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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Another strongman fanboy under consideration

by digby

I wish I could say this surprises me:
Mitt Romney's chances for being secretary of State in a Trump administration are fading amid a deep division among President-elect Trump's team, and that is giving rise to dark horse candidate Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a foreign policy tough guy who once arm wrestled Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to insiders.

The Trump cabinet executive committee is also eyeing long-time Republican diplomat John Bolton as deputy secretary of State, though there are some who prefer him in the top job.
I wrote this piece back in July for Salon:
Dana and Donald: The California rep would be a match made in twisted-politics heaven for Trump 
I mentioned his old connections to the Taliban which made him very angry and forced the editors to publish his complaint (which was not particularly convincing.)

Interestingly, he did not object to the part about him being a Vlad fanboy:
After reading this fascinating story by Maria Danilova of the AP over the week-end you might wonder why one of [his VP considerations] isn’t Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. They would seem to be a perfect match. Rohrabacher is a quirky individualist who, like Trump, marches to his own drummer. He’s been in Washington since the 80’s and knows his way around congress which is something Trump has said he wants in a VP. And they share an admiration for certain big strong manly man:

A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, the 14-term Rohrabacher takes pride in having worked to weaken “our major global enemy at that time, the Soviet Union.” A large photo in his office shows him in the hills of Afghanistan in the 1980s, where, he told The Associated Press in an interview, he launched rockets at Soviet positions as a volunteer fighter.

Rohrabacher’s view changed when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and Russia emerged as a different country. Although he acknowledges that opposition leaders face repression in Russia, he also says the country allows religious freedom and is generally more open than its predecessor.

In the mid-1990s, Rohrabacher got a taste of Russian politics, he says, when he welcomed a delegation of young Russian political leaders, which included Putin, who then worked for the mayor of St. Petersburg. After a friendly football match, the group went to a nearby pub and started arguing over whether the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. The debate turned into an arm-wrestling match between Putin and Rohrabacher, which Putin won.

“I ended up with Putin, and he beat me just like that,” Rohrabacher said, snapping his fingers.

One suspects that Trump would never be so humble. But his appreciation for Putin runs along the same lines. Rohrabacher is a major defender of Putin and the Russian government in the congress and a lot of people think it’s a little bit obsessive, particularly his willingness to take the part of some Russian officials on whom the US government has imposed sanctions for the jailhouse death of a Russian whistleblower. Rohrabacher intervened, meeting with these officials privately and with officers of another Russian firm associated with the crime under investigation in the US. He then tried to get the House Foreign Affairs Committee to drop this case from a bill imposing sanctions on human rights abusers from other countries, even trying to implicate the victims of the crimes as the real perpetrators despite all evidence to the contrary.
It's such a natural you have to wonder why he wasn't named earlier. With Bolton as number two, they would be quite the formidable pair of ugly Americans wreaking havoc all over the world. Winning!

Cartoon leadership

by digby

Think Progress:
During a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked what he thought about the sweetheart deal President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence struck with United Technology to keep about 1,000 Carrier manufacturing jobs in Indiana in exchange for millions of dollars in incentives. 
“Well I’m pretty happy that we’re keeping jobs in America, aren’t you?” Ryan said to a reporter, adding that he couldn’t speak to the specifics of the deal, which won’t prevent 1,300 Carrier jobs from relocating to Mexico from Indiana. “I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico.”

Ryan’s response was a significant departure from what he’s said in the past about deals like the Carrier one. On Tax Day last year, Ryan released a statement blasting President Obama for allegedly wanting to provide “special carve-outs to his favorite industries.”

“Our tax code should not pick winners and losers,” Ryan wrote on behalf of a “simpler, flatter” tax code. “Our country can’t reach its potential with a tax code that punishes people for reaching their own.”
Ryan reiterated that sentiment in a video clip he shared to Twitter in July.

Even supporters of the Carrier deal acknowledge the approach Trump and Pence have taken is unsustainable. Scott Paul, president of the advocacy group the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told the New York Times that “Carrier is special because it happened at the right time and the right place and it gained a high profile. But obviously, Donald Trump and Mike Pence can’t intervene every time a plant closes.”

Actually that's exactly what Trump proposed over and over again on the trail. This is what he said on the day he announced his candidacy:

One of the early things I would do, probably before I even got in -- and I wouldn't even use -- you know, I have -- I know the smartest negotiators in the world. I know the good ones. I know the bad ones. I know the overrated ones.

You get a lot of them that are overrated. They're not good. They think they are. They get good stories, because the newspapers get buffaloed (ph). But they're not good.

But I know the negotiators in the world, and I put them one for each country. Believe me, folks. We will do very, very well, very, very well.

But I wouldn't even waste my time with this one. I would call up the head of Ford, who I know. If I was president, I'd say, "Congratulations. I understand that you're building a nice $2.5 billion car factory in Mexico and that you're going to take your cars and sell them to the United States zero tax, just flow them across the border."

And you say to yourself, "How does that help us," right? "How does that help us? Where is that good"? It's not.

So I would say, "Congratulations. That's the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we're going to charge you a 35-percent tax, and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that's it.

Now, here's what is going to happen. If it's not me in the position, it's one of these politicians that we're running against, you know, the 400 people that we're (inaudible). And here's what's going to happen. They're not so stupid. They know it's not a good thing, and they may even be upset by it. But then they're going to get a call from the donors or probably from the lobbyist for Ford and say, "You can't do that to Ford, because Ford takes care of me and I take care of you, and you can't do that to Ford."

And guess what? No problem. They're going to build in Mexico. They're going to take away thousands of jobs. It's very bad for us.

So under President Trump, here's what would happen:


The head of Ford will call me back, I would say within an hour after I told them the bad news. But it could be he'd want to be cool, and he'll wait until the next day. You know, they want to be a little cool.

And he'll say, "Please, please, please." He'll beg for a little while, and I'll say, "No interest." Then he'll call all sorts of political people, and I'll say, "Sorry, fellas. No interest," because I don't need anybody's money. It's nice. I don't need anybody's money.

I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich. I (inaudible).


And by the way, I'm not even saying that in a -- that's the kind of mindset, that's the kind of thinking you need for this country.

What an alpha-male, right? Too bad his actual record doesn't match his juvenile braggadocio.

Now, this is not what happened with Ford or Carrier, we know that. Basically, Ford did what they were going to do anyway and curried favor with Trump by blowing smoke. And they got Carrier to save about 800 of the 2000 jobs they were planning to transfer to Mexico by handing them a big fat subsidy paid for by the taxpayers of Indiana, something Pence had refused to do just a couple of years ago.

Essentially, Trump's plan is to intervene in any proposed jobs move to Mexico that comes to his attention. But instead of giving them ultimatums about tariffs (something the Carrier folks explicitly made a part of their deal) he's going to give them everybody's hard earned tax dollars to keep a few jobs in the US, make huge profits and give Trump a big PR victory while making the lives of all the non-photo op workers in America demonstrably worse in every way. What a deal.

But don't say he didn't warn us. He said from the beginning that his economic plan was to hire billionaires and personally intervene to stop job losses when he became aware of them. That's ridiculous. People knew it. But he won anyway because he sounded like a big macho hero who would step in personally to save the day. Like Superman. That's what they voted for. A cartoon character. And that's what they got.

By the way, the Superman iconography was all over the campaign:

Trump is an emoluments magnet

by digby

That's what Law Professor Laurence Tribe said this morning on Joy Reid's show:
“It’s called the emoluments clause and it basically says no officer of the United States can be on the receiving end of any kind of benefit, economic benefit, payment, gift, profit, whatever, from a foreign government or its corporations or agents,” Tribe explained before pointing to Trump’s kids having one foot in his administration and the other in Trump’s businesses. “In this case Donald Jr. or Ivanka or Eric — then there would be a close relationship that could never be disentangled by the American public.”

Turning to the Trump family’s continuing ownership of hotels and businesses throughout the world, Tribe said Trump needs to sell off everything.

“He’s a constant emolument magnet,” Tribe quipped. “He thinks of himself as a babe magnet, but he’s an emoluments magnet. And all around the world everybody wants to go to his hotels and not the competitors, and wants to give him a variance or a special land use permit and there’s simply no way short of absolutely liquidating all of his cash and assets into a blind trust and not handed over to his kids.”

“No way short of that prevents him from being a walking, talking violation of the Constitution from the moment he takes the oath,” he concluded.

And frankly, considering the legal exposure inherent in the liquidation of a business that depends upon a "brand" for its value,. I'm going to guess that even if he did this there would be tremendous incentive for him to make special "deals" with business partners to avoid such complications. I don't think there's any way for him not to be riddled with conflicts no matter what he does. He should not have run for president without unwinding that business before he ran. But hey, nobody said much about it and nobody told him he should so, what the hell, right?

Now it's too late. The only thing that can stop him from doing exactly what he's doing is impeachment. Does anyone think Jason Chaffetz is going to launch those hearings any time soon? I didn't think so. This isn't Richard Nixon's Republican party. Nobody's going to walk up the Hill and tell The Donald it's time to go.

The Win At All Costs party

by digby

It's conventional wisdom that members of both parties are equally partisan about everything and that nobody has any principles. This is an example of how that might not be true:

Americans' support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.

  • 47% want to keep Electoral College, up from 35% in 2011
  • Republicans shift decisively in favor of Electoral College
  • Most Americans correctly answer that Hillary Clinton won popular vote

I think it's pretty clear what's happened here, don't you? More Republicans have suddenly decided that the electoral college is awesome for some unknown reason. The Democrats did not. Now it's possible that if they ever win  the EC and lose the popular vote by millions they too will be ready to embrace it.  We don't know since that never happens. 

What we can see is that after 2000, which was the same situation as today essentially, there was no big uptick in support for the EC. There is now. And that's because the Republican Party is no longer even slightly interested in democratic norms. They are the "win at all costs" Party.


Trump on acid

by digby

Or actually, just after a couple of beers.

Here's a bit from the New Yorker profile of Rodrigo Duterte by Adrian Chen called "When a Populist Demagogue Takes Power:"
In May, Rodrigo Duterte, the provincial mayor who had just been elected President of the Philippines after promising to rid the country of crime and drugs by killing thousands of criminals, vowed to stop swearing. He told reporters, “Don’t fuck with me.” He called political figures “gay.” When a reporter asked about his health, he replied, “How is your wife’s vagina? Is it smelly? Or not smelly? Give me a report.” In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, he swore at the Pope. At first, he defended his language as a gesture of radical populism. “I am testing the élite in this country,” he said. “Because we are fundamentally a feudal country.” But, the day after the election, he appeared with a popular televangelist and said, “I need to control my mouth.” He compared his forthcoming transformation to that of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. “If you are the President of the country, you need to be prim and proper,” he said. His inaugural speech, in June, was obscenity-free.

The resolution didn’t last. Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of more than three thousand people, drawing condemnation from human-rights groups and Western governments. In early September, before the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Laos, a journalist asked Duterte what he would say if President Barack Obama raised the issue of human rights. “You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state,” he replied. “We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States.” Alternating between English and Tagalog, and pounding on the lectern, Duterte, it was widely reported, said of Obama, “Son of a whore, I’ll curse you at that forum.”

Duterte does not, as he has put it, “give a shit” about human rights, which he sees as a Western obsession that keeps the Philippines from taking the action necessary to clean up the country. He is also hypersensitive to criticism. “Duterte’s weakness is, really, he’s a tough guy,” Greco Belgica, a Filipino politician and an ally of Duterte’s, said. “You do not talk down to a tough guy. He’ll snap.”

The day after insulting Obama, Duterte released a statement expressing regret that his comment “came across as a personal attack on the U.S. President.” In his outburst, Duterte had used the Tagalog phrase putang ina, which means, literally, “your mother is a whore.” But it is also used to communicate frustration, as in “son of a bitch.” “It’s just an expression,” Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, explained to the press. “I don’t think it was directed to President Obama.” A columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer provided foreign journalists with a satirical guide to “Dutertespeak”: “Putang ina really means ‘I firmly believe you are mistaken.’ ”

Duterte thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration. His manner is central to his populist image, but it inevitably leads to misunderstanding, even among Filipino journalists. Ernie Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, recently pleaded with the Presidential press corps to use its “creative imagination” when interpreting Duterte’s comments.

Sound familiar at all?

Trump asked him to visit the White House. And I've heard some people say that his populist economic policies have been positive so it's a mistake to demonize him in spite of his human rights violations.So perhaps he and Trump and a few other autocratic thugs may actually represent a new frontier.

Duterte may be too crude even for America but Donald "grab 'em by the pussy" Trump isn't exactly a courtly type. It's a feature, not a bug.
As Erwin Romulo, a former editor of Esquire Philippines, told me, “There are no slow news days anymore in the Philippines.”

Duterte has an eighty-six-per-cent approval rating in the Philippines, but his break with America has proved controversial. Opinion surveys regularly find the Philippines to be among the most pro-American countries. The language of instruction in schools is English, and basketball is a national obsession. Around four million Filipinos live and work in the U.S., and the country is one of the Philippines’ most important trading partners. American interests have typically made up a large proportion of foreign investment in the Philippines. In the Manila Standard, the widely respected former President Fidel Ramos compared Duterte to the captain of a sinking ship. Even many on the Philippine left, who decry U.S. influence, worry that Duterte may be trading one imperial master for another.

Duterte’s pivot to China is a rebuke to the Obama Administration’s foreign-policy shift away from the Middle East and toward Asia. But a senior State Department official said that he thought the talk of a complete realignment with China was largely bluster. “The issue is not so much what he says—the issue is what he does,” the official said. He pointed out that the U.S. and the Philippines are so deeply entwined that it would take longer than one Presidential term to unravel their ties. “That said, if he’s absolutely determined, he could do a lot of damage to the U.S.-Philippine relationship.”

Since the overthrow of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in 1986, the Philippines has been a democracy, if an often dysfunctional one. Duterte’s actions challenge the liberal Western values that are enshrined in the Philippine constitution. Although he styles himself a revolutionary, Duterte seems uncertain about what kind of order will replace the one he aims to overthrow, or whether he will be around to see it. He often intimates that he may not live to finish his term, whether because of overwork and age—he is seventy-one—or something more sinister. “Will I survive the six years?” he asked recently. “I’d make a prediction: maybe not.”

He's full on nuts. But that's what they like about him. Trump too.

Budget, what budget?

by digby

He did say that he didn't realize how big the job was. So he's apparently decided not to bother doing it:

The Trump administration is seriously thinking about not submitting a budget to Congress next year .

Although the Congressional Budget Act requires the president to submit the fiscal 2018 budget to Congress between January 2 and February 6, Trump could easily say that it was the responsibility of the outgoing Obama administration to comply with the law before the new president was sworn in on January 20.

But while the new president not sending a budget to Congress might not be illegal, it would clearly be unprecedented.

Every in-coming president since the Congressional Budget Act went into effect in the mid-1970s has submitted a budget. In many years, those budgets (or amendments to the outgoing president’s final budget) were submitted months after the first-Monday-in-February deadline and were truncated versions of the usual multi-volume presentation. But, a fiscal plan with the new president’s priorities was consistently released for over 4 decades.

Long time federal budget watchers will find Trump’s unwillingness to submit a budget strange because up to now every new administration typically has been eager to submit one in its first year. The reason? It’s the biggest opportunity that will exist to present the president’s plan for all to see and for the White House to dominate the news for a week or more as the details are released, discussed, analyzed and promoted at congressional hearings and other forums.

So why might the Trump administration want to punt on this major opportunity by not submitting a budget?

First, it would allow Trump to avoid the complaints that always come from those the budget proposals would harm by denying them a platform to criticize the White House. No proposals on paper would mean nothing to disparage.

And anyway, just let Ryan do whatever he wants, amirite? Trump will be busy making America great again.


A GOP thing: Winning with fewer popular votes

by Tom Sullivan

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory narrowly lost the popular vote to Democratic opponent AG Roy Cooper in his reelection bid last month. But since it was no impediment to Donald Trump winning the White House, why should losing the popular vote prevent Republicans from declaring McCrory the winner? That seems to be the strategy behind the ongoing Republican challenges to finalizing the gubernatorial election in the Tar Heel State.

This, after all, was the goal of GOP-led gerrymandering that targeted the North Carolina's "African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The “most extreme gerrymanders in modern history” led to a situation in which "Democrats got 51 percent of the 2012 vote for the United States House of Representatives, which translated to only four of the state’s 13 congressional seats." Federal courts have since ordered the congressional districts redrawn. But since the governorship is a statewide race, not a district one, other methods for winning by losing must be found.

At the order of the NC State Board of Elections, Durham County is recounting over 90,000 votes it counted late on Election Day after software delays. The late tally tipped the race from McCrory to Cooper. Three Republicans on the State Board ruled that counting votes late constituted "an irregularity." Durham faces a 7 p.m. Monday deadline for completing the process it started Saturday. The Atlantic's David Graham describes the recount as "vaguely Kafkaesque." No one expects the recount to affect the lead Cooper has held since election night. Graham writes:

Since then, Cooper’s lead has remained consistent, and has even grown a bit, standing at a little more than 10,000 votes. State Republicans have gone through a series of steps to try to prevent Cooper from being certified as the race’s winner. In counties around the state, Republicans filed protests and challenges, alleging ineligible voters and irregularities in counting. Nearly all of those were thrown out, and those decisions were not appealed. But the situation in Durham County has remained unresolved.
That's not all. The Art Pope-backed Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, filed a lawsuit to delay counting ballots voted by same-day registrants under address verification is complete.

“I think this is a conscious, deliberate effort to gain a litigation advantage in federal court by the McCrory campaign,” said elections law attorney Michael Weisel, a Democrat:
The elections board decided shortly after Election Day that it would hire outside attorneys for any lawsuit involving the election results. The board typically is represented by the attorney general’s office, but the board decided that would pose a potential conflict of interest because Cooper, the attorney general, is a candidate.

State law requires the governor’s office to sign off on hiring of outside attorneys. Stephens [McCrory's attorney] denied three of the four attorneys requested by the State Board of Elections; he did not provide a reason but had raised conflict-of-interest questions before making the decision.
The State Board of Elections will have to make do with two in-house lawyers already working on other election matters.

Finally, the NCSBE yesterday heard and rejected an election challenge brought by Republicans over a Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District race the complainant won. (Shades of Donald Trump again.) InsightUS live-blogged the meeting convened to consider rejecting 400 African Americans ballots gathered in what Republicans are alleging was a massive absentee ballot fraud effort involving paid canvassers. InsightUS snarkily described the effort to smear the Bladen County Improvement Association as a kind of "ACORN-lite affair." InsightUS has both the blog and some background:
4:23 PM EST: Board member Malcolm (D) now grilling McCrory atty Knight regarding why the heck the protestor, Dowless, is not present. “Does Mr. Dowless, the individual who brought all these people here today…does your client intend to answer questions today without being immunized?” Atty Knight: “He is present, and will testify today unless advised otherwise by his counsel. He is not waiving his 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself.”
Wow. Just wow. Dowless is now taking the stand.
4:25 PM EST: Malcolm questioning Dowless: “Is it true that you are the apparent winner in the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District contest?” “Yessir.” “Then why are you bringing this protest?” “I just think it ain’t right.”
4:29 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “Who informed you of these ‘irregularities?'” “A feller named Steve.” “Steve who?” GOP atty Branch objects: ‘Steve’ Roberts is an attorney with the McCrory committee, and also a member of Mr. Dowless’s legal defense, therefore, Dowless/Steve information is attorney/client privilege. Atty Branch is throwing one objection after another: “Mr Dowless, do not reveal any content of your conversations with Steve Roberts.”
4:35 PM EST: Malcolm (D): Mr. Dowless, are you familiar with your protest? How do you know the assertions in it to be true?” “Well, sir, it come out in the papers.”
4:37 PM EST: Dowless takes the 5th regarding who provided him with the campaign finance report documents appended to his protest filing.
4:47 PM EST: Whoa. Board member Malcolm: “Do you know Caitlyn Croom?” (one of the get-out-the-vote canvassers charged with wrongdoing in Dowless’s protest).” “Yessir, I know her. She helped me with my campaign.” “Did you pay her?” “Yessir, I paid her for bringing in completed absentee ballot forms.”
This is starting to become bizarre. Sounds like Dowless, who filed a complaint that GOTV canvassers were harvesting ballots in Bladen County, was himself paying some of these same people to…what? Yeah: harvest ballots. And taking the 5th to avoid prosecution for it. And a McCrory campaign attorney is behind his protest, and the McCrory campaign is exceedingly eager to prevent Dowless from discussing what transpired between that attorney and Mr. Dowless. Shakedown, maybe? Jeebus.
There are a lot of good people in the audience chuckling and shaking their heads right now.
4:54 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “How many absentee ballot request forms came to you through this process?” “I’d say ’bout a hundred and sixty-four.” And you initialed every one of them in one corner before sending them on?” “Yessir.” “And how many voted ballots came to you through this process?” “I couldn’t say, sir.” But when Malcolm asked for confirmation, Dowless says “No sir, I never saw nobody’s ballot but my own.”
5:10 PM EST: There’s blood in the water here right now, as attorney Irv Joyner begins his own joyful cross-examination of protestor Dowless.
5:12 PM EST: Atty Joyner asks Dowless whether, in prior elections, he has been endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association. “Yessir, they had me on their sample ballot in 2012, and I gived them no money.” “And in 2016 were you endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association?” “No sir.”

As they say on CNN, we'll have to leave it right there.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Saturday Night at the Movies

Blu Xmas: Best re-issues of 2016, Part 1

By Dennis Hartley

Since it’s now post Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tuesday Afternoon and Wednesday Morning 3am, I thought I’d toss out gift ideas, with my picks for the best Blu-ray reissues of 2016. But first, a gentle reminder. Any time of year you click a link from this weekly feature as a portal to purchase any Amazon item, you help your favorite starving bloggers get a nickel or two in the creel. Most titles are released concurrent with an SD edition, so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player, don’t despair. So here you go…in alphabetical order:

Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (Apple Deluxe Edition) – I missed the (limited) theatrical run of Ron Howard’s 2016 Beatles documentary because I was sidelined by knee replacement surgery, but happily the powers-that-be have expedited its release to home video just in time for Christmas. As a Beatle freak who has seen just about every bit of Fab Four documentary/concert footage extant, I approached Howard’s film with a bit of trepidation (especially with all the pre-release hype about “previously unseen” footage and such) but was nonetheless pleased (if not necessarily enlightened) by what he’s managed to put together here. The title pretty much says it all; this is not their entire story, but rather a retrospective of the Beatles’ career from the Hamburg days through their final tour in 1966. As I inferred, you likely won’t learn anything new (this is a well-trod path), but the performance clips are enhanced by newly restored footage and remixed audio. Despite the familiar material, Howard makes the nostalgic wallow feel fresh and fun. The Deluxe Edition is worth the investment for fans; in fact, I found the bonus features more interesting than the main film! The 64-page booklet caps this set off nicely.

The Man Who Fell To Earth 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Studio Canal Region “B” Blu-ray*) – If there was ever a film and a star that were made for each other, it was director Nicolas Roeg’s mind-blowing 1976 adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the late great David Bowie. Several years after retiring his “Ziggy Stardust” stage persona, Bowie was coaxed back to the outer limits to inhabit Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a drought-stricken planet who crash-lands on Earth. Gleaning our planet as a water source, Newton formulates a long-range plan for transporting the precious resource back to his home world. In the interim, he becomes an enigmatic hi-tech magnate (kind of makes you wonder where Bill Gates really came from). A one-of-a-kind film, with excellent supporting performances from Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry. The Studio Canal Edition has a gorgeous new 4K transfer, a second disc packed with extras, and a bonus CD of “Papa” John Phillips’ soundtrack. Lionsgate will be releasing the domestic version of this set in January; it’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon at a decent discount (click on title above for details).

*Note: Region “B” requires a region-free Blu-ray player (but they’re getting cheaper!).

Only Yesterday  (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) – Written and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), this is one of Studio Ghibli’s more understated animes (as well as one of its most visually breathtaking). A woman in her late 20s takes a train ride through the countryside and reflects on the choices she has made throughout her life, from childhood onward. It is a poetic and moving humanist study that I would hold up alongside the best work of Ozu. The disc includes several “behind the scenes” mini-docs.

To Live and Die in L.A. Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory) – Essentially a remake of The French Connection (updated for the 80s), this fast-moving, tough-as-nails neo noir from director William Friedkin ignites the senses on every level: visual, aural and visceral. Fueled by an outstanding soundtrack by Wang Chung, Friedkin's vision of L.A. is painted in contrasts of dusky orange and strikingly vivid reds and blacks; an ugly/beautiful noir Hell rendered by ace DP Robby Muller (who has worked extensively with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch). Leads William Peterson (as an obsessed treasury agent) and Willem Dafoe (as his criminal nemesis) really tear up the screen with star-making performances (both were relative unknowns). While the narrative adheres to many familiar “cop on the edge” tropes, there’s an undercurrent of weirdness throughout that makes this a truly unique genre entry (“The stars are God’s eyes!” Peterson’s girlfriend shrieks at him at one point, for no apparent reason). Friedkin co-adapted the screenplay with source novel author Gerald Petievich. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray sports a print sourced from a new 4K scan that is a noticeable improvement over MGM’s from a couple years back, as well as new and archival interviews with cast, crew and composers.

Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy  (The Criterion Collection Box Set) – From the early 1970s onward, few names have become as synonymous with the “road movie” genre as German film maker Wim Wenders. Paris, Texas and Until the End of the World are probably the most well-known examples of his mastery in capturing not only the lure of the open road, but in laying bare all the disparate human emotions that spark wanderlust. But fairly early in his career, he made a 3-film cycle (all starring his favorite leading man Rudiger Vogler) that, while much lesser-known, easily stands with the best of the genre. Criterion has reissued all three of these previously hard to find titles in a wonderful box set. 1974’s Alice in the Cities (my personal favorite of the three) stars Vogler as a journalist who is reluctantly saddled into temporary stewardship of a precocious 9 year-old girl. His mission to get her to her grandmother’s house turns into quite the European travelogue (the relationship that develops between the two in the course of their journey is very reminiscent of Paper Moon). In Wrong Move (1975), Vogler is a writer in existential crisis, who hooks up with several other travelers who also carry their share of mental baggage (it’s the darkest of the trilogy; Wenders based it on a Goethe novel). Kings of the Road (1976) is a Boudu Saved from Drowning-type tale with Vogler as a travelling film projector repairman who happens to be in the right place at the right time when a profoundly depressed psychologist (Hanns Zischler) decides to end it all by driving his VW into a river. The two travelling companions are slow to warm up to each other, but they have plenty of time to develop a friendship at 2 hours and 55 minutes (i.e., the film may try the patience of some viewers). If you can stick with it, though, you’ll find it rewarding…it “grows on you”. All three films have been given the usual meticulous Criterion restoration, showcasing Robby Muller’s beautiful cinematography.

2016 Blu-ray reissues previously reviewed and also recommended:

Dr. Strangelove (Criterion Collection)
(My review)

The Manchurian Candidate (Criterion Collection)
(My review)

Culloden (BFI Region “B” Blu-ray)
(My review)

More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley


Making America Great Again by cutting services for disabled kids

by digby

The word is that Democrats need to shift their attention away from government services to jobs in order to win the economic argument. I hope we'll be able to find jobs for all these disabled babies in Texas. They're about to lose their "special" benefits because it costs too much:
More than a year after lawmakers originally ordered it, Texas announced Monday it will enact significant cuts to the money that it pays therapists who treat vulnerable children with disabilities in two weeks. 
Medicaid reimbursement rates are used to pay for pediatric therapy services provided to disabled babies and toddlers. Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the state's Health and Human Services Commission, said that Texas will apply cuts on Medicaid rates on Dec. 15 in attempt to achieve savings directed by the Texas Legislature in 2015.
And yes, I know that nobody is saying Democrats shouldn't advocate for disabled babies. But this country just elected a man who mocks people with disabilities and openly disdains all those "identities" other than white unless they agree to bow down and kiss the hem of his robe so I'm not sanguine that this sort of thing is going to get priority in the coming years. The argument will be that we need to find good jobs for these babies' fathers so their mothers can take care of them the way God intended. We don't need government "services" if everyone just does what they're supposed to do. That's how we did it back when America was Great dontcha know?

Goin' Rogue

by digby

Before the election I used to tell people that if Trump won, we would wake up in a different world on November 9th. This was because the rest of the world would see that the US, always powerful and sometimes capricious, would have totally gone rogue. Other nations would re-position their alliances and defensive postures and the post WWII framework that has kept us from global war and nuclear mishap would be gone. Trump's mere presence would have been enough to cause this.

It's worse than I thought. I didn't think he'd be this stupid:
President-elect Donald J. Trump has broken with decades of diplomatic practice in freewheeling calls with foreign leaders.

Dec. 2
Mr. Trump talks to the president
of Taiwan, becoming the first
U.S. president or president-elect
to do so since 1979.

Why it matters

The call with President Tsai Ing-wen risks infuriating China, which wants to bring Taiwan back under mainland rule. By honoring the Taiwanese president with a formal call, Mr. Trump’s transition team implicitly suggests that it considers Taiwan an independent state. The U.S. has declined to recognize Taiwan since 1979, when it shifted recognition to the government in Beijing. Taiwan itself has yet to declare formal independence. Mr. Trump tweeted, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency.”

Dec. 2
Mr. Trump invites Rodrigo
Duterte, president of the
Philippines, to visit Washington.

Why it matters

Mr. Duterte has been accused of gross human rights abuses, referred to President Obama as a “son of a bitch” and declared his country’s “separation” from the U.S. during a recent trip to Beijing. (The Trump transition team has not confirmed the invitation, which was reported by Reuters, citing a Philippine government official.) Honoring Mr. Duterte with a presidential invitation implies U.S. approval of his behavior, which Mr. Obama’s administration had been working to curb.

Nov. 30
Mr. Trump praises Kazakhstan’s
leader for “fantastic success.”

Why it matters

Mr. Trump praised Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan since 1991, in tones that suggest approval for Mr. Nazarbayev’s strongman rule. According to the Kazakh government’s readout of the call, Mr. Trump “stressed that under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, our country over the years of independence had achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’”

Nov. 30
Mr. Trump accepts an invitation to
visit Pakistan, “a terrific country.”

Why it matters

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Mr. Trump to visit, according to a Pakistani government readout of their call. Should Mr. Trump follow through, he risks alienating India, which sees Pakistan as a major antagonist, and appearing to reward Pakistan’s behavior; should he renege, he risks upsetting Pakistani leaders who are sensitive about perceived American intransigence. Either way, the call could upset the delicate balance of India-Pakistan ties, which the U.S. has struggled to manage amid a history of wars and recent skirmishes.

Nov. 17
Ivanka Trump joins a meeting
with the Japanese prime minister.

Why it matters

Rather than inviting State Department officials to staff his meeting with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, Mr. Trump invited his daughter Ivanka. The meeting alarmed diplomats, who worried that Mr. Trump lacked preparation after a long record of criticizing Japan. It also blurred the line between Mr. Trump’s businesses, which Ms. Trump helps run, and the U.S. government, with which she has no role.

Nov. 10
After brushing off the United Kingdom,
Mr. Trump offers a casual invitation
to the British prime minister.

Why it matters

Mr. Trump spoke to nine other leaders before British Prime Minister Theresa May, an unusual break with the two countries’ long-standing special relationship. “If you travel to the US you should let me know,” he told her, far short of a formal invitation.Trump also met with Nigel Farage, former leader of the fringe U.K. Independence Party — a slap to Ms. May. He later said that Mr. Farage should become the British ambassador to the United States, though presidents typically avoid telling foreign counterparts how to staff their governments.

He's just getting started.

Clearly he does not believe that all the delicate diplomatic arrangements that have allowed the world to avoid a major conflagration are worth anything. His own puerile, imbecilic conman patter is all that's needed. And nobody around him seems to care or if they do they are unable to dissuade him from wading into this without preparation or guidance.

We are so screwed.

Ivanka is the president for women

by digby

The New York Times wonders if Ivanka Trump will be the most powerful first daughter in history:

When Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, called Donald J. Trump shortly after the Nov. 8 election, they talked about domestic policy and infrastructure. But when Ms. Pelosi raised the specific subject of women’s issues, the president-elect did something unexpected: He handed the phone over to another person in the room — his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka.

I guess that's good news for women. Sort of ... or not.

QOTD: David Gergen

by digby

On Trump's Nuremberg rally:
“I think if there was any doubt that we’re putting an end to one chapter in American history and moving to a new one, he dispelled that tonight. This is goodbye to American leadership in the world. Goodbye to globalization. He’s bringing America home. He’s going to lead a nativist, nationalistic, populist movement and if you want to join up with him fine. If you don’t, forget it.”
“He’s in charge. And he has a lot of support in the Congress. That kind of speech will fire up his base, and it’s going to leave a lot of other people—[saying] 'I knew I didn’t like the son of a bitch.'”

I don't know. Trump said we are going to be one country or else. So I'm not entirely sure he's going to give us a choice.


This ain't your mama's transition

by Tom Sullivan

It's Saturday, so you have some time to dig into two pieces that you may need to weather the storm. Historian Rick Perlstein compares two museums to explain how unprepared America is to confront what lies ahead:

There is a museum at the former site of the GESTAPO headquarters in Berlin. It is searing and frank: a history of the relationship of the Nazi party and the people of Berlin, telling a story of the way ordinary Germans made Hitler’s rise possible. Berliners flock to it. When I visited, the line of people shuffling past the informational panels was three or four deep, everyone meditating on this awful indictment of their grandparents’ generation.

There may be such museums in the United States, but I’ve never seen one. I’m more familiar with museums like the one memorializing the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, where two domestic terrorists who despised the U.S. federal government killed 168 people, including 19 children in daycare. Unlike the museum in Berlin, the Oklahoma City museum is meant to be uplifting: Heroic first responders rush toward the explosion. A doctor performs makeshift surgery with a pocket knife. Around one corner, an authentic pile of rubble betokening the awesome power of the blast. Around the next, a miracle—the Bible that emerged unscathed.

Other sections narrate a thrilling police procedural: the truck axle thrown three blocks clear of the blast, whose miniscule identification number allowed intrepid investigators to uncover where Timothy McVeigh had rented the truck he turned into a bomb. The officer who, in an extraordinary coincidence, pulled over the getaway car because of its missing license plate and apprehended the sullen young man in the “Sic Semper Tyrannis” T-shirt. The arrest, the trial—justice.

Of course, the museum also tells the story of how Oklahoma “came together.” It almost frames bombing as a blessing. “Caring Communities Provide Safe Havens,” one panel read, above a picture of a church.

I saw the word “terrorism” only once, in a self-congratulatory text about how initial suspicions of “Muslim terrorists” were overcome, fair-minded Americans turning their rage on a corn-fed American boy instead: another blessing, this opportunity to prove that America was not racist. There was no mention of right-wing talk-radio host G. Gordon Liddy advising his listeners the previous year to confront agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireams: “Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests.” Or Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolutionaries taking over Congress via rhetoric depicting the federal government as an alien occupying army. Or Jesse Helms informing President Bill Clinton that if he visited North Carolina, he should bring bodyguards.

A political cartoon on display depicted someone asking, “How many hurt?” The answer: “260 million Americans”—the entire U.S. population at the time. The implication, of course, is that no one except four people—one duly executed by lethal injection, another in jail for the rest of his life, a third sentenced to 12 years and a fourth granted immunity—had anything to do with creating the political context of antigovernment rage that made the bombing possible.

This denial is how a childlike nation gets past trauma. It demonstrates how unprepared our nation is for the trauma about to be visited upon it.
Perlstein's point, backed up by election night coverage, is that the natural inclination for Americans and the press is to look for silver linings, to treat things as though nothing out of the ordinary took place, for how we can "come together," and not to confront the dark side. When Trump's promises prove hollow, should his policies lead to "global financial panic and geostrategic chaos," Trump's followers have been primed for whom to blame. It won't be Trump. It will be the national and international consortioum of "quislings in the media. The (Jewish) financiers. The immigrants. The Muslims. The liberals. The 'Republican establishment.' Nasty women."

In her concession speech, Perlstein writes, Hillary Clinton took the Oklahoma City route. Typical boilerplate, nothing to indicate that what is coming will be a "test of our institutions," that what had just happened represents a coming breach of contract with the U.S. Constitution. She attempted instead to calm the waters, to wish her opponent God speed, to keep the markets from tumbling. Perlstein reminds readers, "Traders at the New York Stock Exchange chanted, 'Lock her up.'” This ain't your mama's transition.

Before we start resisting, we had best come to terms with how we got here, something for which Perlstein is not sure we as a people have the constitution. For those who recognize the danger, however, there will be a tendency towards a Ready-Fire-Aim approach.

Right after the election, I took calls from a lot of new volunteers (several registered independent) anxious to do something, anything. When are the protests? (Protesting what was unclear.) One got angry last Saturday after a regular meeting he considered a waste of time. We need to do something NOW, he insisted. We need white boards and strategy meetings and a game plan, etc. (For what was unclear.) Yet there's a party election on Monday fill a seat vacated by a local Democrat who won higher office on November 8. We still have a governor's race unresolved here. Vote counts are still underway and data is incomplete. State Republicans are still scheming for a way Pat McCrory can pull out a win with fewer popular votes the way Trump has. Our county chair responded, "I need to analyze before I can strategize."

To that point, Tina DuPuy has some surprisingly upbeat recommendations for those about to take on the incoming administration. Trump is "a formulaic dictator. There are formulas for getting rid of those." DuPuy, who covered Occupy for The Atlantic, suggests it might be best to start by looking outside the U.S. for people who actually have taken on autocrats and won. (Please, no Occupy, she advises.) Branding is important: "don’t use resistance when you mean rejection," DuPuy writes:
There are tons of protest movements that have won. Everyone who’s terrified of these democratically elected white nationalists being in charge of the largest military in the history of humanity, should get to know the late-90’s Serbian group, Otpor (Serbian for Resistance). When I was at Occupy LA, interviewing an activist, an Otpor handbook fell out of her backpack. For a moment, I thought Occupy was going to be successful because they had a strategy and a blueprint they just weren’t telling us about it yet. I was wrong. Otpor, through non-violent struggle ousted the tyrant Slobodan Milošević, who died in jail while on trial in The Hague for war crimes. They know how to take down monsters. They wrote a handbook. Read it.

We’ve also had incredibly successful social movements in this country. The first one that comes to mind is the Civil Rights Movement. Civil Rights icon John Lewis will still be serving in Congress in Trump’s America. Lewis survived the last time America was “great” and has since made it fairer for all peoples. He’s written what are essentially guidebooks on non-violent struggle. Read them.

The Equal Rights Movement had huge wins for gay marriage, open military service for LGBT Americans and greater legal protections. They’ve won countless battles. How’d they do that? I could write up a report of all the elements that they had and how they won. But you can ask the leaders — many are still with us. Talk to them. Listen to them.
But she offers one way of making "coming together" work:
Most Americans didn’t vote for Trump. We need all of them. We need fair-minded Republicans. We need Establishment Democrats. We need those who’ve pledged to defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. We need activists and community leaders. Trump wants to build walls and tear families apart. We have to build bridges. Mend fences. We, The People, cannot be divided. This means working with people with whom we disagree — even those who vowed to obstruct Obama — even those who enthusiastically bought into right-wing propaganda about Hillary — even those who still lament that Bernie lost — religious leaders — educators — we need them. This is a new world. We’ll never have Monday, November 7th back. People of conscience will have to have their long game in mind or we’ll lose every battle to a septuagenarian with a man crush on Russia’s autocrat Vladimir Putin because Putin once said something nice about him.
That may be a tall order for people still processing their anger and pain. But there is more than an election or a majority to lose here. I'm still looking for where the next few years will take me, us, lest future generations file past informational panels indicting this one.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Night soother

by digby

The most blue state soother you've ever seen. Yoga classes at a cat shelter:

And if you don't like it well, I just don't care.

Dead Zone redux

by digby

No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design. 
The whole system is set up so the president — and only the president — can decide when to launch.
Running this again because ...

The difference there is that General Michael Flynn will be right there whispering in his ear telling him to do it.
Trump's pollster agrees it was the Comey effect

by digby

Trump's pollster and Clinton's pollster talk about the race. Trump's man says that the race came down to four counties in Florida and one in Michigan. Five counties, people.
“When you really drill down on this election, if you change the vote in five counties, four in Florida, one in Michigan, we’d be having a totally opposite conversation right now,” Fabrizio said of the race. “For all the money that was spent, for the all the effort that was made, literally four counties in Florida, one county in Michigan puts us at 261 [electoral] votes and makes Hillary Clinton the president. So, remember that.”

In Michigan, Fabrizio is likely referring to Macomb County, which neighbors Detroit, where Trump beat Clinton by nearly 50,000 votes. The county voted for President Obama twice and was the birthplace of Reagan Democrats. The vote differential here played a huge role in the small 10,000-vote margin by which Trump won Michigan overall.

In Florida, Trump outperformed previous Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Lee County (Fort Myers), Pasco (Dade City), Polk (Bartow), Pinellas (Clearwater) and Volusia (Daytona Beach). These areas are mostly white and older than the rest of Florida and were key in delivering his 1.2 percent margin of victory.

That is not a landslide folks. With Clinton winding up winning between 2.5 and 3 million more votes it's a lucky fluke.

This is even more interesting if totally depressing:
Both men characterized the race as having a measurable degree of movement in the final month and as Benenson put it, Clinton’s campaign was tracking “defectors” from both candidates who had favorability ratings that were underwater.

Fabrizio said that the Trump campaign did not do national polls but rather made aggregates of battleground states.

“One of the things that we saw in the data was that when you looked at the data across all of the states, it was really good for us to get a sense of what was happening writ large,” Fabrizio said. “But there were things that were occurring so frequently in this—we would see our support drop with Republicans ten points in a week after he says something.”

In these instances, the voters would move towards Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or the undecided category. But throughout the process, Fabrizio was certain that those voters would come back because they weren’t ever going to Clinton.

In the final week after FBI director James Comey released a vague letter saying that the agency was examining new emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer, the husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Benenson said that Clinton’s defectors just didn’t come back.

“Ours were coming back after the third debate,” Benenson said of the Clinton defectors. “We had actually solidified our lead for a period of days after that debate. Comey happens on that Friday, eleven days out, and that’s when we see—our defectors leave, their defectors get loyal and that keeps moving and probably in the end tips the balance.”

Fabrizio completely agreed with him and said if one didn’t understand the polling fluctuations, “you’d think the bottom fell out.”

The groups Fabrizio was tracking, specifically “Trump targets”—a cohort which they consistently tried to sway from supporting Johnson and/or Clinton—drastically decreased in the final week after the Comey letter. They all essentially came home.

But Fabrizio said they “held their breath” because just days later Comey cleared Clinton once again. Benenson said that second announcement did not help them either “because it just put it back into the conversation again.”

There are a lot of reasons why this election turned out the way it did. Both candidates were widely loathed by half of a polarized country which made it a difficult sell on both sides. They all knew it would be close and were just trying to keep people from defecting in the last week.

This is where Giuliani delivered for Trump. He was clearly working with the FBI agents in the New York office and Comey either maliciously or stupidly went with the plan. It was timed perfectly and it worked.


President Steve Bannon's speech about der Homeland

by digby

American Nazi rally Madison Square Garden 1939

Trump held a rally last night and he meandered as usual onto talking about himself and his glories and hatreds. But in the midst of all that he also had a prepared speech which he delivered in dribs and drabs.  With the exception of the very last bit, it was obviously written by Steve Bannon.

This was the message:
For too long, Washington has tried to put us in boxes. The separate us by race, by age, by income, by place of birth, and by geography. They spend too much time focusing on what divides us. 
Now is the time to embrace the one thing that truly unites us. You know what that is? America. 
Because when America is unified, nothing is beyond our reach. I mean that. You will see... 
We're going to have a country that is so great, in so many different ways. 
We hear a lot of talk about how we are becoming a "globalized world." But the relationships that people value in this country are local. Family, state, country. They are local.  
We wil compete in the world. We will compete in the world where is a two-way road -- not the one way around. The advantages will come back to our country, and they haven't for many years. 
There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.  
From now on it is going to be: America First. Okay? America first. We're going to put ourselves first.  
We seek peace and harmony with the nations of the world, but that means recognizing the right of every country --including our own-- to look after its citizens. We would put other countries first, we had people running our country that truly did not know what the hell they we're doing.  
[cheers and applause] 
We will defend the American worker... look what has happened right here. They forgot the American worker. They forgot that it was the American worker who truly built our country. We will not forget. 
One of the reasons we are so divided today is because our government has failed to protect the interests of the American workers, and their families, making it too easy for us to see ourselves as distinct groups, and not unified as a whole. We're not unified. We're going to be.  
Washington politicians have spent so long appealing to particular interests, that they have forgotten how to appeal to to the national interests. How to muster the skills and the talents of our people in common cause. And we have unbelievable talent. But that is all about to change.  
Our goal is to strengthen the bonds of trust between citizens, to restore the sense of membership in our shared national community. 
Global is wonderful, but right now we want to focus on our national community.  
Never anyone again will any other interests come before the interest of the American people. It is not going to happen again.  
Over the last two weeks since the victory, I have spoken to many foreign leaders. And I will tell you they have such respect for us. They all tell me how this was amazing, how they sat in their magnificent rooms --the leaders, the prime ministers, the presidents, all of them. How they sat in their magnificent rooms, watching in wonderment, hearing how people came to vote that had not voted in 20 years, people came to vote how have never voted before. And they had Trump shirts on, and 'Make America Great Again' hats, and they thought it was amazing.  
And honestly, one of them told me: I truly respect the United States again because of what happened.
You will come together. We are going to be united. No more dissent. Circle the wagons. The Homeland comes before all. That's white nationalism.

I suppose that might sound like a return to isolationism to some of you. But that's not what it sounds like to me. It sounds like this:

Remember the first America First campaign:

I realize that Hitler comparisons are somewhat overwrought.  Nothing ever happens exactly the same way. But the old George Santayana quote is worth remembering at times like this as well:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I don't know why you would want to watch it, but Trump's Nuremberg Victory rally can be seen here.


The Carrier Con

by digby

I wrote about Trump's latest con for Salon this morning:

On Thursday night President-elect Donald Trump got to do what he loves more than anything for the first time since the election: Bask in the love of his fans. He held a “Thank You” rally in Cincinnati, where he recounted all the highlights of his glorious victory as a sea of followers in red “Make America Great Again” hats cheered and chanted, just like the good old days of last month. It seemed a bit odd, since Trump isn’t running for anything at the moment. But since the networks all carried it live as breaking news one can imagine that this may become the main way — aside from Twitter. of course — that Trump communicates with the country. He certainly isn’t holding press conferences.

This rally came on the heels of Trump’s earlier photo-op in Indianapolis, where he took credit for the Carrier dealengineered by Indiana governor and Vice-president elect Mike Pence, giving the company a $7 million incentive to keep around a thousand jobs in the state. (Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a blistering op-ed in the Washington Post exposing the deal as typical corporate welfare that demonstrates to every CEO how to extort money from the taxpayers — also known as workers.) It turns out that Pence had rejected this same deal back in 2014, but apparently this time Trump persuaded him to change his mind.

In fact, it turns out that Trump didn’t even remember he had made a campaign promise about Carrier. At the Indianapolis event on Thursday morning, he explained that he was watching the news about a week ago and saw a story on the plant:

And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn’t even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving,” and I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier.

And I said, “What’s he saying?” And he was such a believer, and he was such a great guy. He said, “I’ve been with Donald Trump from the beginning, and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.” And I’m saying to myself, “Man.”

And then they played my statement, and I said, “Carrier will never leave.” But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in. Because they made the decision a year and a half ago.

But he believed that that was — and I could understand it. I actually said — I didn’t make it — when they played that, I said, “I did make it, but I didn’t mean it quite that way.”

This is the story he saw:

Carrier a/c became a rallying cry for Trump on the campaign trail. Now employees are counting on him to fulfill his promise. Watch @kevtibs. pic.twitter.com/vS4fgi8Zfg

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) November 15, 2016

In other words, Trump had just been running his usual con game on the campaign trail. But once he saw that story he realized he had a chance for a P.R. win and he took it.

At a panel of campaign operatives on Thursday evening, Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski explained that expecting Trump’s words to have literal meaning is the media’s mistake. The Washington Post reported:

“This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” Lewandowski said. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Those workers at the Carrier plant took Trump literally. And plenty of others did too. Phil Mattingly at CNN spoke with people in Cincinnati yesterday and asked them what they expect. He tweeted the following observations:

For Trump supporters, the Carrier deal is pure validation — and something they are 100% certain can be replicated here and elsewhere. Point out the IN Gov role, or the state incentives in general, or the DOD contracts — doesn’t matter. This is exactly what he said he’d do.

I’ve heard from many of them today, touting the Carrier deal. They don’t know the details. Don’t work in manufacturing. But they are genuinely stunned and excited. “If he can do this before he takes office, just imagine …”

I proceed explain the specifics, the holes in it, the longer term problems it may present — “Dude, stop.” Don’t want to hear it.

And it also sets up an interesting conundrum for the Trump team — expectations among supporters were already high.

Expectations among the “meh” Trump voters weren’t so much. Well, now they are, too.

So how do you deliver for states like OH, or PA, or WI, or MI, when your VP isn’t the governor and there aren’t contracts to threaten?

The answer is that Trump can’t deliver for those states, and he won’t. He’s not a magician or a miracle worker. And no matter what Lewandowski says, there are millions of people who believed that he was going to deliver exactly what he promised.

But then, this is how Trump has always operated, isn’t it? When you think about all the people who trust him to bring back jobs that have been taken over by machines like steel manufacturing, or to revive dying industries like coal mining, it reminds you of his numerous scams over the years in which he promised people wealth and success and ended up stealing their money and crushing their dreams.

Indeed, barely two weeks ago Trump abandoned his longtime vow and settled several lawsuits claiming fraud against his “Trump University.” He was accused of promising thousands of people untold riches if they believed in him and followed his methods for getting rich. Unfortunately, it was a scam, and people were conned out of large sums of money and received nothing worthwhile in return.

Sadly, that’s likely to be the fate of most of those Trump voters who expect him to re-create an imaginary past and make them all prosperous and successful. He said himself that those promises were all “euphemisms,” and he didn’t mean them literally. Trump is now running his biggest con, this time on the entire population of the United States. He has every reason to believe he’ll get away with it. After all, he’s never paid any real price for his behavior before.