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

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014 11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014 12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015 01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015 02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015 03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015 04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015 05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015 06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015 07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015 08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015 09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015 10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015 11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015 12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016 01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016 02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016 03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016 04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016 05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016 06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016 07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016 08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016 09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016 10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016 11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016 12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017 01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017 02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017 03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017 04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017 05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017


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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Who protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds?

by Spocko

Gun goes off at health clinic after woman drops purse; 1 shot in leg

May 25, 2017 --Jackson Mississippi

Woman drops her gun in hospital waiting room, shoots another patient in the leg

The patient was hospitalised but said to have suffered "non life-threatening" injuries.

The question I'd like journalists to ask every time this happens:

Who will pay for the injured person's health care?

In this story in Politico about insurance they talk about the difference between the insurance that the states want to require gun owners to have, and the insurance the NRA is selling.

"Government-mandated firearms insurance shouldn’t be confused with the NRA’s insurance product—the former protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds; the latter protects gun bearers from carrying the costs of their wounded."
- Matt Valentine, Politico

Gun owners are not required to have any liability insurance, but some have it; what does it pay for? Full medical care? Rehabilitation? Loss of time at work? Long term disability? Pain and suffering?

What if the injured person ends up having a pre-existing condition now because of the injury? "Non-life threatening" doesn't mean it's not life changing.

Journalists don't ask question of who is going to pay for medical care, but given our current President and the hostility toward providing health care by the GOP, this needs to be asked right now. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, New York and Hawaii have introduced bills this year that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance. But all state and national level politicians need to be asked, "How are the costs of guns and health care going to be dealt with in your community?"

Watch the video and note how the UMMC police talk about what was legal or not legal. Part of this is used in the eventual criminal case--but it can also apply to civil legal cases. If the gun owner did something illegal, it changes things for criminal prosecution cases, but there is still a civil case that can--and should--be brought by the injured against the gun owner. If something is declared illegal it might also change what the insurance does or does not do regarding defending or indemnifying the person.

But gun owners aren't required to have insurance, so who pays for the injuries their negligence caused? The individual shot, and the community who picks up the bill. The gun lobby has blocked efforts to require "good guys with guns" to have insurance, complaining that they have to pay when criminals do not.
Debra McQuillen.
 photo, HCSO

McQuillen had a permit. She was still a law abiding citizen--up until the time she ignored the hospital's signs. If she was required to have liability insurance before she broke the law, she would be able to pay for the medical care of the woman she injured because of her negligence.

When the argument is that law abiding gun owners shouldn't have to have insurance, since criminals don't, it exempts all the gun owners who go from law abiding to law breaking in an instant. This is also why the NRA works so hard to get rid of laws that make their members law-breakers. (Even acts that make a member an "accidental lawbreaker." This line of reasoning --that members are so worried about being "accidental lawbreakers" --is used so that individuals can maintain the "law-abiding citizen" moniker and self justification. But primarily it is used to avoided criminal prosecution and civil liability. )

If McQuillen did everything the same, except it was in a location where it was okay to bring in her guns, the injury would still happen. No law would have been broken, no criminal charges would be filed-- but there could still be a civil case brought by the injured against the gun owner. This is a key part of the way financial responsibility is avoided by the gun lobby. They shift the issue from illegal to legal. Intent is a huge part of the issue, and by having the police and the media verbalize the word accident and legal instead of negligence and illegal they change the perception of what is happening.

I don't expect journalists to start asking these questions, so we will need to prompt them. I don't expect gun owners to claim being financially responsible for the damage their negligence cause as part of being a responsible gun owner, so we will need to ask them. The next time you are in person talking to a gun owner ask them, (And I recommend doing this in person, because online no one is under oath, and you can see their eyes if they lie to you.)

"Do you have liability insurance ? Who provides it? What does it cover? Would the person insured be covered, or would you be covered? Do you think all gun owners should be required to have liability insurance? Why not?"

There are a lots of different gun shooting scenarios to ask about. If you need one to choose use this one with McQuillan, or the one I wrote about last week with a 7-year old boy, Gage Meche or the one tomorrow, or the next day and the next and the next...

Fiscal responsibility must be part of the definition of a responsible gun owner.

The world has changed forever

by digby

On the morning after the election, I wrote this:
We wake up today to a fundamentally different world than the one in which we woke up yesterday. The nation our allies looked to as the guarantor of global security will now be led by a pathologically dishonest, unqualified, inexperienced, temperamental, ignorant flimflam man. Things will never be the same. And we have no idea at the moment exactly what form this change is going to take, which makes this all very, very frightening.

Well ...

Henry Farrell has a good piece in the Washington Post about this. The world is shifting under our feet.

He's Baaaaack

by digby

While he was away there was a lot of talk about staffer getting lawyers and others to keep him off twitter.

Nah gah happen:

Psychologists would call this "denial." And I would guess that it's genuine. He doesn't have the psychological strength to deal with the fact that everyone around him is betraying him. And his followers are probably going to go along with it. But at some point, reality bites and it will happen to them too.

It would be sad if it weren't for the fact that this man is a cretinous bully whose narcissistic ignorance will get people killed.

The last days of the trip

by digby

It makes you so proud to be an American:

In Brussels, where he attended a series of events celebrating NATO, Trump looked downright bored. As the king of Belgium and other leaders took turns at the lectern, Trump got fidgety, shifting in his seat, looking up to the sky and down to his feet, and crossing his arms over his chest.

The president — whom aides say has little patience for listening to other people speak — then endured a dinner session in which the leaders of all 28 NATO partners gave remarks.

And here in picturesque Taormina, at the Group of Seven summit on the rocky Sicilian coast, Trump struggled to look interested during long meetings with allies in a room decorated with the flags of other countries. As the other G-7 leaders strolled the streets of this ancient fortress town, Trump followed along in a golf cart.

A weight seemed to lift from Trump’s shoulders when he touched down by helicopter at the U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, on the Sicilian island, for a pep rally with military families before flying home to Washington.

He took a golf cart in Saudi Arabia too but I think they blamed it on the king rather than him.

I wouldn't normally mock him if he's feeling infirm on a long trip like this. It could happen to anyone. But he was such an asshole in the campaign toward Clinton and his other rivals about being "weak" and failing to have the "strength and stamina" that he deserves it.


21st century reconstruction

by Tom Sullivan

A Freedman Bureau agent stands between armed groups of whites and Freedmen in this 1868 sketch from Harper's Weekly.

You've got to admire their tenacity. Here in North Carolina, Democrats have been fighting a radicalized Republican Party for some years now. At least since they gained control of the legislature in the 2010 sweep election. Since that time, they have worked assiduously at consolidating their power at every turn using every method at their disposal.

The 2013 omnibus election law intended to suppress black turnout in the state "with almost surgical precision" lost in the Supreme Court this month. Their 2011 gerrymandering of state congressional districts designed to limit the influence of black voters lost in the Supreme Court a week later. Gerrymandering cases involving state legislative districts are working their way through the courts.

The New York Times observes that in spite of repeated losses, the Republicans are unbowed:

But if North Carolina Republicans have been chastened in Washington, there is scant evidence of it here in the state capital. Quite the opposite: Hours after the court nullified the elections law, for example, party officials said they would simply write another.
They keep pressing on. To say "with a vengeance" is no exaggeration.
“What we’re seeing in North Carolina is an effort at political entrenchment that is unparalleled,” said Allison Riggs, a senior staff lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham advocacy group that sued Republican leaders over the election law. “It requires a complete disregard for the will of the voters and political participation, and a disregard for the independence of the judiciary.”
That last statement refers to Republican efforts to prevent the new Democratic governor from filling vacancies on the state's Court of Appeals. (Merrick Garland knows all about how that works.) Republicans have also passed measures to make it more difficult for cases to rise to the state Supreme Court where Democrats now hold a slim majority. First-on-the-ballot placement in a nonpartisan Supreme Court race allowed a black Democrat to win a Supreme Court seat in November in the year of Trump. So that arrangement had to change.
In March, a state commission charged with improving the state’s courts urged the legislature to scrap the requirement that judges win election to the bench, saying it forced candidates to seek contributions from people who appeared before them.

Eight days later, the legislature voted to change lower-court elections from nonpartisan to partisan affairs, requiring nearly 400 judges to run under party labels in a bid to put more Republican loyalists on the bench. (The legislators had earlier made appeals and Supreme Court elections partisan.) Two Republican legislators filed a bill to split Charlotte’s Democratic-leaning Mecklenburg County judicial district into three new ones that would give Republicans a better shot at victory.
The assaults are not limited to elections or to the courts. Cities themselves are under attack. Public schools and universities are under assault. Public lands and infrastructure are being privatized. It is, as I've said before, the next phase of the conservative effort to defund the left.

Here is the GOP playbook: 1) Find the line. 2) Step over it. 3) Dare the courts to push them back.

If the courts push back, try, try again. If the courts don't, they've drawn a new line to be stepped over at the next opportunity. It is important for progressives to understand that winning a single victory, winning the presidency or a single court case (or a series) will not stop them. Like the Borg, they adapt and keep coming. Tenacity is a trait progressives will need for these fights.

The Times notes that much of this is "full-bore payback for Democratic abuses in the past."* But since Republicans have not seen this level of control in a hundred years, they are settling scores few Republican legislators serving today were alive to see, and visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation.

Like the bloody shirt, this is a theme. And like the Confederate war memorials just removed in New Orleans, these measures are being erected purposefully to send a strong message about who is in charge.

* Prior to losing the majority, friends had urged the Democratic Senate Majority Leader to move to partisan redistricting. They were rebuffed, the story goes. "Democrats draw great districts," he said.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Night at the Movies

SIFF-ting through cinema, Pt. 2

By Dennis Hartley

SIFF is showing 400 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…

Angry Inuk – Canadian film maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril hails from an Inuk community near Baffin Island, where locals rely on traditional subsistence sealhunting; not only to literally put food on the table, but to earn a living from commercial sales of sealskin products. In 2009, the European Union banned commercial trade in all seal products except for those from Indigenous hunts. While that seems a reasonable concession, the director and her fellow Inuk activists feel that the legislators and animal rights groups miss the fact that the ban has all but killed the market for the products-thus putting the Inuk people in dire economic straits. Aranquq-Baril’s documentary is wise, witty and thought-provoking, offering up a unique perspective on this controversial issue.

Rating: *** (Plays May 28 & May 29)

A Date for Mad Mary – The phrase “star-making performance” is overused, but it’s apt to describe Seana Kerslake’s turn in Darren Thornton’s dramedy about a troubled young woman who is being dragged kicking and screaming (and swearing like a sailor) into adulthood. Fresh from 6 months in a Dublin jail for instigating a drunken altercation, 20 year-old “mad” Mary (Kerslake) is asked to be maid of honor by her BFF Charlene. Charlene refuses her a “plus-one”, assuming that her volatile friend isn’t likely to find a date in time for the wedding. Ever the contrarian, Mary insists that she will; leading to a completely unexpected relationship. The director’s screenplay (co-written with his brother Colin) is chockablock with brash and brassy dialog, and conveys that unique penchant the Irish possess for using “fook” as a noun, adverb, super verb and adjective. Kerslake’s remarkable debut reminds me of Emily Lloyd in Wish You Were Here (1987).

Rating: ***½ (Plays May 27 & May 28)

Endless Poetry – Ever since his 1970 Leone-meets-Fellini western El Topo singlehandedly redefined the meaning of “WTF?” for cult movie aficionados, Chilean film maker/poet/actor/composer/comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky has continued to push the envelope on all creative fronts. His new film, the second part of a “proposed pentalogy of memoirs”, follows young Alejandro (the director’s son Adan, who also composed the soundtrack) as comes into his own as an aspiring poet. Defying his naysaying father, he flees to Santiago and ingratiates himself with the local bohemians. He caterwauls into a tempestuous relationship with a redheaded force of nature named Stella. What ensues is the most gloriously over-the-top biopic since Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers. This audacious work of art not only conveys that its creator possesses the soul of a poet, but stands, in and of itself, as an almost tactile evocation of poetry’s soul.

Rating: **** (Plays May 29 & June 5)

Finding Kukan – The first documentary to win an Oscar was the 1941 film Kukan: The Battle Cry of China. There are two unfortunate footnotes. 1.) The film, a unique and historically important “front line” document of Japan’s 1937 invasion of China, has since all but vanished from the public eye. 2.) The female producer, Ling-Ai Li, was uncredited. With two tantalizing mysteries to solve, film maker Robin Lung had her work cut out for her. The director’s 7-year quest yields two separate yet convergent narratives: a world-wide search for prints of Kukan for possible restoration, and the fascinating life of a previously unsung female filmmaking pioneer. Lung nicely ties the threads together.

Rating: *** (Plays May 27, May 28 & June 2)

Godspeed – This neo-noir “buddy film” from Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mung-Hong’s concerns an aging, life-tired taxi driver (Hong Kong comedian Michael Hui) who unwittingly picks up a twitchy young drug mule (Na Dow). Blackly comic cat-and-mouse games involving rivalling mobsters ensue as the pair are pushed into an intercity road trip, with their fates now inexorably intertwined. If the setup rings a bell, yes, it is very reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Collateral, but unfortunately not in the same league. It’s not the actors’ fault; the two leads are quite good. The problem lies in the uneven pacing (an overlong and gratuitous torture scene stops the film in its tracks). Likely too many slow patches for action fans, yet too joltingly violent for anyone partial to road movies. It does have its moments, and I’m sure there is an audience for it, but I’m just not sure who.

Rating: **½ (Plays May 28, June 1 & June 2)

Lane 1974 – This episodic road movie/coming of age story may be too episodic for some tastes, but for those of a certain age (ahem), it hearkens back to the quietly observant character studies that flourished from the late 60s through the mid-70s like Scarecrow, The Rain People, and Harry and Tonto. Writer-director SJ Chiro adapted her screenplay from Clane Hayward’s memoir. 13 year-old Lane (Sophia Mitri Schloss), her little brother, and their narcissistic hippie-dippy mom (Ray Donovan’s Katherine Moennig adopt a vagabond lifestyle after they’re kicked out of a Northern California commune. Schloss delivers a lovely, naturalistic performance as an adolescent coming to the sad realization that she is the responsible adult, as her mother is really the self-centered child.

Rating: *** (Plays June 2 & June 3)

A Life in Waves – While her name isn’t a household word, Suzanne Ciani is a musical polymath whose work has been heard by millions…from New Age fans to pinball enthusiasts. Brett Whitcomb’s film is an inspirational portrait of this innovative artist’s 40-year career. An early electronica pioneer, the classically-trained Ciani was in one respect too ahead of her time, because she hit the glass ceiling fairly quickly (the late 60s synth scene was a boy’s club). Undaunted, she reinvented herself as a “sound designer”, making a ton of loot devising ad jingles (and effects, like the Coca-Cola “pop and pour” sound), theme songs, game sound effects, you name it. She kept composing, eventually founding her own New Age record label and becoming a genre star. A fascinating look at a creative genius who’s managed to ride the wave at the crest between art and commerce.

Rating: ***½ (Plays May 29, May 30 & June 7)

Time Trap – The discovery of a rusted-out VW van near the entrance of an underground cavern prompts a Texas professor/spelunker to investigate what happened to his parents, who mysteriously vanished decades before. Concerned that the professor himself may have now disappeared, two of his students organize a search party, dragging several other friends and young siblings along. From that point forward, it’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mish-mash of time portals, Spanish conquistadors, Neanderthals, aliens, The Fountain of Youth, a magic ring and the end of the world. The only thing missing is a cohesive narrative (and perhaps a MST3K riff track?). Co-directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster desperately want us to connect the dots with 1980s films like The Goonies. So I’ll play along: this is the most indecipherable sci-fi mess since Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce.

Rating: * (Plays May 30)

Previous posts with related themes:

2017 SIFF Preview
SIFF-ting Through Cinema, pt.1

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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He's unbelievable

by digby

Kush that is:

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker unpacks the Kushner problem and draws attention to the fact that Kushner was especially hostile to Comey and alone among Trumps advisers wanted his to "counter-attack." One wonders why.

Here's the conclusion:
The main takeaway from the Kushner news is similar to the takeaway from Trump and Flynn’s handling of the Russia probes. In each case, we have a series of actions by people who seem to be concealing specific contacts with Russians connected to the Kremlin’s intelligence services and then acting to thwart an investigation. Flynn lied about his contacts with Kislyak. Trump tried to kill the F.B.I. investigation of Flynn and eventually fired his F.B.I. director. Kushner hid his contacts with Russian officials and then pressed his father-in-law to sack Comey, who was looking into the matter. “Anytime someone on the Trump campaign conceals or misleads about a contact they had with Russia at the time of Russia’s interference campaign, that’s a big red flag,” Eric Swalwell, the Democratic congressman, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

We still don’t have a crime in this case, but there is an awful lot of coverup.
And this doesn't even get into the "back-channel" at the Russian embassy stuff.

Nevertheless Benghazi persisted

by digby

Considering what we are hearing about the Trump administration's nefarious activity, I can't help but find it jarring that this even exists. I'm sure it won't be the end of it, however:
A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Hillary Clinton's lax security surrounding her emails led to the deaths of two of the Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out the wrongful death claims as well as allegations that Clinton essentially slandered the parents of the deceased by contradicting accounts the parents gave of events related to their children's deaths.

The suit was filed last August by Patricia Smith, the mother of State Department information officer Sean Smith, and Charles Woods, the father of CIA operative Tyrone Woods.

The parents sued weeks after Patricia Smith took to the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to deliver an emotional speech blasting the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and for failing to save the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack while she was secretary of state: Smith, Woods, CIA operative Glen Doherty and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Jackson dismissed the wrongful death portion of the suit on technical grounds after granting the State Department's motion to step in as the defendant on those claims. The Obama-appointed judge concluded Clinton used her email in the course of her official duties.

"The Court finds that Secretary Clinton was acting in the scope of her employment when she transmitted the emails that are alleged to give rise to her liability," Jackson wrote in her 29-page opinion. "The untimely death of plaintiffs’ sons is tragic, and the Court does not mean to minimize the unspeakable loss that plaintiffs have suffered in any way. But when one applies the appropriate legal standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to rebut the presumption that Secretary Clinton was acting in her official capacity when she used her private email server."

Jackson cautioned that she was not opining on the appropriateness of Clinton's use of the private server or on whether what she said publicly about the Benghazi episode in its immediate aftermath.

"Nothing about this decision should be construed as making any determination or expressing any opinion about the propriety of the use of the private email server or the content or accuracy of the statements made by the Secretary to the family members or to anyone else in the days following the Benghazi attack," the judge wrote.

Jackson added that she was also not making a determination about whether Clinton's use of the private server was legal or not.

For the purposes of the suit, "it...does not matter whether Secretary Clinton used a private email server lawfully or unlawfully. Instead, the relevant inquiry is whether Secretary Clinton’s electronic communications with State Department personnel about official business during her tenure were within the scope of her employment as the head of the State Department," the judge said.

"Her actions – communicating with other State Department personnel and advisors about the official business of the department – fall squarely within the scope of her duty to run the Department and conduct the foreign affairs of the nation as Secretary of State."

The judge also rejected the defamation claims, concluding that Clinton's public statements that the family members' were "wrong" about what she'd said to them about the motivation for the attack were not the equivalent of saying they lied. In short, Jackson concluded that Clinton was saying that the parents could be mistaken in their recollection, particularly given the impact of their children's deaths.

"Secretary Clinton did not refer to plaintiffs as liars," Jackson noted. "Plaintiffs may find the candidate’s statements in her own defense to be 'unpleasant or offensive,' but Secretary Clinton did not portray plaintiffs as 'odious, infamous, or ridiculous....' To the contrary, the statements portray plaintiffs as normal parents, grieving over the tragic loss of their loved ones."
My social media feeds today are debating her use of a private email server. It will never end.

Alt-right crater

by digby

Oh heck. It looks like having a dim-witted cretin win the election isn't as good for business as they thought it would be:

With its former chairman Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist and plans for an ambitious international expansion, Breitbart was supposed to be on its way to becoming a media behemoth in the Trump era, one with unparalleled access and a passionate audience. “While several publishers have enjoyed an uptick in traffic due to election coverage, we are proud to have built a massive and deeply-rooted community that will remain long after the election cycle fades,” Larry Solov, Breitbart’s C.E.O., predicted back in November.

Early on, Solov’s prediction seemed to be coming true. “Breitbart News is the #45th most trafficked website in the United States, according to rankings from Amazon’s analytics company, Alexa.com,” they wrote on January 9, 2017. “With over two billion pageviews generated in 2016 and 45 million unique monthly visitors, Breitbart News has now surpassed Fox News (#47), Huffington Post (#50), Washington Post (#53), and Buzzfeed (#64) in traffic.” A month later, the site had even greater cause to celebrate. “Breitbart News is now the 29th most trafficked site in the United States, surpassing PornHub and ESPN,” they crowed. In the article, its staffers bragged that their bonkers traffic reflected the site’s cementing a permanent place in American politics. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solov. (Many outlets, including The Hive, experienced traffic peaks around Trump’s inauguration.)

Just a few months later, the numbers have a different story to tell. As of May 26, 2017, according to Alexa.com—the same web-ranking analytics company that Breitbart drew its numbers from in January—Fox News is the 64th most-trafficked site in the country. Huffington Post is at 60. Buzzfeed is at 50. The Washington Post, on the strength of a series of eye-popping scoops, is at 41.

Breitbart is in 281st place.

Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against news sites they have compared themselves to. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.

Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against competing conservative news sites. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.

Measuring web traffic is an inexact art, but other web-analytics companies reflect a similar, unusually steep decline in Breitbart’s traffic. ComScore estimated that Breitbart had nearly 23 million unique visitors during the month of November 2016, but only drew 10.7 million in April 2017, a 53 percent drop. Last month, the site had fewer visitors than it did in April 2016, when 12.3 million people visited the site. In contrast, the four sites that Breitbart benchmarked itself against saw nowhere near that drop—and, in the case of both Fox News and Buzzfeed, saw small increases in traffic since the November election.

The Breitbart traffic graph in Alexa, the service that Breitbart cites when they celebrate their traffic goals, is oddly shaped, rocketing up to a high plateau where it remained over a period of months, then dropping back precipitously around April 30, Trump’s 100-day mark. In an email to The Hive, an Alexa customer representative suggested that the traffic anomalies could have been caused by Breitbart enabling, then disabling, Alexa’s certified-results feature, which temporarily created an apples-to-oranges comparison with sites that don’t enable the feature, like The Washington Post. (The dates the representative provided coincide perfectly with the dates that Breitbert’s traffic spiked, and then plummeted.)

Other conservative media sites have also experienced declines in traffic in recent months, but none as pronounced as Breitbart’s. According to Alexa data, National Review Online, Infowars.com, The Daily Caller, and Drudge Report all saw slumps in their rankings. Over the last week, as Trump was engulfed in the Comey scandal, Fox News’s viewership dropped to third place behind CNN and MSNBC for the first time in 17 years.

At the most basic level, Trump’s struggles are producing a passion gap among news consumers. “If you’re anti-Trump, there’s never been a better time to read news. It’s like Christmas every morning,” an editor at another conservative media outlet told me. “So every time you open the newspaper or open Twitter or turn on Facebook, you get to enjoy the fact that there are a lot of other people who don’t like Trump and there’s a lot of news stories that show Trump in a negative light. Whereas if you’re Breitbart, you’re scrambling to explain or defend or continue to back the guy that you backed throughout the election. And eventually, if your posture continues to just simply be reactive and trying to explain away things that are happening to or by the president, I think people slowly become sort of disheartened by politics.”


Traffic has long been the definitive measure of the strength of the movement Breitbart championed. “The growing traffic numbers was a huge focus for Bannon and the Breitbart senior management, as it would be for any online platform,” Kurt Bardella, Breitbart’s former spokesman, who left the company in March of 2016, told me in an e-mail. “They saw the growth as validation that their perspective and strategy was paying off. More than that, I think Steve saw it as a big F.U. to the establishment/MSM. In some ways, I think their rapid growth fueled their desire to try and take Breitbart global and expand.”

Trump’s election, however, changed the trajectory and raised journalistic questions the site had never had to ponder. “There’s two types of bias in news,” said a former Breitbart staffer. “There’s bias in news as to how you cover a particular story. And then there’s selection bias as in which stories do you cover. And I think that Breitbart has both of those.” The former staffer pointed to the site’s current homepage, just a few hours after the C.B.O. score for the House’s second attempt at repealing Obamacare was released. The biggest headline on the site was “Associated Press Cracks, Issues Correction Undermining Hit Piece From Leftist Activist Hired to Sneak into Kellyanne Event.” “This is not news anyone wants to read right now, come on,” he said. “That’s not even in English.” (A story about the C.B.O. score was buried in the bottom right-hand corner.)

Another factor could be an apparent decline in the number of times Breitbart stories receive a link from Matt Drudge—a single link on the Drudge Report homepage can fuel an entire month’s worth of web traffic. Andrew Breitbart, a former Drudge employee, essentially built his organization on the back of the Drudge Report; Bannon continued the close relationship after Breitbart’s death. (“Bannon used to go around bragging that he ran Drudge [and that] he could get a Drudge link anytime he wanted,” said the former Breitbarter.) Many see the current editor, Alex Marlow, as having a more difficult time now that Bannon has gone. Says the former staffer, “Alex’s main strategy was to get Drudge links,” while Bannon was there. “When that’s your training, it’s hard to get away from that.” (Drudge did not return a request for comment.)


Their international expansion, too, seems to be slipping past the benchmarks they set for themselves. Reuters reported that Bannon hoped to open Breitbart bureaus in France and Germany in time for their elections with the aim of electing right-wing, anti-immigrant politicians. The model had worked wonders in the U.K., where Breitbart London had opened in 2013 and became a political powerhouse for Brexit. But Breitbart France failed to materialize in time for the presidential election, where a centrist candidate decisively beat Marine Le Pen, the nationalist politician favored by the website. Breitbart Germany does not exist yet, but there is still plenty of time until their September elections.

But for now, the simplest explanation may be that Breitbart’s traffic struggles reflect the struggles of the man they backed during the election, now mired in the difficulties of governance and scandal. “When you tie yourself to a candidate you shouldn’t be surprised,” said the former staffer. “If the candidate has trouble, you’re going to have trouble. And if your goal is to provide cover for that candidate and the news is about that candidate, it’s going to be difficult to cover the news in a way that’s interesting.”

The numbers, indeed, speak for themselves.

Live by the Trump, die by the Trump.

Right wing media is in a crisis. They've never needed the leadership of a guy like Roger Ailes more. But he's gone, Limbaugh is tired and Hannity has become Trump's geisha. The newer group of wingnuts, Ingraham, Levin etc are stuck in their old conservative movement groove and really don't know how to deal with Trump any better than anyone else. He is destroying the machine they've built.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a powerful right wing media anymore. It's just that it's being run by foreign entities using modern social media tactics. These old fashioned dinosaurs are no longer relevant. They are being devoured by a virus they helped create and a wingnut host that will believe anything.

The Borgias take over the RNC

by digby

Amid mounting questions at the White House about Russia, three prominent members of President Trump’s family — his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Eric’s wife, Lara — have ramped up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation, having met privately with GOP leaders to share their concerns and outlook. 
Their most recent effort came Thursday, when the president’s eldest sons and Lara Trump visited the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington. Those three family members, who were invited by the RNC, stayed for about two hours, according to four people who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Their appearance at the RNC irked at least two prominent Republicans who were briefed on the session, who wondered whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources. 
But two other people familiar with the meeting said it was appropriate for the president’s sons and daughter-in-law, who all volunteered for Trump’s campaign, to huddle with Republican leaders and offer their perspective on what would be most helpful to President Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.

Everything's fine.
Dispatch from the spooks

by digby

Kushner the slumlord

A round-up of reaction from the experts:

Former intelligence officials described Jared Kushner's reported attempt to set up a backchannel line of communication with Russia last December that would bypass the US' national security and intelligence apparatus as "off the map," "explosive," and "extremely dangerous."

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said during a press conference on Saturday that, if Kushner did try to set up such a back channel, "I would not be concerned about it."

"We have back-channel communications with a number of countries," McMaster said. "So, generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner."

Scott Olson, a recently retired FBI agent who ran counterintelligence operations and spent more than 20 years at the bureau, agreed that it is not unusual for low-level staffers to work between governments and bypass bureaucracy to exchange views and build consensus in advance of higher-level negotiations.

But what Kushner appears to have done is "substantially different, in two ways," he said.

"First, he is not seeking a back-channel for a low-level staff exchange," Olson said. "He wants high-level direct-contact communication. This is extremely dangerous because it results in verbal (and therefore undocumented and unwitnessed) agreements, which are binding on governments. Free governments do not work this way. They can't. If they do, they are no longer free."

He continued:
"Second, he asked to use a foreign government's communication facilities. This is way beyond a private server. This is doing US government diplomatic business over a foreign government's communication system. It's not an off-the-record conversation. It's a conversation recorded by the opposing party. This shows a staggering lack of understanding of the US and its place in the world. Actually, it shows a staggering lack of common sense. When he negotiates a business deal does he use the other guy's notes?"
Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a top White House adviser, was willing to go extraordinary lengths to establish a secret line of communication between the Trump administration and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Kushner met with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower, where he floated the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia — and having those talks take place in Russian diplomatic facilities in the US. That would essentially conceal their interactions from US government scrutiny, The Post wrote, citing US intelligence officials briefed on the matter.


Let's play White House

by Tom Sullivan

This is why you don't hire people with no experience in government to run it:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The Washington Post report adds that Michael Flynn was also there.

The New York Times' Nick Confessore told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, from the Trump team's perspective perhaps their business ties led them to believe the Russians were "deal partners and friends." Confessore concluded, "Totally boneheaded."

"If an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we'd consider it espionage," former Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin told Lawrence O'Donnell last night on MSNBC. "I think to some degree, the Trump administration at these senior levels is being consumed by its own hubris. They must think of themselves as masters of the universe." Their seeming contempt for the institutions of government that carry out the functions of democracy reflects, McLaughlin said, "that sophomoric idea we used to hear about, about deconstructing the administrative state." He asked, as if Trump's people should use those they trust more? The Russians? [timestamp 3:30]

The Post first received the information via an anonymous letter in mid-December. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the secret channel portion of the letter was consistent with their understanding of events. This suggests there may be more to come from the letter once the information is confirmed.

Marcy Wheeler wants to know who sent it:
Outside of Flynn, though, it’s not clear many people knew this meeting ever happened, much less what happened in it. The meeting was first disclosed by the New Yorker, following which the White House quickly added (in a story to the NYT) Flynn to the story — suggesting he, and not the President’s son-in-law suggested the communication channel.


That said, one person who knew about the meeting ahead of time was Marshall Billingslea, who tried to warn Flynn about Kislyak. And his request for the Kislyak profile would have alerted the CIA to his concerns about the meeting.
As Steve Kornacki's guests observed, there may be completely innocent reasons behind the attempt. At every turn, they make decisions that suggests they suffer from, as officials told the Post, "staggering naivete." And yet they went to extraordinary if not paranoid lengths to avoid exposure to U.S. intelligence gathering. The Post concludes:
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.

The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Besides the lack of experience and the hubris, another thread runs through the Misadventures of Donald Trump and the people who elected him. It is the notion that we need businessmen running the government.

That evangelicals spend so much time defending the notion of biblical inerrancy from science — to the point of erecting creation museums across the country and building full-scale Noah's ark replicas to somehow "prove" science wrong — reflects how well science has successfully co-opted the thinking of even its fiercest critics from another cognitive domain. The same is true for business. It is so successful and so dominant in our way of life that average citizens and business moguls themselves believe that everything could be and must be operated according to a business model. Even when that is totally inappropriate.

But it's the only thing Trump and his kinsmen know. He's a one-trick pony. When the only tool in your toolbox is real estate, etc. After Trump's first international trip and interactions with key U.S. allies, if that truth wasn't painfully obvious before, it should be now. And that goes for "Tel Aviv" Tillerson too.

People who have devoted their entire lives to making money should leave public service to people with not just the brains for it, but hearts for it as well.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Night Soother

by digby

I'm exhausted so I'm just going to give you a sweet little video of a monkey and his best friend to make you smile a little bit:

We all have to stick together. Enjoy your evening.
Good old Manafort

by digby

Don't forget. Manafort picked Pence

He's always lurking somewhere in the background isn't he?
Months after the FBI began examining Paul Manafort as part of a probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and Russia, Manafort called Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to push back against the mounting controversy, according to four people familiar with the call. 
It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties among Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.

“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort. 
Manafort had been forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman five months earlier amid scrutiny of his work for Kremlin-aligned politicians and businessmen in Eastern Europe. But he had continued talking to various members of Trump’s team and had even had at least two conversations with Trump, according to people close to Manafort or Trump. 
While the people say the conversations were mostly of a political or, in some cases, personal nature, the conversation with Priebus, described by the four people familiar with it, was related to the scandal now consuming Manafort and the Trump presidency. 
It suggests that Manafort recognized months ago the potentially serious problems posed by the investigation, even as Trump himself continues to publicly dismiss it as a politically motivated witch hunt while predicting it won’t find anything compromising. 
The discussion also could provide fodder for an expanding line of inquiry for both the FBI and congressional investigators. They’ve increasingly focused on the Trump team’s handling of the investigations, including evolving explanations from the White House, and the president’s unsuccessful efforts to get the FBI to drop part of the investigation, followed by his firing of FBI Director James Comey. All that has led to claims that the president and his team may have opened themselves to obstruction of justice charges.
Why in the hell would the Trump campaign continue to have contact with this guy after it was revealed he was under investigation for his Russian ties?  Were they really this dumb?

Yes, apparently they were. Never mind.

You've got to love this part:

Manafort discussed with other Trump allies the possibility of launching a countervailing investigation into efforts by Ukrainian government officials who allegedly worked in conjunction with allies of Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to damage Trump’s campaign, according to the operative. The operative added that Manafort saw such an investigation as a way to distract attention from the parallel FBI and congressional Russia probes.

Priebus and the White House press office declined to comment, as did the Ukrainian presidential administration, though it previously challenged the notion it meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Priebus did, however, alert Trump to the conversation with Manafort, according to the operative familiar with the conversation and a person close to Trump.

Apparently even Trump didn't go for that one, at least not publicly. He continues to portray the whole thing as a nefarious plot by Crooked Hillary. Ukrainians don't get big cheers at his rallies.


"A full-fledged assault on truth and reason"

by digby

The media is giving Clinton the usual rasher of shit for saying this even though it's obviously true. I mean, consider the news today that Comey knew that the memo alleging collusion between Loretta Lynch and the Clinton campaign was a Russian fake but he used it as an excuse anyway because he was afraid it would come out anyway and shake people's confidence in the electoral system and the Department of Justice. This was why he felt the need to inject himself in the election in July by holding that first press conference calling Clinton reckless.

Yes, that gives me a headache too. But it shows how successful this election interference really was.

And keep in mind that Trump and the Russians didn't invent it. The Republicans have been at this for a long time, aided and abetted by the political media:

It's the full manifestation of Cokie's Law: it doesn't matter if it's true or not. It's out there.

QOTD: Texas Governor Greg Abbott

by digby

They're just going for it:
After signing a bill to reduce handgun license fees on Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) fired some shots at an indoor shooting range. 
He then held up his target sheet and quipped, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Remember when they were all "Je Suis Charlie" condemning attacks on free speech?

Yeah, I do too.

The Trump voters are running the world

by digby

Watching CNN today I learned that Donald Trump's cretinous behavior in Europe is to be expected because a lot of Americans really hate those cheese-eating elitists who are condescending toward Republican presidents, especially when they want to invade foreign countries that haven't attacked us. Apparently, they are supposed to accept whatever the US dishes out and say thank you because Republicans proudly elect idiots to run the world's only superpower these days and that's just the way it is.

Here's an analysis from the real world:

When President Trump spoke to NATO members for the first time on Thursday he failed to say the one thing Europeans were waiting to hear. He never mentioned America’s unwavering commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all. Twitter erupted in a storm of outrage and, for at least a few hours, #NATO was trending. Sean Spicer, responding to the criticism, stressed that even though the president didn’t say it outright, he is “fully committed” to NATO and Article 5.

Spicer’s logic? Trump’s mere presence at the dedication ceremony at the new NATO HQ was evidence enough. For folks that don’t track NATO issues on a day-to-day basis (and that’s most people), the president’s omission may not seem like a big deal. But Trump’s refusal to repeat what so many members of his own Cabinet have already stated — including his vice president — was a significant blow to the transatlantic relationship and could have lasting consequences.

Why were Europeans so eager to hear Trump utter the words “Article 5”? It was just last summer when Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, alluded to the fact that the United States could make its commitment to Article 5 conditional on whether the country in question was spending enough on defense. That sent a shiver down the spines of many NATO allies as they imagined calling Washington in a crisis — only to be asked first asked whether they had met the 2 percent target. (For many, the answer would be no.) Throughout the campaign, Trump also called the alliance “obsolete” (before he said it was “no longer” obsolete) and has repeatedly claimed — falsely — that NATO allies owe the United States vast sums of money.

But as wrong as Trump has been about NATO over the last two years, Europeans have known that he’s been right about one thing: allies need to invest more in their own national defense. That’s the irony of yesterday’s tragic episode. Europe came to the NATO Summit this week ready to meet the president halfway. They know the parade of secretaries of defense and past presidents that have urged them to do more were right. Many allies have even worked to accelerate their plans to reach the 2 percent target in an attempt to give the alliance and the new U.S. president a solid win. But in order to convince their publics to support those costly defense investments, they needed some reassurance from Trump in return. Now that he’s failed to provide that reassurance, Trump himself may have just hindered his ability to move the needle.

Adding insult to injury, Trump also failed to say anything of substance about Russia, the future of sanctions, or enhanced deterrence measures across Central and Eastern Europe.

Adding insult to injury, Trump also failed to say anything of substance about Russia, the future of sanctions, or enhanced deterrence measures across Central and Eastern Europe. Silence on those issues has generated even more anxiety and forced Europeans to draw their own conclusions. Paired with the omission on Article 5, some allies are already assuming that the United States won’t come to their aid if Russia does something rash on their territory or in their neighborhood. Moscow literally could not have asked for a better outcome since its longstanding goal has been to undermine NATO, U.S. credibility, and transatlantic unity.

Instead of inspiring the alliance to move ahead with much-needed reforms and turn its attention to the many threats NATO allies face on both sides of the Atlantic, Trump did the exact opposite. He fueled uncertainty and insecurity, which will serve as an obstacle to transatlantic cooperation in the years ahead. Why, allies are already asking themselves, should we make politically difficult decisions to invest in our defense when it’s unclear whether the United States has our back? Trump could have cleared that up with a single sentence yesterday.

Instead, he and a few ill-informed, inexperienced, and short-sighted members of his team opted for petulance and arrogance — a decision that plays well with Trump’s base but won’t serve them well with America’s closest allies.

This is a very delicate moment. After two worldwide conflagrations in 30 years Europe and Japan more or less disarmed and for more than half a century the Europeans have depended upon the US security umbrella. But twice now in the last 16 years we've elected unqualified leadership through dubious electoral processes. Under the first a group of ideologues used that immense power to destabilize the middle east at the worst possible time. Now, with this neo-fascist buffoon who seems to be tilting toward Russia for obscure reasons they are understandably getting very, very nervous. As should we all. So, it's likely they are going to arm up. So are a lot of others. And it looks as though we're going to help some of them by "making good deals" for arms manufacturers.

What could go wrong?


"You illegal?"

by digby

Maybe we could require undocumented immigrants to wear some kind of insignia on their clothes to make it easier to identify them when they get hit by a truck. Why should police even have to ask?
Everything was recorded on the body cameras of the police who responded to the accident.

Marcos Antonio Huete, a 31-year-old Honduran immigrant, was lying on a sidewalk next to his bicycle after being hit April 27 by a GMC Sierra pickup truck on his way to work in Key West in the Florida Keys.

"You illegal? Are you a legal citizen or no? Speak English? You got ID? Passport, visa, or what? a Monroe County sheriff asked Huete insistently, according to the video.

Still on the ground, Huete answers with monosyllables before using a cell phone to call his sister, who arrived at the scene soon after.

Lea este articulo en español

Hours after the accident Huete left hospital on crutches and was sent to the Krome Detention Center near Miami, where he has spent almost a month in detention pending possible deportation.

According to his sister, Olga Huete, after he was discharged from the hospital a police officer told them to return to the scene of the accident. "He did not tell us why, but we went back because my brother had not done anything. We had no reason to flee."

Fined and detained by the Border Patrol

Once there, he says he was fined $75 by a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHP) officer for causing the accident. The incident report accuses Huete of obstructing/hindering traffic and listed his injury severity as "possible."

Huete allegedly "darted out in front" of the pickup as it turned right across a marked crosswalk striking the rear tire of Huete's bicycle. The officer decided that the driver, a 45-year-old Key West woman, was not at fault.

Then Border Patrol agents showed up and asked to see Huete's papers, suspecting him of being undocumented.

Olga Huete says that while they don't have papers, she is outraged by what she called the lack of justice in blaming her brother after he was the victim. She said the woman driving the pickup was allowed to drive away "as if it was nothing."

"The fact that we do not have papers does not mean that we do not have rights," she said.

In a statement to Univision, the Border Patrol said that FHP communicated with its agents "to assist in the identification of the subject (Huete)." However, he says that such communication between the agencies is "rare."
It's rare. But it's getting less rare every day.

The media's role in the incipient fascism

by digby

Brian Beutler's piece on the violence against a reporter in Montana discusses how the media dealt with it and it pulls no punches:
In a healthier political culture, the condemnation would have been nearly unanimous, and the context of the incident would not have been a matter of controversy. What we witnessed instead was a political media—confronted with a one-sided assault on its most basic freedom—rendered by its own constructs largely incapable of identifying the threat with any precision.

Before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump toured the country encouraging violence against protesters and whipping up animosity toward the press. Earlier this month, Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, sicced police on a reporter who was trying to ask him a question in the West Virginia state capitol on account of the fact that he didn’t recognize the reporter as an attendee of a press conference, then praised the police for their diligence. Last week, the FCC’s security detail manhandled a tech reporter at the National Press Club.

Republicans know in theory how to get their hackles up over political violence directed at reporters, because in January 2010, when an aide to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley pushed a conservative reporter (then helped him up, and apologized for his behavior) Republicans tried to end his career in public service.

Their tacit acceptance of a culture of antagonism and violence directed at the press suggests at least that the party’s values have changed.

Set aside for a moment the fact that it is within the power of all Republican elites to disavow candidates who abandon basic civic duties, or to endorse their opponents. At his weekly Capitol briefing, House Speaker Paul Ryan demurred that “if [Gianforte] wins, he’s been chosen by the people of Montana,” a tautological evasion of the fact that he intends to welcome Gianforte into the House GOP conference and support him in future elections.

The press is perfectly well equipped, and equally within the bounds of good practice, to close ranks around Jacobs, hound Gianforte, demand contrition, mark him for extraordinary scrutiny. It is much less well equipped to address the threat at its root.

Republican-condoned violence against media has thrust the media’s capacity for self-preservation into conflict with its cult of performed even-handedness and performed even-handedness is winning.

All the more because of Gianforte’s victory, conservative candidates across the country know they can abuse reporters, lie about it, use political violence to raise money, and find safe harbor in the Republican cloakrooms of the United States Capitol. Yet taking all of this in, the NBC News political cheat sheet First Read lamented that the “body slam of [a] reporter is another sign of America’s broken politics.” That conclusion isn’t wrong, much as the broken wing of an airplane might send the whole vessel into a spiral dive, and, in surveying the wreckage, one could accurately exclaim that “the plane broke.”

I don’t know if Republicans broke American politics or if Republican politics is broken and endangering the whole political system, but it can’t be fixed so long as political elites can’t acknowledge or understand what the source of the failure is. Responding to a moldy sack of protoplasm who writes for the Daily Caller, CNN editor Chris Cillizza leapt to Jacobs’s defense.

This is attitudinally correct, but his incredulousness belies a misunderstanding of movement conservatism and the media outlets that the movement has spawned. With exceptions, they do not conceive of themselves as playing on the same turf, let alone by the same rules, as establishment news organizations and liberal media outlets. The fact that Republicans are defending Gianforte and conservative journalists piled on Jacobs isn’t confusing or an outgrowth of “broken politics,” but the inevitable consequence of virulent illiberalism in the American right.

On Thursday morning, the anti-Trump Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote a bracing denunciation of those on the right who defended the assault of a reporter—though one seemingly premised on the belief that the “cultural collapse of the GOP into the Trump Troll Party” might be reversed through reason. In truth, everything that’s happened in the past year or so has conditioned conservatives to believe they will face no consequences for poor or unprincipled behavior. They write off the accurate assessments of anti-Trump Republicans like Steve Schmidt or Democrats like Senator Brian Schatz as the impotent complaints of political losers, knowing that the public will learn about the assault of a reporter as an essentially partisan spat and that centrist pundits, out of fear of bad-faith accusations of bias, will blame on broken politics instead of defending their own .

What he describes is a problem that's partially responsible for where we are today. I know it's hard for them to break the habit. But unless they do it this is going to continue to accelerate and it will be too late.

I guess I just don't understand why people don't find this more alarming. These things can get out of hand very quickly.

This isn't normal.


Violence by proxy

by Tom Sullivan

As this morning's headlines attest, Republican Greg Gianforte won yesterday's special congressional election in Montana. One of the noteworthy and little-noticed effects of his assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was, according to NBC, Gianforte raised $100,000 overnight online. One supporter told CNN the assault charge against Gianforte left her only "more ready to support Greg."

Gianforte is hardly alone. Donald Trump stands in for many, if not most, of his perpetually aggrieved supporters in doing and saying things to political opponents they lack either the nerve, the social permission, or the protections of great wealth to do themselves. The money and support rewards Gianforte for the vicarious satisfaction they receive from violence by proxy.

Conservative pundit Laura Ingraham mocked Jacobs for reporting the attack to the police, tweeting, "Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?" In response, Josh Barro at Business Insider writes that calling the police "when a man grabs you by the throat and slams you to the floor ... is what an adult does in a civilized society." If we were an adult society, that is:

Yet, as Kevin Glass notes, "conservatives" in the Trump era tend to think not like adults, but high-school boys, vaunting the sort of ideal of masculinity that might be imagined by a socially maladjusted 15-year-old and tolerating in our political leaders the sort of behavior that a guidance counselor would never accept.

Republicans are a party that now celebrates the bully who steals lunch money because, hey, at least he's not the nerd who gets his lunch money stolen.

A party for the sort of men who call themselves "alpha males" without irony or accuracy. A party for the sort of women who think it's cool and strong when men get into bar fights.
Republican voters eat it up. Their president makes every photo op, every handshake a contest for establishing dominance. This is infantile. It isn't strength. It's overcompensation.

When asked for comment on Gianforte's assault of a reporter, many Republicans on Capitol Hill refused comment. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) blamed liberals, “The left has precipitated this tense, confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months.” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) told reporters, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) joked that “we didn’t have a course on body slammin’ when I went to school — I missed that course.”

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), surprisingly, commented on the politics of rage and Trump's hand in promoting it:

The tacit if not overt approval of violence by proxy is symptomatic of the further hollowing out of conservatism begun decades ago. Conservative politicians, pundits and celebrities once trafficked in innuendo and dog whistles. Now the nudges and winks have largely disappeared. The “kayfabe” is no longer conscious, but ingrained both in the performers and their audience. They believe their own bullshit.

Commenting on the litany of persistent conspiracy theories, columnist Michael Gerson writes that exploitation of the Seth Rich conspiracy theories in particular are "a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul." His Washington Post column continues:

The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently. Institutions and individuals that once served an important ideological role, providing a balance to media bias, are discrediting themselves in crucial ways. With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.

Conspiracy theories often involve a kind of dehumanization. Human tragedy is made secondary — something to be exploited rather than mourned. The narrative of conspiracy takes precedence over the meaning of a life and the suffering of a family. A human being is made into an ideological prop and used on someone else’s stage. As the Rich family has attested, the pain inflicted is quite real.
They are a party gone mad, and led by a child.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It's worse than we could have imagined

by digby

This parochial moron trying to talk Europe into pulling way from the US security umbrella. He seems to think it's supposed to be a profit center. They thought it was a way to keep the world from disintegrating into worldwide conflagration. Again.

Expectations were low for the European leg of President Trump’s first trip abroad, but it turns out they weren’t low enough.

Officials had briefed reporters that the trip’s highlight would be a speech in which Trump endorses Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that the NATO allies would treat an attack on one member as an attack on them all—the very essence of “collective defense.”

For most presidents, this is a rather low bar akin to the proclamation, in their annual address to Congress, that the state of the union is strong. But Donald Trump, in his brief speech on Thursday at NATO’s new headquarters, did not clear even this basic hurdle of American leadership.

European leaders had been nervous about this visit, well-aware of Trump’s repeated statements that NATO is “obsolete” and that he might not defend a NATO ally from attack if it’s fallen short of commitments on defense spending—like some Trump Tower tenant delinquent on his rent. He made most of those statements during the 2016 campaign, but even since taking office, he hadn’t clarified his stance on the alliance. Trump has said that NATO is no longer obsolete since it has now declared a policy against terrorism—for which he has taken credit—ignoring the fact that the non-American members adopted such a policy in 2002 and have since lost 1,000 troops in the war on terrorists in Afghanistan. But the allied leaders have stayed mum on this, hoping that giving Trump a rhetorical win, with an apparent nod to his wisdom, would make him a more amenable partner.

Apparently their modest hopes were overwrought. Trump began his eight-minute speech noting the two monuments in the new courtyard—shards of the Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center—as symbols of “remembrance and resolve.” He even recalled that, after the Sept. 11 attacks, the NATO allies responded swiftly by invoking Article 5, the first and so far only time any member had done so since the treaty’s signing in 1949.

But then he shifted to scolding the allies for their “chronic underpayments” on defense, noting that 23 of NATO’s 28 members have failed to meet an obligation to spend 2 percent of their GDP for their military forces. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said, echoing the “America First” sentiment of his base back home, adding that these nations also “owe massive amounts of money for past years.”

Trump is hardly the first American president to call on allies to pony up more for their own defenses—President Jimmy Carter demanded that they each devote 3 percent of GDP to the military—and some allies have started spending more in part due to this recent pressure. But Trump is the first president to refrain from assuring the allies that he views the defense of Europe as a vital American interest.

His silence on this matter also puts him at odds with his secretary of defense, secretary of state, and national security adviser, who have all gone out of their way to express this commitment—reviving the question of just who controls U.S. foreign policy. Since the start of his presidency, Trump’s advisers have waged a power struggle over this issue in particular: nationalism vs. globalism, leadership of the free world vs. America First. His speech in Brussels suggests that this struggle is still raging.

Any hope people had that he would grow into the job was ill-founded. He has no capacity to grow or learn.

The word is that his military and nat-sec advisers all wanted him to confirm the US commitment to Article 5. He did not. He clearly believes that he has no loyalty to long time allies and he's just going to tear up these security alliances as easily as he plans to tear up trade agreements. He's too dim-witted to understand the ramifications and nobody can control him.