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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

W. Virginians Can Now Carry Concealed Guns With No Permit Or Training

by Spocko
Not an official West Virginia sign, but it's the thought that counts.

Starting today, May 24, 2016, legislation goes into effect that will allow most West Virginia residents to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

They also aren't required to have any training. At all. As in zero. Nadda. Zilch.

That means no safety training with a gun is required. No live-fire training with a gun is required. They aren't even required to watch a 5 minute video on gun safety.

This is insane.

West Virginia is now one of eight states where no permits are required: Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi and Vermont.

I watched some of the video of West Virginians legislators talking about this decision and it boggles my mind this passed.

Friends who carry concealed guns take the required training very, very seriously. One has explained how dangerous it is for people from states with weak or no training requirements to be allowed reciprocity carry with his state.

West Virginia, no permits, no training and the cheapest guns in America! Credit: Taber Andrew Bain Creative Commons license 2.0

The people in the conceal carry world hammer on the need for training. I was watching a live fire conceal carry training video today. A guy who regularly carries a gun and spends hours at the firing range froze up and screwed up in a live fire training session. And he knew this training was happening!

But apparently the good legislators from West Virginia know better than the experts in the conceal carry world and their own experts in law enforcement.

Incompetent Guys With Guns
I often wonder what it would take to convince legislators to tighten up conceal carry gun laws in states like this. Do they need to see a specific number of gun negligence accidents cased by lack of training? Do they have a certain number of  kids killing themselves with guns they are shooting for? Do they need to see more stories of people with no training with conceal weapons killing innocent people?

It appears to me that all the deaths and injuries are allowable because a few people with no training and no permit once stopped a bad guy with a gun
Starting tomorrow we can keep track of what this lack of permits and training brings the good people of West Virginia. Link to Gun Violence Archive West Virginia incidents the last two years.

CNN bravely trying to put the genie back in the bottle

by digby

We'll see if it works:

The problem is that nobody believes fact checks they don't already agree with. And from what I'm hearing from some of my readers, this is all news to them and they're ready to believe it. Clinton lies about everything so why not about murder?

So, good luck. This is going to be an awful shit show ...


The race to the bottom

by digby

Not that it will matter, but if you haven't seen the clip of Trump defending Clinton back in the 1990s, here it is:

This is how his surrogates defended that tape today:

Top Donald Trump surrogate and attorney Michael Cohen struggled to explain Tuesday why his boss demonized those who accused Bill Clinton of rape and sexual impropriety in the 1990’s but now believes those accusations, saying that Trump was just “being a good friend” at the time.

“He defended Bill Clinton for years. He said the same allegations that you guys are talking about now were a waste of time, were wrong, were hollow, that Bill Clinton was a terrific guy. That he was a great president, that the impeachment was wrong, that it was a waste of time…” the host of CNN’s New Day Chris Cuomo rattled off.

“He was a private citizen who was friendly with the Clintons and he was trying to protect a friend,” Cohen explained. “Now, it’s a different game. It’s 2016, he is the Republican presidential nominee.”

“So he was lying then?” pressed Cuomo.

“He was not lying, he was protecting a friend. There’s a difference,” Cohen insisted. “The difference is he was being a true friend. It didn’t matter to him.”

Cuomo returned to the topic later in the interview. “Why would I trust you if you say all the things you said then were false?” he asked.

“He was a private individual…” Cohen began.

Cuomo cut in: “So you tell the truth when you’re politician but lie when you’re a private individual?”

“…he had no obligation to say anything to anybody,” Cohen finished.

“He said plenty,” Cuomo shot back.

“So what? Because he’s Donald Trump,” Cohen said.

The media keeps saying this shows we're going to have a race to the bottom and laments that both sides do it.


The unpopularity of the workaholic

by digby

I would also point out that whenever she talks about her grand daughter or has a beer everyone says she's a phony so she can't really win. But that's an old story for women trying to gain entry into a closed boys club. You can't go to the strip club or play on the basketball court or on the golf course. If you do something more "woman" oriented, you're not a serious player. Like this, which was criticized as both phony and pandering:

So, any woman who wants to be successful has to be very serious and work focused and for women politicians I'm sure it's even worse because they are supposed to be "men of the people" as well, but if they try, people don't like it.


Newtie's back

by digby

And Trump's got him. I wrote about it for Salon:

It looks as though we've reached that point of the presidential election where the tedious "who will he choose for VP" stories begin. They've really kicked into high gear for the Trump campaign as every meeting between Trump and an elected official is greeted with paparazzi and hours of speculation on cable news. Yesterday the story was all about the highly respected former used car salesman and current Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker, who was filmed hurrying in and out of Trump Tower as if he were Kim Kardashian debuting a new haircut. Corker played down the VP rumors assuring the assembled press pack that he and Trump were just getting to know each other and chewed the fat over Russia and China.

But Corker isn't the possible VP choice that really got the Villagers tongues wagging. That would be none other than former Speaker of the  House, Newt Gingrich. As my colleague Simon Maloy wrote earlier, the idea of Gingrich being a member of the most "outsider" ticket in American history is ridiculous considering the fact that he's spent his entire adult life either in politics or political media. But then Trump has been saying for months, as he did in a Q & A with Pat Robertson back in February, that he wanted someone "political" because he wants to "get lots of great legislation we all want passed.” As usual, he also elaborated on his own terrific gifts in that department:

I would want somebody who can help me with government. So most likely that would be a political person, because I’m business, and I’m very good at what I do and all of that – and I’m also very, very political – you’ve see me. When you can get zoning on the West Side of Manhattan to build almost 6,000 units of housing and you have to go through New York City politics, believe me, that’s tough. That’s as tough – I don’t say Israel-Palestine but it’s about as tough a deal – the single toughest deal.”

Now why Trump would think Gingrich, who hasn't been in congress for over 16 years, is the mover and shaker who can move his agenda through congress today is a mystery, but he certainly has a working knowledge of how the government functions which is something Trump is completely lacking.  It's unclear if he even knows that there are three branches and what they do. (But then, George W. Bush was famously confused on that as well, saying it is the executive branch's responsibility to "interpret the laws", so it isn't unprecedented.)

And Trump already likes the cut of Newt's jib. According to this article by Eliana Johnson in National Review, he's already one of the campaign's most important advisers:
Gingrich’s influence within Trump World is widespread. Inside Trump’s newly established campaign offices in Washington, D.C., his fingerprints are everywhere. “Right from the minute I joined we were told that Newt will have his hand in every major policy effort,” says one Trump aide. “So one of the things I do when I’m researching or writing anything, in addition to looking at what Trump has said about anything, I look at what Newt has said.”
Back in the 90s after he helped usher in the first GOP House majority in 50 years he was known to muse publicly about the presidency asking no one in particular, "do I have to get into this thing?" as if only he could save the Republic. Unfortunately for him he was run out of the speakership and had to resign his House seat, a casualty of the botched impeachment gambit and his own overwhelming hubris. But he never really went away.

Unlike most politicians whose careers ended so ignominiously, Gingrich didn't go home to Georgia. He landed a nice Fox gig for a while and wrote books and Amazon reviews and ran for president for real in 2012, performing pretty well all things considered. And he's still a member in good standing of the Republican Party with deep contacts throughout the permanent establishment. And that brings us to why Gingrich might be a particularly scary choice for a Trump presidency.

One of the common refrains among those writing about this Gingrich boomlet is the idea that he could be Trump's Dick Cheney, by which they are saying that he could help the inexperienced Trump in the same way Cheney "guided"  George W. Bush. Of course, those who remember the years of Cheney and David Addington and Scooter Libby secretly running half the government with no accountability are appalled at the suggestion. And people should be just as leery of Gingrich as they should have been about Cheney. He's someone you definitely don't want in that role, particularly when it comes to national security.

Gingrich grew up as an Army brat but never served himself.  Nonetheless he has seen himself as a military expert for many years even having 5 active military officers assigned to his congressional staff at one time, which was highly unusual. He has developed elaborate ideas about American power and global strategy based upon theories by "Future Shock" authors Alvin and Heidi Toffler, the futurists Newt considered his mentors.  These ideas have been highly influential in certain Pentagon circles. After he left the congress he served on the secretive "Defense Policy Board", the advisory group that included some of the more aggressive neoconservatives who pushed for the invasion of Iraq.

The conservative columnist Robert Novak reported at the time that there was some resistance in the Pentagon to Gingrich's involvement:
What most bothers the generals is Rumsfeld's preference for outside advice.For example, Pentagon sources say a frequent consultant with the secretary is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an amateur military expert and member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. There is no distribution through the Pentagon of such advice. 
It's unknown what Gingrich has been doing along these lines in the the intervening years other than running for president and writing children's books with his wife, who seems to be strangely attached at his hip since they are together 24 hours a day. But he seems to have provoked the ire of GOP regulars for criticizing the Iraq war. Considering his role in it, it's a typical act of Gingrichian chutzpah.  There's only one politician on the scene who can out-do him in that department and that would be Trump.

But it is safe to assume that even if he now claims to be an isolationist, he has not lost his interest in military affairs and will be in a perfect position as a Cheney-esque Vice President to exercise power in national security and military policy in a crazy Trump administration using the concept of the "fourth branch":
In the past, when he has been asked to comply with various congressional requests and orders, Cheney has claimed executive privilege because he's the Vice President. But last week, he claimed he wasn't a member the executive branch of the government, but was a member of the legislative branch. That was because he's the president of the Senate, and therefore he felt he wasn't subject to the presidential order giving the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office the right to make sure that Cheney and his office have demonstrated proper security safeguards. By the end of the week, he was back claiming that he was actually the vice president, and therefore could claim executive privilege once again as he rejected demands from Congress about information regarding the firing of U.S. attorneys. How does he keep track of which job he's going to claim he has each day? Does he put on a different tie? 
As opposed to the millions of Americans who have more than one job, the vice president didn't do this so he could make an extra buck. He went back and forth with these claims just so he could avoid complying with Congress and the law. 
Since Trump has a shaky concept of the constitution in the first place it wouldn't be too hard for Gingrich to seize power in this way. Trump will be so busy "negotiating" trade deals he probably wouldn't even notice.

And Gingrich has a score to settle. The pinnacle of his political career was the pitched battle with Bill Clinton between 1992 and 1998.  And he lost. Bill Clinton became a respected elder statesman doing global charitable work and Newt Gingrich became an occasional Fox News commentator and failed presidential candidate. This is his last chance for revenge. But Trump might want to think twice. If Newt's luck holds up the way it always has in the past, Hillary Clinton will be in the White House next January.


Not a good look

by Tom Sullivan

Social media has largely taken over the family-and-friends propaganda market from email. I've mentioned my collection of over 200 specimens of right-wing "pass-it-on" emails. You know the ones: the lies, smears and disinformation we all have received from fathers and T-party uncles, the kind with large, colored type and maybe a gif of praying hands above the exhortation to "pass it on." But in-box Izvestia pretty much tailed off as Facebook, Reddit, etc. gained market share. Sadly, what with email was overwhelmingly a phenomenon of the right has shifted left with social media. Not a good thing. We should be better than this.

In the misty past before the dawn of the internet (1980?), I was visiting the home of a friend who told me with some alarm that I should never buy any more products from the Procter & Gamble company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Its president, she said, was on the Phil Donahue Show and said the company gave money to the Church of Satan. As proof she told me, you could look on their packaging and see a small crescent moon and stars symbol, a "satanic symbol."

"When did you see this?" I asked.

Oh, well, she had not seen it. A friend had told her about it. Except, of course, her friend had not seen it either, because it never happened. But because the news came from a friend and confirmed her darkest fears about how the world worked, she never questioned it.

For its part, P&G had to issue a press statement denying the rumor. It eventually changed its logo and some years later won a lawsuit against Amway for spreading it.. This is one of the earliest urban myths of the sort that gave rise to Snopes.com. Rumors once passed over telephones and in living rooms have since gone digital.

Enter Facebook. "Pass it on" has given way to "Share."

Frank Bruni opined in the Times over the weekend on how Facebook is warping our perception of the world. Bruni writes, "We construct precisely contoured echo chambers of affirmation that turn conviction into zeal, passion into fury, disagreements with the other side into the demonization of it." Appealing to authority, Donald Trump said, “All I know is what’s on the Internet.” Bruni continues:

Those were his exact words, a blithe excuse for his mistaken assertion that a protester at one of his rallies had ties to Islamic extremists. He’d seen a video somewhere. He’d chosen to take it at face value. His intelligence wasn’t and isn’t vetted but viral — and conveniently suited to his argument and needs. With a creative or credulous enough Google search, a self-serving “truth” can always be found, along with a passel of supposed experts to vouch for it and a clique of fellow disciples.

Carnival barkers, conspiracy theories, willful bias and nasty partisanship aren’t anything new, and they haven’t reached unprecedented heights today. But what’s remarkable and sort of heartbreaking is the way they’re fed by what should be strides in our ability to educate ourselves. The proliferation of cable television networks and growth of the Internet promised to expand our worlds, not shrink them. Instead they’ve enhanced the speed and thoroughness with which we retreat into enclaves of the like-minded.


We’re less committed to, and trustful of, large institutions than we were at times in the past. We question their wisdom and substitute it with the groupthink of micro-communities, many of which we’ve formed online, and their sensibilities can be more peculiar and unforgiving.
The presidential primary has enhanced the effect. My feed is filled with caustic posts shared by friends who got it from their friends, gleaned from numerous sites I've never heard of with vaguely credible-sounding names. Shared by partisans as "research," the praying hands are missing, but the point is the same as right-wing talk and chain email. Not to inform, but to inflame. To get people angry and to keep them that way.

For the left, it's not a good look.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Oh man, it's going to be a long six months

by digby

I just ... oy:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is reviving some of the ugliest political chapters of the 1990s with escalating personal attacks on Bill Clinton’s character — centered on past accusations of sexual assault — amid a concerted effort to smother Hillary Clinton’s campaign message with the weight of decades of controversy. 
Trump’s latest shot came Monday when he released an incendiary Instagram video that includes the voices of two women who accused the former president of sexual assault, underscoring the presumptive Republican nominee’s willingness to go far beyond political norms in his critique of his likely Democratic rival. 
The real estate mogul has said in recent interviews that a range of Clinton-related controversies will be at the center of his case against Hillary Clinton. 
“They said things about me which were very nasty. And I don’t want to play that game at all. I don’t want to play it — at all. But they said things about me that were very nasty,” Trump told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “And, you know, as long as they do that, you know, I will play at whatever level I have to play at. I think I’ve proven that.” 
Clinton’s campaign has largely refused to engage the recent attacks directly, instead focusing — as Clinton did Monday during an appearance in Detroit — on Trump’s demeanor and job qualifications.
But you understand that "very nasty" is questioning anything he has said or done or wants to do.
Think about his quote there. "I will play at whatever level I have to play at. I think I've proved that."

In other words, there is nothing he won't do to win. And as he's made clear in the past, he believes that once you have won something, you are given license to bully and dominate:

The coalition building for me will be when I win. Vince Lombardi, I saw this. He was not a big man. And I was sitting in a place with some very, very tough football players. Big, strong football players. He came in — these are tough cookies — he came in, years ago — and I’ll never forget it, I was a young man. He came in, screaming, into this place. And screaming at one of these guys who was three times bigger than him, literally. And very physical, grabbing him by the shirt. 
Now, this guy could’ve whisked him away and thrown him out the window in two seconds. This guy — the player — was shaking. A friend of mine. There were four players, and Vince Lombardi walked in. He was angry. And he grabbed — I was a young guy — he grabbed him by the shirt, screaming at him, and the guy was literally. . . . And I said, wow. And I realized the only way Vince Lombardi got away with that was because he won.”
When are we going to start thinking about this is psychological terms?  That's not a normal way of thinking for a well-balanced, mature adult.

Neither is this thoroughly ridiculous comment:
When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics — raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail. 
He called theories of possible foul play “very serious” and the circumstances of Foster’s death “very fishy.” 
“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said, speaking of Foster’s relationship with the Clintons at the time. “He knew everything that was going on and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.” 
He added, “I don’t bring [Foster] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”
That nasty piece of work is the GOP nominee for president of the United States.

The Mooch is in

by digby

The latest from the new NBC/WSJ poll:

I understand why people think he'll "shake things up", "stand up for America's trade interests" and "stand up for America."  The trade thing is wrong, but I see how they could think it. I do not understand why anyone thinks he'll be better for the economy and dealing with Wall Street unless you automatically assume that the one with the most money has to be the best at doing that.

I guess you could say that his promises to "win" may make some people believe he'll be better at the economy but he is unerringly hostile to Wall Street regulation and promises to repeal Dodd-Frank.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for Salon about a finance player by the name of Anthony Scaramucci, affectionately referred to as "The Mooch." He was, at that time, making a move to being a major GOP donor and "adviser" to candidates. I assumed at the time that eccentric rich guys like him were the biggest danger for the GOP but I didn't anticipate Trump. (I did mention him in the article, though...)

Anyway, if you want to know what Trump's position on Wall Street is going to be, this article in Vanity Fair will fill you in. After some hemming and hawing, The Mooch is all in with Trump. And he's being very helpful:

The Mooch expressed to me that he wanted the candidate to be “well organized” and he took comfort in Trump’s successful recruitment of Steven Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs banker whom Trump had recently named as his national finance chairman. “For this guy to join forces with Donald Trump says two things,” the Mooch continued. “He’s a very good recruiter of super-talented people and there is something different going on here that could be a potential entrepreneurial disruption in Washington. And whether you like Donald Trump or you don’t like Donald Trump, he is an entrepreneur and he might be able to create an entrepreneurial Washington, D.C.”

During one of his conversations with Trump, Scaramucci said, the candidate explained that he needed his help raising outside funds, and suggested that Scaramucci get in touch with Mnuchin, himself. (While much of Trump’s primary campaign was self-funded, he is widely expected to try to raise more than $1 billion to compete in the general election.) For Scaramucci, this was all good. He knew Mnuchin from their shared time at Goldman. In fact, he had also worked for Mnuchin’s father, the legendary Goldman partner Robert Mnuchin. (Robert is one of the many bankers, like his son, to prove there is life after Goldman. He left to start his own high-end art gallery on the Upper East Side.)

So Scaramucci got on the horn with his old colleague and promptly invited him to SALT, where Mnuchin spent Wednesday trawling the well-heeled crowd for Trumpian-size donations. Mnuchin also attended the dinner Wednesday night, sitting across the oval table from Will Smith, who stars in a new adventure movie, Suicide Squad, that Mnuchin helped produce. (Mnuchin made a fortune after the financial crisis when he bought a piece of a failed bank, IndyMac Bancorp, in Southern California, renaming it OneWest Bank, and then selling it to CIT Group for $3.4 billion and nearly doubling his investment.) “It was easy for me,” the Mooch told me of his decision to align with Mnuchin in support of Trump. “Steve Mnuchin is an accomplished guy. A Wall Street guy! A Hollywood guy! He’s built an incredible career.”
But the vibe in Vegas seemed to be moving in Trump’s direction, especially as the conference unfolded. “We talk all day long about Wall Street,” Scaramucci told me, “but there are two streets: Entrepreneurial Avenue, that’s Donald Trump Street, or the Clinton cul-de-sac. Tell me, which street do you want to live on?”
Update: There's also this from the liberal think tank EPI

It’s pretty clear that pinning Donald Trump down on actual policy specifics is going to be tough. He has released a tax plan (written down on actual paper), and until he decides to tear it up, it’s the best road map we have for what he wants to do with tax policy.

The road map charts the course to really large tax cuts, with the bulk of them going to very-high-income households: At the plan’s core is a mostly-routine Republican tax plan that includes giveaways similar to those intended by Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz. The difference is that the plan throws people off the scent of who it benefits, because it contains some novel (and particularly stupid) detours that make no sense as good policy.

When Trump says things like “But the middle class has to be protected. The rich is probably going to end up paying more,” one might come away with the idea that this is a middle-class focused tax cut. The guts of Trump’s tax proposal, however, reveal how obvious of a giveaway to the already-rich it is. To get an idea of just how much money is being doled out, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimates that Trump’s plan would cost about $9.5 trillion over a decade. 35 percent of Trump’s tax cuts go to the top 1 percent of households during the first year of his tax plan (TPC estimates that as households making over $732,323 annually). This is more than the combined share that the 80 percent of us making under $142,601 a year can expect to see. And this regressivity actually grows over time: By 2025, the top 1 percent will take about a 40 percent share of the tax cut – almost equivalent to the combined share that the bottom 90 percent will see. The tax cut’s regressivity is highlighted even further by looking at the share within the top 1 percent. About half of the share going to the top 1 percent is actually going to just the top 0.1 percent – households making over $3,769,396 in the first year.

All of this likely underestimates both how large the tax cuts would be and how much would go to wealthy households, because Trump creates a special loophole in his tax plan. Following the lead of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (who is probably not the world’s best authority to turn to on sensible tax policy), Trump caps taxes on income generated by pass-through entities at 15 percent instead of his new 25 percent top tax rate. Pass-through entities are businesses whose incomes are not taxed at the corporate level, but instead “passed through” entirely to the business owners and then taxed at individual income-tax levels. This creates enormous incentives and opportunities for tax avoidance by high-income households, who could simply reclassify themselves as pass-through entities to avoid paying the 25 percent top tax rate on individual income. Adding this loophole to their estimate, Citizens for Tax Justice found that Trump’s tax plan would cost $1.2 trillion more and increase tax breaks for high-income earners substantially.

There is clearly a huge contradiction between Trump’s on-paper tax plan and his rhetoric about taxes on the campaign trail, and it doesn’t seem likely that middle class will come out on top. A quick example:. All of the remaining presidential candidates, including Trump, intend to close the carried interest loophole. And since it often allows hedge fund managers, the top 25 of which earned $12.94 billion last year, to be taxed at the preferable 23.8 percent capital-gains-rate instead of the higher rate charged to ordinary income, it’s easy to see why. Trump has even called out hedge fund managers for not being taxed enough. In doing so, Trump masquerades as a man of the people when the reality of his proposed tax changes will actually benefit hedge-fund managers even more. As TPC points out, the entities that earn carried-interest income—including hedge fund managers—are organized as a type of pass-through entity. This means that Trump is actually proposing to lower the tax rate hedge-fund managers pay from 23.8 percent to the new 15 percent rate his plan introduces for pass-through entities. This hardly sounds like a crackdown on people allegedly “getting away with murder.”

The only details Trump has committed to when it comes to taxes show that he intends to hand out massive tax cuts to the rich.
But sure. He's gonna be great. We're all gonna win so much it'll make our heads spin.

QOTD: Jeffrey Lord, Trump groupie #1

by digby

John Amato caught this doozy from Trump mouthpiece Jeffrey Lord. When asked about how Trump planned to sell his immigration policies, he replied:
 "What I think he's going to do is appeal on economic grounds and frankly humanitarian grounds."
 That's a good one.  Sally Kohn, who was also on the panel replied:

"Donald Trump wants to round up, detain and deport eleven million people and bar Muslims, 1.4 billion of the world's Muslims, 20-30% of the entire world, ban them because of their faith.." 
Lord interrupted, " That's not correct, Sally..." 
Kohn was unfazed, "Ban them from seeing their family members and loved ones...no, no, no, but he's going to run as a humanitarian? That's going to be fun. (laughter) Just you know..."
He responded by asking if she wanted mass murderers to come into the country.


Talking out of both sides of his mouth is his default position

by digby

Trump, of course. You'll recall that he has said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China to destroy the American economy.

And he has said that he would unilaterally "renegogitate" the Paris global climate accords  because he thinks it favors China over the US.  He is obviously completely uninformed about any of this, an ignorant blowhard know-nothing, as usual.

However, it appears that his lawyers aren't so stupid:

Donald Trump says he is “not a big believer in global warming.” He has called it “a total hoax,” “bullshit” and “pseudoscience.”

But he is also trying to build a sea wall designed to protect one of his golf courses from “global warming and its effects.”

The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare.

A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.

The zoning application raises further questions about how the billionaire developer would confront a risk he has publicly minimized but that has been identified as a defining challenge of this era by world leaders, global industry and the American military. His public disavowal of climate science at the same time he moves to secure his own holdings against the effects of climate change also illustrates the conflict between his political rhetoric and the realities of running a business with seaside assets in the 21st century.
Actually it illustrates the (polluted) air inside his head.

Don Trump, made man

by digby

Donald Trump is going to persist in bringing up previously aired and thoroughly investigated scandals that turned up no legal wrong-doing (investigated with unlimited amounts of money and manpower by hostile prosecutors, I might add) but it is unlikely that he understands that he's going to have to face serious scrutiny about issues in his own past that have never been thoroughly aired or investigated.

This one by David Kay Johnston in Politico is especially disturbing:

In his signature book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license.

But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.

Why did Trump get his casino license anyway? Why didn’t investigators look any harder? And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?

These questions ate at me as I wrote about Atlantic City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and then went more deeply into the issues in a book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. In all, I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory. In an April 27 phone call to respond to my questions for this story, Trump told me he did not recall many of the events recounted in this article and they “were a long time ago.” He also said that I had “sometimes been fair, sometimes not” in writing about him, adding “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you.”

I’m not the only one who has picked up signals over the years. Wayne Barrett, author of a 1992 investigative biography of Trump’s real-estate dealings, has tied Trump to mob and mob-connected men.

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.

It goes on. There is little doubt that Trump has mob ties. He is an unscrupulous person, as he readily admits, who was involved in gambling and real estate in New Jersey. There is ample evidence of it.

I remember that one of the big right wing questions about Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal was how open he left himself to blackmail by having an extra-marital affair. What are the odds of Trump's mob ties presenting such a problem?


The party of Lincoln is now officially the party of Trump

by digby

I wrote about Trump's party for Salon this morning:

This past week-end had some bad news and some good news for the Democrats. The bad news is the race has tightened substantially since the last of Donald Trump's  competitors dropped out and he became the presumptive nominee. The latest ABC/ Washington Post poll shows Trump in the lead with 46% to Clinton's 44%, an 11 point shift toward Trump since March. Other polls show similar movement toward the GOP nominee. The good news, however, is that among attributes people usually associate with leaders, particularly presidents, attributes like temperament, knowledge, experience, personality Clinton gets much higher marks. Unfortunately at this moment in time more Americans  would prefer to have an unstable, know-nothing demagogue for president than one who they believe is more capable and qualified. I'm not sure what that says about our country but it says something important about the Republican Party.

This polling should not be overstated. Trump is getting a standard bump from winding up the primary as Republican partisans, tired from the battle, accept the outcome. Clinton is still in a hard-fought contest with Bernie Sanders who at this point is planning to contest all the way through the convention. That plan may change after the primaries are finished but in the meantime the poll results probably show a weaker front-runner than if she were alone in the race.

Moreover, there are other structural disadvantages for Trump that he is a long way from overcoming. This story in the New York Times is a particularly important one considering that it's highly unlikely that Trump has the cash to do it himself. The rank and file and the DC toadies may be coming around but one powerful constituency is balking:
Interviews and emails with more than 50 of the Republican Party’s largest donors, or their representatives, revealed a measure of contempt and distrust toward their own party’s nominee that is unheard of in modern presidential politics. 
More than a dozen of the party’s most reliable individual contributors and wealthy families indicated that they would not give to or raise money for Mr. Trump. This group has contributed a combined $90 million to conservative candidates and causes in the last three federal elections, mainly to “super PACs” dedicated to electing Republican candidates.
Asked how Mr. Trump intended to win over major donors, Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, responded in one sentence. “There is tremendous support for Mr. Trump,” she said.
Here are a few quotes from some of these donors:
 “Not sure why anyone would give money to Mr. Trump since he asserts he is worth $10 billion.” 
“I believe his boorish behavior throughout the campaign suggested to me that he did not have the character to be president.” 
“He is too selfish, flawed and unpredictable to hold the power of the presidency.”
To be fair a number of the others who were quoted said it was because he wasn't conservative enough, which is an artful dodge in conservative circles these days. Nonetheless it's clear these people are convinced that Trump either shouldn't or cannot win and they are keeping their money in their pockets.

He does have a few moneybags who have signed up, led by Sheldon Adelson who is one of the richest men in the world and others, like Rick Santorum's 2012 sugar daddy Foster Friess, best known for suggesting that the best birth control is a couple of aspirin --- held between a woman's knees. He's a sexist first and a social conservative second. (Trump, by contrast, is simply a sexist which is good enough for government work apparently.) But unless Adelson wants to finance the whole election  --- and he could, as of June 2015 he was worth 28 billion --- it looks as though Trump is going to have to sell a couple of golf courses or take out some major loans to pay for his campaign. Of course, he can just do it through a shell company and then go bankrupt if it doesn't work out.  That's how he usually does it, anyway.

And then there's organization and Trump just doesn't have one, particularly in comparison to Clinton and the Democrats. Politico had a story over the week-end showing that Trump had spent next to nothing on the field and fundraising operations that are required in a general election campaign while Clinton had used her primary battle to assemble a fully functional national organization. Trump notoriously eschews professional expertise and analysis, instead relying on gut instinct and careful attention to what he calls "the shows" for his intelligence. Even if his new consultants persuade him to hire all the people he needs there little evidence he will listen to them. And he's so cheap that if he is forced to use his own money it's unlikely that he'll spend what it takes to win.

Finally, there's anecdotal evidence that at least a few Republicans haven't completely abandoned their principles. And they are the kind of Republicans who can make or break a presidential campaign. This piece in the Wall Street Journal about what's going on in Ohio is devastating to Trump's hopes there:
“There’s no one in a senior- or midlevel position in the campaign in Ohio or in any of the states where we had staff who would or will be going to work for Donald Trump,” said John Weaver, Mr. Kasich’s senior strategist during his presidential campaign. “The very things that attracted them to John are the things that would keep them from working for Trump. Plus, they would be shot.”
And if they are counting on the Democrats being irreparably split, that doesn't look like it's going to work out, at least not in Ohio:
About half of the activists interviewed at the Stark County Democratic headquarters said they backed Mr. Sanders during Ohio’s primary, but each said they believe they must work to elect Mrs. Clinton. 
“The difference between any Democrat and Trump is so spectacular that I had to come help,” said Tony Collins-Sibley, a 54-year-old cabinet maker from Alliance who wore a blue “Bernie 2016” T-shirt as he phoned potential Clinton volunteers. “Hillary is a boilerplate Democrat with all the traditional views.…I’ll work for her.
So, it may be that even if the race remains tight, Trump is going to have a difficult time actually running a real 50 state general election campaign. He simply doesn't have the experience or the skill and he refuses to listen to people. He thinks he can become president with rallies, phone interviews on cable news and pithy twitter insults.  It worked for him during the primary, so perhaps you can't blame him for thinking he's a genius. Lucky is the more likely explanation.

The real question in all these polls is what it says about the Republican Party that all but a few billionaires, operatives and columnists are all falling into line behind this ridiculous Bond villain.
It's one thing for the hard-core anti-Washington Tea Party types and "Celebrity Apprentice" fans to have jumped on the Trump train. This xenophobic, white nationalist strain has always existed on the right so it's not entirely surprising that a plurality of Republicans would vote for someone running on that program from time to time.  It's not even surprising that a majority would jump on the bandwagon in specific primary states and the competition fell away. These races tend to take on a life of their own sometimes. But even those who one might have considered the patriots of the GOP are falling under his spell.

Up until now the #NeverTrump faction was a boisterous lot of sane Republicans led by pundits and politicians with enough common sense to understand that this authoritarian demagogue was unfit for the presidency in every possible way.  They understood that to wage an election fight with a program of torture, mass deportation, religious bans, militant nationalism, abrogation of treaties, betrayal of alliances was unAmerican. The fact that this was being proposed by a man who has no understanding of the constitutional order and American values was a danger to their party and worse, to the country and the world. They were willing to lose the election rather than associate their party with this madness.

Oh well. Never mind. There may be a few left, like Jonah Goldberg of the National Review who says he'll only vote for Trump if his vote is the one that would flip it to Clinton. There are Mitt Romney and Eric Erickson and a handful of others who are still out there tilting at Trump Tower. But mostly what we are seeing is a spectacle of servile sycophancy that's embarrassing to all concerned. From alleged tough guy Chris Christie's Major Domo act to former sainted doctor Ben Carson trailing after Trump like a Justin Bieber groupie, one GOP leader after another is prostrating himself at the Donald's undoubtedly huge feet. Even Lindsay Graham, who has been one of Trump's most vociferous Republican critics, once calling him  "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot", is reportedly telling donors on the qt that they need to step up for him.

But no one has thrown away what left of his pride that the former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who gave a stirring speech last fall in which he declared that Trump was "a cancer on conservatism," and a toxic "barking carnival act" that will "lead the Republican party to perdition." It was Perry's finest moment. Now he's groveling like a dog for Trump's attention, throwing himself into the VP pool saying, "I will be open to any way I can help. I’m not going to say no" if asked. He said Trump's "not a perfect man, but what I do believe is that he loves this country and that he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and that he will listen to them.” Apparently, he's also found a cure for cancer.

At this point, it doesn't matter if Trump wins or loses the election as far as the future of the GOP is concerned. Most of the leadership and the voters are on board  --- they own him and he owns them. The party of Lincoln is Donald Trump's party now.


The pre-history of "civil disobedience whistleblowing”

by Tom Sullivan

Edward Snowden. Photo by Laura Poitras / Praxis Films
CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The Guardian has a lengthy read about a Department of Defense figure involved in handling DoD whistleblowers. So far, John Crane has escaped the media spotlight surrounding the case of Edward Snowden. Crane worked in the Department of Defense's inspector general office for handling internal whistleblowers when – ten years before Snowden – Thomas Drake came to report the same illegal activities Snowden revealed to the press. Mark Hertsgaard sets the stage:

Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed.

Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored.
According to the account Crane gave to Hertsgaard, DoD officials first illegally disclosed Crane's identity to the Justice Department, then "withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge."

And what lesson do we think Edward Snowden took from Drake's case?
Snowden saw what had happened to Drake and other whistleblowers like him. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. (GAP, a non-profit group in Washington, DC, that defends whistleblowers, has represented Snowden, Drake and Crane.)

“None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance – and Drake was far from the only one who tried – had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward and made their charges, but the government just said, ‘They’re lying, they’re paranoid, we’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence. Whereas Snowden took the evidence with him, so when the government issued its usual denials, he could produce document after document showing that they were lying. That is civil disobedience whistleblowing.”
Crane's account blows a hole in the insistence by Washington insiders that Snowden should have used official channels only in raising his concerns about NSA mass surveillance. If his allegations are confirmed in court, writes Hertsgaard, they "could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail." Read on for details of Crane's treatment at the hands of his employers. If your morning coffee doesn't raise your eyebrows, this will.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It looks like he's going to have to build a wall in the Pacific and the Atlantic too

by digby

This article from The Atlantic should broaden the dialog a bit about Trump and undocumented immigrants. It's not just about the delicious taco bowl they serve in Trump tower that he loves so much. It's also about the curry and the pho and the Kung Pao chicken:

Turns out that, since 2000, unauthorized immigration from Asia has grown at rates much faster than from Mexico and Central America. That's according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute. So Trump will need to amend his ideas for "securing our nation's borders."

At 6 million, Mexicans still represent the majority of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. But the percentage of those arriving has slowed since the recession. During that time, however, Asian unauthorized immigration has increased considerably. From 2000 to 2013, it increased 202 percent, according to the report.

A curious reason for this, says Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of U.S. immigration policy at MPI, and coauthor of the study, is that income in some Asian countries has risen. "That can be counterintuitive," he says, "since you often think of immigration is something that low-income people do."

In the 1990s, the unauthorized population in America doubled from 3.5 to 7 million. It reached its apogee in 2007 at 12.2 million. Then the recession hit.

As demand for low-skilled, low-wage workers waned, so did the number of those who came to the U.S. and traditionally filled those roles. In greater numbers than any other group, the unauthorized Mexican immigrant population has dropped after the recession.

"I think it's safe to say that the unauthorized immigrant Mexican population is unlikely to return to the high growth rate that it did in the 80s and 90s," says Rosenblum.

In that same time, the number of African unauthorized immigrants doubled. Similarly, the number of unauthorized immigrants from Asia tripled.

What happened in that time, Rosenblum says, is that as the economies thrived in places such as China, South Korea, and India, people there could now afford to migrate to the U.S.—both legally and illegally.

For example, in 1990, there were an estimated 28,000 unauthorized immigrants from India in the U.S. There's now more than 284,000. Those numbers mirror the rising share of legal Indian immigrants coming to the U.S., and also America's growing Indian-American population.

The Asian countries with the largest growth are India (306 percent), South Korea (249 percent), and China (148 percent) .

In fact, if stretched back to 1990, India's unauthorized U.S. immigration growth far outpaces any other country's, reaching 914 percent.

Asians now represent about a third of the foreign-born population in America—equal with the Mexican foreign-born population. They also represent 14 percent of the unauthorized population. That number, by the author's own projections, will grow in the coming decade.

Looks like Trump is going to have to build a wall around the whole country --- even in the oceans. I'm sure he can do it. He's a master builder, dontcha know. He can build anything. It'll be great.

Clearly, Trump's "anti-illegal" immigrant campaign is based on bigotry against Latinos. I don't think there's any doubt about it. But keep in mind that he routinely bashes China with equal fervor so it's a short hop to demonizing Asian immigrants as well.

And recall that we had some hints of how this could go earlier in the primary campaign when the whole question of "anchor babies" came up.  And it was none other than that nice moderate Jebbers who went there first:
It all started when the former Florida governor visited McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday and defended his use of the term "anchor baby" to describe the children born on U.S. soil to parents who came into the country illegally. The phrase is considered offensive by many Latinos. 
On Monday, Bush argued that he's been "immersed in the immigrant experience" personally -- his wife is from Mexico -- and said it's "ludicrous" for Democrats to say he was using the word in a derogatory fashion. 
Further attempting to clarify his comments, the Republican presidential contender said he was actually talking about immigrants other than those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. 
"What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there's organized efforts and, frankly, it's more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized efforts taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship," he said. "I support the 14th amendment."
Trump is still focused on bashing  Mexicans and Muslims depending on the day of the week. But his Asia-bashing will likely lead in that direction as well.  Why wouldn't it?

Social conservatives coming around too

by digby

The rich one's at least. Consider Foster Friess, the allegedly super-religious, highly moral multi-deeply principled millionaire who supported Rick "contraception is not ok" Santorum in 2012, is now all in for the vulgar, daughter-ogling, thrice married Donald Trump:
"My success came from harnessing people’s strengths and ignoring their weaknesses," Friess told The Hill in an email Saturday morning, explaining for the first time in detail his reasons for supporting the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

"And also, from assessing people not according to their pasts or where they are today, but rather based on what they can become,” Friess added.

"I believe that as Republicans continue to unite behind Donald Trump, he’ll become an even better candidate."

He doesn't have to, does he?  They're supporting him even though he's a cretin. If history is any guide he'll double down on his cretinism.

Politics and Reality Radio

with Joshua Holland

This week, we'll be joined by veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston for his take on what went down during the Democratic Party's chaotic state convention. It led to a week of recriminations, but who was really to blame?

Then we'll speak with Cynthia Pompa, a field organizer for the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU. The organization filed a complaint with DHS this week alleging that Customs and Border Protection agents routinely abuse people going about their business in the Southern border region -- and routinely get away with doing it.

Finally, Joshua Holland shares some of his concerns about this seemingly endless Democratic primary contest.

Curtis Mayfield: "Pusherman"
Lucinda Williams: "2 Kool 2 B Forgotten"
Inner Circle: "We 'a Rockers"
James Taylor: "Country Road"

As always, you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes orPodbean.

"We can control him"

by digby

Since the polls showing Republicans coming around to Trump and Democrats are rearranging the chairs on the Titanic, this piece by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker might be just the thing to sober people up:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. The Murdoch media conglomerate has been ordered to acquiesce; it’s no surprise that it has. But Trump’s other fellow-travellers include Roger Stone, the Republican political operative and dirty-tricks maven, while his venues have included the broadcasts of Alex Jones, a ranting conspiracy theorist who believes in a Globalist plot wherein “an alien force not of this world is attacking humanity”—not to mention Jones’s marketing of the theory that Michelle Obama is a transvestite who murdered Joan Rivers. These are not harmless oddballs Trump is flirting with. These are not members of the lunatic fringe. These are the lunatics.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. It wasn’t his voice on that tape of pitiful self-promotion. O.K., it was—but he never mocked the handicapped reporter, he was merely imitating an obsequious one. The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. Then the next lie, and the next. If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of “Well, guess he’s changed the rules!”

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court; many on the other side think it would be terrible if that other radical decision, Roe v. Wade, continued to be found to be compatible with the constitutional order. What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

Yes we can

by digby

Recent polling is showing the Republican voters coming around to the authoritarian cretin Donald Trump for president. And it's apparent that members of that party have no conscience and basically, don't love their country.  It's sad to say but true. There are, however, still a few die-hard #NeverTrumpers out there one of whom is Jonah Goldberg (!) who divided up the Donald Trump Party into various groups, which is sort of interesting:
The Benighted. These are mostly decent people who, from early on, really thought Donald Trump to be a man well-suited for the job of president. As a generalization I don’t think these people are evil or bigoted. Basically, I just think they’ve been conned by a conman.

The Alt-righters. The less said about these creatures, the better. Mostly composed of Twitter and comment-section trolls, this coprophagic phylum is convinced Trump is the tip of the spear of some new white-nationalist takeover of the party and the country. They think it’s hilarious to bait Trump’s critics with Klan-vintage racism and Nazi-style anti-Semitism. Probably my biggest complaint about the benighted is the degree to which they make apologies for the bigots or don’t care that the bigots speak in their name.

The False Priests. As you can only be disappointed in your friends, this is the group I am most disappointed in: public intellectuals, pundits, and politicians who have a long record of claiming to be purer-than-thou on conservative litmus-tests but who suddenly started defenestrating their principles to get onboard the Trump train.

The Fake Moderates. These are the folks who’ve been bleating and whining for years that the conservatism of National Review, Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, et al. was too harsh, too mean, and too rhetorically strident. They not only urged the GOP to be more inclusive and nice, they raised inclusivity and niceness to a kind of ideological litmus test all its own. And now they enthusiastically support a guy who mocks the disabled, smears immigrants, and wants to ban Muslims.

The Establishment of Whores. Very closely related to the Fake Moderates but still a distinct subspecies, these are the quislings, opportunists, lobbyists, remoras, and mercenaries who don’t in fact believe in anything at all beyond their own self-interest. They were against Trump when it was in their interests, and now they are for him for the same reason.

The Closet #NeverTrumpers. Washington (and New York!) is full of pundits, journalists, TV “strategists,” and politicians who tell my friends and me they agree with the #NeverTrumpers 100 percent. But put a microphone in their face and suddenly they overflow with a strange new respect for our orange-hued national savior. I find this sort of thing disgusting and always have.

The Resigned. This is the group of nominally pro-Trump people about whom I have mixed emotions and the most sympathy. I’ve tried to keep names out of this, but this category requires concrete examples. On the night of the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz said he would support “the nominee.” He never said Trump’s name. Personally, I couldn’t support a man who said the things Trump did about my wife and father, never mind the rest of it. But I’m also not a politician. Cruz pledged to support the nominee and I’m not much inclined to vilify him if he offers some grudging, pro-forma support. [See correction]. The same goes for Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, and others who’ve said or hinted that they’d still support the nominee, albeit reluctantly and with grave reservations. But there’s a difference between checking a box and selling your soul.

Goldberg says he can't endorse Trump no matter what, even though Peggy Noonan is exasperated with the NeverTrumpers. (That's right, the same Noonan who is always saying that Democrats are crass and uncivilized...) But then he says that if his vote were the deciding vote he'd have to do it to save the country from Hitlery Clinton.But at this point he says he'll probably vote for Gary Johnson or write in someone like Phil Graham.

I don't know whether his characterization of the Republicans is correct. I tend to be a bit more critical of "the benighted" who so joyfully embrace the racism and generally belligerent puerile worldview of their idol. They are being conned that this fake businessman can run the country when he is clearly unfit, true. But they love his asshole attitude.

But the point is that the vast majority of Republicans are going to vote for the most unqualified,unfit, dangerous megalomaniac this country has every put on a major party ticket. I don't really care what their reasons are.

Everyone says that each election is the most important election of their lives. And in some sense it's always true. But this time it's serious, folks. Donald fucking Trump is on the ballot and the vast majority of Republicans are going to vote for him.


Strange attractors

by Tom Sullivan

Visual representation of a strange attractor
by Nicolas Desprez via Wikimedia Commons.

Dissatisfaction runs deep. This season, large blocks of American voters across the political spectrum are backing anti-establishment candidates. Yet the public does not seem to agree on a coherent set of fixes. Dissatisfaction is like a vague pain that comes and goes and moves around.

Perhaps the closest thing to a strange attractor around which left and right opinions cluster is the undue influence of money in our politics. Donald Trump claims he is so wealthy no one can buy him. Bernie Sanders has turned $27, his stated average campaign contribution, into a stadium-sized brag. But in his new book, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections, Richard Hasen argues that the view that big money is buying elections and bribing politicians is too narrow an understanding of how money influences our politics and policy. I have not read Hasen's book, but an excerpt at Bill Moyer's blog provides a sense of where Hasen's argument will go:

It is hard for reformers to avoid the corruption talk. To begin with, “corruption” resonates with the general public — a poll commissioned by Represent.Us saw support jump from 60 to 72 percent of Americans when a campaign finance reform bill is packaged as an anticorruption measure. Using the term broadly, corruption can mean anything deviating from some perfect state of nature.
Of course, corruption shorthand has escalated in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the word paints with too broad a brush:
The new Citizens United era is not full of corrupt politicians taking bribes or of elections going to the highest bidder. To claim it is so puts the public’s spotlight in the wrong place, looking for elected officials to use large amounts of money for private gain. The more central problem of money in politics is something just as troubling but much harder to see: a system in which economic inequalities, inevitable in a free market economy, are transformed into political inequalities that affect both electoral and legislative outcomes. Without any politician taking a single bribe, wealth has an increasingly disproportionate influence on our politics. While we can call that a problem of “corruption,” this pushes the limits of the words too far (certainly far beyond what the Supreme Court is going to entertain as corruption) and obscures the fundamental unfairness of a political system moving toward plutocracy. The political power of the wealthy is especially troubling in our current period of rising economic inequality, when those with great economic clout can use their increased political power to protect their economic position.
Widespread use of "corrupt" and "rigged" to describe our current state even by progressive icons such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren seems to be having the unintended consequence of promoting a sense that affecting change through political means is pointless, if not hopeless. Let's just say my experience is that limited efforts of short duration are not likely to produce durable reforms. I attended the funeral of a friend last week, a former Freedom Rider with a history that went back to who SNCC, who never lost hope and never stopped fighting. Perhaps he was naive. And perhaps not.

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