Recently in politics Category

Paul Krugman looks at the silence of the hacks on Russian intervention:

Maybe there's nothing wrong here, and it's all perfectly innocent. But if it's not innocent, it's very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?

Nothing.

Krugman cites do-nothingers like Paul Ryan, Devin Nunes, and Jason Chaffetz, and suggests that Rand Paul has perhaps the worst case of partisan myopia, as evidenced by this quote:

"We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans."

"The thing is," Krugman continues, "this nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth:"

And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P.

But there probably aren't. And that's a problem that's even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis.

AlterNet's Janet Allon writes, "There it is in a nutshell:"

The hard-liners in the Republican party are not going to let the little whiff of the possibilty that Americans are being governed by a man taking his cues from Moscow get in the way of depriving millions of healthcare, demolishing the safety net and letting polluters pollute freely again.

Speaking of partisan hackery, Jason Chaffetz is still going on about Clinton's emails:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton's server while she was secretary of state.

Pagliano did not comply with two subpoenas ordering him to appear before the oversight panel. The GOP-led committee later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

30 years too late

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NPR wonders about presidential dementia, noting that "At 70, Trump is the oldest American president to ever take office:"

Couple his age with a family history of dementia -- his father Fred developed Alzheimer's disease in his 80s -- and one could argue that the question of baseline cognitive testing for the U.S. head of state has taken on new relevance.

Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University's Langone Medical Center, comments:

"I think we're about 50 years overdue for having some sort of annual physical for the president and vice president, the results of which should be reported publicly," he says. "Part of this should be psychiatric and cognitive testing."

We need it now even more than we did 30 years ago.

The Observer's John R. Schindler looks at the spy revolt against Trump, particularly as it involves "Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council:"

Flynn's problems with the truth have been laid bare by the growing scandal about his dealings with Moscow. Strange ties to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin himself, have dogged Flynn since he left DIA, and concerns about his judgment have risen considerably since it was revealed that after the November 8 election, Flynn repeatedly called the Russian embassy in Washington to discuss the transition. The White House has denied that anything substantive came up in conversations between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

That was a lie, as confirmed by an extensively sourced bombshell report in The Washington Post, which makes clear that Flynn grossly misrepresented his numerous conversations with Kislyak--which turn out to have happened before the election too, part of a regular dialogue with the Russian embassy. To call such an arrangement highly unusual in American politics would be very charitable.

In particular, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the possible lifting of the sanctions President Obama placed on Russia and its intelligence services late last year in retaliation for the Kremlin's meddling in our 2016 election. In public, Flynn repeatedly denied that any talk of sanctions occurred during his conversations with Russia's ambassador.

There are higher-level (as in Oval Office) concerns as well:

A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the "good stuff" from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president's eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets [and] NSA doesn't appear to be the only agency withholding intelligence from the administration out of security fears.

What's going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that "since January 20, we've assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM," meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. "There's not much the Russians don't know at this point," the official added in wry frustration.

Kevin Drum remarks that "reporting about the intelligence community is notoriously unreliable, so take this with a grain of salt:"

Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. But just the fact that stuff like this is getting a respectful public hearing is damning all by itself. For any other recent president, a report like this would be dismissed as nonsense without a second thought. But for Trump, it seems plausible enough to take seriously. Stay tuned.

Crooked Trumpery

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NYT dismisses the Trump family's conflicts of interest:

But the [Trump] brothers say they are convinced that they and their father have taken sufficient steps to create a management structure that will allow them to avoid creating the kind of appearance of conflict of interest that plagued Hillary Clinton as secretary of state while her husband continued to operate the Clinton Foundation. The measures they have taken, they say, have included explicit instructions to their domestic and international business partners not to reach out to anyone in the United States government for help.

Digby, however, refers to the situation as Trump's gaslighting corruption:

You have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor of the brothers' weirdly confident delusion that what they're saying is normal.

I cannot get over the fact that this is ok. It's mind-boggling and not just because they ran a campaign against "crooked Hillary" who was ripped to shreds for giving speeches and having a family charity. It's as if they are determined to make us feel as if we've lost our minds.

But it appears they're going to get away this because Donald Trump and his band of extremist weirdos are incompetent in every way that their epic corruption and self-dealing is a secondary story.

Amanda Marcotte's observation that conservatives love dead progressives and radicals uses misrepresentations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King to make her point:

Conservatives love a dead progressive hero, because they can claim that person as one of their own without any bother about the person fighting back. In some cases, the right has tried to weaponize these dead progressives, claiming that they would simply be appalled at how far the still-breathing have supposedly gone off the rails and become too radical. The Kings are just two prominent victims of this rhetorical gambit.

Marcotts cites National Review and Sean Spicer; I found a few others here, here, and here. Similarly, Peter Beinart sees the anti-anti-Trump Right as another conservative element that is allergic to facts. "At one extreme sit those conservatives who championed Trump during the campaign, and still do: Breitbart, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, among others:"

At the other extreme sit conservatives like my Atlantic colleague David Frum, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies Professor Eliot Cohen and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who warned against Trump during the campaign, and believe he is now vindicating their fears.

For them, conservatism is about prudence, inherited wisdom, and a government that first does no harm; they see none of those virtues in Trump. They see themselves as the inheritors of a rich conservative intellectual tradition; Trump's ignorance embarrasses them. And they believe America should stand for ideals that transcend race, religion and geography; they fear white Christian identity politics in their bones. They are, to my mind, highly admirable. But they don't have much of a base. They can denounce Trump because they work for institutions that don't primarily cater to his supporters.

"National Review," Beinart continues, "has developed a technique that could be called anti-anti-Trump. It goes like this:"

Step number one: Accuse Trump's opponents of hyperbole.

Step number two: Briefly acknowledge Trump's flaws while insisting they're being massively exaggerated.

Then the rhetorical sleight-of-hand comes into play:

Sure, Trump may have botched something, they acknowledge hurriedly, before turning to what really matters: The left's overwrought response. In this way, National Review minimizes Trump's misdeeds without appearing to defend them.

"It's not deranged to worry that Trump may undermine liberal democracy," Beinart concludes, "It's deranged to think that leftist hyperbole constitutes the greater threat:"

Unfortunately, that form of Trump Derangement Syndrome is alive and well at National Review. And it helps explain why Republicans across Washington are enabling Trump's assault on the institutions designed to restrain his power and uphold the rule of law.

It is inconvenient for National Review that the individual in government who now most threatens the principles it holds dear is not a liberal, but a president that most conservatives support. But evading that reality doesn't make it any less true.

Bob Cesca's Salon piece "Taking the Resistance to Trumpland" points out that "The message of the resistance hasn't broken through Trump's wall of mendacity:"

Couple the large-scale Russia scandal with his explosive diarrhea of horrendous tweets and public statements, along with the fact that his own staffers think he's mentally unstable, and there's simply no logical reason why Trump hasn't been driven from office in disgrace.

"Republicans still support Trump by overwhelming margins," he mentions, as "86 percent of GOP voters still approve of Trump's job performance so far:"

The problem here is obvious. Voters who still support Trump aren't getting the news. The ongoing Trump catastrophe isn't breaking through the firewall of disinformation at Fox News or AM talk radio, and, so Trump's popularity remains unnaturally higher than it should be. Shockingly, much of the news you're reading and watching throughout a typical day is being intercepted and buried by pro-Trump media outlets and publications, making it virtually impossible for Trump voters to get a full taste of how irresponsible they were by electing a professed sexual predator and/or a mentally unstable game show host to be president.

A key part of correcting this will be bursting their false narrative of white victimhood. Despite mockery of #triggered snowflakes and "safe spaces," writes Sean McElwee, "feelings of victimhood are central to Trump's appeal:"

Far from being concerned about "facts, not feelings," Trump supporters and the conservative movement have created a false narrative of victimhood that motivates their supporters.

McElwee quotes Corey Robin from his book The Reactionary Mind:

Far from being an invention of the politically correct, victimhood has been a talking point of the right ever since Burke decried the mob's treatment of Marie Antoinette. The conservative, to be sure, speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value, as opposed to the wretched of the earth, whose chief complaint is that they never had anything to lose.

"Trumpism is a movement built around the loss of privilege and perceived social status and a desire to re-create social hierarchy," McElwee writes, "one that requires its adherents to live in a state of constant fear and victimization:"

This mythology requires extensive ideological work and media filtering to remain true. Conservatives must create an ideological bubble in which crime is out of control (instead of hovering near historic lows), the rate of abortion is rising (instead of falling), refugees are committing terrorist attacks en masse (they aren't at all) and immigrants are taking jobs (it's the capitalists), all while the government is funneling money to undeserving black people (black people receive government support in accordance with their share of the population, despite making up a disproportionately large share of the poor). Conservatives, and many in the general public, believe that Muslims and immigrants (both legal and unauthorized) make up a dramatically larger share of the population than they actually do.

"At the same time," he continues, "the right has created a caricature of their opponents on the left:"

In this imagined caricature, the left is sensitive to being "triggered" at every corner, but also capable of unspeakable political violence. The activist left are "snowflakes" on one hand, and brutal killers on the other. In reality, political violence has long been a tactic of the right, from the labor violence that left thousands of workers dead to lynchings to brutality against peaceful protesters inflicted by corporate security and police to the harassment of women seeking abortion, the destruction of abortion clinics and the assassination of doctors who provide abortions. The rhetoric of victimization has costs -- white supremacists are committing unspeakable violence to combat the perceived threat of immigrants, Muslims and people of color. For the next four years, we are likely to have a government driven by perceptions of white Christian victimhood.

Another all-too-prevalent misperception on the Right is the "liberal media" myth:

One would expect Trump -- a reality TV star who clearly understands the importance of ratings -- to have a pretty good idea how the mass media works in America. In public, however, the president espouses a simplistic right-wing view of the press, portraying it as an all-powerful monolith that is always out to unfairly smear him and advance a sinister left-wing agenda. (Trump may believe this to a degree, but he has clearly been playing on the right's ingrained distrust and paranoia.)

And thus, in Trump's mind, the press is the "opposition party," as his chief strategist Steve Bannon put it last month. It deliberately underreports Islamic terrorist attacks while overreporting or manufacturing bad press, such as mass protests, his slipping approval rating or public opinion polls that disapprove of his agenda.

In reality, the mainstream media, or the "corporate media," is driven primarily by business rationale and the profit motive, not some left-wing or liberal agenda.

For a specific--and highly relevant--example, see this Harvard Gazette article about researcher Thomas Patterson:

Given all of the attention that was devoted to Trump by the press, it certainly wasn't surprising that he got the lion's share of the coverage. The interesting part is how much of that was favorable coverage, which contradicts the media narrative that they were tough on him from the beginning.

Patterson's Harvard study from last June found that "Trump got the most coverage of any candidate running on either side" during the primaries, and that the vast majority of it "was favorable in tone:"

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton received the "least favorable coverage of any Democratic or Republican candidate," and during the first half of her campaign there were "three negative reports about her for every positive one." That was partly because Clinton undeniably came with extensive political baggage, but it also discredits the right-wing narrative that the media was a propaganda machine for Clinton.

(Not that logical consistency has ever been one of their strengths...)

Besides reality-TV-style political campaigns, terrorist attacks and other calamities tend to bring in big ratings for news networks, which means Trump has it completely backwards when he claims that those in the media "have their reasons" for underreporting terrorism. In fact, they have every reason to overreport and sensationalize terrorism -- which they do. This sensationalism has resulted in a false perception of violence and danger, leaving Americans extremely fearful of terrorism even though they're more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than to die in a terrorist attack.

Here is some detail from the study:

This paper evaluates news media coverage of the invisible primary phase ["the period before a single primary or caucus vote is cast "] of the 2016 presidential campaign through the lens of the election reporting of eight news outlets--CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

"Trump's coverage was worth millions in free exposure"--the paper estimates $55 million during this phase alone--and which the paper describes as "an unprecedented amount of free media." Additionally, despite the candidate's best efforts to demonstrate his unfitness for office, the majority of his coverage was favorable:

20170213-favorablecoverage.JPG

What happened on the Democratic side of the 'invisible primaries'?

Over the course of 2015, the Democratic race got less than half as much news exposure as the Republican race.

Less coverage of the Democratic side worked against Bernie Sanders' efforts to make inroads on Clinton's support. Sanders struggled to get badly needed press attention in the early going. With almost no money or national name recognition, he needed news coverage if he was to gain traction.

"Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump," the paper observes, "it helped tear down Clinton:"

Trump's positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton's negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.

Here, for example, is the consistently negative tone of Clinton's coverage:

20170213-negativetone.png

Perhaps we should be investigating the Trump campaign's collusion with domestic media outlets, and not merely with Russian oligarchs.

In Salon, Jay Parini writes that "a key moment" for him was "reading an article in the New York Review of Books that caught my eye. It was 'The Responsibility of Intellectuals,' written by Noam Chomsky:"

Nothing was quite the same for me after reading that piece, which I've reread periodically throughout my life, finding things to challenge me each time. I always finish the essay feeling reawakened, aware that I've not done enough to make the world a better place by using whatever gifts I may have. Chomsky spurs me to more intense reading and thinking, driving me into action, which might take the form of writing an op-ed piece, joining a march or protest, sending money to a special cause, or just committing myself to further study a political issue.

"It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies," as Chomsky asserted. Parini continues:

Fifty years after writing "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," Chomsky remains vigorous and shockingly productive, and -- in the dawning age of President Donald Trump -- one can only hope he has a few more years left. In a recent interview, he said (with an intentional hyperbole that has always been a key weapon in his arsenal of rhetorical moves) that the election of Trump "placed total control of the government -- executive, Congress, the Supreme Court -- in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history."

"As I reread Chomsky's essay on the responsibility of intellectuals," Parini concludes, "it strikes me forcefully that not one of us who has been trained to think critically and to write lucidly has the option to remain silent now:"

Too much is at stake, including the survival of some form of American democracy and decency itself, if not an entire ecosystem. With a dangerously ill-informed bully in the White House, a man almost immune to facts and rational thought, we who have training in critical thought and exposition must tirelessly call a spade a spade, a demagogue a demagogue. And the lies that emanate from the Trump administration must be patiently, insistently and thoroughly deconstructed. This is the responsibility of the intellectual, now more than ever.

Paul Krugman's op-ed "When the Fire Comes" piece asks, "What will you do when terrorists attack, or U.S. friction with some foreign power turns into a military confrontation?:"

I don't mean in your personal life, where you should keep calm and carry on. I mean politically. Think about it carefully: The fate of the republic may depend on your answer.

'The Bush administration," he points out, "exploited the post-9/11 rush of patriotism to take America into an unrelated war, then used the initial illusion of success in that war to ram through huge tax cuts for the wealthy:"

Bad as that was, however, the consequences if Donald Trump finds himself similarly empowered will be incomparably worse. [...]

Every day brings further evidence that this is a man who completely conflates the national interest with his personal self-interest, and who has surrounded himself with people who see it the same way. And each day also brings further evidence of his lack of respect for democratic values.

AlterNet has some comments:

What Trump has done in attacking the very Judges and Courts that have (thus far) placed restraints upon his arbitrary abuse of power is to tie those restraints directly to the potential for further acts of terrorism against the country. He is telling us, in a very cold, cynical way, that he will consider himself blameless if we are attacked, with the unmistakable implication that such an attack would justify abandoning any constraints or limitations on his own powers.

Here's the tl;dr version: "We need to be ready. What is coming will literally be the fight of our lives."

"paid protesters"

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Peter Dreier deflates Trump's "paid protesters" propaganda:

Last week you Tweeted that, "Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"

20170212-paidprotesters.png

Thank you for the reminder. I forgot to pick up my paycheck for protesting. Whomever is paying people to protest left me off the list -- or just ripped me off. Since the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, I am owed at least $72.50 for the 10 hours I spent protesting that Saturday. However as of this January 1 the California minimum wage is now $10.50 an hour, so I'm actually owed $105, and even more if the people who are paying people to protest against you abide by overtime rules.

If all five million Americans who protested that day got paid the federal minimum wage, and if people spent an average of five hours protesting, those patriotic rabble-rousers are owed a total of at least $181 million in unpaid protest wages.

I think you'll agree that putting $181 million in Americans' pockets is good for the economy. If you will recall the Economics 101 course you probably took at college, that is called an increase in "consumer demand." Economists also call it the "multiplier effect." The five million protesters will spend that $181 million in their local economies -- boosting sales, revenues, and jobs. So thank you for reminding us that protest is good for the economy.

Dreier then asks, "Do you think we could find a 'so-called' judge who would be sympathetic to this wage-theft cause and order the owners of Protest Inc. to compensate us for our labor?"

I don't consider this reparations for radicals and reformers. I see it as the kind of economic nationalism you've been talking about. You can't export protest jobs. These are Americans jobs for Americans. As any economist could tell you, those back payments would do wonders for the economy.

"You will be pleased to know that Americans will continue to protest your policies for the next four years," he points out, "assuming you are not impeached."

violent-crime rates

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Kevin Drum looks at a decade of violent-crime stats, and uses them to bust some political illusions:

Donald Trump keeps saying that the murder rate is the highest it's been in 45 years. This is wildly untrue, but other people are joining the bandwagon anyway. Jeff Sessions says the current rise in crime is a "dangerous permanent trend." Talk show hosts agree. America is a dark and dangerous place, and it's getting more dangerous all the time.

Aside from outright lies, a lot of this is based on cherry-picked statistics.

The data show some local increases amid a steady overall decline:

20170212-violentcrime.jpg

As Drum notes:

Some big cities have indeed shown worrying upward trends: Chicago, San Antonio, and Los Angeles are all up over the past two or three years. At the same time, Philadelphia, New York City, and San Diego are all down. More generally, except for San Antonio every single one of these cities has a lower violent crime rate than in 2006, ranging from 4 percent down (San Jose) to 40 percent down (Dallas and Philadelphia). The overall violent crime rate for all big cities is up over the past two years, but still lower than it was in 2006. [...]

Chicago, obviously, is a big outlier, with a high and rising murder rate (up 53 percent over the past two years).

The challenges of governing are vexing Trump most sorely, it seems. "Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought," the piece opens, and "the transition from overseeing a family business to running the country has been tough on him:"

Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay -- or even stop -- him from filling positions and implementing policies.

Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo says that "he operates like many great CEOs I know"--but that's exactly the problem! Trump can't just issue orders, demand obedience, declare bankruptcy when it all goes south, and then move on to the next scam as he's been accustomed to doing. Deadspin's Albert Burneko snarks along similar lines, writing the following:

Donald Trump, a skill-free inheritance baby with a virtually unbroken lifelong track record of incompetence and failure, has found that running the United States government is a tougher job than lending his name to mail-order steak delivery scams run by other people.

"Trump had never previously held an actual job," he continues, "because actually, spending your inheritance on a succession of failed cons is not an actual job:"

Our new president occupies a wild outer range of blundering, arrogant stupidity, far beyond that typically euphemized in newspaper-ese, and the effort to describe the former truthfully and accurately--but without using such frank and impolite words as "stupid" and "ignoramus" and "spray-tanned fart balloon"--very nearly breaks the latter.

The transition from that ["Overseeing a family business"] to being the president "has been tough on him." Doing things that you are not qualified to do is tough! Who could have predicted that this would be a challenge for a butter-soft septuagenarian nincompoop?

Steve Bannon's reading list gets analyzed by Politico:

Bannon, described by one associate as "the most well-read person in Washington," is known for recommending books to colleagues and friends, according to multiple people who have worked alongside him. He is a voracious reader who devours works of history and political theory "in like an hour," said a former associate whom Bannon urged to read Sun Tzu's The Art of War. "He's like the Rain Man of nationalism." [...]

Bannon's readings tend to have one thing in common: the view that technocrats have put Western civilization on a downward trajectory and that only a shock to the system can reverse its decline. And they tend to have a dark, apocalyptic tone that at times echoes Bannon's own public remarks over the years--a sense that humanity is at a hinge point in history. His ascendant presence in the West Wing is giving once-obscure intellectuals unexpected influence over the highest echelons of government.

Here's an example:

The term ["black swan"] was popularized by Nassim Taleb, the best-selling author whose 2014 book Antifragile--which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides--reads like a user's guide to the Trump insurgency.

It's a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keep institutions and people healthy. "As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most," he writes.

Curtis Yarvin (who blogs as "Mencius Moldbug") is practically a mainstream voice, and Michael Anton (whose pseudonym is Publius Decius Mus) is now a National Security Council staffer:

Hiring Anton puts one of the key intellectual forces behind Trump in the West Wing. In his blockbuster article "The Flight 93 Election," [see here] a 4,300-plus-word tract published in September 2016 under his pseudonym, Anton strikes many of the same notes as Taleb and Yarvin.

In The Atlantic's look at the dark anti-democracy movement, Rosie Gray sheds light on "the pro-authoritarian philosophy gaining visibility on the right."

Yarvin's ideas, along with those of the English philosopher Nick Land, have provided a structure of political theory for parts of the white-nationalist movement calling itself the alt-right. The alt-right can be seen as a political movement; neoreaction, which adherents refer to as NRx, is a philosophy. At the core of that philosophy is a rejection of democracy and an embrace of autocratic rule. [...] The alt-right, at this point, is well-known, while NRx has remained obscure. But with one of the top people in the White House paying attention, it seems unlikely to remain obscure for long.

"Neoreaction is explicitly and purposefully opaque," continues Gray, "and has no interest in appealing to a wider audience:"

This puts it at odds with some of the alt-right or "new right" leaders who seek to take their ideas mainstream.

"NRx was a prophetic warning about the rise of the Alt-Right," said Nick Land, the English philosopher whose Dark Enlightenment series is considered a foundational neoreactionary text. "As a populist, and in significant ways anti-capitalist movement, the Alt-Right is a very different beast to NRx."

In an excerpt from his 2016 book Listen, Liberal, Thomas Frank's look at how the Democratic elite undermined the system expresses no small dismay at Obama's lost opportunities in 2009:

To say "the centre held", as one of his biographers, Jonathan Alter, does, is an optimistic way to describe Barack Obama's accomplishment. Another would be to say he saved a bankrupt system that by all rights should have met its end. America came through an economic debacle, an earthquake that shook people's faith to the ground. Yet out of it, the system emerged largely unchanged. The predators resumed operations. Everything pretty much stayed the same.

"It is the Republicans, certainly, who bear primary responsibility for our modern plutocracy in the United States," he observes:

They are the party that launched us on our modern era of tax-cutting and wage-suppressing. They are the ones who made a religion of the market and who fought so ferociously to open our politics to the influence of money at every level.

Democrats deserve plenty of blame for being enablers, he points out, noting that "our current situation represents a failure of the Democratic Party as well:"

Protecting the middle-class society was the Democrats' assigned historical task, and once upon a time they would have taken to the job with relish. Shared prosperity was once the party's highest aim; defending the middle-class world was a kind of sacred mission for them, as they never used to tire of reminding us. And to this day, Democrats are still the ones who [in the election campaign of 2016] pledge to raise the minimum wage and the taxes of the rich.

When it comes to tackling the "defining challenge of our time" however, many of our modern Democratic leaders falter. They acknowledge that inequality is rampant and awful, but they cannot find the conviction or imagination to do what is necessary to reverse it. Instead they offer the same high-minded demurrals and policy platitudes they've been offering since the 1980s. They remind us that there's nothing anyone can do about globalisation or technology. They promise charter schools, and job training, and student loans, but other than that - well, they've got nothing.

It's difficult to fight something--however awful that something is--with nothing, but The Resistance is shaping up to be, perhaps, just the sort of something that is needed. At TPM, Josh Marshall reminds us that the Resistance harkens back to the 2005 efforts to protect Social Security from Bush's privatization schemes:

We are hearing again now that the repeated protests and aggressive questioning at Republican townhalls is Democrats taking a page from the Tea Party playbook of 2009 and 2010. People have short memories. The real reference is to 2005 when Democrats turned out at Republican townhalls to protest President Bush's plan to partially phaseout Social Security. Those protests (or in many cases simply turnout) helped kill the plan by scaring off congressional Republicans. They also presaged the Democratic blowout in the 2006 midterms. It was 2005 that Tea Partiers (and the GOP pressure groups organizing them) explicitly referenced in 2009.

We certainly shouldn't give conservatives credit for liberal achievements, which is something that The Federalist's Robert Tracinski strives mightily to do in asserting that The Resistance won't be the new Tea Party. Tracinski purports to provide "the context for the Tea Party movement," but immediately stoops to condescension by proclaiming that "Democrats never really understood the Tea Party:"

In fact, they avoided understanding it because they preferred their own narrative to the facts. [...] It's the closest thing I've ever experienced to the Norman Rockwell vision of old-fashioned town hall politics."

He then mocks Democrats as "the revolutionary vanguard trying to herd the proletariat into following them."

That's why there won't be a Tea Party movement for the Left. [...] They're trying to throw their own party even farther out of balance with the rest of the country.

What was that about preferring one's own narrative over the facts? Coming from someone who espouses a distinctly minority ideology, that sounds like projection to me...

Thanks to Mock Paper Scissors for linking to Mark Morford's "remarkable post" entitled This Way to the Resistance. In it, Morford presents a "guide to defying the Trumpocalypse:"

These are the groups. These are the resources, the publications, the articles, the essential tools, the warriors both veteran and upstart, each and every one dedicated to fighting the Trumpocalypse and advocating for human rights, civil liberties, the safety and dignity of immigrants, minorities and refugees, of the LGBT community, of women's health, science, the arts, sanctuary, your own tremulous and terrified heart. Also hope, kindness and just the type of fundamental human decency that was spit upon and stomped to the ground on November 8th.

"let's be absolutely clear: This is the time," he declares:

It is, tragically and rather gruesomely, unlike any time in recent U.S. history, as the world bears sickened witness to America's sudden lurch toward tyranny, toward a flatulent fascism like we've never really known, a complete upheaval and molestation of America's truest values.

Those events, groups, newsletters, and articles should be bookmarked--I fear that they'll be all-too-necessary in the near future. As MPS writes:

When you read his post you'll see that a huge swath of America is rising up to say Not In My Country, Asshole! This is not some sprinkling of coastal elites who are resisting, Trump is creating the environment where people all across America are resisting his fascist agenda. Have some cheer. Hug your friends and families, and help the people who are frightened (that's pretty much all of us).

And punch a Nazi. It is what Indiana Jones --and Wonder Woman-- would do.

For encouragement, see this image:

20170128-punchingtrump.jpg
(unknown; also a mural in Philadelphia)

The Radical Right runs America, explains Claire Conner [author of Wrapped in the Flag (Beacon 2013)]:

When a radical right-wing president embraces authoritarian ideas, there is no place to work with the man. Who can find common ground with a president who opens an investigation into fictional voter fraud? Wake up, Dems. Trump's planning to expand the extensive voter suppression that's already happening.

When Trump talks about torture as a way to gather information, he's not confused. And he's not kidding. He's building support for waterboarding and hanging people on hooks, and stripping prisoners naked and threatening them with dogs.

When he signs orders that would allow him to pick up people who haven't committed a crime and to suggest that he'd send the army to Chicago, he's not far from fascism.

And Democrats are going to work with this man. How could they?

"The radical right has been plotting, planning, organizing, and propagandizing for decades with one goal in mind," she continues, "to rip progressive government out at the root. They know how to do this:"

  1. Keep telling Americans that government is bad, expensive, and useless
  2. Point fingers at undeserving people who are stealing money from real Americans
  3. Explode the deficit (Reagan and Bush for example), while promising to fight out of control liberal spending.
  4. Start wars, expand the military, push money to domestic surveillance, cut taxes for the rich, cut regulations.
  5. Paint welfare, foreign aid, immigrants and as the causes of our problems.
  6. Preach the need to balance the budget in order to prevent looming economic collapse.
  7. Propose and pass drastic spending cuts that cripple and eventually kill programs that help people.
  8. Tell Americans that these cuts are the only way to save Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, and public schools.
  9. Attack anyone who fights back as un-American, lazy, a liberal scumbag
  10. Insult the media and restrict voting.

"These steps worked so perfectly that Trump is the president," she reminds us. Also pertinent is the fact that "Donald Trump's power comes from the GOP's power:"

They control 35 states, the House, the Senate, the Executive branch. In a few months - unless Democrats fight a pitched battle and win it--they will cement control of the Supreme Court for decades.

If we want to change this situation, we have to push our Democrats in the Senate and the House to say NO to every Trump appointment, every Trump nominee, and every Trump initiative.

some bullshit

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"This Is Some Bullshit Right Here," writes The Rude Pundit:

I didn't watch the Inauguration [...] But I did read Trump's address, and it was a warmed-over stump speech, filled with the kinds of baffling, weird, and apocalyptic rhetoric that propelled him to become head chalk eraser clapper at the special school.

The Rude Pundit then wonders, "when the hell did he write this speech?"

"We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow," as if the millennium isn't already 17 years old. The birth happened, man. And, Jesus fuck, who is it that wants to gut the programs that look into diseases and alternative energies?

"Like most of what we heard from Trump," he continues, "it was bullshit:"

Trump didn't ask us to do anything other than believe in him. He offered a dark vision of what the nation is, full of "carnage" and "blood" and "tombstones" and "rust," the kind of thing you would think you see when you walk out of a gold-plated condo and into the rest of the nation. A shit speech by a shit human.

Even the Rude Pundit sees a glimmer of hope:

The only good thing about today is that we can finally move past the dread of a Trump presidency to discovering what exactly we're going to be up against in the coming years. This sad day has come, sadly attended, and now we can finally start counting down the days until this detour into stupidity and self-destruction ends.

Slate's analysis of Trump's terrifying speech by Dahlia Lithwick notes the absence of some vitally important words: "Constitution," "democracy," "liberty," and "equality." She also identifies other lapses:

Trump seems virtually unaware that presidential powers have constitutional limits or that judges strive to apply neutral law regardless of the named parties. He seems uninterested in the fact that governmental checks and balances make us all more free. He is unburdened by the knowledge that protest, assembly, and a free press are the cornerstones of liberty. So nobody should be surprised that not a word about the courts, the law, or the Constitution were uttered today, or that law to him means "law enforcement officers" and nothing more. We should be terrified, though.

These worrisome observations are somewhat leavened by the humorous note that Trump scotch-taped his tie (again): "the luxurious new President-elect decided to wear scotch tape on his ill-fitting tie, an apparently regular style decision for him."

20170120-tapedtie.jpg

emoluments evasion

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MediaMatters makes the claim that Trump is violating the Constitution--and it's an impeachable offense:

According to experts, President Donald Trump's continued ownership interest in the Trump Organization means that he is in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from personally benefiting from actions taken by foreign governments and their agents. Will media hold Trump accountable for this impeachable offense or will they normalize his flagrant violation of the supreme law of the land?

MediaMatters uses a Brookings Institute analysis:

It was authored by legal ethics experts Norman Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics attorney and current chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Richard Painter, a former Bush administration ethics attorney and current vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Laurence Tribe, a leading expert on constitutional law and professor at Harvard University Law School.

The piece continues:

Painter, Eisen, and Tribe concluded in their report that the Emoluments Clause requires a total divestment in business interests by Trump and his children, with the divestment process conducted by "an independent third party, who can then turn the resulting assets over to a true blind trust."

Despite Trump's announcement that he'll retain ownership in his namesake empire during his presidency, MediaMatters opines that "all is not lost:"

There is one more avenue of influence that could be exerted over the incoming president and his future foreign business partners: Public pressure from public exposure. That's right, folks, the crooked media with its fake news and its rude questions might just be our last, best hope to stop the president from becoming the world's most popular business partner.

I'm skeptical, though--public pressure didn't get him to release his taxes, did it?

inaugural

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AlterNet's inaugural pledge, from the pen of Jeremy Sherman, singles out Republican leaders. "I hereby declare that I will no longer," Sherman declares;

• Give them the benefit of the doubt.
• Believe a word they say.
• Enable them by listening and responding to them as though they care about being reasonable, principled or moral.
• Act shocked, fretful or dismayed as though I'm still discovering that they don't care.
• Give an inch as though I expect them to reciprocate.

Similarly, Todd Gitlin's look at the VORTEX [VOices of RT-Wing Extremism; see here] decries the "delusional and deceptive noise" of the right-wing fringes. Gitlin exclaims that "you recognize the roughneck tone even before you discern the words:"

It's as if a fist is speaking. Rageful spite is the brand of the cruel, brawling, sadistic right, the take-no-prisoners insurgency that is about to set up shop in the White House. [...]

The voice is percussive and blaring. Loudness matters. The strong man revels in turning up the volume -- relentlessly so, because losers, grumblers, whiners, wimps, failures, envious creeps and lowlifes are always lurking out there in the darkness, poised to pounce at any sign of weakness.

"This," he continues, "is the way of the bully who lives to strut his stuff:"

The sadist does not seek to persuade; he aims to overpower. He does not know possibly or some may say; he knows only either-or. He insults. He sneers. He loathes grace notes. Civility is a fool's game, a masquerade for weaklings, aka "low-energy" types. Strong men (and occasional women) are high-energy. They do not doubt, they do not glide; they blast.

Daniel Payne at The Federalist seems to believe that opposition to Trump will ensure his re-election. "Clinton lost the most winnable election in several generations," he observes:

Embarrassed, angry, and confused, the Left is simply doubling down on the behavior and the rhetoric that drove large numbers of Americans to vote for Trump in the first place. If you're a liberal and you want to greatly increase Trump's chances for re-election in 2020, here are four easy steps you can take to make that a reality.
1. Deny the Legitimacy of the Election Results

I haven't noted this, except imprecations against the Electoral College for failing to protect our nation against this administration.

2. Disparage and Demean Your Fellow Americans

"American progressives turned on tens of millions of their fellow Americans and accused them of rank bigotry and hatred," writes Payne--but that reaction has been mostly confined to noting the rank bigotry and hatred of their standard bearer.

Keep this up, and in 2020 they'll say, "Golly, who should I vote for: the guy who says he respects me, or the folks who dismiss me and my family and friends as 'stupid people?'"

I suspect that Trump's assertions of benevolence will have long fallen flat by then.

3. De-Normalize Trump Voters: If you want to get your family members to come around to your point of view and maybe vote for a Democrat in the next election, shunning them for four years is absolutely not going to help.

As a reminder to the Fox/talk radio/InfoWars shut-ins: he filter bubble works both ways.

4. Pile on the Elite Liberal Sanctimony: I will spend the next four years defending conservative values and attempting to convince people to vote against Trump if he betrays those values. One thing I will not do, however, is sneer at or condescend to my fellow Americans who genuinely believe Trump is a good president. I want to change their minds, and I won't be able to do that if I'm just making fun of them for four years. Neither will you, liberals. But if what you desire is another Trump victory in 2020, by all means, keep doing what you're doing.

The GOP has practically held a trademark on sneering condescension for decades--so I think a little turnabout is more than fair recompense. For a taste, see Dan Froomkin's Welcome to the United States of Emergency and this blistering broadside:

For those of us who believe in core progressive American values - multiculturalism, civil liberty and civil rights, free speech, a free press, truth in government, economic fairness, environmental protection, inclusiveness, equal justice, a humane society, the list goes on - today marks the first day of a disaster on a scale that until a few months ago was beyond our imagination.

"It's almost too painful to watch," he says, "but we all must watch:"

To the extent that we care about our core values, we must resist. And we need to figure out how to make things better when it's over. [...]

Donald Trump ran a long con on the American people, promising them to clean out Washington, make the economy work for them, and disentangle us from international quagmires. He is perhaps the least likely person in the world to do any of those things. But the best con men are astute at figuring out what their marks want most badly.

Ted Rall's 3 rules for resisting Trump uses the example of France in 1940, and essentially asks if we want to be collaborators--or members of the Resistance:

Though it's premature to draw a direct comparison between Nazi Europe and Trump's America, it's never too early to start thinking about the ethics of resistance in a United States whose government whose repressiveness is likely to feel unacceptably severe to a significant portion of the population.

What is the correct way to behave after January 20th? Should one Keep Calm and Carry On?

"Like the French during World War II," he continues, "most Americans opposed to/afraid of Trump will muddle through some murky middle ground." Rall then suggests some rules:

Rule 1: Anything for survival.

"You're not required to starve to death over a principle."

Rule 2: Nothing for Trump.

"The one thing Trumpism offers is ideological clarity; at times like this, everyone has a dog in the fight, ostriching not allowed."

Rule 3: Ignorance is no excuse.

Rall states bluntly that:

You must hide the undocumented immigrant on the run. You cannot submit a bid to construct the Wall. You must, if you work for an insurance company, try to avoid enforcing rules that deny healthcare.

One of the things people overseas tell me they like about Americans is that we're happy-go-lucky. That has to change.

It's time to get serious.

AlterNet's 5 ways to resist Trump before the inauguration by Ilana Novick lists the old standards:

1. Call your representatives.

2. Start your own organizing group, focusing on lobbying elected officials.

3. Join an existing group.

4. Attend a January 15th Day of Action rally to protect health care.

5. Support journalists and freedom of the press.

There is plenty that we can do to spread light in these rapidly-darkening times; let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!

conventioneers

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In These Times issues a warning about a constitutional convention, arguing that right-wing activists "are dangerously close to convening the first state constitutional convention in U.S. history:"

They have already passed resolutions in 28 states, and after November's elections, Republicans will hold control of both chambers in 32 states, up from 30 before the election. Conservatives also dominate in Nebraska's officially nonpartisan, single-chamber legislature, giving them 33. This puts them "just one state shy of the 34 needed to propose an Article V convention and permanently take back our government," Daniel Horowitz wrote in the Conservative Review one week after the election.

"This is no fringe, unrealistic movement," writes Simon Davis-Cohen, "They came close to calling a convention in the 1980s, and in the 1990s Congress came one senate vote away from passing a balanced budget amendment:"

This would hamstring the federal government and prevent it from stimulating the economy and undertaking robust public programs--effectively institutionalizing austerity. [...]

Increased local democracy, in principle, should be a good thing. Millions of Americans of all stripes are fighting for local self-determination over education, corporate projects, employment laws and basic protections for health, safety and welfare. But the movement for a convention of states twists this demand into a gift for the rich.

resistance

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Tim Dickinson introduces Rolling Stone readers to the leaders of the Trump resistance:

Donald Trump is riding into office on a make-believe mandate: Despite a possible assist from Vladimir Putin, Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, and he's taking command of the Oval Office with the lowest favorability rating in modern memory: 37 percent.

"But even as the 45th president takes the oath of office," notes Dickinson, "a fierce resistance is rising to confront and constrain the Trump presidency:"

From the ACLU to the Sierra Club to Everytown for Gun Safety, civil society is girding for battle - reinforced by an unprecedented upwelling of activist support and donations.

Protectors of women's rights, gun-control advocates, LGBTQ activists, conservative splinter groups, defenders of civil liberties, and more are ready to resist--let's all join in!

We must fight so Republicans don't let us die, writes Mara Keisling at The Advocate. She refers to many potential avenues for eviscerating the ACA:

Excluding preexisting conditions. Excluding transition-related care. Lifetime limits for HIV care. Denying routine cancer screenings because you're the "wrong gender." Refusing care at a clinic or hospital because you're LGBT. Being poor but still ineligible for Medicaid.

"While the ACA will definitely be in effect in 2017," she continues, "its future beyond that is in doubt:"

Lawmakers could vote as soon as next week to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act, stripping away many of these gains. Congressional Republicans say they want to "repeal and replace" -- but what they're actually proposing is a repeal with no replacement in sight. [...]

This repeal could strip 30 million Americans -- mostly working families -- of health insurance. It would cause premiums to spike dramatically for millions more. Ordinary LGBT Americans would lose tax credits, Medicaid, or health care through their job, while insurance and drug companies and the wealthy would get huge tax breaks.

Plus, the GOP would also get to destroy one of Obama's accomplishments--and that's far more important to them than LGBT lives. Their voters, however, are worried about another type of pride. Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars explains some of the anti-ACA spite, writing that PA Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) "told a story of a couple who lives in Mount Joy, PA and currently benefit under the ACA:"

Tim Hollinger is on Medicare. His wife, Phyllis, is not yet eligible and is self-employed. Phyllis obtained coverage through the marketplace, and her premium is over $1,000 per month with a $2,700 deductible, which is over 23 percent of her net income.

Here's the thing: Phyllis gets a subsidy that covers 35 percent of that cost, helping to make it affordable. Because that is how the ACA works. The subsidy reduces the monthly cost to Phyllis so she isn't going broke trying to pay for health insurance.

Rep. Smucker went on to explain why he thinks it's a great idea to repeal the ACA for Tim and Phyllis.

"Phyllis receives a federal subsidy that covers 35% of that monthly cost. To Phyllis, that's not right," he explained. "To Phyllis, this is about her pride. and she's not asking for a lot."

C&L then drops the hammer:

No, Phyllis, you really are asking for a lot. If you don't want the subsidy, don't take it. That's an option, too. But because of your pride, you'd like for 30 million others who are able to have access to healthcare to lose it.

"Here's what I worry will happen to Phyllis Hollinger if the ACA is repealed," the piece concludes:

She will not be able to afford her health insurance and will be hoping against all hope that she doesn't get sick before she's eligible for Medicare. If she does get sick, she and her husband will be forced into medical bankruptcy because she will not have any safety net over her head. I do not want this to happen to her, but it's more or less inevitable if the ACA is repealed.

At least her pride will remain intact.

The Atlantic wonders if conservative politicians are more attractive:

Prior research indicates that good-looking political candidates win more votes, just one of the many ways attractive individuals seem to have it better in life. There is evidence to suggest that beautiful people are viewed by others as more likable, trustworthy and competent, and may be more likely to land job interviews and earn more money than less attractive people to name just a few advantages.

The study "The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it" gets into more detail, observing that "politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the United States and Australia:"

Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution. Our model of within-party competition predicts that voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism when they do not know much about candidates and that politicians on the right benefit ore from beauty in low-information elections. Evidence from real and experimental elections confirms both predictions.

The paper cites another study [Lenz, G.S., Lawson, C., 2011. Looking the part: television leads less informed citizens to vote based on candidates' appearance. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 55, 574-589) which "showed that the positive relationship between votes and an appealing appearance is most pronounced among voters with low political knowledge who also watch a lot of TV." That sounds a lot like the Fox audience!)

We study beauty premia in municipal and parliamentary elections. The former can be regarded as low-information and the latter as high information elections, where voters know little and reasonably much, respectively, about candidates. We show that in municipal elections, a beauty increase of one standard deviation attracts about 20% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the right and about 8% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the left. In the parliamentary election, the corresponding figure is about 14% for non-incumbent candidates on the left and right alike. This makes clear that voters both on the left and on the right respond to beauty in both types of elections, but that voters on the right are more responsive in a low-information setting.

Here's an interesting causal chain:

A simple economic explanation of the appearance gap in favor of the right is that beautiful people earn more money (Hamermesh and Biddle, 1994; Mobius and Rosenblat, 2006; Scholz and Sicinski, 2015), and the more people earn, the more they are inclined to oppose redistribution (Alesina and Giuliano, 2011) and, arguably, to support, get active in and represent parties to the right. A more general psychological explanation could be that good-looking people are more likely to perceive the world as a just place, since they are treated better than others (Langlois et al. 2000), achieve higher status (Anderson et al. 2001) and are happier (Hamermesh and Abrevaya, 2013) - and a frequent reason for people to sympathize with the left is a perception of the world as unfair. In line with this, it has been found that greater self-reported attractiveness is negatively related to a preference for egalitarianism, typically associated with the left: The more beautiful people consider themselves, the less they are in favor of redistribution (Price et al. 2011; Belmi and Neale, 2014).

Trump's fake news

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AlterNet's Kali Holloway writes about Trump's history with fake news, noting that "Fake news is the one thing Trump hasn't claimed to have invented that he actually deserves at least partial credit for inventing:"

He has been spreading fake news since it was just called "lies," and he's shown that winning the presidency will only increase his fake news output. Trump puts out so much misinformation he is a fake news factory unto himself, an artisan of lies, a curator of untruths. Real estate may be his job, but lying is his career, hobby and passion project.

Trump has put thousands of fake news stories out there, some enormous and others so small you wonder why he bothers.

Holloway lists 14 fake news stories that Trump has "created or promoted:" Lying about anti-Obama birtherism and anti-Hillary health scares, spreading rumors about JFK's assassination, demanding the death penalty for the (innocent) Central Park 5, inventing thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11, proposing that Scalia was murdered, spreading "completely fabricated numbers for black murder rates," alleging millions of illegal voters, claiming that climate change is a Chinese hoax, promoting the nonexistent vaccine/autism link, suggesting that Cruz and Rubio weren't eligible to run, and blaming "professional protesters, incited by the media" for the demonstrations against him.

All that, and he hasn't even been sworn in yet!

The ACLU provides a hopeful note that dissent is a powerful antidote to propaganda:

Fifty-five years ago this January, the ACLU of Northern California was busy filling orders from across the country for copies of its recently produced film, "Operation Correction." The film was a response to a piece of Red Scare propaganda, "Operation Abolition," which was produced by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and depicted civil liberties activists in San Francisco as violent "communist agents" bent on destroying the fabric of America.

"College students from UC Berkeley and Stanford mobilized to protest the hearings and take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of association," the piece continues,

Through manipulative editing and voiceover narration, HUAC's "Operation Abolition" used real news footage to portray the student activists as violent and dangerous "hardcore Communist agents" and "indoctrinated and trained dupes." [...]

While "Operation Abolition" was being viewed by millions of Americans at town halls and colleges across the country, the ACLU produced "Operation Correction." Our executive director at the time, Ernest Besig, narrated the exact same footage and explained the propagandistic tactics being used to mislead the public.

"People flocked to see it," the piece continues, and "Historians credit HUAC's 'Operation Abolition' with backfiring spectacularly:"

Young people across the country were shown the film at school, saw right through it, and decided they should make their way to Berkeley -- after all, that's where all the action was. Four years later, the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement began.

Let's remember this moment in history as a lesson in the power of free speech and free thought. And let's remember it as proof that if we remain vigilant, lies can wither in the face of truth.

That worked against HUAC's lies, and it will work against Trump's as well.

Paine's heirs

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Let them call us rebels, writes Harvey Kaye--because we are the heirs of Thomas Paine. "As yet, we do not have our own pamphleteer for these soul-trying times," he writes, "But we still have Thomas Paine's ever-timely words:"

We do not yet have a writer who can as magnificently express our outrage that a man whose character Paine would deplore is about to become president after losing the popular ballot by nearly 3 million votes. We do not yet have a writer to encourage us to not only resist the ambitions of both the man who would be king and his Tory allies in Congress, but also to turn our outrage into a sustained struggle that will fulfill the promise of democracy. Nonetheless, we have the words that burned like fire in the breast of a man who believed that to be an American in his time meant being a radical.

Kaye suggests that we "Pick up Paine's writings and prepare for Inauguration Day by immersing yourself in them:"

Carry his works with you. Give copies to friends and family. Read them aloud just as yeomen and farmers and artisans and merchants did in the fields, workshops and taverns of 1776. Drink deeply from his Common Sense. Relish his attacks on kings and would-be monarchs. Delight in his belief that working people can govern themselves. Listen as he embraces America's ethnic and religious diversity. And note well his plans for establishing an inclusive, prosperous and expansive American democracy.

Until I find a better option--a doubtful proposition--I'm sticking with the Library of America edition of Paine's Collected Writings.

The whole picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words cliché is sometimes true, but here it's worth a thousand shaking heads:

20170111-obamacare.jpg

H/t to Daily Kos for both the hilarious meal above, and the dessert below:

20170111-obamacarenotaca.png

Comey

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Vox's team bluntly states that Comey cost Clinton the presidency:

Donald Trump has called his election a historic landslide, but it was anything but. Only two other presidents have been elected with smaller popular vote margins since records began in 1824. His edge in the Electoral College, while decisive, depends on less than 80,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) out of more than 135 million cast nationwide. It was a very close election.

Despite this, conservatives "have scoffed at the claim that the [Comey] letter changed the outcome of the election, suggesting that it's a convenient excuse for a weak candidate who made some questionable strategic decisions:"

But the Comey effect was real, it was big, and it probably cost Clinton the election. Below, we present four pieces of evidence demonstrating that this is the case.

After detailing the historical uniqueness of Comey's letter, Vox notes that "Clinton's margin over Trump falls dramatically in national polls directly after the Comey letter and never recovers:"

It's worth noting that Comey also made headlines in July [...] every time Comey and emails were driving the news cycle, Clinton's national polling numbers took a significant hit."

"Democrats," writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, "didn't lose because their message was unpopular or because they're out of touch or because they're insufficiently centrist or insufficiently leftist:"

That just wasn't the problem. The Democratic message was fine; Democrats are perfectly well in touch with their constituencies; and they weren't perceived as too unwilling to shake things up. Even with eight years of Democratic rule acting as a headwind, Hillary Clinton's default performance was a substantial win.

The only reason it didn't happen is because James Comey basically decided to call her a liar and a crook--based on absolutely no new evidence and with everyone in the world advising him not to--with 12 days left in the election. That was something she couldn't overcome, and it has nothing to do with the basic Democratic message.

The US has a billion-dollar deficit on research about gun deaths, according to San Francisco's Dr. David Stark. He first cites "the Dickey Amendment, the annual rider first inserted into the 1996 federal congressional appropriations bill prohibiting the use of CDC funds 'to advocate or promote gun control.' Though not an outright ban, the measure has had a chilling effect on research." The article notes that "Stark wanted to measure the effects of the congressional restrictions on gun violence research in statistical terms:"

To do that, he built statistical models to predict how much funding and how many published articles would be expected based on the number of people who died from 30 top causes of death. Data came from the Compressed Mortality File on a database known as CDC Wonder (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research), the Federal RePORTER funding database, and the MEDLINE publications database.

Stark's model assumed that the more Americans are killed by a given cause of death, the more the government will study that subject. Between 2004 and 2014, the United States saw about 350,000 deaths because of firearms, with a mortality rate of 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Based on how often people were dying from gunshots, Stark's formula predicted nearly $1.4 billion in gun violence research funding and 38,897 publications.

In reality, gun violence research received only $22.1 million in federal funding and generated just 1,738 scientific articles during the decade in question. That shortfall became the centerpiece of widely covered analysis that Stark published last week in the the Journal of the American Medical Association.

20170111-gundeaths.jpg

"Gun violence killed about as many individuals as sepsis," says the study, but "funding for gun violence research was about 0.7 percent of that for sepsis and publication volume about 4 percent."

voter suppression

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According to American Prospect, voter suppression works too well, as "Republican state lawmakers across the country have moved to suppress the franchise to maintain GOP political dominance" via simple strategies:

Turn voting into a bureaucratic nightmare by eliminating popular timesavers such as same-day registration and early voting. Require photo identification to vote, using IDs that many people don't have or cannot pay for. The harder it is to vote, especially for people juggling some combination of work, classes, and child or elder care, the fewer people will.

"Many of those new election laws," the piece continues, "were promulgated after the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that invalidated provisions of the Voting Rights Act," including fourteen state restrictions since November:

The high court's Shelby County decision eviscerated the landmark law's "preclearance" provision, which required nine states and specific counties or townships in six other states to submit election law changes to the Justice Department for review. The preclearance process gave the federal government a tool to prevent blatantly discriminatory regulations from going into effect. (Now challenges to election laws must be fought as rearguard actions through state and federal courts.) The remaining teeth of the VRA rest on another provision that mandates that voting laws do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or certain languages. [...]

Voting rights are under siege in a way that hasn't been seen in more than a generation. But these coordinated attacks follow a historic pattern: Laws that expanded the franchise during Reconstruction and after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have typically been followed by state-level repression and federal indifference.

"The tactics used to ferret out alleged fraud almost exclusively affect minority groups, the young, and the elderly," the piece continues:

Regulations like photo identification are supposedly designed to prevent people from impersonating other voters, despite the fact that practically no one impersonates another person with the intent to vote in the United States. The misuse of alternatives to in-person voting, such as the fraudulent use of absentee ballots, is also rare. Other tactics, like consolidating polling places, are explained away by noting that these moves save money, despite long lines and other headaches such closures produce in the remaining polling stations.

"With the 2018 midterm elections on the horizon," the article intones ominously, "the next two years will be a crucial test for voting rights." The piece cites both the 1993 National Voter Registration Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act as likely targets:

Only 37 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls in 2014, the lowest midterm turnout in 70 years. The average voter who sits out a midterm election does not make the connection between a party's control of the state legislature and the governor's office, and how those partisan officeholders will have the ability to craft new election laws and carve out state and federal legislative districts after the 2020 census. Yet in 2014, a Center for American Progress/NAACP-LDF/Southern Elections Foundation report found that the numbers of voters in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia that were affected by changes in early-voting and photo-ID laws far outstripped the margin of victory in those states' U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.

"Republicans' determination to dismantle voting rights that were once presumed settled," the piece concludes, "will necessitate a response worthy of a new civil-rights movement."

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