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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 23, 2017

 
Don't mess with the Big Money fringe

by digby




Another dissenter bites the dust:
David Magerman says he was in his home office in suburban Philadelphia earlier this month when the phone rang. His boss, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was on the line.

“I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,” Mr. Mercer said. “That’s ridiculous.”

In the prior weeks, Mr. Magerman, a registered Democrat who calls himself a centrist, had complained to colleagues about Mr. Mercer’s role as a prominent booster of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Now word of Mr. Magerman’s criticism had reached Mr. Mercer, co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies LLC, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds.

David Magerman, at home in Merion Station, Pa., is an employee with Renaissance Technologies who has begun speaking out against President Donald Trump, though one of his top bosses, Robert Mercer, is a prominent supporter of the president.

“Those weren’t my exact words,” Mr. Magerman said he told Mr. Mercer, stammering and then explaining his concerns about Mr. Trump’s policy positions, rhetoric and cabinet choices. “If what you’re doing is harming the country then you have to stop.”

Mr. Mercer declined to comment through a spokesman. In a statement, Renaissance’s chairman and founder, Jim Simons, who has been a prominent financial backer of Democrats, said, “I have worked closely with Bob Mercer since he joined our firm almost 25 years ago. While our politics differ dramatically, I have always thought him to be of impeccable character.”

A presidential campaign that divided much of the country also has created tensions within companies. Some senior employees, accustomed to settling grievances behind closed doors, are rebelling in unusually public ways, the polarization playing out for the world to see. Days after the election, a partner at Peter Thiel ’s venture-capital firm, Founders Fund, wrote a blog post expressing fears of a Trump presidency, which Mr. Thiel had worked to promote. A spokesman for the firm declined to comment.

After the November election, Grub Hub Inc., chief executive Matt Maloney seemingly suggested in an email to staff that employees who supported Mr. Trump should resign, citing the “hateful politics” of the new president. He later said the message had been misconstrued.

Historically, some leaders of Renaissance, which is based on Long Island, N.Y., have leaned Democratic, including Mr. Simons, who donated to Hillary Clinton ’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Some Renaissance executives chafed at the unwanted publicity brought to the firm by Mr. Mercer’s activities during the presidential race, according to people close to the matter. In addition to providing crucial financial help when Mr. Trump’s candidacy was lagging, Mr. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah advised the campaign, suggesting the installation of two Mercer family confidantes, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, atop the campaign. Those two now hold senior White House positions.

Until now, however, nobody within the tight-lipped hedge fund has gone public with a grievance.

“His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do,” said Mr. Magerman, 48 years old, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the Dairy Café, a kosher restaurant he owns in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. “Now he’s using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview” by supporting Mr. Trump and encouraging that “government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.”

Mr. Magerman, a 20-year Renaissance veteran who helped design the fund’s trading systems, says he is speaking only for himself, and that there is no sign of a broad insurrection at the firm.

Mr. Magerman makes millions of dollars a year, drives a Tesla and says he gives more than $10 million in charity annually. A research scientist, he is one of 100 partners at the firm, but he isn’t one of Renaissance’s most senior executives.

“I’d like to think I’m speaking out in a way that won’t risk my job, but it’s very possible they could fire me,” he said. “My wife isn’t comfortable with me jeopardizing my job, but she realizes it’s my prerogative and agrees with my sentiments.”

He has concluded that every new piece of code he developed for Renaissance helped Mr. Mercer make more money and gave him greater ability to influence the country.

To try to counteract his boss’s activities, Mr. Magerman says he has been in touch with local Democratic leaders and plans to make major contributions to the party. He says he called Planned Parenthood to offer his assistance and contacted Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, to voice his concerns about Ms. Conway and Mr. Bannon. He says he failed to reach Mr. Kushner. 
Mr. Magerman says he first spoke with Mr. Mercer in January, when Mr. Magerman, who donates to local schools, called Mr. Mercer to ask for the opportunity to reach out to Rebekah Mercer to offer the administration help on education policy.

During the call, they talked politics, disagreeing about some of the administration’s early steps. After airing his concerns with others at the company, Mr. Magerman received the second call from Mr. Mercer two weeks ago.

The conversation grew strained. After telling Mr. Mercer to stop harming the country, he said Mr. Mercer responded that his goal had been to defeat Mrs. Clinton and that he wouldn’t remain very involved in politics.

“How can you say you’re not involved?” Mr. Magerman said, citing an outside group Rebekah Mercer was involved in that was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Magerman has one idea that would reduce the power of people like Mr. Mercer. He said he was thinking about reaching out to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to craft proposals to reduce speculative trading, which presumably would curtail Renaissance’s profits.

In conversation at his cafe, Mr. Magerman said he hoped his public statements wouldn’t cost him his job. But if he does get fired, he said, he would have more time to devote to politics and other causes.

“This is my life’s work—I ran a group that wrote the trading system they still use,” he said. “But I feel relieved I’m now doing something, and if they fire me, maybe it’s for the best.”

On Thursday morning, after an online version of this story appeared, Mr. Magerman received a new phone call from Renaissance. A representative told Mr. Magerman that he was being suspended without pay and no longer could have contact with the company.

 As I wrote about for Salon a few months ago, Robert Mercer is another full-fledged nutcase and so is his daughter. 
He may be a genius with computers and financial data, but when it comes to politics Mercer more closely resembles tinfoil-hat conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones. Indeed, it’s hard to find a fringe scientific theory he hasn’t thrown money at, from climate change denial to conferences that feature speakers presenting “evidence” that HIV does not cause AIDS and the disease is an elaborate government cover-up of the health risks of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

He’s also put a lot of money into groups promoting far-right economic theories, including the weird idea that “fractional reserve banking,” which is something banks have always done — lending their depositors’ money to others— is a massive fraud. He is also a huge proponent of returning to the gold standard, of course.

These are just the tips of Mercer’s icebergs of weirdness. Looking at the long list of crazy stuff he’s involved with, it seems that Mercer believes everything he reads or hears from right-wing kooks — and that con men and grifters can see him coming a mile away. Indeed, the Mercers seem to be financing pretty much every far-right fringe organization and wacky theorist in America, with causes including white nationalism, climate denial and quack medicine. So naturally they are major backers of our new fringe president-elect.

I had heard they were being frozen out of the inner circle, but who knows?

.
 
All them furriners look alike

by digby



He was just making America great again ...












This is horrifying. And at this writing, I haven't seen any national press:
A 51-year-old Olathe man was charged Thursday in a Wednesday night shooting at an Olathe bar that left one man dead and two others wounded.

Adam Purinton was drinking at a bar in an Applebee’s in Clinton, Mo., when he was arrested early Thursday, about five hours after the shooting, police said.

The Star has learned that charges were filed early Thursday afternoon.

Johnson County prosecutors would not confirm that, but said they would make a formal announcement at a press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon with Olathe police and the FBI at Olathe Police Headquarters.

Purinton, a Navy veteran, was booked into the Henry County Jail. After the charges were filed, Purinton appeared before a judge in Henry County and waived his right to fight extradition.

It was not known how soon he would be returned to Johnson County.

Purinton allegedly told a bartender in Clinton that he had killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.

He reportedly told the bartender that he needed a place to hide out.

Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said that a bartender called police after the man talked about being involved in a shooting.

Clinton officers responded and took him into custody without incident. Lynch said the man was not armed when he was arrested.

At least one witness reportedly heard the suspect yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting men he thought were Middle Eastern. Both men, engineers at Garmin, appear to be originally from India.

The Star’s account of the 7:15 p.m. shooting Wednesday at Austins Bar and Grill in south Olathe near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road comes from law enforcement officials and witnesses at the scene.

The shooting left one man dead and two others injured.
He wasn't Muslim, thank God or we'd have to be very, very worried about our safety in this country. Thank God he was just a Real American with some problems who watched too much Fox News and Donald Trump. No big deal.

.


 
Trump Stops START (because he's an idiot)

by digby




















Hey happy days. Trump reiterated today that he plans to start another nuclear arms race.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the "top of the pack," saying the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

In a Reuters interview, Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea "very easily if they want to," ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang's increasingly bellicose actions.

In his first comments about the U.S. nuclear arsenal since taking office on Jan. 20, Trump said the United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity."

“I am the first one that would like to see everybody - nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack," Trump said.

The new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, between the U.S. and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.

The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons, and contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons.

Analysts have questioned whether Trump wants to abrogate New START or would begin deploying other warheads.

In the interview, Trump called New START "a one-sided deal.

"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran deal ... We're going to start making good deals," he said.

I suspect Russia won't be too upset about this. President Putin already pulled out of one nuclear agreement. He's with the program.

As this piece by Jeet Heer in the New Republic from last December points out, Trump has long seen an alliance with Russia on nuclear dominance but, as usual, he's an ignorant fool about the reality:
[G]oing back to at least 1987, Trump has believed that it is in America’s best interest to join forces with the Soviet Union to fight emerging powers. In a recently resurfaced interview from 1987 with Ron Rosenbaum, Trump laid out the case for the world’s two major superpowers to work as a team. “Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump told Rosenbaum. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries.” Trump then suggested that Pakistan, which at that point didn’t have nuclear weapons, could be prevented from doing so by the U.S. and Soviet Union’s “powers of retaliation.”

“You think Pakistan would just fold?” Rosenbaum asked. “We wouldn’t have to offer them anything in return?” Trump’s response was a chilling summary of how he thinks nuclear non-proliferation would work: “Maybe we should offer them something. I’m saying you start off as nicely as possible. You apply as much pressure as necessary until you achieve the goal. You start off telling them, ‘Let’s get rid of it.’ If that doesn’t work you then start cutting off aid. And more aid and then more. You do whatever is necessary so these people will have riots in the street, so they can’t get water. So they can’t get Band-Aids, so they can’t get food. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to do it—the people, the riots.”

Provoking instability and riots in countries that are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons is a risky policy, especially if it is done with the stated goal of keeping America and Russia in a position to “dominate” the non-nuclear countries. For one thing, such a policy would create an incentive for non-nuclear powers to join the nuclear club as quickly as possible, so that they won’t be destabilized. Further, destabilizing a nation like Iran (surely one of the potential targets for such a policy) would inevitably create safe havens for terrorist groups and generate refugee crises, as we’ve seen with George W. Bush’s Iraq adventure.

Much has changed since 1987. The Soviet Union is no more, and its successor state, Russia, is a diminished global power. But Trump’s vision of the world has remained strikingly static. In the ’80s, as now, he sees the U.S. and Russia as status quo powers beset by turbulent upstart nations, and thus, as having essentially similar goals. Writing in Quartz, the journalist Sarah Kendzior argued such a friendship could lead to “the new mutually assured destruction: the two states with the most nuclear weapons in the world, both backed by authoritarian leaders, may be partnering against as-yet unknown shared enemies.”

A U.S.-Russian alliance, with both nations building up their nuclear stockpiles and intimidating emerging powers, has a certain superficial coherence. But in practice, it would be nearly impossible to execute. Putin doesn’t have the same list of major foes as Trump does. In Syria, they do seem to agree about the need to bolster the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad to end the civil war there. But on Iran, Putin supports the nuclear deal that Trump and his team seem eager to challenge, if not rip apart. Since 2014, Putin has worked vigorously to improve Russia’s ties to China, leading to increased trade and military co-operation; Trump is flirting with a trade war with China. While Putin might be happy to work with a more amenable U.S. administration, there’s little reason to think he’s would join an American alliance against China. As a practical matter, Russia’s ambitions are clearly directed towards regaining a sphere of influence in central Europe and the Middle East.

Putin and Trump both dream of their countries dominating the globe, as they did in the Cold War. That might be enough to start them on the road to friendlier relations. An arms race wouldn’t impede that. But in terms of agreeing on global issues, Trump might yet find that working with Russia is a bright idea that quickly runs aground of reality. And if relations sour after an attempted rapprochement, there could be a return to superpower nuclear rivalries. After all, both America and Russia will be building up their arsenals, and if they go back to viewing each other with distrust, then nuclear weapons would be a logical terrain for competition. Trump’s proposed reconcilement with Russia is a genuinely ambitious gambit, but one that could take him down the exact opposite path he is hoping for.

And if it comes down to a mindgame between Trump and Putin, I think I'd have to bet on the ex-KGB agent over the gibbering imbecile. But that's just me.

Some more on what Putin has been up to on this issue, here and here.

.
 
Amerika the beautiful

by digby













He is an ignorant fool so he doesn't know that he' violating he constitution if he's doing that. Surely some lawyers are taking notes.

Via Daily Beast, here's one of those bad dudes he's talking about:
The 26-year-old undocumented woman was in a detention center in Texas when she started complaining of headaches earlier this month.

The pain was caused by a brain tumor and, today, lawyers for the woman who remains in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fear she’ll die there without ever seeing or speaking to her family again.

It’s a scenario that advocates worry could become far more common under President Donald Trump’s new immigration enforcement rules.

According to her legal team, helmed by attorney Marcia Kasdan, the woman — who we will identify as Sara to protect her privacy — was being held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas, when she started complaining of terrible headaches.

In her court testimony, Sara acknowledged that she illegally crossed the border on Nov. 4, 2015, and border patrol agents apprehended her. A sworn statement from Border Patrol agent Roberto Gonzalez Jr. says Sara told him on Nov. 8, 2015 that she came to the U.S. to work, and not to seek asylum.

She told an immigration judge on Jan. 12, 2016, that she actually did come to the U.S. from her native El Salvador seeking asylum, and that she feared her aunt — who she said is gang-affiliated — would kill her because she was in a relationship with a Salvadoran police officer. But Sara missed the deadline to file her asylum claim, so the judge ordered her deportation. Her legal team, which began working with her after she missed that deadline and acknowledges that it was missed, appealed. She has been in detention since then.

Earlier this month, according to her lawyers, Sara’s head started hurting. And on Feb. 10, at the detention center, she collapsed. The detention center staff had her hospitalized at Texas Health Huguley Hospital in Burleson, Texas. And there, according to her lawyers, doctors concluded she had a brain tumor. The lawyers tell The Daily Beast that they expect doctors to perform surgery soon and say Sara told her mother in a 5-minute phone conversation on Feb. 19 that she had been bleeding profusely through her nose, as well as experiencing convulsions and some memory loss.

As of press time, she can’t talk to her lawyers or family. Sara’s lawyers are based in New Jersey, near where some of her extended family lives. They said they’ve also been blocked from speaking to her on the phone because of ICE rules limiting communication with hospitalized detainees––despite what they believe is a situation of medical urgency.

Danielle Bennett, an ICE public affairs officer, provided The Daily Beast with this statement:
“Requests by family members to visit ICE detainees who have been hospitalized are permitted but must be approved in advance with ICE and the appropriate consulate,” she said. “ICE is currently reaching out to the family’s attorney to explain the process.”
With scant information about her health situation, Sara’s family members fear the worst: that she could lose consciousness or die before they can get through ICE’s process.

In hopes of helping Sara, her lawyers asked Fatma Marouf—an attorney who heads Texas A&M’s Immigrant Rights Clinic—to try to gather more information about her health. Marouf told The Daily Beast that she went to Huguley Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, where two guards tried to stop her from entering Sara’s room. The guards told her Sara was on a no-contact list and couldn’t communicate with anyone—period.

Marouf told The Daily Beast that she entered Sara’s room over the guard’s objections.

“They couldn’t physically stop me from talking to her,” Marouf said. “I went over to her and I just said, ‘We want you to know that your family is working to get you out, and there are attorneys working on your case.’”

She then asked Sara how she was doing.

“She just said, ‘My head,’” Marouf said.

Then the guards threatened to call police if Marouf didn’t leave.

“She’s in this critical window right now,” Marouf said. “We don’t know if she’s going to stay conscious.”

Marouf added that along with blocking Sara from speaking with her family and lawyers over the phone, she also hasn’t been allowed to communicate with the hospital chaplain. Sara is a devout Evangelical Christian, according to court documents.

Marouf added that she’s gotten conflicting messages from ICE and the hospital about who specifically is responsible for blocking visits. She said that one ICE official told her it was the hospital’s decision — not the government’s — that kept anyone from seeing her in person or speaking with her on the phone.

ICE didn’t respond to a question about that statement.

Elijah Bruette, the hospital’s director of Business Development and Community Relations, told The Daily Beast, “The health, comfort and privacy of each patient we are entrusted to care for are our top priorities. We do not discuss specific patient information in compliance with HIPAA guidelines.”

Bruette did not respond to a follow-up question about the hospital’s policy regarding undocumented patients’ access to attorneys.

In the meantime, Sara’s family and attorneys say they face a Kafkaesque, bureaucratic nightmare: unsure who has the power to let them speak to her and unsure if she will maintain consciousness long enough to tell them what happened. They say her doctors haven’t spoken to any of Sara’s family members or anyone on her legal team.

Trump’s executive orders on immigration will dramatically expand the number of people facing detention and deportation — including people who haven’t been convicted of any violent crimes, like Sara, and people who have lived in the U.S. for years. Advocates say that means situations like hers will become much more common.

“You are bound to see more cases like this if ICE fulfills the government’s orders and dramatically expands detention,” said Bob Libal, who heads Grassroots Leadership, an activist group based in Austin that opposes immigrant detention and deportation. “You are bound to see more stories where people have suffered these kind of medical tragedies in detention.”


 
"A chaotic attempt at authoritarianism"

by digby






















Non-political staff are quitting and telling their stories. Here's one of them.
In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.

Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens.

I lasted eight days.

When Trump issued a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all Syrian refugees, I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat.

The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.

I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.

He looked at me and said nothing.

It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”

My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.

[...]

The climate in 2016 felt like it did just after 9/11. What made it worse was that this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power. Fifth-grade students at a local Sunday school where I volunteered shared stories of being bullied by classmates and teachers, feeling like they didn’t belong here anymore, and asked if they might get kicked out of this country if Trump won. I was almost hit by a car by a white man laughing as he drove by in a Costco parking lot, and on another occasion was followed out of the metro by a man screaming profanities: “Fuck you! Fuck Islam! Trump will send you back!” While cognizant of the possibility of Trump winning, I hoped a majority of the electorate would never condone such a hateful and divisive worldview.

Then, on election night, I was left in shock.

The morning after the election, we lined up in the West Colonnade as Obama stood in the Rose Garden and called for national unity and a smooth transition. Trump seemed the antithesis of everything we stood for. I felt lost. I could not fully grasp the idea that he would soon be sitting where Obama sat.

I debated whether I should leave my job. Since I was not a political appointee, but a direct hire of the NSC, I had the option to stay. The incoming and now departed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said things like “fear of Muslims is rational.” Some colleagues and community leaders encouraged me to stay, while others expressed concern for my safety. Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump's NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot.

The weeks leading up to the inauguration prepared me and my colleagues for what we thought would come, but not for what actually came. On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion.

The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing. As one staffer serving since the Reagan administration said, “This place has been turned upside down. It’s chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism––legally questionable executive orders, accusations of the press being “fake,” peddling countless lies as “alternative facts,” and assertions by White House surrogates that the president’s national security authority would “not be questioned.”

The entire presidential support structure of nonpartisan national security and legal experts within the White House complex and across federal agencies was being undermined. Decision-making authority was now centralized to a few in the West Wing. Frustration and mistrust developed as some staff felt out of the loop on issues within their purview. There was no structure or clear guidance. Hallways were eerily quiet as key positions and offices responsible for national security or engagement with Americans were left unfilled.Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous.

I might have lasted a little longer. Then came January 30. The executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries caused chaos, without making America any safer. Discrimination that has existed for years at airports was now legitimized, sparking mass protests, while the president railed against the courts for halting his ban. Not only was this discrimination and un-American, the administration’s actions defending the ban threatened the nation’s security and its system of checks and balances.

Alt-right writers, now on the White House staff, have claimed that Islam and the West are at war with each other. Disturbingly, ISIS also makes such claims to justify their attacks, which for the most part target Muslims. The Administration’s plans to revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Muslims and use terms like “radical Islamic terror,” legitimize ISIS propaganda and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism to go unchecked.

Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.

People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true––American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality.

American history is not without stumbles, which have proven that the nation is only made more prosperous and resilient through struggle, compassion and inclusiveness. It’s why my parents came here. It’s why I told my former 5th grade students, who wondered if they still belonged here, that this country would not be great without them.

Read it all. It's very interesting.

I don't ever recall people leaving a new administration and writing stories like this. She's not alone. This CIA officer did the same thing.  

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A shooting war, Mandrake?

by digby




I wrote about the possibility for Salon this morning:


On Wednesday NBC News released a poll reporting that 66 percent of Americans surveyed were worried that the United States will become involved in another war. One might think that’s surprising since President Donald Trump has famously been portrayed as an old-school isolationist, an image mostly based upon his lies about not supporting the Iraq War and his adoption of the pre-World War II isolationist slogan “America First.”

As I laid out for Salon a few weeks ago, that assumption is wrong. Trump is anything but an isolationist. He’s not much on alliances, preferring to strong-arm other nations into supporting the U.S. “for their own good.” But if they are willing to cough up some protection money, he might agree to fulfill our treaty obligations. His adoption of the phrase “America First” reflects his belief that the U.S. must be No. 1, not that it should withdraw from the world.

In other words, while Trump has no interest in perpetuating the global security system under which the world has lived since the dawn of the nuclear age, that’s not because he believes it hasn’t worked. He doesn’t know what it does, how it came to be or why it exists. He simply believes other countries are failing to pay proper respect and he is aiming to make sure they understand that America isn’t just great again; it’s the greatest.

This has nothing to do with American exceptionalism. Trump is happy to admit that American pretenses to moral leadership are hypocritical, and he’s openly contemptuous of anyone who believes that the U.S. should try harder to live up to its ideals. If you want to understand what Trump believes, “to the victor goes the spoils” pretty much covers it. He means it in terms of his family, which continues to merge the presidency into its company brand all over the world, and he means it in terms of the United States, believing that this is the richest and most powerful nation on Earth and we can take whatever we want.

One of his goals is to “defeat ISIS.” And when he says defeat, he means to do whatever it takes to ensure it does not exist anymore. That does seem like a nice idea. After all, ISIS is an antediluvian, authoritarian death cult and the world would be better off without it. The question, of course, has always been how to accomplish such a thing.

Thoughtful people rationally understand that “defeating” radical extremism of any kind isn’t a matter of killing all the people. Indeed, the more extremists you kill, the more extremists you tend to create. But while Trump simply sees the world by playground rules, his consigliere Steve Bannon sees the threat of ISIS as a preordained apocalyptic confrontation between Western countries and the Muslim world. In a notorious speech he gave at the Vatican in 2014, Bannon put it this way:
We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict . . . to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
He has called Trump his “blunt instrument” to bring about this global conflagration. Bannon is now a member of the National Security Council and is said to be running a parallel national security agency called the Strategic Initiatives Group, which he has stacked with kooks who share his views. He is a powerful influence.

Trump has promised to take the gloves off, and I think we all know exactly what he meant by that. He said it many times during the campaign: He favors torture. And he reiterated it just last month in his interview with ABC’s David Muir saying, “When ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”

And Trump went on to grudgingly promise that he would listen to the secretary of defense and hold back on torture if that was his recommendation. But Trump also claimed that he’s talked to people at the highest levels of the intelligence community who told him that torture works like a charm. So we will have to see if the president is really able to restrain himself. (His CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, has been all for it in the past. Maybe they’ll simply decide to leave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis out of the loop.)

But what about Trump’s promises to “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil?” What about Bannon’s desire to bring on WorldWar III? Will that really happen? It might, and sooner than we think.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday:
More American troops may be needed in Syria to speed the campaign against the Islamic State, the top United States commander for the Middle East said on Wednesday.

“I am very concerned about maintaining momentum,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters accompanying him on a trip to the region.

“It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves,” he added. “That’s an option.”
Despite his unfounded reputation for isolationism, it’s obvious that Trump is itching for a war. Responding to a debate question about whether he would follow a military commander’s advice to put troops on the ground, Trump said, “We really have no choice; we have to knock out ISIS. We have to knock the hell out of them.” When asked how many troops he thought might be needed, he replied that the number he had heard was 20,000 to 30,000.

Nobody thought much of Trump’s bluster at the time. But now he’s in the White House with an apocalyptic crackpot whispering in his ear and generals on the ground talking about taking on “a larger burden.” Whether his administration’s military advisers, Defense Secretary Mattis and his newly installed national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, are as eager for this battle remains to be seen. But it appears that the two-thirds of Americans who are worried that we’ll be dragged into another war are anxious for good reason.

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Get ready for a two-thirds cut to EPA personnel

by Gaius Publius


Shiva the Destroyer as the cosmic dancer at CERN. Credit: Kenneth Lu (source; click to enlarge)


We've already seen several indications that EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, will be stripped of its mission — protecting the environment, including the climatic environment — and turned into a profit protection agency instead. At best, as I noted here, EPA would be reduced to a kind of janitor for the fossil fuel giants, "sweeping up after the energy industry's mess-making" as the toxic wastes, perhaps exponentially, increase.

We certainly know that Trump's new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has sued the agency many times to prevent it from doing its legally mandated job. For example, from as late as 2015, via TulsaWorld (my emphasis):
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sues EPA — again

He says the Clean Water rule is illegal and burdensome.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed another lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, this time over the definition of water.

Pruitt’s lawsuit, filed in Tulsa federal court, claims that a new rule promulgated June 29 illegally redefined the “waters of the United States” in a move that he described as executive overreach and flatly contrary to the will of Congress.

Pruitt claims that the EPA’s broad redefinition of long-standing regulatory jurisdiction places virtually all land and water under an untenable regulatory burden, according to a statement released by his office.

Respect for private property rights have allowed our nation to thrive, but with the recently finalized rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry and individual property owners will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound, and often byzantine regulatory regime of the EPA,” Pruitt said in the statement. “I, and many other local, state and national leaders across the country, made clear to the EPA our concerns and opposition to redefining the ‘Waters of the U.S.’
And:
This marks the second lawsuit in as many weeks Pruitt has filed against the EPA in Tulsa federal court. Last week, he asked a federal judge to halt the EPA’s plan to enact new rules designed to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt is also a party to several previous lawsuits challenging the EPA’s regulatory limits.
We're also due to find even more about Scott Pruitt now that literally thousands of emails from his time as Oklahoma Attorney General are starting (thanks to court orders) to be released and analyzed. 

Now that Pruitt is the nation's EPA Administrator, the nation will soon find itself swimming in waste. But via Joe Davidson in a the little-noticed piece at the Post's "Federal Insider" a few weeks ago, we learn that even worse may be in the works. Davidson writes:
Trump transition leader’s goal is two-thirds cut in EPA employees

The red lights are flashing at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The words of Myron Ebell, the former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team, warn employees of a perilous future. Ebell wants the agency to go on a severe diet.

It’s one that would leave many federal employees with hunger pains, and jobless, too.

Ebell has suggested cutting the EPA workforce to 5,000, about a two-thirds reduction, over the next four years. The agency’s budget of $8.1 billion would be sliced in half under his prescription, which he emphasized is his own and not necessarily Trump’s.

“My own personal view is that the EPA would be better served if it were a much leaner organization that had substantial cuts,” he said in an interview. Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a small-government think tank where he pushes the notion of “global warming alarmism” and against the science that says it’s a crisis. He acknowledges cutting 10,000 staffers might not be realistic, yet he sees that as an “aspirational goal. … You’re not going to get Congress to make significant cuts unless you ask for significant cuts.”
The argument, as always, is too much "regulatory overreach"...
One reason he favors such drastic cuts is that what he [Ebell] calls the EPA’s “regulatory overreach” would be much harder “if the agency is a lot smaller.”
...to which one critic of this proposal replied, "slashing staffing makes sense only if a safe environment is no longer important."

I guess for Trump and his wrecking crew, a safe environment (for us) is no longer important.

Get ready to go swimming in waste — and please don't blame Trump voters. We all got us to where we are, and we all have to work to get us all out again. Needless to say, for the resistance to have the largest good effect — and there are several bad ones — it must be as broad as possible.

This really is a crucial point; more on that in a bit.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP



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Labels:


 

Mars ain't the kind of place ...

by Tom Sullivan


Artist’s impression, view from planet orbiting TRAPPIST-1. M. Kornmesser / European Southern Observatory (ESO).

A mere 39 light-years away floats Trappist-1, a star system with seven Earth-sized planets, several in the dwarf star's "habitable zone." That is, at a distance where the surface might sustain liquid water. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. Maybe one of the Trappist-1 planets. Even the Google doodle is jazzed by the announcement in Nature.

The Washington Post:

The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.

[...]

The researchers call these worlds “Earthlike,” though it’s a generous term. The planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system do resemble Earth in terms of size, mass and the energy they receive from their star, but there's a lot that makes our planet livable besides being a warm rock. Further observation is required to determine the composition of the TRAPPIST-1 bodies, if they have atmospheres and if they hold water, methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide — the molecules that scientists consider “biosignatures,” or signs of life.
It's inspiring and hopeful news in a period where U.S. governmental science programs are under the thumb of anti-science throwbacks and the Washington Post feels the need to change its slogan to Democracy Dies in Darkness.

Frankly, that reads like a teaser for Alien: Covenant (4 min. clip here). But I suppose it's better than "In space no one can hear you scream." Which is what it must feel like about now to be a Republican congress-critter at a town hall meeting.




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

 
Toddler Trump

by digby





















Remember. He has the nuclear codes:
President Donald Trump’s former campaign staffers claim they cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets, and they say the current West Wing staff would do well to take note.

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.

"If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable," said former communications director Sam Nunberg. "The same media that our base digests and prefers is going to be the base for his support. I would assume the president would like to see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall."

Staff members had one advantage as they aimed to manage candidate Trump’s media diet: He rarely reads anything online, instead preferring print newspapers — especially his go-to, The New York Times — and reading material his staff brought to his desk. Indeed, his media consumption habits were on full display during his roller-coaster news conference this past Thursday, when he continually remarked on what the media would write “tomorrow,” even as print outlets’ websites already had posted stories about his remarks.

The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Trump is also, however, a near-nonstop consumer of cable news, and his staff’s efforts were not always enough to keep Trump from tweeting on topics that were far from his campaign’s core message. Throughout the campaign, whatever messaging the candidate’s staff had planned was continually accompanied — and often overshadowed — by a string of feuds that played out both on and off Twitter.

But his team believed that its strategies would keep Trump from taking to his preferred social media outlet to escalate his personal or political conflicts.

For example, when Trump engaged in a Twitter war with Khizr Khan, the father of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier in Iraq, the team set up a meeting with Gold Star Mothers of Florida and made sure to plant the story in conservative media. Breitbart also wrote stories about Khan's relationships with the Democratic Party. "We made sure that conservative media was aware of it, they connected the echo chamber," the former official said.

I get that this sort of thing would happen in monarchies. The idiot son inherits and you're sort of stuck trying to keep the country together by managing him. But this is a mature democracy. Supposedly.

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Heckuva job Trumpie

by digby

I know it's cheap to keep posting poll numbers, but seeing them is one of the few ways I reassure myself that I'm not crazy. I suspect a few of you may feel the same way:

TRUMP SLUMPS AS AMERICAN VOTERS DISAPPROVE 55% – 38%
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY NATIONAL POLL FINDS;

VOTERS TRUST MEDIA, COURTS MORE THAN PRESIDENT

American voters today give President Donald Trump a negative 38 – 55 percent job approval rating, his worst net score since he took office, down from a negative 42 – 51 percent approval rating in a February 7 Quinnipiac University national poll.

President Trump’s negative scores are 36 – 59 percent among women and 41 – 50 percent among men, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. Republicans approve 83 – 10 percent, while negative approval ratings are 5 – 91 percent among Democrats and 38 – 55 percent among independent voters.
Trump gets a negative 39 – 55 percent favorability rating, also his worst net score since taking office. 
Vice President Mike Pence gets a split 41 – 40 percent favorability.

Opinions on most of Trump’s personal qualities also are negative, as American voters say:

 55 – 40 percent that he is not honest;

 55 – 42 percent that he does not have good leadership skills;

 53 – 44 percent that he does not care about average Americans;

 63 – 33 percent that he is not level-headed;

 64 – 32 percent that he is a strong person

 58 – 38 percent that he is intelligent;

 60 – 37 percent that he does not share their values.

Trump is doing more to unite the country, 36 percent of American voters say, while 58 percent say he is doing more to divide the nation.

“President Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking like a rock,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level headedness and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows.

“This is a terrible survey one month in.”

It's a terrible presidency one month in.

But who in their right mind ever thought this cretinous carnival barker  could be a president?  We'll be scratching our heads over that one for centuries. If we survive.

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Even the centrists are sounding the alarm

by digby

"Unparalleled in its meanness ...."
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement in response to guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security to implement the president’s executive order on immigration.

“The guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security creates an unprecedented situation for undocumented immigrants living, working and paying taxes in the United States, as well as Homeland Security, which is now charged with picking up otherwise law-abiding people in their homes and places of work.

“Up until this point, the priority for removal has been dangerous criminals. But under this new guidance, 11 million undocumented immigrants are now priorities for deportation. This is simply unparalleled in its meanness, scope and most likely its enforceability.

“The solution that will prevent the separation of families is passing our bill to repeal President Trump’s executive order, introduced last week by Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto from Nevada.”

He's giving his voters what they want. It's the main reason they voted for him and he knows it:



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To the right of Scalia

by digby






That's Ian Millhiser's analysis of the man who will almost certainly become our next Supreme Court justice. He lays out the particulars in this article in alarming detail. He's not a Scalia clone it turns out. He's a Thomas clone, which is worse.

Here's the conclusion:

So let’s take stock one more time of what we know about Judge Gorsuch.

We know that he embraces the same theory of constitutional interpretation touted by conservative Justices Scalia and Thomas.

We know that Gorsuch votes as a staunch social conservative, siding against women seeking birth control and against Planned Parenthood. He is all but certain to be a vote against Roe v. Wade. 
We know that Gorsuch is inclined to overrule Chevron, a decision that would drastically weaken agencies like the EPA and consolidate power within the judiciary at the very moment when Republicans are about to seize control over the courts.

We know that, when confronted with issues that divide Scalia and Thomas, Gorsuch appears to land to Scalia’s right.

This evidence suggests that Gorsuch may vote consistently with Justice Thomas if confirmed to the Supreme Court. At the very least, senators should know whether Gorsuch shares’ Thomas’ views about matters such as child labor laws before they vote on Gorsuch’s nomination.
Now this is how you move the court right. You pick someone who is even more extreme than the far right extremist he's replacing.  I shudder to think who they would choose to replace Thomas.

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When it comes to making big bucks, our president is all "do as I say, not as I do."

by digby




















I, for one, am shocked. Shocked!
Donald J. Trump has cast himself as the anti-globalist president.

But Donald Trump, the businessman, is a different story.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump’s organization continued to file dozens of new trademarks, in China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Indonesia, and one of his companies applied for trademark protection in the Philippines more than a month after the election, a review of foreign records by The New York Times showed.

His trademarks in recent years have covered all manner of potential products, including soap and perfume in India, engineering services in Brunei and vodka in Israel. Even last week, the government in China, where his companies have filed for at least 126 trademarks since 2005, announced it was granting Mr. Trump rights to protect his name brand for construction projects, affirming a decision made in November.

The contrast with his hard-line anti-globalism since taking office is stark. During his first weeks as president, Mr. Trump denounced China and Mexico for unfair trade practices and derided the European Union as “basically a vehicle for Germany.” He ended American involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sprawling trade pact with Asian nations, and said he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Trump seems to be the archetypal businessman with mercantilist instincts,” Dani Rodrik, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, said in an email. “‘Open your market for me to do business in it, but you can have access to mine only on my terms.’”

The trademarks are the natural outgrowth of a global-spanning strategy. Like any businessman, Mr. Trump has long sought to protect his brand and products legally with trademarks, whether by registering a board game he once tried to sell, slogans like “Make America Great Again” or simply the name “Trump.”

But the trail of trademarks offers further clues to his international business ties, which leave the president vulnerable to potential conflicts of interest, or at least perception challenges. The Chinese government’s trademark announcement last week came just days after Mr. Trump retreated from challenging China’s policy on Taiwan in a call with China’s president, Xi Jinping.

The Times review of nine databases identified nearly 400 foreign trademarks registered to Trump companies since 2000 in 28 countries, among them New Zealand, Egypt and Russia, as well as the European Union. There are most likely many more trademarks, because there is no central repository of all trademarks from every country. The Trump Organization has been filing trademarks for decades, and has said that it has taken out trademarks in more than 80 countries.

I hate to do this because it's so tediously common, but I can't help it in this case. Just imagine if anyone but Trump were in this position. It's mind-boggling that he can get away with this. He is corrupt. It is obvious. And his kids are carrying out his corrupt kleptocratic agenda on his behalf as he clearly does what's necessary on the inside of the oval office.

I can't even believe we're talking about this.

Here's a random collection of headlines I gathered on google in two minutes:

Trump's Sons Heading To Dubai As Business Interests Continue To Expand Overseas

Eric Trump's Business Trip To Uruguay Might Cost US Taxpayers Almost $100k

Trump sons will fly into Vancouver for posh, private opening of tower

American Tax Dollars Are Already Helping Trump Make Money


Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle is a ‘logistical nightmare’ — at taxpayer expense


Politics is all dirty, we know that. And we know that all the politicians are corrupt on one level or another because of it.But this is something else, people. It's not normal. And those who are insisting that some of us are being hysterical because Obama-Clinton-Kerry etc are just as bad are simply refusing to see hat's in front of their faces. This is next level and it's extremely dangerous.

Let's see what happens when one of Trump's properties gets attacked. He's already convinced of "l'etat c;est moi."

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American Carnage in his pants


by digby





I wrote about Trump's feral instinct to pretend it's 2009 and then take credit for the recovery for Salon this morning:


As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country; you see what’s going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea — we’ll take care of it, folks; we’re going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.
Donald Trump, Feb. 17

That’s not quite as evocative as the president’s doomsday inaugural “American Carnage” address, but it may be more effective in the long run. Trump is ignorant in most ways a president should be smart, but he does have an unerring instinct for hype. One of his favorite tall tales is the miraculous “comeback” story. You’ve heard him endlessly recount the tedious details of his Great Campaign in which nobody said he could get the nomination and yet he defied the odds and vanquished 16 men, Carly Fiorina and one Crooked Hillary, ultimately winning a historic landslide of epic proportions. No, it wasn’t historic and it wasn’t epic and it wasn’t a landslide, but that’s part of the myth Trump has created for himself: He only wins big.

The point is that he’s making himself out to be a hero who can defy tremendous odds to fight back and win. That’s why he insists that he inherited a terrible mess that will take a heroic effort to turn around, and he’s the only guy who can do it.

The country he describes is actually very familiar. The economy is terrible, millions of people are going bankrupt and losing their jobs, their homes and their health care. People who have saved for decades have seen their retirement funds shrunk to nothing in the stock market crash, while Wall Street Masters of the Universe collect millions and tell everyone they are simply “too big to fail.” Major industries are on the verge of collapse. Banks are closing all over the country.

Tens of thousands of troops are still stationed overseas in a war that seems to never end. Terrorist bombings are happening all over the world and nobody knows when the next one is going to hit close to home. Even natural disasters are catastrophic, taking out whole American cities and seeming to portend more of the same as the climate changes and nobody knows what to do about it. The future seems bleak indeed.

We all know that country. It was America in 2009. It was the mess our last president inherited, not this one. (If you need a little refresher course on how bad the employment situation was during the Great Recession, you can read all about it in this recap from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) It was the worst economic recession in the lifetime of anyone under the age of 70 and it came on the heels of a period of tremendous fear and anxiety after 9/11 and the debacle of the Iraq war.

Now that was a real mess.

To be sure, the recovery has been a long, uneven slog and many people are still reeling. There are long-term economic trends that have hit some communities very hard for decades and the Great Recession exacerbated their suffering. And much of the gains have gone to the upper 1 percent.


But millions more people have jobs, homes and health care today than they did eight years ago. That is just a fact. The idea that Donald Trump is facing an emergency of that magnitude, even among many of those white working-class folks who remain underemployed and insecure is ridiculous. We were on the verge of another global Great Depression. Now we’re not.

As I pointed out before the election last September, whoever won was going to have the economic wind at his or her back, which is a lucky thing for any president. I quoted economist Jared Bernstein writing in the Washington Post that “poverty fell sharply, middle-class incomes rose steeply, and more people had health coverage” in 2015, which meant that many of those who had been left behind by the recovery were starting to see the benefits. But there is often an emotional hangover after a deep economic crisis that takes some time to dissipate; even when things have improved people still feel anxious for some time afterwards.

One suspects Trump understood from the beginning that the economy was rebounding. But in order to take advantage of his reputation as a wealthy businessman he needed to pump up those feelings of anxiety so that he could take credit for the upturn once in office. The dystopian hellscape that he describes today will quickly give way to Morning in America for his followers. And he doesn’t have to do anything.

This is lucky for him, since Trump doesn’t have a clue about what a president has to do in a real crisis, and doesn’t have the temperament or skills to do it anyway. As Jonathan Cohn wrote in this piece for Huffington Post on Tuesday, as much as Trump and his minions insist that his has been a historically successful first month, it’s actually been nothing more than endless gaffes, scandals and flashy edicts that are far less substantial than the sweeping and complicated legislation President Obama ushered through Congress in the same period.

Cohn relates Trump’s attitude toward the hard work of creating policy:
During the presidential campaign, Trump mocked Hillary Clinton for her wonkishness: “She’s got people that sit in cubicles writing policy all day,” he said during one interview. “It’s just a waste of paper.” At one point, Trump’s own policy advisers quit because nobody was paying them or taking them seriously.
That’s appalling. But unless Trump’s GOP colleagues in the Congress muck things up badly by repealing the Affordable Care Act or making such drastic cuts that employment falters, he doesn’t really have to do much. He can just tweet about saving some manufacturing jobs that CEOs are happy to pretend he personally negotiated, and his followers will be happy to give him credit for “saving” an economy that was already on the upswing.

There is one problem with his cunning plan, however. If a healthy economic environment requires the confidence of the people that their future looks bright, then this growth may just come to a screeching halt. The “carnage” he likes to describe may not exist today. But millions of people are frightened to death that the nightmare of Donald Trump may make it very real in the days to come.

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Freistaat Trump?

by Tom Sullivan

It's hard to go a week here in the "newly insane state of North Carolina"* without someone in elected office (as a patient in D.C. puts is) seeing somebody in court over something. Since the NCGOP took state government by the throat in 2013, that something has frequently involved matters Republicans euphemistically refer to as "election integrity," known in less deranged climes as voter suppression.

With Democrat Roy Cooper in the governor's mansion and Democrat Josh Stein as Cooper's replacement as NC attorney general, power in Raleigh has shifted somewhat. How much will depend on what courts do with the legal messes left over from One-term Pat McCrory's tenure.

Yesterday afternoon, Stein tweeted:

In his final days in office, McCrory had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal of the case it lost in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last July. The point here is for the new Democratic electeds to pull the plug on the appeal of the Republican voter suppression law before a new Justice Gorsuch turns a 4-4 Supreme Court into a 5-4 conservative one. Withdrawing the appeal would allow the lower court ruling to stand. As Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog notes, Stein's pointing out the potential for saving NC taxpayers up to $12 million in attorney’s fees for dropping the case is a nice touch. Plaintiffs included the League of Women Voters, individual plaintiffs, and the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.

Not so fast, say Republicans. A spokeswoman for Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger claims Cooper and Stein cannot fire the attorneys for the state:

"Roy Cooper’s and Josh Stein’s desperate and politically motivated stunt to derail North Carolina’s voter ID law is not only illegal, it also raises serious questions about whether they’ve allowed their own personal and political prejudices and conflicts of interest to cloud their professional judgment," Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.
Yes, they really do talk like that, and they legislate in similar tones.

From the Raleigh News and Observer:
Thomas Farr, a Raleigh attorney who has represented the lawmakers for several years in the elections law case, sent a letter to William McKinney, Cooper’s general counsel, arguing that neither the governor nor Stein have the authority to discharge him and others at his firm from the case and that he and others plan to continue in the case.

If the request by Cooper and Stein to withdraw the appeal is granted, the State Board of Elections, its individual members and its executive director will not immediately be withdrawn from the case. They would have to make similar requests.
And thanks to the legislative follies of the special session back in December, who controls the state Board of Elections is still in question. The Republican law restructuring the board has already been to the state Supreme Court. Judges issued an injunction pending a trial on March 7.

Rick Hasen writes, "I’ve gone into the morass before trying to figure out who can control NC litigation in these circumstances and I will have to leave this to NC law gurus." Or maybe to the exorcists?
Some Republican lawmakers have offered amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that would remove a provision prohibiting the state's secession ...
Another amendment "focuses on language stating a citizen owes paramount allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and U.S. government. That proposal would eliminate the reference to the government."

Perhaps the Tar Heel state could rebrand as Freistaat Trump? I hear South Carolina has a lightly used flag it doesn't know what to do with.

(* trademark Charlie Pierce)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

 
Who's on first?

by digby





























Reuters reports:
In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America's "steadfast and enduring" commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.

Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany's ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.

Three people who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

A White House official who checked with Bannon in response to a Reuters query confirmed the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. "They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello," the official said.

The sources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.

In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favourably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who "don't believe in this kind of pan-European Union."

Western Europe, he said at the time, was built on a foundation of "strong nationalist movements", adding: "I think it's what can see us forward".

The encounter unsettled people in the German government, in part because some officials had been holding out hope that Bannon might temper his views once in government and offer a more nuanced message on Europe in private.

One source briefed on the meeting said it had confirmed the view that Germany and its European partners must prepare for a policy of "hostility towards the EU".

A second source expressed concern, based on his contacts with the administration, that there was no appreciation for the EU's role in ensuring peace and prosperity in post-war Europe.

"There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unravelling of the EU would have grave consequences," the source said.

The White House said there was no transcript of the conversation. The sources who had been briefed on it described it as polite and stressed there was no evidence Trump was prepared to go beyond his rhetorical attacks on the EU - he has repeatedly praised Britain's decision to leave - and take concrete steps to destabilise the bloc.

But anxiety over the White House stance led French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, to issue unusual calls last week for Pence to affirm during his visit to Europe that the U.S. was not aiming to break up the EU.

Pence obliged on Monday in Brussels, pledging strong ties between the United States and the EU, and making clear his message was shared by the president.

"President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership," he said.

But the message did not end the concerns in European capitals.

"We are worried and we should be worried," Thomas Matussek, senior adviser at Flint Global and a former German ambassador to the Britain and the United Nations, told Reuters.

"No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington. But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it's the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU."

Everyone knows that Pence is not as important as Bannon. That was proven when they all sat there and let Pence go on TV and lie for Flynn. (That's assuming Pence didn't know, in which case he's just as untrustworthy as Trump and Bannon.)

So, there is a credibility gap with this White House the size of the Grand Canyon and it's getting bigger. Nobody knows who speaks for the administration, not even the president. Everyone is assumed to be liars because they lie constantly.

Steve Bannon is an unqualified, white nationalist lunatic who has no more business being at the highest level of the US Government than Justin Bieber does. Yet he's speaking to foreign leaders and apparently saying whatever he wants to say.

Yeah, this is normal.


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Get ready for some next level stupid

by digby


And that's saying something these days:




Right Wing Watch has the story:

Furious about national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation, Alex Jones posted a video commentary this morning warning about the threats President Trump is facing from what Jones described as a demonic conspiracy out to destroy him.

While railing against a Foreign Policy article (which he misattributed to Foreign Affairs) about the Russian government’s view of Trump, Jones said that there is a plot to sabotage both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin over their efforts to stop globalism.

Among the plotters, according to Jones, is Barack Obama, whom he accused of living in a “bunker” in Washington, D.C., where Jones believes he is personally directing and “recruiting with [George] Soros an army for a Bolshevik-style revolution.”

He warned that the Foreign Policy article is a sign that globalists are getting ready to “execute really horrible devastation: starting huge wars, setting a nuke off in D.C., anything, talking about ‘time to kill Trump.’”

“There was a coup over America under globalism by stealth, there was a counter-coup with Trump, and they’re launching a counter-counter-coup right now,” Jones said. He added that Trump is trying to “empower humanity” and bring down the demonic systems that secretly run the world.

The article he was probably referring to was this opinion piece in the New York Post:

When former President Barack Obama said he was “heartened” by anti-Trump protests, he was sending a message of approval to his troops. Troops? Yes, Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.

In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.

He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.

And yes, Trump's favorite fake news outlet is ON IT:









I have little doubt that this will become an article of faith on the right within a matter of weeks. And there's nothing unusual in that. But now that we have conspiracy freaks actually running the country it becomes a slightly more important issue. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times reported today:

Way back on Friday, President Donald Trump declared that several news organizations — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times — were “the enemy of the American people.” You know who’s not the enemy, in his book?

Alex Jones.

Jones, in case you aren’t aware, is the conspiracy-theorizing, flame-throwing nationalistic radio and internet star who’s best known for suggesting that Sept. 11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was “completely fake” and that the phony Clinton child-sex trafficking scandal known as Pizzagate warranted serious investigation (which one Facebook fan took upon himself to do, armed with an AR-15).

Jones, 43, has been around for a while. Like every media outfit in the Trump era, his platforms have gotten record traffic and, he told me last week, seen increases in revenue, with ads for water purification systems and for supplements to enhance “brain force” and virility.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.

But he is apparently taking on a new role as occasional information source and validator for the president of the United States, with whom, Jones says, he sometimes speaks on the phone.

Millions of listeners and viewers tune in to Jones on his websites (Infowars chief among them), on Facebook and through old-fashioned radio, and their loyalty partly explains how Trump maintains a hard-core faithful who don’t believe a word they read about him in a newspaper like this one.

His audience, Jones told me, is “the teeth of the Trump organization on the ground — the information-warfare, organic internal resistance.” Sure enough, on Saturday the journalist McKay Coppins of The Atlantic tweeted from Florida, “Spotted at Trump rally: More than one InfoWars t-shirt.”

Where Jones’ content fits in Trump’s broad media diet isn’t clear. White House officials declined to talk about it in detail. (Hey, Mr. President, I’m trying.) But as Trump pushes full steam ahead on his effort to delegitimize U.S. journalism, he is lending credence to a number of out-there Jonesisms, adding yet another “pinch yourself, this is happening” element to our national journey into the upside-down.

You can look no further than Trump’s description of the press as “the enemy of the American people” Friday, which was reminiscent of Jones’ use of the same phrase in 2015, as Jones noted Sunday on Twitter.

Two weeks ago, Trump’s quickly debunked allegation that the news media covered up terrorism by Islamic extremists echoed reports on Infowars, including one headline that blared: “Scandal: Mass Media Covers Up Terrorism to Protect Islam.”

Before that, there was Trump’s false claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, which Infowars had asserted in November and then repeated, giving “oxygen to the lies,” as CNN put it then. Then again, others in the right-leaning internet ecosystem had forwarded the illegal voting report, too.

Jones’ influence could be seen more directly last spring when Trump told a crowd in California that “there is no drought” — oh, yes, there was — and suggested that reports of one were part of a plot to protect a “3-inch fish.” It was very similar to reports in Infowars suggesting the drought was manufactured and promoting the fish theory.

Jones demurred when it came to his influence on Trump, which he said the “MSM” (mainstream media) overstated to undermine the president. “MSM tries to say Alex Jones is an eight-headed kook with all these warts and Trump’s copying everything he says,” Jones told me. “It’s just not true.”

For instance, he said, when he urged Trump to address illegal voting allegations during one phone conversation, “he said, ‘I already know, I’m making a speech in two days.’” (Trump, he said, “was an Infowarrior before I was born.”) Jones said that conversation had taken place earlier in the campaign, not on the phone call immediately after the election that my colleague Maggie Haberman reported on, in which Jones said the president had thanked him for his support. Jones told me that he had spoken with Trump since that call, though an aide to the president, communicating on the condition of anonymity, played down the frequency of their contact.

Either way, Jones is hoping his organization will qualify for a coveted White House press credential. He says it’s not something he’s pining for or needs, but he doesn’t see why Infowars shouldn’t get one when “Trump’s calling CNN fake.”

The White House said it had yet to receive a proper application from Infowars and therefore could not comment on whether it would get one. Jones said the delay might be related to a bureaucratic snag. “They say it’s going to get rectified,” he said.

One ally in his corner is Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and informal adviser to Trump, whose matchmaking brought them together and led to the 2015 Infowars interview during which Trump told Jones that “you have an amazing reputation.”

Stone said in an interview, “They are reaching millions of people, and these people are steadfast and loyal Trump supporters.”

Two of the major internet tracking companies, Quantcast and Alexa, reported that in January Infowars had an average of around 8 million (Quantcast) or 8.7 million (Alexa) global visitors, who viewed its pages nearly 50 million times. As of Sunday, Quantcast ranked its traffic above that of the fact-checking site Politifact.com.

Those numbers miss the audiences for his national radio show and his team’s videos on YouTube, where the biggest of his 18 channels has 1.2 billion views, and on Facebook, where they draw many millions of views. (One, by his editor at large, Paul Joseph Watson, lists 18.1 million views.)

Jones’ growth has astounded those who have followed a progression that began on cable access in Austin, Texas, in the early 1990s, moved to radio and then to the bigger national footprint he began building online.

“When I was first dealing with Alex, he had a staff of three people and was broadcasting his apocalyptic messages from” a spare bedroom “with choo-choo wallpaper,” said the author Jon Ronson, who wrote about Jones in his 2002 book, “Them,” and revisited him in “The Elephant in the Room” last year. “In the summer, he had a staff of between 50 and 75 people in this huge industrial space as big as a mainstream TV network.”

Jones says it’s hardly CNN-size (and, for the record, he says, he believes Sandy Hook may have happened).

Last week, Jones’ conspiracy workshop was busy making the case that the leaks that forced Michael T. Flynn’s resignation as Trump’s national security adviser were part of a “counter coup” by what he has called “criminal, corporate elements inside the CIA” working “ to basically overthrow Trump.”

It’s the sort of message that resonates with his segment of Trump voters because, Jones said, “the public doesn’t have any trust in the system.”

“They believe the social contract is broken,” he continued, “and they’re able to interact with the new diverse pantheon of the internet-based media.” In other words, with people like him.

It makes you wonder: If Watergate had broken in this media environment, would President Richard Nixon have had to resign? Would enough people have believed it?

I put the question to Bob Woodward, who broke that scandal for The Washington Post with Carl Bernstein. He said it would have turned out the same. “The evidence was so strong, because of the tapes — these things turn on the facts,” he said. “It would be: Can you get information and sources and testimony from witnesses and documents that show what happened.”

Given that no alternative reality was strong enough to save Flynn’s job, for instance, I’d have to agree. That said, if you live in Jones’ world, Flynn’s ouster would seem to be the height of injustice, delivered by the news media on behalf of those “criminal, corporate elements inside the CIA.” So, yes, you would see the press as the enemy.