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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Night at the Movies

Run for the shadows: Top 10 Film Noirs

By Dennis Hartley

It’s been a dark week here in Seattle. I actually mean that in a good way. Film noir expert/revivalist Eddie Muller brought his “Noir City” mini-festival to town (sponsored here by SIFF), hosting seven days of screenings at local theaters. Muller’s travelling exhibition gives audiences around the country a chance to catch films from the “classic” noir cycle on the big screen. That’s what got me thinking about my favorite genre entries.

And thinking. And thinking.

This is one of the toughest “top 10” lists I’ve tackled, because I could easily do a “top 100”. Out of the 3700 titles in my personal movie collection (I know…it’s an illness), over 800 fall in the noir/neo-noir/mystery categories. One could say I’m a little obsessed.

I had to narrow it down this way: which noirs have I re-watched the most times? That was the chief criteria behind these selections. So note going in that this is not designed to be my definitive assemblage of the most “historically important”, or “classic” noirs of all time (although several of these titles might be considered as such). These are purely personal favorites, so if this compels you to fire off a “You Philistine! I cannot believe you overlooked [insert title here]!!!” response, your indignation is duly noted beforehand.

One more note. I’m fully aware that most film scholar types generally define the “classic noir cycle” as cynical, darkly atmospheric B&W crime dramas produced between 1940 and 1959; consequently any similar entries going forward automatically get tossed into the “neo” noir bin. That said, there are some (like yours truly) who respectfully argue that the Force remains strong, at least through the mid-1970s. And so it goes. Alphabetically:

Ace in the Hole – Billy Wilder’s 1951 film is one of the bleakest noirs ever made:

Charles Tatum: What’s that big story to get me outta here? […] I’m stuck here, fans. Stuck for good. Unless you, Miss Deverich, instead of writing household hints about how to remove chili stains from blue jeans, get yourself involved in a trunk murder. How about it, Miss Deverich? I could do wonders with your dismembered body.

Miss Deverich: Oh, Mr. Tatum. Really!

Charles Tatum: Or you, Mr. Wendell-if you’d only toss that cigar out the window. Real far…all the way to Los Alamos. And BOOM! (He chuckles) Now there would be a story.

Tatum (played to the hilt by Kirk Douglas) is a cynical big city newspaper reporter who drifts into a small New Mexico burg after burning one too many bridges with his former employers at a New York City daily. Determined to weasel his way back to the top (by any means necessary, as it turns out), he bullies his way into a gig with a local rag, where he impatiently awaits The Big Story that will rocket him back to the metropolitan beat.

He’s being sarcastic when he exhorts his co-workers in the sleepy hick town newsroom to get out there and make some news for him to capitalize on. But the irony in Wilder’s screenplay (co-written by Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman) is that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for Tatum; in his attempt to purloin and manipulate the scenario of a man trapped in a cave-in into a star-making “exclusive” for himself, it’s Tatum who ultimately becomes The Big Story. Great writing, directing and acting make it a winner.

Chinatown - There are many Deep Thoughts that I have gleaned over the years via repeated viewings of Roman Polanski’s 1974 “sunshine noir”.

Here are my top 3:

1. Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.

2. Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.

3. You may think you know what you’re dealing with, but, believe me, you don’t.

I’ve also learned that if you put together a great director (Polanski), a killer screenplay (by Robert Towne), two lead actors at the top of their game (Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway), an ace cinematographer (John A. Alonzo) and top it off with a perfect music score (by Jerry Goldsmith), you’ll produce a film that deserves to be called a “classic”.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle- This vastly under-appreciated 1973 crime drama/character study from director Peter Yates features one of the last truly great performances from genre icon Robert Mitchum, at his world-weary, sleepy-eyed best as an aging hood. Peter Boyle excels in a low-key performance as a low-rent hit man, as does Richard Jordan, playing a cynical and manipulative Fed. Steven Keats steals all his scenes as a scuzzy black market gun dealer. Paul Monash adapted his screenplay from the novel by George P. Higgins. A tough and lean slice of American neo-realism, enhanced by DP Victor J. Kemper’s gritty, atmospheric use of the autumnal Boston locales.

High and Low – Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 noir, adapted from Ed McBain’s crime thriller King’s Ransom, is so multi-leveled that it almost boggles the mind. Toshiro Mifune is excellent as a CEO who, at the possible risk of losing controlling shares of his own company, takes responsibility for helping to assure the safe return of his chauffeur’s son, who has been mistaken as his own child by kidnappers.

As the film progresses, the backdrop transitions subtly, and literally, from the executive’s comfortable, air conditioned mansion “high” above the city, to the “low”, sweltering back alleys where desperate souls will do anything to survive; a veritable descent into Hell.

On the surface, the film plays as a straightforward police procedural; it’s engrossing entertainment on that level. However, upon repeat viewings, it reveals itself as more than a genre piece. It’s about class struggle, corporate culture, and the socioeconomic complexities of modern society (for a 50 year old film, it feels quite contemporary).

Kiss Me Deadly – Robert Aldrich directed this influential 1955 pulp noir, adapted by A.I. Bezzerides from Mickey Spillane’s novel. Ralph Meeker is the epitome of cool as hard-boiled private detective Mike Hammer, who picks up a half-crazed (and half-naked) escapee from “the laughing house” (Cloris Leachman) one fateful evening after she flags him down on the highway. This sets off a chain of events that leads Hammer from run-ins with low-rent thugs to embroilment with a complex conspiracy involving a government scientist and a box of radioactive “whatsit” coveted by a number of interested parties.

The sometimes confounding plot takes a back seat to the film’s groundbreaking look and feel. The inventive camera angles, the expressive black and white cinematography (by Ernest Laszlo), the shocking violence, and the nihilism of the characters combine to make this quite unlike any other American film from the mid-50s.

The film is said to have had an influence on the French New Wave (you can see that link when you pair it up with Godard’s Breathless). British director Alex Cox paid homage in his 1984 cult film, Repo Man (both films include a crazed scientist driving around with a box of glowing radioactive material in the trunk), and Tarantino featured a suspiciously similar box of mysterious “whatsit” in Pulp Fiction.

Night Moves – In Arthur Penn’s 1975 sleeper, which you could call an “existential noir”, Gene Hackman delivers one of his best performances as a world-weary P.I. with a failing marriage, who becomes enmeshed in a case involving battling ex-spouses, which soon slides into incest, smuggling and murder. Alan Sharp’s intelligent, multi-layered screenplay parallels the complexity of the P.I.’s case with ruminations on the equally byzantine mystery as to why human relationships, more often than not, almost seem engineered to fail. I think I’ve just talked myself into watching it again.

Strangers on a Train– There’s something that Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, Rene Clement’s Purple Noon (and Anthony Minghella’s 1999 remake, The Talented Mr. Ripley) all share in common with this 1951 Hitchcock entry (aside from all being memorable thrillers). They are all based on novels by the late Patricia Highsmith. If I had to choose the best of the aforementioned quartet, it would be Strangers on a Train.

Robert Walker gives his finest performance as tortured, creepy stalker Bruno Antony, who “just happens” to bump into his sports idol, ex-tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) on a commuter train. For a “stranger”, Bruno has a lot of knowledge regarding Guy’s spiraling career; and most significantly, his acrimonious marriage. As for Bruno, well, he kind of hates his father. A lot. The silver-tongued sociopath Bruno is soon regaling Guy with a hypothetical scenario demonstrating how simple it would be for two “strangers” with nearly identical “problems” to make those problems vanish…by swapping murders. The perfect crime! Of course, the louder you yell at your screen for Guy to get as far away from Bruno as possible, the more inexorably Bruno pulls him in. It’s full of great twists and turns, with one of Hitchcock’s most heart-pounding finales.

Sunset Boulevard – Leave it to that great ironist Billy Wilder to direct a film that garnered a Best Picture nomination in 1950 from the very Hollywood studio system it so mercilessly skewers (however, you’ll note that they didn’t let him win…the Best Picture statuette went to All About Eve that year). Gloria Swanson’s turn as a fading, high-maintenance movie queen mesmerizes, William Holden embodies the quintessential noir sap, and veteran scene-stealer (and legendary director in his own right) Erich von Stroheim redefines the meaning of “droll” in this tragicomic journey down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Wilder coscripted with Leigh Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr.

Sweet Smell of Success– Tony Curtis gives a knockout performance in this hard-hitting 1957 drama as a smarmy press agent who shamelessly sucks up to Burt Lancaster’s JJ Hunsecker, a powerful NYC entertainment columnist who can launch (or sabotage) show biz careers with a flick of his poison pen (Lancaster’s odious, acid-tongued character was a thinly-disguised take on the reviled, Red-baiting gossip-monger Walter Winchell).

Although it was made over 60 years ago, the film retains its edge and remains one of the most vicious and cynical ruminations on America’s obsession with fame and celebrity. Alexander Mackendrick directed, and the sharp Clifford Odets/Ernest Lehman screenplay veritably drips with venom. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is outstanding. Lots of quotable lines; Barry Levinson paid homage in his 1982 film Diner, with a character who is obsessed with the film and drops in and out of scenes, incessantly quoting the dialogue.

Touch of Evil – Yes, this is Orson Welles’ classic 1958 sleaze-noir with that celebrated (and oft-imitated) opening tracking shot, Charlton Heston as a Mexican police detective, and Janet Leigh in various stages of undress. Welles casts himself as Hank Quinlan, a morally bankrupt police captain who lords over a corrupt border town. Quinlan is the most singularly grotesque character Welles ever created as an actor, and stands as one of the most offbeat heavies in film noir.

This is also one of the last great roles for Marlene Dietrich (who deadpans “You should lay off those candy bars.”). The scene where Leigh is terrorized in an abandoned motel by a group of thugs led by a creepy, leather-jacketed Mercedes McCambridge could have been dreamed up by David Lynch; there are numerous such stylistic flourishes throughout that are light-years ahead of anything else going on in American cinema at the time. Welles famously despised the studio’s original 96-minute theatrical cut; there have been nearly half a dozen re-edited versions released since 1975.

Posts with related themes:

Ride the Pink Horse
Mickey One
They Live By Night
In a Lonely Place
The Night of the Hunter
North by Northwest
Brighton Rock (2010 vs. 1947 versions)
Kubrick’s Noir Cycle: The Killing and Killer’s Kiss
My Obsession with Ida Lupino: Moontide and Road House

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

The biggest load of pathetic rationalization you will ever read

by digby

This is by David Brody, the conservative evangelical TV broadcaster, attempting to explain why he and others like him love that immoral, dishonest piece of garbage Donald Trump. He tells their leaders he loves them.He makes liberal cry. And he delivered their agenda. (But don't call the "transactional" because that makes them sound like the mercenary, self-centered hypocrites they are.)

Of all the questions surrounding the current president, perhaps the most perplexing is this: How could evangelicals get behind a man like Mr. Trump, especially well-known conservative leaders who both treasure and champion morality? Constant news reports paint a picture of an out-of-control, angry, mentally unstable, reckless president who is prejudiced against all of humanity except white people with modest incomes and out-of-date values. But after interviewing scores of evangelical leaders, I have developed a different perspective.

Most of the world, and even most reporters, know only the public side of President Trump. In private, evangelical leaders have come to recognize a more compassionate side.

For example, Mr. Trump took a car ride with Mike Pence along with Billy Graham’s son Franklin and Tony Perkins, a leading figure on the Christian right, during the Louisiana floods of 2016. Impressed by what Franklin Graham’s Christian ministry had done for flood victims, Mr. Trump told him that he was writing it a six-figure check, which Mr. Graham told him to send to Mr. Perkins’s church. Both men were moved by his impulsive kindness, and a bond was formed.

Another story involves Mr. Trump and the televangelist James Robison praying together inside an S.U.V. on the airport tarmac in Panama City, Fla., during a campaign stop. When Mr. Trump exited the car, he gave Mr. Robison a hug, pulled him up against his chest firmly and said, “Man, I sure love you.” A small gesture, perhaps, but heartfelt, real and so unlike the caricature of the president most of us see. And practically every evangelical leader I interviewed has a similar story.

Critics say that the Trump-evangelical relationship is transactional, that they support him to see their agenda carried out. In fact, evangelicals take the long view on Mr. Trump; they afford him grace when he doesn’t deserve it. Few dispute that Mr. Trump may need a little more grace than others. But evangelicals truly do believe that all people are flawed, and yet Christ offers them grace. Shouldn’t they do the same for the president?

This is more than a biblical mandate. The Bible is replete with examples of flawed individuals being used to accomplish God’s will. Evangelicals I interviewed said they believed that Mr. Trump was in the White House for a reason.

Bishop Wayne Jackson, who is the pastor of Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit and calls himself a lifelong Democrat, remembers Mr. Trump’s campaign visit to his church. He told me that the moment Mr. Trump got out of the car, “the spirit of the Lord told me that that’s the next president of the United States.”

Evangelical leaders also see a civic obligation to speak godly counsel to him, on policy and personal matters. He is, after all, the president. And it’s paying off. I’ve watched Mr. Trump through the lens of the faith community for years, and he has delivered the policy goods and is progressing on the spiritual ones.

My reporting suggests Donald Trump is on a spiritual voyage that has accelerated in recent years, thanks to evangelicals who have employed the biblical mandate of sharing and showing God’s love to him rather than shunning him. President Trump told me that he “was exposed to a lot of people, from a religious standpoint, that I would’ve never met before. And so it has had an impact on me.”

This president’s effect on our cultural norms has been shocking. His critics would call it appalling; evangelicals say it’s immensely satisfying: They’ve seen a culture deteriorate quickly in the past decade, and they’re looking for a bold culture warrior to fight for them. Showing that God does indeed have a sense of humor, He gave them Mr. Trump. Yet in God’s perfection, it’s a match made in heaven. Mr. Trump and evangelicals share a disdain for political correctness, a world seen through absolutes and a desire to see an America that embraces Judeo-Christian values again rather than rejecting them.

Finally, why in the world wouldn’t evangelicals get behind and support a man who not only is in line with most of their agenda but also has delivered time and time again? The victories are numerous: the courts, pro-life policies, the coming Embassy in Jerusalem and religious liberty issues, just to name a few. He easily wins the unofficial label of “most evangelical-friendly United States president ever.”

Does Mr. Trump have moral failings? Yes. Critics will suggest a hypocrisy coming from evangelical leaders who are quick to denounce the ethical failings of others who don’t have an “R” next to their name. But the goal of evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture, not to get mired in the moral failings of each and every candidate. For evangelicals, voting in the macro is the moral thing to do, even if the candidate is morally flawed. Evangelicals have tried the “moral” candidate before.

Jimmy Carter was once the evangelical candidate. How did that work out in the macro? George W. Bush was the evangelical candidate in 2000: He pushed traditional conservative policies, but he doesn’t come close to Mr. Trump’s courageous blunt strokes in defense of evangelicals.

Evangelicals have found their man. It may seem mystifying to outsiders, but for someone like me, with a front-row seat to an inside view, it makes perfect sense. Maybe they’re taking their cue from Billy Graham, embracing presidents with moral failings rather than rejecting them.

He's all yours guys. And like him you are all empty vessels lacking even the slightest bit of integrity and decency. His legacy is your legacy. I'm sure you'll enjoy each others company in the 9th circle of hell.

He may have to blow up the whole world to teach it a lesson

by digby

On Friday Trump said this about North Korea:
“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go to Phase 2,” Trump replied. “Phase 2 may be a very rough thing. May be very, very unfortunate for the world.”
He had announced new draconian sanctions designed to make Kim Jong Un bow down and prove that Donald Trump has the biggest hands on the planet. If he refuses to denuclearize well then the Trump has no choice but to start a nuclear war.

How else are we going to stop this threat except to do the actual thing we are trying to stop, amirite?

Maybe Kim Jong Un is less crazy that Trump. That seems to be what we are banking on. 
Mueller so far

by digby

The New York Times has published a nice explainer on the Mueller investigation so far. You'll note in the chart above that of the 19 people charged, four are Trump campaign officials, three of whom were very high up in the organization, two were officially part of the transition and one was a member of the administration. Maybe that's not a big deal. But really, it's a big deal.

The whole article is worth reading just to get a recal on where we are. This is a very deep and complicated story in many ways. But whatever else happens we already know something very important: Trump has proven himself to be a terrible judge of competence and integrity. Which is not a huge surprise since he has none himself.

QOTD: Michael Steele

by digby

Former RNC chair Michael Steele on Friday refused an apology from Conservative Political Action Conference communications director Ian Walters, who said during a dinner earlier in the evening that Steele had only been elected chairman “because he was a Black guy.”

“He did call and tried to explain himself,” Steele told MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “And he related it back to Barack Obama’s election. And he said at one point, I apologize. And I said, that’s not acceptable, that’s not enough.”

Walters was speaking at CPAC’s Ronald Reagan Dinner on Friday night when he told the crowd, “We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do.” According to those in the room at the time, the comment was met with audible gasps.

“Do you think that the Republican Party has a racism problem?” Reid asked.

Steele responded bluntly, “Yes, they do. I think we need to be honest and acknowledge it. I think the fact that people sit here now and say, ‘Well, this has nothing to do with race”… yeah, it does, when you stand on a podium and blatantly speak to race the way Ian did.”

Let's face it. They've always felt this way. It's just that now that they have a blatant racist in the White House they're not even trying to hide it anymore.

18 Companies Cut Ties With NRA

By Spocko

UPDATED 2-24-2018 Today United and Delta have cut ties with the NRA. Parkland students ask spring breakers not to come to Florida unless gun legislation is passed.

As my friend Eric Milgram, spokesperson for the Newtown Action Alliance has said, make this an economic issue. Make the firearms industry pay the full costs of the damage their products do.

I've shown in the past with right-wing radio hosts that corporations don't like to be associated with a toxic brand. But they often need a negative news event about the group or person to cut ties.

The Parkland shooting was another occasion for activists to ask corporations, "Do you still want to associate with the NRA brand?"  Today 16 of them said no.

My friend Amanda Gaily, president of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, put it this way.
"It's time to withdraw support from the slaughter lobby." 
It is possible to convince folks in any state to pull away from the NRA.  The First National Bank of Omaha in Nebraska did so this week.

The NRA will respond to corporations withdrawing support, probably by threatening the companies that have left, and the ones who are standing with them.

Some NRA members might be smart and try and entice the companies they still have by buying more of their product, but based on my experience, they prefer to punish and intimidate when they don't get their way.

I always told the people I trained to be polite and not threaten anyone, you don't want to punish your future ally! Just remind them of what they say their values are and ask if they line up with what this person or group is saying. It's their decision.
When I was researching gun sign policies for private businesses I talked to retail people about the armed men who showed up to talk to managers about "What a mistake she is making by not allowing guns in the store."  Of course he wasn't hoping bad things would happen, but it would be a shame if bad guys with guns showed up and he wasn't there.
This has worked successfully in the past. After the Trayvon Martin shooting, some of my very smart, strategic friends at Color of Change and The Center for Media and Democracy pointed out to corporations the role the NRA had in creating the expanded Castle Doctrine laws that led to Martin's death.

They contacted the right people inside those corporations and said, "Look, the NRA used you.  ALEC used you. That dead black teen and the man who got away with his murder was made possible by the laws ALEC pushed for the NRA. Your financial support made it all possible. Now is the time to leave." Dozens of them left. The first one was hard, but then it became a waterfall.

Here is another economic leverage idea coming from Parkland Students.

Losing corporate money isn't going to kill the gun lobby, they will still get multi-million dollar checks from the gun and bullet makers as well as money from Russia. But it's bad PR for the NRA and the start of the waterfall of disassociation from the NRA.

When North Carolina lost business because of a bathroom bill that had an impact on the lawmakers. I've found that when you interrupt companies' revenue streams they get very upset and will act quickly to restore them. The liquor lobby can put pressure on the congress people. This is a perfect opportunity to get them on board. Guns and alcohol don't mix. "Hey, Senator, this will cut into my spring break beer sales. Don't forget, we give you money too."

Interrupting the revenue stream of politicians from other lobbying sources could make them defying the NRA.

Losing corporate support is bad PR for a trade group. But As Dr. Z, my public relations professor said, "Dead kids are bad PR." Refusing to do anything about what killed the kids is worse.

Since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, at least 69 kids under 18 have been shot. 26 of them were killed. Those numbers are from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive #NeverAgain

Caucus-building: Warm butts in seats

by Tom Sullivan

Laura Moser, Democratic candidate for TX-07. Image from her campaign website.

This week's case of Laura Moser is illustrative of how party campaign organizations work and for whom.

The Texas Tribune reports:

The campaign arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives set its sights on a surprising target Thursday: Democratic congressional hopeful Laura Moser.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted negative research on Moser, a Houston journalist vying against six other Democrats in the March 6 primary to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Democrats locally and nationally have worried that Moser is too liberal to carry a race that has emerged in recent months as one of the most competitive in the country.
Moser's campaign is gaining momentum. That plus the fact that she has raised nearly $150,000 since January 1 makes her a threat to the DCCC's preferred candidate(s). Thus, the opposition research dump by party insiders.

Be they elected officials or career political operatives, call them, well, the establishment. Political parties exist to get them reelected, to support them in electing candidates of their choosing, and to support their careers in and out of elective office, whether in Washington or in state capitals.

More than a few friends still stinging from the 2016 Democratic primary seem convinced that what's needed to change the culture of the Democratic Party is some kind of revolution involving wholesale replacement of top-tier operatives. The Democratic National Committee comes in for special ire, but this comes noticeably from people who have a slim grasp on how party politics actually works.

Swapping out the entire top tier is unlikely to happen and unlikely to change things. Because much of what people object to about party politics is not a function of particularly flawed people holding top jobs. The problem is structural.

Understand, with few exceptions the political judgments made by people who have chosen politics as a career are colored by their need to remain steadily employed. This includes not just consultants and other political operatives, but elected officials as well.

Call it a culture of incumbency.

Something else new activists often fail to grasp is how little leeway the state and national party organizations have in setting their own agendas and spending their own monies.

Their location in the national or state capitols and down the street from the legislative buildings means their organizational priorities are dominated by the priorities of the campaign arms of their legislative caucuses and top elected officials with whom they regularly interact.

The Democratic National Committee, for example, is not the One Ring that rules them all. The DCCC recruits and supports candidates for the U.S. House. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) does the same for the U.S. Senate. A recent memo from the DCCC spelled it out, "The Committee is not an affiliate of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and does not receive regular funding from that organization." That will come as a surprise to many new activists. State-level counterparts operate the same way for both Republicans and Democrats. Their priorities are structural, not a function of who leads them.

Party-building is a tertiary concern of the caucuses' campaign arms. Their primary focus is caucus-building: putting warm butts in seats on their party's side of the aisle. Now. This election. The candidates Democratic campaign organizations support is built upon that prime directive and premised (if that) on the notion that if you elect more Democrats, you will build the party. Grassroots activists come at elections from the opposite direction.

State parties and the DNC have structural obligations that mean much of what they do each year is raising money to pay salaries, keep the lights on, update the required legal paperwork, and to fulfill the party's statutory role in general elections. They have limited budgets and bandwidth for anything else. The best state parties do is give counties some instruction in precinct organization and party mechanics. They give them VoteBuilder logons, teach them to pull poorly targeted voter lists, then pat them on the head and send them on their way. Next year there will be a new crop of activists to run through the same basic training.

Building the brand is not in the mission statement. Advanced training is a luxury for which there is never time or money. If there were more money, it would go towards reelecting incumbents and increasing the head count in the caucuses. Don't dare suggest otherwise.

As DNC chair, Howard Dean wanted to deploy funds for party-building in places the Democratic Party had not been in 25 years. Dean wanted to pursue a long-term strategy for rebuilding a national party. The pushback Dean got from Beltway insiders and the consultant-ocracy was intense.

In my state, a former state party chair suggested disbursing to county committees some monies collected from the state's (now defunct) tax check-off fund for political parties. Top-tier electeds were furious. "Their" money would be wasted on county parties with no plans for spending it wisely or effectively, not as they would on their campaigns, targeted races, and pet consultants.

James Thompson, a congressional candidate in Kansas who barely lost a 2017 special election, is again running for a seat in Wichita in 2018. He told The Intercept last month:
... the DCCC is specific about why it wants candidates to raise money. “They want you to spend a certain amount of money on consultants, and it’s their list of consultants you have to choose from,” he said. Those consultants tend to be DCCC veterans.
The DCCC, the DSCC, and their state-based counterparts are looking to back winners. Winners listen to their advice and hire professionals, former colleagues insiders have on speed-dial. What voters on the ground want and how well candidates represent the Democrat brand and progressive values is secondary. Building the caucus comes first. Warm butts in seats.

Laura Moser, whatever her merits as a candidate, is not party insiders' idea of a winner. Should she win her primary, she can expect no help from House Democrats' campaign arm.

The Intercept adds:
But in 2006, the last time Democrats were washed into the House on a blue wave, the DCCC also worked against a handful of candidates it believed couldn’t win the general election. When they won their primaries, the DCCC walked away, declaring the races un-winnable.

They won anyway.
Caucus-building doesn't get people off their couches and down to the polls. It is not especially inspirational for activists wanting to change the course of local and national politics and make government work more for people again. But caucus-building is not a Democratic establishment thing per se. It is cultural. And not unique to the Democratic Party.

That culture won't be changed with revolution or by swapping out players at the top. The same short-term imperative behind focusing on a few "winnable" races will drive anyone running the caucuses' campaign arms so long as caucuses have campaign arms.

But power at the top might be offset by building power at the grassroots independent of control structures in the capitols whose focus is themselves. After all, that is what Dean wanted to facilitate and what power players found so threatening.

Find a free tool below for building local power.

Update: Revised to indicate the DCCC supports candidates for the U.S. House, not the whole Congress.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Night Soother

by digby

A sad story with a happy ending for your Friday night:

The dog found tied to a tree in the woods in Prince George County with a heartbreaking note from his owner has found a forever home.

“My name is Zeus,” the note reads. “I am a very good dog. My owner just can’t afford me anymore. She tried to find me a home but nobody would take me.”

The note continues that his owner felt she was left with “no other options” and hated “to do this but I just can not afford him anymore,” so she tied him to a tree with a note attached to his collar.

Prince George County Animal Shelter posted about Zeus’ plight after he was rescued by animal services officers.

“Zeus was completely failed by his last owner,” the shelter posted. “Can you be Zeus’ forever family?”

It was a bad choice to just leave him there like that. She should have dropped him off at a shelter. But you have to feel sorry for her too. She's poor and desperate and doesn't feel like she has anywhere to turn.

The shelter shared the good news that the 2-year-old German Shepherd/Labrador Retriever mix was adopted on Feb. 13.


A new family for Zeus!

Dana's got yet another secret

by digby

I have no idea why Gates would lie about this particular thing but it looks really bad for poor Dana Rhorabacher.

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates just admitted to lying to U.S. investigators about a March 19, 2013, meeting between his boss, Paul Manafort, and an unidentified U.S. congressman. Public filings show a meeting that day between Manafort and Dana Rohrabacher, a Russia-friendly Republican congressman from California.

Gates pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy against the U.S. and making false statements about a meeting that day. In a criminal information unsealed Friday, he admitted that he’d withheld that the meeting included a discussion of Ukraine, where he and Manafort had done political consulting work.

Gates and Manafort were charged in October with money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying work with the U.S. government. Since then, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pressing both men to cooperate, ratcheting up the pressure on Thursday with bank and tax fraud charges and again on Friday with conspiracy and false-statement counts.

Details of a March 19, 2013, meeting surfaced last year in supplemental filings from DMP International, Manafort’s firm, and Mercury Public Affairs, whose partner, Vin Weber, also participated in the 2013 meeting.

Weber and a representative for him didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lobbying that Gates and Manafort are accused of hiding included work on behalf of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Russia.

I've been writing about Rhorabacher for a long time. He's had his hand in dirty dealings throughout his career. His Putinphilia is well-known.

This seems to indicate that Mueller is looking at a pretty wide conspiracy here to do with corruption by more than just Manafort and his gang regarding Yanukovych and Putin. This is getting real.

Today Trump led a rousing chorus of "lock her up!" at CPAC. Apparently the wingnuts are chanting it constantly at the meeting. Guess what this plea deal says Gates and Manafort were buying off all these politicians for: lobbying various entities to say publicly that there wasn't anything untoward or illegal about the autocratic kleptocrat Yanukovych locking up his rival Julia Tymoschenko after she came close to unseating him in an election.

Trump and Yanukovych have a lot more in common than Manafort.


Yes, Trump is an asshole Meghan. You are surprised?

by digby

He broke his promise not to take shots at a dying man. Of course he did:

Arizona Sen. John McCain’s daughter, TV personality Meghan McCain, announced Friday that she would wait until Wednesday to comment, after discovering President Donald Trump lies when he blasted her father at CPAC after promising to knock it off.

“As you know, President Trump took some potshots at my father and got the crowd at CPAC to boo him,” The View panelists McCain said on-air, moments after Trump’s CPAC appearance.

She said her mother will be joining her on The View on Wednesday, at which time “both of us will be addressing this…and talk about what it’s like having this continue to happen while my father battles brain cancer.”

Trump attacked the former Vietnam War POW who has served as Arizona’s senator since 1987, during his CPAC speech Friday morning.

Talking to a hall packed with conservative supporters, Trump slapped himself on the back for his various accomplishments in office, including the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Trump said he would have been able to kill Obamacare outright, and put a new health care plan in place “except for one senator who came in to the room at 3 o’clock in the morning and went like that,” signaling thumbs down.

The CPAC audience booed McCain loudly. Cheered on by those boos, Trump continued:

“Remember, one person walked into the room, said this way and went this way, and everyone saw what happened,” Trump said, first pointing thumbs up, then down.

“I don’t want to be controversial so I won’t use his name,” Trump snickered, apparently believing that fulfilled his promise to McCain’s daughter.

Trump has made a cottage industry out of attacking McCain.

Back in September, POTUS took a break from attacking national-anthem kneeling NFL players to blast the Republican senator at a rally in Alabama. McCain had just given his dramatic thumbs down on that health care plan, which had been forecast to toss millions of people out of the health care system. At that time, McCain had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Back then, in response, MSNBC morning show host Joe Scarborough torched Trump, and the rally attendees who had cheered him on, accusing POTUS of “having no humanity” for using a dying man “for political punch lines on talk radio and…in Alabama?!”

And now, at CPAC too.

And, by the way, McCain's husband Ben Domenech is there interviewing Ted Cruz who also insulted Hillary Clinton on a crude personal level. Maybe Meghan and her bridegroom should consider that they are enabling this jackass. If they don't like him maybe they need to re-think their affiliations.

Sheer Stupidity 

by tristero

Historically, Dems have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And it looks like establishment Democrats are gearing up to blow November, big time:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) posted damaging research on Laura Moser, a favorite of progressives running in a crowded primary who national Democrats worry would cost them a shot at defeating Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) this fall. 
The move is by far the most aggressive and public stance the DCCC has taken this cycle against one of its own, a risky move given the current tensions between parts of the liberal base and the party establishment but one they argue is necessary given Moser’s flaws. While party operatives have signaled for months that they’d step in to block candidates they see as unelectable, this shows how much they’re willing to risk the wrath of the left to do so — not just in Texas, which holds the nation’s first primaries, but throughout the coming year as the battle for the House heats up. 
“We’ve gotten involved in primaries in the past when there’s a disqualified general election candidate and have noted all cycle we might need to do that again,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Communications Director Meredith Kelly told TPM Friday morning, arguing the committee was stepping up to help make sure local activists’ efforts weren’t squandered with a flawed candidate. “This potential involvement in primaries is about ensuring voters have a fighting chance to flip these districts in November. These people have been fighting all year organizing against Republican incumbents and we don’t want to rob them of the opportunity to be competitive in November.” 
Those decisions are risky ones, threatening to infuriate liberal activists locally and nationally as the party is seen strong-arming locals and picking favorites, potentially the party with a split base heading into the general election.
I don't care whether it infuriates anyone or doesn't. What I care about is that going after any progressive candidates during a time of Resistance is a recipe for increasing Democratic voter ennui. It is a perfect recipe for a national catastrophe, regardless of the outcome of this one race.

Consoler in chief

by digby

... he's not:

Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

“He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. “Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

I think what gets to me is that the first thing he said to her was that she'd heard she was a big fan of his. There is literally no occasion on this earth in which he doesn't feel the need to stroke his own massive ego. I've never seen anything like it.

I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that tens of millions of Americans revere a man who cannot ever stop bragging about himself. Setting aside everything else that's wrong with him, this is the one personality characteristic that sets my teeth so on edge I often have to leave the room or change the channel when I hear it.

I'm stunned that people feel affection for this cretinous boor. And yet as I watch the CPAC crowd ecstatically applaud his ridiculous, inane speech I'm reminded of something that Never Trump conservative Ben Howe said yesterday on MSNBC when asked how people feel about him. He said they love him more than ever but it's not about policy or anything of substance. It's about "liberal tears" by which he means that they love him because he offends people like me.

I guess everyone's got a right to be motivated by whatever motivates them but that doesn't strike me as a very meaningful reason to back Trump. It's not worth the cost, it really isn't. Liberals aren't going anywhere. Just as conservatives will always be with us, so too will liberals. Egging on a man like Trump, who can't even find the decency within to talk to someone in the midst of a tragedy without patting himself on the back, is ultimately soul destroying. Many of these people will look back on this time and be horrified that they degraded themselves for such a cruel, shallow, fleeting pleasure.



What is the Resistance anyway?

by digby

I asked that question in my Salon column this morning:

The last couple of weeks have had me thinking about what defines the "Resistance," the movement that spontaneously sprang up in the wake of Donald Trump's unexpected victory in 2016. It's hard to know exactly what to make of it, since the Resistance is not a movement with a single charismatic leader, or a specific platform beyond a broad consensus that concerned citizens must do whatever they can to oppose Trump and the Republican agenda. It's fundamentally a call to action and it is happening in dozens of different ways all over the country. And it's not just about pink hats and demonstrations.

We're seeing the birth of a student movement in real time, as high school kids stand up and demand that adults put a stop to mass shootings and the proliferation of guns in the wake of last week's bloody carnage in Parkland, Florida. We've had many such horrible events, some even more overwhelming, just in the last year, with hundreds of people shot at concerts and churches and nightclubs and yes, schools, always schools. We cried out in horror, with most of us feeling we knew what needed to be done. But there was a sense of underlying hopelessness and despair that once again the atrocity would pass and we would be right back where we started. That's only human. After all, it keeps happening.

inRead invented by Teads

But these young people aren't burdened by those past disappointments, and they are not taking no for an answer. Filled with energy and determination, they are infusing Americans with badly needed hope and inspiration again. They are not afraid of Trump and the NRA. They are the Resistance.

Another movement took shape this year that's overturning American culture in ways we can't yet measure. That would be #MeToo, the rallying cry that has opened America's eyes to the pervasive practice of sexual harassment and the plague of sexual assault. This should not come as a total surprise. After all, a blatant misogynist and serial sexual harasser who was caught on tape bragging about his ability to assault any woman he wanted and get away with it was elected president. Many woman in this country were deeply shocked and offended by that and realized they would have to take matters into their own hands. They are the Resistance too.

There are the Dreamers fighting for their lives and NFL players taking a knee for Black Lives Matter. There was the Women's March and yes, even those Republican apostates who are drumming themselves out of their own tribe with their criticisms of Trump and their party. These are all factions of the Resistance, doing what they can to fight back. They are all making a difference. You can't have civic action without passion and courage, and they and many others are demonstrating those characteristics every day.

But resistance to the current regime also requires nuts-and-bolts electoral politics. The single most important fight of the near term is coming up this November, as Americans have their first chance to change the majority in Congress and exercise real oversight of the Trump administration. That's happening on the ground all over the country among grassroots volunteers who are working night and day to get Democrats elected on all levels of government. People like my friend, the writer and longtime activist Tom Sullivan in North Carolina, who is getting massive interest from grassroots activists in all 50 states for his logistical primer on local Get Out the Vote drives.

There have been quite a few good articles about these new political organizers and candidates over the last few months. Joan Walsh at the Nation (the former editor of Salon) has followed the story of suburban women around the country who have been volunteering, running campaigns or running themselves. Rebecca Traister of New York magazine (another Salon alumna) has explored similar stories. David Weigel often writes about the emergence of a new grassroots politics for the Washington Post.

Even as it's being well documented by smart writers, this isn't a story that gets wall-to-wall coverage on cable news or big Town Hall style events. But this shift toward grassroots politics led by women might just end up being the most powerful of all the Resistance factions.

Academics Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol have been studying this phenomenon and published a new report in Democracy about it this week. They observed and collected detailed questionnaires from hundreds of political organizers and participants in grassroots groups.

This is not a leftist Tea Party, because newly engaged suburban activists hail from across the broad ideological range from center to left. It’s not a Sanders versus Clinton redux, because that “last year’s news” divide is flatly irrelevant to the people working shoulder-to-shoulder in the present. It’s not an Occupy Wall Street-type questioning of liberal democracy, because these activists believe laws can make good government as strong and transparent as possible. It’s not the 1960s, with young people leading the way — although there are lots of helpful teenagers in the background saying, “Mom, it’s fine: go to your meeting; I’ll get dinner myself.”

The protagonists of the trends we report on are mainly college-educated suburban white women. We tell their stories not because college-educated white women are the most Democratic slice of the electorate (they aren’t) or because they are the most progressive voices within the Democratic Party (they aren’t) or because they have a special claim to lead the left moving forward (they don’t: nor do they pretend to). Rather, what we report here is that it is among these college-educated, middle-aged women in the suburbs that political practices have most changed under Trump. If your question is how the panorama of political possibility has shifted since November 2016, your story needs to begin here.

There's a reason for that. The country is sharply polarized between metropolitan and rural, red and blue. These suburbs are where the best opportunities for change lie. This group of white, middle-aged women, many of whom normally vote Republican, are one of the keys.

They are working on issues and are highly motivated by everything from the Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act to Trump's bellicose threats toward North Korea. But I think Putnam and Skocpol have homed in on the reason why this particular element of the Resistance is powerful and important, even beyond its organizing skills: They report that "the common refrain everywhere is about protecting American democracy and reclaiming citizen ownership of public life."

In resisting Trump's divisive demagoguery they are, quite simply, trying to restore some basic decency and integrity to our politics. Through their hard work, with little credit or glory, they hope to bring back some sense of civic and cultural unity. They hope to restore what many of us fear has been lost, a social glue that can perhaps remind this angry, polarized nation that Americans are still worthy of self-respect.


Learning to fight

by Tom Sullivan

Still image from Unforgiven (1992)

Little Bill Daggett: It ain't so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin' back at you. I mean, that'll just flat rattle some folks.
Federal flight deck officer training was the most serious instruction he had ever experienced. He was a skateboarder and a skydiver when we met in college and never served in the military. Instead, my friend worked his way up over the years in the piloting business starting with his first solo flight. From instrument rating to multi-engine, he'd accumulated flight hours flying float planes in Alaska, air ambulance in the Virgin Islands, and air freight in multi-engine jets before he getting his first airline job.

He and other pilots trained at a federal facility in Georgia to use a handgun in the close quarters of an airliner. Learning to operate the handgun was the least of it. Most of the training, he said, was mental. Psychology. It was intense.

Brandon Friedman got his training in the infantry and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't his weapon that saved his life one night. It was the training. He writes in the New York Daily News:
The first (and only) time I was in close-quarter combat, I got tunnel vision. It happened so fast that when I went to squeeze the trigger, my safety was still on. In that instant, I almost panicked, thinking my weapon had jammed. Then the training kicked in. I flipped the selector switch to semi and started shooting.

It was over in seconds. My full field of vision returned, and an otherwise quiet evening in northern Iraq became bodies, broken glass, empty shell casings and ringing ears.

Seven years of training led up to that moment. How to react had been drilled into me. And still, I was caught so off guard by the attack that my reflexes had failed initially. It was nearly fatal.
Which is why Friedman concludes the notion of arming teachers as a way of thwarting school shootings is absurd. There were armed guards at Columbine, he writes. And at the Pulse nightclub, in Las Vegas, and at Stoneman Douglas High School last week. Stopping a mass shooting isn't as simple as a "good guy" having a gun.

Learning to shoot is one thing. Learning to fight is something else, especially when the target isn't paper and is shooting at you.

"Anyone who tells you that arming teachers is a solution is clueless," Friedman writes.

The response to the Parkland shootings feels different from other mass shootings because the aggrieved and grieving students are not just protesting. They are not just arming themselves with facts in usual lefty fashion. They are focusing their anger. They are learning how to fight, and they are learning quickly. Posters and Twitter and Facebook are merely weapons. The mental focus to keep their heads with the NRA shooting back at them (rhetorically) takes training. They will get it. They have allies. Trained ones.

The #Resistance, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and other movements have begun to coalesce and show the way. Bishop Dr. William J Barber II‎ of the #PoorPeoplesCampaign leads crowds in chanting, "Forward Together, Not One Step Back!" Together is the key. They have learned an attack on one is an attack on all. Those who understand we are all in this together are more powerful united than those who preach every man for himself. Which is why opponents will try their best to divides us. It has worked in the past.

Maybe not this time.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Whither the generals?

by digby

Not that I blame anyone for getting away from Trump but this sounds as though it's coming from his side:

Longstanding friction between U.S. President Donald Trump and two top aides, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Staff, has grown to a point that either or both might quit soon, four senior administration officials said.

Both H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are military men considered by U.S. political observers as moderating influences on the president by imposing a routine on the White House. They have also convinced Trump of the importance of international alliances, particularly NATO, which he has criticized as not equally sharing its burdens with the United States.

However, all the officials were quick to add that the tensions could blow over, at least for now, as have previous episodes of discord between the president and other top officials who have fallen out of favor, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Asked about sources saying that either National Security Adviser McMaster or Chief of Staff Kelly, or both, might be leaving, White House spokesman Raj Shah on Thursday did not address the possibility. He said, “the president has full confidence in each member of the team.” Press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump “still has confidence in General McMaster.”

Neither Kelly nor McMaster responded to requests for comment on whether they would remain in the administration.

Trump swatted McMaster in a Twitter post after his comments at a European conference last weekend that he was certain Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election campaign, which Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge.

Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting, said all four officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The current and most potent irritant, they said, is Kelly’s effort, supported by McMaster, to prevent administration officials who have been unable to obtain permanent high-level security clearances from having access to the government’s most closely held secrets.

Under pressure to act last week, Kelly strengthened the security clearance process in response to a scandal involving Rob Porter, a former official accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives. Staffers whose interim clearances have been pending since June would have them revoked on Friday.

I knew Kushner and Ivanka wanted Kelly out but I didn't know about McMaster. Maybe it's the security clearance issue. The article says that there is speculation that if Trump waives the security clearance requirement for his family it may be the last straw.

I have no particular respect for either one but it's likely that whoever he brings in next will be even worse. I keep seeing John Bolton's name bandied about on Fox News. And we know who Trump listens to don't we?

QOTD: Grandpa holding forth at the family reunion

by digby

Seriously, it's never more embarrassing to have Donald Trump as president than when he tries to talk policy. Here he is today talking about violence and suggesting that we need ratings systems on video games and the internet --- and movies. He thinks he just came up with it on the spot. Because he's like, a genius:

Come on. Give him his executive time and keep him out of this sort of thing. There's never been a worse president in a crisis.

At least he didn't throw paper towels at the survivors. Small blessings ...

Will Trump remove Lady Liberty's plaque too?

by digby

This just makes me sad:

THE LEAD U.S. AGENCY tasked with granting citizenship to would-be Americans is making a major change to its mission statement, removing a passage that describes the United States as a nation of immigrants. In an email sent to staff members Thursday and shared with The Intercept, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna announced the agency’s new mission statement.

It reads:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.
USCIS’s previous mission statement, still available on the agency’s website Thursday, read:

USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

A lot of people seem to be coming around to the idea that maybe Trump is just a buffoon and isn't really any worse than your average neoliberal shill when it comes to policy. But in a thousand different ways, large and small, he is changing the fundamental way we think about our country. American has never been anything close to perfect. But it had some ideals that made some members of each generation feel they had something to live up to. And in fits and starts, progress was made, however grudgingly.

Trumpist nationalism is changing that and it's moving very quickly. I wish I understood how people can hate leaders like Obama or Clinton so much that they find Donald Trump and these neo-fascists preferable. They aren't even the same political species.


The NRA's favorite boy is still with them

by digby

The Daily Beast reports:

In the days since the 17 students and educators were killed in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump has surveyed virtually everyone in his orbit about what should be done to stem the epidemic of mass shootings in America.

Family members urged caution.

Close friends made the case to act boldly.

Advisers reminded him of the political risks while lawmakers on the Hill outlined a variety of legislative proposals.

On Wednesday, Trump took his prolonged listening tour public. He convened a room full of survivors and family of school-shooting victims to, ostensibly, talk about how to protect students from the next massacre. And he kept the cameras rolling.

It was riveting television. But, alas, it was largely pre-scripted for the president. By that point, Trump had already developed his preferred prescription: He would largely toe the gun lobby line, albeit in a kinder, gentler tone.
White House officials and Trump confidants described to The Daily Beast a president who was determined to do something in the face of the Parkland atrocity, and to not be seen as a feckless leader during a period of heightened anger and passion over the gun debate.

According to a source close to the president, he wants to be seen as someone who could “help prevent more dead bodies [of children] from piling up,” and that Trump has closely tracked cable-news coverage of the pleas from students and survivors. Much of what those students have had to say has been incredibly rough on President Trump and his pro-gun allies.

And yet, senior Trump aides uniformly expressed incredulity that he will have a volte-face on gun control this time around, given his recent track record. Late last year, after Las Vegas suffered the single largest mass shooting in modern American history, Trump stayed on message in the initial aftermath, and managed to stick to it.

“I don’t think it’s even about guns for him,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast at the time, regarding Trump’s symbiosis with the gun lobby. “[The] NRA put unprecedented support behind him… and that’s the kind of thing he remembers.”

Apparently, it was Geraldo Rivera who pitched the idea of raising the age of legal gun purchase from 18 to 21. The NR doesn't like that one so I'd be surprised if it holds. The other stuff, from vague promises on bump stocks to "incentives" for following the law on background checks are all NRA approved policies.

Anyway, here's Trump this morning.

I hope he doesn't think that Wayne LaPierre will be satisfied with some nice Trump tweets. He doesn't play that way. LaPierre backed Trump very early and with great enthusiasm. The NRA also seems to be caught up in the Russia scandal. If, for some reason, Trump is either too arrogant or too stupid to understand what he's dealing with we could be in for a very interesting political confrontation.

Nah, they're still besties.

Here's LaPierre at CPAC:

“I refuse to leave this stage until I say one more time that we must immediately harden our schools every day. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide-open soft targets for any one bent on mass murder."

Here's Trump at another one of his photo-ops today.

"We have to harden our schools, not soften them up ... You come into our schools - you’re gonna be dead. And it’s gonna be fast."

I think he wasn't talking about students but who knows? They're going to dead too. And yes, it will be fast.

They want to turn America's schools into armed prison camps. All so that certain American men and women can keep their toys.


The Resistance isn't just marches and pink hats

by digby

A little upbeat news for a mid-winter Thursday:

The 2018 election officially began on Tuesday with the first day of early voting ahead of Texas’ March 6th primaries. Evidently, a lot of people got the message. In Harris County, which includes Houston and is the state’s largest population center, Republican turnout was 25-percent higher than the first day of early-voting in the 2014 primaries. That makes some sense—there’s an expensive state house of representatives race in the county and an open Republican-leaning congressional district.

But what’s more surprising is the turnout jump on the Democratic side—a full 300 percent.

This article in the new Democracy
is another article in a growing body of research and reporting that shows how this is happening. Women all over the country have decided they've had enough:

The tidal shift underway has little in common with the precedents pundits lean on. This is not a leftist Tea Party, because newly engaged suburban activists hail from across the broad ideological range from center to left. It’s not a Sanders versus Clinton redux, because that “last year’s news” divide is flatly irrelevant to the people working shoulder-to-shoulder in the present. It’s not an Occupy Wall Street-type questioning of liberal democracy, because these activists believe laws can make good government as strong and transparent as possible. It’s not the 1960s, with young people leading the way—although there are lots of helpful teenagers in the background saying, “Mom, it’s fine: go to your meeting; I’ll get dinner myself.”

The protagonists of the trends we report on are mainly college-educated suburban white women. We tell their stories not because college-educated white women are the most Democratic slice of the electorate (they aren’t) or because they are the most progressive voices within the Democratic Party (they aren’t) or because they have a special claim to lead the left moving forward (they don’t: nor do they pretend to). Rather, what we report here is that it is among these college-educated, middle-aged women in the suburbs that political practices have most changed under Trump. If your question is how the panorama of political possibility has shifted since November 2016, your story needs to begin here.

What’s Going On Out There?
Pundits regularly portray the action underway since November 2016 as a national movement—“The Resistance.” This can enshrine a common misperception, however: an understandable one, though, since the metropolitan advocates to whom the national media turn to explain the “newly energized grassroots” at times exaggerate the left-progressive focus of the activism underway and overestimate their own importance in coordinating it. Moreover, since this mobilization is both decentralized and based in face-to-face rather than virtual actions, it is impossible to scope from a distance. This revolution is not being tweeted; and even in the private Facebook groups most local groups maintain, the most prolific posters may not represent the views and focus of the members most active in real life. Local interviews and observations are, therefore, the best way to understand what is going on.

To be sure, new national resistance organizations like Indivisible, Sister District, Run for Something, Action Together, Swing Left, Women’s March, and many others have stepped up—and staffed up—to offer encouragement and tools via Internet outreach; and many of these national groups aspire to coordinate and speak for more widespread local activism. Most local founders of post-November 2016 grassroots groups say that they did indeed (sooner or later) read the Indivisible Guide; and they also testify to using ideas and tools from many of these national organizations. Nevertheless, it is clear that the national organizations did not themselves create the dizzying array of local groups—the “pop-up groups,” one bemused but grateful Virginia campaign manager called them—that spread like wildfire in the days, weeks, and early months after November 2016.

Though not nationally directed, the new activism cannot be understood as just local, either. As similar small groups have emerged in parallel across America, they have taken inspiration from one another, looked for ways to link up in regions and states, and continued to take pointers from national sources. Still, we know of no local group whose vision, plans, capabilities, or ties are limited to those offered by just one national-level advocacy organization or coordinating framework. Instead, local leaders seek out many ideas, tools, and connections, actively picking and choosing what they and their fellow participants find most helpful in their particular circumstances. We suspect that leaders and funders of national “resistance” organizations may fail to grasp the degree to which local citizen activists are eclectically leveraging varied menus of assistance, taking what they need from various offerings rather than lining up under any particular national flagship.

Again, these local stories have been similar across the country. Regular citizens bitterly disappointed with the 2016 results emerged from what many call a “period of mourning” to start planning activities, coordinated by pairs or trios or handfuls of self-appointed leaders. Some of these sparkplugs already knew one another, while others connected on buses to the 2017 Women’s Marches or “met” online, sometimes facilitated by the PantSuit Nation Facebook group that connected hundreds of thousands of women in anticipation of the first female President. Although men are certainly involved in the local groups that have taken shape since the election, women are indeed very much in the vanguard making up about 70 percent of the participants and most members of the leadership teams.

Often employed or retired from teaching, business, nonprofits, or government social service posts, these organizers already knew how to put out messages, plan gatherings, and share information. Word spread through churches, unions, PTAs, and local good government groups, and dozens of friends, neighbors, and co-workers assembled for founding meetings in living rooms, in libraries or church basements, or at local restaurants. Aware of the homogeneity of their communities, many sought to take on board the calls for attention to race-based disparities that came to the fore around the first Women’s March. In localities where few minority people are directly involved, leaders regularly sponsor discussions of racial justice issues or reach out to cosponsor events or campaigns with NAACP chapters and immigrant-supporting groups.

There's more and it's quite inspiring. It's not telegenic though and it's a dud on social media so I'd guess we're not going to see a lot of coverage of this movement. And that's probably a blessing considering how obnoxiously contentious all these national public forums are at the moment. And, as usual, these people will get no credit it the Democrats win in November. That will go to those who step up and claim leadership after the fact. And that's probably ok. It doesn't appear that these women are doing this for glory. They seem to be doing it because they realized that for all the hand-wringing and garment tearing, nobody else was going to get their hands dirty and do the job. That's how this stuff tends to work.

So good luck to them. I find this to be the most hopeful sign for the Resistance against Trumpism and the global fascist undercurrent that swirls around him. If there's any vestige left of normal American liberal consensus, this is where it is. We'll have to see if there's enough to change the trajectory. I am very cautiously optimistic.

More than a national movement, then, what is underway is a national pattern of mutually energizing local engagement. Sociologically, what we are witnessing is an inflection point—a shift in long-standing trends—concentrated in one large demographic group, as college-educated women have ramped up their political participation en masse. The visible collective protests they have joined in response to national events are just a small piece of a far more consequential rebuilding of the face-to-face structures of political life that the same people have ended up leading. The grassroots are leaning in, and their little-d democratic commitments are as important as their capital-D Democratic alignment.

This is a very good sign as these people are organizing and running for office in local and state elections as well as the congress. That's how this will seed itself for the future.

Fingers crossed.

Putting more guns in schools is insane no matter how he says it

by digby

Trump lied about what he said yesterday concerning arming teachers. But it doesn't matter. What he said yesterday and today are equally daft:

"I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @nbc. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience — only the best. 20 percent of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions,” the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning in a pair of posts.

“Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!” he tweeted. “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”

Trump’s online explanation of his proposal differs from the language he used Wednesday at a listening session with survivors and victims’ family members from last week’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Addressing the group, Trump suggested that teachers undergo firearm training and be allowed to carry concealed weapons inside schools.

“And this would only be, obviously, for people that are very adept at handling a gun. And it would be — it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them,” Trump said at Wednesday’s event. “They’d go for special training. And they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.”