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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

QOTD: That nice Dr Carson

by digby

What a guy:
[My mother] has Alzheimer’s. She’s not really cognizant of that, which is a good thing because my mother is really a fighter. She probably would have taken a gun and gone out and shot some of the dishonest reporters... One of the reasons that our founders said that our system and our freedom depends on a well-informed and educated populace is because they recognize that if people were not well-informed and well-educated, they can be easily manipulated by a dishonest media and that’s exactly what happens in our society today.
Did anyone ever find out where all that money went?

What a mexit

by digby

There's too much to read these days on the ramifications of the Brexit vote and it's hard to keep up, but this struck me as a useful encapsulation of why Britain's leadership looking little better than the Trump campaign:
Mr. Johnson is clearly looking to unite the divided Conservative Party behind his own, flamboyant self and to burnish his free-market economic credentials. 
But playing down immigration, Mr. Goodwin said, could create more political trouble. “I worry for senior euroskeptic leaders, because there is a misunderstanding of the vote, and that will feed voter dissatisfaction,” he said, driving many of the voters who chose a British exit to turn away from both mainstream parties and move to the populist right. 
The referendum was unusual, because it pitted a government on one side, “Remain,” against a loose coalition on the other, made up of Conservatives, some Labour legislators and U.K. Independence Party supporters. The Leave side never had to hammer out an agreement on how to proceed if it won, said Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics. 
“There was no coherence, because it wasn’t a political party fighting for government, but an odd coalition fighting against something, but with no consistent view of what it was fighting for,” he said. 
Even on the economy, the Leave side was made of free-market economists who believe in no tariffs at all, those who believe in trade deals and protectionists who want to shield the declining working class against globalization, Professor Travers said. 
“And now the government will have to be reformed as if it were representing the Leave side and yet represent both, a one-party government that must reflect the schism in itself,” he said.
 Sometimes the old "enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing creates more problems than it's worth.  If Conservatives had simply taken responsibility for the consequences of their harsh austerity programs and tried to ameliorate some of the discomfort with the rapid cultural and social change of our modern world instead of seeing opportunities to use all that to advance their own agendas they might have avoided all this. Instead, they just seemed to run with it without any plan or vision for how it was going to work out. Let's just hope their ineptitude doesn't result in Britain voting in a Far Right party. That will not end well.

It's quite a fine mess they've gotten themselves into.

And speaking of Boris Johnson, this article by Tina Brown called "Beware Boris Johnson: The Power of a Cunning Clown"  is devastating.

Trump is soliciting donations from foreign leaders?!?

by digby

Since members of the British Parliament have complained about receiving several fundraising emails from Donald Trump, politicians in several other foreign countries have revealed that they've also been flooded with email requests for donations from Trump.

Members of parliament in Australia, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland have all received the emails, according to news reports and tweets from the politicians.

Tim Watts, an Australian member of parliament, told TPM's John Marshall on Twitter that he has received several fundraising emails from the Trump campaign, and that he believes all Australian members of parliament have gotten the emails as well.

The Trump campaign has also asked members of parliament in Iceland for campaign contributions, according to Icelandic media. At least three Icelandic members of parliament have received a Trump fundraising email, according to the Iceland Monitor. A couple members of parliament told the Morgublaðið newspaper that they had received emails, according to a report in Iceland Magazine.

"This whole matter is very perplexing. The letter left me speechless," Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the head of Iceland's Left Green Party, reportedly said.

And a member of parliament in Denmark, Ida Auken, revealed on Twitter that she had also received a fundraising email from Trump.

Anders Adlercreutz, a member of parliament in Finland, also said on Twitter that Finnish elected officials have received the fundraising pleas from Trump.
Read the whole story. You won't believe it.

Marshall assumes this is a screw up in buying an email list from someone and not knowing how to eliminate the addresses from which it's illegal to solicit donations. Because this is definitely illegal:
The only plausible answer seems to be that the Trump campaign either dealt with a sloppy or disreputable list broker or was so desperate after its horrible May FEC report was released that it went to a broker and just said they wanted every list and they'd sort it all out later. I confess that both scenarios seem a little farfetched. But some version of one of them basically had to happen, unless there's a prankster actually inside the campaign.
Whatever the case, I would just like everyone to remember this the next time you hear Trump caterwauling about Clinton selling out to foreign governments...


Cleveland should be loads of fun

by digby

People are starting to get a little bit concerned about violence at the RNC in Cleveland. It's not so much that people are afraid of what might happen at the convention center. The Secret Service will have the place locked down tight.  These events require unbelievable security checks so most people feel pretty confident that the worst that could happen would be some fisticuffs between delegates, not a mass shooting event or something like that. But that's not where the concern lies:
It’s the streets themselves where tension will run highest. Cleveland’s protest zone, even in its revised form, will permit demonstrators to roam freely, so long as they don’t block pedestrian or vehicle traffic. That raises the prospect of pro- and anti-Trump groups meeting in the same vicinity. Groups like the anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church intend to rally, and a white supremacist group at the center of a violent outburst in California last week has pledged to show up in Cleveland too.

Local pro- and anti-Trump organizers say they have confidence that even their political opponents are planning peaceful rallies, but they’re less certain that outside agitators won’t show up to stir the pot.

Larry Bresler, a leader of the progressive Organize! Ohio, said he speaks regularly with pro-Trump organizer Tim Selaty and is confident they’re both committed to holding peaceful rallies. But the agitation by anti-Trump activists from outside Cleveland who are pledging to stop Trump’s nomination at the convention has heightened tension.

“This is a whole different animal from other political conventions,” he said, noting that typically, most RNC protesters come from the left. “The serious problems that you had in terms of any kind of disruption by and large came from the anarchists. Here you’ve got a big number that are coming from the right this time … it presents a different dynamic.”

Bresler noted that firearms will be allowed in the “event zone” because of Ohio’s status as an open carry state, even though other more mundane items will be banned — from water guns to tape to sleeping bags.
You can't bring a water gun but you can bring a real gun.

This country is fucking insane.

Benghazi is evergreen

by digby

Green is the color of money. The Senate Democrats report today:
One Day After Releasing Partisan Report, Republicans Schedule Another Interview

Anti-Clinton Air Base Mechanic Flown to Washington D.C. at Taxpayer Expense for Interview Today

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2016)—After more than two years and $7 million, and one day after releasing what they claimed would be the “definitive accounting” of the Benghazi attacks, Select Committee Republicans have scheduled yet another interview today with a mechanic from a U.S. air base in Europe who posted allegations on Facebook that planes could have been deployed to Benghazi sooner.

This individual included on his Facebook postings the hashtag “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.”   
It appears that the hashtag was removed from his Facebook page within the past 24 hours.  He questioned in this Facebook posting whether fighter jets did not provide air support in Benghazi because “we have a corrupt government with disregard to human life, that looks at us as tools on the physical side of their political battles.”
I'll just use one example from the past so you can understand how this works:
Multiple official investigations into Vince Foster's death concluded that he committed suicide.

The first was by the United States Park Police in 1993, in whose jurisdiction the original investigation fell. Because of Foster's position in the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation.

Investigations by a coroner and Independent Counsel Robert B. Fiske, in a 58-page report released in 1994, also concluded that Foster had committed suicide. Theories of a cover-up still persisted, some of which were promulgated by the Arkansas Project. The speculation and conspiracy theories featured on talk radio and elsewhere caused pain to the Foster family.

After a three-year investigation, Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr released a report in 1997 also concluding that the death was a suicide.

In addition, two investigations by the U.S. Congress found that Foster committed suicide, making a total of five governmental investigations to come to the same conclusion.
Donald Trump brought it up on the campaign trail 20 years later, saying the matter had never been resolved.

Part of this is a simple kitchen sink strategy to create an atmosphere of scandal. It divides the voters, keeps the press excited and forces the Democrats on to the defensive. Eventually plenty of people who don't follow the details but just hear the endless drumbeat decide on some level that there must be something to it because ... well, people wouldn't be obsessing on it otherwise, amirite?

But these days it really mostly a con game for wingnut welfare recipients. They've all got dollar signs in their eyes.

We'll be hearing BS about Benghazi for a long time to come.

The National Rifle Association’s political arm is launching its first ad campaign of the 2016 presidential race, with a survivor of the terror attack in Benghazi urging viewers to vote for Donald Trump.

The ad, which the NRA Political Victory Fund is backing with more than $2 million, is one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee.

The 30-second spot, entitled “Stop Clinton, Vote Trump,” features Mark Geist, a Marine Corps veteran and security contractor who fought the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that claimed four American lives, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“A lot of people say they’re not going to vote this November because their candidate didn’t win; Well, I know some people who won’t be voting this year either,” Geist says as he walks through a cemetery in the ad. “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.”


Yeah, that's the ticket

by digby

I wrote about a possible Clinton Warren ticket for Salon this morning:

One of the more tedious political parlor games in any presidential election is now fully underway --- Vice Presidential speculation. On the Republican side we have the unusual spectacle of far more people running away from the possibility than coyly making themselves available. It seems few people wish to end their political careers this year by diving over a cliff holding hands with Donald Trump.

On the Democratic side the conventional wisdom for months has been that Clinton would pick Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. I’ve never been quite sure why this became the CW but it seems to stem from a conviction that Clinton is so hyper-cautious she would never think outside the box enough to choose someone CW didn’t say was the obvious choice. However, there are others beside Kaine on the list, many of whom would be exciting for different reasons. Choosing a person of color would be an obvious consideration for a multi-racial coalition. Picking someone younger would make sense as well.

But this week we had preview of what it might look like if Clinton decided to defy the CW and instead chose someone who doesn’t “balance” the ticket but rather doubles down on what makes her run risky in the first place --- being the first woman nominee. I’m speaking of Senator Elizabeth Warren, of course, with whom Clinton appeared at an Ohio rally on Monday.

By all accounts it was a very successful event. The Washington Post reported it this way:
If there were any doubt that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are the “it” couple of the moment in Democratic politics, it was silenced here Monday when they took the stage together for the first time. The two nerdy wonks and feisty grandmothers, who built rival power centers on the political left but this spring gradually became allies, together electrified a crowd of thousands by locking their arms, punching the air and excoriating Donald Trump.
Warren is on the VP short list for obvious reasons. First is the fact that she represents the progressive wing of the party, which has exerted substantial influence in this campaign through the candidacy of Bernie Sanders and has had some success over the last decade or so pulling the mainstream of the party away from the centrist orientation it adopted during the years of conservative ascendance. This faction would warmly embrace Warren on the national ticket and in this political era that may be more important than “balance” of region or age if Clinton wants to unify the party.

And Warren could also bring something important to the table in the role of “surprising validator,” which is someone from a particular group who can challenge something called “biased assimilation”:
[P]eople assimilate new information in a selective fashion. When people get information that supports what they initially thought, they give it considerable weight. When they get information that undermines their initial beliefs, they tend to dismiss it...This natural human tendency explains why it’s so hard to dislodge false rumors and factual errors. Corrections can even be self-defeating, leading people to stronger commitment to their erroneous beliefs.[...]

But they may reconsider if the information comes from a source they cannot dismiss. People are most likely to find a source credible if they closely identify with it or begin in essential agreement with it. In such cases, their reaction is not, “how predictable and uninformative that someone like that would think something so evil and foolish,” but instead, “if someone like that disagrees with me, maybe I had better rethink.
Clinton has been the subject of malicious right wing smears for more than a quarter century and it has taken a toll. And as I noted yesterday, GOP Super Pacs have successfully deployed a strategy to sow discord on the left in this cycle based upon those pre-existing narratives. Warren, on the other hand, is considered to be a scrupulously honest progressive with a reputation for rectitude. Her enthusiastic endorsement of Clinton’s character is extremely valuable to the Clinton campaign.

There are those who assume that two women at the top of the ticket is too much for the country to handle. After all, it took nearly 230 years for one to even be nominated by a major party for the top job. I thought that myself but after seeing them together I changed my mind. It looked like a natural combination to me. When you think about it, it’s simply illogical to be willing to vote for a woman president but unwilling to vote for a woman to replace her if something happened. That makes no sense. And if you are the type of person who believes that a woman at the top of the ticket needs a man around to keep her steady, why would the VP have to be that person? The administration will surely be filled with men, they always are. In any case, there’s really nothing new about voting for president and VP of the same gender.

Most importantly, the Republicans have nominated a man whose views about everything, but especially women, are nothing short of antediluvian. The prospect of a campaign featuring two strong women standing toe to toe with Trump is just too delicious to pass up. It’s already making him come unglued. So Clinton-Warren may not be a risky ticket at all --- it may be exactly the right one at the right time.


Trump is running to be a war criminal

by digby

The GOP nominee makes you so proud to be an American:
We're living in Medieval times. We have to stop it. We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously and violently because we're dealing with violent people, vicious people. So we can’t do waterboarding but they can do chopping off heads, drowning people in steel cages. They can do whatever they want to do. They eat dinner like us. Can you imagine them sitting around the table or wherever they’re eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don’t do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads. They probably think we’re weak, we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire.
Once more he's implying that he would behead people. That's on top of the waterboarding and the hostage taking and the torturing and killing of their families.

The crowd responded with shouts of "USA! USA!"

I just saw a succession of Republicans on CNN agree that Trump is right about terrorism and that we need a "strong[man]" leader.

I feel sick.

Update:  A new Quinnipiac poll has Trump almost tied with Hillary Clinton, and favored over her 52-39 on the question of who would more effective handling ISIS.

Just because it seems ridiculous to think Donald Trump could become president it doesn't mean it can't happen.


Just a change of conservative

by Tom Sullivan

Via Paulette Mitchell Lein at Readeatlive blog.

So there were runoffs yesterday in South Carolina. This stuck out:

COLUMBIA — Voters fired a backlash against Statehouse incumbents in runoff elections Tuesday as a string of veteran lawmakers were tossed out of office, including controversial Spartanburg County Republican Sen. Lee Bright, who made gender bathrooms and defense of gun rights a cornerstone of his last months in office.


Bright, who is also known for his failed bills to track refugees resettling in South Carolina and to limit which bathrooms transgender individuals can use, lost to former state Rep. Scott Talley, a favorite of both Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Both had been critical of Bright’s over-the-top stances.

“The results are clear: the majority of the people two weeks ago and again tonight wanted new conservative leadership in Columbia,” the Chamber statement said after Bright’s 52 to 48 percent loss to Talley. “The business community looks forward to working with Sen. Scott Talley.”
Librul is still a slur in South Carolina. So obviously, the remedy for over-the-top, xenophobic, gay- and transgender-hating leadership that's bad for the Chamber's bidness isn't a change of heart, just a change of conservative.

Perhaps Spartanburg County has been watching what's happening over the border in "hipster haven" Asheville, NC where local independent bookseller Emoke B’Racz is feeling the economic impact of HB2 — that's HB2 the North Carolina "bathroom bill," not the just-overturned HB2 Texas abortion clinic bill. Malaprop's bookstore is feeling the bite:
Out-of-town visitors are essential to her business. But after HB2, sales slumped in April, and again in May, “at a time when they’re up for other independent bookstores,” says B’Racz. “Our business is off on a day-to-day basis.”

Tourists who couldn’t cancel their trips would walk into Malaprop’s and other shops in town and announce that they weren’t spending money.
If there's one thing South Carolina Republicans understand, it's money.
More than $1 million in hotel bookings have been canceled due to HB2, according to the visitors bureau, and business owners such as B’Racz worry about the vital summer season, which is Christmas in terms of sales for this town of 88,000.

Filmmaker Erin Derham had $1.1 million in pledged funding yanked by a tech company that didn’t want to do business in North Carolina. “It was pretty abrupt,” she says. “Everyone stopped answering my emails.”
Can't have that sort of thing happening in South Carolina, though. I mean, they took down the Confederate flag and all. Once it was clear it was bad for business.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Child's Garden of Trump

by digby

From National Memo, how to talk to your kid about Trump:
Having “the talk” about the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. You want your kids to hear about him from you, not from other kids at school or, worse yet, from the omnipresent and omniperfidious man himself.

Why does the orange man want to build a wall? I thought bragging was bad manners? How come he keeps calling people stupid? That’s not nice!

If you’re a Trump supporter, the talk will be considerably easier, consisting largely of: “HE’S THE MAN WHO’S GONNA MAKE US ALL RICH AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN AND SEND SHILLARY CLINTON TO PRISON!!” After which you pat the child on his or her bright-red Trump 2016 hat and get back to blogging about how many people the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has murdered with her laser eyes.

But if you’re wary of Trump and his rhetoric, you have to gently explain to your child why the man who’s constantly on the television is saying what he’s saying.

To that end, writer, comedian and actor Michael Ian Black has given all Trump-concerned parents a useful tool: “A Child’s First Book of Trump.”

Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal in a style I’d describe as Seussically dystopian, this parody of a children’s book does a lovely and hilarious job of distilling Trump to his bare essence: narcissism.

Black writes: “It’s true! A Trump needs all of our noise to exist. Without chaos it shrinks to a sad, orange disc.”

And, of course: “Don’t respond to its brags, its taunts or its jeers; ignoring a Trump is a Trump’s biggest fear.”
Aaand, of course this happened:
As the book — which comes out July 5 — started getting publicity, I noticed Black getting blowback from a certain swath of Trump supporters. They’re rabid anti-Semites, and Black’s book was discussed on one website under the headline: “Sickening Jew Michael Ian Black Makes Anti-Trump Children’s Book for Stupid Goyim.”

This reaction all but demonstrates why it’s important to talk to kids about the Trump phenomenon. The virulent racism and xenophobia he has stirred up does not exist in a vacuum, and children are almost bound to hear about it or get some sense of what’s happening.

Black believes, and I agree, that people, children or otherwise, should know about the unsavory elements that have rallied behind Trump.

“Online, I had never experienced anti-Semitism before Trump became a candidate for the presidency,” Black said. “But suddenly, I and other people like me, meaning Jews, are experiencing that on a daily basis. I don’t know what that says.”

He continued: “My feeling is if you want to support Trump, fine, but understand who you’re in bed with. These are the people you’re throwing in your lot with. If these are the people who support the candidate you support, at least take a moment and ask yourself why, and make all decisions accordingly.”

And for those who bristle at Trump’s bluster, consider having a chat with your kids.
This kind of a joke but the truth is that kids are being harassed over this, with high schools building fake "walls" and kids in the bleachers shouting "illegal" at rivals which have immigrants (or "immigrant looking" whatever that is) on the team. Little kids are being trrorized by bullies saying they're going to be deported or calling them terrorists. It's ugly.

Sadly, the same thing has apparently been unleashed in full force in Britain in the wake of Brexit.

The human species is tragically flawed.

What could go wrong?

by digby

I assume they will be armed with something that has a little more pop this time:
A group of white nationalists and skinheads who held a rally in Sacramento, Calif., over the weekend where at least five people were stabbed plans to show up at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month to "make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended."

The violent clash at the California state Capitol accentuates concerns about the RNC, with political tensions high and thousands of pro- and anti-Trump protesters expected to descend on Cleveland.

"I think everybody is concerned about the potential for violence at the convention," said Ryan Lenz, senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremists and hate groups.

Sunday's mayhem in Sacramento began as the white nationalist group Traditionalist Worker Party, along with the Golden State Skinheads, were setting up for a state Capitol rally the group characterized as a response to aggression against supporters of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Trump.

Brawls quickly erupted between the group of fewer than 30 skinheads and the estimated hundreds of anti-fascist protesters that left at least 10 people injured. Police have made no arrests.

Traditionalist Worker Party spokesman Matt Parrott, who blamed the anti-fascists for the riot, said about 30 members of his group would come to Cleveland.

"We're essentially just going to show up and make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended from the leftist thugs," he said.

This is his base.

One down, 7,322 to go

by digby

Sane people have known this for years of course. But that didn't stop the Republicans from going there and it won't stop them in the future. This is one of their favorite ploys to try to take down Clinton and it never works.

They really should try something different. Acting like adults for instance. They could even give actual governing a try.

By the way, there is such a thing as poetic justice in this world. The fall of Ken Starr is a cautionary tale. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.


Racism? Not a problem

by digby

This new Pew poll on race relations is just heartbreaking:

Now why do you suppose they think that?

Among whites, 28% say Obama has made progress toward improving race relations and 24% say he has tried but failed to make progress. But a substantial share of whites (32%) say Obama has made race relations worse. 

This is driven largely by the views of white Republicans, 63% of whom say Obama has made race relations worse (compared with just 5% of white Democrats).

I know we're supposed to take pity on these people because they've had a rough time of it but really ... this is just unacceptable.

Trump's new hire didn't like him very much

by digby

It's been reported that poor Donald is having a hard time recruiting anyone to work for him. It seems that most Republican political professionals figure he'd be poison for their careers, just as he's poison for the party and the country and the world.

But there's always somebody who really needs a job or who doesn't really have any scruples. So it looks as if Trump finally landed a communications director. Think Progress reports:
Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser for Ted Cruz, signed up to be Trump’s communications director.

Before Miller signed on, however, he had some cleaning up to do. Miller deleted dozens of harshly anti-Trump tweets from his Twitter account, many of them authored just a few weeks ago.

ThinkProgress was able to recover cached versions of Miller’s deleted anti-Trump tweets.

Any member of a rival’s staff is likely to have some negative things to say about their opponents. But Miller’s tweets about Trump frequently drip with contempt and disgust.

Here's a small sample, more at the link:

The sad thing is that I doubt he'll get paid in full ...


Reboot delayed again

by digby

"She made up her heritage, which I think is racist. I think she's a racist, actually because what she did was very racist," Trump said in a phone interview.  
She used the fact that she was Native American to advance her career. Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud. I know it. Other people who work with her know it. Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud," Trump said. 
In the phone interview Trump re-upped his "Pocohontas" nickname for the Massachusetts senator, which some in the party have cautioned him against using in his attempt to appeal to a wider swath of the electorate. 
"I do what I do. I've listened to this for a long time - at the beginning of the primaries, ' he should do this, he should do that." I won in a landslide," Trump said.
The real estate mogul added that he hopes Clinton chooses Warren as her running mate, saying he would "speak very openly about her if she is."
Tony Soprano threats again...

Amateur GOP ratfucking 2016

by digby

I wrote about the latest pathetic attempt for Salon this morning:

It’s standard operating procedure for political campaigns to try to poach votes from their rivals by appropriating their rhetoric and repurposing it to sell their own philosophy. Ronald Reagan springs to mind as one of the best at that game, subtly appropriating liberal icons to use for his own purposes and driving a wedge between the Democratic rank and file and their party. He would blatantly steal from FDR, for instance, using phrases like "this generation has a rendezvous with destiny” for his own right wing purposes. In later years, the Republicans tried to appropriate the martyred Democratic president John F Kennedy as a fellow cold war hawk leading to the famous vice presidential debate exchange between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentson who zinged the callow Quayle with the famous line, “I knew John Kennedy, John Kennedy was a friend of mine. And you sir are no John Kennedy.”

Back in the 90s, the Republicans created a scandalmongering cottage industry mostly designed to titillate a gullible press corps but the assumption was always that they were one scandal away from the Democratic rank and file turning on President Clinton and voting him out of office after the first term or, when that didn’t work, help push him out of office before the second one was done. This led to a strategy to throw the kitchen sink at the White House to create what they called “Clinton fatigue” the idea that voters would get so sick of scandals that they didn’t care anymore if they were true and just wanted them to end. It was not very successful. The more they pushed, and the more hysterical the media became, the more the people dug in their heels. The week they voted to impeach him Gallup reported:
Despite the fact that he is only the second President in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, President Bill Clinton received a 73% job approval rating from the American public this past weekend, the highest rating of his administration, and one of the higher job approval ratings given any president since the mid-1960s.
On the day he left office he had a 66% job approval rating.

The point of this is that while it often seems like a good idea for the opposing party to try to sow discord between a candidate and his or her base (or take advantage of discord that already exists) it doesn’t always work out the way they plan it. Indeed, Democrats have become very good at seeing when they’re being manipulated by ever-so-clever Republican operatives. But with a Clinton back on the scene, it appears that like moths to a flame, Republicans just can’t help themselves.

Last May Ashley Parker and Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times reported that the GOP was executing an elaborate social media strategy to make the case that Hillary Clinton was selling out the left wing of the Democratic Party. They sent out tweets and Facebook posts which were then shared by thousands of Democrats in their circles without realizing they were generated by Republicans. The program was run by the right wing PAC America Rising’s Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager who took the lesson from his own experience that the best way to weaken a general election candidate was for their own base to attack relentlessly during the primaries, as had happened to Romney in 2012. He was not alone. Karl Rove’s group American Crossroads created digital content with the same intention: to portray Clinton as corrupt and untrustworthy and aim it from her left:
Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, said the goal was simply to erode what should be her natural core of support. 
“It can diminish enthusiasm for Hillary among the base over time,” he said. “And if you diminish enthusiasm, lukewarm support can translate into lackluster fund-raising and perhaps diminished turnout down the road.
Both groups used sophisticated micro-targeting:
“You might start looking at union households. You might start looking at Bernie Sanders’s core of support,” Mr. Moffatt said, referring to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. 
Mr. Law said members of his staff at American Crossroads had easily been able to inhabit the liberal role, despite being fervent Republicans. “We wear these little bracelets — W.W.E.W.D.,” Mr. Law joked, referring to “What would Elizabeth Warren do?”

At that point they had no idea how the Sanders campaign would catch fire on its own or that they might have been better off using some of that clever technological know-how to tend to their own back yard. If they had kept their eyes on the prize and tried some of these tricks on Donald Trump they might have spared themselves the embarrassment they’re facing today.

But they don’t seem to have learned their lesson, at least the RNC hasn’t. As my colleague Sean Illing reported yesterday, a strategy memo has leaked in which it’s revealed that the GOP is planning to attack Clinton’s choice for Vice President, you guessed it, “from the left.” They plan to “drive wedges” between the top contenders and “traditional left-wing constituencies” and frame the choice as “an insult to the large deep base of Sanders supporters.” Unfortunately, they’re a little bit late. As Illing pointed out, Sanders supporters are already moving to Clinton in large numbers if nothing else out of terror at the prospect of the GOP nominee.

You would have thought that Clinton surviving these sorts of attacks 20 years ago and coming out more popular than ever would have shown them that this strategy just doesn’t work very well. Perhaps if they spent more time working with their own extremist base and less time trying to manipulate the Democratic base they might have a little bit more luck actually winning the presidency.


To Veep or not to Veep?

by Tom Sullivan

The idea of Sen. Elizabeth Warren joining Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket leaves me uneasy, as much as I would enjoy the show. Warren brings real progressive chops to a presidential campaign that could use it with the electorate in an anti-establishment mood. Plus, she brings a lot of her own star power. Warren proved yesterday in Ohio she can sure wow a crowd as Clinton cannot. And brother, can she get under Donald Trump's skin. From the Guardian:

Warren laid into the presumptive GOP nominee, characterizing him with a now familiar line as a “small, insecure money-grubber who fights for no one but himself”.

“I’m here today because I’m with her,” she said, as Clinton stood by her side. “She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t run to Twitter to call her opponents fat pigs or dummies.

“Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States because she knows what it takes to beat a thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate.”
And the crowd goes wild.

But Warren can play attack dog for Clinton without leaving the Senate, where since arriving she has been a thorn in the side of all the right people. She's proven she doesn't need a VP slot to have a platform. Besides the risk of a Clinton–Warren ticket becoming effectively a Warren-Clinton ticket, Slate's Jamelle Bouie has reservations similar to mine:
In Warren’s case, the vice presidency could be valuable if she’s empowered to make crucial bureaucratic and regulatory decisions. It’s not hard to imagine a Vice President Warren who acts as a watchdog within the administration, pushing Clinton to find and hire aggressive regulators and reject Wall Street–sourced appointees. But this would be an unusual amount of freedom for a vice president not named Dick Cheney. Given the extent to which the modern vice president is something like a chief advocate—responsible for pressing, negotiating, and enforcing the president’s agenda—Warren could find herself bound to Clinton’s agenda and priorities, even when she disagrees, leaving her with less autonomy than she had in the Senate. In which case, progressives will have lost one of their most able and vocal champions with little in return.

There’s real symbolism in “Warren for vice president,” but it may hurt progressives in the long term to have her in a presidential administration versus in the Senate, where her advocacy has long and impressive reach. (The same, incidentally, goes for another vice presidential contender, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a strong progressive choice who would be replaced by a Republican if he left the Senate.)
Those were some strong signals yesterday in Cincinnati that Warren has the inside track. Whether Clinton has the nerve to form a two-women tag team against the Misogynist from Manhattan remains to be seen. But it won't hurt my feelings if Elizabeth Warren stays right where she is.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The conservative containment strategy isn't working

by digby

This piece by Brian Beutler on how some conservatives who oppose Trump have shown that they still haven't learned the lesson by their Brexit reaction is very insightful:
Most conservative and liberal American elites here are alarmed by both the success of the Leave campaign and by Trump’s victory in the Republican presidential primary. American nativists, along with a subset of leftist radicals, support the Brexit along with domestic political threats to the established order.

The outliers are conservative elites who profess to oppose Trump’s candidacy, but who nevertheless celebrate or romanticize triumphant Trumpian forces in the United Kingdom.

It’s obviously not racist, per se, to support the notion of Britain exiting the E.U. But the elite right’s winking alliance with the bigoted faction of British voters that pushed Leave past 50 percent represents a swift return to form for elite American conservatives.
To the extent that these conservatives acknowledge the racial aspect of right-wing populism at all, it’s to intimate that progressives ought to dial back their cosmopolitanism–their hospitality to refugees, their more general openness to immigration–as ransom to bigots.

For Brexit foes preoccupied with the fact that forces of reaction and xenophobia carried the day in the U.K., New York Times columnist Ross Douthat suggested their own unwillingness to accommodate the reactionaries and xenophobes may explain their defeat...
When data show that support among Britons for Brexiting isn’t correlated with material losses associated with immigration—and where anti-immigrant sentiments long predate the migration explosion associated with EU liberalization—this counsel of prudence reads more like extortion. It amounts to setting forth conservative policy as the only way to keep truly dark forces at bay. Or, perhaps less generously, giving quarter to indefensible prejudices out of political expedience. Nice pluralistic society you’ve built there—hate to see anything happen to it.

And frankly, on some level, I have to assume that these people aren't quite as taken with pluralism themselves as they are currently pretending. You have to wonder is Trump weren't such a clownish figure, so obviously in over his head if a lot of them wouldn't have jumped eagerly on his bandwagon.

I've always felt that the chest beating over Trump's horrifying extremism seemed a bit weird coming from the kind of people who would call a Supreme Court justice a "goat fucking child molester." But even if one assumes Trump truly appalls them with his calls for a wall and deportations and banning of immigrants on the basis of religion, Beutler is right that catering to extremists hasn't really worked out very well to keep their destructive impulses in check has it? Maybe it's time to consider an alternative strategy.

From the party that brought you "you lie!"

by digby

... during the State of the Union, comes Representative Pete Sessions calling for the smelling salts over the House sit-in. He believes the Democrats who sat in should be investigated for breaking the rules.
When the House went into recess Wednesday night and live camera feeds were cut, Democratic House members used Periscope and Facebook Live to continue giving the public look at their spontaneous protest.

"They should not have used that nor would we allow a bunch of people at a court room to take advantage of a courtroom,” Sessions said. “There are places that business is done where decorum is utilized and where we respect each other.”
Yes there are such places. But the House hasn't been one of them since they decided to obsess over fellatio and semen stains for months on end nearly 20 years ago, turning the words "house decorum" into an oxymoron.

But hey, go for it. It's always fun to see swashbuckling, gun slinging, anti-PC dudes clutching their pearls over decorum.

Just don't call it tyranny

by digby

Don't look now but Trump is all for executive orders:
Trump has already promised to be as aggressive as Obama on executive orders on a wide range of issues. Early in his campaign, for instance, he vowed to use the power of the pen to give all cop killers the death penalty. More recently, in his response to the shooting death of 49 people inside an Orlando gay club this month, he pledged to use executive power to implement one of his signature proposals: A temporary ban on Muslim immigration (even though the shooter was born in New York).

“The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons,” Trump said June 16, two days after the shooting. “I will use this power to protect the American people.”

Check out a few of his other proposals:

• Tighten regulations on money-transfer companies: The cornerstone of Trump's candidacy has been a promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While Congress approves spending for construction projects, Trump says he can force Mexico to pay for it by taking control of an estimated $26 billion that is wired to Mexico from the U.S. every year.

Trump has said he would halt these remittances “on day one” by rewriting banking rules to expand the federal regulations on companies like Western Union and PayPal. He'd then add a new rule to block undocumented immigrants from wiring money outside the borders.

• Cancel visas and increasing visa fees: Trump says he could increase his leverage on Mexico's leaders by making it harder for their people to live and work in the U.S. The country accounted for about 14 percent of the 10.9 million visas issues by the U.S. in 2015, according to State Department data. Only Chinese visitors, who received one of every four U.S. visas last year, took more. Trump’s administration would have broad discretion in choosing who to give visas, and how much to charge, said John Sandweg, a former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security.

• Increase wages for certain foreign workers, and require companies to hire Americans first: Foreign workers hired for high-skilled jobs, like software engineering and research, must be paid a prevailing industry wage, as determined by a Labor Department database. Trump says requiring higher wages for those who receive H1-B visas will deter companies from hiring foreign workers. U.S. companies want more of these visas, not fewer, but it’s something President Trump could do with the rule-making process, Sandweg said. Similarly, Trump could change rules to try to force companies to search for new hires first from the country's pool of unemployed workers before turning to overseas labor.

• Mandatory deportation for all undocumented immigrants with criminal records, and detentions for those caught at the border: Like Obama and Bush before him, the Trump administration would set parameters on how to focus the deportation budget. Obama has focused resources on violent criminals, but Trump could undo that to go after those with traffic offenses.

• Stop defending NATO allies: Trump used his foreign policy address on April 27 to echo concerns shared by many U.S. officials that most of the 28 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization don’t spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, as required by the agreement. “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense—and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves,” Trump said. As commander-in-chief, Trump could take that unprecedented step, foreign policy experts said.
“He would risk blowing up the entire alliance over what could be an exchange rate or accounting issue,” said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

• Cancel the Paris climate accord and stop paying U.S. tax dollars into UN global warming programs: During a May 26 speech in North Dakota, Trump said he would yank U.S. support from the Paris agreement to slash carbon dioxide emissions that 195 nations endorsed last December. There isn't much Trump could do to kill the accord itself. The deal isn't a treaty, and it doesn't require Senate ratification. Instead, it goes into force automatically when at least 55 parties, accounting for 55 percent of global emissions, have ratified the pact. Still, under Trump, the U.S. could sit out future United Nations negotiations designed to deepen carbon cuts over time. And because individual country commitments are voluntary, Trump could easily walk away from the U.S. pledges at the cost of alienating other world leaders.

• Scrap “job-destroying” energy regulations: Trump singled out Obama's new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants -- and the “waters of the U.S.” rule that defines what waterways are under the government's jurisdiction. He would also rescind “any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest.”

• Approve the Keystone XL pipeline
• Reverse moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands
• Declare China a currency manipulator
• Bolster the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas: Increasing troop levels here will help strengthen America’s ability to negotiate with the Chinese, Trump says. Obama’s administration sent about 300 additional troops with combat aircraft and helicopters into the area earlier this year in response to a border dispute between China and the Philippines. Trump has not said how many more troops he’d like in the region.

That's not a comprehenisve list. But I especially like the last one. For those who actually believe that Trump's nationalism is confined to trade, they should probably think again. Many a trade war has erupted into a shooting war --- and Trump talks just as much about being "respected" as he does about commerce. He's itching for a war, don't think he isn't. And his preference would be a big one. Because he has very big hands.


Big day for the Supremes

by digby

A couple of important cases came down, the most far-reaching being the Whole Women's Health vs Hellerstedt decision which held that the state of Texas did indeed place an undue burden on women by making doctors and clinics go through  inane hoops transparently designed to make it impossible for them to offer abortion services to their patients. It will be a slow walk back in many states that have passed these ridiculous laws but it's a start. The ruling puts teeth into the concept of "undue burden" for the first time in a quarter century. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress wrote:
Whole Woman’s Health leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down. It’s difficult to exaggerate just how awesomely anti-abortion advocates erred in urging Texas to pass HB 2 in the first place. This law was supposed to provide those advocates with a vehicle to drain what life remains in Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive freedom is stronger today than it has been at any point in nearly a decade.
Say hallalujah! 
“SCOTUS’s decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality,” Clinton wrote. “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.” 
President Obama released a statement saying he was pleased with the court’s decision and that his administration remains committed to protecting women’s health. 
“As the brief filed by the Solicitor General makes clear and as the Court affirmed today, these restrictions harm women’s health and place an unconstitutional obstacle in the path of a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Obama said.
If we can keep the Republicans out of the White House long enough to ensure that there's a liberal majority on the court going forward, we might see some progress.

And there was another case decided today that seems pretty important considering current political trends:
At-issue in Voisine v. United States is a technical question of whether two men with convictions for “reckless” domestic assault fall under a federal law prohibiting people convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. The law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms wasn’t the question under discussion — instead, the question was how far that law reached over certain states’ differing domestic assault laws.

Justice Thomas, however, was very concerned in arguments about the broader law that domestic abusers at large can’t have guns — breaking 10 years of silence on the Court to complain at arguments in February.

“Give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right,” he asked, later suggesting that the particular domestic abusers in this case shouldn’t lose their ability to carry guns because they’ve never actually “use[d] a weapon against a family member.”
His dissent in the case upholding the law is a real doozy. It seems he really can't stand the idea of domestic abusers losing their "right" to have deadly weapons. Even in the face of this:
Most mass shootings (defined as a shooting with four or more casualties), however, take place outside the headlines. They're private disputes, between family members and partners, often with a clear track record of violence and assault escalating to a deadly incident.

More than half of mass shootings involve a family member or intimate partner, according five years of data compiled by The Huffington Post. Of those, 81 percent of the victims are women and children. Victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to be murdered when a gun is involved. According to the government attorney on Voisine vs. United States, “individuals who have previously…­­ battered their spouses, pose up to a six­fold greater risk of killing, by a gun, their family member.”

The common thread linking many of America's deadliest crimes is domestic violence, hence the federal law. Yet even when abusers are convicted of misdemeanor crimes for domestic violence -- which don't cover non-married partners who don't live together or extended family members -- and then fall under the Federal statue, implementation is difficult: If an abuser already has a gun, police have to know it -- which is made difficult by the fact that not every state has a gun registry or gun sale database. And, without universal background checks, it's very possible for those with domestic violence restraining orders to get guns even when legally prohibited.

America has a lot of problems with guns. Lack of access for domestic abusers is not one of them.
The Supreme Court took a common sense approach to guns today. It's a very rare person who "needs" a gun. Maybe if you're out in the Alaskan wilds and you need to protect yourself from bears, you do, but other than that, you can do without quite easily. So, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor for threatening or inflicting violence on a family member you don't get to have a gun to shoot them with the next time things get out of hand. That seems like common sense to me.

Maybe some day we can come at it from the other angle and make it impossible for anyone to use semi-automatic weapons and really cut down on the mass shooting fatalities. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.

By the way, many people opposed to this are all for taking away a convicted felon's right to vote, no problem, even though one person's vote never killed anyone. Priorities ...

Not Guh Happen

by digby

Many Republicans have buyers remorse on Trump but it doesn't look as if enough of them are going to the convention to stage a coup and install someone else:

Republicans looking to dump Donald Trump at next month’s convention have passion, energy and a fierce sense that their party will suffer unless Trump is unseated. What they appear to lack, however, are the votes to make it happen.

POLITICO reached out to all 112 members of the committee that will write the rules of the national GOP convention. This is the panel that anti-Trump activists hope to jam a proposal through to free convention delegates to spurn Trump and select another candidate instead.

What emerged from the survey, though, is a portrait of a committee with little interest in the dump Trump crowd. In fact, most members may be eager to stop them.

“I support DJT 100%,” said Alabama rules committee member Laura Payne in an email. “I ran to support … Trump & to represent the voters of Alabama. It may or may not be an attempt, but the voters will prevail.”

"Trying to change the rules in mid-game because you don't like the outcome is tantamount to saying you are going to take your ball and go home because you are losing," said Christine Serrano-Glassner, a Rules Committee delegate from New Jersey. "I will be supporting our Nominee, Donald J. Trump."

It was a common sentiment. Among the 32 committee members who responded, 25 said they would fight efforts to stop Trump’s nomination. . Another 33 members of the panel have been previously on record as endorsing Trump or rejecting efforts to rip the nomination away from him at the convention.

I doubt that doing this would go over very well among voters. They have this little thing about wanting to be the ones to choose their own nominee for president. And in any case, who would be the "consensus" choice to replace him? I don't think there is anyone. (If people think Paul Ryan is popular among the base they're not paying attention.)

But you certainly can't blame some people for trying. Look at what they've got.

Trump's God laundering opportunists

by digby

Did you know that Trump has been born again? I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

I’ve written quite a bit about Donald Trump’s unexpectedly successful wooing of the religious right in this presidential campaign. After all, we’ve been told for more than three decades now that conservative Christians require that America’s political leaders have the highest personal moral standards and adhere to a strict commitment to traditional values so he wasn’t expected to do well with them. Recall the stirring words of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson back in 1998 during the impeachment scandal:
As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no…

We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us — but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a nation reaches that state of depravity — judgment is a certainty.

There was Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition and current leader of the Faith and Family:

''Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.”

It’s fair to say that Donald Trump misses the mark on these requirements by a thousand miles. With his three marriages, his history of public bragging about his sexual exploits and the size of his penis in the national media, and his obvious lack of even rudimentary knowledge of the Bible or any religious teachings, Christian or otherwise, he would seem to be the last person that people of strong faith would find acceptable.

But in the primaries, it became clear that he was drawing many of the voters Ted Cruz had counted on being in his corner. It’s not that Cruz didn’t get evangelical voters, it’s that he was only getting the ones who actually attended church. As it turns out this allegedly vast faction of hardcore conservative Christian true believers wasn’t nearly as big as everyone had been led to believe. Indeed, it turns out that for a lot of people “evangelical” is itself just another cultural signifier like those boots and those pork rinds, a tribal designation rather than a serious adherence to Christian teachings.

That’s not to say that this particular group of self-identified evangelicals don’t believe in anything. They undoubtedly go to church from time to time and think of themselves as Christians. It’s just that they don’t actually live their lives in accordance to the Bible as Christian Right leaders have spent years indoctrinating the public to believe. They’re conservatives the way Donald Trump is conservative --- authoritarian, intolerant and often cruel.They identify with The Donald because of his willingness to “tell it like it is” as they see it and personal morality is irrelevant.

This opinion piece in the New York Times by J.D. Vance explores just how unfortunate that decoupling with the actual church and its teachings has been for many members of the white working class who are so enamored of Trump and his “anti-PC” campaign. He discusses various studies that show kids who attend church regularly “perform better in school, divorce less as adults and commit fewer crimes.” And they are, on the whole, less prejudiced, exposed as they often are to people of other races and shown empathy and generosity by church leaders’ willingness to help people in need. Evangelicals who don’t actually go to church have lost an important stabilizing, social influence.

And he may have hit upon an important reason why this has happened --- “the deinstitutionalization of the faith has occurred alongside its politicization.” He says this is one reason why some of these people may be relating to Trump despite the fact that they have very little in common:

While it’s hard to fault people for voting their conscience, this fusion of religion and politics necessarily forces people to look externally. The sometimes tough love of the Christian faith of my childhood demanded a certain amount of self-reflection and, occasionally, self-criticism. While faith need not be monolithic — it can motivate both voting behavior and character development — focus matters. A Christianity constantly looking for political answers to moral and spiritual problems gives believers an excuse to blame other people when they should be looking in the mirror.

But then the Christian Right has long been a political operation rather than a religious movement, hasn’t it?

This brings us to Trump’s most recent “outreach” to the religious right which took place last week in New York when Trump met with a large group of Christian leaders to set their minds at ease about his candidacy. The big news that came out of that was that Trump bizarrely stated that nobody knows if Hillary Clinton has any religious beliefs at all. (They do, of course. She’s a devout Methodist.) But he also sold himself as someone who would protect “religious liberty”--- the latest social conservative buzzword --- with his Supreme Court picks which seemed to thrill the assembled church leaders. Some were so excited by this they lost their bearings a little bit. Cortney O’Brien of Townhall interviewed one of the participants:

Pastor Michael Anthony, who is president of the company Godfactor and founder of the National Week of Repentance, says he witnessed a much different Donald Trump at Tuesday’s evangelical meeting in Times Square...“His posture said it all,” Anthony explained. “He sat the whole time and had his hands to his side for the majority of time. I saw a gentler demeanor here...There was a palpable humility in the room that gets me kind of emotional to talk about it. It was really unique.”

It ended, he said, with the entire room on their knees praying for revival for the country.

“In a very calm, quiet way, with his arms folded, he said, ‘you religious leaders,’ he called us, ‘have every right to speak up and express yourselves, and you don’t. The First Amendment protects that right and yet you don’t.’” Anthony said the room knew he was spot-on. “I think God was speaking through him at that moment, to the church, to tell us why are you being silent about the most important thing about your lives?”

Yes, he actually said that God was speaking through Donald Trump.

At the end of the meeting, Trump released a long list of religious right leaders as his “Evangelical advisory committee” including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a man who has been scathing in his criticism of Trump. (He torturously explained that he would agree to serve Hillary Clinton too because that’s what Jesus would do.)

Ralph Reed has been a political operative since the 80s when he and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist and convicted K-Street felon Jack Abramoff were junior Reagan revolutionaries together so he knows the game. And this was the best he could come up with:

Number one, I know his children. And you don't raise children who are this phenomenal if you're a person of bad moral character. Secondly, you don't accomplish what he has accomplished in New York City and around the world by not judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

But he’s all in with Trump. And James Dobson, who wrote that righteous screed about people no longer recognizing the face of evil back in 1998, spoke with the aforementioned Michael Anthony on the radio and casually asserted that Trump has recently been born again:

Dobson: There are a lot of people ministering to him (Trump) personally…He did accept a relationship with Christ. I know the person who led him to Christ. And that’s fairly recent. I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long. I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”
That’s very convenient since it means Trump gets a do-over on all that awful behavior of his.

Not everyone is buying it. This evangelical scholar suggests that the real believing evangelicals are being played:

What happened on Tuesday in New York was the theo-political equivalent of money laundering. Dobson and his gang are making Trump clean so that he is worthy of evangelical votes.
So, all those white working class types who identify as evangelical but don’t go to church are being seduced by Trump’s crude nationalism and nativism, largely as result of religious leaders politicizing religion and turning it into a vehicle for their own secular power. Now, after years of lectures about morality and personal rectitude in public life, they’ve sunk so low that they’re actually trying to convince the truly devout weekly church goers that this depraved demagogue is someone they should support.

These people are making the spineless establishment Republicans look like saints by comparison.


Brexit: Do-Over!!!

by Tom Sullivan

On Friday, global markets had their biggest daily loss ever. Larger than the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the Black Monday Crash of 1987. There have since been lots of stories of regret among Brexit 'Leave' voters, many of whom seem not to have understood what they were voting for.

Having seen what has happened to the Pound and to the value of pensions, they're calling for a do-over:

LONDON — An online petition calling for a second referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union surpassed 3 million signatures Sunday, highlighting the tumult sweeping the country in the wake of the shock decision.

The petition calls on the government to implement a rule stating that if the "Remain" or "Leave" camps won less than 60 percent of the vote with less than a 75 percent turnout, "there should be another referendum."

The referendum has been deeply divisive for the United Kingdom. The "Leave" campaign had racked up 17.4 million votes — compared to 16.1 million backing the status quo — giving "Leave" 51.9 percent of the ballot.
Ironically, the pro-Leave maker of the petition created it weeks ago for another purpose entirely and wants to distance himself from it now that it has been "hijacked by the remain campaign":

In addition, the petition may have been manipulated from outside the country. During auditing, 77,000 signatures have been removed:

The request for another referendum on the parliament’s official petitions website should have been signed only by British citizens and UK residents.

However, the petition’s data showed signatories from countries around the world, including Iceland, the Cayman Islands and Tunisia, and in some cases there are more signatures than total population.

Despite Vatican City, a tiny city state, having a total population of just 800, over 39,000 residents of Vatican City appeared to have signed the petition.

Helen Jones, the chair of the petitions committee, said that those signatures discovered to be fake would be “removed” and said such fraud “undermines the process of parliamentary democracy”.
Even so, while the EU is saying hurry up and go already, many among the original "Leave" voters have reconsidered. What a mess:
"The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered," a choking Cameron said in his resignation speech, which marked the most tumultuous end to a British premiership since Anthony Eden resigned in 1957 after the Suez crisis.

Still, the upswell of chatter - #regrexit is trending big on twitter - over whether Britain might be able to reconsider speaks to the disbelief gripping this continent in the wake of a vote that has unleashed financial and political mayhem.

Sterling has plunged, and Britain's political parties are both crippled. Cameron is a lameduck leader, and the main opposition Labour party on Sunday attempted a coup against its leader, with nine top officials resigning.
The UK has "silly walked" itself off a cliff, according to the next New Yorker cover:

If only Donald Trump had been there to show them how to do it right.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Forward, into the past: A timely reissue of Peter Watkins’ Culloden ****

By Dennis Hartley

“For some time, [United Kingdom] constitutional nerds such as myself used to float this kind of nightmare scenario, in which one or more parts of the U.K such as Northern Ireland or Scotland [votes to stay in the E.U.], while England, being the largest group [votes to leave the E.U.]...basically those other parts of the U.K. are out-voted. […] Now this has actually happened; this isn’t a nightmare scenario any longer, it’s the reality.”  - Andrew Blick, lecturer in politics and contemporary history (on CNN, June 24, 2016).

There’s been a substantial amount of speculation among the chattering class over the last 36 hours regarding a possible “contagion effect” on the nations who remain allegiant to the European Union, following the U.K.’s voter-mandated breakaway this past Thursday.

While no one with a modicum of sense and/or logic is expecting World War III to break out next week as a result of the “Brexit” referendum decision, there remain a number of compelling historical reasons why the possibility of profound political and socioeconomic instability in Europe down the road is concerning to those who keep track of such things.

For a continent that encompasses a relatively modest 3,930,000 square miles altogether (for perspective, the United States by itself is 3,806,000 square miles in size), Europe has a densely complex history of political volatility, avarice-driven disputes, willful military aggressions and generations-spanning (ruling) family squabbles that boggles the mind.

I’m not saying we haven’t gotten our own hair mussed once or twice here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A; after all, 620,000 people died in the Civil War. That said, 17 million people died in World War I, and an estimated 60 million souls slipped the surly bonds of Earth in the course of World War II. Yes, those were “world” wars, but volatility in Europe was the primary impetus. I guess what I’m saying is, the fact that we have known the existence of a unified Europe in our lifetimes is a blessing that we have taken for granted.

However, as implied by the quote at the top of the post, what makes the Brexit decision even more fascinating to me is the possibility of the U.K. itself splintering apart eventually as a result. Which in effect would be history repeating itself, particularly in the case of Scotland, which voted almost overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the E.U. In fact, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has already announced a plan to keep Scotland in the E.U., as well as noting that drafts are in the works for legislation proposing another vote on Scottish independence from the U.K. (there was one in 2014).

To say that the history between England and Scotland is a “bloody” one would not be overstatement. Consider a particularly nasty bit of business generally referred to as the “Jacobite Uprising” or “The Forty-five Rebellion” (1745-1746). Depending on which historian you’re reading, the conflict was either a clan war betwixt Scottish lowlanders and highlanders, a religious civil war, or a Scottish war of independence against England. For the sake of expediency, I’m going to split the difference and call it “all of the above”.

The culmination of the conflict occurred on April 16, 1745 with the Battle of Culloden:

Towards one o'clock, the Jacobite artillery opened fire on government soldiers. The government responded with their own cannon, and the Battle of Culloden began. Bombarded by cannon shot and mortar bombs, the Jacobite clans held back, waiting for the order to attack. At last they moved forwards, through hail, smoke, murderous gunfire and grapeshot. Around eighty paces from their enemy they started to fire their muskets and charged. Some fought ferociously. Others never reached their goal. The government troops had finally worked out bayonet tactics to challenge the dreaded Highland charge and broadsword. The Jacobites lost momentum, wavered, then fled.  
Hardly an hour had passed between the first shots and the final flight of the Prince's army. Although a short battle by European standards, it was an exceptionally bloody one.
Culloden was not only “an exceptionally bloody” battle, but holds distinction as the last such pitched battle to be fought on British soil. Although the slaughter did not stop there:
After their victory, Cumberland ordered his men to execute all the Jacobite wounded and prisoners, an act by which he was known afterwards as "the Butcher." Certain higher-ranking prisoners did survive to be tried and executed later in Inverness. […]Immediately after the battle, Cumberland rode into Inverness, his drawn sword still covered in blood, a symbolic and menacing gesture. The following day, the slaughter continued, when patrols were sent back to the battlefield to kill any survivors; contemporary sources indicate that about 70 more Jacobites were killed as a result… 
[…] 3,470 Jacobites, supporters, and others were taken prisoner in the aftermath of Culloden, with 120 of them being executed and 88 dying in prison; 936 transported to the colonies, and 222 more "banished." While many were eventually released, the fate of nearly 700 is unknown.
The Rebellion left a profound cultural impact on Scotland as well. From the same article:
[The ’45 Rebellion] had enormous psychological impact upon the Highland Scots, and severe civil penalties thereafter (for example, it became a criminal offense to wear tartan plaid). What followed can be described as cultural vandalism, with the destruction of a way of life that many had found meaningful, giving them a sense of identity and kinship.
So how does this all tie in with the Brexit vote? In a well-written 2011 Daily Kos piece inspired by the (then) 265th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, OP OllieGarky notes:
Cameron and Thatcher's recent ruthlessness towards Scottish public institutions is nothing new. It is a pale relic of previous attempts to rebuild Scotland into a properly British province, according to whatever fashion the current leaders took. […] 
Culloden and its aftermath is an emotional issue for the Scottish Diaspora. Depending on your definition, how you include or exclude individuals from the Diaspora, the Diaspora outnumbers the population of Scotland by no less than 12 to one. This loss of people has been disastrous for Scotland in recent years, leading to the rise of the Scottish National Party. […] 
The Scottish Nationalists are Nationalists in name only. They don't espouse any of the ethnocentric bile typical of traditional Nationalist groups like the BNP, or White Nationalists in the US. Indeed, the music of Scottish Nationalism is disgusted with the ethnocentric ideas that are themselves an integral part of the BNP's British Nationalism, or its predecessor the National Front's English Nationalism.
It’s no secret that there was an undercurrent of anti-immigrant nativism streaking through rhetoric spouted by some of the high profile spokespersons in the “leave the E.U.” camp.
Which (finally) brings us to writer-director Peter Watkins’ largely forgotten, yet somewhat groundbreaking made-for BBC-TV docudrama from 1964 entitled Culloden. The film has been newly remastered for a beautifully-transferred “two-fer” (Region “B” only) Blu-ray release from BFI that also includes Watkins’ more well-known (and controversial) 1965 BBC docudrama The War Game (****), which is an unblinking, startlingly realistic envisioning of the after-effects of a nuclear attack on the city of Kent.
Truth be told, the primary reason I ordered the set was to snag a copy of The War Game; I was previously unaware of Culloden (it never aired outside of the U.K., unlike The War Game, which gained its higher profile from international cinematic distribution in 1966, subsequently earning it an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature back in 1967).
It is by pure kismet that I just happened to view Culloden for the first time about 2 weeks ago, so it’s fresh in my mind; otherwise I likely never would have connected this relatively obscure battle that took place 270 years ago with the results of the Brexit referendum just this past Thursday. At any rate, I was happy to discover this gem, which is very much in the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. While he shares Kubrick’s eye for detail and neorealist capture of the horror of battle, Watkins does him one better:
(From David Archibald’s essay, written for the companion booklet to the BFI Blu-ray)
“Culloden” emerged at the high point in British television. In 1956 Bertolt Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble toured Britain for the first time, and the company’s non-Aristotelian, distanciation techniques, which attempted to highlight theatre’s constructed nature and, in turn, politicize the spectator, were becoming increasingly popular among leftist theatre-makers […]  
The experimental and constructed nature of [“Culloden”] is all-too apparent: on-location shooting; fourth-wall breaking direct address to the camera; repeated, shaky camera work; tight close-ups on the protagonists’ faces and the presence of a narrator who describes events as if reporting on the daily news.
The anachronistic conceit that Watkins employs cannily presages the advent of the “mockumentary” (although you will discover nothing “funny” is going on in the course of the film’s 69 minutes). Yet there is nothing “gimmicky” about it, in fact, the overall effect is quite powerful and involving. As Archibald goes on to conclude in his essay:
Yet this is not simply an adaptation of [John Prebbles’ eponymous 1962 book] but stands in its own right as a legitimate historical representation of an important chapter in Scottish and British history. […] 
[Peter Watkins] never returned to television [following “The War Game” in 1965], but he leaves behind a brace of innovative yet accessible, provocative yet popular documentaries, which remain strikingly fresh and politically potent.
Here are 2 things I know to be true: Culloden is strikingly fresh. And history is cyclical.
(Note: BFI’s Blu-ray/DVD is Region “B”; it requires a region-free player for viewing!)

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--Dennis Hartley

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