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Thursday, December 08, 2016


Floating in a tin can: Godspeed, John Glenn 

By Dennis Hartley

Jesus…my blog is starting to read like an obituary column today.

Not that it is 100% shocking to hear that a 95 year-old astronaut has gone into his final trajectory…but this is John flippin’ Glenn, one of the true icons of America’s original NASA Mercury space program.

When Walter Cronkite died back in 2009, I wrote:

The passing of Walter Cronkite, just several days shy of this upcoming Monday’s 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, has added a bittersweet poignancy to the occasion that is hard for me to put into words. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories of being plunked in front of the TV are of being transfixed by the reassuring visage of Uncle Walter, with the familiar backdrop of the Cape Canaveral launch pad behind him. Remember when the coverage of NASA spaceflights were an exciting, all-day news event, as opposed to a perfunctory sound bite sandwiched in between wall-to-wall minutiae about the latest celebrity death?

Good times.

Good times, indeed. Progressive times for science, and America. That’s what John Glenn and his cohorts will forever stand for.

---Dennis Hartley

Big Brass Picks

by digby

This is one good reason why you don't want career military brass in charge of domestic intelligence and police functions. Their experience often gives them a perspective that leads to a certain amount of confusion about domestic issues.

Greg Sargent at The Plumline has this about the proposed head of DHS:

Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security, a post that will have great consequence in a Trump administration, given Trump’s vow of a much tougher approach to combating illegal immigration and internal terrorist threats, both areas that DHS oversees.

In that context, there is a quote that Kelly delivered in 2010 that libertarians and civil liberties experts see as troubling, and in need of further clarification. The Post account describes it this way:

Kelly learned firsthand the pain and loss suffered by many military families. His son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, died in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban in 2010. Four days later, the general delivered a passionate and at times angry speech about the military’s sacrifices and its troops’ growing sense of isolation from society.

“Their struggle is your struggle,” he told a crowd of former Marines and business people in St. Louis. “If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight — our country — these people are lying to themselves. … More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”

That quote, which was about members of the military fighting against the terrorist enemy, seems to suggest that one cannot criticize a war without being seen as anti-troops. That said, it could also mean that one cannot criticize the broader act of defending this nation without being anti-troops.

A full transcript of the speech, which was linked to in a Post article in 2011, provides a slightly different rendition of the quote:
“I know it doesn’t apply to those of us here tonight but if anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight — America’s survival — then they are lying to themselves and rationalizing away something in their lives, but, more importantly, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

Civil liberties experts are calling for him to "clarify" what he meant by that in his confirmation hearing. And if he's smart he'll prepare something that papers over the remark. Maybe he was just emotional in the moment. But the fact is that his boss, the president-elect, is a full on enemy of civil liberties who has made it quite clear that he doesn't have a clue about the constitution and if, god forbid, we have a terrorist attack or some other kind of crisis, he will give the go-ahead for just about anything. The hope was that he would have people around him who would keep a cooler head. There's no indication that this is a guy who would do that.

Well that worked out

by digby

They tried.

I actually think it's a little unfair to criticize them for naming him Person of the Year. He clearly was, whether we like it or not. And if you read the profile, it's not flattering. And the picture isn't that great either. (As Colbert says, it looks like they sneaked up on him from behind and startled him.) It will be an important document for the historical record. If we survive him.


Trump's strongman comrade in arms

by digby

President-elect Donald Trump had a good day on Wednesday. After having been embarrassingly overlooked as Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2015, which galled him to no end, he finally got the nod this year. Trump was thrilled. He even submitted himself to a rare (these days) interview in which he declared, “It’s a great honor, it means a lot, especially me growing up reading Time magazine.”

Evidently he failed to read the editor’s explanation or he would have noted that it wasn’t quite the honor he thought it was:
For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is Time’s 2016 person of the year.
Time’s profile and interview made it quite clear what that editorial was talking about, even if the president-elect didn’t understand it. He made many fatuous statements along the lines of his “analysis” of world affairs, in which he explained that the European Union is “other people are being forced into countries and some people are unhappy about it” because “a lot of bad things are happening.” He also explained that working people don’t want to see their president carrying his own luggage and “that’s pretty much the way it is” and named New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as an example of good leadership.

There was more in that vein, but what illustrated the editor’s note most vividly was his response to reporter Michael Scherer quoting President Obama urging his fellow citizens to rediscover the “better angels” of human nature. Trump abruptly interrupted him and excused himself for a moment to retrieve a copy of a tabloid newspaper with the front-page headline “’EXTREMELY VIOLENT’ GANG FACTION.” The article was about a surge in local crime in Long Island allegedly committed by immigrants. Trump says, “They come from Central America. They’re tougher than any people you’ve ever met. They’re killing and raping everybody out there. They’re illegal. And they are finished.”

When Scherer observed that this is the kind of rhetoric one hears from Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, a man responsible for the wanton killing of thousands of his own citizens, Trump replied, “Well, hey, look, this is bad stuff. They slice them up, they carve their initials in the girl’s forehead, OK. What are we supposed to do? Be nice about it?”

This should not be terribly surprising since he spent the last year and a half on the campaign trail bellowing about ISIS, saying he loves waterboarding and wants to do “more than that,” and even hinting at times that he would consider “chopping off heads.” Trump has said he believes that the families of terrorist suspects should be tortured or “taken out.” He has delighted in regaling his followers with lurid stories about war crimes, such as the apocryphal tale he loved to tell about Gen. Jack Pershing in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War:

They took 50 [Muslim insurgents], they lined them up. They took a pig and then took a second pig and they cut the pig open and they took the bullets from the rifles. And they dumped the bullets into the pigs and they swashed it around. Then they took the bullets and they shot 49 of the 50 people. The fiftieth person, they said, ‘Take this bullet and bring it back to all of the people causing the problem’ and tell ‘em what happened tonight. And for 42 years they didn’t have a problem with radical Islamic terrorism, folks, OK believe me.

These violent anecdotes are all in the context of war and terrorism, not that it makes them legal or acceptable. But his comments in TIME were about dealing with criminal matters, which makes it even more disturbing in light of the fact that Trump actually spoke with Duterte last week and invited him to the White House. According to the Philippine government he also endorsed Duterte’s extrajudicial campaign against alleged drug dealers and users, saying he’s doing it “the right way.”

We know Trump follows the New York Times since he complains so much about it. One hopes that he saw yesterday’s grisly array of photographs by Daniel Berehulak showing assassinations at the hands of Philippine police and vigilantes, making clear the horror that Duterte has brought to his country. The idea that the American president-elect would find Duterte’s methods anything but morally outrageous is disturbing indeed.

An article by Adrian Chen in the New Yorker about Duterte’s short tenure, called “When A Populist Demagogue Takes Power” will send chills down your spine. The Philippine leader is crude, impulsive, blasphemous and violent, explaining his propensity to offend by saying, “I am testing the élite in this country” (which is funny because he comes from a very prominent political family.) Aside from his domestic crackdown on drug users and drug sellers, Duterte is blowing up relationships with other nations on what seems to be an ad hoc basis. He famously referred to President Obama as “son of whore,” and has made moves to extricate his nation from its long and close relationship with the U.S.

According to people who know him, Duterte is hypersensitive to criticism and will “snap” if he feels someone is talking down to him. Chen describes him as a person who “thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration” and points out that while his manner is part of his populist image, it inevitably leads to misunderstandings. Duterte is also a conspiracy theorist who has always been fascinated by police and military men. He even shot a classmate in the leg when he was in college. Luckily it was only a flesh wound.

Any normal person who knew anything about the world would be repulsed at being compared to such a man, much less compliment him on his “get tough” policy. But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. No, he isn’t quite Rodrigo Duterte but let’s just say they share certain traits. Remember that nearly 30 years ago Trump is the man who took out a full-page ad entitled “Bring Back the Death Penalty” which said, “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!” Clearly, his beliefs haven’t evolved much.

In case you were wondering, Duterte has an 86 percent approval rating. Right now, Trump’s is at 50 percent and rising.

Update: Check out Duterte's Trump impression:


We're back to the culture war already?

by digby

You knew this would happen didn't you? Did you think the Republicans would win an election without the Religious Right claiming that it's their victory? Of course you didn't.

The presidential election was so close that many factors were “but-for” causes of Donald Trump’s victory. One that’s been mostly overlooked is Trump’s surprising success with religious voters. According to exit polls, Trump received 81 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote, and Hillary Clinton only 16 percent. Trump did significantly better than the overtly religious Mitt Romney and the overtly evangelical George W. Bush. He likely over-performed among other theologically conservative voters, such as traditionalist Catholics, as well. Not bad for a thrice-married adulterer of no discernible faith.

To what can we attribute Trump’s success? The most logical answer is that religious traditionalists felt that their religious liberty was under assault from liberals, and they therefore had to hold their noses and vote for Trump. AsSean Trende of RealClear Politics noted, since 2012:
Democrats and liberals have: booed the inclusion of God in their platform at the 2012 convention (this is disputed, but it is the perception); endorsed a regulation that would allow transgendered students to use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to their identity; attempted to force small businesses to cover drugs they believe induce abortions; attempted to force nuns to provide contraceptive coverage; forced Brendan Eich to step down as chief executive officer of Mozilla due to his opposition to marriage equality; fined a small Christian bakery over $140,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding; vigorously opposed a law in Indiana that would provide protections against similar regulations – despite having overwhelmingly supported similar laws when they protected Native American religious rights – and then scoured the Indiana countryside trying to find a business that would be affected by the law before settling upon a small pizza place in the middle of nowhere and harassing the owners. In 2015, the United States solicitor general suggested that churches might lose their tax exempt status if they refused to perform same-sex marriages. In 2016, the Democratic nominee endorsed repealing the Hyde Amendment, thereby endorsing federal funding for elective abortions.

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg similarly pointed out, “Over the last few years, as controversies have erupted over the rights of cake bakers and pizza places to refuse to cater gay weddings, the rights of nuns to refuse to provide insurance that covers birth control, the rights of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions, and the rights of Christian schools to teach (and require students and teachers to practice) traditional Christian morality, some Christians have begun to feel that their communities are under existential threat.”

These guys are taking a victory lap too.

And you just wait and see. The Democrats will soon decide they need to "soften" their stances on the culture war issues so they can win with Real Americans. Sure, it's about the economy, but solidarity on that front is very hard to convey. This culture war issues are much more accessible signifiers.

PC goes both ways

by digby

This is a good piece in today's Washington Post pointing out that the right has political correctness too. In fact, they are far more rigid than the left:

Blaming the liberal or mainstream media and “media bias” is the patriotically correct version of blaming the corporations or capitalism. The patriotically correct notion that they “would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 people on the faculty of Harvard University” because the former have “common sense” and the “intellectual elites” don’t know anything, despite all the evidence to the contrary, can be sustained only in a total bubble. Poor white Americans are the victims of economic dislocation and globalization beyond their control, while poor blacks and Hispanics are poor because of their failed cultures. The patriotically correct are triggered when they hear strangers speaking in a language other than English. Does that remind you of the PC duty to publicly shame those who use unacceptable language to describe race, gender or whatever other identity is the victim du jour? 
The patriotically correct rightly ridicule PC “safe spaces” but promptly retreat to Breitbart or talk radio, where they can have mutually reinforcing homogeneous temper tantrums while complaining about the lack of intellectual diversity on the left. There is no such thing as too much national security, but it’s liberals who want to coddle Americans with a “nanny state.” Those who disagree with the patriotically correct are animated by anti-Americanism, are post-American, or deserve any other of a long list of clunky and vague labels that signal virtue to other members of the patriotic in-group. 
Every group has implicit rules against certain opinions, actions and language as well as enforcement mechanisms — and the patriotically correct are no exception. But they are different because they are near-uniformly unaware of how they are hewing to a code of speech and conduct similar to the PC lefties they claim to oppose. The modern form of political correctness on college campuses and the media is social tyranny with manners, while patriotic correctness is tyranny without the manners, and its adherents do not hesitate to use the law to advance their goals. If we have a term to describe this new phenomenon — I nominate patriotic correctness.

I've actually been using that term since at least 2005, but whatever. I would also add "religious correctness" too. Lots of stuff you aren't allowed to say on that one.

But the larger point he makes is correct. Everyone has certain ideas about what is and isn't acceptable and it's a constantly evolving set of rules. The right, however, believes they are alone in being taken to task for saying certain things.  Ask Colin Kaepernick about this. He probably has some ideas.


If you don't show up to play, you forfeit

by Tom Sullivan

Progressive politics is not a zero-sum game where if your issue gets attention, mine gets kicked to the curb. In the face of an extremist state legislature, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, built the Forward Together movement on inclusion and cooperation that got progressive groups out of their silos to work together. Against efforts to divide them, that model held together a diverse coalition of activists that succeeded in turning out Gov. Pat McCrory in a sweep year for Republicans. Yesterday at The Nation Barber proposed that this tested model could work under a Trump administration:

In the spring of 2013, when the voter-suppression bill was still making its way through the legislature, Moral Mondays emerged as the direct action of concerned citizens against the unconstitutional takeover of our state. Over a thousand North Carolinians were arrested in the largest state government–focused civil-disobedience campaign in US history (arrests that would later be thrown out by a state superior court judge). We took our stand in public, and we exposed the vulnerability of divide-and-conquer tactics to cross-racial, cross-class fusion coalition building.

We fought back hard, organized all over the state, hosted more than 200 Moral Monday events, went to court to prove race-based voter suppression, and defeated one of the worst voter-suppression bills in the country since Jim Crow. We proved that we do not have to concede the battle in the South.
And so "workers stood with preachers and LGBTQ activists stood with the business community" in opposing McCrory, the legislature, and HB2. Barber concludes, "This moral, fusion organizing convinced a majority of North Carolinians to make McCrory the first governor in our state’s history to lose a reelection bid." Perhaps what's in order for progressives now is a little less focus on what went wrong in 2016 and more on the bright spots (Dan Heath) where things went right.

Barber's model has applicability to more than just the South. And we need it to. Because to borrow from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, it's not the economy, it's the math. As I argued earlier:
... if Democrats expect to be a national party, they are going to need to make inroads again in the red states, whatever urbanites feel about fellow citizens in the vast stretches of red on the map that supported Trump. Those states cannot be wished away or written off. This is not sympathy for the devil, real or imagined. It's math.
To be sure, a lot of friends on the left are still processing November's painful losses. But in a lot of places we are more comfortable ignoring there are congressional seats and state House and Senate seats, and they matter. Martin Longman writes at Political Animal, the problem going forward is not that Democrats don't have widespread support, it's how that support is spread:
The challenge is not just to sustain and hopefully grow their plurality base of voters, but to change the demographic nature of their supporters. This is why you’ll hear people like me say that the Democrats absolutely cannot ignore that they lost 75%-80% of the white vote in county after county in Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest. This is the kind of racial voting we’ve seen in the South for years, and if it becomes the norm in the North it will make it impossible for the Democrats to win control of state legislatures in that region, make it nearly impossible to win back the U.S. House of Representatives, and give the Republicans a narrow opening to win the Electoral College with a minority of the popular vote, again.

A lot of people do not like the sound of that. But I don’t care how it sounds. It isn’t a value statement or an assessment of worth. It’s just a diagnosis of a problem. How you solve it, if it can be solved, is what ought to be controversial. The fact that it needs to be solved should not.
Longman argues, as I do, that building progressive strength in heartland states is "not about selling anyone out." (Rev. Barber's Forward Together model does not.) There are a lot of people in red states who do not share progressive values, but abandoning wholesale those who do is not the way to win back the House, the Senate, and state legislatures.* As DNC chair, Howard Dean got that. When Obama and the national Democratic leadership abandoned the 50-state plan, they abandoned their own voters with it. And here we are.

Some years back, I worked a winning congressional race in one of our majority-Democrat districts that consistently votes Republican in federal races. (Yes, lots of conservadems.) We won, in part, by shaving the margins in Republican strongholds. Years later, I am still high-fiving our organizer in the most Republican large county in the district. She lost there, but by only 3,000 votes. That. Was. Huge. And not in a Donald Trump way.

We've got to do that again, and in many more places. Because if we don't show up to play, we forfeit.

* In North Carolina, for example, 2,128,255 people (45%) voted for former ACLU attorney, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross who was supported by Democracy for America and EMILY's List.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

QOTD: Nancy Gibbs

by digby

Look at that hair ...

... the editor of TIME Magazine in her note about why they picked Donald Trump for "Person of the Year:"
“For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is Time’s 2016 person of the year.”
I think Trump may have only looked at the pictures because he said this this morning:
“It’s a great honor, it means a lot, especially me growing up reading Time magazine.” 

I really wish they;'d have picked "The Trump Voter" because it would have made him soooo mad but he couldn't have said anything about it like he did last year:

Ratings gold

by digby

Yes, he's probably going to do something like this and yes, it will be a huge ratings grabber:
At a breakfast fund-raiser at Manhattan’s Cipriani 42nd Street, Mr. Trump on Wednesday gave a tantalizing hint at the inaugural festivities to come for a reality TV star-turned-president: The helicopter grand entrance. 
The president-elect said he was paid a visit a day earlier by Mark Burnett, the executive producer of “The Apprentice,” the reality show that helped make the president-elect a household name. Mr. Trump told the crowd that Mr. Burnett proposed reinventing the inauguration with a helicopter taking off from New York City, according to an attendee. 
Mr. Burnett, who is known for producing shows like “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “Shark Tank” as well, also told Mr. Trump that he should consider a parade up Fifth Avenue.
If it's as flat as his RNC pageant, I'm not sure it's worth the 65 millions they plan to spend on the silly thing but that's chump change for the billionaires who are funding it so they probably think it's worth it to curry favor with Dear Leader.


Just another day in Crazyland

by digby

Honestly, I cannot think of anything more cruel than pushing this despicable conspiracy theory that the Sandyhook parents who lost tiny 6 year old children in that massacre are part of a hoax perpetrated to confiscate guns. It's just plain evil.

And look where it's led:
A Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting is a hoax was arrested Monday on charges she threatened the parent of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa, Fla., was indicted on four counts of transmitting threats, according to a statement from the United States Attorney Southern District of Florida.

The Sandy Hook shooting is approaching its fourth anniversary. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six school staffers were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. By Adam Lanza, 20. Lanza later fatally shot himself.

According to authorities, Richards made a series of death threats against the parent of a child who was killed in the shooting. The parent now lives in South Florida was identified in a statement as Len Pozner.

Richards is accused of telling the parent “you gonna die, death is coming to you real soon," according to federal court documents. The statements were made in January. She also wrote, "Look behind you it's death," according to the documents.

While it may seem unfathomable to some that Richards believed the shooting was a hoax, she is far from alone. A small movement of “Sandy Hook Truthers” promote conspiracy theories that allege the shooting was staged.

Pozner addressed Richards' arrest in a statement.

"We are comforted to know that the system is working to protect the victims of violent crime from re-victimization by potentially violent Hoaxers," Pozner said.

If convicted of all four counts, Richards could face up to 20 years in prison. She is scheduled to appear in a Fort Lauderdale court on Dec. 19.

This is a result of our twisted, pathological gun culture. And it's only going to get worse now.

Infamy Redux

by digby

For some reason this anniversary of Peal Harbor feels just a little bit more relevant than usual this year. I can't imagine why.

This piece by the Columbia Journalism Review talks about the press and its performance after the attack:

NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING at first. The attack happened far out in the Pacific, on a small remote island. And the long shadow of time has erased much collective memory about the first few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today on December 7, 1941.

For the American media, that’s a good thing.

With very limited access to verifiable information, newspaper and radio reporters acted irresponsibly.  Wild speculation flooded the public sphere when radio transmissions from Hawaii were severely constricted and Washington authorities deemed the full scope and extent of the attack a state secret. The opportunity for accurate, verified and responsible journalism evaporated.

A look back at the reporting on Pearl Harbor shows how little has changed in the way media covers—or doesn’t cover—major events, from a tendency for errors in the early days of a crisis to its use of analysts and outside experts to fill the void created by the lack of actual reporting. This void of information catalyzes speculation and conjecture, and it’s here that journalism starts to crumble. Close examination of any epochal breaking news story - Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 - reveals the same pattern.

But American broadcasting was just two decades old when the Pearl Harbor attack happened, making it the first instance of a shocking national news report to be transmitted directly, in real time, to a mass audience. America’s radio networks faced an anxious public dialing in throughout that Sunday. With little news to report as the hours passed, they turned to pundits, who largely did a terrible job.

Across CBS, NBC, and Mutual, the “experts” offered odd theories for how, and why, the attack happened.  Perhaps the nuttiest was the assertion—by several commentators—that the Japanese were incapable of such a ferocious assault. Numerous radio newscasters asserted that only one nation on earth could have pulled off such a brilliant blitzkrieg: Nazi Germany.

“It is possible, my friends, that this is a coup engineered by German influence and with the aid of German vessels in the Pacific,” said NBC News commentator Upton Close—a specialist on the Far East—just 10 minutes after the last wave of bombing ended on Oahu. “And again it is possible that this is a coup engineered by a small portion of the Japanese navy that has gone fanatic,” he continued. A third idea he proffered was that the attack was staged by the anti-war faction in the Japanese government to discredit the pro-war faction by presumably provoking the United States into destroying the Japanese military. “All these things are possible,” he concluded. But none of them, of course, were true.

A few hours later, CBS aired the commentary of Major George Fielding Elliot, a syndicated columnist and military expert, who assured listeners that the Pearl Harbor attack spelled doom for the Japanese Empire.  “Japan is cornered, surrounded by forces which she cannot hope to overcome and to which in the end she must succumb,” he informed the listening public.

As the day wore on, real reporting receded, giving way to more speculation. Right-wing commentator Fulton Lewis Jr. told an audience five hours after the attack that he shared the doubts of many American authorities that the Japanese were truly responsible. He “reported” that US military officials weren’t convinced Japanese pilots had the skills to carry out such an impressive raid. The War Department, he said, is “concerned to find out who the pilots of these planes are—whether they are Japanese pilots. There is some doubt as to that, some skepticism whether they may be pilots of some other nationality, perhaps Germans, perhaps Italians,” he explained. The rumor that Germans bombed Pearl Harbor lingered on the airwaves, with NBC reporting, on December 8, that eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Nazi swastikas painted on some of the bombers.

Twenty years later, scholar Ernest D. Rose carefully evaluated the first radio reports about Pearl Harbor. His assessment was brutal. “One can not escape the conclusion that in the overall pattern of radio news communication that day something was drastically wrong,” he concluded. “The bulk of radio news time was consumed by commentators and analysts trying to explain the meaning of situations without access to reliable first-hand information,” he explained.  All the inaccurate speculation failed to reassure or properly inform the public during a time of national distress. The commentary, Rose said, seemed more intended to prop up the credibility of the pundits than offer reliable information or helpful context.

The inaccurate news analysis would have a lasting impact. The rumor that the Germans collaborated on—or even masterminded—the attack on Pearl Harbor carried into early 1942. It was bolstered by conspiratorial talk in the aftermath of Hitler’s unprovoked declaration of war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The following year, best-selling books by reporters who knew Nazi Germany well (such as Harry Flannery’s Assignment to Berlin, and Pierre Huss’s The Foe We Face) emphasized the complicity of Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler’s friend and the German Consul General in San Francisco, until his expulsion in 1941, in the attack. Wiedemann, a shadowy figure, had been Corporal Hitler’s superior in World War I, and they remained lifelong trusted confidants. When he left San Francisco, Wiedemann traveled to Japan and then China in the weeks before Pearl Harbor, stoking suspicion. Even after the war ended, when the Joint Congressional Committee investigating the attack on Pearl Harbor held its hearings, suspicion about Wiedemann’s role reemerged.

The American media did not distinguish itself in the immediate aftermath of December 7, 1941. But time has let it off the hook. All the commentators mentioned above went on to increased visibility and impressive careers during the war. Americans then—and now—tend to be very forgiving of terrible punditry, inaccurate reporting, and ridiculous commentary.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be.

Yes, perhaps we shouldn't be.



False equivalency FTW

by digby

They call this "fair and balanced" but it's actually a lie

Eric Wemple at the Washington Post takes a look at the subject of "false equivalency" in the press coverage of the presidential race. It's worth looking at:
U.S. media organizations are locked into such a negative mind-set that they portrayed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as equally pernicious and scurrilous pretenders to the presidency. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by Thomas E. Patterson in the fourth of his series of studies on media coverage of the presidential campaign for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. 
“False equivalencies abound in today’s reporting,” writes Patterson. “When journalists can’t, or won’t, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there’s something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans.”

The whole thing is fascinating because we watched this unfold in real time, as did the press, but there was nothing we could do about it. I recall writing about the findings of the earlier Shorenstein study's papers on the campaign and I was scolded like a child by journalists who said it was ridiculous data that should be tossed immediately into the dust bin. They did not want to hear it.

I do think this has something to do with a herd mentality in the press when they decide they don't "like" someone. The obvious precedent for this campaign is the most recent one in which an unprepared Republican fool became president largely because the press decided that Al Gore was icky. The same thing happened this time. They went after Clinton with a vengeance, portraying her basically as a sick, corrupt old crone and played into the hands of Mr Entertainment, the class clown who nobody took seriously until it was too late. This was their choice.

In other words, the media picks your president, America. This time they picked Trump, the man who treated them like dogs throughout the campaign. But hey they bagged their white whale finally so it's all good. Hillary Clinton paid for the fact that her husband survived so they can finally put that to rest. It sure was worth it.

This article by Jonathan Allen was very important and very true:
The reporter's job is to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" — a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints.

After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there's no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. And she's in for a lot of affliction over the next year and half.

That's generally a good way for reporters to go about their business. After all, the more power a person wants in our republic, the more voters should know about her or him. But it's also an essential frame for thinking about the long-toxic relationship between the Clintons and the media, why the coverage of Hillary Clinton differs from coverage of other candidates for the presidency, and whether that difference encourages distortions that will ultimately affect the presidential race.

The Clinton rules are driven by reporters' and editors' desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family's political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.

I understand these dynamics well, having co-written a book that demonstrated how Bill and Hillary Clinton used Hillary's time at State to build the family political operation and set up for their fourth presidential campaign. That is to say, I've done a lot of research about the Clintons' relationship with the media, and experienced it firsthand. As an author, I felt that I owed it to myself and the reader to report, investigate, and write with the same mix of curiosity, skepticism, rigor, and compassion that I would use with any other subject. I wanted to sell books, of course. But the easier way to do that — proven over time — is to write as though the Clintons are the purest form of evil. The same holds for daily reporting. Want to drive traffic to a website? Write something nasty about a Clinton, particularly Hillary.

As a reporter, I get sucked into playing by the Clinton rules. This is what I've seen in my colleagues, and in myself.

Read on for how it worked. You will certainly recognize the phenomenon in our recent atrocity of an election.

Way too many people who should know better ignored this obvious truth in 2016. They will never admit it, of course. But they know who they are.

So I just want to extend my thanks to the media for giving us Donald Trump. Good work. You finally bagged Moby Dick. I hope it was worth it.

Will the Freedom Caucus learn to take yes for an answer?

by digby

I wrote about the coming fight over Obamacare for Salon this morning:

What a difference eight years makes. At this point back in 2008, President-elect Barack Obama was systematically putting together his Cabinet, studying policy briefs and pretty much keeping a low profile as he and his team prepared to take over the most important job in the world. Obama did some interviews and made himself otherwise available to the press from time to time, but there were no victory rallies or abrupt reversals of decades of diplomatic protocols.

As the inauguration grew closer, Obama gathered bipartisan luminaries from both parties to break bread with him, get to know him a little bit and understand his overall strategy. He spent an evening laying out what he called a “grand bargain,” which was described by one attendee, The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne:
The “grand bargain” they are talking about is a mix and match of boldness and prudence. It involves expansive government where necessary, balanced by tough management, unpopular cuts — and, yes, eventually some tax increases. Everyone, they say, will have to give up something. Only such a balance, they argue, will win broad support for what Obama wants to do, and thus make his reforms “sustainable,” the other magic word — meaning that even Republicans, when they eventually get back to power, will choose not to reverse them.
The pillars of the grand bargain were health care reform, “entitlement reform,” tax reform and limits on carbon emissions.

The White House immediately set up a fiscal responsibility summit and the president told his staff that he expected the “difficult choices” that had to be made about Social Security and Medicare to be made on his watch. He reportedly said, “We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road.”

As we know, president George W. Bush’s financial crisis had the world economy in a tailspin, so Job No. 1 was to try to keep it from crashing and burning. The first order of business was an economic rescue package and it was an unexpectedly heavy lift and gained only a handful of Republican votes for a much smaller stimulus than was necessary. Nonetheless, it did pass and managed to provide some breathing room.

The White House and the Democrats spent the next year trying to pass health care reform and managed to do it only with party-line votes and parliamentary maneuvering. The Republicans were not going to help and therefore had no stake in making the program sustainable. Nonetheless, the president persisted in this idea that if Democrats could achieve “balance” by giving the Republicans some of what they wanted, such as cutting “entitlement” programs in exchange for letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, he could get a buy in for his grand bargain.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act angered the Republicans so much that it created the grassroots uprising known as the Tea Party, which propelled the GOP into capturing a majority in the House in the 2010 midterm election. Nonetheless, the president did everything he could to make good on his offer, creating bipartisan commissions to create consensus and repeatedly putting Social Security cuts on the menu in budget negotiations.

The Republican leadership under then House speaker John Boehner knew it was the chance of a lifetime to have Democrats do their dirty work for them — cutting Social Security was the GOP establishment’s dream although their constituents’ nightmare — but they could never get the hard-core Tea Partyers to sign on. They simply refused to accept anything apart from total capitulation, which required that the president agree to all their terms, including the repeal of Obamacare, his signature program. So the president wised up and the proposed Social Security cuts were finally abandoned, much to the relief of most Democrats.

But this fight fueled the Tea Party types with growing hostility against their own party and its political leadership. They did not trust Republican leaders in the House and Senate and refused to believe that more obstructionist tactics wouldn’t force the president and a Democratic Senate to do their bidding. That mistrust flowed into the strong anti-Establishment atmosphere that gave us candidate Donald Trump in 2016.

The logic of President Obama’s grand bargain always seemed dubious. Republicans would never feel any commitment to health care reform just because they got something else they wanted. They don’t think that way. In any case, Obama never got his grand bargain and now the Republicans are strutting about declaring that they will finally fulfill their No. 1 desire immediately after Trump takes taking office in January: repeal of the hated Obamacare.

But it appears that the more things change the more they stay the same. According to Salon’s Sophia Tesfaye, the usual infighting among Republicans is heating up already. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s plan to “repeal and delay” Obamacare on a slow timetable, until they can put together a replacement down the road, isn’t going over very well with the Tea Party’s Freedom Caucus. It seems those members want a repeal accomplished immediately and as usual they refuse to compromise.

Ryan and McConnell are trying to delay for purely cynical political reasons. They want to leverage the possibility that people will lose their health care to force Democrats to the table to sign on to whatever flimsy piece of garbage they come up with to replace the current law. If they can delay the worst elements of this change until after the 2018 midterm elections, and force Democrats to run on their replacement plan, they can get this done without too much political damage. They can read the polls showing that the hostility to Obamacare is dissipating now that they have a Republican president. It turns out that most of their voters really just hated Obama, not his health care law.

Nonetheless, the true believers of the Freedom Caucus and some conservative movement groups like the Koch brothers’ FreedomWorks have lurched into gear demanding that the repeal of Obamacare take place immediately — and thereby setting up another showdown that could end up stopping the repeal altogether. 

It would be an amazing twist of fate if, just as they inadvertently saved Social Security, the Tea Party loyalists ended up thwarting Donald Trump and saving Obamacare because they simply cannot take yes for an answer.


Climate change in the Age of Trump: A "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions"

by Gaius Publius

Sometimes I really think people don't know what we're in for...

Notice the massive river deltas (blue dots) and other large low-lying areas (purple), including the North China Plain, the Chinese "breadbasket" (source; click to open at full size in a new tab).

We're about to witness a kind of "perfect storm," perhaps in our lifetime — the confluence of soon-to-be out-of-control climate degradation with the perfect person in the perfect place to make that degradation worse, President Donald Trump.

First, on the effect of Trump on military climate policy, from Scientific American (emphasis mine):
The military and intelligence communities may soon turn a blinder eye toward some climate change-related threats, indicated by President-Elect Donald Trump’s recent choices of climate-change skeptics for  national security jobs, along with his own dismissive comments. But though experts say Trump and his team could roll back some recent initiatives, the momentum of bureaucracy, along with a military need to take the long view, mean climate-related plans are unlikely to be abandoned entirely.

The Department of Defense and the intelligence community have long considered climate change a crucial input into national security planning and policy. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said climate “can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict.” The Pentagon calls this a “threat multiplier.”

Yet Trump has tapped retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor, and Flynn has ridiculed the idea that climate change poses any particular threat to the country. Congressman Mike Pompeo (R–KS) has been named to head the CIA, and he has questioned the scientific consensus on climate change and has voted for more oil drilling and against any regulation of carbon emissions. Joshua Busby, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the intersection of climate change and national security, says the appointments mean “some of the gains made by the Pentagon and other executive agencies to prepare for the security consequences of climate change could be undone.”
Anti-climate policy changes at the Pentagon will almost certainly be replicated in NASA via the defunding of its climate science research:
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.

This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.

Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.
Let's set aside the fact that this and similar moves will make the U.S. a pariah among nations. Set aside the consequences of moving, but not quickly enough, to mitigate (lessen) the climate disaster — a likely outcome under Clinton. Consider instead the consequences of moving as aggressively as possible to increase the problem and magnify the disaster.

That's climate change in the Age of Trump — accelerating over the cliff.

The Coming Climate Refugee Crisis — 200 Million and Counting

It's estimated that in the world today there are more than 36 million refugees from climate and other natural disasters, more than for any other cause, including war. Under any president that number would increase, but certainly under Trump it's set to increase to disastrous proportions. Let's start with what the National Geographic thinks would happen anyway: 
The International Red Cross estimates that there are more environmental refugees than political refugees fleeing from wars and other conflicts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 36 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009, the last year such a report was taken. Scientists predict this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050. Some say it could be as high as 200 million.
Two hundred million refugees isn't just a humanitarian crisis; it's a military one as well. This is what Europe looked like when an unchecked mass migration took place in Roman times.

Every border in Europe was politically and ethnically redrawn. 

What you see above took place in roughly 400 years. Imagine a migration of this scale taking place in one tenth the time — in just 30 years, roughly the time between now and the article's mentioned date of 2050.

What If the Estimates Are Too Conservative?

Now consider that no recent reputable climate estimate has been wrong in a conservative direction — wrong because things are moving more slowly than anticipated. Almost nothing in the climate world is moving more slowly than expected. In fact, a great many climate estimates are very wrong in the other direction — because things are moving a whole lot faster than anyone thought they would.

Then consider the Trump Effect, that what would have happened anyway will certainly be made worse by Trump, both by his acceleration of the cause (CO2 and methane emissions) and by his armed and deadly reaction to its results.

With that in mind, let's look again at that perfect refugee storm we've been talking about.

First, consider the population-size estimate. The National Geographic article mentions up to 200 million refugees. The nation of Bangladesh alone holds 158 million people. Most of its land will be quickly under water or be threatened by water under any significant sea level rise (see map above). Where will they go? India is already planning to keep them out. And that's just one small region. The entire world holds a human population of 7.5 billion and many similar low-lying regions and large deltas.

So, what if the estimates above are too conservative? An world environmental refugee population of 200 million in 35 years seems like a lot, but it's really only 2.5% of world population. Climate threatens far more people than that. If 150 million in just Bangladesh are panicked and trying to escape, they alone would account for most of that total.

What if not just 2.5% of world population, but 10% or 20% of world population fell into environmental refugee status? We're now looking at 700 million to 1.5 billion people, not just fleeing, but starving, fighting and dying as well. In other words, utter world chaos of every type imaginable. It would in fact be far worse than the migrations through Europe pictured above, and not just because of the time compression. People didn't mass-migrate into Europe from the east during Roman times because they were dying at home and bringing epidemia with them. The mass migration pictured above involved people who were, in the main, healthy.

Next, consider the time estimate. Nothing says this crisis has to be linear, with a relatively slow and steady ramp-up to the (totally arbitrarily chosen) year of 2050. Donald Trump will be president (one presumes) through 2020. Collapses often happen very quickly. What if the bottom falls out between now and, say, 2024, perhaps while he's still in office, then picks up speed? A world refugee crisis that blows up in the next 10 years compresses the time scale to an impossible-to-deal-with degree, yet anyone still alive in the next ten years or so might watch it. The Trump Effect.

As I said above, climate change in the Age of Trump could be a perfect storm, a disaster in which no way to make it worse goes unexplored.

The One Road Out

Interestingly, from that horrific possibility comes the route away, the one road home. Imagine what would happen, in this pre-revolutionary country, if Trump doubles down on this, in North Dakota?
'People Are Going to Die': Father of Wounded DAPL Activist Sophia Wilansky Speaks Out

Is devastating policy brutality against water protectors in North Dakota a harbinger of what's to come when Donald Trump takes office?

Sunday's brutal police assault against peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline activists left one water protector, Sophia Wilansky, at risk of losing an arm, and her distraught father spoke out Tuesday and Wednesday against the shocking show of force and demanded government action.

Wayne Wilansky, a 61-year-old lawyer and yoga teacher from New York City, spoke to a reporter in a Facebook live feed about his daughter's devastating injury, allegedly caused by a concussion grenade.

"This is the wound of someone who's a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war," Wayne said. "It's not supposed to be a war. She's peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they're trying to kill her."

Most of the muscle tissue between Sophia's left elbow and wrist as well as two major arteries were completely destroyed, Wayne said, and doctors pulled shrapnel out of the wound.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department has denied using concussion grenades or any equipment that could cause an injury like Sophia's, despite witness accounts and the shrapnel recovered by surgeons from Sophia's arm. [Note: There's video of recovered cannisters.]

The police in Morton County, North Dakota are acting with such brutality, Wayne warned, that eventually "people are going to die."
"Eventually, people are going to die." And then what? The murder of more non-violent protesters as people gather in response? Before the 2008 economic crisis, this would not have occurred. But after that crisis, with nearly everyone in the country in revolt (remember, they elected Trump and nearly elected Sanders), I don't see either side standing down.

This is the rolling civil war I talked about, something the nation's leaders seem determined to push people into. It would be a terrible way to settle the nation's economic disputes, but when it comes to racial murder or climate justice for all succeeding generations, I'm not sure I see the alternative, sad as it is to say that.

Stay tuned.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)



Forward together now

by Tom Sullivan

Photo via HKonJ People's Assembly Coalition..

There is a certain kind of activist for whom if you are not giving your full attention to whatever issue they think is most important at whatever time they they think you ought to — no matter whatever else is on your plate or on your mind — no further evidence is required (or desired) to prove you are not a real progressive, hopelessly corrupt, and probably incompetent. Such people cannot be placated and are a time suck. Avoid them.

I thought about that again yesterday minutes before running across Nancy LeTorneau's post about what it takes to sustain an opposition movement. Part of the problem, I contend, is what I just wrote. Another part is voters pay more attention to anger and opposition than to sustained change. For example, while Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2016, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost. Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen credits the Rev. William Barber's Moral Monday movement for bringing him down. McCrory entered office in January 2013 looking like a moderate. He governed as an extremist:

But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.
But part of the problem with sustaining such a victory is getting it noticed (and remembered). LeTourneau elaborates:
The truth is that American voters tend to resonate with a message of opposition more than they do to a message of sustained change. That is not necessarily a unique insight. We’ve known for a while that anger mobilizes more effectively than anything else. And Mario Cuomo captured something important when he said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” The prose of governing doesn’t tend to sell as well to the public as the anger of opposition.
The country is aware (if only vaguely) of the protests surrounding the Dakota access pipeline. LeTorneau continues:
What has gone almost unnoticed are the promises kept by President Obama to Native Americans over his two terms in office. I chronicled them here when he announced that he would restore Mount Denali’s original name. Even before work was completed on the settlement of over 100 claims by various tribes for $3.3 billion, Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker named Obama “the best president for Indian Country in the history of the United States.” For the most part, that story has not been told.
If we are to sustain progress, we had best spend more time broadcasting our victories before grousing about what's left undone. Trump is not even in office yet and gets credit for the Carrier deal. Whatever its flaws, people will remember it as a success: his. As a friend reminded me, President George W. Bush sent every taxpayer a rebate within months of taking office. Not only that, as I recall, Bush sent mail to the entire country in advance of the actual rebate to tell people a second letter would soon follow with "their money" enclosed. Your "small government" tax dollars at work. At work making sure nobody missed what he had just done. And guess what? I still remember a decade and a half later.

Part of what makes Moral Mondays successful is that it is a nonpartisan, "fusion politics" movement, a populist coalition in which a host of issues move "Forward Together," as the movement's name suggests, and no one's pet issue takes precedence. Don't expect Moral Mondays to go away because Pat McCrory did. Newer and bluer oranger Meanies have been sighted in the vicinity of the nation's capitol. Barber's is a successful template for taking them on.

Barber's next annual HKonJ rally (Historic Thousands on Jones Street, site of the NC legislature in Raleigh) is scheduled tentatively for February 11, 2017. When last I attended, local papers claimed 80,000 were in the streets. And that was just to protest Pat McCrory. Next year's march should be yoooge.

All together now ...

Update (like I said): North Carolina: A Case Study for Resistance in the Trump Era

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The comedians are here to help you

by digby

For those of you who cannot bring yourselves to watch cable news anymore (and I know there are legions, myself included) Seth Myers nightly recap is very useful. Here's last night's:

Also too Sam Bee:

I am finding this to be a good way to catch up without bursting into tears or throwing something at the wall. I'm thankful for the funny people right now. They are sorely needed.
Comey is not an honest broker

by digby

Scott Lemieux ably rebuts an article which suggests that Democrats should want to keep James Comey as head of the FBI because he's been buffeted by both sides which makes him an honest broker. Or something. It's total nonsense.

Lemieux writes:

Ah yes, the core of many such arguments: IF YOU’RE CATCHING FLAK FROM BOTH SIDES, YOU MUST BE OVER THE TARGET! The fatal problems with this defense are that 1)Comey engaged in multiple instances of utterly indefensible behavior that had disastrous consequences and 2)Republicans have absolutely nothing to complain about. Let’s summarize the reasons that Republicans criticized Comey: 
  • He did not indict Hillary Clinton over EMAILS!
  • He issued a letter two days before Election Day indicating that the investigation he had restarted into Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! very predictably did not yield any relevant new information about the trivial pseudoscandal being investigated. 
This Republican criticisms of Comey, in other words, are utterly frivolous. Comey deserves as much credit for not recommending the indictment of Clinton for her EMAILS! as he does for not recommending indicting her for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Her use of a private server was plainly not illegal, and there is no evidence whatsoever that classified materials were intentionally destroyed. There is nothing there and never was. Republican criticisms for releasing the late letter that further underscored how grossly inappropriate his earlier letter was and that may well have further hurt the Clinton campaign by allowing Trump to suggest that she got away with something are similarly absurd. This is the self-reinforcing beauty of the Clinton rules: Republicans can manufacture the fog of scandal ex nihilo, the political damage can be done, and then a Republican who refuses to act on the feverish conspiracy theory gets called a great statesman. It’s a nice racket! 
Meanwhile, let’s look at the Democratic complaints against Comey, some of which Hennessey and Wittes don’t mention:
When announcing his water-is-wet decision not to indict Hillary Clinton because she did nothing that was even remotely illegal, he engaged in highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate editorializing that played a major role in the trivial EMAILS! pseudoscandal completely dominating coverage of Clinton.
He engaged in similarly highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate editorializing about Clinton in testifying before Congress and in report the FBI issued before the debates, inflicting further completely unwarranted political damage and adding an official imprimatur to the chief Republican narrative about Clinton. 
Against the wishes of his superiors and in violation of departmental rules and norms, he issued a highly prejudicial and grossly inappropriate letter indicating that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! was being reopened, based on having found some emails on a computer that did not belong to Hillary Clinton, emails that the FBI did not even have a warrant to search yet. With the current collective margin in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin at less than 100,000 votes it is about as clear as such a counterfactual can be that without this letter the solid winner of the popular vote would also be the president-elect. 
And is if to preemptively confirm that he had not reached a principled (if inappropriate and wrongheaded) determination that the governing rules and norms were wrong but was acting in a self-serving and partisan fashion when he sent the letter that blew up the world, he earlier refused to comment on an investigation that might be damaging to Donald Trump. In summary, where the Republican candidate was concerned, Comey followed the rules against unduly influencing elections. Where the Democratic candidate was involved, his view was “[w]ell, I know the rule is designed to make sure that our investigations don’t influence elections, but I think in this case, we should break that rule, because there’s an election, and we should influence it.” 
As Hennessey and Wittes concede, he horribly mismanaged his rogue New York bureau, and in the kindest construction of his motives compounded the mistake by appeasing them.

The second letter, discussed earlier. It came too close to the election to give us a clear sense of what effect it had, but given that every previous Comey intervention was followed by a drop in Clinton’s numbers and that Trump overachieved on election day, the Clinton campaign’s theory that is also damaged the campaign is plausible. And even it didn’t, it underscored how inappropriate the first letter was — there was never any non-trivial possibility that the Weiner laptop would reveal material information about Clinton, and there was no reason to inform Congress. 
What Democrats are complaining about, in other words, is a pattern of egregious and utterly indefensible misconduct that almost certainly had the effect of putting a unprecedentedly unfit candidate not chosen by the people in the White House. He showed himself to be an incompetent manager who made one catastrophic misjudgment after another, with the cumulative effect of quite literally undermining American democracy himself. The man should be a pariah who bears substantial responsibility for every bad thing Donald Trump does. And yet, astoundingly, Hennessey and Wittes conclude that we must not merely tolerate having this man in charge of the FBI but need him. The fact that he ignored his superiors in the service of personal and/or partisan agendas is being cited as a point in his favor. What can you even say at this point? We need him at the FBI because Bernie Kerik is unavailable?

James Comey interfered in an election and it made a material difference in the outcome! Regardless of whether it was partisan or not (and it almost certainly was --- after all, this man got his start in government as the chief counsel for the Senate Whitewater committee) it was an unprecedented, undemocratic act by someone with tremendous police power and authority.

I realize that it's just one of many shocking outrages we are dealing with in this bizarre and surreal period, but it's an important one. And frankly, I'm a little bit surprised to see so few of our usual avatars of civil liberties behave so passively about it. You can hate Hillary Clinton and be secretly thrilled that she got taken down. But it's really bad that the Director of the FBI, with all its powers, had a hand in it. Really bad.

Update: Here's where the right is on using the FBI for political purposes:

It’s time for the FBI to conduct a detailed investigation into the violence and political thuggery that continue to mar the presidential election’s aftermath. A thorough probe of the protests—to include possible ties to organizations demanding vote recounts—will give the Bureau’s integrity-challenged director, James Comey, a chance to sandblast his sullied badge.

Director Comey must also include “elector intimidation” on his post-election investigation list. Reports that members of the Electoral College are being harassed and threatened by angry, vicious (and likely Democratic Party) malcontents require Comey’s quick and systematic attention.

Michael Banerian, one of Michigan’s 16 electors, told CNN: “Obviously, this election cycle was pretty divisive. Unfortunately it’s bled over into the weeks following the election and I have been inundated with death threats, death wishes, generally angry messages trying to get me to change my vote to Hillary Clinton or another person, and unfortunately, it’s gotten a little out of control.”

A little out of control? What an understatement. Let me put it to  you straight and personal, Jim. Identifying electors and then attempting to intimidate them into switching their votes is an ipso facto effort to overturn a national election.  Which leads to a question a competent FBI Director would already have his agents asking: Is this elector threat scheme a coordinated operation?

Why, electors live in different states. A mind with a talent for the obvious would see a federal interest. Federal as in Federal Bureau of Investigation. That’s the outfit you head, Mr. Comey—at least until the Obama Administration expires.

Which takes us back to the violent protests and political thuggery. Let me introduce you to two vicious Democratic Party operatives FBI agents should have quizzed and collared two months ago: Robert Creamer and The Hideous Scott Foval. These two creeps starred in Project Veritas’ video investigation of violent incitement during the political campaign.

Note this column called Creamer a political terrorist. The charge is legitimate. “Bottles and baseball bats are not Al Qaeda’s high explosives—but they incite fear and when they crack heads they cause casualties. People bleed. Street thuggery as an arm of politics is violent, criminalized politics on an ugly downward slope to much worse, the worse including lynchings and pogroms. If you don’t think street thuggery is terror then consider Kristalnacht.”

* * *

No, it’s not Kristalnacht in America, but since the election Americans have seen a lot of broken glass, witnessed beatings and suffered hours-long traffic and business disruptions within their cities. The hard left’s violent reaction to Donald Trump’s election is vile and dangerous. Peaceful protests? No, the demonstrators vandalize and destroy. They have two goals: intimidating people and sustaining the mainstream media lie that Donald Trump is dangerous.

Jill Stein. Woman’s a bit glamorous, don’t you think?

Red Guards of Austin (Texas) didn’t get a lot of national news attention, in part because mainstream media outlets have coddled and excused the demonstrators the same way they coddle and excuse violence by Black Lives Matter. Did an FBI Texas office pass you a report on the Communist street action in Austin, Director Comey?

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it arrested 6 members of a local communist group, Red Guards Austin, for assaulting pro-Trump members in Sunday’s protest. DPS troopers arrested Jarred Roark, 34, after he allegedly assaulted an individual on South Congress and 11th Street adjacent to the State Capitol… Troopers also arrested five other suspects related to the initial incident:

Taylor Tomas Chase, 21, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Joseph Wayne George, 36, interference with public duty

Samuel Benjamin Lauber, 21, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Jason Peterson, 24, interference with public duty and resisting arrest

Jade Tabitha Shackelford, 19, felony assault on public servant.

We have Creamer and Hideous Foval bragging about successfully organizing and coordinating violence against Trump supporters during the election. There are reports of ads soliciting professional protestors and paying them to participate in these demonstrations.

Is there a basis for these allegations?

There's more

One might assume that if he doesn't do these things it's just more proof of what a fair-minded guy he really is, amirite?

That's published in Jared Kushner's paper, btw.


"A full stomach and an empty soul"

by digby

That certainly describes him

In case you still have the idea that Paul Ryan is the antidote to Trump, think again. This speech from a couple of years ago in which Ryan unctuously attempted to sell his draconian cuts to necessary programs as some kind of twisted "compassion" he said that free lunches for poor kids give them "a full stomach — and an empty soul.” He explained further:
She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.
The "left" he explained cared too much about "comfort" and not enough about "dignity."

We're talking about kids here. Hungry kids who don't have money for lunch.

This is the moderate center now.