Monday Reads: As we learn more about the MAGAs and EmoProgs that fell for the old “provokatsiya”Posted: April 3, 2017
I woke this morning at 5 am to the sound of a tornado warning going off on my smartphone. This is not exactly the most welcome sound at any early hour but particularly cruel on a Monday. Some how, it seems that our endless experience with tornadoes and the torrential rain, wind and hail are metaphorical harbingers of the state of our country. The weather is getting more extreme and severe and yet we’re in the process of going back to denial and letting it happen. I wonder if Alexandria and the other small communities of Louisiana will be able to get a Federal State of Emergency signed in time. I’m not hopeful. Eastern New Orleans is still waiting for a lot of help after the destruction of the February 7 Tornado Outbreak.
This so didn’t have to happen.
I don’t know how much longer I can endure hearing or seeing either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump on TV or any place else. How did two throwbacks to the past become installed as “leaders” when they basically look to turn our national dreams into the national nightmares of the past? Headlines regale us of the antics of old, snotty white men like Bernie, Donald, and Mitch McConnell who are desperately trying to put women, minorities, immigrants, and the GLBT community back in their historical places. Alarms should be sounding constantly. Hell is being rained on our civil rights, liberties, and democracy. Just “Gimme Some Truth”.
There are some incredible and powerful reads for you today. Here’s the one on my list from the LA Times. They’re running a four part series on the incredible lying Kremlin Caligula. Here’s the link to the Sunday Op Ed that kicks it off: “Our Dishonest President”. Don the Con may soon replace Tricky Dicky in the National Hall of Shameful Presidential Crooks.
It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”
Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.
Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.
In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.
His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.
These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.
What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.
Go savor every word of it.
Yes. The Trumptanic is going down. What will it take with it? This is from the keyboard of Jonathan Allen writing for Roll Call.
Dear Republican member of the House:
Run away from Donald Trump. Run hard. Run fast. And don’t look over your shoulder.
This president doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t share your values, and a dumpster fire would be envious of his reckless disregard for everything and everyone around him.
Senate Republicans have figured this out, and their distancing act is well underway. Sure, they say supportive things, but look at their actions.
When Trump’s first bill was headed toward the House floor, several Senate Republicans openly pressed their colleagues not to pass it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t crack down on them a bit. And, when the clunky-at-best legislation was pulled from the floor, he pronounced it dead even as the White House and House GOP leaders were explaining how they might revive it
The chances that we will see impeachment are going up as quickly as Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting. This is from Juan Williams writing for The Hill.
Last week, a new poll from the liberal outfit Public Policy Polling (PPP) asked Americans if President Trump should resign if evidence emerges that his campaign worked with Russia to help defeat Hillary Clinton. A majority, 53 percent, said he should resign.
That is important because PPP also found that 44 percent of Americans already believe that Trump’s campaign did just that.
It is no fantasy to say the drip-drip-drip of the Trump-Russia investigations is draining this presidency of political capital. The president’s historically high disapproval rating — 51 percent in the latest McClatchy poll — tells the same story.
That’s why astute Republicans are starting to look out for themselves.
The first Republican to begin to run for cover was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who decided to recuse himself from any role in the investigation. Last week Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, sought immunity in exchange for his testimony to congressional investigators.
A majority of Americans want a special prosecutor — including 39 percent of Republicans, according to one poll. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for Congress to form a bipartisan select committee to probe ties between Russia and the Trump camp.
I loved this headline from Raw Story: Trump allies in short supply as DC finds out trusting him is ‘like putting your faith in a human IED’. It talks about Trump’s new war on the Freedom Caucus.
At heart, the Freedom Caucus agrees with the basic principle of Trumpism: that Washington doesn’t work, that its members are denizens of a corrupt and dysfunctional swamp, and that only a revolution in its operations can save the republic. The dilemma for Trump is that conservatives largely built their base of support on fierce opposition to the establishment agenda, and an ability to gum it up to the point nothing gets done. Its hardline members think it’s better to maintain gridlock rather than allow bad government to continue.
Trump may agree with that, but as president he also needs to get things done. He made promises after all: to repeal Obamacare, to reshape the tax system, to build a wall … lots of things. If he can’t follow through, what’s the point of being president
Unfortunately, Trump’s inexperience and basic lack of understanding of government – and reluctance to learn – evidently included ignorance of the fact the president lacks the power of a chief executive, and is dependent on Congress to approve major initiatives. He can’t just wave his hand and order compliance. He needs the votes. But Democrats won’t vote with him out of principle, and moderate Republicans still recall how gleefully he savaged them during his election bid. He pretty much dedicated himself to chasing their sorry asses out of Washington.
Doncha love it when you can watch Evil fight Evil?
This all will undoubtedly happen but only after the Republicans pull their prize from the National Crack Jack box. That would be the radical and unfit Gorsuch being placed to do decades of damage on the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell wants white male supremacy so badly that he’s going to go nuclear.
Senators in both parties are speculating that a blowup over President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court could lead not only to the end of the filibuster for such nominations, but for controversial legislation as well.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislative filibuster is safe, lawmakers fear that pressure will grow to get rid of it if Democrats block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination this week.
McConnell has all but promised to change the Senate’s rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed in a majority vote if Democrats filibuster him.
The showdown will take place later this week after a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Monday.
Senators in both parties are worried about how the fight over Gorsuch will affect the filibuster.
“The thing I worry most about is that we become like the House of Representatives. What’s the next step? Legislation?” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“I’m convinced it’s a slippery slope.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned last week on the Senate floor that growing pressure from the right and the left will make it difficult to withstand calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster.
“If we continue on the path we’re on right now, the very next time there’s a legislative proposal that one side of the aisle feels is so important they cannot let their base down, the pressure builds, then we’re going to vote the nuclear option on the legislative piece,” he said.
“That’s what will happen. Somebody will do it.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of only three Democrats who have explicitly said they’d oppose a filibuster of Gorsuch, warns the Senate is in danger of becoming a smaller version of the House, where the minority party has few rights.
“People who have been here for a long time know that we’re going down the wrong path here. The most unique political body in the world, the United States Senate, will be no more than a six-year term in the House,” he said.
“I’m doing whatever I can to preserve he 60-vote rule,” he said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who like Manchin says she will vote to allow Gorsuch’s nomination to move forward, said she is also concerned about the legislative filibuster.
“This erosion that seems to be happening, of course I’m worried about it,” she said.
Gorsuch picked up a third Democratic vote on Sunday when Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) said he would back him
It’s being reported (NPR here) that the Dems have to votes to filibuster.
Senate Democrats now have enough votes to block the Supreme Court nomination under current Senate rules, which require 60 votes to proceed on a nomination.
That sets up a showdown later this week that will likely lead to a reinterpretation of Senate rules, so that the nominations of Supreme Court justices can be advanced with 51-vote majorities, rather than the preliminary 60-vote threshold that has long applied to high court nominations.
“If we have to, we will change the rules,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said during Monday’s Judiciary Committee meeting. “It looks like we’re going to have to.”
Yup, right. We’ve learned that this last few years in spades. The Republican motto is “Cheat if you have to”.
So, I’ve saved the best for last. You must read this excerpt of a book by Susan Bordo at The Guardian: ‘The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists’. It’s a long and cathartic read.
Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the “gender wars” firsthand – from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on “women’s libbers”, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier – brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines.
We may have winced – as I did – when Madeleine Albright quoted a coffee-cup version of feminism or Hillary said “deal me in”. But we understood that behind every seeming appeal to “sisterhood” was the history of what was indeed a revolution – and one that was far from over. We knew the role Hillary had played in that revolution, and the price she had paid for it. Many of us, too, had followed Clinton through the course of her public career, had read her autobiography, and knew very well that the accusation that she had come to issues concerning racial and economic justice late and “for political purposes” was among the most extraordinary fabrications of the campaign.
Many younger women, on the other hand – no less feminist, no less committed to gender equality – had formed their ideas about “the Clintons”, as Savannah Barker reminds us, in the shadow of 20 years of relentless personal and political attacks. Few of them – as I know from decades of teaching courses on feminism, gender issues, and the social movements of the 60s – were aware of the “living history” (to borrow Hillary’s phrase) that shaped the woman herself.
These young women weren’t around when the GOP, appalled that liberals like the Clintons had somehow grabbed political power, began a series of witchhunts that have never ended. (Hillary was correct: it has been a “vast rightwing conspiracy”, from the Spectator magazine’s “Arkansas Project”, designed specifically to take Bill Clinton down, to Kenneth Starr’s relentless digging into Bill’s private life, to the Benghazi and email investigations.)
They hadn’t experienced a decade of culture wars in which feminists’ efforts to bring histories of gender and race struggle into the educational curriculum were reduced to a species of political correctness. They didn’t witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the “super-predator” label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).
It isn’t necessary, of course, to have firsthand knowledge of history in order to have an informed idea of events and issues. When it came to Hillary Clinton, however, sorting out fact from politically motivated fiction was a difficult task, particularly if one’s knowledge was filtered through the medium of election-year battles.
The 2016 election was no academically rigorous history course; it was dominated by versions of Hillary Clinton constructed by her political opponents and transmitted by reporters who usually don’t see offering context as their job and don’t have the time (or, for some, the inclination) to sort fact from fiction. And then, too, after decades of harsh schooling in the ways of politics and the media, Hillary herself was no longer the outspoken feminist who chastised reporters when they questioned her life choices, but a cautious campaigner who measured her words with care.
I knew just what one of my graduate students meant when I asked her how millennial feminists saw Hillary and she said “a white lady”. A white woman herself, she wasn’t referring to the colour of Hillary’s skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different – but I understood the basis for my student’s perception.
So that’s a long excerpt but I had trouble just finding one little nugget to highlight.
Which brings me to Bernie and Berning Down the House. Bernie’s Tad Devine appears to be yet another Paul Manafort with deep ties and economic interests with Russians. Berners and Trumpsters were taken in by Russian Bots and propaganda. Many of them are still dead enders that insist on some kind of “progressive purity”. After I go after these ties in two links, I will return to the Bordo book. (And I am amazed at how I want to say Bardo when I see her name.)
But Manafort was not the only American political consultant in 2016 who had a checkered history of muddying the waters of international politics. In 2009 Manafort was working to help improve the image of pro-Russian Ukranian politician Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to make the presidential nominee seem more accessible, and thus more palatable, to the American Congress. Joining Manafort in that effort was an American consultant named Tad Devine, a man who himself had a dubious history of foreign intervention. Among Devine’s highlights is having worked for exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002 as well as ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Devine then worked for Yanukovych from 2006 up until he was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Like both Lozada and Zelaya, Yanukovych has since been removed from power and he currently resides in exile in Russia and just happens to be wanted for treason in Ukraine.
In addition to having supported corrupt politicians abroad, Devine has also supported unsuccessful presidential candidates here at home. Devine had increasing roles in the campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Kerry, Al Gore, and John Kerry. After having previously worked on actual successful campaigns for Bernie Sanders’ 1996 congressional run as well as his 2006 senatorial run, Devine officially joined Sanders’ presidential campaign as a senior advisor in May of 2015. Over the course of the next fourteen months, Devine not only became one of the mouthpieces of the campaign but was also able to net himself a pretty penny. According to Slate, through both his consulting work as well as his work with Old Time Media, Devine was able to net himself roughly $10 million through his work on the campaign. For a campaign that prided itself as going to fight for the little guy, Devine, an establishment political consultant and friend of Bernie Sanders, seemed perfectly content to pocket millions of dollars.
But Devine’s hefty payday might not have been paid for entirely by gullible Americans giving $27 each. Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active, they were thinking of using lån uten sikkerhet some financial help to be able to raise the business. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.
Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow late on Tuesday, there existed an army of Russian bots who were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and thus, enegize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man.
Indeed, some estimates now say that as much as one-fifth of Twitter traffic was controlled by pro-Trump, anti-Clinton bots and troll accounts during the election. With these #MAGA account attacks, it was relatively easy to block them and move on — emotionally, at least, as the abuse they delivered was easy to deflect because “they” were not “people” with whom I believed I had values in common in the first place.
However, the rest of the abuse came from accounts purporting to be supporters of Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. And these were “people” with whom I believed I shared common values and policy interests. Almost all of the accounts presented as men — mostly young and white — and used sexist and misogynistic tones and words. I was called “mom” and “grandma” as epithets by these “young men.” I was called every vile sexualized name you can imagine. For some reason that I did not understand at the time, they liked to call me a “vagina.” (I now believe non-native English — i.e. Russian — speakers wrote the algorithms controlling these bots and perhaps imagined “vagina” to be the equivalent of the c-word when hurled at a woman.) Not being conversant in the mechanisms of Russian psychological warfare techniques at the time, it never occurred to me that, like the #MAGA bots, these “Bernie Bro” accounts were actually bots too.
And the abuse from these accounts was much harder to dismiss. It wentin further, emotionally speaking. The vitriol of the attacks felt like a painful betrayal. After all, “we” probably shared 99 percent of our political perspective; we just supported different candidates — which is something I said repeatedly in my attempts to appeal to reason with some of the attackers over the course of those long months. Nonetheless, even the mildest criticism of Sanders or comment of support for Clinton would bring out a swarm of these “Bernie Bro” accounts spouting off with abusive language and mockery.
It was not just me who experienced this — nearly every female supporter of Clinton I know who was outspoken on Twitter or Facebook received similar treatment. In addition, men of color who were vocal Clinton supporters were targeted in a similar way. The abuse was also highly targeted toward journalists, especially female journalists reporting on the primary and opinion journalists who were supportive of Clinton.
None of us knew we were being targeted for psychological warfare by a foreign power during these exchanges.
The attacks started in late 2015 and escalated through early 2016. Most of these accounts no longer exist to link to, but others on twitter noticed similar patterns.
I am now called a “pantsuiter” by progressive Dems who still think Bernie’s the future. It’s a the same as being called a gramdma by a damned Russian Troll and they were obviously well-schooled by them. Back to the brilliant Susan Bordo.
And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party – not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of how he ran against her.
Sanders often boasted about the importance of the issues rather than individuals, of not playing dirty politics or running nasty ads in his campaign. And it’s certainly true that he didn’t slime Hillary by bringing Bill’s sexual accusers forward or by recommending that she be put in jail, as Trump did. He also seemed, at the beginning of the primary season, to be refreshingly dismissive about the “email scandal”: “Enough already about the damned emails!” he shouted at the first debate, and I remember thinking “Good man, Bernie! Way to go!” But within months, taking advantage of justified frustration with politics as usual (a frustration more appropriately aimed at GOP stonewalling of Democratic legislation), Sanders was taking Hillary down in a different way: as an establishment tool and creature of Wall Street.
“I think, frankly,” he said in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, “it’s hard to be a real progressive and to take on the establishment in a way that I think [it] has to be taken on, when you come as dependent as she has through her super PAC and in other ways on Wall Street and drug-company money.”
Progressive. It’s a term with a long, twisty history. In the 19th century, it was associated with those who argued for the moral “cleansing” of the nation. A century ago, both racist Southern Democrats and the founders of the NAACP claimed it for their purposes. The Communist party has described itself as progressive. By the time Sanders argued that Clinton was “not a true progressive”, the word was not very useful descriptively – one can be progressive in some ways and not so progressive in others, and no politician that I know of has ever struck every progressive chord. Context matters, too. As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: “If Sanders is the standard by which you’re going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.”
For Sanders supporters, however, progressive wasn’t an ill-defined, historically malleable label, but rather a badge of honor, a magical talisman for those who considered themselves anti-establishment. It may have been “a fallback identifier for pretty much anyone The Nation and its journalistic kin smiled upon” (as Michael Kazin described it), but it was an identifier with a great deal of potency, particularly for a younger generation longing for lives organised around something other than job hunting. When Sanders denied that badge of honour to Clinton he wasn’t distinguishing his agenda from hers (their positions on most issues were, in reality, pretty similar), he was excluding her from the company of the good and pure – and in the process, limiting what counted as progressive causes, too. His list didn’t include the struggle for reproductive rights or affordable child care. Nor, at the beginning of his campaign, was there much emphasis on racial justice.
So which ones on the list did the Trumpsters and Berners fall for and who was duped the worst?
First, there’s provokatsiya (provocation), which is the cornerstone of the Russian espionage worldview. This part of Kremlin spy culture is older than the Bolsheviks, dating to the late Tsarist era, when Russia invented the modern intelligence agency to fight anarchist terrorists.
Provocation is complicated, but at its most basic involves secret acts to confuse and dismay your enemy. The recent antics of Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee—positing conflicting and unsubstantiated allegations of malfeasance by our spy agencies—are a classic provocation designed to divert attention from the White House as its Russia crisis mounts. Regardless of whether anyone in Russia has a hand in this, the Kremlin surely approves.
Provokatsiya gets more complicated and nefarious from there, with the ultimate aim of turning the tables on your enemy and defeating him detail—before he realizes what’s happened. As I’ve explained, this involves a lot of shady stuff such as:
Taking control of your enemies in secret and encouraging them to do things that discredit them and help you. You plant your own agents provocateurs and flip legitimate activists, turning them to your side…While this isn’t a particularly nice technique, it works surprisingly well, particularly if you don’t care about bloody and messy consequences.
Moscow is alarmingly forward-leaning about provocation, and the Kremlin’s traditional devil-may-care attitude about these dirty tricks means it’s a safe bet that when you encounter rabid anti-Putin activists, there’s a solid chance some of them are secretly working for the Russians.
So far, it’s been a slow news day. Deadly tornadoes, bombs in St Petersburg, and threats from North Korea, plus a boatload of hearings and a vote on a nimrod SCOTUS nomination are all up for grabs. (Snark font on)
Let me know what’s on your mind and blogging list today. I’d like to go back to bed but I have to grade homework. I’m tired and seriously behind. I need to go soak in some sun too while it’s out there.