcement a military operation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responsible for finding and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, is a civilian law enforcement agency. Military personnel were not responsible for recent raids that resulted in the arrests of 680 people. Planning for that roundup had been underway during the previous and was in step with large, periodic raids when Obama was president.
Kelly contradicted Trump on the nature of plans to step up border enforcement: "There will be no use of military forces in immigration," Kelly said. "There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations."
TRUMP again claimed credit for a $700 million savings in the military's contract with Lockheed for the F-35 fighter jet. Speaking to the defense contractor's CEO Marillyn Hewson, he said: "Over $700 million. Do you think Hillary would have cost you $700 million? I assume you wanted her to win" — referring to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
THE FACTS: Cost savings for the F-35 began before Trump's inauguration and predate his complaints about the price tag.
The head of the Air Force program announced significant price reductions Dec. 19 — after Trump had tweeted about the cost but weeks before Trump met about the issue on Jan. 13 with Hewson.
"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of additional F-35 cost savings as a result of President Trump's intervention," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group. He said Trump appears to be taking credit for prior-year budget decisions and for work already done by managers at the Pentagon who took action before the presidential election to reduce costs.
digby 2/25/2017 12:30:00 PM
Breaking the glass table
From the you cannot make this stuff up files:
A Republican state senator in Texas broke a glass tabletop Wednesday during a hearing on three anti-abortion bills, hitting his gavel so hard during a NARAL Pro-Choice Texas intern’s testimony that the room was stunned into silence as the glass shattered.
The 24-year-old intern, Maggie Hennessy, was wrapping up her two-minute testimony against SB 415 — a bill that would limit doctors’ ability to perform the dilation and evacuation medical procedure, which is used in about 95 percent of second-trimester abortions — when Senator Charles Schwertner verbally warned her that her time was up. As Hennessy concluded her testimony — surpassing the time limit by several seconds to urge lawmakers to “stop playing with women’s health care as if it’s your own political puppet” — Schwertner hammered his gavel prompting a swift crack that shattered the desk top and echoed through the senate chamber.
NARAL Texas communications director Alexa Garcia-Ditta was watching from the gallery and took the following photo of the damage:
A few minutes later, Schwertner allowed the president of the anti-abortion Texas Alliance for Life lobby group to extend his testimony, including a quote attributed to Catholic saint and scholar Thomas More, for the same length of time as Hennessy’s, without an interruption. Schwertner is the chair of the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Dozens of Texans gathered at the capitol for the hearing, which lasted more than five hours. But Schwertner’s aggressive gaveling appeared to be limited to Hennessy’s testimony. When others' statements went over time, the senator instead warned them by repeatedly thanking them for their testimony.
Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon who has served in the Texas Senate since 2012, has carried a number of anti-abortion bills in the Legislature, including an early version of part of the state’s omnibus anti-abortion bill that was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.
He had a violent reaction. How surprising.
digby 2/25/2017 11:00:00 AM
Fascism is the latest cool new thing on campus
|Yes, that's a Russian flag, provided by a prankster. The CPAC folks waved them proudly until the organizers finally caught on and confiscated them.|
It's not your daddy's CPAC anymore. This piece by Michelle Goldberg is chilling:
On Thursday, white nationalist Richard Spencer was thrown out of the Conservative Political Action Conference. As security escorted him to the door, a college junior in a blue blazer and fashy haircut followed him. “I’m representing the alt-right club at Penn State,” said James O’Mailia, who then invited Spencer to come and speak. “Please come!” he said. “We’ll host you and everything.”
O’Mailia’s club, the Bull-Moose Party, was formed to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign; it made news last year for building a pro-Trump plywood wall around an American flag on campus. He says he grew up as a “George W. Bush conservative” and got into the alt-right, in part, through Breitbart. “It’s the new punk rock,” he said, meaning it’s edgy and subversive.
O’Mailia was resentful that people on campus had called his group racist. “In this new social justice warrior–dominated society, people will look at someone waving the American flag as being a white supremacist,” he said. That may be, I replied, but he just invited Spencer, an actual white supremacist, to speak at his school. “I just think it’s a good idea to bring his opinion into it,” he shrugged.
CPAC, the country’s largest annual conservative gathering, has long drawn energy from young people who are resentful about liberal hegemony on college campuses. Now, however, it’s flailing as it tries to establish its own moral boundaries on right-wing speech. Its trouble started when Matt Schlapp, CPAC’s chairman, invited professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos to give a keynote address, sparking a furious backlash from traditional conservatives, who dug up statements by Yiannopoulos justifying man-boy sex. That ultimately led to Yiannopoulos losing his book deal, as well as his CPAC slot, and resigning from his job at Breitbart. In the aftermath, CPAC is trying to distance itself from the alt-right. Yet top Trump aide Steve Bannon, who once boasted that his website, Breitbart, was the “platform of the alt-right,” still had a prime Thursday afternoon speaking slot. And many young people in attendance reveled in the alt-right’s rebellious frisson of fascism.
Shortly after the conference began on Thursday, Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union—the group that puts on CPAC—gave a speech denouncing the alt-right as left-wing infiltrators. “There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks,” he said, arguing that the term “alt-right” had been “hijacked” by a “hate-filled left-wing fascist group.”
Schneider referred specifically to the conference in November where Spencer, standing before a giddy crowd of clean-cut racists, gave a Nazi salute and said, “Heil Trump, heil our people, heil victory!” Schneider’s argument was similar to the one Jonah Goldberg made in his risible book Liberal Fascism: Fascists are inherently left-wing because they believe in government power. (Apparently this is true even when they’re hailing the government power to crush the left.) “Hateful left-wing fascists are not like anybody here,” Schneider said.
Even if you accept his absurd framing, what he said was wrong. Spencer himself—who, far from hijacking the term alt-right, actually coined it—was there watching from a seat near the stage. And it was clear that there were fellow travelers in the crowd. “There are lots of people here that I know,” Spencer told me after Schneider’s speech. Soon he was mobbed by journalists as well as by eager young conference goers who wanted to pose with him for selfies. One young man called out “Praise Kek!”—an alt-right in-joke. A guy named J.P. Sheehan pulled a T-shirt saying RADIX—the name of Spencer’s online journal—out of his bag, happily flashing it toward Spencer. “I know a lot of people are afraid of him, but Richard Spencer is like, the coolest guy,” he said.
There's a lot more so read the whole thing. This really says it all, though:
Sheehan, 26, says he voted for Obama twice, but as Obama’s presidency progressed, he came to feel like minorities had become emboldened at his expense. He realized, he said, “This actually isn’t in my best interest, and I can do better for myself.” Eventually, Sheehan came to see his whiteness as a source of meaning. “The thing about racial identity and ethnic heritage is that it’s like your shadow,” he said. “It’s going to be with you everywhere you go, but it reminds you that the sun is shining on you. People think the alt-right is just simply about being mean to other people. It’s really not. The alt-right is simply identity politics for white people.”
Such sweet kids. She interviews the organizers who offer even more of their inane bullshit about this being left wing and denying that one of their keynote speakers, Steve bannon special adviser to the president, is the guy who said his websire what the platform for the "alt-right" after which he came up with the nonsensical explanation that "alt-right" had been hijacked by left wing fascists.
Sometimes I fell as if the right is going to win simply by gaslighting us all into a padded room.
digby 2/25/2017 09:30:00 AM