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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

 
Will the Freedom Caucus learn to take yes for an answer?

by digby












I wrote about the coming fight over Obamacare for Salon this morning:

What a difference eight years makes. At this point back in 2008, President-elect Barack Obama was systematically putting together his Cabinet, studying policy briefs and pretty much keeping a low profile as he and his team prepared to take over the most important job in the world. Obama did some interviews and made himself otherwise available to the press from time to time, but there were no victory rallies or abrupt reversals of decades of diplomatic protocols.

As the inauguration grew closer, Obama gathered bipartisan luminaries from both parties to break bread with him, get to know him a little bit and understand his overall strategy. He spent an evening laying out what he called a “grand bargain,” which was described by one attendee, The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne:
The “grand bargain” they are talking about is a mix and match of boldness and prudence. It involves expansive government where necessary, balanced by tough management, unpopular cuts — and, yes, eventually some tax increases. Everyone, they say, will have to give up something. Only such a balance, they argue, will win broad support for what Obama wants to do, and thus make his reforms “sustainable,” the other magic word — meaning that even Republicans, when they eventually get back to power, will choose not to reverse them.
The pillars of the grand bargain were health care reform, “entitlement reform,” tax reform and limits on carbon emissions.

The White House immediately set up a fiscal responsibility summit and the president told his staff that he expected the “difficult choices” that had to be made about Social Security and Medicare to be made on his watch. He reportedly said, “We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road.”

As we know, president George W. Bush’s financial crisis had the world economy in a tailspin, so Job No. 1 was to try to keep it from crashing and burning. The first order of business was an economic rescue package and it was an unexpectedly heavy lift and gained only a handful of Republican votes for a much smaller stimulus than was necessary. Nonetheless, it did pass and managed to provide some breathing room.

The White House and the Democrats spent the next year trying to pass health care reform and managed to do it only with party-line votes and parliamentary maneuvering. The Republicans were not going to help and therefore had no stake in making the program sustainable. Nonetheless, the president persisted in this idea that if Democrats could achieve “balance” by giving the Republicans some of what they wanted, such as cutting “entitlement” programs in exchange for letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, he could get a buy in for his grand bargain.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act angered the Republicans so much that it created the grassroots uprising known as the Tea Party, which propelled the GOP into capturing a majority in the House in the 2010 midterm election. Nonetheless, the president did everything he could to make good on his offer, creating bipartisan commissions to create consensus and repeatedly putting Social Security cuts on the menu in budget negotiations.

The Republican leadership under then House speaker John Boehner knew it was the chance of a lifetime to have Democrats do their dirty work for them — cutting Social Security was the GOP establishment’s dream although their constituents’ nightmare — but they could never get the hard-core Tea Partyers to sign on. They simply refused to accept anything apart from total capitulation, which required that the president agree to all their terms, including the repeal of Obamacare, his signature program. So the president wised up and the proposed Social Security cuts were finally abandoned, much to the relief of most Democrats.

But this fight fueled the Tea Party types with growing hostility against their own party and its political leadership. They did not trust Republican leaders in the House and Senate and refused to believe that more obstructionist tactics wouldn’t force the president and a Democratic Senate to do their bidding. That mistrust flowed into the strong anti-Establishment atmosphere that gave us candidate Donald Trump in 2016.

The logic of President Obama’s grand bargain always seemed dubious. Republicans would never feel any commitment to health care reform just because they got something else they wanted. They don’t think that way. In any case, Obama never got his grand bargain and now the Republicans are strutting about declaring that they will finally fulfill their No. 1 desire immediately after Trump takes taking office in January: repeal of the hated Obamacare.

But it appears that the more things change the more they stay the same. According to Salon’s Sophia Tesfaye, the usual infighting among Republicans is heating up already. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s plan to “repeal and delay” Obamacare on a slow timetable, until they can put together a replacement down the road, isn’t going over very well with the Tea Party’s Freedom Caucus. It seems those members want a repeal accomplished immediately and as usual they refuse to compromise.

Ryan and McConnell are trying to delay for purely cynical political reasons. They want to leverage the possibility that people will lose their health care to force Democrats to the table to sign on to whatever flimsy piece of garbage they come up with to replace the current law. If they can delay the worst elements of this change until after the 2018 midterm elections, and force Democrats to run on their replacement plan, they can get this done without too much political damage. They can read the polls showing that the hostility to Obamacare is dissipating now that they have a Republican president. It turns out that most of their voters really just hated Obama, not his health care law.

Nonetheless, the true believers of the Freedom Caucus and some conservative movement groups like the Koch brothers’ FreedomWorks have lurched into gear demanding that the repeal of Obamacare take place immediately — and thereby setting up another showdown that could end up stopping the repeal altogether. 

It would be an amazing twist of fate if, just as they inadvertently saved Social Security, the Tea Party loyalists ended up thwarting Donald Trump and saving Obamacare because they simply cannot take yes for an answer.

.

 
Climate change in the Age of Trump: A "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions"

by Gaius Publius

Sometimes I really think people don't know what we're in for...


Notice the massive river deltas (blue dots) and other large low-lying areas (purple), including the North China Plain, the Chinese "breadbasket" (source; click to open at full size in a new tab).


We're about to witness a kind of "perfect storm," perhaps in our lifetime — the confluence of soon-to-be out-of-control climate degradation with the perfect person in the perfect place to make that degradation worse, President Donald Trump.

First, on the effect of Trump on military climate policy, from Scientific American (emphasis mine):
The military and intelligence communities may soon turn a blinder eye toward some climate change-related threats, indicated by President-Elect Donald Trump’s recent choices of climate-change skeptics for  national security jobs, along with his own dismissive comments. But though experts say Trump and his team could roll back some recent initiatives, the momentum of bureaucracy, along with a military need to take the long view, mean climate-related plans are unlikely to be abandoned entirely.

The Department of Defense and the intelligence community have long considered climate change a crucial input into national security planning and policy. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said climate “can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict.” The Pentagon calls this a “threat multiplier.”

Yet Trump has tapped retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor, and Flynn has ridiculed the idea that climate change poses any particular threat to the country. Congressman Mike Pompeo (R–KS) has been named to head the CIA, and he has questioned the scientific consensus on climate change and has voted for more oil drilling and against any regulation of carbon emissions. Joshua Busby, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the intersection of climate change and national security, says the appointments mean “some of the gains made by the Pentagon and other executive agencies to prepare for the security consequences of climate change could be undone.”
Anti-climate policy changes at the Pentagon will almost certainly be replicated in NASA via the defunding of its climate science research:
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.

This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.

Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.
Let's set aside the fact that this and similar moves will make the U.S. a pariah among nations. Set aside the consequences of moving, but not quickly enough, to mitigate (lessen) the climate disaster — a likely outcome under Clinton. Consider instead the consequences of moving as aggressively as possible to increase the problem and magnify the disaster.

That's climate change in the Age of Trump — accelerating over the cliff.

The Coming Climate Refugee Crisis — 200 Million and Counting

It's estimated that in the world today there are more than 36 million refugees from climate and other natural disasters, more than for any other cause, including war. Under any president that number would increase, but certainly under Trump it's set to increase to disastrous proportions. Let's start with what the National Geographic thinks would happen anyway: 
The International Red Cross estimates that there are more environmental refugees than political refugees fleeing from wars and other conflicts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 36 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009, the last year such a report was taken. Scientists predict this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050. Some say it could be as high as 200 million.
Two hundred million refugees isn't just a humanitarian crisis; it's a military one as well. This is what Europe looked like when an unchecked mass migration took place in Roman times.




Every border in Europe was politically and ethnically redrawn. 

What you see above took place in roughly 400 years. Imagine a migration of this scale taking place in one tenth the time — in just 30 years, roughly the time between now and the article's mentioned date of 2050.

What If the Estimates Are Too Conservative?

Now consider that no recent reputable climate estimate has been wrong in a conservative direction — wrong because things are moving more slowly than anticipated. Almost nothing in the climate world is moving more slowly than expected. In fact, a great many climate estimates are very wrong in the other direction — because things are moving a whole lot faster than anyone thought they would.

Then consider the Trump Effect, that what would have happened anyway will certainly be made worse by Trump, both by his acceleration of the cause (CO2 and methane emissions) and by his armed and deadly reaction to its results.

With that in mind, let's look again at that perfect refugee storm we've been talking about.

First, consider the population-size estimate. The National Geographic article mentions up to 200 million refugees. The nation of Bangladesh alone holds 158 million people. Most of its land will be quickly under water or be threatened by water under any significant sea level rise (see map above). Where will they go? India is already planning to keep them out. And that's just one small region. The entire world holds a human population of 7.5 billion and many similar low-lying regions and large deltas.

So, what if the estimates above are too conservative? An world environmental refugee population of 200 million in 35 years seems like a lot, but it's really only 2.5% of world population. Climate threatens far more people than that. If 150 million in just Bangladesh are panicked and trying to escape, they alone would account for most of that total.

What if not just 2.5% of world population, but 10% or 20% of world population fell into environmental refugee status? We're now looking at 700 million to 1.5 billion people, not just fleeing, but starving, fighting and dying as well. In other words, utter world chaos of every type imaginable. It would in fact be far worse than the migrations through Europe pictured above, and not just because of the time compression. People didn't mass-migrate into Europe from the east during Roman times because they were dying at home and bringing epidemia with them. The mass migration pictured above involved people who were, in the main, healthy.

Next, consider the time estimate. Nothing says this crisis has to be linear, with a relatively slow and steady ramp-up to the (totally arbitrarily chosen) year of 2050. Donald Trump will be president (one presumes) through 2020. Collapses often happen very quickly. What if the bottom falls out between now and, say, 2024, perhaps while he's still in office, then picks up speed? A world refugee crisis that blows up in the next 10 years compresses the time scale to an impossible-to-deal-with degree, yet anyone still alive in the next ten years or so might watch it. The Trump Effect.

As I said above, climate change in the Age of Trump could be a perfect storm, a disaster in which no way to make it worse goes unexplored.

The One Road Out

Interestingly, from that horrific possibility comes the route away, the one road home. Imagine what would happen, in this pre-revolutionary country, if Trump doubles down on this, in North Dakota?
'People Are Going to Die': Father of Wounded DAPL Activist Sophia Wilansky Speaks Out

Is devastating policy brutality against water protectors in North Dakota a harbinger of what's to come when Donald Trump takes office?

Sunday's brutal police assault against peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline activists left one water protector, Sophia Wilansky, at risk of losing an arm, and her distraught father spoke out Tuesday and Wednesday against the shocking show of force and demanded government action.

Wayne Wilansky, a 61-year-old lawyer and yoga teacher from New York City, spoke to a reporter in a Facebook live feed about his daughter's devastating injury, allegedly caused by a concussion grenade.

"This is the wound of someone who's a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war," Wayne said. "It's not supposed to be a war. She's peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they're trying to kill her."

Most of the muscle tissue between Sophia's left elbow and wrist as well as two major arteries were completely destroyed, Wayne said, and doctors pulled shrapnel out of the wound.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department has denied using concussion grenades or any equipment that could cause an injury like Sophia's, despite witness accounts and the shrapnel recovered by surgeons from Sophia's arm. [Note: There's video of recovered cannisters.]

The police in Morton County, North Dakota are acting with such brutality, Wayne warned, that eventually "people are going to die."
"Eventually, people are going to die." And then what? The murder of more non-violent protesters as people gather in response? Before the 2008 economic crisis, this would not have occurred. But after that crisis, with nearly everyone in the country in revolt (remember, they elected Trump and nearly elected Sanders), I don't see either side standing down.

This is the rolling civil war I talked about, something the nation's leaders seem determined to push people into. It would be a terrible way to settle the nation's economic disputes, but when it comes to racial murder or climate justice for all succeeding generations, I'm not sure I see the alternative, sad as it is to say that.

Stay tuned.

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

GP




 

Forward together now

by Tom Sullivan


Photo via HKonJ People's Assembly Coalition..

There is a certain kind of activist for whom if you are not giving your full attention to whatever issue they think is most important at whatever time they they think you ought to — no matter whatever else is on your plate or on your mind — no further evidence is required (or desired) to prove you are not a real progressive, hopelessly corrupt, and probably incompetent. Such people cannot be placated and are a time suck. Avoid them.

I thought about that again yesterday minutes before running across Nancy LeTorneau's post about what it takes to sustain an opposition movement. Part of the problem, I contend, is what I just wrote. Another part is voters pay more attention to anger and opposition than to sustained change. For example, while Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2016, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost. Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen credits the Rev. William Barber's Moral Monday movement for bringing him down. McCrory entered office in January 2013 looking like a moderate. He governed as an extremist:

But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.
But part of the problem with sustaining such a victory is getting it noticed (and remembered). LeTourneau elaborates:
The truth is that American voters tend to resonate with a message of opposition more than they do to a message of sustained change. That is not necessarily a unique insight. We’ve known for a while that anger mobilizes more effectively than anything else. And Mario Cuomo captured something important when he said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” The prose of governing doesn’t tend to sell as well to the public as the anger of opposition.
The country is aware (if only vaguely) of the protests surrounding the Dakota access pipeline. LeTorneau continues:
What has gone almost unnoticed are the promises kept by President Obama to Native Americans over his two terms in office. I chronicled them here when he announced that he would restore Mount Denali’s original name. Even before work was completed on the settlement of over 100 claims by various tribes for $3.3 billion, Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker named Obama “the best president for Indian Country in the history of the United States.” For the most part, that story has not been told.
If we are to sustain progress, we had best spend more time broadcasting our victories before grousing about what's left undone. Trump is not even in office yet and gets credit for the Carrier deal. Whatever its flaws, people will remember it as a success: his. As a friend reminded me, President George W. Bush sent every taxpayer a rebate within months of taking office. Not only that, as I recall, Bush sent mail to the entire country in advance of the actual rebate to tell people a second letter would soon follow with "their money" enclosed. Your "small government" tax dollars at work. At work making sure nobody missed what he had just done. And guess what? I still remember a decade and a half later.

Part of what makes Moral Mondays successful is that it is a nonpartisan, "fusion politics" movement, a populist coalition in which a host of issues move "Forward Together," as the movement's name suggests, and no one's pet issue takes precedence. Don't expect Moral Mondays to go away because Pat McCrory did. Newer and bluer oranger Meanies have been sighted in the vicinity of the nation's capitol. Barber's is a successful template for taking them on.

Barber's next annual HKonJ rally (Historic Thousands on Jones Street, site of the NC legislature in Raleigh) is scheduled tentatively for February 11, 2017. When last I attended, local papers claimed 80,000 were in the streets. And that was just to protest Pat McCrory. Next year's march should be yoooge.

All together now ...




Tuesday, December 06, 2016

 
The comedians are here to help you

by digby

















For those of you who cannot bring yourselves to watch cable news anymore (and I know there are legions, myself included) Seth Myers nightly recap is very useful. Here's last night's:



Also too Sam Bee:





I am finding this to be a good way to catch up without bursting into tears or throwing something at the wall. I'm thankful for the funny people right now. They are sorely needed.
 
Comey is not an honest broker

by digby
















Scott Lemieux ably rebuts an article which suggests that Democrats should want to keep James Comey as head of the FBI because he's been buffeted by both sides which makes him an honest broker. Or something. It's total nonsense.

Lemieux writes:

Ah yes, the core of many such arguments: IF YOU’RE CATCHING FLAK FROM BOTH SIDES, YOU MUST BE OVER THE TARGET! The fatal problems with this defense are that 1)Comey engaged in multiple instances of utterly indefensible behavior that had disastrous consequences and 2)Republicans have absolutely nothing to complain about. Let’s summarize the reasons that Republicans criticized Comey: 
  • He did not indict Hillary Clinton over EMAILS!
  • He issued a letter two days before Election Day indicating that the investigation he had restarted into Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! very predictably did not yield any relevant new information about the trivial pseudoscandal being investigated. 
This Republican criticisms of Comey, in other words, are utterly frivolous. Comey deserves as much credit for not recommending the indictment of Clinton for her EMAILS! as he does for not recommending indicting her for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Her use of a private server was plainly not illegal, and there is no evidence whatsoever that classified materials were intentionally destroyed. There is nothing there and never was. Republican criticisms for releasing the late letter that further underscored how grossly inappropriate his earlier letter was and that may well have further hurt the Clinton campaign by allowing Trump to suggest that she got away with something are similarly absurd. This is the self-reinforcing beauty of the Clinton rules: Republicans can manufacture the fog of scandal ex nihilo, the political damage can be done, and then a Republican who refuses to act on the feverish conspiracy theory gets called a great statesman. It’s a nice racket! 
Meanwhile, let’s look at the Democratic complaints against Comey, some of which Hennessey and Wittes don’t mention:
When announcing his water-is-wet decision not to indict Hillary Clinton because she did nothing that was even remotely illegal, he engaged in highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate editorializing that played a major role in the trivial EMAILS! pseudoscandal completely dominating coverage of Clinton.
He engaged in similarly highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate editorializing about Clinton in testifying before Congress and in report the FBI issued before the debates, inflicting further completely unwarranted political damage and adding an official imprimatur to the chief Republican narrative about Clinton. 
Against the wishes of his superiors and in violation of departmental rules and norms, he issued a highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate letter indicating that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! was being reopened, based on having found some emails on a computer that did not belong to Hillary Clinton, emails that the FBI did not even have a warrant to search yet. With the current collective margin in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin at less than 100,000 votes it is about as clear as such a counterfactual can be that without this letter the solid winner of the popular vote would also be the president-elect. 
And is if to preemptively confirm that he had not reached a principled (if inappropriate and wrongheaded) determination that the governing rules and norms were wrong but was acting in a self-serving and partisan fashion when he sent the letter that blew up the world, he earlier refused to comment on an investigation that might be damaging to Donald Trump. In summary, where the Republican candidate was concerned, Comey followed the rules against unduly influencing elections. Where the Democratic candidate was involved, his view was “[w]ell, I know the rule is designed to make sure that our investigations don’t influence elections, but I think in this case, we should break that rule, because there’s an election, and we should influence it.” 
As Hennessey and Wittes concede, he horribly mismanaged his rogue New York bureau, and in the kindest construction of his motives compounded the mistake by appeasing them.

The second letter, discussed earlier. It came too close to the election to give us a clear sense of what effect it had, but given that every previous Comey intervention was followed by a drop in Clinton’s numbers and that Trump overachieved on election day, the Clinton campaign’s theory that is also damaged the campaign is plausible. And even it didn’t, it underscored how inappropriate the first letter was — there was never any non-trivial possibility that the Weiner laptop would reveal material information about Clinton, and there was no reason to inform Congress. 
What Democrats are complaining about, in other words, is a pattern of egregious and utterly indefensible misconduct that almost certainly had the effect of putting a unprecedentedly unfit candidate not chosen by the people in the White House. He showed himself to be an incompetent manager who made one catastrophic misjudgment after another, with the cumulative effect of quite literally undermining American democracy himself. The man should be a pariah who bears substantial responsibility for every bad thing Donald Trump does. And yet, astoundingly, Hennessey and Wittes conclude that we must not merely tolerate having this man in charge of the FBI but need him. The fact that he ignored his superiors in the service of personal and/or partisan agendas is being cited as a point in his favor. What can you even say at this point? We need him at the FBI because Bernie Kerik is unavailable?

James Comey interfered in an election and it made a material difference in the outcome! Regardless of whether it was partisan or not (and it almost certainly was --- after all, this man got his start in government as the chief counsel for the Senate Whitewater committee) it was an unprecedented, undemocratic act by someone with tremendous police power and authority.

I realize that it's just one of many shocking outrages we are dealing with in this bizarre and surreal period, but it's an important one. And frankly, I'm a little bit surprised to see so few of our usual avatars of civil liberties behave so passively about it. You can hate Hillary Clinton and be secretly thrilled that she got taken down. But it's really bad that the Director of the FBI, with all its powers, had a hand in it. Really bad.

Update: Here's where the right is on using the FBI for political purposes:

It’s time for the FBI to conduct a detailed investigation into the violence and political thuggery that continue to mar the presidential election’s aftermath. A thorough probe of the protests—to include possible ties to organizations demanding vote recounts—will give the Bureau’s integrity-challenged director, James Comey, a chance to sandblast his sullied badge.

Director Comey must also include “elector intimidation” on his post-election investigation list. Reports that members of the Electoral College are being harassed and threatened by angry, vicious (and likely Democratic Party) malcontents require Comey’s quick and systematic attention.

Michael Banerian, one of Michigan’s 16 electors, told CNN: “Obviously, this election cycle was pretty divisive. Unfortunately it’s bled over into the weeks following the election and I have been inundated with death threats, death wishes, generally angry messages trying to get me to change my vote to Hillary Clinton or another person, and unfortunately, it’s gotten a little out of control.”

A little out of control? What an understatement. Let me put it to  you straight and personal, Jim. Identifying electors and then attempting to intimidate them into switching their votes is an ipso facto effort to overturn a national election.  Which leads to a question a competent FBI Director would already have his agents asking: Is this elector threat scheme a coordinated operation?

Why, electors live in different states. A mind with a talent for the obvious would see a federal interest. Federal as in Federal Bureau of Investigation. That’s the outfit you head, Mr. Comey—at least until the Obama Administration expires.

Which takes us back to the violent protests and political thuggery. Let me introduce you to two vicious Democratic Party operatives FBI agents should have quizzed and collared two months ago: Robert Creamer and The Hideous Scott Foval. These two creeps starred in Project Veritas’ video investigation of violent incitement during the political campaign.

Note this column called Creamer a political terrorist. The charge is legitimate. “Bottles and baseball bats are not Al Qaeda’s high explosives—but they incite fear and when they crack heads they cause casualties. People bleed. Street thuggery as an arm of politics is violent, criminalized politics on an ugly downward slope to much worse, the worse including lynchings and pogroms. If you don’t think street thuggery is terror then consider Kristalnacht.”

* * *

No, it’s not Kristalnacht in America, but since the election Americans have seen a lot of broken glass, witnessed beatings and suffered hours-long traffic and business disruptions within their cities. The hard left’s violent reaction to Donald Trump’s election is vile and dangerous. Peaceful protests? No, the demonstrators vandalize and destroy. They have two goals: intimidating people and sustaining the mainstream media lie that Donald Trump is dangerous.

Jill Stein. Woman’s a bit glamorous, don’t you think?

Red Guards of Austin (Texas) didn’t get a lot of national news attention, in part because mainstream media outlets have coddled and excused the demonstrators the same way they coddle and excuse violence by Black Lives Matter. Did an FBI Texas office pass you a report on the Communist street action in Austin, Director Comey?

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it arrested 6 members of a local communist group, Red Guards Austin, for assaulting pro-Trump members in Sunday’s protest. DPS troopers arrested Jarred Roark, 34, after he allegedly assaulted an individual on South Congress and 11th Street adjacent to the State Capitol… Troopers also arrested five other suspects related to the initial incident:

Taylor Tomas Chase, 21, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Joseph Wayne George, 36, interference with public duty

Samuel Benjamin Lauber, 21, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Jason Peterson, 24, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Jade Tabitha Shackelford, 19, felony assault on public servant.

We have Creamer and Hideous Foval bragging about successfully organizing and coordinating violence against Trump supporters during the election. There are reports of ads soliciting professional protestors and paying them to participate in these demonstrations.

Is there a basis for these allegations?

There's more

One might assume that if he doesn't do these things it's just more proof of what a fair-minded guy he really is, amirite?


That's published in Jared Kushner's paper, btw.

.



 
"A full stomach and an empty soul"

by digby

That certainly describes him




















In case you still have the idea that Paul Ryan is the antidote to Trump, think again. This speech from a couple of years ago in which Ryan unctuously attempted to sell his draconian cuts to necessary programs as some kind of twisted "compassion" he said that free lunches for poor kids give them "a full stomach — and an empty soul.” He explained further:
She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.
The "left" he explained cared too much about "comfort" and not enough about "dignity."

We're talking about kids here. Hungry kids who don't have money for lunch.

This is the moderate center now.


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Suh-weeeet deal



by digby

Trump Tower





























The Trump brand has a new amenity:

The U.S. Secret Service is the hot, new "amenity" in the Trump Tower, where desperate brokers are trying to lure well-heeled clients into the building on Fifth Avenue that has served as President-elect Donald Trump’s home as well as his campaign and transition headquarters.

Less than a week after Trump was elected, prominent New York real estate agency Douglas Elliman blasted out an e-mail with the subject: “Fifth Avenue Buyers Interested in Secret Service Protection?” to advertise a $2.1 million, 1,052-square-foot condo in the tower on 721 Fifth Avenue.

"The New Aminity [sic] – The United States Secret Service," screamed the flier sent in an e-mail on Nov. 13 for a one-bedroom apartment on the 31st floor, represented by brokers Ariel Sassoon and Devin Leahy.

“The Best Value in the Most Secure Building in Manhattan,” it stated.

While there's been a great deal of attention to how Trump plans to divest himself from his conflicts of interest, less attention has been applied to how business associates — including owners and marketers of his properties — may seek to profit from his new job in the White House.

As hard as Trump works to distance himself from his businesses, there may be no way of getting around other business associates using his brand for their own opportunity.

Trump was the developer and sponsor of the Trump Tower when it was built 33 years ago, but most of the 263 units are individually owned. Trump Tower does not retain a portion of the sales but since the building is managed by Trump Corporation, they retain a processing fee for unit sales which is about $2,000 per application plus $250 per additional adult dweller, as part of their service as managers of the building.

By the way, Politico? He's not "working hard" to distance himself from his businesses. He isn't distancing himself at all.

Let's think about all the other Trump properties around the world, current and future? You know, the ones that have his name in 30' letters? They're going to have to be protected too, right? Trump's name is going to be a powerful magnet for "events" and I'm not just talking about weddings and bar mitzvahs. After all, an attack on a Trump building will now be seen as an attack on America. If one gets taken down, you can bet it will be seen as a Casus belli.

And each developer will undoubtedly point out to possible tenents that American security comes with the deal. Because it will.

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Our new climate Czarina

by digby














Yesterday Ivanka met with Al Gore to discuss climate change.  This, and "women's issues," are among the top items in her portfolio. When she isn't running the Trump Organization. She's going to be very busy.

She knows a lot about it, so it's all good:


It just gets more and more surreal...

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The Borgias of Pennsylvania Avenue




I wrote about Ivanka and her hubbie for Salon this morning:

If anyone was expecting that all the belated attention to Donald Trump’s overwhelming conflicts of interest would result in some soul-searching about his assurances that he couldn’t care less” about his business and that his kids will run its day-to-day affairs in a “blind trust,” their hopes have been dashed so far. Trump says he will announce some kind of arrangement on Dec. 15, which most people expect to be the official handing over of the reins of his company to his three oldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric. This will not be sufficient, not even close.

Law professor Laurence Tribe appeared on MSNBC over the weekend and gave a clear explanation of why Trump is in violation of the Constitution:
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 … 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.

He’s a constant emolument magnet. 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.
Actually, it’s a little late for that. Imagine Trump trying to sell his business while he’s acting as president. It would make the current freak show look like a church service. He should have done it before he ever ran for office.

Trump does not seem inclined to liquidate. (Indeed, if he were to say he was going to sell it it would probably signal that he’s been replaced by a cyborg.) But even that wouldn’t solve his problem. His most valuable lieutenant, his 35-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would have to agree to do the same thing. Like 90 percent of Trump’s inner circle, Kushner is a multimillionaire too.

So far it seems that Trump believes he can avoid the normal nepotism and conflict-of-interest rules by not naming Kushner to any official post even as he serves as a high-level adviser. That won’t work either. Kushner owns hundreds of buildings and owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to banks all over the world. His businesses will be impacted in dozens of ways by government regulations over which he would have an outsized influence.

As this scathing Vox profile by Kushner’s Harvard classmate Matthew Yglesias shows, Ivanka’s husband is a lot like his father-in-law and similarly has something to prove:
[He] took all the appropriate steps to become a pillar of Northeastern society — get a Harvard degree, own a small but beloved media outlet, donate to local Democratic Party elected officials, marry a society wife — but ended up being a laughingstock, with his intelligence publicly mocked and his dad in jail and humiliated for a particularly sleazy crime.
These people do not think the normal rules apply to them and so far there’s no reason to believe that any of the Trump family or the Kushner family plan to sacrifice anything in order to serve the public. In fact, all the evidence shows they plan to take full advantage of their connections. Just this past weekend, it was revealed that when Ivanka met with the Japanese prime minister her company was in intense negotiations with a major Japanese retailer — which is partially owned by the Japanese government. They’re just going for it.

If anyone thought that Ivanka might be less available to meet with foreign dignitaries to press her business interests in the White House once her dad turns over the business to the three siblings, that’s probably not going to work out either. She and Kushner are reportedly planning to move to Washington, which would suggest the businesses must be moving with them.

When the Wall Street Journal asked whether Kushner planned to divest himself of his holdings, the company gave this comment: “If Jared were to serve in some capacity in the new administration, Kushner Companies would put a rigorous process in place to ensure that no conflicts exist.” Evidently, the American people are supposed to feel reassured that his privately held companies will not take advantage of any special knowledge or influence they might have. (And if they do benefit from that situation, Kushner can always explain it the way Trump did when asked why he didn’t pay any income taxes for more than 15 years: “Because I’m smart.”)

Here’s one thing we know for sure: The Republicans have had a dramatic change of heart about conflicts of interest virtually overnight. The Sunday before the election Newt Gingrich appeared on Meet the Press and proclaimed:
Every foreign gift, every foreign speech — Senator or Secretary of State, everyone, no, it’s not a big charge, it’s the U.S. Constitution. There’s a section in the Constitution called the Emoluments Clause, it says, “No one, nor their spouse can take money from foreigners … I think the real corruption is the lack of the media being willing to be honest about how much lawlessness the Clintons stand for and how much they have ripped off the American people.
He repeated that charge numerous times throughout the course of the campaign and his claims were rated mostly false by Politifact.

Here’s Gingrich now, quoted at length in a Politico article headlined, “GOP wagers Americans don’t care about Trump’s conflicts”:
This is a great test case between the pre-Trump and post-Trump worlds. In a pre-Trump world dominated by left-wing ideas, anyone successful is inherently dangerous and should be punished for trying to serve the country. The American people knowingly voted for a businessman whose name is inextricably tied to his fortune. … I’d say to the left wing, get over it.
The central problem we are facing in this new reality isn’t how we deal with an administration’s monumental conflicts of interest. It’s how we deal with a political party’s mind-boggling shamelessness.

.

 
A poignant number

by digby

The Hill reports:

A quote from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech was the most retweeted political tweet of the year, the social media site announced on Tuesday.

The tweet from Clinton’s account was retweeted more than 635,000 times as of Tuesday morning.




Twitter also noted that Clinton’s tweet was the third-most-retweeted of the year, and the top retweet in the United States.

Last month, at 630,000 retweets, Clinton’s tweet was the most retweeted of the election.

As I said at the time, nobody loves a woman more than when she's conceding. And no doubt they love her the best when she's making everyone feel better about it.

She might have also said, however, that even when they win, women often lose anyway, so get used to it.

The latest:



.
 

Congratulations, it's a Democrat

by Tom Sullivan

Well, it looks as if Pat McCrory won't be stealing North Carolina's governorship from sitting state Attorney General Roy Cooper after all:

Four years after becoming the first Republican to win the North Carolina governor’s office in more than two decades, McCrory made the concession in a video message posted around noon Monday as a recount he requested in Durham County entered its final hours. Durham officials finished the recount later Monday with virtually no change in the vote tally there.
I use after all because McCrory (of HB2 "bathroom bill" fame) conceded yesterday after making multiple allegations of "voting irregularities" in Durham and elsewhere:
McCrory had refused to concede for almost a month, using a flurry of ballot complaints filed by Republicans to decry widespread voter fraud in the state. But the Republican-led state board of elections effectively dismissed all complaints about voter eligibility last week, and the board on Saturday rejected another complaint alleging that absentee ballots were improperly filled out in Balden County.
As in, there was no there there. We covered the unintentional hilarity of the Bladen hearing on Sunday. Now that it appears after all that McCrory won't be throwing the close election to the Republican legislature to settle. Besides McCrory resurfacing as the Trump administration's bathroom monitor, all North Carolina has to worry about now is, after the GOP lost the majority on the state Supreme Court on November 8, the legislature using a special session to pack the court. A special session is scheduled for a week from today. It is ostensibly about Hurricane Matthew relief.

Paranoia? It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. Say, after all the surgically precise gerrymandering and voter suppression legislation. Oh, and Republicans in the U.S. Senate flagrantly stealing a sitting Democratic president's U.S. Supreme Court pick.

David Waldman (KagroX on Twitter) suggests a way Democrats in the U.S. Senate can show the country they're tired of having sand kicked in their faces. Karoli at Crooks and Liars explains:
On January 3, 2017, Democrats will hold the majority in the Senate for a few minutes, until the newly-elected Senators are sworn in. Biden could convene the Senate in those few minutes and call for a vote. The majority could then suspend the rules and vote in Merrick Garland.

The key here is that VP Biden would have to be willing to convene the Senate and recognize Senator Dick Durbin instead of Mitch McConnell. Durbin moves to re-nominate Garland, and Senate Democrats then vote to confirm him. They will have a quorum for those few minutes.

It's bold. Garland would be confirmed by 34 Democrats and no Republicans. It will certainly enrage Republicans, but they're already enraged and full of hubris about how they're going to screw Democrats anyway, so what do they really have to lose?

Not much. It takes courage. It takes a resolve to do what's right for this country, to reclaim the Supreme Court nomination Republicans think they stole from us. It takes backbone.
There's the rub, Hamlet said.

Here's Samantha Bee lampooning McCrory in May:




Monday, December 05, 2016

 
More white supremacy in the tower

by digby


Flynn Jr. in blue tie at Trump tower as part of the transition team






























I have written before about what a piece of work Trump National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is. He's way out on the fringe. His son, who is working on the transition with his father and serves as his chief of staff, is even worse.

Last night he was tweeting like a madman about this #Pizzagate conspiracy theory saying he believes it's true that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta are running a pedophile ring out of the back of a pizza place. (As you've undoubtedly heard, a wingnut with a gun went into the pizza place to "investigate" and fired his weapon yesterday, luckily no one was hurt.) Flynn Sr has been saying that Hillary Clinton was involved with a child sex ring for weeks although it is a slightly different conspiracy than this particular one. It doesn't specify that they are raping the children in this particular pizza parlor. (That's right, the new National Security Adviser believes Hillary Clinton is a pedophile. For all we know the whole administration is that insane.)

Anyway, Flynn junior isn't just a conspiracy wacko. He's a full blown white supremacist. Think Progress has the rest of the story:

As Twitter has cracked down on white nationalist accounts in recent weeks, many adherents of the movement have instead started using the social platform Gab, which bans users from engaging in illegal activity but nothing else. As the New York Times recently detailed, the platform — which uses a frog for its logo — “has emerged as a digital safe space for the far right, where white nationalists, conspiracy-theorist YouTubers, and minivan majority moms can gather without liberal interference.” Several white nationalists who have been banned from Twitter — including Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard B. Spencer, and Ricky Vaughn — have resurfaced there.

Flynn Jr.’s Twitter bio actually includes a link to his Gab page. On Gab, Flynn Jr. follows white nationalists and posted that he hopes to convince his dad to switch to the new platform.



On Sunday — the same day he was tweeting about PizzaGate — Flynn Jr. used Gab to praise a racist collage, created by a user to deride Obama’s “so called legacy,” linking Obama to African American criminals and Muslim terrorists.



Flynn Jr.’s bigoted message echoes sentiments that his dad has also expressed on social media.





During an interview with the New York Times late last month, Trump attempted to distance himself from white nationalists, saying, “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group… I disavow and condemn.”

But with Flynn Sr. poised to become his top adviser on security issues and Flynn Jr. serving in an official role as well — not to mention that Trump’s top strategist is set to be Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart boss who a former colleague said “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners” — it’s easy to see why Trump’s disavowal rings hollow.


So, for the 6,395th time since November 8th: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE???

.
 
Only in America

by digby

... or some banana republic (although there's not much difference anymore) would you see this:



And the guy with the red number is the winner.

They're still counting votes too in place where Clinton is expected to gain  even more. It's just outrageous.

Yet that pathological liar and his minions are all running around saying they won in a landslide.


 It's the craziest thing I've ever seen.

It's bad enough that it happened. But that it installed a corrupt sociopath and a band of right wing extremists is just too much to bear.

Update:

Just FYI:  Nate Silver, who runs FiveThiryEight.com, calculated that “the average electoral college winner claimed 70.9 percent of the available electoral votes, which would equate to 381 electoral votes given today’s total of 538 electors.” So Trump’s 56.9 percent “is decidedly below-average,” he concluded.

.
 
The watchdog chases its tail

by digby

















They're still at it: 
A conservative group that played a key role in legal battles over access to Hillary Clinton's emails is asking a federal judge to release videos of depositions top Clinton aides and other State Department officials gave in connection with the litigation over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Judicial Watch filed a motion Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, asking him to unseal the testimony in light of the fact that the presidential election is over and the arguments against release seemed to be based on the videos becoming fodder in the White House race. Transcripts of the testimony were released soon after it was given, but the recordings have never been published.

"The sole reason for sealing the recordings in the first place was to avoid their misuse during the 2016 campaign season. Now that the election is over that reason no longer exists," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha wrote. "The release of the recordings will not only allow the public to better understand Secretary Clinton’s email practices, it will also provide the public with a more complete picture of the discovery taken in this case."

At issue are depositions given by former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, former State information technology manager John Bentel, and computer technician Bryan Pagliano, who worked for State and Clinton personally. Lawyers for those four and for the State Department have indicated they oppose release of the videos, the court filing said.

Sullivan ordered the videos sealed last May, finding "good cause" to keep them under wraps, but Judicial Watch says those grounds are no longer valid.

"That good cause – the possibility that the recordings could be exploited for political gain during the contentious campaign season – is now moot. The reason for the protective order no longer exists," Bekesha wrote.

The Judicial Watch motion points to continuing press coverage of the Clinton-related email litigation (including this POLITICO post) and notes that media organizations asked last July that Sullivan to reconsider his motion and release the videos. The judge has not acted on that request.

Basically they're saying that as long as the media covers the story ---  story they're creating ---  it's in the public interest and they have to have access to all this crapola.

I feel for Judicial Watch, I really do. They were expecting a very lucrative and busy four years chasing Clinton for fun a profit. Now they're stuck beating a dead horse and they know that even the hard core nutcases are going to lose interest in this stuff --- especially when they've got crazed pedophile conspiracy theories to wank over. This email thing is just not very compelling when it no longer has the capacity to compel impeachment. Now, if they could find something really juicy maybe they could get their good buddy Comey to step up but he already knows what's in these tapes so it's not likely. It's going to take more than this stuff to "lock her up!"

Of course, they are ostensibly a non-partisan watchdog group so they could be looking into the mountain of conflicts of interests, lies, graft and ongoing corruption of the nascent Trump administration. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that one ...

.
 
One true wingnut

by digby

Trump, of course. People seem to think he isn't one, but he is.  Buzzfeed analyzed Trump's twitter feed and it's fascinating to see who he reads and tweets. He's just your average freeper:









During campaign season Trump shared more Breitbart links to his more than 15 million followers than any other news organization (in August Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon joined Trump’s campaign as CEO and will enter the West Wing in January as Trump’s senior White House adviser). While Trump also shares links from mainstream sites — his second most shared site during the time period analyzed was the Washington Post — Trump’s preferred content seems to be right-leaning, hyper-partisan sites and opinion blogs including Daily Caller (21 links), Newsmax (18), the Gateway Pundit (14 links), the Conservative Treehouse (11), the Political Insider (1), Conservative Tribune (1), Infowars (1), newsninja2012.com (5), and westernjournalism.com (1). Trump’s Twitter account also shares links from a number of obscure personal blogs, like agent54nsa.blogspot.com, which hosted a joke post about a fake game show about Monica Lewinsky hosted by a character named “Stink Fartinmale.”

There's just no doubt what we are dealing with: a far right nut. Which explains his appointment of another far right nut as his National Security adviser.

God help us. 

.

 
Politics and Reality Radio: Digby on the Trumpocalypse; Dean Baker: Yes, the Economy Is Rigged

with Joshua Holland





















This week, Digby talks about what went wrong in 2016, what our future under the Trump regime may look like and how the media isn't prepared to hold the first aggressively post-truth president's feet to the fire.

Then we're joined by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, to talk about his new book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer.




Playlist:
Alabama Shakes: "Hold On"
Sad Clown with a Golden Voice: "Royals"
En Vogue: "Prayer"

.
 
Guns mattered

by digby











I wrote about the NRA for Salon this morning:

Sixteen years ago, when Al Gore won the popular vote but was denied the presidency due to the anachronism known as the Electoral College, Democrats tried to figure out how they could prevent such a weird anomalous result from happening again. As early as the day after the election, the New York Times was already laying the groundwork for what would become seen as the reason for Gore’s failure (although it would be many weeks before the result of that contested election became clear).

Vice President Gore had failed to spend enough time in his home state of Tennessee, it was said, opting instead to put resources into other tossup states like Michigan and Wisconsin. But the real reason he lost was a grand geographical shift:
While Tennessee has moved to the right in national politics, Mr. Gore has moved to the left since his days as a congressman, particularly on issues like abortion and gun control that have put him at odds with many Southern voters.
Two years later, when The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber addressed the question again, conventional wisdom was sealed. Scheiber reported that on the eve of the 2000 Democratic convention the Gore team had realized they had a big problem:
“The entire target of communication was Pennsylvania, western Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. That’s the world Gore was trying to reach,” [pollster Stan] Greenberg recalls. Since these areas were chock-full of gun-toting union members, Team Gore decided that gun control would hurt the vice president in the states he needed most.
After the election, the Gore campaign’s hunch became Democratic gospel. Sure, Gore had won the Rust Belt battleground states, but the Democrats had lost their third straight bid to retake Congress — and many in the party believed gun control was to blame. In particular, they pointed to the election’s regional skew. In famously anti-gun California, the Dems knocked off three incumbents. But throughout the rest of the country, they defeated only one. “Of all the issues,” insists one senior Democratic congressman, gun control “had the greatest net [negative] effect.”

That “regional skew” is a real problem. By 2004 candidate John Kerry was running around in a hunting vest with a gun slung over his shoulder bragging about always eating what he killed. Not that it did him any good. The fact that he was against the sale of assault-style weapons was assumed to have been the kiss of death when those white rural voters rejected him.

The need to move away from “culture war” issues like gun control, abortion and marriage equality was considered gospel during that period in the Democratic wilderness. Then came the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina and a teetering economy that caught up to the Republicans, and Democrats won big in 2008.The assumption then was that Barack Obama had managed to put together a new Democratic coalition that was not dependent on those rural whites who feared the loss of their guns so much they would vote against anyone who favored common-sense gun safety regulation.

We saw Democrats find their voices on the issue after a horrific spate of mass killings, particularly the horrifying Newtown tragedy, in which classrooms full of tiny children were mowed down by a disturbed young man with a semi-automatic weapon. It became a defining cause of the party, with President Obama taking the lead in pushing the issue and elected Democrats holding an unprecedented sit-in on Capitol Hill last spring to protest GOP inaction on guns.

During the Bush years as well as the Obama years, the National Rifle Association was as active as ever. In 2000 when Bush finally prevailed, they were happy to help push the idea that his support for their cause was the defining issue of the election. The organization had bragged that it would be working out of President Bush’s office in the White House and NRA influence grew throughout his tenure as the group put money and organizing behind gun-friendly politicians at all levels of government.

But perversely or otherwise, the NRA actually experiences more growth when a Democrat is in the White House, and has become more powerful than ever during the Obama years. As the gun-tracking news organization called the Trace points out in this article, the NRA did this with a “populist” P.R. approach that perfectly dovetailed with Donald Trump’s anti-establishment campaign. One might even suggest that Trump stole a lot of his shtick from the NRA.

In 2008, the NRA’s visionary leader Wayne LaPierre declared war on establishment elites saying that they “believe the same elite conceit — you shouldn’t protect yourself. Government should. But we know there’s a little problem with that. They don’t give a damn about you!” The Trace reported:

Four years later, LaPierre expanded on the threats the elite posed to encompass free speech, religious liberty, even the ability of people to start small businesses or choose for themselves what kind of health care they want. Drug dealing illegal immigrants were being allowed to pour over the Southern border, he railed. Criminals in big cities were free to prey on innocents because judges were so lenient. “Not our issues, some might say.” He paused, and then countered: “Oh, but they are.”

In fact, the NRA has been pushing an anti-establishment message in one form or another since the mid-’90s. When Trump came along, LaPierre understood that unlike the patrician Mitt Romney, Trump’s sometime apostasy on guns would be outweighed by his ability to sell pitchfork-wielding populism and thinly-veiled calls for vigilantism. So the NRA went all in for Trump and spent millions on ads bashing Hillary Clinton in places like Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. (I wrote about their first ad here.) According to the Center for Public Integrity, nearly one out of 20 TV ads in Pennsylvania was paid for by the NRA, and the group ran nearly 15,000 spots in the crucial swing states that Trump narrowly won, deciding the election.

LaPierre has released a new video, taking a victory lap in which he fatuously declares, “Our time is now. This is our historic moment to go on offense.” First on the agenda is demanding that the federal government enforce “concealed-carry reciprocity,” in which states would have to recognize permits to carry concealed weapons issued by other states, as if they were as benign as driver’s licenses. So much for federalism.



Most election postmortems have concluded that Democrats failed with non-college educated and rural white voters this time because of their economic message rather than guns or other culture-war issues. But perhaps that’s just the other side of the same coin. LaPierre and the NRA have a powerful understanding of what moves this constituency and they’ve been moving it in their direction for many years. The NRA has been selling anti-establishment Trumpism long before Trump came on to the scene. It’s Wayne LaPierre’s win as much as Donald Trump’s.

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Disaster Progressivism

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by Krystian Olszanski via Creative Commons.

Legend has it that the first person Howard Dean hired for the 50-state plan was (is) a friend of mine, maybe the best field organizer I've known.​ When he returned from training in D.C., he said privately their charge was to turn county parties that had devolved into social clubs back into functioning political organizations.

Today's Democratic Party upper echelons might resemble that remark.

There is a lot of "old-boyism" in party politics. Mostly because people who have the time and/or resources to pursue party work are older. But older doesn't always mean more skilled; experienced doesn't always mean the right kind. When reviewing resumes, it is wise to know the difference between an applicant who has 20 years' worth of experience and one who has 1 year's worth of experience 20 years in a row. Many experienced party hands are not versed in modern campaign-craft. They assign more weight to who might make a strong public servant than to whether they might make a strong candidate. (We need candidates who are both.) Nevertheless, they like to be the deciders of whose turn it is. There is a tendency to hang onto power and not to cultivate new leadership possessing skills they don't understand. Old boys would rather turn over the reins to old chums — regardless of their skills — when they can't chew the leather anymore.

Dennis Kucinich winning the caucus in our county in 2004 was a deep embarrassment here. Favorite-son John Edwards was supposed to win. Didn't "those progressives" who outmaneuvered them know that? A Deaniac took a county party seat the next year. But established players stonewalled and ran her off. And they got their club back. "Those progressives" were supposed to wait for their turn that wasn't coming.

Activists who allowed themselves to be run off never got anywhere. They're forgotten. Those who wouldn't be run off did. Persistence pays. So does positioning. (I have an interesting story about positioning, but another time.)

The hair-on-fire panic many progressive activists exist in vis-a-vis national politics and the future of the country (and now the planet) reflects the same short-term thinking that leads establishment Democrats to defend their reelection first and the voters second. ("This is the most important election of our lifetimes," etc.) No long-term thinking. Longer-term, the Democratic party is a pushover if progressives will just do the work and stick around long enough to see results from the pushing. Yet a lot of talented activists are unwilling to get their nice, white vinyl souls soiled by contact with the icky party to do that. They consign themselves to irrelevancy.

Bernie Sanders won the primary here handily. He had a message that connected in the same county that supported Kucinich in 2004, as well as with rural folks with an anti-establishment itch to scratch. But Hillary Clinton had a lot going for her, including national campaign experience and a national network of personal and party contacts going back decades. She had experience in spades. Party insiders naturally felt it was "her turn." Some talented Bernie organizers here who had real potential flamed out when he lost and they are gone now. Those who stuck around are positioned to move the ball down the field and change the game. It's their turn now if only they'll step forward and lead. Post-election, the opportunity is there if only they will seize it.

I had a roommate in college who seemed to be everything I was not. He was adventurous, daring, liked by everybody, and lucky. Damn, good things just seemed to come to him. But it wasn't luck. What I finally realized was his antennae were always up. He was more attuned to the world than I was, than most people. He was always open, ready to recognize and take advantage of opportunities — NOW — that I would have shied from or let slip away while I was thinking it over. Opportunities are ephemeral, and slip away as quickly as regrets pile up.

Democrats and progressives seem forever to do more Monday-morning quarterbacking about missed opportunities than thinking three to five moves ahead, never pre-positioning themselves to capitalize on opportunities when they arise. That's what Naomi Klein described in "The Shock Doctrine." Like my roommate, those disaster capitalists pay attention to faint signals and pre-position themselves so they are poised to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

So are progressives going to do that now or just protest after the fact? Because there's a disaster coming, and we'd best be positioned to capitalize on opportunities that will appear suddenly out of nowhere. Better that than complain how the old boys clubs failed to do it for us.