Monday Reads: Racism defines that Basket of Deplorables

Image result for paintings black and brown children vintageGood Morning Sky Dancers!

Racism has always defined the life and times of the Slum Lord’s son occupying the White House who was undoubtedly planted there with hacking by Russians as well as baskets of deplorables.  Will racism continue to define the future of this country as well as its past? What can we do to end our national nightmare?

The much publicized Trumpkins Twitter Rampage we endured the last few weeks comes from a sick mind and heart of some one who is very insecure about his unearned success.  This same some one is very much aware he’s out of his league, probably facing jail time if he loses the election, and likely to learn more every day that he is a joke among national leaders who recognize him for the small minded bigot and thug he is.  So, rather than do a little soul searching, he blames completely innocent people whose only discernible distinction is how their skin handles melanin.

We never think these Twitter Rampages could get uglier but they always do. The uncouth, hateful bigot that occupies the Oval Office keeps finding new lows since there are no more functioning guards on the man and few guardrails to contain his sociopathic behavior.  The last one will go this week, the stoic Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates  His replacement will undoubtedly purge what ever he can of evidence showing the Russians–with the help of the Trump Family Crime syndicate–stole our elections.

But meanwhile, Esteemed Congressman Elijah Cummings and the city and people of Baltimore are under systemic racist attack. He’s angry so why not pick on good people of color and others? The rest of us must come to their defense or lose our souls.  We all must rid our country of Trump or lose our hope for democracy and a more perfect union.

Here is some commentary that might interest you on the topic.

Most of us laughed when the many in the media went out of their way to say that the Republican base just faced “economic uncertainty” and Trump was simply a result of that. These are people that have ignored the systemic race baiting of the Republican party since Nixon–the so-called Southern Strategy–and the howls of white evangelicals in the south who wanted their schools kept segregated and found no quarter in the Democratic Party under LBJ. Trump’s Racism defines that party and any one that doesn’t damn his bigoted public attacks on the many shades of brown and black Americans to whom this country owes much is complicit and racist.

<i>Echoes of Harlem</i>, 1980, By Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930); Acrylic on canvas; 79 1/2 x 80 1/2 inches; The Studio Museum in Harlem; Gift of Altria Group, Inc.; Courtesy American Federation of Arts; ©1980 Faith Ringgold

Echos of Harlem, 1980 Faith Ringgold

From Bloomberg Opinion and Timothy L O’Brien:  “Trump’s Racism Infests the Republican Party”.

Over this past weekend Trump put Cummings and his Baltimore district in his crosshairs, tweeting at him 17 times in a racially-charged salvo of alternately bigoted, hostile and inaccurate insults that commenced at 7:14 a.m. on Saturday and concluded at 6:49 a.m. on Monday. Baltimore and its neighboring areas, the president allowed, were a “very dangerous & filthy place” and a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Cummings was “incompetent” and a “brutal bully” responsible for Baltimore’s problems, a “racist” who “spends all of his time trying to hurt innocent people.” As he has done before, Trump also retweeted the musings of a far-right British pundit who is a self-described racist to make his case against Cummings.

A broad, diverse swath of Baltimore residents and supporters responded to Trump by coming to Cummings’s and their city’s defense, acknowledging that Baltimore had myriad problems, including crime and poverty, but was hardly the noxious monolith the president was slagging. #WeAreBaltimore became a ubiquitous hashtag and a rallying cry on social media. Perhaps the most poignant and powerful voice in all of that was a CNN anchor, Victor Blackwell, who was born in Baltimore and noted during a pointed, emotional broadcast on Saturday that Trump frequently uses the words “infested” and “infestation” when describing the homes or countries of people of color.

“Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He’s insulted thousands of people, many different types of people. But when he tweets about infestation, it’s about black and brown people,” Blackwell said. “There are challenges, no doubt. But people are proud of their community. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there. They care for their families there. They love their children, who pledge allegiance to the flag just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans, too.”

One person who has yet to speak out on Cummings’s behalf is his good friend, Meadows. The congressman from North Carolina, like his entire political party, has remained silent while Trump – an inveterate racist– has spent yet another weekend targeting a high-profile Democrat of color in heinous, prejudiced ways. In that context, Meadows is a proxy for the lack of political courage and moral clarity in Trump’s Republican Party.

Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff, sat for an interview with Fox News on Sunday and said there was nothing racist about Trump’s comments. “If I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore,” Mulvaney said, “I’d get fired.” (Mulvaney’s old South Carolina district does have poverty rates like Baltimore’s – as do many of the ruralred state districts that Trump avoids criticizing).

Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944, Museo Dolores Olmedo Broken Column frida kahlo

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo

Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post reminds Republicans that ‘32,000 JEWS LIVE IN BALTIMORE DISTRICT, TRUMP: ‘NO HUMAN’ WANTS TO” and that “Elijah Cummings, bashed by Trump, helps sponsor month-long summer program in Israel for black students”.

Elijah Cummings, the African-American Baltimore congressman who found himself on the receiving end of a Twitter thrashing from US President Donald Trump, has a LARGE number of Jewish residents in his district, is close with the local Jewish community, and for the last two decades has helped sponsor a trip to Israel for black students from his district.

In 2014, Maryland’s 7th district, where Trump said “no human would want to live,” housed some 32,000 Jews, 4.46% of the population in the district. According to data in the Jewish Federations of North America’s Berman Jewish Data Bank, this district would rank in the top 65 of America’s 435 congressional districts with the largest Jewish population.

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings has been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration policies. Earlier this month he slammed acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a Congressional hearing over border conditions along the Mexican frontier, and his committee has launched a number of investigations of the Trump White House.

On Saturday, Trump hit back.

“Rep. Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous,” Trump tweeted. “His district is considered the Worst in the USA.”

Cumming’s district, Trump said, “is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.” The president said that Cummings’ district, WHICH INCLUDES western Baltimore, “is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately.”

For the last two decades, Cummings has partnered with the Baltimore Jewish Council in backing the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel (ECYP), a two-year leadership fellowship that aspires to build leadership and bridges between the African-American and Jewish communities.

Some 200 students have participated in the program, with its centerpiece being a month spent in Israel. The students live at the Yemin Orde Youth Village south of Haifa and are paired, as its promotional literature says, “with displaced teens from over 24 countries, including Ethiopia, Israel, South America, Europe and the former states of the Soviet Union.”

Jonathan Capehart of WAPO does not mince words “In Trump’s America, the ‘basket of deplorables’ is overflowing”.

When you’re a person of color — whether in politics, journalism or regular life — you’re accustomed to folks demanding that you criticize or denounce people, especially if they look like you. Some of them deserve criticism for what they’ve said. (See Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.) Some of them aren’t worth the oxygen required of denunciation because they are marginal characters who don’t have any power. (See Louis Farrakhan.) But we do it because it is the moral and right thing to do.

Yet, the president of the United States goes on a racist tear against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House oversight committee, and his Baltimore district, and there is virtual silence from the president’s supporters. The president of the United States goes on a racist tear against Omar and three other women of color elected to serve in the House of Representatives, and there is virtual silence. The president of the United States stands back for 13 seconds as his bread-and-circuses crowd brays “Send her back!” about Omar, and there is virtual silence. Actually, it’s worse than that. Excuses are made.

Facing a grilling from Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said of Trump’s racist tweets: “It has absolutely zero to do with race.” He told Margaret Brennan, the host of CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” about the racist tweets about Baltimore, “I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people.”

Image result for mexican american art paintings images

Woman with a Basket of Calla Lilies, mural details, José Clemente Orozco,

So, there’s this op ed also from WAPO and it’s not that the facts on the ground are wrong, because they aren’t.  It’s not that a lot of things under Trump are wrong, because they are.  It’s not even that the list of Trump’s evil is longer than one issue, because it’s way longer.

It’s this.  The discussion today is and should be about Racism and the evil that the Republicans and Trump are doing to people who are Americans and people that want to be Americans simply because they are some shade of brown.  Racist  screeds and actions inciting white nationalists to violence are enough to Damn The Occupant of the White House to hell and Impeachment.

Fred Hiatt warns people not to be complacent under Trump just because the Recovery is still present today.  Coming from a chocolate city with a lot of recent South Amercan and Mexican transplants, I can tell you that the only people that could possibly be complacent under Trump because of the economy are white people.  And white people of a certain DEPLORABILITY at that.  I cannot imagine a black or brown person living in this country today that is complacent about Trump.

To the world, it is not just Trump taking these positions. It is America. The damage will be long-lasting.

And his ignorance and cynicism reverberate through some of the biggest stories of our time: the confidence of authoritarian strongmen in China, Russia and beyond; their distortion of technology from a liberating force into a malevolent tool of surveillance and suppression; the destructive warming of the climate, which the United States ignores and abets. None of these is easily reversible.

The story is similar, if more familiar, at home. The constant, willful lying; the attacks on the press and on the very idea of truth — these are not harmless. They draw from but also foster a lack of trust that will persist long after his presidency.

So does the racism. So do the ugly attacks on immigrants. So do the contempt for science and the refusal to stand up to foreign attacks on our elections. So do the disparaging of public servants and the casual threats to wield the vast powers of the federal government against perceived political enemies. These things used to be not okay. Now they are okay. There will be no easy return.

Yes, we’ve avoided recession, the nation is (mostly) at peace, the government will not default. Naturally, we are thankful.

Image result for portrait barack obama

Official portrait of President Barack Obama , Kehinde Wiley Official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, Amy Sherald

Dear Fred (fellow white human being).  The racism is not a side show or an afterthought.  It’s not one point in a long list today.  It’s the central theme (Send them Back), the ongoing theme (Many Good People on both sides), the first spoken theme (Drug Dealing and Rapist Mexicans), and the ever present theme (shit hole countries and infested American cities). The dog whistles and race baiting Republicans have employed to wink and nod at bigots have finally come full circle.  The policies of Voter Suppression, Family Separation, and White Nationalism are a pogrom. They are a Republican Pogrom worthy of the KKK.

Jeet Heer has something to say about that in The Nation and it harkens back to something deeper and stated here for quite some time.

The contrast between Trump’s utter disdain for non-white lawmakers and his willingness to chastise an American ally on behalf of a jailed musician is partly traceable to the president’s special warmth for celebrities, especially if they praise him. It’s a bluntly personal response: if you criticize Trump, as Cummings and others have, you’re his enemy. If you are Trump’s pal, he’ll go the extra mile to help you out.

The priority Trump gives to transactional relationships gives some credence to Senator Lindsey Graham’s argument that the president is a narcissist rather than a racist.

But Graham’s formulation is too simple. It’s more accurate to say Trump’s racism and narcissism are both facets of his desire to rule like a feudal lord. If we see Trump as a would-be baron or an aspiring king, then his varied reaction to people of color makes sense: he loves those who pledge loyalty to him and hates those who defy him in any way.

Writing in the November/December issue of The New Left Review, University of California sociologist Dylan Riley challenged the popular view, found across the political spectrum, that Trump is a fascist. Using the ideas of Max Weber, Riley argued that Trump was rather a practitioner of patrimonialism, the style of governance built on personal loyalty that was found in “the later Roman Empire and medieval Europe.”

It is patrimonialism that links Trump to oddball cronies like Wilbur Ross, Jared Kushner, Thomas Barrack, Stephen Miller, and Matthew Whitaker. As Riley observes, “Bonds of purely personal loyalty bind the seedy milieu of lumpen-millionaires (Ross and Kushner inside the Administration, Thomas Barrack outside) and hangers-on of various sorts (Miller, Whitaker) to Trump.” Patrimonialism also explains Trump’s use of the presidential pardon power on behalf of his political supporters such as Dinesh D’Souza, Conrad Black and Joe Arpaio.

Structurally, the American presidency has always been an elected monarchy. But Trump has ruled more like a king than most presidents, transforming the traditional bonds of partisanship or ideology into relationships of personal fealty.

Trump’s essentially feudal conception of politics is surely traceable to his long-standing connections to the Mafia, perhaps the modern organization that most closely resembles the patrimonial governance of the pre-modern world. In the mob, the Godfather is a de facto lord, who offers protection in exchange for respect and tribute.

Still, the underlying thing of all things Trump has been racism.  This was true of his first ventures in being a slum lord right up and through the Central Park Five lynching calls.  It’s his response to Charlottesville. It’s his attack on the women of color in Congress. He enjoys going on racist screeds.  He gets some kind of sadistic thrill from it.

He has underlying motivations that can probably be carved out in the territory of a number of personality disorders and venal sins.  But, there is something pervasive and overtly deep felt about his actions and words that show a special hatred of women and an even deeper hatred of people of color.  Again, he gets off on being an outspoken race war baiting racist and he should not get a pass, a side wink, or even an excuse.

That is something we cannot ignore, trivialize, or bury in a list of all his evil deeds. And, that’s really how I feel.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Pick your Trumpian Poison Pill for Democracy in the USA

Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo died in federal custody after they fled to the US from Guatemala. (CNN)  Felipe Gómez Alonzo was excited to come to the U.S. He thought he might get his own bicycle. His mom and dad let him make the trip after he got upset that his dad might leave without him. He died on Christmas Eve in our government’s custody. He was 8.  Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin liked to climb trees. She jumped when her dad told her she could come with him to the U.S. She thought she might get her first toy; she’d just got her first pair of shoes. She died on December 8 in our government’s custody. She was 7.

Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers!

It’s getting extremely rough to watch the headlines these days in this country and above all, about this country.  I do not care what people that voted for Trump think. I only hope they are all extremely ashamed of what they’ve done to our country.  They probably won’t be, however, since most of them are so wrapped up in their state of  white muffin rage being focused on nothing but their self-created wretchedness and looking for others to blame.

I’m not sure what horrid news to headline first but our real President tweeted out our most pressing issue this morning. We have to stop killing and torturing children in the name of Trumpism which this day also means OUR names.

Trump defended his actions with immense and cruel lies on Sunday to “journalist” Chuck Todd.  Here’s the headline from USA Today. “Trump defends conditions for detained migrant kids, blames Obama for family separations; fact checkers call foul.”

When questioned by interviewers about migrant children detained at the southern border, President Donald Trump has tried to steer the blame toward the previous administration, saying former President Barack Obama initiated the policy of separating those children from their caregivers, even though fact checkers have consistently found that claim to be false

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which aired Sunday, Trump told host Chuck Todd that he “inherited separation from President Obama” and that “I was the one that ended it.”

“When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together,” he told Telemundo’s José Díaz Balart in an interview that aired Thursday.

And on Thursday he told Time magazine that “I inherited separation” and “I’m the one that put the families back together.”

But, according to FactCheck.org, “previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children.” It was after the Trump administration announced its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in April 2018, in which everyone who illegally entered the U.S. was referred for criminal prosecution, that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents.

 

Charles Blow of the NYT writes today: “Trump’s ‘Concentration Camps’. The cruelty of immigrant family separations must not be tolerated.”

I have often wondered why good people of good conscience don’t respond to things like slavery or the Holocaust or human rights abuse.

Maybe they simply became numb to the horrific way we now rarely think about or discuss the men still being held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial, and who may as well die there.

Maybe people grow weary of wrestling with their anger and helplessness, and shunt the thought to the back of their minds and try to simply go on with life, dealing with spouses and children, making dinner and making beds.

Maybe there is simply this giant, silent, cold thing drifting through the culture like an iceberg that barely pierces the surface.

I believe that we will one day reflect on this period in American history where migrant children are being separated from their parents, some having been kept in cages, and think to ourselves: How did this happen?

Why were we not in the streets every day demanding an end to this atrocity? How did we just go on with our lives, disgusted but not distracted?

Thousands of migrant children have now been separated from their parents.

As NBC News reported in May:

“At least seven children are known to have died in immigration custody since last year, after almost a decade in which no child reportedly died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

Homeland Security’s own inspector general has described egregious conditions at detention facilities.

And, last week, an attorney for the Trump administration argued before an incredulous panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit that toothbrushes, soap and appropriate sleeping arrangements were not necessary for the government to meet its requirement to keep migrant children in “safe and sanitary” conditions.

As one of the judges asked the attorney:

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you do something other than what I described: Cold all night long. Lights on all night long. Sleep on the concrete floor and you get an aluminum blanket?”

Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez loved playing the piano and the bass. His family called him Goyito. He had 8 brothers and sisters. One of them, Edgar, had special needs. Carlos came to the U.S. to help support Edgar.
He died on May 20 in our government’s custody. He was 16.

Here’s a report from ABC News: “Doctor compares conditions for unaccompanied children at immigrant holding centers to ‘torture facilities'”.

From sleeping on concrete floors with the lights on 24 hours a day to no access to soap or basic hygiene, migrant children in at least two U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities face conditions one doctor described as comparable to “torture facilities.”

The disturbing, first-hand account of the conditions were observed by lawyers and a board-certified physician in visits last week to border patrol holding facilities in Clint, Texas, and McAllen, a city in the southern part of the state.

The descriptions paint a bleak image of horrific conditions for children, the youngest of whom is 2 1/2 months old.

“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” the physician, Dolly Lucio Sevier, wrote in a medical declaration obtained exclusively by ABC News.

Lucio Sevier, who works in private practice in the area, was granted access to the Ursula facility in McAllen, which is the largest CBP detention center in the country, after lawyers found out about a flu outbreak there that sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit.

This is unacceptable and each one of us should be on the phone to our Senators and Representative to end this now.

Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle hadn’t seen her mom in 9 years. She came here to see her mom. She was hospitalized soon after she got here. Her mom asked for Darlyn to be released to her. The government refused.
She died on September 29 in our government’s custody. She was 10.

The NYT’s had this report a few days ago: ” ‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children.”

A chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held, according to lawyers who visited the facility this week. Some of the children have been there for nearly a month.

Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap.

“There is a stench,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, one of the lawyers who visited the facility. “The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border.”

I’ve actually reached the point where I think it’s necessary for all the living Presidents, their families, and as many other senior level officials that they can gather need to go to the border and put a name to it.  We’re operating Torture Centers for Children and I can’t think of a better group to shame this government.  Yes, that’s a radical thought because usually retired Presidents don’t get involved with the business in Washington and another administration unless asked. But, this is a radically different time with a radically different group in charge. Only true leadership can trump Trumpism.

There is another news today including massive leaks of Team Trump’s inability to get legitimate security clearances and a huge number of red flags that should have disqualified the lot of them.  Exclusive from Axios: “Exclusive: Leaked Trump vetting docs”.

Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents leaked to “Axios on HBO” identify a host of “red flags” about officials who went on to get some of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. government.

Why it matters: The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slap-dash way President Trump filled his cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government.

Some highlights:

  • Scott Pruitt, who ultimately lost his job as EPA Administrator because of serial ethical abuses and clubbiness with lobbyists, had a section in his vetting form titled “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.”

  • Tom Price, who ultimately resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary after Trump lost confidence in him in part for stories about his use of chartered flights, had sections in his dossier flagging “criticisms of management ability” and “Dysfunction And Division Has Haunted Price’s Leadership Of The House Budget Committee.”

  • Mick Mulvaney, who became Trump’s Budget Director and is now his acting chief of staff, has a striking assortment of “red flags,” including his assessment that Trump “is not a very good person.”

  • The Trump transition team was so worried about Rudy Giuliani, in line for Secretary of State, that they created a separate 25-page document titled “Rudy Giuliani Business Ties Research Dossier” with copious accounting of his “foreign entanglements.”

  • One red flag for Gen. David Petraeus, who was under consideration for Secretary of State and National Security Adviser: “Petraeus Is Opposed to Torture.”

Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez’s mother brought him to the U.S. to get him medical care for a condition that left him unable to walk.
He died on May 14 in our government’s custody. He was 2.

Yes, well, that explains why we have children in Torture Camps.

Here’s some more tidbits. I suggest you go read the entire summary of the mess.

The RNC researchers identified some striking “Red Flags.”

  • The first red flag for Rex Tillerson, who became Trump’s first Secretary of State, was about Russia. “Tillerson’s Russia ties go deep,” it read.
  • One red flag for Fox News host Laura Ingraham, considered for White House press secretary: “Ingraham said people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people.”
  • One heading in the document about Kris Kobach, in the running for Homeland Security Secretary, listed “white supremacy” as a vulnerability. It cited accusations from past political opponents that he had ties to white supremacist groups.
  • Vetters had unique concerns about Gary Cohn. “Some Say Cohn Has An Abrasive, Curt, And Intimidating Style,” they wrote, citing a Bloomberg piece. “He Would Sometimes Hike Up One Leg And Plant His Foot On A Trader’s Desk, His Thigh Close To The Employee’s Face, And Ask How Markets Were Doing.”

Some of the contenders were strikingly swampy — even by the RNC vetters’ standards.

  • Seema Verma, who Trump appointed as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had this paragraph near the top of her vetting form: “Verma was simultaneously advising Indiana ($3.5 million in contracts) on issues impacting how it would spend Medicaid funds while she was also being paid by a client that received Medicaid funds. Ethics experts have called the arrangement a conflict of interest that potentially put Indiana taxpayers at risk.”
  • Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, had a vetting form with sections labeled “Business conflicts of interest” and “Family conflicts of interest.” It noted that “Perdue is the owner of Houston Fertilizer and Grain, a company that has received contracts from the Department of Agriculture.”

The documents point to Trump’s willingness to meet with — and sometimes hire — people who had harshly criticized him. The vetting team often put these denigrations at the top of the documents. A source with direct knowledge told me many of these documents were handed to Trump; he knew about the insults, and picked the insulters anyway.

  • Nikki Haley, who became Trump’s U.N. ambassador, had a note that she’d said Trump is everything “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten.”

  • Ryan Zinke, who became Interior Secretary, had described Trump as “un-defendable.”

  • Rick Perry, Energy Secretary, had voluminous vetting concerns: “Perry described Trumpism as a ‘toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition,'” the vetters noted.

Juan de León Gutierréz was shy, a good student. When he missed class to help his dad harvest coffee, he’d run to catch his teacher after school to explain his absence.
He died on April 30 in our government’s custody. He was 16.

We know that Trump is a disaster. Here is a Bloomberg headline from Timothy O’Brien: “Trump Suffers a Triple Fail on Iran, Mexico and Immigration. The president’s solo initiatives on Iran, Mexico and immigrants were all abandoned before taking effect. Twitter bravado is a terrible way to govern.”

In a word, President Trump was never going to become “presidential.” It was inevitable instead that he would find himself most interested in frequenting the corridors of power that allowed him to operate independently. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon for presidents, but in Trump’s case it’s uniquely perilous because no president in the modern era has been as ill-informed, unhinged and undisciplined as the current one. None has been as needy, nor as willing to playact without remorse while making the most consequential of decisions.

To help demonstrate the point, Trump has given the world a trifecta of sorts in recent weeks involving trade with Mexico, a military strike in Iran, and government raids on the homes of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Trump launched all three episodes with public threats and bravado showcased on Twitter, embroidered them with promises of imminent and decisive action, and tethered them to the notion that complex challenges can be solved with blunt force wielded by a single man. He then abruptly abandoned all three provocations just before they were to take effect.

In early June, Trump threatened, via Twitter, to impose onerous tariffs on Mexico if it failed to help solve the immigration and humanitarian crisis spilling over from Central America and into the U.S. His own political party and the business community brought him to heel within a week and he abandoned the tariff threat on the eve of imposing it. Mexico didn’t agree to substantially change any new policing activities along the border. But in the few days that his threat stood, Trump managed to destabilize financial markets and nearly upended a global trade and supply chain that supported legions of businesses and millions of people on both sides of the border.

Last Thursday, Trump noted on Twitter that “Iran made a very big mistake!” when it shot down a U.S. drone that Iran claimed had crossed into its airspace. Later that same day the president authorized a military strike against the country, only to call it off when, reportedly, he became aware that as many as 150 might be killed. While Trump is now embracing tougher economic sanctions against Iran, he has exposed deep divisions among his national security and military advisers. He’s also proven himself to be dangerously unpredictable to allies whose help he still needs if he wants to see substantial long-term changes gain traction in Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

To top it off, Trump barely gave observers time to digest his abandoned military strikes before he engaged in a bit of Orwellian doublespeak. “I never called the strike against Iran ‘BACK,’ as people are incorrectly reporting,” he said on Twitter on Saturday. “I just stopped it from going forward at this time!”

The same day – on Twitter, of course – Trump said he also had decided to postpone raids on the homes of about 2,000 undocumented immigrant families living in the U.S. who had already received deportation orders. This came on the heels of Trump’s threats earlier in the week – made just before he traveled to Florida to kick off his 2020 presidential campaign – to deport “millions” of immigrants (a figure that vastly overstated what his immigration officials were considering, but might have been reassuring for Trump’s political base to hear).

Trump said he postponed the raids because Democrats had asked him to wait so they could discuss other policy options with him. But the postponement was also reportedly due, in part, to concerns that Trump’s telegraphing of specifics about the raids had jeopardized the safety of immigration officers and the welfare of children potentially caught up in the sweeps.

In any event, the brinksmanship and escalation that marked Trump’s public blustering on tariffs and Iran had a decidedly more obscene quality when deployed against a population of migrants left vulnerable and rootless by the drug wars and economic uncertainty that have engulfed much of Central America. The president’s vacillating, set against a backdrop of an administration already under fire for separating migrant families at the southern border and jailing children and teenagers in squalid detention centers, may harden both sides in the border debate and prevent Congress from overhauling immigration laws in tandem with the White House.

Expect Trump’s cartwheeling to continue. It’s who he is.

Here’s the source of these portraits of children who came to our country with hope and died in negligence from our Trumpian horror.

I really didn’t want to put up all these today to overwhelm you as much as I am overwhelmed. I just remember that a year ago I was protesting this shit. These children have died since that protest. That’s not working. It’s time to do more. Write or call your representatives in Washington DC and demand something be done. Scream! Cry! Tell them you’ll work against them when they come up for re-election. Let everyone know we need to end all this now.

If that’s now you, maybe you can write a check to help.

Remember, Trump is promising massive round ups in most major cities. Find out if there’s any way you can help in your city.  He’s supposedly put this off but the date he’s given is our Independence Day Weekend.  That should horrify any of us.

In immigration news, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Friday it would start a mass roundup of immigrants starting Sunday under the name “family op,” targeting 10 cities. On Saturday, amid national outcry, President Trump backtracked on that plan, saying he would delay the deportations by two weeks and put the onus on Democrats to make changes to immigration policy if they wanted to avoid the plan from going ahead. But some media reports claim that the delay was prompted by a leak by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan or his staff, which could have compromised the plan.

Democratic lawmakers accused the Trump administration of using the threat of mass deportations as a bargaining chip to push its immigration agenda. Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro said, “The threat to knock and drag people away from their families and out of their communities shouldn’t be a negotiation tactic for an American president.”

New Orleans and many other cities are refusing to aid ICE in this action.  See if your city is on that list.

 

Look at the type of people we’re up against!

From Motherly: “10 powerful ways we can help immigrant children separated from their parents.”

This has a good list of places to write checks to and support.  Remember, thoughts and prayers do nothing!! This is a good person to have the last word today.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today!

 


Monday Reads: White Nationalist Terrorism … call it what it is …

Vote Vote Vote!!!!!

Next Tuesday is the day to say no to all this, Sky Dancers! Get out there and start voting because lives depend on it!

Last week has taught us that we have a well armed, aggrieved group of white nationalist men out there that aren’t afraid to take the out the rest of us.  I’m with Greg Sargent of WAPO on this one: “Trump’s hate and lies are inciting extremists. Just ask the analyst who warned us.”  They have one of their own installed at the very top and they aren’t afraid to let the freak flag and bullets fly.

Sargent interviewed  “Daryl Johnson, the former Department of Homeland Security analyst who created a big stir when he authored a leaked report in 2009 warning of a rise in right-wing extremist activity. Conservatives reacted with outrage, and the Obama administration decided it needed to do damage control.”

This is part of the interview:

THE PLUM LINE: Your 2009 report talked about the rise in right-wing extremism as a reaction to Barack Obama’s election and the financial crash. What are the ingredients now?

DARYL JOHNSON: We’ve had almost eight years of far-right groups recruiting, radicalizing and growing in strength. Typically during Republican administrations we see a decrease in activity. But under this administration they continue to operate at a heightened level. One reason why is the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump.

Building a border wall, deporting immigrants, a travel ban on Muslim countries — these are themes discussed on white-nationalist message boards and websites for years, now being endorsed and talked about at the highest levels of the government. He’s retweeted messages about Muslims from conspiracy sites. What keeps these groups energized and active is the fact that the administration has mainstreamed their message and tried to put it forth as policy.

PLUM LINE: Why do these groups usually go into decline during other Republican administrations?

JOHNSON: Militias and anti-government groups get energized under a Democrat because of fear of gun control; the hate groups get active because of liberal Democratic policies extending rights to immigrants, gays, and minorities. During Republican administrations the fear and paranoia get dialed back because they feel the administrations are not going to repeal gun rights or extend rights to minority groups.

PLUM LINE: This is different.

JOHNSON: Yup. Because of the viciousness of the rhetoric painting Democrats as evil and corrupt. And the different themes that resonate with extremists.

PLUM LINE: How does the Pittsburgh shooting fit into all of this?

JOHNSON: The conservative media has echoed the president … about how Democrats are contributing to this migrant exodus coming up from Central America. There’s a conspiracy theory that the Jews are controlling that. There’s been a mainstreaming of the extremist narratives. Things that were once on the outer fringes are now being brought to the forefront by Trump.

Trump juices them up at every rally and every opportunity he gets to speak to them on Fox.  We’ve seen 3 recent attacks and attempted attacks by right wing men who feel emboldened and empowered to take matters into their own hands. Even the one that denounced Trump still spouted the same memes as the others about Jewish Financier George Soros echoing the ongoing and deeply historical conspiracies about Jewish communities controlling the press, the banks, and the financial systems of the world.

All of these men were outraged by the thought of women and children from Honduras coming to seek political asylum in this country as is their right.  The “caravan” of “invaders” is being hyped by Trump at every turn because he thinks it will turn out his base at the polls.  Then, of course, there is forever the trope that Black people take jobs, hand outs, and life style from the white.  Racism is at the root of all of this. White christian patriarchy is at the root of all of this and Trump embodies it all with his freak flag flying at endless political rallies.

Last week, one white supremacist, frustrated by lack of access to a black church where he could’ve slaughtered more, stomped into a store and killed two elderly black people point blank, execution style.  What does it mean when in this country one white man feels so aggrieved he will attack elderly people doing their weekly chores?

Two black senior citizens were murdered in Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday. Maurice Stallard, 69, was at a Kroger supermarket when Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, walked in and shot him multiple times. Bush then exited the store and shot Vickie Lee Jones, 67, in the parking lot before an armed bystander reportedly fired back, prompting him to flee. Police were unable to confirm accounts that Bush encountered a second armed man, who engaged him in a brief standoff where no shots were fired, according to the New York Times. “Don’t shoot me and I won’t shoot you,” the man’s son, Steve Zinninger, claimed Bush told his father. “Whites don’t kill whites.” Police apprehended Bush minutes later.

Bush had no known connection to either of his victims. Any doubt of a racial motive seemed quelled when surveillance footage showed the shooter forcibly tried to enter a black church minutes before moving on to the supermarket. The Times reports that a member of the 185-year-old First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown grew alarmed when she saw Bush yanking “aggressively” at its locked front doors. Up to ten people were inside the chapel following a midweek service. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place,” church administrator Billy Williams said.

The murder of black seniors is a relatively rare phenomenon in the U.S. People over 65 accounted for just 2 percent of black homicide victims in 2014, according to a 2017 Violence Policy Center report, citing that year as the most recent for which data was available. Yet they have been central victims in recent racist killings. From Charleston to New York City and, now, possibly Louisville, some of the 21st century’s most notorious white supremacists have targeted black seniors for violent deaths. The unique cruelty of this pattern magnifies its obvious illogic, demonstrating yet again that white rhetoric framing black people as threats is shallow cover for terrorizing the vulnerable.

Terrorizing the vulnerable is what Trump excels at … this is why he’s sending US military to frighten rather than provide aid and comfort to women, children and families seeking refuge from violence in their country that we’ve basically enabled.  Again, from WAPO: “A conspiracy theory about George Soros and a migrant caravan inspired horror” by Joel Achenbach shows us this same pattern of race baiting.

Conspiracy theories are flourishing in America, from the Oval Office to the fever swamps of the Internet. They include the viral notion that the liberal 88-year-old billionaire George Soros, a Hungarian American Holocaust survivor, is funding the migrant caravan slowly making its way from Central America in the direction of the United States.

It’s not true, but it has apparently fueled homicidal rage in recent days.

Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man whom authorities have accused of mailing more than a dozen bombs to people and organizations President Trump has criticized, appeared to be obsessed with Soros, mentioning him dozens of times on one of his Twitter accounts. Authorities say he mailed one of his bombs to Soros.

Robert D. Bowers, charged with killing 11 people Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue, also reposted several viral comments on a since-deactivated social media account about the migrant caravan. One post described the “third world caravan” as a group of approaching “invaders.”

Bowers directly posted a comment referring to “the overwhelming jew problem.” He spoke of the U.S. having a Jewish “infestation,” and reposted another user’s anti-Semitic comment: “Jews are waging a propaganda war against Western civilization and it is so effective that we are headed towards certain extinction within the next 200 years and we’re not even aware of it.”

The Soros/caravan theory dates to late March, when an earlier wave of migrants was heading north, according to an extensive blog post on Medium by Jonathan Albright, director of the Digital Forensics Initiative at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. One Twitter post, which had no factual foundation, stated, “Caravan of 1,500 Central American Migrant Families Crossing Mexico to Reach U.S. Border All organized by Soros groups to cause more division.”

Jonathan Chait of the Intelligencer at New York Magazine says “Trump’s Ideology Is Anti-Semitism Without Jews.”

In 1991, Pat Robertson, the Christian Right’s most influential leader, wrote a book titled The New World Order. It received almost no attention — who wants to slog through a Pat Robertson book? — until four years later, when Michael Lind called attention to it in the New York Review of Books. Lind’s review provoked a furor by revealing the fantastical conspiracy theory Robertson had unspooled, in which a cabal of “European bankers” had secretly orchestrated two centuries of world events for their personal benefit.

Some of the furor centered on whether Robertson or his worldview should be described at anti-Semitic. In his defense, Robertson insisted that the book made no explicit reference to Jews as the architects of the nefarious global conspiracy he claimed to uncover. This defense was true, as far as it goes. Robertson had essentially removed references to Jews while preserving the framework of a classic anti-Semitic theory. It was anti-Semitism minus Jews.

The divide around which this argument took place is the same grounds upon which President Trump and his defenders argue that they have no relationship with, or responsibility of any kind for, Robert Bowers’s murderous rampage in Pittsburgh. “The evil act of anti-Semitism in Pittsburg was committed by a coward who hated President Trump because @POTUS is such an unapologetic defender of the Jewish community and state of Israel,” insists White House press secretary Sarah Sanders,denouncing press coverage linking Trump’s rhetoric to both the pro-Trump bomber Cesar Sayoc and Bowers.

The far-right faction with which Bowers identifies does oppose Trump as a pro-Jewish sellout, citing such betrayals as his support for Israel and the marriage of his daughter to a Jewish man. Those differences between Trump and murderous anti-Semites are hardly trivial.

Still, Bowers does identify with some of Trump’s goals and rhetoric, because Trump has inspired the racist far right to a degree surpassing any modern American president. His depiction of immigrants as inherently criminal, and his attempts to connect immigration to shadowy cabals of financiers, closely track white supremacist tropes. During the 2016 campaign, Trump has inadvertently slipped over the line between explicit and implicit anti-Semitism when he tweeted out a meme produced by anti-Semites calling Hillary Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever!” inside a Star of David. (The star signaled to anti-Semites that Clinton’s alleged corruption was in reality a form of control by the Jews.)

More often, he would invoke anti-Semitic themes without any explicit reference to Jews or Judaism. Trump’s closing campaign ad on television denounced “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” over images of Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom happen to be Jewish. Trump lambastes his enemies as “globalists,” which, through its implication of extra-national loyalty, closely tracks the primary accusation made against Jews.

Most right-wing thought in general tends to laud the traditional values found in ethnically homogenous rural areas (“real America,” as conservatives habitually call it), and to censure the cosmopolitanism and libertine values of the cities. As a largely urban, educated, and liberal group, Jews naturally find themselves on the negative side of this implicit moral divide. The more sinister strains of this thinking develop conspiracy theories connecting the role of elites and the larger numbers of foreign hordes who seem to pose a threat to the nation’s character.

As David Roberts puts it, this is form of inciting folks to frenzy via conspiracy theories is now rampant in all parts of the Republican party. It is no longer confined to right wing radio loonies like Limbaugh or even the dread Dobbs of Fox.

Additionally, there’s the dread “both siderisms” practiced by most in the media and others trying to equate outrageous acts of terror and murder with citizens expressing anger at public officials in restaurants.

Further exploration of that topic can be found here at Vox by Ezra Klein: Is the media making American politics worse? A difficult conversation about the state of political journalism.”

I want to go a bit further than that. Far from how do we defend American institutions, how do we stop making them worse?

One thing you always get into when you get into any criticism of journalism is that people immediately point to the investigative reporters. God bless the investigative reporters, but that is not what everybody is doing. That’s not what most of what is happening on cable news, for instance, and cable news drives a lot of politics.

Journalism has a definition of newsworthiness. We always say the word means “important,” but it doesn’t really mean important. It is some mixture of important, new, outrageous, conflict-oriented, secret, interesting. There’s a lot of things happening in it. But one of the ways you can hack it is you can just go outrageous enough.

I think of this as the Donald Trump-Michael Avenatti problem. What Donald Trump understood is if you just do the create enough craziness, enough conflict, enough drama, you get all the oxygen in the room. I don’t want to compare him to Trump in his ethics or morals, but I think Michael Avenatti has recognized this way of hacking the system too.

I think about Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, probably the most popular senator in the country, given the partisan lean of her state. That’s a remarkable thing. Part of the reason is that she speaks in a way that a lot of people can hear her without getting defensive. I mean, even in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, he began by saying, “Hey, look, I may hate all these other Democrats, but Sen. Klobuchar, I like you.” Then he got in trouble by attacking her, and he actually apologized.

But how does she get coverage speaking like a normal human being? Why does arguably the most popular member of the US Senate not get more day-to-day coverage than Avenatti?

So, I’m going to end with this bit of an interview with Hillary Clinton.  I’m pretty sure it’s a distraction and not helpful to the midterms which is exactly what Journalists try to do.  Create more horse races when not enough exist for them.  Our focus should be on the races coming up Tuesday next and getting a few folks across the finish line to start working on getting rid of Trumpism and stuffing white nationalists back under their rocks or jail whichever is necessary.

Hillary Clinton has indicated she could make a bid for the White House in 2020, saying, “I’d like to be president”.

It comes amid growing speculation that the former Democratic presidential nominee could announce another run following the midterm elections.

Asked whether she would run again by journalist Kara Swisher at a live event in New York, Ms Clinton initially said no.

But when pressed on the issue, Ms Clinton said: “Well I’d like to be president.

“I think, hopefully, when we have a Democrat in the Oval Office in January of 2021, there’s going to be so much work to be done.”

She continued: “I mean we have confused everybody in the world, including ourselves. We have confused our friends and our enemies.

“They have no idea what the United States stands for, what we’re likely to do, what we think is important, so the work would be work that I feel very well prepared for having been at the Senate for eight years, having been a diplomat in the state department, and it’s just going to be a lot of heavy lifting.”

Asked if she personally would be doing any ”lifting”, Ms Clinton said: “I have no idea.”

“I’m not even going to even think about it ‘til we get through this November 6 election about what’s going to happen after that,” she said.

“But I’m going to everything in my power to make sure we have a Democrat in the White House come January of 2021.”

How are these statements indicative of a run?  I ask you?  What’s the purpose of not taking her at her word about she’s done?

The only thing each and every one of us has to do is get as many blue wave voters to the polls including ourselves. This crap has to stop.

Anyway, I have to finish up grading and hide from more news including another school shooting where one student shot and killed another in North Carolina.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Abiding in the Afterglow

Good Afternoon

Sky Dancers!

My Nana used to talk a lot about the afterglow.  She was quite spiritual and used it all the time as a metaphor for the abiding peace that comes when you just relax and enjoy the goodness at the end of the day.  Today, I am abiding in the afterglow and the peace that comes with the realization that the Resistance is real and that it’s turned into more than giant marches and social media screeds.

It’s turned into votes and elected officials.  It’s turned the diversity and decency inherent in modern America into the distinct faces replacing white republican men. It’s a newly elected Sikh mayor and the newly elected Liberian immigrant mayor;  a brown and black face for Hobokken, New Jersey  and Helena, Montana repectively. These are faces of American immigrants both. Topeka, Kansas elected a Latina for its Mayor.  Michelle DeLaIsla is also a single mother. 

Elections on Tuesday turned into the faces of black woman who followed in the steps of Rosa Parks and refused to sit peacefully in the back of the bus.  They are now going to control exactly where that bus can go.  The afterglow is the face of the GLBT community and others that have worked tirelessly for their right to the American vision of liberty and justice for all.

The voice of the majority of voters  went unheeded a year ago.  Tuesday night, the votes of the majority sent waves of hope for peace and justice through out the world.  We showed the world that we shall overcome.  I do not vote until November 18th, but my vote will be part of the history of New Orleans when we elect our first Black Woman to the office of Mayor in our runoff.

Barrier-breaking candidates won races across the country on Election Day this year. The results were a parade of “firsts” from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests.

Cities in Minnesota and Montana elected their first black mayors, and Charlotte, North Carolina, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Virginia elected its first Latina and Asian-American delegates. Transgender candidates won races in Virginia, Minnesota, California, and Pennsylvania.

Tuesday was a big night for Democrats — and these historic “firsts” show that the party can run a diverse slate of candidates and win.

The results were astounding to all but confused Republican White men who doubled down on Trump and white grievance politics. Their leadership continue to seek policies that help the upper 1% of the 1% while yet another group wanting to get out of the line for the slaughterhouse ran away from the rest of the sheep.

The midterm elections do not appear to favor the sheep.

Distressed Republicans say Democratic victories across the country on Tuesday night show their congressional majorities are at risk in next year’s midterm elections.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he “predicted” the rough election night and said the party needs to make changes quickly before the midterms arrive.

“Unless we get our act together, we’re going to lose heavily,” he said.

The results offered fresh evidence of a political backlash against President Trump, which several Republicans said, in combination with a failure to win legislative victories, could cost the party the House majority.

“The best way to get run over by this train is to stand still,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Next year’s map makes it much tougher for Democrats to win back the Senate, since Republicans are only defending eight seats compared to 25 for Democrats. In the House, Democrats would need to gain two dozen seats to win back the majority.

House Republicans in swing districts acknowledged that showing independence from Trump will be critical. Some of the 23 GOP lawmakers who represent House districts carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton insist they can again convince local constituents to support them.

The People’s President is the one with the coattails.  The best explanation that I heard all day about the race came from two Never Trumpers on MSNBC.  Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt were nearly as jubilant as any Democrat on the network.  Wallace said she had to mute the TV any time Trump was on and her five year old was in the room.  She explained that the white suburban women vote had to come from every parent who doesn’t want that kind of person as President.  Schmidt suggested that it was such a coalition of diverse interests voting against Trumpism that felt like a wave from the decent people of America.  The polls showed a combination of anti-Trumpism and fear of losing Health Care as central to many voters.  But we also learned that a huge swath of Americans are following the Russian situation.

I give you an op ed from the Paducha Sun.

Chances are you’re not familiar with the name Andrew Weissmann. That’s likely to change.

He’s the top lieutenant in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation of potential collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. He’s also the man most directly involved in the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Weismann, 59, is known as the most aggressive and controversial member of Mueller’s team.

Remember the pre-dawn raid by a dozen FBI agents on Manafort’s home back in August? That’s something rarely done in white-collar crime cases. It was Weissmann’s way of sending an unambiguous message to Manafort: We are going to nail you.

Weissmann, who has two Ivy League degrees, is admired for his intelligence and skill as a prosecutor, particularly his talent in getting witnesses to flip and provide critical information. He served as chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice before taking leave to join the Russia probe.

A recent New York Times story, which dubbed him a “legal pit bull,” said he’s “an expert in converting defendants into collaborators — with either tactical brilliance or overzealousness, depending on one’s perspective.”

The story added, “It’s not clear if President Trump and his charges fear Mr. Weissmann as they gird for the slog ahead. It is quite clear, former colleagues and opponents say, that they should.”

His reputation for gaining witness cooperation was acquired in two high-profile cases.

One was prosecuting mob bosses in Brooklyn two decades ago. Weissmann persuaded a prominent Mafia hitman, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, to testify against Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, leader of the Genovese crime family, leading to his conviction.

The other followed the collapse of energy giant Enron in 2001. Weissmann helped gain fraud convictions of multiple executives by again showing his ability to convince witnesses to give damaging testimony.

The Manafort indictment disclosed Monday has been criticized because the charges do not appear related to alleged collusion with Russia. Instead, Manafort is accused of money laundering and not paying taxes well before he joined the Trump campaign.

Those critics, who include Sen. Rand Paul, complain of prosecutorial overreach.

They apparently are not aware of the way Wiessmann seeks to maximize leverage with defendants. If he can persuade Manafort that he is at risk of spending all of his remaining years in federal prison on those charges — unless agreeing to become a prosecution witness — he is far more likely to obtain valuable information regarding any campaign ties to Russia.

People who speak highly of Weissmann applaud him for pushing legal boundaries to win his cases. They say his use of hardball tactics demonstrates his determination to obtain vital evidence.

The Op-Ed continues by saying he’s Trump’s Number 1 Problem.  Well, that and the barrage of white male privilege on display daily among the Trump cadre.  No amount of economic data, study, and acceptance by every economist of all parties and ideologies kills the idea that giving freaking rich people tax breaks is going to absolutely make the rest of us better off.  It doesn’t do it. Never will.  Never … never  … never … never ….

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn nearly quit the administration over President Trump’s equivocations about a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, and then was denied his dream of becoming the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Now all that remains of his political dreams is a gigantic tax cut for owners of capital. But Cohn is not necessarily the most skilled messenger for this agenda, either. Having spent his career communicating to other extremely wealthy people, he seems to be at sea at the task of pretending this agenda is actually aimed at average working people, which is the essential skill set of Republican politicians.

In a new interview with John Harwood, Cohn is forced into a series of admissions he probably should not be making. He concedes the White House is not, on the whole, a fine-tuned machine:

GARY COHN: I learned a lot about being confident, about learning how to succeed. I did get introduced to the financial markets while I was in college. And I think I learned also how to sort of filter out all of the non-rational, or non-sensible noise, and sort of concentrate on what matters, and that’s really what markets are about. Separate the rational from what the irrational, separate what matters now to what doesn’t matter now.

JOHN HARWOOD: I think most people looking from the outside see more irrational stuff happening in this White House than in any White House that they’ve seen

GARY COHN: I’m involved in the economic side of the White House.

It’s not the least bit amazing to me that not even the new Fed head appointment will be an actual economist because no actual economist would said anything like this unless his name is Arthur Laffer and he lost his cred years ago hanging on to his failed hypothesis. Cohn has only a BS, is an investment banker, and basically studied real estate development and investing.  He speaks with no actual authority on economic policy.  The Fed Chair nominee–who will be up in front of the Senate on November 28–is really a big unknown other than he’s got a law degree and a degree in poly sci. Check out Jerome Powell.  While Wall Street churns out high returns based on a tax law that gives them more gambling profits, I continue to worry about what happens if any Trumpism policy hits its mark.

The period of uncertainty is over. President Trump is going to nominate Jerome Powell to be the next Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

So, what have we got?

Well, the papers have been full of articles on the appointment and on Mr. Powell himself. It is not that he is an unknown since he has served on the Board of Governors of the Fed since 2012, has been an Under Secretary of the Treasury and has been employed on Wall Street and in Washington, D. C.

Yet, the analysis of him leaves you basically in the dark.

Mr. Powell is supportive of the goals assigned to the Federal Reserve by the US Congress, to achieve high levels of employment and low levels of inflation. He has never dissented on the Board in 44 meetings he has attended. The one thing he gained attention from while serving on the Board was his stance on the ending of the Fed’s bond buying program connected with the end of quantitative easing.

Perhaps the most apt description of Mr. Powell’s way of doing things is that he is… pragmatic.

Jeremy Stein, an economist at Harvard University and who served as a Federal Reserve Governor with Mr. Powell, describes the future nominee as“remarkably undogmatic.”

Mr. Stein goes on, “He listens more than he talks.”

Mr. Powell is given high marks for being a serious student who studies hard in areas that he is not an expert in and seeks advice. He works well with people and makes things happen in his quiet way. Much of what he has accomplished has been out-of-the-spotlight without a great deal of fanfare.

I’m not going to mention the authoritarian-curious Trump who is currently ass kissing the despot in China.  I’m going to end with this essay by Ezra Klein at Vox. “For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not. Committed liberals and conservatives don’t realize how weird they are.”  Oh, I do realize, Ezra, I do … I do … I do…

You are weird. I am very weird. And the worst part is, we don’t really recognize how weird we are.

That’s the basic argument of Donald Kinder and Nathan Kalmoe’s Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public. Their study begins with a famous paper by political scientist Philip Converse titled “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” The nature of those belief systems, Converse concluded, was that they really weren’t systems at all. The overwhelming majority of Americans were free of anything that resembled coherent liberal or conservative ideologies — indeed, only “about 17 percent of the public could both assign the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ correctly to the parties and say something sensible about what the terms meant.”

Which isn’t to say that voters didn’t have opinions, much less party and group loyalties. They did, and they do. But the internally coherent (or at least semi-coherent) ideological frameworks that drive the activities of politicians, pundits, and other political actors are foreign to most voters.

Converse’s basic findings have been replicated in a number of different studies done over the past 50 years, and Kinder and Kalmoe extend on them here. In a telling bit of research, they scoured massive election surveys to see what bearing self-reported ideology had on policy opinions on issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to health care to foreign aid to Social Security. The answer, across years ranging from 1992 to 2009, was basically none — “ideological differences,” they reported, “have little influence over opinion on immigration, affirmative action, capital punishment, gun control, Social Security, health insurance, the deficit, foreign aid, tax reform, and the war on terrorism.”

There were two glaring exceptions: LGBTQ rights and abortion. But the exceptions were so stark that Kinder and Kalmoe wondered if they were missing something, and they had a theory of what it might be: religion. So they ran the data again, “adding measures of faith, religiosity (the degree to which Americans take their faith seriously), and group sentiments to the model.” Once they did that, the effect of ideology all but disappeared.

So this, then, is the bottom line: Most voters aren’t ideologues, and even accounting for that, most ideologues aren’t particularly ideological.

So, since we are weird, I suggest you read about the control factors.

I’m going to spend the day grading papers.  I’m hoping it’s a little better than the last batch where I was regaled by so much basic ignorance of trade I was about to scream.  I’m back teaching undergrad econ for awhile and I just had a student use the World Daily News as an “academically acceptable” source and based a lot of his argument on his father’s friend’s thoughts that works at a steel factory.  I gently explained that when you’re going to do an expository essay on the impact of trade you have to back up your assertions like this: “NAFTA’s Impact on the U.S. Economy: What Are the Facts?” from Knowledge@Wharton.  You can go read all the facts and data and pros and cons.  I’m just going to quote the last paragraph.

Blaming NAFTA for all of these disturbing problems may make some NAFTA critics feel good, but as trade researchers have learned in recent years, the growing complexity of today’s economic challenges defies any simplistic explanations.

The part I highlighted basically sums up my thoughts on all the crap coming out of the Trump Fiscal policy regime.  You could also substitute just about any word–including what gets souls to the polls– for ‘today’s economic’.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Bask in the afterglow.


Monday Reads: The Great Unravelling

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s another one of those Mondays where there are so many things to do and dig out of that I hardly know where to start.  This has been a year where keeping up with all the unraveling threads is a mythical task.  It requires a Greek deity to find them all and knit them back together.

Countries dependent on rule of law depend on functional institutions, intelligent and skilled participants, and commitment to the many parts and pieces that solidify social bonds.  We know that many of these social bonds and contracts are under attack and that many of the institutions designed to carry out the will of the people as stated in the Constitution are being undermined.  It feels as though we’ve entered a period where many groups have grabbed a loose thread and ran off with it so as to unravel as much as possible.

Much of this has been brought to you by fanatical Republicans and spineless Democrats who rarely take on a good fight and play go along and get along way too much. Republicans are in deep denial if they think all that’s gone on with Kremlin Caligula and Trumpism is not the fruit of their poison tree.

I’m saddened to read so many false equivalencies, whiffs, and denials by Republicans that cannot see that this is what they’ve been nuturing since the implementation of the Southern Strategy.  That link goes to Ben Shapiro who rightly calls out White Supremacists for being White Supremacists but immediately denies any connection or responsibility to feeding those beasts.

The Alt-Right Is Not Conservative. One of the hottest takes from the Left is that the alt-right represents the entire right — that what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia represented conservatives broadly. That’s factually incorrect, and intellectually dishonest. The alt-right is not just conservatives who like memes or who dislike Paul Ryan. The alt-right is a philosophy of white supremacy and white nationalism espoused by the likes of Vox Day, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor.

Then, we arrive at this:

6. The Left’s Malfeasance And Support For Violent Groups Like Antifa Grow The Alt-Right. Antifa was violent in Charlottesville.

And so it’s every one that’s not a conservative’s fault for not calling down and pushing out the usual group of anarchists–now designer labelled “antifa” akin to “alt-right”–and not the fault of the Republican Party that’s fed the Alt Right subgroups for decades.

I’m glad to see some one call white supremacists out for what they are.  ‘Alt-Right’ is a squishy mush of nothing. I equally wish we’d drop the new designer label of ‘antifa’  and just call the other nutters there what they are which is the usual assortment of anarchists who show up at everything to create chaos because that’s what anarchists do and want. However, as some one whose pre-defined political life was to identify with Republicans, libertarians and conservatives (forgive me I was a swimming in privilege as a white teen in a red state backwater) I have to remind you that none of this can be disowned by Republicans or movement conservatives.

I understand Ben is more “libertarian” than movement conservative but now that  I’ve decided labels are for cans let me say this.  The Republican Party owns this because they own the Southern Strategy and self-identified conservatives developed and exploited it. That’s something started in the Nixon years and played to the hilt with Ronnie Raygun and his welfare queens meme. It continues with a war against an inner city drug problem –crack–while sympathizing with what is mostly a white, rural phenomenon of meth/opiate addiction. It also includes the party’s take over by crazy religious extremists which are anything but conservative unless you consider theocracy preferable to a republic. We all need to call out the goofs on all sides. I’ve been as vocal in my criticism of kooky Jill Stein and positively worthless and whacky Bernie Sanders as I’ve been all along of Kremlin Caligula. But really, where are the adult Republicans and conservatives in the room when they allow Bannon, Gorka, and Miller into the West Wing?

You think a few folks would be uncomfortable if we’d have seen Jeremiah Wright as a strategist with an office in the West WIng next to the last president? You think Reid what let that happen? Seriously, you cannot dog whistle and appease the kooks and then expect to just brush them off when convenient. Every single Republican Strategist since the Nixon bunch has worked hard on that Damned Southern Strategy. I bailed in the early 90s because none of that damn stuff is what any of us in this country should be about. The Bernie appeasement going on with the DNC is just about as crazy but not quite as evil compared to having spent like 40 decades thinking you can convince a bunch of backwoods Hitlers and Christofascists that you’re going to do their bidding if they just vote for the guys that want to deregulate the government.  That’ a Faustian bargain and if you lay down with devils then you can’t complain when the world points out the horns you’ve sprouted.

Trump talks about his ‘good genes’ constantly. His father was arrested in a KKK rally. He supposedly had a copy of Hitler’s tome next to his bed. His first real support and new AG is the World’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow who has a history of being a walking example of what the Southern Strategy was designed to attract.

So, Trump belatedly gave a speech today on the weekend violence that killed a young woman that was supposed to quell the negative comments about the “on all sides” comments on Saturday.  I’ve never really bought in to the old saying better late than never.  I still don’t.  

President Donald Trump directly condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a statement from the White House Monday afternoon.

“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” Trump said.

“As a candidate I promised to restore law and order to our country and our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge,” Trump said. “We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear. We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans and we will work together so that every citizen in this blessed land is free to follow their dreams, in their hearts, and to express the love and joy in our souls.”

Democrats and Republicans have excoriated Trump for his unwillingness to condemn the groups behind the violent protests that left one woman dead who was allegedly hit by a car driven by a man with ties to white supremacy groups.

After blaming the violence “on many sides” Saturday, Trump stayed silent for close to 48 hours, letting his trademark bluntness and campaign pledges to call terrorism what it is succumb to silence and vagueness.

Trump was asked by reporters after he spoke why he waited so long to condemn these hate groups by name and did not respond.

Feeling comforted yet?  I didn’t think so. The FBI and the DHS have repeatedly warned against the ongoing and escalating threat to our country from domestic terrorists of this ilk. Trump has ignored it and defunded the law enforcement agency studying it and charged with corralling it.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.

Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the so-called alt-right, sparked violent clashes over the weekend. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally.

James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck Heyer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Since the outbreak of violence over the weekend, President Trump has been heavily criticized for not condemning racist groups. “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” he tweeted.

The FBI, on the other hand, has already concluded that white supremacists, including neo-Nazi supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan, are in fact responsible for the lion’s share of violent attacks among domestic extremist groups. White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement,” reads the joint intelligence bulletin.

The report, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” was prepared by the FBI and DHS.

The bulletin’s numbers appear to correspond with outside estimates. An independent database compiled by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute found that between 2008 and 2016, far-right plots and attacks outnumbered Islamist incidents by almost 2 to 1.

So, Republicans can distance themselves from the overt racism of the Alt Right but their policies say something else.  They pass and support voter suppression laws deemed racist by Courts.  They refuse to recognize the complaints on use of force by Police against persons of color and are looking to pass laws to make police brutality less actionable.  They violate the Constitution by trying to punish so-called Sanctuary Cities who refuse to help the Federal Government enforce racist and unnecessary deportation measures.

You undoubtedly can list more.  We keep having to cover this and many other racist and fascist Republican measures that are undoubtedly supported by the Alt Right.  Lawmakers are now trying to make it legal to run over protesters in many states and municipalities.  This is from The Miami Herald.  

The shutdown of highways by protestors prompted several arrests, and lawmakers – most of them Republican – in many states introduced legislation with various levels of protection for drivers who hit protestors that were blocking streets. Some first responders have been fired for making jokes about running over Black Lives Matter protestors.

Miami has experienced roadway-blocking protests of its own: both the election of President Donald Trump and his inauguration prompted significant traffic snarls.

Florida Sen. George Gainer introduced a bill that would ensure drivers who “unintentionally” hit protestors who are obstructing traffic would not be held liable. It failed in committee.

Gainer told WUFT that he was motivated to file the bill due to protests in Miami and Tampa and anti-Trump protests across the country.

“They should have every right in the world to protest the things they disagree with,” Gainer said. “But they don’t have the right to randomly go out into the interstates and attack the cars, beat on the windshields, jump up on the hoods and act like they’ve been hit. In some cases, they set themselves up to be hit.”

In North Carolina, a similar bill passed the House on a 67-48 vote but died in the Senate. Other states that considered similar legislation include Virginia – where 32-year-old Heyer was killed – Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington, according to the Washington Post. Some states took the route of removing liability from drivers, while some simply increased penalties for blocking roadways.

Flowers and other mementos are left at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

These bills are in response to BLM protests so don’t tell me the Republicans don’t own a huge role in today’s institutional racism. Here’s an old piece from The Atlantic with the right headline by Jeet Heer.  “How the Southern Strategy Made Donald Trump Possible.  In states like South Carolina, the mogul reaps the benefits of the GOP’s longstanding appeal to racism.”

It’s essential to remember that the Southern Strategy did not originate with cynical GOP pols and right-wing extremists, but was—ironically enough—first hammered out in the pages of National Review, the very publication that now excoriates Trump “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.” National Review can disavow Trump as loudly as it wants, but it was the magazine—and the conservative establishment that drew its political ideas and strategies from it—that created the politics that have now morphed into Trumpism.

Republicans own all of this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?