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Trump's propaganda effort against Obamacare includes misrepresenting Bill Clinton's remarks:

People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it "CRAZY"

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

What Clinton said, though, was drastically different:

The current system ... But the people that are getting killed in this deal are small businesspeople and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies.

So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it ― sometimes 60 hours a week ― wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world.

So here's the simplest thing....let people buy into Medicare or Medicaid.

It's clear, the piece writes, that "Clinton was arguing for expanding health care access. He never called the ACA crazy."

Speaking of repealing Obamacare, digby wonders:

When Trump's own voters lose their health insurance will they be happy to sacrifice their own lives in order that their enemies will lose theirs? And by enemies, I mean me. And maybe you. Because that's what they're trying to do. They care more about cutting taxes for rich people than middle class people who don't get their insurance at work. [...]

Oh, and by the way, they don't think employers should be required to offer health insurance either. So, if they decide it's too expensive, it's really it's all about begging from your neighbors. After all, if you get sick when you aren't rich, it's really your fault right?

This is immoral. But then so are they.

In describing pushback on the delayed oversight killing, Kevin Drum quotes from the Washington Post:

The House GOP moved to withdraw changes made the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

"Oh please," he comments:

Trump didn't object to Republicans gutting the ethics office. He just thought they should do it later, when fewer people might notice. And that's what they're doing. They'll "study changes" and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.

Meanwhile, media outlets are falsely giving Trump credit for the reversal:

According to CNN, "President-elect Donald Trump dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line Tuesday in his first Washington power play."

While it is true that Donald Trump criticized congressional Republicans, so did many other people.

And it is not true that he opposed gutting the OCE. His response this morning was only to say that while the OCE's existence was "unfair" to Republicans, that there were more important priorities to focus on.

We need to keep hammering on his unparalleled unpopularity, writes Eric Boehlert, who observes that "Trump's contrast with Obama in late 2008 is stunning:"

Obama entered 2009 with a 68 percent favorable rating. Today, Trump's favorable rating stands at an anemic 43 percent. And if history is any indication, that rating is almost certain to go down once the new president takes office.

Given the plurality of Americans who expect Trump to be a "poor" or "terrible" president, he wonders "what explains the press's passive, often genuflecting coverage of Trump since November?"

If Trump had just posted a 49-state, Reagan-esque landslide victory, I could more readily understand why the press would be acquiescing so regularly. But Trump just made history by losing the popular tally by nearly three million votes and remains, without question, the least popular president-elect since modern-day polling was invented.

Yet members of the press seem unduly intimidated by his presence, and have even rewarded him with chatter of an invisible "mandate." (He has none.)

Then he asks the big question:

Does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton had won in November while badly losing the popular vote to Trump, and then posted historically awful approval ratings during her transition, that story would not dominate Beltway coverage day after day, week after week?

And don't forget the press's entrenched fascination with Obama's public approval during his presidency, particularly the desire to depict "collapsing" support when, in fact, Obama's approval rating remained stubbornly stable for years.

There's a glaring Trump transition story hiding in plain sight: He's historically unpopular. The press ought to start telling that tale on a daily basis.

Conor Lynch suggests that 2017 could be even worse than 2016. As he writes, "there is little reason to celebrate the year's end this weekend, or to be hopeful for 2017:"

And when "deplorable Don" arrives in Washington, he will have a Republican-controlled Congress full of partisan lackeys, unscrupulous sycophants and empty-suit pontificators to lick his boots and kiss his ring -- as long as they can slash taxes for their wealthy donors, privatize Social Security and Medicare and, of course, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In no time at all people will be feeling nostalgic for 2016 -- longing for the days when Donald J. Trump was just a billionaire demagogue running for president, without any real power. Before he became the most powerful toddler in the world.

Trump, Lynch continues, "did more than any other individual in recent American history to normalize public racism, sexism and xenophobia, as well as political violence:"

His provocative campaign emboldened bigots and misogynists and rejuvenated white-supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, while poisoning political discourse and accelerating the country's descent into a post-truth reality. If Trump had lost the election to Hillary Clinton, he would still have left the country hopelessly divided and more vulnerable than ever before to the forces of extremism and bigotry. But at least he would have left the country breathing.

Lynch writes that "this lunatic will have real and terrifying powers," leading to a "great potential for catastrophe:"

There is no telling what Trump will do once he is in the Oval Office, or how much of his campaign rhetoric was empty talk. But his erratic behavior since the election and the far-right cabinet he has assembled over the past month indicates that he will be every bit as reactionary, demagogic and impulsive as he was on the campaign trail.

He concludes with no small amount of resignation that "it is all but certain that 2017 will make 2016 look like the good old days, regardless of which beloved celebrities drop dead." Amanda Marcotte looks at political resolutions, noting that "2016 was a vile, no-good year that can go suck eggs:"

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that 2017 will be treating us no better. In fact it is quite likely, with President Donald Trump in the White House, to be a waking nightmare from which there is no escape.

She offers "three resolutions I'm undertaking to preserve my sanity:"

1. No more attention given to dudes who want to relitigate the Democratic primary.

2. A strict outrage diet for Donald Trump's culture war antics.

But it's become clear that Trump's provocations -- from the Mike Pence "Hamilton" fiasco to whatever asinine thing he's saying on Twitter this week -- are rooted in his reality-TV background and his understanding that glib provocation is a great way to sow chaos that both distracts from and helps dismantle our democracy. So my goal is, every time Trump is spouting distracting culture war nonsense, to start looking for whatever, usually more serious, story he's trying to distract the public from.

3. Having a life outside politics.

But with Trump ripping through our democracy like a tornado, it's doubly important to remember that there are things in this world that aren't terrible. So it's important to take the time to read a novel or go to a museum or listen to a record the whole way through.

Similarly, AlterNet's Les Leopold explains why resisting Trump is not enough:

While resistance is critically important, we will fail unless resistance is contained within a long term strategy to reverse runaway inequality and upend neoliberalism (defined as systematic tax breaks for the rich, cuts in social programs, anti-union legislation, financial deregulation and corporate-managed trade.) If we don't build an alternative movement, our defensive struggles could enhance Trump's popularity rather than to diminish it.

He then lists the risks of a "resistance only" response:

1. It makes our politics Trump-centric or even Trump-dependent.

"Of course, resistance is badly needed," he says, while also stressing "a pro-active positive agenda:"

The key items include a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, free higher education, single-payer health care, massive infrastructure spending, a halt to the off-shoring of jobs, criminal justice reform, taking money out of politics, and reducing global warming. That's our agenda, not Trump's.

The fact that few if any of these issues are being discussed today shows the weakness of a Trump-centric approach.

2. Trump resistance can slide into defending the status quo:

3. Resisting Trump by itself will not win back swing states

Key swing states may remain in Trump's column if all we do is resist. A marginal voter could view progressive resist actions as simply disruptive if we don't put forth a positive agenda that frames our resistance and expands the debate. [...] The future goes to whichever camp develops the most compelling vision for America. A negation of Trump is not a vision.

4. Resisting Trump on trade and the off-shoring of jobs is a big mistake.

5. Betting on Trump's failure is reckless:

"it is not a forgone conclusion," he writes, "that Trump's economic policies will fail:"

So waiting for Trump's collapse or just pushing for it, seems like an irresponsible political strategy. Instead, we actually have to do the hard work of building something new that is independent both of Trump and the neo-liberal establishment.

5. Resisting Trump could turn into an excuse to stay within our issue silos:

This could cause "extreme fragmentation among progressive organizations:"

There is no common agenda, no common strategy, no common structure. We have enormous experience in promoting our specific agenda silos and very little practice in working together around a hard hitting common program that transcends all of our silos.

"We need a tangible organizing effort that brings together our many issue groups," he writes, which "entails four tasks:"

• We need a common agenda and common analysis.
• We need a national educational campaign that explains the agenda and analysis all around the country, as the Populists did in the 1880s.
• We need a new national organization that we can all join as dues paying members.
• Finally, we need to expand our own perceptions of the possible.

The Advocate's list of 6 things we must do the survive Trump's America, penned by Mark Joseph Stern, calls the spectre of Trump's presidency "a disaster for LGBT people throughout the nation:"

There can be no doubt that the Trump administration, together with a Republican-dominated Congress, will roll back hard-fought victories and stall the push for ever greater equality. [...]

Trump will take office at a moment when LGBT people enjoy historically high tolerance and support from the American public. His presidency will not change that, at least not immediately. The supermajority of Americans will still support marriage equality; trans people will continue to gain greater visibility, and thus acceptance; and despite distractions about "religious liberty" and discrimination, most people will still believe that nobody should be fired because they're LGBT. "Don't ask, don't tell" will not be revived. The Supreme Court, even one stacked by Trump, will feel immense institutional pressure to respect the precedent of marriage equality. We will elect more openly LGBT people to statehouses across the country. [...]

If Hillary Clinton were assuming office after Obama, the path forward would be clear and manageable. It will now be tortuous and grueling.

He offers "six suggestions as to how the movement can protect and even expand its rights over the next four years:"

1. Remember: Trump may not be a virulent homophobe, but he is a threat.

In order to shore up evangelical votes, Trump has already declared that the Supreme Court's marriage-equality decision should be overturned, that states should be allowed to deny transgender people access to public bathrooms, and that President Obama's executive orders protecting LGBT people should be rescinded. As president, he will surely continue to throw LGBT people under the bus when Bannon -- who has stated his desire to "turn on the hate" -- thinks it's convenient.

2. Keep the focus on Pence.

Dangerous as Trump may be, his vice president is significantly more threatening to LGBT people's safety and well-being. [...] It is too early to surmise the extent to which Pence's unrepentant, unrelenting homophobia will influence the Trump administration.

3. Watch out for cabinet cronies and "religious liberty."

Obama's appointees have interpreted bans on "sex discrimination" in existing civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity; as a result, they have granted LGBT people new protections in housing, credit, education, and employment. Trump's appointees will quietly reverse these interpretations, stripping LGBTs of vital federal protections.

These reversals should be met with public protests.

LGBT advocates should also prepare for a drawn-out brawl over bills designed to legalize discrimination in the guise of "religious liberty." Pence's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" allowed "religious belief" to supercede nondiscrimination ordinances in certain circumstances; congressional Republicans appear poised to offer Trump an even more extreme variation on this genre. Their "First Amendment Defense Act" would broadly legalize any anti-LGBT discrimination ostensibly required by one's "religious belief or moral conviction."

4. Focus on state politics and the community.

"Instead of wasting energy on the federal level," he writes, "LGBT advocates should find room for improvement in the states:"

These [pro-LGBT] governors can work to expand LGBT protections -- and veto gerrymanders that would permanently entrench an anti-LGBT Republican majority in the statehouse.

Meanwhile, every supporter of LGBT rights should get involved with their communities to protect the most vulnerable among us. Young queer people will soon face a barrage of hate, which starts at the top and trickles down into the classroom and home.

5. Change the legal strategy.

Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who toppled the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as Mississippi's same-sex-adoption ban, thinks activists should shift their focus to blatantly hateful and extreme laws that explicitly license religious-based discrimination.

6. Don't lose hope, and don't back down.

The past eight years have marked a new era of openness in the United States. [...] Marriage equality marked a point of no return, and we are still just beginning to experience the benefits that will flow from that decision. We will not retreat; we will not become invisible; we will not stop demanding the full array of rights that are owed to us under the law.

Fareed Zakaria worries about the US becoming an illiberal democracy, which he believes is "something that should concern anyone, Republican or Democrat, Donald Trump supporter or critic:"

It turns out that what sustains democracy is not simply legal safeguards and rules, but norms and practices -- democratic behavior. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United States today. [...][

But we are now getting to see what American democracy looks like without any real buffers in the way of sheer populism and demagoguery. The parties have collapsed, Congress has caved, professional groups are largely toothless, the media have been rendered irrelevant.

He wonders, "who and what remain to nourish and preserve the common good, civic life and liberal democracy?"

Politico comments on Republicans gutting Congressional oversight:

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog -- a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Monday's effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

"President-elect Donald Trump ran on a platform of draining the swamp of an often all-too-cozy Washington D.C.," writes Politico, "Monday night's moves go in the opposite direction, severely loosening oversight of lawmakers' potential conflicts of interest, use of campaign money and other ethical matters:"

Democrats created the Office of Congressional Ethics in March 2008 after the Abramoff scandal, in which the well-connected GOP lobbyist plead guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials. Abramoff and his clients had used campaign donations and favors to sway members, including former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who served 30 months in prison, and a number of staffers.

Their idea was that an outside agency of sorts could take up a more robust oversight of members. Republicans, however, have claimed the group has been too aggressive in making referrals.

"The proposed change will be included in a package of new House Rules governing the 115th Congress," the piece concludes, "which will be voted on Tuesday afternoon." That doesn't leave much time for public reaction, does it?

David Neiwert makes a great observation about GOP obtuseness:

So I see that amnesiac Republicans are very, very confused about why Democrats and other sane human beings are already standing up to voice their opposition to Donald Trump's presidency even before he is sworn in. [...]

Well, here's a little cure for their amnesia: An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (June 2017, Verso Press). This section is from Chapter Five, discussing the rise of the Tea Parties and how the Birther conspiracy theories helped fuel them.

"Conservatives did not consider Barack Obama to be a legitimate president," he points out, "a fact underscored by the growing 'Birther' campaign." [Rush Limbaugh's hope that Obama would fail--as seen here--is another example.] "Open political warfare," Neiwert continues, "a defiance of the new president's every objective, was to be the right-wing political project for the ensuing eight years," as Teabaggers disrupted healthcare townhalls:

And the behavior fit the blueprint for action laid out early on: Disrupt, distract, and destroy any chance for an actual civil and informed conversation. In other words, demolish the entire purpose of a town-hall forum as the means to bring health-care reform to a halt. [...]

But town halls were never designed to be vehicles for protest. They have always been about enabling real democratic discourse in a civil setting. When someone's entire purpose in coming out to a town-hall forum is to chant and shout and protest and disrupt, they aren't just expressing their opinions -- they are actively shutting down democracy.

In an announcement that we should prepare to be ungovernable, Sarah Lazare issues "A call for civil servants to resist:"

"A core component of resistance is to get the class of civil servants, particularly on the federal but also the state level, to not comply with arbitrary laws and policies that are going to be created," said [Kali] Akuno [organizer with Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement]. "To not recognize the laws we know are coming that will discriminate against Black people, Latinos, immigrants and queer people. There is no need for anyone to comply. Let's not give it legitimacy just because it's the law. We need to be prepared to disobey and engage in civil disobedience. We need to get ready for that now."

In words reminiscent of Gunter Eich's exhortation to "be sand, not oil, in the gears of the world," Akuno envisions resistance as "just one prong of a broader strategy," including:

"not going to work, not participating in your run-of-the-mill economic activities, with the hope and aim that we can build prolonged acts of civil disobedience that lead to a general strike." While such plans are not fully fleshed out, he noted organizations across the country are actively discussing such a possibility.

"The orientation we're taking is not just about surviving Trump, but drawing attention to the fact that the system was already heading towards more severe types of repression, surveillance and austerity," he said. "We're also looking at the global dynamics as to why right-wing populism and fascism is spreading internationally."

What is clear, says Akuno, is that the right-wing populism of the Trump administration will not be defeated by civil discourse and liberal democracy. He emphasized, "If we are serious and steadfast, we can create a clear and comprehensive message around being ungovernable."

Similarly, John Scalzi looks at the arc of justice:

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In the main I agree with that quote. There are things about it, however, that I think many of us elide.

The first is the word "long." I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries.

Also, he notes, "The arc is not a natural feature of the universe:"

It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It's rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions.

Crooks & Liars snarks that WSJ editor Gerard Baker won't report Trump's lies as "lies" because...reasons:

When Donald Trump says things that are undoubtedly lies, not even just hyperbole, Mr. Baker is of the opinion that calling a lie a lie will alienate readers, as if "readers" are also Trump supporters. You are also forbidden to have any controversial opinions, no matter how factual you are, because certain people don't like the truth. Being honest in a way they perceive as derogatory will cause them not to 'trust' you.

Here is Baker's statement:

GERARD BAKER: I'd be careful about using the word, "lie." "Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.

As long as these returning champions come back every Sunday, it's okay to sugar coat lies as something the consumer decides is true or false, because you gotta get those advertising dollars. [...]

Thanks to this failure to call a lie exactly what it is, Trump's supporters believe the most outlandish fallacies to be true and by golly, no one will convince them of the facts without being labeled something awful, like 'educated' or 'intellectual elitist' or a 'thinker.'

Daily Kos's 9 craziest things that Trump voters believe refers to an Economist/YouGov survey (PDF); here are some of the lowlights, beginning with the question "Is the country better off now than it was eight years ago?"

Most Americans recall that eight years ago the nation was descending into an economic abyss. The stock market dropped 46 percent. Unemployment shot up to 10.1 percent. Home foreclosures hit record figures. And total household wealth declined by more than $19 trillion.

Yet somehow a whopping 60 percent of Trump voters responded to this question saying that the country was better off eight years ago than today. Another 19 percent say there is no difference. That's after stocks climbed back from about 7,000 to nearly 20,000. And unemployment dropped to 4.9 percent. The auto industry that was on the brink of collapse is reporting record profits. And the delusions of the Trumpsters are unique to their breed. Only 21 percent of Democrats thought 2009 was a better year.

That's not the only example, either. Only 36 percent of them realize that climate change is real, "only 26 percent of Trump voters correctly said that [the number of] persons without insurance decreased," and "68 percent of them said that it was definitely/probably true that Saddam had WMDs." Also, Obama's birth certificate is fake ("52 percent continue to say that Obama is definitely/probably a native Kenyan") and Pizzagate is real("46 percent of Trump voters said that this ludicrous fiction was definitely/probably true").

As Daily Kos reminds us, "this epidemic of ignorance was not accidental:"

It was a deliberate act of disinformation by Trump and the Republican Party. And the media bears its share of responsibility for putting ratings and profit before journalistic ethics.

John Tirman speculates that Trump's rise portends the end of the commonwealth:

Amid the many controversies attending the election of Donald Trump is one easy to overlook: the mounting assault on "public goods" -- public education, public lands, public information and public health, among them. The worldview of Trump and those he's bringing into government is one in which seeking private interest is paramount, not only as a business aspiration but as a governing ideology. Of all the attitudes of the new administration, this may be the most threatening to democratic practice.

"The scales have been tipping toward private interest rather than public good since the years of President Ronald Reagan," he continues, "and the coming of Trump promises an even stronger swing to private over public:"

It would be difficult to imagine more significant public goods than clean air, the avoidance of catastrophic climate change or the legacy of the nation's protected parks, forests and wildlife.

Yet all of these are in jeopardy. Turning over public lands to the states would in many cases result in "development" -- commercial enterprise, resource extraction, grazing, roads and sell-offs of land -- far beyond what is already granted on federal lands.

"What is particularly disturbing in 2016," he writes, I"s the attempt to limit participation and to limit the quality of discourse:"

The limits on participation are not gauged by expertise -- that is, how knowledgeable you are -- but by race or religion. A number of the white supremacists now ascendant have insisted that blacks, Jews and Muslims be treated differently, submissively, even denied the vote and other standard civil rights. So the very definition of who constitutes "the public" is under attack.

He concludes the piece by positing that "If the trajectory of 2016 continues through Trump's presidency, the 'commons,' the public sphere and the values of shared responsibility, will be tested as never before."

changing minds

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Vox's Brian Resnick discusses a study on changing minds, which he describes as "the hardest challenge in politics right now:"

Psychologists have been circling around a possible reason political beliefs are so stubborn: Partisan identities get tied up in our personal identities. Which would mean that an attack on our strongly held beliefs is an attack on the self. And the brain is built to protect the self.

When we're attacked, we evade or defend -- as if we have an immune system for uncomfortable thoughts, one you can see working in real time.

"The brain's primary responsibility is to take care of the body, to protect the body," Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, tells me. "The psychological self is the brain's extension of that. When our self feels attacked, our [brain is] going to bring to bear the same defenses that it has for protecting the body."

20161229-beliefchange.jpg

Thanks to decades of right-wing paranoia and propaganda, even the science of fluoride isn't safe from ideological blindness--remember Jack D. Ripper?

Derek Beres analyzes white evangelical voters' fondness for Trump. "We often think of morality as rule-based," he writes, but "it seems difficult to explain why evangelical Christians swung their vote toward Donald J. Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election." Obama's 26% and 20% share of evangelical voters dropped to just 16% for Hillary:

Clarion calls for evangelical ballot checkmarks have long been religious: abortion, same-sex marriage, infidelity. Their moral card is pronounced and marketed throughout the campaign. Yet it's incredibly plastic. Every four years their demands shift, which explains how a thrice-married businessman with fidelity problems and previous endorsement of women's rights could command the largest evangelical vote of this century.

In a question tailor-made for Trump's personal issues, the observation that "Asking voters if private immoral acts will affect the ethical responsibilities of elected officials, the group that shifted most was the religious" makes perfect sense:

The biggest shift, however, was found in one specific group: white evangelicals. In 2011, 30 percent of that demographic claimed that a politician acting immorally behind closed doors can still be an upstanding moral leader. In the era of Trump that number has surged to 72 percent.

But...Hillary's emails!!!1!!

MediaMatters quotes from CNN's Reliable Sources to make a point about skeptical journalists:

BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Let's tell some truths about lying, because the way Donald Trump lies has people rethinking some of the basic premises of journalism, like the assumption that everything a president says is automatically news. When President-elect Trump lies so casually, so cynically, the news isn't so much the false thing he said, it's that he felt like he could just go ahead and say it, go ahead and lie to you. That's the story. Why does he bend and flex and twist and warp and distort the truth? Personally I'm curious because I think Trump does it differently than past presidents. His lies are different and deserve scrutiny.

"I think fact-checking is important," Stelter continues, "but the framing of these stories is even more important." Digby concurs, writing that "what Stelter is saying is true:"

There's a lot of data out there showing that when people are shown facts it only tends to reinforce their own biases. [...] Journalism cannot rely on simply fact-checking, although it's important to do it. It has to try to promote truth, not just facts, and that means they have to think hard about ways to talk about politics and government that successfully does that.

"We are in big trouble," she observes, "if we don't figure out a way to govern from a common reality."

the C-suite credo

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Jon Chait points out how 'the wealthy would never steal' is a credo for Trump's party:

Donald Trump's government has not yet taken power, but its epitaph may have already been written. The author, Lawrence Kudlow, is a noted voodoo economist and the reported leading candidate to head the administration's Council of Economic Advisors.

In a National Review column, Kudlow makes the case not only that Trump and his administration are not corrupt, but also that they cannot be corrupt, by virtue of their wealth. "Why shouldn't the president surround himself with successful people?" reasons Kudlow, "Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption."

The examples of Bernie Madoff, Don Blankenship, the Enron crew, WorldCom, and too many others to list come to mind--but not at NR. "Conservatives like to imagine that their policy represents a challenge to the power structure," Chait continues, but 'crony capitalism' is not the only type of white-collar thievery. Chait continues:

The conceptual distinction between the good kind of wealth, earned through the free market, and the bad kind, earned through political favoritism, is an absolutely vital one for right-wing intellectuals. And yet Trump is showing how easily it collapses in practice. Conservatives have treated a first family using the powers of office to enrich itself -- not theoretically or in the future but right now, on an ongoing basis -- as, at worst, a distraction or a problem of optics. In practice, conservatives share Kudlow's belief that a government of and by the rich is necessarily virtuous.

The conclusion?

We can be pretty sure that Trump, his family, and his friends will be among the people who gain from his policies. Conservatives appear distinctly unalarmed by the prospect.

TrumPutin

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NYRB's look at how Trump will rule observes warily that "Over the last few days, concerns about some kind of a hidden alliance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have exploded:"

There is the president-elect with his apparently fawning regard for the Russian leader. There are Trump's top cabinet picks, with their unusual Russian ties: as national security advisor, Lt. General Mike Flynn, who has met Putin and done paid events for a Kremlin-sponsored TV station; and as secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has done billions of dollars of business in Russia and received an award from Putin. And then there is the revelation, from the CIA, that Russia may have actively interfered in the US election to get Trump elected.

The piece notes that, of course, "There is still much we don't know about how Trump will rule:"

But in the month since his election, some characteristic patterns have emerged--and they bear some instructive similarities to the style Putin has practiced over many years. Here are a few of them:
  • Lying is the message. It's not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself. [...]
  • The media is the mirror. Trump, like Putin, has a demonstrably thin skin and short temper when it comes to being criticized by journalists. [...]
  • Taking charge of a boring world. The real-estate magnate and the KGB agent share a peculiar trait: both seem to be lazy and uninterested in the world they want to dominate. [...]
  • Interests rather than priorities. Attempts to decipher the process by which Trump is choosing his cabinet have stumbled over the usual question: What are the incoming president's priorities? [...]
  • A president behind enemy lines. Many of Trump's cabinet picks have one thing in common: they are opposed to the very mission of the agencies they have been chosen to lead. [...]
  • The chosen one. When I published a biography of Putin in 2012, some American reviewers criticized the book for asserting that Putin was merely an "ordinary man [whom voters could invest] with whatever they wanted to see in him." I argued that an unqualified man of limited intelligence had by accident come to rule a nuclear power. That simply does not happen, some reviewers claimed. [...]

"It does," he writes--and not only in Russia.

Slate asked, how tall is Trump?

Donald Trump went on quacky Dr. Oz's TV show Thursday to talk about his health, and somehow, the weirdest number to come up had nothing to do with his testosterone (though, yes, that too was discussed).

Instead, it was Trump's claim, through his doctor's letter, that he is 6-foot-3.

Most everyone else puts him at 6-foot-2.

Slate then asks, "Why does this matter?"

My colleague Jeremy Samuel Faust suggested a theory to me. It has to do with the other disputed number floating around prior to the show's airing: his weight, which the doctor's note put at 236 pounds, though some reports suggested he's 267 pounds. At 6-foot-3, 236 pounds, his body mass index is a convenient 29.5--overweight but just a biscuit shy of obese (BMI of 30). At 6-foot-2, 236 pounds, he's at 30.3--obese. BMI is a worthless measure of physical health, but maybe in this case it tells us a little something about a man's self-regard. Is it possible that Trump's doctor added the extra inch so that his patient, who is not exactly lacking in vanity, would not be "officially" obese?

Politico provides corroboration:

Donald Trump and his doctor claim he's 6-foot-3, but his New York driver's license says he's actually an inch shorter.

A copy of Trump's license, obtained by POLITICO through an open-records request, lists the president-elect at 6-foot-2.

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Mother Jones' Kevin Drum piles on:

By a remarkable coincidence, I happen to be 6-foot-2 and weigh exactly 236 pounds. I have an unfortunate amount of belly fat to show for this, but nowhere near what Trump does. At a conservative guess, Trump weighs at least 30 pounds more

Hemant Mehta defends Snopes against distractions:

It's been a rough PR week for the people behind fact-checking website Snopes.com. There was a nasty piece against the site's founders and staffers at the Daily Mail and an article drawing attention to those attacks at the New York Times.

Ignore the distractions for a moment. The only question that matters is whether Snopes is reliable. Does it do a good job of setting the record straight on urban legends and (actual) fake news?

Mehta admits to having "no interest in the personal lives of the couple that founded the site:"

The people who accuse Snopes, or PolitiFact, or any other similar site of being biased -- often conservatives unhappy to have their pet conspiracy theories debunked by people who know better -- have no understanding of how fact-checking works. [...]

The personal lives of the people behind it are irrelevant, and anyone who brings that subject up as a reason to discredit the site are simply trying to distract you.

Don't fall for it.

Salon points out that all news is fake news in the Right's war on truth. "Conservatives," writes digby, "are launching an attack on the concept of reality itself"--one that's been brewing since the Reagan Era:

Conservatives learned to challenge the media's alleged liberal bias as a tactic to make reporters leery of any news that reflected negatively on conservatives. It was very effective. By the time right-wing talk radio came along and later Fox News, with its pretensions of being "fair and balanced," conservatives had convinced millions of people that their version of reality was the truth and that mainstream media and major newspapers were all catering to the liberals.

"The right-wing media complex," she writes, "is all-in on this:"

According to the Times, everyone from Laura Ingraham to Erick Erickson to Donald Trump himself is labeling anything they disagree with, including the fact-check sites like Snopes or Factcheck.org, as "fake news." Millions of people have been conditioned to believe their claims for years, which means polarization is only likely to get worse. If Americans can't even agree which facts are real, it's hard to see how we're going to be able to govern ourselves.

Michael Shermer offers some hope by explaining how to convince someone when facts fail:

Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.

He lists Creationists, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers climate-change deniers, and birthers as instances of this tendency:

In these examples, proponents' deepest held worldviews were perceived to be threatened by skeptics, making facts the enemy to be slayed. This power of belief over evidence is the result of two factors: cognitive dissonance and the backfire effect.

For another example, we can consider the question what does the science say about torture's efficacy?

The US president-elect Donald Trump has on several occasions insisted that torture is a good idea and that procedures such as water-boarding are not "tough enough" when dealing with terrorist groups like Islamic State.

"The view is clearly morally and ethically questionable," the piece continues:

Torture has a long history, and despite being prohibited worldwide (in 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations inserted the prohibition against torture in the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the use of torture appears to be increasing worldwide.

"The evidence that torture works appears to be anecdotal [and] the available science simply does not support the argument that torture is effective." Sadly, the Right's anti-objectivity efforts have been quite effective. Sometimes I'm not sure which campaign is more dangerous.

TPM's Josh Marshall expresses skepticism, calling fake news "the bright, shiny object of the post-2016 election America:"

I think there's a legitimate question about how much many people actually 'believe' what we call 'fake news'. In many cases, 'fake news', the latest manufactured outrage, functions as a kind of ideational pornography, ideas and claims that excite people's political feelings, desires and fears and create feelings of connection with kindred political spirits.

NYT's look at conservatives' Bizarro world mentions that Breitbart News "dismissed reports on the intelligence assessment as "left-wing fake news:"

Rush Limbaugh has diagnosed a more fundamental problem. "The fake news is the everyday news" in the mainstream media, he said on his radio show recently. "They just make it up."

The piece notes that "top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda:"

In defining "fake news" so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country's increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.

Trumpian dishonesty

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Trump bragged that 100% of donations to his eponymous foundation go to "wonderful charities," but PoliticusUSA points out that his claim is ridiculous:

Trump's dishonesty is breathtaking in scope, given how he used his foundation to buy portraits of himself to hang in his own properties and an autographed Tim Tebow helmet, not to mention, as Rebecca Berg was quick to point out, "A large chunk of money went to advance Trump's political prospects."

Also, "The Trump Foundation gave a quarter of a million dollars to settle lawsuits involving @realDonaldTrump's businesses." In addition, MSNBC noted about that Trump's announcement "that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president:"

The plan may quickly run into a snag, however. [...]

"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," New York Attorney General spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said in a statement released Saturday.

"We know Trump's lying," the piece continues, "in part because the Trump Foundation has already admitted that some of its money covered non-charitable expenses:"

Trump used foundation money to buy giant portraits of himself. Trump used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions. Trump used foundation money to settle private-sector lawsuits. Trump used foundation money to support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions. [...]

A month ago, the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that "it violated a legal prohibition against 'self-dealing,' which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity's money to help themselves, their businesses or their families." The materials, filed with the IRS, were signed by Trump himself - so it's not as if he can credibly claim he had no idea what was going on.

It's not just the dishonesty, though; "what's alarming about Trump's latest deception is how brazen it is:"

The president-elect knows his claims are false, and he must realize that anyone with a passing familiarity with current events knows it, too. But Trump just doesn't care about getting caught lying, in part because his followers don't care, in part because he's counting on news organizations to push back against his lies with kid gloves, and in part because he assumes much of the public will reject any evidence published by journalists. [...]

The more inclined Trump is to keep this up-is-down experiment going, the more mind-numbing the next four years are going to be.

In other news, Kevin Drum dissects another Trump tweet, this one even more self-serving:

The world was gloomy before I won - there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars! -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016

"In a mere 26 words," Drum notes, "Trump has managed to mislead his audience in three separate ways without quite lying about anything:"

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't matter. But it's still a fascinating little insight into how Trump gaslights his followers and the nation into believing that he's the savior of the country. Most people have no idea about any of these numbers, so he can say anything he wants and he's likely to be believed. Nor will fact checking change this even a tiny bit.

Is he warming up to be 2017's Misinformer of the Year?

twice-hacked

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Richard Eskow looks at Russian hacking and Republican election-rigging:

What does it tell us when leading Democrats are more upset about allegations of Russian election-rigging than they are about Republican election-rigging? After all, American oligarchs like the Koch Brothers have no more right to undermine our democracy than Russian oligarchs do. [emphasis added]

GOP voting laws systematically discriminate against minority voters and working people. Yes, leading Democrats have lodged pro forma protests against them, but they should be shouting about it from the rooftops. They seem more comfortable challenging Russians than they do challenging a party that's undermining the electoral process much closer to home.

"It's a conspiracy in plain sight," he writes:

If Democrats want to challenge the electoral outcome, it would be better to do it on behalf of the minority and lower-income voters disenfranchised by Republican lawmakers. That's a charge we can prove. [...]

We can't resolve the Russian question without more answers, but we can fix what we already know is broken. Investigate Putin. But democracy, like charity, begins at home.

Matthew Yglesias' letter to future historians sounds an ambivalent note about our current situation. "I hope it will all turn out for the best," he writes, "But I fear that it will not:"

The election of a man temperamentally unfit to the presidency and lacking in the basic qualifications to perform the job, backed up by congressional allies who seem determined to ignore his flagrant corruption, is an alarming situation. The odds that he will systematically corrupt American institutions and install an authoritarian kleptocracy or blunder into some kind of catastrophic war seem simply too high to entirely discount.

"No matter how stupid it sounds," he points out, "the dominant issue of the 2016 campaign was email server management." He then reminds us that "Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions:"

One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying "we looked into it and there was no crime," Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton's behavior. He said she was "extremely careless."

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner's laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

His details are damning:

• The New York Times dedicated 100 percent of its above-the-fold space to coverage of Comey's letter to Congress.
• Throughout the campaign season, network newscasts dedicated more time to Clinton's email server stories than to stories about all policy issues combined.
• Donald Trump's campaign rallies featured regular "lock her up" chants, centering the email server as the opposition's main criticism of Clinton.
• Across five television networks and six major newspapers, 11 percent of campaign coverage was stories about Clinton's email server.

"Indeed," he continues, "research from Gallup indicates that emails dominated what voters heard about Clinton all throughout the campaign," as these wordclouds demonstrate:

20161226-wordcloud.jpg

Even at the time, some of us found it hardly credible that a decision as weighty as who should be president was being decided on the basis of something as trivial as which email address the secretary of state used. Future generations must find it even harder to believe.

Digby makes a great point--that "It's actually a testament to her rectitude that a vague scandal called 'emails!' was all they came up with:"

They had certainly tried over the course of 25 years to come up with something real and they ended up having to make up this ridiculous fake scandal to justify their Javert-like obsession. Unfortunately, it worked as perfectly as any Clinton-scandal ever worked. It was a complicated story that added up to nothing but fit the "didn't pass the smell test" narrative for the media so they pimped it and pimped it and pimped it like it was Watergate.

Speaking of not passing a smell test:

Now we have Trump, the horror story some of us were screaming about until we were hoarse for the last 18 months, knowing that he could and might very well win unless the media, the Republican establishment and some very silly voters sobered up. They didn't. And now we all have to deal with the hangover.

Salon's look at Trumpers and the "drain the swamp" con makes the case that it's not about good governance--it's a political purge. The goal isn't better governance, it's a purely partisan goal of putting conservatives in charge.

This ties in with Newt Gingrich, who might have revealed too much:

"I'm told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore," Gingrich said...

"But, you know, he is my leader and if he decides to drop the swamp and the alligator I will drop the swamp and the alligator."

Adele Stan's analysis of Trump's oligarchy-building worries that it's "difficult to take in all the harm being inflicted on the republic at this moment in history, and the consequences are terrifying to contemplate:"

The stage has been set for a massive accrual of profits to private capitalists--both here and abroad--through the leveraging and misappropriation of the nation's assets and resources, be they highway funds or the fossil fuel that sits beneath the lands and oceans, or the lands over which such fuel must travel to reach a market. And even those two examples represent but a glimpse of the massive grift that is to come.

Stan writes that "the real act....is the diversion of the nation's assets in the service of financial flows between the private capitalists of the United States and the oligarchs of the world--especially those of Russia:"

Trump has found his model, and thanks to the political infrastructure created by private capitalists Charles and David Koch--oilmen themselves--he has access to a strong apparatus for maintaining power. It's the same apparatus that just stripped the incoming governor of North Carolina of much of the office's previously held powers. It's the apparatus that is likely to keep the U.S. House of Representatives in Republican hands for a generation.

It's all to the good of the gaggle of people who sit atop large, privately-held entities and corporations, people whose actions are unaccountable to the public because shares in their businesses are not traded on exchanges.

Rather than divest himself of any holdings, Trump will apparently maintain his position atop that financial apparatus:

Today comes word that rather than place his holdings in what is traditionally known as a "blind trust," Trump is contemplating a "half-blind trust," one that would leave his family in charge of the store.

The nation rustles lightly, its weariness from a hellish campaign and fear over its outcome obscuring its view with heavy eyelids.

In the land of unseeing, the half-blind man is king.

And thus we return to Newt, this time for a lecture on professional ethics:

We have never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don't work, and we're going to have to think up, you know, a whole new approach. ...

I've suggested that people who are widely respected, like Attorney General Mukasey, might -- that the president-elect might want to form a panel who are sort of a review group, if that makes sense, and that the panel would monitor regularly what was going on and would offer warnings if they get too close to the edge.

"This is not a surprise," the piece continues, "to anyone who has followed the three-decade-arc of the deeply corrupt and cynical career of Newton Leroy Gingrich:"

But let us take him at his word that Donald Trump wants to "clean up" Washington because we live "in an age when people are convinced that government corruption is widespread both in the United States and around the world." Exactly how does letting the incoming administration off the hook on corruption issues ahead of time help fight that perception?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn't.

"After eight years of complaining that Obama is a dictator who sees himself as above the law," Salon snarks, "surely we can expect the GOP to put its money where its mouth is. Right?"

not-so-good grief

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David Horsey writes, "I have never seen anything quite like the grief being felt by the majority of American voters who did not vote for Donald Trump."

This is not simply a case of Hillary Clinton supporters being bad losers. For most of those who feel traumatized by what happened on Nov. 8, this is not about the candidate who won the popular vote, yet lost the election. It is about the candidate who was picked as president by the electoral college on Monday. People are mourning because the fate of their country will now be in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist.

It is not just Democrats. There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans among those feeling depressed. Their party has been captured by a man who has no bedrock belief in any principle; a man whose only allegiance appears to be to himself.

Horsey offers at least a glimmer of hope:

In the presidential campaign, the fears of one group of citizens morphed into a powerful anger that Trump harnessed to propel himself to the White House. Now, another set of Americans -- a significantly larger group -- is feeling profoundly distressed. If their fears are borne out, their anger, too, will become a political force that could upend an election yet to come.

Eric Boehlert presents the disgusting mental image of NBC in bed with Trump:

The parent company for NBC News, one of the largest news organizations in America, is going to maintain its business relationship with the president of the United States; the same Donald Trump whom NBC announced last year didn't reflect the company's "core values," which was why NBC publicly terminated its business relationship with him.

But now after winning the White House, it turns out Trump is going to stay on as executive producer for the latest incarnation of The Apprentice reality show, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. And all of this we're learning just days after Trump made a big public show about how he was going to remove himself from his business conflicts. [...]

It's impossible to suggest those conflicts for NBC will soon evaporate when Trump's sworn into office. In fact, they'll only multiply.

"Meanwhile," Boehlert writes, "a key point is that this is just the latest in the media's rampant normalization of Trump's wildly abnormal behavior:"

Every modern-day president before Trump, and every modern-day nominee before him, pledged to make sure not only wouldn't there be any conflicts of interest surrounding their presidencies, but there wouldn't even any appearances of conflicts; of cashing in on the Oval Office. (Cue Richard Nixon: "People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.")

Now Trump does the opposite by openly flaunting obvious conflicts and the D.C. press largely shrugs its shoulders.


the F word

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Despite Merriam-Webster's warning that "fascism could become 2016's most-searched term on its online dictionary," Dominic Green sees a problem with using 'fascism' as an insult--primarily that fact that "To call someone fascist is to announce that they are beneath contempt--and thus beneath serious consideration:"

But is fascism an accurate heuristic for the populist movements in the United States and Europe that have arisen in recent years, or is invoking the term just a kneejerk way of condemning political opponents? And if it's inaccurate, might the word still represent a useful case study on the debased value of political language?

Green discusses Robert Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism, and seems as if he merely wants us to preserve the F-bomb's sting by avoiding overuse. Today, he fears, "the language of politics is stuck with an F-word whose value is more rhetorical than analytical."

Putin in the polls

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Business Insider reports that "Putin's favorability rating has taken an amazing turn among Republicans since President-elect Donald Trump began praising the Russian president:"

According to a YouGov/Economist poll, Putin's favorability rating in July 2014, after the Russian annexation of Crimea, was negative-54 among Democrats and negative-66 among Republicans.

A poll from the same outlets released this month showed that Putin's favorability rating among Democrats dipped to negative-62. But the Russian leader's rating among Republicans improved dramatically, from negative-66 to negative-10.

20161217-goputin.jpg

New York Magazine comments that "with a -10 net favorability among GOP members, the Russian president is far better liked by them than either Hillary Clinton (-77) or Barack Obama (-64)" and links to this Vox piece--which notes that this is "a massive improvement in his ratings since 2014:"

And it makes sense, because GOP voters are no longer hearing uniformly negative messaging from their party elites about Putin. Trump has repeatedly praised Putin as a "strong leader," and it is instead Democrats who have been loudly criticizing Russia for its attempts to intervene in the 2016 election.

Another tidbit: Republican voters view Hillary Clinton (-77) and Barack Obama (-64) far more unfavorably than Putin (-10), and Democratic voters also view Trump (-65) about as unfavorably as the Russian president (-62).

fighting back

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Liberals are cribbing from the conservative playbook, writes Josh Gerstein, who sees a "post-election scramble to build a liberal version of Judicial Watch is underway:"

In a series of meetings held in the weeks since Trump's election, liberal activists have been debating how to mount that fight. Some believe it makes sense to create a new entity that can use the courts and the legal system to keep the new administration in check. [...]

Others say there's no shortage of left-leaning groups that regularly file Freedom of Information Act suits and are sure to keep it up under Trump: the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Public Citizen and more.

For now, the leading contender to assume the role of a liberal Judicial Watch is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an organization founded in 2003 with an announced goal of rooting out government corruption.

"Building CREW into a behemoth that could rival Judicial Watch," however, "will be an uphill battle:"

Buoyed by its anti-Clinton work, the conservative group's contribution revenue surged to a record $35.4 million in 2015, according to a tax filing provided to POLITICO. CREW, by contrast, received just under $2.2 million in donations last year. Judicial Watch has about a dozen lawyers on staff. CREW has four.

Perhaps Democrats should adopt the GOP's anti-Obama strategy from 2009, as demonstrated in the Economic Report of the President. This chart of state and local spending is particularly revealing:

20161216-statespending.jpg

Needless to say, Republicans feverishly opposed all attempts at economic stimulus because they didn't want the economy to get too much better. That might have helped Obama's reelection chances, you see.

Oh well. Bygones. I'm sure Trump will fix everything.

The lackluster recovery from the Great Recession is the cost of conservative obstructionism, a fact that we need to never stop pointing out.

The FBI sat on Hillary's email to impact the election, writes Darrell Lucus:

You may recall that on Wednesday, this writer was the first to report that professor and attorney Seth Abramson had amassed what appears to be compelling evidence that FBI agents conspired to derail Hillary Clinton's campaign and throw the election to Donald Trump. Specifically, in the 24 days after FBI agents discovered emails from one of Hillary's senior aides, Huma Abedin, on the laptop of her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, they found the time to tell agents investigating Hillary's email server before telling FBI director James Comey to get a warrant for the emails. The agents investigating the server, in turn, illegally leaked information about the emails to Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump aide.

Well, on Thursday afternoon, more evidence came to light that proves there's a rank odor surrounding the events leading up to Comey's now-infamous letter to Congress-a move that almost certainly cost Hillary the Electoral College. Abedin's lawyers claim that the FBI never told their client that it was getting a warrant for the emails it discovered.

"The agents knew they needed a warrant for those emails," Lucus writes, "and yet couldn't find the time to alert Comey that they needed one until just two weeks from Election Day:"

They couldn't find the time to interview Abedin, let alone get her a copy of the warrant. However, they found the time to tell the agents working on the Hillary email server case. The agents working on the Hillary case, in turn, leaked the information to one of Trump's closest advisers. What's wrong with this picture? [...]

At this point, you at least have to wonder if this wasn't just unprofessional conduct, but a deliberate attempt to throw the election to Trump.

"Useful idiots galore" is the assessment of Paul Krugman:

On Wednesday an editorial in The Times described Donald Trump as a "useful idiot" serving Russian interests. That may not be exactly right. After all, useful idiots are supposed to be unaware of how they're being used, but Mr. Trump probably knows very well how much he owes to Vladimir Putin. Remember, he once openly appealed to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails.

Still, the general picture of a president-elect who owes his position in part to intervention by a foreign power, and shows every sign of being prepared to use U.S. policy to reward that power, is accurate.

"I'm not talking about some kind of wild conspiracy theory," Krugman explains:

I'm talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I., which appears to have become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies. [...]

The F.B.I. literally found nothing at all. But the letter dominated front pages and TV coverage, and that coverage -- by news organizations that surely knew that they were being used as political weapons -- was almost certainly decisive on Election Day.

AlterNet's Janet Allon asks, "Is Krugman mad?" and responds:

Very, as we all should be. The only worse outcome would be if somehow Election 2016 turned out to be the new normal. That would make all of us useful idiots.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum assures Bernie's fans that Sanders would have lost in a landslide:

Could Bernie Sanders have beaten Donald Trump? I think there's almost no chance of that, but since the topic keeps coming up, I feel like I ought to explain why. I know this won't persuade anyone, but the reason is simple: he's just too liberal.

20161216-landslide.jpg

No Democratic candidate with a score below 15 has ever won the presidency. Bernie Sanders, needless to say, is way below 15. There's not a snowball's chance that he could have won the presidency.

complicit?

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AlterNet offers us a dire 100-day prediction from Travis Nichols, expressing a fear that "If Trump is sworn in as president, there will be a terrorist attack on U.S. soil within his first 100 days. [Editor's note: Or anytime early in his term; the results would be the same.]:"

In response to this terrorist attack, pundits will say America must rally behind the president, that we must put the disputed election, the CIA intelligence of tampering, the bruised egos and hurt feelings behind us and come together to fight the outside threat. And we'll do it, and Trump will no longer be the unpopular buffoon in office with a giant asterisk and no mandate. He will be entrenched on the throne.

There is historical precedent from that most Trumpian of places--Russia:

In the fall of 1999, just months after then-unknown former FSB agent Vladimir Putin had been sworn in as prime minister of Russia, someone began bombing apartment buildings.

"Putin, the uniquely unqualified newcomer to political office, became a global authoritarian" and promised retribution:

Since those fateful days, experts around the world have come to agree that the Russian government was complicit in the terrorist bombings that swept Putin into power.

For more details, see this American Interest article.

indivisible

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Wil Wheaton wants us to be indivisible against Trump, noting that "There's a lot of triumphant 'get over it you Libtard you lost' going around:"

I understand that. I get it. It's shitty, and it's obnoxious, but I understand that impulse. In 2008, I felt so relieved that President Obama was elected, because I felt like it was a chance to repair a lot of the damage done by the Bush/Cheney administration. I really wanted to believe that voters -- that America -- had repudiated Bush and Cheney. The vote totals certainly told us that. The polling certainly told us that. Unfortunately, when President Obama had majorities in both houses of congress, and progressive policies could be passed with relative ease (relative to the unprecedented obstructionism that was to come), the Democrats and the president didn't really seem that invested in doing that. They seemed to be infuriatingly focused on "healing the country," and making the Republicans who ran deceitful, hateful campaigns feeel better, which is something that right wingers always call for when they lose elections. Hey, how did appointing Republican James Comey to head the FBI work out for you? And taking that public option off the table? Letting Lieberman off without any consequences? All good, right? Yeah.

"If you thought those shitbags were obnoxious when they were relegated to the gutter where they belong," he says with no small amount of frustration, "just wait and see how terrible they can really get" because "the simple fact is that Republicans play to win, and fuck the rules because rules are for losers and Democrats:"

Republicans never let facts get in their way, (climate change and voter fraud come to mind) so even though Trump and his basket of douchebags can not claim any real and meaningful mandate, they will govern like they have one.

One infuriating example is that "Congressional Republicans who couldn't fund enough investigations into every breath Hillary Clinton took are suddenly too busy to look into Russian meddling in the election:"

Jason Chaffetz, who promised "years of investigations" if Hillary Clinton was president just doesn't think it's a big deal to find out what Trump knew and when he knew it. And who cares if Trump's nominee for Secretary of State has no experience with diplomacy, is close friends with the leader of a hostile foreign country, and has consistently put the interests of his company ahead of America's national interest? They're finally going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with ... something. Maybe. The important thing is, they won, and they put that uppity bitch Hillary Clinton in her place.

Wheaton recommends "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda" [updated link] as motivational reading; here is part of their message:

The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs [Members of Congress] to reject President Obama's agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism -- and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda -- but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

Their reasoning for compiling the guide is worth reading as well:

We wrote this guide because we believe that the coming years will see an unprecedented movement of Americans rising up across the country to protect our values, our neighbors, and ourselves. Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your Members of Congress (MoCs) think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and to Republican congressional overreach.

"This isn't going to be easy," concludes Wheaton, "but we have to start fighting back right now. If we don't, we are fucked."

Trump's fight with the CIA is one example of "the 'rift' between the incoming administration and the intelligence community"--and also one that "has deep roots in the history of the American right:"

From the earliest days of the Cold War, right-wing populists have distrusted the CIA and the broader intelligence community, believing that its allegiance to professionalism covered up a liberal bias. This hostility has flared up time and again, starting with the controversies around McCarthyism in the early 1950s, resurfacing during assessments of Soviet military capabilities in the 1970s, and appearing again in disputes over whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In each of these cases, the right organized to challenge the CIA's claim of expertise and tried to replace the agency's consensus with a much more politicized and ideological view of reality.

The piece observes of Trump that "there's little doubt that he shares his predecessors' philosophy that professionalism is not the path to truth, but an enemy of reality:"

The right-wing populist believes what his or her gut tells them, while the professional analyst tries to root their findings in information and knowledge. Thus, Trump allows his uninformed instincts on Russia to overrule the CIA's intelligence-based conclusions. He denies that climate change is real, or blames it on China. He is skeptical of vaccines. More broadly, he's appointing cabinet members who will be hostile to environmentalism, the theory of evolution, and drug testing.

ThinkProgress notes that Gingrich's desire to trash the New Deal is still strong, as seen in his Heritage comments that "this is the third great effort to break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model." ThinkProgress continues:

Yet the thrust of the speech was that Trump has opened the door to a transformative moment where nearly a century's worth of liberal victories can be reversed. Gingrich twice brought up the possibility of rolling back Roosevelt's model of governance, at one point telling the conservative audience that, if Trump is succeeded by another Republican, that would establish "firmly that we have replaced the FDR model and that we are now in a period of very different government."

So what is this "FDR model" that Gingrich finds so odious? Roosevelt took office amidst a catastrophic depression, but he also assumed power at a time when a conservative majority on the Supreme Court choked off progressive legislation, especially laws intended to protect workers. These rigid limits on governance, FDR proclaimed a month before he accepted his party's nomination to be president, would hobble the nation's ability to extract itself from the Great Depression.

FDR's successes were, of course, legion:

Roosevelt's experiments also provided workers with a minimum wage and a right to unionize. And he signed the Social Security Act, which didn't just provide a safety net to the aged and the unemployed, but which also laid the foundation for health legislation such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Roosevelt's experiments brought modern liberalism into being in the United States, and they helped liberals prove that their model works.

Dissent's look at the triumph of the 1% illuminates other facets of the problem:

The election of Donald Trump, and the daily infliction of another huckster, ideologue, paranoid, or unrepentant one-percenter cabinet appointment, has upended the politics of inequality. The defining issue of our time, not an insignificant source of Trump's victory, is disappearing from the national political radar. [...]

By all indications, the incoming administration is not just indifferent to the root causes--growing wage inequality, financialization, the collapse of progressive taxation--but eager to double down on all of them.

The new analysis ["Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States" (PDF)] explains, yet again, where all the surplus goes:

Well, a large chunk of it is captured by the top 1 percent, whose share of national income almost doubled between 1970 and 2014--from 11 percent to 20.2 percent.

"What this means, in general terms," the analysis continues, "is the growth of inequality over decades is due to the ability of the 1 percent to capture a large portion of the growing surplus:"

But there has also been a change in the nature of that inequality in recent years--which is not due to escalating wages at the top, but to a boom in income from the ownership of stocks and bonds. The high incomes of the "working rich," it seems, have increasingly been used to purchase financial assets.

It looks then as if the working rich are either turning into or being replaced by rentiers--thus mirroring, after a short interruption, the structure of inequality last seen during the first Gilded Age.

update (13:54):
Thomas Piketty explains at The Wire that "on both the Right and the Left, everyone seems to agree on the existence of a minimum income around this level in France, as is the case in other European countries"--but not the US, of course. "If we wish to live in a fair and just society," he writes, "we have to formulate more ambitious objectives which cover the distribution of income and wealth in its entirety and, consequently, the distribution of access to power and opportunities:"

To move towards fair pay, we must stop denigrating the role of trade unions, the minimum wage and salary scales. We should reconsider the role assigned to the employees' representatives. In countries where they play an active role on the executive boards - between one third and half of the votes in Sweden and Germany - we find a narrower range of salary scales, greater investment of the employees in the firms' strategy and, as a consequence, higher productivity. In addition, there is nothing to prevent us from imagining original forms of power-sharing, with the board members being elected by a combination of employees and shareholders (to go beyond the interaction between paid administrators and shareholders with the latter automatically holding the majority).

Democracy is even more dangerous to authoritarians when employed at work than it is at the ballot box.

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