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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lock her up and take away her hot sauce

by digby

So Chris Cilizza is finally being taken to task for his tiresome, relentless crusade against Hillary Clinton, most recently for the crime of not denouncing Harvey Weinstein soon enough. It's quite a story. I highly recommend you read it.

But where is Clinton on this important issue, I'd like to know:

Fans everywhere are mildly disappointed. Desperate for sauce packets, a vocal population has made their demands known. Nearly everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the matter.

So where is Hillary Clinton?

In a times like this, we expect our leaders to take action. Maybe shouldn't be surprised that neo-liberal sellout Hillary Clinton — who we all know is the hands of big condiment — has failed to issue a public statement on the matter.

That doesn't make it any less damning.

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has made her "love" for hot sauce known in multiple interviews, even going so far as to carry a bottle of hot sauce in her bag. Her affection for spice just doesn't feel genuine: compare it to President Obama's love of mustard, which is obviously 100 percent authentic and comes directly from his far more authentic soul.

Hillary makes herself out to be a friend of the condiment community. Photo-op after photo-op show her at diners, pouring ketchup and hot sauce onto her overcooked burgers in a poll-tested, DNC-approved, strategy to make her look human.

Yet when the Szechuan sauce crisis finally emerged, the former Secretary of State had nothing to offer us but her craven silence.

Let me be clear: There is one person to blame for the Szechuan sauce outage, and that person is not the CEO of McDonalds. That person is somehow Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps if Hillary Clinton hadn't been so aligned with other condiments, McDonalds wouldn't have been so underprepared for their initial corporate promotion. People like Hillary Clinton have been lining their pockets with Heinz Ketchup wrappers and selling the Democratic party's condiment preferences to the highest paying bidder for years. Over time, voters became slowly alienated by third-way condiment Democrats. Some of whom, it is believed, use organic ketchup in a desperate attempt to satisfy their high-sodium lobbyist base.

Can we really blame voters for turning to Taco Salad Donald Trump in a time of such great need? I've been to these communities. I've seen the salt shakers full of rice. I've witnessed the pre-ground pepper.

It's time for Hillary Clinton to finally accept her full responsibility for the temporary Szechuan sauce outage, the 2016 election, climate change, this random hole I got in my pants yesterday, Harvey Weinstein, the mediocre seventh season of Game of Thrones, ugly birds, polio, Hurricane Maria and rompers for men — before leaving politics for good.

Then, and only then, will we finally probably not forgive her.

General Kelly Trump's toady

by digby

This is so low:
The Daily Beast confirmed that senior White House officials signed off on this specific line of attack as legitimate communications strategy. When The Daily Beast emailed White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to ask if she was an official telling reporters at multiple news outlets that Obama did not call Kelly, she declined to comment on the record.

She also did not respond to a question regarding if Kelly personally signed off on turning his deceased son into a political weapon to attack Trump’s predecessor this week.

Kelly has previously been reticent to invoke his son’s death in public. Shortly after he was killed, the elder Kelly spoke at a gathering of the Military Officers Association of America. Before taking the stage, he told the Marine introducing him, “Please don’t mention my son,” according to a 2011 Washington Post profile.

Obama administration officials were shaken by Trump’s revisiting of the attack line. It was noted that Kelly and his wife attended a Gold Star families breakfast at the White House in 2011 and sat at the First Lady’s table. But that point seemed secondary to the shock many felt that the administration was using the death as a political cudgel.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, the Obama deputy chief of staff, who had harshly criticized Trump when he first made the charge on Monday, told The Daily Beast that she was “traumatized” to see him do it again on Tuesday. On Twitter, Obama's national security spokesman Ned Price, encouraged Kelly to put a “stop” to “this inane cruelty.” Other former Obama officials simply couldn't fathom that Kelly would have signed off on this, to the point where they said it was affecting them on a human level.

“This debate is so sad,” Tommy Vietor, a veteran of the 2008 Obama campaign who later served as a National Security Council spokesman, said on Tuesday. “People should read the speech Gen. Kelly gave at the service of two Marines who died shortly after his son did. I think that’s the tone we should use when we talk about fallen service members. We shouldn’t politicize these things.”

This is typical of Trump. For all of his so-called love of veterans (and their foolish reciprocation) he is actually quite contemptuous of the military.  They aren't taking it well:

He certainly has the right to criticize the military. We all do. Of course, he's the first to condemn anyone else for doing that for "disrespecting the troops."

But pretending that he's the only president who cares about the fallen is just ... sickening. Especially since he's the one who didn't send the letter and make the fucking call!

Trump's Folly is taking shape

by digby

Oh look, it's Congressman Steve King inspecting the prototypes for Trump's wall:

This is his baby. Until he came along nobody was talking about spending billions to build a fucking wall. He came up with it as a dumb promise at his rallies. He won and now he's doing it.

Will this intensity translate into votes?

by digby

Who knows if loathing for Trump will get people to the polls? But it's there:
Gallup asked 2,016 U.S. adults Oct. 2-5, "How supportive are you of Donald Trump on a 100-point scale where zero means you do not support anything he is doing as president and 100 means you support everything he is doing as president?" The average score among all adults is 43 -- slightly higher than Trump's 39% job approval rating for the same four days of polling.

Reflecting the generally polarized nature of U.S. politics today, a majority either dislike most of what Trump is doing (43% give a score of 20 or lower) or support almost everything he's doing (22% give a score higher than 80). About a third of Americans have relatively mixed feelings, neither strongly supporting nor opposing the Trump presidency.

Among Democratic and Republican partisans, the averages for each group fall at opposite ends of the scale:

Among Democrats, the average score is 16. Although a majority of Democrats give Trump's actions a score of 3 or lower, a quarter of Democrats score the Trump presidency a 21 or higher.

Republicans support Trump less wholeheartedly than Democrats oppose him, giving him an average score of 77. About half of Republicans (47%) give his presidency a score of 80 or lower.

Independents' average score is 40. Slightly more than a third (37%) give Trump a rating between 21 and 80.
I don't know if people will get out to vote. There is an encroaching withdrawal and malaise setting in --- there's just so much political horror people can take. But hopefully, everyone will do the one thing that requires just a small amount of effort but will make a huge difference if we all pitch in: vote.

It can be done. The Democrats tossed out the Republican congress in 2006. The Republicans turned round and did the same thing in 2010. It's never been more vital than now.

Yeah, I know. He's a liar.

by digby

When I think about the fact that Obama was burned as a heretic at the stake for telling people that they could keep their doctor ...

Who could be worse for CIA than Tom Cotton?

by digby

I wrote about the chilling rumors in DC about who might move into the CIA director's slot if Mike Pompeo is moved over to Secretary of State for Salon this morning:

It may be that it took direct, vicious attacks on the mainstream media for its practitioners to understand the catastrophe of Donald Trump and cover him both factually and, more important, truthfully. They aren't perfect, but they aren't being the lapdogs we all saw during the Bush administration and thank goodness for that. Still, they have yet to kill some stale old tropes that desperately need to be thrown overboard. One of them is this idea that there are "grownups" out there somewhere who will come rescue us from the folly of our democratic choices.

Back in 2001, the entire press corps was delirious over the ascension of George W. Bush after the years of Bill Clinton and his hippie White House. Those so-called "grownups" wreaked havoc, and the press seemed to be chagrined enough by the Bush administration's failures to let Barack Obama's quiet dignity speak for itself. But with the election of Donald Trump and his infantile bullying, this meme has returned in a big way. I wrote about this latest iteration of the "finally, the adults are back in charge" line a few months ago, and it's only become more frequent and more desperate as the administration sheds its original cast of characters in favor of what Trump refers to as "my generals." (It's like a remake of "Seven Days in May" around there these days.)

Well, it just got worse. The much-rumored upcoming departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has created lots of gossip about possible replacements, starting with UN ambassador Nikki Haley, known as "the Iran whisperer." The other possibility being discussed is CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite who drives three hours a day from Langley, Virginia, to the White House to personally deliver the president his national security briefing just the way he likes it -- short, sweet and with "killer graphics."

If Pompeo were to be moved into Tillerson's spot, that would open up the CIA job, and word is that Trump is considering Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for that position. Cotton is only 40 years old and has had one term in the House and three years in the Senate, so he seems a bit young for the job. (In fact, he's the youngest current U.S. senator.) But he's apparently enough of a grownup to join the Trump babysitters' club. Axios reported:

MSNBC and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt — who talks frequently to Cotton on and off the air, and first floated the idea of Cotton for CIA — told me that Pompeo, Cotton, SecDef Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly would be "a quartet of serious intellectuals and warriors in the 'big four' jobs." And you could add National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as a fifth.

Hewitt also said that Cotton and Trump get along well and that he and Pompeo both "like and listen to the president" and "accept his realism in foreign affairs." Trump's views on foreign affairs are not of what is called the "realist" school, nor are they actually realistic, so I'm not sure what Hewitt's referring to. But it sounds as though both men are champion Trump flatterers, which makes the president comfortable and happy.

On the substance, Cotton is a terrible choice. He comes from Arkansas, but he went to Harvard for both undergrad and law school. Then he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, before embarking on his long-planned political career. (I wrote about him back in 2015, calling him Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree.)

His one term as a congressman was unremarkable, but he flew into the Senate like a whirlwind and immediately embarrassed the entire Republican caucus by catching them all on their way out of town and getting them to sign an ill-considered letter he wrote to the Iranian government telling them that the nuclear agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on. As former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote at the time:

The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt. It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes, often with little close analysis. Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough. There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign). 
This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.

Those questions have now been answered. It has no such capacity.

Cotton is clearly an intelligent man, but his instincts are highly Trumpian. It's seems likely that he's among the advisers who pushed the president toward decertification of the Iran deal based on no evidence. As CIA director, he would have no compunction about doing whatever is necessary to "find" evidence to achieve his long-cherished goal of a war with Iran. (It wouldn't be the first time the CIA director declared a "slam dunk" in such a situation.)

According to Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Cotton's Harvard thesis reveals his philosophy:

Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive. 
“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”
On the surface, such a belief would seem to be an odd mix with the allegedly populist Donald Trump and his "alt-right" white nationalist allies, but it really isn't. Trump himself is a big believer in eugenics and Steve Bannon is looking for a few good men to lead his army into the big final battle. Tom Cotton may be just the grownup they've been looking for.

QOTD: Coach Pop

by digby

The great San Antonio Spurs coach called up Dave Zirin to speak on the record about Trump's latest atrocity:

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this president had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.”

At this point, Coach Pop paused, and I thought for a moment that perhaps he didn’t have the words and the conversation would end. Then he took a breath and said:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”
I couldn't have said it better myself.

I don't know how long we and individuals can live with this rage. But as long as I have it I know I am not insane.


I'm just a bill pill

by Tom Sullivan

The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" have exposed congressional and industry complicity in creating (and perpetuating the prescription opioid drug epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of American lives. It is another object lesson in whose interests take priority on Capitol Hill.

The "60 Minutes" report Sunday profiled whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi who once ran the Drug Enforcement Agency's Office of Diversion Control. The office is charged with preventing prescription drugs from reaching the black market. Congress came under pressure from pharmaceutical distributors after Rannazzisi's efforts to prosecute corrupt pharmacists he calls "drug dealers in lab coats" began reaching higher up the supply chain:

JOE RANNAZZISI: This was all new to us. We weren't seeing just some security violations, and a few bad orders. We were seeing hundreds of bad orders that involved millions and millions of tablets. That's when we started going after the distributors.
Industry pushers began pushing back. Rannazzisi found his prosecutions systematically slowed by superiors. "Cases his supervisors once would have easily approved, now weren't good enough," the report explains. The industry began hiring former DEA lawyers to help quash their former agency's prosecutions through lobbying and, in particular, through drafting legislation.

It's easier to slip something by when the industry's drafter knows how DEA investigations work and how to strategically circumvent them.

The Post reports:
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar.
Naturally, Congress is shocked, shocked it was duped into passing an industry-written bill that made the epidemic worse:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, says he's horrified that a bill everyone approved -- the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 -- made the epidemic worse.

"They made it and camouflaged it so well all of us were fooled. All of us. Nobody knew!" Sen. Manchin said. "There's no oversight now ... that bill has to be retracted ... has to be repealed."

The law sailed through the Senate last spring. It had the backing of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and was sponsored by members of both parties, so nobody in Congress thought to question it.
Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced a bill Monday to repeal last year's law. "60 Minutes" asks:
Who drafted the legislation that would have such a dire effect? The answer came in another internal Justice Department email released to 60 Minutes and The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act: "Linden Barber used to work for the DEA. He wrote the Marino bill."
In a not-unrelated post this morning, Paul Krugman takes on the lies used to sell the GOP tax cut plan. He writes:
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hope for tax cuts is the main thing keeping congressional Republicans in line behind Donald Trump. They know he’s unfit for office, and many worry about his mental stability. But they’ll back him as long as they think he might get those tax cuts through.

So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.
Money is speech, saith the Supreme Court. And those with the deepest pickets speak the loudest. It is commonplace to hear community activists protesting police violence to chant, "Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?" The rest of us should ask Congress the same thing. Even if the question is rhetorical.

* * * * * * * *

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kim Jong Un understands American politics very well

by digby

I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed ....

A North Korean official told CNN the regime first wants to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of going "all the way to the East coast of the mainland U.S." before engaging in diplomacy. North Korea isn't ruling out diplomacy, but it wants to maximize its leverage before coming to the bargaining table.

That's very wise of him. Any closer American cities just wouldn't be that big of a big deal, amirite? He needs the leverage of threatening the east coast where the important people are.

The Last Person You Want to See President 

by tristero

Oh, gawd.  Read the whole thing. It's long but you won't be able to tear yourself away. He's profoundly incompetent, bigoted, hateful, corrupt, weak-willed, ruthless, sycophantic, and dumber than an amoeba with cognitive issues. He's also one heartbeat away from becoming the most powerful person in the world.

Here's a taste. The combination of cruelty, stupidity, and sheer incompetence is breathtaking. And this is just one of many, many stories Mayer tells:

In 2015, Ed Clere, a Republican state legislator who chaired the House Committee on Public Health, became aware of a spike in the number of H.I.V. cases in southern Indiana. The problem appeared to be caused by the sharing of needles among opioid abusers in Scott County, which sits across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. In a place like Scott County, Clere said, “typically you’d have no cases, or maybe one a year.” Now they were getting up to twenty a week. The area was poor, and woefully unprepared for a health crisis. (Pence’s campaign against Planned Parenthood had contributed to the closure of five clinics in the region; none had performed abortions, but all had offered H.I.V. testing.) That same year, the state health commissioner called Indiana’s H.I.V. outbreak a public-health emergency. 
Clere came of age during the aids crisis, and had read Randy Shilts’s best-selling account, “And the Band Played On.” He tried to get the legislature to study the possibility of legalizing a syringe exchange, which he felt “was a matter of life and death,” and could “save lives quickly and inexpensively.” 
But conservatives blocked the idea, and Pence threatened to veto any such legislation. “With Pence, you need to look at the framework, which is abstinence,” Clere said. “It’s the same as with giving teen-agers condoms. Conservatives think it promotes the behavior, even though it’s a scientifically proven harm-reduction strategy.” In March, 2015, Clere staged a huge public hearing, in which dozens of experts and sufferers testified about the crisis. Caught flat-footed, Pence scheduled his own event, where he announced that he would pray about the syringe-exchange issue. The next day, he said that he supported allowing an exchange program as an emergency measure, but only on a temporary basis and only in Scott County, with no state funding. Clere told me that he spent “every last dime of my political capital” to get the bill through. After Scott County implemented the syringe exchange, the number of new H.I.V. cases fell. But Republican leaders later stripped Clere of his committee chairmanship, a highly unusual event. “I commend Representative Clere for the efforts to help the state deal with this,” Kevin Burke, the health officer in neighboring Clark County, told me. “But he paid a price for it.”

Oh, gawd.

Is he worse than you-know-who? Okay... there are two last people you want to see president. But that doesn't mean Pence is better.
While we're ditching norms and rules, how about the Goldwater Rule?

by digby

I don't know about you, but among all the ways the White House staff has to work overtime to deal with the unfit imbecile they work for, this is the most disturbing:
One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump; in one particularly memorable Cabinet meeting this year, each member went around the room lavishing the president with accolades.

Senior administration officials call this speaking to an “audience of one.”

That's cute. But this is how people treat a king, not a president --- a malevolent King like Joffrey from Game of Thrones.

It's hard to believe that they need to do this since Trump flatters himself 24/7 but I guess it's never enough. In fact, it's a sign of serious mental and emotional impairment:
The removal of Trump using the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the aim of a newly launched social movement composed of mental-health professionals. The group, called Duty to Warn, claims that Donald Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism that makes him incapable of carrying out his presidential duties and poses a danger to the nation.” On Saturday, the organization held coördinated kickoff events in fourteen cities, where mental-health experts spoke out about Trump’s dangerousness and, in several, took to the streets in organized funereal marches, complete with drum corps.
Dr. John Gartner, the founder of Duty to Warn, told me that the event drew nearly a thousand participants across the country. At the Washington, D.C., event, the group presented an award to Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and the sponsor of a bill that the group endorses. H.R. 1987 proposes an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity” that, under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, would serve as the congressionally appointed body for determining if the President cannot execute the powers and duties of his office owing to mental illness or deficiency.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of American voters now believe that Trump is not “fit to serve as President.” While many lay members of the public have observed Trump’s increasingly erratic and unstable behavior, commentary from mental-health experts about Trump’s mental state was slow to gather steam because of the Goldwater Rule, an ethical principle of the American Psychiatric Association that says that psychiatrists cannot express professional opinions about public figures they have not personally examined. “Because we were silenced by the Goldwater Rule, we failed to warn the public that they were heading over the Niagara Falls,” Gartner said. The Duty to Warn movement now represents an outright rebellion against the yoke of the professional norm.

As I’ve written previously, the A.P.A. adopted the Goldwater Rule after members published harsh assessments of the Republican senator Barry Goldwater’s mental fitness to be President during his 1964 election campaign; the consensus was that these were little more than political opinions dressed up as authoritative psychiatric diagnoses. Earlier this year, in response to members’ questions and discontent about the Goldwater Rule’s application with respect to Trump, the A.P.A. debated the issue and announced that not just diagnoses but any “opinion about the affect, behavior, speech, or other presentation of an individual that draws on the skills, training, expertise, and/or knowledge inherent in the practice of psychiatry” was off limits.
Whatever the motivations and fears behind the rule, a taboo has been broken. Numerous Duty to Warn participants contributed essays to a new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” which just landed on Sunday’s Times best-seller list—a sign of the public’s eagerness to know just how afraid they should be of Trump. Duty to Warn has also announced the formation of the “Twenty-fifth Amendment pac,” which will raise money for political candidates to run on the very issue of removing Trump via the Twenty-fifth Amendment. “We want to be to the Twenty-fifth Amendment what the N.R.A. is to the Second Amendment,” Gartner said. He believes that fear drives people to the polls, and “what people are most afraid of right now is Donald Trump.”

The formation of the new pac extends beyond simply advocating that psychiatrists and psychologists should be free to offer opinions on public figures. It pivots explicitly into the territory of political advocacy, organization, and activism—which is certain to remind many in the profession of the very sin that led psychiatrists to adopt the Goldwater Rule in the first place. Gartner said that Trump presents “the greatest psychiatric emergency in the history of the United States, maybe in the history of the world.” “The only psychiatric solution here is a political solution,” he said. 
The Goldwater Rule’s namesake led the delegation that was sent, in 1974, to tell President Richard Nixon, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, that he had lost support in Congress and could not avoid impeachment; Nixon resigned the next day. Many appear have given up on impeachment of President Trump for the moment. But it’s a real turning point when mental-health professionals are so willing to organize politically, break brazenly with long-standing protocol, and even risk discipline by licensing boards. After this, talk of Trump’s removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment may not seem so crazy.
Talk of Trump being no worse than any other president is what's going to keep him in office and get him re-elected.

He is a lunatic of epic proportions.

Austria. Again.

by digby

VIENNA—After a scandal-ridden three-way race in which immigration was presented as the core of almost every problem in the country, exit polls today have the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ) vying for second place behind the conservative People’s Party. The Conservatives had picked up on many of the FPÖ’s themes, but put a prettier face on it all under the leadership of 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz. He will be Austria’s next chancellor.

And the Green Party, which beat the FPÖ to the country’s less powerful position of president last year? It got hit with its lowest result since 1987.

What a comeback for the far right, which was defeated and seething less than a year ago.

To be sure, there was a dirty battle between the two centrist parties, who accused each other, among other things, of espionage. And the FPÖ’s leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, was praised for what some called a “statesmanlike” performance, even if others had a rather more radical view. (Outside a Vienna polling station Sunday one confused looking man called out “Heil Hitler, Heinz Strache,” and raised his arm in a salute.)

But one should keep one’s eye on a group of young people who have neat haircuts and university degrees, but thinly disguised xenophobic views, and played a small but important part in Sunday’s elections. They call themselves “identitarians.” To their chagrin, a domestic intelligence report from 2014 calls them right-wing extremists.

Frequently described as the European equivalent of the alt-right, they have a keen sense of publicity and know how to push people’s buttons, yet all the while they are careful to present themselves as upstanding young citizens.

“We disagree on whether the Germans should be grateful to the Soviet Union for freeing them from Fascism.”

The group’s leader, Martin Sellner, whose father is a doctor, always takes care to say “please” and “thank you.”


A Nazi Slur for ‘Fake News’ Is Now an Alt-Right Rallying Cry

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Is ‘The Lost City of Alexander the Great’ Actually His?

But even Sellner has a sinister side: The person he claims to fear most in the world is his ex-mentor, a middle aged neo-Nazi currently sitting in jail for running a hate site. And Sellner is also not allowed to own or use firearms since he shot up the subway with a pepper defense spray (intended for fighting off wild animals) after the annual “Academic Ball” in Vienna earlier this year.

Normally, the identitarians’ idea of daring is exemplified by the T-shirts they wore last year in the campaign against Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen: FCK VDB, they said. They also handed out fliers that said “not my president.”

These are the kind of camera-ready actions that draw praise from the German-speaking neo-Nazi scene. But the identitarians are desperate to distance themselves publicly from explicit violence and racism, even as they preach that migration is a threat to European “identity.”

Typically, they will “occupy” deserted border stations for the sake of publicity. But when one of their number threw an ashtray at counter-protesters at a demonstration two years ago, the others tried to hold him back. They also see themselves as part of a broader movement, having copied much of their style and some of their tactics from the Bloc Identitaire that was founded in France in 2003.

Now that some of their beloved FPÖ positions can be found replicated in the manifesto of Sebastian Kurz, there is an irony: “At this point, they know they will do more harm than good for the FPÖ,” according to Kathrin Glösel, who wrote a book, Die Identitären, about the group. “All they can hope for now is a second- or third-rank job in the Freedom Party.”

Perhaps, but the group has proved imaginative, even when it fails.

After being booed down repeatedly by counter-protesters in Vienna, they took their show to the Mediterranean last summer with the highly publicized intention of stopping rescue boats that were bringing immigrants to Europe. In the event, these nautical amateurs ended up stranded in Barcelona without money (or snacks). They were accused of smuggling. Even for the far right, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

It’s in the nature of fringe-right provocateurs that when they succeed, and their demands actually go mainstream, they may lose face. Or as Sellner broke it to his online fan base last week, “we will lose the wind in our sails.”

“Pettibone took him to visit Taco Bell and a shooting range, activities that he describes as 'typical Midwest conservative.'”

But for a wannabe intellectual like Sellner, pending domestic irrelevance isn’t a tragedy.

Before this summer, the 28-year-old had never been abroad for more than three weeks. But when Sellner returned home from Barcelona to national scorn, he didn’t wait long before booking a flight to America. He wanted to visit Brittany Pettibone, the “Pizzagate expert,” and one of the American YouTube C-listers who flew to Catalonia to film herself standing around on Sellner’s boat last summer. He tells The Daily Beast the two are dating now.

It wasn’t all romance, though.

“America has alternative news networks that we in Europe can only dream of,” Sellner told The Daily Beast, describing his trip as a “study tour.” And Sellner, who wrote on his blog that he learned “how important infowar is” and how much Europe “has to catch up,” wasn’t the only one who kept a diary. A video shot somewhere outside a ranch in the States shows him with Brittany Pettibone and Canadian Donald Trump supporter Lauren Southern, as they talk about how Europe’s identitarians are better than North Americans at “real life activism.”

“If we unite, then we will become invincible,” Sellner jokes in the video.

For Julia Ebner, a research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London and author of The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism, this is not just cringe-worthy, it is also alarming.

“We are now seeing far right groups crossing ideologies and borders for the sake of having a bigger impact,” she tells The Daily Beast. “This means that the groups will become more similar to each other—and more dangerous.”

Just ask the notorious right-wing troll Charles Johnson. Sellner’s “Defend Europe” mission would have failed even more badly if it hadn’t been for him: At first it looked like the identitarians, supported as they were by the likes of David Duke and the Daily Stormer, were not going to be able to collect money for their mission. Eights banks shut down their accounts. Paypal and Patreon both said no. But then Sellner’s group ended up on Johnson’s crowdfunding app, Wesearchr, and suddenly Sellner and his friends were up to $234,456.

Another example cited in ISD’s upcoming report, “Frinsurgency: The Impact of the Fringe,” to be released Monday, was how German-speaking right-wing extremists tried to boost the far right Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) in German elections. To develop Reconquista Germania—a right-wing extremist forum that preaches “Blitzkrieg against the old parties!”—they teamed up with meme makers who fought for Trump’s election.

Austria’s identitarians began abandoning Infokrieg, their own online community for information warfare, in favor of Reconquista Germania just one day after the AfD took 13 percent of the German vote and became the third strongest party in the Bundestag.

Over the past week, RG has been busy creating FPÖ memes (they have, innovatively, reinvented Pepe the Frog in blue and black) and memes that make fun of Christian Democrat candidate Sebastian Kurz (whom they call a “Heuchler,” or hypocrite).

Sellner advertised the RG forum on his YouTube channel in July. He told us he even invited Nikolai Alexander to record an interview with him, but Alexander declined.

Yuri Kofner, an old contact of Sellner’s, who runs a think tank in Munich which pushes the Eurasianist ideology of the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, is also a fan of Reconquista and says he has been messaging with “Alexander” as well.

“We disagree on whether the Germans should be grateful to the Soviet Union for freeing them from Fascism,” Kofner told The Daily Beast. “But these are smaller differences.”

There was a time when America’s extreme right didn’t want anything to do with German nationalists, because of, you know, World War II. But according to Sellner, all these conflicts are no longer an issue. “When patriots network,” he says, they “network without giving up their national identities.”

To give an example, Sellner cites his romantic entanglement with the 25-year-old Pettibone, who, he says, visited him in Vienna last week. He showed her “cafés and museums.” But when they were in the U.S. together, Sellner says Pettibone took him to visit Taco Bell and a shooting range, activities that he describes as “typical Midwest conservative.”

“We want to keep the best of both continents,” Sellner says.

In America, Sellner adds, sounding like a typical ever-so-slightly intimidated German-speaking exchange student, things are more “commercialist” and “high pressure” than in Europe, but basically, “I liked it a lot.”

Before they got into action stunts and fancy propaganda videos, the identitarians in Austria were represented by a man called Alexander Markovics, who is a big fan of Alexander Dugin and stars as an expert for Russia Today when the TV station covers news in Austria.

Some researchers believe that Markovics was replaced by Sellner in 2016 so he could work on contacts to the east away from the spotlight. Glösel, the author of Die Identitären, thinks Markovics was kicked out for being too long-winded, uncharismatic and camera shy.

In Austria, now as never before, the faces of the right wing and the far right are media-wise, on-message, and know all too well that cameras love them.

Trump is uniquely dangerous and stupid. And he's in office at a particularly dangerous time. This is not normal.

Disturbed and dangerous

by digby

Yeah, this isn't normal people, not even by GOP standards. I'm sorry, he is worse, far worse, than any president in our lifetimes.

A marriage made in hell

by digby

Christian Right + Alt Right = True Love

The producers of "The Handmaid's Tale" couldn't have possibly known how timely their TV version of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel would be when they first pitched it. The horrifying misogyny of Donald Trump's presidential campaign was illustrated most vividly by his responses to women coming forward with complaints about his harassment and assaults over the years in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood tape.

The shocking disclosures over the past year that Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein basically led reigns of terror at the top of the political media and entertainment world for decades brings Trump's behavior once more into sharp relief. One would assume that America's conservative Christians would be totally appalled. Instead, this past weekend, Trump became the first sitting president to attend the Family Research Council's annual gathering, the Values Voter Summit, where he received a hero's welcome.

Perhaps that's not surprising. Despite Trump's long record of immoral behavior, white conservative evangelicals are among the most fervent and loyal of his supporters. A Reuters poll last month showed more than 60 percent of white evangelicals back him, a far higher number than his overall approval rating, which hovers in the 30s. At the gathering of activists this weekend, they responded in ecstasy as Trump robotically read a speech about how he and they were unified in their love of family, liberty, the constitution, the flag and the rule of law. According to Trump, their shared values are the most important of all:

George Washington said that “religion and morality are indispensable” to America’s happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success. It is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right.
You just have to laugh.

Think Progress interviewed some of the attendees who said things like, “I love President Trump. He’s really evolved . . . he has a biblical worldview now as opposed to just a billionaire’s worldview." That's absurd, of course. He does value their votes, asking a group of religious leaders the other night, "The Christians, they know what I'm doing for them, right?"

Unlike the other big annual conservative confab, CPAC, the Values Voter Summit has generally focused on social issues. They did again this time, with Trump himself declaring victory in the war on Christmas:
You go to department stores, and they'll say, "Happy New Year" and they'll say other things. And it will be red, they'll have it painted, but they don't say it. Well, guess what? We're saying “Merry Christmas” again.
Everyone cheered madly.

Fox News radio host Todd Starnes claimed that liberals want to criminalize masculinity and described the Boy Scouts' recent (partial) decision to admit girls as "a war on boys." The NRA's Dana Loesch announced that "feminism is dead." Patriarchy has many fans in that crowd.

The Islamophobes were out in force, openly agitating for their grand theory of the clash of civilizations. Wild-eyed former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and anti-immigrant activist Brigitte Gabriel accused Muslims of everything from being rapists who have "no respect for women" to being carriers of infectious diseases. Frank Gaffney, perhaps the most paranoid anti-Muslim leader in the country, claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is working hand in hand with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

All of these are common right-wing Christian conservative battle cries, although they sounded harsher and more aggressive than usual. This year something new and disturbing was added to the mix: white nationalism. Breitbart chief and former White House strategist Steve Bannon and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka were both big-name speakers at the summit. Neither is known for his piety, to say the least.

When asked about this association with white supremacist views, the attendees either said they were comfortable with it or simply refused to accept it. The same person who said she believes Trump has a biblical worldview said, "I don’t see them as white nationalists." Another simply denied it all, saying “I’ve never heard them encourage hateful actions. I don’t attribute them to these hate groups.”

One woman knew who to blame for all this white supremacy stuff:
You know what’s emboldened neo-Nazis? Eight years of the previous regime saying "All white people are terrible and you have to pay back for what someone did 200 years ago" and stir up racial stuff.
None of these people had read the blockbuster BuzzFeed exposé about the extensive Breitbart collusion with white supremacists. Or if they had, they were fine with it.

Gorka got sustained applause for telling the audience, "The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens." He got a standing ovation at the end of his talk. He didn't talk about religion. He talked about waging war on the left.

Steve Bannon made his pitch to take over the Republican Party, exhorting the crowd to vote out everyone they've been supporting for years. He shared his unique apocalyptic worldview with a crowd that literally believes in the apocalypse -- and they loved it. Tugging on their traditional values heartstrings in a new way that speaks to their love of Donald Trump and authoritarianism, he attacked Sen. Bob Corker for mocking and ridiculing "a commander in chief when we have kids in the field," conflating Trump with the flag and the troops in a new and dangerous way. (The criticism of the anthem protests as attacks on the troops and their commander runs along similar authoritarian lines.)

Bannon told Donald Trump's white conservative Christian base that liberals are scared of them: “They fear you. And they fear you because they understand you’ve had a belly full and you’re taking your country back."

He didn't have to explain whom they were taking it back from, since everyone present knew exactly who the enemies of God-fearing Real Americans are. It's fair to say that many of them were already members of Bannon's white nationalist posse, blaming Obama for causing all these problems with the you-know-whats and letting those Muslims run rampant with their Sharia law and all. But if anyone there wasn't on board with this "alt-right," neofascist vision for America, they didn't seem disturbed by it in the least. They didn't walk out. They gave Bannon an enthusiastic ovation.

The marriage of the Christian right and authoritarian white nationalism looks like a match made in heaven -- or perhaps in the other place, depending on your perspective. "The Handmaid's Tale" seems less and less implausible every day.

Thanks for the live tweeting by Adele Stan and Right Wing Watch throughout the weekend for many of the details included in this piece.

"Real men go to Tehran"

by digby

Those who followed the craziness of the lead up to the Iraq war will recall that among the neocons, it was an article of faith that Iraq was kind of a wimps choice for a big Middle East war that would Change Everything. Real men wanted to invade Iran.

Apparently, the dream has never died and a new generation of warmongers has taken up the cause, led by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas (the man who wrote the ridiculous letter slamming the Iran deal that embarrassed the entire GOP caucus who failed to read it before signing.)

Cotton‘s recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations is of special significance here, as The Washington Post has reported that his address seemed “to preview the main elements of the administration’s plan” for dealing with Iran, starting with decertifying the JCPOA. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, approvingly tweetedthat Cotton’s speech showed “clear understanding of the Iranian regime and flaws in the nuclear deal.”

If one reads the speech closely, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Cotton’s actual goal is not attaining a better nuclear deal, but rather confronting Iran militarily and achieving regime change. Several passages in the speech clearly telegraph this objective, as do Cotton’s prior statements. The senator also so grossly misrepresents the JCPOA that one has to question whether he is more interested in improving the agreement or destroying it. Finally, Cotton’s own arguments contradict the notion that he seeks a better deal and instead imply that military force or regime change are the only viable options. Put simply: Cotton’s advocacy for a better nuclear agreement is a smokescreen for his true objective, which is putting the United States and Iran back on a path towards war.

Overtly Pushing Regime Change

Cotton frames the speech as offering a prudent strategy for improving the deal and pushing back on Tehran’s aggressive regional behavior. Yet it is obvious at several points that regime change is the senator’s deeper goal. Early on in the address, Cotton argues, “The threat is not the nature of Iran’s weapons; it’s the nature of Iran’s regime.” This is an explicit declaration that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is not the primary issue, and that the Iranian threat can only be fully addressed through regime change, not through technical arms control arrangements.

Cotton’s desire for regime change is further illustrated by his critique of the Obama administration’s decision to ease sanctions pressure in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program. As he puts it, 
the multilateral sanctions were the toughest sanctions Iran had ever faced, and they helped to drive the regime to its knees. One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees, you drive him to the ground and choke him out. But President Obama extended a hand and helped the ayatollahs up.

The macabre wording clearly implies that Cotton believes the Obama administration should have “choked out” the Iranian regime by keeping the sanctions in place, rather than using the promise of sanctions relief as a carrot to negotiate limits to Iran’s nuclear program.

If you doubt this analysis of Cotton’s speech, you can take his own word for it. Earlier this year, he stated flatly, “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” adding, “I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism.” read on ...
Nikki Haley is reportedly on board with this too, pushing Trump to keep his hawkish posture. They're calling her his "Iran whisperer." 

Trump wants a war, there's no doubt in my mind. The only question is where he's going to have it. The dynamic duo of Nikki and Tom seem to be pushing him to this one. It worked out so well the last time why not try it again?



The monopolyplace of ideas

by Tom Sullivan

George Lakoff's simplifying assumption for explaining people's political persuasions was based on whether their "strict father" (conservative) or "nurturant parent" (liberal) cognitive frame for rearing children was more dominant. If you'd rather not wade through 450 pages to better understand the conservative model, Shel Siverstein, the children's book writer, reduced it to two lines in his song, "A Boy Named Sue":

"Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
That's even simpler.

Johnny Cash made it famous, singing, "It's the name that helped to make you strong." Not a good father. Not a good husband. Not a good citizen. Certainly not a good president. But strong, you know? Which is why ours is not about to be outgunned by any of his predecessors.

As for strategy, liberals give their conservative counterparts too much credit. It's simple, too. At the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Steve Bannon announced he is going to war against the Republican Party. (He'll settle scores with the left later.) The Hill reports Bannon boasted his former boss, the sitting president, will "'win with 400 electoral votes in 2020,' following reports that he had lost faith in the president's ability to complete his current term."

Which is to say, as does Hullabaloo alum David Atkins, that "it’s all bluster and no real strategy." At least for the front men. The billionaire backers and the remaining sane-ish Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have a semblance of strategy. But what passes for strategy is, as Silverstein described so colorfully, simply alpha-dog behavior behind a half Windsor knot.

Which is to say, there is often less than meets the eye to the chest-thumping and Value Voters Summits and competing in "the marketplace of ideas" rhetoric. What matters is not values or the Constitution. What matters is dominance, and whose dog and whose religion is in charge.

“We tried nice guys,” Value Voters Summit attendee Pat Flynn of Catholics for Freedom of Religion told the Guardian. “We had John McCain. Mitt Romney. They were nice, smiling at everybody, but they couldn’t beat out Hillary." What values voters value isn't values. It is to crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women. (2 Chronicles 17:35)

So there was, naturally, much bashing of “creepy little scribblers” from the press who expose such values to sunlight. (Like Adele Stan.) The press recording and accurately reporting what people do and say at such events is, of course, a longstanding gripe the right has against a free press.

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it,” said the man who pledged January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. (And who seems not to have read the 25th Amendment before Steve Bannon mentioned it sometime later.)

The Baltimore Sun, after quoting from the Constitution about the government not "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," had a more to teach him Sunday about its origins:
How the heck did that get in there, you may ask? It turns out that even with these pesky limitations on federal power, some people at the time feared that the Constitution would give the national government too much authority. So these anti-federalists insisted on specific protections for the rights of individuals against possibly tyrannical government actions like cruel and unusual punishment, seizure of property and forced self-incrimination. (There’s another one in there about the right to keep and bear arms that we’re pretty sure you’re familiar with, Mr. President.)

But surely the author of that amendment didn’t intend it to protect the press from saying mean things about the president, did he? Um, actually, yeah. It turns out that’s exactly what James Madison thought the First Amendment means, as evidenced by his opposition to the Sedition Act that was passed during the John Adams administration to insulate the president and his allies from criticism.

It set out criminal penalties for those who published “any false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with an intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either, or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States.” And to be clear, the Adamsites had a pretty broad definition of “false” to include anything they didn’t like; they thought everything was “fake news,” too.
Just in case in addition to the 25th Amendment the 45th president was unaware of the Sedition Act.

Silencing critics, if not successfully drowning them out, has been a long-term goal behind the growth of conservative media organs such as Bannon's Breitbart News. The Columbia Journalism Review considers what happens if the conservative project succeeds:
IT DOESN’T REQUIRE AN OVERLY ACTIVE IMAGINATION to picture the post-apocalyptic news landscape that so many conservatives seem to be working toward. Media fragmentation accelerates to warp speed. Agenda-driven publishers—be they professionally staffed websites or one-man YouTube channels—churn out narrowly tailored news for increasingly niche audiences. There’s still plenty of factual reporting to turn to when you want hurricane updates or celebrity news, and adversarial investigative journalism doesn’t quite go out of style. But it’s easier than ever for news consumers to ensconce themselves in hermetically sealed information bubbles and ignore revelations that challenge their worldviews. For most people, “news” ceases to function as a means of enlightenment, and becomes fodder for vitriolic political debates that play out endlessly on social media. (Like I said, it’s not hard to imagine.) Inevitably, the rich and powerful—those who can afford to buy and bankroll their own personal Pravdas—benefit most in this brave new world.
Reducing the press to rival outlets with the loudest, most dominant able to define reality to suit them is what the billionaire backers of conservative media are hoping for—not competing in a marketplace of ideas, but monopolizing it. It's not Orwell, but an oligarchs's version of Orwell. There is no principled allegiance to truth. There are no values to fight for. That's for the rubes. There's just dominating:
The concept of an obstinately objective press has been under assault in America for some time now, of course, and not just from the right. Critics like NYU’s Jay Rosen argue persuasively that news outlets do a disservice to their audiences when they coat their journalism in a sheen of artificial neutrality. Better to aim for transparency, the argument goes—to be honest about where you’re coming from, and to then strive for fairness and open-minded engagement. But there is a considerable difference between the proponents of this theory and those who cynically celebrate the “weaponization of information” and the rise of “alternative facts.”

The so-called marketplace of ideas only works when reality serves as a regulating force. For constructive debates to take place in a society like ours—and for national consensus to emerge on any given question—it’s essential we start from a broadly agreed-upon set of basic facts. Who will provide them if the mainstream media collapses into a melee of warring partisan publications?
Inevitably, the rich and powerful—those who can afford to buy and bankroll their own personal Pravdas. See above.

* * * * * * * *

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

It's Now RepubliCare 

by tristero

Republicans now own healthcare in the US. Not Trump. Republicans.

And healthcare in the US is atrocious. So if Democrats are smart, they will call it RepubliCare and vigorously dispute any attempt to label the present catastrophe by the names for healthcare legislation tossed out during the previous administration.

Democrats need make sure that every single American knows that Republicans are now fully and entirely to blame for this country's awful health care system. And they should never let the American people forget it.

The evil clown thing

by digby

Read more »
"Give me what I want or the planet gets it"

by digby

During the campaign, Josh Marshall astutely named the Trump phenomenon "dominance politics" which I think is a really accurate way of looking at what drives him and his supporters. He had some thoughts about the recent moves by Trump:

This morning President Trump tweeted out: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

This is almost word for word the kind of chilling message a hostage taker sends. I’ve got your kids. You need to call me.

Why is Trump doing this? That’s a question I want to address on a broader canvas below. But why is he taking this particular step? Part of it is dominance. The desire to act, dominate, destroy. There’s the need to produce something for his most ardent supporters. But the biggest drive is what is contained in this tweet. To force Democrats hands by using Obamacare beneficiaries as hostages.

“Dems should call me to fix!”

Setting aside any moral calculus, this is folly in political terms. A lot of Senate Republicans get this. This hurts millions of Americans. But Trump is doing the damage in plain daylight. He’s shooting himself without even realizing it. If the ‘deal’ Trump wanted was one that helped people, Democrats might face a dilemma over whether to follow their political advantage or making good policy. (Actually they faced this question and chose policy – that was the bipartisan stabilization legislation that was being negotiated before it was torpedoed by Graham-Cassidy.) But there’s no conflict. For Democrats politics and policy line up entirely.

So again, why is Trump doing this?

The underlying driver here is Trump’s transactional, bullying way of approaching business which he brought from his predatory business to the White House. I don’t think you can understand what’s happening here except through that prism. For Trump, Democrats own Obamacare. It’s theirs. If he breaks it, it’s still theirs. It’s all on them. The “Obamacare” brand is the entirety of it. The more he breaks it, the more they need him to fix it. It’s like if the Democrats owned a building or a company. They more he damaged it, the more they’d need him to stop. This is a logic Trump understands. It’s his native environment. This is an organized crime mentality, one he used again and again in his private business. But that’s not how big social programs like this work.

Legislation and governance is fundamentally about people. That’s not just lofty rhetoric. The consequences of government play out in elections. Trump doesn’t get that. A lot of Republican Senators do.

But let’s draw back for a moment. President Trump signed his executive order on cross-state insurance policies yesterday. He just cut off CSR funding. He’s about the decertify the Iran nuclear deal. Each action is consistent with the campaign he ran in 2016. But they’re coming in a rush. Why now? Each move has some contingent logic. But I suspect the big driver is that rising pressures on the President are leading him to act out. And the acting out is escalating. As I wrote a year and a half ago, beyond the policy specifics and verbiage, Trump’s politics is about dominance and destruction. It’s a drive deep in him and one that he shares – albeit with very different life experiences – with his core political supporters. That’s the bond.

Most of us have seen this raft of articles talking about rising pressure in the White House, that the President is coming apart, angry, isolated. I’m skeptical of these reports, to the extent they suggest he’s about to blow apart or lose it entirely. But he does seem increasingly erratic, impulsive. He’s under pressure because he feels like he’s losing. For Trump these policies and policy moves are not just about politics. They are characterological. The more pressure rises, the more he feels besieged, the more he’ll take unilateral actions to assert himself, to balance himself.

I don't know how much he's cracking up but I suspect it may be more than Marshall thinks. Still the man has a sort of feral instinct taht got him where he is today and part of that is to throw tantrums until people give him what he wants. In a way, that's what he's doing now. He's saying, "if you call me a fucking moron and write stories about how I'm losing my mind, I'm going to fuck over Puerto Rico and deny health care to sick people. And if you don't get the message, I might just start a nuclear war. How do like them apples?"

He's holding the world hostage with this crazy, domineering behavior. So far, nobody seems to be willing or able to stop him.


Existential dread

by digby

The right finds this hilarious. They think the economy is "Trump strong" and well, that's it. 

I'm with Krugman. I find this era just terrifying. I hope we're both just being paranoid. 


Sure, this is fine

by digby

This guy was in the White House until a month ago.

He's an actual, real-life Nazi.

"Nobody has respect for women like me!"

by digby

I was wondering when somebody in the press was going to inquire about this case. It seems like it might just be relevant considering that the right wing media is wallowing in ecstasy over Weinstein:

A high-stakes legal showdown is brewing for President Donald Trump, as a woman who said he groped her has subpoenaed all documents from his campaign pertaining to “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”

The previously unreported subpoena was issued in March but entered into the court file last month. The White House did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Trump’s attorney.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, accused Trump of kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization. After Zervos made the accusation last October, just weeks before the election, Trump denied her accusation and called it a lie.

She responded by suing him for defamation. As part of that suit, her lawyers served a subpoena on his campaign, asking that it preserve all documents it had about her.

They also asked for “all documents” concerning other women who have accused Trump of groping them, including Jessica Leeds, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Temple Taggart, Kristin Anderson, Cathy Heller, Jill Harth, and Jessica Drake. The subpoena seeks “all documents concerning any accusations that were made during Donald J. Trump’s election campaign for president, that he subjected any woman to unwanted sexual touching and/or sexually inappropriate behavior.” Last year, Trump tweeted a blanket denial, saying, “Nothing ever happened with any of these women.”

The subpoena did not make its way into the court file until last month, when Zervos’ attorneys, including the high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred, filed it as part of motion disputing a contention from Trump’s legal team that her subpoena was too broad.

Trump's lawyers have sought to have the suit dismissed or at least delayed until he is out of office. His lawyers argued that he is protected from civil lawsuits in state court while in office. They also made a number of other claims in a July filing, among them that the entire suit is politically motivated and that Allred is using it to dredge up ammunition to impeach him. As for the subpoena, they argued that it is "far reaching" and "seeks wholly irrelevant information intended solely to harass the president."

Last month, Zervos’s attorneys rejected that accusation and provided the subpoena as evidence.

Trump’s response to Zervos’ motion is due Oct. 31, according to Zervos’ attorney, Gloria Allred. In a statement Allred said: “We are hopeful that the court will deny President Trump’s motion to dismiss, so that we may move forward with discovery and obtain relevant documents and testimony.”

One suspects that the Supreme Court ruling which allowed Paula Jones' attorneys to move forward with her suit against Clinton will be found to be a one time deal only applicable to Democrats. That seems to be the way these things work nowadays. Still, the press should at least be asking these questions. Harvey Weinstein is a movie producer who probably no more than 10 percent of the population had ever heard of until the last couple of weeks much less was ever elected to anything. 63 million people knowingly put a man in the White House who is on tape bragging that he did exactly the same thing.

I would have thought it natural to revisit that issue, check up on some of the women who bravely came forward to tell their stories about the man who was about to become the most powerful man in the world.  They're wondering about this too:
For all the women who have cheered as accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein force a public conversation about sexual misconduct, one small group of women has watched with frustration. They are some of the dozen women who publicly accused Donald Trump of groping or kissing them — accusations that Trump has denied.

In a sharp contrast to the women who accused Weinstein, Trump’s accusers did not see the public turn against him, the board of his company fire him, or the police launch an investigation. Instead, these women watched the man they say humiliated and abused them get elected president of the United States.

“When he won, I felt like I lost,” said Melinda McGillivray, a Palm Springs resident who came forward in October of last year to accuse Trump of groping her in 2003. She said she was assisting a photographer at a party at Mar-A-Lago when Trump came up and “grabbed my ass.” The photographer who was with her at the event, a Ray Charles concert, confirmed to the Palm Beach Post that she reported the alleged incident to him at the time.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this story. But last year, as women were continuing to come forward, Trump tweeted a blanket denial: “Nothing ever happened with any of these women. Totally made up nonsense to steal the election. Nobody has more respect for women than me!”