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Tuesday, January 23, 2018


We never have to listen to their moralizing again

by digby

They are over.

Evangelical leader Tony Perkins in a new interview said President Trump got a "mulligan" on his past behavior, adding that the president is providing the leadership the country needs.

“We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins, the Family Research Council president, told Politico's "Off Message" podcast.

Perkins said evangelical Christians were "tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists."

"And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully," he said.

He added that Christianity is not "all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on."

This is what passes for principles and morality by the Christian Right today. They just want a fascist leader to punch out people who don't agree with them.

I've been watching right wingers on TV all day saying that Trump sleeping with porn stars and grabbing women by the pussy is no big deal because Donald Trump is a different man than he was five years ago. Some say that Christian conservatives and "family values" zealots may have lost a little moral authority and they take the measure of each man and decide on a case by case basis if they are worthy of condemnation.

In other words, it's all ok if you are a Republican.

Surely that is what Jesus would do.



"She shouldn't have been allowed to run!"

by digby

So, Vladimir Putin declared that his main rival for re-election will not be allowed to run due to a trumped up crime from years ago. Now, his fellow autocrat Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt has done the same thing:

Egyptian authorities have arrested a retired general after denying him permission to run in presidential elections in March.

Sami Anan was the last challenger seen as a potential threat to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, himself a former military chief, whose re-election is considered almost certain.

The arrest of Anan, a former member of Egypt’s supreme military council for armed forces (Scaf), appears to be a calculated move to push him out of the race. Earlier a declaration by the military accused him of election violations and said he would be “summoned for interrogation in front of specialised personnel”.

Mahmoud Refaat, a spokesman for Anan’s campaign abroad, said: “I hold the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi entirely responsible for his wellbeing. Yesterday 30 members of campaign were also arrested as well as some of their family members. It’s not known where any of them are being held.”

Anan is the second former high-ranking official to be prevented from running against Sisi, who declared he would run for a second term late last week.

Here's how our president views such authoritarian shennanigans:

TRUMP: So I talk about the corrupt media. I talk about the millions of people — tell you one other thing. She shouldn’t be allowed to run. It’s crooked — she’s — she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run.

And just in that respect, I say it’s rigged, because she should never…


TRUMP: Chris, she should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.

That was in a presidential debate in October 2016. He said that in front of the entire country. He said it dozens on times on the campaign trail. And he won. Nobody even commented on it. People cheered him lustily.

She isn't going to run against him in 2020. And he's still trying to have her thrown in jail just as a big piece of meat to throw to his slavering base to distract them from his own problems.

But who knows what a budding, lunatic tyrant and a newly purged Justice Department might want to do in advance of the next election?



Trump and his "mirror dominance"

by digby

My Salon piece today is about Trump and his little dog Stephen Miller:

Surprising absolutely no one, after a weekend of negotiations that went nowhere the Senate voted to kick the DACA can down the road for another three weeks and the government reopened on Tuesday morning. Supposedly, a bipartisan gang of 30 senators have Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's assurance that they'll get an up or down vote on the issue. History says, however, that Mitch will do what he needs to do. At this point, nobody is exactly sure what that is, not even Mitch.

The shortness of the shutdown was actually a testament to the extent of the impasse. The Republican congressional "leadership" and the few remaining GOP moderates are submissive to the dominatrixes of the hard right who demand total obedience. The only way they were going to get a DACA deal in this round was if the president took charge and brought his followers along. But according to the New York Times, Trump preferred to let his loyal lieutenants stonewall while he sat in front of the TV and "watched old TV clips of him berating President Barack Obama for a lack of leadership during the 2013 government shutdown."

As I wrote on Monday, Trump wants to deport undocumented immigrants. He campaigned for a year on the promise to mass-deport all 11 million of them, including the Dreamers and American-born children, within two years. His crowds screamed in ecstasy when said it. So the idea that he was going to be the voice of reason on the issue, despite his occasional foray into shallow sentimentality about "kids" and "love," was always far-fetched. He is as viscerally xenophobic as Stephen Miller, his top immigration lieutenant

Nonetheless, some people, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. would have the public believe that Miller mesmerized Trump into going against his better nature, ensuring negotiations would break down by constantly demanding more. But as this article in the Washington Post explains, contrary to popular myth, Miller wasn't making the president do anything he didn't already want to do. He was just helping Trump achieve his stated goals:

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Trump has hawkish immigration views on a gut level but doesn’t necessarily understand all of the policy details and implications. He said Miller and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — who also plays a crucial role in immigration policy — are “not so much yanking the president’s leash” as doing “the proper job of staff” by steering the president to his goals.

The article profiles Miller as an especially shrewd inside operator in Trump's White House, someone who has figured out how to both flatter and cajole the needy, insecure president while also helping him fulfill the central domestic promise of his campaign: stopping immigrants from nonwhite and non-Christian nations from entering the country, and deporting as many of them that are already here as possible. Miller knows that Trump wants to appear to be big-hearted and also that he focuses his decision-making on whom he can blame when things go wrong. So Miller has worked hard to make sure that Democrats will be blamed for any decision that hurts a sympathetic group like the Dreamers. He's loyal to Trump even at the expense of his previous mentor, Jeff Sessions. He's a facilitator and strategist who serves a man he believes in.

Miller is also a total jerk, which is yet another reason that Trump likes him so much. In this fascinating Los Angeles Times op-ed, Virginia Heffernan discusses the strange phenomenon of people around Trump taking on his own obnoxious personality traits. She notes that New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who covers the White House, tweeted: "Three Trump advisors have commented privately at various points that people around him/close to him begin to act like him." Heffernan also observes that even foreign leaders like Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have taken to communicating in childish, Trump-like rants. And she makes a connection I haven't seen anyone make before:

Trump almost certainly counts the rhetorical subordination of these men as a win. After all, he devised his interpersonal strategies in the 1970s, when mentally dominating others was considered a fine art. The manual for "corporate warfare" in those days was "Power!" by Michael Korda, who ran in Trump's circles.

Korda advised aspirants to power to encroach on other people's space, keep them waiting on the phone, and force them to mirror you. The mirror tip sticks out: Evidently you can crush your enemies if you can force them to adopt your expressions, intonations, rhythms, gestures. Trump seems to have taken tips like these seriously ...
I have no idea whether Trump actually read Korda's book. But it was very much in vogue during his formative years as a New York celebrity entrepreneur and it's exactly the type of thing he would find appealing. As the editor in chief of Simon & Schuster and scion of a famous Hollywood family, Korda was a New York icon at the time and surely someone Trump would have seen as a role model.

The problem is that "Power!" was a satire of office politics (to be fair, Trump wouldn't have been the only one who failed to see that.) It would hardly be surprising if Trump modeled his "leadership" style on such silliness. It was surely written with men such as him in mind.

Heffernan's observation about "mirroring" as one of Trump's key tricks applies perfectly to Stephen Miller. Trump certainly appreciates Miller's hardline immigration stance, but it's his temperament he loves. According to the Washington Post, the president was thrilled that Miller got up in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's face when others would not. And Trump loved Miller's recent combative appearance with CNN's Jake Tapper, even tweeting out a big "attaboy" to his millions of followers.

Miller isn't pulling Trump's strings. Nor is he obsequiously flattering him like a loyal servant, à la Lindsey Graham, which Trump likes but doesn't respect. Miller is "mirroring" Trump, which to the president is the best sign of respectful submission. The people in the Trump orbit who figure that out will be the ones with the most influence. The only person Trump will ever trust is someone who reminds him of himself.

The majority isn't silent. But you'd never know it.
by digby

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars caught this smart comment by Rebecca Traister on All In with Chris Hayes last night:

New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister, in a discussion with Chris Hayes and organizer Linda Sarsour, asked why the women's marches got so little media coverage.

"What do you want me to tell the crazy women talking about justice? They ignored us again but they will not ignore us at the ballot box," Sarsour said.

"This is right. This is symptomatic, the marches and the activism is not taken seriously. Why?" Traister asked.

"They are women's marches. We know last year single biggest one-day demonstration in this country's history, we heard how afterwards, it was okay but just a march, it's performance, fun, people get together and wear their cute hats, whatever. No one seems to have connected, still, a year later when there is a spontaneous demonstration almost the same size in some places like Chicago, bigger, without a centralized organization drawing everybody.

"I didn't know about the marches," she said. "I write about women and politics. I didn't know there would be women's marches until January and they were massive. They don't just have cute marches with the hats with the fact it's women clogging congressional phone lines and doing town halls, who have been organizing on the grassroots activist level around state and local office races around the country who have been winning in New Jersey, in Virginia and who are running in unprecedented numbers for the House, for the Senate and primarying Democrats from the left.

"And apparently, the media's failure to take this seriously as a political movement and not as some social weekend thing that women do once a year, has led Senate Democrats to think it's not a serious political movement," she said.

Later in the show, she compared them with the endless coverage sparked by the much smaller Tea Party and how the media helped make them a political force.

Helaine Olen wrote about the same thing for the Plumline:

This Saturday was the second annual Women’s March. You might remember it. Perhaps you read a news story about it.

Or maybe, perchance, you even attended one. Lots of people did! In Los Angeles, an estimated 500,000 people took to the streets, and in Chicago, 300,000. New York City claimed 200,000. Even red states saw decent-size turnouts. Nashville saw 15,000 and Omaha 8,000.

But after the initial flurry of media attention — crickets. According to an analysis by Media Matters for America, the Sunday morning news shows all but ignored the mass event. “Meet the Press” granted the subject a mere 20-second exchange — and the NBC show was the most generous of the lot.

While it’s common sense to observe that the government shutdown is taking up some of our oxygen, the lack of attention also demonstrates how even with the #MeToo movement, it is ingrained to treat the concerns of women as secondary to, well, bigger things that are deemed more serious. And when opposition to the Trump administration and the Republican Party is framed as a women’s issue, it receives less attention than it should.

I reached out to McDermott to expand on his Twitter comment. He told me he attributed the lack of attention to the Women’s March in part to the media’s conviction, in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 victory, that journalists missed the initial surge of populist rage that led to Trump’s victory and are attempting, as he put it, “to course correct,” by diverting media attention to Trump’s angry male supporters. At the same time, he added, the media often prioritizes the issues of concerns of white males. The result?

“There is not coverage of the actual movement building on the left, which is arguably by any measure the greatest political movement we’ve seen in decades in this country,” he said.

It’s hard to disagree.

By all objective standards, the rage of many women against Trump has been big news since the 2017 march, which took almost everyone — including organizers — by surprise.

It set off a never-before-seen wave of women running for office. According to Rebecca Traister, 439 women have announced plans to run for Congress this year, marking an all-time record. The #MeToo movement also owes some of its resonance to the waves of women organizing, registering to vote and making their anger heard.

It’s hard not to compare the attention — and lack thereof — to the Women’s March against the attention given to the tea party, the movement that seemingly garnered all-but-nonstop coverage from the moment it began as a rant by CNBC personality Rick Santelli. Soon enough, there was enormous amount of media attention devoted to tea party rallies and the protesters’ concerns. In 2011, after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, CNN not only aired the official Republican response, it also gave time to then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who delivered a tea party response.

Make no mistake — the attention was deserved. Tea party members made major electoral gains, and the tea party is still an influence in our politics.

But the Women’s March and the resistance that engendered it are also having a huge impact on American politics. We saw that impact in the November 2017 elections, in which a surge of female support led to huge Democratic gains in Virginia. We also saw it in Alabama, where it was African American woman who helped Democrat Doug Jones win election to the Senate instead of Republican Roy Moore.

The Tea Party was treated as an exciting new revolutionary force in American politics by the media despite much smaller numbers. Of course the coverage was rewarded by the right which had successfully trolled the media as Obama lapdogs during the 2008 election making the press anxious to prove they were fair and balanced. And once the Tea Party was launched it was heavily financed by big Republican money which got behind candidates early.

Still, it's depressing that the media doesn't seem to care much that millions of people have taken to the streets to protest Trump and his policies two years running. And it's even more depressing that they are consistently failing to cover the Resistance as it organizes across the country to unseat Republicans in the upcoming election.

Luckily, the majority of people taking to the streets are women who are used to doing all the work and getting no credit. They will persist and they will get the job done anyway. But every time I read yet another long article taking the temperature of the most interesting people in the world --- the Trump voter (aka the Tea Party)---it makes my blood boil a little bit more.



Do you feel safer?

by digby

I don't know if pollsters ever asked this question of previous presidents but if they didn't, that says something too:

Unsurprisingly, views about Trump’s mental fitness are closely tied to concern about his decisions on using nuclear weapons. When asked about Trump’s description of himself as a “very stable genius,” 48 percent said Trump is mentally stable, while 47 percent said he is not. Eighty-four percent of those who say Trump is not mentally stable are at least somewhat concerned that Trump might launch a nuclear attack without justification, while 72 percent of those who say Trump is stable trust him to handle nuclear weapons.

On New Year’s Day, North Korea’s leader warned that “a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.” The next day, Trump tweeted that “I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my button works.”

It's important to note that the very stable genius was watching Fox and got all riled up when he tweeted that.


“What — Me Angry?"

by Tom Sullivan

Senate Democrats voted with Republicans yesterday to end the government shutdown and fund the federal government for three more weeks. They seemed to have secured nothing on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) reform besides a promise to look into it. Senate Democrats were already feeling pressure to cave, the Washington Post reports, and if the standoff was a test of nerves, they lost theirs:

With the shutdown heading into its third day, they were feeling the heat and finding it hard to control the messaging war. Voters in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were getting Republican robo-calls saying Democrats had “prioritized illegal immigrants over American citizens.”

So the Democrats decided to take a deal they had turned down only the night before — a less-than-airtight assurance by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that “it would be my intention” to consider legislation that would address those immigrants in the coming weeks, but only if the government were reopened.
A McConnell promise is one you can take to the political graveyard. Jim Newell observes at Slate that McConnell has yet to make good on assurances he made to Republicans Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake for their votes on tax reform. Why would Senate Democrats expect any better? Not to mention how pissed off the Democrats' base is already, a factor that still seems to elude the Democratic leadership:
“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats—led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats—is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement. “These weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018.”

“A lot of Democrats are channeling their inner Marco Rubio today,” tweeted MoveOn Washington Director Ben Wikler, referring to the oft-caving Florida senator. Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, called it a “betrayal.” CREDO labeled Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “the worst negotiator in Washington—even worse than Trump.”
On All In last night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes challenged Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters for voting to reopen the government on McConnell's assurances that there would be a DACA fix. “It’s never going get a vote in the House unless the president puts pressure on Paul Ryan. So [Donald Trump] is just going roll you again in three weeks,” Hayes said.

Even more striking was the appearance last night by Women's March organizer Linda Sarsour and New York magazine's Rebecca Traister. Both were on fire, Sarsour told Hayes:
We were standing up for Dreamers. We were standing up for our undocumented families ... We are outraged that millions of people went out into the streets in support of Dreamers and Senate Democrats chose to vote against Dreamers in this [continuing resolution] bill ... They will not ignore us at the ballot box.
Traister concurred that women and the growing activism of the Democratic base is not being taken seriously by Democrats in leadership:
And they don't connect these marches — just these cute marches with the hats — with the fact that it's women who have been clogging Congressional phone lines, who have been doing the town halls, who have been organizing on the grassroots, activist level around state and local office races around the country, who have been winning in New Jersey, in Virginia, and who are running in unprecedented numbers for the House, the Senate, and they are primarying Democrats from the left.
Somebody is "woke," but it's not elected Democrats.

* * * * * * * *

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

Big mistake Mikey
by digby

Everybody lies to poor Mike Pence who is always in the room but never knows nothin' about nothin'. This is something he really, really doesn't want to step into:
Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that porn star Stormy Daniels’ sordid account of a sex romp with President Trump in 2006 was “baseless.”

The denial by Pence was the first time the devout Indiana Republican had addressed the allegations brought by the star of “Sex Door Neighbors” and “When the Boyz Are Away the Girlz Will Play 7.”

He spoke to The Associated Press during a visit to Jerusalem, saying he was "not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the President."

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's personal lawyer brokered a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016 to prohibit her from publicly discussing the alleged affair before the presidential election.
Stormy's prepared if necessary to challenge such statements:
"I can definitely describe his junk perfectly, if I ever have to."
Calling her claims "baseless" could end up with her having to do that as part of some legal case. Please, for the love of all that's holy, please don't let anyone say or do anything to make that happen. No, no, no.


He likes to watch TV

by digby

The President largely experiences his own presidency via TV coverage. I don’t know how to convey the insanity of this - Trump is the star in a TV show about himself that he watches all day long.

--- Brendan Nyhan

I wonder if he found time to watch the CNN special on The Russia investigation over the week-end ...

Today's FFS: Ivanka is leading the search to replace President Kelly

by digby

Via Gabriel Sherman, Trumpie's pissed over Kelly's comments to Fox News about him "evolving" on the wall. So he's got Ivanka looking for a replacement.

Trump’s anger at Kelly’s immigration comments is the latest flare-up in a relationship that has been deteriorating for months. A four-star marine general, Kelly was never going to be an easy fit in a West Wing with a Lord of the Flies office culture. Staffers have bristled at Kelly’s rectitude, nicknaming him “the Church Lady,” a former official said.

Trump has increasingly been chafing at the media narrative that he needs Kelly to instill discipline on his freewheeling management style. “The more Kelly plays up that he’s being the adult in the room—that it’s basically combat duty and he’s serving the country—that kind of thing drives Trump nuts,” a Republican close to the White House said. In recent days, Trump has fumed to friends that Kelly acts like he’s running the government while Trump tweets and watches television. “I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things,” Trump told one friend, according to a Republican briefed on the call. A second source confirmed that Trump has vented about Kelly, mentioning one call in which Trump said, “This guy thinks he’s running the show.” (A White House official said “it’s categorically false that Trump is unhappy with Kelly. “He’s only ever referred to him as the general, tough, can be rough, and commands respect.)

Kelly, in turn, has expressed frustration with Trump’s freewheeling management style and habit of making offensive statements. In August, when Trump incited outrage with his Charlottesville comments, Kelly complained to a colleague that he was “holding it together.” The next month, cameras captured Kelly’s infamous facepalm at Trump’s U.N. speech when Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” The New York Times reported that Kelly has threatened to quit numerous times.

Same old shit.

But this is truly delusional:

Trump, for his part, is frustrated that he’s not getting more credit for positive news like the booming stock market and low unemployment numbers. In recent days, he told a longtime friend that the national polls, which put his approval numbers in the low 30s, are under-representing the real number. Trump insisted his approval rating is in the high 50s. The friend challenged him, but Trump didn’t want to hear it. He soon ended the call.

He believes his approval numbers are in the high 50s.

Our president lives in his own world.



"Very nice and very humane" mass deportation

by digby

I wrote this in October of 2015. Trump couldn't have been clearer about what he wants:

Last week he even explicitly went back to the 1950s and evoked the Eisenhower era program "Operation Wetback," which he characterized on "60 Minutes" as "very nice and very humane." (It wasn't.) He said “Did you like Eisenhower? Did you like Dwight Eisenhower as a president at all? He did this. He did this in the 1950s with over a million people, and a lot of people don’t know that…and it worked.”

He elaborated at his rallies later in the week:

"You know, Dwight Eisenhower was a wonderful general, and a respected President - and he moved a million people out of the country, nobody said anything about it. When Trump does it, it’s like ‘whoa.' When Eisenhower does it, 'well that was Eisenhower, he’s allowed to do it, we can’t do it.'

That was also in the '50s, remember that. Different time, remember that.

That’s when we had a country. That’s when we had borders; you know, without borders you don’t have a country, essentially. We don’t have a country. Without borders, you just don’t have it.

But Dwight Eisenhower, this big report, they used to take them out and put them on the other side of the border and say, 'you have to stay here.' And they’d come right back, and they’d do it again and again, so they said 'Wait a minute, this doesn’t work.' And they took them out and moved them all the way South; all the way. And they never came back again; it’s too far. Amazing.

And I’m not saying this in a joking way — I’m saying this happened. It wasn’t working, they were coming back, and then they literally - literally - moved them all the way. A lot of the politicians - they never came back, it was too far. They’d put them on boats and move them all the way down South, and that was it."

A month later he repeated this in a nationally televised GOP presidential debate:

Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. "I like Ike," right? The expression. "I like Ike." Moved a 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back.

Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.


Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer. You don't get friendlier. They moved a 1.5 million out. We have no choice. We have no choice.

At the time I noted:

The latest Economist/YouGov poll reveals that Donald Trump is viewed as the GOP candidate Republicans trust most to handle immigration. What's more, the margin by which they prefer him is extremely wide, and it's grown substantially since he entered the race in July:

This was Trump unfiltered and totally himself.

Everyone says he doesn't know what he wants in a deal.

Is that right?

Katy Tur on MSNBC wisely noted that Trump's fundamental instinct is to turn toward the loudest applause line. When he said that he wanted to round up immigrants and drop them off in the Sonoran desert hundreds of miles from the border, the crowd went wild.

We have scenes like this happening every single day:

They are planning mass sweeps in Northern California.

They are rounding up immigrant community leaders.

The Trump cult wants a white America. And they want to accomplish this by ending all immigration from non-white countries, mass deportation of brown people and Muslims and putting African Americans in jail.

All Republicans don't agree with that but they vote for people who do and they support a president who has taken this idea of ethnic cleansing into the mainstream. So they are on board too.



Poor Wilbur

by digby

Trump has lost confidence in his legendary Wall Street shark Wilbur Ross because he says he doesn't know anything:

Early in Trump’s presidency, Ross was his go-to negotiator, helming the administration’s trade talks with the Chinese. After a few months, though, Trump concluded he was doing a terrible job.

In a series of Oval Office meetings about six months into his presidency, Trump eviscerated Ross, telling him he’d screwed up, and badly.

“These trade deals, they’re terrible,” Trump said, according to a source in the room for one of the meetings. “Your understanding of trade is terrible. Your deals are no good. No good.”
Trump told Ross he didn’t trust him to negotiate anymore. Ross had tried in the early months of the administration, before Robert Lighthizer was confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative, to take the lead on several crucial trade conversations. Once Lighthizer arrived there was a tussle for control over several issues. But after Ross botched — in Trump's eyes — his dealings with China, he decided Lighthizer would be the lead negotiator on all trade issues.

During this period, Trump humiliated Ross in front of his colleagues, per three sources, and questioned his intelligence and competence.

The Financial Times reported in August that Trump rejected a China steel deal that Ross thought he’d closed. But nobody has reported the extent of Trump’s castration of Ross. Trump has effectively taken his Commerce Secretary — who he once called a “killer” — off the playing field.

One example: Ross made a deal to open the U.S. market to cooked Chinese chicken, in exchange for the Chinese opening their market to American beef. Ross told reporters it was a “herculean accomplishment,” and “more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China relations on trade,” per the AP.
But Trump wasn’t impressed with this deal — at all — and told our sources he found Ross’s boasting to be laughable and ridiculous.

Ross’s propensity to doze off in meetings — which senior Capitol Hill aides have noticed — hasn’t helped.

Why this matters: Ross entered the administration as one of Trump’s favorites, poised to be a power player. Trump has known Ross since the bankruptcy tycoon helped keep him financially afloat in the early 1990s. Trump was proud that Ross — this billionaire Wall Street legend — wanted to work for him.

“Wilbur is so famous on Wall Street he only needs one name,” Trump said in an early meeting with White House visitors, according to a source in the room. “You don’t even need to say his last name; you just say Wilbur and they know who you’re talking about.”
Ross bottomed out with Trump midway through last year. Since then, Ross has spent months trying to rebuild alliances within the administration, courting his colleagues over dinners, but he’s never fully regained his stature in Trump’s eyes.

However, he is in a much a better place with the boss than he was in July, and remains an active participant in the weekly trade meetings. He'll be a primary player in the debates over possible steel and aluminum tariffs and recently hand-delivered reports to the president on the national security findings on both metals.

But sources close to Trump say he’ll never again trust the 80-year-old to be his “killer” negotiator. The recent Forbes article — revealing that Ross vastly exaggerated his net worth — did not help his internal standing.

“Wilbur’s been sucking up for months, trying to get back in the president’s good graces,” said a source close to Trump.

He's got a way to go.

Sucking up is a good start. But what he needs to do is start talking up a global trade war with no plan except to strut around saying the US isn't going to be laughed at anymore. If he can do that, he'll be Trump's very good boy again.

By the way, good old Wilbur is caught up in that Russia financial unpleasantness too...

Normalization Continues 

by tristero

Recently, I wrote about the outrageous stunt the NY Times pulled, turning over their entire editorial page to pro-Trump letter writers. But that's not all they're up to when it comes to normalizing the abnormal, as the Columbia Journalism Review reports:
[James Bennet, editorial page editor at the New York Times] says the Times is actively looking for Trump supporters to write regularly for its opinion section...

Great. Just what we need, more affirmative action for conservatives at the Paper of Record. There's just one teensy, tiny problem:
...but that there’s a short supply of writers who would live up to the rigorous standards the section demands. 
No kidding.

They want mass deportation, that's all there is to it

by digby

I wrote about the Republicans and what they really want for Salon this morning:

In May of last year, President Donald Trump said "our country needs a shutdown." Over the weekend he got his wish. After a tumultuous couple of weeks in which the president said he would agree to a clean DACA bill "of love" and then ranted about not wanting any more immigration from "shithole" countries, the Republican House majority voted for a stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded. But the Republican Senate couldn't muster more than 51 votes and it needed 60.

As I write this, all non-essential government services are closed and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising a vote on DACA if Democrats agree to a stopgap measure lasting until Feb. 8. He has scheduled a vote for noon on Monday. Of course they've been kicking this can down the road for months. McConnell promised the same thing in December and never delivered the DACA vote, but maybe he really means it this time.

The sticking points are a fix for DACA recipients, enhanced border security including the Trumpian border wall, newly introduced draconian restrictions on legal immigration and funding for the Childrens' Health Insurance Program. The DACA issue and the CHIP program basically involve young people and sick children being held as hostages by Republicans to get their extreme immigration policies enacted.

The best description of what the negotiations have been like over the past three days came from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a speech on Saturday when he said working with Trump was “like negotiating with Jell-O." He said Democrats had capitulated on the wall and in return Trump told him he would push for a measure to keep the government open for four or five days so they could hammer out the details. Then:
“Several hours later he called back. He said, ‘So, I hear we have a three-week deal.’ I said, 'No, Mr. President, no one is even talking about a three-week deal,'” Schumer recounted. 
“Then a few hours later they called back again, ‘Well we’re going to need this, this, this in addition,’” Schumer said. “Things they knew were far, far right and off the table.”
Basically, every time the parties reach an actual agreement, the right-wingers demand more.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who foolishly believed he had seduced the president into adopting a moderate stance on the issue, was more or less with Schumer on the character of the negotiations. Graham said on Sunday, “As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we're going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years.”

The malevolent Miller, a White House policy adviser, may be an outlier but he's been a pretty successful one. He and his former boss Jeff Sessions (then in the Senate), along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were responsible for the failure of the last big push for comprehensive immigration reform back in 2013. Miller seems to be good at currying favor with his xenophobic bosses.

Sessions himself worked tirelessly to ensure the DREAM Act was never passed, which was why DACA was required in the first place. Back in 2010 Sessions made the casethat young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and were in all respects but paperwork American citizens should be sent back to countries many could not remember. He called the DREAM Act "amnesty" for uneducated, unproductive criminal welfare recipients and said it would cost "hard-working Americans" vast sums of money. That was, of course, a lie, but Sessions managed to get the votes to scuttle the bill.

Trump made that man his attorney general. Immigration is the issue most closely associated with Trump's campaign. His closest advisers on the issue, from Steve Bannon to Miller to chief of staff John Kelly, are hardcore anti-immigration zealots. The president himself blew up the negotiations over the notion that people from "shithole" countries were coming into the United States legally. Why, if we didn't know better you'd think they don't really want a deal at all.

The GOP revealed its true strategy over the weekend with this repugnant message:

The White House tried to distance the president from the ad but the fact that it concludes with the words "I'm Donald Trump and I approve this message," disproves that claim. Trump also tweeted several times that the Democrats have shut down the government because they care more about "illegal immigrants" more than they care about the American people. His secretary of homeland security backed him up:

Characterizing this issue as one of conferring "benefits" on "illegal immigrants" is code for the dreaded "amnesty," which leads directly to the racist trope that they are all on welfare. The administration is now consciously demagoguing against DACA recipients by conflating them with criminals.

Yes, the polls all say that there is a bipartisan majority in favor of helping the Dreamers. Even many Republican voters aren't so heartless that they think it makes sense to deport 800,000 young people simply because their parents broke the immigration laws when they were small children. years old. Everyone knows that it's the Democrats who are trying to help them. That would explain why party officials and the White House are purposefully conflating Dreamers with criminal gang members in that ad. They have to keep their voters confused and angry.

It's obvious from the Keystone Kops nature of the so-called negotiations that Trump isn't strategizing. His racist id and his desire to get a "win" are being pulled in opposite directions, depending on whom he listens to at any given time. His lack of understanding of the issue or how laws are actually made makes him a hindrance to deal making. But we know what Trump wants. He's said it many times during debates and on the stump during the campaign:
We either have a country, or we don’t have a country. We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. Some will come back, the best, through a process. They have to come back legally. They have to come back through a process, and it may not be a very quick process, but I think that’s very fair, and very fine.
Yes, he's hedged on the Dreamers from time to time. But seriously, all you have to do is look at his rhetoric from the moment he announced his candidacy to understand what he really, deep down, wants to do. It was the central promise of his presidential campaign from day one.

So yes, I think it's probably true that as president he's being manipulated in the negotiations by the odious Stephen Miller and probably by Kelly and Sessions too. They know what buttons he really likes pushed. And some ambitious Republican hardliners like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and members of the ever-cunning House Freedom Caucus are riding the Trump zeitgeist as well.

But let's not pretend it's all Trump and his courtiers. The Republican majority in Congress has been playing Russian roulette with the Dreamers for years now. They have blocked every single solution to the problem, and it's irrational at this point to believe they are acting in good faith.

It's So Predictable 

by tristero

It's clear as a bell to most of the country that the Republicans have created an ungodly mess. And, as the marches this weekend made visible, it's also clear that much of the country is utterly disgusted with them. So, as surely as night follows day, the NY Times presents not one but two op-eds urging Democrats to back down, compromise with Republicans, and cater to anti-immigrant white people.

Thanks, Michael Tomasky and David Leonhardt for reminding us that pressing the advantage when you have both the moral and political high ground could lead to total disaster - like a return to FDR-style liberalism or something.

And the cherry on top? On the same page in the printed edition, conservative Arthur Brooks, whose movement is on the ropes, urges us to empathize with our political foes. Funny how conservatives rarely take up the cause of empathy for liberals when conservatives are winning politically. If you were being uncharitable, you'd think Brooks was begging for mercy.


Don't make them angry

by Tom Sullivan

Anniversary Women's March on Asheville - 2018. Photo credit: Jill Boniske, a.k.a. Arty Chick of Chickflix.net

You won't like them when they're angry.

Jennifer Mosbacher cried in her doctor’s office the day after Trump's election. McClatchy reports her anger quickly turned into activism:

I don’t think you come out of that experience of awakening and close your eyes again, right?” she said. “I don’t know how you can do that.”

Mosbacher’s transformation is at the heart of an unprecedented movement inside the Democratic Party. Dubbed “The Resistance,” it has — in the year since Donald Trump’s inauguration — turned countless apolitical women and men into firebrand activists set on remaking the political system.
Like Mosbacher, thousands of others cannot close their eyes again. More than 22,000 women have contacted Emily's List about becoming candidates. Over 120,000 people across the country protested misogyny, racism, xenophobia and Donald Trump Saturday on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Protests continued into Sunday.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards addressed the rally in Las Vegas, "When our country was in free fall, the Women's March got us out of our despair and out of our homes and into the streets, and ever since that day, women have been shaking the foundation of America."

This level of activism is likely to mold our politics "for the foreseeable future," McClatchy's Alex Roarty believes:
“What we saw in 2017 was an unprecedented revival of grassroots democracy,” said Joe Dinkin, spokesman for the liberal Working Families Party. “People want to participate, not just in protest, but in changing who holds power. That's everything from knocking on doors to stepping up to run for office. That newly awakened spirit won't just shape 2018 — it could shape the identity, beliefs and activism of a generation of voters.”
Let's hope Dinkins is right. After the weeks we've had, read the rest for a little inspiration. It has been in short supply.

* * * * * * * *

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Trump the mark

by digby

This is a great piece and a really exceptional insight from Josh Marshall. He talks about how Michael Wolff got into the White House through flattery and setting himself up as an adversary to Trump's adversaries only to stab him in the back. It's true. And it worked. But this is the insight that made my ears prick up:

Wolff is, in a word, vicious. He played Murdoch and then knifed him, all out in the open. And then he did more or less exactly the same thing to Trump a decade later, with the added bonus that Trump was talking to Murdoch regularly while Wolff had the run of the White House and was laying the ground work to shiv him as he had his new friend Rupert. None of this is terribly surprising given the Trump we know. But it wasn’t only his narcissism and neediness. The lack of any experienced staff and the organizational disarray that was particularly marked before John Kelly took over as Chief of Staff allowed Wolff to always be saying that he had the run of the place because someone else said it was okay. Because he was Trump’s best friend. Because Trump thought it was great. Because … well, didn’t you know that other person …

As I said, Trump got just the kind of vicious, shameless and canny biographer he deserved. “Joyously nasty” seems to capture it – precisely the person you want to write the book about someone you already despise.

But we don’t have to stop there. It is impossible not to look at the Wolff story and see many of the patterns we are now reading about which occurred over the course of 2015 and 2016 as various Russian nationals, cut-outs and intelligence officers inveigled their way into the Trump orbit. A key lure was the same: flattery. Another more amorphous draw was greed – whether for money or for damaging campaign material or positive press for a White House drowning in the worst press imaginable and abysmal public support. In both cases, the Trumpers were dealing with people who knew how to read a mark. And the Trumpers were easy marks.

Disorganization also clearly played a key role.

Earlier this month I wrote about what I see as the biggest question we face in trying to understand the Trump/Russia story. We know President Trump had longstanding ties to Russian capital, oligarchs and organized crime. These might be binds of greed or compromise or maybe both. But they run deep. This seems obviously tied to his and his minions’ machinations during the 2016 campaign. And yet the clearest threads we’ve found out about which point to collusion don’t suggest a organized conspiracy or a tight relationship so much as cold approaches, often to secondary members of the Trump entourage. As I noted in that January 8th post, there are various potential explanations for this seeming lack of fit. I’m still not sure what the explanation is. For our present purposes though what is key is that same role of inexperience, disorganization and greed...

It’s chaotic settings with corrupt individuals who always attract spies and grifters looking for an angle and a mark: the desperate and the greedy, the corrupt and the stupid. Similarly, they look for chaos and disorganization.

And, by the way, wily foreign leaders aren't the only ones who would see the opportunity. Cunning domestic manipulators like Stephen Miller and Tom Cotton obviously have his number. And Lindsey Graham, who made the mistake of thinking that his naked attempt to flatter his golf swing and appeal to his "good side" were the kinds of flattery that makes him tick. Sure, he likes to be told that he's a great athlete and a wonderful, generous man of the people. But what he needs is to be told that he is smart and tough and powerful.



The best 10 minutes

by digby

Just wanted to share a few ...

Colbert's monologue is the most enjoyable 10 minutes on TV every day, IMO. It's my palate cleaner after a day of cable hell.

If you can't stay up late ... it's all on Youtube.



"The base" would love to see the nuclear option

by digby

I'm talking about the only base that matters, Trump voters. And I'm guessing that applies to North Korea as well as ending Democrats' ability to filibuster Republican bills. (You know they wouldn't want to end it if the Democrats were in charge.)

Trump knows his people:

They did it to get Gorsuch. Why not?

Mitch isn't buying it. Yet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is against using the so-called "nuclear option" to end a budget stalemate and reopen the federal government, despite President Donald Trump's urging.

"The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation," a representative for McConnell said in a statement Sunday morning.

I don't know how he can make this argument with a straight face. They insist that it's the Democrats who are killing people by failing to vote for this CR. They nuke it for the Supreme Court after basically vomiting all over the constitution by holding the seat open until they could get a Republican in there. What's the excuse?

Oh, right. He can't get to 50 Republican votes either.


Politics and Reality Radio: Whether Trump Is Mentally Ill May Be the Wrong Question; A Former Prosecutor on Wrongful Convictions

This week, Joshua Holland talks about the #TrumpShutdown.

Then we're joined by Richard Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, who says that speculation about Trump's mental health miss the point given that anyone can see he's unfit for office.

Then we welcome Mark Godsey, a legal scholar at the University of Cincinnati School of Law and co-founder of the Ohio Innocence Project. Mark discusses his new book, Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions.

Southern Culture on the Skids: "Nitty Gritty"
Eek-a-Mouse: "Long Time Ago"
The Wedding Band: "Lonely Hearts"

As always, you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes, Soundcloud or Podbean.


The very best thing about Trump's first year in office

by digby

For me anyway. Trump is the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower not to visit California in the first year in office.

Think about that. It's the most populous state in the union --- and he even has a golf club here here in LA at which he could make one of his regular personal appearances and pocket the money.

He knows the protests would be enormous. He knows we loathe him with every fiber of our beings.

It makes me proud to be a Californian.

That picture above was taken last May at Trump's Palos Verdes golf course here in LA.

A group calling itself “Indivisible San Pedro” corralled the crowd, which included babies as young as 1½, young children and retirees, to a public park nestled within the golf course around 9 a.m.

It took the flash mob about 15 minutes to form the 30-foot-tall letters, after which they sang “God Bless America,” said Peter M. Warren, a retired journalist and member of the group.



Just kiss his ring it's all he cares about

by digby

People are figuring this out. But since he's so unstable and stupid, it probably won't work anyway:

As South Korea presses ahead with efforts to bring a large North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month, it is willingly agreeing to North Korea’s demands.

But Trump, a former businessman who prides himself on being a masterful negotiator, is claiming — and getting — most of the credit for the sudden burst of Olympics-related diplomacy between the two Koreas.

During a Jan. 4 phone call in which the South Korean leader briefed the American president on the plans for talks with North Korea, Trump asked Moon to publicly give him the credit for creating the environment for the talks, according to people familiar with the conversation.

(In these conversations, Trump calls his counterpart “Jae-in” — an unimaginable informality in Korean business etiquette. Moon calls Trump “Mr. President.”)

He is Moon's superior, obviously. And he demands respect. That is what he meant when he said he would have the world respect America again. What could go wrong?

Later that night, Trump tweeted that the talks wouldn’t be happening “if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”

At a news conference six days later, Moon agreed Trump deserved “huge credit” for the talks.

This is what he wants. And in some cases it's the best way to get to a decent policy. But since he's a mercurial moron, there's no way to know if it's going to stick.

And the damage this charade does to our country is substantial. Forcing everyone to pretend the King is "winning" just to survive opens the door to the kind of palace intrigue we are seeing with Tom Cotton, Stephen Miller and John Kelly manipulating him for their own authoritarian purposes.

You may think Trump is essentially a buffoon. They aren't. They are something much, much darker.



Approval at year one

by digby

The latest ABC/Washington Post poll:

A year in the presidential spotlight hasn’t been kind to President Donald Trump: His approval rating is the lowest in modern polling for a president at this point, with deep deficits on policy and personal matters alike. Strikingly, the public divides evenly on whether or not he’s mentally stable.

That question aside, a lopsided majority, 73 percent of those polled, rejects Trump’s self-assessed genius. Seventy percent say he fails to acquit himself in a way that’s fitting and proper for a president. Two-thirds say he’s harming his presidency with his use of Twitter. And 52 percent see him as biased against blacks -- soaring to 79 percent of blacks themselves.

Just 36 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapprove, essentially unchanged since midsummer. Next lowest at one year was Gerald Ford’s 45 percent in 1975; average pre-Trump approval -- since Harry Truman’s presidency -- is 63 percent.

Women are especially critical of Trump in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates: A mere 29 percent approve of his work, vs. 44 percent of men. And a remarkable 55 percent of women doubt Trump’s mental stability.

Americans more likely to blame Trump, Republicans if government shuts down: Poll
Trump’s signature achievement, the new tax law, is unpopular; 60 percent say it favors the wealthy (even most well-off Americans say so), and the public by a 12-point margin, 46 to 34 percent, says it’s a bad thing for the country. At the same time, a majority celebrates his most prominent failure, on Obamacare; 57 percent say the program’s continuation is a good thing.

A vast 87 percent support the DACA immigration program that Trump ended and whose fate in Congress is uncertain -- including two-thirds of strong conservatives, three-quarters of evangelical white Protestants and as many Republicans, core Trump groups. And 63 percent overall oppose a U.S.-Mexico border wall, essentially unchanged since before the 2016 election.

As reported Friday, Trump -- and his party leaders -- also are at greater risk in the government shutdown, with Americans 20 points more likely to say they’d blame Trump and the Republicans in Congress than the Democrats in Congress.

In a controversy that continues to cloud his presidency, half of Americans think members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to try to influence the election. About as many, 49 percent, think Trump himself obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.

Trump’s gone from 11 points underwater in job approval last spring to 22 points today, a shift that occurred by July and has stabilized since. That’s a vast swing from his 12 predecessors, who averaged 29 points to the positive after a year in the White House.

Four previous presidents -- Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Truman – were at 51 to 53 percent approval after one year; Bill Clinton saw 56 percent and the rest ranged from 63 percent (Richard Nixon) to 83 percent (George W. Bush, after 9/11). Ratings at one year don’t predict a career trajectory. That said, a score in the 30s, this early in a presidency, is uncharted territory.

Indeed just six of the past 12 presidents ever went as low or lower in approval as Trump is now -- Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, Carter and both Bushes -- and all but Truman, much later in their presidencies.
Compared with the first ABC News/Washington Post poll of his presidency, in April, Trump is less popular generally across the board, but especially among college graduates (-11 points, to 31 percent approval), residents of the Northeast and West regions (-9 and -8 points, respectively) and whites -8 points, vs. no change among nonwhites, who started so low).



This is what more looks like

by Tom Sullivan

On Monday here at Hullabaloo, I wrote about the 1st Democratic Candidates Conference (DemCanCon) that took place last weekend outside Washington, D.C.

I met lots of what one trainer called "mom & pop" candidates: people who finally had enough and filed for office for the first time. Most have no idea what they've gotten into, but this conference offered to get them up to speed. About 250 attendees. A small, but enthusiastic group from 24 states.

After finding out where they were from and what they were running for, I asked what help (post-primary) they could expect from the local parties in their districts.

The question generally drew a pregnant pause, a sigh, and perhaps an eye roll.
They were from Maryland, Virginia, New York, Indiana and elsewhere. Almost without exception the same reaction.

It's why I wrote my For The Win get-out-the-vote primer for county officers.

Firsthand experience is behind it.

I visited a western NC county a week ahead of the congressional election (yes, Heath Shuler was top of the ticket that year) to check on their preparations. What had they done? What else did they need to do? What did they need from us?

"We're done," they said.

Excuse me?

"We called through the phone list and put out the signs."

They saw us looking sideways at each other.

"You mean, you want us to do ... more?"

Yes. On Election Night, more suddenly looked pretty good.


An experienced election protection attorney from Boston was in our headquarters on GOTV Weekend. On Election Day, he walks up 3 hrs before the polls close and says with some admiration, "I've never seen an operation like this."

When the polls closed, the county picked up two state legislative seats in a year when Democrats across the country got the shit kicked out of them.

Volunteers arrived in a 15-passenger van from Nashville on GOTV weekend. One had come from as far away as Memphis (IIRC). They'd given up on Tennessee and wanted a chance to help flip North Carolina blue.

After sizing up the place, one visitor said, "We don't have anything like this."

And isn't that the problem?

I explained it to candidates at DemCanCon this way.

If you're not in a swing state, especially if you're in a more rural county in not-a-swing-state (including blue states), Barack Obama isn't parachuting in a team from Michigan Avenue to show you how to do a high-energy, months-long, countywide GOTV and electioneering effort. The governor's race doesn't show up out there. The U.S. Senate race doesn't set up out there.

Want to know one reason why Democrats get no traction in the Plains States? I tried to email Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana counties yesterday and got pissed off. The white counties in otherwise red-shaded states are either unorganized or have no email or Facebook contact information on the state party websites (and probably not even a Facebook page not listed there). That's 40 percent of Kansas counties, half of Montana, and 70 percent of South Dakota. That's counties, not population, naturally. Okay, very rural, low-density areas I have the luxury of not trying to organize. And maybe it is because there are no Democrats out there. Even so. Those states elect U.S. senators. If Democrats don't show up to play, they forfeit. Look at south-central Georgia.

​ So, I don't want to hear "This is the most important election of our lifetime" again. Ever. Because if you think short-term, you never invest in the future. As they say around the office, "Why is there never time to do it right, but always time to do it over?" Democrats do it over — and over — on a two-year cycle, in many places starting each time from scratch.

Turnover from the DNC on down, plus killing off the 50-state strategy, keeps local teams from building over time. State parties teach local committees to pull poorly targeted call lists from VoteBuilder, pat them on the head, and send them on their way. Not good enough.

I'm sending links to county chairs across the country, bypassing state-party bottlenecks and concentrating on places Democratic muckety mucks ignore. It's a lead a horse to water effort. For The Win is not comprehensive, nor meant to be. We just need to lower the bar to higher performance.

To borrow from a movie speech, I'm doing it because there's nobody else to do it right now. If there were somebody else to do it, I'd let them do it, but there's not. So I'm doing it.

Many local committees don't do more because they don't know what more looks like. This is what more looks like.

* * * * * * * *

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Saturday Night At The Movies

*On this day of massive national protest , it seemed like a good night to re-run this one ---

Incident on Christopher Street: Stonewall Uprising

By Dennis Hartley

Si se puede: Stonewall rioters, 1969

It isn’t nice to block the doorway
It isn’t nice to go to jail
There are nicer ways to do it
But the nice ways always fail

-Malvina Reynolds
In the wee hours of June 28, 1969 the NYPD raided a Mafia-owned Greenwich Village dive called the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar on Christopher Street. As one of those policemen recalls in the new documentary, Stonewall Uprising, the officers were given “…no instructions except-put them out of business.” Hard as it might be for younger readers to fathom, despite the relative headway that had occurred in the civil rights movement for other American minorities by that time, the systemic persecution of sexual minorities was still par for the course as the 60s drew to a close. There were more laws against homosexuality than you could count. The LGBT community was well-accustomed to this type of roust; the police had no reason to believe that this wouldn’t be another ho-hum roundup of law-breaking deviants. This night, however, was to be different. As the policeman continues, “This time they said: ‘We’re not going, and that’s that.’ It was a war.” More than a war; it in fact proved to be the catalyst for a movement.

Exactly how this spontaneous act of civil disobedience transmogrified into a game-changer in the struggle for gay rights makes for a fascinating history lesson and an absorbing film. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner take an Errol Morris approach to their subject. Participants give an intimate recount of the event and how it changed their lives, while the several nights of rioting (from initial spark to escalation and immediate aftermath) are effectively recreated using a mixture of extant film footage and photographs (of which, unfortunately, very little exists) with dramatic reenactments.

Davis and Heilbroner also take a look back at how life was for the “homophile” community (as they were referred to in the media at the time). It was, shall we say, less than idyllic. In the pre-Stonewall days, gays and lesbians were, as one interviewee says, the “twilight” people; forced into the shadows by societal disdain and authoritarian persecution. As you watch the film, it becomes hard to believe that these folks were living in America (you, know, that whole land of the “free” thingie). The excerpts from a “CBS Reports” news special from 1967 (“The Homosexuals”) are particularly telling of the era. “2 out of 3 Americans look upon homosexuals with disgust, discomfort, or fear,” a grim-faced Mike Wallace intones. From the same program, an “expert” posits that “Homosexuality is, in fact a mental illness, which has reached epidemiological proportions.” (Hide the kids!) Prior to seeing this film, I had never heard of the goings-on in California’s Atascadero State Hospital in the 50s and 60s, where gay inmates were given “cures” straight out of A Clockwork Orange (or the Guantanamo handbook, for that matter). Lobotomies, sterilizations, and even castrations were involved (one interviewee refers to the facility as “The Dachau for Queers”). Gee, what do you suppose those Stonewall patrons were all so pissy about? Why didn’t they just go live in Russia?

Perhaps not so surprising are the recollections that the media wrote off the incident as an aberration; little more than a spirited melee between “Greenwich Village youths” and the cops (“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad”, the N.Y. Sunday News headline chuckled the following day). The film culminates in the story of the first commemorative marches the following year, which were more furtive and politically charged affairs than the relatively festive and celebratory street parties that the pride parades have become (not that there’s anything wrong with that, to paraphrase Seinfeld).

I think this film is an important reminder that when it comes to civil rights, America is not out of the woods yet. Not just for the LGBT community (Prop 8 being an all-too-recent memory) but with Arizona’s SB 1070 darkening Ms Liberty’s doorstep as well. And do I need to remind you about teabagger-fueled vitriol? Stonewall might seem like ancient history, but its lessons are on today’s fresh sheet. The struggle goes on…and the moving closing comments by some of the documentary’s interviewees would seem to bear this out “It was the only time I was in a gladiatorial sport…where I stood up in,” says one participant, tears welling in his eyes, “…I was a man.” And there is no sugarcoating the means to the ends, either. A female interviewee confides, “As much as I don’t like to say it, there’s a place for violence. Because if you don’t have extremes, you don’t get any moderation.” Gladitorial sport? A place for violence? Standing up for what’s right? That is "so gay." And as another interviewee points out, that’s so…American.

Note: The film is currently in limited release around the country, but I noticed that it is a PBS American Experience production, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your TV listings!

Previous posts with related themes:

William Kuntsler: Disturbing the Universe

239 pounds of jello

by digby

Well, if there's one thing we've learned in the past year it's that the presidency actually is important. This Washington Post tick-tock of the last two weeks of "negotiations" is just mind-boggling:

After the president ordered cameras out of the Cabinet Room that day, the group delved into the details. Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s homeland security secretary, and her staff passed out a four-page document on the administration’s “must haves” for any immigration bill — a hard-line list that included $18 billion for Trump’s promised border wall, eliminating the diversity visa lottery program and ending “extended family chain migration,” according to the document, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

But one person seemed surprised and alarmed by the memo: the president.

With Democrats and Republicans still in the room, Trump said that the document didn’t represent all of his positions, that he wasn’t familiar with its contents and that he didn’t appreciate being caught off-guard. He instructed the group to disregard the summary and move on, according to one of the lawmakers in the room, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.

“It’s like the wedding where someone actually stands up and objects to the wedding,” the lawmaker said. “It was that moment.”

Read more »