Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Or what’s left of the morning and good in the world.
Drinking my morning coffee and reading the newspaper–now PC screen–is a habit I come by naturally. It’s a ritual my family followed for years. Then, there was the follow-up ritual of turning on the evening news and reading the evening paper after my dad and others depending on who we were staying with in Kansas City that weekend. It could also include a grandfather or an uncle. It was something my mother did too. I loved sitting on my Grandfather’s lap, smelling his cigar, and listening to him read the funnies to me in between pointing out all kinds of happenings. He was a Vice President of the Federal Reserve and ran the War Bond programs for a few states for both Wars. He was a huge news hound.
For many years, it’s been a comforting ritual even though much of what I saw on black and white, then color, news programs and read on newsprint now followed by the bytes of light on my computer has not been all good. There have been scary times like the Cuban Missile Crisis or watching Civil Rights Demonstrators being badly beaten and seeing Southern Sheriffs turn dogs and hoses on children my age. That was horrifying to me. I was profoundly impacted by the war porn of Vietnam with the ghastly body count numbers that came out nightly. There was Watergate, Shock and Awe, assassinations, and planes crashing into the Twin Towers. There were also men walking on the moon. All of these happened over decades. It did not happen over the span of just a few months. We have a 30 second news cycle. It’s full of awful, plentiful stories. You have to search to find the good.
Those of us in our twilight years can attest to being the generation that watched it all unfurl nearly live and then very live. Until the last two months, I thought that I’d seen enough chaos, corruption, cruelty, and stupidity that I was inured to just about anything. I watched the Nixon Watergate hearings and rantings in High School. I saw the McCarthy hearings on film in my 8th grade American History class. I’ve witnessed crazy Republicans, believe me. But, at the time, my nice staid Republican family–of which I was one for many years–felt that the few odds and sods that showed up ever so often were odd men out. They’re not odd men out any more. They’re very much in and it seems like the doors of bedlam were opened so they could all run for office.
Media was also part of school. We watched “Biography” frequently or any number of documentaries on the school’s collection of TVs, VCRS, films and projectors, and the early broadcasts of PBS. We had at least one day a week where we had to bring a newspaper article to discuss. Growing up in educated, upper middle class WASP America meant being educated and informed in my household. It meant voting and volunteering. It meant making sure that we did things that represented the basic value of “to whom much is given, much is asked”.
I may have learned the lessons of Jesus with a Presbyterian minister who drove an orange convertible fiat, spent a hell of a lot of time on the golf course at the local, very expensive and exclusive country club, and had the most jaunty outfits you could imagine to include leather driving gloves and tweed caps, but I was sent on summers to do all kinds of work in Rural New Mexico. I was taught the Beatitudes were the basis of my beliefs even though the Sunday sermons were usually illustrated by the pronouncement to think about these things when you’re in the locker room or the bridge room of the Country Club. Of course, that was the country club with no Jewish members, a rare number of Catholics, and black Americans only as employees.
I breathed rarefied air most of my life. But, I was not raised to be ignorant, cruel, or uniformed. Now, I have found myself in a country where ignorance, cruelty, and propaganda rule the day and it has just about turned me into something I barely recognize. I’m drained. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to be around people I don’t know extremely well.
There are a lot of headlines today. I can barely deal with one of them. After spending the entire year dehumanizing the Syrian people and showing abject loathing of suffering Syrian families that include “beautiful babies”, the U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack.
The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.
At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in Homs.
All but one of the missiles hit their intended target, one U.S. military official told NBC News. The other missile failed.
The strike completed a policy reversal for President Donald Trump — who once warned America to stay out of the conflict — and drew angry responses from Damascus and its main ally, Russia.
Yes. Kremlin Caligulia–most likely compensating for his tiny little fingers–pulled the US’s stockpile of phallic symbols out and blew up the maintenance crews and buildings of a Syrian Military Airbase. There’s evidence that the Russians were alerted and the Syrians knew beforehand.
Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria‘s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness.
Dozens of Tomahawk missiles struck the air base near Homs, damaging runways, towers and traffic control buildings, a local resident and human rights activist living near the air base told ABC News via an interpreter.
U.S. officials believe the plane that dropped chemical weapons on civilians in Idlib Province on Tuesday, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed 86 people, took off from the Shayrat airbase.
The attack lasted approximately 35 minutes and its impact was felt across the city, shaking houses and sending those inside them fleeing from their windows. Both of the air base’s major runways were struck by missiles, and some of its 40 fortified bunkers were also damaged.
Local residents say the Russian military had used the air base in early 2016 but have since withdrawn their officers, so the base is now mainly operated by Syrian and Iranian military officers. There is also a hotel nearby where Iranian officers have been staying, though it was not clear whether it was damaged.
The eyewitness believes human casualties, at least within the civilian population, were minimal, as there was no traffic heading toward the local hospital.
So, it was mostly an empty gesture. It was more likely another display of the decimation of Obama policy. It was more Branding of Kremlin Caligula as tough asshole. You will notice that no Syrian children are on their way to our hospitals and the safety of our communities after that costly gesture. There were a few crocodiles tears last night at Orange-Lago central where the Presidential announcement sounded like it came from a NAZI bunker at the end of the that long war.
The events of the past week, culminating in the decision by President Obama’s successor to launch a punitive strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against civilians, prove a number of points, some that reflect well on Obama, and some that do not. The first is that the 2013 Obama-Putin deal to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons was a failure. It was not a complete failure, in that stockpiles were indeed removed, but Assad kept enough of these weapons to allow him to continue murdering civilians with sarin gas. The argument that Obama achieved comprehensive WMD disarmament without going to war is no longer, as they say in Washington, operative.
The events of the past week also prove that a core principle of the Obama Doctrine is dead. President Trump’s governing foreign policy doctrine is not easily discernible, of course. His recent statements about Syria—kaleidoscopic in their diversity—combined with his decision to order an attack, have half-convinced me that he is something wholly unique in the history of the presidency: an isolationist interventionist.
The Constitutionality of the action is in question since it’s an attack on the military of a foreign nation which is basically an act of war.
The first part asks whether the President has presumptive authority to use force unilaterally. For OLC, this authority turns on whether the “national interest” vindicated by the use of force sufficiently important? That sounds vague and easy to satisfy, but as we’ll see in a moment, OLC has (at least until the Syria strike) pointed to some objective limits. If the president perceives that “national interest” would be vindicated by a use of force, OLC says that he can presumptively use force abroad under his powers as “Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, for foreign and military affairs, as well as national security.”
However, OLC acknowledged “one possible constitutionally-based limit on this presidential authority to employ military force in defense of important national interests—a planned military engagement that constitutes a ‘war’ within the meaning of the Declaration of War Clause may require prior congressional authorization.” This second part of the test turns on the “anticipated nature, scope, and duration of the planned military operations.” The idea is that relatively short-term and small-scale operations abroad are not “war” and thus do not implicate the Declare War clause, but larger-scale, longer-term operations might be “war” and thus might implicate the clause.
Applying this test to Syria, consider the “scale of operations” prong first. The U.S. military last night fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria. We don’t know whether or when it might strike again, and for now, at least, there appears to be no prospect of directing U.S. boots on the ground toward Syrian forces. From the perspective of Executive branch precedent, air campaigns—especially short-term ones, and especially ones (like those involving cruise missiles or drones) that present practically no chance of American casualties—easily satisfy the “anticipated nature, scope and duration” test for not impinging on congressional prerogatives. (As Matt Waxman and I explained, the Obama administration’s clarification of the president’s unilateral power to engaged in “limited” war from a distance was one of its central legal legacy’s related to war powers.) As long as the military intervention in Syria is short term and limited and does not involve ground troops against Assad forces, it breaks no new legal ground.
The same cannot be said of the other prong of the test, which asks whether the President has authority to strike in the first place. What is the important national interest in intervening in Syria? No U.S. persons or property are at stake. That fact alone distinguishes most executive branch precedents. In the Libya opinion, OLC argued that “at least two national interests that the President reasonably determined were at stake here—preserving regional stability and supporting the UNSC’s credibility and effectiveness.” The second interest—the “credibility and effectiveness” of a Security Council Resolution—is a controversial basis for justifying presidential unilateralism because it seems to substitute international institutional approval for congressional approval. This line of reasoning began with Truman’s unilateral initiation of the Korean war in response to North Korea’s international aggression. In that instance, in 1950, the State Department argued (among other things) that the President as Commander in Chief could deploy U.S. armed forces, consistent with the Constitution, for the purpose of upholding the “paramount United States interest” in the “continued existence of the United Nations as an effective international organization.” Moreover, the Kosovo precedent arguably extends this reasoning from the Security Council to NATO, which supported (and indeed conducted) the Kosovo strikes.
The administration continues to be unpredictable, contrarian of its own spoken or twittered words, and chaotic. How can a great country be ruled under these circumstances?
Just as chaos and treason ruled the Trump campaign, the Trump Administration is already jettisoning its bad personnel choices. Most of the real work is not being done by any one because no one has appointed those ‘any ones’ yet. But, we already have more firings of people on the horizon with in the West Wing if you believe sources at Axios.
President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House that could include the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, aides and advisers tell us.
A top aide to Trump said he’s contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: “Things are happening, but it’s very unclear the president’s willing to pull that trigger.”
Just like no one bombed the Governor of Michigan for poisoning the children of Flint, no one will care as this President poisons the children of the Gulf for no particular reason than the greed of Tillerson and the like. No one will likely mention that job growth is slowing. Businesses hate uncertainty and any thing in the planning stage that can be halted likely will.
Meanwhile, Trump Princeling Jared has the highest security clearance while commiting acts of omission that would tank any one else’s credentials and clearance.
Trump isn’t keen on the first amendment as he’s gone after anonymous tweet accounts that find him disgusting. Trump is well known for trolling then President Obama with some of the worst lies and slurs one can imagine. He can dish it out but cannot take it. Plus, he doesn’t realize he’s now subject to free speech rules.
Twitter Inc on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit to block an order by the U.S. government demanding that it reveal who is behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump’s tough immigration policies.
Twitter cited freedom of speech as a basis for not turning over records about the account, @ALT_uscis. The account is claimed to be the work of at least one federal immigration employee, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court.
The acronym U.S. CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account describes itself as “immigration resistance.” Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and has promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants.
Following Trump’s inauguration in January, anonymous Twitter feeds that borrowed the names and logos of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies appeared to challenge the president’s views on climate change and other issues. They called themselves “alt” accounts.
Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio declined to comment on whether the government had demanded information about other accounts critical of Trump.
Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favor of user privacy.
I ran across an interesting article at Fusion that I’d like to share. It suggests that the current mess we’re in is due to an industry that makes a pot lying to white men.
If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.
It’s the basic explanation that old school Republicans thought they could radicalize their base and not expect the base to eventually turn on them.
But the complete and inarguable disaster of the Bush administration—a failure of the conservative movement itself, one undeniable even to many consumers of the parallel conservative media—and his abrupt replacement by a black man, caused a national nervous breakdown among the people who’d been told, for many years, that conservatism could not fail, and that all Real Americans agreed with them.
Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.
That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.
Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.
My father spent many of his last years swallowing what Fox dished out and it took a lot of time on my part to disabuse of him of the notion that any one on FOX was worthy of shining the shoes of David Brinkly or Chet Huntley.
Please listen to the last words of Chet Huntley on his last night of broadcast in 1970 then let me close with Brian Williams. Ask yourselves when American news and news watchers went down the prime rose path straight into the rabbit hole. This headline suggests more than FOX has gone down the Rabbit Hole: “Brian Williams is ‘guided by the beauty of our weapons’ in Syria strikes”. WAPO writer Derek Hawkins is none too kind to Williams.
As dozens of cruise missiles laid waste to a Syrian military airfield late Thursday, MSNBC’s Brian Williams took a moment to wax poetic.
All evening, MSNBC and other news networks had been playing a reel of footage of the assault, which President Trump authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed more than 70 civilians this week.
The footage, provided by the Pentagon, showed several Tomahawk missiles launching from U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, illuminating the decks of the ships and leaving long trails of smoke in the night sky.
It was a sight that seemed to dazzle Williams, who described the images as “beautiful” in a segment on his show, “The 11th Hour.”
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams said. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
“They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,” he added, then asked his guest, “What did they hit?”
The remarks drew backlash on Twitter, where some users seemed disturbed by Williams’s flowery language.
At some point, I feel like I’ve crossed into the zone of the crazy cat lady who screams at the teenagers in the yard every time I close the screen on the latest news. I rarely venture on to the boob tube news zone at all unless it’s really something breaking. This week I sallied forth and am retreating.
I haven’t even gotten around to elucidating all the bad things about McConnell going nuclear and that Gorsuch–a huge mistake for all of us–has just been confirmed for the benefit of the worst of the religious nuts in our country. I’m at nearly 3500 words and all I can say is
“Good night, David” – “Good night, Chet… and good night” TO(sic) NBC News!
I woke this morning at 5 am to the sound of a tornado warning going off on my smartphone. This is not exactly the most welcome sound at any early hour but particularly cruel on a Monday. Some how, it seems that our endless experience with tornadoes and the torrential rain, wind and hail are metaphorical harbingers of the state of our country. The weather is getting more extreme and severe and yet we’re in the process of going back to denial and letting it happen. I wonder if Alexandria and the other small communities of Louisiana will be able to get a Federal State of Emergency signed in time. I’m not hopeful. Eastern New Orleans is still waiting for a lot of help after the destruction of the February 7 Tornado Outbreak.
This so didn’t have to happen.
I don’t know how much longer I can endure hearing or seeing either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump on TV or any place else. How did two throwbacks to the past become installed as “leaders” when they basically look to turn our national dreams into the national nightmares of the past? Headlines regale us of the antics of old, snotty white men like Bernie, Donald, and Mitch McConnell who are desperately trying to put women, minorities, immigrants, and the GLBT community back in their historical places. Alarms should be sounding constantly. Hell is being rained on our civil rights, liberties, and democracy. Just “Gimme Some Truth”.
There are some incredible and powerful reads for you today. Here’s the one on my list from the LA Times. They’re running a four part series on the incredible lying Kremlin Caligula. Here’s the link to the Sunday Op Ed that kicks it off: “Our Dishonest President”. Don the Con may soon replace Tricky Dicky in the National Hall of Shameful Presidential Crooks.
It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”
Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.
Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.
In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.
His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.
These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.
What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.
Go savor every word of it.
Yes. The Trumptanic is going down. What will it take with it? This is from the keyboard of Jonathan Allen writing for Roll Call.
Dear Republican member of the House:
Run away from Donald Trump. Run hard. Run fast. And don’t look over your shoulder.
This president doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t share your values, and a dumpster fire would be envious of his reckless disregard for everything and everyone around him.
Senate Republicans have figured this out, and their distancing act is well underway. Sure, they say supportive things, but look at their actions.
When Trump’s first bill was headed toward the House floor, several Senate Republicans openly pressed their colleagues not to pass it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t crack down on them a bit. And, when the clunky-at-best legislation was pulled from the floor, he pronounced it dead even as the White House and House GOP leaders were explaining how they might revive it
The chances that we will see impeachment are going up as quickly as Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting. This is from Juan Williams writing for The Hill.
Last week, a new poll from the liberal outfit Public Policy Polling (PPP) asked Americans if President Trump should resign if evidence emerges that his campaign worked with Russia to help defeat Hillary Clinton. A majority, 53 percent, said he should resign.
That is important because PPP also found that 44 percent of Americans already believe that Trump’s campaign did just that.
It is no fantasy to say the drip-drip-drip of the Trump-Russia investigations is draining this presidency of political capital. The president’s historically high disapproval rating — 51 percent in the latest McClatchy poll — tells the same story.
That’s why astute Republicans are starting to look out for themselves.
The first Republican to begin to run for cover was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who decided to recuse himself from any role in the investigation. Last week Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, sought immunity in exchange for his testimony to congressional investigators.
A majority of Americans want a special prosecutor — including 39 percent of Republicans, according to one poll. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for Congress to form a bipartisan select committee to probe ties between Russia and the Trump camp.
I loved this headline from Raw Story: Trump allies in short supply as DC finds out trusting him is ‘like putting your faith in a human IED’. It talks about Trump’s new war on the Freedom Caucus.
At heart, the Freedom Caucus agrees with the basic principle of Trumpism: that Washington doesn’t work, that its members are denizens of a corrupt and dysfunctional swamp, and that only a revolution in its operations can save the republic. The dilemma for Trump is that conservatives largely built their base of support on fierce opposition to the establishment agenda, and an ability to gum it up to the point nothing gets done. Its hardline members think it’s better to maintain gridlock rather than allow bad government to continue.
Trump may agree with that, but as president he also needs to get things done. He made promises after all: to repeal Obamacare, to reshape the tax system, to build a wall … lots of things. If he can’t follow through, what’s the point of being president
Unfortunately, Trump’s inexperience and basic lack of understanding of government – and reluctance to learn – evidently included ignorance of the fact the president lacks the power of a chief executive, and is dependent on Congress to approve major initiatives. He can’t just wave his hand and order compliance. He needs the votes. But Democrats won’t vote with him out of principle, and moderate Republicans still recall how gleefully he savaged them during his election bid. He pretty much dedicated himself to chasing their sorry asses out of Washington.
Doncha love it when you can watch Evil fight Evil?
This all will undoubtedly happen but only after the Republicans pull their prize from the National Crack Jack box. That would be the radical and unfit Gorsuch being placed to do decades of damage on the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell wants white male supremacy so badly that he’s going to go nuclear.
Senators in both parties are speculating that a blowup over President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court could lead not only to the end of the filibuster for such nominations, but for controversial legislation as well.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislative filibuster is safe, lawmakers fear that pressure will grow to get rid of it if Democrats block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination this week.
McConnell has all but promised to change the Senate’s rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed in a majority vote if Democrats filibuster him.
The showdown will take place later this week after a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Monday.
Senators in both parties are worried about how the fight over Gorsuch will affect the filibuster.
“The thing I worry most about is that we become like the House of Representatives. What’s the next step? Legislation?” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“I’m convinced it’s a slippery slope.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned last week on the Senate floor that growing pressure from the right and the left will make it difficult to withstand calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster.
“If we continue on the path we’re on right now, the very next time there’s a legislative proposal that one side of the aisle feels is so important they cannot let their base down, the pressure builds, then we’re going to vote the nuclear option on the legislative piece,” he said.
“That’s what will happen. Somebody will do it.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of only three Democrats who have explicitly said they’d oppose a filibuster of Gorsuch, warns the Senate is in danger of becoming a smaller version of the House, where the minority party has few rights.
“People who have been here for a long time know that we’re going down the wrong path here. The most unique political body in the world, the United States Senate, will be no more than a six-year term in the House,” he said.
“I’m doing whatever I can to preserve he 60-vote rule,” he said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who like Manchin says she will vote to allow Gorsuch’s nomination to move forward, said she is also concerned about the legislative filibuster.
“This erosion that seems to be happening, of course I’m worried about it,” she said.
Gorsuch picked up a third Democratic vote on Sunday when Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) said he would back him
It’s being reported (NPR here) that the Dems have to votes to filibuster.
Senate Democrats now have enough votes to block the Supreme Court nomination under current Senate rules, which require 60 votes to proceed on a nomination.
That sets up a showdown later this week that will likely lead to a reinterpretation of Senate rules, so that the nominations of Supreme Court justices can be advanced with 51-vote majorities, rather than the preliminary 60-vote threshold that has long applied to high court nominations.
“If we have to, we will change the rules,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said during Monday’s Judiciary Committee meeting. “It looks like we’re going to have to.”
Yup, right. We’ve learned that this last few years in spades. The Republican motto is “Cheat if you have to”.
So, I’ve saved the best for last. You must read this excerpt of a book by Susan Bordo at The Guardian: ‘The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists’. It’s a long and cathartic read.
Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the “gender wars” firsthand – from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on “women’s libbers”, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier – brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines.
We may have winced – as I did – when Madeleine Albright quoted a coffee-cup version of feminism or Hillary said “deal me in”. But we understood that behind every seeming appeal to “sisterhood” was the history of what was indeed a revolution – and one that was far from over. We knew the role Hillary had played in that revolution, and the price she had paid for it. Many of us, too, had followed Clinton through the course of her public career, had read her autobiography, and knew very well that the accusation that she had come to issues concerning racial and economic justice late and “for political purposes” was among the most extraordinary fabrications of the campaign.
Many younger women, on the other hand – no less feminist, no less committed to gender equality – had formed their ideas about “the Clintons”, as Savannah Barker reminds us, in the shadow of 20 years of relentless personal and political attacks. Few of them – as I know from decades of teaching courses on feminism, gender issues, and the social movements of the 60s – were aware of the “living history” (to borrow Hillary’s phrase) that shaped the woman herself.
These young women weren’t around when the GOP, appalled that liberals like the Clintons had somehow grabbed political power, began a series of witchhunts that have never ended. (Hillary was correct: it has been a “vast rightwing conspiracy”, from the Spectator magazine’s “Arkansas Project”, designed specifically to take Bill Clinton down, to Kenneth Starr’s relentless digging into Bill’s private life, to the Benghazi and email investigations.)
They hadn’t experienced a decade of culture wars in which feminists’ efforts to bring histories of gender and race struggle into the educational curriculum were reduced to a species of political correctness. They didn’t witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the “super-predator” label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).
It isn’t necessary, of course, to have firsthand knowledge of history in order to have an informed idea of events and issues. When it came to Hillary Clinton, however, sorting out fact from politically motivated fiction was a difficult task, particularly if one’s knowledge was filtered through the medium of election-year battles.
The 2016 election was no academically rigorous history course; it was dominated by versions of Hillary Clinton constructed by her political opponents and transmitted by reporters who usually don’t see offering context as their job and don’t have the time (or, for some, the inclination) to sort fact from fiction. And then, too, after decades of harsh schooling in the ways of politics and the media, Hillary herself was no longer the outspoken feminist who chastised reporters when they questioned her life choices, but a cautious campaigner who measured her words with care.
I knew just what one of my graduate students meant when I asked her how millennial feminists saw Hillary and she said “a white lady”. A white woman herself, she wasn’t referring to the colour of Hillary’s skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different – but I understood the basis for my student’s perception.
So that’s a long excerpt but I had trouble just finding one little nugget to highlight.
Which brings me to Bernie and Berning Down the House. Bernie’s Tad Devine appears to be yet another Paul Manafort with deep ties and economic interests with Russians. Berners and Trumpsters were taken in by Russian Bots and propaganda. Many of them are still dead enders that insist on some kind of “progressive purity”. After I go after these ties in two links, I will return to the Bordo book. (And I am amazed at how I want to say Bardo when I see her name.)
But Manafort was not the only American political consultant in 2016 who had a checkered history of muddying the waters of international politics. In 2009 Manafort was working to help improve the image of pro-Russian Ukranian politician Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to make the presidential nominee seem more accessible, and thus more palatable, to the American Congress. Joining Manafort in that effort was an American consultant named Tad Devine, a man who himself had a dubious history of foreign intervention. Among Devine’s highlights is having worked for exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002 as well as ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Devine then worked for Yanukovych from 2006 up until he was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Like both Lozada and Zelaya, Yanukovych has since been removed from power and he currently resides in exile in Russia and just happens to be wanted for treason in Ukraine.
In addition to having supported corrupt politicians abroad, Devine has also supported unsuccessful presidential candidates here at home. Devine had increasing roles in the campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Kerry, Al Gore, and John Kerry. After having previously worked on actual successful campaigns for Bernie Sanders’ 1996 congressional run as well as his 2006 senatorial run, Devine officially joined Sanders’ presidential campaign as a senior advisor in May of 2015. Over the course of the next fourteen months, Devine not only became one of the mouthpieces of the campaign but was also able to net himself a pretty penny. According to Slate, through both his consulting work as well as his work with Old Time Media, Devine was able to net himself roughly $10 million through his work on the campaign. For a campaign that prided itself as going to fight for the little guy, Devine, an establishment political consultant and friend of Bernie Sanders, seemed perfectly content to pocket millions of dollars.
But Devine’s hefty payday might not have been paid for entirely by gullible Americans giving $27 each. Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active, they were thinking of using lån uten sikkerhet some financial help to be able to raise the business. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.
Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow late on Tuesday, there existed an army of Russian bots who were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and thus, enegize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man.
Indeed, some estimates now say that as much as one-fifth of Twitter traffic was controlled by pro-Trump, anti-Clinton bots and troll accounts during the election. With these #MAGA account attacks, it was relatively easy to block them and move on — emotionally, at least, as the abuse they delivered was easy to deflect because “they” were not “people” with whom I believed I had values in common in the first place.
However, the rest of the abuse came from accounts purporting to be supporters of Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. And these were “people” with whom I believed I shared common values and policy interests. Almost all of the accounts presented as men — mostly young and white — and used sexist and misogynistic tones and words. I was called “mom” and “grandma” as epithets by these “young men.” I was called every vile sexualized name you can imagine. For some reason that I did not understand at the time, they liked to call me a “vagina.” (I now believe non-native English — i.e. Russian — speakers wrote the algorithms controlling these bots and perhaps imagined “vagina” to be the equivalent of the c-word when hurled at a woman.) Not being conversant in the mechanisms of Russian psychological warfare techniques at the time, it never occurred to me that, like the #MAGA bots, these “Bernie Bro” accounts were actually bots too.
And the abuse from these accounts was much harder to dismiss. It wentin further, emotionally speaking. The vitriol of the attacks felt like a painful betrayal. After all, “we” probably shared 99 percent of our political perspective; we just supported different candidates — which is something I said repeatedly in my attempts to appeal to reason with some of the attackers over the course of those long months. Nonetheless, even the mildest criticism of Sanders or comment of support for Clinton would bring out a swarm of these “Bernie Bro” accounts spouting off with abusive language and mockery.
It was not just me who experienced this — nearly every female supporter of Clinton I know who was outspoken on Twitter or Facebook received similar treatment. In addition, men of color who were vocal Clinton supporters were targeted in a similar way. The abuse was also highly targeted toward journalists, especially female journalists reporting on the primary and opinion journalists who were supportive of Clinton.
None of us knew we were being targeted for psychological warfare by a foreign power during these exchanges.
The attacks started in late 2015 and escalated through early 2016. Most of these accounts no longer exist to link to, but others on twitter noticed similar patterns.
I am now called a “pantsuiter” by progressive Dems who still think Bernie’s the future. It’s a the same as being called a gramdma by a damned Russian Troll and they were obviously well-schooled by them. Back to the brilliant Susan Bordo.
And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party – not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of how he ran against her.
Sanders often boasted about the importance of the issues rather than individuals, of not playing dirty politics or running nasty ads in his campaign. And it’s certainly true that he didn’t slime Hillary by bringing Bill’s sexual accusers forward or by recommending that she be put in jail, as Trump did. He also seemed, at the beginning of the primary season, to be refreshingly dismissive about the “email scandal”: “Enough already about the damned emails!” he shouted at the first debate, and I remember thinking “Good man, Bernie! Way to go!” But within months, taking advantage of justified frustration with politics as usual (a frustration more appropriately aimed at GOP stonewalling of Democratic legislation), Sanders was taking Hillary down in a different way: as an establishment tool and creature of Wall Street.
“I think, frankly,” he said in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, “it’s hard to be a real progressive and to take on the establishment in a way that I think [it] has to be taken on, when you come as dependent as she has through her super PAC and in other ways on Wall Street and drug-company money.”
Progressive. It’s a term with a long, twisty history. In the 19th century, it was associated with those who argued for the moral “cleansing” of the nation. A century ago, both racist Southern Democrats and the founders of the NAACP claimed it for their purposes. The Communist party has described itself as progressive. By the time Sanders argued that Clinton was “not a true progressive”, the word was not very useful descriptively – one can be progressive in some ways and not so progressive in others, and no politician that I know of has ever struck every progressive chord. Context matters, too. As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: “If Sanders is the standard by which you’re going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.”
For Sanders supporters, however, progressive wasn’t an ill-defined, historically malleable label, but rather a badge of honor, a magical talisman for those who considered themselves anti-establishment. It may have been “a fallback identifier for pretty much anyone The Nation and its journalistic kin smiled upon” (as Michael Kazin described it), but it was an identifier with a great deal of potency, particularly for a younger generation longing for lives organised around something other than job hunting. When Sanders denied that badge of honour to Clinton he wasn’t distinguishing his agenda from hers (their positions on most issues were, in reality, pretty similar), he was excluding her from the company of the good and pure – and in the process, limiting what counted as progressive causes, too. His list didn’t include the struggle for reproductive rights or affordable child care. Nor, at the beginning of his campaign, was there much emphasis on racial justice.
So which ones on the list did the Trumpsters and Berners fall for and who was duped the worst?
First, there’s provokatsiya (provocation), which is the cornerstone of the Russian espionage worldview. This part of Kremlin spy culture is older than the Bolsheviks, dating to the late Tsarist era, when Russia invented the modern intelligence agency to fight anarchist terrorists.
Provocation is complicated, but at its most basic involves secret acts to confuse and dismay your enemy. The recent antics of Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee—positing conflicting and unsubstantiated allegations of malfeasance by our spy agencies—are a classic provocation designed to divert attention from the White House as its Russia crisis mounts. Regardless of whether anyone in Russia has a hand in this, the Kremlin surely approves.
Provokatsiya gets more complicated and nefarious from there, with the ultimate aim of turning the tables on your enemy and defeating him detail—before he realizes what’s happened. As I’ve explained, this involves a lot of shady stuff such as:
Taking control of your enemies in secret and encouraging them to do things that discredit them and help you. You plant your own agents provocateurs and flip legitimate activists, turning them to your side…While this isn’t a particularly nice technique, it works surprisingly well, particularly if you don’t care about bloody and messy consequences.
Moscow is alarmingly forward-leaning about provocation, and the Kremlin’s traditional devil-may-care attitude about these dirty tricks means it’s a safe bet that when you encounter rabid anti-Putin activists, there’s a solid chance some of them are secretly working for the Russians.
So far, it’s been a slow news day. Deadly tornadoes, bombs in St Petersburg, and threats from North Korea, plus a boatload of hearings and a vote on a nimrod SCOTUS nomination are all up for grabs. (Snark font on)
Let me know what’s on your mind and blogging list today. I’d like to go back to bed but I have to grade homework. I’m tired and seriously behind. I need to go soak in some sun too while it’s out there.