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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Red Hats and the party

by digby

Just a little something to think about:

Nine members of the far-right Proud Boys group and three protesters are facing riot and assault charges after a street brawl between them Friday night in New York.

The fight wasn’t a random clash, though: The Proud Boys were in Manhattan thanks to an invite from the Metropolitan Republican Club.

In a speech at the club, which was vandalized before the event, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes waved a sword at anti-fascist protesters and celebrated the assassination of a socialist Japanese politician. McInnes, a Vice co-founder, dressed up as the Japanese assassin who killed the politician, complete with glasses that made his eyes into a racist caricature of a Japanese person’s eyes.

It was a bizarre event to host at the GOP’s Manhattan clubhouse, but the Metropolitan Republican Club defended McInnes and the Proud Boys after the fight. In a statement released Sunday, the club said McInnes’ speech “was certainly not inciting violence.”

The Republican club’s role hosting the event highlights how the Proud Boys have managed to insinuate themselves with mainstream Republicans, even as they increasingly make the news for their violence. But the New York Republicans aren’t alone—the Proud Boys have already managed to make their way into other mainstream GOP campaign events and conservative media.

Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Devin Nunes have posed for pictures with Proud Boys on the campaign trail. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and Republican operative Roger Stone earlier this year.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion.”

— Historian Robert Paxton

Fascist skinhead groups have wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades, but scholars of fascism have noted that those groups pose limited political threats—unless a mainstream political party embraces them.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion,” historian Robert Paxton writes in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. “If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two” of what he identifies as fascist insurgency.

The Proud Boys, which have a paramilitary wing, have already proved willing to act as strongmen for Stone, and GOP stalwarts like the Metropolitan Republican Club have already proved willing to host the group.

We are a long way from the kind of streetfighting we saw in fascist Italy. But they started small too.

And I would just point out that there is another worrisome aspect of all this:

Bloodlines: A reprise

by digby

What with all the brouhaha about Elizabeth Warren's DNA, I thought it might be a good day to reprise this post about Trump's thoughts on the subject:

Friday, December 09, 2016

Trump's eugenics

by digby

Actually, it's MONEY through family but whatevs .. 

I have noted this before but it's worth looking at again. Trump is a eugenicist who believes that he and his family have superior genes and his wealth proves it. Remember this?

Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio explains that Trump was raised to believe that success is genetic, and that some people are just more superior than others:

"The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring."

Huffington Post also took the liberty of compiling a whole bunch of times Trump suggested that genes are the main factor behind brains and superiority. Here are just a few choice quotes from good ol' Trump:

"All men are created equal. Well, it's not true. 'Cause some are smart, some aren't."

"When you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse."

"Secretariat doesn't produce slow horses."

"Do we believe in the gene thing? I mean, I do."

"I have great genes and all that stuff which, I'm a believer in."
Well, there's actually a much better explanation for Trump's success:
We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”

Trump has certainly been creative ... in covering his ass. He managed to get bankers to keep loaning to him when he was clearly totally inept and repeatedly going bankrupts. It took them decades to catch on. He appears not to have paid federal income taxes for decades. And he just duped a large minority of Americans into believing that he was going to turn back the clock and make them all billionaires. So, he's creative alright. The way the best con artists are creative.

But he couldn't have done that without daddy's money. Not in a million years. 


Next Up: Disemboweling

by Tom Sullivan

Greg Sargent gets at a problem Republicans face ahead of November 6:

They need Trump to go full Trumpist to get out his voters, because his policies aren’t getting the job done — yet these displays are simultaneously strengthening the anti-Trump backlash among the constituencies most likely to deliver the House to Democrats.


A single quote from a GOP consultant tells the whole story. Republican Lou Barletta is trailing Sen. Bob Casey (D) by double digits — in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s win shocked the world — despite running as a full-blown Trumper. Why? A strategist for Barletta explains it to The Post this way: “One false assumption that was made was that a Trump voter from the 2016 election was necessarily a Republican voter.”
Trump's plan is to fill the media space with Trump, Sargent writes. Displays of contempt and humiliation for the losers, as Trump used on Lesley Stahl and Christine Blasey Ford, are part of the shtick. Kellyanne Conway thinks it's "Donald Trump in full" season, Sargent writes, with the sitting president doing as many rallies and unleashing "as many lies and depravities as the media space will absorb."

That the media is complicit and cannot look away says megabytes about the mindlessness of "moral" capitalism that turns the free press into Trump's vassals. Disembowelings and feeding the powerless to the lions was just as good for business at the Coliseum.

World revulsion at the disappearance/murder/dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudis seems not to have made a ripple in Trumpworld. For his part, the sitting president's Monday phone call with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has Trump floating the idea “rogue killers” (with access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul) are responsible. The frightening thing is how close to that edge Trump is willing to step (without having to see any blood himself, of course) to remain in the good graces of the strongmen he idolizes.

Daily Beast examines how welcome the extremist Proud Boys have become among mainstream Republicans:
Fascist skinhead groups have wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades, but scholars of fascism have noted that those groups pose limited political threats — unless a mainstream political party embraces them.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion,” historian Robert Paxton writes in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. “If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two" of what he identifies as fascist insurgency.
Like Trump, the group is careful to manage its violent elements so as not to overstep:
The frequent clashes between Proud Boys and left-wing protesters apparently haven’t damaged the Proud Boy brand enough to keep the group from gaining new members. While other groups further to the Proud Boys’ right have fractured, the Proud Boys appear to be growing, with members from United Kingdom and Australia posting beat-in videos on YouTube.

“Gavin, smartly, is holding by his fingernails to legitimacy,” Hankes said. “He knows that the second they cross over into being recognized as extreme as they are in reality, it’s all decline from there.”
Trump is already that extreme. He's just better at manipulating a media trained not to say so forcefully and responsibly.
* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Welp, it looks like the Democrats are going to help Donald Trump win a second term

by digby

This is my greatest fear. They only have to wait for two years and then they can launch their agenda without empowering a would be fascist imbecile for another four years. But it would be just like them to think that having their pictures taken on the steps of the White House yukking it up with Trump will be good for them.

White House officials say they have begun preliminary talks internally — and with Democratic lawmakers — about areas where they could work together in 2019.

They also say the ball is in the Democrats’ court.

“The president’s always ready to deal. Always,” Shahira Knight, the White House legislative director, said in an interview with The Hill.

The president famously reached a budget deal late last year with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), much to the chagrin of GOP leaders in Congress.

Trump has recently indicated he is willing to go down that path again. He said in a "Fox & Friends" interview last Thursday that it would be a “shame” if Democrats won control of Congress, but indicated it could open the door to an elusive deal to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.

“There’s a chance that we’ll get along and get along well. We have a lot of things, like infrastructure, that they want and that I want,” the president said.

Trump also crowed about the prospect for bipartisan wins during a signing ceremony for a new law aimed at reducing ocean pollution, the type of televised victory lap he seems to relish. The measure unanimously passed the House and Senate.

“Bipartisan. Did you ever think … you'd hear that? Bipartisan,” he told lawmakers at the White House.

Those remarks came even after Trump denounced Democrats this week as “wacko” and “too dangerous to govern” at campaign rallies designed to fire up his conservative supporters ahead of the midterms.

Some top Democrats already see Trump as a potential ally in an infrastructure push.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he has a $500 billion proposal “with a revenue source” ready to go.

And Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who's in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, said he sees infrastructure as an area where Democrats can work with the White House.

“Clearly, the administration might be able to move to do some infrastructure work with us,” Neal said.

He'll be the guy who brought the Democrats to heel. All Hail Emperor Trump.

Update: Remember what Trump's infrastructure plan, to the extent he has one, really is:
Originally, Trump's campaign had proposed giving out $137 billion worth of tax breaks that would supposedly pay for themselves and get the private sector to spend $1 trillion on toll roads and the like. But that seemed to change when Trump's ideological consigliere, Stephen K. Bannon, talked up a “trillion dollar infrastructure plan” that would take advantage of the fact that “negative interest rates throughout the world” meant it was the “greatest opportunity to rebuild everything” from “shipyards” to “ironworks” and “get them all jacked up.” It would, Bannon explained, “be as exciting as the 1930s.”

Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn, though, worried that the deficit-spending this implied would hurt the economy as much as it helped by forcing the Federal Reserve to raise rates, and, as a result, sending the dollar up. So instead of saying that the government would spend $1 trillion on roads and bridges and waterways itself, the Trump team said it would commit $200 billion over the next decade and offer as-of-yet unspecified incentives to get corporations to invest the other $800 billion. But even this was too much for Trump's austerian budget director Mick Mulvaney, who put together their latest plan to partially offset this $200 billion surge in infrastructure spending with a $95 billion cut in the years after that.

Trump's infrastructure plan, then, has gone from being builder-friendly to populist to Wall Street-approved and now tea party-inspired.

Quote o' the day

by digby

Also, just as a reminder, he also said this:


"They deny it strongly"

by digby

That's what Trump said earlier today, and then he floated the theory that some "rogue killers" may have been responsible. Now we hear that the Saudis are saying it was just an interrogation and kidnapping gone wrong which is supposed to be a reasonable excuse, I guess. Presumably this will allow Trump and Kush to comfortably maintain their financial ties with the Kingdom and especially the young princeling, MBS.

They brought in the bone saws to "enhance" the interrogation and well, oops.

This editorial by Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post gives a nice overview of the current middle east policy and how this situation came to be:

When Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected president, two nations in the Middle East that had been particularly aggrieved by the policies of the Obama administration rushed to take advantage. They were Saudi Arabia and Israel — and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

In a matter of months, Trump reversed Obama’s strategy of encouraging a regional equilibrium of power between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, siding unequivocally with the Saudis. He also abandoned decades of U.S. attempts to balance Israeli interests with those of the Palestinians. He tore up the Iran nuclear deal, moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and cut off aid for Palestinian refugees.

Trump and his supporters argued that this radical shift would lead to Mideast breakthroughs that eluded the Obama administration, including a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the Saudis would help to broker. His son-in-law and Middle East point man, Jared Kushner, talked expansively both of forging that “ultimate deal” and of an “Arab NATO” to roll back Iranian influence across the region.

Today, those ambitions have been revealed as the misguided fantasies they always were. The disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has exposed the real return on Trump’s gambits: a string of reckless acts by the Saudis and Israelis that have made the region more rather than less unstable.

The leaders of the two countries, Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu, have given Trump what he most craves: syncophantic support. On substance, however, they have done next to nothing to reciprocate unilateral Trump concessions such as the embassy move or the resumption of U.S. support for Saudi bombing in Yemen. Netanyahu expanded West Bank settlements and rejected confidence-building steps with the Palestinians. The Saudis, predictably, have failed to deliver on the $110 billion in arms purchases Trump boasted about last year.

This being the Middle East — a far more ruthless theater than the New York real estate market — both countries have exploited Trump’s indulgence to the hilt, taking actions they never would have dared under Obama or any other previous president. Netanyahu’s government supported a new law that makes non-Jews second-class citizens; it has put pressure on critical NGOs and press outlets. Last week it was detaining a visa-holding American student because she belonged to a pro-Palestinian campus group.

Netanyahu, to be sure, is a cautious statesman; his exploits pale beside those of the 33-year-old Mohammed. Since wooing Trump with a sword dance in Riyadh last year, the callow crown prince has launched a blockade of neighboring Qatar, though doing so undermined the promised Sunni front against Iran; abducted the pro-American Lebanese prime minister and forced him to resign on Saudi TV; dropped American-supplied bombs on civilian targets in Yemen, including a bus full of children, thus implicating the United States in what the United Nations has described as possible war crimes; and sanctioned Canada for criticizing the regime’s human rights record, including its imprisonment of women who advocated the right to drive.

None of this has troubled Trump. On the contrary, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month met a congressional mandate by certifying — against the judgment of the State Department’s own experts — that the Saudis were taking adequate steps to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen.

Given that record, and Trump’s labeling of news organizations such as The Post as the “enemy of the people,” it stands to reason that Mohammed might have concluded he could abduct or even kill Khashoggi, who was living in the Washington region and writing regularly for The Post, without serious consequence. Tragically, he may yet be proved right. Trump, who took six days to respond to Khashoggi’s disappearance, is now promising “severe punishment,” but he also called relations with the regime “excellent” and said he does not want to scrap those elusive military sales.

Still, as many have already discovered, an alliance with Trump rarely ends well. Even before Khashoggi’s disappearance, outrage over Yemen had created an unusual bipartisan coalition in Congress, which conditioned further military aid to Saudi Arabia. As the reaction to Khashoggi swelled, 22 senators divided between the parties signed a letter to Trump triggering a mandatory investigation of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which punishes human rights abuses. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said that if Saudi complicity is confirmed, it would “drop [relations] off the cliff.”

If Netanyahu believes he has nothing to worry about, he is not reading the polls showing a huge gap in support for Israel opening up between Republicans and Democrats. Like Mohammed, he seems to be betting that Trumpism will prevail in Washington indefinitely — and that there will be no reckoning for the outrages committed under its umbrella.

It's hard to see how there will be. The US was barely able to raise its voice against the Saudis in the past. Now we're basically saying, "go for it" we don't give a shit.

Let's face it. Trump is a big fan of authoritarian leaders and has a serious problem with democratic leaders. That's who he is. That's what his fans love about him. You remember them. The people who used to wave around the constitution and bleat about freedom and liberty all the time. The same ones who are screaming right now about a "deep state" and "due process."

By the way, Trump's vaunted "arms deal" was negotiated by the Obama administration, it's worth maybe 28 billion and that's being generous, and it won't create many jobs for another decade. He's lying about all of it. Because he's a pathological liar.


If You're Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be 

by tristero

Jason Stanley of Yale University tells it exactly like it is.  According to him, fascism has three components:

1. Evoking a mythical past
2. Dividing the country into Us and Them
3. An all-out assault on the truth

That is exactly what is going on right now in this country. And, to quote Professor Stanley, "When fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble."

Remember: this is not normal. Two examples: Until Trump, the word "lie" was rarely used (except by Krugman re: W. Bush) to describe the statements of a US president. Now, it is used all the time.  And never, until Trump, have I seen the NY Times publish any political commentary as alarming as Professor Stanley's.

Again: This is not normal.
Just as dumb as he ever was. And just as mean.

by digby

This painting is hanging in the White House

There were many appalling moments in Trump's 60 Minutes interview last night, not the least of which was his comment that he knows more about NATO's mission than James Mattis, his blithering idiocy about economics and well ... everything. He's getting worse.

He obviously did not like Lesley Stahl's questions and he got very defensive throughout, almost surly. When he gets defensive he immediately starts bragging. This was one of the most embarrassing moments of his career.

Lesley Stahl: Okay. Changing subjects again-- you are the first president of the United States who never had a political post before, nor never served in the military. You come up here, you've been here for almost two years, what's the biggest surprise and what have you learned since you've been president?

President Donald Trump: Okay. So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah. Now I say they're babies.

Lesley Stahl: Who's the toughest?

President Donald Trump: The political people. This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it's full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it's like making a deal with-- that table.

Lesley Stahl: Give me an example.

President Donald Trump: Well, I don't wanna give you an example. I'm not lookin' to-- in the meantime, nobody's been able to do what I've been able to do. Remember that. When you look at taxes, you look at regulations, you look at-- making deals with other countries. Nobody's been able to do anything like this. Actually, most people didn't even try because they knew they didn't have the ability to do it. But it's a very deceptive world. The other thing I've really learned is I never knew how dishonest the media was. I-- I-- and I really mean it. I'm not saying that as a sound bite. I never--

Lesley Stahl: I'd like to--

President Donald Trump: Knew how dishonest--

Lesley Stahl: I'm-- I'm gonna change the subject again.

President Donald Trump: Well, no, even the way you asked me a question, like, about separation. When I say Obama did it, you don't wanna talk about it.

Lesley Stahl: No, I'm gonna run your--

President Donald Trump: When I say I did it, let's make a big deal of it.

Lesley Stahl: I'm gonna run your answer, but you did it four times, so.

President Donald Trump: I'm just telling you that you treated me much differently on the subject.

Lesley Stahl: I disagree, but I don't wanna have that fight with you.

President Donald Trump: Hey, it's okay--

Lesley Stahl: All right, I'll get in another fight with you--

President Donald Trump: Lesley, it's okay. In the meantime, I'm president--and you're not.

Yes, he actually said that. He was uptight and angry. He's so used to being fluffed by Fox that he forgot what it's like to be interviewed by anyone else. But it got worse:

Lesley Stahl: This country is divided, polarized. Within families, there aren't even people who can talk to each other. What does this say about where we are as a country right now, all this division and strife and--

President Donald Trump: Yeah-- I think that--

Lesley Stahl: --anger?

President Donald Trump: --what's going to happen-- I think the economy's bringing people together. It was very polarized under President Obama, unbelievably polarized under President Obama. I can see the country uniting. I can see it. We have people, Democrats, who behaved horribly during the Judge Kavanaugh-- you-- know what I'm saying.

Lesley Stahl: But when you won that.

President Donald Trump: --during the hearings for the Supreme Court, we had senators that behaved horribly.

Lesley Stahl: But when you won, you won. No-- no one is gonna argue with that.

President Donald Trump: I won--

Lesley Stahl: You won. And then after you won, instead of saying, "Oh, let's all come together, this is wonderful. Let's heal all of this," you come out and bash the Democrats.

President Donald Trump: Well, I bashed their attitude. I bashed their statements--

Lesley Stahl: But why not try to--

President Donald Trump: Because they were--

Lesley Stahl: --bring us together?

President Donald Trump: --so unfair to Judge Kavanaugh. I've never--

Lesley Stahl: But why not--

President Donald Trump: seen anything like it.

Lesley Stahl: --why not try and-- we need to be healed. We need--

President Donald Trump: I don't think they want to heal yet, I'll be honest.

Lesley Stahl: Well, you don't wanna--

President Donald Trump: I think--

Lesley Stahl: heal yet.

President Trump on his treatment of Christine Blasey Ford at rally: "It doesn't matter. We won."
President Donald Trump: I-- I-- I saw Hillary Clinton made a really nasty statement. I don't think they wanna be healed. I do wanna heal.

Lesley Stahl: I'm n-- I'm not talking about Democrat-- I'm talking about the country. You go out and you go to Mississippi.

President Donald Trump: The famous Mississippi speech?

President Trump at rally in Mississippi: I had one beer. Well, you think it was, nope! It was one beer. Oh good. How did you get home? I don't remember. How did you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago was it? I don't know. I don't know… I don't know…

Lesley Stahl: And you mimicked Professor Blasey Ford. You mimicked her.

President Donald Trump: Had I not made that speech, we would not have won. I was just saying she didn't seem to know anything.

Lesley Stahl: No (UNINTEL)--

President Donald Trump: And you're trying to destroy a life of a man who has been extraordinary.

Lesley Stahl: Why did you have to make fun of her?

President Donald Trump: I didn't really make fun of her.

Lesley Stahl: Well, they were laughing.

President Donald Trump: What I said the person that we're talking about didn't know the year, the time, the place.

Lesley Stahl: Professor Blasey Ford got before the Senate and-- and was asked what's the worst moment. And she said, "When the two boys laughed at me, at my expense."

President Donald Trump: Ok, fine.

Lesley Stahl: And then I watched you mimic her and thousands of people were laughing at her.

President Donald Trump: They can do what they-- I-- I will tell you this. The way now Justice Kavanaugh was treated has become a big factor in the midterms. Have you seen what's gone on with the polls?

Lesley Stahl: But did you have to--

President Donald Trump: Well, I think she was treated with great respect, I'll-- I'll--

Lesley Stahl: And-- but--

President Donald Trump: be honest with you.

Lesley Stahl: but do you think—you treated her with--

President Donald Trump: There are those that think she shouldn't have--

Lesley Stahl: Do you think you treated her with respect?

President Donald Trump: I think so, yeah. I did.

Lesley Stahl: But you seem to be saying that she lied.

President Donald Trump: W-- you know what? I'm not gonna get into it because we won. It doesn't matter. We won.

Keep it up Trump and this 30 point gender gap will go up to 50 points.

Look at the way he shrugs at Stahl's comment about thousands of people mocking Ford:

Honestly, how anyone could vote for this pig is beyond me.

He's very pleased with his performance today. He couldn't even compliment his wife for her interview over the week-end without bringing himself into it.


Warren's Intro

by digby

She's very, very good:


What Republicans are really scared of isn't the "left wing mob"

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

I hear that the angry mob is on the march getting ready to take to the streets and destroy everything God-fearing Real Americans care about. Again. This latest iteration of the perennial rightwing fear-mongering began when survivors and women's rights activists came to Washington to protest the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. These frightening revolutionaries scared the bejeejuz out of Republicans and they haven't been able to get a good night's sleep ever since.

President Trump has taken the lead in bravely defending the good people of our nation against these vicious street fighters telling rally-goers in each of his many such events in the past week:
“You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry, left-wing mob. And that’s what the Democrats have become.”

That was a scripted line, obviously. Trump could never come up with such a literary phrase. His own words are a bit more pungent: “The Dims have gone wacko!”

He pulls the "law and order" card frequently, claiming the loyalty of all police, casting them in opposition to Democrats. To a cheering group of law enforcement officers at the White House back in August, the president of the United States said, "[W]e have a little opposition called, the Democrats. I guess they just don't mind crime. They don't mind crime. It's pretty sad...The Democrat Party is held hostage by the so-called resistance, left-wing haters and angry mobs...." Then he called himself their proud Commander in Chief, showing that he believes he commands the police as well as the military which isn't true.

From the moment Trump was inaugurated and the big woman's march was held the following day, the propaganda arm of the GOP has been pushing the idea that people protesting Trumps presidency are violent. The NRA was the first out of the gate with a series they called "the clenched fist of truth" warning their members that the left wing mob was coming for them:

Today, Trump's loyal soldiers have lined up behind him to wring their hands and clutch their pearls over the nasty women who stormed the halls of the Senate to yell at men in elevators. They've never been more frightened in their lives. David French of National Review wrote that "it's time to stop excusing, rationalizing, and minimizing behavior that is dangerous, menacing, and threatening" by which he meant people being rude to Republicans in restaurants.

None of them seemed to have been concerned about the storming of town halls back in 2010 which came with written instructions from the Tea Party organizers to "Artificially Inflate Your Numbers," "Be Disruptive Early And Often" and "Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate."

The conservative protest model was very dignified and decent:

As for descending on the capitol to take the protest to the elected officials, here was how it's handled by respectable people.

The Tea Party protests against the Affordable Care Act were certainly aggressive, sometimes dangerous and always inexplicable. (Why people were so overwrought that the government was trying to make health care available to more people is something for future psychiatrists to figure out.)

Anyone who has observed the Trump phenomenon knows that he has a history of inciting his own followers. Recall that during the campaign at various times he said, “I’d like to punch him in the face,“"maybe he should have been roughed up," part of the problem is no one wants to hurt each other anymore," and "if you do (hurt him), I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.” And his reference to the Charlottesville Nazi demonstration as containing "very fine people" will go down as one of the more disturbing comments made by any president in American history.

His rally goers still commonly launch into chants of "lock her up" at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton and, more recently, Dianne Feinstein. Perhaps some people think that crowds calling for the jailing of political opponents is all in good fun but it's chilling for the president of the United States to stand smiling and nodding above them as they do it.

This current chest beating about "the angry left-wing mob" may morph into something more threatening as we get into the presidential campaign and Trump and his followers start to feel the heat of possible defeat. The NRA certainly seems prepared to take it to the next level. And sure, the Republicans hope to keep their base riled up by pretending that the "angry mob" of women in pink hats and protesters embarrassing Republicans officials in restaurants presents a threat to the nation. But Trump voting right-wingers are not afraid. They're playing the victim to own the libs.

Republican officials are using this "angry mob" rhetoric for a different purpose: they are trying to get Democratic lawmakers to feel uncomfortable and distance themselves from their passionate supporters in the hopes that this will suppress the midterm vote. The handwringing conservative pundits are trying to make liberals in the media condemn the protesters and put them on the defensive. They want to make the Democrats condemn their own voters. So far, it's not working.

Protests, even violent ones, are nothing new in America. Trump copped his "I am the candidate of law and order" from Richard Nixon, (who basically stole it from George Wallace) during a time of political assassinations, urban riots and massive civil rights and anti-war protests  And there are plenty of examples of similar political and social upheavals in our past, even including a very bloody civil war. The "polarization" we are experiencing in our politics is hardly unprecedented.

Considering how outrageous the president of the United States has become and how supine and accommodating the Republicans in congress have been, these first two years of the Trump administration have been remarkably serene. That's because the supposedly dangerous "Resistance" has actually been feverishly organizing on the ground all over the country to recruit candidates and run campaigns to send Republicans packing. The "angry left-wing mob" isn't running wild in the streets --- it's running for office. That's really what's got these Republicans shaking in their boots.

The Janes: The Future of Abortion is the Past

by tristero

The Times has a terrific short documentary on The Jane Collective, a group of women in the late '60's/early '70's who performed some 11,000 illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade.

A doctor performed the abortions and charged high fees. But it turned out he wasn't a doctor at all. He then taught the women in The Jane Collective to perform abortions themselves. They had no medical background and no medical training other than what the non-doctor provided.

Think about that. Think that that is your daughter. Think that that is yourself. This is where we're headed again thanks to the Republicans who rammed Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, it's only a matter of time before Roe v. Wade is reversed.

Please don't get me wrong. What the Janes did was necessary. But all women, if they want/need an abortion, should have access to the safest possible procedures — drugs or, if needed, operations performed openly and without stigma or judgment by trained medical personnel. Driving abortion back underground is sheer madness, fueled by hatred of women, especially poor women.


by Tom Sullivan

Something from Axios this morning gave me a shudder. Why, in a minute.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) spoke to Axios about his new book. Sasse said:

"I had a conversation last month with one of the most senior U.S. intelligence officials, who told me that many leaders in the [Intelligence Committee] worry that we’re on the verge of a deepfakes [artificial intelligence algorithms that create convincing fake images, audio and video] 'perfect storm.'"
"Americans are so divided right now, about who we are and what we hold in common, that there are dozens of scabs at which malevolent foreign actors can pick in their efforts to weaken us."
Key conclusions from "Them":
"I talk with the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community nearly every day, and most of them are deeply anxious about information operations that are currently being conducted by foreign powers, which see an unexpected opportunity to undermine Americans' own confidence in our system, in our institutions, and in our American idea."

"Put more bluntly: Vladimir Putin loves cable news, and the divides it helps to solidify in the American soul.
I remember how the Internet locked up the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I was on a paper mill site in northern New Hampshire. An old boiler man with me in the construction trailer said planes had crashed into the World Trade towers. His wife had just called the trailer. My first thought? It was an Internet hoax. But I couldn't get anything online to load to verify the story. Pipe fitters, millwrights, and electricians outside were hunched over their radios. Everything on site ground to a halt. Everyone else in the country was transfixed, glued to their TVs watching the unfolding tragedy. The attacks shook the country to its core.

Now, recall the scene from Live Free or Die Hard in which cyber-terrorists construct and broadcast a fake film of the U.S. Capitol building exploding. People in D.C. could run into the streets and see in a moment the video was a phony. People not there (as I was not in New York City on 9/11) could not. People like me relied on accounts that spread like wildfire, that reached me in minutes via a land line. But with the Internet choked with traffic, I could not "verify" the rumor I heard by word of mouth. These days, if a cyber attack was comprehensive enough, could you even believe what you found there? Or would the fake have already done its work of dissolving external reality?

Our faith in what we learn from the news and the Internet has been so deliberately eroded since 9/11, might something upsetting and disruptive like Live Free or Die Hard happen without any physical attack at all? A cyber attack that overwhelms our information systems with unverifiable rumors of incredible violence or attacks in remote locations might (if TV is involved too) cause tremendous psychological damage (or worse). The rumor would spread in seconds, but we would spend weeks and months cleaning up the mess. Would we trust anything we heard afterwards? Conspiracy nuts don't now.


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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Catch up on the soft-coup by usurpers conspiracy theory

by digby

I know most of my readers don't watch Fox News (you value your sanity) so you probably don't have any idea what they are obsessing about these days. So I thought I'd just share that one clip to give you a taste.

You can read more about this at Fox News, but do yourself a favor and take some aspirin before you do it. You'll have a headache before you finish. They have worked themselves up into such a conspiratorial frenzy that it's impossible for anyone to be able to follow it anymore.

They are very sad that Democrats may win and then no one will ever get to the bottom of their fantasy scandal. But Fox will stay on it. They have created an alternate universe what all this gibberish makes sense.

The redefined presidency

by digby

The Atlantic's Todd Purdham made an interesting observation about Trump:
It is a poignant paradox of Donald Trump’s ubiquitous presidency—all tweets, all the time—that a leader who prides himself as omnipresent in digital public discourse is so often absent from national life in the hundred human ways in which the country has come to expect its presidents to perform.

Latest case in point: After Hurricane Michael devastated parts of Florida’s Panhandle, Trump played host at the White House to Kanye West, who—in a ten-minute monologue in the Oval Office—dropped the F-bomb and praised Trump’s “Make American Great Again” cap as a hyper-masculine talisman that made him feel “like a guy that could play catch with his son.”

But think about it: Have we ever seen Trump play catch with his own 12-year-old son, Barron? Without question, the president dotes on his children, especially his daughter, Ivanka. But he's an absentee father to the nation, or at least a majority of the nation. There have been no warm and fuzzy photos of Trump shopping for books or gifts, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did with their daughters. No images of him poring over a photo album, as Abraham Lincoln famously did with his son Tad, or tending his stamp collection, as FDR did. No visible evidence of the easy relaxation with friends and family that has become a standard part of presidential iconography.

And the absence is broader. Trump can’t readily cheer the nation in moments of triumph (championship sports teams boycott his White House). He doesn’t tenderly comfort the nation in times of tragedy (he tosses paper towels to hurricane victims, and does a double fist pump on the anniversary of 9-11). He doesn’t read books, talk movies or go to the theater, and is unwelcome at even the Kennedy Center Honors over which presidents have presided for nearly 40 years. This reality is striking, and sad: When it comes to those personal rituals of the modern presidency that Americans have long since taken for granted, Donald J. Trump is the man who isn’t there.

This is true. Trump has completely abandoned the ceremonial aspects of his job. But that makes ense. He doesn't see himself as the leader of the whole country. He is the leader of his cult and only his cult, which hears from him via his twitter feed and Fox News.

He's completely redefined the presidency. It's something else now, a strange, ongoing thrill show, a political Evil Kneival stunt. Every day is another possible disaster, and every day that he survives makes him more reckless. We watch, both horrified and transfixed, waiting for him to crash and burn. The only question is how many of us spectators he takes with him.

Has he changed it forever? I guess that depends on how long he survives ...

Those families at the border? Trump says they're "very bad people"

by digby

Trump's going back to his greatest hits, this time trying to cast Democrats as getting ready to open the border so all those criminals can come flooding in and kill you:

Lesser politicians merely exaggerate or spread fear about what the opposing party would do if they took power in Congress. President Donald Trump is inventing specific pieces of legislation.

Trump’s now rallying supporters by warning them that if Democrats take back the Senate, they’ll pass a bill written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called the “Open Borders Bill.”

No such bill actually exists.

Here’s what Trump told a rally audience in Topeka, Kansas, on Saturday:

"Today’s Democrats have embraced radical socialism and open borders. If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country, folks, you don’t have a country. Every single Democrat in the US Senate has signed up for the Open Borders — and it’s a bill! It’s called the Open Borders Bill! What’s going on? And it’s written by — guess who — Dianne Feinstein."

They want to lock her up too, you'll recall.

The true story is that there is an immigration bill that Democrats signed on to aimed at preventing family separation. It was poorly drafted and would have made it difficult for any undocumented immigrant with a child to be arrested for anything, even a felony, which wasn't the intention.

Also somebody forgot to tell Trump and his followers that as president he would have to sign that bill for it to become law. So no boogeymen will be allowed to kill all those scared Trump voters in their beds unless he allows it.

By the way, "changing immigrant detention policy as a way to deter undocumented people from coming to the U.S. is illegal, federal courts have repeatedly ruled."

Here's Trump yesterday:

President Donald Trump confirmed on Saturday that he is considering a new family separation policy at the US-Mexico border because he believes the administration's earlier move to separate migrant children from parents was an effective deterrent to illegal crossings.

Asked to respond to a report in The Washington Post that the administration is weighing a new family-separation policy, Mr Trump told reporters, "We're looking at everything that you could look at when it comes to illegal immigration."

Mr Trump said the soaring number of illegal border crossings is "a terrible situation" and argued that family separations likely would help scare away some undocumented migrants from trying to enter the United States.

"If they feel there will be separation, they won't come," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump made his comments to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One for his trip to Kentucky, where he was scheduled to headline an evening campaign rally.

Mr Trump attributed the rise in illegal border crossings to the robust economy.

"We have people that are trying to get into our country because of how well our country is doing," Mr Trump said. "You know, in the old days, when the country wasn't doing well, it was a lot easier. Now everybody wants to come in, and they come in illegally, and they use children. In many cases, the children aren't theirs. They grab them, and they want to come in with the children."

The president later added: "You have really bad people coming in and using people. They're not their children. They don't even know the children. They haven't known the children for 20 minutes. And they grab children and they use them to come into our country."< In August the country saw a 38 per cent increase in the number of migrants arrested and charged with illegally crossing the border, Department of Homeland Security officials said.

Trump could not care less whether the courts have said you can't change immigration law to "deter" immigrants. He's going to do it.

You know where this is heading.


Catching up with Trump's secret admirers

by digby

It's been a while since the media went out on an expedition to take the temperature of Trump's most ardent fans so I know you must have been wondering how they are doing. (No?)

Normally they go to some dying steel town or rural village and sit around the diner talking to older white guys and their wives. The New York Times took a slightly different tack this time and instead of checking in with the "white working class" Real Americans they talked to some of the college educated white men who are still backing Donald Trump:

— Robert Peters and George Fidelibus walked off the 18th green at the Golf Club of Dublin, then carried pints of beer to the patio overlooking the course, which was framed by $500,000 homes.

Their conversation quickly turned to the president.

“I’m feeling better and better about him all the time,” said Mr. Peters, 63, a retired engineer, who had once been cool to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Fidelibus, 75, a retired banker in a Calloway hat, had also once been skeptical of the president’s bullying and lack of self-control.

“I’m a supporter of Trump now,” he said “He may not always say things the way most presidents before him said them, but what does it matter? They didn’t get the job done.”

As an edgy, divided nation heads into a crucial election, much of the attention is focused on the anti-Trump animus of suburban women, which seems to have gained a few degrees in intensity over the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Much less examined are their male counterparts. While recent polls show that white women with a college degree favor Democratic House candidates by a large margin, 20 points or more, white college-educated men — who focus more singularly on economic issues, according to surveys — are a potential bulwark for the president and his party. It is especially true in suburban battleground districts that are likely to help decide the next House majority.

White men without a college degree were Mr. Trump’s most reliable supporters, but they made up only 33 percent of his total vote. College-educated white men were also essential to putting him over the top.

One reason for their continued support now: White college-educated men have benefited unequally in the Trump economy. While the president’s favorite barometer of success, the stock market, is up 26 percent since he took office, individual stock ownership is concentrated among people in the upper income brackets, who are far more likely to be white. The Republican tax cut also delivered higher benefits to whites than to blacks or Latinos, according to a recent study.

Dublin is in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where Troy Balderson, a Republican, squeaked out a one-point victory in a special election in August. He faces the same Democratic challenger on Nov. 6.CreditAndrew Spear for The New York Times
These men, largely Trump voters whose support for him has solidified since his election, are business owners and sales executives, veterinarians and lawyers — men who largely wouldn’t be caught dead at a Trump rally chanting “Lock her up!”

They may cringe at a president who humiliates cabinet secretaries and foreign allies, and who utters a stream of easily disproved falsehoods.

But many have quietly struck a bargain with Mr. Trump: They will overlook his trampling of presidential norms because he is delivering just what they want on the economy, deregulation, immigration and foreign affairs.

“He’s tough, he’s a bully, but boy things are getting done,” said JD Kaplan, who runs a graphics business from his home on a neatly landscaped block in Dublin, an affluent suburb of Columbus. Mr. Kaplan, 63, who is a Republican activist, moved years ago from northeast Ohio’s struggling Rust Belt, where a younger brother still runs Kaplan Furniture, a store their grandfather founded.

“Whether it was Obama who started it or not, the economy’s better,” he said. “I see my brother’s businesses are doing better, my graphics business is doing better, my wife’s got a better job.’’
Interviews in August and on a recent return visit showed that while Mr. Trump is losing droves of white women with college degrees, many of their male counterparts now strongly support him.

White working class men and white middle and upper class men alike rationalize their support for Trump as being about "economics" all they want. But it's simpler than that:

Yes, there is the odd racial minority who agrees with all those white guys. (See, this for example.) But it's rare because most racial minorities can see that Trump's misogyny notwithstanding, he's also a stone cold racist. Kanye seems to feel insulated by his wealth which, to his credit, he at least earned himself.

By the way, there's this new polling from CNN. It's pretty meaningless overall --- we're two years out and a lot can happen between now and then. But its the kind of thing that will haunt my dreams:
The public is split over whether they think the President will win a second term -- 46% say he will and 47% say he won't. But that's a steep improvement for him since March, when 54% of adults said they thought he'd lose his bid for a second term. The share seeing a second Trump win in the offing has risen across party lines. The increase is a bit sharper among men (up 8 points), independents (from 39% in March to 47% now) and those who are enthusiastic about voting in this year's midterms (from 37% in March to 46% now).

Normalization? Yeah, probably.

He's going to clean house

by digby

We know they're all expecting him to purge the DOJ in some way after the election to neuter Mueller. This could be another area of concern:

President Trump suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis could be one of the next administration officials to depart his Cabinet. In an interview airing on "60 Minutes" Sunday, the president said there are "some people" in his administration that he's "not thrilled with."

Asked by correspondent Lesley Stahl if Mattis is going to be leaving, Mr. Trump replied: "Well, I don't know. He hasn't told me that."

"I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth," Mr. Trump said of the retired Marine Corps general. "But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington."

Mr. Trump dismissed reports of chaos in the White House as "fake news," but said, "I'm changing things around. And I'm entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They'll come into the administration, they'll be phenomenal."

For such a pathological liar he sure isn't very good at it. Can anyone see that and not be convinced that Mattis is on the way out?

I have no idea who he might be planning to put in at the Pentagon. All we know is that he will be terrible and things are heating up globally in ways that are unpredictable and dangerous.

But at least we have a steady hand in the National Security Council ... John Bolton.

Trump approval rises?

by digby

I guess that's technically true. But look at what it rises to:

His approval rating has been at about 40% since he was inaugurated. I suspect that won't change unless the economy goes south and dislodges some of the selfish, rich, assholes who know he's a dangerous imbecile but don't care as long as their portfolios remain fat. That would probably peel off five or six points. Maybe a few more. But the rest are superfans. They may stick with him forever.

In the meantime:



Going full Trumpistan

by Tom Sullivan

Being persecuted "for Jesus" is a way to win brownie points not only with the Big Guy, but with fellow members of your church. Living near Bob Jones University decades ago, one noticed how conservative southern Christians at once both dominated local culture and politics and yet felt beset on all sides by the powers of darkness. Screaming at passersby they were going to hell was a sign of piety. Receiving scorn for behaving like a jerk bestowed bragging rights the way a lefty might recount for years the time at that protest he was shoved by a cop. "HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!" is core to the brand.

Globalization has reduced the Christian right's political and cultural dominance. That simply makes them feel even more persecuted for their righteousness. So too with conservatism as a broader social movement.

Ryan Cooper writes that besides being an effective distraction from Republicans padding the pockets of the wealthy, going "all-in on culture war, bigotry, enraged nationalism, and bug-eyed conspiracy theories" keeps their base from noticing they have "nothing concrete whatsoever to offer most of their voters." Serving up red meat gets the job done:

Now, this tactic should not be underestimated. For instance, in terms of uniting the Republican base, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has proved successful precisely because of his multiple sexual assault allegations and his snarling partisan testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Infuriating liberals by nominating a beer-swilling Republican hack operative and accused sexual predator allows conservatives to experience their very favorite thing: marinating in victimhood.

Nothing unites conservatives better like whipping themselves into a red froth of rage over perceived liberal persecution — and there's no better way to do it than standing proudly behind a genuinely horrible person. "I didn't like Nixon until Watergate," as conservative writer Stan Evans once said. Even Bret Stephens, the New York Times' hand-picked Never Trump conservative, went full MAGA over Kavanaugh.
Faced with a looming blue wave, Republicans led by Donald Trump have created a liberal "mob" as this season's oppressor.

Jonathan Chait believes (as I do) that confronting high-ranking Republicans in restaurants is not effective political action. Nor is spot violence by "a tiny handful of revolutionary cosplayers" among antifa. But the angry mobs of Trump's imagination provide the conservative base a handy persecutor du jour and a motivating distraction from its own darker tendencies:
Susan Glasser, a seasoned and politically centrist reporter, observed six recent Trump rallies. She notes the cult of personality theme at the events, which feature “the kinds of tributes I have heard in places like Uzbekistan, but never before in America.” And while she allows that Trump is hardly new in making hyperbolic charges that his center-left opponents will usher in socialism, the fear of chaos he marshalls behind such warnings is novel: “Where Trump differs starkly is in his insistence — made at an increasingly high pitch as the week went on — that Democrats not only want to legislate their way to socialism but that they are an actual clear and present danger to Americans.”

The method on display is familiar if you study any historical episode of democratic backsliding. One party, either from the far left or the far right, sets out to attack and weaken democratic norms. The small-d democrats resist, trying to maintain democratic norms. But they’re fighting at a disadvantage against a ruthless foe that does not observe their limits, and at least some of the opposition undertakes a more drastic action. Any offense becomes a pretext for the authoritarians, who exaggerate the threat of violence and chaos by their enemies to justify the antidemocratic measures they were planning all along.
The strength of democratic institutions and Trump's ineptness as an autocrat have prevented America from going full Trumpistan. So far.

Glasser writes that ignoring the amped-up victimization Trump is selling misses how dangerous it really is:
It’s the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters. Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Trump and Trump alone stands between his audiences and disaster.
Our votes stand between democratic republic and Trumpistan.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday Night at the Movies

Don’t look down: Free Solo (***½)

By Dennis Hartley

In my 2011 review of the film Drive, I wrote:
If there is one thing I’ve learned from the movies, it’s that a man…a real man…has gotta adhere to a Code. Preferably a “warrior” code of some sort. […] Steve McQueen…there was a guy who specialized in playing characters who lived by a code; he also brought a sense of Zen cool to the screen. There were others, like Jean-Paul Belmondo, Lee Marvin, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood.
It seemed inevitable that at some point in E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary Free Solo, it would be revealed that its “star”, free-soloist climber Alex Honnold, lives by such a code.

“For [my girlfriend] the point of life is like, happiness,” the soft-spoken, seemingly unflappable Honnold confides at one juncture, “To be with people that make you feel fulfilled; to have a good time. For me, it’s all about performance. Anybody can be happy and cozy. […] Nobody achieves anything great because they are happy and cozy. It’s about being a warrior. It doesn’t matter about the cause, necessarily. This is your path and you will pursue it with excellence. You face your fear, because your goal demands it. That is the goddamned warrior spirit. I think the free-soloing mentality is pretty close to warrior culture; where you give something 100% focus, because your life depends on it.”

I’m taking his word for it. When it comes to heights…I get a nosebleed from thick socks.

It’s not that the Spock-like Honnold never experiences fear; he just processes it differently from most humans. Literally. In one scene, a bemused Honnold gets a brain MRI. The results? “You have no activation in your amygdala,” the neurologist marvels, “Things that are typically stimulating for the rest of us just aren’t doing it for you.” Hmm.

Honnold (now 33) dropped out of UC Berkeley at 19, scrapping his original plan to study engineering so he could free-climb full time. He’s become a rock star in the climbing world over the years, striving to outdo himself with each ascent. In June of 2017 Honnold went for his ultimate personal best by aiming to be the first person to do a free solo ascent of the 3,200-foot face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Vasarhelyi re-teamed with her husband, photographer/mountaineer Jimmy Chin (the couple co-directed the 2014 film Meru) to document Honnold’s meticulous preparation and the attempt itself.

The deliberate pacing of the film’s first two thirds, which gives only fitful peeks what makes the taciturn, borderline hermetic Honnold tick, belies the genuine excitement of the final third, which rewards the viewer’s patience in spades. There are glimpses at his personal life with his devoted girlfriend, who seems to have resigned herself to accepting his eccentricities as par for the course. Well, you know what they say- “whatever works”.

You may already know whether Honnold achieved his goal; I had no clue before watching the film (I haven’t gone out of my way to follow the world of free climbing). I also purposely did not Google his name beforehand, because I figured it would ratchet up the suspense. Boy, did it ever-especially in the film’s climactic climbing sequence, which was the most harrowing, white-knuckled, yet ultimately exhilarating and life-affirming 20 minutes I’ve experienced at the movies in ages (I had a lot of activation in my amygdala).

The photography is stunning (as you would expect from a National Geographic film…they do have a rep to uphold), and the editing in that final sequence is Oscar-worthy. I watched my preview copy on a 40-inch flat screen; but I easily visualize this film as a spectacular big-screen experience. Granted, it will likely end up airing on Nat Geo Channel (with 153 commercials) but go see it at a theater if you get the opportunity.

Previous posts with related themes:

North Face
Man on Wire

More reviews at Den of Cinema
On Facebook
On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley
For the Proud Boys at the Metropolitan Republican Club 

by tristero

Right wing extremists in New York last night.

And here they are, 80 years ago, packed into Madison Square Garden. Be sure to watch the entire movie and see them beat up a protestor.

Someone wrote me recently and scolded me for being panicked. He's absolutely correct. I am quite panicked.

If you're not, at the very least, highly alarmed, at what's going on... then you simply don't know 20th Century American and European history. This is not normal.

America has always needed a celebrity businessman indebted to Middle Eastern despots

by digby

Trump claims that he won't impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia because that would mean they'd cancel the brilliant 100+ arms sales he personally negotiated and that wouldn't be fair to Americans.

First things first. The arms deal,which was mostly negotiated by the Obama administration has only resulted in about 14 billion dollars in contracts. Trump loves to brag and maybe this really is the only reason he's been fluffing the Saudis non-stop since he became president. But I doubt it

From TPM:

He’s booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York’s Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.

President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he’s often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.

“I love the Saudis,” Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. “Many are in this building.”

Now those ties are under scrutiny as the president faces calls for a tougher response to the kingdom’s government following the disappearance, and possible killing, of one of its biggest critics, journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The Saudis are funneling money to him,” said former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, who is advising a watchdog group suing Trump for foreign government ties to his business. That undermines “confidence that he’s going to do the right thing when it comes to Khashoggi.”

Trump paid his first foreign visit as president to Saudi Arabia last year, praised its new young ruler and boasted of striking a deal to sell $110 billion of U.S. weapons to the kingdom.

But those close ties are in peril as pressure mounts from Congress for the president to find out whether Khashoggi was killed and dismembered after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey, as Turkish officials have said without proof.

Trump said Friday that he will soon speak with Saudi Arabia’s king about Khashoggi’s disappearance. But he also has said he doesn’t want to scuttle a lucrative arms deal with the kingdom and noted that Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, is not a citizen. For its part, Saudi Arabia has called allegations it killed Khashoggi “baseless.”

The president’s links to Saudi billionaires and princes go back years, and appear to have only deepened.

In 1991, as Trump was teetering on personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise cash, he sold his 282-foot Trump yacht “Princess” to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal for $20 million, a third less than what he reportedly paid for it.

Four years later, the prince came to his rescue again, joining other investors in a $325 million deal for Trump’s money-losing Plaza Hotel.

In 2001, Trump sold the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower across from the United Nations in New York for $12 million, the biggest purchase in that building to that point, according to the brokerage site Streeteasy. The buyer: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Shortly after he announced his run for president, Trump began laying the groundwork for possible new business in the kingdom. He registered eight companies with names tied to the country, such as “THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor LLC” and “DT Jeddah Technical Services,” according to a 2016 financial disclosure report to the federal government. Jeddah is a major city in the country.

“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally on Aug. 21, 2015, the same day he created four of the entities. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

The president’s company, the Trump Organization, said shortly after his 2016 election that it had shut down those Saudi companies. The president later pledged to pursue no new foreign deals while in office.

In a statement this week, the company said it has explored business opportunities in many countries but that it does “not have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia.”

Since Trump took the oath of office, the Saudi government and lobbying groups for it have been lucrative customers for Trump’s hotels.

A public relations firm working for the kingdom spent nearly $270,000 on lodging and catering at his Washington hotel near the Oval Office through March of last year, according to filings to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the firm told The Wall Street Journal that the Trump hotel payments came as part of a Saudi-backed lobbying campaign against a bill that allowed Americans to sue foreign governments for responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia cited the payments by the Saudi lobbying firm as an example of foreign gifts to the president that could violate the Constitution’s ban on such “emoluments” from foreign interests.

The Saudi government was also a prime customer at the Trump International Hotel in New York early this year, according to a Washington Post report.

The newspaper cited an internal letter from the hotel’s general manager, who wrote that a “last-minute” visit in March by a group from Saudi Arabia accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had boosted room rentals at the hotel by 13 percent for the first three months of the year, after two years of decline.

Saudi Arabia has also helped on one of Trump’s key policy promises, and helped the president’s friends along the way.

Last year, the kingdom announced plans to invest $20 billion in a private U.S.-focused infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group, an investment firm led by CEO Stephen Schwarzman. Blackstone stock rose on the news. Earlier this year, Trump unveiled a $200 billion federal plan to fix the nation’s airports, roads, highways and ports, tapping private companies for help and selling off some government owned infrastructure.

Schwarzman, who celebrated his 70th birthday at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, accompanied Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia.

I will never in a million years be able to fully grasp how it is that a president with this kind of exposure to foreign influence, who has not divested his business even today, who refuses to be transparent about his taxes and on and on and on can get away with all this.

But hey, maybe he'll succeed finally in locking up Hillary Clinton to send a message about corruption and everything will be fine.

Trump neglect in Trump country

by digby

PANAMA CITY, Florida—Hurricane Michael’s sudden transformation into a storm that is unprecedented for the Florida Panhandle haunts everyone who lived through it. “It was raw power,” says Panama City resident Walter McAlster, “you felt you were in it, not outside and didn’t know if you would live through it. You knew that everything was going to change the landscape forever.”

And it did, in the span of three hours.

The destruction is everywhere, at every corner for as far as the eye can see. Mexico Beach, where the hurricane’s eyewall slammed into Florida with 140 mph winds, is flattened. Panama City, gem of the Emerald Coast, looks like a bomb had been dropped on it. Is now a desolate landscape of countless toppled power poles, transformers, electical lines, severed trees, and metal roofings, twisted and tangled into a sea of debris covering every road. Nearly all homes, businesses, stores, banks, schools are severely damaged or destroyed, skeletal remains with blown out windows or crushed facades. To residents, it is unrecognizable.

There is so much rubble that the official death toll of 14 is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams inspect thousands of buildings, looking for the the missing. On Friday, a team from the Miami Fire Department found a body in a Mexico Beach home.
Since the storm, there’s been no electricity and no water in Panama City. Emergency disaster relief was yet to be seen in strength as of Saturday morning and residents are growing more frustrated and desperate by the day.

Chantell Goolspy sat in her car making phone calls to get help. Goolspy and many of her neighbors live in a public housing area in downtown Panama City that was badly devastated.

“We’re in need of food, water, anything, we’re not getting any help. The whole street needs help,” Goolspy told the Red Cross. “FEMA referred me to you. That person told me to call 211.”

Down the street, Barbara Sanders stood outside her daughter’s unit where she had come to stay during the hurricane.

“We’re not getting any help,” she said. “We need food. It’s just crazy.”

Sanders said not a single relief agency had come by to check on them. Only the police had come and it was to tell everyone to leave. “They told us there’s nothing they can do and it’s gonna take a long time to rebuild,” Sanders said.

Just then a pick-up truck arrived with water. It was the first help this neighborhood had received and it turned out to be two brothers, Chris and Brendon Hill, from Louisiana who had decided to come and help residents here.

In neighboring Panama City Beach, city manager Mario Gisbert wasn't going to wait for federal emergency assistance. Volunteers from Florida and other states, brought water, set up a food kitchen for police, and prepared 1,500 meals for locals. A local church is preparing to distribute meals at 15 stations in Panama City.

“The American people are helping us,” Gisbert said. “FEMA will eventually come into the game and get the accolades in six months.”

Federal, state, and local officials were hunkered down at the Emergency Operations Center set up at Gulf Coast State College in Lynne Haven, trying to get urgently needed food and water to residents. The EOC denied The Daily Beast’s request to speak with the EOC chief, Mark Bowen, and city officials. Spokesperson Catie Feenie said the focus was on “coordinating some patrols who are in life-saving mode” for the 60,000 residents that had not evacuated before the hurricane, like Goolspy and Sanders.

Trump's going to rallies and hanging with Kanye and truly does not seem to give a shit.

Mexico Beach and Panama City are in Bay county, which gave Trump 71% of the vote in 2016. Maybe if they didn't name their towns after shithole countries he might want to help. They should call them Trump Beach and Trump City and maybe he'll start to care.

But hey, I'm sure that he'll take time out of his busy rally and tweeting schedule to come down and hand out some paper towels. And all his superfans will show up, thrilled just to be in his presence. He'll say there's never been a relief effort as strong, nice and great and they'll all believe him.