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Monday, January 15, 2018

Flake = Trump 

by tristero

Jeff Flake is getting attention again from the mainstream media for "standing up to Trump." He's obviously positioning himself as the "serious" alternative in 2020.

This country needs someone who is inarguably opposed not just to Trump's style (which is easy) but Trump's agenda (which Republicans like this guy find impossible).

By contrast, Sanders votes Trump 14% of the time. And Warren votes Trump even less, less than 11% of the time. Those are truly serious alternatives in the Senate to Donald Trump. 

You don't like Trump? Don't vote for Flake.  If Flake really wants to oppose Trump and Trumpism, he'll stop voting for the Trump agenda. 

Given a choice, Trump or Flake? Neither. On policy, they're nearly identical. 


AmeriKKKa First

by digby


This is your America, Republicans. It's on you. Are you PROUD???



The fine art of unraveling right wing BS

by digby


For anyone who has been following the right wing counter-narrative on the Russia investigation which most recently has been focused on the idea that high ranking members of the FBI were actively working against Donald Trump, possibly with the help of Russian agents through the nefarious Christopher Steele.

It's very convoluted and completely absurd, since it was obvious that if the FBI had its thumbs on the scale it was on behalf of Donald Trump not against him. Anyway, last week a right winger who calls himself a journalist named John Solomon published an article that was picked up by Drudge and Sean Hannity and was then sent all over Bizarroworld in which he claims that the notorious emails sent between FBI agent Strzok and his girlfriend, FBI lawyer Page prove that they were leaking damaging information about Trump to the press.

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and Nick Baumann debunk the whole damned thing here and it's not easy because the whole damned thing is so ridiculous in the first place.

The reason this is important is because the traitorous Republicans in the congress, led by such patriotic heroes as Lindsey Graham, are using their offices to push this sort of nonsense into the legal realm and it's a dangerous abuse of power. We don't know yet if they will succeed in creating some sort of parallel investigation to counter the Mueller probe and attempt to equalize Trump's crimes but they've got people pushing for it. It's a cynical ploy to make Dear Leader happy and throw some Clinton meat at the ravening crowd that wants to see her drawn and quartered just so they can prove they did the right thing by voting for this cretinous imbecile.



Trump's Roy Cohn vs MLK

by digby

Here's a fascinating story by Gil Troy in the Daily Beast about Trump's mentor Roy Cohn (which should have disqualified Trump for the presidency all by itself) and his lawsuit against Martin Luther King ... for slander:

It began with a heartbreakingly familiar American ritual—a white cop shooting a black kid, who may or may not have been armed. The historian Michael Flamm, in his authoritative, compelling look at the Harlem riots that followed in that sizzling summer of ’64, writes reasonably, that “What happened on July 16 at 9:20 am in front of 215 East 76th street was unclear and contested, both then and now.”

What is clear is that a white, off-duty New York City policeman, Thomas R. Gilligan, while running an errand, heard a “commotion,” ran out, and ended up shooting a 15-year-old African-American, James Powell. Gilligan and the white adult witnesses on 76th Street claimed Powell slashed at Gilligan with a knife—cutting his hand—and that Gilligan identified himself as a police officer. Most of the kids on the street, who had attended summer school with Powell, saw no knife and heard no identification.

“This is worse than Mississippi,” one young woman shouted, as three hundred furious students started trashing Yorkville. The violence spread to Harlem, then to Bedford-Stuyvesant. Six nights later, one rioter was dead, 118 were injured, 465 had been arrested. Looting caused a million dollars’ worth of damage.

Legally, Gilligan was exonerated. The Grand Jury refused to indict. The Manhattan District Attorney’s detailed 14-page report explained why—with the DA brandishing Powell’s knife at a press conference. Morally, the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, nailed it. It should have been a “minor, indeed comic street incident,” with a highly decorated, 6-foot-2, 200-pound World War II vet and cop on the job for 17 years subduing a 122-pound teen with a three-and-a-half-inch knife. CORE’s counter-report on the incident concluded: “Policemen should not shoot boys half their size.”


The Long Rise and Fast Fall of New York’s Black Mafia
Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing between Dr. Benjamin Spock and Monsignor Rice of Pittsburgh at the Solidarity Day Parade in which participants marched from Central Park to the United Nations on April 15, 1967.
Exploring Martin Luther King’s Connection to New York City

Recy Taylor’s Baby Brother: She Was a Fighter Before #MeToo
Nerves were already raw that summer—even before temperatures hit the 90s during New York’s week-long riot. On June 21, racists murdered three civil rights activists from Mississippi’s Freedom Summer—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Officials would only find their corpses on Aug. 4. On June 28, the militant Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, while asking, “who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing ‘We shall overcome… suum day’ while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against?”

Yet on July 2, Lyndon Johnson signed the transformational Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the same day James Powell died, the conservative Barry Goldwater accepted the Republican presidential nomination, declaring: “Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives.”

Flamm notes that beyond inaugurating the 1960s’ “long hot summers,” the Harlem riots, the civil rights activism, the Goldwater nomination, and the great American crime wave, would nationalize local crime as a hot political issue. The “new racial dynamic… would drive a wedge between the civil rights movement and many white liberals… The image of the black rioter now joined the symbol of the black criminal, which had deep roots in American history.”

Amid such tension, and given New York’s centrality in American consciousness, an all star team of civil rights activists mobilized. Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and James Farmer of CORE joined local activists including the great Harlem rent striker Jesse Gray, and William Epton of the more obscure—and radical—Harlem Progressive Movement. They bombarded Gilligan with their eloquence, creativity, and wrath. Some alleged that Gilligan ended up in a mental hospital. Others distributed three thousand copies of a poster proclaiming: “WANTED FOR MURDER,” Gilligan was pictured in uniform above the contemptuous label: GILLIGAN, THE COP.

It’s ironic that King was sued for slander. While he wanted Gilligan suspended, he came to New York on a “peace misson” championing non-violence. King felt caught. Extremists like his eventual co-defendant in the slander suit, William Epton, a “Burn Baby Burn” Maoist, were shouting: “We’re going to have to kill a lot of cops, a lot of the judges, and we’ll have to go up against their army.” And many Harlem leaders resented importing this outsider from Atlanta. King would say, characteristically: “I call upon all Negro and white citizens of goodwill to continue to struggle unrelentingly but nonviolently against the racial and economic oppression that face our country.” The Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, who said he started agitation for equality “before Martin Luther King was in diapers,” snapped: “No leader outside of Harlem should come to this town and tell us what to do.”

Beyond his usual Gandhi-esque approach, King feared that black violence would get Goldwater elected. And five months before he won the Nobel Peace Prize—and four years before his assassination—he was not yet considered a saintly, nonpartisan figure. Allegations that he was a Communist hounded him. Meanwhile, Roy Cohn’s occasional cross-dressing playmate, the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, was trying hard to crush King.

Still, Gilligan—represented by Roy Cohn of Saxe, Bacon & Bolan—lumped King and Farmer with Epton, Gray, and the Harlem Progressive Movement. By the time he was 27 in 1954, Cohn was nationally famous and broadly loathed as head hatchet-man and chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch-hunt. In private practice for the next three decades, Cohn continued tarnishing his reputation. Even his devoted client Donald Trump would tell Vanity Fair's Marie Brenner: “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me. He’s a genius. He’s a lousy lawyer, but he’s a genius.”

When he died in 1986, Cohn was disbarred, owed $3.18 million in back taxes and had experience as defense lawyer and defendant, having been “tried and acquitted three times in Federal court on charges ranging from conspiracy to bribery to fraud,” The New York Times reported.

Still, Cohn’s bullying made him a formidable lawyer. “My scare value is high,” he boasted. “My area is controversy. My tough front is my biggest asset. I don’t write polite letters. I don’t like to plea-bargain. I like to fight.”

There's more at the link. It's fascinating. Things have improved but not nearly enough.

I'm sure you recall that Trump was recently reported to have been angry that Jeff Sessions wasn't performing as his protector in the Department of Justice, lamenting "where's my Roy Cohn?"


For your convenience, a compendium of Trump's racism

by digby

I hit on some of these in my Salon piece this morning but this is nicely laid out by the New York Times, which points out that Trump has been obsessing about race for over 40 years:

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.

Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.

In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.

In June 2017, Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS”and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

At the White House on Jan. 11, Trump vulgarly called for less immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.

An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012

He spent years suggesting that the nation’s first black president was born not in the United States but in Kenya, a lie that Trump still has not acknowledged as such.

Trump called Obama (who was editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review) “a terrible student, terrible.”

Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2014

Trump frequently claimed that Obama did not work hard as president.

Trump falsely claimed that President Obama “issued a statement for Kwanzaabut failed to issue one for Christmas.”

He often casts heavily black American cities as dystopian war zones. In a 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “Our inner cities, African Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.” Trump also said to black voters: “You’re living in poverty; your schools are no good; you have no jobs.”

He frequently offers false crime statistics to exaggerate urban crime, including about Oakland, Philadelphia and Ferguson, Mo.

Just out report: "United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror." Not good, we must keep America safe!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017

He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about them (such as a claim about growing crime from “radical Islamic terror” in Britain). He is very slow to decry hate crimes committed by whites against dark-skinned people (such as the killing of an Indian man in Kansas last year).

He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.

He called Puerto Ricans who criticized his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria “politically motivated ingrates.”

He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., last August “very fine people.”

After David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, endorsed him, Trump was reluctant to disavow Duke even when asked directly on television.

Trump hired Steve Bannon as his campaign head and later White House chief strategist. Under Bannon’s leadership, the website Breitbart made white nationalism a central theme. It featured a section, for example, on “black crime.”

Trump endorsed and campaigned for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who spoke positively about slavery and who called for an African-American Muslim member of Congress not to be seated because of his religion.

Trump pardoned – and fulsomely praises – Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff sanctioned for racially profiling Latinos and for keeping immigrants in brutal prison conditions.

In the 1990s, Trump took out advertisements alleging that the “Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” At the time, he was fighting competition for his casino business.

In a 1993 radio interview, he suggested that Native Americans in Connecticut were faking their ancestry. “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.”

In a November 2017 meeting with Navajo veterans of World War II, Trump mocked Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Trump today: "Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty." Fascist code for "Jews"— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) October 13, 2016

Trump has trafficked in anti-Semitic caricatures, including the tweeting of a six-pointed star alongside a pile of cash. He has also been reluctant to condemn anti-Semitic attacks on journalists from his supporters, and he echoed neo-Nazi conspiracy theories by saying that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”

In a White House meeting with a Korean-American intelligence analyst briefing him on Pakistan, Trump wondered aloud why she was not working on North Korea policy.

Trump once referred to a Hispanic Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping.”

At a June 2016 campaign rally, Trump pointed to one attendee and said: “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.”


The age of Fire and Fury

by digby

Der Spiegel:

"Fire and Fury" is the title of the new exposé of Donald Trump's first year in the White House. The tome has only been out for a few days, and yet it has already established itself as one of the books of the year. Even we journalists find ourselves describing the book's contents as "indescribable" and "unfathomable." Can the world's most powerful man really be dumb, senile and addicted to television as the book claims? He spends his early evenings watching three televisions in his bedroom? Eating a cheeseburger and tweeting all the while? An entire White House teetering between hysteria and chaos? And yet, it's still the journalist's job to describe the indescribable and fathom the unfathomable.

Our latest cover story explains how "Fire and Fury" came to be and whether, and the extent to which, it approaches the truth. Most importantly, however, it delves into the consequences for an America and a world that have been confronted with a nuclear-armed fool who is likely to remain in office for some time to come, who is neither mentally nor psychologically suited for the job - apparently also not physically, either, given how late he starts the working day and how early he ends it.

That, unfortunately, is precisely the point: Humanity as a whole is being set back just because of one single person. The achievements of decades - the fight against a climate disaster, against the nuclear threat, for equality between men and women, between blacks and whites and so on and so on. Where is the world supposed to start again if it manages to survive Donald Trump?

It's the big reset, isn't it? And it's being done with no planning or forethought, just chaos and crossed fingers that we come out the other side. So far, American institutions have been rattled, but they're more or less holding together. The Republican Party is the first to come apart, with most of the membership throwing aside everything they ever purported to believe in to join this aberrant American leader. But it was hanging by a thread for a while, which created the conditions that led to this situation in the first place. At this point it's hard to know if it's just the last gap of a political party or the beginning of the end of a nation.



The GOP dives head first into the white nationalist shithole

by digby

I wrote about the shithole comments and the policies underlying it for Salon today:

If you happened to take a breather over the past few days you may have missed that Donald Trump told the DACA negotiators last Thursday that he didn't like the compromise they'd come up with because he didn't want any immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa and wondered why we couldn't just have immigration from places like Norway. The firestorm from those remarks is ongoing, with Senate Republican henchmen like Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., going on the Sunday shows and cravenly changing their stories about the meeting from "I don't recall" to "nope, he never said it."

This has now become one of Trump's loyalty tests: which Republicans are willing to ignore the fact that the emperor is running around without his pants on. Of course he said it. There are probably not more than a handful of Americans who doubt it.

This is a man whose racism, xenophobia and nativism stretch back 50 years. In the 1970s, Donald Trump and his father were named in a housing discrimination suit against Puerto Ricans and African-Americans and had to operate under a consent decree. He ranted for years against policies that forbid police brutality, particularly in communities of color. This is a man who told associates he didn't want black accountants because they were "lazy" and testified against Native American gaming by saying that tribal negotiators "don't look like Indians to me."

During the course of Trump's presidential campaign he famously slagged Mexicans and Muslims as criminals and terrorists. Since then he has stood up for Nazis and neo-Confederates and called black football players who knelt during the national anthem "sons of bitches." The New York Times reported that he recently said "Haitians all have AIDS" and that if we allowed Nigerians to come into the country they'd never go "back to their huts."

This is the man who made his name in right-wing politics by elevating the lunatic-fringe conspiracy theory of birtherism into the mainstream.

So all these Trump loyalists who want to clutch their pearls and insist that he could never say anything so racist as "shithole countries" are making fools of themselves.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the Republican Party's tattered credibility isn't our biggest problem. The futures of the nearly 800,000 Dreamers who face mass deportation because of Trump's reversal of the DACA program are hanging in the balance. Trump's administration is also planning the mass deportation of nearly 250,000 Salvadorans, along with tens of thousands of Hondurans, Haitians and others, all of whom have been legally living in this country for many years, and many of whom have American children.

Unfortunately, Republicans are no longer just feigning horror at undocumented immigrants or those here with legal but temporary status to salve their insecure white base. They are following Trump down the white nationalist rabbit hole, head first.

Republicans are now pushing for changes to legal immigration the likes of which we haven't seen since the the 1920s. (Apparently, we have finally located the era when Trump believes America was last great.)

The Los Angeles Times noted the abrupt GOP shift from a party that had traditionally made a sharp distinction between support for illegal and legal immigration, arguing that the latter was an important contribution to the economy and American cultural vitality. This wasn't particularly partisan or controversial until recently, except among the far-right fringe. Now such mainstream leaders as the aforementioned Cotton and Perdue are pushing extremist legislation, backed by Trump's malevolent adviser Stephen Miller, to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. each year and end all family reunification policies. Trump has adopted this policy in the form of one of his fatuous mantras: "End chain migration!"

I recall writing scathingly here at Salon about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's foray into this issue during his ill-fated presidential campaign, after Walker conferred with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and came out saying he was in favor of curtailing legal immigration. That seemed to be a huge mistake and was instrumental in alienating him from his benefactors, David and Charles Koch. A number of GOP senators, including Rob Portman of Ohio, rushed to the microphone to denounce this idea, saying, "As a party we've always embraced immigrants coming here legally, following the rules, and it's enriched our country immeasurably. It's who we are. It's the fabric of our success."

That was in August of 2015, when nobody dreamed that Trump would be president and Sessions would be attorney general two years later. They obviously didn't know that Sessions and his apprentice Stephen Miller had written a white nationalist manifesto the previous January that was waiting to be taken up by any racist demagogue who wanted it. Walker flamed out early, but Trump picked up his torch and ran with it.

It was called the "Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority," and it proposed a virtual halt to all immigration, legal and illegal, claiming that it is the cause of poverty, wage stagnation and the decline of the middle class. It's a classic example of far-right populist misdirection, which explicitly references the racist and draconian Immigration Act of 1924, aka the National Origins Act and Asian Exclusion Act, claiming that the legislation "allowed wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and the middle class to emerge."

Today is the national holiday to commemorate the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. As is so often the case, he left us with the perfect words to express the American ideal that Trump is throwing into that hole in the outhouse.

This is from King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail":
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
President Trump does not agree. And he and the white nationalists who follow him now dominate one of America's two major political parties.



Even the true believers are going wobbly

by digby

I keep hearing that Trump and the Republicans think he has some kind of magical powers that will give him a big win in 2018. His congressional sycophants certainly seem to think so.

Maybe so. But let's admit that if he wins it will be because magic is real or they cheated. There is not way that the following numbers indicate a midterm win for the president's party:

One year into Donald Trump's presidency, Americans feel more positive about the economy but not as good about the state of the country overall -- and the latter is closely tied to views of the president.

By a two to one margin, more say that the country is doing well economically than that it isn't. But three in four Americans say the country is divided, six in 10 don't have much confidence in the U.S. political system and six in 10 say racial tensions have increased. The president's strongest backers believe things are going well, but his opponents -- who have grown increasingly opposed to the president over the year -- say things are not. Overall, the number of Americans who say having Donald Trump as president makes them feel "pessimistic" is higher than it was a year ago.

A year ago, this study began analyzing four groups: the strongest of Trump backers (whom the study labeled "believers"); another set of those who support the president on the condition that he delivers what they want (the "conditionals"); a group opposing the president for now but willing to back him if things change, (the curious) and those who are firmly opposed (whom the study labels the "resisters.")

Overall, the movement we have seen over the year is a slow shift away from Mr. Trump, and we have that movement across the four groups: the believers, the conditionals, the curious and the resisters.

The number of believers has shrunk (from 22 percent to just 18 percent) and the number of strong opponents "resisters" has grown -- from 35 percent to 41 percent now. In that regard, President Trump's first year in office looks a bit like a tale of what might have been, as those who began the year looking for a reason to support him have instead become increasingly opposed.

The president's supporters now believe the country is "run for the benefit of all the people." Two-thirds of his strongest supporters now feel like they have more of a voice in what happens in America. But opponents say the country is being run "for the benefit of a few elites."

The president's approach and how he handles himself appeals to his supporters as much as economic matters. Mr. Trump's supporters back him more for "being a different kind of president" and for "taking on the establishment" than for cutting their taxes. Three in four supporters like the way he conducts himself personally. The president's strongest backers prioritize political fights, such as investigating Hillary Clinton, as one of their top things he should do in 2018, but this is the only group that thinks so, and his more conditional backers do not agree. Only the president's strongest backers view him as a role model -- more than eight in 10 do. More than half of his conditional supporters do not see him that way.

For Mr. Trump's opponents, 70 percent say a big reason they don't support the president is that he's disrespected people like them, and most don't like his policies. Support and opposition to the president connects to whether or not people feel like they have a voice in what happens in the country. Mr. Trump's strongest supporters feel they do, and his most ardent opponents (the "Resisters" – who make up four in 10 Americans) feel they have less of a voice now than they did. Fifty-five percent of Americans think Donald Trump's response to criticism is that he just argues with those who disagree, but the resisters (73 percent) view Mr. Trump as trying to suppress the views of those who disagree with him.

A majority of Americans -- whether they like or dislike the president's behavior -- feel that what you see is what you get with Mr. Trump: most say he acts the same way behind the scenes as he does in public.

On foreign policy, most Americans would prefer the U.S. work and negotiate with other countries, while Mr. Trump's strongest backers say the president should do what's best for the U.S. no matter what others think, rather than compromise with other countries. Conditional supporters are more mixed on this. His backers believe that threatening North Korea makes the North afraid to attack the U.S., whereas others think doing so only provokes North Korea into a war.

Overall, most Americans say that building infrastructure like roads and bridges should be the highest priority for the Trump administration in 2018. This is the case across all four support groups.

Looking far ahead to the 2018 elections, most Mr. Trump detractors, perhaps unsurprisingly, say they would consider voting for a Democrat for Congress this November. However one-third would also consider voting for a Republican who is independent of the president.

Three in four Americans think if the Democrats took Congress, their priority would be to impeach Mr. Trump, as opposed to cut deals with him. But people who think Democrats would work with President Trump are more inclined to vote for a Democrat than people who think they would prioritize trying to impeach the president.
Trump's immigration comments called "inappropriate" by most

A year ago, this study began analyzing four groups: the strongest of Trump backers (whom the study labeled "believers"); another set of those who support the president on the condition that he delivers what they want (the "conditionals"); a group opposing the president for now but willing to back him if things change, (the curious) and those who are firmly opposed (whom the study labels the "resisters.")

On the issues looming now, most Americans -- 70 percent -- favor DACA. Among Mr. Trump's backers, a slim majority support it. But in a sign of how much they want the border wall built, most of his backers are in favor of cutting a deal on DACA to get the wall funded. Resisters are overwhelmingly opposed to such a deal.

The wall and deportation of illegal immigrants remain top priorities of his strongest backers. Fewer of his conditional supporters see these as top priorities.

More than eight in 10 Americans, re-contacted for this survey after Mr. Trump's comments about U.S. immigration from African countries and Haiti, said they had heard about them, and three-quarters (76 percent) say the remarks were inappropriate. Almost all Democrats, nearly 8 in 10 independents and 45 percent of Republicans say so as well.

Race plays a role in explaining views of the president. Many African Americans feel the president works directly against people of their racial group, and many feel like they have less of a voice in what happens in America now. Large percentages of Mr. Trump's opponents -- and African Americans in particular -- feel he has disrespected people like them. Two-thirds of Trump backers think he works for their racial group.


"Mom and pop" go to Washington

by Tom Sullivan

"A lot of mom and pop candidates," said one trainer at last weekend's first Democratic Candidates Conference outside Washington, D.C. The #Resistance has spawned a lot of new interest in local, state, and federal politics, and many first-time candidates came to learn what filing for office had got them into. Unlike Netroots Nation's spectrum of progressive advocacy groups, DemCanCon drew a more focused crowd of 250 candidates, staff, and organizers from 24 states and Canada.

Convention organizer Andy Millard ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016 against Republican Patrick McHenry in North Carolina's 10th Congressional District. Millard explained to attendees that he wished someone had told him in the beginning all the things he'd learned by the end of his campaign. Not simply the campaign-craft Wellstone teaches, but the nuts and bolts. Hence the conference in Silver Spring, MD addressed digital media, volunteer recruitment, staffing, data management, early voting strategies, and perfecting a stump speech.

Fundraising is serious business. Perhaps more serious than newcomers anticipate. Flipping a congressional seat will take 200,000 votes and $3 million dollars, veteran campaign manager Mario Piscatella advised candidates in one break-out session. It is a system those "mom and pop" candidates want to change. But one they'll have to first beat to have that opportunity.

Maryland's new public financing law, however, opened the floodgates for 29 candidates to file for Montgomery County's June 26 primary for four at-large seats on County Council. Several candidates attended the conference. There are six more weeks until the filing deadline.

Andrew Metcalf writes for Bethesda Beat:

At-large candidates using public financing must raise at least $20,000 in individual contributions of $150 or less to qualify. And they must do it 45 days before the primary election.

More than a dozen at-large candidates have filed paperwork with the state Board of Elections to use the public financing system.
DemCanCon arrives on the heels of the federal court ruling against Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina. Maryland's Democratic gerrymandering, though less "surgical," poses its own challenges for Democrats running in districts safe for Republicans. And no thanks to the Democratic Party's mapmaking in Annapolis. Gerrymandering safe districts for Democratic incumbents over here disenfranchises Democratic voters over there. It doesn't matter which party does the gerrymandering. Someone's democracy is compromised.

In heavily Democratic counties such as Montgomery, however, the primary is the de facto election, Maryland candidates said. But while safe districts mean easy wins for incumbents, they mean skills atrophy at the local level.

State and federal candidates attending from outside Maryland offered their perspective on the health of their local and state party organizations. Assuming they got through their primaries, how well-organized were their local committees to help them get out the vote in November?

The question generally drew a pregnant pause, a sigh, and perhaps an eye roll.

One blue-state congressional race staffer described his state organization as "a hot mess," and county organizations in the district had little more to offer his candidate. A state House candidate from the Midwest explained that members of the local county committee were typically over 70 years old. The local county chair had held that position for 25 years. Attendees from Indiana to New York told similar stories.

One story I offered was about visiting a rural county a week ahead of Election Day as part of a congressional campaign. The field director asked local party officers where they stood in their preparations, what else they needed to do, and what help they might need from the campaign.

"We're done," they said. They saw us looking at each other sideways.

"We called through the phone list and put out the signs," they continued. "You want us to do ... more?"

Candidates and staffers who heard that story were dumbstruck.

But if you are not in a swing state, and especially if you are in a rural county not in a swing state, Barack Obama is not parachuting in a team from Michigan Avenue to show you how to coordinate a months-long, high-energy Get Out The Vote program. Neither is the DNC, the DCCC, or the state party. Governor's races don't set up out there, nor Senate races. That part of the party ecosystem is sorely degraded, several attendees confirmed. And many of them are running out there.

It's not that local committees can't do more. They simply don't know what more looks like. Many have never been exposed to it and no one is teaching them.

Almost no one.

Anthony Flaccavento, an organic farmer running in the Democratic primary in Southwest Virginia's rural 9th Congressional District, won the stump speech contest. It is his second campaign in a red district. With that experience under his belt, this time Flaccavento started five months earlier.

* * * * * * * *

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Hoekstra in dutch in the Netherlands

by digby

Journalists in other countries don't just say "oh, ok" when a politician lies to their face:

The newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, has finally admitted that he was wrong to say that there were “no-go” zones in the country where Muslim youths were burning politicians and cars.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, told a conservative group in 2015 that the “Islamic movement” had plunged Europe into chaos and that cars and politicians were being set on fire. “Yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands,” he said.

When interviewed last month at the U.S. Capitol by the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur, Hoekstra completely denied making the remarks, calling it “fake news” — despite his entire speech being captured on video.

But the controversy did not die down. When Hoekstra held his first press conference at the Netherlands he was greeted by question after question on his fake claims about “no-go zones” in the country.

“Everybody there had one question: That crazy statement you made, are you going to withdraw it,” Dutch political reporter Roel Geeraedts told the Washington Post. “We were not getting answers so we all kept asking it.” The remarkable back-and-forth was captured on video.

The idea of European countries having “no-go zones” in their major urban areas is a common conspiracy theory of the far-right, who believe that there are neighborhoods within cities like London, Paris and Brussels where Sharia Law is enforced and the government has no authority. These claims have repeatedly been found to have little basis in fact.

The State Department issued a statement apologizing for Hoekstra's remarks. No word on when they're going to apologize for Donald Trump's entire presidency.

It just takes two
by digby

James Fallows points out that it would only take two Senators to change everything:

“Have you no sense of decency?” It’s the question that the members of the Republican majority in the Congress—51 senators, 239 representatives—might bear in mind, in the “shithole” era.

If only two of those senators would stand up against Donald Trump, with their votes rather than just their tweets or concerned statements, they would constitute an effective majority.

With the 49 Democratic and independent senators, these two would make 51 votes, which in turn would be enough to authorize real investigations. They could pass a formal resolution of censure. They could call for tax returns and financial disclosure. They could begin hearings, on the model of the nationally televised Watergate hearings of 45 years ago.

They could behave as if they took seriously their duties to hold the executive branch accountable. They could make a choice they know will be to their credit when this era enters history — as did the Republicans who finally turned against their own party’s President Nixon during the Watergate drama, as did the Democrats who finally turned against their own party’s President Johnson over the Vietnam war, as did the Republicans who finally turned against their own poisonous Senator McCarthy in the episode that gave rise to “Have you no sense of decency?” more than 60 years ago. They could spare themselves the shame that history attaches to people who did the wrong thing, or nothing, or kept looking the other way during those decisive periods.

(I’m not even talking about the House, where the GOP has a larger majority, where there’s never been as much talk about “world’s greatest deliberative body,” and where the main outlet for Republican concerns about this era in politics has been the rapidly growing list of incumbents deciding to retire rather than run again.)

Even without the House, just two senators could make an enormous difference.

I've been thinking about this too. It wasn't that long ago that two Senators switched to the GOP in one cycle --- Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado both switched in 1994. Jim Jeffords switched from the Republican Party to Independent and caucused with the Democrats in 2001, changing a power sharing arrangement due to a 50-50 split to a Democratic majority. These switches were ideological which isn't the issue now, of course. The Republicans obviously are all in on policy.

This is a much more important issue. It's a matter of stopping an unfit, unqualified rogue president who is putting the whole planet in danger. These two Republicans wouldn't have to become Democrats. They could just become Independents and vote for Chuck Schumer for majority leader which would allow real oversight investigations and hearings.

So far, there are none among them willing to do it. In fact we see more and more of them falling in line with Trump.


Sliding down the Bannonster

by digby

You know you wanted to see Fred Armison as Michael Wolff and Bill Murray as Steve Bannon ...

I don't know if Bannon will return to the fold. But it wouldn't surprise me.

By the way, I think it's important to note that despite all the recent reporting to the contrary, Bannon didn't lose the Mercers over the book. They had backed off him much earlier. This was from a couple of months ago:

When it landed on the morning of Nov. 2, the statement from hedge fund manager and Republican megadonor Robert Mercer read like a goodbye letter. Not only was he stepping down as co-chief executive officer of his New York hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC, but he also was selling his stake in Breitbart News and renouncing his support for Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right provocateur he’d previously funded. Mercer even seemed to distance himself from the man his political fortunes are most tied to—his longtime adviser, Breitbart Chairman and former White House strategist Steve Bannon. “From time to time, I do discuss politics with him,” Mercer wrote of Bannon. “However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.”

It was a rare public statement from the famously reticent, 71-year-old computer scientist, one that left Washington and Wall Street buzzing over whether the man who essentially bankrolled the nationalist insurgency that put Donald Trump in the White House was having second thoughts.

Among Mercer’s adversaries, his words were read as a rebuke of Bannon and a break from his nationalist politics. “I think this is a perfect testimony to the toxicity of Steve Bannon and what he’s trying to do to the Republican Party,” says Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Bannon has vowed to dethrone by backing outside challengers in Republican primaries next year. An activist group that had been pressuring universities and retirement funds to pull their money from Renaissance to protest Mercer’s political spending also saw the statement as vindication. “It seems like our work is done” pressuring Renaissance investors over Mercer’s role, says a representative of Sleeping Giants, a group of anonymous activists that, since forming after last year’s election, says it has persuaded thousands of companies to stop advertising on Breitbart, arguing the site promotes racism.

A rift with Mercer would certainly complicate Bannon’s latest assault on the GOP establishment. Mercer has been Bannon’s main patron since they first met in 2011. But a split may not be what’s happening. Viewed in a broader context, Mercer’s announcement suggests that, far from abandoning the Republican insurgency and stepping away from politics, he’s freeing himself to be more involved. Two sources familiar with his thinking say his decision to reduce his role at Renaissance is part of a plan to participate more aggressively in Republican Party politics ahead of the pivotal midterm elections. Mercer did not respond to requests for comment.

I hope no one thinks this represents some kind of mellowing of the alt-right. Mercer is an extreme right winger. It's just that he has some business with the government (7 billion dollars worth of debt) that he needs to get cleared up. They cut Bannon loose when he left the White House.



Depends on the meaning of permanent

by digby

I thought I should memorialize a few of the highlights of last week's batshit crazy interview with the Wall St Journal:

“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”

WSJ reporters asked if that meant he talks directly to Kim, which would be a major departure from US policy over the past decade. Trump replied: “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”

On the border wall, he explained, “[Mexico] can pay for it indirectly through NAFTA. We make a good deal on NAFTA, and, say, I’m going to take a small percentage of that money and it’s going toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico’s paying.”

“I don’t know what the word permanent means,” Trump said when asked if his relationship with Bannon was permanently ruptured because of Bannon’s cooperation with Michael Wolff’s book about the Trump administration, Fire and Fury.

“[Trump] claimed that firing former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey should have elicited grateful applause from across Washington.”

“Mr. Trump also said that messages traded between a pair of FBI employees who had been involved in the Mueller investigation amounted to treason.”

“Mr. Trump offered an unsolicited rebuttal to Fire and Fury, saying it showed the need for new libel laws. But he acknowledged that was unlikely to happen, saying that the Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t have the ‘guts’ for that debate.”

This one is the real doozy:
Trump “acknowledged that Pyongyang may be trying to separate Washington and Seoul. ‘If I were them, I would try,’ he said. ‘The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t,’ he said. ‘And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.’”

He was probably attempting to tell a monumentally stupid, incoherent joke about golf, but the truth is that he does deploy wedge issues more openly and crudely than any president who's ever lived. (He doesn't know that term, of course, so he's not making that point.)

His interviews have always been this incoherent. I think that the difference is that we are only reading them now instead of seeing them and for a lot of people his confident delivery of gibberish obscures the nonsense he's actually saying. When you read it, there's no avoiding the fact that his mind is seriously disordered.

Update: The White House is disputing that he said "I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un" insisting that he actually said "I'd." You can judge for yourself but I can't imagine what difference it makes. He went on to say that “I don’t want to comment on it, I’m not saying I have or haven’t, I just don’t want to comment” when asked if he had been speaking directly with him so he was being vague, at best, but more likely just lying reflexively since he is a pathological liar and says such things for no good reason at all.


Nuclear War - The Defining Issue of Our Time

by tristero

The defining issue of our time is imminent nuclear war. Everything seems to be pointing towards the deployment sometime soon by the United States of so-called tactical nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Although there is some awareness (Digby links to the Times editorial this morning), I don't think people fully understand how serious this is. This is not to minimize the myriad existential dangers we face from the international rise of the extreme right to power, especially in the US. But as I see it, imminent nuclear war trumps them all. Meanwhile the media seem to be focused more on incessantly repeating a racist, scatalogical term that Trump used rather than sounding unequivocal alarm bells about how close to we are to a nuclear war. The snickering is making us oblivious to Armageddon.

But in truth, I don't think it will happen with apocalyptic bangs and mammoth mushroom clouds. As I see it, if Trump and his military start using nuclear weapons, they won't drop them - at least initially - on cities. They'll be used in remote areas of North Korea where the Internet is non-existent or spotty. They used a similar tactic - and got away with it, there was hardly any global outcry - with the MOAB in Afghanistan, the world's largest conventional weapon.

At least for the first few days after a so-called tactical nuclear strike, there won't be too many horrible pictures or videos of victims. That will give the Trump administration some time to set the agenda and pooh-pooh the horror. Trump will do his usual tweetery distraction thingie, making it all about his personality rather than the ghastly suffering of his victims. Meanwhile, the generals will tout the surgical purity of the strike against some military target, "proving" that nuclear weapons can be deployed successfully without risking annihilation.

But the annihilation will come. Because once one of these nuclear bombs goes off, countries - especially the US - will find plenty of reasons to use them more often.  No matter how small they are, the effect will add up. There will be global fallout. And nuclear arsenals will expand worldwide, increasing the risk of accident, sabotage, and theft by neo-Nazi nationalists and political extremists from every religion. As a result, the global fallout will increase.

In short, if Trump drops a single nuclear bomb, annihilation is extremely likely, but not all at once. It will come with increased cancer rates worldwide over the following decades and the poisoning of our environment from the expanded usage of these so-called small nuclear weapons. And once again Republican leaders and other right wingers will pull out a variation of the obfuscating defense they've used so successfully to deflect the banning of tobacco and to scuttle climate change initiatives.

I've been studying nuclear war history and policy during the 1960's for a project I'm working on. It makes for terrifying reading, not the least because of the sheer stupidity and wooly thinking by some of the finest minds on the planet, the men  (they were almost exclusively men)   who crafted nuclear strategy. When you consider the spectacular mistakes and accidents that occurred back then (not to mention the Missile Crisis), it is simply mind-boggling that we haven't yet been blown up.

It looks like our luck's about to run out. Those 60's nuclear planners are all gone from power. And as poor as their thinking was - and it was remarkably bad, with very rare exceptions - the level of thinking today in the Trump administration is an order of magnitude worse.

I am extremely worried. You should be, too. And alarms should be sounding loudly, clearly, and constantly.

Dear Leader's Enforcers to the rescue

by digby

You can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes:

They are lying. They are protecting their Dear Leader. They are more dangerous than he is.

Here's Rand Paul warning that nobody should criticize Dear Leader:

I know I keep saying this, but as Trump is getting worse, proving he is incapable of doing the job, melting down under the stress, these GOP henchmen are stepping up to back him.

These are Senators accusing fellow Senators of being liars to defend the most dishonest man on the face of the planet --- and daring the rest of us to say otherwise.

Tom Cotton is Trump with brains. Sonny Perdue is a weak sycophant. Rand Paul is vying for the role of racist overseer. They are all-in.



This is not a drill

by digby

This NY Times editorial is chilling:

It was the sort of nightmare that had only ever been real for most people’s parents or grandparents — the fear of an impending nuclear attack. “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii,” read the emergency alert that residents of the Aloha State received on Saturday morning. “Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

The authorities quickly announced that the alert was a mistake. But it made tangible the growing fears that after decades of leaders trying to more safely control the world’s nuclear arsenals, President Trump has increased the possibility of those weapons being used.

At a time when many are questioning whether Mr. Trump ought to be allowed anywhere near the nuclear “button,” he is moving ahead with plans to develop new nuclear weapons and expanding the circumstances in which they’d be used. Such actions break with years of American nuclear policy. They also make it harder to persuade other nations to curb their nuclear ambitions or forgo them entirely.

Mr. Trump has boasted about the size and power of America’s nuclear arsenal, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, pushed for a massive buildup of an arsenal that already has too many — 4,000 — warheads and wondered aloud why the United States possesses such weapons if it isn’t prepared to use them.

Now, as he tries to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons capability and ensure that Iran never acquires one, Mr. Trump is poised to make public a new policy that commits America to an increasing investment in those very weapons, according to a draft document made public by HuffPost and confirmed by The Times.

A major departure in the new policy is the plan to build new low-yield nuclear weapons. The rationale is that most modern weapons are so powerful that no one believes they will ever be used, so lower-explosive warheads are needed to maintain an effective deterrent. This logic is insane.

The United States already has immense nuclear and conventional capabilities, and experts say there is no evidence these so-called more usable low-yield nuclear weapons will force adversaries to behave better. Enlarging the United States arsenal will certainly lead other countries to seek equivalent arsenals of their own, while also raising the odds that weapons fall into terrorists’ hands and heightening the risk of accidental war. Investing huge sums this way is also unlikely to protect us from tomorrow’s threats.

The administration, however, would have us believe that America is falling behind in military capability. Mr. Trump was compelled to act, the document argues, primarily because of Russia’s “unabashed return to Great Power competition,” including modernization of its nuclear weaponry. Russia is unquestionably a growing problem that needs to be confronted, but that’s a cynical rationale for a president who so far has refused to acknowledge the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election or its threat more generally to Western democracies.

Making matters worse, Mr. Trump, in a separate decision on Friday, continued to put the 2015 deal that froze Iran’s nuclear program in jeopardy. The president warned European allies that they must agree to overhaul the deal in 120 days, or he would withdraw the United States from it. Although he again stopped short of reimposing sanctions, his demands would effectively require renegotiating the deal, something the other parties to the agreement have refused to do.

The proposed nuclear policy says a more aggressive nuclear posture is warranted because the world is more dangerous, with China, North Korea and Iran cited as concerns. Yet blowing up the Iran deal would free Tehran to resume its nuclear activities and make the world less safe. In other words, Mr. Trump’s approach makes no sense.

Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed in 1968, the United States and Russia promised to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons. They made significant, although insufficient, progress. After reductions under a succession of past presidents, the American stockpile is 85 percent smaller than it was at the height of the Cold War. Negotiations on further reductions have stalled in recent years as Russia, threatened by America’s superior conventional arsenal, became more reliant on nuclear weapons, and there is no serious sign that Mr. Trump wants to revive the talks.

President Barack Obama made a down payment on a saner policy by narrowing to “extreme circumstances” the conditions under which nuclear weapons would be used and ruling out their use against most non-nuclear countries. Mr. Trump’s policy also talks about “extreme circumstances, ” but it dangerously broadens the definition to include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” which could mean using nuclear weapons to respond to cyber, biological and chemical weapon attacks.

Until Mr. Trump, no one could imagine the United States ever using a nuclear weapon again. America’s conventional military is more than strong enough to defend against most threats. But Mr. Trump has so shaken this orthodoxy that Congress has begun debating limits on his unilateral authority to launch nuclear weapons. Expanding the instances when America might use nuclear weapons could also make it easier for other nuclear-armed countries to justify using their own arsenals against adversaries.

As the residents of Hawaii can tell you, it’s a risk the world cannot afford.

Trump is a risk the world cannot afford. But here we are. This is not a drill.



Status is a moving target

by Tom Sullivan

Image, public domain via Wikipedia.

If King were alive now, he would be standing w/ DACA & all immigrants. He would challenge a tax reform bill that transferred $2 trillion from the poor to the wealthy. He would be dealing head-on with health care & the resegregation of public schools....

...Dr. King would challenge a nation that spends 54 cents of every dollar on a military. He would be building a #PoorPeoplesCampaign to shift the moral narrative in America.

— The Rev. William J. Barber II in a series of tweets
This weekend Americans celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King. Again. But too often those memorials are soft-focused celebrations held in ballrooms and not in the streets.

The Rev. William J. Barber II is in Dallas this weekend to continue the work of his new Poor People's Campaign when he heard of the president's "shithole" heard round the world. But rather than his rhetoric, it is the president's policies and their harmful effects that should draw our attention, Barber believes. If the only place we see racism is in what he says, "you're missing the racism entirely," Barber said:
If King were alive now, he says, he would be "standing with DACA, with all immigrants. He would challenge a tax reform bill that transferred $2 trillion from the poor to the wealthy. He would be dealing head-on with health care and the resegregation of public schools. He would challenge a nation that spends 54 cents of every dollar on a military."

He would preach from every mountaintop, Barber contends, that a continuation of such policies will guarantee "a spiritual death."

Barber warns against "loving the tomb of the prophets but not the prophets themselves. It is dangerous to isolate Dr. King. Dr. King was all about 'we.'"
King's original Poor People's Campaign ended with his death. That 1968 effort attempted "to push Congress into passing an economic bill of rights including a package of guaranteed income, equitable housing and funds for poor communities." Barber's renewed effort aims to unite disenfranchised groups in common cause.

As dispirited as people may be and as disparate, they share more than they know. A study highlighted in the New Yorker finds that the mere perception of being disadvantaged has consequences without regard to quantitative measures. Keith Payne, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, finds feeling poor itself has leads to risky behaviors and other negative impacts:
This feeling is not limited to those in the bottom quintile; in a world where people measure themselves against their neighbors, it’s possible to earn good money and still feel deprived. “Unlike the rigid columns of numbers that make up a bank ledger, status is always a moving target, because it is defined by ongoing comparisons to others,” Payne writes.
Rising inequality has consequences for the wave of xenophobia, racism and conspiracy mongering Donald Trump rode to the White House:
People’s attitude toward race, too, [Payne] argues, is linked to the experience of deprivation. Here Payne cites work done by psychologists at N.Y.U., who offered subjects ten dollars with which to play an online game. Some of the subjects were told that, had they been more fortunate, they would have received a hundred dollars. The subjects, all white, were then shown pairs of faces and asked which looked “most black.” All the images were composites that had been manipulated in various ways. Subjects in the “unfortunate” group, on average, chose images that were darker than those the control group picked. “Feeling disadvantaged magnified their perception of racial differences,” Payne writes.

“The Broken Ladder” is full of studies like this. Some are more convincing than others, and, not infrequently, Payne’s inferences seem to run ahead of the data. But the wealth of evidence that he amasses is compelling. People who are made to feel deprived see themselves as less competent. They are more susceptible to conspiracy theories. And they are more likely to have medical problems. A study of British civil servants showed that where people ranked themselves in terms of status was a better predictor of their health than their education level or their actual income was.
Payne writes, “Inequality so mimics poverty in our minds that the United States of America ... has a lot of features that better resemble a developing nation than a superpower.”

All the more reason for people outside the One Percent to find common cause with one another than not. If Barber succeeds, perhaps they can bridge their divides. The president, on the other hand, finds his power rooted in division. Stoking people's feelings of being disadvantaged his his coin.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018


Blood at the root: An MLK Day mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

I came into this world on April 4, 1956. 12 years later, to the day, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. left it. My intention is not to attach any particular significance to that kismet, apart from the fact that I have since felt somewhat ambiguous about “celebrating” my birthdays (I could push the weird cosmic coincidence factor further by adding RFK was killed 2 months later on June 5th, my parents’ wedding anniversary...but I won’t go there).

There will be plenty of discussion and contemplation regarding that tragic day in a couple of months, especially as this will be the 50th anniversary, so I won’t dwell on that now. This holiday weekend is about celebrating his birthday. So tonight I wanted to share my top 10 picks for songs to honor the life and legacy of Rev. King. In alphabetical order...

“Abraham, Martin, & John” – Late 50s-early 60s teen idol Dion DiMucci reinvented himself as a socially-conscious folk singer in 1968 with this heartfelt performance of Dick Holler’s beautifully written tribute to JFK, RFK, and MLK. Seems they all die young...

“Barack Obama” – Yes, Cocoa Tea’s song is very much about MLK. Besides, you need to hear this right now. Remember, history is cyclical; one day, the sun will shine again.

“Blues for Martin Luther King” – In 1968, music was our social media. The great Otis Spann gives us the news and preaches the blues. Feel his pain, for it is ours as well.

“400 Years” – The struggle began long before Dr. King joined it; sadly, it continues to this day. A people’s history...written and sung by the late great Peter Tosh (with the Wailers).

“Happy Birthday” – A no-brainer for the list. Good to remember that Stevie Wonder was also a key advocate in the lobby to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday.

“Is it Because I’m Black” – Syl Johnson’s question may sound rhetorical, but he pulls no punches.

“Pieces of a Man” – The late Gil Scott-Heron’s heartbreaking vocal, Brian Jackson’s transcendent piano, the great Ron Carter’s sublime stand-up bass work, and the pure poetry of the lyrics...it’s all so “right”.

“Pride (In the Name of Love)” – Including U2’s stirring anthem feels mandatory here.

“Strange Fruit” – “Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze.” Billie Holiday’s song was powerful then, powerful now, and will remain powerful forever.

“Why (The King of Love is Dead)” – Like the Otis Spann song on this list, Nina Simone’s musical eulogy (written and performed here just days after Dr. King’s death) is all the more remarkable for conveying a message at once so timely, and so timeless.

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--Dennis Hartley

Now we know when Trump thinks America was great

by digby

We now know when Donald Trump thinks America was great and what he thinks will make it great again: the 1920s. God help us he may just bring us to the same point to which his apparent idol --- Warren G. Harding --- brought us. It, uh, wasn't good.

This piece by Adam Serwer gets to the heart of Trump's entire worldview. He talks about the racist, xenophobic, eugenicist policies that led to the immigration act of 1924, which pretty much cut off all immigration from anywhere but northern Europe. Then this:
More than a century later President Donald Trump would put it differently, as he considered immigration from Africa, wondering, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” instead suggesting that America take in more immigrants from places like Norway.

These remarks reflect scorn not only for those who wish to come here, but those who already have. It is a president of the United States expressing his contempt for the tens of millions of descendants of Africans, most of whose forefathers had no choice in crossing the Atlantic, American citizens whom any president is bound to serve. And it is a public admission of sorts that he is incapable of being a president for all Americans, the logic of his argument elevating not just white immigrants over brown ones, but white citizens over the people of color they share this country with.

The racist pseudoscience underpinning Walker’s belief that immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe were incapable of responsible self-government is out of vogue today, but the both the sentiment and logic are now applied by the descendants of those very same “beaten races” who now work for Trump in the White House, who craft arguments defending his prejudice, and who cast ballots bearing his name. Whether through ardent commitment or conflicted resignation, they are all now a part of Trump’s only sincere ideological project, the preservation of white political and cultural dominance. That was the goal of Walker and the immigrant restrictionists of his day, and it is Trump’s project now.

It is one the president has pursued with abandon. As Elise Foley writes, since taking office, he has cancelled the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals,subjecting more than 600,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to the prospect of deportation, and cancelled Temporary Protected Status for 50,000 Haitians and 200,000 El Salvadorans living in the United States. Trump has adopted policies that would be responsible for the displacement of nearly a million people of color in less than 12 months in office.

Virtually all of Walker’s complaints, staples of anti-immigrant rhetoric at the turn of the century, will sound familiar to those who have paid attention to American politics for the past two years.

Their habits of life, again, are of the most revolting kind. Read the description given by Mr. Riis of the police driving from the garbage dumps the miserable beings who try to burrow in those depths of unutterable filth and slime in order that they may eat and sleep there! Was it in cement like this that the foundations of our republic were laid? What effects must be produced upon our social standards, and upon the ambitions and aspirations of our people, by a contact so foul and loathsome? The influence upon the American rate of wages of a competition like this cannot fail to be injurious and even disastrous.

A few hours after news of his remarks broke, Trump attempted to reframe his objections as a matter of public safety. “The Democrats seem intent on having people and drugs pour into our country from the Southern Border, risking thousands of lives in the process,” Trump tweeted. “It is my duty to protect the lives and safety of all Americans. We must build a Great Wall, think Merit and end Lottery & Chain. USA!”

Or as Walker put it, “the present situation is most menacing to our peace and political, safety. In all the social and industrial disorders of this country since 1877, the foreign elements have proved themselves the ready tools of demagogues in defying the law, in destroying property, and in working violence.” He offered that “There may be those who can contemplate the addition to our population of vast numbers of persons having no inherited instincts of self-government and respect for law; knowing no restraint upon their own passions but the club of the policeman or the bayonet of the soldier; forming communities, by the tens of thousands, in which only foreign tongues are spoken, and into which can steal no influence from our free institutions and from popular discussion. But I confess to being far less optimistic.”

The benefit of this history is that we know how the story ended then; with the adoption of racist immigration laws, and the immigrants from the “shithole countries” of the turn of the century defending the country in two world wars. But their children and grandchildren, having assimilated into the very whiteness Walker and his ilk saw as endangered, now repeat the same slander laid upon their ancestors against a new generation of immigrants looking for a better life in America. The old lies are now again embraced by the descendants of those who once suffered because of them.

Read on.

I wrote a lot about Trump's eugenicist belief system during the campaign. He hasn't made a secrt of his belief that he comes from superior stock. For some reason too many people in the media decided to ignore all this about him and pretend that he was making a class argument. I guess because he is a billionaire he's assumed to also be an economic determinist. He is anything but that:

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

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

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

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

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

"Secretariat doesn't produce slow horses."

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

"I have great genes and all that stuff which, I'm a believer in."
He used to say his family came from Sweden because there was a point in American history where bragging about being of "good German blood" was socially frowned upon. But he stopped that and went back to it.

It should not be a surprise at all that Trump thinks countries which are predominantly made up of non-whites are "shithole countries." He' a white supremacist and has been his whole life.