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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Who is America? – BlacKkKlansman (****)

By Dennis Hartley

“I-I am going to be a storm-a flame-
I need to fight whole armies alone;
I have ten hearts; I have a hundred arms;
I feel too strong to war with mortals-

-Edmond Rostand, from Cyrano de Bergerac

[To two members of the KKK, while pretending to capture Bart]

Jim: Oh, boys! Lookee what I got heyuh.

Bart: Hey, where are the white women at?

-from Blazing Saddles; screenplay by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Alan Uger

To bring in something, such as a fish, by winding up the line on a reel.

-from The Free Dictionary’s definition of the phrase “reel something in”

So what do you get if you cross Cyrano de Bergerac with Blazing Saddles? You might get Spike Lee’s new joint, Black KkKlansman. That is not to say that Lee’s film is a knee-slapping comedy; far from it. It does contain laughs, but there is nothing funny about some of the reaction it has sparked after only a week. From an Indie Wire article:
[Actor] Topher Grace contacted police after receiving a threatening phone call reacting to his role as former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke in Spike Lee’s “Black KkKlansman”. According to reports (via TMZ) Grace told police that someone called him over the phone and referred to him using a gay slur. The mystery caller also warned Grace that his role as Duke would “ruin race relations in America.” […] Grace reportedly described the caller as “aggressive” and “angry.”
Speaking of “race relations in America”, here’s something even less amusing. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 hate groups currently operating in the U.S. And (to paraphrase Gimli the dwarf) it gets even better! If you go to the SPLC website and click the “100 Days in Trump’s America” report, there’s lots of fun facts:
As he spoke to the nation on Jan.20 [2016], President Donald Trump reminded white nationalists why they had invested so much hope in him as their champion and redeemer. He painted a bleak picture of America: a nation of crumbling, third-world infrastructure, “rusted-out factories,” leaky borders, inner cities wallowing in poverty, a depleted military and a feckless political class that prospered as the country fell into ruin. He promised an “America First” policy that would turn it all around. […] 
Despite his failure to achieve any major legislative victories, Trump has not disappointed his alt-right followers. His actions suggest that – unlike the economic populism of his campaign – Trump’s appeals to the radical right did indeed presage his White House agenda. On Jan. 31 [2016], former Klan leader David Duke tweeted: “everything I’ve been talking about for decades is coming true and the ideas I’ve fought for have won.”
Well fuck me. There’s that fine fellow David Duke popping up again! When Mr. Wizard Tweeted he’d been “talking about” certain ideas “for decades” …he wasn’t exaggerating. The “David Duke” depicted in Lee’s film is the David Duke of the 1970s, right around the time he became the public face of the “National Association for the Advancement of White People”. This was also when he dropped the hood and robes for a suit-and-tie look.

True story. This window-dressing may have fooled some people, but it didn’t wash with Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), an African-American undercover cop who managed to infiltrate…and become a card-carrying member (!) of the KKK in Colorado in the early 70s. To address the obvious question, he didn’t crash a Klan rally and ask where all the white women were at, because 1) that would’ve gone over like a lead balloon with the goys in the hoods, and 2) again, Lee’s film is not a comedy (per se).

Stallworth ingratiated himself with the organization Cyrano style. He made them fall in love with him by proxy. The “Ron Stallworth” who wooed his local Klan by whispering sweet racist nothings over the phone was not the same “Ron Stallworth” who attended the meetings. That was Stallworth’s white surrogate, his Jewish undercover partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver). In other words, this was old school “catfishing”-if you will.

What ensues is the kind of story that frankly strains credulity…if it weren’t for the fact that this really happened (allowing for some creative license, naturally). Even Lee was skeptical at first, admitting in an interview that he did with Seth Meyers earlier this week:
“…when [co-producer] Jordan Peele pitched it to me, it was one of those very high-concept pitches. Six words: ‘Black man infiltrates Ku Klux Klan.’ […] I thought of [comedy sketches done by] Dave Chappelle, but [Peele] said ‘no’ and he sent me the book. I was very intrigued by it…it was in my wheelhouse.”
I think this is Lee’s most affecting and hard-hitting film since Do the Right Thing (1989). The screenplay (adapted by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Lee from Stallworth’s eponymous memoir) is equal parts biopic, docudrama, police procedural and social commentary, finding a nice balance of drama, humor and suspense. The cast is uniformly excellent. Washington (son of Denzel) and Driver have great chemistry, and Grace captures Duke’s smarminess to a tee. Other standouts include Robert Lee Burke, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold and a genuinely scary Jasper Paakkonen.

Lee is aware he’s preaching to the choir and will never reach a certain percentage of the “fine people” in America…sadly, the very ones who would benefit most from his counsel. And if someone were to call Lee’s approach heavy-handed, I wouldn’t disagree.

He opens with the iconic crane shot from Gone with the Wind that pans over hundreds of dead and wounded Confederate soldiers and resolves with the tattered stars and bars. He cross-cuts a solemn Klan initiation rite with a monolog by revered civil rights icon Harry Belafonte, playing a man sharing a horrifying eyewitness account of a particularly gruesome 1916 lynching. In case you’re still unable to connect the dots between the Stallworth story with Black Lives Matter and Charlottesville, he tacks on a timely denouement that jams to a screeching halt just inches away from slamming into “ta-da!”.

Yes, he ladles in on with a trowel. But you know what? The voices of reason in America are drowned out daily by the relentless clatter and din of Trump-fueled polarization and misdirection. He who shouts loudest wins (apparently). The hoods are off? Fine. I say more power to artists like Lee with something substantive to add to the conversation who feel they must (figuratively) bonk you over the head first to get your undivided attention.

Subtlety is prologue. Resist. Or get riled by seeing this film, immediately. Bring a friend.

Previous posts with related themes:

This day in (racist) American history
The Black Power Mixtape

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley

Trump would call him a loser

by digby

You know he would:

ORANGE CITY, Ia. — Thirty-two years ago, a vehicle accident left Todd Mouw a quadriplegic, unable to feed himself and needing a ventilator to breathe.

Yet for decades he was able to live at home with the help of family, aided by medical staff who visited him daily to help provide 24-hour care.

That care abruptly ended when a for-profit company that Iowa hired last year to manage the state's Medicaid program announced that some of the staffers who had attended to Mouw all those years weren't qualified, and it wouldn't pay for the cost.

As he and his wife Cyndi futilely searched for qualified help, Todd's health dissipated. He had to leave his home for care, and on July 8 he died at age 53.

Now, Cyndi Mouw is speaking out, blaming her husband's death on Iowa's decision to turn over its Medicaid program to for-profit companies she believes are unilaterally denying or revoking medical services to potentially thousands of other disabled or elderly Iowans.

"If they're trying to do this because they need to save money? Well, find other places," Cyndi Mouw said. "And, yeah, I'm sure he's not the only one."

Her criticisms have echoed those of other families who complain that the private companies now managing the state's Medicaid program are denying care that the state once approved.

And the state's long-term care ombudsman said she has received hundreds of complaints from Medicaid recipients who are appealing decisions of the private managers hired by the state.

If you're not rich enough to afford all the health care you need that's your own fault:


Remembering impeachments past

by digby

There is some thought among big shot Republicans that impeaching President Trump will make him more popular because that's how it happened with Bill Clinton.  

I thought it might be important to recall just what it was Ken Starr found Clinton had done to merit impeachment:

1. President Clinton lied under oath in his civil case when he denied a sexual affair, a sexual relationship, or sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

2. President Clinton lied under oath to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

3. In his civil deposition, to support his false statement about the sexual relationship, President Clinton also lied under oath about being alone with Ms. Lewinsky and about the many gifts exchanged between Ms. Lewinsky and him.

4. President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Ms. Lewinsky concerning her involvement in the Jones case.

5. During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth about their relationship by concealing gifts subpoenaed by Ms. Jones's attorneys.

6. During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth of their relationship from the judicial process by a scheme that included the following means: (i) Both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship; (ii) the President suggested to Ms. Lewinsky that she prepare an affidavit that, for the President's purposes, would memorialize her testimony under oath and could be used to prevent questioning of both of them about their relationship; (iii) Ms. Lewinsky signed and filed the false affidavit; (iv) the President used Ms. Lewinsky's false affidavit at his deposition in an attempt to head off questions about Ms. Lewinsky; and (v) when that failed, the President lied under oath at his civil deposition about the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

7. President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky obtain a job in New York at a time when she would have been a witness harmful to him were she to tell the truth in the Jones case.

8. President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Vernon Jordan concerning Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case.

9. The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition.

10. President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the President's false statements to the grand jury -- and did thereby deceive, obstruct, and impede the grand jury.

11. President Clinton abused his constitutional authority by (i) lying to the public and the Congress in January 1998 about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky; (ii) promising at that time to cooperate fully with the grand jury investigation; (iii) later refusing six invitations to testify voluntarily to the grand jury; (iv) invoking Executive Privilege; (v) lying to the grand jury in August 1998; and (vi) lying again to the public and Congress on August 17, 1998 -- all as part of an effort to hinder, impede, and deflect possible inquiry by the Congress of the United States.

Now think about what Donald Trump is suspected of doing. Being a dupe or an agent of a foreign adversary and firing the entire top layer of the DOJ to cover it up is a different level of offense altogether....

But even on the more prosaic obstruction charges, Trump way out does Clinton. Take number 11 up there. He was accused of trying to get Monica a job working for a big company in New York to keep her quiet about their affair. (That was never proven to be the case but whatever.) But he didn't install a relative at the DNC in order to give pay people hush money with no-show jobs for 15k a month!


John Dean was White House counsel too

by digby

It's pretty clear who has been behind the leaks over the past year and a half that make Don McGahn look very heroic. There's only one person who would have so much to gain by it. Here's the latest:
The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.

Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him.

For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege.

“A prosecutor would kill for that,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, which did not have the same level of cooperation from President Bill Clinton’s lawyers. “Oh my God, it would have been phenomenally helpful to us. It would have been like having the keys to the kingdom.”

Mr. McGahn’s cooperation began in part as a result of a decision by Mr. Trump’s first team of criminal lawyers to collaborate fully with Mr. Mueller. The president’s lawyers have explained that they believed their client had nothing to hide and that they could bring the investigation to an end quickly.

Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William A. Burck, could not understand why Mr. Trump was so willing to allow Mr. McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, according to people close to him. So he and Mr. Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn did nothing wrong.

It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer would for clients and solely defend his interests to investigators, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking.

In fact, Mr. McGahn laid out how Mr. Trump tried to ensure control of the investigation, giving investigators a mix of information both potentially damaging and favorable to the president. Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities, though the limits of executive power are murky.

Mr. McGahn’s role as a cooperating witness further strains his already complicated relationship with the president. Though Mr. Trump has fought with Mr. McGahn as much as with any of his top aides, White House advisers have said, both men have benefited significantly from their partnership.

Mr. McGahn has overseen two of Mr. Trump’s signature accomplishments — stocking the federal courts and cutting government regulations — and become a champion of conservatives in the process.

But the two rarely speak one on one — the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and other advisers are usually present for their meetings — and Mr. Trump has questioned Mr. McGahn’s loyalty. In turn, Mr. Trump’s behavior has so exasperated Mr. McGahn that he has called the president “King Kong” behind his back, to connote his volcanic anger, people close to Mr. McGahn said.

This account is based on interviews with current and former White House officials and others who have spoken to both men, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.

Oh Don, you're such a great guy.

And your boss is really, really dumb isn't he?

McGahn has been covering his ass from the beginning. One imagines he's been safe from reprisals  because the GOP backs him for their court packing project which, at this point, is their only serious  strategy for future survival. This latest coming at a time of peak Trump hysteria will test how much clout Mitch McConnell and the federalist society really has with Trump.

Oligarchy FTW

by digby

Following up on the post below where I point out that Republicans failing to care about deficits when a GOP president is in office is business as usual for them, I would just note that this would be cause for revolution if it happened under a Democrat:

Several wanted to fiddle with the punctuation, some wanted to add nice things about John Brennan; others thought it would be wiser to pare them back.

But in 12 hours, a couple of former CIA senior aides pulled off a first in American history. CIA directors who had served every previous president going back to Ronald Reagan had signed on to a letter doing something they would never have imagined doing: publicly criticizing the president of the United States.

They were objecting to President Trump's announcement that he was stripping the security clearance of Brennan, who was CIA director under President Obama.

“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [the Russia investigation] is a sham,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “And these people led it!”

And there may be more coming ... The WashPost's Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey report: "The White House has drafted documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials whom President Trump has demanded be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the [Russia] investigation."

"Trump wants to sign 'most if not all' of them, said one senior White House official."
"[C]ommunications aides ... have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles."

The letter's startling roster includes former CIA directors Webster (Reagan, George H.W. Bush), Gates (George H.W. Bush), Tenet (Clinton and George W. Bush), Goss (George W. Bush), Hayden (George W. Bush), Panetta (Obama) and Petraeus (Obama).

"As former senior intelligence officials, we feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House regarding the removal of John Brennan’s security clearances," the letter begins.

The addition of this "subject to" was one of the late edits: "You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and ... not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information."

Nick Shapiro — a former CIA deputy chief of staff in the Obama administration, who helped orchestrate the letters — tells me that a major concern of many of the signatories was President Trump's implicit threat to current intelligence officers:

"It’s setting up a system where the national security and intelligence apparatus is being told: 'You better just agree with the president, and you can't give him news he doesn't like.'"

"That's a very dangerous thing: It's the exact opposite of the climate and culture you want in your intelligence team."

The letter was endorsed by 15 former intelligence officials of the director or deputy director level.

But other CIA alumni wanted to join in. So late yesterday, a second letter was circulated, signed by 60 former CIA officers (analysts, station chiefs, operations officers, a former President's Daily Brief briefer):

"Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them. What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views."

Another person coordinating the letters tells me: "[R]equests from many other senior CIA alumni who would like to have signed it are pouring in."

Think about this. The right wing lost their minds when the Democrats passed a market friendly health care bill. Imagine what they would have done if a Democratic president messed with the CIA and FBI like this?

The spooks need to be scrutinized. But that's not hat's happening here. He's just abusing his power to intimidate anyone who crosses him. There are a lot of lower level FBI and CIA whose futures depend on having top security clearances. I'd guess many of them will be careful not to do anything that might upset Trump and his henchmen going forward. Or, at least, they will be very circumspect about anything that would reflect badly on the president.

I think it's hilarious that he's being egged on in this by Rand Paul, our alleged civil liberties hero. Sure, he's always been a harsh critic of the Intelligence Community, often for good reason. But he shows his true colors when he helps this monster cover up his crimes.

Despite their paeans to freedom, Libertarians often have a strong authoritarian streak that manifests itself as a worshipful attitude toward money and the power that comes with it. A corrupt oligarch is their perfect leader.

Deficit reduction for dummies

by digby

There was a time when this headline would have resulted in the Freedom Caucus, Tea Partying wingnuts having a full-blown, hysterical freak out:

This isn't just Trump sycophancy, unfortunately. Republicans have been silent about the deficit and debt under their own administrations for decades. That's because during their administrations, the debt always rises from their massive tax cuts for the wealthy even as they cut necessary programs for real people, which is the perfect result. They can pressure the Democrats to cut the deficits when they come back into office. It's tried and true.

Look for a huge return to "fiscal responsibility" as soon as they are no longer in charge. Someday it would be nice if the Democrats would refuse to play this game.


Deprogramming the economic cult

by Tom Sullivan

One reason Sen. Bernie Sanders picked up support along the spine of the Appalachians in 2016 is working people there, as elsewhere, know the status quo is rigged by and for high-rollers. They have a sense a country generating such yawning inequality doesn't want or need them. There, and in more suburban areas, Donald Trump played to cultural grievances and insecurities feeding people's sense of being left behind. Students heard Sanders' anti-establishment pitch for wiping clean college debt and for free tuition and flew to it like moths to a porch light. Both Sanders and Trump met pent-up demand for disrupting the status quo.

When Sanders fell short in the Democratic primaries, over twice as many Millennials did not vote as did. Why bother? Configured as it is, the current economic and political system serves "the best" and leaves the rest. It offers Millennials little, now or in the future. Their cynicism is palpable. Beyond that demographic, some Obama voters who might have supported Sanders opted for Donald Trump instead. Because Wall Street pillaged the country's wealth and destroyed countless families' lives, and neither party held financiers accountable. Democrats paid dearly for not disrupting the corrupt system in 2010 and 2014. The world paid for it in 2016 when three million less than half of American voters bought a snake oil salesman's empty promises.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts this week offered a game-changing plan for leveling the playing field for the little guys. As a senator in the minority, she may not have the leverage to bring corporate criminals to justice. But Warren has instead drafted a plan for rewriting the DNA of large corporations and bringing them to heel. That is long overdue. A former legislator I heard from called the plan transformational.

In a press release announcing her Accountable Capitalism Act, Warren makes her move against the system as it stands:

"There's a fundamental problem with our economy. For decades, American workers have helped create record corporate profits but have seen their wages hardly budge. To fix this problem we need to end the harmful corporate obsession with maximizing shareholder returns at all costs, which has sucked trillions of dollars away from workers and necessary long-term investments," said Senator Warren. "My bill will help the American economy return to the era when American companies and American workers did well together."
Rather than adding taxes to punish corporate misbehavior or tax breaks to incentivize better corporate citizenship, Warren proposes saving capitalism from itself. "The bête noire of the Republican business class" is not advocating demolishing capitalism, but rather giving it an upgrade, as I have advocated before:
What Milton Friedman called capitalism in 1962 looks more like an economic cult today. Question the basic assumptions behind corporate capitalism, publicly point out its shortcomings and suggest we are overdue for an upgrade, and the Chamber of Commerce practically bursts through the door like the Spanish Inquisition to accuse you of communism and heresy. Why you ... you want to punish success! It’s weirdly reflexive and a mite hysterical. What their blind fealty and knee-jerk defense of this one particular style for organizing a capitalist enterprise says about them, I'll leave for now. It suffices to say I find it rather peculiar.
Warren rolled out her plan in a companion Wall Street Journal column on Tuesday. Before “shareholder value maximization” ideology took hold, she argues, workers shared more in the wealth their labors produced. Since the early 1980s, however, shareholders have come first, leaving workers' salaries as strangled as corporate reinvestment:
The problem may get worse, because executives have a strong financial incentive to prioritize shareholder returns. Before 1980, top CEOs were rarely compensated in equity. Today it accounts for 62% of their pay. Many executives receive additional company shares as a reward for producing short-term share-price increases. This feedback loop has sent CEO pay skyrocketing. The average CEO of a big company now makes 361 times what the average worker makes, up from 42 times in 1980.

Corporate charters, which define the structure and obligations of U.S. companies, are an obvious tool for addressing these skewed incentives. But companies are chartered at the state level. Most states don’t want to demand more of companies, lest they incorporate elsewhere.

That’s where my bill comes in. The Accountable Capitalism Act restores the idea that giant American corporations should look out for American interests. Corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue would be required to get a federal corporate charter. The new charter requires corporate directors to consider the interests of all major corporate stakeholders—not only shareholders—in company decisions. Shareholders could sue if they believed directors weren’t fulfilling those obligations.

This approach follows the “benefit corporation” model, which gives businesses fiduciary responsibilities beyond their shareholders.
Speaking with Warren this week, Jim Cramer of "Mad Money" remarked, "I mean, a lot of people think you're just this left-wing firebrand. Isn't what you describe the way this country was in 1980?"

Yes, sort of. Warren told him, "I believe in all of the wealth that markets produce. But markets have to have rules. And together, we decide those rules. You know, like you've got to have a cop on the beat." A cop that, say, prevents banks from charging customers fees on accounts it secretly opened in their names. But that is not the thrust of Warren's proposal. She aims to deprogram Milton Friedman's cultist offspring and mitigate their propesnity for behaving badly the first place. The modern corporate model, after all, was not handed down from God. People designed it. We can improve it.

As outlined in her press release, Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act:
  • Requires very large American corporations to obtain a federal charter as a "United States corporation," which obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders: American corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue must obtain a federal charter from a newly formed Office of United States Corporations at the Department of Commerce. The new federal charter obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders - including employees, customers, shareholders, and the communities in which the company operates. This approach is derived from the thriving benefit corporation model that 33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and that companies like Patagonia, Danone North America, and Kickstarter have embraced with strong results.
  • Empowers workers at United States corporations to elect at least 40% of Board members: Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40% of its directors are selected by the corporation's employees.
  • Restricts the sales of company shares by the directors and officers of United States corporations: Top corporate executives are now compensated mostly in company equity, which gives them huge financial incentives to focus exclusively on shareholder returns. To ensure that they are focused on the long-term interests of all corporate stakeholders, the bill prohibits directors and officers of United States corporations from selling company shares within five years of receiving them or within three years of a company stock buyback.
  • Prohibits United States corporations from making any political expenditures without the approval of 75% of its directors and shareholders: Drawing on a proposal from John Bogle, the founder of the investment company Vanguard, United States corporations must receive the approval of at least 75% of their shareholders and 75% of their directors before engaging in political expenditures. This ensures any political expenditures benefit all corporate stakeholders.
  • Permits the federal government to revoke the charter of a United States corporation if the company has engaged in repeated and egregious illegal conduct: State Attorneys General are authorized to submit petitions to the Office of United States Corporations to revoke a United States corporation's charter. If the Director of the Office finds that the corporation has a history of egregious and repeated illegal conduct and has failed to take meaningful steps to address its problems, she may grant the petition. The company's charter would then be revoked a year later - giving the company time before its charter is revoked to make the case to Congress that it should retain its charter in the same or in a modified form.
Matt Yglesias explains, "The conceit tying together Warren’s ideas is that if corporations are going to have the legal rights of persons, they should be expected to act like decent citizens who uphold their fair share of the social contract and not act like sociopaths ...."

Successful artificial persons produce profit rather efficiently, but operate at the level of appetite and instinct, survival being the strongest. What makes it hard for them to act as decent citizens is we designed these artificial persons without souls. But souls so get in the way of pursuing staggering wealth — just the way Midas cultists like it. They won't like the Accountable Capitalism Act.

Charlie Pierce at Esquire:
This is one of the first complete frontal assaults on the economic theories that have ruled American politics in one form or another for the past four decades. It is one of the first substantial efforts to treat the ascendancy of conservative economic ideas as a thoroughgoing blight that must be reversed, and it does so by turning the achievements of which conservative economic ideologues are proudest back on them. Corporate personhood? OK, then we're going to have corporate jail, too. A rising tide lifts all boats? We're going to be sure everyone has a seat.
Conceived in law and born on paper, these beasties turned on their creators long ago. People should be holding the corporate leash instead of wearing the collar. Yet, that's how it feels even if people cannot properly identify the ubiquitous source of their unease. Scan your room for items not produced by a large corporation. How much did the workers who produced them share in the profits?

I don't want to raise hopes that Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act is a magic bullet. Changing corporate behavior is as much about changing cultures as drafting new rule sets. Asking the Commerce Department, the Department of Labor, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to police this new corporate model (if it ever becomes law) remains contingent on having an administration committed to enforcing it. The law professor behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau knows that better than anyone.

But while other rumored 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will run on their "profiles" and electability, Warren has a written plan for change Democrats would be wise to embrace whether or not she chooses not to run. Many who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — and many who didn't vote at all — wanted a leader willing to disrupt the status quo and improve their lives. Warren brings more than braggadocio.

* * * * * * * * *

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Night Soother: tiger cubs!

by digby

I think we need some adorablw kittehs tonight:

Four endangered Amur Tiger cubs at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have finally taken their first steps outside.

The cubs, born June 23, were finally snapped stepping out as a family after mum, Naya, spent several days carrying them around in her mouth, one-by-one, to help them discover their surroundings. (ZooBorns shared photos of their first outing in a July feature: “Amur Tiger Mum Takes Cubs for First Outing”)

Team leader, Donovan Glyn, said, “Seeing all four of these endangered tiger cubs out and about, playing in the grass together, is the perfect way for us to begin the summer here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. They are just as energetic and playful as one-month-old kittens would be, and we can’t wait to watch them learn and grow under their mum and dad’s watchful eyes over the next few months.”

“Naya has been such a patient, dedicated mum, picking up each cub in her mouth, and giving them little one-on-one tours of the enclosure, to help them get to know their surroundings and build their confidence.”

The cubs were born only 121 days after seven-year-old tigress, Naya, arrived at the UK’s largest Zoo and was introduced to male mate, Botzman, as part of the European Endangered Species breeding Programme (EEP) which works with zoos across the continent.

Donovan Glyn continued, “There are only 500 Amur Tigers left in the wild, so we are delighted to have four incredible little Amur cubs here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. It’s great news for the breeding programme, and we know our visitors will be thrilled to see them for themselves and learn more about the importance of protecting endangered species like these.”

The Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Thanks to the conservation efforts of organisations like ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which works with Amur Tigers in the Russian Far East, there are now an estimated 500 Amur Tigers left in the wild, ten times the number that were estimated to exist in the 1940s.

What did Senators know and when did they know it?

by digby

This seems ... important:

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has reaped the political whirlwind in the 10 days since he proclaimed that Russian hackers had "penetrated" some of his state's county voting systems.

The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, a Republican who is running against Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat this fall, has blasted his claim as irresponsible. The top Florida elections official, also a Republican, said he had seen no indication it's true. And The Washington Post weighed in Friday with a 2,717-word fact check that all but accused Nelson — without evidence — of making it up.

However, three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson's assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security.

The episode illustrates the extent to which secrecy, politics and state-federal rivalries can stand in the way of a unified response to the threat from Russian attacks on a diffuse U.S. election system run by state and local officials. Through a spokesman, Nelson declined to comment.

The government is legitimately worried that if they talk about penetration of he actual voting systems that nobody will ever accept he outcome of an election again.

But what if it's true and the party that is benefiting from the penetration refuses to do anything about it?

He likes Admirals who don't kill bin laden, ok?

by digby

This is all the president had to say today about the op-ed by Admiral McRaven, the man who commanded the bin Laden raid,  in which he tells the president to take his security clearance too:
THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know McRaven.  I know that I’ve gotten tremendous response from having done that, because security clearances are very important to me.  Very, very important.  And I’ve had a tremendous response for having done that.

It's not surprising that he didn't know who McRaven was. He is a self-centered moron after all. It is not believable that nobody has told him since then. And yet, the best he can come up with is "I don't know McRaven" as if he's some obscure nobody with whom he needn't concern himself.

One of my favorite revelations about the Trump presidency is how it has exposed the utter bullshit underlying the GOP's image of the past 60 years: the very moral and patriotic conservative movement. What a bunch of liars. They have flushed that image down the toilet and anyone who lets them get away with pulling the religion or patriot card in the future needs to be immediately shut down. (The press will be anxious to give this image back to them and it will be important to insist that this monster be hung around their necks until the end of time.)


The Viceroy plan is back

by digby

His tantrums over the past few days show that he's clearly losing it under the pressure. We are entering a very dangerous stage:
President Donald Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the war, current and former senior administration officials said.
Prince's idea, which first surfaced last year during the president's Afghanistan strategy review, envisions replacing troops with private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.

It has raised ethical and security concerns among senior military officials, key lawmakers and members of Trump's national security team. A year after Trump's strategy announcement, his advisers are worried his impatience with the Afghanistan conflict will cause him to seriously consider proposals like Prince's or abruptly order a complete U.S. withdrawal, officials said.

This idea is completely nuts. I wrote about it last year for Salon:

JULY 12, 2017

So according to Donald Trump Jr.'s own emails it looks like he, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort knowingly met with a woman said to be representing the Russian government who was peddling derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. Whether that constitutes a crime is still unknown, but it proves that the Trump campaign was at best dumb as rocks, and at worst willing to collude with a foreign government to win an election in return for God knows what.

That story has sent an electric shock through Washington with tales of a White House in chaos and a Shakespearean family drama unfolding before our eyes. The president has uncharacteristically withdrawn from public sight as his son and son-in-law become the central players in the scandal with speculation running rampant about who is leaking the information and why.

Ever since President Trump's inauguration there has been a tremendous amount of palace intrigue with factions loyal to Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon fighting for influence alongside whichever policy advisers and cabinet officials happen to be relevant that particular week. The Russia scandal has implicated Kushner in ways that make him especially vulnerable, however, and Bannon appears to be filling the vacuum.

According New York Magazine's Joshua Green, who has been following Bannon for years and has a new book coming out on the subject called "Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency," Bannon is fully back in the fold after a few shaky months and he's advising Trump to fight and win by any means necessary. Green reports that the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the recent moves on immigration and Trump's Warsaw speech are all signs that Bannon's influence is once again on the rise. He notes that Bannon, so far, is personally untouched by the Russia scandal:
Bannon’s feud with Kushner has quieted down. And so far, while at least ten White House officials and former aides, including Kushner, have retained lawyers in the special counsel’s probe, distancing themselves from Trump, Bannon is not among them. 
Instead, he’s back in the bunker alongside a boss who is often angry, always under fire, and, on the matter of Russia, increasingly isolated from all but a handful of advisers and family members.
Green calls Bannon "Trump’s indispensable henchman, the man he turns to when everything’s going to hell," and says he is in charge of Trump's "war room." That has largely been concentrated on assassinating the character of Robert Mueller, which Bannon evidently sees as the fight's most important priority.

In a startling story that got overlooked this week amid all the Don Jr. email excitement, the New York Times reported that Bannon and Kushner have been dabbling in real war planning as well:
Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations. On Saturday morning, Mr. Bannon sought out Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon to try to get a hearing for their ideas, an American official said.
I wrote about Prince's relationship with Trump a few months ago. They're close enough that Prince was with Trump and the family on election night. Prince has also been implicated in the Russian scandal, according to the Washington Post, having arranged a secret meeting in the Seychelles Islands with an emissary from Vladimir Putin to set up a back channel between the two presidents. Prince is also currently under investigation by the Justice Department and other federal agencies for money laundering and attempts to broker military services to foreign governments. His history of running a criminal operation in Iraq is well known, but he seems to have landed on his feet. It's easy to see why Trump has such a high regard for him. He's almost like family.

Prince wrote about his plan in the Wall Street Journal in May, suggesting that the president appoint a "viceroy" for Afghanistan, using the colonial model of the East India Company to illustrate his idea. Salon's Matthew Pulver explained how Prince planned to bring this idea up to date:
The British East India Company was not simply a mercenary army like his Blackwater but an armed corporation that colonized like a state power. It was not merely a government contractor like Blackwater but an autonomous military and administrative entity sharing the worst aspects of both the corporation and the imperial state. So, Prince’s first innovation is to do away with civilian-military control administered by the Department of Defense and overseen by civilian, elected leadership, as is currently in place, and replace that apparatus with an armed corporation.
The second innovation will be to use cheap local labor paid for by resource extraction. Pulver wrote:
"There’s a trillion dollars in value in the ground: mining, minerals, and another trillion in oil and gas,” Prince says of Afghanistan. This would provide the revenue stream to replace government contracts. Prince’s firm would be self-funded, self-reliant, and thus autonomous to a degree more similar to a nation-state than a military contractor like Blackwater serving under a defense department.
I have long believed that the notion Trump is an isolationist is a grave misunderstanding. He's a crude imperialist, who believes we should "take the oil" because "to the victors belong the spoils." Lately, it's become less clear that Bannon's "nationalism" is aligned with America rather than some vague (and racist) notion of "the West." It looks more and more as if Trump's loyalties lie wherever the Trump Organization has a real estate or licensing deal. Prince's plan sounds like it's a perfect fit for both of them.

Thankfully, according to the New York Times, Secretary Mattis "listened politely" but told Bannon that he had no intention of including this daft idea into the review of Afghanistan policy that he and national security adviser H.R. McMaster are leading. Let's just hope that Bannon and Trump are now so immersed in their Russia scandal "war" plans that they lose interest in privatizing a real one.


Oh well ...

Don't look now, but Trump has his own federal shock troops

by digby

Trump's deportation force is the cult's federal uniformed agents:
The Trump White House is planning an event next week to honor federal immigration agents — even as more than 500 migrant children remain separated from their parents after being separated at the border. 
The “Salute to the Heroes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs [and] Border Protection" is scheduled for Aug. 20 in the East Room, an administration official confirmed, in the latest signal that the Trump administration anticipates the midterm fallout from its zero-tolerance border policy very differently from its critics.
Tyler Moran, managing director of the D.C.-based Immigration Hub, said the White House plans to honor ICE and CBP agents are “a ploy to use culture wars to divide people.” 
Trump touted the work of ICE officers at the Cabinet meeting Thursday, saying they “have been absolutely abused” and have done an “incredible job” combating MS-13 and other gangs. 
“They are tremendous people,” the president said. “They’re brave, they’re strong, they’re tough and they’re good. … Do you think you’re going to send just regular people in to take care of MS-13 and these gangs? Not going to happen.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, cheered the planned White House event for ICE and CPB officials. “They don’t get enough recognition, and I don’t think there’s enough public awareness of the dangers they face,” she said.
This is pure trolling. But it has a purpose too. He's building a loyal police force. He's been doing that from the beginning. It's always been scary how many cops are big supporters.

This conversation between Ron Brownstein and Bill Kristol brings that into focus.

Brownstein concludes with this observation about 2020:
Trump “essentially runs as a wartime President—only the war is against Blue America."
And he's got the troops to fight it.

Trump wants to "swing around the circle". That didn't work out so well the first time.

by digby

My Salon column this morning is about the GOP's various plans to lose the election in November:

On Thursday, Salon's Matthew Rozsa reported that Steve Bannon, the man Trump fired for shooting his mouth off to "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff, is back on the scene plotting to save the midterm elections for the Republican Party. How is he going to do that? By motivating Trump supporters to show up to the polls to save their president from impeachment.

As Rozsa points out, Bannon neglects to mention that Trump would almost certainly survive an impeachment trial in the Senate, due to the two-thirds requirement for conviction. But if there's one thing Bannon understands, it's the needs and desires of Trump voters, so it's safe to assume that won't stop them from rushing to the polls. A threat to their president is a threat to them.

On the other hand, according to Politico, other Republicans are quietly hoping the Democrats will win the House. If Trump is impeached, their thinking goes (but not convicted in the Senate, as above), they think it will assure his re-election in 2020. This counterintuitive notion is based on their experience with Bill Clinton whose popularity reached new heights as Republicans doggedly pursued him through the Monica Lewinsky scandal. They're assuming that the country would be so impressed by Trump's heroic survival that his approval rating would similarly skyrocket and he would win re-election easily.

This ignores the fact that Clinton was known for his ability to compartmentalize; he pretty much ignored all the hubbub of the scandals, repeatedly assuring the public that he was concentrating on the job of president. Trump's daily tantrums on TV and Twitter convey the opposite impression, to say the least. And the difference in the scope and seriousness of the two scandals -- a lie about a consensual affair, versus a conspiracy with a foreign power to sabotage the presidential campaign -- is profound. Trump and Clinton are very different animals, but many Republicans fail to see the difference and it's leading them toward self-destruction.

Trump himself is bullish on the coming election. He believes all the polls are fake and constantly predicts a "red wave" that will defy the usual midterm shift toward the opposition party and prove his massive popularity throughout the nation.

During an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, Trump he kept ringing for his minions to "bring in charts showing his endorsement record" and bragging about his social media following. It's all about him:
“As long as I can get out and campaign, I think they’re going to win, I really do,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for me. I have to make 50 stops, it’s a lot. So, there aren’t a lot of people that can do that, physically. Fortunately, I have no problem with that.”
He has a yuge following and tremendous stamina, which he believes will leave the voters satisfied. Well, not all the voters. Some he evidently drives away:

“I think the Democrats give up when I turn out,” he said. “If you want to know the truth, I don’t think it energizes them. I think it de-energizes them. I think they give up when I turn out.”
There is no evidence this is true. Phillip Bump of the Washington Post took a closer look at Trump's claims about being a decisive factor and found that not only does he not "de-energize" the Democrats, he doesn't even energize Republicans. All the special elections Trump is so proud of winning took place in safe districts, mostly those being vacated by Republicans who were called up by the administration. By the numbers, the Republicans who replaced them did not perform all that well whether Trump held a rally or not.

Trump is not the first president to believe he has the magic touch that will save the party from midterm disaster. President Barack Obama famously told Democrats who were wavering on the Affordable Care Act to forget about the wipe-out they faced after the failure of Bill Clinton's health care bill in 1994: "Well, the big difference here and in ’94 is you’ve got me." That didn't work out as he promised. The Democrats took a much worse beating in 2010, now remembered as the "Tea Party wave" election.

A better comparison would be President Andrew Johnson, who carried out a flaming disaster of a campaign tour called the "swing around the circle" (for the circuit of cities to which he traveled) during the midterms of 1866, attempting to shore up support in Northern states for his lenient Reconstruction policies. Johnson was a Democrat in the era when that party was overtly racist and had only given up on slavery with great reluctance. His strategy was to heighten the tensions between moderate and radical Republicans, but it blew up in his face, alienating virtually everyone but his staunchest supporters in the South and leading to a Republican landslide.

In those days presidents didn't campaign much in person, so it was seen as a bit unseemly in any case. Johnson was known as a loose cannon so his advisers were very leery and begged him to stick to dull prepared speeches. He didn't. According to biographer Hans Trefousse, Johnson started out comparing himself to Jesus Christ because he believed in pardoning repentant sinners, in this case the treasonous secessionists of the South. He nonetheless got good press until he faced some hostile crowds at which point he lost his temper and started insulting them back. When his supporters reminded him to maintain dignity, he replied, "I don't care about dignity." (Does any of this sound familiar?

It went downhill from there, culminating in a tragedy in which a platform built for one of Johnson's speeches collapsed and dropped hundreds of people 20 feet into a ditch. It was an apt metaphor for the trip.

Trump knows nothing about any of that, of course. His knowledge of history could fit in a shot glass. While the country at large is certainly polarized today, the political dynamics are different than they were in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. It would behoove Republicans, however, to recall that Andrew Johnson's "swing around the circle" strategy greatly damaged his presidency and he went on to be the first president to be impeached, only surviving conviction by one vote in the Senate. He couldn't even win the Democratic nomination in 1868 and the party lost the presidency later that year, with the election of war hero Ulysses S. Grant. Trump supporters who think it's a good idea to push impeachment as a campaign issue this fall should be careful what they wish for.

h/t to DKahn

"It's very Red Square"

by digby

This is planned for four days after the election:

President Donald Trump's military parade this fall is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated.

The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their perspective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure consists of $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. An initial estimate last month pegged the prospective cost for the parade at $12 million.

A Pentagon spokesman said in an email to CNBC that the Defense Department expects to make an announcement soon, but he would not comment further. The White House referred questions to the Defense Department.

The $92 million cost estimate includes security, transportation of parade assets, aircraft, as well as temporary duty for troops. The official also noted that while the size and scope of the military parade can still shift, the plans currently include approximately eight tanks, as well as other armored vehicles, including Bradleys, Strykers and M113s.

The official also said that experts put to rest concerns about whether the Abrams tank, which weighs just shy of 70 tons, would ruin infrastructure in Washington. Their analysis found that, because of the vehicle's distributed weight and track pads, the streets of the nation's capital would not be compromised.

The parade is also expected to include helicopter, fighter jet, transport aircraft as well as historical military plane flyovers. Troops in period uniforms representing the past, present and future forces will march in the parade, as well.

The ceremony is said to be largely inspired by Trump's front-row seat at France's Bastille Day military parade in Paris.

In September, Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron and recalled how much he enjoyed watching the parade. "It was a tremendous day, and to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue," Trump said.

"We're going to have to try to top it, but we have a lot of planes going over and a lot of military might, and it was really a beautiful thing to see, and representatives from different wars and different uniforms," he added.

FYI: He was not inspired by the Bastille Day parade. This was reported before the inauguration:

Part of being a great president is showing off America’s military strength, according to President-elect Donald Trump.

The military “may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told the Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

Trump spoke about his vision of military parades in vague terms, suggesting it was something he might oversee in the future. But according to several sources involved in his inaugural preparations, Trump has endeavored to ensure that his first day as commander-in-chief is marked by an unusual display of heavy military equipment.

During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.

The military, which traditionally works closely with the presidential inaugural committee, shot down the request, the source said. Their reason was twofold. Some were concerned about the optics of having tanks and missile launchers rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. But they also worried that the tanks, which often weigh over 100,000 pounds, would destroy the roads.

“I could absolutely see structural support being a reason [not to use tanks],” a Department of Defense official said. “D.C. is built on a swamp to begin with.”

Defense Department spokeswoman Valerie Henderson declined to comment on the request for tanks and missile launchers, referring questions to the Trump transition team. Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn told HuffPost that the presidential inaugural committee worked closely with the military “to render appropriate honors” for Trump’s swearing-in. But he directed questions about “specific aspects” of the military’s support to the Defense Department.

The Pentagon didn’t reject all of Trump’s ideas. At the request of the president-elect, there are five military flyovers ― one for each branch of the armed services ― planned for Friday’s inaugural parade, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis told HuffPost.

The Air Force plans to fly four fighter jets: an F-35, an F-16, an F-22 and an F-15E. The Navy will fly four F/A-18 combat jets. The Army will fly four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Marines will fly four V-22 Ospreys. And the Coast Guard, which is still finalizing plans, is looking at flying four MH-65 rescue helicopters, Davis said. The number and type of planes used could change, depending on Friday’s weather, he added.

Military flyovers are not typically part of inaugural parades. Outgoing President Barack Obama did not use any military aircraft at either of his inaugurations, the Defense Department official said. There were no flyovers at President George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration, but he did have a flyover during his 2001 opening ceremony, which occurred two days before the inauguration. President Ronald Reagan considered including flyovers in his second inauguration in 1985, but one never materialized, the official said. Before that, the last president to include military flyovers as part of his inauguration was President Harry Truman in 1949.

Stephen Kerrigan, who held top positions in Obama’s first and second presidential inaugural committees, said he was “shocked” to hear about the planned flyovers for Friday. “It seems unnecessary and the optics don’t seem appropriate. … It’s very Red Square,” he said.

Update: Awwwww


Home Alone 3: Friendless in Washington, D.C

by Tom Sullivan

Being chief executive of an entire country is getting to our sitting president. The pressures of the job (if one can call watching Fox News morning and evening work) are visible for all to see on Twitter. On Thursday, Donald J. Trump unleashed a torrent in two volleys. Several in the morning he aimed at the press for the more than 300 editorials across the country in defense of press freedoms and coordinated by the Boston Globe. Thursday night, Trump's "fresh from Fox News" tweets attacked several figures connected with the Russia investigation and former CIA director John Brennan whose security clearance Trump revoked on Wednesday in retaliation for Brennan's criticism on Monday. Trump's tweeting lately has increased in frequency and fervor.

Trump's critics were not to be silenced.

In solidarity with Brennan, a retired admiral on Thursday invited Trump in an open letter in the Washington Post Thursday afternoon to revoke his clearance as well. William H. McRaven oversaw the 2011 SEAL raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. McRaven wrote:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.
Like many former service members, Fred Kaplan reports, McRaven had refrained from public criticism of Trump. Until now.

Thursday night, a bipartisan dozen former top intelligence officials, former CIA directors and deputy directors, issued a statement written in parallel with McRaven's defending Brennan's integrity and service. The idea of requesting revocation of their security clearances had not come up in their conversations, Kaplan writes. He includes their full statement:
August 16, 2018


As former senior intelligence officials, we feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House regarding the removal of John Brennan’s security clearances. We know John to be an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation. Insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless. Since leaving government service John has chosen to speak out sharply regarding what he sees as threats to our national security. Some of the undersigned have done so as well. Others among us have elected to take a different course and be more circumspect in our public pronouncements. Regardless, we all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case. Beyond that, this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials. As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech – even when that right has been used to criticize us – that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable. Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views.

William H. Webster, former Director of Central Intelligence (1987-1991)

George J. Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (1997-2004)

Porter J. Goss, former Director of Central Intelligence, (2005-2006)

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009)

Leon E. Panetta, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2009-2011)

General David H. Petraeus, USA, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2011-2012)

James R. Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (2010-2017)

John E. McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (2000-2004)

Stephen R. Kappes, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2010)

Michael J. Morell, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2010-2013)

Avril Haines, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2013-2015)

David S. Cohen, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2015-2017)
Just before midnight Thursday, former CIA director Robert Gates joined the first dozen in signing the statement.

Not a good Thursday for the real estate heir.

The Pentagon announced Thursday it is postponing the military parade Trump called for Veterans Day. The Defense Department says it has "agreed to explore opportunities in 2019." Earlier estimates placed the cost of the parade at $12 million, but a Defense Department official told the Associated Press new estimates place the cost at $92 million.

Trump in a tweet this morning blamed "local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly)" for the cost increase. He declared the cost "so ridiculously high that I cancelled it."

Not a man known for having friends, Trump is busily alienating influential public figures disinclined to kissing his ass just when he needs some to have his back. From Trump's point of view, Kaplan muses, perhaps the "deep state" is closing in. His most ardent supporters already believe that. But attacking those who have dedicated their lives to public service will not win friends for a man who has dedicated his to serving himself.

* * * * * * * * *

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Today I'm grateful for Don Jr.'s arrogance.

By Spocko

The rich and powerful are used to working the refs, greasing the skids, changing the laws, getting rid of the evidence and undermining the Justice system when all their other tricks fail.

Donald Jr. has tried to copy his father's moves, but he never had the same feral understanding of the world as his father. He also didn't have the layers of lawyers, accountants and fixers that have assisted his Dad for years.

People say that Trump doesn't care about anyone but himself or money, but I think he cares about his kids.  Jr's mistakes and blunders, and his dad's attempt to fix them, are giving the case against Trump Sr. some solid evidence and leverage needed for impeachment.

It won't be the whole case, but because the Don Jr. part can be linked to the election, Russia and his Dad, it is strong.

Think about the need for approval that Donald Trump Sr. has shown. It extends to the whole world! It's a hole he can't fill. Does his son have the same pathology, or just the need to get his father's approval that many sons have?

What would the son do to win his dad's approval? Look at his actions.

I envision Don Jr. as a 5-year old in his father's workshop.  He holds up a power saw. "Look daddy! I'm helping. I'm helping!" 
"Put that down, you'll hurt yourself!"
After getting yelled at the boy goes off and sulks, "I'll show him!"

If Don Jr. was dedicated and smart he could have gone on to learn the trade and rules (and how the crooked break them.) But he took the shortcuts the rich and arrogant use. For this I am grateful.

The good news is that Don Jr.'s desire for approval, combined with his stupidity, laziness and arrogance has made it easier to bust him, and then his father.

We are fighting rich powerful people who lie constantly and break the few laws they haven't changed to be legal. They have been getting away with it for years.

I can see now that the case against Trump will use the son's attempt to impress his father, then use the father's attempt to protect his son to bring down the father.

In another era this would be a Homeric tragedy. In ours it's an episode of the Simpsons.


Ocasio-Cortez/Shapiro Redux

by tristero

Ginia Bellafante makes good points about how rare it is for male politicians to take female politicians seriously in her essay re: Ocasio-Cortez's refusal to debate a right winger with a propensity for ethnocentrism and other intolerances. I discussed this situation once before but I'd like to briefly revisit it because I think I missed something quite obvious the first time.

Ocasio-Cortez's refusal has been wrongly construed as - in Bellafante description of the right wing position — "proof of the left’s antipathy to engaging with ideological difference." Liberals, progressives, and the left are not adverse to engaging in with ideological differences. What all three groups — yes, they are distinctly different political philosophies — object to is a false engagement with bogus ideas, be they the facts of evolution, climate change, the complexity of gender, the undeniable relationship between the above-ground Republican party and white supremacists, and so on. There is plenty to discuss about each of these issues, and plenty of difference of opinion. However, the modern right wing has nothing important to contribute to these discourses. They are, as Ocasio-Cortez herself put it, merely cat-calling.

Nevertheless, the actual reason why Ocasio-Cortez should not debate Shapiro is even more obvious than the fact that Shapiro does not have a serious intellectual leg to stand on. It's that he's simply not in the game. He's a dilettante and Ocasio-Cortez — who's a very savvy politician — knows it.

If Shapiro is truly serious about engaging Ocasio-Cortez in a debate, he should move to her district, secure the Republican nomination for seat, and challenge her for re-election when her term's up.

Let's not hold our breath waiting for him to do that.