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

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Night at the Movies

The singer not the song: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (***½)

By Dennis Hartley

It always gave me a chuckle that singer-songwriter Barry Manilow did not write his hit “I Write the Songs”, which zipped to #1 in 1976. The song was in fact composed by ex-Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, who wrote it for David Cassidy. Here’s where it gets interesting. While Cassidy released it as a single in 1975, it was originally recorded by Captain and Tennille for their 1975 album Love Will Keep Us Together (but never a single). Alas, Cassidy’s version went nowhere fast, despite his pop idol status at the time.

David Cassidy and Captain and Tennille were highly popular acts in the mid-70s. So what gives…why did Manilow’s rendition win out in popularity? Speaking in purely technical terms, is Barry Manilow a “better” singer than David Cassidy or Toni Tennille?

Must be that elusive “x factor”.

There’s a venerable “chicken/egg” conundrum regarding this sort of thing. It goes something like this: What’s more important, the singer, or the song? Given that this is all subjective to begin with…it depends. For example, the Beatles were not only superb songwriters, but singers as well; I prefer their original versions of their own material. I even love their covers of songs by Buddy Holly, Burt Bacharach, etc. Bob Dylan is a superb songwriter, but I’d much rather listen to the Turtles’ hit version of “It Ain’t Me Babe”, since Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman manage to sing it, oh, you know-on key?

Which brings us to one of the most successful singers of the last 50 years, Linda Ronstadt…who didn’t write her own hits either. Reminds me of a funny story. In preface to singing “Desperado” at a 2016 tribute concert to Ronstadt, Don Henley had this to say:

The song I’m about to do for you didn’t get much love or attention when it was released on [The Eagles’] second album in April of 1973. In fact, the executives at the record label freaked out… [feigning shock] “Oh god, they’ve made a fucking cowboy album!” And then Linda Ronstadt recorded the song [knowing laughter from audience] and put it on her album “Don’t Cry Now” that came out in September of 1973…and everything was different after that.

In the case of Linda Ronstadt, sounds like it’s the singer, not the song… n'est-ce pas?

Ronstadt (and that truly wondrous voice) is the subject of an intimate documentary portrait by directing tag team Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet, Howl, Lovelace). Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is narrated by Ronstadt herself (archival footage aside, she only appears on camera briefly at the end of the film).

Bad news first (this is a matter of public record, so not a spoiler). While Ms. Ronstadt herself is still very much with us, sadly “that wondrous voice” is not. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (she mentions in the film that it runs in her family), which has profoundly affected her ability to sing. That said, she remains sharp as tack; in turns deeply thoughtful and charmingly self-effacing as she reflects on her life and career.

For those of us “of a certain age”, Ronstadt’s songbook is so ingrained in our neurons that we rarely stop to consider what an impressive achievement it was for her to traverse so much varied musical territory-and to conquer it so successfully at every turn. Name a genre, she’s likely mastered it and moved on: rock, pop, folk, country, country-rock, hard rock, soft-rock, new wave, torch, Latin pop, mariachi, light opera. Not to mention the 10 Grammy Awards, 3 American Music Awards, 2 Academy of Country Music Awards, etc.

What struck me is her humility in the wake of prodigious achievement. I don’t get an impression the eclecticism stems from calculated careerism, but rather from a genuine drive for artistic exploration. For example, when Ronstadt shares memories of growing up in Arizona singing Mexican canciones with her family, her decision to make an all-Spanish language album in 1987 makes perfect sense (record company execs fretted it was tantamount to career suicide, but when it went on to become the biggest-selling non-English language album in U.S. music history, I’m guessing they sang…a different tune).

Ronstadt is candid about her “rock chick” image, particularly in context of the music business environs of the 1970s, when it was considered “uncool” among many male musicians to play backup for a female singer. She notes that since she didn’t really have any role models, she had to carve her own way in dealing with “the boys in the band”, as well as the inevitable performance pressures that arise from playing packed arenas night after night, weeks on end. She certainly learned how to hold her own, but it wasn’t easy.

Despite her health condition, there’s no self-pity; Ronstadt comes off as pragmatic, forward-thinking and impressively resilient. There is a moment where the filmmakers gently coax her to appear on camera, while she is visiting with family in Mexico. She sings a traditional Spanish-language song with two of her relatives. At one point, she stops and asks they start again; she isn’t happy with her harmony (ever the pro). She takes pains to insist what she is doing is “not singing”, because she feels she has lost control of her instrument (not to my ears). They complete the number, and it is beautiful. It’s a bittersweet coda for the film, but I’d wager Linda Ronstadt’s song is far from over.

“Behind the music” archives at Den of Cinema
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--- Dennis Hartley

Dear Leader Watch

by digby

Fox is getting to be more and more like North Korean state TV every day:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Read The Art of the Deal. Some of you in the media mob, you might discover Trump says, always be willing to walk away from a deal, even up to the last second.

We saw Europe learn this the hard way. Remember, Neville Chamberlain came back after meeting with Hitler in Munich and trying to appease Nazi Germany told the people of Great Britain they will have peace in their time -- but in the end, appeasement never works.

Winston Churchill had the moral clarity, he understood the nature of this enemy, and he knew there was only one way to negotiate with a tyrant and a killer and a mass murderer like Hitler, and he said it -- "blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

Man that's dumb. So very, very dumb.

He's lucky Fox News viewers are also historically illiterate and have apparently never paid any attention to anything a conservative has said over the past 60 years. If they weren't they would realize that Trump is Chamberlain in this scenario.

They are on the team and they make no bones about it:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): There's one thing that's going to be certain, though, and that is - as we were talking about this campaign - the biggest contributor will be the media mob. The New York Times, Fake News CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS - I mean, pretty much everybody except for like me, Tucker, Lou Dobbs, Rush, Mark, Jeanine, you know there's only a few of us, I'm going to forget a few people. And then our great guests like Joe and Victoria and Gregg and John and I'm going to miss people, but you get my point. So will that have any impact in any way? Last question Kayleigh McEnany, Jeff Lord.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: Yeah, the work that you do every night, Sean, is going to go a long way. It already has. We now have the Justice Department looking into the misdeeds of the Obama administration and look, if Joe Biden is the nominee, the Democrats really have a huge albatross around their neck 'cause he was right there in the center of all the wrongdoing we saw happen there...

JEFFREY LORD: You will be there and Tucker and Laura and all of these folks will be there to answer this.

House GOPers go back to basics

by digby

I told you so ...

House Republicans plan to run on tried-and-true issues in 2020: repealing Obamacare and reducing the national debt, even though the GOP fell short of both goals the last time the party had full control of Washington.

“The first thing we would do is make sure our debt is taken care of,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters during a meeting of party members in Baltimore to work on their election-year agenda.

They don't really have anything else to run on. And anyway, their real agenda is licking Trump's boots as vigorously as humanly possible. The details are unimportant.

It does take some gall to run on reducing the debt after three years of Trump's free-spending on tax cuts and the military for no good reason, but really, what else do they have? I suspect they're keeping their powder dry for a Trump win in which they would immediately commence rolling Obamacare into the "entitlements" definition. Trump won't be running again (or he'll be planning some kind of Reichstag fire to stay in office illegally. In either case, if the GOP takes the congress back as well (certainly possible --- they cheat) they'll go for it.

And obviously, the minute a Democrat takes over they will turn into shrill shrieking debt harpies. Screwing the economy and blowing up the deficit on taes and the military and then hectoring the Democrats into cutting spending on programs that help real people has been their go-to since Reagan. I don't think they've had a new idea since 1982.

Let's hope this agenda sounds as absurdly out of touch this cycle as it did in the last and McCarthy is kept out of the leadership of the House until the end of his career. Hopefully, that will be soon.


Drink some conservative snowflake tears

by digby

Beto wasn't trolling. He believes what he's saying and millions and millions of people agree with him. Someday this country is going to wake up to the fact that we don't have to put up with this lunacy and start behaving rationally. I don't know when that will happen but it has to. American children are growing up in a warzone, doing survival drills and learning how to protect themselves from weapons of war. All so that men (and the women who love them) who are suffering from extreme masculine insecurity can swagger around intimidating people.

But instead of liberals getting scared about this dweeb's hysteria at the idea of having his toys taken away, maybe the liberals should just treat it the way they treat liberal outrage. By laughing in their faces.


Take his sharpie stat!

by digby

On Saturday, an asteroid will pass by Earth that's larger than some of the tallest buildings on the planet.

Asteroid 2000 QW7 is estimated to be between 290 meters and 650 meters in diameter, or between 951 and 2,132 feet, according to NASA. The world's tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which reaches 2,717 feet tall. The second tallest building is the Shanghai Tower at 2,073 feet.

The asteroid will be traveling at 14,361 miles per hour when it passes within 3,312,944 miles of Earth at 7:54 p.m. ET.
Astronomers don't believe the asteroid poses any danger, but NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies is tracking it.

I think we can all see the problem here, can't we?


The Reason I Can Never Enjoy a Good Night's Sleep Until He's Removed From Office 

by tristero

Here is why:
President Donald Trump’s acting national security adviser, former Reagan administration official Charles Kupperman, made an extraordinary and controversial claim in the early 1980s: nuclear conflict with the USSR was winnable and that “nuclear war is a destructive thing but still in large part a physics problem.” 
Kupperman’s suggestion that the U.S. could triumph in a nuclear war went against dominant theories of mutually assured destruction and ignored the long-term destabilizing effects that such hostilities would have on the planet’s health and global politics. 
Kupperman, appointed to his new post on Tuesday after Trump fired his John Bolton from the job, argued it was possible to win a nuclear war “in the classical sense,” and that the notion of total destruction stemming from such a superpower conflict was inaccurate. He said that in a scenario in which 20 million people died in the U.S. as opposed to 150 million, the nation could then emerge as the stronger side and prevail in its objectives.
His argument was that with enough planning and civil defense measures, such as “a certain layer of dirt and some reinforced construction materials,” the effects of a nuclear war could be limited and that U.S. would be able to fairly quickly rebuild itself after an all-out conflict with the then-Soviet Union. 
“It may take 15 years, but geez, look how long it took Europe to recover after the Second World War,” Kupperman said. Referring to the Japanese city on which the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb in 1945, he also claimed that “Hiroshima, after it was bombed, was back and operating three days later.”  
It is genuinely difficult for me to read things like this without hyperventilating. This is sheer madness. That someone this nuts should be so close to the nuclear chain of command... frankly, it's only a matter of time.

And of course, Kupperman's views are congruent with his boss's:
Donald Trump asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on the air Wednesday, citing an unnamed source who claimed he had spoken with the GOP presidential nominee. 
“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them,” Scarborough said on his “Morning Joe” program.

We are living in the single most dangerous moment in all of human history, far more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis or the other terrifying nuclear crises. During those horrific moments, the president of the United States and his advisers were, for the most part, rational actors who fully grasped what nuclear bombs were. Trump and his advisers cannot be trusted to act rationally in a  crisis.

And that's the main reason why Trump has to be removed. And until he is, only the delusional or the clueless can sleep well.  The situation is profoundly dangerous.

PS For those arguing that there are enough checks and balances to forestall a dangerously disturbed official like Trump or Kupperman from initiating a nuclear strike, please read Ellsberg's The Doomsday Machine.


Catching up with the dotard

by digby

For those of my readers who don't tweet or have tuned out Donald Trump for the sake of their mental health, I just wanted to put these here so that you can see what your president is sending out into the world:

Yes, he's still delusional, narcissistic, vengeful, cruel, juvenile and stupid.

In case you were wondering.


President Donald Trump made a three-tweet argument Friday morning about why he should not be impeached, touting what he said were his accomplishments. Over the course of 139 words, he made six false claims -- plus three others that aren't false but could benefit from additional context.
Let's go claim by claim. First the false claims, in the order he tweeted them:

Unemployment for Asian Americans and women

"All time best unemployment numbers, especially for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians & Women," Trump said.

Facts First: The unemployment rates for black and Hispanic people are indeed at record lows, at least since the government adopted its current methodology for tracking those figures in the 1970s. But the rates for Asian Americans and women are not at their "all time best."
The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in August, higher than the 2.6% in December 2016, Obama's last full month in office. The rate did fall to a record low under Trump in May 2018, 2.0%, but it then increased; Trump continued claiming he had the record even after that ceased to be true.
The unemployment rate for women was 3.6% in August, the lowest since 1953 if you ignore the 3.4% in April of this year. But the record, set in 1953, was substantially lower, 2.7%.


"Became Number 1 in the World & Independent in Energy," Trump said.

Facts First: These are separate claims, and they are both false. The US became the world's top energy producer under Obama, not Trump; it is crude oil production in particular in which it took the number-one spot under Trump. And the US has not yet become "independent in energy," though government forecasters predict that US energy exports will exceed US energy imports next year.

The US claimed the top spot on energy production in 2012. This is particularly noteworthy because Trump has accused Obama's administration of perpetrating a "cruel war on American energy."
"The United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia's," the Energy Information Administration says.

The US is close to energy independence, according to one common definition, but it hasn't happened yet: the US is expected to export more energy than it imports by 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration. Still, Trump is stretching when he claims this has already occurred.

We should also note that the decrease in US imports and increase in exports began before the Trump administration; Obama presided over a boom in liquefied natural gas exports and signed a bill lifting a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

"The truth is that both of the presidents of this decade (President Obama and President Trump) have presided over an incredibly brisk expansion of our capacity to produce oil and refined products. Executive policy has had little to do with the explosive gains, which are attributable to technology and price," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service.

Definitions of "energy independence" vary. Even if US exports do exceed US imports, the US will still, of course, be using a substantial quantity of resources from other countries.


"Will soon have record number of Judges, 2 SC Justices," Trump said.

Facts First: Trump might indeed break the record if he gets reelected, given his current pace, but it would almost certainly take him years; at present, he has appointed less than half the number of judges Ronald Reagan did over Reagan's eight years, according to data from Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow who is an authority on judicial confirmations.

Wheeler's data shows that Reagan got 373 judges confirmed to district courts and courts of appeal, Bill Clinton 371, George W. Bush 321. As of Monday, it was 142 for Trump, Wheeler says. Reagan, Clinton and Bush, of course, served for eight years to Trump's less-than-three so far, so we're not saying Trump will never get there -- if he won the 2020 election and kept up his current pace of more than 50 per year, he would do so by 2024. But getting there over a number of additional years does not count as "soon" by any reasonable definition.

Trump could factually make a more narrow boast: in an August article, Wheeler noted that Trump had seated a record number of appeals court judges through that point in his presidency, leaving his predecessors "in the dust." But Wheeler also noted that Trump had not set an overall record, when you include district courts, and had not set a percentage record regardless.

The Russia investigation

"Done more than any President in first 2 1/2 years despite phony & fraudulent Witch Hunt illegally led against him," Trump said.

Facts First: "Done more" is subjective, so we'll let it slide. But there is no evidence the investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia, which he calls a "Witch Hunt," was illegal.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by a Republican whom Trump appointed, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump has questioned the motives and tactics of Mueller's team, but he has provided no evidence of illegality.

"Treasonous crimes"

"No Obstruction, No Collusion, only treasonous crimes committed by the other side, and led by the Democrats," Trump said.

Facts First: Mueller's report laid out multiple cases of possible obstruction; Trump's appointee as attorney general, William Barr, concluded the evidence was insufficient to establish a crime was committed, though other prominent lawyers disagreed. Regardless, there is no evidence of "treasonous crimes" by "the other side," whether Trump means Mueller's team or Democrats -- and there is no evidence any such crimes were "led by the Democrats."

"Treasonous" can be read at least slightly softer than Trump's periodic claim that people involved in the investigation committed actual "treason." Still, he is baselessly, though vaguely, suggesting some sort of treason conspiracy involving Democrats.

Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, someone who can be said to be on the "other side," was charged in a case arising from the Mueller investigation, but he was acquitted last week. And Mueller secured convictions from multiple people from Trump's own orbit: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy chairman Rick Gates, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former lawyer and Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen.

Claims that need more context

Total employment

"More people working today than ever before," Trump said.

Facts First: This is true, but Trump is basically taking credit for the population growing. As you can see from the government's official chart, the number of people working tends to rise steadily with population growth.

The military and veterans

"Rebuilt Military & Choice for Vets," Trump said.

Facts First: It is debatable how much Trump has "rebuilt" the military, though he has increased military spending. Contrary to his frequent claims, Trump did not get the Veterans Choice health program passed: it was signed into law by Obama in 2014. Trump did sign the VA MISSION Act in 2018, which expanded and modified the Choice program.

This was a more grammatically ambiguous version of the Choice claim than usual, so we won't call it false. If Trump was claiming that he "rebuilt" Choice, not that he got it passed himself, that is basically true. The VA MISSION Act makes substantial changes to the Obama version of the program, allowing a greater number of veterans to reimbursed for seeing private doctors.

The report on James Comey

"WIN on Mueller Report, Mueller Testimony & James Comey......IG Report, which showed him to be a Disgraced & Dirty Cop," Trump said.

Facts First: Trump can fairly claim a "WIN" on the inspector general's report on Comey, which did rebuke Comey for violating FBI policy and his employment agreement when he retained and leaked memos he wrote about his interactions with Trump in 2017. It's worth noting, though, that the inspector general found that a frequent Trump accusation -- that Comey had leaked classified material to the media -- was not true.

The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said Comey set a "dangerous example" for FBI employees in an attempt to "achieve a personally desired outcome," the appointment of a special counsel. This lent credence to Trump's accusations that Comey behaved improperly.

At the same time, Horowitz rejected one of Trump's favorite charges against Comey, finding "no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media."

Local politics is ground zero

by Tom Sullivan

NC state House members scramble to redraw legislative districts under court order for the second time since 2011.

As fascinating as the presidential race is — and imperative with an authoritarian kleptocrat in the White House — the rot in this country is widespread beyond the Oval Office.

"From Oregon to North Carolina, GOP lawmakers have used every dirty trick they can to seize power and undermine the power Democrats even after they win elections," Sophia Tesfaye writes at Salon, unloading on Republican legislators as a class. She recounts crimes against democracy occurring across the country.

North Carolina made national headlines this week when, lacking a supermajority for overriding the state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, Republicans in the state House resorted to trickery to call a snap vote while Democrats were out of the room for September 11 observances. Speaker of the House Tim Moore had put a budget veto override vote on the calendar every day since June 5, hoping for enough Democratic absences to narrowly pass it. He scheduled no votes for the morning of September 11 and told the press and Democratic legislators there would be none. Surprise!

This is the same legislature that tried to strip Cooper of his powers between his 2016 election and his 2017 inauguration. Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan attempted the same after Democrats won governorships there in 2018.

Martin Longman, writing at Progress Pond, calls out the North Carolina GOP as "a kind of worst-possible-case example of where the national party is headed. Nowhere else have I found the Republicans to be more conniving, vindictive, undemocratic and downright criminal." It demonstrates raw "contempt for democracy," wrote the Raleigh News & Observer editorial board, "carried out by a Republican majority that courts have repeatedly found to have gained seats through illegal gerrymandering."

A three-judge state court panel in NC this month ruled in Common Cause v. Lewis the GOP-drawn legislative districts in North Carolina are illegal partisan gerrymanders under the state constitution. Legislators are working overtime this week (image above) to meet the deadline judges set for drawing acceptable, constitutional maps or risk having them drawn by a special master a second time (see below).

In addition to other legislative malfeasance by North Carolina's Republican elite, the ruling may yet have implications for another case to be heard this fall before the state Court of Appeals. In NAACP and Clean Air North Carolina v. Moore and Berger, a Wake County Superior Court judge ruled in February that two constitutional amendments placed (and passed) on the 2018 ballot are invalid because those same district maps are unconstitutional under state law.

Facing South explained the case in July:

The North Carolina NAACP is challenging two 2018 amendments to the state constitution that imposed a voter ID mandate and lowered the state's income tax cap. The amendments were passed by the legislature after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was the product of unconstitutional, racially gerrymandered election districts. The state Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case this fall.

In February, Wake County Superior Court Judge Brian Collins agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the legislature "lost its claim to popular sovereignty" after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2017. Collins' ruling was limited to the two challenged amendments, which were approved by a very narrow margin.

Since then, new evidence has emerged about the 2017 redistricting process from hard drives obtained from the daughter of deceased Republican redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller.
So, the legislative districts North Carolina Republicans drew in 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court in North Carolina v. Covington ruled racial gerrymanders and ordered redrawn in 2017. Those districts a state court invalidated under the state constitution this month as partisan gerrymanders. Now, the GOP could also lose the voter ID amendment their unconstitutional body voted onto the ballot and voters passed in 2018.

It wouldn't be their first time. Republicans lost Amendment 1 (passed 2012) banning same-sex marriages when a federal judge struck down the amendment in 2014. Should they lose their appeal this fall in NAACP and Clean Air North Carolina v. Moore and Berger, Republicans face a state Supreme Court composed of 6 Democrats and 1 Republican justices.

Given GOP recidivism, maybe there's a case to be made for a 3-strikes law that disbands entire caucuses.

Tesfaye cites similar antidemocratic behavior by Republicans in Texas, in Florida, in Oregon, and in Tennessee. I could go on, but won't. The point I will come back to again and again is that President Joe cannot stop this criminality in state capitols. Neither can President Bernie or President Elizabeth or anyone else on the Democrats' presidential bench even if they win in 2020. Misplaced attention to the presidential media circus every four years has allowed the GOP to take over state legislatures from coast to coast. From there, and with the help of REDMAP in 2010, Republicans have systematically undermined democracy at the state level, corrupting redistricting and passing voter suppression and other laws designed to ensure their continued control of government as a minority party. Stopping them requires concerted local efforts at taking back control of state legislatures.

Democrats' and donors' focus on federal races, as well as an anachronistic party culture, means the infrastructure for Democrats regaining control at the state level is in many places as structurally deficient and in need of replacement as America's bridges. But like climate change, that situation won't improve by ignoring it. And like the climate, time is running out for action.

If we want change, we will have to do some remediation to get it. Like now.

Tesfaye wraps up her coast-to-coast accounting of malfeasance by warning GOP "calls for civility are actually demands for servility." They don't want to govern. They want to rule. (TDWTGTWTR. Too long?)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby

This is beautiful:

I needed that ... :)

Who thinks Donald Trump is a moral leader?

by digby

His little princess:

At a mid-August fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Ivanka Trump was asked to name the personality traits she inherited most from her parents.

Without much of a pause, Trump told the crowd of roughly 120 high-end donors that her mother gave her an example of how to be a powerful, successful woman.

And her father? He passed onto her his moral compass, she said, according to two event attendees.

Well that explains why she is such a soulless robot doesn't it?

The exchange was part of a broader conversation about Ivanka Trump’s life in Washington and the White House during a swanky retreat organized by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the Wyoming mountains. Her appearance signaled an informal effort by the Trump campaign, family and top aides to woo donors this election cycle by sharing intimate, colorful details about this atypical White House.

The goal: lean on the celebrity status of the sprawling Trump clan, and even well-known aides, to make donors feel like they are part of the show — and deeply committed to winning the president four more seasons.

It also helps to humanize a brash president best known for his prolific tweets, his media-bashing, his boastfulness about his tough negotiating style and his well-worn Apprentice line, “You’re fired.”

Donors from all over the country appear to love the insider take — even if D.C. operatives or Wall Street executives would prefer more concrete insight into the president’s upcoming moves on China tariffs, potential tax cuts or regulatory moves out of agencies.

“As a Trump donor, it is energizing to hear stories about President Trump being personal and engaged on the issues,” said Dan Eberhart, chief executive officer of Canary LLC, a Colorado-based energy company and Trump supporter who has heard colorful stories at other fundraising events. “The media consistently and conspicuously omits any stories of the president being human or personally engaging, so these firsthand accounts really help paint a fuller picture of what’s happening inside the White House.”

Except, of course, Ivanka's moral compass is her malevolent narcissist of a father so you can't believe anything she says. It's just more fantasy that makes them feel better about doing something they know, on some level, is absurd.

“This is a very low-cost way to make a big donor feel special,” said Tammy Vigil, an associate professor of communication at Boston University, who studies political campaigns and persuasion. “The idea is to make people feel like they have the inside scoop. You could think of it as being akin to spending the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, which donors used to get to do.”

“It’s the storytelling that has become the selling point,” Vigil added. “The stories may not actually be accurate, but it still gives people a sense of connectedness.”

Because they're fools who are impressed by bullshit:

During Ivanka Trump’s conversation at the mountain lodge, moderated by former “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart, the president called into the event to say hello and was put on speakerphone. Donors were absolutely delighted, according to four attendees in the room that night.

His message was simple. The crowd was in good hands with his daughter and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who spoke the following night. Implicit in his brief remarks was the idea that Kushner and Ivanka Trump speak on his behalf, said two attendees — a status the president does not afford to even his top White House aides.

There's more stupid stuff about the Trump family at the link.

They are just ... awful.

Standard issue Wingnut xenophobia

by digby

This is not new. But it has gone totally mainstream in the Trump era. I've been writing about this for a long while. Here's a fairly recent one from last year:

On Monday, in a courtroom in Wichita, a federal judge told Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that he had so blatantly violated federal discovery rules in a case he argued, defending a law requiring voters to prove their citizenship, that she ordered Kobach -- a former Department of Justice official under George W. Bush -- to take remedial legal courses. She also ruled against the law itself, saying there was no evidence it was necessary.

Kobach is best known for writing the "show me your papers" law in Arizona that was also struck down in federal court. He also headed up the ill-fated Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was disbanded after many states balked at Kobach's demand that they turn over their confidential voter rolls to the federal government. He had very big plans:

Kobach is currently running for governor of Kansas, and the crusade to curtail immigration and voting rights will continue no matter how his checkered political career turns out. This is now a central organizing principle of the Republican party.

Donald Trump's administration has the most extreme immigration policy in a century. Among his first acts as president was his theatrical Muslim ban. He's beefed up the border patrol and ICE and told them all to "take off the gloves." He put one of the most anti-immigration politicians in the country in charge of the Justice Department, and they are systematically deporting people, even those who have been here for 50 years. Trump backed out of a deal to legalize the DACA recipients at the last minute. Now they are separating children from their parents at the border and putting them into detention camps in order to "deter" Latino immigrants, even those who are seeking asylum from the rampant violence in their home countries.

It's tempting to chalk all this up to simple Republican racism and nativism. That is certainly what fuels the emotion on this issue on the right. Conservative media pounds the message that "the illegals" are all on welfare (which isn't true) and are ruining the culture with taco trucks on every corner. (If only.) But that isn't the whole story:

Back in 2014, when the wave of unaccompanied minors from Central American came to the border, Laura Ingraham led the charge against those kids:
Oh no, you won't. This is our country. . . . Our borders matter to us. Our way of life and our culture matter to us. Our jobs and our wages matter to us. No, you won't.

She ranted day after day about these children, claiming that the government was "trafficking illegal immigrants from one part of the country to another part of the country to further erode American wages and further forward their goal of ultimate amnesty and changing the electoral and cultural landscape of the United States forever."

Note that Ingraham said "electoral" landscape. We can see that Trump and his lieutenants see this latest border crisis as an opportunity to get their base fired up and get out to the polls in November. But movement conservatives have a long-term strategy in mind that goes way beyond the midterms and even Trump. That's why cynical politicians and media stars have been pushing this issue so hard for the last few years.

They realized somewhere along the line that the fundamental xenophobia of the GOP base would make it very difficult to form any sort of governing majority that included Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. So they decided their future prospects would be better served by suppressing the Latino vote with spurious accusations of voter fraud and demagoguery about foreigners more generally, in an effort to force the government to curb immigration overall. Anti-immigrant groups like VDARE have made the argument explicit, saying Democrats favor immigration because it will give them an electoral advantage.

Back in August of 2015, Rush Limbaugh endorsed Trump's hardcore immigration position, saying that "everybody knows that [bipartisan immigration reform] is an immigration plan that is going to result in millions more registered Democrats." He even got a shout-out from the big guy himself that same day:

Limbaugh is a bit cagier these days, saying that he'd support DACA recipients getting a path to citizenship as long as they aren't given the vote for 12 to 15 years.

Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager made a similar case this year in a piece laying out three reasons the left supports immigration. The first of these:

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, chain migration, sanctuary cities, and citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally will give the Left political power. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Latin American immigrants will vote Democratic. So with enough new voters from Latin America alone, the Democrats would essentially be assured the presidency and Congress for decades. (If you're wondering: Reason two is because they are Marxists and reason three is that they want to feel good about themselves.)

The ruling right-wing diva of anti-immigrant fervor is of course Ann Coulter. She has been ranting even more than usual these days, telling Breitbart that nobody should believe the "actor children" at the border, citing some articles from 2011 about refugees embellishing their stories to get asylum. Coulter's influence on the GOP on this issue can't be overstated -- her book "Adios America" was clearly a major influence on Trump's agenda.

You may recall that Coulter called Trump's most notorious immigration speech during the campaign "the greatest political document since the Magna Carta." It was later revealed that she and Stephen Miller had written it. There are no limits to how low she will go in demeaning and degrading immigrants, but she too has stated clearly what the real issue is. At CPAC in 2014, she put it this way:
Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don’t think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters.

The nativism we are seeing play out right now is cruel and inhumane. It's born of an ugly strain of white nationalism that forms the core of the Republican Party under Trump. But the conservative movement is still working feverishly on their own projects, using Trump and his demagoguery to serve their long-term goals. They know that keeping Latinos from voting and shutting down immigration, both legal and illegal, is necessary to their political survival as a movement and a party.

This time they may have underestimated how the rest of America feels about seeing small children ripped away from their families for cheap political purposes. Let's hope so, anyway.

Yes, let's hope so ...
Did someone put LSD in Lou Dobbs' Viagra?

by digby

For that matter, all the Republicans' Viagra?

And people get upset when you call it a cult...


I've got your rambling old white man for you right here

by digby

For all the fears about Joe Biden's uhm ...undisciplined delivery, get a load of this:

President Trump on Thursday told GOP lawmakers at a retreat in Baltimore that “it doesn’t matter” if people like him or not, they have “no choice” but to elect him.

“Whether you like me or not, it doesn’t matter,” Trump said at the conference Thursday night, according to The New York Times. “You have to elect me. You have no choice.”

“Our country will go to hell if any of these people get in,” he continued in reference to Democratic presidential candidates, further warning that if one of them gets elected they would “take your money and very much hurt your families.”

The comments were part of a 68-minute address he gave to the House GOP retreat in Baltimore, which took place during the third Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday night.

During his speech, he also poked fun at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) name, which he reportedly shortened to “Cortez” because he didn’t have time to “go through the whole damn name.” He made a similar jab at the congresswoman at a rally earlier this year.

He also singled out some Democratic presidential contenders for criticism, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I hit Pocahontas too early — I thought she was gone, she has emerged on the ashes and now it looks like she could beat sleepy Joe,” he said.

The president also took a moment to criticize wind turbines, which he once said emit noise that cause cancer.

Trump said “they make noise, they kill all the birds, the energy is intermittent,” according to The Times.

While talking about the structures, the president also reportedly pondered about what would happen to a family watching the Democratic debate on Thursday night on a television that was powered by wind energy.

“You happen to be watching the Democratic debate and the wind isn’t blowing,” Trump said, according to the Times. “You’re not going to see the debate. ‘Charlie, what the hell happened to this debate?’ He says, ‘Darling, the wind isn’t blowing. The goddamned windmill stopped.'”

Forget MAGA. It's obvious that he's going to run on "you have no choice but to vote for me." His BFFs Putin and Kim are nodding their heads in agreement.

Anyway, you can watch some of it here --- if you're a masochist.


The NRA may be weak, but GOP voters have already been thoroughly indoctrinated

by digby

Ted Cruz tells the truth:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned on Thursday that congressional action to stop gun violence would not stop mass murders, would demoralize the nation, and could elect Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) president. 
Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Cruz was asked about background checks and discussions between the Trump administration and a bipartisan group of Senators. 
Cruz warned that any such action could cost Trump re-election. "Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,” he predicted.
The NRA is in crisis and its chief strategist and strongarm artist, Wayne LaPierre, has been discredited and humiliated. The "movement" led by the organization is severely weakened. If there's an opening in the gun control wars, I'm afraid that's primarily the reason rather than a nationwide awakening about gun violence. A majority of the country has been there for a long time but LaPierre and the NRA had a stranglehold on the congress with money and electoral clout.

But even though they are weakened, I wouldn't expect too much until the Democrats take power again.  The gun-owning GOP base correlates very strongly with the Trump base and they do not need Wayne LaPierre to tell them what to think. They've been programmed for years. Gun rights are definitional.

Trump is impulsive and incoherent so who knows what he will decide to do? He could tell McConnell that he wants to sign a bill confiscating handguns for all we know. More likely, if he does anything it will be something very superficial. As much as his voters love him, I suspect that they will not forgive him if they feel he has betrayed them on this issue.  In fact, it may be the only issue that could move them.  I think he knows that.


Now this is refreshing:

O'Rourke had a good night last night in the debate, mostly because he just said out loud what a whole lot of people believe on this issue --- for once.

Are Trump and Barr about to get their show trial?

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

One of the most dramatic moments during Attorney General William Barr's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last spring was an exchange between him and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., about whether he had ever been asked by Trump or anyone in the White House to investigate someone. Barr's reply was one of the few times the extremely self-assured Trump lieutenant appeared to be rattled:

He said, “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest,’ I mean there have been discussions of, of matters out there that uh ... they have not asked me to open an investigation.” When Harris then asked whether the White House had hinted at an investigation, Barr said, “I don’t know.”

Not that there was any mystery. Trump has been publicly demanding investigations of his perceived adversaries since he took office. He's never tried to hide it. He's said it to reporters and tweeted it out frequently. He has no regard whatever for the principle that a president should not interfere with the Department of Justice in general, and has no comprehension of why a democratic society wouldn't want a president to use the power of federal law enforcement to punish his political enemies.

Since that hearing, Barr has made it clear that he relishes the role of Trump henchman. He has launched a probe into the "origins" of the Russia investigation (the third such inquiry) and is personally looking into the intelligence community's conduct, having been given blanket access to all classified information by an unprecedented presidential edict. Barr may not have received a direct order to do these things, but there can be no doubt about the president's deep desire for retaliation against all those who investigated and pursued the Russia claims.

It appears that Barr has found some fellow Trump travelers to help him fulfill the president's desires. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Rod Rosenstein's replacement and a longtime GOP player — with no previous experience in the Department of Justice — had given the go-ahead to prosecute former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

Donald Trump has had a couple of rough weeks. But that must have made his day.

You may recall that McCabe has been accused of lying to the FBI during a leak investigation, and then later to the inspector general, about whether he gave permission to agents to speak to the Wall Street Journal in 2016, regarding negative information about Hillary Clinton. McCabe claims it's all a misunderstanding and most legal observers think a prosecution is overkill, especially considering that the Justice Department fired him from the FBI one day before he would have qualified for a full pension, which would normally be considered a harsh penalty for such an infraction.

Of course it's true that the DOJ prosecutes people for lying to them all the time, and there's little doubt that McCabe probably put people in jail for exactly what he's accused of doing. So many observers might conclude that what goes around comes around. But this looks to be a political prosecution and therefore the stakes are on a whole other level.

McCabe has clearly been targeted by Donald Trump personally, along with his defenders in the Department of Justice. Why? Because after Trump fired FBI director James Comey and McCabe assumed his job, the latter ordered the inquiry into the president and Russia that eventually became the Mueller investigation. Trump has been pushing to punish McCabe for that ever since.

It may seem counterintuitive that the lie McCabe is accused of telling had to do with the FBI confirming negative information about Hillary Clinton, but that's a tried and true move from this administration. James Comey was also ostensibly fired on the basis of his unfair treatment of Clinton — or at least that was the first excuse. One can't help but think of this as some elaborate form of DOJ trolling, particularly since, according to the Mueller report, Trump repeatedly sought to have former Attorney General Jeff Sessions prosecute Clinton (and was mercifully ignored.

The New York Times likewise reported that Trump had asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to seek DOJ prosecution of both Clinton and Comey:

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The president needn't have worried about impeachment, apparently. The Democrats are at sixes and sevens, unable to muster much of anything but very, very slow handwringing.

Still, the fact that the DOJ is prepared to prosecute Andrew McCabe says that whatever resistance there once was to giving Trump his enemies' heads on pikes, metaphorically speaking, seems to have gone the way of Jeff Sessions. If House Democrats were actually inclined to charge the president with abuse of power, this case would certainly be among the elements of the crime.

At this writing, it's unclear whether prosecutors will actually follow through by indicting McCabe. According to the Post, they called back the grand jury that hadn't met for months this week, presumably to seek such an indictment. But as of Thursday they had been dismissed with no indictment forthcoming, which is unusual. The case is weak. Prosecutors involved in it have quit, with at least one expressing concerns that it is being mishandled. The president's tweets and comments would almost certainly be used by McCabe's defense to demonstrate that the prosecution is political in nature. Just this week a jury in the same jurisdiction acquitted former Obama special counsel Greg Craig for lying to the FBI, the same crime for which they could prosecute McCabe. Perhaps Trump's team is not feeling as confident as they might.

If no prosecution occurs, I think we know someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who will be very, very upset. But he should be soothed by the knowledge that he has accomplished something important anyway. Members of federal law enforcement will know that they should look the other way if they see any evidence of criminal behavior by Trump or his close associates. Who wants to be the next Andrew McCabe?

Trump surely feels very good about his latest attorney general these days. His personal Roy Cohn is firmly ensconced among a team of loyal Trumpers, dedicated to seeing that the president is protected from all who presume to oversee him. And who knows? They may yet get a show trial out of this.



No more front-runner?

by Tom Sullivan

It was jarring during last night's Democratic debate in Houston when former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro attacked Joe Biden early on for being ... old? Castro challenged Biden's statements about his health care plan, claiming before a shocked crowd that Biden had forgotten statements made two minutes earlier.

It was perhaps the sharpest exchange of the night. It won't help Castro.

In opening remarks, businessman Andrew Yang promised, Oprah-style, to give 10 American families "watching this at home right now" $1,000 a month for an entire year. The proposal left a stunned Pete Buttigieg gaping for a moment before he was able to speak.

"It’s original, I’ll give you that," Buttigieg said finally.

The rest of the debate was not the expected center-stage face-off between the top-tier candidates, Sanders, Biden, and Warren. While disagreeing with Biden on modifications to health care, Sanders and Warren disagreed without being disagreeable. New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker had another good night, delivering a balanced combination of passion and policy, clearly presented with too little camera time.

It was not, as the Washington Post's Dan Balz writes, the kind of performance Biden supporters were waiting for:

Biden did not dominate from start to finish and did not make it through the evening mistake free. But on balance this was the kind of evening he needed, after two previous debates in which he drew mixed to negative reviews, and after uneven performances at Democratic gatherings and along the campaign trail.
Not exactly. Biden tried to be combative when it was called for, but still wandered. Asked late in the debate about racial inequality in schools and dealing with the legacy of slavery, Biden launched into a disjointed recitation of his proposals for school funding, teacher pay, and addressing "problems that come from home":
The teachers are — I'm married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It's not want they don't want to help. They don't — they don't know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.
At the watch party I attended, audience members shook their heads and mouthed, "What?!"

Writing at Politico, Sean McElwee (Data for Progress co-founder) declared after last night, "there is no longer a front-runner. The question is when, not if, polls will match this reality."

But a couple of the oddest bits from last night's Democratic debate happened offstage.

At the bottom of hour (10:30 p.m. EDT), BBC radio reported the former vice president, Joe Biden, had defended his health care plan from those of senators Sanders and Warren, plans the reporter described as "more radical and more costly."

Excuse me? More radical how? More costly to whom? Having just watched the exchanges, the description was jarring. But it fit with the framing of candidates who focus first on what upgrades to our overwrought health care system cost before considering whom they help.
There were signals earlier Thursday that Biden would attack Sen. Elizabeth Warren whose steady climb in the polls is a more proximate threat to his nomination than Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Politico published a story, ‘Why Are You Pissing In Our Face?’: Inside Warren’s War With the Obama Team that described her sometimes fraught relationship with Obama insiders. With Biden's standing among African-American voters, a story about her challenging his economic team even while fighting to keep people from losing their homes could send undermine her with Obama's base.

Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and former DNC chair, published a clumsy hit piece in the Washington Post Thursday morning challenging Warren's fundraising just in time to prompt a question in the evening's debate. It did not. But he's taken to calling her supporters "Elizabeth Elites.”

Democratic establishment players are sweating and it shows.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

More camps

by digby

This is par for the course, unfortunately:
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has accidentally revealed the whereabouts of a future "urban warfare" training facility that is expected to include "hyper-realistic" simulations of homes, hotels and commercial buildings in Chicago and Arizona.

On Tuesday, ICE published an acquisition form for the procurement of "hyper-realistic training devices" for a new training facility for its expanding Special Response Team (SRT) program on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The immigration agency had sought to redact the location of the new training facility, but failed to do so properly. The agency, which has made this kind of mistake previously, appears to have a systemic information-security problem.

In this case, Newsweek was able to simply copy and paste the document's contents into a word processor and quickly establish that the facility would be built at the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs' (OFTP) Tactical Operations Complex (TOC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, a U.S. Army post used to prepare soldiers for combat.

In addition to revealing Fort Benning as the location of the training site, ICE also failed to properly redact information indicating that the Army post would be getting an expansion, with up to 50 buildings expected to be added to the site.

"A Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) vehicle will be competed among GSA Federal Supply Schedule holders for additional training buildings and interior/exterior outfitting in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 20," ICE states in a portion it did not attempt to redact from the document.

In a following partially redacted line, it states: "OFTP plans to expand the Training Site at Ft. Benning to include up to 50 additional buildings and add additional U.S. city layouts and designs."

Throughout the document, areas that were meant to be withheld were not redacted properly, including signature lines at the bottom of the document. Instead of names, these would-be redacted lines contain what appears to be placeholders, such as "ijunynyhhjhjhjjjjjjj," "hnjumgfrdddfffffff" and "BHMKKOOOOOO."

ICE's new training facility is expected to include,"at a minimum," a "multitude of basic, intermediate and hyper-realistic training devices, a tactical training warehouse, classroom facilities and vehicle assault training area."

Among those training devices will be a "hyper-realistic props/design" that simulates "residential houses, apartments, hotels, government facilities and commercial buildings," along with other training configurations.

ICE is specifically interested in acquiring a "Chicago" style replica, as well as an "Arizona" style replica, with the agency expecting to dedicate a total estimated value of $961,347.75 to the effort.

I wonder what they think they might need such training for?

Apparently, there is an endless supply of money for these people to enact their Robocop fantasies. Too bad we don't have any checks and balances anymore. Looking back they were kind of nice.

The trouble with Q

by digby

I find this phenomenon to be just
... fascinating. It's the lunatic fringe and they just love Donald Trump. I wonder how many of them there are?

In late August 2018, Lisa and John Welch weren’t feeling great about the future of QAnon, the ludicrous conspiracy theory that posits that Donald Trump is engaged in a secret battle with pedophilic elites in Hollywood, big banks, and the Democratic Party.

Lisa had bought into the theory first, then convinced her husband to sign on. But none of the mysterious Q’s predictions in anonymous internet forums had come to pass nearly a year after it started in October 2017, and QAnon believers were starting to lose faith. After yet another Q prediction failed to materialize in 2018, an armed, crazed QAnon fan allegedly shut down a bridge near the Hoover Dam with an improvised armored truck.

The Welches decided they needed some way to show how many Trump supporters believed in the mega-conspiracy theory, which has pulled in Pizzagate and a wide range of other conspiracy theories. They printed up T-shirts and signs that said “We Are Q” and passed them out at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida.

“We took ’em to the rally and handed ’em out, and the rest is history,” Lisa Welch told a crowd of roughly 100 QAnon believers who gathered to rally across the street from the White House on Wednesday.

The Welches’ signs and T-shirts, along with other QAnon-related signs and “Q” cut-outs, were unavoidable in cable news coverage of the rally. Suddenly, people all over the country were asking what why a segment of Trump fans adored the letter Q, and QAnon believers were invigorated.

“By the time the rally was over, they didn’t have any choice but to put us on [TV],” said John Welch.

The Tampa rally wasn’t the first time QAnon believers had appeared among Trump’s faithful, but it did show QAnon fans that showing up to the rallies with Q signs and clothes could have a real world effect.

Now QAnon believers eager to appear at Trump rallies are posing a challenge to the president’s reelection. As Trump faces a tough campaign, some of his most visible supporters come from QAnon-world, where various factions include 9/11 Truthers, anti-Semites, and people who think John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive and will soon return to arrest Democrats.

But to QAnon supporters, Trump rallies are a great chance both to see the president and to get their message out without going through a media they claim is biased against them.

“It’s like Trump tweeting,” said Pennsylvania contractor Daniel Graham, who drove to Washington for Wednesday’s rally.

Apparently, some members of the Trum team are a little bit skittish:

To Team Trump, though, QAnon diehards who adore Trump and garner media coverage and camera shots at his 2020 rallies have been a longtime nuisance. One current senior Trump campaign official told The Daily Beast that the standard operating procedure among most staff has been to generally just “ignore them” and not “make a big deal out of” them, both to deprive them of as much press attention as possible and to avoid “pissing off the crazy” people.

They apparently don't have a clue who they are dealing with:

“No non-Trump-related political messaging is permitted inside the venue. We do our best to ensure this rule is fully enforced,” Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the 2020 Trump campaign, said in a brief statement.

Technically, QAnon is Trump-related political messaging, brought to a wacky, sometimes violent, and extremely online fringe. It’s Trump-related enough that some of the conspiracy theory’s top proponents have sought White House meetings with this president. Several have been successful.

Last year, a grinning Trump somehow ended up posing for an Oval Office photo op with YouTube conspiracy theorist Lionel Lebron, one of the leading promoters of the QAnon theory. In July, Trump invited several QAnon promoters to his White House Social Media Summit, where he praised the QAnon pushers and other “memesmiths” for their work on his behalf.

Trump’s invitees included pro-Trump internet personality Bill Mitchell, who has promoted QAnon on Twitter, and singer Joy Villa, who wore “Q” earrings to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Another QAnon-pushing invitee, cartoonist Ben Garrison, was kicked off the guest list at the last minute because of the furor over an anti-Semitic cartoon he had made.

They aren't stopping there:
Some QAnon believers have even started running for office. Two GOP House candidates have said they believe in the conspiracy theory, which could tie Republicans further to the QAnon fringe if those candidates win their primaries.

And sometimes, the QAnon message actually comes from a speaker at the rally.

At an August event in Cincinnati, Brandon Straka, who’s become a personality on the right after founding the “#Walkaway” movement urging traditionally Democratic constituencies to leave the party, used his warm-up spot at the rally to tell the crowd “Where we go one, we go all.” That phrase is the most prominent QAnon slogan, and QAnon supporters cheered when Straka used it from the stage. Straka later insisted he didn’t mean to imply any QAnon connection.

The presence of Q believers at rallies also means Trump could accidentally endorse the theory, at least in the eyes of its believers. Nearly every Trump appearance produces footage that QAnon believers scrutinize in hopes of seeing Trump’s hand movements form what they believe to be a “Q.”

But at a July rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump called a baby wearing a QAnon symbol on the back of its onesie “beautiful.” The onesie appeared to have been altered, with a marker line added to make the printed “O” design into a “Q.”

QAnon believers were thrilled by what they saw as Trump’s confirmation, via the baby, that the theory was real. The child was soon dubbed “Q Baby,” and her parents—North Carolina Trump supporter Roman Riselvato and his girlfriend—made an Etsy page to sell clothing with a design similar to the onesie after requests from Q fans.

This is really happening.

Have I mentioned that the world has gone mad?


What happens if the House doesn't impeach ... and he wins?

by digby

Greg Sargent catches us up on the depressing state of impeachment affairs:
Politico has a dispiriting new report on just how chaotic things have gotten inside the House Democratic caucus when it comes to the drive to impeach President Trump. It’s a real mess.

But when you get past all the internal machinations, what it really comes down to this: We still don’t know whether the House Democratic leadership is prepared to ever allow a full House vote on articles of impeachment, no matter what is learned about Trump.

Among the new revelations from the Politico report: Democrats can’t even agree on the question of whether an impeachment inquiry is, in fact, underway. Some interviewed said that there is one; others said there is not.

The answer to this is that the House Judiciary Committee is running an inquiry into whether to bring articles of impeachment. According to legal scholars — see this piece from The Post’s Joshua Matz — this means there actually is an impeachment inquiry underway, if you examine the question in the context of history and the law.

This much, at least, shouldn’t be hard for Democrats to get right: The Judiciary Committee is running an inquiry into whether to bring articles of impeachment. That’s not hard to “message,” flacks.

As it happens, this is a somewhat understandable compromise under the circumstances. Members from a number of moderate districts still don’t want to be associated with an impeachment inquiry; they are feeling little pressure from constituents and have decided they’d pay a political price for supporting one.

I think that position is irresponsible on its substance and probably wrong on the politics. But a compromise in which the Judiciary Committee runs the inquiry, developing the case for possible articles of impeachment, even as moderates continue to talk about health care, is not a wildly absurd solution for leadership to adopt.

For now, anyway. Because here’s the thing: This cannot be sustained forever.

The Politico report gets at why. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just doesn’t seem to want this to get too far, and that’s creating absurdities such as these: 
In a talking-point document to colleagues Tuesday morning, Pelosi’s office described the House’s investigative activity in anodyne terms, characterizing them as typical House oversight of the executive branch. . . .  
Pelosi has at times adopted the harsh rhetoric of pro-impeachment lawmakers, most recently accusing Trump of violating the Constitution by allegedly steering government spending to his luxury resorts. She has also accused Trump of “self-impeaching” and privately told colleagues she preferred to see him in prison, rather than impeached. But Pelosi has also repeatedly emphasized the House’s slow, deliberative investigative and legal strategy when pressed on impeachment.
On other occasions, Pelosi has been clear that impeachment — a full House vote on articles of impeachment, should those emerge from Judiciary — cannot happen until it’s bipartisan, and that the public must be brought along.

The first of those will never happen, and setting that bar essentially gives Republicans in lockstep support of Trump veto power over what the House does with its institutional authority. The second looks increasingly as though it isn’t materializing, though one might argue that if the leadership forcefully supported the impeachment inquiry, it might help shift public sentiment toward the idea.

Regardless, what remains unanswered is this: Could anything substantive emerge about Trump that might move the Democratic leadership at this point?

As it debates bringing articles of impeachment, the Judiciary Committee is now looking not just at the special counsel’s findings, but also at other matters — such as the president’s corrupt effort to host the next Group of Seven summit at one of his Florida resorts; Vice President Pence’s stay at another Trump property; Trump’s dangling of pardons; and, possibly, any new information on Trump’s finances that might be gleaned from Deutsche Bank and other sources.

This scrutiny could uncover still more damning information, yet it is still not clear whether anything would be enough at this point.

To be clear, good things can happen from this, regardless. If the existing impeachment inquiry does strengthen Judiciary Democrats’ legal hand, and they win some court battles, forcing the administration to cooperate with their investigations, it could build a public case against Trump whether or not they impeach in the end.

But if Democrats lose these battles, and they end up with very little to show for these efforts — even as the leadership is still equivocating about an impeachment — there will be hell to pay.

Either way, looming in the background is this stark fact: As the Judiciary Committee develops those lines of inquiry, and especially if it ends up voting in favor of articles of impeachment, the case for holding a full House vote on them very well may become stronger. It’s still not clear how this tension will get resolved.

If the leadership has decided that no vote will ever happen no matter what, and is just running out the clock — while leaving the impression a vote could still take place under certain circumstances — that constitutes a very deep incoherence, one that only ensures that this tension will have to come to a head at some point.

If so, that incoherence is itself the problem festering at the core of this whole mess.

Sigh. Pelosi said today that she goes all around the country and the public says unanimously that they understand how divisive impeachment is and they are fine with "taking their time" with the investigations. I'm sure she is hearing that from people at her fundraising events, the people who listen to what she says and believe she is the final word. But the vast majority of Democrats are for impeachment! 

The pundits all say that he only responsibility is to maintain her majority and so she has to "protect" her vulnerable members who won in 2018.  First of all, that assumes her vulnerable members would lose if Trump were impeached but not convicted. I'm not sure that's true at all. And second it is not truly the case that her only responsibility is to her majority. That's how Trump looks at governing but traditionally our leaders at least pretended to care about the country at large and the constitution.

Simply wringing their hands over Trump's high crimes and misdemeanors and doing nothing about it is actually far riskier than if they impeach him. Hewould say the Democrats are feckless whiners who won the House in 2018 but didn't even try to make a case against him because it was all a witch hunt.  A fair number of people are going to believe him because that's not an unrealistic way to interpret these events.  If he wins, they will not have another chance.  In other words, it's risky if they impeach him and it's risky if they don't. In a case like that, the best course of action is to do the right thing.

They think that losing because Mitch McConnell and Trump's other cronies in the Senate refuse to convict would make them lose in 2020. But losing because their unwillingness to hold Trump accountable showed a lot of people that for all his craziness he really didn't do anything wrong would be the worst of all possible outcomes. Their own voters will think they are cowards and the Trump cult will have been immeasurably strengthened.

Politics are a high wire act right now, obviously. But pretending that they can win by ignoring the ignorant, corrupt elephant in the White House is a recipe for a precipitous fall.