Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

It appears that Cover-Up General Bill Barr has struck again. He apparently ordered the Southern District of New York to end their investigation of campaign finance violations by Michael Cohen and Individual 1 (AKA Donald Trump).

The Washington Post: Prosecutors have ‘concluded’ Michael Cohen campaign finance probe, judge says.

Federal prosecutors have concluded the campaign finance investigation centered on President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or at least key aspects of it, a federal judge overseeing the case wrote Wednesday, suggesting prosecutors will not charge executives in the Trump Organization or any others who have been linked to the matter.

The good news is that Judge William H. Pauley ordered the public release of search warrants and other documents related to the case. Prosecutors asked Pauley to allow some redactions of the materials, but the judge said no dice. The materials should be available sometime this morning.

He [Pauley] wrote that the government disclosed in a secret filing Monday that it had “concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations.” He rejected their request to file the materials with redactions to protect “third-party privacy interests,” because, by his telling, the case is over and the public deserves to see everything.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley wrote. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.”

So Barr has made sure that the Trump Organization will no longer be in danger of prosecution. Will the investigations into Trump’s inauguration be axed next?

Rachel Maddow talked about this last night.

Folks, this is getting scarier with every passing day. Trump now controls the Department of Justice and apparently can order investigations stopped or opened. Republicans control the Senate, so nothing the Democrats pass will even be considered there, including impeachment. The only protection we have left is the courts, and Trump and the GOP are working overtime to stock them with Trump judges.

Last night Trump held another Nazi/KKK rally in North Carolina, during which he attacked has latest target Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and encouraged the crowd as they screamed “send her back!”

And in case you thought Trump was ad libbing, here’s the proof that the attack was orchestrated.

From The Charlotte Observer editorial board: ’Send her back’: A dark reminder of who we are.

It happened in the first half of Wednesday’s speech. Donald Trump, our president, began to talk about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic from Minnesota who was among the four women of color he had attacked Sunday in a racist tweet. Everyone knew Trump would speak about the women at some point to the Greenville, North Carolina crowd. Did we know what would come next?

“Send her back.”

The chant rose quickly from a handful of voices to a chorus of bigotry. It was a chilling moment. It was “lock her up” in a white hood. It was despicable.

It could have happened at any Donald Trump rally. It might have happened in any state, north or south. But it happened in Greenville, in our state, and it was one of North Carolina’s darkest moments.

“Send her back.”

Or perhaps not. Maybe the chant will be absorbed in the vortex that is Donald Trump. In a presidency of so many shameful moments, of so many new lows, the singularly awful ones tend to lose their significance. It’s possible that North Carolina might be forgotten when the chant inevitably spreads to the next rally. But North Carolina shouldn’t forget.

The Associated Press: Trump leans on issue of race in bid for a 2nd term in 2020.

President Donald Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term.

Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.

He intensified his attacks on Wednesday, blasting four young congresswomen of color during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina . The crowd responded by chanting, “Send her back!” echoing Trump’s weekend tweet in which he said the lawmakers, all American citizens, should “go back” to the countries from which they came.

“I do think I am winning the political fight,” Trump declared at the White House. “I think I am winning it by a lot.”

Not since George Wallace’s campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent president — put racial polarization at the center of his call to voters. Though Trump’s comments generated outrage and even a resolution of condemnation in the House, the president and his campaign believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.

The Irish Times: Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Read the rest at the link above.

Last night Trump also celebrated a meaningless vote in the house about impeachment. Politico suggests that he might actually think the vote has ended the threat.

IT BARELY TOOK THE PRESIDENT ANY TIME before he said this Wednesday evening at his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C.: “I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in: the resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment. I want to thank those Democrats because many of them voted for us, the vote was a totally lopsided 332-95-1.” … Upon arriving in North Carolina, President Donald Trump said the same thing: “We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment. And that’s the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work….

a few smart, seasoned people in the White House wondered to us Wednesday night if TRUMP actually believes this vote ended impeachment. Of course, it didn’t. This was a procedural vote that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are still nearly 90 Democrats who are now on record supporting an impeachment inquiry, and ROBERT MUELLER is coming to the Hill next week. There are Democrats who believe the impeachment caucus will swell as soon as he opens his mouth.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein writes: That Strange Impeachment Vote? It May Be a Big Deal.

Inflaming the base: July 16, 2019

Representative Al Green, a Democrat from Texas, has regularly introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Usually, when a regular bill or resolution has been introduced, it’s then referred to committee. If the majority party doesn’t want to consider the bill, it will die with no further action. Under House rules, however, any member can force an impeachment resolution onto the floor as pending business. That’s what Green did Wednesday.

This maneuver doesn’t mean that impeachment gets a final vote, or even debate. What it does get is a “motion to table,” which means that lawmakers can vote to either keep the resolution as pending business or kill it off. When Green did this in 2017, 58 Democrats voted to keep the impeachment measure alive. In 2018, 66 did so. This time, it was up to 95.

Of course, there are more Democrats in the current Congress than in the previous one. And we can’t assume that all the votes to table were necessarily votes against impeachment (pro-impeachment independent Justin Amash voted to table, for instance). Some legislators may have objected to bringing the resolution straight to the floor on procedural grounds, or thought that Green’s articles were poorly drafted. Still, the vote offers a decent proxy for where impeachment sentiment stands in the House: It divides Democrats and unites Republicans in opposition. For now.

What I found interesting was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said she opposes impeachment, apparently didn’t whip the vote. If that’s the case, what does it say about her real position? One interpretation is that she simply wanted to mollify pro-impeachment Democrats by giving them an easy opportunity to express their views. Another is that Pelosi isn’t as opposed to impeachment as she has let on, and was using this vote to gauge sentiment within the caucus – or even to demonstrate that support for ousting the president is growing.

(Emphasis added.)

I’ll end with this breaking news from The Miami Herald: Judge keeps Jeffrey Epstein in N.Y. jail as prosecutors build on sex trafficking case.

Wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will have to wait out a sex trafficking trial from a jail cell after a federal judge in New York ruled Thursday against his request for release on bail.

Epstein, 66, had offered to put up any collateral the judge wished from his self-estimated $559 million fortune. He said he would live in isolation in his Manhattan mansion, and pay for private security to ensure he remains inside and that no one enters unless authorized by the courts.

But with prosecutors warning that Epstein could easily flee or attempt to interfere with their witnesses, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ordered that Epstein remain at the Manhattan Correctional Institute as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seeks his conviction on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Berman, according to reporters covering the hearing in New York, cited concerns that Epstein is a “danger” to others.

Berman’s ruling is a major victory for Epstein’s accusers, who have grown by the dozens since he was first investigated on trafficking allegations in South Florida more than a dozen years ago. The wealthy financier was first arrested in Palm Beach County in the mid-2000s after police began to suspect that he was abusing underage girls.

I’ll post anything I find about the release of Cohen materials from SDNY. What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump and Fascism

By Edward B. Gordon

Good Afternoon!!

Over the past couple of weeks, Trump has downplayed an attempt to assassinate at least 13 present and former Democratic officials and prominent Democrats as well as the hate crime murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. His deepest expressed concern about these horrific events has been that they interfered with media coverage of his Hitler rallies. In addition, Trump has blatantly lied about a group of Honduran asylum-seekers, claiming their “caravan” represents a national emergency that requires the deployment of thousands of active-duty troops on the Southern border. I think at this point it’s appropriate to label Trump’s behavior and rhetoric as fascism. I’m far from the only one saying this.

The Washington Post: Trump deploys the fascist playbook for the midterms, by Ishaan Tharoor

President Trump’s message is as clear as it is ugly: Fearmongering about illegal immigration will deliver his party the votes it needs to retain control of Congress. And so, in the final stretch before next week’s midterm election, the president and his allies have launched a blitzkrieg of misinformation.

By Henri Lebasque (1865 – 1937)

In a move unprecedented in modern American history, Trump ordered thousands of active-duty troops to the border to intercept a caravan of Central American migrants, casting them as a menacing “invasion” of “unknown Middle Easterners” and other shadowy elements. His allies at right-wing media outlets spread lurid conspiracy theories about liberals enabling disease-bearing foreigners to infiltrate the country.

Even as attention shifted to a spate of right-wing violence, including the slaughter of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue that critics linked to the president’s rhetoric, Trump barreled on, undaunted. On Thursday, he gave a speech at the White House where he warned that U.S. troops would shoot violent migrants at the border. He also shared an ad that sought to connect the Democratic Party to murders carried out by a man twice deported to Mexico, and then to link the man’s murderous behavior to the supposed threat posed by all migrants.

Taroor links to several other writers on the subject, including:

Timothy Snyder at The Guardian: Donald Trump borrows from the old tricks of fascism.

The governing principle of the Trump administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims. As we see in the motivations of the terrorists themselves, and in the long history of fascism, this maneuver can lead to murder.

Comfy Chair, by Rae Andrews

The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”.

The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.

How does this apply to Trump?

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out.

By Ivan Stepanovich Ivanov-Sakachev

If Trump is not a fascist, this is only in the precise sense that he is not even a fascist. He strikes a fascist pose, and then issues generic palliative remarks and denies responsibility for his words and actions. But since total irresponsibility is a central part of the fascist tradition, it is perhaps best to give Trump his due credit as an innovator.

The next piece is very long, but I hope you’ll go read it. I can’t do it justice with excerpts. From the Literary Hub, Aleksandar Hemon on Civility: Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight. Hemon is from Bosnia. His essay responds to The New Yorker’s quickly aborted invitation to Steve Bannon to discuss his “ideas” with editor-in-chief David Remnick.

The public discussion prompted by the (dis)invitation confirmed to me that only those safe from fascism and its practices are far more likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists. What for such a privileged group is a matter of a potentially productive difference in opinion is, for many of us, a matter of basic survival. The essential quality of fascism (and its attendant racism) is that it kills people and destroys their lives—and it does so because it openly aims so.

Witness Stephen Miller and Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance for illegal immigration” policy. Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.” Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he—fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; we must do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.

By Kenton Nelson

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power.

The error in Bannon’s headlining The New Yorker Festival would not have been in giving him a platform to spew his hateful rhetoric, for he was as likely to convert anyone as he himself was to be shown the light in conversation with Remnick. The catastrophic error would’ve been in allowing him to divorce his ideas from the fascist practices in which they’re actualized with brutality. If he is at all relevant, it is not as a thinker, but as a (former) executive who has worked to build the Trumpist edifice of power that cages children and is dismantling mechanisms of democracy.

Relevant reading from Today’s news:

The Washington Post: Trump’s election-eve border mission puts the military in partisan crosshairs.

The Washington Post: Army assessment of migrant caravans undermines Trump’s rhetoric.

Think Progress: These prominent white supremacists interacted with the Pittsburgh shooting suspect on social media.

The Independent: Fascism has arrived in Brazil – Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency will be worse than you think.

The New York Times: Nigerian Army Uses Trump’s Words to Justify Fatal Shooting of Rock-Throwing Protesters.

Buzzfeed News: Trump Said US Soldiers Should Shoot Rock-Throwing Migrants, And Vets Were Having None Of That.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: “Something wicked this way comes …”

rosaparksWelcome to the start of an Orwellian Dystopia.   Will the Vichy Democrats enable the demise of Civil Rights?  How many of us will stand up to defend our Bill of Rights?

A man deemed “too racist” to be a Federal judge by a judiciary committee led by Senate Republicans during the Reagan years has just been nominated to the be the nation’s head enforcer of Civil Rights law.  Jeff Sessions “once joked that he only took issue with the KKK’s drug use and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American.”

The man who President-elect Donald Trump will nominate as the 84th attorney general of the United States was once rejected as a federal judge over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an early Trump supporter who has been playing a major role on the Trump transition team, met with the president-elect in New York on Thursday. In a statement, the Trump team said the president-elect was “unbelievably impressed” with Sessions.

On Friday morning, Trump and Sessions confirmed that Sessions had been offered the attorney general position.

J. Gerald Hebert remembers Sessions’ time as the top federal prosecutor in Mobile, Alabama, well. Speaking to The Huffington Post earlier this month, Hebert said he was stunned that an Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a possibility.

More than three decades ago, Hebert was in his 30s and working on voting rights cases for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. He was based in D.C. but spent time in Alabama working with Sessions, who was a U.S. attorney in Ronald Reagan’s administration.

“He was very affable, always wanting to have a conversation, a cup of coffee,” Hebert said. “Over the course of those months, I had a number of conversations with him, and in a number of those conversations he made remarks that were deeply concerning.”

After Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge in 1986, Hebert appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about these remarks. It was unusual for a career DOJ lawyer to testify about a judicial nominee’s character, and Hebert said at the time that he did so with “very mixed feelings,” telling senators he considered Sessions “a friend.” Hebert told them Sessions had “a tendency to pop off” and that he was “not a very sensitive person when it comes to race relations.”

HuffPost reviewed a transcript of the Sessions’ 1986 confirmation hearings. In this selection, Hebert testified that he had once relayed comments about a white lawyer being described as a race traitor, and that Sessions had responded by saying “he probably is” …

The ADL CEO has announced he will register as Muslim if such a registry–as promised by the future Trump Administration–is enacted. Many Jewish Americans are concerned with the threat of laws that remind them of Europe’s awful past.

The head of an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism says he will register as a Muslim should President-elect Donald Trump create a national database for the religion’s followers.

“The new administration plans to force Muslims to register on some master list,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told listeners at the group’s Never is Now Conference in New York Thursday, according to Haaretz. “As Jews we know what it means to be forced to register.

“I pledge to you that because I am committed to the fight against anti-Semitism that if one day Muslim-Americans are forced to register their identities, that is the day this proud Jew will register as Muslim. Making powerful enemies is the price one must pay, at times, for speaking truth to power.”

Trump supporters have floated a registry of Muslim immigrants as part of efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism, but officials with his transition team have denied any such plans.

Greenblatt added Americans must reject all forms of discrimination regardless of which minority group it targets.

“No one has an excuse for excusing intolerance. We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, where they’re from, who they love or how they pray,” he said

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), an immigration hard-liner who has been advising Trump, said Wednesday that transition policy advisers were debating the merits of such a database.

54b9cf2c2d491021bcd18545c350d236Many Holocaust survivors are as traumatized by this election as sexual assault survivors and victims of abuse.

The dramatic increase in anti-Semitism and hate crimes since Election Day is a horrifying flashback for veteran Jewish Americans.

“It’s a very traumatic time for survivors and their families,” said Eva Fogelman, PhD, a New York-based, licensed psychologist and a pioneer in the field of Holocaust survivor post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There’s been a definite spike in anxiety among survivors in the past week,” Fogelman added. “They witness hate speech and anti-Semitic symbols from their childhood follow them here, and it triggers a relapse in their trauma. One of my patients said, ‘I lived through one Hitler, I don’t want to live through another.’”

Though sleeplessness and nightmares about their wartime experiences are the most common symptoms, intense fear of leaving and losing one’s home is another.

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, an Army veteran, will become Trump’s CIA director if confirmed by the Senate. He is a Tea Partier. f684ad067c151f22742c0315c1fbaa09

He’s a supporter of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk data collection program and sought to restore the agency’s access to the data it had already collected under the Patriot Act from its inception through late last year.

Pompeo is also one of the most vocal critics of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Pompeo, who grew up in the traditionally Republican enclave of Orange County, California, founded Thayer Aerospace, a company that made parts for commercial and military aircraft. After selling Thayer, he became president of Sentry International, a company that manufactures and sells equipment used in oil fields.

He was elected to Congress in 2010 on a wave of tea party support and with backing from the Koch Industries political action committee. The Wichita-based conglomerate’s PAC is well known for its support of conservative candidates.

Though Pompeo is generally known for his opposition to Obama administration policies, he’s occasionally given heat to some fellow Republicans. Last year, his name was floated as a potential rival to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to become House speaker.

Trump’s choice for NSA is a horrifying pick also. He’s got contacts with US enemy states.

But Flynn has also shown an erratic streak since leaving government that is likely to make his elevation disconcerting even to the flag officers and senior intelligence officials who once considered him a peer.

Flynn stunned former colleagues when he traveled to Moscow last year to appear alongside Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a lavish gala for the Kremlin-run propaganda channel RT, a trip Flynn admitted he was paid to make and defended by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels such as CNN.

Flynn said he used the trip to press Putin’s government to behave more responsibly in international affairs. Former U.S. officials said Flynn, seen dining next to Putin in photos published by Russian propaganda outlets, was used as a prop by the autocratic leader.

Flynn was forced out of his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 over concerns about his leadership style. After the ouster, he frequently lashed out in public against President Obama and blamed his removal on the administration’s discomfort with his hard-line views on radical Islam.

Spurning the decorum traditionally expected of retired U.S. flag officers, Flynn became a fervent campaigner for Trump and was given a high-profile role speaking before the GOP convention, an appearance in which he led the crowd in “lock her up” chants against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Flynn’s behavior drew the ire of former colleagues and superiors, including retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who made Flynn his top intelligence officer during critical stretches of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’m trying to regain my nerve to fight all this but I feel like I’m getting way too old to do 7f65ea6e2fa9400b39db2d99dccf2557-1much good.  However, if Paul Ryan has his way, I will likely be on the ice floes.

Here’s some advice from Sarah Kendzior who has:

…. studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans.

We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump.

She has many suggestions but this was the most poignant. I think we must hold on to our values and be prepared to defend them.

That voice is your conscience, your morals, your individuality. No one can take that from you unless you let them. They can take everything from you in material terms – your house, your job, your ability to speak and move freely. They cannot take away who you truly are. They can never truly know you, and that is your power.

But to protect and wield this power, you need to know yourself – right now, before their methods permeate, before you accept the obscene and unthinkable as normal.

My heart breaks for the United States of America. It breaks for those who think they are my enemies as much as it does for my friends. You still have your freedom, so use it. There are many groups organizing for both resistance and subsistence, but we are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned. Protect the vulnerable and encourage the afraid. If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind.

But most of all, never lose sight of who you are and what you value.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

Trump cartoon by Matt Bors, www.gocomics.com

Trump cartoon by Matt Bors, http://www.gocomics.com

Good Morning!!

I should probably stop focusing on Donald Trump, but I just can’t avert my eyes to the damage he’s doing to my country. I truly believe this man is dangerous–perhaps even more so because he’s doesn’t have any real political ideology. He simply opens his mouth and spews out the ugliness inside him.

I read a riveting and horrifying article in Vanity Fair yesterday by Mark Bowden, a writer who spent a significant amount of time with Trump years ago while doing an interview for Playboy Magazine. I consider the whole thing must-read, but I’ll give you some excerpts.

Donald Trump Really Doesn’t Want Me to Tell You This, But …

He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States? [….]

With Trump, what you see is what you get. His behavior was cringe-worthy. He showed off the gilded interior of his plane—calling me over to inspect a Renoir on its walls, beckoning me to lean in closely to see . . . what? The luminosity of the brush strokes? The masterly use of color? No. The signature. “Worth $10 million,” he told me….

It was hard to watch the way he treated those around him, issuing peremptory orders—“Polish this, Tony. Today.” He met with the lady who selected his drapery for the Florida estate—“The best! The best! She’s a genius!”—who had selected a sampling of fabrics for him to choose from, all different shades of gold. He left the choice to her, saying only, “I want it really rich. Rich, rich, elegant, incredible.” Then, “Don’t disappoint me.” It was a pattern. Trump did not make decisions. He surrounded himself with “geniuses” and delegated. So long as you did not “disappoint” him—and it was never clear how to avoid doing so—you were gold.

Campaign Rhetoric

Trump was often “disappointed,” and then he viciously attacked people who worked for him. And example:

I watched as Trump strutted around the beautifully groomed clay tennis courts on his estate, managed by noted tennis proAnthony Boulle.The courts had been prepped meticulously for a full day of scheduled matches. Trump took exception to the design of the spaces between courts. In particular, he didn’t like a small metal box—a pump and cooler for the water fountain alongside—which he thought looked ugly. He first questioned its placement, then crudely disparaged it, then kicked the box, which didn’t budge, and then stooped—red-faced and fuming—to tear it loose from its moorings, rupturing a water line and sending a geyser to soak the courts. Boulle looked horrified, a weekend of tennis abruptly drowned.

Bowden characterizes Trump as an “adolescent” and a “teenager.” I’m not sure if he’s not even more childish than that. But he has access to unlimited coverage from the media and he has brought the crazies out of the woodwork to cheer him on. No matter how hard “mainstream” Republicans work to stop him, he could still end up being their nominee; and so far they are still saying they would support him.

Timothy Egan at The New York Times: Goose-steppers in the GOP.

Well, he’s got the Hitler vote. The neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, was out and proud earlier this week: “Heil Donald Trump — the Ultimate Savior.” After endorsing the Republican presidential front-runner earlier this year for his call to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, the fomenters of American fascism have now added an apt twist to his slogan, one not far from the truth of the campaign: “Make America White Again.”

Nazis — I hate these guys. Oh, but they’re a tiny minority of pink-faced malcontents living in basements with the windows taped up. Everybody hates them. Add to that supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, who’ve thrown in with Trump as well. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klan, liked everything he heard from Trump this week, embracing him for standing up for white nationalism.

And sure, all the little Hitlers probably don’t amount to a hill of beans. But what about the 35 percent of Republican voters, in the New York Times/CBS News poll, who say they’re all in with the man sieg heiled by aspiring brownshirts and men in white sheets?

It’s a very ugly political moment, but there it is: The Republican Party is now home to millions of people who would throw out the Constitution, welcome a police state against Latinos and Muslims, and enforce a religious test for entry into a country built by people fleeing religious persecution. This stuff polls well in their party, even if the Bill of Rights does not.

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Paul Farhi at The Washington Post: Thanks to Trump, fringe news enters the mainstream.

Alex Jones may be America’s most successful conspiracy theorist. On his website, Infowars.com, and his daily radio program heard on more than 100 stations nationwide, Jones regularly promotes a variety of ­beyond-the- fringe ideas: alleged government conspiracies in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; fluoride-in-the-water health scares; suspicions that the moon landings were faked; doubts about President Obama’s place of birth and birth certificate….

The ranting radio host and the leading Republican candidate shared a microphone, and some common ground, last week in what may have been a dubious first — the first time a leading presidential candidate has been interviewed by a media figure from the far extremes. “Your reputation is amazing,” Trump assured Jones, after Jones assured Trump that most of his listeners supported his candidacy. “I will not let you down.”

Trump finding common ground with Jones is in keeping with Trump’s own rocky relationship with facts and credible information during the campaign. Many of Trump’s more controversial assertions since he declared for president have come from the murky swamp of right-wing, libertarian and flat-out paranoid sources that have proliferated and thrived as the Internet and social media have grown.

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Maybe not a leading candidate, but Ron Paul has appeared on Alex Jones’ show many times. So has Paul’s son Rand, who is currently running for president as a Republican. Back to the WaPo article:

Once a small fringe, this “alternative” information ecosystem now includes websites, talk-radio programs, newsletters, conferences and “citizen journalists” who promote, debate and inflate such questionable causes asvaccine denial, climate-change skepticism , and the supposedly imminent imposition of sharia law in America. The fringe nowadays often injects its ideas into the mainstream by gaining the attention of sources broadly popular among conservatives, such as Fox News and the Drudge Report, which devoted attention to rumors that the Operation Jade Helm military exercises this summer in the Southwest were a prelude to a crackdown on civil liberties.

“There’s an information-age tsunami out there that just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Steve Smith, a veteran newspaper editor who teaches journalism at the University of Idaho. “When you combine this digital tsunami with the loss of quality and quantity in American journalism [due to cutbacks and economic woes] over the years . . . journalists just don’t have the ability to keep up once a false narrative gains speed.”

david_willson_donald_trump_cartoon

Some reporters may be trying to stem the tide, but the big media honchos apparently love Trump. From Common Dreams via Truthdig: Hear a Network CEO Revel in the Amazing Profits of Candidates ‘Throwing Crap at Each Other’ (Audio).

Even as large swaths of the populationcall for media outletsto do their part in stemming the “dangerous tide of hatred, violence, and suspicion” taking hold in the United States, corporate media—which stands to benefit nicely from the $5 billion 2016 presidential election—is egging on that same divisive rhetoric.

“Go Donald! Keep getting out there!” CBS Corporation chief executive Les Moonvesreportedlysaid during an investor presentation Monday.

Trumpeting the advertising dollars already flowing CBS’s way as a result of the crowded 2016 GOP presidential primary, Moonves said: “We love having all 16 Republicans candidates throwing crap at each other — it’s great. The more they spend, the better it is for us.”

“And, you know, this is fun, watching this, let them spend money on us, and we love having them in there,” he declared. “We’re looking forward to a very exciting political year in ’16.”

So much for the “media watchdogs” who are expected to inform the American people.

In other news:

The LA Times: Person detained in fire at Coachella mosque; concern over shooting backlash mounts.

Channel 10 News Tampa Sarasota: Two Muslim Women Attacked in Tampa.

Buzzfeed: Lindsey Graham: Trump Leading Because 40% Of GOP Voters Think Obama Is Kenyan Muslim.

Truthout: Henry A. Giroux | Fascism in Donald Trump’s United States.

The New York Times: Discrimination by Airbnb Hosts is Widespread, Report Says.

The Christian Science Monitor: Guilty verdict for Oklahoma cop in serial rape trial: A national problem.

Wall Street Journal: Citigroup Funded Loan to Syed Farook Made Through Prosper Marketplace.

BBC News: Saudi Arabia’s women vote in election for first time.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: How do you solve a problem like The Donald?

The Republican Party is trying to rein in Donald Trump after his remarks saying that many Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals. They don't want anyone to think the GOP is a racist party, even though history, and the fact that Trump is now running second in the polls, indicate otherwise.

It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and hopefully, you’re able to rest and relax!

It’s the official start of Crass Consumerism Season so the throngs of the junk-driven are out buying cheap worthless stuff today that will undoubtedly fill up landfills some time next year.

There are many things about US Society that are downright shameful. Our history of slavery, mass genocide of indigenous peoples, destruction of old growth forests, treatment of ethnic and religious minorities and women just are parts of the darkest parts of our history that we cannot deny and should not forget. Today we seem doomed to repeat bad behavior.

We live in a society where police mercilessly attack and kill unarmed citizens and the leading Republican Candidate stands before an enthralled audience making fun of disabled Americans and arguing that deeply harmed minority citizens get what they have coming to them. Meanwhile, they’ll spend this weekend being thankful for Murica! and exercising their right to trample others into the ground for the chance of getting a cheap shiny object.  Some will probably be toting guns in full view because Murica! too.

And yet, many of us persevere in the basic values that established our country’s form of governance.  That would be things like rule of law which is established by the people’s representatives, the nonestablishment of a government supported and enforced religion, and the rights of all of our citizens to life, liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness. These are our ongoing presents to ourselves and to humankind even though we tend to get lost in a mountain of shiny objects.

Why do we continue to bring out both the worst and the best of humanity?

One of the most horrifying thing about the cold-blooded shooting of LaQuan McDonald in Chicago last year is that it took a good-hearted, fair-minded public servant whistle blower to bring this atrocity of justice to the attention of the courts and the public.  We could not catch nor fact check–let alone hold accountable–public servants without camera technology, cell phones, and the internet. Now, there is a call that cameras be omnipresent.   It has always been their word against ours and they win because law and order Murica!.  Believe me, I know this intimately. The police intimidate witnesses and manufacture evidence.  The system believes them. But now, we have cameras and they have cameras.  We are a nation of Big Brothers.

In other words, it took a highly non-standard series of events—a whistleblower and many lawsuits—for Chicagoans to learn of, and then get to see, the incident. (As recently as November 13, Rahm Emanuel, the city’s mayor, refused to put a hard date on the video’s release.) If a similar incident were to happen, and it was captured on a body cam, what would it take to make it public—another whistleblower?

It’s more than an academic question. The city of Chicago will soon spend $1 million in federal funds to purchase body cameras for its force. As I wrote last December, the campaign which got dashboard cameras installed in most American police cars last decade looks a lot like the one that currently seeks to get body cameras placed on most American police. Then, as now, a coalition of local chiefs and anti-police-violence activists rallied to support the technology. Then, as now, millions in federal funding soon followed.

But then, the story of police dash cams ground to a halt. There has never been a widespread study of whether dash cams reduced racial profiling or police abuse, though some smaller studies have found they they did not. (It’s highly likely that body-worn cameras will be better studied.) And as various cities limited access to dash-cam footage, it became difficult for citizens and activists to obtain video.

Will the story be the same with body cameras?

Similarly, Donald Trump has been caught on camera saying facist, outrageous, bigoted, and hateful things about people. He’s definitely one of those cheap, shiny objects chased by those easily distracted by cheap shiny objects.  His latest attack included a mimicking the illness and related handicap of a NYT donald-trump-john-mccain-comments-cartoon-colereporter whose only crime was providing evidence that he’s a big fat liar. This too was captured on camera and the evidence of his denial stands debunked by fact-checking and documentation also.  However, the press follows leading presidential contenders and documents their every move and word. Have we arrived at the point where we have to similarly ensure that every elected official and public servant in a position of power is similarly hounded?  Are most of our officials so corruptible that they can’t be trusted to freely move with out a public eye on them as suggested by Orwell in 1984?  Think what it took to capture David Vitter’s calls to the DC Madam from the floor of the Senate or Anthony Weiner’s dick pix?  Do we have to continually babysit them with cameras to ensure they don’t tap their toes in public restrooms, harass teenage pages,  and threaten reporters with bodily harm?

A day after he was widely rebuked for mocking a reporter with a physical disability, business mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump on Thursday denied that he had done so and accused the reporter of “using his disability to grandstand.”

Trump also demanded an apology from the New York Times, the reporter’s employer, which earlier in the week issued a statement condemning Trump for ridiculing “the appearance of one of our reporters.”

The incident occurred Tuesday at a rally in South Carolina, as Trump was defending his recent claim that he had witnessed thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center towers collapsed. On stage, Trump berated Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski for his recent recollection of an article he wrote a few days after the attacks, which Trump has been citing to defend his claim.

Trump appeared to mock Kovaleski’s physical condition; the reporter has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits flexibility in his arms.

“Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’ ” Trump said as he jerked his arms in front of his body.

Trump’s assertions about Muslims celebrating in 2001 have been fact-checked and discredited by law enforcement and government officials who were in New Jersey in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks.

Trump has defended his recollections by citing a 2001 article by Kovaleski, who worked for The Washington Post at the time and wrote that “authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”

Those allegations were never corroborated but have persisted in online rumors in the 14 years since the attacks. In an interview on CNN this week, Kovaleski said he did not recall “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”

071115_TrumpForecast_COLORMy friend and fellow Louisiana Blogger Lamar White Jr. does a great job of tearing into The Donald’s excuse.

He launched his campaign by claiming the majority of undocumented immigrants from Mexico were rapists and drug dealers sent to the United States by the Mexican government. He believes it’s possible that Barack Obama forged his own birth certificate and lied about the identity of his own mother in order to eventually run for president (note: The only way Obama would not be eligible for office is if his mother wasn’t who he said she was; it doesn’t matter where he was born). He said that an American prisoner of war who spent five and a half years being tortured and has spent the rest of his life in public service was not a “war hero.” He suggested that Megyn Kelly of Fox News was critical of him at a debate because she was on her period. He thinks the United States should consider building a database of all Muslims in the country and an enormous wall on our border with Mexico. Apparently, he is the only person in the world who saw footage of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey cheering on the streets as the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001.

Amazingly, sadly, pathetically, none of this has made a dent in Donald Trump’s xenophobic, fascistic, and bigoted campaign to become the next President of the United States. But on Tuesday, at a rally in South Carolina, he unwittingly hit the detonate button on his campaign. This time, finally, Donald Trump can run but he can’t hide.

This time, he picked on the wrong person.

It’s funny, but several things converged to get me to the title of the post today.  The first was thinking how do we get rid of this man?  How far is too far?  The second, was hearing a friend saying she was ashamed of that our country had so many people that could support him.  What kind of person does that?  The perfect storm happened when I’d already found the title, starting writing, and then up popped an update on Memorandum with this article in the Washington MonthlyHow Do You Solve a Problem Like Trump-Mania?.  Nancy LeTourneau and I must be seeking guidance from the same greater universal vibe.trump-crazy-john-cole-the-scranton-times-tribune

 When Republicans lost that race to Barack Obama, they tapped into all the energy Palin had stirred up in their base in an attempt to delegitimize the election and fuel their obstruction. Those are the same flames Donald Trump is exploiting today.

Greg Sargent expressed his skepticism that any of the attacks currently being planned or implemented against Trump will have an effect on his supporters. To demonstrate how right he is about that, take a look at this post one of them wroterecently. Obviously the writer has heard about the reports that some members of theGOP establishment are planning to launch a coordinated attack against Trump.

You truly Mr. GOP whatever, underestimated the voter here. In voter, I am speaking of the TRUMP VOTER . The one who knows the games, the drills, and will never vote for any other GOP candidate no matter what you do. I, myself will vote for Micky Mouse before I vote for any other than Trump!

You have just ruined the club you call a party. You are a private entity and it is now obvious what you all do. So puppet controllers for the puppet masters. Go to ….your elections on your own. I am done with you and America wants Trump and we will vote for Donald Trump either third party or on your lousy ticket. You, however, are done. Broken, and over. You have had your last party, enjoy it!Her commenters obviously agree. Here’s just the first one:

I knew the GOP wasn’t to be trusted, they hate Trump, they can’t control him because he is his own man. I know I am not the only one that will vote for him and no one else, whether he runs GOP or 3rd Party. He has the vision, the intelligence and the guts to do what is right for America and its people, he owes no one and he will make the tough decisions. He’s not interested in being PC he’s interested in saving this Nation. The GOP should be ashamed, they should be backing Trump all the way, but that would be against everything they believe in….their own self interests. Go Trump will be heard loud and clear across the land and this will backfire on you establishment GOP’rs!!!!!Nothing anyone says about Trump is going to change these people’s mind. Attacks on him only reinforce what they already believe – which is that the Republican Party has abandoned them and is terminally broken. The Grand Old Party created an insurgency that is now turning on them. That’s what Trump-mania is coming down to.

donald-trump-monster-john-darkow-columbia-daily-tribune-missouriI was looking around for similar articles and came up with this analysis by Molly Ball writing at The Atlantic.

“I have got my mind made up, pretty much so,” says Michael Barnhill, a 67-year-old factory supervisor with a leathery complexion and yellow teeth. “The fact is, politicians have not done anything for our country in a lot of years.”

These people are not confused. They are sticking with Trump, the only candidate who gets it, who is man enough to show the enemy who’s boss.

Barnhill is wearing a button he just bought from a vender outside the convention center. It says “TRUMP 2016: FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS.”

They seem so nice, your friends and neighbors. Your fellow Americans.

“In today’s time, if I’m a white person who’s proud to be white, I’m a racist,” says 44-year-old Kevin Stubbs, a land surveyor who shared his Marlboro Reds with an African American T-shirt vender on the way in. “Yet a minority can say that.”

“I do not feel safe,” says his fiancee, Loree Ballenberger, 42. “People are coming in across the border, and we have no idea where they are coming from.” She recently called her congressman to urge him to vote for a bill limiting Syrian refugees.

“I remember seeing Muslims around the world celebrating after 9/11,” says Chip Matthews, a 63-year-old retired carpentry teacher in glasses with tinted lenses. So what if it was the Mideast and not New Jersey? “The basic point, I think, is true,” he says.

“I look at the pictures of those refugees and they all look like able-bodied young men, 18 to 30 years old,” says his wife, Patrice Matthews, a 62-year-old retired school-district worker. Matthews doesn’t see why we have to be the ones to help these people. “It’s their country—they need to take it back,” she says.

I hear versions of the point about able-bodied young men from five different people. I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face. Almost everyone says their second-choice candidate is Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas; many express a wish that he and Trump would run on the same ticket.

Barnhill, the man with the “balls” button, says, “Like he says, people have got to abide by the law. And unfortunately, a lot of minorities don’t.”

The deal is that it really does take balls to to tap your foot in a stall in a Minneapolis Airport to signal you’re up for sex, or post a profile on Tinder when you’re a values politician with a wife and family at home, or

Audience members listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Burlington, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Audience members listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Burlington, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

sext out a dick pick.  It takes balls to call the DC madam during a Senate vote from the floor of the US Senate.  It certainly takes balls to send a bunch of aides off to steal papers from some one’s therapist or the office of the other party who opposes you. It takes balls to send investigators to spy on your political enemies and stalk a private blogger whose only sin was to interview one of your hookers.  It takes balls to sexually harass teen pages and to suppress the findings of a police report that shows the cold blooded murder of citizen until after your re-election.

Most of our elected officials have plenty of that.

What’s the difference between that and the false bravado of The Donald whose exploits are basically that of a trust fund bully well versed in prep school mean?

Well, that appears to be the appeal bigotry. This is what really separates the ballsy from the fascist. That is also why we now see the move to remove coming from the Republicans themselves. The Donald’s brand is exposing the underlying bigotry of conservatism and the game they play with their base.  It’s okay to play footsy, but we can’t have any cameras or it becomes as obvious as the Donald mimicking the hands of a man with a chronic muscle ailment.

Many say the populist crazy talk is typical of the White House primaries, but Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s increasingly incendiary remarks are leading some conservatives to brand him a “fascist” and party rivals to ramp up attacks against him.

Most spectacularly, the real estate tycoon recently said he would support registering Muslims in a database, and insisted — despite lacking any evidence — he saw Arabs in New Jersey cheer when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11.

His stance has become so belligerent that voices are asking, even inside his party, whether he is committed to democratic values.

Republican experts are warning that Trump could do lasting damage to the GOP, and that his nomination in the party primaries would essentially hand the presidency to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Several campaign teams in the primary race now appear to be coalescing around the need to oppose the celebrity billionaire’s candidacy.

Establishment conservatives even took the unfathomable step of using the F-word against a member of their own party.

“Trump is a fascist. And that’s not a term I use loosely or often. But he’s earned it,” Max Boot, a military historian and foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, posted on Twitter.

“Forced federal registration of US citizens, based on religious identity, is fascism. Period,” added John Noonan, a national security advisor to former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

In its Tuesday editorial the New York Times said the past week of the campaign had been “dominated by Donald Trump’s racist lies.”

The Seattle Times used similarly strong language in a Wednesday editorial that denounced Trump’s “button-pushing lie after button-pushing lie.”

“Trump’s campaign message reflects a kind of creeping fascism,” the paper said. “It needs to be rejected.”

151019-trump-crowd-2148_01ca270a00c25d158966a41758d228f5.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000Frankly, I think if you dress this shit up and code words–like Ronald Reagan announcing his presidency while hinting that he’ll go after ‘welfare queens’ by carefully choosing the location of the announcement–you’ll do just fine.  The deal is that you can’t get caught.  The problem is that the world of the internet, cameras, and citizen journalists make this all very difficult.

The problem is this.  When do we see that people like Trump and officers that shoot unarmed black men are not really outliers in US society.  There’s a bunch of them out there and they do find refuge in the Republican party and the nation’s press who portrays white, male, christian terrorists as “lone wolves” or dismisses the hard bigotry of a preacher politicians like Huckabee or Santorum simply because they don’t have the money to go far enough?

When do look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves why we tolerate this craziness?  Why do we insist that all lives matter instead of recognizing the institutional murder of unarmed black citizens?  Why do we shrug when Christians announce their persecuted then go after planned parenthood on religious grounds all while screaming Muslims want unAmerican sharia law?  We’re a society who likes shiny things and we’re willing to trample a kid to get at a vegetable steamer all in the name of a holiday supposedly for the prince of peace.

Riddle me how so many of us can be that bigoted and that dumb and we can solve a problem like the Donald and the accompanying Trump mania some day.  Yeah, what exactly do we do with stupid white people?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: We Do Not Welcome our Corporate Overlords

Beetlegeuse Chewbacchus 2015Good Morning!

The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled through my neighborhood Saturday night.  I decided to post some of the photos I took of the participants to liven up the thread today.  The parade is a celebration of Fantasy and SF books, movies, games, and TV series.  More professional pictures can be found here. See if you can recognize them!  I only wish the celebration of fantasy was limited to movies and books.  Unfortunately, it isn’t and the Koch Brothers fantasy economics plans are ruining states around the country.

I keep having conversations with people who are either politically active or politically knowledgeable about finding a way out of our current mess.   There are several key problems that seem out of the hands of voters to solve. At least, those voters that actually vote.

Things have been on the down slope since the Reagan administration but have really picked up steam with the final fifth vote locked into the Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United Decision is throttling American Democracy which is why we really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine among other things.  It seems odd that Brian Williams can be hounded out of journalism for one mistaken memory when at least 60%–if not more–of what Fox broadcasts daily is an out and out lie.  Is Facism on the rise in America and what can we do to stop it?

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Well, it it may well on our doorstep.  And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.

Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.

Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election.  If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.

Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election.  Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

You can see the influence of the Koch Brothers money in the states that have Republican Governors.  It is pimp darth chewbacchus 2015especially true of those Republican Governors with presidential aspirations who want the promised $1 billion the Kochs have pledged for the next campaign cycle.  I want to cover Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, and the horrible budget problems that we have from Jindal’s campaign to please the Kochs.  But first, I’d like to tell you what Scott Walker is doing to one of the nation’s premier public universities.

One of the major things the Kochs hate is people that aren’t miseducated or trained to be working zombies.  This fits right in with their agenda.This is similar to what’s going on with the destruction of public education and universities in Louisiana and similar issues in Kansas, both of which have Koch sucking Governors.

More than 35,000 public employees would be removed from state government rolls if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal stays intact through the legislative process.

Walker’s 2015-17 budget proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, makes major changes to the operation of the state’s University of Wisconsin System. The second-term governor’s plan would split off the system into its own public entity.

By creating a separate authority for the University of Wisconsin System, it would no longer be under the direct management of the state.

According to Walker, University of Wisconsin System supporters have been asking for more autonomy for years, claiming it would help cut costs and better serve students. The Republican governor’s plan also includes a $150 million funding cut in each year of his biennial budget in exchange for the greater autonomy.

The annual reduction is equivalent to a 2.5 percent cut in total public funding. Opponents of Walker’s reform have claimed aid is being cut by 13 percent. That, however, only takes into consideration general fund spending from the state.

He also tried to actually change the mission of the University.

You might think that changing the mission of a flagship public university would be an issue put up for public discussion. Not in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code  — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker, in a budget speech given earlier this week, didn’t bother to mention the change, which is more than a simple issue of semantics. There is a national debate about what the role of colleges and universities should be. One group, including Walker, see higher education in big part as a training ground for workers in the American workplace; another sees college education as a way to broaden the minds of young people and teach them how to be active, productive citizens of the country.

brainsHe earlier tried to tell University faculty and staff that they needed to work harder and not include “service” in their list of duties.   This is all part of the privatization craze that attempts to put union workers and public servants into the parasite category.  However, when privatized, the same workers suddenly are doing something valuable with lower compensation so that management and stockholders can skim profits from the actual work being done.

Governor Scott Walker–whom Charlie Pierce refers to as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”–plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday evening that will reportedly “slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years.” Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress said that students, professors and state lawmakers “are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history…” They told ThinkProgress that they are “organizing to block its passage.”

Even a Gannet owned newspaper complained about the cuts and the entire attitude towards faculty and higher education in general.  Oh, and he’s calling for nearly $500 million tax dollars for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board thinks that Walker’s proposed cuts to the university go too deep. With regard to economics, the board wrote “the more educated our workforce, the higher our state’s overall standard of living will be. And in all sorts of intangible ways the university system improves our quality of life — injecting culture into communities, offering broad-based liberal education, helping define our sense of Badger identity.” The board added that “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed Draconian cuts to the system will undermine those values and hobble future economic growth.”

Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board:

Walker compounded the sense that cuts are driven by political animus when, on Wednesday, he told a conservative radio host that faculty and staff should simply increase their workload to make up the difference. It was a condescending, somewhat nasty thing to say, and it was not based in fact. UW-Madison professors, a February study showed, work on average 63 hours a week; we see no reason to assume profs on stretched-thin regional campuses work less… 

Taking a chainsaw to the UW budget now is no way to make smart, lasting reforms. Insulting UW faculty is no way to demonstrate an interest in positive reform.

And $300 million in new cuts is too much to swallow.

In a commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Executive Committee said that news reports had confirmed  that the “UW System campuses are slated to take a combined $150 million base budget cut (over two years, so $300 million total) in his upcoming 2015-’17 biennial budget proposal.” The Journal Sentinel claimed that the numbers were “staggering.” This will reportedly be “the largest cut in the 45-year history of the system.

Well, Wisconson, welcome to the world of Governors owned by the Koch Brothers.  Here’s our reality down here in Lousyana. We’re on our 8th of year the same kind of BS.  We’re sending tax dollars to Chinese falcor the luck dragon chewbacchus 2015corporations, Arkansas Corporations, and Hollywood, but taking money away from every school but the religious madrassas and for-profits preferred by Jindal and the Kochs.

Widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation — those are among the grim scenarios LSU leaders outlined in internal documents as the threat of budget cuts loom.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is considering deep budget slashing to higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall.

LSU campuses from Shreveport to New Orleans were asked to explain how a reduction between 35 percent and 40 percent in state financing — about $141.5 million to the university system — would affect their operations. The documents, compiled for LSU System President F. King Alexander, were obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and 6 institutions declaring some form of financial emergency.

At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.

“These severe cuts would change LSU’s mission as a public research and land-grant university. It will no longer be capable of competing with America’s significant public universities and will find itself dramatically behind the rest of the nation,” the documents say.

Leias chewbacchus 2015One of the first things these folks want to do is to dumb up the population and get rid of faculty and schools that won’t teach the crap they want to continue to force their economic fairy tale.  No amount of peer review is ever going to make the trickle down economics crap do anything but float in septic tanks.  But, they’re sure doing a great job of forcing it into things by owning politicians.  Both Kansas and Louisiana are in freaking budget nightmares.

The country is full of examples illustrating the failure of Republican economic policies. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Sam Brownback’s Kansas have become poster children for the job killing, budget busting, folly of pursuing supply side economics. Were it not for the damage that right-wing policies inflict upon working families, the Laffer curve would be simply laughable.

Yet, Grover Norquist’s army of tax-hating Governors continues to run roughshod over red state budgets promising a fiscal utopia. The fact that the utopia never materializes apparently doesn’t matter. Red state voters re-elect them anyway. The words “tax cut”, like an elixir, cures their fears, even if the people whose taxes are being cut are not the ordinary voters, but rather the ultra wealthy.

Joining Brownback and Walker on the list of Governor’s facing serious budget problems, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Louisiana is anticipating a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall for next year, and that the deficit will remain in that range for years to come. When Jindal took office in 2008, the state had a 900 million dollar surplus, and the unemployment rate was just 3.8 percent. Now, in addition to having a gaping budget shortfall, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at 6.7 percent, above the national average.Despite the state’s budget woes, Jindal has continued to resist any tax increases. He has depleted the state’s reserve funds to fill budget holes and is still coming up short on the needed revenue. Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and as a consequence, the state ranks near dead last in quality of education and health care. Nevertheless, the supply side dogmatism of Governor Jindal virtually guarantees that the state will continue on its current path to economic perdition.

Jindal is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for President. However, Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement has made him deeply unpopular even in his own state. A November 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that only a third of Louisiana voters approved of the Governor’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved. Supply side economics has been a nightmare to the residents of Louisiana.

Notice the similar policies?  Kill the Universities or warp them into places to train the zombie drone workers of the future?    Anyway, I really hope that the 2016 voters change some of this.  I can’t wait for Hillary to tackle the Republican that tries to mainstream this crap.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


John Mackey and Whole Foods: Biting The Hands That Feed Them

My local Whole Foods Mkt.

My local Whole Foods Mkt.

When I first moved to Boston in 1967, there was an amazing natural food store on Newbury Street called Erewhon. It was started by Michio Kushi and his wife Aveline and focused on Kushi’s macrobiotic diet. You could get all kinds of interesting foods there like tamari sauce, miso, natural peanut butter made out of just peanuts, and all kinds of strange grains, beans, and vegetables. The store had sawdust on the floor and big barrels with foodstuffs in them. I used to take the T downtown to shop there and then drag my purchases home in great big cloth bags. Eventually Erewhon expanded and opened a store in Cambridge and it got easier to shop there. Erewhon was a pioneer in making organic foods available to the public.

In the late 1970’s another natural foods store opened in Brookline. It was called Bread and Circus, and the company soon expanded into Cambridge, Wellsley, and a few other Boston suburbs. It was a great place to shop and didn’t have the “health food” aura of Erewhon, where you would see lots of sickly-looking macrobiotic mavens. Unfortunately, in the early 1990’s Bread and Circus was bought out by the Texas company, Whole Foods Market. And it’s been pretty much downhill from there. The prices are sky high and the standards for what constitutes “whole foods” have slipped.

Under co-founder and CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods is much more focused on marketing than on health. Mackey is an obsessive libertarian, who in 2009 wrote an obnoxious op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he suggested that Obama’s health care initiative was socialistic. Here’s just a taste.

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment.

john-mackey

In 2010, Mackey tried to save the company some money by punishing employees with exercise and garcinia cambogia supplementation for those whom he deemed to be too fat, giving them smaller discounts for their purchases from the stores than thinner employees got. The reaction was swift and negative, and from what I can tell, the initiative was quietly dropped. The company would have been sued over it anyway. Oh, and Mackey hates unions too.

I don’t know who shops at Whole Foods in Texas, but around here it’s mostly the ex-hippies like me along with what we used to call “yuppies” and other politically liberal types. As Mackey found out in 2009 and 2010, his libertarian lecturing doesn’t go over too well with his clientele. After each of these episodes, I became less interested and wasting my “whole paycheck” at Whole Foods. I still go there sometimes, but usually only to buy things I can’t find anywhere else. After today, I’m going to feel even less enthused about shopping in Mackey’s Markets.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that today Mackey told NPR that Obamacare is worse than socialist–it’s fascism! It’s seems Mackey has a new book out called Conscious Capitalism. He told NPR that his goal is to convince people that corporations aren’t really “primarily selfish and greedy.”

Mackey sat down with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to discuss his philosophy and the new book he co-authored, Conscious Capitalism. Part 1 airs Wednesday, Part 2 on Thursday….

When Inskeep asks him if he still thinks the health law is a form of socialism, as he’s said before, Mackey responds:

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

Apparently NPR has been dissing Whole Foods for awhile now. There was funny piece about it at The Atlantic in 2011: NPR Is Slowly Breaking Up with Whole Foods. Mackey would probably be more comfortable appearing on right wing talk shows; but he wouldn’t reach his target demographic that way, so he has to go on NPR. There’s a real mismatch between this CEO and his customers.

Well, around here, lots of the supermarkets carry organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, butter, dairy products and meats now, so there isn’t as much need to go to a specialty store with sky-high prices. My biggest problem is that Whole Foods recently bought out a local food chain that ran the most inexpensive and convenient store in my neighborhood. By next fall, the closest grocery store to me will be a Whole Foods. Can I resist stopping there and drive 15-20 minutes to get to another store when I’m in a rush or tired? It won’t be easy but I’m going do my best.

Anyway, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind tonight?