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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Idiocracy at the border

by digby

This is so stupid I don't even know what to say:

The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials earlier this month at a Florida airport, according to a family friend.

Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.

Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo and wasn't as lucky.

Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"

What the hell?????

When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.


"To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Mancini said, referring to President Trump's executive order signed Jan. 27 that instituted a ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

He's clearly an American. An African-American. The son of the most famous American Muslim in the world.

I don't know how stupid you have to be to not know that or realize that if you just let his mother, the former wife of the most famous American Muslim in the world go through, that means he is the son of the most famous American Muslim in the world, but apparently it's not so stupid that you can't be given a uniform and told to guard our borders.

This is the kind of stuff that's making me actually feel afraid. Obviously these people are so dumb that a smart terrorist would be able to talk circles around them. It's just average Americans and foreigners who still believe the world makes sense who are getting caught in this web.

Update: More morons

A visiting scholar to Texas A&M was detained by customs officials in Houston this week while on his way to speak at a symposium in Aggieland, officials said Friday at the conference.
Henry Rousso was flying in from Paris to participate in the Hagler Institute Symposium when he was “mistakenly detained” Wednesday evening upon his arrival, according to Richard Golsan, director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M.

“When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out,” said Golsan during his introduction to the session which Rousso was set to participate in.

After learning about the dire situation, Golsan said he immediately called university officials, leading A&M President Michael K. Young to enlist the help of Texas A&M Law School professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic Fatma Marouf.

“Due to her prompt and timely intervention, Rousso was released,” Golsan said.
Rousso, 62, is a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, or CNRS, which the Egyptian-born scholar and author joined in 1981.

His work centers on the history and memory of traumatic pasts, France in WWII and the post-war period, his profile on the CNRS website says. Rousso's current study involves the relationship between history, memory and justice.

Oh who needs a guy like that, amirite?
Tweet O' The Day

by digby

Can you believe this stuff? Anyway, here's the fact check:

In President Donald Trump's estimation, the U.S. border isn't merely porous, it's "wide open." Darkness and danger are everywhere, even Sweden. American infrastructure isn't just in need of improvement but it's in "total disrepair and decay." The health law is not only flawed, but it's an "absolute and total catastrophe."

His apocalyptic view of everything he intends to fix leaves no nuance, but that's where reality often resides. For example, Trump himself actually likes parts of former President Barack Obama's health overhaul, such as the extended coverage for older children. And the U.S. remains an economic powerhouse able to transport goods in a stressed system of roads, bridges and ports that are not in total decay.

But the president is one to overreach for superlatives, whether describing the state of things as he found them or what he plans to do about them — or claims to have done already.

Some statements from the past week:

TRUMP: "Obamacare covers very few people."

THE FACTS: That's only true if you consider more than 20 million people to be "very few." That's how many are covered by the two major components of the law: expanded Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance.

The Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states and the District of Columbia, covers about 11 million low-income people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The other, more visible, component is HealthCare.gov. The federal website and state-run online insurance markets have signed up 12.2 million people for this year, according to an Associated Press count this month, based on federal and state reports.

Altogether, since Obama's law passed in 2010, the number of uninsured people has dropped by about 20 million and the uninsured rate has declined below 9 percent, a historic low.


TRUMP, repeating a week-old assertion that Sweden is an example of violence and extremism due to immigration: "Take a look at what happened in Sweden. I love Sweden, great country, great people, I love Sweden. But they understand. The people over there understand I'm right."

THE FACTS: Trump was ridiculed in Sweden after he warned at a rally in Florida that terrorism was growing in Europe and something terrible had happened in Sweden the previous night. But there had been no extraordinary trouble that night in Sweden, a country welcoming to immigrants.

Two days later, though, a riot broke out after police arrested a drug crime suspect. Cars were set on fire and shops looted, but no one was injured. Attacks in the country related to extremism remain rare. The biggest surprise for many Swedes was that a police officer found it necessary to fire his gun.


TRUMP: The U.S. is providing security to other nations "while leaving our own border wide open. Anybody can come in. But don't worry, we're getting a wall. ... We're getting bad people out of this country."

THE FACTS: His wide-open border claim is bogus. The number of arrests of illegal border crossers — the best measure of how many people are trying to cross illegally — remains at a 40-year low. The U.S. government under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol in the past decade or so.

In addition, the number of people expelled from the country since Trump took office Jan. 20 has not been disclosed. No available data support his claim, made Thursday, that immigrants in the country illegally are being expelled at a rate "nobody has ever seen before." Deportations were brisk when Obama was president.

Altogether in January, 16,643 people were deported, a drop from December (20,395) but a number that is similar to monthly deportations in early 2015 and 2016.

This month, Homeland Security officials have said 680 people were arrested in a weeklong effort to find and arrest criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally. Three-quarters of those people had been convicted of crimes, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. The remaining 25 percent were not.

The government has not provided information about who was arrested in that roundup, so it's impossible to determine how many gang members or drug lords were in that group. It is also unclear how many of those "bad people" have actually been deported.

That roundup was largely planned before Trump took office and was alternately described by the Trump administration as a routine enforcement effort and a signal of his pledge to take a harder line on illegal immigration. During the Obama administration, similar operations were carried out that yielded thousands of arrests.


TRUMP: "We have authorized the construction, one day, of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. And issued a new rule — this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said who makes the pipes for the pipeline? Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn't that wonderful? I said nope, comes from the United States, or we're not building it. American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States."

THE FACTS: It's not that straightforward. Trump's executive order leaves lots of wiggle room on how much U.S. steel is actually used. The order states new, expanded or repaired pipelines in the U.S. must use U.S. steel "to the maximum extent possible" and allowed by law. That's not an all-USA mandate.

What's judged possible in the Keystone XL project remains to be seen. Pipes are already purchased. Contrary to his statement, Trump has not approved the project. Rather, he revived it by asking TransCanada to resubmit its application.

TransCanada did so in late January while saying it needs time to review how any buy-American plan would affect the company. It has said the majority of steel would be from North America, but that includes Canada and Mexico.

Trump's Jan. 24 order on U.S. steel has little effect on the Dakota Access project because it is nearly complete.


TRUMP on arrests of people in the country illegally: "It's a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they're rough and they're tough, but they're not tough like our people. So we're getting them out."

THE FACTS: He was wrong in calling immigration enforcement a military operation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responsible for finding and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, is a civilian law enforcement agency. Military personnel were not responsible for recent raids that resulted in the arrests of 680 people. Planning for that roundup had been underway during the previous and was in step with large, periodic raids when Obama was president.

Kelly contradicted Trump on the nature of plans to step up border enforcement: "There will be no use of military forces in immigration," Kelly said. "There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations."


TRUMP again claimed credit for a $700 million savings in the military's contract with Lockheed for the F-35 fighter jet. Speaking to the defense contractor's CEO Marillyn Hewson, he said: "Over $700 million. Do you think Hillary would have cost you $700 million? I assume you wanted her to win" — referring to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

THE FACTS: Cost savings for the F-35 began before Trump's inauguration and predate his complaints about the price tag.

The head of the Air Force program announced significant price reductions Dec. 19 — after Trump had tweeted about the cost but weeks before Trump met about the issue on Jan. 13 with Hewson.

"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of additional F-35 cost savings as a result of President Trump's intervention," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group. He said Trump appears to be taking credit for prior-year budget decisions and for work already done by managers at the Pentagon who took action before the presidential election to reduce costs.

Breaking the glass table

by digby

From the you cannot make this stuff up files:

A Republican state senator in Texas broke a glass tabletop Wednesday during a hearing on three anti-abortion bills, hitting his gavel so hard during a NARAL Pro-Choice Texas intern’s testimony that the room was stunned into silence as the glass shattered.

The 24-year-old intern, Maggie Hennessy, was wrapping up her two-minute testimony against SB 415 — a bill that would limit doctors’ ability to perform the dilation and evacuation medical procedure, which is used in about 95 percent of second-trimester abortions — when Senator Charles Schwertner verbally warned her that her time was up. As Hennessy concluded her testimony — surpassing the time limit by several seconds to urge lawmakers to “stop playing with women’s health care as if it’s your own political puppet” — Schwertner hammered his gavel prompting a swift crack that shattered the desk top and echoed through the senate chamber.

NARAL Texas communications director Alexa Garcia-Ditta was watching from the gallery and took the following photo of the damage:

A few minutes later, Schwertner allowed the president of the anti-abortion Texas Alliance for Life lobby group to extend his testimony, including a quote attributed to Catholic saint and scholar Thomas More, for the same length of time as Hennessy’s, without an interruption. Schwertner is the chair of the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Dozens of Texans gathered at the capitol for the hearing, which lasted more than five hours. But Schwertner’s aggressive gaveling appeared to be limited to Hennessy’s testimony. When others' statements went over time, the senator instead warned them by repeatedly thanking them for their testimony.

Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon who has served in the Texas Senate since 2012, has carried a number of anti-abortion bills in the Legislature, including an early version of part of the state’s omnibus anti-abortion bill that was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.

He had a violent reaction. How surprising.


Fascism is the latest cool new thing on campus

by digby

Yes, that's a Russian flag, provided by a prankster. The CPAC folks waved them proudly until the organizers finally caught on and confiscated them.

It's not your daddy's CPAC anymore. This piece by Michelle Goldberg is chilling:
On Thursday, white nationalist Richard Spencer was thrown out of the Conservative Political Action Conference. As security escorted him to the door, a college junior in a blue blazer and fashy haircut followed him. “I’m representing the alt-right club at Penn State,” said James O’Mailia, who then invited Spencer to come and speak. “Please come!” he said. “We’ll host you and everything.” 
O’Mailia’s club, the Bull-Moose Party, was formed to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign; it made news last year for building a pro-Trump plywood wall around an American flag on campus. He says he grew up as a “George W. Bush conservative” and got into the alt-right, in part, through Breitbart. “It’s the new punk rock,” he said, meaning it’s edgy and subversive. 
O’Mailia was resentful that people on campus had called his group racist. “In this new social justice warrior–dominated society, people will look at someone waving the American flag as being a white supremacist,” he said. That may be, I replied, but he just invited Spencer, an actual white supremacist, to speak at his school. “I just think it’s a good idea to bring his opinion into it,” he shrugged. 
CPAC, the country’s largest annual conservative gathering, has long drawn energy from young people who are resentful about liberal hegemony on college campuses. Now, however, it’s flailing as it tries to establish its own moral boundaries on right-wing speech. Its trouble started when Matt Schlapp, CPAC’s chairman, invited professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos to give a keynote address, sparking a furious backlash from traditional conservatives, who dug up statements by Yiannopoulos justifying man-boy sex. That ultimately led to Yiannopoulos losing his book deal, as well as his CPAC slot, and resigning from his job at Breitbart. In the aftermath, CPAC is trying to distance itself from the alt-right. Yet top Trump aide Steve Bannon, who once boasted that his website, Breitbart, was the “platform of the alt-right,” still had a prime Thursday afternoon speaking slot. And many young people in attendance reveled in the alt-right’s rebellious frisson of fascism. 
Shortly after the conference began on Thursday, Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union—the group that puts on CPAC—gave a speech denouncing the alt-right as left-wing infiltrators. “There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks,” he said, arguing that the term “alt-right” had been “hijacked” by a “hate-filled left-wing fascist group.” 
Schneider referred specifically to the conference in November where Spencer, standing before a giddy crowd of clean-cut racists, gave a Nazi salute and said, “Heil Trump, heil our people, heil victory!” Schneider’s argument was similar to the one Jonah Goldberg made in his risible book Liberal Fascism: Fascists are inherently left-wing because they believe in government power. (Apparently this is true even when they’re hailing the government power to crush the left.) “Hateful left-wing fascists are not like anybody here,” Schneider said. 
Even if you accept his absurd framing, what he said was wrong. Spencer himself—who, far from hijacking the term alt-right, actually coined it—was there watching from a seat near the stage. And it was clear that there were fellow travelers in the crowd. “There are lots of people here that I know,” Spencer told me after Schneider’s speech. Soon he was mobbed by journalists as well as by eager young conference goers who wanted to pose with him for selfies. One young man called out “Praise Kek!”—an alt-right in-joke. A guy named J.P. Sheehan pulled a T-shirt saying RADIX—the name of Spencer’s online journal—out of his bag, happily flashing it toward Spencer. “I know a lot of people are afraid of him, but Richard Spencer is like, the coolest guy,” he said.
There's a lot more so read the whole thing. This really says it all, though:
Sheehan, 26, says he voted for Obama twice, but as Obama’s presidency progressed, he came to feel like minorities had become emboldened at his expense. He realized, he said, “This actually isn’t in my best interest, and I can do better for myself.” Eventually, Sheehan came to see his whiteness as a source of meaning. “The thing about racial identity and ethnic heritage is that it’s like your shadow,” he said. “It’s going to be with you everywhere you go, but it reminds you that the sun is shining on you. People think the alt-right is just simply about being mean to other people. It’s really not. The alt-right is simply identity politics for white people.”
Such sweet kids. She interviews the organizers who offer even more of their inane bullshit about this being left wing and denying that one of their keynote speakers, Steve bannon special adviser to the president, is the guy who said his websire what the platform for the "alt-right" after which he came up with the nonsensical explanation that "alt-right" had been hijacked by left wing fascists.

Sometimes I fell as if the right is going to win simply by gaslighting us all into a padded room.


Define "great"

by Tom Sullivan

Amor (Cupid) kisses Psyche by Antonio Canova, Louvre. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna via Creative Commons.

When Barack Obama ran for president "hope" became his watchword. For Donald Trump, it was "great." The terms were vague enough that fans could impress on them anything their hearts desired. Many dreamed bigger than their leaders could deliver are would/will be disappointed.

As to a country's greatness, that is probably in the eye of the beholder, at least over the short term. But in historical terms, greatness has more to do with positive achievements and cultural legacy: legal, mathematical, social, scientific, artistic. It's hard to imagine anything like that coming out of the current crop of know-nothing nihilists running amuck at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A young coworker expressed a desire this week to visit the Louvre Museum. She can't pronounce it well, but she knows what it is, knows it is in France, and feels is is important that she go. The sitting U.S. president this week visited the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and declared slavery "just not good." He told the press he loathes:

"Today and every day of my presidency I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American," Trump said, calling his tour "a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry and hatred and intolerance."
(The Management hopes you weren't reading that with a mouthful of coffee.)

A museum visit notwithstanding, Trump proposes stripping funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural programs. Supporters of the arts are scrambling to defend their programs.

At Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf writes that it is not the "deep state" Americans need to worry about, but the emergent shallow one that "actively eschews experience, knowledge, relationships, insight, craft, special skills, tradition, and shared values." With Trump as its avatar, the shallow state believes:
... knowledge is not a useful tool but a cunning barrier elites have created to keep power from the average man and woman. The same is true for experience, skills, and know-how. These things require time and work and study and often challenge our systems of belief. Truth is hard; shallowness is easy.
If this is greatness, it is not the kind lovingly preserved in museums as a cultural legacy. If this is greatness, it will not produce classic works of art treasured for celebrating "What a piece of work is a man!"

Rothkopf writes:
Art is not an adornment to society. It is not a luxury. It is the purpose of society. It becomes our legacy. It is also, however, our teacher; it helps us consider that which is around us and what we want to be. It makes demands on us that in turn lead us to place demands on ourselves and those with whom we live and work. And that is precisely why these programs have been targeted by Trump. They are the enemies of the shallow state. So, too, of course, are the members of the press whom Trump has mislabeled as “enemies of the people.” The only people they are the enemy of are those who are at war with truth and thought: Trump and his supporters, the champions of the shallow state. That is why, while it is easy to simply be angry or to laugh at a president who doesn’t read or to be distracted by half-baked conspiracy theories like the deep state, we must recognize that the shallow state is much more pernicious. This administration has come to power because America has allowed public discourse, the quality of education we give our kids, and the standards we set for ourselves to decline. Trump seeks to institutionalize that decline. He is at war with that which has made our society great. He seeks to eviscerate the elements of our government and discredit those within our society who are champions of the depth on which any civilization depends.
But art is challenging and being challenged is taxing and taxing is "just not good." The great societies of the past have nothing to fear.

(h/t S.R.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Night Soother: Grizzly pole dancing edition

by digby

Feel the funk ya'll:

Get down, get down ...

That's from the new BBC series Planet Earth II, which is just great. It's a wonderful reprieve from the political hellscape.


Can yellow dogs learn new tricks?

by Tom Sullivan

Midtown Atlanta from Georgia Tech. Photo by Isawooty via Creative Commons.

Saturday, Democrats meeting in Atlanta choose a new chair for the Democratic National Committee. Handicapping seems to make it a tossup between Rep. Keith Ellison (the early favorite) and former labor secretary Tom Perez who entered the race a month after Ellison at the behest of the Obama White House. At the New Republic, Clio Chang quotes a Clinton ally who told The Hill, “Perez and Ellison are cut from the same progressive cloth. Either one would be a strong leader.” That sounds about right. So why urge him to run at all?

Because the difference that makes a difference is over who stands to lose influence inside party ranks:

As Jeff Stein points out at Vox, Sanders supporters are likely overstating the power of the DNC chair. But that is all the more reason to throw them a win. If an Ellison victory is a modest, symbolic concession, the upside is that Democrats will signal to progressive and younger voters, who Democrats will be desperate to turn out in 2018 and 2020, that they are on their side. It would be a choice of utmost pragmatism.

But members of the Democratic establishment don’t quite see it that way. The Hill reports, “Perez supporters have expressed concern about handing the party over to the Sanders wing of the party, arguing that Ellison would move the party too far to the left.” And the New York Times suggests that Democratic leaders pushed Perez to run because they viewed Ellison as too close to the Sanders wing.


And it’s not just Obama- and Clinton-ites that could see some power slip away with an Ellison-headed DNC. Paid DNC consultants also have a vested interest in maintaining the DNC status quo. Nomiki Konst, who has extensively covered the nuts and bolts of the DNC race, asked Perez how he felt about conflicts of interest within the committee—specifically, DNC members who also have contracts with the committee. Perez dodged the issue, advocating for a “big tent.” In contrast, in a forum last month, Ellison firmly stated, “We are battling the consultant-ocracy.”

These concerns about power, control, and money echo of the dismal failures of 2008, when top Democratic operatives decided to fold Obama’s online grassroots behemoth, Organizing for America, into the DNC. The story is infamous now: Party regulars wanted to ensure control of the group, rather than allowing it to flourish as an independent entity, one that could challenge the party itself. The muzzling of Obama’s grassroots support has been blamed for being partly responsible for the Democratic Party’s enormous losses in state and local seats over the past decade. Chris Edley, who pushed for OFA’s independence, told the New Republic recently about the choice, “If you’re not really that committed, as a matter of principle, to a bottom-up theory of change, then you will find it nonsensical to cede some control in order to gain more power.”
At issue now is whether party leaders who squandered the opportunity Obama's army of volunteers represented are the ones to fill in the hole they helped dig. A Republican operative quoted in "Crashing the Gate" said, "I don't get it. When a consultant on the Republican side loses, we take them out and shoot them. You guys -- keep hiring them." Killing off OFA, Micha Sifry wrote at New Republic, was "a sin of imagination, one that helped decimate the Democratic Party at the state and local level and turn over every branch of the federal government to the far right." Is it time to turn the page?

Fear of an emergent grassroots movement is a familiar story in North Carolina. This one goes back a dozen years, but could have been written yesterday.

Jerry Meek, a tall, unmarried attorney in his early thirties, won his race for state chair over the opposition of virtually the entire state party establishment. He told Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong what he did in "Crashing the Gate" (2006):
Meek had won an upset victory in early 2005 over Ed Turlington, the former state cochairman of local-boy John Edwards' presidential campaign with John Kerry. Turlington not only had Edwards' and the state's entire congressional delegation's blessing to become state party chairman, but also the governor's, the state legislative leaders', and all but one statewide elected official. "Pretty much every single elected Democrat in North Carolina supported my opponent," Meek told us. Yet he won by bringing together a coalition of party activists that had been ignored.

"It was a weird mixture. It was part conservative, rural, and part very liberal urban progressive, and both of them felt the state party had excluded them," Meek said. "The rural people felt like the state party was the party that just invested in the urban areas and had an interest in the urban areas. The urban progressives felt like the state party they ignored them because of their philosophical perspective on politics."

And echoing the same sentiment we find in most components of the new movement, Meek was more interested in building a big tent party than in ideology. "I put together really two coalitions that ordinarily could not coexist in the same room, which made it tricky because during the campaign I never talked about issues-I never talked about whether I'm liberal or moderate or conservative. I just talked about the insiders versus the outsiders. I talked about the need to have a party that embraced everybody and that included people in the decision-making process. And that's what both sides were looking for. And they came together and created a majority."
Meek mobilized the marginalized and out-organized the "power" players. Although he had served as a state party officer, party stalwarts were horrified at Meek's effrontery. How dare he run against the governor's choice? Why, he was too young. He was too liberal. It would be the end the Democratic Party in North Carolina. "And you know," one party doyen whispered to me, "he's gay." (Which today might make his wife and kids roll their eyes.) As candidate and as chair, the "too liberal" Meek worked the state in his pickup, delivering grassroots support and training to state counties. In 2008 with Meek at the helm, North Carolina went blue for the first time since 1976.

In 2016, as in 2008, the fate of another grassroots army hangs in the balance. Indivisible, Our Revolution, and other groups are looking beyond mere engagement. The DNC chair contest Saturday is about more than just control. It is about direction, conviction, and about courage. A skittish party establishment reflexively clutches ever harder at what control it thinks it still has rather than embrace new energy at a time when it has little left to lose. Since I've been involved, "savvy," centrist Democrats have perpetually second guessed themselves, asking, "But if we fight for [fill in your progressive policy here], what will the Republicans do (to hurt us) at election time?" As if Republicans would leave them alone if they don't stick their necks out. As if they would run out of lies to deploy and hit Democrats over the head with facts instead.

No guts is not a good look for a party asking to lead the last superpower. People aren't going to vote for the abused spouse party. Democrats need to be showing voters, including millions taking to the streets, that they have the courage of their convictions and will fight for them. Let Republicans worry about themselves.

I used to love when the small liberal arts school I attended played football against bigger teams like Clemson. They had nothing to prove. They were expected to lose. Yet they would play their hearts out, use their heads, rise to the challenge, and play above their usual level. Sometimes against opponents a full head taller. It was as glorious as cheering for Rocky that very first time. That's what American voters want to see. That's who they want to vote for. Recklessness is a fault, but always playing it safe is not what leadership and heart looks like. And it is not what the times call for now. Legacy Democrats who call themselves "yellow dogs" risk being seen as just yellow. The question tomorrow and going forward is whether they capitalize on and not squander the opportunity before them. Can their party still learn new tricks?

"America? I don’t go there anymore! America is no longer America!"

by digby

Yeah well, tell it to the American tourist industry Donnie.
We didn't have this kind of drop off even after 9/11.

YOU are so repellent and frightening that people around the world are refusing to come here:

The Travel Press is Reporting the 'Trump Slump,' a Devastating Drop in Tourism to the United States

Experts across the travel industry are warning that masses of tourists are being scared away from visiting the United States, and the loss of tourism jobs could be devastating.

By Arthur Frommer

Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.

While, earlier in the year, the Administration had boasted of saving 800 jobs in the Carrier Corporation, the drop-off in employment resulting from the travel ban would eclipse that figure.

According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.

Other observers, including local tourist offices, have reached similar conclusions. In referring to New York City’s $60 billion tourist industry alone, the head of the city’s tourist effort complained that his agency’s effort to portray the United States as a welcoming destination to foreign citizens “was all in jeopardy.” Several other tourist officials have made like statements.

As you can see, there is plenty of evidence for a negative conclusion.

You can imagine that foreigners of all stripes figure they can find friendlier places to visit on vacation. It won't be long before they figure they can find better places to do business too. After all, if you're a white nationalist who agrees with Trump --- and there are many --- you don't believe in travelling anyway and figure your money should be spent on your own volk, amirite? And if you are not a white nationalist, why in the world would you want to come to a country which just elected one who is proudly deporting people and talking about how he doesn't give a damn about anything but the United States being "respected" and "number one." I'm guessing you don't feel very welcome.

The Resistance IS the strategy

by digby

I wrote about the usefulness of stoking the Resistance for Salon this morning:

I am generally reluctant to wade into the interminable internecine Democratic Party battles. My focus at the moment is on trying to document the atrocities of President Donald Trump and there are only so many hours in the day. There are legions of armchair strategists out there willing to fight and argue over it, so I doubt my two cents are needed in any case. My feeling right now is the same as it always is — that we should elect more progressives to office wherever possible. Trying to game out the future with any precision at the moment seems like a fool’s errand under this erratic, unstable, volatile administration .

Nonetheless I must admit that I find myself chafing at the constant drumbeat that I must be willing to “reach out” to Trump voters and summon up empathy for their plight. This New York Times article, which has been passed all over social media and commented upon by virtually every liberal pundit in the country, is just the latest in the genre. An intrepid reporter journeys deep into the heart of Trumpland and finds out that its denizens are just all-American folks who are fit to be tied that they’re being tarred as bigots, and it’s just not fair. The upshot of this particular article was that anti-Trump protesters were pushing these fundamentally decent people away with their resistance and that they really need to cool it if they expect to win over these voters at the polls.

I have no doubt that many Trump voters have good qualities and in their average daily interactions with people they are probably as polite and decent as can be. But their politics are, I’m sorry to say, deplorable. I cannot find it in myself to go out of my way to try to feel much sympathy for people who don’t think the following is out of bounds:

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that unless feminists are ironing his shirt or making him some cookies, he’s not all that interested in anything they have to say, so trying to “reach” him is going to be a waste of breath. The same goes for the people surrounding him who clearly thought that was just fine and passed this vulgar misogyny on to their kids:

I suspect that most Latinos, African-Americans and American Muslims also feel their “outreach” might not be welcome. Moreover, people whose lives are being directly affected by the horrific policies for which these Trump voters cheered and clapped during the campaign should really not be asked to do it. It’s insulting and cruel, not to mention downright dangerous in some cases. If members of the Democratic coalition must show empathy toward these voters and try to persuade them that they have made the wrong choice, it probably should be done by members of the one group that doesn’t seem to offend these folks: white males. Luckily, there are a lot of them out there who can take on this task.

But all of this raises the fundamental question of whether it’s even necessary. Obviously, the Democrats have fallen short and need to do something to start winning majorities in the Congress and the presidency. There have been thousands of articles and posts written about whether they should try to boost the turnout of the party’s base, appeal to nonvoters, approach moderate Republicans or attempt to convert Trump voters. Many in the press seem obsessed with the last activity and pay little attention to the other approaches.

A piece by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect made a persuasive argument as to why Democrats shouldn’t bother with Trump voters, at least not yet. He described various types of Republicans such as the major Trump fans who wear those awful T-shirts, the party regulars who figured Trump would at least give them a conservative Supreme Court and cut their taxes and the “what the hell” voters who just took a flyer on disruption and change. He said if Democrats are going to reach out to Trump voters, those in the last group are the most likely to be amenable to outreach.

But Waldman explained that trying to appeal to any of those people is the last thing Democrats should do if they are seeking to create a wave election in 2018:

Right now, the Democrats’ constituents are feeling horrified, terrified, and generally pissed off. Which is just what produces the kind of midterm election they need.
That’s because midterm elections are all about enthusiasm — which almost always means anger. It’s the reason the president’s party usually loses seats in midterm elections: because the people who are angry enough to increase their turnout are the ones who dislike the president. Turnout in recent midterms has been in the 30s, meaning that nearly two-thirds of voters decide to stay home when there’s no presidential race. So it’s all a question of which voters get to the polls.
That’s why right now, if Democrats want to win in 2018, they need to highlight the things that will get their own voters as worked up about Trump as possible: his scary appointees, his retrograde executive actions, his constant lies, his self-dealing and corruption, and the tremendous damage he and Republicans in Congress are preparing to do. In other words, Democrats need to be as partisan as possible, and forget about “reaching out.”

He suggested that after the midterms will be the time to look to those “change” voters because by then Trump will have shown that he doesn’t have the magical powers necessary to turn back the clock to before the 1960s, and a few of them might decide they want to try “change” again or will just stay home.

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with someone like Trump is that he’s so personally and politically erratic it’s hard to know how to plan the opposition in advance. But it is safe to say he won’t be able to deliver on most of his promises — and what he will deliver is unlikely to be popular with anyone other than his diehard fans.

In the meantime, the most important order of business is to do everything necessary to take back the Congress in 2018 and stop him from doing his worst. Trying to appease Trump voters is exactly the wrong strategy. It only threatens to throw cold water on all the building energy that will get Democrats, independents and anyone else who is appalled by this presidency out to the polls.

Update: Chris Matthews and his panel yesterday tried to tell the audience that the protesters at Townhalls were just there to protect their own benefits and that was the only issue --- Obamacare, Social Security and medicare. But they are wrong. Those are big issues and the people who are protesting at the political events and marching in the streets are certainly demanding that those programs be left alone. But it's about a lot more than that --- mostly about Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he stands for and a defense of universal liberal values across the board. Nobody should cheapen this thing by making it seem like it's a cramped, selfish demand for everyone's own personal benefit. It's not.

The Village is, as usual, wrong. They are replaying the election. We're in a different world now. This is a much, much bigger fight.

 He's still ginning up the crowd to scream "lock her up"

by digby

It's interesting that he's said he won't pursue putting Clinton in jail but he sure loves to get that chant going whenever he has a chance:

She called half of them deplorable after they screamed that despicable little witch burning slogan like a bunch of rabid drooling hyenas at the Republican National Convention. Think about that. It  started at the big gathering of delegates from all over the country, with all the luminaries of the GOP in attendance:
Nearing the end of his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, Chris Christie paused. 
It wasn't just that the crowd was chanting — that, he expected. The New Jersey governor was in the middle of an attack on Hillary Clinton, listing what he saw as her many missteps as secretary of state. After each perceived misstep, he asked the crowd, “Is she guilty or not guilty?” 
“Guilty!” the crowd thundered back again and again. 
But this time, it sounded different. Christie looked down and to his left, at the enormous California delegation, momentarily distracted. Or perhaps it was Pennsylvania, Ohio or Maryland delegates. They were chanting. 
His eyes narrowed for a moment, seeking out the disruption. But then a smile slowly took over his face. He nodded as he figured out what they were saying. The chant swelled to a roar, and delegates began standing up from their seats. They waved their red, white and blue “Trump” signs. They shook their fists. They screamed and hollered and made the building shake, in that now-familiar three-beat chant: 
“Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” 
It's hard to say definitively if that was the first time the most popular chant of Donald Trump's campaign was uttered, but by the next evening, it was a go-to refrain, punctuating every mention of Clinton's name. 
It fit right in with Trump's core pitch to voters: that Clinton couldn't and shouldn't be trusted. His fans broke out in the chant at any mention of the Clinton Foundation, the email server or any other of his attacks on her. 
Of course, that wasn't his only position. At times, Trump's rhetoric shifted, and he insisted that a better path would be beating her on Nov. 8. “Let's just beat her in November,” he told supporters at a rally on July 29 in Colorado Springs just after the Democratic convention — a line he repeated at various campaign rallies over the course of the fall. 
But for the most part, he took a hard line — including when speaking with Clinton herself. “And I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception,” he said at the Oct. 9 presidential debate. “There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” 
In Florida on Oct. 12, he told the crowd that “this corruption and collusion is just one more reason why I will ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor,” and later adding, “She has to go to jail.”

His followers turned it into their cult's pledge of allegiance at his Nuremburg rallies.  And yes, anyone who joined that disgusting two minutes of hate is irredeemable especially considering the corrupt imbecile they voted for.

Don't kid yourself. If Trump gets into real trouble and has to get his base excited this is a surefire way to do it. He's keeping it in his back pocket. Attorney General Sessions said he will recuse himself from any Hillary Clinton investigations but let's face it: he's not exactly a truthful, dependable fellow either. She'd better watch her back.

Trump's personal Nazi

by digby

There are a lot of them, of course. But this one's in the White House:
When photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.

Gorka, who views Islam as a religion with an inherent predilection for militancy, has strong supporters among some right-leaning think tanks in Washington. “Dr. Gorka is one of the most knowledgeable, well-read and studied experts on national security that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told the Forward. Humire has known Gorka for nearly a decade, and considers him “top-notch.”
He has a web of deep ties to Hungary's far-right:
It was during his time in Hungary that Gorka developed ties to the country’s anti-Semitic and ultranationalist far right.

During large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Hungary in 2006, Gorka took on an active role, becoming closely involved with a protest group called the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gorka took on the roles of translator, press coordinator and adviser for the group.

Among the four Committee members named as the group’s political representatives was László Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Counties Youth Movement. Toroczkai founded that group in 2001 to advocate for the return of parts of modern-day Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine to form a Greater Hungary, restoring the country’s pre-World War I borders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involvement in the 2006 protests, Hungarian authorities opened an investigation into the Movement’s newspaper, Magyar Jelen, when an article referred to Jews as “Galician upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our country from them, take back our stolen fortunes. After all, these upstarts are sucking on our blood, getting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s publication, Toroczkai was both an editor at the paper and the Movement’s official leader.

Toroczkai currently serves as vice president of Jobbik and is the mayor of a village near the border Hungary shares with Serbia. Last year, he gained notoriety in the West for declaring a goal of banning Muslims and gays from his town.

In January 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his experience with the Hungarian National Committee, Gorka announced plans to form a new political party, to be known as the New Democratic Coalition. Gorka had previously served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister. But following Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Socialist government, Gorka grew disenchanted with Orbán’s Fidesz party.

In his email exchange with the Forward for this article, Gorka explained: “The Coalition was established in direct response to the unhealthy patterns visible at the time in Hungarian conservative politics. It became apparent to me that the effect of decades of Communist dictatorship had taken a deeper toll on civil society than was expected.”

Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.
There's more about Jobbik and Gorka's equally right wing splinter group. And here's some material about Gorka's articles for a right wing anti-Semitic newspaper:
Gorka’s articles for Magyar Demokrata focused not only on decrying Hungary’s then-Socialist government, but also on highlighting the perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the post-World War I agreement that led to the loss of two-thirds of prewar Hungary’s territory.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not responsible, and were punished to an extent that was likely even more unjust — with the exception of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire — than any other punishment in the modern age,” Gorka wrote in a 2006 article in Magyar Demokrata.

Asked about his choice of journalistic outlets, Gorka wrote, “I am […] unfamiliar with Bencsik. I believe it was one of his colleagues who asked me if I wanted to write some OpEds.” Gorka told the Forward that his writing at the time shows “how everything I did was in the interests of a more transparent and healthy democracy in Hungary. This included a rejection of all revanchist tendencies and xenophobic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfamiliar with Bencsik must be weighed against his deep immersion in Hungarian politics and Benscik’s status as a major figure in Hungary’s right-wing political scene. At the time, Gorka gave public interviews as an “expert” on the Hungarian Guard, which Bencsik helped to found. In one 2007 interview, Gorka clarified his own view of the Guard, saying, “It’s not worth talking about banning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minorities, Gorka said, “The government and media are inflating this question.”

It was in mid-February that Gorka’s affinity for Hungarian nationalist and far-right ideas first came to the American public’s attention. Eli Clifton of the news website Lobelog noticed from a photograph that the new deputy assistant to the president had appeared at an inauguration ball in January wearing a Hungarian medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal signifies a knightly order of merit founded in 1920 by Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s longtime anti-Semitic ruler and Hitler’s ally during World War II. Notwithstanding this alliance, and the group’s designation as Nazi-collaborators by the U.S. State Department, many within Hungary’s right revere Horthy for his staunch nationalism during the overall course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

This man is in the White Houyse as an adviser to the president. He is in Steve Bannon's Alt-NSC group which people assume has a special inside track to the president on foreign affairs.

Is this ok? Does it sound like Trump's foreign policy and worldview are benign expressions of American isolationism and working class economic anxiety?

I hope I'm wrong. But Donald Trump is an ignoramus and the fact that the fate of the world hangs on how much he is influenced by a group of fascists in his inner circle is keeping me awake at night. I guess YMMV.


The ears have it

by Tom Sullivan

@spockosbrain "Brain in a box. Half Human, Half Vulcan. Just want a piece of the Action."

In addition to having elected a morally, emotionally and intellectually stunted 70 year-old as their leader, the Wrongs of the Midas cult have made a fetish of freedom, the flag, capitalism, and the supposed free market.

These idols are all unvarnished goods so long as the Wrongs think they hold a controlling interest in them and can use them as tools for arrogating power and wealth for themselves. But every now and again somebody finds a way to leverage those tools against them.

Since late last year, the activist group Sleeping Giants has invited web surfers to report to advertisers when their fine products, services, and brand names appear beside the kind of retromingent views spewed at Breitbart that prompted one of the largest digital advertising services, AppNexus Inc., to ban the site for violating its policy on hate speech. AppNexus spokesman Joshua Zeitz told Bloomberg Technology, "We did a human audit of Breitbart and determined there were enough articles and headlines that cross that line, using either coded or overt language" that might incite violence.

Fortune reported days ago:

According to a leaked memo obtained by BuzzFeed, an Australian agency owned by the global advertising giant Omnicom -- which handles advertising and marketing campaigns for all of the major Fortune 500 brands including McDonalds and Apple -- has advised its staff that many of the firm's clients are asking that their ads not appear on Breitbart.
The Washington Post reports this morning that the former employer of Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos is seeing its ad revenues nose dive:
At Breitbart, the pullback in advertising has taken a toll on the site, staffers told Fox Business this week. More than 1,250 companies, including Audi, Harris Teeter, Greenpeace and Lyft, have recently pulled advertising from the controversial site, according to Sleeping Giants, an activist group that is tracking online data. A spokesman for Breitbart declined to comment for this report.

“People at the news outlet say that an effort is underway to make Breitbart more mainstream, by hiring reporters to cover news and devote less space to political commentary that has been its forte,” Fox Business reported. “People inside Breitbart say while the website may in fact be profitable, it is also suffering from a business standpoint with advertising dollars shrinking significantly.”
The Denver Post describes Breitbart News as Bannon's "media sledgehammer, an enforcer of orthodoxy that its fans praised for its swagger and that its critics labeled xenophobic or worse."
The site’s editorial thrust reflects Bannon’s nationalist, immigration-restrictionist beliefs and trumpets Breitbart’s continuing grievance and outrage against those who trespass against its worldview. The homepage focuses on a handful of thematic categories: praise for President Trump; attacks on his critics and on the news media’s coverage of Trump; praise for like-minded nationalist politicians such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen; stories critical of left-leaning political figures such as Michael Moore, Lena Dunham and George Soros; and random reports about immigrants and refugees causing trouble in their adopted lands, especially Europe and the United States.
They are free to do so even if Trump issues a proclamation rescinding the First Amendment. But All-American, capitalist advertisers are equally free not to soil their brands by association with this bile.

But it's important to give a tip of the fedora to our friend Spocko. He gets too little credit (and none of the "action") for having pioneered the techniques Sleeping Giants, Flush Rush and other activists adapted from his successful takedown of wrong-wing talkers on KSFO radio. As Spocko found a decade ago, most advertisers do not even know where their radio ads are appearing, and much less so in the age of Internet marketing. Rather than attempt to organize activists to boycott advertisers — cumbersome, innefficient, difficult to monitor, and indirect, since hate speech, not the advertisers is the real target — Spocko cut out the middleman and appealed to advertisers' bottom lines directly. He didn't need a massive rally or massive funding to do it. Just one guy.

Need a little inspiration for fighting back in the age of America's "deconstruction"? There you go.

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.