Thursday Reads: Trump Anxiety, QAnon, and the Manafort Trial

Good Afternoon!!

Ever since my mom had her stroke, I’ve been struggling more than ever in dealing with Trump news. When I sit down to write a post, I feel paralyzed by feelings of fear, dread and disgust. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’m not alone. I think the majority of Americans are feeling something like this even if they’re not following the news as closely as we do.

NBC News: Barnes & Noble says sales of books related to anxiety are soaring. Here’s why.

Shoppers are increasingly looking at workbooks that help them cope with anxiety, Barnes & Noble senior director of merchandising, Liz Hardwell, said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. Although times may be tough, wrought with political tension, “the good news is that book buyers across the country are also looking for solutions to their stress,” she said.

Top-selling titles, based on the bookseller’s sales data, include “The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne, “The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points” by Alice Boyes, and “The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution” by David Clark and Aaron Beck.

New York-based Barnes & Noble…said the state of California has had the largest increase in interest in anxiety books in stores over the past year. The next largest increases were in Michigan and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, shoppers in Texas, North Carolina and Florida had the biggest decrease in interest in anxiety books, according to the bookseller’s sales data.

That has to be related to Trump, right? The highest interest books about anxiety is in blue states and the lowest in red states.

Of course the Trumpists have their own sources of anxiety, but their fears are based on fake “news.” I tried to read this Washington Post article yesterday, and had to stop for fear my head would explode: The mystery of ‘Q’: How an anonymous conspiracy-monger launched a movement (if the person exists).

From somewhere in the vast and mysterious “deep state,” a dissident agent rises up to give the people cryptic clues about how their heroic president will push back the forces of evil and make America great again. The renegade informant is known only as “Q,” and if such a person actually exists, it’s not in a movie, but somewhere in the Washington bureaucracy.

Energized by Q’s complex web of conspiracy notions about the forces aligned against President Trump, Q’s followers have spread virally both online and now out in real life, too, forming a movement known as QAnon that is making itself visible at Trump’s rallies and other public gatherings.

QAnon is something old — the latest in a string of conspiracy ideas that take hold of the public’s imagination in times of social stress and technological change. And QAnon is something new — a leaderless popular movement made up of people who believe in no one and therefore are willing to believe almost anything.

Apparently, these Q people think they are getting secret messages from things Trump says or does.

To believers, Q is a pseudonym for a well-placed U.S. government agent who is posting online distress messages and bits of intel, known as “bread crumbs,” in an effort to save the country — and Trump — from hostile forces within the government. Q’s missives started appearing last October on 4chan, the mostly anonymous website where fringe ideas incubate and blossom.

In messages written in a telegraphic, cryptic style, Q called on Americans to rally behind Trump as he planned a counteraction against forces that would investigate him and remove him from office. Some QAnon followers believe Trump himself inspired their movement with a comment he made last October at a photo session with military leaders. The president pointed to the officers’ uniforms and said, “You know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

In far-flung corners of the Internet, some speculated that that storm was a counterstrike against the deep state. Then along came Q to turn that speculation into concrete predictions — of the arrest of Hillary Clinton, of a roundup of anti-Trump liberals, of a crackdown on child-sex-trafficking rings.

There’s much more at the link, if you can manage to wade through all the crazy. These people are turning up with their Q signs and T-shirts at Trump rallies, as you could see in the news coverage of the Tampa rally this week.

This story at the Daily Beast is really wacky: QAnon, the Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theorists, Now Believe JFK Jr. Faked His Death to Become Their Leader.

Believers in the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy theory called QAnon were out in force at the president’s rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, waving signs and cut-outs of the letter “Q” in front of the television cameras.

Trump points at a man in a Q shirt at a Duluth, MN rally.

The surprisingly large number of Trump supporters who believe in the off-the-wall conspiracy theory and the attendant media attention marks a new height for QAnon, which grew from the internet swamps of 4Chan and 8Chan….

For QAnon believers, special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t really investigating the Trump campaign—he’s actually working with Trump to take down a cabal of deep-state plotters and pedophiles. Soon, QAnon fans believe, Trump will team up with the military to throw top Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama into Guantanamo Bay.

But what QAnon believers actually believe is constantly changing. After taking advantage of the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich and promoting dangerous ideas like Pizzagate, QAnon supporters have found a new tragedy to exploit: the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late president.

Until July, QAnon supporters believed that “Q,” the anonymous online forum poster whose cryptic clues make up the conspiracy theory, was a high-ranking Trump administration official, or maybe even Trump himself. But now, a good portion of QAnon believers have become convinced that Q is none other than JFK Jr, even though he died in a plane crash nearly 20 years ago.

Click on the link to read the rest.

In other news, today is day three of the first Paul Manafort trial. Some interesting reads:

Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: A Hell of a Performance by Paul Manafort.

A week ago, while lawyers futzed with pretrial motions, Manafort arrived in court wearing a green jumpsuit. But the trial is the show of his lifetime. His oversize frame is once again permitted to occupy a suit—a fact that everyone in the courtroom incessantly noticed, given how much of the afternoon’s testimony came from his former clothiers, one of whom described submitting Manafort invoices that exceeded $800,000.

Paul Manafort’s $15,000 ostrich jacket

Whatever the outward signs that Paul Manafort is experiencing public torment, the presence of other men in tailored suits seems to have allowed Manafort to elevate himself into a strange sense of ease. The most compelling drama of the trial so far is watching Manafort comport himself. And the spectacle is pure Manafort.

He stands trial for abusing money he received as a world-renowned political consultant. Jurors have heard from witnesses who have described him as a master craftsman of public image; old colleagues have testified to his narrative gifts. These talents were so often used to smooth over the reputations of awful men—the kleptocrats, strongmen, and oligarchs whom he ingratiated with the American elite. Now, it’s his own image and his own narrative that he must manage, with an audience of expressionless jurors tucked away at the side of the room. And as the jury of his peers comes and goes from the room, Manafort makes a point of flashing his well-buffed smile. It’s the look of a man projecting confidence. It’s kind of convincing.

Foer, who has followed Manafort’s corrupt career for many years, describes a man who may believe he’ll get away with his criminality one more time:

When Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors laid out their case in opening arguments, they correctly diagnosed Manafort’s sense of impunity. He’d kept right on scheming, they argued, because he believed that he would get away with it. Today, the presiding judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III, made a point of constantly chiding the government. He blamed prosecutors for describing Manafort’s clients as “oligarchs,” a term he called unfairly “pejorative.”

Manafort paid $12,000 for this suit from House of Bijan.

The Republican-appointed judge warned Mueller’s team against trying Manafort for “his lavish lifestyle.” As Manafort heard these arguments, I watched him from across the room. I saw him gazing ever so thoughtfully and detected a flicker of something else, too. In that moment, it wasn’t” hard to imagine him believing that he might just get away with it one more time.

Read the whole thing at The Atlantic.

TPM has posted photos of Manafort’s Fancy Clothes, Including The Ostrich Jacket.

If there was anything prosecutors at Paul Manafort’s trial were trying to impress on the jury Wednesday, it’s that he liked to spend money wired from his foreign bank accounts on fancy things — items that could not conceivably be considered business expenses and thus tax deductible.

Things like a $21,000 Limited Edition black titanium Royal Way watch with crystal, a Mercedes Benz for his wife, and a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich. Judge T.S. Ellis was not a fan of the prosecution’s focus on Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, and would often cut off questioning if it delved too into the details of the luxury items Manafort was purchasing, allegedly with income he failed to discloAse on federal tax forms and money he wired from foreign bank counts that he didn’t report to the U.S. government….

Luckily, photos of Manafort’s high-end apparel, taken during a FBI raid of his home last summer, were made public by Special Counsel Robert Mueller Wednesday.

Check out the photos at TPM.

Yesterday, prosecutors said they weren’t sure they would call Rick Gates as a witness. Today they announced that he will appear. Again, from TPM:

A day after giving a coy answer to the judge about whether it would call Rick Gates as a witness, the prosecution confirmed Thursday that the plan remains for Gates to testify in the ongoing Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Rick Gates

“We have every intention to call him as witness,” prosecutor Greg Andres said in court before the jury was ushered into the room.

For months, Gates has been shaping up to be the key government witness in the case, after he agreed in February to cooperate with investigators. Gates was a longtime protege of Manafort’s, and was originally indicted with him by separate federal grand juries in Virginia and Washington, DC.

During opening statements, Manafort’s lawyer signaled his defense would largely be built on not only tearing down Gates’ credibility but pinning the blame for alleged financial misdeeds on Gates, including claiming that Gates embezzled money from Manafort.

One more Manafort-related article by Dana Millbank: The deep cynicism of Bernie Sanders’s chief strategist.

Tad Devine, during his run as chief strategist for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, railed against the corrupting influence of money in politics.

He repeatedly echoed the Sanders message that “our economy is rigged,” that “special interests” buy politicians, that “all of the new wealth is going to the top of America,” that there is a “corrupt system of campaign finance” of which Hillary Clinton offered an “egregious” example. Sanders, by contrast, “supported the little guy.”

Bernie Sanders and Tad Devine

Those who heard Devine’s interviews and watched his Sanders TV ads therefore may be surprised to know that, in the years and months leading up to the Sanders presidential campaign, Devine was making gobs of money to secure the election of one of the world’s most corrupt political figures and then his allies.

Thanks to Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman and sometime business associate of Devine, we now have an unusual glimpse into the role the Democratic ad man had in electing and preserving the power of Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, a crooked pro-Putin autocrat. Though American political consultants routinely rake in cash from foreign leaders — even shady ones — Devine’s seamless pivot from advocate for antidemocratic thug to champion of a principled democratic reformer shows extraordinary flexibility.

Of course we all knew Bernie was fraud all along; I wonder if the media will ask him to rationalize his choice of Devine to run his 2016 campaign?

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

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Good Afternoon!!

Today should be a big day for Bernie Sanders supporters. Get ready to hear about how Sanders now has the “momentum.” There are caucuses today in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, and he could win all three. There hasn’t been much polling so we still don’t know for sure; but most likely Sanders will cut into Clinton’s pledged delegate lead after today, possible by as much as 50 delegates, according to Al Giordano. 

Interestingly, it least writer in Hawaii, Anthony Pignataro, thinks Hillary could win in Hawaii. Kate Bradshaw at “Political Animal” in Tampa Bay: A different bird: Saturday’s Hawaii Democratic caucus might not turn out the way you expect.

Anthony Pignataro, editor of Maui Time Weekly (and one-time mentor to this reporter, who cut her teeth at said publication), says Maui’s strong progressive community, which packed the house at Maui Plantation to see Sanders’ wife, Jane, speak, in recent years has had enough of a voice to get voters to sign off on a GMO ban, but he’s not sure the same can be said for Sanders. Speaking of teeth, we have teeth whitening products along with Teeth whitening tips.

“He’s definitely riding the same wave of supporters who fueled a recent ballot measure that attempted to ban GMO cultivation in the county (though successful at the ballot box, the measure was later thrown out by the courts),” Pignataro said in an email. “At the same time, though, Clinton is generally favored to win the state.”

He said while there’s no real polling being done, (Hawaii is not exactly a high stakes state), but UH Political Science professor Colin Moore, who “makes the rounds” at election time and correctly forecast Trump’s win in the states caucus, has predicted a win for Clinton.

We’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to find out, since it’s 6 hours earlier in Hawaii than on the East Coast.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Here’s another take on today’s contests from CNN’s Chris Moody:

Democrats will hold presidential contests in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state on Saturday, three states expected to be friendlier to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But with Clinton leading Sanders by more than 300 pledged delegates, and because none of the contests are winner-take-all, Sanders needs stunning wins in each state to give the Clinton campaign any real anxiety about the outcome of the race.
In the run-up to the votes, Sanders has left nothing to chance. His campaign has spent millions on ads in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, including a powerful television spot featuring Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who resigned her position with the Democratic National Committee earlier this year to endorse Sanders.
Going into Saturday’s contests, Sanders needs to net an estimated 75% of the remaining delegates, while Clinton only needs 35%.
Read what Moody thinks we should watch for at the link.
Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska

Anyway, if today goes very well for Bernie, Hillary’s lead could fall a bit below 300 delegates. Then there will be a break in the primary schedule until April 5 when Wisconsin holds its primary. The two candidates are close in the polls there, and Bernie thinks he could win the state. On April 9, Sanders will most likely win the Wyoming caucus.

Bernie supporters will be in ecstasy until the New York primary on April 19. New York will go big for Hillary. Then there there will be another break until Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island vote on April 26. Each of those states looks very good for Hillary, although I don’t think there’s been much polling in tiny Rhode Island.

Basically, there’s close to zero chance that Sanders will catch up to Clinton, but I still expect him to stay in until the convention. It’s really unfair to many of his young followers, because he’s taking money from them knowing he can’t win the nomination.

Meanwhile, the Hillary hate on blogs and social media is getting more unhinged than ever before. It’s hard to know how much worse it can get, but I expect it will get worse.

Bernie supporters are claiming election fraud in every state that Hillary has won, except possibly the Deep South states that they call “the Confederacy.”

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about scandals and conspiracy theories. Here’s one the Sanders folks dreamed up. I can’t believe Booman Tribune actually published this: 

Ryan Hughes, MI and PA Bernie State Director, Accused of Accepting Hillary Super Pac Money

I have been holding onto this information, but since Niko House has posted a video regarding this allegation, I’ve decided to lay out for you what I know.

Ryan Hughes was the Sanders campaign’s state director for Michigan, and is now the state director for Bernie’s Pennsylvania campaign, as well. Mark Craig, the founder of a grassroots volunteer group in Michigan that supports Bernie Sanders, Flint4Bernie.org, had many dealings with Ryan Hughes after Hughes came to Michigan. Mark Craig also said he was one of the principle [sic] organizers for Bernie’s March 2nd rally and speech to thousands of people at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. His grassroots organization was started in 2015, long before Ryan Hughes showed up as the paid director for Bernie’s campaign in Michigan.

Mr. Craig stated to me that knows a a senior employee who works for Priorities USA Action (“Priorities USA”), a Hillary Super Pac. In late February, after Craig casually mentioned to her that Ryan Hughes was running the Sanders’ campaign, that person told him Hughes was receiving direct payments from Priorities USA, all while Ryan Hughes worked as the Sanders’ campaign’s state director for Michigan, along with several other paid Sanders’ Michigan staffers….

Priotities USA Action is a Super Pac, to which unlimited contributions may be made, that supports one candidate in this election cycle: Hillary Clinton. As noted in my post yesterday about Mayor Weaver of Flint MI endorsement of Hillary, thetop donors to Priorities USA Action include many of Hillary’s wealthiest and most prominent supporters, including billionaires such as the J.B Pritzker and his wife, George Soros, James Simon (hedge fund manager worth over $15 Billion), Steven Spielberg, and many other wealthy individuals in the finance and entertainment industries.

Does that make any sense? Not to me. Why would a superpac that supports Hillary waste money on paying Bernie’s employees to sabatage him? If it happened, why are these people still working for Bernie’s campaign? Furthermore, Priorities USA has to report all expenditures to the FEC, and there were no such payments.  From the managing editor of Crooks and Liars:

But this conspiracy theory is all over Twitter and the Bernie reddit page. Sigh . . .

MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald explains Sanders’ path forward: Why Bernie Sanders Isn’t Dropping Out Despite Hillary’s Lead.

Even though Sanders came up short in Arizona, where his campaign invested most heavily, the Vermont senator ended up netting 17 delegates over Clinton Tuesday, thanks to lopsided wins in the Idaho and Utah caucuses.

He ended up taking away a tidy 57 percent of the pledged delegates up for grabs that day. And as it happens, 58 is the percentage of outstanding pledged delegates Sanders needs to win from now on in order to finish the primary calendar with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, according to an NBC News analysis.

On Saturday, Sanders is hoping to win an even larger portion of the delegates in Washington state, which holds the largest caucus of the entire year, with 101 delegates at stake. Alaska and Hawaii will also hold caucuses, which Sanders also hopes to win Saturday.

Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver

Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver

Seitz-Wald says the Sanders Campaign admits this is a “tall order.”

But it’s at least doable. “We’re trying to win more pledged delegates by the end,” Sanders senior strategist Tad Devine told MSNBC Friday. “If we can demonstrate that he is the strongest candidate by defeating her in these states, a lot of superdelegates are going to take a step back and say, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ And that’s when we will try to persuade them.”

Good luck with that after Bernie has repeatedly attacked President Obama and the DNC and after he admitted he only ran as a Democrat so he could get media attention and raise money.

And then there’s the Sanders campaign’s attack on Hillary Clinton, Amal Clooney, and George Clooney for holding a fundraiser from which most of the money collected will go to downticket Democrats.

The Hill reprints part of the text from a Sanders campaign email:

“In the movie Oceans 11, a gang of lovable thieves successfully heist $150 million from a vault in the basement of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas,” Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in an email to supporters.

“Fueled primarily from high-dollar donations, Hillary Clinton has raised more than that in this campaign, and is now enlisting the support of George Clooney (Danny Ocean) to pad that total at a dinner event that will cost people up to $353,400 to attend.”

Weaver added that the price of admission an “obscene amount of money.”

“It’s a sum that would require an employee making the federal minimum wage to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for more than 5 years,” he said.

Weaver included a fundraising pitch, saying that the Sanders campaign was relying on small donations from “working Americans.”

Amal and George Clooney

Amal and George Clooney

Again, the Clooney fundraiser is to support Democrats, not just Hillary Clinton. Apparently raising money for Democrats running for the House and Senate is problematic for Bernie, which explains why he hasn’t been raising money for them. Hillary has been doing it all along.

And then there are the demands Bernie is making before he’ll consider supporting the Democratic nominee. Huffpo: Bernie Sanders Lays Out His Requirements For Endorsing Hillary Clinton.

“If I can’t make it — and we’re going to try as hard as we can until the last vote is cast — we want to completely revitalize the Democratic Party and make it a party of the people rather than one of large campaign contributors,” Sanders said in an interview on the progressive Web show “The Young Turks.”

Sanders also listed policy demands he would make of Clinton, including a single-payer health care system, a $15 an hour minimum wage, tougher regulation of the finance industry, closing corporate tax loopholes and “a vigorous effort to address climate change.”

“I am very worried. I mean, I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry — you’ve got to take them on,” Sanders said, alluding to Clinton’s ties to oil and gas companies.

He also expressed concern about Clinton’s consistency on policy issues.

“What we need is to create a movement which holds elected officials accountable and not let them flip” on issues, Sanders said.

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Because Bernie has been very consistent. He’s been calling for a revolution for 40 years with zero results. From the NYT:

On the night of the New Hampshire primary, the high-water mark of his presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called his rout of Hillary Clinton “nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution” and vowed to stop the “billionaire class” from buying elections.

It was barely different from the speech he gave March 15, the day he lost five of five primaries, when he asked thousands of his adoring fans: “Are you ready for a political revolution? Are you tired of a handful of billionaires running our economy?”

Nor, for that matter, was it much changed from his address to a spaghetti dinner of the Addison County Community Action Group in 1984, when he called for a “political revolution” and urged working people to take power from a “very small group of wealthy people.”

It is a political score Mr. Sanders has been singing for the last 40 years, and he does not seem ready to stop anytime soon. Regardless of the results on the scoreboard, the state on the map, the year or even the decade, Mr. Sanders has talked with clockwork consistency about an economy rigged against the working class, a campaign finance system that corrupts politicians and a corporate media that obscures the truth.

While politicians constantly try to stay on message, Mr. Sanders is the king of message discipline. While other candidates have been lampooned for robotic redundancies or caricatured as cut-and-paste campaigners, Mr. Sanders has made oratorical consistency his calling card.

His young and loyal fans practically sing along with his timeless refrains: “the richest one-half of 1 percent” in 1971, the “richest 1 percent of the population” in 1991 and “the top one-tenth of 1 percent” in 2015. Last year, the MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow began a segment on Mr. Sanders’s hyperconsistency by playing an audio clip of Mr. Sanders lamenting “the two-party system dominated by big money,” and asking viewers when he said it. The answer: 1989.

In other words, Sanders has not grown and changed at all over the past 40 years. Is that really supposed to be a good thing?

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

UPDATE: Please send good vibes to NW Luna, who is braving the Washington Caucuses today!