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

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Saturday, October 21, 2017


Saturday Night at the Movies

As beautiful as you: Loving Vincent (***)

By Dennis Hartley

If I liken the experience of watching Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s first feature film Loving Vincent as akin to staring at an oil painting for 95 minutes, I could see how that could be misinterpreted as a negative. But I am only making you aware that their Vincent van Gogh biopic is literally a collection of the artist’s paintings, brought to life.

It’s actually an ingenious concept. Utilizing over 120 of van Gogh’s paintings as storyboard and settings, the filmmakers incorporate roto-scoped live action with a meticulously oil-painted frame-by-frame touch-up to fashion a truly unique animated feature. The screenplay (co-written by directors Kobiela and Welchman along with Jacek von Dehnel) was derived from 800 of the artist’s letters. It is essentially a speculative mystery that delves into the circumstances of van Gogh’s final days and untimely demise.

Our “detective” is Armand (Douglas Booth), the son of an Arles postman (Chris O’Dowd). A year after van Gogh’s suspicious death, Armand’s father entrusts his son with an undelivered letter from van Gogh to his brother Theo. Armand sets off to the bucolic countryside of Avers-sur-Oise that inspired many of van Gogh’s best paintings. As he encounters an ever-growing cast of characters ranging from the periphery to the inner circle of van Gogh’s daily life, Armand’s journey becomes a Rashomon-like maze of conflicting accounts and contradictory impressions regarding the artist’s final chapter.

While this is not the definitive van Gogh biopic (Vincente Minnelli’s colorful 1956 effort Lust For Life, featuring an intense and moving performance by Kirk Douglas, takes that honor), it is handily the most visually resplendent one that I have seen. The film represents a 10-year labor of love by the filmmakers, who employed more than 100 artists to help achieve their vision...and it’s all up there on the screen. The narrative, however, is more on the “sketchy” side, if you know what I’m saying (I’m here all week).

Still, the film teasingly offers up some counter-myths to the conventional narrative that van Gogh was another tortured artist who had no choice but to check out early because he was just too damn sensitive for this cruel and unfeeling world. Maybe he wasn’t even the one who pulled the trigger...hmm? Granted, considering he produced 800 paintings (many considered priceless masterpieces) yet sold one during his lifetime, and struggled with mental illness, it’s not like he didn’t have reasons to be depressed, but who can say with 100% certainty that there really was no hope left in sight, on that starry, starry night? I’d wager the answer lies on his canvasses; because every picture tells a story...don’t it?

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

The age of Trump

by digby

This piece by Adele Stan at The American Prospect is so good that I'm posting the whole thing right here. I agree with this 100% and constantly astonished that some people seem to think that Trump and Trumpism doesn't represent a leap into a new phase of right wing crazy that is anything but benign:

It is always tempting to dismiss the importance of America’s far right to the nation’s political trajectory, given the torrent of absurd and frankly false claims of its proponents, whether regarding the birth certificate of a president or the meaning of the Constitution. But around the world, the far right is on the rise, infecting nearly every Western democracy, and ours is hardly immune. Witness the election of Donald J. Trump, which most progressives and liberals had deemed impossible. After spending a weekend at the Values Voter Summit, an annual conference hosted by the political arm of the Family Research Council, I fear that same denial remains strong, even in the Age of Trump.

Were there ever a doubt that the Christian right, as represented by the Family Research Council, was anything other than a white Christian identity movement, that notion was laid to rest at this year’s Values Voter Summit, which took place October 13 and 14 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. In fact, you might say that this year’s gathering of right-wing believers contained many of the elements of a Stephen K. Bannon production—a combination of fire, brimstone, explosions, and nationalism, presented in an acrid cloud of coded racism.

Bannon’s burn-it-all-down litany of grievances set the house on fire.
Bannon, the propagandist and former chief presidential strategist—a man known more for his foul mouth than his piety—delivered a dark, apocalyptic address to the Values Voter audience, upstaging Trump in the headlines that followed. Sure, Trump received an enthusiastic response when he addressed the conference the day before, but Bannon’s burn-it-all-down litany of grievances set the house on fire. Enthusiasm for Bannon was not dampened by the astonishing BuzzFeed report on the ways in which Bannon courted white supremacists to grow the audience of Breitbart.com, the noxious right-wing website he oversees as executive chairman.

Bannon’s attack from the Values Voter Stage on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which included a promise to back primary challenges to each of the incumbent Republican senators up for re-election next year (with the exception of Texan Ted Cruz), prompted what may go down in history as the most awkward presidential press conference ever, when Trump appeared in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, McConnell at his side.

“Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing,” Trump said when asked to respond to Bannon’s declared “war” on “the Republican establishment as personified by Mitch McConnell” and the targeted senators. “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly, they're great people,” Trump added. But the president had not an unkind word to say about Bannon, who served as CEO of Trump’s campaign, and has come to represent the heart of Trump’s base. The violence perpetrated in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists may be seen as yesterday’s news, but Trump’s tortured mixed-messaging on the subject had everything to do with that base and its sympathies.

A menacing undercurrent flowed throughout the Values Voter conference, not only in hyperbolic descriptions of the supposed threats to Western civilization posed by Islam and the American left, but in veiled threats, couched in the language of violence, directed at opponents of the Trump agenda.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, described his ideological fellows as bullets, and Republicans who opposed him as “duds” that should be “ejected from the chamber.” Sebastian Gorka, who was pushed from his role as a White House adviser after an uproar over his links to a neo-Nazi group in Hungary, spoke of the greater “damage” he and Bannon would do to the left now that they were no longer a part of the Trump administration. Bannon likened McConnell to Julius Caesar on the eve of Caesar’s assassination. (He did take a moment to qualify his comments as metaphorical.)

Even Family Research Council President Tony Perkins got into the violent-imagery act.

“An old farmer once told me, ‘If you throw a rock into a pigpen, you can always tell which one you hit by who squeals the loudest,’” Perkins said in one of his many turns at the podium. “That sounds pretty simple, but it’s revealing when you hear how loud the left is squealing.”

Given Perkins’s own history, it’s hardly surprising that he would align himself with the likes of Gorka and Bannon, with their ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. If anything, Perkins knows his own base. In 1996, Perkins ran the U.S. Senate campaign of Louisiana Republican Woody Jenkins, for which he purchased the phone-bank lists used by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in Duke’s gubernatorial campaign. David Duke was the first Klan leader to work in concert with neo-Nazi groups, as reported by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons in their book, Right-Wing Populism in America.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Bannon’s remarks to the religious-right confab was his prediction of a bloody conflict to come, and his assurance to the Values Voters that they would be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.” He warned that America is now at the point of a “fourth turning”—a reference to the theory of historical cycles put forth by amateur historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, which divides history into cycles of roughly 80 years, each one punctuated by a period of cataclysmic bloodletting.

“We are in the valley of decision,” Bannon said. “This is the fourth great turning in American history. We have had the [American] Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression/World War II. We will be one thing or the other on the other side of it. We are either going to be the country that was bequeathed to previous generations and to you, or we will be something else.”

This backlash, he said, was the result of the “economic hate crimes” perpetrated by the “corporatist clients” of people like Mitch McConnell, the Davos crowd, “the elites.”

According to The New York Times’s reading of Strauss and Howe’s book, “The authors envision a return to a more traditional, conservative social order as one outcome of a crisis. They also see the possibility of retribution and punishment for those who resist or refuse to comply with the new expectations for conformity.”

While it’s true that the people to whom Bannon speaks do not comprise a majority of the American population, Trump has already proven that you don’t need a majority of the popular vote to win the presidency. Republicans have quickly become expert at winning at the margins, be they margins created by algorithmically determined congressional districts, or microtargeted Facebook ads designed to suppress turnout among the targeted communities.

Significant leaders among the Christian right are on board with Bannon’s scheme to once again alter the DNA of the GOP by making it hospitable only to those who uphold the Bannon worldview. And the followers don’t seem to mind that Bannon described them in his talk as characters in a beloved fantasy. Speaking of his own worries ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Bannon told the audience that he was assured that “the Hobbits in the Shire are turning out the vote.”

Come 2020, they’ll no doubt be trudging the Shire again, along with Russian bots, and in solidarity with the thugs who plagued Charlottesville and the far right of Europe. To dismiss the allure of Bannon’s dystopian nationalism is folly. Such folly is how authoritarians emerge from democracies. While Dumpster fires burn everywhere in the form of oppressive legislation and false narratives, there’s a big conflagration glowing on the ridge. It will take more than a bucket brigade to put it out.

Pay attention people. This isn't normal. It is something different and pretending that it's all an act or that it's no big deal is very foolish. This is a dangerous moment and I'm not sure the opposition is even trying to meet it.


QOTD: Spicey's student

by digby

What he learned from Sean Spicer's fellowship this week:

“I learned that the media was not misrepresenting him in how they were talking about him six months ago.I was kind of expecting him to be better than how he was portrayed through the press, but he was pretty much just as slimy and weaselly as I’d thought he was.”

Read the whole article about the experience. He really is a piece of work. Slimy and weaselly describes him well.


Sure, what could go wrong?

by digby

Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon continued his campaign against the Republican establishment in a speech to the California Republican Party convention on Friday—while also calling for greater unity within the party. His targets included the current party leadership, but also the previous Republican president of the United States.

Bannon, who rarely spoke publicly during his time as White House chief strategist, has made a series of appearances in recent weeks promoting his plan to primary Republican senators in the 2018 election cycle. Boosted by former judge Roy Moore’s Alabama Senate primary win over the establishment’s (and President Trump’s) pick Luther Strange, Bannon is spearheading an intra-party war with the aim of removing Mitch McConnell as majority leader. He has said that he wants to challenge every Republican incumbent apart from Ted Cruz. He personally campaigned for Moore and for Kelli Ward, who is running a primary challenge to Jeff Flake in Arizona. Last week he promised a “season of war” against the establishment in a speech to the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

“Victory begets victory,” Bannon told the crowd at the Anaheim Marriott in a wide-ranging speech that touched on everything from Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance (Bannon’s a fan) to the “Fourth Turning” to Andrew Sullivan’s latest piece (Bannon’s also a fan). And after existing on the political fringes for most of his career, Bannon has finally notched some victories: his speech on Friday lingered on Trump’s election and on Moore’s win. “I was on the opposite side of the football with the president,” Bannon noted. “I think the president got some bad information.”

Though Trump publicly—albeit half-heartedly—asked for Bannon to calm down his campaign against Republican senators last week during a press conference with McConnell, Bannon said he is acting as Trump’s “wingman.” He launched a broadside against George W. Bush, who gave a speech rebuking Trumpian ideology last week. Members of the audience booed at the mention of Bush’s name.

“It’s clear he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about,” Bannon said, “Just like it was when he was president of the United States.”

“There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s,” Bannon said. The reaction to this line was more muted, with only scattered applause. One Republican strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his involvement in some races in California told me that at his table only three of seven people applauded. “This was a populist speech, this was not a Republican Party speech,” the strategist said. “Nobody in this room had ever heard a speech like this before.”

Bannon tailored his speech to the California audience, warning darkly of the power of Silicon Valley, which he cast as the “beating heart” of the resistance to President Trump.

“It is about winning, nothing else matters.”
He even warned that Silicon Valley might engineer a secession attempt, saying that if California Republicans do not roll back the law that has made the state a “sanctuary state” for immigrants, “10 or 15 years from now the folks in Silicon Valley and the progressive left in this state are gonna try to secede from the union.”

“We don’t have a problem with ideas,” Bannon said of Republicans. “We have a problem with understanding how to win. It is about winning, nothing else matters.”

"Nothing else matters"

*And you have to love him saying that Bush was too stupid to know what he was saying. He's no genius. But my God. Look at the imbecile he created.



From the "you cannot make this stuff up" files

by digby



A classic scam?

by Tom Sullivan

It's a classic scam. Stores artificially inflate prices in advance of a "sale" so they can brag how much they've slashed prices to lure customers. Is that the point of the White House's concerted efforts to sabotage Obamacare? Drive up premiums so high that any GOPish replacement looks cheaper? That would be in character, although with the sitting president using that term is being generous.

He may not be much for political strategy, but scams? Donald knows scams. But mostly he's obsessed with undoing any of his predecessor's accomplishments.

Health insurance is on the brain this morning because of the notice from BlueCross BlueShield that they're replacing our old, grandfathered policy with a shiny new one with a 377% premium increase.

Premium increases in North Carolina that average 14.1 percent come on the heels of a move by the sitting president to curtail subsidy payments to insurers under Obamacare. Associated Press called the decision "likely to roil insurance markets." Buyers in the individual market, AP reported, "could face prohibitive increases." (See previous paragraph.)

Drive up the number of uninsured

A Gallup survey released Friday showed an uptick in the uninsured rate for the first time since the sitting sitting president took office. The rate has jumped 1.4 percent, reversing the record low rates under the Obamacare program. Gallup reports:

The uninsured rate, measured by Gallup and Sharecare since 2008, had fallen to a record low of 10.9% in the third and fourth quarters of 2016. However, the 1.4-point increase in the percentage of adults without health insurance since the end of last year represents nearly 3.5 million Americans who have entered the ranks of the uninsured.

Still, the uninsured rate remains well below its peak of 18.0% measured in the third quarter of 2013, prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) mandated healthcare exchanges and the associated requirement that all adults have health insurance or be subject to a fine.

Two reasons Gallup suggests for the reversal: a decline in competition in some regions and uncertainty about the fate of the health care law itself.

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik writes:

Make no mistake: Those are related phenomena, and they place the blame squarely with Trump and his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill. One reason that insurance companies have been backing away from the exchanges is that Trump has continually threatened to undermine the law in every way possible. For months he threatened to cancel reimbursements due insurers for cost-sharing reductions they are required by law to offer low-income buyers; he finally followed through on that threat Oct. 12, raising the prospect of billions of dollars in losses for insurers this year.

The GOP’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act this year have failed in Congress but have left a miasma of confusion among consumers. The confusion is about more than merely whether the government would enforce the individual mandate, which requires all households to carry health coverage or pay a penalty; it’s about whether the exchange plans would even continue to exist, and how much they would cost.
Should the uninsured rate and premiums jump up in the short term, the man with the fake university can blame it on the inherent awfulness of Obamacare. Any later move on the sitting president's part that lowers them again modestly will be spun as a triumph.

We will be shopping, of course. But the sitting president has made that more difficult as well. By cutting the annual enrollment period in half, cutting the budget for ACA navigators almost in half, and by closing the ACA exchanges on Sunday, the administration has added another wrinkle to renewing coverage. The Washington Post explains:
The complication arises when people who already have health plans under the law are automatically re-enrolled in the same plan. In the past, a few million consumers each year have been auto-enrolled and then were sent government notices encouraging them to check whether they could find better or more affordable coverage.

This time, according to a federal document obtained by The Washington Post, the automatic enrollment will take place after it is too late to make any changes. Auto-enrollment will occur immediately after the last day of the ACA sign-up season, which the Trump administration has shortened, leaving the vast majority of such consumers stranded without any way to switch to a plan they might prefer.
Unfaithful stewardship

Abbe Gluck from the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School believes these moves by the administration violate the law, or at least his duty to “take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The sitting president's "intentional, multi-pronged sabotage of the ACA" is not merely permissible exercise of executive prerogative:
Trump’s strangulation of broad parts of the ACA does not stem from his decision to prioritize what he views as other, more important sections of the law. No budgetary or policy justification has been offered by the White House for canceling enrollment support; nor has anyone claimed taxpayers will be saved money. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the president’s efforts to shut down cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies will cost the federal government almost $200 billion.


Motive matters, with respect to whether the president exercises his power legally. If the president exercises his discretion to further the purpose of a statute, he complies with the take care clause. If he uses his power pretextually or unreasonably, he violates the Constitution. President Trump’s motives are unambiguous.
Like he cares?

* * * * * * * *

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

Friday, October 20, 2017


Friday Night Soother

by digby

A sweet story about a girl and the birds she feeds:

Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it's rare for that affection to be reciprocated. One young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden - and they bring her gifts in return.Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection. "You may take a few close looks," she says, "but don't touch." It's a warning she's most likely practised on her younger brother. She laughs after saying it though. She is happy for the audience.

Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014." Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. "Beer coloured glass," as Gabi describes it.
Each item is individually wrapped and categorised. Gabi pulls a black zip out of a labelled bag and holds it up. "We keep it in as good condition as we can," she says, before explaining this object is one of her favourites.

There's a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

She didn't gather this collection. Each item was a gift - given to her by crows.

She holds up a pearl coloured heart. It is her most-prized present. "It's showing me how much they love me."

Gabi's relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She'd get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.

As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi's bus, hoping for another feeding session.

Gabi's mother Lisa didn't mind that crows consumed most of the school lunches she packed. "I like that they love the animals and are willing to share," she says, while admitting she never noticed crows until her daughter took an interest in them. "It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds."

In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.

Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.

One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word "best" printed on it. "I don't know if they still have the part that says 'friend'," Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.

When you see Gabi's collection, it's hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.

"If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them," advises John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. He specialises in birds, particularly crows and ravens.

More at the link.

Have a good week-end, folks.

You want an "Empty Barrel"?

I've got the biggest barrel in the whole wide world. In fact, it's the size of the fucking Grand Canyon: Trump at the CIA, standing in front of the wall of the fallen:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true, this is my first stop, officially. We’re not talking about the balls, or we’re not talking about even the speeches -- although they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday. (Laughter.) I always call them the dishonest media, but they treated me nicely. (Laughter.)

But I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody. (Applause.)

The wall behind me is very, very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while, and I’ll tell you what -- 29? I can’t believe it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-eight.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Oh, 28. We got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate what you’ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group, these are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know, I am so behind you. And I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted, and you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, please don’t give us so much backing. (Laughter.) Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing. (Laughter.) But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military and the law enforcement, generally speaking, but all of it -- but the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military. And probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. (Laughter.) But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. (Applause.) We’re all on the same wavelength, right? He knows. It took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right, because we know we’re on the same wavelength.

But we’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained. We have to get rid of ISIS. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. (Applause.) Radical Islamic terrorism. And I said it yesterday -- it has to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries, there can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody can even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. For the different positions of “Secretary of This” and “Secretary of That” and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people. And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent. And, by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand. What a good guy. (Applause.) And Reince and my whole group. Reince -- you know -- they don’t care about Reince. He’s like this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But we did -- we had such a tremendous, tremendous success. So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and, in this case, went so quickly -- because I would see six or seven or eight for Secretary of Agriculture, who we just named the other day, Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and it was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said, cancel everybody else. Cancel. Now, he was approved, essentially, but they’re doing little political games with me. He was one of the three. Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis, fantastic guy, and General Kelly got approved. (Applause.) And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group. It was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine all of these guys? People respect -- you know, they respect that military sense. All my political people, they’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well but you. We’re going to get them all through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally -- I had a group of -- what, we had nine different people? Now, I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point.

Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years who did a fantastic job in so many different ways, academically -- was an academic genius -- and then they say, is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I’m like a smart person. (Laughter.) And I recognized immediately. So he was number one at West Point, and he was also essentially number one at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a homerun. People like him, but much more importantly to me, everybody respects him. And when I told Paul Ryan that I wanted to do this, I would say he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled -- right, Mike? Because he said, I don’t want to lose this guy.

But you will be getting a total star. You’re going to be getting a total gem. He’s a gem. (Applause.) You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see. And again, we have some great people going in. But this one is something -- is going to be very special, because this is one, if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be perhaps -- you know, in certain ways, you could say my most important. You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing. And the generals are wonderful, and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction, boy, does the fighting become easier. And, boy, do we lose so fewer lives, and win so quickly. And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know, when I was young and when I was -- of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. (Laughter.) Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping -- when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young.

When I was young -- and I think we’re all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, “The United States has never lost a war.” And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.

I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again, toward ending all of the problems. We have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused. So I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent.

And the reason you’re my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. (Laughter and applause.) And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number-one stop is exactly the opposite -- exactly. And they understand that, too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? (Applause.) I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech.

In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured. But, you know, we have something that’s amazing because we had -- it looked -- honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on -- and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around -- you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

We had another one yesterday, which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill, Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country, but had a lot to do with it. Helped us; real ally. And, as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out -- the bust. And as you also probably have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly. And they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. I say, absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill.

So a reporter for Time magazine -- and I have been on there cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right? (Laughter.) I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that they said -- it was very interesting -- that Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King. And it was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it. (Laughter.) So Zeke -- Zeke from Time Magazine writes a story about I took down. I would never do that because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is.

Now, the big story -- the retraction was, like, where? Was it a line? Or do they even bother putting it in? So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting.

I will tell you, final time -- although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that have been trying to come in -- because I am coming back -- we’re going to have to get you a larger room. (Applause.) We may have to get you a larger room. You know? And maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build, and we won’t have columns. (Laughter.) You understand that? (Applause.) We get rid of the columns.

No, I just wanted to really say that I love you, I respect you. There’s nobody I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge.

So thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you -- you’re beautiful. Thank you all very much. Have a good time. I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Thank you


The president thinks the DOJ works for him

by digby

You'd think he would have learned after firing Comey that interfering with the Department of Justice is a Very Bad Idea. But noooo:

The number of inappropriate contacts & requests from Trump to DOJ is staggering. Since his election, he has: interviewed @PreetBharara, called @PreetBharara repeatedly to try and curry favor; privately asked the FBI director for a loyalty pledge; asked the FBI director to drop a case; publicly told the AG what to probe; railed to the AG about recusing from a probe INTO HIM; asked the AG to drop a case into a political supporter (Arpaio), & now interviewed US attorneys in districts where he has exposure.

Any of these alone is a huge scandal. Together, they're a total indictment of his attempt to undermine an independent DOJ & the rule of law

Yes, it does seem just a little bit ... suspicious.

To think that the Attorney General under Bush was forced to resign because he fired some Us Attorneys for failing to make some desired political prosecutions. Under trump that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. After all, he's actually fired the FBI director for looking into his relationship with a foreign government and is still carrying on interviewing US Attorneys who might have jurisdiction over his own suspected criminal activity. And it's just ... happening. I'm going to guess from now on that Republicans will be free to do whatever they want with the DOJ. (Democrats won't, of course, because Republicans would show up at the White House with tiki torches chanting "Impeach! Impeach!" and everyone would run for cover.)

It's maddening.


The NRA making the case for armed revolution, one video at a time

by digby

Dana Loesch's latest. I don't know how anyone can see this message coming from a group that advocates for people to be armed at all times can be seen as anything but incitement. We have free speech and they have a right to say it. But let's not kid ourselves about what they are saying. It's not as if their rights are in danger at the moment. The Republicans have it all and the court is well-packed. This is about fun owners destroying the opposition to Donald Trump and the Republicans.You do the math.


Give him a 10 out of 10. Those paper towels were awesome

by digby

Yesterday, Trump met with the Governor of Puerto Rico, whom he treated as his personal lapdog essentially daring him to complain or he'd make things even worse for the people there. He repeatedly compared the "fantastic" recovery in Florida and Texas to Puerto Rico constantly referring to its bad infrastructure and how it was a mess and how the people didn't go to work, which he claimed he understood because they had families without homes, all the while barely repressing a sneer at their lack of gumption. It was sickening. When asked to rate his response to the disaster he instantly said "I give myself a 10 out of 10." Uhm, no:

In contrast with Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Florida after Irma, where thousands of repair workers rushed in to restring power lines, only a few hundred electrical workers from outside the island have arrived to help. It was not until Saturday that the Puerto Rican government said it had the federal funding needed to bring in more workers.

And until a week ago, the small Montana company hired to get the lights back on had only 165 workers on the ground; it now has about 300. In comparison, 5,300 workers from outside the region converged on coastal Texas in the days after Hurricane Harvey to restore a power loss that was about a tenth the size, said Larry Jones, a spokesman for AEP Texas. Electricity was back on for almost everyone within two weeks.

In Florida, 18,000 outside workers went in after Hurricane Irma knocked out electricity to most of the state last month, according to FPL, Florida’s largest power company.

In Puerto Rico, the brunt of the work has been left to the 900 members of local crews.

Industry experts said poor planning, a slow response by power officials and Puerto Rico’s dire financial straits had led to a situation that would be unfathomable in the continental United States. Logistical challenges — like where to house the thousands of extra workers needed to get the lights back on — still have not been resolved.

“Thirty days after the storm, I see very little progress,” said Eduardo Bhatia, an opposition senator who in 2014 wrote an energy reform law. He added, “I don’t see the boots on the field doing the work, and that is a tragedy.”

At the White House on Thursday, President Trump said the administration deserved a 10 for its response to the hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States.


"Slam Dunk" Redux

by digby

Oh look, another CIA director misstating conclusions of the Intelligence community to further the president's agenda.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo declared Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential election did not alter the outcome, a statement that distorted spy agency findings.

“The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” Pompeo said at a security conference in Washington.

His comment suggested — falsely — that a report released by U.S. intelligence agencies in January had ruled out any impact that could be attributed to a covert Russian interference campaign that involved leaks of tens of thousands of stolen emails, the flooding of social media sites with false claims and the purchase of ads on Facebook.

A report compiled by the CIA and other agencies described that Russian operation as unprecedented in its scale and concluded that Moscow’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process and help elect Donald Trump.

But the report reached no conclusions about whether that interference had altered the outcome — an issue that U.S. intelligence officials made clear was considered beyond the scope of their inquiry.

Isn't that special? This is the guy who's feeding Trump his classified briefing every morning.



John Kelly, macho hatchet man

by digby

I wrote about the "grown-up" General Kelly's Trumpian performance yesterday for Salon this morning:

Ever since Donald Trump was asked about his curious delay in commenting on the deaths of four servicemen in Niger and, instead of answering, began to brag about how he was the only president to call all the families of fallen soldiers, this ugly story has been festering. Once again, Trump's reflexive self-aggrandizement to cover up for his failures has gotten him into trouble.

First of all, other presidents have of course called families of the fallen and have made many other gestures of sympathy and care. It was a low blow to try to tar his predecessors as failing to honor the war dead. Needless to say, the moment he made the claim that he alone called all the families, reporters went out and started asking and it turned out he hadn't done that either.

after making that ignoble boast, Trump went on a radio show and said that someone should ask John Kelly, the former Marine general who is now his chief of staff, whether President Obama had called him after his son was killed in Afghanistan, which obviously meant that was where he'd heard that Obama fell down on the job. The White House later confirmed this.

Evidently, this spurred Trump to finally call Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the soldiers killed in Niger, while she was on the way to meet the coffin at the airport. He behaved like a boor because he doesn't know how to act any other way. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was accompanying the family to carry out this terrible duty, complained publicly about Trump's insensitive comments which the fallen soldier's mother confirmed. Instead of taking the mature and dignified course and simply apologizing for being inartful with his words, President Trump called everyone a liar and sent out one of "his generals" to clean up his mess.

Kelly has a distinguished record in the Marine Corps and is himself a Gold Star father who lost a son in Afghanistan. I don't think anyone in the country disrespects either of those things. But he is no longer in uniform and has willingly become a partisan political player working for a contemptible leader. When he decided to use his stature and experience to bail out his boss for making a hash of what he calls a sacred issue on Thursday, he sold his own reputation cheaply.

He went before the press and confirmed that Obama hadn't called him, but said he didn't see this as a negative thing. He wondered how any president can properly express himself if he's never been through the ordeal of losing a child, trying to elicit sympathy for poor Donald Trump and the burden he bears. But most presidents read a book or two about former administrations, they reach out to the living ex-presidents for insight or they just generally give a damn about aspects of the job other than holding rallies and watching "Fox & Friends." But this is Trump: He doesn't read and he doesn't ask for or take advice. He's not like any other president in our history.

After delivering what seemed to be a sincere disquisition on the way members of the military and their families face this tragedy, Kelly abruptly went on the attack, accusing everyone but his boss of lowering the discourse and destroying everything that's traditionally sacred in our society.

Kelly said that women were formerly considered sacred and implied that Khizr and Ghazala Khan and his wife had degraded the sacredness of the Gold Star family by appearing at the Democratic convention, conveniently ignoring the fact that the man he's working for is an admitted sexual predator who mercilessly attacked that Gold Star family. (He didn't mention that POWs used to be held sacred as well, or that his boss says he "prefers people who aren't captured.") He angrily decried the politicization of the war dead, although it was his own boss who politicized a simple question about a military mission that nobody wants to talk about by attacking his predecessors' approach to dealing with this sacred duty.

Then Kelly went for the jugular and brutally attacked Rep. Wilson for "eavesdropping" on the conversation between the president and Sgt. Johnson's wife. Apparently he hadn't bothered to read anything about the incident or he would have known that the call was on a speakerphone in the car and the exchange was confirmed by others who heard it. Had he looked into it, he would also have found out that Wilson, a former educator, is a good friend of the family and ran a program Johnson attended called the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, for youths pursuing military careers.

Not that any of that matters. It was apparently decided in the White House ahead of time that the best way to protect the boss was to smear Rep. Wilson. Kelly carried out the order with relish, even though its premise was a lie.

Just like his boss, the president, Kelly never once uttered the name of Sgt. La David Johnson or his pregnant widow, Myeshia.

Much of the mainstream press was predictably breathless over Kelly's forceful performance. Interestingly, many of the military commentators were not as impressed, correctly observing that it was Trump and Kelly who were politicizing the fallen. And the president just kept going:


Donald J. Trump

The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!
7:53 PM - Oct 19, 2017
36,70336,703 Replies
Twitter Ads info and privacy

Chuck Todd said on "Meet the Press Daily" that people heard what they wanted to hear from the reports of Trump's calls, suggesting that if you liked Trump you understood his reported comment, "He knew what he signed up for," as a sign of empathy and caring. I have no doubt that's true. His fans always give him the benefit of the doubt. For the rest of us it's not that simple, since Trump is a compulsive liar who has never shown empathy toward anyone but himself. As George W. Bush famously said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me ... won't get fooled again."


They never even called him by his name

by Tom Sullivan

Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama spoke publicly yesterday in rare appearances since leaving office. Both commented on the toxic nature of American politics under our sitting president. But as David Allan Coe famously sang, they never even called him by his name.

The Washington Post reports:

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said during a 16-minute address at “The Spirit of Liberty” event. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”


The scene was remarkable in part because Bush has largely remained out of the political spotlight since leaving office amid low popularity in 2009 and had made a point not to criticize or second-guess his Democratic successor, Barack Obama. Just hours after Bush completed his speech, Obama also made a veiled critique of the Trump era, calling on Democrats at a New Jersey campaign event to “send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear.”
Bush wasn't done. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” he said. The Bush family is not fond of the sitting president, and neither George W. Bush nor his father voted for him, the New York Times observes.

On the stump again for Democratic candidates, Obama was less direct.

""If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them. You won't be able to unite them later," Obama told a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. At a rally earlier in New Jersey for gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, Obama told the crowd:
“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed,” Obama said. “That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”
The past presidents' comments follow on the heels of those by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Monday at a ceremony where he received the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. His target was clear, although McCain too never even called the sitting president by name:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Those words got McCain on the sitting president's fighting side. He warned, "... people have to be careful because at some point I fight back," he told a talk show. "But at some point I fight back, and it won't be pretty."

Good luck with trying to intimidate people who won't be, Mr. President. Maybe that's why he's so sensitive about the size of his "hands." He's shooting blanks.

* * * * * * * *

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Texas Strong

by digby

Axios reports:

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is frustrating both administration officials and conservative movement leaders by holding up the confirmation of Russ Vought to be Mick Mulvaney's right hand man at the Office of Management and Budget.

Cornyn — a member of Senate leadership who has a strong say over the floor schedule — has made it clear that Vought will be held up until he gets more funding for Texas' hurricane relief, according to three sources close to the situation. It's unclear how Cornyn has phrased his demand or how much extra money, exactly, he's asking for, but his message has been heard loud and clear by top Trump administration officials.

Maybe he can throw them some paper towels instead.


QOTD: The narcissist in chief

by digby

“I would give myself a 10” out of 10. I think we’ve done a really great job and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from the governor and we are getting there and people are really seeing the effort that’s been put into Puerto Rico”

If you feel like watching a Halloween horror story check out the whole press conference with the Governor of Puerto Rico. Oh my God. He's so ... dumb.


Is vote suppression a problem in close elections? Why do you ask?

by digby

Well look here. Ari Berman of Mother Jones, who literally wrote the book on the voter fraud fraud, has a scoop:

On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.

Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”

A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year
The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention. When it did, it was often dismissive. Two days after the election, Talking Points Memo ran a piece by University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen under the headline “Democrats Blame ‘Voter Suppression’ for Clinton Loss at Their Peril.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was “a load of crap” to claim that the voter ID law had led to lower turnout. When Clinton, in an interview with New York magazine, said her loss was “aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” the Washington Examiner responded, “Hillary Clinton Blames Voter Suppression for Losing a State She Didn’t Visit Once During the Election.” As the months went on, pundits on the right and left turned Clinton’s loss into a case study for her campaign’s incompetence and the Democratic Party’s broader abandonment of the white working class. Voter suppression efforts were practically ignored, when they weren’t mocked.

Stories like Anthony’s went largely unreported. An analysis by Media Matters for America found that only 8.9 percent of TV news segments on voting rights from July 2016 to June 2017 “discussed the impact voter suppression laws had on the 2016 election,” while more than 70 percent “were about Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and noncitizen voting.” During the 2016 campaign, there were 25 presidential debates but not a single question about voter suppression. The media has spent countless hours interviewing Trump voters but almost no time reporting on disenfranchised voters like Anthony.

Three years after Wisconsin passed its voter ID law in 2011, a federal judge blocked it, noting that 9 percent of all registered voters did not have the required forms of ID. Black voters were about 50 percent likelier than whites to lack these IDs because they were less likely to drive or to be able to afford the documents required to get a current ID, and more likely to have moved from out of state. There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election. Clinton’s failings, James Comey’s 11th-hour letter, Russian interference, fake news, sexism, racism, and a struggling economy in key swing states all contributed to Trump’s victory. We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.

And no, it's not good enough to say that Democrats are at fault because they don't win with a big enough margin that the other side can't steal it. That's not how this works. There will always be close elections and there is no reason why these malevolent wingnuts should be able to win by keeping Democrats from voting. Only suckers would blame themselves for this.


Fox and Friends is running the country

by digby

Please, somebody find a way to send this f-ing moron a fake feed of Fox and Friends. He is going to blow us all up because his favorite TV is so completely full of shit.

Update: Hah!



Despicable racism

by digby

Gabe Ortiz at Daily Kos caught this latest sickening propaganda being pushed by the f-ing moron Sarah Palin:

A collection of right-wing websites teamed up with half-term nitwit Sarah Palin to spread a fake news story that appeared to pin the Northern California wildfires that have tragically killed at least 40 people onto an immigrant man who was arrested at a park in Sonoma, California.

Jesus Fabian Gonzales—who “often sleeps in the park and is well-known to law enforcement”—was arrested Sunday after starting a small fire that he says he lit to stay warm, and one that “was so small a responding sheriff’s deputy was able to mostly put it out before firefighters arrived.” Gonzales was taken into custody without incident for one count of arson, but by Tuesday, Breitbart, InfoWars, and other sites were blaring sensationalist headlines, including one that stated that the “homeless arsonist behind Calif. wildfire that killed 40 people is an illegal alien”:

Breitbart News and InfoWars offered no evidence to link the man’s arrest to the fires and their accounts of the man’s arrest were disputed the same day by Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.

“There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all,” Giordano said in a news conference also broadcast on the department’s Facebook page and area TV stations. “I just did want to kill that speculation right now so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”

Speculation from, say, Palin, who tweeted that “bet you not a single mainstream news organization is going to cover this story. Not PC or something.” No, it’s just fake, dumbass. In fact, USA Today notes that Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that “the only questions Breitbart News and InfoWars asked were about Gonzales's ethnicity and whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a detainer on him, which would hold him for an additional 48 hours at the jail.” It’s almost like they have an agenda here!

There's more at the link. It's just, dare I say it,deplorable.


Trump's Big Lie

by digby

I wrote about Trumps Big Lie for Salon this morning:

Sometimes I think Donald Trump is trying to drive us all crazy. The relentlessness of the lies, the bizarre behavior and the overall chaos are just plain nuts. We've never experienced anything like this. Well, actually, there is one precedent, the monarch who was on the throne of England when America declared its independence. But that was a very long time ago. Since then we've had good leaders and bad leaders, some were even great while others were actual criminals. But this non-stop presidential pandemonium is unprecedented. And it's downright discombobulating.

In order to keep a grip on reality, it's tempting to try to find logic behind all the activity and ascribe the confusion to some sort of underlying strategy. You observe a wily character like Steve Bannon and read about his bizarre fringe philosophy of "disruption" to bring on some sort of global denouement and you read that he literally called Donald Trump "a blunt instrument for us" and you figure this might just be a big act in service of his ominous vision. Whenever Trump steps in it with an inappropriate tweet or behavior a torrent of commentary follows insisting that it's just a distraction for some other inappropriate tweet or behavior. It's understandable. It's frightening to think that the president's confidantes are all extremists and amateurs while the president himself creates chaos out of sheer incompetence.

On Wednesday Politico reported a startling poll result which the president tweeted when he saw it on Fox news:

This obviously made him very happy. And, needless to say, despite his absurd assertion that it's "much worse than this" that number is higher than one might expect.

The poll showed that 46% did believe that the news media was fabricating stories about Donald Trump and:

Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.

So, assuming this poll is a correct reflection of the public's view on this subject, most of the people who think the media is inventing stories about Donald Trump are Republicans and Trump supporters. That makes sense. That would account for between 35 and 40 percent. But what about the rest? Well, frankly I think they simply can't believe what they see and hear because it's --- unbelievable. It's more plausible to think the news media is making it up, especially for people who don't follow closely and only pay attention in passing. It simply can't be this bad.

I am among the 37% who believe the president is exactly what we see: an unqualified, wealthy egomaniac who won the presidency on a fluke and is in so far over his head that he's incapable of doing the job. But I can see that he has done something by accident, out of sheer defensiveness, that is powerfully disorienting: he's created a Big Lie.

"The Big Lie" is, of course, one of Hitler's "insights" so it's always dicey to even mention it in terms of any contemporary politician. And it also implies a conscious strategy which does not apply in this instance. But the idea that people are more inclined to believe a big lie rather than a small one simply because they can't fathom anyone being so audacious as to fabricate something literally unbelievable does describe this current phenomenon.

And you wind up going down the rabbit hole when you try to unpack it. Trump's Big Lie is that the news media is telling the Big Lie.

For instance, Trump has done something completely bizarre from the very beginning of his campaign. At his rallies he always says that the cameras won't show the crowd and that they have cut away from his speech. He says this as the cameras are clearly on and are panning the crowd. He knows that most people are seeing his rallies on television. He follows his coverage with fanatical attention. He's saying "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and because it's so frightening to think anyone could lie so shamelessly, many people are choosing to believe him.

Now it must be said that the news media bears some responsibility for this. For years they had played along with a right wing that cynically created the "liberal bias" trope in order to slant the news in their direction.It took Donald Trump viciously attacking them personally for them to challenge it head on. Their behavior during the Clinton and Bush years, as well as their contemptuous coverage of Hillary Clinton in this last campaign, had severely degraded their credibility with members of the public from across the political spectrum.

They are waking up to the consequences of years of excusing and enabling the right's undemocratic tactics but have yet to fully account for their role in it. After all, they eagerly embraced the last Republican Big Lie: the invasion of Iraq. It's undoubtedly the case that some number of those who think they're fabricating news stories today remember that.

Nonetheless, if nearly half the country believes the fake news that the news is fake, and the other half is being gaslit, we have an even bigger problem on our hands than Donald Trump. It means we're losing our grip on reality itself. This has happened before in history and it didn't end well. That's why it's important to keep your eyes focused and your ears open to what is happening even if it makes you feel crazy. You're not.


Entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'

by Tom Sullivan

The JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, via Wikimedia Commons

Like Jesus the carpenter, I am a tradesman. Just without the sandals and his deep compassion and charity. My sin is, I don't aspire to be an entrepreneur. Unlike the sitting president, many of us just don't have the genes for entrepreneurship. Judging by policies that get the most traction in Washington, that makes us second-class citizens.

See, to be an entrepreneur is to be ennobled. A saint among citizens. A star in the capitalist firmament. Someone to make your mother proud. A job creator.

This is the gospel according to the ruling class, Ayn Rand, Horatio Alger, the Heritage Foundation and a heavenly host of other conservative think tanks. And quite a lot of politicians on either side of the aisle.

As venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said so memorably, "It's a small jump from job creator to The Creator. This language was not chosen by accident." It is, he said, a claim on status and privileges.

The business community let out a mighty, "We are not amused."

One of the stepping stones on the path to the Crash of 2008 was the Bush effort to create an "ownership society." Everybody should own a home. It is the American Dream and everyone should have one. Can't afford one? Not a problem. Financial wizards on Wall Street and their mortgage-backed securities could put you in a new home with no money down and no net cash flow. And then put your family out in the street when it all came crashing down.

Bankers did, by the millions, as David Dayen again details in a post this week for The Nation. Wall Street even paid its fines through fraud, according to a lawsuit now being heard in US District Court in New York City:

JPMorgan, it appears, was running an elaborate shell game. In the depths of the financial collapse, the bank had unloaded tens of thousands of toxic loans when they were worth next to nothing. Then, when it needed to provide customer relief under the settlements, the bank had paperwork created asserting that it still owned the loans. In the process, homeowners were exploited, investors were defrauded, and communities were left to battle the blight caused by abandoned properties. JPMorgan, however, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, thanks to using other people’s money.
Federal appointees at the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight signed off on the JPMorgan. Former North Carolina congressman Brad Miller, a longtime advocate for financial reform, told Dayen:
“No one in Washington seems to understand why Americans think that different rules apply to Wall Street, and why they’re so mad about that,” said former congressman Miller. “This is why.”
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Douglas Schoen, a former Clinton White House senior political adviser, however, is not amused that many Democrats are insufficiently appreciative of the money Wall Street wizards have to offer its candidates, nor of all of the wonderful things they do. In his New York Times op-ed, he argues that Hillary Clinton’s "lurch to the left" cost her the election in this "center-right, pro-capitalist nation."

Therefore, "Democratic leaders must prioritize entrepreneurship, small-business growth and the expansion of job-training and retraining programs." Democrats need to partner more closely with a financial sector. "The financial industry brings to market the world’s most innovate products and platforms that expand the economy and create jobs."

You can never enough entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'. And people complain Democrats don't represent working people anymore. Where do they get such ideas?

The notion that policy should tilt towards entrepreneurs aspiring to be "job creators" devalues real people who work for a weekly paycheck. They take pride in what they do whether or not they are business owners. As Hanauer pointed out, it is consumption that drives the economy. You can't have entrepreneurs entrepreneurin' without consumers consumin'. And working people are the ones getting short-changed in Washington, not the entrepreneurs and the financial industry. As Miller suggested, people outside Washington know it too well.

Part of the impetus behind the ownership society was to create more Republican voters. The theory was that paycheck workers tend to think like and vote for Democrats. Mold them into property owners and you create conservative voters resentful of government programs that helped get them there and of safety net programs that still serve neighbors now beneath them on the social ladder. Not to be all "class warfare" or anything.

What Democrats like Schoen argue for is another version of the ownership society. If only everyone was an entrepreneur, they would think and vote like entrepreneurs. Uh, wait....

* * * * * * * *

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

by digby

Oh look, the Trump campaign was tweeting the hell out of Russian bot twitter accounts:

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP's account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons."

Two days before election day, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a post by @Ten_GOP regarding Hillary Clinton’s email.

“Mother of jailed sailor: 'Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info' #hillarysemail #WeinerGate” the tweet reads.

Three weeks before the election, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, retweeted a separate post from @Ten_GOP.

“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: "Tell The Truth!" RT if you are also done w/ biased Media!” the tweet read.

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.

Trump Jr. also retweeted the account on Election Day.

“This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” the account wrote.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn retweeted the Russian-backed troll account at least once. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before it was removed from Twitter in August for its ties to Russian propaganda.

The account notably pushed for Flynn’s reappointment as Trump’s national security advisor, a job Flynn lost after press revelations that he’d lied about his telephone discussions with the Russian ambassador after the election hacks. It also repeatedly pushed Breitbart-backed talking points, including a fake news story about a gang rape in Twin Falls, Idaho that merited dozens of articles from Breitbart News.

Flynn Jr. will likely receive a Senate subpoena after he refused to be interviewed for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

Former Trump campaign advisor and longtime confidante of the president Roger Stone retweeted the account three times in 2017, twice to rail against commentators on CNN.

On the same day as the account’s permanent ban, @Ten_GOP was caughtpassing a photo of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade in Cleveland as a picture of the crowd gathered outside a Trump rally in Phoenix.

Last March the account was one of the most active in promoting WikiLeaks’ first big release of CIA documents, using the occasion to float the false claim that the so-called “Vault 7” documents acquitted Russia in the hack of the Democratic National Committee. “BREAKING: Obama’s CIA posed as RUSSIAN HACKERS to disguise their dirty work,” read one of the tweets. “The ‘Russian hacking’ was a false flag by the CIA. It was done to give Obama a reason to spy on Trump!,” read another.

Overt Russian propaganda outlets Sputnik and RT frequently used @Ten_GOP’s tweets in their news stories, including a story titled “Russia has no compromising info on Trump or Clinton, report is ‘total bluff’ — Kremlin.”

Far right news sites The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars quoted the account in articles several times.

Fox News cited @Ten_GOP as its sole example of a “Trump fan” in an article titled “Trump fans call for Kellogg's boycott after brand pulls Breitbart ads” last December.

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian cyberattacks, told The Daily Beast that this is “exactly what I was talking about” in his testimony in March.

“If what you said is true, I’d say, ‘My job is done,’” said Watts. “If this account is definitely an (Internet Research Agency) account, it proved Russian Active Measures (like the 2016 propaganda campaign) works, because Americans will use it against other Americans.”

Watts said the content of these pages is “made to look organic” so that “Americans will use it against their political enemies.”

“If you take rumors, false information, plants, and just repeat them, you’re doing the job of a foreign country. They are seeding out information or narratives they know candidates or partisans will use. They were so effective, they had the very top people in the campaign using it,” said Watts.

“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

Just coincidence, surely.

Update: Oh look

The account Tweeted “We love you, Mr. President!” to President Donald Trump – and Trump responded in kind, sharing the Tweet with his followers and writing, “So nice, thank you!”