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    As a Pinellas County native, I have been waiting 25 years for the announcement heard today: $1.25 billion would be granted for construction of a Florida high speed rail link. Estimated to cost $3.5 billion total, this award covers a substantial portion (35%+). High Speed Rail is finally coming to the rest of America.

    But many have asked: why Florida?


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    Back in January 2010, I wrote a diary offering the political explanation for why Florida was granted $1.25 billion for a High Speed Rail line between Tampa and Orlando, as people understandably questioned what at face value seemed like such an obscure route.

    As part of the ARRA, $8 billion was allocated for rail projects. Amongst legitimate objection, the Administration decided to spread the money across several projects around the country, with no one project receiving all it needed to begin construction. Critics, even on the left, derided this strategy as doomed to fail from resources spread to thin. As will be covered in this diary, the Obama Administration strategy of project seeding was ultimately vindicated, and then some.


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    Barack Obama has failed progressives in every arena. Although it'd be preferable to unseat Obama with a primary challenger in time for 2012, because none has stepped forward (tic toc...), it would be beneficial to the progressive movement in the long term for Obama to lose the Presidency in 2012.

    This way, if not a radicalized Tea Party President (e.g., Romney), then one certainly beholden to such a radicalized Congress will take power, and will surely inflict so much pain and suffering on the American people, they will return power to liberal Democrats in a 2014 wave election. By controlling Congress in 2014, progressives will control the budget, spending, and National dialog. Progressives will then win the Presidency in 2016, led by a "True Progressive" leader to be named later, and with control of both houses of Congress, a new progressive era will dawn.

    And Republicans will wander in the wilderness for 20 years. This time for real.


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    So Charlie Cook has written that Democrats are in jeopardy of losing at least 10 (and as many as 13) Senate Seats in 2014.  It's great copy.  Democrats in Disarray!  And that old Beltway trope has caused many of our friends to surrender in despair months before the campaign really begins.  It is to that irrational pessimism that I feel I must offer the sage wisdom of David Plouffe from his January 24, 2010 Op-Ed in the Washington Post:

    No Bed-Wetting.(1) Now that that's out of the way, let's examine the argument of impending Democratic doom.  A recent diary claims that progressives will unfairly be blamed for those losses.  I cannot challenge that conclusion because above all, nothing has been lost yet.  However, the diary in question is recent, and conveniently summarizes a number of arguments originating from our dissatisfied friends on the Left that date all the way back to when Barack Obama was first sworn in as the 44th President of The United States.  The diary in question is well-written and well thought out.  In my opinion, the author makes a number of sincere points, many of which are based in good faith on bad arguments from others.  This diary is not a call-out, and not a specific retort to the diary in question.  Rather, it is a scientific challenge to many of the fallacies that have unfortunately permeated the community and continue to find their way into arguments.  The good news is, they are all wrong, and demonstrably so!  The bad news is, 2014 is still going to be a difficult election cycle. So let's apply a little logic.

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    Words matter.

    Growing up Jewish, although not really that religiously so, the Holocaust has always been a part of my life. From the earliest memories of Hebrew School and Sunday School, there was the Holocaust.

    It starts out simple enough when you're a child. There was a bad man named Adolf Hitler who only wanted there to be people with blond hair and blue eyes, and he didn't like Jews.

    When you're older, you see the Allied liberation videos; piles of bodies, starving people, gas chambers. It's all part of a grande story of survival and winning in the end, not unlike the story of Exodus. Everyone's relatives fought in WWII, and now there's the UN and Israel so none of this would ever happen again.

    When you're older still, you learn that it really wasn't about blond hair and blue eyes, and that the holocaust happened because an entire industrialized society went mad. How could an entire civilization, one now remarked as a paragon of progress and liberalism, go mad?

    The easiest explanation would be that the Germans were just bad people. But you learn this wasn't the case. Yes, antisemitism coursed throughout Europe for close to a millennium. But Jews had lived in Germany for hundreds of years too. You think Adolf Hitler seized power amidst the madness. But you learn he was elected democratically, with about a third of the vote. And then comes the hard part; asking why didn't the Jews just leave if it was so bad? And that's where the answers get really frightening and delve into human nature and creeping horrors.

    One of my favorite quotes about the Holocaust was that it wasn't the bad Germans who put us in concentration camps, it was the good Germans.

    And so here we are in 2016, wondering what the good Americans are going to do.

    America just elected a man who ran on a white nationalist platform of racial resentment. Trump hasn't even been inaugurated yet, and there's talk about concentration camps. Camps for Muslims, for now. Although I'm sure it will come back to the Jews and other historically oppressed groups of people too. It always does. And like it even makes a difference to humanity in the end.

    I'm not an alarmist. Well, I like to think I’m not an alarmist. So when I read news of white supremacy and fascism in an American presidential administration, I tend to dismiss it. Most importantly, I want to dismiss it. But when I start making excuses for Trump, they are the same excuses Germans made for the Nazis.

    Donald Trump is just a populist buffoon pandering to the masses who has no intent to follow through on any of what he says...

    Those exact words were said by the establishment when Hitler was elected.

    The media would never allow such developments in America...

    The hallmark of this election was the dissemination of false news and propaganda, overwhelmingly from one side.

    If he goes too far, he will not be reelected...

    Who said there's going to be another election? Well, another fair one. We already saw a foreign power interfere in this election, along with federal law enforcement in gross violation of the Hatch Act and every political norm. How would any opponent to Trump or Trumpism resist criminalization by a Trump FBI and DoJ? We saw a bullshit story about e-mail turn into a month's long scandal. What's to stop the next challenger from being smeared with ever greater nonsense?

    It would be illegal...

    Says who? We've seen fringe legal theories become law because the right says so. Who's going to stop this? The Trump Supreme Court will make the laws.

    And that's what's so disturbing: My rational mind too desperately wants to say the Republicans aren't Nazis. Even the Nazis weren't like Nazis. Lightning doesn't strike twice. But every excuse I make for them is an excuse Germans made for the Nazi party. Until it was too late.

    Donald Trump played with forces to assume power that I have good reason to fear he cannot and will not control. History has taught us ethnic nationalism is a Pandora's Box.

    The one thing we've learned from Trump is that this is no reality TV act. He is a very damaged person. I think even his supporters would agree to some extent. This is a pathologically narcissistic and ill-tempered man completely ill-suited to the office who intends to be our first dictatorial/autocratic President in 224 years.

    So what happens when things start to go wrong here? What happens when the economy begins to turn down? Or more importantly, when there's a terror attack on Trump’s watch? Who's going to be to blame? Not the Donald.

    There needs to be a scapegoat. And in Germany, the times between the Reichstag Fire (February 1933), the Nuremberg Laws (September 1935), Kristallnacht (November 1938), and Genocide were astonishingly short, even by modern standards.

    People want to believe there will be a happy ending here, that if things head south, this will all play out like World War II. Germany, for all the ten's of millions killed, was actually rather limited, militarily, compared to America today. We have a nuclear arsenal. So if things do go bad here, and that's a big if, who's gonna save us? No one.

    Maybe if we're lucky, we'll just slip into 46 years of apartheid like South Africa.


    0 0

    (Please note this topic was diaried by RETIII last week, but I feel the issue’s importance deserves much additional discussion)

    As we’re forced to genuflect to the latest round of bitter recriminations over the great Great Calamity of 11/9, where every armchair strategist with an historic axe to grind gets their high and mighty moment in the sun (with bonus points for repeatedly cramming in jargon like ‘neoliberalism(1) and ‘elitist’) to criticize Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that (somehow, to be determined) allowed economic anxiety(2) to propel a bloated narcissist and compulsive liar(3) to the highest office in the land, let us not forget that in nearly every swing state she lost, voters preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump on the economy.

    That’s not all. Despite...

    Leading the election 48.2% to 46.2% and by a 2.8 million vote margin (and growing), and… Earning the second highest number of votes in history and more than any white man, and... Leading said vote total by a margin greater than many winning candidates, even when adjusted for population increase, and ... The fact that all of this would, in every other democracy, past, present, and future, make her, you know, the winner, except for an anachronistic, undemocratic contraption with an ugly past now used to justify quasi-apartheid for white heartland christian rule,...

    All these economically anxious voters also preferred Clinton on the economy... but voted to commit National suicide instead. Nice.

    There’s more stunning results in these exit polls:

    Voters preferred Clinton on foreign policy. They felt she was far more qualified in terms of experience and temperament to be Commander in Chief. Heck, even Trump voters felt Trump was unfit to be President Trump. They said she was far more likable than Donald Trump, despite all the old boys in the newsrooms insisting that she was unlikable and just needed to smile more, which negates the slur she was a bad candidate running a bad campaign.

    Trump voters were primarily motivated by voting against that woman rather than for Trump (and who’s to blame them), which is the opposite of Clinton voters. And to top it all off, for the first time in history, an overwhelming majority of all voters stated the winning candidate ran a resoundingly deplorable campaign.

    And still that wasn’t enough.

    It took a September 11 style attack on a Presidential campaign, a black swan event politically indefensible, whereby law enforcement was weaponized and used to craven political ends, to sink a candidate who we now know was winning, and otherwise would have won(4).

    All together, this points to a likeable (enough) candidate winning a Party’s third term, a distinctly and impressively rare event per se, on economic policies, only to be torpedoed in the eleventh hour by political assassination.

    So what the hell happened?

    How was it even this close enough to allow the FBI to throw the election?

    In the same exit polls, voters who were most afraid of terrorism and immigration flocked to Trump. And since Trump at least came relatively close in the popular vote, let’s (try and) unpack how utterly preposterous it is that a major chunk of the population is anxious about immigration and terrorism.

    Barack Obama was actually the deporter in chief. And let’s also not forget that Barack Obama kept us safe when George W. Bush did not.

    Turning out for fear of immigration and terrorism seems like something that would fall somewhere in between choosing Trump out of concern for high inflation and fear of Freemason influence.

    As we can see from Gallup, sentiments on the economy can reflect feelings on other issues.

    With just the prospect of changing the color of the person in the White House, economic confidence surged dramatically after the election, exclusively due to an uptick in sentiment from one group of people. Guess which group.

    I’ve always found it odd that many on the left never questioned why economic confidence ran negative, often profoundly so, during the entire Obama Presidency, despite “More Jobs (+15M), Rising Middle Class Incomes (+$3K), Lower Deficit (-2/3rds)”, and despite routinely touting charts and graphs clearly showing Democratic Presidents performing far better than Republicans(5).

    Some of this was due to real liberal concerns over the economy, which didn’t always live up to its top numbers, and which are too numerous to detail here. Suffice it to say, Sen. Bernie Sanders rightly and resoundingly won the argument over the direction of the Democratic Party on economics.

    But many times, it was liberals uncritically parroting heartland voter sentiments. If working class people in the Midwest feel the economy is bad for them, it must be bad, right? But what if, in part, that economic sentiment was a lie?

    I’m willing to bet good money that economic confidence runs higher during the Trump Presidency, regardless of fact, right up until the impending economic calamity.

    So how do square this circle?

    There is anxiety alright -- it’s just not really economic(6).

    You’ll note that all those Trump voter concerns have xenophobia in common.

    Take a trip over to Breitbart; the beautiful, digital distillation of the Trump campaign. Among the other horrors, you’ll find video after video of immigrants (supposedly) flooding borders, endless articles on Europe committing National ethnic suicide by allowing immigrants, and an entire section devoted to (supposed) crime by African Americans.

    Between Breitbart and the exit polls, you’ll soon realize we are locked in a death match for our version of a just and free society(6).

    Are we a multicultural, liberal democracy with equality for all? Or are we a quasi-apartheid state based on white, (certain type of) christian nationalism?

    When you see the struggle through this frame, economic messaging points  (which by the way, Clinton won on) have little to no relevance. Voters largely know which party is better for the economy. They voted for the other one.

    _________________________________________

    (1) Read the definition of neoliberalism, and determine if that is the campaign Hillary Clinton ran on.

    (2) Which to our white boardroom denizens and corporate media, and too many of our politicians, means white economic anxiety, despite the fact that today, the working class consists of only two-thirds white folks.

    (3) Thank you, Garrison Keillor.

    (4) And don’t think for a second such an attack wouldn’t be leveled against a candidate Sanders, and won’t be used in the future against the next Democratic Party nominee. 

    (5) Here’s a hint: Show a Republican this chart, and they’ll still vote Republican.

    (6) Here is Brian Buetler on how economics can be a part of their anxiety.


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    The iconic photograph was taken by Mrs. Rachel Posner in 1931, from her window in Kiel, Germany. Rachel Posner was the wife of the town’s Rabbi, Akiva Boruch Posner.  From the Posner’s grandson(1):

    “It was on a Friday afternoon right before Shabbat that this photo was taken. My grandmother realized that this was a historic photo, and she wrote on the back of the photo that ‘their flag wishes to see the death of Judah, but Judah will always survive, and our light will outlast their flag.’ My grandfather, the rabbi of the Kiel community, was making many speeches, both to Jews and Germans. To the Germans he warned that the road they were embarking on was not good for Jews or Germans, and to the Jews he warned that something terrible was brewing, and they would do well to leave Germany. My grandfather fled Germany in 1933, and … and before [he] departed he urged his people to flee Germany while there’s still time.”

    The menorah and the original photograph survived World War II, and both now reside in the Yad Vashem, except during the festival of Hanukah, when they are returned to the descendants of the Posners who live, to this day, in Haifa, Israel.

    Tonight(0) marks the eighth night of the festival of Hanukah 5777 and thus the 85th Anniversary of the photograph. Thanks to the Internet, the photo’s spawned numerous inane “resist Tyranny” memes. But it’s not saying ‘resist’ -- it’s telling us to ‘respond’. 

    On Tuesday, the outstanding Greg Sargent at the Washington Post had an article on Coal Country Voters backing Trump... yet terrified about losing their Obamacare. For many, this loss will be a death sentence. Greg’s was the latest in a series of buyer’s remorse articles. Sarah Kliff noted days before that 82% of Whitley County, KY voted for Trump, despite the uninsured rate there dropping 60%.

    And it wasn’t just the prospect of dying from lack of Obamacare that didn’t deter Trump voters. Michelle Goldberg wonders why did so many Planned Parenthood backers vote for Trump while professing outrage at anyone who plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Defunding Planned Parenthood would put 900,000 women’s lives at risk. And Evan Urquhart talked to the 22% of the LGBTQ voters who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, but were nonetheless undeterred by losing their basic human rights when handing the Presidency to Trump by throwing their vote away on Jill Stein.

    To which Markos responded that all these people are getting exactly what they voted for. After all, it’s not like the Republican desire to abolish Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate equal rights are any secret. Why do you think they took all those pointless votes during the Obama Administration? To tell everyone precisely where they stood on these issues.

    Markos’ diary caused quite a reaction, here as put by TomP, and elsewhere(2):

    x

    This is almost incomprehensibly vile. People are going to die. Real people, who spent their entire lives working in a pitch-black hole.

    — Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) December 13, 2016

    Yes, people are going to die. The hammer will fall the hardest on those that swung to Trump most fervently. That’s not hyperbole. It’s based on the actual Republican platform and campaign promises of Republican elected officials.

    So how should we respond to these people who voted for death and the death of their neighbors?

    Our Very Serious Betters at the New York Times stunningly insist an apology is in order. Liberals have wronged rural white Christian America by being accepting of all identities, according to Mark Lilla.

    ...the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.”

    If we could just get back to pretending this is a white Christian country, Mark Lilla could spend his columns letting us know how his sabbatical in France went.

    Rabbi Michael Lerner, in a more forceful op-ed, demanded that liberal stop shaming Trump supporters as racist, sexist, and xenophobic (for supporting racism, sexism, and xenophobia). White people, despite their white privilege, are ground down by unfettered capitalism, and being told the reality that we to this day benefit from slavery (we do) and the genocide of Native Americans (we do) is just too much to bear.

    “The left needs to stop ignoring people’s inner pain and fear. The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans...”

    It’s all just a misunderstanding.

    Our third gilded DC-centric liberal castigation in as many weeks comes from David Paul Khun, who creates an elaborate straw man argument on the pages of (you guessed it) The New York Times that liberals are blaming bigotry for Clinton’s loss rather than donning the necessary sackcloth and ashes that come from electoral “defeat”.

    “Bluntly put, much of the white working class decided that Mr. Trump could be a jerk. Absent any other champion, they supported the jerk they thought was more on their side — that is, on the issues that most concerned them.”

    What a jerk.

    Trump’s white working class base have suffered economically far less than the rest of America. They are far less likely to be murdered by the police. They are far less likely to encounter an immigrant, let alone be affected by one. From Shawn Hamilton:

    “So, why the rush to defend Trump’s supporters? Why the self-recriminations? Why the willingness to stretch the bounds of legitimacy to accommodate Trump’s antics? Much has been written about Trump’s demagoguery and its similarity to totalitarian leaders of the past, but what about Trump’s opponents? Are many of us borrowing a page from totalitarianism without realizing it?”

    (Spoiler alert: yes)

    And pointing out similarities between Trumpism and early Nazism is not out of bounds on a Godwin Point of Order. Trumpism has:

    Called for the registry of Muslims and possible Internment. Called for mass deportation of a resident minority. Stated an extremely hostile position towards freedom of the press. Called for violence. Attempted a coup against a duly elected government in one of our states. Called for jailing his political opponents (since rescinded).

    Please, stop me if I’ve gone too far here. More from Shawn Hamilton:

    “So, in the last year, Trump has flirted with ... totalitarianism, yet the advice from many is to “give him a chance” ...”

    So how do we respond to the calls for tolerance of the intolerable? The calls for empathy to the unsympathetic? The calls to just give him a chance?

    Not as per our media elite have done, says Shawn Hamilton, quoting Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt:

    ...Many intellectuals of [the] time [of the rise of the Nazis] were ‘trapped by their own ideas.’...

    The new paradigm of authoritarianism was so disorienting that they simply could not see it for what it was, let alone confront it...

    Many continue to conflate Trumpism and the historic Republican Party, even though the former completely co-opted the latter(4) when Donald Trump was still doing pornos. They don’t see that an authoritarian illiberal regime has succeeded to power over both the (late) Republican Party and now the Democratic Party, in that order. 

    When trapped in the expired paradigm of a two-party constitutional liberal democracy, it only makes sense for the losing party to prostrate before the victors in order to garner their support. It only makes political sense to blame the losing candidate’s campaign. It only makes political sense to believe buyer’s remorse stories, like clever graphs, will shift public opinion and deliver victory. But all these outdated yet perfectly natural political responses do now is aid totalitarianism.

    Instead, respond as per the menorah in the Posners’ picture. From Shawn Hamilton one last time:

    “We should not waste our time or imaginations trying to reconfigure Trumpism to explain why all of the ‘good people’ supported him. It is more important to see it for what it is and resist. Hopefully, they will join us. If not, it will not be necessary to call them names, they will have named themselves.”

    Edit:

    Thank you for the Rec List. Many in the comments have asked, now that the problem is so clearly recognized, what should we do? Beyond cancelling your subscription to the New York Times, the answers aren’t that simple, and will hopefully be the topics of subsequent diaries on tyranny, and their prehistories. In the mean time, I would say, never normalize, compromise, or sympathize with Trumpism.

    _______________________________________

    (0) December 31, 2016.

    (1) Via Rare Historical Photos. The Posners warning saved almost the entire community of Kiel. Only eight of the five hundred Jews perished in the Holocaust, with the rest fleeing before the systematic slaughter began.

    (2) Sarah Jones is the social media editor at the New Republic.

    (3) It is also important to note many differences. If anything, Trumpism most resembles Falangist Spain, which certainly left hundreds of thousands dead.

    (4) 1994, if you ask me.


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    Trump has been President for 58 days. Usually the peak honeymoon period, the Trump “Administration” has been such a rolling disaster, it’s easy to lose sight of the imminent and grave danger we all now find ourselves in.

    x

    People in America are underestimating possibility things could get really weird and really scary really fast.

    — Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) January 4, 2017

    As before, we can look to the rise of fascism(1) in Europe in the 20’s for some answers. The above article is from the New York Times (January 21, 1924). No, it’s not fake. Our media was desperate to normalize fascism back then. Why?

    The cover of Newsweek, May 13, 1940.

    Adolf Hitler appeared on the cover of Time Magazine(2) five times before war broke out, and was Time Man of the Year in 1938. Fascism would go on to kill 60 million people.

    “By divide and conquer, and by throwing up a bunch of distractions, and by ruling all media "fake news" which is what his goal is -- that's the authoritarian, that's the tyrannical impulse that propels this man who really doesn't understand what a liberal democracy is all about”— Andrew Sullivan, Hardball with Chris Matthews, January 12, 2017.

    Which, if you think about it, would be the biggest assault on a free press in the History of the United States. So why the abnormally tame behavior from our media elites these past 58 days?

    It took 168 days for Donald Trump to hold his first press conference after winning the election. As you may remember, holding the proper number of press conferences is extremely important for our media elites, to the point where they will make a running clock to mock you. And they decide what arbitrarily counts to them as a proper press conference. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Jonathan Chait summed up Trump’s attitude during the press conference as follows:

    [Trump’s] early behavior is consistent with (though far from proof of) the thesis that he is an emerging autocrat.

    Then Donald Trump gives what George Will called the Worst Inaugural Address in the 230 year history of the United States. All that was missing was the amazing and colorful flip card propaganda.

    Finally, Donald Trump gives his first State of the Union address to joint session of congress. Trump somehow manages to not brag about sexually assaulting someone during the 60 minute speech, and this is how our media responds:

    x xYouTube Video

    This is the same Van Jones whose voluntary resignation was held up as the first Obama betrayal of the True Progressives™ who’d go on to found the equally as dangerous alt-left. You’d think there’d be a world of difference between someone like Van Jones and this guy.

    x

    The thumbs up slays me https://t.co/Hf2noSRYrv

    — Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) March 19, 2017

    x

    The assumption that "Trump voter = racist" is deeply corrosive to democracy. Also, wrong. https://t.co/vxFE571ILV

    — Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) November 10, 2016

    How many people will Trumpism(3) kill, Chris? Meanwhile, the same media, which is abundantly aware of the threat it faces, belches up this wretched normalization of Trumpism.

    It’s like the rotting reanimated corpse of David Broder.

    So what gives?

    Liberals often argue that the press is just biased. It’s a difficult charge to argue against, considering the horrendous media coverage Hillary Clinton received this past year.  Or the documented, overwhelmingly negative coverage of the Obama Presidency, despite being recently ranked as the 12th best by Presidential Historians(4). But the shocking truth is Trump has received overwhelmingly negative media coverage(5) too, and justifiably so; he’s going to give Andrew Johnson a run for his money in the end. But bias and normalization can be separate phenomena. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama received biased negative coverage, but you can argue both were treated most times(6) as normal politicians. There is nothing normal about Trump. Ever. Trumpism in its entirety from top to bottom is wholly abnormal for America and a clear and present danger to 230 years of liberal democracy. Moreover, let’s go back to that Van Jones prat fall. If anything, Van Jones (once a communist) would be inclined to be biased against Trump. Other statements from him would back that up. But that didn’t stop Van Jones from humiliating himself on National TV over a Navy SEAL Trump killed through negligence.

    Another argument is that the corporate nature of media empires is wooed by Republican corporatist policies. There’s no doubt that what the shareholders want eventually trickles down to what journalists cover in the corporate media model. But the media landscape today is very different that it was when fascism rose in Europe. It’s therefore difficult to argue that the same press that normalized Hitler and Mussolini somehow sees it in its corporate interest to normalize Trump in the same exact way, when ratings dictate otherwise.

    If it’s not bias and not corporatism, what is it?

    Power.

    “Outside of Germany people often wonder at the palpable fraudulence of Nazi propaganda, the stupid incredible exaggerations, the ludicrous reticences concerning what is generally known. Who can be convinced by it? They ask. The answer is that it is not meant to convince but to impress.” — Sebastian Haffner, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde (1940).

    1984 has become the number one book on Amazon. More from Adam Gopnik:

    “...one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism… Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.

    When Trump repeats the ridiculous story about the three million illegal voters… he does not really care if anyone believes it... People aren’t meant to believe it; they’re meant to be intimidated by it. The lie is not a claim about specific facts; the lunacy is a deliberate challenge to the whole larger idea of sanity...”

    Power is magnetic. It’s human nature weakness to be attracted, and the media, despite professing to hold their freedom sacrosanct, are only human.

    So if it’s all about power. Then what’s the solution?

    Certainly not to chase down and refute every individual lie, as Democrats, the Resistance, never-Trump Republicans, and the media have been doing for months, including, [eh-hem] our front page. We’re fake news. All of us. Without diverting into a Matrixmeme, what Trump’s base sees and reality are two very different things. You’re not going to break through. Don’t even bother trying.

    No, its much simpler than that. The opposite of power is weakness. It’s the one thing Trump can never be, in any of it's forms. That means never being wrong, being a loser, being corrected, being emasculated, or even something as obscure as being not physically fit, sick, or tired(7).

    I concede that sounds awfully trite. If it was that simple, why didn’t all those Europeans just point out that guy up on the podium ranting about the Aryan master race was a swarthy 5’9” failed artist?

    Marco Rubio realized this lesson too late to win the primary, but he got it, and it was one of the most effective attacks in the primary:

    x xYouTube Video

    I am reticent to condone body shaming, and Rubio did famously back down from this very effective attack (to his own political doom). Trump, of course, understood exactly what the attack on his hands meant, and why it was so threatening. If Trump was a normal politician, he would have dismissed the attack as ‘shameful’ or ‘unbecoming’ and moved on. But these people only understand their own repugnant language of power and dominance. Trump in a rage turned his hands into a story for days.

    Say what you will about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but she also understood the way to attack Trump. In the end, it wasn’t enough for her to earn more than 3 million more votes than Trump. But she sprang the trap when he attacked her stamina.

    x xYouTube Video

    It left supposed alpha male Trump sitting on the toilet at 4 AM tweeting in a rage(8).

    Donald Trump is the greatest threat the United States has faced in 75 years. He’s also the weakest, thanks to his fortuitously poor impulse control and transparent personality. Want to know what threatens Trump? His rages and lies hold all the clues. At the heart of each are a threat to his power. How long did the rage about his popular vote loss last? Or his rage over his weak inauguration crowd size?

    I will not claim this isn’t all easier said than done. There’s a school of thought that Trump supporters can be better reached with the right message, from someone like a Sen. Bernie Sanders. Trump’s coalition is heterogeneous, and I’m sure some can. Meanwhile history is also sending the Resistance a strong message: if you want to stop media normalization and weaken the Trump Presidency, you cut the power. You make him out to be a weakling and a loser. 

    As a postscript, just tonight, the headline on the Huffington Post is the inevitable Trump cave on universal coverage in Chumpcare. Trump stated numeroustimes that Chumpcare would provide universal coverage, like Obamacare. Yes, Democrats should point out that he’s lied. Yes, they should point out that people will lose coverage. But if they’re smart, they’ll make the story about Trump’s cave, not about the mendacity. And better yet, that he couldn’t provide for America what Obama did. When he starts flailing, they’ve hit the right political attack.

    _______________________________________

    (1) Vox had an interesting but academia-imbued article on whether Donald Trump really is a fascist. The short answer is: 1) no, and 2) it doesn’t matter. Trumpism is its own form of authoritarian and tyrannical evil — debates over the philosophy regarding the proper placement of the nation state as its own entity hardly matter.

    (2) A really big media deal back then. Kinda like holding the record for appearing on Meet the Press.

    (3) A distinction (now) without a difference from Republicanism.

    (4) Bet you that rises for the guy who established health care as a fundamental right.

    (5) ...as President. It’s that same guy again in an article trying to normalize Trump, but the data he presents is pertinent.

    (6) Those times being when sexism and racism didn’t abnormalize normal mainstream democratic politicians.

    (7) Ever wonder why Hillary’s walking pneumonia became a Trump story?

    (8) The New York Times article does not state that Trump was sitting on the toilet.


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    The conventional wisdom among center and left pundits at the time of Gorsuch’s nomination a few weeks ago was that the rascally Mitch McConnell had successfully nabbed a SCOTUS seat from President Obama, and that Democrats dare not be uncivil and try and stop him.

    x

    Mitch McConnell rubs hands together, snickers with glee at his own cynicism:https://t.co/Wae7JuGTuPpic.twitter.com/NwXNAMVdZv

    — Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) January 4, 2017

    My how times have changed quickly. Democrats have now announced, perhaps a little tepidly, that they plan to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

    x

    Democrats plan to filibuster nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court https://t.co/ZAPtyVG5nV

    — Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 23, 2017

    Good.

    But it’s not enough. Democrats need to declare his appointment illegitimate.

    x

    Republicans rendered Gorsuch -or any other nominee- illegitimate. They seek to fill a #StolenSeat. Sins against democracy have consequences.

    — Eliza Byard (@EByard) February 1, 2017

    Stunningly we’re starting to see use of the illegitimacy concept trickle up to mainstream Democratic Senators. But Democrats must be ready to make good on the next step, despite the inevitable bleating of the Beltway tone police.

    If Neil Gorsuch is an illegitimate appointment to the supreme Court, then logic dictates that any 5-4 decision with his vote in the majority is by definition illegitimate(1). And if a Supreme Court decision was illegitimate, logic dictates that any such decision need not be respected or followed as Law of the Land.

    Will Democrats mount a filibuster, forcing McConnell to invoke the nuclear option to change the rules to permit his appointment with a bare majority, only to resignedly accept a string of conservative decisions? If Democrats mount a filibuster, fail, and then normalize his presence on the bench, they will have negated the point of the filibuster in the first place (which is to declare Gorsuch’s appointment illegitimate), demoralized their base, and turned a principled stand into sore losing. No, Neil Gorsuch must be justice asterisk.

    Mitch McConnell broke Democratic norms here. Not the Democrats. Just as it is never mentioned in the Constitution that there need only be 9 Supreme Court Justices, it is one of the unwritten rules on which Democracy lives that the sitting President appoints the justice when a vacancy arises, just as it would be wholly legitimate for Trump to fill any vacancy that arose now. So how should Democrats respond?

    Should Democrats advocate appointing a 10th Justice?

    Should they advocate what amounts to nullification?

    Should they advocate for his impeachment and removal from the office at the earliest convenience?

    All of us will need to have the answers to these questions after McConnell invokes the nuclear option, which is going to come sooner rather than later.

    _______________________________________

    (1) Assuming the split of the other 8 justices would’ve led to a different outcome.


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    It isn’t news that the Trump Administration has an antisemitism problem(1). In the pantheon of Trump horrors, it’s easy to forget the rise of antisemitic violence; the blatantly antisemitic closing add, the hiring and retention of Bannon in a high level role, the hiring of actual Nazis, the deliberate omission Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and many others. This past Tuesday brought another horror that's already been well documented here. Trump Administration spokesperson Sean Spicer broke Godwin’s Law up on the world stage, and in an awful way, attempting a sort of backhanded defense of Syrian President and butcher of his own people, Bashar Al-Assad(2). This latest incident predictably brought widespread condemnation from the Jewish Community. But it also brought something else: a peculiar defense of Spicer... from the left.

    x

    Why isn't it ever noted that the Anne Frank Center is run by Steven Goldstein, an ardently "pro-Israel" Democratic operative from NJ?

    — Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 16, 2017

    Mike Tracey isn’t some random Twitter personality. He’s an Intercept columnist and Young Turk. I follow him on twitter for his anti-war views, and personally exchanged dialogue with him on several occasions, finding him to be thoughtful and intelligent. But antisemitism(3) with a cavuto mark is still antisemitism.

    Sarah Jones argued a while back on March 4th that there’s no such thing as the Alt-Left. ...Leftists do not send Jewish journalists photos of ovens. Leftists have not called in SWAT teams to harass feminists they do not like. Leftists have not used racial slurs to intimidate journalists online, nor have they called for any restrictions on the freedom of the press….

    It was bad timing. The day before Sarah Jones insisted there was no such thing as the Alt-Left, St. Louis, police arrested former Intercept writer and proto alt-leftist Juan Thompson in connection with a string of bomb threats made against Jewish centers. A month later, Mike Tracey (again) would make the following tweet:

    x

    The "surging mass anti-semitism" scare just *one month* ago turned out to be a classic media-induced moral panic https://t.co/KBGvhvcMEv

    — Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 4, 2017

    This is, of course, completelyfalse. According to the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes in general, and antisemitism included, spiked with the campaign and Administration of Donald Trump. And so Mike Tracey went to medium to clear the air by claiming “Anti-Semitism Is Horrible, But Not A Dominant Force In American Life”. Quoting Mike Tracey isn’t nut picking. Zaid Jilani, of (you guessed it) the Intercept has taken to Twitter several times to insist that all this antisemitism isn’t so bad. It’s not like it was 50 years ago. And we better not talk to much about it because it can stifle political discourse. Jimmy Dore, also of the Young Turks (again), has amplified Tracey’s views, and used the unfortunate incident of a hoax to cast doubt.

    Obfuscating and excusing the rise in hate crimes in the era of Donald Trump is tacit support for hate crimes.  Full stop. As diaried earlier, genocides always start with ‘just words’. So why is a group of people ostensibly in favor of social justice supporting hate crimes?

    I think it may be best to return to the original invocation of the alt-left terminology by James Wolcott:

    Disillusionment with Obama’s presidency, loathing of Hillary Clinton,disgust with “identity politics,” and a craving for a climactic reckoning that will clear the stage for a bold tomorrow.

    When viewed through Wolcott’s framing, it’s entirely understandable why the Alt-Left at best turns a blind eye to the rise of antisemitism, often dissembles about current events, and at worst, outright defends it. This may seem preposterous, but if you make some as equal substitutions of groups and beliefs the alt-left views as synonymous, tribal opposition to the Democratic Establishment has blinded otherwise virtuous people.

    Jews in America are overwhelmingly liberal. They supported Barack Obama more than any other religious group save Muslims. And they vote overwhelmingly democratic. Establishment Republicans have been trying to court the Jewish vote for year. They always fail. The alt-left is animated by populism, just as their alt-right kin. With populism comes an America First mentality, and there is no greater contrast to such populism than America’s continuing support for Israel and the Israel Lobby. It matters not to that support for Israel is mixed, at best, among America’s Jews, because the alternative is support for the (perhaps even more reviled) Democratic Party. Barack Obama could be considered the hallmark of identity politics, not just because of his historic identity, but because he rose to ascendancy on the coalition of the Rising American Electorate. Here is self-described Bernie Bro Katie Halper mangling the definition of identity politics to mean a cudgel against free speech a mere three days before Spicer’s remarks. Never mind that hate speech is (regrettably) protected under the First Amendment, and has nothing to do with the Obama Coalition. Bernie Sanders receives an unfortunate and truly misplaced share of support from the Alt-Left due to his vehement rejection of (actual) identity politics, although his rejection is on strategic grounds. Not to mention his frequent and high visibility feuds with the Democratic Party Establishment too numerous to link. So when you add all this together, the tribal opposition as a driver of hate crime tolerance becomes clear.

    its regrettable that the left must fight both the right and the alt for what is just, but such is the nature of politics.

    At the end of the day, though, we must not lose sight that a hallmark horror of the Trump Administration is the abrupt turn to normalizing antisemitism and neonazi sentiments. We have every right to decry such actions as unamerican and an affront to a liberal democracy. Glibertarian bullshit will retort that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment (it is). But so is our response. 

    (1) A problem underneath their umbrella of a larger bigotry problem.

    (2) The buried lede with Spicer’s statement is that the ‘Hitler didn’t even gas his own people’ meme has been used for decades by neonazis and holocaust deniers. Assuming Spicer isn’t one, he had to be in contact with one to pick up this meme.


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    In the Wake of the contentious election for DNC Chair that saw the perfectly accomplished and highly qualified progressive and Sanders-backed frontrunner U.S. Representative Keith Ellison lose in the last moments to Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who happened to be an equally qualified and progressive candidate urged to enter the race late by President Barack Obama, Tom Perez and Sen. Bernie Sanders embarked on a supposed unity tour. Dave Weigel at the Washington Post ran down the theories for why Congressman Ellison lost. But the real question is why President Obama urged Tom Perez to enter the race in the first place. There is scant daylight politically between Representative Ellison and Tom Perez. The answer is to check on how that "unity" tour is coming along. This morning, the Washington Post has an article on Senator Sanders's strange (and disunifying) behavior as of late.

    Over the last few days, Sanders's has at times offered some odd comments for a guy pushing for Democratic unity.

    To wit:

    He said that he still isn't actually a Democrat He repeated his line that President Trump “did not win the election; the Democrats lost the election” — drawing some angry responses from Hillary Clinton supporters who see this as either a shot at her or as something that Sanders's primary campaign contributed to (or both) Sanders's message has differed from Perez's in a couple key ways As has already been diaried, Senator Sanders is being dragged on social media. Honestly, when asked if you endorse the Democratic candidate, you say yes. And then, when you're asked if the candidate is a progressive, even if you think Ossoff is a horrendous neoliberal sell-out conservadem, you give a classic political non-answer, like: "What matters is Trump." It's really not that hard to do, and I haven't been in Washington for 30 years. But while pro-choice Ossoff is in the political fight of his life:

    Perhaps the strangest thing about this is that Sanders isn't vouching for Ossoff's progressivism even as he's doing so for another Democrat of pretty questionable credentials. That would be Omaha mayoral candidate and former state senator Heath Mello, whom Sanders will campaign with Thursday.

    As the Wall Street Journal's Reid J. Epstein and Natalie Andrews note, Mello in 2009 sponsored a bill that would require a woman to look at ultrasound images of her fetus before undergoing an abortion (he still opposes abortion rights). Indeed, it's tough to think of something that progressives would hate more.

    This disunifying behavior isn't recent. This morning we learn that Republicans are resurrecting their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an act that would, without even engaging in hyperbole here, truly lead to incredible death and heartache across the United States. But no sooner did the original effort go down in flames back in March, than Bernie Sanders responded with the call for National Single Payer. We all want to get to single payer, or really universal, affordable, just, and equitable coverage. But there was no reference in Sanders's response to the true accomplishment of the Obama Presidency, which was to establish healthcare as a basic American right. A failed single payer bill in 2010 wouldn't have achieved anything. To date, Sanders has never acknowledged the accomplishment of Obamacare and implicit in his calls for one particular (and not necessarily ideal) universal affordable coverage scheme is that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced. Before that, there was Sanders's quixotic fixation on winning over working class whites, as if the entire post-Civil Rights political history of the United States simply did not occur. While I am sure there are a handful of gettable working class white voters who went for Trump, Sanders's approach does nothing but patronize, as if these working class whites simply don't know why they just keep voting against their own economic interests. Like no one ever explained to these people that tax cuts don't trickle down and single payer is less expensive for them. Never does it occur to Sanders that perhaps something more than economic interest is motivating their voting patterns. And at the same time, there is an actual core of (well, maybe not that) reliable democratic voters consisting of women, people of color, urban and suburban professionals, and yes, activists too. But Sanders now wants to eject those pesky urban and suburban professionals from the party as elitist. Norm Ornstein summarizes Sanders's recent behavior best:

    Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein)
    4/20/17, 12:26 AM Add that he is a guy who was never a Democrat for a day in his life before he ran and who left the party the day after he lost twitter.com/erikaheidewald…

    It is becoming abundantly clear why Barack Obama intervened. Will he, or perhaps Joe Biden, do so again?


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    President Obama’s honorariums and book deals are still in the news. From Daniel Gross:

    The news that former President Barack Obama will reportedly accept $400,000 to give a speech to Wall Street investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald has inspired a strange paroxysm of rage from writers on the center-left...

    I'm not sure if Gross's omission was deliberate, but some of the hottest and most melodramatic takes have come from the far left. Zach Carter at the Huffington Post penned what could be best described of as a despondent screed:

    Obama’s Wall Street payday will confirm for many what they have long suspected: that the Democratic Party is managed by out-of-touch elites who do not understand or care about the concerns of ordinary Americans....Obama refused to prosecute the rampant fraud behind the 2008 Wall Street collapse, despite inking multibillion-dollar settlement after multibillion-dollar settlement with major firms over misconduct ranging from foreclosure fraud to rigging energy markets to tax evasion. In some cases, big banks even pleaded guilty to felonies, but Obama’s Justice Department allowed actual human bankers to ride into the sunset.

    Zach Carter’s problem is that the Obama Justice Department pursued settlements and guilty pleas from guilty banksters(1), but Obama didn’t have a Robespierre Moment and guillotine them in Zuccotti Park. Such an argument would (at least) be intellectually defensible, as it does bear (at least) a kernel of truth. But Carter, in his anger, makes the mistake of carrying on to say too much. The mask slips:

    What’s most baffling about Obama’s $400,000 payday is the fact that he doesn’t need the money. He and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, reportedly received $65 million from Penguin Random House for their memoirs. ... and he’ll receive a handsome $200,000 pension from the federal government every year for the rest of his life. Several generations of Obamas will be financially secure.

    Do you hear that? Barack Obama is making too much money. It's not where he's speaking, it's how much he's being paid.

    Because there’s simply no logical connection between Obama’s failure to politicize the justice department and jail the banksters (partially true) and Obama’s income as a private citizen after leaving office, we can only conclude that it’s the level of income that is the primary irritant to some on the left.

    The egregiousness of Obama’s compensations were enough for even self-professed (lefty) libertarians to object to a private citizen’s freedom to contract:

    x

    This article does a great job capturing the substantive issues raised by politicians enriching themselves with Wall Street speeches: https://t.co/mZojtXhCcB

    — Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 27, 2017

    Never mind that:

    Obama’s speaking fee of $400,000 is the same fee charged by Larry the Cable Guy. Greenwald himself is comepnsated for speaking and represented by Macmillian. The “Wall Street” Investment Banking Firm of Cantor Fitzgerald was not among the firms implicated in the worst behavior leading up to the crash of 2008. Or, that headquartered in the World Trade Centers, Cantor Fitzgerald saw a loss of 658 employees on September 11, and when you suffer a tragedy like that, being graced with an Obama speech is the least you deserve. Obama, the President who finally established healthcare as a basic right in this Country (on the 44th try), is speaking on the topic of healthcare at a healthcare conference. Cantor Fitzgerald is not even a friend of Democrats, donating to Jeb Bush’s campaign. Obama passed Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulation of Wall street since FDR.

    The objection from all liberal corners was thunderous, with Matt Stoller committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc and stating that the least scandalous Presidency in memory was corrupt(2):

    x

    What can elected Dems do? Condemn Obama? He's loved among the base. Not condemn obvious corruption? That looks bad to voters. Tough.

    — Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) April 26, 2017

    And when faced with caterwauling from the left twitterverse, the only sensible thing for our elected officials to do was open up the circular firing squad. Bernie Sanders took time to condemn the speech (before it occurred). Elizabeth Warren also unfortunately chimed in as well:

    x

    Audio of Elizabeth Warren saying she’s “troubled” by Obama’s speaking gig/fee https://t.co/xA2m4Hy9zO

    — Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) April 27, 2017

    So here’s my question: what level of compensation would acceptable?

    It doesn’t take much digging to find out that the Intercept is funded in part by by Wall Street dollars, or that Bernie Sanders spent more on corporate jets than any other candidate. But both the Intercept and Bernie Sanders are held up by some on the left as enemies of the elite. John F. Kennedy was already a billionaire in today’s dollars when he ran for President. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the greatest President of the 20th Century and such an enemy to the banks they actually plotted a violet coup against him, was extremely wealthy and part of a political dynasty, both of which we liberals apparently must now loathe. And Warren and Sanders are at least as wealthy as the Obama’s when he was a Senator. This isn’t a criticism of Sanders or Warren. Or the this guy:

    FDR yachting with the Astor’s during the height of the Great Recession (1935), as he had done several times before, including before his Inauguration.

    So what’s the deal?

    What’s so different about the Obama’s?

    Critics of this speech will say it’s bad "optics”; Democrats are perceived as out of touch, so a Democrat making a lot of money is bad form.

    But optics is just a term ostensibly neutral observers use to justify bias. Optics is purely subjective, and justified per se. Optics is what can make someone who is passed off as a grown man justify the following two tweets twenty-four hours apart:

    x

    CILLIZZA, LAST NIGHT: We should scrutinize Chelsea Clinton, a personCILLIZZA, TODAY: Let's not jump to scrutinize Ivanka Trump, WH advisor pic.twitter.com/tMeJOrHahm

    — Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) April 25, 2017

    “Optics” is what makes it acceptable for Donald Trump to golf six times in his first month in office, while Obama golfing a fraction of that time was considered a national scandal. “Optics” is what allowed Donald Trump to become one of the fiercest and most tenacious critics of the Obama’s vacation habits, yet shameless vacation on the taxpayer’s dime far more that his predecessor.

    Now add in negative media coverage about vacations.

    But here’s the problem with liberals buying into “optics”, best summarized by Melissa McEwan:

    x

    I spend every day covering a pres who won b/c of "optics," only cares abt "optics," & leverages emphasis on "optics" to destroy this nation.

    — Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) April 27, 2017

    Donald Trump is arguing for suspending part of the First Amendment. Seriously. And before you say that it can’t happen, let’s review the past year again. Liberals have precious little media bandwidth to resist, and they’ve spent the past week navel gazing over “optics”.

    And the best part of playing the optics game is that Democrats can never win, because “optics” is purely subjective.  Let’s take a politician like Senators Sanders or Warren, both of whom are known to be fierce critics of income inequality and Wall Street. What if they were President? Or a candidate for President? What happens when they vacation under the National spotlight? If Democrats concede that “optics” matter by defending “optics”, they’ve lost the argument. Democrats were slow to learn under President Obama that you can’t accept the framework that deficits matter(3). What constitutes a high deficit is purely subjective. And the minute you argue over what is an acceptable number for the deficit, you’ve lost, because you’re conceding that it matters in the first place, and therefore warrants action (which can always be deemed insufficient). So why is it so hard to resist the framework of “optics”? Because “optics” stems from our internal biases. That's why it wasn't okay for a black President to golf, but it is okay for a white one.

    Now before anyone gets upset, I want to make it abundantly clear that no one is saying anyone quoted in this article was motivated by racial bias. People like Carter are champions of economic justice. But no one will also say that we live in a just and fair society, and that biased frameworks affect "optics". By arguing optics, liberals are simply perpetuating these frames.

    And lastly, one final quote from Daniel Gross again:

    If the only thing keeping progressivism afloat is the virtue-signaling of our best leaders, we’re in trouble.

    Our past champions were rich, far richer than the Obama’s, and certainly not pure.

    So how hard is it to simply argue for crushingly higher taxes on the rich, instead of criticizing peoples’ income? That's a frame Republicans can't win.

    ______________________

    (1) Wouldn’t that mean Obama prosecuted the banksters?

    (2) Corrupt because of something done after the conclusion of the Presidency?

    (3) I’ll defer to Paul Krugman on what level of deficit matters and when.


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    Senate Republicans delayed their Obamacare repeal vote until after the July 4th Recess. If activists are foolish enough to hope that delay really does mean demise this time (ignoring the painful lesson from the House Bill) then Obamacare will be repealed. Because at this point, Republicans really have no reason not to go ahead. Repeal delivers on their decades-long clearly stated goal of dismantling the Great Society, and going further to restore the Hobbesian American Society that existed prior to the New Deal. Repeal delivers a huge tax cut for their wealthy donor base, which will in turn be used to help fund midterm campaigns and mitigate blowback. Sure the repeal is unpopular, and likely to become more so as the effects become known to the public, but gerrymandering and voter suppression offer a level of protection. Opposition will bring a primary challenger from the right, funded by those tax cuts. And 2018 is a long way away. Why face certain defeat in the primary when you can take your chances in the general?

    Protests have been heart wrenching...

    x YouTube Video

    But they’ve also been strangely muted, considering the carnage to come. Joan McCarter has been a force here, and other activists are protesting around the country,  but at the time of writing, there is not a single diary on the recommend list about Obamacare Repeal, and Obamacare Repeal has all but slipped from the national news headlines.

    x

    This moment when the bill is "dead" and there's "no news" to cover is the most dangerous time for Trumpcare opponents.

    — Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 2, 2017

    Then, something even more disquieting happened...

    Instead of defending Obamacare over this Fourth of July recess, which is the reality of the moment, healthcare activists(1) ramped up pressure for Single Payer... in California.

    x

    BREAKING: #SinglePayer healthcare activists stage sit-in in front of @Rendon63rd's office! CA wants #SB562!#MondayMotivaton#4thOfJuly2017pic.twitter.com/OD84sYGhRI

    — RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) July 3, 2017

    It’s no secret that some healthcare activists on the left have long believed that Obamacare somehow prevented single payer. Of course the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. And I do believe we can forgive lay activists for conflating Single Payer with Universal Coverage(2).

    x

    #CBOSCORE: Senate GOP healthcare bill leaves 22 mil MORE uninsured: https://t.co/dUwXl4ofLxOnly #SinglePayer covers all! #saturdaymorningpic.twitter.com/FBHHezywTE

    — RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) July 1, 2017

    x

    Maybe I'm thinking about this wrong. Maybe we should be using the fact that nobody on the far left knows what single-payer is.

    — Jeff Fecke (@jkfecke) July 2, 2017

    If you’ve been misled to believe that Single Payer equals Universal Coverage, it’s not that difficult to believe that Obamacare somehow prevents Single Payer. Eliminate Obamacare, and the path is then paved for Single Payer, right?

    Another theory is that Democrats could’ve passed Single Payer in 2009, but sold out to go with a system that preserved the private insurance industry. There was even a conspiracy theory that Obama campaigned on single payer(3), only to sell out when he got to the White House. There’s no better person to debunk this theory than Sen. Bernie Sanders himself.

    “I would say that in the Senate, there are at most 10 votes for a single-payer plan,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a self-described democratic socialist, who isn’t shy about his own preference for that kind of solution, told Salon this week. “In the House, I have no idea but it’s a small minority … It’s absurd to say, ‘Mr. President, go forward and make your bill single-payer,’ when you’ve got 10 percent of the Congress supporting you.”

    The truth is there weren’t enough votes for a public option, let alone Single Payer, back in 2009(4). But failure to start with single payer (didn’t have the votes), and then the failure of the public option (didn’t have the votes), led to a sense of betrayal on the left, of which President Obama to this day is keenly aware. Repealing Obamacare would perhaps erase this sense of betrayal and allow activists to start fresh with a more popular approach.

    Those are the generous interpretations…

    Even Forbes(!) is reporting on the death toll from Obamacare repeal. The rescission notices will send forth post haste. Then will come the local news stories. Then will come the bodies. This isn’t hyperbole.

    President Obama famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) struck a bargain with the hated private insurance industry to pass Obamacare. The same (and still just as hated) private insurance industry returned the favor under Trump by not lifting a finger to protect Obamacare.

    Obamacare was not just a policy success, it was a strategic success -- Obamacare occupied all the healthcare policy bandwidth to the left of what would allow the private insurance industry to survive. Blow up Obamacare, and there’s no middle ground anymore; it’s a single payer style approach(5), or a return to life before Obamacare. Even conservatives understand the terrain. And based on the near Universal hatred of repeal, a return to life before Obamacare isn’t going to fly. Even if you strike Obamacare from the public record, two things will still have been accomplished(6):

    Establishment of affordable healthcare as an American right, not a privilege. Rendering once common private insurance practices (rescission, lifetime caps, preexisting conditions, etc.) unacceptable.

    Which would mean Republicans, and the much despised private insurance industry, are going to be in for a very rough 2018 and 2020 should Obamacare be repealed. And let’s be honest, there’s something tempting in that scenario...

    But there are enormous structural (let alone political) challenges to implementing “single payer”, the least of which is that there are a myriad of different approaches all under the loose definition of “single payer”, and Democrats would have to get behind one. Believing single payer is just universal coverage and forgetting the details won’t cut it once Democrats have control of the House, Senate, and Presidency for a short window. Legislation needs to be drafted and agreed upon well ahead of such time.

    Of course, single payer, from a health delivery and human rights perspective, is utterly superior to Obamacare, and it would cost less too. But it will also be far more disruptive, especially since the vast majority of Americans are provided health insurance by their employer and are relatively happy with it.

    The costs of those plans too are largely obscured in one’s paycheck, making it difficult for the majority of people to see the real savings against the higher taxes required for single payer. This needs to be overcome well before a single payer plan is attempted so people can clearly compare the costs.

    Finally, single payer would take time to implement, let alone the legal challenges and delays. And while it has always been touted as constitutional, if you think the Gorsuch Court would just allow what amounts to an eminent domain seizure of the private insurance industry…

    Enacting Single Payer will be easy, they said.

    ...meanwhile, the death toll and suffering will be very real. Senator Bernie Sanders, a huge Single Payer proponent, and someone with whom I am often at odds, understands the real need for Obamacare.

    x

    In the short-term, to improve the Affordable Care Act, we should have a public option in 50 states and lower the Medicare age to 55.

    — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 3, 2017

    In other words, Obamacare is a vital bridge to keep people alive, reduce suffering, and prevent bankruptcy until such time we can achieve a superior health plan. So please, if you have the spare time, call your Senator and tell make your voice heard.

    x

    As Trump Tweets, McConnell is buying off Senators to uninsure 22 millionIf these are your Senators, get to them & tell them not to kill us pic.twitter.com/xCQyQB0YML

    — LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) July 1, 2017

    But if you’re hoping the suffering will be necessary to achieve your political goals, then health care was never your concern.

    _________________________________

    (1) Wouldn’t it be nice if they spent half their energy on protecting Obamacare, which does exist and is Nationwide, and half on California Single Payer, which doesn’t remotely exist yet, and would benefit only California?

    (2) As Executive Director of National Nurses United, the Largest U.S. Organization of Nurses, which entails Roseann to a $350,000 yearly salary, you’d think differentiating between Single Payer and Universal Coverage would be a part of her job.

    (3) Obama campaigned on a plan very similar to Obamacare, except without an individual mandate.

    (4) Today would be a very different story.

    (5) Or an approach to the left of single payer.

    (6) Well, those two things, plus all the lives saved and medical bankruptcies prevented.


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    Today, Republicans voted to… do something(1). That something may amount to nothing, or rob 32 million people of their healthcare. I recently wrote that preserving Obamacare is key to obtaining a more universal and just coverage scheme, but worried that much of the current talk of single payer on the left was at best unserious and nothing more than virtue signaling. This past Sunday, Chuck Schumer said single payer, among other options for continuing healthcare reform, were "on the table". That's nice that there’s a table on which various healthcare responses are said to sit. But he’s going to have to be a lot more specific than that. Amanda Marcotte at Salon notes that:  The very public battle over Trumpcare ... seems to have had the side benefit of increasing public interest in the idea of a single payer government-run health insurance system. Polling shows that anywhere from 33 percent to 44 percent to 58 percent of voters back the idea of single payer, and in blue states that theoretically have the tax base to pull off statewide system — such as New York or California— single payer likely could garner more support. California did indeed have a single payer proposal, but it was shelved a few weeks back by the Democratic supermajority. David Dayen at The Intercept explains why:

    In the days since California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved for the year SB562, which intends to establish a state single-payer health care system, he’s been subject to massprotests and even death threats. The bill’s chief backers, including the California Nurses Association and the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Our Revolution, angrily point to Rendon as the main roadblock to truly universal health care.

    ...SB562 is a shell bill that cannot become law without a ballot measure approved by voters. Rather than committing to raising the millions of dollars that would be needed to overcome special interests and pass that initiative, they would, apparently, rather deceive their supporters, hiding the realities of California’s woeful political structure in favor of a morality play designed to advance careers and aggrandize power.

    ...it’s clear that they have a strategy to make single payer a litmus test issue politically, while never acknowledging the process hurdles.

    The history of trying to implement single payer(2) in the United States is long and painfully disappointing. And California single payer failure is the latest in a long line. Single payer was scrapped in Vermont a few years back when it couldn't be paid for without $3 billion in new taxes. Single payer was voted down at the ballot box by a 79-21 margin in Colorado, again, when it would have required a massive payroll $25 billion tax increase. And Angela Hart in the Sacramento Bee explains the California failure. "...single-payer ... is emerging as a key campaign issue in 2018 – especially for Democrats. The powerful California Nurses Association, the bill’s lead sponsor, and its allies have threatened to support challengers in primary races next year against lawmakers who don’t vote in favor of the measure.   "We want to get people who claim they’re Democrats on the record,” said Song, also a board member for a nonprofit advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program, which has long pushed for such a system. “If they’re truly for it, they’ll vote for it. If not, there will be people who primary them based on that ... people are standing by potentially for 2018....” However… The authors haven’t said exactly how they’d pay the projected cost of $400 billion a year, although they acknowledge it would use existing health care money in addition to new taxes..." $400 billion is a lot of money, even for California. Amanda Marcotte at Salon continues:  When one looks at the players involved, it’s hard to deny Dayen’s accusation. But it’s also worth pointing out that single payer, as it’s currently constructed, faces a major political obstacle that even a lot of electoral hustle may not be able to overcome: People really do not want to see their taxes raised to pay for it. Proponents of single payer aren’t doing enough to address that objection.... Proponents of single payer tend to counter this objection by pointing out that these taxes will replace spending on private health insurance and would reduce health care spending overall. That is true in a macroeconomic sense, but it fails to take into consideration that the majority of people below Medicare eligibility age get their health insurance through their employers. Also too, people are relatively happy with that employer insurance. Moreover, the overwhelming majority an employee's private insurance plan is typically paid for by the employer, and this cost is largely hidden from the employee. For example, if an employee pays $100 a week for a private insurance plan out of their paycheck, their employer could also be paying $500. Of course, single payer is less expensive(3)... overall. In this example, assume a comparable single payer plan costs $400 in taxes. But you're asking an employee to pay $400 in taxes while saving $100 out of their paycheck. And if you think the employer is just going to fork over that other $500, well... To solve this problem, Amanda Marcotte at Salon continues: Write the bill so that it requires employers to compensate their employees who lose their health care benefits with a raise in their paycheck. Then the plan could be marketed as “health care for all, plus a raise at work.” Higher taxes go down easier if you’re getting a raise to cover them. I have co-proposal: unmask the employer contribution in each paycheck. Obamacare mandates the true cost appear on your W2. Democrats should mandate that it appear on each paycheck. Democrats could also mandate that an employee be compensated for that portion should they opt out of the employer provided plan. These are just a few ideas (I’m not Charles Gaba), but rarely mentioned by single payer activists. There’s a James Carville quote(4) that the party that moves [on healthcare], loses. It’s questionable whether the laws of political gravity still apply. But if Democrats are either forced to move on single payer by the repeal or Obamcare, or choose to move on single payer should there ever be free and fair elections again, they cannot lose on single payer. Hammering out the details and smoothing the transition from employer provided healthcare is critical. _______________________________ (1) It's impossible at any moment to tell whether Trumpcare is really alive or dead (Schrödinger's Trumpcare?). (2) It is essential to note that there are multiple forms of universal coverage, only one of which is single payer, and there are widely different types of single payer, for which Democrats have never specified their preference. (3) To varying extents, based on the type of plan. (4) Somewhere….

    0 0

    Nina Turner, three-term state senator of Ohio, President of Our Revolution, and arbiter of winning elections, has imposed a new litmus test on Democrats: Support Single Payer now (or else):

    “Any Democrat worth their salt that doesn’t unequivocally say Medicare-for-all is the way to go? To me, there’s something wrong with them,” said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution...

    It’s already been the topic of a diary.

    I recently wrote that Democrats do need to get serious about adopting Single Payer, even if Obamacare is preserved. But I also cautioned that single payer must be pursued carefully and incrementally to navigate the minefield of unintended consequences and deleterious outcomes that never seem to get mentioned even by good faith advocates.

    How do we know what will happen?

    Well, fortunately the LA Times did a study of what single payer would mean to California(1):

    Would this affect how much I spend on healthcare? No more co-pays, premiums or deductibles But Californians would be hit with higher taxes

    No co-pays, premiums, and deductibles is great, but single payer is still not free. I agree with single payer advocates that objections to the cost of the program are illegitimate. If you sum the cost of a single payer program and compare it to what we spend on healthcare as a whole, a single payer program would hands down cost substantially less. But most Americans earn their health care through their employer, and the employer bears the majority of the coverage cost. What single payer advocates rarely mention is that the cost of the program will be born through higher taxes. In California:

    A recent state Senate analysis pondered a 15% payroll tax as a way to raise the estimated $200 billion needed in revenue to cover the program’s costs.

    The question is not whether We as a Nation can afford single payer, but whether you can afford it.

    I wrote that there are ways to mitigate the payroll tax increase by forcing employers to divulge what they are contributing to private health plans. Amanda Marcotte at Salon has additional suggestions, because the reality is that support for Single Payer drops precipitously when it’s cost is revealed to respondents.

    Then there’s the issue of everyone who works in the healthcare industry, which, for worse, here in the United States, is a pretty big industry. From the LA Times again:

    I work in the healthcare industry. How would this affect my job? There may be more time for patients instead of dealing with billing for doctors, but it could also affect their paycheck. Those who work at insurance companies or other administrative posts may lose their jobs.

    Over 2.5 million people work for private health insurance companies. There are 12.4 million people in the healthcare industry overall.

    For healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses, single-payer supporters say the proposed system would mean more time treating patients and less time navigating the complex world of insurance preauthorizations and reimbursements...

    There’d be more upheaval for those who work in the insurance industry. Since the program would virtually eliminate the role of private insurance in the state’s healthcare market, the Senate analysis predicts that those workers “and many individuals who provide administrative support to providers would lose their jobs.”

    You’re affecting a lot of people, Nina. The Democratic Party, to me, stands for giving people jobs, not taking them away. Nina Turner, and the rest of the virtue signaling single payer ideologues have no answer for dealing with massive layoffs of these working class individuals, other than to obfuscate or hand wave them away. To commit an anecdotal fallacy, I once had an advocate tell me they can all go dig ditches on all the new public infrastructure jobs.

    There’s nothing else that needs to be said about the casual recklessness of Trump. There’s a theory that Presidents, in modern times, reflect the antithesis of their predecessor. And it’s easy to see how this could be interpreted as an actual rejection of their predecessor as a failure, when this has never been proven in political science circles (and Obama left office very popular). In Nina’s statement is a clear rejection of incrementalism and prudence that characterized the Obama years:

    ...“We’re not going to accept no more hemming and hawing. No more game playing. Make your stand.”...

    Rejection of [Obama’s] incrementalism and pragmatism has been the hallmark of the Bernie Sanders movement, of which Nina Turner is now President. There’s no subtlety that Nina has imposed as the one Democratic Party litmus test a de-facto undoing Obama’s chief domestic accomplishment(2) characterized best as... a pragmatic and incrementalist approach to solving the health care problems in our country.

    Although Sanders backers used to state that incrementalism has outlived it’s usefulness, incrementalism is what saved Obamacare in the end, and allowed Obama to take his place alongside LBJ and FDR(3) as the only Presidents who expanded the social safety net, however imperfectly. Incrementalism is also what will get us single payer.

    It is no doubt that LBJ’s Medicaid played a role in breaking Obamacare repeal(4), just from the devastating CBO scores on coverage loss alone. But Republicans could have readily repealed the remainder of Obamacare and left the Medicaid expansion behind, even through reconciliation rules. They didn't. From Greg Sargent: The [Obamacare] exchanges, for all their problems, have helped extend coverage to millions more, particularly people with preexisting conditions, who can now get robust insurance packages, and lower-income people who can now get coverage with the help of subsidies.  I implore single payer advocates to not reject Obama, but learn from his success. He succeeded where purity failed, over and over. And that lesson starts with not imposing litmus tests on such a complex and far-reaching policy.

    ____________________

    (1) I posit we can extrapolate the results from California nationally, California being the largest economy in the United States by Far.

    (2) Where are the litmus tests for postal banking or a Wall Street transaction tax? Or legalization of marijuana? Hmmm...🤔

    (3) You can argue among yourselves as to the order of those three.


    0 0

    You may have heard about the release of a stunning new report (supposedly) proving that the intrusion into the DNC’s e-mail system was not perpetrated by hackers acting on Russia’s (and the Trump campaign’s) behalf, but by a rogue DNC staffer. The revelation of an inside job is the subject of a shocking new article published Wednesday morning in The Nation, by Patrick Lawrence:

    We come now to a moment of great gravity.

    Well, revelation that Vladimir Putin did not order an effort to disrupt the 2016 election, including cyber-attacks on the email accounts and computers of Democratic Party officials would be  profound:

    A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters... Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

    The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice(1), Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget... To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole.

    All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that “hack” and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined.

    ...houses built on sand and made of cards are bound to collapse, and there can be no surprise that the one resting atop the 'hack theory,' as we can call the prevailing wisdom on the DNC events, appears to be in the process of doing so...

    So the entire case against the Trump campaign coordinating with Russia is collapsing?

    Of course not.

    First, Lawrence’s overall argument (above) is specious.

    Second, Lawrence has really questioned only a small part(2) of the case against Russia: the hack of DNC computers. The 2017 Special Council Investigation was formed to explore any coordination between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government as part of the broader Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, and related matters. The FBI just issued a no-knock warrant on former Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort and empaneled a grand jury, both of which are pretty indicative that they’ve already found something interesting that may be completely unrelated to hacking of the DNC computers. And of course, Don Junior pretty much confessed.

    It takes a thousand words, but Patrick Lawrence reveals the source of this startling revelation that upends the findings of seventeen (or four) national security agencies: The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

    VIPS was founded in 2003 by 25 former members of the Intelligence Community. They were founded to protest the George W. Bush Administration handling of intelligence data during the runup to the Iraq War; specifically the Bush Administration’s refusal to listen to analysts offering intelligence contradictory to their preferred political narrative, and the warping of neutral or ambiguous intelligence to fit said narrative. From Michael Robbins in Mother Jones, certainly no friend of the intelligence community, writing back in those bad old days:

    The group, “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity,” has produced some of the most credible, and critical, analyses of the Bush Administration’s handling of intelligence data in the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    The Robbins Article is a good summary of the politicization and mishandling of the intelligence process back during the runup period and the heroic actions of VIPS. But that was then...

    What has VIPS been up to lately?

    They were relatively quiet through the remainder of the Bush Administration, having been proven completely right about Iraq WMDs. They then reemerged during the Obama Administration. Here is a summary of a few of their other post-Iraq analyses:

    The Russians aren’t in Ukraine.NATO is too belligerent towards Russia.The Russians didn’t shoot down MH-17.Russia’s Assad didn’t use chemical weapons.The FBI needs to investigate Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

    The human mind is programmed to recognize patterns, and admittedly, will even perceive a pattern where non exists. But the pattern in VIPS’s post-Iraq War efforts are a little hard to miss.

    American liberal democracy, now coterminous with the Democratic Party(3), are fighting a daunting, two-front battle for survival, with Russia allied on each front. The Patrick Lawrence position is a common weapon on the left front, with which Russian forces heartily agree: the deep state, the only institution (or really, constellation of institutions), capable of thwarting hostile foreign assault on our democracy, is the real enemy.

    We are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception.

    Indeed, first the alt-right, and then Trump himself, have used this same attack on the other front. But as the Washington Post notes, and as Patrick Lawrence is well aware, the culpability of these institutions in the WMD debacle is partial and complex:

    There were serious problems in the intelligence, some of which were relegated to dissenting footnotes. But the Bush administration also chose to highlight aspects of the intelligence that helped make the administration’s case, while playing down others.

    As Paul Wolfowitz stated to Vanity Fair in 2003:

    For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on

    The Bush Administration would have gone to war in Iraq regardless of what the deep state said. This is also not to exonerate the deep state, parts of which have a very disturbing past. Nor should anyone take the word of any agency without proper skepticism.

    Neither is there anything far-fetched in a reversal of the truth of this magnitude. American history is replete with similar cases. The Spanish sank the Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. Iran’s Mossadegh was a Communist. Guatemala’s Árbenz represented a Communist threat to the United States. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh was a Soviet puppet. The Sandinistas were Communists. The truth of the Maine, a war and a revolution in between, took a century to find the light of day, whereupon the official story disintegrated.

    Not mentioned: the Japanese Bombing Pearl Harbor, which turned out to be... the Japenese(4,5). Or the Osama bin Laden September 11 attacks, which turned out to be… Osama bin Laden.

    Nor is Patrick Lawrence, who has claimed the due process investigation by law enforcement alone represents an undemocratic deep state coup against Trump, all by his lonesome over at The Nation. Stephen Cohen, who as far as I can gather, happens to be the biggest Putin defenders outside of Russia / the White House, thinks we just need to give Vladimir a chance, and has also argued that Paul Manafort, the same Paul Manafort whose house was just raided by the FBI for connections to Russia, has no connections to Russia. Josh Marshall at TPM has done excellent reporting on the Manafort connection to Russia. Prominent liberal columnist and contributor Katrina Vanden Heuval often argued that Democrats ought to move on from Russia. And if you didn’t already know, Stephen Cohen is the husband of Katrina Venden Hueval, also Editor and Publisher of The Nation.

    Nebulous cyber activist organizations like VIPS and Wikileaks, with poorly defined margins of membership and where those with online presence inside the organization define the organization’s mission at that time, have been subsumed by the Russian government. The inside “hostile takeover” of Wikileaks by forces aligned with (or at the least, sympathetic to) Russia has been well documented— it’s unclear (and largely irrelevant) how VIPSs became so sympathetic to Putin. It matters not that both these organizations were originally founded on wholly virtuous missions of opposition to war and transparency, respectively. They are now stooges of the Russian government. And I have no doubt that they were targeted by the Russian government for their vulnerability to most effectively drive a wedge in the American Left.

    There is no acceptable defense of the Putin government from the Left. None. The Putin government is a decrepitpetrostate and murderousoligarchy. That might be to what the right aspires, but is wholly incompatible with a liberal democracy of social and economic justice, for which the American left now stands. Their ability to infiltrate and woo what is now best described as the alt-left has been extraordinary, and additional evidence of just how far behind America is in fighting Russia’s social media war on America.

    This isn’t Remember the Maine. Or 2003. Proper skepticism should be limited here precisely because of the overwhelming quantity of non-circumstantial evidence, and the long rap sheet of the perpetrator. And we must battle those ostensibly on our side as well as those attacking our liberal democracy.

    _____________________

    (1) Trump could have vetoed the Russia sanctions. He could have persuaded his party to not pass the sanctions. He didn’t.

    (2) A great site for arguments like this one by Lawrence.

    (3) And never-Trump Republicans and Independents.

    (4) Although that didn’t stop non-interventionist conspiracy theories at the time.

    (5) And is a better metaphor for the Russian attack on American Democracy

    Edit:

    (1) Changed “proving” to “Supposedly proving”, as per Timauus suggestion in comments.


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    This will be a short diary, but Bloomberg is reporting on the latest desperate scheme to resurrect Obamacare repeal, because it’s more important for Trump to have a win than however many people you kill.

    Some White House and Republican officials are exploring the idea of putting West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in charge of the Energy Department, according to four people familiar with the discussions,

    If you recall, Manchin was considered for the energy secretary position previously. Manchin turned down the position reportedly because he could not be guaranteed he would be allowed to pick his own people.

    From Bloomberg again, here is how the process would work:

    Perry would have to agree to take another job, the Senate would have to confirm Manchin as Energy Secretary, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would then have to bring a repeal bill back up without losing any of the 49 Republican senators who voted for the so-called skinny repeal.

    All indications are that this scheme is in the early stages. But it’s an important reminder that Trump and the GOP will not stop trying to repeal Obamacare. Ever.

    Trump has repeatedly shown loyalty to be a one way street(1) And if he’s willing to discard his own energy secretary for a single vote that may or may not succeed, what is your future? You’ve given up a powerful Senate seat for… what? It’s important to note that Democrats would not be able to block Manchin’s nomination, which could be achieved with a simple majority vote.

    __________________

    (1) Warning: Washington Examiner link.


    0 0

    It's always hard to tell if there's truly a cause behind fluctuations in daily tracking polls outside the margin of error, but today, Trump registers his lowest approval (34%) and highest disapproval (61%) recorded to date.

    Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1)
    8/14/17, 1:19 PM Trump just hit his lowest Gallup approval yet (and highest disapproval). 34 Approve 61 Disapprove NET -27 bit.ly/2j6waY8 pic.twitter.com/8LUwNAwLeS

    What's worse, Trump has hit 61% disapproval. Something his predecessor never did.

    Brian Klaas (@brianklaas)
    8/14/17, 1:12 PM Days to hit 61% disapproval (Gallup) Carter: Never Reagan: Never H.W. Bush: Never Clinton: Never W. Bush: 1,932 Obama: Never Trump: 207
     

    Trump may have thought the terrorist attack in Charlottesivolle was no big deal. It's too early to say for sure, but it appears America disagrees.

    Edit: 

    1. This is my first attempt to diary from an iPhone.


    0 0

    There must be pie.

    In response to the tragedy in Charlottesville that saw the death of Heather Heyer, Markos issued the following tweet:

    x

    Anyone still pretending last year's election was about "economic anxiety" anymore? I mean, outside of the alt-left that is.

    — Markos Moulitsas (@markos) August 13, 2017

    Diarist dyrrachium called Markos out for his poor timing, with which I won’t argue, and this led to the most energetic discussion seen here since the primaries. Good. Dyrrachium also had this to add:

    “What is perhaps somewhat more surprising is that Markos, in the aftermath of a Nazi attack, cannot simply accept that our undivided focus should be on combating this scourge.  A great opportunity to snipe at Bernie Fucking Sanders, again, and lob the alt-left label.”

    I agree that our focus must be undivided in this time. But I also believe our side must wrestle with some critical recent history before achieving that unity.

    Yes, Trump shares responsibility for Charlottesville

    Nobody but James Alex Fields was driving the car that deliberately took the life of Heather Heyer. Nobody but James Alex Fields could have stopped the car once he in motion, otherwise resulting in nothing but (perhaps?) a reckless driving summons. James Alex Fields didn’t stop. And Heather Heyer is dead.

    But Trump shares the blame with Alex Fields. No, Trump didn’t organize the rally. Nazi assholes did that. But Trump green-lit it. 

    x

    Trump spewed racism+bigotry in campaign against Latinos+Muslims plus refused to denounce David Duke. Why would we believe his words today?

    — (((DeanObeidallah))) (@Deanofcomedy) August 14, 2017

    With the Presidency comes the awesome power of the Presidential pardon, universal(1) and always without recourse. Donald Trump has not been shy about wielding it. He just recently openly mulled pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I am certain that before his terrible reign ends, he will use it to pardon guilty friends, family, and associates(2).

    Trump is quick to denounce a lot of things; Morning Joe, CEO Kenneth Frazier of Merck, his own Senate Majority Leader. But Trump dragged his feet to issue a statement on the Charlottesville Tragedy, and then did so in the most dreadful way possible. Why? Because he agrees with the white nationalists. White nationalists know a phony condemnation when they hear one.

    But Trump’s choice of words — and the silence that preceded them — are being cheered by at least a few groups of people: neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

    And the signal of Presidential support was received loud and clear. This is why even our most ineffective Presidents have always measured their words carefully: the pardon lies right behind.

    And yes, the alt-left helped elect Trump Many factors combined to elect Trump. Probably the most important is also the most overlooked: it's just really darn difficult for a President's Party to win three terms in a row in the modern era, even more so when the Nation is so divided. This isn't 1988(3) and Trump was a better and more instinctive candidate (N.B., not person, candidate) than Michael Dukakis. Obama, a highly effective and well-loved President, won reelection with only 51% of the vote in 2012. Then there were the problems with Hillary Clinton herself, and her campaign, which are overly documented (here, here, here, et al.) and with which we needn’t belabor. There's Comey and an as of yet non-quantifiable assist from Russia. But there are other parties who helped elect Trump. And here I single out our side as well for a supporting. The Alt-Left blurred worked incredibly hard, after the primary was concluded, to blur the distinction between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    x

    Brother Bernie and Brother Trump are authentic human beings in stark contrast to their donor-driven opponents.

    — Cornel West (@CornelWest) August 25, 2015

    We must ask if Cornel West still considers "Brother Trump" his brother, after implementing the same racist policies he campaigned on? The Alt-Left made the Left challenger out to be a dangerous and risky proposition. Here is Lee Fang, of The Intercept:

    x

    Stakes were too high to simply to take a chance on Clinton.

    — Lee Fang (@lhfang) January 29, 2017

    Lee Fang has not apologized for considering Hillary Clinton (whose candidacy was often derided as boring) a greater risk than Donald Trump, even in the face of a nuclear war with North Korea. The Alt-Left went further and inverted positions held by the candidates. Here is Zaid Jilani, also of The Intercept, claiming Trump is the pro-LGBTQ candidate:

    x

    Hillary's wars are made up? lol. Also trump is pro lgbt https://t.co/tj0ekM55o7

    — Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) April 28, 2016

    I asked Zaid Jilani on Twitter if he feels he owes the transgendered members of the military an apology. Zaid has yet responded to my request. And who can forget the most notorious claim that Donald Trump is really the peace candidate?

    x

    Donald Trump Is the Peace Candidate https://t.co/UGBIQr8yMX

    — Rosa Brooks (@brooks_rosa) July 29, 2016

    Donald Trump has killed more innocent civilians in the first 6 months than Barack Obama suffered in 8 years in Office. These are all examples of moderately visible people on the left, with a platform and a voice to reach tens to hundreds of thousands, and a documented following of the same. And this is just a sampling of the profoundly destructive things they (and others) said aloud during the 2016 campaign. Scholars like Norm Ornstein blame BothSides™ journalism for: 1) blurring the distinction between Democrats and Republicans in voters' minds and 2) normalizing Republican misbehavior. How is BothSides™  from the Alt-Left any less destructive? 

    IF we blame the corporate media for this malfeasance, then our side shares the blame as well. So yes, the alt-left is partially responsible too.

    If Trump is responsible for Charlottesville, and the Alt-Left is (partly) responsible for Trump, it's not a great effort to deduce that the alt-left, ergo, is (partly) responsible for Trump.

    This claim is going to invoke consternation, especially because Bernie Sanders inexorably gets wrapped up in any discussion of the alt-left. Going back to the Markos tweet that set this pie fight off, Markos referenced the alt-left. Diarists just assumed he was talking about Bernie Sanders.

    Yes, the alt-left identifies (too) strongly with Bernie Sanders. But that following is one way(4). Supposedly 90% of Bernie Sanders primary voters would ultimately end up backing Hillary Clinton in the general. And while this may not sound like much, it's far more than the 83% of Hillary Clinton primary voters in 2008 who responded that they would end up backing Barack Obama. There’s also evidence that Sanders supporters didn’t back Clinton in those numbers.

    Regardless, we're not talking about people who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and for Hillary Clinton in the general, even grudgingly -- we're talking about people who engaged in destructive behavior and enabled a Trump victory long after the primary contest was over.

    And Trump’s words don’t change that

    There is debate here and elsewhere whether there is even such a thing as an alt-left, or it’s just a pejorative for people with whom you disagree (not unlike ‘neoliberal’). Raptavio has a diary up arguing that no, there is no such thing. Matters were compounded today, as Donald Trump has irrevocably mangled any meaning the word ‘alt-left’ ever had.

    x

    Repeat after me: there is no such thing as the alt-left. There's no real left-wing counterpart to this new Nazi movement.

    — Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) August 15, 2017

    Jeet Heer, who I tremendously admire, is throwing up a classic straw man here.

    No one, except Trump, said the ‘alt-’ prefix implies naziism, nor that both alternative sides be equally powerful, hateful, organized, or coherent.

    No one, except Trump, said antifa, IWW, and DSA, who did the actual work of showing up to fight the alt-right, and whose member died fighting the alt-right, are by definition alt-left simply because they opposed them.

    We have to go back to the original(5) invocation of the term in Vanity Fair:

    ...loathing of Hillary Clinton,disgust with “identity politics,” and a craving for a climactic reckoning that will clear the stage for a bold tomorrow…

    And those folks owe us all an apology.

    _____________________

    (1) At the federal level.

    (2) With nothing short of a 25th Amendment intervention to stop him.

    (3) Amazing to see California and Connecticut red and West Virginia blue.

    (4) I have plenty of issues with Bernie Sanders as a politician. The alt-left support of him isn’t one.

    (5) Well, first real time it became prominent.


    0 0

    Did you hear the one about how the DNC hack was an inside job?

    Back in August, I wrote about certain figures on the left going to even greater lengths to apologize for Russia’s assault on our democracy.

    Patrick Lawrence at The Nation provided an excellent, accessible, and self-contained example, all centered around the (supposedly) shocking “revelation” that the computers at the DNC were not hacked, but the result of an inside job.

    Patrick Lawrence is a contributing writer for The Nation, and his Russia apologisim largely apescontributing editorStephen F. Cohen. Cohen happens to be the husband of editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. And as we all know, vanden Hueval is a pretty prominent figure in left-wing mainstream media.

    Lawrence’s article cites (supposed) research done by The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), famous for their prescient criticism of the Bush Administration’s handling of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003. As I wrote in August, VIPS retired from prominence during the remainder of the Bush Administration, and then resurfaced during the Obama Administration with a decided pro-Russia bias, the most preposterous being the argument that Russia did not shoot down MH-17, a tragedy that resulted in the loss of life of 283 passengers, because everyone can own a Buk missile launchers.

    Lawrence’s article made it all the way to Brietbart and The Washington Times. Lawrence’s article was also absurdly wrong.

    x

    The Nation magazine needs to do some housecleaning on how its covering the Russia story: https://t.co/TlzdZ7UDlR

    — Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 2, 2017 Well, the truth did come out… eventually

    VIPS, like many cyberentities, is not one clearly defined organization. There are (for the sake or argument here) two VIPS groups, one whom Lawrence relied upon, and a group of dissenters Lawrence willfully ignored. As the VIPS dissenters report to Erik Wemple in the Washington Post:

    “A number of VIPS members did not sign this problematic memo because of troubling questions about its conclusions, and others who did sign it have raised key concerns since its publication,” reads the piece from the dissenters. They continue: “The implications of this leap-to-conclusions analysis of the VIPS memo...—are contingent on a fallacy,” they write.

    Worse, many of the technical claims VIPS presented as possibility were written about as fact by Lawrence. Here’s Brian Feldman debunking Lawrence’s claims in New York Magazine:

    Maybe the Nation should have done the technical patdown prior to publication. “Most households don’t get internet speeds that high, but enterprise operations, like the DNC — or, uh, the [Russian] FSB — would have access to a higher but certainly not unattainable speed like that,

    This and other criticism led vanden hueval to apologize for The Nation via an added editor’s note on the original Nation piece by Lawrence.

    ...several of [Lawrence’s] article’s conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties. And given the technical complexity of the material, we would have benefited from bringing on an independent expert to conduct a rigorous review of the VIPS technical claims

    Wemple notes that The Nation even hired their own independent investigator to review Lawrence’s findings, and to their credit, they did publish it in a separate article:

    All parties, however, must exercise much greater care in separating out statements backed by available digital metadata from thoughtful insights and educated guesses. Walking nontechnical readers down any narrative path that cannot be directly supported by evidence must be avoided. At this point, given the limited available data, certainty about only a very small number of things can be achieved.

    Oh, and it also turns out that Patrick Lawrence is a grotesque Seth Rich conspiracy theorist.

    x

    Martyr. We await evidence (Godot-like, true), but I think your loose-leaf sheet cld well prove right. Date-stamp it & save for the framer PL

    — Patrick Lawrence (@thefloutist) August 9, 2017

    And then there was full-on revolt

    Yes, Katrina vanden Hueval issued her milquetoast word salad editor’s note, as noted, above, but she steadfastly refused to issue a retraction. And her writers revolted, quite openly.

    From Erik Wemple:

    “I just felt that for some reason, we are too heavily invested in the defense of Putin and all his works,” columnist Katha Pollitt told the Erik Wemple Blog in response to the Lawrence piece

    This article was flat-out wrong and a tremendous disservice to honest discourse,” says contributor editor Bob Dreyfuss. “The review by Nathan Freitas says that the article simply doesn’t prove what it says it proves.” A full retraction, says Dreyfuss, is in order.

    Pollitt, likewise, blasted the handling of the story: “Patrick Lawrence published claims that accorded with his own views and presented them as conclusive,” writes Pollitt in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog. “He didn’t even bother to learn that members of VIPS dissented from the report. Nor, apparently, did he consult anyone who knows more about computers than he does, which turns out to be a lot of people.  He’s a crackpot and a terrible writer, and I’ve never understood why he was hired in the first place. Katrina should have fired him. Anything less is allowing him much more credence than he deserves, which is no credence at all.”

    But

    Will Lawrence’s standing at the Nation change as a result of the review? “No,” replies vanden Heuvel.

    It’s shocking to hear writers talk about their paper in such terms. And kudos to Katha Pollitt and Bob Dreyfuss for having the strength to do so.

    But have we now reached a tipping point?

    What is Lawrence (still) doing writing for The Nation? And why was The Nation allowing someone with such compromised views to cover the DNC?

    Asking such questions isn’t mccarthyism, although the Russia apologists like Cohen will blindly scream as much. No one is denying Lawrence’s right to publish. No one is threatening Lawrence with investigation before Congress or jail time (I’m sure Lawrence can readily find employment at Sputnik or RT). And I’m extremely grateful for the writers at The Nation who spoke up against their own paper, and the attention Lawrence’s article received.

    It’s hard to discern whether figures like Cohen and Lawrence are eccentric gadfly sorts looking for attention, any attention, or overwrought anti-imperialists stuck battling the first Cold War. It doesn’t really matter. Vladimir Putin is President of Russia now. Russia has launched an unprecedented attack against our liberal democracy. There is no apologizing or defending Russia. And I’m glad the left finally seems to be expelling Russia apologism. 


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