The special election for U.S. Senate today in Alabama should not be a toss-up. And yet.
With the fall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and members of Congress over sexual harassment claims, and with the allegations of child predation against Republican candidate Roy Moore, the cultural shift surrounding the #MeToo movement has changed the dynamics of the race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. In deep-red Alabama, tonight's outcome is anybody's guess.
Annie Linskey of the Boston Globe told Chris Matthews last night on "Hardball" she had visited an Alabama county where three-quarters of the voters had supported the sitting president last fall. "When I was looking for women who would say on the record that they were voting for Roy Moore, I mean, they laughed at me," she told Matthews. "They just laughed at me. Almost all of them said no."
Even though she is a yankee, Linskey said, Alabamians had all been polite. The puzzle pollsters seem unable to unravel is, were they being honest? What will women do away from reporters and husbands in the privacy of the voting booth?
"Somebody’s going to be wrong in Alabama," Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight. Silver examines the vagaries of calling cell phones or landlines, and live calls versus robocalls. There still remains the question of whether people who are going to vote for (or against) Roy Moore will admit to voting for (or against) Roy Moore. The polls are all over the place.
Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, worries aloud in the New York Times that Alabama's photo ID law may already have determined the outcome, something Silver's analysis did not consider. People may be coy about who they are supporting in today's election, but in Alabama supporters of photo ID laws are less shy about whom they do not want voting:
A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.”
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves.
Douglas considers Alabama's law "a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color."
Estimates Douglas cites for how many registered voters do not have the required ID may be inflated, however. Telephone surveys we conducted in North Carolina ahead of the 2016 election found that many voters flagged for not also having a driver’s license (an indication they might not be able to vote) did in fact have other valid ID. But the size of the pool of exclusion is not the point. Republicans' public reasoning is that even one illegal vote "steals" the vote of a legitimate voter and justifies expensive and onerous measures in the name of election integrity. They are simply less concerned about integrity preventing even one legitimate voter from casting a ballot at all if that person is black or Latino and likely to vote for a Democrat.
People can be racists and not want to be seen as racists. People may vote for a sexual predator and not want to be seen as voting for a sexual predator. Or not. We'll know more about Alabama's heart tonight after 7 p.m. Central Time.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Trump's tax "cut-cut-cut" is less popular than ebola
It's truly stunning how unpopular the GOP tax bill is. In fact it's the most unpopular piece of legislation they've polled in 30 years. 30 years people!
Congressional Republicans are poised to pass the biggest tax overhaul in a generation, but Americans remain unconvinced that the measure will cut their own taxes or significantly boost the economy.
A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan; 48% oppose it. That's the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades, including the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won't pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won't help the economy in a major way.
A conference committee is now trying to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, and congressional leaders are optimistic that a final version will be on President Trump's desk by Christmas.
"It's fairly favorable to the highest earners and to corporations," says Thomas Beline, 36, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who was among those surveyed. "I have a dim view of the ability of corporations to take that money and hire people or invest in R & D [research and development]. What I think is likely to happen is you're going to see higher dividends paid out to shareholders, who already are some of the wealthiest people in the country."
The findings underscore the risk for Republicans even as they move toward achieving one of the party's top policy priorities and delivering the first major legislative achievement of the Trump administration. Christopher Warshaw, a political scientist at The George Washington University, cautions that passage of the bill will make it more likely Democrats win control of the House in next year's midterm elections, akin to the electoral price Democrats paid in the 2010 midterms for passing Obamacare.
"In recent decades, Congress has never passed a major bill this unpopular," Warshaw says. "I think that passing this bill will substantially hurt the GOP brand — particularly among moderate, well-educated suburban voters and among the working-class white voters that switched over to support Trump in 2016. I think this will cost Republican members of Congress votes in the midterms and it may hurt Trump in 2020. It makes it very hard for Trump or the GOP to claim that they have a populist agenda."
One reason the GOP is moving ahead is that Republican voters are enthusiastic. In the survey, they backed the tax bill by an overwhelming 71%-12%. Two-thirds of Republicans predict their own taxes will be cut, and nearly three-fourths say the bill will significantly boost the nation's economy.
The USA TODAY poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
"I work for a small business ... and the owner has talked about the things he could do if we enact this tax bill," says Chad Dunlap, 42, of Wapakoneta, Ohio, who was called in the poll. Dunlap, the business-development manager for a roofing company, was elected last month to the Wapakoneta City Council. "He could invest and have better equipment for our people, better income for our crews."
Haven Gillispie, 37, a sales representative from Jamestown, N.Y., hears conflicting reports on the impact of the bill. "I don't know exactly what's in it," she said in a follow-up phone interview. "But Trump is promising it's going to help working families, so I'm relying on that."
Overall, only 35% believe that the bill will boost the economy, and 31% that their own families' tax bills will be lowered as a result. Nearly two-thirds, 64%, say the wealthy will get the most benefits; just 17% say the middle-class will.
Negotiations between the House and Senate continued through the weekend. Both versions of the bill would cut taxes by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, slashing the corporate tax rate and doubling the standard deduction used by most Americans. But there are some significant differences, and Republicans are divided over whether and how to ameliorate the impact on residents of such high-tax states as New York, New Jersey and California.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation concluded in separate studies that the Republican proposals would help wealthier Americans the most. Almost all households making less than $10,000 a year would see minimal change; almost all households making between $500,000 and $1 million a year would get a tax cut of at least $500.
They deserve it. After all, they work harder than everyone else or were smart enough to be born rich. To the victos belong the spoils ...
Trump now has a favorable-unfavorable rating of 34%-58%, a net negative of 24 percentage points. His standing has worsened through the year, from a net negative of just 2 points in March and 15 points in June.
Vice President Mike Pence is viewed favorably by 33%-45%, a net negative of 12 points. He was viewed favorably by a net positive 12 points near the beginning of the year.
The Republican Party has a dismal favorable rating of 24%-61%, a net negative of 37 points, compared with a net negative of 11 points in the first poll of the year.
Congress has the worst rating of all, viewed favorably by 17% and unfavorably by 64%. That is a net negative rating of 47 points, compared to a negative 26 points at the beginning of the year.
Favorable ratings have improved for two groups this year. The Democratic Party now is viewed favorably by 36%, unfavorably by 47%. That's not exactly a rosy assessment, but it's much better — or at least much less worse — than the Republican Party. The Democrats' net negative of 11 points is a modest improvement from March, when the party stood at a negative 16 points.
And views of the news media, while still negative, also have improved a tick. Near the beginning of the year, the favorable-unfavorable rating was 37%-50%. Now it is 38%-46%.
I's nice to see that Pence's obsequious sucking up to this unpopular boob is finally taking a toll on his favorables too. It's important that everyone understands that he is Trump's creature through and through, as are every last one of these cynical enablers.
It's bad enough that he behaves like a toddler on domestic issues, tweeting whatever tantrum overcomes him on a daily basis. But this puerile approach to presidential decision making on foreign policy is something else:
The similarities between Trump’s refusal to recertify the Iranian nuclear deal in October and his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week are striking — and revealing. In each case, he was presented with a congressionally mandated requirement to renew a policy of previous presidents. His secretaries of defense and state urged him to preserve it, lest he disrupt U.S. policies and endanger U.S. interests across the Middle East and beyond.
Each time, Trump bridled — essentially flipping over the table and insisting he would not do what Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton would have done. He made no secret of the fact that his primary — maybe his sole — motivation was to prove that he was a different and somehow better president. “Previous presidents . . . failed to deliver,” he boasted in announcing the Jerusalem move. “I am delivering.”
We could tell he was totally unqualified to be president by what he said on the campaign trail. Perhaps there were those who believed that he understood this and would be a sort of figurehead and empower serious, sober people to create policy which he would then present to the American people. I suppose there might have been some who thought he would put in the work to learn on the job or was so preternaturally talented as a leader that he would simply "know" the right answers. I believed none of those things and always assumed that he would make his decisions based upon his gut which never developed past puberty. But this is lazy even for him. Anything other presidents did, do the opposite?
So Roy Moore is known for his looney political philosophy and propensity to molest young girls. But his view of the constitution may be even loonier than we knew. He appeared on an obscure conspiracy theory radio show in 2011 and said some ... unusual tings. Keep in mind that this guy was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court twice for refusing to enforce the rule of law. In this respect he's not Donald Trump. He actually knows what the constitution says:
CNN's KFile obtained audio from Moore's two appearances on the show. In the same June episode, Moore invoked Adolf Hitler in a discussion about Obama's birth certificate. In a May 2011 episode, Moore told the two radio hosts, who have repeatedly rejected the official explanation for the 9/11 attacks, that he would be open to hearings looking into "what really happened" on that day.
In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth.
"That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."
Moore cited the 17th Amendment, which calls for the direct election of senators by voters rather than state legislatures, as one he particularly found troublesome.
The host agreed with Moore, before turning his attention to the 14th Amendment, which was passed during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War and guaranteed citizenship and equal rights and protection to former slaves and has been used in landmark Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Obergefell v. Hodges.
"People also don't understand, and being from the South I bet you get it, the 14th Amendment was only approved at the point of the gun," the host said.
"Yeah, it had very serious problems with its approval by the states," Moore replied. "The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment. To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing. If you understand the incorporation doctrine used by the courts and what it meant. You'd understand what I'm talking about."
Moore explained further that the first ten amendments restricted the federal government in certain areas.
"For example, the right to keep and bear arms, the First Amendment, freedom of press liberty. Those various freedoms and restrictions have been imposed on the states through the 14th Amendment. And yet the federal government is violating just about every one of them saying that -- they don't they don't -- are not restrained by them."
Keep in mind that it was Moore's refusal to observe the 1st Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of religion that got him kicked off the first time. He insisted on putting the 10 Commandments in the courthouse. He's also said that Keith Ellison should not be allowed to take a seat in congress because he is a Muslim. So his protestations to the contrary, Roy Moore doesn't believe in the constitution. He believes in Roy Moore. And we're supposed to believe in him too.
The wonderful Nancy Ohanian has donated one of her gorgeous signed prints, "Gung Ho," to Blue America to use for raising money for the candidates we've endorsed this year. She would like to see Congress flip from red to blue and so would we... and we know you would too. So this is how this works. Just contribute any amount to any of our candidates on this page. One dollar; ten dollars, $1,000... it's up to you. Split it between all the candidates, give it to your favorite candidate or split it between 2 or 3 candidates... all up to you. (Just not more than $2,700 to any one candidate.)
Next week (Monday, December 17), we'll pick one name randomly and send that person the signed "Gung Ho" print by Nancy. Easy, right?
This is an especially crucial election cycle. I don't think there's ever been more at stake than now with this madman in the White House and a Congress filled with enablers and cheerleaders. We can't get Trump out of office next November... but we can and will put a check on him by defeating lots and lots of Republicans in Congress, starting with Paul Ryan and working our way down.
And what makes this cycle even more exciting is that there seems to be a mammoth anti-Trump/anti-GOP wave building and intensifying. Every poll this year has shown it. And as we saw a few weeks ago in Virginia and last week in Georgia, there are no districts that are too red to flip-- IF the right candidates are running. The men and women on this list are for real progressives of good moral character and with solid work ethics. Most important, these are the people who will make Congress a better place and force Congress to make our country a better place. Please give generously.
And if you want to have a chance to win but find yourself in a tight financial situation, send a letter to Blue America at PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027 and tell us you want to be part of the Christmas "Gung Ho" contest (be sure to include your contact info). The FEC demands we make some lawyer language available for our contests. You can find it here.
And one more thing about the progressive candidates Blue America has endorsed so far this cycle. We talk to them-- sometimes for months-- get to know them and we don't endorse them until we feel as sure as is humanly possible that when they get into Congress, they will earnestly endeavor to enhance the lives of working families; make the tough decisions necessary to move our country along in a more progressive direction. Message us on the Blue America Facebook page to let us know if you want more information on any particular candidate.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,
It is. I would also add, as I wrote last week, that numerous members of the Trump transition team apparently knew that Michael Flynn told the Russian ambassador to tell his government not to react to the sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed upon them. That's damning too. The Russians were essentially told, "Don't worry, we'll make sure you aren't punished for helping us win the presidency."
Whether laws were broken, beyond the charges filed so far against four top Trump advisers, we don't yet know. But it's clear that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing leads in a number of directions, from possible financial crimes to obstruction of justice to conspiracy. With former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying, and agreeing to cooperate, this investigation has moved beyond the campaign to the transition and the White House. It's very serious.
And as anyone could have predicted, it was inevitable that the president's supporters in the media and the Republican Party would start to push back and try to delegitimize the investigation by attacking Mueller. This is the usual pattern in these presidential scandals.
Everyone in politics knows about the "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973, when Richard Nixon demanded that Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, after the U.S. Court of Appeals overruled the president's claim of executive privilege. Richardson refused and resigned, as did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. It was left to Solicitor General Robert Bork, third in line at the Department of Justice, to do the deed. Ten months later, Nixon was forced to resign in the face of certain impeachment. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him shortly thereafter.
In the Iran-Contra scandal, the Republicans went after independent counsel Lawrence Walsh with everything they had, even granting immunity to the Reagan administration's henchman, Lt. Col. Oliver North, so he could arrogantly testify before the whole country that he was proud to have broken the law on behalf of the United States of America. That investigation was finally ended when President George H.W. Bush preemptively pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other government officials on Christmas Eve 1992, as Bush was on his way out the door.
Democrats mercilessly battered conservative Republican judge Ken Starr, who was appointed independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation when his predecessor failed to turn up any crimes. This was a key to the Democrats' success in maintaining public opinion during the Lewinsky sex scandal, because it seemed that Starr had gone far afield from his original mandate to investigate an Arkansas real estate transaction from the 1980s.
So now we have Mueller, a former U.S. attorney and the longest-serving FBI director after J. Edgar Hoover, investigating President Trump and the 2016 election. If it is true that Trump coordinated with the Russian government during the election and then obstructed justice to cover it up, it is the most serious presidential scandal in American history. Nixon horrifically abused his power, the Reagan administration defied the will of Congress and Bill Clinton lied about an extramarital affair. This is of a different magnitude altogether.
The Republicans are obviously aware of the danger and are frantically circling the wagons. They spent months throwing various ideas at the wall, including the obscure (and largely fictitious) Uranium One scandal and other Clinton Foundation matters, in an attempt to force Mueller to resign on the grounds that he was FBI director at the time. Now they've finally settled on a grand unifying theory: the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel's office are all hopelessly corrupt and compromised due to their fealty to Hillary Clinton and hostility to Trump.
The theory goes like this: James Comey and his men covered up Hillary Clinton's crimes, and Mueller and his team are now trying to railroad Trump. This thesis is based on the fact that an FBI agent who was involved in both cases sent some texts to his girlfriend which were allegedly anti-Trump. Muller fired him last summer and he was demoted to the bureau's human resources department.
Trump's most ardent media advocate, Sean Hannity, came out with guns blazing last week. He condemned Mueller's "partisan, extremely biased, hyper-partisan attack team" as "an utter disgrace." He said "they now pose a direct threat to you, the American people, and our American republic."
Fox Legal Analyst Gregg Jarrett said "I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. And Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police. Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It's like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door."
People wonder why Graham has suddenly become such an obsequious Trump lapdog and my suspicion is that he thinks he can distract him from doing something that will totally destroy his presidency with Clinton bait and unctuous flattery. It won't work, of course
Trump's allies in the House have escalated their attacks as well, notably Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Ron DeSantis, a pair of Florida Republicans Trump huddled with aboard Air Force One on his way to the Roy Moore rally in Pensacola last Friday night. DeSantis has been pushing legislation to cut off Mueller's funding and Gaetz has said that America is "at risk of a coup" from Mueller, and has introduced a resolution calling for him to be fired.
All of this, from the right-wing media to the GOP Congress, is designed to push Trump to fire Mueller -- and if that fails, to discredit Mueller's findings among their followers, as Paul Waldman argues here. But considering the history of partisan attacks on special prosecutors and independent counsels, this can hardly come as a surprise to Mueller and his team. Mueller has been in high levels of government for many years; he's not a political naif. He undoubtedly knew this was coming.
We don't know whether or not Mueller has laid enough landmines to protect his investigation, although there are some indications that he's made the effort. But if Trump's rhetoric on Friday night is any indication, when he called the system "rigged" and "sick," we may be about to find out.
Brave New Films held a press conference this morning with some of the many women the president has harassed and assaulted over the years. I guess the mainstream press isn't interested. Maybe if they all wore blue dresses.
Here's the movie Brave New Films made featuring all the women who have come forward:
Update: So, I was looking for some footage of Trump insulting these women and came across several news reports about it. I honestly couldn't believe what I saw.
Here's the best example from PBS. It is a long feature about the accusations but you won't believe the rave up ending.
Progressive groups across the country are prepared to mount "rapid response" protests should the president oust Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Not one year into this presidency, we are all losing a little sleep over how it will end. As the administration's enablers and propagandists direct fire at Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI, at Eclectablog LOLGOP wonders whether Wall Street – the country's Owner class – might not have the final say on how it ends. It won't be "tidy," he suggests, quoting CNBC contributor Josh Brown:
The only defense the President has is the fact that he is the President. And his pardon power – which is literally the last thing he will give up. There will be no impeachment process in Congress because the GOP already handed this guy the ability to do whatever he wants in exchange for tax cuts and the rollback of all social progress that occurred under his predecessor. Liberals dreaming of some other outcome where Republican pols come to their senses will be sorely disappointed. Republicans don’t win elections by tacking toward the center and becoming Rupert Murdoch targets, so why would they?
In its effort to undermine the Russia investigation and Mueller's team, the right wing is pulling out all the stops on the Mighty Wurlitzer:
Should the sitting president oust Mueller, LOLGOP writes, "Americans will either rise up and win some check on Trump’s power or the right will crush the uprising and send America stumbling into authoritarianism." Unless the markets sag and Wall Street demands stability, he adds. But don't count on it:
My nightmare is the markets jolt at first but quickly shake their worries off in favor of the next massive tribute to the Kochs that Paul Ryan has been dreaming of since college. The enabling of Trump that has made all of this possible would continue as Trump and his followers decide how far they will go to crack down on dissent. At that point, it will be up to the people to decide what they can risk for justice.
Brown reminds his readers that MoveOn, Indivisible and other groups are readying their members for direct action should Trump fire Mueller:
Our response in the minutes and hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next, and whether Congress—the only body with the constitutional power and obligation to rein Trump in from his rampage—will do anything to stand up to him.
That's why we're preparing to hold emergency "Nobody is Above the Law" rallies around the country in the event they are needed. Rallies will begin hours after news breaks of a Mueller firing:
If Mueller is fired BEFORE 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ 5 P.M. local time
If Mueller is fired AFTER 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ noon local time the following day
This is the general plan—please confirm details on your event page, as individual hosts may tailor their events to their local plan.
Odds are the new "Saturday Night Massacre" will come at a day and time most inconvenient for mounting protests. I suggest keeping a pot and a wooden spoon in the car.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Who's Happy About The Tax Bill? by Spocko
I'm depressed. Watching a video of a conservative focus group making excuses for why they are voting for Roy Moore pushed me, an emotionless Vulcan, to the edge. I needed help. I needed to see some videos of happy people to cheer me up.
So I went looking for videos of people who were happy about the future. Somebody must be, right?
Maybe there were videos of the the people who wrote the Republican bill that restructured our tax code. Surely those people are happy.
I figured I would find videos of lobbyists talking about how happy they are with the part of the bill they wrote and got inserted into the bill.
"In all, 6,243 lobbyists have been listed on lobbying disclosure forms as working on issues involving the word 'tax' through the first three quarters of 2017, according to Public Citizen's analysis of a massive data download provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)
Vox says the big four corporate lobbyists were, Comcast, Microsoft, Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris), and NextEra Energy. Maybe NBC has video of Comcast lobbyists popping champagne and explaining how the tax bill is good news for the network. But I couldn't find any.
Maybe someone identified the lobbyist who hand wrote the page that Elizabeth Warren talked about in this video.
I couldn't even find the name of the person, let alone a video of them happily explaining their success getting their change into the bill. My Google fu had failed me.
Maybe it would help me to find out who these people are, why they are doing what they are doing and what they believe. Out of those thousands of lobbyist I'll bet there are a bunch that are working for the people. Environmental lobbyists. Lobbyists working to make sure the tax code doesn't hurt widows and orphans.
The Vox story points out NextEra Energy lobbied to keep solar energy credits. That seems like a good thing to fight for. If I looked hard I could probably find a story about lobbyists who help people other than the super rich. What if we found out that 20% percent of them are lobbying for good causes?
What if I found out that the good lobbyists messed up the bill on purpose, causing it to be delayed, so the truth of the bill would come, therefore out scuttling it. Wouldn't that be great?
But I couldn't find that any of that. So instead here is a video of happy women singing a Christmas song. Merry Christmas!
There's nothing wrong with fluently speaking a foreign language of course. Maybe he's one of those people who just picks them up easily. But it seems unlikely, don't you think? The only time he spent overseas was in Vietnam and a year in Australia.
It's just ... surprising.
Update: Ah. I missed the part of the Guardian piece which says he learned the greeting at West Point. Never mind ...
Terrorist attacks and deaths were on the decline worldwide for the second year in a row in 2016, according to a report issued by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday.
However, ISIS was the largest perpetrator of attacks in the world last year, the report added.
The Country Reports on Terrorism is a congressionally mandated analysis released annually by the State Department.
The newest report shows that year-over-year terror attacks were down nine 9 percent and deaths caused by terrorist attacks decreased 13 percent.
The cause for the overall decrease stems from fewer attacks being carried out in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, although an uptick was noted in some countries including Iraq, Somalia and Turkey.
Still, the majority of attacks — 55 percent — took place in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, and 75 percent of the deaths took place in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Maybe you already knew this but I didn't. The number of attacks had decreased by similar numbers in the year before.
Within the administration,key voices of support came from Pence, Kushner and Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador at the United Nations.
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, had supported the move from early in Trump’s candidacy, and Pence, who is to visit Israel this month, told Trump that his base would love the decision, something the president liked to hear.
An important outside voice advising Trump to make the leap was Adelson’s, according to several people familiar with the two men’s conversations. At a White House dinner earlier this year, Adelson made the issue a main topic, one person said. In the months that followed, Adelson periodically asked others close to Trump what was causing the delay and expressed frustration, these people said.
At the same time, other Trump advisers were making their case against the move. Most prominent among them were Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Tillerson, mindful of the death of four Americans in militant attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, “pushed back vocally,” one White House official said. Already at odds with Trump over other aspects of the president’s approach to the Middle East, Tillerson argued that the move could unleash a dangerous chain reaction across the region.
R.C. Hammond, a Tillerson adviser, said Tillerson and Mattis requested time to evaluate U.S. outposts and fortify them if necessary.
Some outside confidants, including billionaire Tom Barrack, urged Trump to hold off, worried that the move would deepen regional tensions caused by Saudi Arabia’s political shake-up and Iran’s growing reach.
“It’s insane. We’re all resistant,” said one Trump confidant who recently spoke to the president about it. “He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.”
While Trump appeared to have made up his mind, he continued to solicit input, two White House officials said, even asking random acquaintances about the Middle East in recent months.
Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on “seeming pro-Israel,” in the words of one, and “making a deal,” in the words of another.
Yes, they're still convinced Obama is a Muslim
Party identification determines many beliefs. One that remains a bright line between Republicans and the rest of the country is the one championed by President Trump in the years before he ran for office: Where was President Obama born? Most American adults disbelieve the claim that the former President was born in Kenya, but nearly one in three American adults say that it is definitely or probably true that he was. More Republicans – 51% – believe that to be the case.
In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.
One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. The senator asked not to be named to discuss private conversations.
This is crazy. 50% of Republicans believe it's either possible or it's true. I don't know how we survive as a nation with that many people being brainwashed. That represents tens of millions, not just a little handful.
Hitting the Sunday morning shows, Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway sought to downplay the fracas while highlighting what she called the president’s “unfair” treatment.
“I don’t think, ultimately, presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inauguration. I think they’re judged by their accomplishments,” Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” before going on to say, “I think it is a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives.”
She also tried to defend press secretary Sean Spicer, who called reporters to the White House briefing room on Saturday night to accuse the media of "deliberately false reporting," while delivering a statement on crowd size that was riddled with inaccuracies.
When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" why Spicer used falsehoods during the statement, Conway offered an explanation that quickly went viral.
"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," she said.
Yes. The "alternative facts" comment was about crowd size.
Spicer has taken heat for his main claim that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe," while offering other inaccurate statements including that Trump's was the first inauguration in which white floor coverings were used on the mall. White floor coverings were used during Obama's second inauguration in 2013.
Spicer also used misleading numbers to highlight Metro ridership, comparing essentially half-day statistics for Obama’s last inauguration to longer-day statistics for Trump’s...
Trump even hijacked a speech in front of the Langley Memorial wall at the CIA headquarters that was intended to patch up his relationship with the intelligence community. Instead, he delivered a strongly political speech that exaggerated the inaugural crowd size and blasted the “dishonest media.”
President Donald Trump called for a Washington Post journalist to be fired Saturday over an erroneous tweet about his crowd size. The reporter quickly apologized for the mix-up and had deleted the tweet, because that’s generally what you do when you make mistakes. Except when you’re Trump, who has throughout his tenure has refused to back down from even the most obvious falsities.
Trump fired off a pair of tweets attacking Post reporter Dave Weigel over a “phony photo” of an empty arena ahead of his Friday rally in Pensacola, Florida. “Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!” he wrote.
By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, February 28, 2005; 11:43 AM
President Bush may try to manipulate, work around and undermine the American press -- but he certainly doesn't have as much control over the media as Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently thinks he does.]
In an odd exchange during the private meeting that preceded their joint news conference on Thursday, a defensive Putin reportedly expressed his belief that Bush fired CBS News anchor Dan Rather.
Richard Wolffe writes in Newsweek: "It was meant to be a heart-to-heart: just the two presidents and their translators, sitting alone inside the historic castle that overlooks the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Four years earlier, in another castle in Central Europe, George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his trustworthy soul. But what he saw inside Putin last week was far less comforting. When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: 'We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS.'
"It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media -- just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists. It made little difference. When the two presidents emerged for their joint press conference, one Russian reporter repeated Putin's language about journalists getting fired. Bush (already hot after an earlier question about his spying on U.S. citizens) asked the reporter if he felt free. 'They obviously planted the question,' said one of Bush's senior aides."
John F. Dickerson writes in Time: "George Bush knew Vladimir Putin would be defensive when Bush brought up the pace of democratic reform in Russia in their private meeting at the end of Bush's four-day, three-city tour of Europe. But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. 'Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather,' says a senior Administration official. 'It was like something out of 1984.' "
Yeah well, we've moved way past "1984". We're in "Brave New World "territory now.
Trump's rally last Friday in Pensacola was pretty typical: creepy, stupid and frightening. But I want to highlight one of the people who introduced him. I think this was a telling moment:
A conservative politician at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida suggested that the president’s controversial decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may usher in the biblical end times.
Republican state Senator Doug Broxson represents the Florida Panhandle in the legislature and gave an introductory speech welcoming President Trump to Florida.
“Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem — where the King of Kings [applause] where our soon coming King is coming back to Jerusalem, it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be capitol of Israel,” Sen. Broxson predicted.
Go to 33:00 to see how he said it and hear the audience reaction.
This guy is saying out lous that Trump declaring Jerusalem the capitol of Israel will bring on Armageddon and the Second Coming. And this audience of Trump loving Real Americans cheers wildly.
Now, if this were an audience of secular people you might just think they're cheering for tax cuts or "the wall" or "lock her up." But this is one issue Trump's conservative evangelical base knows more about than Trump or the rest of us. They read the Bible, they hear about it in church.
The Republicans have a fifty-two-seat majority, meaning that Moore’s presence would be helpful but, in terms of control of the chamber, not decisive. What would they tolerate in order to secure the fifty-first vote?
I hadn't thought about it quite like that before. They don't actually need him. But they are all whoring themselves out for a batshit crazy molester who makes Louis Gohmert look like Eisenhower by comparison anyway. How low would they go if they really needed that vote?
I know. There is no bottom. But their embrace of him despite the fact that his presence won't make or break their majority is really telling. They'll back Trumpists no matter what. He won't be the last.
Foreboding signs of what the next period of American history have in store are still sinking in.
Last week brought a 20-year conviction for ex-cop Michael Slager for shooting unarmed Walter Scott as he ran after a traffic stop in North Charleston, SC. But in Mesa, AZ, a jury acquitted ex-cop Philip Brailsford of murder in the shooting a sobbing unarmed suspect, Daniel Shaver, in a hotel hallway. The body-cam video released after the ruling looked to untrained eyes more like summary execution than a justified response to a threat. All the threats were coming from Brailsford. Scott was black. Shaver was white.
The same day as the ruling in Mesa, former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, 85, announced he was considering a run for U.S. Senate to fill the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican. President Trump pardoned Arpaio after his conviction for criminal contempt for refusing to stop detaining and imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.
"And he will win, too," wrote Dave Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center in a personal Facebook post. "Authoritarianism is upon us, and we are in denial."
Even with the burst of new progressive energy of the kind that helped Democrats win big in Virginia last month, the left is still trying to find its footing in Trump's America. A diatribe against the FBI last night by Fox News' Judge Jeanine Pirro was breathtaking. During the 2006 campaign, I caught two minutes of Glenn Beck and knew CNN had given a professional propagandist his own show. Pirro makes Beck look like Captain Kangaroo.
Dahlia Lithwick wrote last week she worried that in pushing Sen. Al Franken out of the Senate, Democrats were "self-neutering in the face of unprecedented threats, in part to do the right thing and in part to take ammunition away from the right—a maneuver that never seems to work out these days." But in a podcast, she added that Democrats doing the honorable thing and believing the other side would meet them halfway results in them getting "pantsed every single time." Process matters, she argues.
It's hard if you are not a nihilist and you believe in systems and you believe in institutions when they don't do what they are meant to do ... I think we have to figure out how to fix institutions and how to create systems that redound to our benefit. And here's why. If you don't, if you go for the full on nihilist, let's just throw everybody who may or may not be a predator out, it doesn't ever help women and minorities. It doesn't ever help people that have no power when you break a system.
Democrats, she argues, should be defending systems in the face of a movement that's reducing them to Potemkin villages.
Thomas Edsall backs up Lithwick's analysis in the New York Times on Thursday, writing:
Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, observes that “believers in liberal democracy have unilaterally disarmed in the defense of the institution” by agreeing in many cases with the premise of the Trump campaign: “that the country is a hopeless swamp.” This left Democrats “defenseless when he proposed to drain it.”
... are the liberals who are willing to say that liberal democracy has worked? That environmental regulations have slashed air pollutants while allowing Americans to drive more miles and burn more fuel? That social transfers have reduced poverty rates fivefold? That globalization has allowed Americans to afford more food, clothing, TVs, cars, and air-conditioners? That international organizations have prevented nuclear war, and reduced the rate of death in warfare by 90 percent? That environmental treaties are healing the hole in the ozone layer?
But Democrats have not come to terms with their own role in the backlash that is Trump, writes Edsall. Karen Stenner, author of "The Authoritarian Dynamic" tells Edsall features of liberal democracy such as "absolutely unfettered freedom and diversity; acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism; allowing retention of separate identities; maintenance of separate communities, lifestyles and values;" etc. are sharply contested in many parts of the country.
Stenner adds, "liberal democracy’s allowance of these things inevitably creates conditions of 'normative threat,' arousing the classic authoritarian fears about threats to oneness and sameness, which activate those predispositions — about a third of most western populations lean toward authoritarianism — and cause the increased manifestation of racial, moral and political intolerance."
In essence, liberalizing forces, not just cultural opening, but globalization, arouse the very hostility we now see, whether or not the changes in the culture will eventually become more widely adopted. As America saw with marriage equality, much of the country turned on a proverbial dime to accepting it. But even as Michael Tomasky argues that, contrary to the right's narrative, it is red America that is out of touch with the dynamism of blue states, red states feel their way of life threatened by that change and others beyond their control. Some of that is economic, but it goes deeper than that.
Writer and political consultant Eric Schnurer tells Edsall that Trumpist anger is part economic, part demographic, and part cultural. But the modern economy that has prospered much of blue America has had a deleterious effect in red-states:
This is a classic political problem of general benefit at the cost of specific individual harm. At a minimum, “we” — as a country but also as a self-styled progressive subset of that country — have given inadequate thought to those harms and how to ameliorate them; but I think you can also make the argument that we have exacerbated them.
Perhaps red-state voters hear the economic equivalent of "get over it" from areas promoting greater diversity and prospering from shifts in the economy. But given the structure of our system of federalism, red state legislatures and red-state governors dominate. Their voters' concerns cannot be brushed aside without consequence.
Edsall writes, "The problem is that even if Pinker is right, his analysis does not preclude a sustained period in which the anti-democratic right dominates American politics. There is no telling how long it will be before the movement Trump has mobilized will have run its course."
Or how much damage it might do before then, he adds.
But there are genies and there are bottles. Some of the changes to which red-state America object are made possible not by haughty liberals, but by technological advances that cannot be uninvented. The Internet makes global business possible, not just unfavorable trade rules. The technology allowed shunned minority groups to find each other and organize for full recognition. As I've argued, if conservatives want to return to the halycon days they imagine of women staying at home with the kids while dad goes to work, they are better off not getting angry at the left or at blacks or immigrants, but at cars and televisions. But as humans, we identify enemies with faces. And we like our cars and our televisions.
In 1989, as the Chinese government tried to suppress the Tiananmen Square protests, its ability to keep a lid on its crackdown was, if I recall, undermined by the now nearly obsolete fax machine. Efforts afoot to restrict the Internet may similarly fail. The changes people fear may be unstoppable, but efforts to ameliorate the harm have been weak, as well as our defense of the basic structures that have held this country together. Conservative politicians have used the anger their own policies have generated to further their careers. The left needs to do more to recognize the sources of the backlash and work more at defusing it.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Since it’s now post Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tuesday Afternoon and Wednesday Morning 3am, I thought I’d toss out gift ideas, with more picks for the best Blu-ray reissues of 2017. Most titles are released concurrent with an SD edition, so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player, don’t despair. Any reviews based on Region “B” editions (which require a multi-region Blu-ray player) are noted as such; the good news is that multi-region players are now more affordable! So here you go, in alphabetical order:
Barry Lyndon (Criterion Collection) – Stanley Kubrick’s beautifully constructed, leisurely paced adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s rags-to-riches-to-rags tale about a roguish Irishman (Ryan O’Neal) who grifts his way into the English aristocracy is akin to watching 18th-century paintings come to life (to its detractors, about as exciting as being forced to stare at a painting for 3 hours, strapped to a chair). This magnificent 1975 film has improved with age, like a fine wine; successive viewings prove the legends about Kubrick’s obsession with the minutest of details regarding production design were not exaggerated-every frame is steeped in verisimilitude. Michael Hordern’s delightfully droll voice over work as The Narrator rescues the proceedings from sliding into staidness.
Criterion’s superb 4K restoration is a vast improvement over Warner’s 2011 Blu-ray release; finally giving full due to one of the most visually resplendent costume dramas of all time. Criterion also packed in the extras on this one, including new and archival interviews with cast and crew, as well as featurettes covering everything from cinematography, production design, costume design to critical reappraisal. A must-have.
Blow-Up(Criterion Collection) – You know how the song goes: “England swings like a pendulum do”. And nobody swung the arthouse in the 60s like Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. Combine the acid-dazed op art splendor of 1966 London with Antonioni’s predilection for enigmatic narrative, and out pops this colorful mindbender. A “mod” photographer (David Hemmings) is wandering around a public park and espies a lovely young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) who is acting a bit erratic. Intrigued, he shoots a series of photos. When he develops them, he realizes that he may have inadvertently documented a crime. What ensues is part mystery-thriller and part youth-ploitation flick. Look for a great scene in a club where The Yardbirds (featuring Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck) rave it up! Also in the cast: Sarah Miles, Jane Birkin, and Verushka.
The Day of the Jackal (Arrow Video; Region “B”) – “Conspiracy a-go go” films don’t get any better than Fred Zinnemann’s taut political thriller. Adapted from Frederick Forsyth’s eponymous 1971 bestseller, this 1973 film (set in 1962) takes you on a chilling “ride-along” with a professional assassin (Edward Fox) who is hired by a French right-wing extremist group to kill President Charles de Gaulle. It’s a real nail-biter from start to finish, intelligently written and well-crafted. While it undoubtedly was not his intent, Zinnemann’s docu-realism regarding the hitman’s meticulous prep work and coolly detached social engineering methodology at times plays like a “how-to” guide (shudder). Arrow’s print is the best I’ve seen of this film. Among the extras: a new interview with a Zinnemann biographer, and Kenneth Ross’ entire original screenplay (CD ROM content).
Lost in America (Criterion Collection) – Released at the height of Reaganomics, this 1985 gem can now be viewed in hindsight as a spot-on satirical smack down of the Yuppie cosmology that shaped the Decade of Greed. Director/co-writer Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty portray a 30-something, upwardly mobile couple who quit their high-paying jobs, liquidate their assets, buy a Winnebago, and hit the road to “find themselves”; they’ll “touch Indians” (with a “nest egg” of $145,000). Due to unforeseen circumstances, the “egg” is soon off the table, and the couple find themselves on the receiving end of “trickle down”, to Brooks’ chagrin. Like all of Brooks’ movies, it is at once painfully funny and painful to watch (he paved the way for Larry David and Ricky Gervais). Criterion’s extras are a bit skimpy here, but the new 2K restoration is fabulous.
Mickey One (Indicator Limited Edition; all-region) – Arthur Penn’s 1965 existential film noir stars Warren Beatty as a standup comic who is on the run from the mob. The ultimate intent of this pursuit is never made 100% clear (is it a “hit”, or just a debt collection?), but one thing is certain: viewers will find themselves becoming as unsettled as the twitchy, paranoid protagonist. It’s a Kafkaesque nightmare, with echoes of Godard’s Breathless. A true rarity-an American art film, photographed in expressive, moody chiaroscuro by DP Ghislain Cloquet (who also did the cinematography for Bresson’s classic Au Hasard Balthazar and Woody Allen’s Love and Death). Nice transfer. Extras include a 40-page booklet and a new interview with Penn’s son Matthew.
Sid & Nancy (Criterion Collection) – The ultimate love story…for nihilists. Director Alex Cox has never been accused of subtlety, and there’s certainly a glorious lack of it here in his over-the-top 1986 biopic about the doomed relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb chew all the available scenery as they shoot up, turn on and check out. It is a bit of a downer, but the cast is great, and Cox (who co-scripted with Abbe Wool) injects a fair amount of dark comedy (“Eeew, Sid! I look like fuckin’ Stevie Nicks in hippie clothes!”). The movie also benefits from outstanding cinematography by Roger Deakins, which is really brought to the fore in Criterion’s 4K restoration. Extras include a 1987 doc on the making of the film, and the “infamous” 1976 Sex Pistols TV interview with Bill Grundy.
Stormy Monday (Arrow Video; Region “B”) – I have to admit, I geeked out a little when I heard that Mike Figgis’ tightly-scripted, gorgeously-photographed 1988 Brit-noir (his feature directorial debut) was finally getting the high-def home video treatment that it so richly deserves. Sean Bean stars as a restless young drifter who blows into Newcastle and falls in with a local jazz club owner (Sting). Right about the same time, a shady American businessman with mob ties (Tommy Lee Jones) arrives to muscle in on a land development deal, accompanied by his ex-mistress/current P.A. (Melanie Griffith). As romantic sparks begin to fly between Bean and Griffith, the mobster puts the thumbscrews to the club owner, who stands in the way of the development scheme by refusing to sell. Things get complicated. This is one of my favorite 80s sleepers; a criminally underseen and underrated gem. Arrow’s sparkling transfer is a revelation; a great showcase for cinematographer Roger Deakins’ work here, which rates among his best. Extras include an interesting “then and now” tour of the Newcastle film locations.
Tampopo (Criterion Collection) – Self billed as “The first Japanese noodle western”, this 1987 entry from writer-director Juzo Itami is all that and more. Nobuko Niyamoto is superb as the eponymous character, a widow who has inherited her late husband’s noodle house. Despite her dedication and effort to please customers, Tampopo struggles to keep the business afloat, until a deux ex machina arrives-a truck driver named Goro (Tsutomo Yamazaki). After one taste, Goro pinpoints the problem-bland noodles. No worries-like the magnanimous stranger who blows into an old western town (think Shane). Goro takes Tampopo on as a personal project, mentoring her on the Zen of creating the perfect noodle bowl. A delight from start to finish, offering keen insight on the relationship between food, sex and love. Criterion’s edition features a nicely restored print and a generous helping of extras, including Rubber Band Pistol, Itami’s 1962 debut short film.
It's just trolling right? They can't really believe this
Kayleigh McEnany is an educated person. The obvious contempt these people hold for Republican voters is really something. You know she knows better:
McEnany was educated at the Academy of the Holy Names, a private Catholic college preparatory school for girls (co-educational up to eighth grade), in the city of Tampa in western Florida, followed by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) in International Politics, in Washington, D.C. She also spent a year studying at St Edmund Hall, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, in England. McEnany studied at the University of Miami School of Law and then transferred to Harvard Law School, where she received a JD in May 2016.
Michigan’s Republican governor announced Friday that Democrat John Conyers’ congressional seat will not be filled until the regularly scheduled November election, leaving it vacant for nearly a year.
Gov. Rick Snyder decided the post will be listed twice on the August primary and November general election ballots. While unlikely, it is possible voters could choose one candidate to fill the vacancy until January 2019 and elect another to a full two-year term after that.
It is unusual for a congressional district to stay vacant for so long, according to a review of roughly 100 vacancies and successors listed on the House website for the last 20 years. The longest time a seat stayed empty was about 10 months — both in 2014, when Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina left to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and 2006, when Rep. Bob Menendez of New Jersey was appointed to the Senate.
In case you were wondering there are whole lot more Republican governors than Democratic. So as more dominoes fall, as they surely will, I'd guess you can count on this happening in any Republican run state that has the option of delaying replacement of a Democrat as long as possible so they can ram through Trump's carnage agenda. Wonderful.
“With us [the market] goes up, and with them it goes down, and that’s the end of the election."
Will people forgive everything if the economy is roaring? Is he right? Economic determinists say that material well-being is the key everything so if the economy roars under Trump and more people are feeling flush, well ...