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Saturday, December 31, 2016

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"Somebody will say, 'oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people"

by digby

Heading into the New Year week-end I just wanted to give another shout-out to all my readers who have contributed to the holiday fundraiser this year. I am deeply appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to write each day about the remarkable events in our world these days. So, thank you.

I don't know what the next year will bring. I gave up predicting some time back. But I think it's more than fair to assume it's going to be eventful. We are in uncharted territory with a new leader at the top of a political party that has reached peak insanity in a world in which the very concept of truth is being challenged. It feels as though everything liberals and progressives care about is about to come under assault from a dozen different directions. It's going to take a concerted effort just to understand it all much less figure out how to resist it.

I don't have the answers about how to do that. But I do have a willingness to keep my eyes open and my mind as clear as I can keep it to sort through all the day to day chaos and try to see things as clearly as I can. If we can do that in this chaotic media environment I think we're halfway there.

I hope you will come back to the site often as we try to get through what's about to come. We'll be here, day in and day out --- at least until Trump "sees Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what's happening to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way."

To which he added, of course, "somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people."

If you have not yet contributed to the holiday fundraiser but planned to do it, you can still do so below. And again, thanks for your kind generosity

Happy New Year everyone.

End of the year and we know it

by digby

Happy New Year!!!

Saturday Night at the Movies

If you really must pry: Top 10 films of 2016

By Dennis Hartley

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since my pal Digby graciously offered me a crayon, a sippy cup and a weekly play date on her otherwise grownup site so I can scribble about pop culture. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who continues to support Hullabaloo and wish you and yours the best in 2017! ‘Tis the season to do a year-end roundup of the best films I reviewed in 2016. Alphabetically, not in order of preference:

The Curve - It’s tempting to synopsize Rifqi Assaf’s road movie as “Little Miss Sunshine in the Arabian Desert” but that would be shortchanging this humanistic, warmly compassionate study of life in the modern Arab world. It’s essentially a three-character chamber piece, set in a VW van as it traverses desolate stretches of Jordan. Fate and circumstance unite a taciturn Palestinian who has been living in his van, with a chatty Palestinian divorcee returning to a Syrian refugee camp and an exiled Lebanese TV director. A beautifully directed and acted treatise on the commonalities that defy borders.
(Full review)

Eat That Question - If there’s a missing link between today’s creative types who risk persecution in the (virtual) court of public opinion for the sake of their art, and Lenny Bruce’s battles in the actual courts for the right to even continue practicing his art, I would nominate composer-musician-producer-actor-satirist-provocateur Frank Zappa, who is profiled in Thorsten Schutte’s documentary. Admittedly, the film plays best for members of the choir. If you’ve never been a fan, the largely non-contextualized pastiche of vintage clips will likely do little to win you over. Still, if you’re patient enough to observe, and absorb, the impressionistic approach manages to paint a compelling portrait.
(Full review)

Hail, Caesar! - Truth be told, the narrative is actually a bit thin in this fluffier-than-usual Coen Brothers outing; it’s primarily a skeleton around which they are able to construct a portmanteau of 50s movie parodies. That said, there is another level to the film, one which (similar to the 2015 film Trumbo) depicts the Red Scare-induced fear and paranoia that permeated the movie industry in the 1950s through the eyes of a slightly fictionalized real-life participant (in this case, a Hollywood “fixer” played by Josh Brolin). George Clooney hams it up as a dim-witted leading man who gets snatched off the set of his latest picture (a sword-and-sandal epic bearing a striking resemblance to Spartacus) by an enigmatic organization called The Future (don’t ask). It’s supremely silly, yet enjoyable.
(Full review)

Home Care - The “Kubler-Ross Model” postulates that there are five distinct emotional stages humans experience when brought face-to-face with mortality: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All five are served up with a side of compassion, a dash of low-key anarchy and a large orange soda in this touching dramedy from Czech director Slavek Horak. An empathic, sunny-side-up Moravian home care nurse (Alena Mihulova) is so oriented to taking care of others that when the time comes to deal with her own health crisis, she’s stymied. A deft blend of family melodrama with gentle social satire. Mihulova and Boleslav Polivka (as her husband) make an endearing screen couple.
(Full review)

Jackie - Who among us (old enough to remember) hasn’t speculated on what it must have been like to be inside Jacqueline Kennedy’s head on November 22, 1963? Pablo Larrain’s film fearlessly wades right inside its protagonist’s psyche, fueled by a precisely measured, career-best performance from Natalie Portman in the titular role, and framed by a (fictional) interview session that the recently widowed Jackie has granted to a probing yet acquiescing journalist (Billy Crudup), which serves as the convenient launching platform for a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards. The narrative (and crucially, Portman’s performance) is largely internalized; resulting in a film that is more meditative, impressionistic and personalized than your standard-issue historical drama. The question of “why now?” might arise, to which I say (paraphrasing JFK)…“why not?”
(Full review)

Mekko - Director Sterlin Harjo’s tough, lean, neorealist character study takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rod Rondeaux (Meek’s Cutoff) is outstanding as the eponymous character, a Muscogee Indian who gets out of jail after 19 years of hard time. Bereft of funds and family support, he finds tenuous shelter amongst the rough-and-tumble “street chief” community of homeless Native Americans as he sorts out how he’s going to get back on his feet. Harjo coaxes naturalistic performances from all. There’s more here than meets the eye, with subtexts about Native American identity, assimilation and spirituality.
(Full review)

Older Than Ireland – “They” say with age, comes wisdom. Just don’t ask a centenarian to impart any, because they are likely to smack you. Not that there is any violence in Alex Fegan and Garry Walsh’s doc, but there is a consensus among interviewees (aged from 100-113 years) that the question they find most irksome is: “What’s your secret to living so long?” Once that hurdle is cleared, Fegan and Walsh’s subjects have much to impart in this wonderfully entertaining (and ultimately moving) pastiche of the human experience. Do yourself a favor: turn off your personal devices for 80 minutes, watch this wondrous film and plug into humankind’s forgotten backup system: the Oral Tradition.
(Full review)

Snowden - Oliver Stone had a tough act to follow (Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning 2014 documentary, Citizenfour) when he tackled his biopic about Edgar Snowden, the former National Security Agency subcontractor who ignited an international political firestorm (and became a wanted fugitive) when he leaked top secret information to The Guardian back in 2013 regarding certain NSA surveillance practices, but he pulls it off quite well. This is actually a surprisingly restrained dramatization by Stone, which is not to say it is a weak one. In fact, quite the contrary-this time out, Stone had no need to take a magical trip to the wrong side of the wardrobe. That’s because the Orwellian machinations (casually conducted on a daily basis by our government) that came to light after Snowden lifted up the rock are beyond the most feverish imaginings of the tin foil hat society. Stylistically speaking, the film recalls cerebral cold war thrillers from the 1960s like The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, with a nuanced performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
(Full review)

The Tunnel - Kim Seong-hun’s film is a (no pun intended) cracking good disaster thriller from South Korea, concerning a harried Everyman (Ha Jung-woo) who gets trapped in his car when a mountain tunnel collapses on top of him. Now, I should make it clear that this is not a Hollywood-style disaster thriller, a la Roland Emmerich. That said, it does have thrills, and spectacle, but not at the expense of its humanity. This, combined with emphasis on characterization, makes it the antithesis of formulaic big-budget disaster flicks (typically agog with CGI yet bereft of IQ). There’s more than meets the eye here; much akin to Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, Seong-hun uses the “big carnival” allusions of the mise-en-scene outside the tunnel to commentate on how members of the media and the political establishment share an alchemist’s knack for turning calamity into capital.
(Full review)

Weiner – Co-directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were given remarkable access to Anthony Weiner, his family and campaign staffers during the course of his ill-fated 2013 N.Y.C. mayoral run. Their no-holes-barred film raises many interesting questions prompted in the wake of the former congressman’s “sexting” scandal (which led to his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011)...the most obvious one being: should ‘we’ be willing to forgive personal indiscretions (barring prosecutable criminal offenses) of those we have voted into office? After all, if making boneheaded decisions in one’s love life was a crime, there would be barely enough politicians left outside of prison to run the country. Then there’s this chestnut: WTF were you thinking?! If you’re curious to see the film because you think it answers that one, don’t waste your time. However, if you want to see an uncompromising, refreshingly honest documentary about how down and dirty campaigns can get for those in the trenches, this is a must-see.
(Full review)

Posts with related themes:

Top 10 films of 2015

More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley

Happy New Year everyone.


The man who doesn't laugh

by digby

This is an interesting tid-bit. I doubt it has anything to do with a deep understanding of modern politics and more with a deep desire to watch himself. But that may, unfortunately, add up to the same thing.
President-elect Donald Trump pays careful attention to the visuals of his interviews, often watching the clips with the sound off, according to NBC's Chuck Todd.

"I have interviewed him multiple times," Todd, the host of "Meet the Press," said in an interview with Politico. "The amount of times he spends after the interview is over with the sound off. He wants to see what it all looked like."

"He will watch the whole thing on mute," Todd said. "He thinks this way, and look, it's an important insight in just understanding him. The visual stuff is very real beyond just himself."

Trump is known to be an avid watcher of cable news and has carefully honed his public image over the years in countless media appearances and interviews.

In the 1989 book "You Are the Message: Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are," former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes shared his process on choosing on-air talent, which included watching them for about 10 minutes with the sound off.

"If there was nothing happening on screen in the way the host looked or moved that made me interested enough to stand up and turn the sound up, then I knew that the host was not a great television performer," Ailes wrote, adding, "If nothing moved me toward that sound knob, I would often recommend terminating the contract of that performer."

Karl Rove also used to say that politics is TV with the sound turned off.

Todd also had this:

"Do you know what? I’ve never seen him laugh,” Todd observed. “I challenge somebody to find him laughing, and that person has yet to find an example, in my opinion."

He isn't the first one to notice this:

Does this guy ever laugh?

He certainly jokes. He grins, winks, puckers and preens. Trump works to get his crowds to laugh, even when he's promising to make "them" stop laughing at us.
But how about a laugh from him -- from the belly, mouth agape -- a real booming, sustained cackle?

A few weeks ago, The Nation asked readers, "Have You Ever Seen Donald Trump Laugh?"

Erstwhile Gawker blogger Brendan O'Connor wondered the same back in August, only to realize with some concern that he "could not recall having seen the Manhattan real estate developer laugh -- like, genuinely laugh -- a single time. 
A Google search yields images of Trump in what would appear to be the act of laughing, and he would chortle occasionally during interviews with Howard Stern in the early 1990s, but more recent evidence had been harder to come by. The conundrum came alive in a seven-months-old thread on a subreddit called "The Donald."

The user Ebolatastic asked if anyone had seen Trump laugh "in front of a camera?"

"My gf and I are actually debating it," he wrote, "and the press has too many articles titled 'donald trump is laughing at ' right now. I can't find any footage at all and cannot recall a single moment of laughter out of him ever in like 20 years of seeing him on TV."

The responses came quickly -- but as "ImStanleyGoodspeed" noted immediately: "We all posted the same clip."

That video, from a January rally in New Hampshire, finds Trump being interrupted by a screeching sound.

"What was that?" he asks. "Was that a dog?"

"Hillary" an audience member yells back.

And with that: Donald Trump laughed.

The code had been cracked, albeit briefly. Compare Clinton, a human person who most recently served as US secretary of state, to a dog, and Trump will chuckle. But many months would pass without similar mirth, and the questions returned. 
Would there be a reprise? The Granite State supporter certainly wasn't the last to insult Clinton in that way, but the candidate had, so far as we could tell, done little more than grin ever since.

Until this weekend.

Again, it was the mention of Clinton that made him whoop. The trigger: a suggestion by Trump himself, who was speaking in Pennsylvania, that the Democratic nominee had been unfaithful in some way to her husband.

"Hillary Clinton's only loyalty is to her financial contributors and herself," he said. "I don't even think she's loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth. And really, folks, why should she be?"

And then, again, he laughed.

Case closed.

It was actually just a mild chuckle.

He doesn't laugh. But he talks a lot about America being laughed at.

I don't know what it all means. But it's weird.

That was the same rally where he said this, btw:

You look at what’s going on in the Middle East. When they bomb these cities and they’re leveled. You can imagine how many people die. She has been a disaster. But here’s a woman, she’s supposed to fight all of these different things, and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car, give me a break,” Trump said before mocking Clinton’s collapse.

He hunched over and stumbled away from the podium in a move reminiscent of Clinton’s fall before adding “She’s home resting right now. She’s getting ready for her next speech which is gonna be about 15 minutes and it’s gonna be in two or three days.”

“Now she’s got bad temperament. She could be crazy. She could actually be crazy.”

He can't even be bothered to take national security briefings.

Happy New Year everyone.


Your new word for 2017

by digby

Perhaps you already knew this one. I hadn't heard it until recently:

Kakistocracy (kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi) is a term meaning a state or country run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was first coined by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but was rarely used until the 21st century.

The word comes from the Greek words kakistos (κάκιστος; worst) and kratos (κράτος; rule), with a literal meaning of government by the worst people. Despite its Greek roots, the word was first used in English, but has been adapted into other languages. Its Greek equivalent is kakistokratia (κακιστοκρατία), Spanish kakistocracia, French kakistocracie, and Russian kakistokratiya (какистократия).

English author Thomas Love Peacock first coined the term in his 1829 novel The Misfortunes of Elphin, with kakistocracy meaning the opposite of aristocracy (aristos in Greek (ἄριστος) means "excellent"). In his 1838 Memoir on Slavery, U.S. Senator and slavery proponent William Harper compared kakistocracy to anarchy, and said it had seldom occurred due to the "honor" of human nature:

“Anarchy is not so much the absence of government as the government of the worst — not aristocracy but kakistocracy — a state of things, which to the honor of our nature, has seldom obtained amongst men, and which perhaps was only fully exemplified during the worst times of the French revolution, when that horrid hell burnt with its most horrid flame. In such a state of things, to be accused is to be condemned—to protect the innocent is to be guilty; and what perhaps is the worst effect, even men of better nature, to whom their own deeds are abhorrent, are goaded by terror to be forward and emulous in deeds of guilt and violence.”
American poet James Russell Lowell used the term in 1876, in a letter to Joel Benton, writing, "What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone. Is it or is it not a result of Democracy? Is ours a 'government of the people by the people for the people,' or a Kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?"

Usage of the word was rare in the early part of the 20th century, but regained popularity in 1981. Since then it has been employed to negatively describe various governments around the world. It was frequently used by conservative commentator Glenn Beck to describe the Obama Administration.

The word returned to usage during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In February 2016, writer David Clay Johnston wrote that the United States was in danger of becoming a kakistocracy, "America is moving away from the high ideals of President Kennedy's inaugural address — 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' Instead we see politicians who say they love America, but hate the American government."

In May 2016, academic and blogger Amro Ali argued that kakistocracy was a word that needed to be revived, as the word had long fallen out of circulation and there was a pressing case to rehabilitate it as "stupidity in governance needs to be treated as a political problem, and kakistocracy can best capture this problem." After an analysis of the word, the author concluded that "either kakistocracy gets used and thoroughly examined or a Trump presidency will force us to do so."

In August 2016, Dan Leger of Canadian newspaper The Chronicle Herald predicted that a Trump victory in the U.S. presidential election would require renewed usage of the term "kakistocracy," writing: "The kind of government he offers are so off the wall that words fail, or at least modern words do. So one from the Greek past has been revived to describe what the Trump presidency would mean, in the unlikely event he should be elected." Leger compared the 2016 election with that of 1968, which featured two unpopular candidates. He wrote that after Richard Nixon won, he "established a kakistocracy of corruption, misuse of power and scandal lasting until he was driven from office in 1974."

In November 2016, the word became commonly used by critics after Trump, a man who had never held any public office, was elected president of the United States, and began to announce his appointees. Stephen Wolf of the progressive website Daily Kos said the Trump presidency appears to be headed toward a kakistocracy: "Trump has only been the president-elect a mere two weeks, but he has already sparked outcry over promising key appointments to white nationalists, unqualified sycophants, and those with troubling ties to Vladimir Putin's Russia."
Memorize it. You're going to need it.

Happy New Year everyone.


The president as statesman

by digby

This is real people:


Happy New Year everyone.

There's nothing to see here, citizens. Nothing at all.

by digby

This was just a little note that passed through my twitter feed:

A Washington Post reporter met with the FBI and an outside security consultant after receiving a death threat in October.
David Fahrenthold broke the story of President-elect Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he brags about sexually assaulting women.

Shortly after the story was published, he writes in the Washington Post Magazine this week, another Post reporter got a death threat for Fahrenthold, prompting the newspaper to hire a former counterterrorism official to consult with him on security.

Fahrenthold also met with the FBI and Washington, D.C., police.

“When she arrived at our house she terrified us far more than the actual death threat had,” Fahrenthold recounts.

“‘Your cars are parked too far away for a car bomb,’ she said, looking out the front windows at the street. ‘They’ll probably cut your brake lines.’ She recommended having a car patrol the neighborhood. She recommended a safe room.”

Politico reporters have also said they’ve received death threats for reporting on Trump. And the Arizona Republic said it got death threats for endorsing Hillary Clinton over Trump.

MSNBC reporter katy Tur also had to have security to cover the rallies after Trump called her out by name.

The only thing Trump has ever said about this was the one comment on 60 Minutes: "stop it." Otherwise, he's encouraged this behavior by growling "get 'em out" to his personal goon squad and talking about how he'd like to hit protesters in the face and growling that in the old days, they'd have "been taken out on a stretcher." And there were his little asides about "2nd Amendment people" having to take things into their own hands. He continues to insult journalists in the most degrading ways possible.

So far, we've had a lot of defacing of mosques and synagogues and jubilant Trump voters feeling their oats by screaming epithets at Muslims, African Americans, Hispanics and Jews. We've had men saying "Hillary bitches" had better get in line. Journalists are still being threatened. But nobody's been shot and nobody's died.

But that's doesn't mean this is normal. IT IS NOT NORMAL. These violent threats by Trump supporters have been ubiquitous throughout the campaign toward journalists and others. It's not ok.

I wrote about this phenomenon for Salon after the election:

It’s not surprising that the election of Donald Trump would cause an upheaval in civil society. The differences between the two visions of America that were presented in this campaign couldn’t be more stark, and it’s inevitable that they would play out beyond the political system.

Much of the unrest has taken the form of protest marches and school walkouts on the left while the right is more inclined to drunken hooliganism, flying the Confederate flag and the like. This is America. We have free speech and a right to assemble, and regardless of how we feel about the “message” being sent by the other side, they have a right to say it.

But there have also been many reports of anonymous defacing of property with white power slogans and other racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic phrases. And there are now hundreds of stories of individual acts of bullying and even hate crimes coming from people who call themselves Trump supporters, aimed at fellow Americans they see as their enemies.

We could see this in the Trump rallies, of course. They bristled with resentment and barely repressed violence. And no one can possibly argue that the candidate didn’t use those dark emotions to motivate his followers. In the “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl, Trump admitted that he did that consciously. When Stahl pointed out that people are scared, Trump had to be coaxed to say this:
Don’t be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid.
Has any president-elect ever been asked to reassure the American people that they needn’t be afraid of him and his followers? It’s astonishing. Trump’s lack of understanding about why they are afraid is even more so. He seems to think people are soothed by him saying “don’t be afraid” followed by “we’re going bring our country back,” as if that were a threat. And that’s exactly what scares them. It’s clear he wants to go back to a time when women, people of color, immigrants and minority religions were second-class citizens. They are terrified of what Trump has promised to do to deliver that lost world back to a swath of America that seems to hate them.

Trump outfoxed the system and won the whole thing without even getting a majority. He heads an undivided government and has the chance to leave a mark on the country for generations with at least one appointment to the Supreme Court. He has the power to enact his entire agenda with very little institutional resistance. And yet his followers are still filled with outrage and frustration, lashing out at the reeling and defeated left.

This incident in Brooklyn over the weekend illustrates the phenomenon. Two women were in a restaurant bemoaning the election of Donald Trump when a man and his wife sat down next to them and became incensed about what the women were saying. The manager moved the couple to a different table and gave them their meal without charge to calm them down, but after leaving the restaurant the man stormed back in and punched one of the women in the face. He told the manager he wanted to kill her. (Fortunately, the woman was not seriously injured.)

This is just one random incident but it raises the question: who gets that mad when they’ve won? It’s not as if those women were rubbing his nose in defeat. Why would something so ordinary as complaining about the election cause a man to hit a a stranger, a woman, in the face?

In fact, America has been divided along two moving tribal lines for a very long time, and this odd reaction has happened before when this political faction came to power, although it doesn’t normally get this violent or this ugly. The political right often seems to take little joy in its victories, instead remaining focused on its defeated enemies. Compromise is unacceptable — right-wingers seem to demand total capitulation and when the their adversaries continue to resist, they are enraged.

The best description of this phenomenon comes from Abraham Lincoln in his famous address at New York’s Cooper Union in 1860. Trying to explain how impossible it was to deal with the Southern slave states using normal democratic means, he asked, “What will it take to satisfy them?”
This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly — done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated — we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.
This is why they are so angry. It’s not enough for them to win. Those who opposed Trump must stop opposing him.We must agree that Muslims should be banned from entering the country, agree we should torture and kill suspected terrorists and their families, agree immigrants should be rounded up and deported, agree there should be guns in schools, agree women should be punished for having abortions and agree to all the rest of it. Until we stop resisting completely and declare that we are “avowedly with them” they will continue to believe that “all their troubles proceed from us.”

That is not going to happen. Trump’s forces may have won the election but they have not won the hearts and minds of the American people who didn’t vote for him. And they won’t. This administration will be met with fierce resistance from millions of people, from the moment Trump takes office until the day he leaves. There will be no appeasing him, and no easing of his followers’ guilt for what many of them know in their hearts to be an ugly and cruel impulses in consenting to this white nationalist program. It’s all on them.

Lincoln had this to say to his fellow Unionists about how to proceed in a situation such as this:
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
What else can we do? 

Happy New Year everyone.


Point of the spear

by Tom Sullivan

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková will be visible to the naked eye this New Year's Eve. But it will likely be more prominent viewed through a telescope or binoculars. NASA reports that the comet will be sporting a blueish-green head and thin, fan-shaped tail. Whether that is a portent of calamity, 2017 will tell. NASA is not recommending human sacrifice just yet. And besides, haven't we had enough of that for one year?

Rather than yet another recap of what you already know and would rather not revisit, let me direct you to some end-of-year photos from the Obama White House. We're going to miss this family:

March 10, 2016
“What an honor to watch these girls grow up. Malia, foreground, and Sasha were both invited guests for the State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. Following the actual sit-down dinner in the East Room, they made their way down the Great Hall to the State Dining Room for the musical entertainment.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Aug. 24, 2016
“President Obama watches a virtual reality film captured during his trip to Yosemite National Park earlier this summer as Personal Aide Ferial Govashiri continues working at her computer.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

March 20, 2016
“‘I love that picture,’ the President said to me when he saw this one hanging on the walls of the West Wing. Truth be told, he says that about every picture that features Malia or Sasha. The President and Malia were sharing a laugh as Malia interpreted in Spanish for a restauranteur in Havana, Cuba.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

We'll be replacing the Obamas with a family led by a man-child who doesn't laugh, as Chuck Todd recounts:

“[It] drives me crazy. Do you know what? I’ve never seen him laugh,” the “Meet the Press” host told me during an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast earlier this month. “I challenge somebody to find him laughing, and that person has yet to find an example, in my opinion. He’ll smile, but he smiles appropriately. Watch him at the Al Smith dinner [the roast in New York City in October] ... He doesn’t really laugh. He looks for others to laugh. It is just weird.”

And there’s one other thing that Todd thinks is odd: After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room replay his appearance on a monitor — sans sound.
Progressives and Democrats have got a fight ahead of them in 2017, no question. Here in North Carolina, Democrats may have retaken the governor's mansion, but that will have little effect on legislation. Republican legislators are so radicalized that, even as HB2 continues to damage the state's economy and with the whole world watching, Republican leaders in the senate failed to muster 10 votes among their 36 members to repeal it earlier this month. For now, at least, judges have temporarily blocked Republican-passed laws to remake the elections board and strip the incoming Democrat Roy Cooper of powers enjoyed by his predecessor, Gov. Pat McCrory.

But with Republicans holding super-majorities in both houses here, and in control of three branches of government nationally, Democrats are paid punching bags for the moment. Whether they can find the will and a way to punch back here or in Washington, D.C. remains to be seen.

In North Carolina, Rev. William Barber is the point of the spear. Maybe even for the country. Yesterday afternoon, Barber challenged president-elect Donald J. Trump using Trump's favorite medium:

It was a mini-sermon delivered unfiltered via Twitter, just the way Trump likes it. At least when he's the one doing the talking. Barber went straight at him:

Mr. Trump, we hope it is your desire to be successful. Success is measured by how we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, care for the poor, and care for the hungry in practice and in policy. In order to be successful in the eyesight of God, leaders must repent when they are wrong, and they must be committed to promote that which is rooted in justice and good will. As clergy dedicated to the care of souls, we know you can neither succeed in a way that pleases God nor fulfill the duties of your office unless you repent. All of us, even persons who hold powerful positions, are called to repent when we violate the deep principles of love, justice, and mercy towards all, especially the least of these.

Since your election, our communities have been fractured by harassment and intimidation. People of color and religious minorities are afraid. Poor working people who you appealed to in your campaign are disappointed that you have attacked their union leaders while appointing Wall Street elites who use them to your Cabinet.
Trump may have run up against an immovable object. For all our sakes, let's hope so. Here's Barber's speech from the DNC convention last summer if you need a little end-of-year pep talk:

It's Holiday Fundraiser time. If you'd like to contribute, you can do so below or use the snail mail address at the top of the left column. Thank you!

Happy Hollandaise everyone.

cheers --- digby

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Night Soother

by digby

To the heroes:

There are millions of people doing animal rescue all over the country.Their stories inevitably restore my faith in humanity. Every Friday night I try to post something about animals just for my own sake. The search for the right stories and videos is a highlight of my week. I hope you enjoy them too. I think we're going to need these soothers more than ever in 2017.

For instance, that picture of the adorable puppy at the top led me to a libertarian web site which has this to say about animal rescues:
These are not homeless animals, in need of someone to adopt them. These are livestock being sold for profit. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the profit motive, but a real animal lover never puts down the breeder who made the product possible. If they are telling you that the breeders are bad, chances are they confiscated these animals from the people who nurtured them and brought them into the world.

If the animals really had been abused, malnourished or diseased, they would not look this cute, and nobody would want them. Abused animals make very bad pets. In the past, saying that an animal had been abused would reduce its market value. Today, rescues brag about it, as if selling abused animals were a virtue! There is a government-sponsored scam afoot to allow rescues to get animals free of charge from breeders by claiming they have been abused and then to re-sell them to the public.
I just can't ...

Donald Trump hates animals by the way. He will be the first president in centuries not to have one in the White House and he even has a 10 year old boy who would probably really like one. It's not the worst thing about him. But it's very, very telling.

Happy New Year everyone.

Donald "Kardashian" Trump

by digby

Let them eat crabcake:

Mar-a-Lago, the pricey private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, sold hundreds of tickets at more than $500 a piece to an annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza planned for Saturday night that will feature a very special guest: the president-elect of the United States of America and his family.

President-elect Donald Trump owns the members-only luxury resort, which each year sells tickets to swank parties it throws on holidays and special occasions, including New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Saturday’s formal event is scheduled to include a cocktail hour in the resort’s living room and patio area, followed by dinner and dancing until 1 a.m. in its grand ballroom to live music performed by the band Party on the Moon, according to Sean Spicer, Trump’s incoming White House press secretary.

Spicer, on a Friday morning conference call with reporters, said the party is already “sold out” with more than 800 people scheduled to attend, including actor Sylvester Stallone and music producer Quincy Jones, in addition to Trump, his wife, incoming first lady Melania Trump, and their son Barron Trump.

A person who travels in Palm Beach society circles said that tickets to the party were being sold for $525 each for members and $575 each for guests.

Trump’s transition team declined to comment on the ticket prices.

Incoming White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks rejected criticisms that Mar-a-Lago was selling access to the president-elect.

“The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict,” she said. “This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”

Sure, why not charge people to mingle with the prez and pocket the money? Reality stars are often paid to attend parties. Why should our new president and his family be denied the opportunity to make a few extra bucks?

Besides the president "cannot and does not" have a conflict. L'etat c'est moi, bitchuz.


Happy Hollandaise everyone.

The Big Bros

by digby

Trump pinned that quote as a tweet to the top of his twitterfeed and made the Instagram of it above.

This is odd. Generally, a president-elect doesn't praise a foreign leader who is in conflict with the current president. It's just kind of bad form. Not to mention confusing. He could wait until he's actually president before weighing in on this.

Then there was this.
Former New York Mayor and Donald Trump ally Rudy Giuliani slammed the sanctions President Barack Obama placed against Russia Thursday, calling them "petty little actions" and saying that they should have been put in place much earlier.

During an appearance on “Fox & Friends" Friday, Giuliani said that if hacking did take place by the Russians, that the response by the U.S. should have been earlier and stronger.

"I find it extraordinary in what President Obama is doing," he said. "I've never seen a President try to create more problems for a future president."

“There's a certain pettiness that I hadn't seen before. I mean, to do this after 18 months, when you could have prevented it 10 months ago,” Giuliani continued. “Petty little actions like this don't mean very much. It's almost a mockery to say this is too little too late. It should have been done 10 months ago, 11 months ago, 12 months ago. If it is really true the response should be much stronger.”

Giuliani also criticized the closing of two Russian compounds that the White House classified as being used for “intelligence-related purposes" in its statement, saying that “if you are going to solve a murder, you arrest the murderer. Not the candy store the murderer went to before he committed the murder.”

The former mayor, who apparently took himself out of the running to be Trump's Secretary of State, said that Trump should not immediately trust all intelligence that the Obama administration gives him because it is "incompetent."

“There's no question that the intelligence that President Obama has been getting has either been incompetent or politicized," he said.

"I would urge President Trump, when he becomes President Trump, to have his own intelligence people do their own report, let’s find out who did it, and let's bang them back really hard," he continued.

This is cute. Trump is very unlikely to "bang them back really hard." His behavior towards Vladimir Putin is unusual in that he's the only person on earth toward whom Trump behaves so obsequiously. We don't know exactly why and maybe it will actually lead to world peace. let's hope so anyway. The alternative is not good.

I will just re-post something I wrote recently about believing the intelligence community's analysis:

On Sunday NBC News reported that the intelligence community is very upset that Donald Trump has chosen to “impugn the integrity of U.S. intelligence officials,” saying that it’s “contrary to all that is sacred to national security professionals who work day and night to protect this country.” This was, of course, in response to Trump’s dismissive comments regarding the intelligence community’s apparent conviction that the Russian government had interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf, leading President Obama to order a full review of the matter before he leaves office.

On Fox News, Trump called the whole story “ridiculous,” saying, “It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.” (That is a lie, obviously.) These comments were in addition to the stunning statement released by the Trump transition team that said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” The CIA understandably feels that’s a tad unfair, since it’s now known that Vice President Dick Cheney went out to Langley in order to personally twist arms and “stovepipe” the intelligence report on Iraq.

This is shaping up to be a very bad start to the relationship between the new administration and his intelligence community. But then, Republicans have been dissing CIA analyses for decades now so the agency should be used to it. From the 1950s-era Committee on the Present Danger to the 1970s Team B, national security hardliners often complained the CIA was underestimating military Soviet might. In the 1980s, when intelligence analysts insisted that the Soviets were in economic and military decline, and again in the 1990s and early 2000s, when they warned of the rise of Islamist terrorism, the hawks always rejected their analysis. This played out most recently during the run-up to the Iraq war.

That’s not to say that those on the far right are totally hostile to the CIA. They just don’t like the intelligence-gathering side of it. They absolutely love the covert-action side of it. Trump is a perfect example of that. Here he was tweeting about the CIA in response to the release of the Senate Torture Report back in 2014:

These Islamists chop Americans’ heads off and want to destroy us. We should be applauding the CIA, not persecuting them.

The left, it should be noted, has generally been more hostile to the assassinating, torturing, overthrowing covert side of the agency and at least neutral on the intelligence-gathering side. It’s one of the great divides in our post-World War II political history.

Today we have an incoming GOP president facing off with the CIA over an an intelligence assessment concerning Russia. This time it’s about possible interference in the election with intent to install this same president in office. which certainly puts a strange new twist on the old story. Still, the dynamics aren’t all that different.

It's important to keep all this in mind as we try to assess what happened here. Donald Trump is now the president and he is stupid and he's crazy. Even if you think that Putin is actually a very nice guy who just wants to make the world a better place, I still wouldn't trust Trump. And frankly, I don't know why anyone thinks Putin is ok either. They seem like two sides of the same macho authoritarian card to me. 

I guess it's possible that all the stuff about Putin carpet bombing his own countrymen in the Chechen province and his repression of dissent and kleptocracy on such a scale it's rumored he's the richest man in the world is just western propaganda. But we know for a fact that Donald Trump is a violent, simple-minded, corrupt con man so why would anyone put their faith in him as the instrument of world peace? 

Happy Hollandaise everyone.


Trump's 2016 MVP

by digby

No, not Vladimir Putin. Someone much closer to home. I wrote about it for Salon:

Barring yet another disaster of some sort, yesterday was probably the last big news day of 2016 and it was a perfect ending to a crazy year. President Obama announced sanctions against the Russian government for allegedly meddling in the presidential election campaign. Imagine sitting where you are right now and reading that, say, 18 months ago. Now further imagine what you would have thought if the result of that alleged meddling was that Donald Trump became president of the United States. You would have assumed you were reading the Onion. But it happened.

Many things happened in this presidential election year, much of it unthinkable. We had terrorist attacks and mass shootings and a freak show of a campaign unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The rave up ending, Trump’s victory, was the shocking ending of all endings. There are a lot of reasons for it — after all, the election was decided by less than 80,000 votes across a few states. (Or, if you prefer the analysis of Donald Trump’s pollster Tony Fabrizio, four counties in Florida and one in Michigan.)

Yes Hillary Clinton’s campaign was flawed in a dozen different ways that could have made the difference, from failure to campaign in certain states to choosing the wrong message for vital constituencies. In a close election the smallest miscalculation can cost you the race. People will be arguing for years about her strategic and tactical decisions, which led to the weird result of a 2.9 million win in the popular vote mixed with an Electoral College loss.

And while the hacking of various Democratic campaign emails accounts and publishing them online can certainly be said to have fed a right wing-generated media frenzy around Clinton’s email server, it’s not possible to declare it a definitive reason for the loss. (However, the national security implications and the significance for the Trump administration are only starting to unfold so it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes the big story of 2017.)

The big story of the 2016 election, the one which remains for me the most shocking and inexplicable, is the fact that James Comey, the director of the FBI, put a very heavy thumb on the scale which decided the election. It started back in July when he made inappropriate public criticism of Clinton even as he legally exonerated her. This is not something law enforcement is ever supposed to do, and it’s certainly unethical to do it in a highly charged political case. Donald Trump and the Republicans used that criticism as evidence that Clinton was still subject to prosecution and “lock her up” (and worse, like “hang the bitch” and “Hillary for prison”) became sickening rallying cries at Trump campaign events. Close advisers and associates called for Clinton to be” shot for treason” and “arrested, tried, and executed.”

The word “emails” became shorthand for alleged criminal behavior by Hillary Clinton. Under pressure from these hysterical Republicans, Comey continued to violate FBI practice by turning over the raw investigative files to congress, which he released in pieces and the Republicans promptly leaked, keeping the controversy going as the press once again used screaming “email” headlines to report nothing new or significant.

Despite all that, Clinton was leading in the polls going into the final stretch. And then as people all over the country were already voting, just 11 days before election day, Comey sent his famous letter to the congress announcing they had found some emails on a laptop that might or might not be relevant to the earlier Clinton probe. The Republicans in congress eagerly released it publicly calling it a “re-opening” of the case and the media predictably went wild, talking of little else for days and splashing the news across front pages all over the country.

Comey knew very well why doing this was improper. Shortly after he left his job as a high ranking official in the Bush Justice Department a serious scandal took place around the firing of certain U.S. Attorneys. Recall this case from 2007:
David Iglesias of New Mexico, testified that he felt “leaned on” by Sen. Pete Domenici over a case he was pursuing. Iglesias said the New Mexico Republican and former mentor hung up on him after learning Iglesias would not seek indictments in a criminal investigation of Democrats before the 2006 election. “He said, ‘Are these going to be filed before November?'” Iglesias recalled. “I said I didn’t think so . . . to which he replied, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that.’ And then the line went dead. “I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Iglesias testified. “Six weeks later I got the call that I had to move on.”
He wasn’t the only one. That scandal was all about the Bush administration firing U.S. Attorneys for refusing to use the Justice Department to sully Democratic politicians’ reputations in advance of an election. Nobody has ever used the department as effectively as FBI Director James Comey.

And there is simply no doubt that of all the possible reasons Clinton lost that very close race, Comey’s actions were demonstrably definitive. According to Nate Silver Clinton had a 5.7 point lead on the day Comey sent the letter — and it had shrunk to 2.9 points just a week later. It’s hard to believe there was a sudden rise in economic anxiety during that period that explains it. The Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics did a post-election poll which showed that “Trump picked up 4.0 percentage points among people who hadn’t been with him in mid-October, and shed just 1.7 percentage points for a net gain of 2.3 points. Clinton picked up a smaller fraction — 2.3 points — and shed 4.0 points for a net loss of 1.7 points.” Both Clinton’s and Trump’s pollsters agreed that the Comey letter shifted the race.

The nepotism and conflicts of interest surrounding Trump even before he takes office are overwhelming. The alleged Russian meddling in the campaign is certainly very concerning. But the one event surrounding the 2016 election that sends a chill up the spine, and should be troubling to anyone who cares about civil liberties and the legitimacy of our democracy, is the fact that unethical actions by the top law enforcement officer in the country tipped the race. That someone in his position tipped it to the most openly corrupt candidate in American history is beyond ironic.

Donald Trump’s victory is the story of 2016, but James Comey will always be remembered as the man who used the power of his office to pull him over the finish line.

Happy New Year everyone.