Flynn Jr. in blue tie at Trump tower as part of the transition team
I have written before about what a piece of work Trump National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is. He's way out on the fringe. His son, who is working on the transition with his father and serves as his chief of staff, is even worse.
Last night he was tweeting like a madman about this #Pizzagate conspiracy theory saying he believes it's true that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta are running a pedophile ring out of the back of a pizza place. (As you've undoubtedly heard, a wingnut with a gun went into the pizza place to "investigate" and fired his weapon yesterday, luckily no one was hurt.) Flynn Sr has been saying that Hillary Clinton was involved with a child sex ring for weeks although it is a slightly different conspiracy than this particular one. It doesn't specify that they are raping the children in this particular pizza parlor. (That's right, the new National Security Adviser believes Hillary Clinton is a pedophile. For all we know the whole administration is that insane.)
As Twitter has cracked down on white nationalist accounts in recent weeks, many adherents of the movement have instead started using the social platform Gab, which bans users from engaging in illegal activity but nothing else. As the New York Times recently detailed, the platform — which uses a frog for its logo — “has emerged as a digital safe space for the far right, where white nationalists, conspiracy-theorist YouTubers, and minivan majority moms can gather without liberal interference.” Several white nationalists who have been banned from Twitter — including Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard B. Spencer, and Ricky Vaughn — have resurfaced there.
Flynn Jr.’s Twitter bio actually includes a link to his Gab page. On Gab, Flynn Jr. follows white nationalists and posted that he hopes to convince his dad to switch to the new platform.
On Sunday — the same day he was tweeting about PizzaGate — Flynn Jr. used Gab to praise a racist collage, created by a user to deride Obama’s “so called legacy,” linking Obama to African American criminals and Muslim terrorists.
Flynn Jr.’s bigoted message echoes sentiments that his dad has also expressed on social media.
During an interview with the New York Times late last month, Trump attempted to distance himself from white nationalists, saying, “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group… I disavow and condemn.”
But with Flynn Sr. poised to become his top adviser on security issues and Flynn Jr. serving in an official role as well — not to mention that Trump’s top strategist is set to be Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart boss who a former colleague said “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners” — it’s easy to see why Trump’s disavowal rings hollow.
So, for the 6,395th time since November 8th: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE???
... or some banana republic (although there's not much difference anymore) would you see this:
And the guy with the red number is the winner.
They're still counting votes too in place where Clinton is expected to gain even more. It's just outrageous.
Yet that pathological liar and his minions are all running around saying they won in a landslide.
It's the craziest thing I've ever seen.
It's bad enough that it happened. But that it installed a corrupt sociopath and a band of right wing extremists is just too much to bear.
Just FYI: Nate Silver, who runs FiveThiryEight.com, calculated that “the average electoral college winner claimed 70.9 percent of the available electoral votes, which would equate to 381 electoral votes given today’s total of 538 electors.” So Trump’s 56.9 percent “is decidedly below-average,” he concluded.
A conservative group that played a key role in legal battles over access to Hillary Clinton's emails is asking a federal judge to release videos of depositions top Clinton aides and other State Department officials gave in connection with the litigation over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Judicial Watch filed a motion Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, asking him to unseal the testimony in light of the fact that the presidential election is over and the arguments against release seemed to be based on the videos becoming fodder in the White House race. Transcripts of the testimony were released soon after it was given, but the recordings have never been published.
"The sole reason for sealing the recordings in the first place was to avoid their misuse during the 2016 campaign season. Now that the election is over that reason no longer exists," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha wrote. "The release of the recordings will not only allow the public to better understand Secretary Clinton’s email practices, it will also provide the public with a more complete picture of the discovery taken in this case."
At issue are depositions given by former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, former State information technology manager John Bentel, and computer technician Bryan Pagliano, who worked for State and Clinton personally. Lawyers for those four and for the State Department have indicated they oppose release of the videos, the court filing said.
Sullivan ordered the videos sealed last May, finding "good cause" to keep them under wraps, but Judicial Watch says those grounds are no longer valid.
"That good cause – the possibility that the recordings could be exploited for political gain during the contentious campaign season – is now moot. The reason for the protective order no longer exists," Bekesha wrote.
The Judicial Watch motion points to continuing press coverage of the Clinton-related email litigation (including this POLITICO post) and notes that media organizations asked last July that Sullivan to reconsider his motion and release the videos. The judge has not acted on that request.
Basically they're saying that as long as the media covers the story --- story they're creating --- it's in the public interest and they have to have access to all this crapola.
I feel for Judicial Watch, I really do. They were expecting a very lucrative and busy four years chasing Clinton for fun a profit. Now they're stuck beating a dead horse and they know that even the hard core nutcases are going to lose interest in this stuff --- especially when they've got crazed pedophile conspiracy theories to wank over. This email thing is just not very compelling when it no longer has the capacity to compel impeachment. Now, if they could find something really juicy maybe they could get their good buddy Comey to step up but he already knows what's in these tapes so it's not likely. It's going to take more than this stuff to "lock her up!"
Of course, they are ostensibly a non-partisan watchdog group so they could be looking into the mountain of conflicts of interests, lies, graft and ongoing corruption of the nascent Trump administration. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that one ...
During campaign season Trump shared more Breitbart links to his more than 15 million followers than any other news organization (in August Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon joined Trump’s campaign as CEO and will enter the West Wing in January as Trump’s senior White House adviser). While Trump also shares links from mainstream sites — his second most shared site during the time period analyzed was the Washington Post — Trump’s preferred content seems to be right-leaning, hyper-partisan sites and opinion blogs including Daily Caller (21 links), Newsmax (18), the Gateway Pundit (14 links), the Conservative Treehouse (11), the Political Insider (1), Conservative Tribune (1), Infowars (1), newsninja2012.com (5), and westernjournalism.com (1). Trump’s Twitter account also shares links from a number of obscure personal blogs, like agent54nsa.blogspot.com, which hosted a joke post about a fake game show about Monica Lewinsky hosted by a character named “Stink Fartinmale.”
There's just no doubt what we are dealing with: a far right nut. Which explains his appointment of another far right nut as his National Security adviser.
Politics and Reality Radio: Digby on the Trumpocalypse; Dean Baker: Yes, the Economy Is Rigged
with Joshua Holland
This week, Digby talks about what went wrong in 2016, what our future under the Trump regime may look like and how the media isn't prepared to hold the first aggressively post-truth president's feet to the fire.
Sixteen years ago, when Al Gore won the popular vote but was denied the presidency due to the anachronism known as the Electoral College, Democrats tried to figure out how they could prevent such a weird anomalous result from happening again. As early as the day after the election, the New York Times was already laying the groundwork for what would become seen as the reason for Gore’s failure (although it would be many weeks before the result of that contested election became clear).
Vice President Gore had failed to spend enough time in his home state of Tennessee, it was said, opting instead to put resources into other tossup states like Michigan and Wisconsin. But the real reason he lost was a grand geographical shift:
While Tennessee has moved to the right in national politics, Mr. Gore has moved to the left since his days as a congressman, particularly on issues like abortion and gun control that have put him at odds with many Southern voters.
Two years later, when The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber addressed the question again, conventional wisdom was sealed. Scheiber reported that on the eve of the 2000 Democratic convention the Gore team had realized they had a big problem:
“The entire target of communication was Pennsylvania, western Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. That’s the world Gore was trying to reach,” [pollster Stan] Greenberg recalls. Since these areas were chock-full of gun-toting union members, Team Gore decided that gun control would hurt the vice president in the states he needed most.
After the election, the Gore campaign’s hunch became Democratic gospel. Sure, Gore had won the Rust Belt battleground states, but the Democrats had lost their third straight bid to retake Congress — and many in the party believed gun control was to blame. In particular, they pointed to the election’s regional skew. In famously anti-gun California, the Dems knocked off three incumbents. But throughout the rest of the country, they defeated only one. “Of all the issues,” insists one senior Democratic congressman, gun control “had the greatest net [negative] effect.”
That “regional skew” is a real problem. By 2004 candidate John Kerry was running around in a hunting vest with a gun slung over his shoulder bragging about always eating what he killed. Not that it did him any good. The fact that he was against the sale of assault-style weapons was assumed to have been the kiss of death when those white rural voters rejected him.
The need to move away from “culture war” issues like gun control, abortion and marriage equality was considered gospel during that period in the Democratic wilderness. Then came the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina and a teetering economy that caught up to the Republicans, and Democrats won big in 2008.The assumption then was that Barack Obama had managed to put together a new Democratic coalition that was not dependent on those rural whites who feared the loss of their guns so much they would vote against anyone who favored common-sense gun safety regulation.
We saw Democrats find their voices on the issue after a horrific spate of mass killings, particularly the horrifying Newtown tragedy, in which classrooms full of tiny children were mowed down by a disturbed young man with a semi-automatic weapon. It became a defining cause of the party, with President Obama taking the lead in pushing the issue and elected Democrats holding an unprecedented sit-in on Capitol Hill last spring to protest GOP inaction on guns.
But perversely or otherwise, the NRA actually experiences more growth when a Democrat is in the White House, and has become more powerful than ever during the Obama years. As the gun-tracking news organization called the Trace points out in this article, the NRA did this with a “populist” P.R. approach that perfectly dovetailed with Donald Trump’s anti-establishment campaign. One might even suggest that Trump stole a lot of his shtick from the NRA.
In 2008, the NRA’s visionary leader Wayne LaPierre declared war on establishment elites saying that they “believe the same elite conceit — you shouldn’t protect yourself. Government should. But we know there’s a little problem with that. They don’t give a damn about you!” The Trace reported:
Four years later, LaPierre expanded on the threats the elite posed to encompass free speech, religious liberty, even the ability of people to start small businesses or choose for themselves what kind of health care they want. Drug dealing illegal immigrants were being allowed to pour over the Southern border, he railed. Criminals in big cities were free to prey on innocents because judges were so lenient. “Not our issues, some might say.” He paused, and then countered: “Oh, but they are.”
In fact, the NRA has been pushing an anti-establishment message in one form or another since the mid-’90s. When Trump came along, LaPierre understood that unlike the patrician Mitt Romney, Trump’s sometime apostasy on guns would be outweighed by his ability to sell pitchfork-wielding populism and thinly-veiled calls for vigilantism. So the NRA went all in for Trump and spent millions on ads bashing Hillary Clinton in places like Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. (I wrote about their first ad here.) According to the Center for Public Integrity, nearly one out of 20 TV ads in Pennsylvania was paid for by the NRA, and the group ran nearly 15,000 spots in the crucial swing states that Trump narrowly won, deciding the election.
LaPierre has released a new video, taking a victory lap in which he fatuously declares, “Our time is now. This is our historic moment to go on offense.” First on the agenda is demanding that the federal government enforce “concealed-carry reciprocity,” in which states would have to recognize permits to carry concealed weapons issued by other states, as if they were as benign as driver’s licenses. So much for federalism.
Most election postmortems have concluded that Democrats failed with non-college educated and rural white voters this time because of their economic message rather than guns or other culture-war issues. But perhaps that’s just the other side of the same coin. LaPierre and the NRA have a powerful understanding of what moves this constituency and they’ve been moving it in their direction for many years. The NRA has been selling anti-establishment Trumpism long before Trump came on to the scene. It’s Wayne LaPierre’s win as much as Donald Trump’s.
Legend has it that the first person Howard Dean hired for the 50-state plan was (is) a friend of mine, maybe the best field organizer I've known. When he returned from training in D.C., he said privately their charge was to turn county parties that had devolved into social clubs back into functioning political organizations.
Today's Democratic Party upper echelons might resemble that remark.
There is a lot of "old-boyism" in party politics. Mostly because people who have the time and/or resources to pursue party work are older. But older doesn't always mean more skilled; experienced doesn't always mean the right kind. When reviewing resumes, it is wise to know the difference between an applicant who has 20 years' worth of experience and one who has 1 year's worth of experience 20 years in a row. Many experienced party hands are not versed in modern campaign-craft. They assign more weight to who might make a strong public servant than to whether they might make a strong candidate. (We need candidates who are both.) Nevertheless, they like to be the deciders of whose turn it is. There is a tendency to hang onto power and not to cultivate new leadership possessing skills they don't understand. Old boys would rather turn over the reins to old chums — regardless of their skills — when they can't chew the leather anymore.
Dennis Kucinich winning the caucus in our county in 2004 was a deep embarrassment here. Favorite-son John Edwards was supposed to win. Didn't "those progressives" who outmaneuvered them know that? A Deaniac took a county party seat the next year. But established players stonewalled and ran her off. And they got their club back. "Those progressives" were supposed to wait for their turn that wasn't coming.
Activists who allowed themselves to be run off never got anywhere. They're forgotten. Those who wouldn't be run off did. Persistence pays. So does positioning. (I have an interesting story about positioning, but another time.)
The hair-on-fire panic many progressive activists exist in vis-a-vis national politics and the future of the country (and now the planet) reflects the same short-term thinking that leads establishment Democrats to defend their reelection first and the voters second. ("This is the most important election of our lifetimes," etc.) No long-term thinking. Longer-term, the Democratic party is a pushover if progressives will just do the work and stick around long enough to see results from the pushing. Yet a lot of talented activists are unwilling to get their nice, white vinyl souls soiled by contact with the icky party to do that. They consign themselves to irrelevancy.
Bernie Sanders won the primary here handily. He had a message that connected in the same county that supported Kucinich in 2004, as well as with rural folks with an anti-establishment itch to scratch. But Hillary Clinton had a lot going for her, including national campaign experience and a national network of personal and party contacts going back decades. She had experience in spades. Party insiders naturally felt it was "her turn." Some talented Bernie organizers here who had real potential flamed out when he lost and they are gone now. Those who stuck around are positioned to move the ball down the field and change the game. It's their turn now if only they'll step forward and lead. Post-election, the opportunity is there if only they will seize it.
I had a roommate in college who seemed to be everything I was not. He was adventurous, daring, liked by everybody, and lucky. Damn, good things just seemed to come to him. But it wasn't luck. What I finally realized was his antennae were always up. He was more attuned to the world than I was, than most people. He was always open, ready to recognize and take advantage of opportunities — NOW — that I would have shied from or let slip away while I was thinking it over. Opportunities are ephemeral, and slip away as quickly as regrets pile up.
Democrats and progressives seem forever to do more Monday-morning quarterbacking about missed opportunities than thinking three to five moves ahead, never pre-positioning themselves to capitalize on opportunities when they arise. That's what Naomi Klein described in "The Shock Doctrine." Like my roommate, those disaster capitalists pay attention to faint signals and pre-position themselves so they are poised to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
So are progressives going to do that now or just protest after the fact? Because there's a disaster coming, and we'd best be positioned to capitalize on opportunities that will appear suddenly out of nowhere. Better that than complain how the old boys clubs failed to do it for us.
Mitt Romney's chances for being secretary of State in a Trump administration are fading amid a deep division among President-elect Trump's team, and that is giving rise to dark horse candidate Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a foreign policy tough guy who once arm wrestled Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to insiders.
The Trump cabinet executive committee is also eyeing long-time Republican diplomat John Bolton as deputy secretary of State, though there are some who prefer him in the top job.
After reading this fascinating story by Maria Danilova of the AP over the week-end you might wonder why one of [his VP considerations] isn’t Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. They would seem to be a perfect match. Rohrabacher is a quirky individualist who, like Trump, marches to his own drummer. He’s been in Washington since the 80’s and knows his way around congress which is something Trump has said he wants in a VP. And they share an admiration for certain big strong manly man:
A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, the 14-term Rohrabacher takes pride in having worked to weaken “our major global enemy at that time, the Soviet Union.” A large photo in his office shows him in the hills of Afghanistan in the 1980s, where, he told The Associated Press in an interview, he launched rockets at Soviet positions as a volunteer fighter.
Rohrabacher’s view changed when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and Russia emerged as a different country. Although he acknowledges that opposition leaders face repression in Russia, he also says the country allows religious freedom and is generally more open than its predecessor.
In the mid-1990s, Rohrabacher got a taste of Russian politics, he says, when he welcomed a delegation of young Russian political leaders, which included Putin, who then worked for the mayor of St. Petersburg. After a friendly football match, the group went to a nearby pub and started arguing over whether the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. The debate turned into an arm-wrestling match between Putin and Rohrabacher, which Putin won.
“I ended up with Putin, and he beat me just like that,” Rohrabacher said, snapping his fingers.
One suspects that Trump would never be so humble. But his appreciation for Putin runs along the same lines. Rohrabacher is a major defender of Putin and the Russian government in the congress and a lot of people think it’s a little bit obsessive, particularly his willingness to take the part of some Russian officials on whom the US government has imposed sanctions for the jailhouse death of a Russian whistleblower. Rohrabacher intervened, meeting with these officials privately and with officers of another Russian firm associated with the crime under investigation in the US. He then tried to get the House Foreign Affairs Committee to drop this case from a bill imposing sanctions on human rights abusers from other countries, even trying to implicate the victims of the crimes as the real perpetrators despite all evidence to the contrary.
It's such a natural you have to wonder why he wasn't named earlier. With Bolton as number two, they would be quite the formidable pair of ugly Americans wreaking havoc all over the world. Winning!
During a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked what he thought about the sweetheart deal President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence struck with United Technology to keep about 1,000 Carrier manufacturing jobs in Indiana in exchange for millions of dollars in incentives.
“Well I’m pretty happy that we’re keeping jobs in America, aren’t you?” Ryan said to a reporter, adding that he couldn’t speak to the specifics of the deal, which won’t prevent 1,300 Carrier jobs from relocating to Mexico from Indiana. “I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico.”
Ryan’s response was a significant departure from what he’s said in the past about deals like the Carrier one. On Tax Day last year, Ryan released a statement blasting President Obama for allegedly wanting to provide “special carve-outs to his favorite industries.”
“Our tax code should not pick winners and losers,” Ryan wrote on behalf of a “simpler, flatter” tax code. “Our country can’t reach its potential with a tax code that punishes people for reaching their own.”
Ryan reiterated that sentiment in a video clip he shared to Twitter in July.
Elites in Washington should NOT be picking winners & losers—that’s a recipe for a closed economy—for cronyism.https://t.co/AcHJfVRwTE
Even supporters of the Carrier deal acknowledge the approach Trump and Pence have taken is unsustainable. Scott Paul, president of the advocacy group the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told the New York Times that “Carrier is special because it happened at the right time and the right place and it gained a high profile. But obviously, Donald Trump and Mike Pence can’t intervene every time a plant closes.”
One of the early things I would do, probably before I even got in -- and I wouldn't even use -- you know, I have -- I know the smartest negotiators in the world. I know the good ones. I know the bad ones. I know the overrated ones.
You get a lot of them that are overrated. They're not good. They think they are. They get good stories, because the newspapers get buffaloed (ph). But they're not good.
But I know the negotiators in the world, and I put them one for each country. Believe me, folks. We will do very, very well, very, very well.
But I wouldn't even waste my time with this one. I would call up the head of Ford, who I know. If I was president, I'd say, "Congratulations. I understand that you're building a nice $2.5 billion car factory in Mexico and that you're going to take your cars and sell them to the United States zero tax, just flow them across the border."
And you say to yourself, "How does that help us," right? "How does that help us? Where is that good"? It's not.
So I would say, "Congratulations. That's the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we're going to charge you a 35-percent tax, and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that's it.
Now, here's what is going to happen. If it's not me in the position, it's one of these politicians that we're running against, you know, the 400 people that we're (inaudible). And here's what's going to happen. They're not so stupid. They know it's not a good thing, and they may even be upset by it. But then they're going to get a call from the donors or probably from the lobbyist for Ford and say, "You can't do that to Ford, because Ford takes care of me and I take care of you, and you can't do that to Ford."
And guess what? No problem. They're going to build in Mexico. They're going to take away thousands of jobs. It's very bad for us.
So under President Trump, here's what would happen:
The head of Ford will call me back, I would say within an hour after I told them the bad news. But it could be he'd want to be cool, and he'll wait until the next day. You know, they want to be a little cool.
And he'll say, "Please, please, please." He'll beg for a little while, and I'll say, "No interest." Then he'll call all sorts of political people, and I'll say, "Sorry, fellas. No interest," because I don't need anybody's money. It's nice. I don't need anybody's money.
I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich. I (inaudible).
And by the way, I'm not even saying that in a -- that's the kind of mindset, that's the kind of thinking you need for this country.
What an alpha-male, right? Too bad his actual record doesn't match his juvenile braggadocio.
Now, this is not what happened with Ford or Carrier, we know that. Basically, Ford did what they were going to do anyway and curried favor with Trump by blowing smoke. And they got Carrier to save about 800 of the 2000 jobs they were planning to transfer to Mexico by handing them a big fat subsidy paid for by the taxpayers of Indiana, something Pence had refused to do just a couple of years ago.
Essentially, Trump's plan is to intervene in any proposed jobs move to Mexico that comes to his attention. But instead of giving them ultimatums about tariffs (something the Carrier folks explicitly made a part of their deal) he's going to give them everybody's hard earned tax dollars to keep a few jobs in the US, make huge profits and give Trump a big PR victory while making the lives of all the non-photo op workers in America demonstrably worse in every way. What a deal.
But don't say he didn't warn us. He said from the beginning that his economic plan was to hire billionaires and personally intervene to stop job losses when he became aware of them. That's ridiculous. People knew it. But he won anyway because he sounded like a big macho hero who would step in personally to save the day. Like Superman. That's what they voted for. A cartoon character. And that's what they got.
By the way, the Superman iconography was all over the campaign:
That's what Law Professor Laurence Tribe said this morning on Joy Reid's show:
“It’s called the emoluments clause and it basically says no officer of the United States can be on the receiving end of any kind of benefit, economic benefit, payment, gift, profit, whatever, from a foreign government or its corporations or agents,” Tribe explained before pointing to Trump’s kids having one foot in his administration and the other in Trump’s businesses. “In this case Donald Jr. or Ivanka or Eric — then there would be a close relationship that could never be disentangled by the American public.”
Turning to the Trump family’s continuing ownership of hotels and businesses throughout the world, Tribe said Trump needs to sell off everything.
“He’s a constant emolument magnet,” Tribe quipped. “He thinks of himself as a babe magnet, but he’s an emoluments magnet. And all around the world everybody wants to go to his hotels and not the competitors, and wants to give him a variance or a special land use permit and there’s simply no way short of absolutely liquidating all of his cash and assets into a blind trust and not handed over to his kids.”
“No way short of that prevents him from being a walking, talking violation of the Constitution from the moment he takes the oath,” he concluded.
And frankly, considering the legal exposure inherent in the liquidation of a business that depends upon a "brand" for its value,. I'm going to guess that even if he did this there would be tremendous incentive for him to make special "deals" with business partners to avoid such complications. I don't think there's any way for him not to be riddled with conflicts no matter what he does. He should not have run for president without unwinding that business before he ran. But hey, nobody said much about it and nobody told him he should so, what the hell, right?
Now it's too late. The only thing that can stop him from doing exactly what he's doing is impeachment. Does anyone think Jason Chaffetz is going to launch those hearings any time soon? I didn't think so. This isn't Richard Nixon's Republican party. Nobody's going to walk up the Hill and tell The Donald it's time to go.
It's conventional wisdom that members of both parties are equally partisan about everything and that nobody has any principles. This is an example of how that might not be true:
Americans' support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.
47% want to keep Electoral College, up from 35% in 2011
Republicans shift decisively in favor of Electoral College
Most Americans correctly answer that Hillary Clinton won popular vote
I think it's pretty clear what's happened here, don't you? More Republicans have suddenly decided that the electoral college is awesome for some unknown reason. The Democrats did not. Now it's possible that if they ever win the EC and lose the popular vote by millions they too will be ready to embrace it. We don't know since that never happens.
What we can see is that after 2000, which was the same situation as today essentially, there was no big uptick in support for the EC. There is now. And that's because the Republican Party is no longer even slightly interested in democratic norms. They are the "win at all costs" Party.
In May, Rodrigo Duterte, the provincial mayor who had just been elected President of the Philippines after promising to rid the country of crime and drugs by killing thousands of criminals, vowed to stop swearing. He told reporters, “Don’t fuck with me.” He called political figures “gay.” When a reporter asked about his health, he replied, “How is your wife’s vagina? Is it smelly? Or not smelly? Give me a report.” In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, he swore at the Pope. At first, he defended his language as a gesture of radical populism. “I am testing the élite in this country,” he said. “Because we are fundamentally a feudal country.” But, the day after the election, he appeared with a popular televangelist and said, “I need to control my mouth.” He compared his forthcoming transformation to that of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. “If you are the President of the country, you need to be prim and proper,” he said. His inaugural speech, in June, was obscenity-free.
The resolution didn’t last. Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of more than three thousand people, drawing condemnation from human-rights groups and Western governments. In early September, before the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Laos, a journalist asked Duterte what he would say if President Barack Obama raised the issue of human rights. “You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state,” he replied. “We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States.” Alternating between English and Tagalog, and pounding on the lectern, Duterte, it was widely reported, said of Obama, “Son of a whore, I’ll curse you at that forum.”
Duterte does not, as he has put it, “give a shit” about human rights, which he sees as a Western obsession that keeps the Philippines from taking the action necessary to clean up the country. He is also hypersensitive to criticism. “Duterte’s weakness is, really, he’s a tough guy,” Greco Belgica, a Filipino politician and an ally of Duterte’s, said. “You do not talk down to a tough guy. He’ll snap.”
The day after insulting Obama, Duterte released a statement expressing regret that his comment “came across as a personal attack on the U.S. President.” In his outburst, Duterte had used the Tagalog phrase putang ina, which means, literally, “your mother is a whore.” But it is also used to communicate frustration, as in “son of a bitch.” “It’s just an expression,” Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, explained to the press. “I don’t think it was directed to President Obama.” A columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer provided foreign journalists with a satirical guide to “Dutertespeak”: “Putang ina really means ‘I firmly believe you are mistaken.’ ”
Duterte thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration. His manner is central to his populist image, but it inevitably leads to misunderstanding, even among Filipino journalists. Ernie Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, recently pleaded with the Presidential press corps to use its “creative imagination” when interpreting Duterte’s comments.
Sound familiar at all?
Trump asked him to visit the White House. And I've heard some people say that his populist economic policies have been positive so it's a mistake to demonize him in spite of his human rights violations.So perhaps he and Trump and a few other autocratic thugs may actually represent a new frontier.
Duterte may be too crude even for America but Donald "grab 'em by the pussy" Trump isn't exactly a courtly type. It's a feature, not a bug.
As Erwin Romulo, a former editor of Esquire Philippines, told me, “There are no slow news days anymore in the Philippines.”
Duterte has an eighty-six-per-cent approval rating in the Philippines, but his break with America has proved controversial. Opinion surveys regularly find the Philippines to be among the most pro-American countries. The language of instruction in schools is English, and basketball is a national obsession. Around four million Filipinos live and work in the U.S., and the country is one of the Philippines’ most important trading partners. American interests have typically made up a large proportion of foreign investment in the Philippines. In the Manila Standard, the widely respected former President Fidel Ramos compared Duterte to the captain of a sinking ship. Even many on the Philippine left, who decry U.S. influence, worry that Duterte may be trading one imperial master for another.
Duterte’s pivot to China is a rebuke to the Obama Administration’s foreign-policy shift away from the Middle East and toward Asia. But a senior State Department official said that he thought the talk of a complete realignment with China was largely bluster. “The issue is not so much what he says—the issue is what he does,” the official said. He pointed out that the U.S. and the Philippines are so deeply entwined that it would take longer than one Presidential term to unravel their ties. “That said, if he’s absolutely determined, he could do a lot of damage to the U.S.-Philippine relationship.”
Since the overthrow of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in 1986, the Philippines has been a democracy, if an often dysfunctional one. Duterte’s actions challenge the liberal Western values that are enshrined in the Philippine constitution. Although he styles himself a revolutionary, Duterte seems uncertain about what kind of order will replace the one he aims to overthrow, or whether he will be around to see it. He often intimates that he may not live to finish his term, whether because of overwork and age—he is seventy-one—or something more sinister. “Will I survive the six years?” he asked recently. “I’d make a prediction: maybe not.”
He's full on nuts. But that's what they like about him. Trump too.
The Trump administration is seriously thinking about not submitting a budget to Congress next year .
Although the Congressional Budget Act requires the president to submit the fiscal 2018 budget to Congress between January 2 and February 6, Trump could easily say that it was the responsibility of the outgoing Obama administration to comply with the law before the new president was sworn in on January 20.
But while the new president not sending a budget to Congress might not be illegal, it would clearly be unprecedented.
Every in-coming president since the Congressional Budget Act went into effect in the mid-1970s has submitted a budget. In many years, those budgets (or amendments to the outgoing president’s final budget) were submitted months after the first-Monday-in-February deadline and were truncated versions of the usual multi-volume presentation. But, a fiscal plan with the new president’s priorities was consistently released for over 4 decades.
Long time federal budget watchers will find Trump’s unwillingness to submit a budget strange because up to now every new administration typically has been eager to submit one in its first year. The reason? It’s the biggest opportunity that will exist to present the president’s plan for all to see and for the White House to dominate the news for a week or more as the details are released, discussed, analyzed and promoted at congressional hearings and other forums.
So why might the Trump administration want to punt on this major opportunity by not submitting a budget?
First, it would allow Trump to avoid the complaints that always come from those the budget proposals would harm by denying them a platform to criticize the White House. No proposals on paper would mean nothing to disparage.
And anyway, just let Ryan do whatever he wants, amirite? Trump will be busy making America great again.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory narrowly lost the popular vote to Democratic opponent AG Roy Cooper in his reelection bid last month. But since it was no impediment to Donald Trump winning the White House, why should losing the popular vote prevent Republicans from declaring McCrory the winner? That seems to be the strategy behind the ongoing Republican challenges to finalizing the gubernatorial election in the Tar Heel State.
This, after all, was the goal of GOP-led gerrymandering that targeted the North Carolina's "African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The “most extreme gerrymanders in modern history” led to a situation in which "Democrats got 51 percent of the 2012 vote for the United States House of Representatives, which translated to only four of the state’s 13 congressional seats." Federal courts have since ordered the congressional districts redrawn. But since the governorship is a statewide race, not a district one, other methods for winning by losing must be found.
At the order of the NC State Board of Elections, Durham County is recounting over 90,000 votes it counted late on Election Day after software delays. The late tally tipped the race from McCrory to Cooper. Three Republicans on the State Board ruled that counting votes late constituted "an irregularity." Durham faces a 7 p.m. Monday deadline for completing the process it started Saturday. The Atlantic's David Graham describes the recount as "vaguely Kafkaesque." No one expects the recount to affect the lead Cooper has held since election night. Graham writes:
Since then, Cooper’s lead has remained consistent, and has even grown a bit, standing at a little more than 10,000 votes. State Republicans have gone through a series of steps to try to prevent Cooper from being certified as the race’s winner. In counties around the state, Republicans filed protests and challenges, alleging ineligible voters and irregularities in counting. Nearly all of those were thrown out, and those decisions were not appealed. But the situation in Durham County has remained unresolved.
That's not all. The Art Pope-backed Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, filed a lawsuit to delay counting ballots voted by same-day registrants under address verification is complete.
The elections board decided shortly after Election Day that it would hire outside attorneys for any lawsuit involving the election results. The board typically is represented by the attorney general’s office, but the board decided that would pose a potential conflict of interest because Cooper, the attorney general, is a candidate.
State law requires the governor’s office to sign off on hiring of outside attorneys. Stephens [McCrory's attorney] denied three of the four attorneys requested by the State Board of Elections; he did not provide a reason but had raised conflict-of-interest questions before making the decision.
The State Board of Elections will have to make do with two in-house lawyers already working on other election matters.
Finally, the NCSBE yesterday heard and rejected an election challenge brought by Republicans over a Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District race the complainant won. (Shades of Donald Trump again.) InsightUS live-blogged the meeting convened to consider rejecting 400 African Americans ballots gathered in what Republicans are alleging was a massive absentee ballot fraud effort involving paid canvassers. InsightUS snarkily described the effort to smear the Bladen County Improvement Association as a kind of "ACORN-lite affair." InsightUS has both the blog and some background:
4:23 PM EST: Board member Malcolm (D) now grilling McCrory atty Knight regarding why the heck the protestor, Dowless, is not present. “Does Mr. Dowless, the individual who brought all these people here today…does your client intend to answer questions today without being immunized?” Atty Knight: “He is present, and will testify today unless advised otherwise by his counsel. He is not waiving his 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself.”
Wow. Just wow. Dowless is now taking the stand.
4:25 PM EST: Malcolm questioning Dowless: “Is it true that you are the apparent winner in the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District contest?” “Yessir.” “Then why are you bringing this protest?” “I just think it ain’t right.”
4:29 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “Who informed you of these ‘irregularities?'” “A feller named Steve.” “Steve who?” GOP atty Branch objects: ‘Steve’ Roberts is an attorney with the McCrory committee, and also a member of Mr. Dowless’s legal defense, therefore, Dowless/Steve information is attorney/client privilege. Atty Branch is throwing one objection after another: “Mr Dowless, do not reveal any content of your conversations with Steve Roberts.”
4:35 PM EST: Malcolm (D): Mr. Dowless, are you familiar with your protest? How do you know the assertions in it to be true?” “Well, sir, it come out in the papers.”
4:37 PM EST: Dowless takes the 5th regarding who provided him with the campaign finance report documents appended to his protest filing.
4:47 PM EST: Whoa. Board member Malcolm: “Do you know Caitlyn Croom?” (one of the get-out-the-vote canvassers charged with wrongdoing in Dowless’s protest).” “Yessir, I know her. She helped me with my campaign.” “Did you pay her?” “Yessir, I paid her for bringing in completed absentee ballot forms.”
This is starting to become bizarre. Sounds like Dowless, who filed a complaint that GOTV canvassers were harvesting ballots in Bladen County, was himself paying some of these same people to…what? Yeah: harvest ballots. And taking the 5th to avoid prosecution for it. And a McCrory campaign attorney is behind his protest, and the McCrory campaign is exceedingly eager to prevent Dowless from discussing what transpired between that attorney and Mr. Dowless. Shakedown, maybe? Jeebus.
There are a lot of good people in the audience chuckling and shaking their heads right now.
4:54 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “How many absentee ballot request forms came to you through this process?” “I’d say ’bout a hundred and sixty-four.” And you initialed every one of them in one corner before sending them on?” “Yessir.” “And how many voted ballots came to you through this process?” “I couldn’t say, sir.” But when Malcolm asked for confirmation, Dowless says “No sir, I never saw nobody’s ballot but my own.”
5:10 PM EST: There’s blood in the water here right now, as attorney Irv Joyner begins his own joyful cross-examination of protestor Dowless.
5:12 PM EST: Atty Joyner asks Dowless whether, in prior elections, he has been endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association. “Yessir, they had me on their sample ballot in 2012, and I gived them no money.” “And in 2016 were you endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association?” “No sir.”
As they say on CNN, we'll have to leave it right there.
Since it’s now post Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tuesday Afternoon and Wednesday Morning 3am, I thought I’d toss out gift ideas, with my picks for the best Blu-ray reissues of 2016. But first, a gentle reminder. Any time of year you click a link from this weekly feature as a portal to purchase any Amazon item, you help your favorite starving bloggers get a nickel or two in the creel. Most titles are released concurrent with an SD edition, so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player, don’t despair. So here you go…in alphabetical order:
Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (Apple Deluxe Edition) – I missed the (limited) theatrical run of Ron Howard’s 2016 Beatles documentary because I was sidelined by knee replacement surgery, but happily the powers-that-be have expedited its release to home video just in time for Christmas. As a Beatle freak who has seen just about every bit of Fab Four documentary/concert footage extant, I approached Howard’s film with a bit of trepidation (especially with all the pre-release hype about “previously unseen” footage and such) but was nonetheless pleased (if not necessarily enlightened) by what he’s managed to put together here. The title pretty much says it all; this is not their entire story, but rather a retrospective of the Beatles’ career from the Hamburg days through their final tour in 1966. As I inferred, you likely won’t learn anything new (this is a well-trod path), but the performance clips are enhanced by newly restored footage and remixed audio. Despite the familiar material, Howard makes the nostalgic wallow feel fresh and fun. The Deluxe Edition is worth the investment for fans; in fact, I found the bonus features more interesting than the main film! The 64-page booklet caps this set off nicely.
The Man Who Fell To Earth 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Studio Canal Region “B” Blu-ray*) – If there was ever a film and a star that were made for each other, it was director Nicolas Roeg’s mind-blowing 1976 adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the late great David Bowie. Several years after retiring his “Ziggy Stardust” stage persona, Bowie was coaxed back to the outer limits to inhabit Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a drought-stricken planet who crash-lands on Earth. Gleaning our planet as a water source, Newton formulates a long-range plan for transporting the precious resource back to his home world. In the interim, he becomes an enigmatic hi-tech magnate (kind of makes you wonder where Bill Gates really came from). A one-of-a-kind film, with excellent supporting performances from Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry. The Studio Canal Edition has a gorgeous new 4K transfer, a second disc packed with extras, and a bonus CD of “Papa” John Phillips’ soundtrack. Lionsgate will be releasing the domestic version of this set in January; it’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon at a decent discount (click on title above for details).
Only Yesterday (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) – Written and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), this is one of Studio Ghibli’s more understated animes (as well as one of its most visually breathtaking). A woman in her late 20s takes a train ride through the countryside and reflects on the choices she has made throughout her life, from childhood onward. It is a poetic and moving humanist study that I would hold up alongside the best work of Ozu. The disc includes several “behind the scenes” mini-docs.
To Live and Die in L.A. Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory) – Essentially a remake of The French Connection (updated for the 80s), this fast-moving, tough-as-nails neo noir from director William Friedkin ignites the senses on every level: visual, aural and visceral. Fueled by an outstanding soundtrack by Wang Chung, Friedkin's vision of L.A. is painted in contrasts of dusky orange and strikingly vivid reds and blacks; an ugly/beautiful noir Hell rendered by ace DP Robby Muller (who has worked extensively with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch). Leads William Peterson (as an obsessed treasury agent) and Willem Dafoe (as his criminal nemesis) really tear up the screen with star-making performances (both were relative unknowns). While the narrative adheres to many familiar “cop on the edge” tropes, there’s an undercurrent of weirdness throughout that makes this a truly unique genre entry (“The stars are God’s eyes!” Peterson’s girlfriend shrieks at him at one point, for no apparent reason). Friedkin co-adapted the screenplay with source novel author Gerald Petievich. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray sports a print sourced from a new 4K scan that is a noticeable improvement over MGM’s from a couple years back, as well as new and archival interviews with cast, crew and composers.
Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy (The Criterion Collection Box Set) – From the early 1970s onward, few names have become as synonymous with the “road movie” genre as German film maker Wim Wenders. Paris, Texas and Until the End of the World are probably the most well-known examples of his mastery in capturing not only the lure of the open road, but in laying bare all the disparate human emotions that spark wanderlust. But fairly early in his career, he made a 3-film cycle (all starring his favorite leading man Rudiger Vogler) that, while much lesser-known, easily stands with the best of the genre. Criterion has reissued all three of these previously hard to find titles in a wonderful box set. 1974’s Alice in the Cities (my personal favorite of the three) stars Vogler as a journalist who is reluctantly saddled into temporary stewardship of a precocious 9 year-old girl. His mission to get her to her grandmother’s house turns into quite the European travelogue (the relationship that develops between the two in the course of their journey is very reminiscent of Paper Moon). In Wrong Move (1975), Vogler is a writer in existential crisis, who hooks up with several other travelers who also carry their share of mental baggage (it’s the darkest of the trilogy; Wenders based it on a Goethe novel). Kings of the Road (1976) is a Boudu Saved from Drowning-type tale with Vogler as a travelling film projector repairman who happens to be in the right place at the right time when a profoundly depressed psychologist (Hanns Zischler) decides to end it all by driving his VW into a river. The two travelling companions are slow to warm up to each other, but they have plenty of time to develop a friendship at 2 hours and 55 minutes (i.e., the film may try the patience of some viewers). If you can stick with it, though, you’ll find it rewarding…it “grows on you”. All three films have been given the usual meticulous Criterion restoration, showcasing Robby Muller’s beautiful cinematography.
2016 Blu-ray reissues previously reviewed and also recommended:
Making America Great Again by cutting services for disabled kids
The word is that Democrats need to shift their attention away from government services to jobs in order to win the economic argument. I hope we'll be able to find jobs for all these disabled babies in Texas. They're about to lose their "special" benefits because it costs too much:
More than a year after lawmakers originally ordered it, Texas announced Monday it will enact significant cuts to the money that it pays therapists who treat vulnerable children with disabilities in two weeks.
Medicaid reimbursement rates are used to pay for pediatric therapy services provided to disabled babies and toddlers. Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the state's Health and Human Services Commission, said that Texas will apply cuts on Medicaid rates on Dec. 15 in attempt to achieve savings directed by the Texas Legislature in 2015.
And yes, I know that nobody is saying Democrats shouldn't advocate for disabled babies. But this country just elected a man who mocks people with disabilities and openly disdains all those "identities" other than white unless they agree to bow down and kiss the hem of his robe so I'm not sanguine that this sort of thing is going to get priority in the coming years. The argument will be that we need to find good jobs for these babies' fathers so their mothers can take care of them the way God intended. We don't need government "services" if everyone just does what they're supposed to do. That's how we did it back when America was Great dontcha know?
Before the election I used to tell people that if Trump won, we would wake up in a different world on November 9th. This was because the rest of the world would see that the US, always powerful and sometimes capricious, would have totally gone rogue. Other nations would re-position their alliances and defensive postures and the post WWII framework that has kept us from global war and nuclear mishap would be gone. Trump's mere presence would have been enough to cause this.
President-elect Donald J. Trump has broken with decades of diplomatic practice in freewheeling calls with foreign leaders.
Mr. Trump talks to the president
of Taiwan, becoming the first
U.S. president or president-elect
to do so since 1979.
Why it matters
The call with President Tsai Ing-wen risks infuriating China, which wants to bring Taiwan back under mainland rule. By honoring the Taiwanese president with a formal call, Mr. Trump’s transition team implicitly suggests that it considers Taiwan an independent state. The U.S. has declined to recognize Taiwan since 1979, when it shifted recognition to the government in Beijing. Taiwan itself has yet to declare formal independence. Mr. Trump tweeted, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency.”
Mr. Trump invites Rodrigo
Duterte, president of the
Philippines, to visit Washington.
Why it matters
Mr. Duterte has been accused of gross human rights abuses, referred to President Obama as a “son of a bitch” and declared his country’s “separation” from the U.S. during a recent trip to Beijing. (The Trump transition team has not confirmed the invitation, which was reported by Reuters, citing a Philippine government official.) Honoring Mr. Duterte with a presidential invitation implies U.S. approval of his behavior, which Mr. Obama’s administration had been working to curb.
Mr. Trump praises Kazakhstan’s
leader for “fantastic success.”
Why it matters
Mr. Trump praised Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan since 1991, in tones that suggest approval for Mr. Nazarbayev’s strongman rule. According to the Kazakh government’s readout of the call, Mr. Trump “stressed that under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, our country over the years of independence had achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’”
Mr. Trump accepts an invitation to
visit Pakistan, “a terrific country.”
Why it matters
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Mr. Trump to visit, according to a Pakistani government readout of their call. Should Mr. Trump follow through, he risks alienating India, which sees Pakistan as a major antagonist, and appearing to reward Pakistan’s behavior; should he renege, he risks upsetting Pakistani leaders who are sensitive about perceived American intransigence. Either way, the call could upset the delicate balance of India-Pakistan ties, which the U.S. has struggled to manage amid a history of wars and recent skirmishes.
Ivanka Trump joins a meeting
with the Japanese prime minister.
Why it matters
Rather than inviting State Department officials to staff his meeting with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, Mr. Trump invited his daughter Ivanka. The meeting alarmed diplomats, who worried that Mr. Trump lacked preparation after a long record of criticizing Japan. It also blurred the line between Mr. Trump’s businesses, which Ms. Trump helps run, and the U.S. government, with which she has no role.
After brushing off the United Kingdom,
Mr. Trump offers a casual invitation
to the British prime minister.
Why it matters
Mr. Trump spoke to nine other leaders before British Prime Minister Theresa May, an unusual break with the two countries’ long-standing special relationship. “If you travel to the US you should let me know,” he told her, far short of a formal invitation.Trump also met with Nigel Farage, former leader of the fringe U.K. Independence Party — a slap to Ms. May. He later said that Mr. Farage should become the British ambassador to the United States, though presidents typically avoid telling foreign counterparts how to staff their governments.
He's just getting started.
Clearly he does not believe that all the delicate diplomatic arrangements that have allowed the world to avoid a major conflagration are worth anything. His own puerile, imbecilic conman patter is all that's needed. And nobody around him seems to care or if they do they are unable to dissuade him from wading into this without preparation or guidance.
When Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, called Donald J. Trump shortly after the Nov. 8 election, they talked about domestic policy and infrastructure. But when Ms. Pelosi raised the specific subject of women’s issues, the president-elect did something unexpected: He handed the phone over to another person in the room — his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka.
I guess that's good news for women. Sort of ... or not.