Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jerry Brown endorses Clinton, compliments Sanders

Matthew Yglesias (Vox.com) reports on Brown's endorsement. Given Governor Brown's stature in California, this endorsement is a really big effing deal. (See the related post on Brown in today's Sky Island Scriber blog.)

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton this morning in an "Open Letter to California Democrats and Independents" in which he says that a vote for Clinton "is the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump."

Brown's letter is highly complimentary toward Bernie Sanders and his campaign, and says he is "deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done." It also argues that, in a sense, Brown's own 1992 primary campaign offered a template for the sort of grassroots fundraising effort that Sanders has taken to a new level.

But he says that Clinton "has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda." And that currently her "lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown — by millions of votes — that they want her as their nominee."

Here's another reason why Brown's endorsement is a big deal.

To most people, the news that a prominent incumbent elected official is backing Clinton will come as no surprise — she is the overwhelming choice of the Democratic Party establishment and has consistently outmatched Sanders in endorsements.

The Brown endorsement is notable largely because of the extensive personal animosity between Brown and the Clinton family. This is Brown's second go-round as governor of California, an office he also held from 1975 to 1983 while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Clinton and Brown ran against each other for the 1992 presidential nomination, and things got pretty heated.

The stakes in the coming general election overshadow, it seems, previous intra-party rivalries.

Consequently, [Brown] thinks it's time for the party to come together:

But there is more at stake than mere numbers. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has called climate change a "hoax" and said he will tear up the Paris Climate Agreement. He has promised to deport millions of immigrants and ominously suggested that other countries may need the nuclear bomb. He has also pledged to pack the Supreme Court with only those who please the extreme right.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our country faces an existential threat from climate change and the spread of nuclear weapons. A new cold war is on the horizon. This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun. Hillary Clinton, with her long experience, especially as Secretary of State, has a firm grasp of the issues and will be prepared to lead our country on day one.

Q: What do you get when you cross Clinton and Sanders?

A: An ideal Democratic candidate.

(Scriber wrote this one before seeing the endorsement by Jerry Brown.)

John Nichols was the featured speaker at the DCSRA spring dinner. He ended his talk with comments on both contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. He observed that both have good qualities and it would behoove Dems to fine a way to meld both into an ideal candidate. Whether that's possible in the current political environment remains to be seen. But it is possible in theory and there is an example that shows us what the result of the meld would look like: Gov. Jerry Brown of California. The NY Times explains in the following snippets.

As the Democratic presidential primary nears in California, it is easy to find in Mr. Sanders the kind of populist appeal that has long animated Mr. Brown, who ran for president in 1992 on a “We the People” pledge to accept no contribution over $100. But it is just as easy to find in Hillary Clinton, Mr. Sanders’s opponent, the kind of political moderation and fiscal restraint that has come to define Mr. Brown’s tenure as governor.

Mr. Brown is in many ways a blend of these two very different candidates, having created a style that has made him an enduringly popular and successful California governor. And it is not only Mr. Brown: The California Democratic Party stands as a model of electoral success and cohesion, in contrast to national Democrats struggling through a divisive primary and debate about an uncertain future.

Brown has been able to use his style to capture California for Democrats with the result being a progressive legislative agenda.

California is one of the few states in the country, and easily the largest, where Democrats are completely in control, holding every statewide office as well as overwhelming majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, not to mention both United States Senate seats. Mr. Brown and his party are using that power to try to enact legislation — on guns, tobacco, the environment, the minimum wage and immigrant rights — that suggest the kind of agenda that has eluded national Democrats.

There are several interrelated factors at play in California, notably a large block of Hispanic voters and declining Republican registrations. But "Mr. Brown is a crucial reason the state party seems to be doing well."

“Jerry Brown is a unique combination of the leadership qualities of Hillary and Bernie,” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor, who is running to succeed Mr. Brown when his term ends in early 2019. “Jerry is extraordinarily adept at populism. But he also has the hardheaded pragmatism that comes with experience, wisdom — and age.”

It certainly seems appealing to California voters: According the latest Field Poll in April, 55 percent approved of his performance. But he has not endorsed anyone in the presidential primary on June 7, and it is difficult to say whether voters prefer the Sanders or the Clinton side of their governor. A poll last week by the Public Policy Institute of California found Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton essentially tied, a surprise to Mrs. Clinton who had expected California to be a relatively easy win. As a result, both candidates are making frequent appearances here, and are advertising on television, in advance of the primary.

"When Jerry Brown is gone — and I say that as a candidate for governor, I’m not naïve about this — it’s going to be very hard to replicate,” Mr. Newsom said. “By no means am I suggesting blind optimism that we’ve figured it out. He’s figured it out. The governor has proved you don’t have to be profligate to be progressive. He has found that sweet spot.”

Nationally, Democrats need to find our "sweet spot." We could do much worse than use Jerry Brown as a model.

Feeling the math: "BE VERY AFRAID!!! Or maybe we actually shouldn’t be very afraid."

Paul Krugman comments on political reporting, the numbers, and Clinton's leads. Yes, plural. She leads against Sanders and against Trump.

... Here’s what you should know, but may not be hearing clearly in the political reporting: Mrs. Clinton is clearly ahead, both in general election polls and in Electoral College projections based on state polls.

It’s true that her lead isn’t as big as it was before Mr. Trump clinched the G.O.P. nomination, largely because Republicans have consolidated around their presumptive nominee, while many Sanders supporters are still balking at saying that they’ll vote for her.

But that probably won’t last; many Clinton supporters said similar things about Barack Obama in 2008, but eventually rallied around the nominee. So unless Bernie Sanders refuses to concede and insinuates that the nomination was somehow stolen by the candidate who won more votes, Mrs. Clinton is a clear favorite to win the White House.

Now, obviously things can and will change over the course of the general election campaign. Every one of the presidential elections I’ve covered at The Times felt at some point like a nail-biter. But the current state of the race should not be a source of dispute or confusion. Barring the equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; despite the reluctance of Sanders supporters to concede that reality, she’s currently ahead of Donald Trump. That’s what the math says, and anyone who says it doesn’t is misleading you.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) argues that Clinton's lead is likely bigger than the current numbers suggest. The reason? Current numbers do not take into account what Sanders' supporters are likely to do.

So how can Clinton lose? (That is, how can progressives lose?) Sanders would have to execute the "meteor strike" and do what is most fearsome about Trump: blow the place up. That would change the math from (Clinton + Sanders) > Trump to (Sanders + Trump) > Clinton. You don't have to think long about that one. I just don't think it will happen.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Daily Trumpeter: Battleground states may dump Trump

The NY Times features an analysis of obstacles Trump faces in the general election. Snippets follow.

With Donald J. Trump pulling even or ahead of Hillary Clinton in a series of recent national polls, the once unthinkable has become at least plausible. But if he is to be elected the 45th president, he must compete on a political map that, for now, looks forbidding.

Republicans enter the general election at a hefty disadvantage: Since the 1992 campaign, 18 states have voted consistently for Democrats in presidential elections, giving their party a firm foundation of 242 electoral votes to build upon.

And in the four regions likely to decide the presidency — Florida, the upper Southeast, the Rust Belt and the interior West — Mr. Trump faces daunting obstacles, according to interviews last week with elected officials, political strategists and voters.

If Mr. Trump has effectively staked his campaign nationwide on strong support from whites, Florida may present the most punishing test of his strategy, as Hispanics here, including conservative-leaning Cuban-Americans who twice helped George W. Bush carry the state, turn away from his candidacy en masse.

With his difficulties among Hispanic voters pushing typical swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida toward the Democrats, Mr. Trump will probably need to carry the combined 28 electoral votes from North Carolina and Virginia to capture the White House.

The challenge for him in Pennsylvania is to expand his appeal to blue-collar voters without alienating white-collar Republicans, including women repelled by his free-floating insults and businesspeople who doubt his conservatism. ... If enough college-educated Republicans ... reject Mr. Trump, his Rust Belt dreams will probably be thwarted.

Arizona is both a flash point in the nation’s immigration battles and a microcosm of a changing United States. One in three residents is Latino, and one in four Latinos is old enough to vote. And while the white population is aging — its median age is 43 — the median age of Latinos is 26.

But will they vote?

In 2010, there were 91,000 Latinos registered to cast their ballots by mail in Arizona. This month, the number has climbed above 300,000 — and state officials say that people who vote by mail are twice as likely to cast their ballots.

These snippets are just snapshots of some trends. The interviews with individual voters are worth a read.

Bernie as VP? He didn't say "yes"

But he didn't say "no." Here's the story from TalkingPointsMemo.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dodged saying in an interview aired Sunday whether he would be Hillary Clinton's running mate if she wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders was asked on NBC News' "Meet the Press" if he would take the call from Clinton if she asked him to be her vice president.

"Well, right now, again, here we are in California, I'm knocking my brains out to win the Democratic nomination," Sanders said.

Sanders said his focus right now is winning the nomination. But, he did say who he would like to see be Clinton's running mate if he doesn't win the nomination.

"So I would hope, if I am not the nominee, that the vice presidential candidate will not be from Wall Street, will be somebody who has a history of standing up and fighting for working families, taking on the drug companies whose greed is doing so much harm, taking on Wall Street, taking on corporate America, and fight for a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent," Sanders said.

That sounds like someone we know.

Quote of the day: satire vs. reality

The quote: "Satire and reality are increasingly indistinguishable." - Tom Tomorrow in a cartoon at Daily Kos.

Monday morning toons

From AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ducey: "The issue is behind us." Will it bite "us" in their collective a$$?

The "us" being Ducey and Reagan and Brnovich.

  • Gov. Doug "Art of the deal" Ducey who masterminded Prop 123 and conned state education leaders and almost everyone else into believing that taking from education future to pay for education present was a good idea.

  • Secretary of State Michele Reagan whose startling ineptitude led to half a million voters not receiving their information pamphlets until well after the voting had started.

  • Attorney General Mark Brnovich who admits that Reagan broke the law but, shrug, what can he do about it?

I guess "Step 2" for education funding is getting the issue "behind us." Once behind us, out of sight, out of mind, problem solved. With a little help from a feckless Secretary of State and a helpless Attorney General.

You think I'm being too harsh on these people? Try Laurie Roberts' blistering commentary at azcentral.com. Here is some of it.

By Reagan’s own accounting, an estimated 536,936 early voters didn’t get the publicity pamphlet on time, as required by law. No doubt, those 536,936 voters already knew every argument for why they should pass Prop. 123, allowing our leaders to tap the kids’ trust fund to pay the state’s. Prop. 123 supporters mounted a $5 million campaign full of smiling children to drill their arguments home.

What those 536,936 voters didn’t get? Access to the other side: opponents spent what little money they had having their “con” statements published in the publicity pamphlet.

Given that Prop. 123 passed with just 19,416 extra votes, Reagan’s ineptitude is significant.

And likely a game changer.

So now Prop. 123 is law – having passed with 50.9 percent of the vote -- and, as Ducey proclaimed this week, “the issue is behind us.”

Apparently so, thanks to a secretary of state who can’t be held accountable and an attorney general who announced five days before the election that Reagan broke the law but said there was nothing he could do about it.

Yet another 19,416 reasons to be skeptical about what the heck is going on in this state.

Remember this, Arizona.

Remember in November!

538: "The System Isn’t ‘Rigged’ Against Sanders"

Clinton’s winning because more Democrats want her to be the nominee.

That's the conclusion of the analytical report at 538.com co-authored by Nate Silver. (h/t Jerry Stoops)

To expand:

... turnout was much higher in the Washington primary than in the caucuses, and Clinton did much better. Something similar happened in Nebraska, where Clinton lost the early March caucuses by 14 percentage points and won the early May primary, in which no delegates were awarded, by 7 points.

Nebraska and Washington are part of a pattern. As Sanders fans claim that the Democratic primary system is rigged against their candidate and that Sanders wins when turnout is higher, they fail to point out that Sanders has benefited tremendously from low-turnout caucuses. Indeed, if all the caucuses were primaries, Clinton would be winning the Democratic nomination by an even wider margin than she is now.

... [Lots of data analyses here.]

What would happen if the primary system conformed to each candidate’s best-case scenario? (All closed primaries for Clinton and all caucuses open to independent voters for Sanders.) If every state held a closed primary, Clinton would beat Sanders by 19 percentage points and have a 654 elected delegate advantage, we estimate. If, however, each state held an open caucus, Sanders would beat Clinton by 22 percentage points nationwide and have a 496 elected delegate lead. Of course, neither of those scenarios would happen.

Realistically, if you throw everything together, the math suggests that Sanders doesn’t have much to complain about. If the Democratic nomination were open to as many Democrats as possible — through closed primaries — Clinton would be dominating Sanders. And if the nomination were open to as many voters as possible — through open primaries — she’d still be winning.

So any way you cut it, Clinton's numbers are higher than Sanders' numbers. The continued "discussions", shall we say, about the composition of DNC committees is another matter.

Daily Trumpeter: A psychosexual analysis of Trump the Dom

Dom

n. Short for "Dominant." The dominant person in a BDSM relationship or encounter.

It fits according to Trump's behavior patterns. He wars not just toward political opponents but also toward those who you would think The Dom-ald would treat as political friends. Here are snippets from Paul Waldman at the Washington Post/Plum Line.

... Trump has a clear need not just to beat other people, but to assert his status over them, even to humiliate them. It’s why all his insults to his opponents have that that macho psychosexual element to them — he has to make sure everyone knows that he’s richer, he’s stronger, his wife is younger and hotter, he’s got bigger hands. And when they submit, it isn’t over. They have to keep being reminded that he’s the alpha male and they aren’t. That’s why he mocks Chris Christie, whose abject submission to Trump has been so pathetic, and that’s why he insults Perry even as Perry is endorsing him.

But there’s something else going on: Donald Trump simply cannot let go of a grudge.

Remarkably, Trump seems to think this is an admirable quality, that his never-ending desire for revenge on those he thinks have wronged him is something we should admire. And it might be tempting to see his willingness to go after fellow Republicans as laudable candor. He doesn’t engage in the rote back-and-forth cross-party sniping we’re so used to — he criticizes everybody! But the thing about criticizing people from the other party is that it has a purpose. It’s meant to persuade people that your side is right and their side is wrong. But what’s the purpose of criticizing your own allies? There is none. It’s just about lashing out, personal pique, indulging your hurt feelings.

It certainly could present a problem in the general election by alienating Republican voters; Trump has gone after some of the party’s most popular figures, including not just Martinez and Romney (who is still admired by most Republicans) but also the likes of Scott Walker and Nikki Haley, if they weren’t eager enough to praise him. Summing up his philosophy, he says, “They talk badly, I talk badly, that’s how it works.”

Just keep talking, Dom-ald.

More on management style

All the above is about Trump's treatment of people external to his operation - political friends as well as opponents. Here is more from this morning's Daily Star about Trump's treatment of insiders.

Trump’s penchant for encouraging rivalries is now roiling his presidential campaign just as he’s captured the GOP nomination, creating deep uncertainty among Republicans about his preparedness for a complex and costly general election campaign. ...

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide who was fired last year, put it bluntly: “He loves playing people against each other.” Still, Nunberg said he appreciated the competitive environment, crediting it with keeping staffers creative and committed to the organization.

That kind of management has its downside.

Some current and former Trump advisers blamed him for withholding information about staff changes from his team, sometimes leaving them to learn about internal developments in the media. Some have taken to shopping negative stories about their rivals to the press in a bid to undercut each other in the eyes of the boss — even if the stories reflect poorly on Trump.

It looks to me like a divide-and-conquer approach to keeping himself on top. You know, as the Dom-ald.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why Democrats will unify behind Clinton - and why they won't

Political scientist explains why Dems will rally to support Clinton in the general election. (This item is repeated in another post today - the Daily Trumpeter.)

But there are several reasons why they won't, according to John Atcheson at commondreams.org.

It may come down to how seriously Sanders supporters view the threat posed by Trump. Or whether Sanders will accept his influence over the Democratic party as the victory that it is - and then work to defeat Trump in the general.

Trump to Californians: Solve drought by connecting H to O.

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told California voters Friday that he can solve their water crisis, declaring, "There is no drought."

Speaking at a rally in Fresno, Calif., Trump accused state officials of denying water to Central Valley farmers so they can send it out to sea "to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish."

"We're going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they're taking the water and shoving it out to sea," Trump said at a rally that drew thousands.

In Fresno, Trump said he'd spent 30 minutes before his rally meeting with more than 50 farmers who complained to him about their struggles.

"They don't understand — nobody understands it," he said, declaring at one point: "There is no drought. They turn the water out into the ocean."

Trump cited the molecular composition of water in his proposed solution to California's supposed drought. "There is plenty of H in the atmosphere," Tump said. "And there is no shortage of O. All we have to do is connect the H to O. Problem solved."

END SATIRE ... but read more after the break!!!

Daily Trumpeter: Energy errors, debate flip-flop, and Democratic unity

Trump's energy proposals are at odds with reality of global economy.

Sanders would like a debate with Trump - or any other Republican to get his message out. But he won't get the chance. Trump has flipped (debate) and flopped (no debate). The latest is no debate.

Will Democrats unify behind Clinton? Yes, according to a political scientist's analysis of 2008 and 2016. Here are snippets from Greg Sargent's Washington Post/Plum Line.

The California Democratic primary is tightening, and a Bernie Sanders victory on June 7th — while not altering the final outcome — would no doubt persuade him and his supporters to push for maximum concessions, perhaps all the way to the floor of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

But no matter how contentious things end up getting, Democrats are very likely to unify in the end. A new analysis by political scientist Alan Abramowitz explains why: Democratic voters really like Barack Obama, and they really hate Donald Trump.

Friday, May 27, 2016

FLASH: SoS Michele Reagan follows the law 88.4 percent the time

Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com reports on the incredible f*#%up by the Secretary of State's office, aka Michele Reagan, in the May 17 special election.

88.4 is the percentage of the electorate that got the Prop 123 info pamphlets on schedule. Another number: 536,936. That's actual number of households that did not get their pamphlets according to Reagan's bumbling elections guy, Eric Spencer.

Reagan’s election’s director, Eric Spencer, produced 108 pages of material to show that the office is not to blame for yet another Arizona election was a train wreck.

The most illuminating thing in Spencer’s report: it wasn’t 400,000 voters who were denied access to information they legally should have had before getting their early ballots.

Turns out an estimated 536,936 voters didn't get the publicity pamphlet on time – the booklet detailing analyses of Props. 123 and 124 along with arguments for and against each measure. Given that Prop. 123, the school funding referendum, passed with just 19,416 extra votes, that seems rather significant -- to me at least.

...

[Spencer] noted that 88.4 percent of Arizona households got their publicity pamphlets in accordance with the law, though he doesn't point out that most of those households got them due to the efforts of Maricopa and Pima county elections officials.

"A total of 1,663,658 publicity pamphlets, or 88.4 percent were received by Arizona households in early April -- well before the early voting period began," he wrote.

Well, congrats to you all on that fine achievement.

In fact, I'm thinking maybe that should be the new office slogan:

Michele Reagan, following the law 88.4 percent the time.

So how can Reagan's office NOT be to blame? Oh, Roberts reminds us that (a) IBM had a software contract with the SoS office that Reagan had previously terminated, and (b) those employees under previous SoS Ken Bennett who knew how to operate the software (and did so correctly in previous elections) have gone missing. Fired? Or just getting the hell out of Dodge?

So, in the main, over half a million voters had to rely only on those cute little signs saying vote FOR Prop 123.

Reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors.

And then EJ Montini at azcentral.com has his say.

I’ll give them both credit for nerve: Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Michele Reagan.

Ducey’s office sent out a press release about a Thursday afternoon event that reads:

“Governor Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Michele Reagan will officially canvass the results of last week’s special election on Thursday, May 26, 2016.

“Following the canvass, Governor Ducey will join a broad coalition of education champions, educators, business leaders, legislators and elected officials from all over the state for a signing ceremony of the official ballot passage proclamations of Proposition 123 and Proposition 124.”

Talk about audacity, gall. Smugness?

Look up chutzpah in the dictionary -- this is IT.

Especially given the fact that Attorney General Mark Brnovich stated publicly: “Even if the Secretary of State’s failure was the result of mere neglect, one thing is certain – the Secretary violated Arizona law.”

But hey, their side came out on top, right? So Ducey and Reagan are going to celebrate.

It’s like that old rock and roll song with the lyrics rewritten.

They fought the law and … they won.

Trump promises to undo everything

BISMARCK, N.D. — Speaking in North Dakota yesterday, Trump promised to be the President who is an "undoer".

"Other presidents do stuff," he said. "I will be the president who undoes stuff. Somebody must undo what those other guys do."

END SATIRE

Here's the real story from the NY Times - it's not too different.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Donald J. Trump traveled Thursday to the heart of America’s oil and gas boom, where he called for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations while vowing to “cancel the Paris climate agreement,” the 2015 accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to curb climate change.

He goes on to belittle climate science, EPA regulations, and the Paris accords. He knows his audience understands as little about these things as he does so he can put on his tough-guy act and play to that ignorance. Trump has the demeanor and intellect of a bull in China's shop.

Elizabeth Warren calls out Donald Trump ...

... in a scathing speech exposing Trump's ugly attitudes - against workers, for big banks, and for dodging taxes.

Check out Warren's video here. Bernie's burn is a match relative to Warren's bonfire. Here's the summary but you gotta view the video to sense Warren's outrage.

Tonight I called out Donald Trump. While the rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown – because he figured he’d make more money from the misery of millions. Now that he’s sewn up the Republican nomination, he’s out there kissing the fannies of poor, misunderstood bankers, promising to dismantle the rules we put in place after that crisis to rein in Wall Street greed. And while nurses, teachers, and dockworkers pay their fair share to support our military personnel who show courage and sacrifice for us every single day, Trump says he’s more than happy to dodge taxes. Donald Trump has made it perfectly clear that he cares about exactly one person – Donald Trump. And that kind of man can NEVER be the President of the United States.

This is how fascism comes to America

Robert Kagan writing in the Toronto Star explains Trump's appeal and the origins of the movement he rules. (h/t Jana Eaton)

... of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

[That his] tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as it has everyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

...

To understand how such [Fascist] movements take over a democracy, one only has to watch the Republican Party today. These movements play on all the fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities that make up the human psyche. In democracies, at least for politicians, the only thing that matters is what the voters say they want — vox populi vox dei. A mass political movement is thus a powerful and, to those who would oppose it, frightening weapon. When controlled and directed by a single leader, it can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. If someone criticizes or opposes the leader, it doesn’t matter how popular or admired that person has been. He might be a famous war hero, but if the leader derides and ridicules his heroism, the followers laugh and jeer. He might be the highest-ranking elected guardian of the party’s most cherished principles. But if he hesitates to support the leader, he faces political death.

In such an environment, every political figure confronts a stark choice: Get right with the leader and his mass following or get run over. The human race in such circumstances breaks down into predictable categories — and democratic politicians are the most predictable. There are those whose ambition leads them to jump on the bandwagon. They praise the leader’s incoherent speeches as the beginning of wisdom, hoping he will reward them with a plum post in the new order. There are those who merely hope to survive. Their consciences won’t let them curry favor so shamelessly, so they mumble their pledges of support, like the victims in Stalin’s show trials, perhaps not realizing that the leader and his followers will get them in the end anyway.

A great number will simply kid themselves, refusing to admit that something very different from the usual politics is afoot. Let the storm pass, they insist, and then we can pick up the pieces, rebuild and get back to normal. Meanwhile, don’t alienate the leader’s mass following. After all, they are voters and will need to brought back into the fold. As for Trump himself, let’s shape him, advise him, steer him in the right direction and, not incidentally, save our political skins.

What these people do not or will not see is that once in power, Trump will owe politicians and their party nothing.

He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election imagine the power he would wield: at his command would be the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today? Does vast power uncorrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Robert Kagan is a columnist with the Washington Post and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

And how do we prevent Facism coming to America? Robert Reich has an answer.

Leslie Salzillo at Daily Kos presents Reich's thoughts on defeating Trump: "Robert Reich nails 'Bernie or Bust'—Helping Trump win will not 'show the establishment'."

Robert Reich posted a message about the ‘Bernie or Bust’ concept on his Facebook page on May 19, 2016. He received mixed reviews. To read his original post, click here. One week later, Reich posted another status facing his critics. Here are his thoughts:

Robert Reich, May 25, 2016
Last week I suggested Bernie supporters do three things: (1) fight like hell for Bernie until he either gets or loses the nomination, (2) if Hillary gets the nomination, fight like hell for her, and (3) regardless of who wins the nomination or the election, continue to build a powerful progressive movement.

Several of you disagree with (1), saying Bernie has no chance, and his continuing candidacy is just hurting Hillary, so he should bow out of the race. I’ll get back to this point in a subsequent post.

Here I want to address those of you who disagree with (2). As I understand your arguments, they fall into four categories:

  1. Some of you say that by refusing to fight for Hillary (if she gets the nomination) you’ll show the political establishment you want the changes Bernie has been advocating. The problem with this logic is the “political establishment” is nothing but a bunch of people in comfortable and often privileged positions who will continue doing what they’re doing because they like the status quo, and won’t even be aware you’re not fighting for Hillary – unless, that is, Hillary loses to Trump. Which leads to the next argument.
  2. Some of you say there’s no real difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The problem with this logic is it's wrong. Regardless of what you may think of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump is a true menace to this nation and to the world. He’s a narcissistic, xenophobic, hatemonger who, if elected, would legitimize bigotry, appoint Supreme Court justices with terrible values, and have his finger on the nuclear bomb. Need I say more? Which brings us to the third argument.
  3. Some of you say a Trump presidency would be so horrible it would galvanize a forceful progressive movement in response. The problem with this argument is twofold. First, Trump could do huge and unalterable damage to America and the world in the meantime. Second, rarely if ever in history has a sharp swing to the right moved the political pendulum further back in the opposite direction. Instead, it tends to move the “center” rightward, as did Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
  4. Finally, some of you say that even if Hillary is better than Trump, you’re tired of choosing the “lesser of two evils,” and you’re going to vote your conscience by either writing Bernie’s name in, or voting for the Green Party candidate, or not voting at all. I can’t criticize you for voting your conscience, of course. But your conscience should know that a decision not to vote for Hillary is a de facto decision to help Donald Trump.

What do you think?

Here’s what I think. When Reich says,

“Regardless of what you may think of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump is a true menace to this nation and to the world. He’s a narcissistic, xenophobic, hatemonger who, if elected, would legitimize bigotry, appoint Supreme Court justices with terrible values, and have his finger on the nuclear bomb.
Need I say more?”

Nope. Thank you, Robert Reich.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A progressive DNC platform committee

For those who might think that Bernie Sanders did not get enough out of the platform deal with the DNC and the Clinton campaign, think again. John Nichols provides lots of background on the platform committee members selected by the Clinton campaign and those selected by the DNC. It's quite a progressive bunch. But you should read Nichol's report in The Nation and judge for yourself.

Sarah Silverman: Sperm cells are alive!

Here's a rundown on Sarah Silverman's campaign to save the lives of sperm from Leslie Salzillo at Daily Kos.

She’s brilliant — comically and politically brilliant and Sarah Silverman was definitely “on” Saturday night during a stand-up comedy celebration at the third annual Vulture Festival in New York City. During her routine, Silverman decided to science-womansplain what needs to be done in order to become the reproductively responsible country we long to be. Maxwell Strachan with Huffington Post was there when Silverman began her analysis.

“Here’s something that I learned that is fascinating, and it’s this: Scientists have found that sperms cells smell,” Silverman said. “Like I know sperm smells, but sperm cells have the sense of smell, and you know what that means: Sperm is life. And you know what that means: We’ve gotta legislate that shit.”

Yes, we do. With equal rights and all, it would be sexist not to help men regulate their bodies when GOP lawmakers are doing such an outstanding job trying to monitor and control the bodies of women. ... Silverman believes laws need to be passed in order to enhance awareness and stop men from killing their sperm with their own bare hands. Here’s what one of the procedures would look like:

“What we’ll do is — it’s a real simple procedure. We take a really long needle-like basically GoPro camera and we put it down your penis hole, urethra … then down into your testicular sack,” Silverman said. “We’re going to show you the ultrasound, so you can see the life in your balls.”

I wonder if Bob McDonnell (aka Governor Ultrasound) was there. Oops. I guess he's not signing bills anymore.

The best predictor of future behavior is ...

... past behavior. That, readers, is Psychology 101.

Take Richard Nixon for example. Anyone tracking his career should have been able to predict Watergate, or, if not Watergate in detail, something like it. Or, for another example, Nixon's enemies list. Or the tape erasure. Or the dirty tricks team.

In the above paragraph, substitute Donald Trump for Richard Nixon. In case you missed it, it being Trump's behavior pattern over the years, we are witnessing what Trump would do as a President in the here and now.

The enemies list

If you are not with Trump you are a target for his shoot-from-the-hip vitriolic jabs.

The enemies list now likely includes New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez who Trump attacked at a New Mexico rally.

ALBUQUERQUE — Donald J. Trump offered a blistering attack on Gov. Susana Martinez at a rally in her home state on Tuesday, blaming the Republican governor for New Mexico’s economic woes and saying she was “not doing the job.”

Mr. Trump’s criticism of Ms. Martinez, the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association and a rising star in the party, come as he has promised to unify Republicans now that he is his party’s presumptive nominee. He urged the crowd to rally around his candidacy to defeat Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic rival, in November.

But Ms. Martinez, a two-term Hispanic governor — and the nation’s first Hispanic female governor — has been sharply critical of Mr. Trump. She has expressed concerns about him at recent closed-door party gatherings, and pointedly did not appear at his rally in Albuquerque, telling local reporters she was “really busy.”

In response, Mr. Trump attacked Ms. Martinez several times in his speech, blaming her for Albuquerque’s unemployment numbers and an increase in the number of New Mexico residents now on food stamps.

But Martinez, to her credit so far, is not about to submit to Trump's bullying.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is hitting back at Donald Trump after the presumptive Republican nominee criticized her Tuesday night in Albuquerque.

Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan said the governor -- a former Marco Rubio supporter who has not yet said she'll back the GOP nominee in November -- won't be "bullied" into supporting Trump "until she is convinced" he'd act in New Mexico's best interests.

... [Lonergan] upped the stakes, making clear that Martinez still doesn't back Trump.

"The pot shots weren't about policy, they were about politics. And the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans," Lonegran said.

"Governor Martinez doesn't care about what Donald Trump says about her -- she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans," he said. "She's disappointed that she didn't hear anything about that last night."

By the way:

It's not just a fight between Trump and a prominent Republican Latina. Martinez is also the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, tasked with electing GOP governors this fall, with Trump leading the party on the ballot.

Which GOP governors are going to jump for Trump? I wouldn't want Martinez's job.

Tricky Trump shafts vets

What he claims and what he delivers are different things reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). Just ask the vets groups.

In a normal year, in a normal party, with a normal candidate, it would be the kind of controversy that effectively kills a presidential candidate’s chances of success. In January, Donald Trump skipped a Republican debate in order to host a fundraiser for veterans. He boasted at the time that he’d raised $6 million for vets – which led to a related boast that Trump contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.

The Washington Post reported this week that Trump’s claims simply weren’t true. He did not, for example, raise $6 million. And what about the $1 million check the Republican bragged about? His campaign manager insisted this week that Trump did make the contribution.

Except, that wasn’t true, either. The Post reported last night:

Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening – promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny.

The check is apparently going to a group called the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, whose chairman received a call from Trump on Monday night, the day the campaign controversy broke.

CNN, meanwhile, reported last night that when it comes to the candidate’s support for veterans’ groups, there have been “discrepancies between the amount of money Trump touts, and the amount actually donated.”

You can find one example right on Trump’s own website, where Trump boasts of saving an annual veterans parade in 1995 with his participation, and a cash donation, “Mr. Trump agreed to lead as grand marshal,” and “made a $1 million matching donation to finance the Nation’s Day Parade.”

Trump did save the event, according to the parade’s organizer, but he didn’t give $1 million to it.

He actually donated “somewhere between $325,000 and $375,000” – about a third of what he claimed – and Trump was not the parade’s grand marshal, a honor reserved for actual veterans.

Postscript: Asked about the January fundraiser, and his claim that he’d raised $6 million for veterans, Trump told the Washington Post yesterday, “I didn’t say six.” Reminded that he did, in reality, use the specific $6 million figure – out loud, in public, on video – Trump changed the subject.

Tricky, Trump.

Tyranny reconsidered: Trump as an extinction level event

Leonard Pitts Jr. thinks Bernie ought to hang it up. The numbers are not on his side. Pitts sees Donald Trump as an existential threat to our country - and maybe the world. So Pitts is nagging at the Dems to get it together behind the "pragmatic" candidate, Hillary Clinton.

OK, I know the responses from fellow Sandersians. But before you head for the retchroom, read Pitts' arguments in his column in today's Daily Star. Feel free to take issue and defend Bernie's right to hang in there and not hang it up. But I defy you to challenge Pitts' conclusion:

... a reality show buffoon unburdened by knowledge, decency or dignity is closing in on the White House.

We should probably take a little inspiration from that.

Democrats, and independents who might be moved by a progressive agenda, need to unite to avoid the horrendous damage likely to be inflicted on our country by Trump. The Republicans cannot or will not do the job. Every tantrum, as in the Nevada convention, is another several thousand votes for the buffoon. And, see the related post today by John Nichols.

Along similar lines: I was re-reading Andrew Sullivan's essay - a "blockbuster feature" according to Ezra Klein at Vox.com - titled "Democracies end when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny." It's worth sharing again.

Sullivan closes with a discussion of Sinclair Lewis' book and what it might take to stop Trump. He takes us all to task for not providing a firewall against tyranny. Democrats continue to engage in clan warfare while Republicans increasingly are subordinating themselves to Trump and do not appear "prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country." Our democracy can afford neither Democratic squabbling nor Republican cowardice in the face of impending tyranny.

Some of the references are dated; this article appears in the May 2, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

In his 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis wrote a counterfactual about what would happen if fascism as it was then spreading across Europe were to triumph in America. It’s not a good novel, but it remains a resonant one. The imagined American fascist leader — a senator called Buzz Windrip — is a “Professional Common Man … But he was the Common Man twenty-times-magnified by his oratory, so that while the other Commoners could understand his every purpose, which was exactly the same as their own, they saw him towering among them, and they raised hands to him in worship.”

He “was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.” “ ‘I know the Press only too well,’ ” Windrip opines at one point. “ ‘Almost all editors hide away in spider-dens, men without thought of Family or Public Interest … plotting how they can put over their lies, and advance their own positions and fill their greedy pocketbooks.’ ”

He is obsessed with the balance of trade and promises instant economic success: “ ‘I shall not be content till this country can produce every single thing we need … We shall have such a balance of trade as will go far to carry out my often-criticized yet completely sound idea of from $3000 to $5000 per year for every single family.’ ” However fantastical and empty his promises, he nonetheless mesmerizes the party faithful at the nominating convention (held in Cleveland!): “Something in the intensity with which Windrip looked at his audience, looked at all of them, his glance slowly taking them in from the highest-perched seat to the nearest, convinced them that he was talking to each individual, directly and solely; that he wanted to take each of them into his heart; that he was telling them the truths, the imperious and dangerous facts, that had been hidden from them.”

And all the elites who stood in his way? Crippled by their own failures, demoralized by their crumbling stature, they first mock and then cave. As one lone journalist laments before the election (he finds himself in a concentration camp afterward): “I’ve got to keep remembering … that Windrip is only the lightest cork on the whirlpool. He didn’t plot all this thing. With all the justified discontent there is against the smart politicians and the Plush Horses of Plutocracy — oh, if it hadn’t been one Windrip, it’d been another … We had it coming, we Respectables.”

And, 81 years later, many of us did. An American elite that has presided over massive and increasing public debt, that failed to prevent 9/11, that chose a disastrous war in the Middle East, that allowed financial markets to nearly destroy the global economy, and that is now so bitterly divided the Congress is effectively moot in a constitutional democracy: “We Respectables” deserve a comeuppance. The vital and valid lesson of the Trump phenomenon is that if the elites cannot govern by compromise, someone outside will eventually try to govern by popular passion and brute force.

But elites still matter in a democracy. They matter not because they are democracy’s enemy but because they provide the critical ingredient to save democracy from itself. The political Establishment may be battered and demoralized, deferential to the algorithms of the web and to the monosyllables of a gifted demagogue, but this is not the time to give up on America’s near-unique and stabilizing blend of democracy and elite responsibility. The country has endured far harsher times than the present without succumbing to rank demagoguery; it avoided the fascism that destroyed Europe; it has channeled extraordinary outpourings of democratic energy into constitutional order. It seems shocking to argue that we need elites in this democratic age — especially with vast inequalities of wealth and elite failures all around us. But we need them precisely to protect this precious democracy from its own destabilizing excesses.

And so those Democrats who are gleefully predicting a Clinton landslide in November need to both check their complacency and understand that the Trump question really isn’t a cause for partisan Schadenfreude anymore. It’s much more dangerous than that. Those still backing the demagogue of the left, Bernie Sanders, might want to reflect that their critique of Clinton’s experience and expertise — and their facile conflation of that with corruption — is only playing into Trump’s hands. That it will fall to Clinton to temper her party’s ambitions will be uncomfortable to watch, since her willingness to compromise and equivocate is precisely what many Americans find so distrustful. And yet she may soon be all we have left to counter the threat. She needs to grasp the lethality of her foe, moderate the kind of identity politics that unwittingly empowers him, make an unapologetic case that experience and moderation are not vices, address much more directly the anxieties of the white working class—and Democrats must listen.

More to the point, those Republicans desperately trying to use the long-standing rules of their own nominating process to thwart this monster deserve our passionate support, not our disdain. This is not the moment to remind them that they partly brought this on themselves. This is a moment to offer solidarity, especially as the odds are increasingly stacked against them. Ted Cruz and John Kasich face their decisive battle in Indiana on May 3. But they need to fight on, with any tactic at hand, all the way to the bitter end. The Republican delegates who are trying to protect their party from the whims of an outsider demagogue are, at this moment, doing what they ought to be doing to prevent civil and racial unrest, an international conflict, and a constitutional crisis. These GOP elites have every right to deploy whatever rules or procedural roadblocks they can muster, and they should refuse to be intimidated.

And if they fail in Indiana or Cleveland, as they likely will, they need, quite simply, to disown their party’s candidate. They should resist any temptation to loyally back the nominee or to sit this election out. They must take the fight to Trump at every opportunity, unite with Democrats and Independents against him, and be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country.

For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

"Who is Jim Falken?" Ally Miller defends actions by aide

Here is the leading part of Tim Steller's column in the Daily Star (with links to related reporting at Tucson Weekly and Tucson Sentinel).

The mystery surrounding that question took some mind-bending turns over the weekend, including an FBI report over a stolen pseudonym, and a threat by John R. Dalton Jr. to sue whoever is using his name to explain away the acts of Mr. Falken.

You may recall that on Friday, I reported on the appearance and disappearance of a news site calling itself the Arizona Daily Herald. The Herald first became widely known on Sunday, May 15, when a person calling himself Jim Falken sent emails to the Pima County supervisors and the candidates for supervisor, asking their opinion of the road-repair plan Supervisor Ally Miller had released the day before.

My reporting — and that of the Tucson Weekly and Tucson Sentinel — suggested that the Herald website may have been set up by a staff member in Miller’s office, Timothy DesJarlais. He had repeatedly used the pseudonym Jim Falken in an online role-playing game. He has also apparently set up online news sites before: The web sites Tucson Trumpet and NSNBC International list him as the contact or contributor.

On Friday, Miller had a choice of whether to cast her suspicions on DesJarlais, a 19-year-old staffer who works part-time for the office and is running for the Marana school board, or to defend him. In a decision that could determine her political future, she chose to back him, full force.

Here is more from Jim Nintzel at Tucson Weekly.

Although she and DesJarlais refused to respond to multiple messages from the Weekly over two days last week to explain their side of the story before a report was published, Miller lashed out the media for reporting the story.

“Our crack reporters have done another bang up job...smearing the name of a 19 year old young man who works on my staff,” Miller posted on Facebook. “He was accused of contacting candidates etc. I know the name and phone number of the individual who did this and I have filed an FBI cybercrimes report as has my staff member. This individual has committed federal crimes. He wasn't quite as smart as he thought he was. I will keep you updated and hope to see this loser prosecuted. Oh and as for the media who put these reports out on a 19 year old kid. You ought to be ashamed!”

Miller told KVOA News that the “hacking” incident was designed as an elaborate affair to smear her and her office. She pinned the blame on a man named John Dalton during an interview with the Explorer Newspaper (which is owned by Tucson Local Media, as is the Tucson Weekly).

As it turns out, there is a John R. Dalton Jr. in Tucson. He’s GOP activist who moved to Tucson from Michigan about a year ago.

That John Dalton is not happy about being targeted by Miller.

... the John R. Dalton Jr. who has been on the receiving end of accusations by Miller has been willing to talk as he tries to clear his own name.

Dalton sent out an email dismissing the email message from Jim Falken 2/John R. Dalton Jr. as “fraudulent in its entirety. The person who wrote the e-mail obviously did so as an act of desperation and made some very big mistakes. The person says that he is not to be confused with the other 'John Dalton out there who has come from Michigan and ran for Arizona delegate...' In this section of the e-mail, it is apparent the person is referring to me, yet at the end of the e-mail he signs off using the full legal name of the only John Dalton, in the entire city of Tucson, who is from Michigan and was a state delegate, John R. Dalton Jr. (me).”

Dalton also called for an investigation and said he wanted to pursue a civil action against whoever was using his name.

“Since Supervisor Ally Miller has already filed complaints with the authorities to investigate who the idiot is that is behind all of this, it is my hope that an investigation goes forward, so we can bring the person responsible up on criminal charges and placed behind bars,” Dalton wrote. “On top of this, once a name is released, it is also my full intention to file a civil case in court against the individual or individuals. I do not take lightly to someone using my name for illicit activities.”

Steller concludes:

In short, Miller has gone all-in defending a questionable story by her young aide.

The investigations by law-enforcement officials and journalists will reveal if that was a good choice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Daily Trumpeter: Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan, Alexander Pope, and more

Sen. Elizabeth Warren gives a fire-breathing, blistering, scathing assessment of Donald Trump at TalkingPointsMemo. Here is a sample.

Warren first cited a comment Trump made in 2006 that he "sort of" hoped the housing market would crash because it could help his business.

"Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown because it meant he could buy up more property on the cheap. What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house? What kind of man roots for people to get thrown out of their jobs?" Warren asked in a speech at the Center for Popular Democracy.

"I’ll tell you exactly what kind of a man does that," she continued. "It is man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure money-grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes a profit off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will never be president of the United States."

I am sympathetic. Trump should never be president. But note two things. (1) He keeps winning. The real story is less about Trump and more about the social and economic forces at play among those who vote for him. (2) I can't help the nagging feeling that critics of Trump have underestimated him - and continue to do so. What's left for him? Wife #4? Nope. Another amazing real estate deal? Been there, done that. Run for the Senate? He buys politicians. The Presidency? Hmmmm. Why not? To achieve that goal he has become an astute observer of his potential base of support. And he understands the use of modern media. Trump is no bumbling fool. He is so dangerous because he is competent at what he does. So prattle on, Never-Trumpers and bloggers. Trump is a few delegates away from the GOP nomination and thus a few votes away from the Presidency.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is rumored to be close to endorsing Trump, a report also in TPM. Much earlier in the campaign season I predicted the possibility of a third political party - the American Authoritarians. I just did not anticipate how spineless is the GOP establishment. They proved that by folding like a soggy peso in a beach bar. So my prediction was correct - there is a third party led by Trump, formerly known as the GOP.

Following in this blog are two more posts featuring essays about Trump: Poet Alexander Pope rises from the grave to opine on the ascendancy of Trump, and Reporter Mort Rosenblum sends "A Field Report for Reasonable People Who Support Trump."

Expansions of Alexander Pope on the Vice called Trump

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker writes about "THE DANGEROUS ACCEPTANCE OF DONALD TRUMP."

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Gopnik follows on with his expansion of Pope's characterization of "vice."

The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

Gopnik's response: "No, you can’t. " The reason:

... To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

....

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

Gopnik closes with another expansion of Alexander Pope.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

A Field Report for Reasonable People Who Support Trump

David Fitzsimmons posted this on his Facebook page, reprinted here in entirety.

Insight from the brilliant Mort Rosenblum: A Field Report for Reasonable People Who Support Trump

By Mort Rosenblum

WILD OLIVES, France - I'd love to haul down my satellite dish and stick to the sort of horseshit that nourishes trees, but I can't find any tab on my screen to unsubscribe to the human race. So, while we're all still around, here goes:
Anyone who supports Donald Trump without some very good reason, based on a firm grip of reality at home and abroad, risks being an accomplice -- however unwitting -- to crimes against humanity.

As a lifelong reporter, I value my credibility. As a former news agency correspondent, I rely on hard fact, direct sources and experts who earn my trust. True, I don't like Trump. But this is analysis, not opinion, aimed at people who do.

Please pass this along with your own thoughts to voters you know who are sympathetic to Trump's message - some of it makes sense - but are fair-minded enough to test it against reality in a complex world.

First, some primordial basics:

--Climate chaos is irrefutable and inescapable. Hard data shows that at the rate we're going, we're toast. Hunger, not war, pushed the bulk of 60 million refugees from their homes. When crops fail, we will join them with nowhere to go. Trump denies this for short-term profit at the expense of our progeny. He promises to reject even the token progress negotiated in Paris.

--The Islamic terror threat is exaggerated and feeds on our irrational fear. Its causes are precisely what Trump prescribes: harsh repression that breeds perceived injustice. Making fortresses of our airports and empty "or-else" threats only spike the danger. We need focused intelligence-based military action. But, more, we need to ease the poverty and despair that swell extremist ranks.

--Trump says China could defang North Korea with a phone call, and he wants nukes in South Korea. He admires Kim Jong-Un for exercising such power as a kid. But Kim balances precariously atop a house of wild cards. If pushed the wrong way at the wrong time, even by Beijing, he could make the Pacific glow. Boxing him requires skillful diplomacy in closed rooms, not a public showdown.

--We have enormous power over China, Trump says. We don't. China would win a hot war by attrition alone unless we irradiated the planet. If we came to conflict, financial squeezes, cyber assaults and tactical moves would be enough. In fact, China wants peaceable, lucrative coexistence. But 3,000 years should be enough to show us that the Middle Kingdom does not like to lose face.

--Russia also responds to bullying with hostility. Putin, like Trump, is an ego-driven demagogue, but he has a nuclear arsenal to match ours on a land mass no one has ever successfully invaded. EU leaders know he could freeze Europe solid simply by shutting down a few pipelines.

--As regime threats go, that leaves Iran. Trump wants to trash the treaty, but he can't. It is already in force, blunting nuclear threat, bringing Iran closer to the West and strengthening its many moderates. If we back out, Iran keeps what it negotiated and has all the more capacity to screw with us.

Beyond these specifics, Trump's cocksure belief of his own bombast, even when clearly wrong, puts the world in grave peril. He has no concept of limits to our "power," nor any idea about how growing raw contempt for him among friends and foes alike erodes our ability to lead by example.

Consider the latest example: Based on nothing, Trump tweeted that Islamic terrorists blew up that Egyptair plane. Days later, we don't know if it was a bomb. If so, whose? Terrorists almost always claim credit. No one has. Ever the opportunist, Trump seized the moment to terrorize Americans and, by twisted logic devoid of truth, blame Obama and Hillary Clinton for letting it happen.

When tragedy happens, we need perspective, not inflammatory tweets. That same day, 16,000 flights took off and landed safely around the world. You cannot run the world's only superpower by evoking generic fear or by blaming huge collectivities for the extremes of a few.

Trump is wrong about radical Islam. Mosques bring together disaffected youths in European slums but that is mostly circumstance, not faith. Many see ISIS as a counterbalance to rich Western nations that support Israel. Whether we agree or not, it's their reality.

No part of the map is more volatile, in need of skilled diplomacy, than Israeli and its neighborhood. One-sided support for a Zionist hard-line right or wrong endangers Israel -and Jews everywhere. It also defines us a nation.

In 1967, Egypt, Jordan and Syria invaded. Within six days, Israel occupied the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In 1969, the redoubtable I.F. Stone, a journalist and a Jew, went for a look. He wrote:
"Stripped of propaganda and sentiment, the Palestine problem is, simply, the struggle of two different peoples for the same strip of land. ... For me the Arab problem is also the No. 1 Jewish problem. How we act toward the Arabs will determine what kind of people we become - either oppressors and racists in our turn like those from whom we have suffered, or a nobler race able to transcend the tribal xenophobias that afflict mankind."

Today, the map has not changed much, but a lot else has. A Vice news crew recently filmed young Palestinians facing heavy Israeli armor in the West Bank. Without noting the biblical irony, it focused on their weapons: slingshots.

For many across the world, David and Goliath have switched roles. Yet beyond unarmed kids, modern armies threaten Israel. To broker peace, we have to enforce negotiated accords and thwart extremists on all sides. The last thing we need is Sheldon Adelson giving Trump one billion dollars.

Adelson's sole issue is Israel. Early on, GOP contenders sat at his feet in Las Vegas to tell him how they hold family seders and read from the Passover book, even if they couldn't tell a Haggadah from Hagen Daz.

Trump, a huckster who knows his crowd, has a simple policy to deal with the unholy land hornets' nest: jam a sharp stick into it.

It is not just Trump. Republic candidates slung enough mud at each other to convince us that none was fit to lead. Now, with blatant hypocrisy, they give us that Gilda Radner line from Saturday Night Live: Never mind.

In the end, it comes down to that single overworked but crucial word at the heart of it: character. Who personifies America?

Down here in Provence, people simply can't get their heads around Trump. Our hillside teems with sangliers, big feral pigs, and it bristles with guns. The French also have the right to bear arms, although they draw the line at .50 caliber sniper cannons.

I just talked with friends about Trump's speech to the National Rifle Association, in which he said the Bataclan toll in Paris would have been much lower if people had guns to blaze away at trained terrorists in their midst.

How to capture those expressions in a single word? Disbelief, scorn, amusement, contempt. None come close. The best I can do is: profound horror at the thought of what such a loose cannon could mean to a powder keg world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A pictorial account of income and wealth inequalities

Vox.com tells the story in a series of graphics. You can use them to tell the story to your grandchildren (when your Republican kids are not around).

h/t Jerry Stoops

Would you schmooze with Ted Crooze?

Probably not. Neither should Obama. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) explains why not by attacking the "schmooze theory," a theory that the media holds dear but that politicians themselves do not believe. The bottom line:

Is there any harm in the media believing a thesis that’s obviously wrong?

I believe there is. The schmoozing thesis creates a misguided set of priorities: members of Congress who refuse to consider compromise, and who reject the very idea of cooperative policymaking, can act with impunity, knowing that the media won’t hold them responsible, preferring instead to blame the president for not making the White House the Friendliest Place on Earth.

As regular readers know, the notion that schmoozing will lead to progress rests upon the assumption that congressional Republicans are responsible officials, willing to negotiate and work in good faith, fully prepared to find common ground with Obama. All they need is some face-time and presidential hand-holding. Once they can get along on a personal level, a constructive process will follow.

It’s a pleasant enough fantasy, and I wish it were true, but it’s not.

Check out Benen's analysis for more about why the schmooze theory, if ever valid, is a thing of the past.

Reagan blames IBM for failure to mail Prop 123 pamphlets ...

... IBM responds with big razzberry.

Would 200,000 pamphlets made a difference? We'll never know. Secretary of State Michele Reagan broke the law by not getting those pamphlets out to voters in 13 counties before sending the early ballots, according to AG Mark Brnovich. But, according to the AG, "there is no remedy in statute."

SoS Reagan, while accepting blame for the failure of her office, cast blame on IBM. IBM bounced that one right back at her. Snippets from the story at Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) follow.

Representatives of IBM say Michele Reagan is off the mark in blaming the tech giant for a high-profile blunder in which the office failed to send 200,000 publicity pamphlets for the May 17 special election, and that the secretary of state instead is to blame.

The Secretary of State’s Office attributed the snafu with the publicity pamphlets to a “vendor error,” and said the vendor in question was IBM.

But the company said it was in no way responsible for the un-mailed pamphlets. In fact, IBM’s contract with the secretary of state expired two months before the Reagan’s office learned of the problem.

Reagan’s office stood by its insistence that a vendor error by IBM caused the problem, saying the company did not sufficiently respond to a request for information about how to use the software system to compile mailing lists.

Under the terms of its contract with the Secretary of State’s Office, IBM provided software maintenance, support and enhancements for the office’s Statewide Voter Registration System. That contract expired at the end of February. IBM lobbyist Dean Miller said Reagan’s office had concerns about the cost of the contract, which ran about $800,000 per year.

Miller said IBM helped develop and integrate software in 2011 so it could be used by the Secretary of State’s Office. As part of its work, Miller said IBM worked with Secretary of State’s Office staff to create what he called a “functionality key.” Essentially, it was a way for the office to extract mailing lists from the state’s database of voters.

However, IBM had no responsibility for actually using the software, Miller said. IBM’s only role since 2011 has been to maintain the software and update it as needed. The responsibility for using the software to compile mailing lists lies with the Secretary of State’s Office, he said.

“In terms of carrying out the functions and duties of that office, that would be, of course, their responsibility,” Miller said.

[Reagan spokesman Matt] Roberts said the office first became aware of the un-mailed pamphlets on April 22, and confirmed the problem on April 25. Reagan’s office mailed out the pamphlets on April 29, he said.

Election officials sent out early ballots on April 20. State law requires that the secretary of state send a publicity pamphlet containing information about ballot measures to all households with at least one registered voter before those voters receive their early ballots. Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded that Reagan broke the law by not sending out the ballots in a timely manner, though he said there is no remedy in statute.

EJ Montini at azcentral.com has some choice words about the snafu.

Responding to a letter from attorney Tom Ryan, who tried to get the election delayed because of the snafu, Brnovich wrote:

“Even if the Secretary of State’s failure was the result of mere neglect, one thing is certain – the Secretary violated Arizona law. Questions abound; not only how the Secretary of State failed to fulfill her duties in connection with this elections, but also as to why there was no public disclosure regarding the failure to timely mail the publicity pamphlets until mere days before the initial counting of early ballots. … These questions demand answers. Arizona voters, especially those who were deprived of publicity pamphlets , deserve to know why this failing occurred and what can be done to protect them in the future.”

He's right, of course. But Gov. Doug Ducey and the legislature, who were behind Prop. 123, haven’t shown any sign that they’re interested in correcting the problem.

And from their point of view, why should they?

The pamphlets didn’t get delivered on time; their side won the election.

What’s the problem?

Voting "R" all down the ballot is free. It costs nothing in cash. It costs nothing in mental effort. So Republican voters get a free ride ... until it comes to the incompetence of the public officials they elect. As Alfred Newman said, "What, me worry?"

 

Soothing the Bern: Sanders gets platform concessions from DNC

Sanders and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have been going at it about the makeup of the platform committee. The result of the wrangling, Sanders getting to appoint more members of the platform committee, is important for two reasons. First, the platform contains policy statements which, supposedly, the party and its candidate will champion in the general election. Second, it is a recognition of the political clout Sanders has acquired during the course of the primary.

Greg Sargent writing at the Washington Post/Plum Line points us at the story by the Post's Anne Gearan and then provides more background and comments.

The Post’s Anne Gearan scoops the latest move by the Democratic establishment to try to minimize turbulence at the Democratic convention:

Sen. Bernie Sanders will get highly unusual say over the drafting of the Democratic Party platform this year even if, as expected, he loses the primary contest to Hillary Clinton.

The two Democratic candidates have agreed with Democratic Party officials to a new apportionment of the 15-member committee that writes the platform, according to Democratic officials familiar with the compromise worked out this month.

Sanders will name five members and Clinton six, based on the number of popular votes each has received to date, one official said. Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will name four. The campaign choices were selected in consultation with the campaigns and the DNC from larger slates of 12 and 10 suggested by the campaigns.

Sargent reports that this membership is the result of negotiations between the Sanders campaign and the DNC.

Previously, the DNC had suggested that both the Sanders and Clinton get four appointees on the 15-person committee, with the DNC picking the remaining seven. But Sanders was unhappy with this arrangement, and fired off a letter to the DNC earlier this month demanding that both campaigns get seven slots, with the DNC picking one.

Sargent continues.

I can add more: Sanders’s policy director, Warren Gunnels, will have a major hand in trying to influence the outcome of the platform, a source familiar with ongoing talks tells me. Gunnels may not end up being a voting member of the platform drafting committee, but he will play a staff role at a minimum.

Gunnels and the Sanders campaign are already at work producing a draft of the bullet points it hopes to get into the party platform, the source continues. Some things the Sanders camp will push for include firm opposition to a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in this Congress; requirements to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions; more in infrastructure spending; a $15-per-hour minimum wage; tuition-free public college, and, possibly, a carbon tax, in keeping with the ambitious agenda Sanders has campaigned on.

These positions are consistent with the Sanders campaign's focus on economic and environmental issues. Should the final platform reflect the Sanders positions, then the exact makeup of the committee will be less important. I'm hoping the Sanders supporters agree.

Lauren McCauley at commondreams.org weighs in on the rapid moves by Sanders to influence the platform: "Seizing Chance, Sanders Makes Bold Progressive Picks to Shape DNC Platform" - Though compromised allotment falls short of Sanders' suggestion, Vermont Senator doesn't waste opportunity to make progressive choices.. Snippets from McCauley follow.

Seizing on the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) reluctant concession allowing him to appoint five members to the committee that writes the party platform, Bernie Sanders on Monday announced a suite of picks that included activists across the progressive sphere.

Sanders' appointees to the 15-member Platform Drafting Committee include: racial justice activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West, 350.org co-founder and noted environmentalist Bill McKibben, Native American activist Deborah Parker, Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and James Zogby, a pro-Palestinian scholar as well as founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI).

The deal falls short of Sanders' recommendation that each campaign choose seven members for the Drafting Committee and the 15th member would jointly picked by the two campaigns. Nonetheless, it is an improvement over the standing rule, under which the DNC chair would consider a list of ten names from each candidate, choose four from each and then appoint an additional seven. [Scriber: And that is a very big win for Sanders!]

"We believe that we will have the representation on the platform drafting committee to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests," Sanders said in a statement.

Here are Greg Sargent's concluding remarks - and a final note from your Scriber.

The current split ... falls short of the Sanders camp’s request for seven slots for each campaign, plus only one for the DNC. The Sanders camp may also be angered by the four slots kept by the party, since it has been arguing that the party is essentially in the bag for Clinton. But the DNC has pared back its own influence over the committee somewhat, and has now given Sanders a level of representation on the committee, relative to that of Clinton, that is likely to be proportional to their differences in the pledged delegate count after the voting concludes. According to Democrats involved in the talks, party officials had concluded it would be unfair to give both campaigns equal representation, given that Clinton has won substantially more popular votes than Sanders has.

One big question looming over the endgame of the primaries is whether Sanders will do everything he can to persuade his supporters that the outcome — resulting in Clinton’s nomination — was legitimate. Whether the DNC’s latest moves will help make that more likely — and whether they will lead Sanders supporters to be more accepting of that argument — remains to be seen.

To take a bid from bridge, if Clinton and Sanders supporters come together to bid "No Trump" and make the bid, the country will be better off. The only sure way to lose is to fold your hand.

Is America ready for a "mobbed-up" president?

David Cay Johnston, writing in Politico, reports that "I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime."

AZBlueMeanie reports on Johnson's research and other corroborative sources.

Here are opening snippets from Johnston's report.

In his signature book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license.

But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.

Why did Trump get his casino license anyway? Why didn’t investigators look any harder? And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?

These questions ate at me as I wrote about Atlantic City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and then went more deeply into the issues in a book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. In all, I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory. In an April 27 phone call to respond to my questions for this story, Trump told me he did not recall many of the events recounted in this article and they “were a long time ago.” He also said that I had “sometimes been fair, sometimes not” in writing about him, adding “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you.”

Read the rest of Johnston's report here or in AZBlueMeanie's post.

David Cay Johnston won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times reporting on the American tax system. Since 2009 he has taught the business, property and tax law of the ancient world at Syracuse University’s law and graduate business schools.

======================

Johnston was not the only person to "out" reports of Trump's mob association. Back in February, Sen. Ted Cruz noted Trump's reported mob connections on Meet the Press. Here is some of the report from PolitiFact.

Donald Trump "seems terrified to release his taxes" because they may reveal his true net worth, his donations to liberal causes, or something even seedier, Sen. Ted Cruz suggested on Meet the Press.

"There have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the mafia," Cruz said Feb. 28. "Maybe his taxes show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported."

Pressed by host Chuck Todd to back up his claim, Cruz cited reports by ABC and CNN. A Cruz spokesman forwarded us several other media reports detailing the real estate developer’s alleged ties to organized crime. The Trump campaign did not get back to us.

Is Cruz right that the Donald has worked with a few Dons in his career?

...

Here's one example cited by PolitiFact.

And there’s Felix Sater, "a twice-convicted Russian émigré who served prison time and had documented mafia connections" and the subject of the ABC story Cruz referenced.

Sater pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering in 1998 and was indicted again in 2000 for taking part in a $40 million stock scheme involving four Mafia families, according to the New York Times report.

From 2003 to 2007, Sater traveled the country promoting projects for Trump, and his company was a partner in the Trump SoHo hotel. Trump told the Times he "never knew that."

Three years later, Sater returned to the Trump Organization and had business cards that described him as Trump’s "senior advisor," the AP reported. Trump told the AP that he’s "not familiar" with Sater.

Our ruling

Cruz said, "There have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the mafia."

While it’s important to note that these connections were not atypical in the real estate and casino businesses in the 1980s, Cruz’s statement is accurate. Media reports have linked Trump to mafia bosses and mob-connected business associates for decades.

We rate the claim True.

"Why’d Donald do it? Because he saw these mob guys as pathways to money, and Donald is all about money” — Wayne Barrett, Trump biographer