Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why America must fix income inequality - and do it fast

FACT: Economic inequality in America has been on a steep rise for over 40 years.

FAC T: The inequality curve persisted regardless of which political party controlled Congress and regardless of which political party controlled the White House.

FACT: CEO compensation has risen dramatically while worker wages have stagnated or declined.

THEORY: America is about to have a second Civil War.

Back in Feb 2016 I posted on a Politico essay by a very rich guy named Nick Hanauer: Read this one (again):The pitchforks are coming … and are central to the 2016 election.

Now yesterday morning (Aug 30 2017), NPR’s 1A interviewed Nick Hanauer on inequality and what the 1% can do to prevent the pitchforks from coming (Zillionaire To Other Zillionaires: “Pay Up”).

Billionaires: Pay up or else...
Nick Hanauer to Billionaires: It's this or the pitchforks

You probably don’t know Nick Hanauer, but he has more money than you. As a self-proclaimed “unapologetic capitalist,” Hanauer deals in millions the way many Americans deal in hundreds … or tens.

A few years ago, Hanauer called on his fellow one percenters to address America’s growing income inequality.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Hanauer’s advice hasn’t exactly been heeded. And he’s now telling the super-wealthy to pay workers more to avoid an uprising.

Thing is, is anyone listening?

The short answer is “no”.

Here is a 2017 update in Politico, To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism. Pay your workers a decent wage and maybe you can stave off the pitchforks that are still coming for us. by NICK HANAUER, July 18, 2017.

My own ideas about the effect of inequality on social instability align with the work of social scientist Peter Turchin. He and his collaborators use mathematical models to study the rise and fall of societies—an analysis that postulates a new American civil war arriving as soon as 2021 (and in a highly-armed nation already suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, he doesn’t mean “civil war” metaphorically). For the first time in history, polls show that most Democrats and Republicans identify Americans from the opposing party as the biggest threat to our country. So yes—if you have a deep sense that something is very wrong with our nation, you are almost certainly correct.

This is stunning. If you want a look at what this might mean, check my post from yesterday about the American War. If the prediction about the timing is even close, it means that we have four years to correct the economic misdeeds of four decades - 40 years. I’m taking on as a project reading Turchin’s book and writing a précis of it. Stay tuned.

America can be fixed. But Trumpism is not the answer - it is the symptom of the social/political consequences of gross inequality. If you want to know what Trumpists are doing about the fear of an impending revolt, see AZBlue Meanie’s post yesterday on An authoritarian vision of ‘law and order’. Trump has just renewed the flow of military grade hardware to local police departments. Exactly who do you think such arms will be used against? Hint: it ain’t the 1%. Hanauer explains: “You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state.”

America can be fixed but, ironically, the folks best positioned to do something about it are Hanauer and his real audience - the other multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires. The solution, according to Hanauer, is to immediately raise the minimum wage. That may not be cake, but it sure as hell would put more bread on the table of millions of working Americans. Consult Hanauer’s essay for data on the effects of raising the minimum wage. In all cases studied, increasing the minimum wage proved good for the economy.

Hanauer identifies what won’t work.

President Trump promises to restore the middle class to its former glory by bringing back old industrial-era jobs—as if slashing environmental regulations could somehow make coal competitive again with plummeting solar prices, let alone our fracking-induced glut of cheap natural gas. This is magical thinking. Manufacturing as a percentage of the overall economy, and of jobs, has been declining globally for decades. This trend will not reverse. Trump cannot restore the middle class with empty promises to bring manufacturing jobs back from the dead.

Many of us wealthy folks are laudably philanthropic; we feel like we are already doing our part to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. And this is true, to some extent. But if my thesis is correct—if the only cure for what truly threatens our democracy and our capitalist economy is to enact laws and standards that ensure that businesses pay people enough to lead secure, dignified lives—then some of our effort may be misdirected. Philanthropy is useful, but only about $100 billion per year is spent on helping disadvantaged folks. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase income for the bottom 60 percent of Americans by about $450 billion per year. No philanthropy comes close to the scale of that one policy.

So let’s get on with fixing America. If you are reading this, you are a progressive or Democrat or Berniecrat and you most likely belong to some related organization. If your organization does not have as its top priority addressing income inequality now, your organization is part of the problem. You can quote me on that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Required reading: A review of the review of "American War"

Actually, I don’t want you to read my review of a review beyond the first paragraph or so. I (really!) don’t want you to read the target review until after you’ve read the book so I’ve buried snippets after the break below. What I do advise is to read the target novel, American War and then read the NY Times review by Justin Cronin, A Fictional (So Far) History of the Second American Civil War. And then return to my modest review of the review as you digest a “disturbingly plausible” account of where America is headed.

Quoted snippets below are from Cronin’s review.

… Omar El Akkad’s “American War” is a disturbingly plausible … tale of a future America torn asunder by its own political and tribal affiliations.

… Whether read as a cautionary tale of partisanship run amok, an allegory of past conflicts or a study of the psychology of war, “American War” is a deeply unsettling novel. The only comfort the story offers is that it’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.

I’m going to make two observations. The first is that if you take every disturbing trend now rampant in America, pour fossil fuel on them, and throw in a lit match, you get American War. Our first Civil War was never resolved. LBJ understood this well when he forecast that his landmark legislation would alienate the (previously Democratic) South for a generation. (He underestimated the South’s bitterness - it is lasting longer.) We now have what amounts to a petty dictator elected by those who resent government from both the South and North doing his level best to fan the flames of a multidimensional tribal divide. (Said dictator operates from An authoritarian vision of ‘law and order’ when he renews the practice of passing military weaponry on to local police. How can this not end badly?)

America, because of its tribalism, is an empire in political decline and its global adversaries intervene to make the situation worse and quickly positioning themselves to hasten America’s decline by stepping into the geopolitical vacuum. (In the book, the global players are different from what they are now but the theme is the same.) And perhaps the biggest driver of the American decline is the division over climate change and the contribution of human use of fossil fuels. Is it too big a leap to imagine that the views of climate change are so divergent that a group of states band together in armed insurrection to squash federal regulations controlling use of fossil fuels? Is too much to ask you to believe that socioeconomic, political, and environmental conditions can become so severe that innocent individuals can be psychologically co-opted to kill millions of their fellow citizens?

The second observation is that once you start reading American War you need to stick with it. Like any good novel, the characters are created and connected both in time and place by the background provided by the author. For example, from Cronin’s book review: “The story also pauses at regular intervals for the inclusion of various wartime documents — committee reports, bureaucratic case files, eyewitness accounts — to flesh out the background.” Mrs. Scriber almost quit reading but then got engrossed by the characters. It’s not her favorite book, she says, but she is reading it to the end.

I fear I’ve said too much and providing the snippets after the break will entice you to take literary shortcuts. Please don’t. Read the book - it’s available in various formats at Amazon - and then read Cronin’s NY Times review - it is good.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Will Congressification result in Trump's Triumph?

Who supports Trump's pardon of Arpaio?
Who agrees with Trump's pardon of Arpaio?

That’s my nomination for a significant digit this morning. The way to get that number is to observe that it is a measure of the influence of one member of the House of Representatives (1 divided by 435). That’s important because we need to figure out who in our government, exactly and concretely, will stand their ground against Trumpism.

Are some of Trump’s key Cabinet members thinking about abandoning him? So it seems when Secretary of State Tillerson, for example, publicly paints Trump as acting alone. But having his cabinet members demure when it comes to outrageous claims and quite possibly illegal decrees is not enough. We need Congress to take a stand now says Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) in Trump is dragging us toward a full-blown crisis. Here’s what has to happen now.

In an interview with me, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) — the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — argued strenuously that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio needs to be seen as a signal to those of his supporters who have been implicated in the Russia affair.

“The purpose for which the pardon was granted — to a political supporter of the birther movement — sends a message that if you have the president’s back, if you’re one of his supporters, he won’t necessarily wait until the end of a criminal case to give you a pardon,” Schiff told me. “He is telegraphing to anyone involved in his political campaign that as long as they stick with him, the possibility of a pardon is open, just the way it was for Arpaio.”

And it could get worse. Schiff told me that the manner in which this pardon was done reasonably suggests it may be a signal to officials getting caught up in the Russia probe. “I don’t think it’s lost on anyone that the president is sending a message to those who worked on his campaign that he is not beyond using the pardon power to protect them and protect himself,” Schiff said. He added that Trump showed that “he’s willing to do it even prior to sentence,” which signals that he might be prepared to exercise it “to fend off any further criminal proceedings.”

Now, we do not know whether Trump will go through with something like this. We do not even know where special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe is heading. But the point is that members of Congress could be putting Trump on notice right now that if he does resort to such measures, Congress will not tolerate it.

But, you see, there are very few members of Congress who have stepped up to publicly object to what Trump did. They talk the talk. But about the walk?

Congress needs to take action both to reign in Trump and also to protect their own historical position in our constitutional democracy. If Congress lets Trump get away with pre-sentence pardons, they are abdicating their responsibility and thereby threatening our nation.

It is welcome that some Republicans stepped forward to condemn President Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff Joe Arpaio. But something more is needed right now: We also need to hear a loud, clanging alarm from Republicans and Democrats alike that signals to Trump in unequivocal terms that any pardons in the context of the Russia probe will be met by a forceful and immediate response from Congress.

Sure, I agree. But Adam Shiff is but one member of the House and we need far more than just him. So far Congress is showing little inclination for action.

So I worry that Congress is calcified. Congressification may be just another step toward American authoritarianism and Trump’s triumph.

Monday, August 28, 2017

What Trump really thinks about vets

Before the 2016 election I posted this gem.

Donald Trump: “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”.

Most people aren’t worth of respect." Really? From the man who would be President? That sentiment you might imagine coming from a monarch, a king, or a dictator. But from the President of a democratic republic? …

Indulge me in another reposted post.

Trump Gives Mattis Wide Discretion Over Transgender Ban. That’s the good news, I guess. The bad news is that Trump troubled himself to sign a ban against transgendered persons serving in the military. HIs rationale made no sense. But since when has anything he does made any sense? With all the things on the presidential plate, he has time to stew about what’s in your pants?

All that sets up the Facebook post - a rewrite of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah for our military veterans.

Trump, trans, and vets. Which of these does not belong?

Let the "adorably out of touch" eat cake - and other illustrated news

Mexico won't pay - why should the US
Welcome to the party!

First, get yourself primed with AZBlueMeanie’s cartoons. Join the President of Mexico in a good guffaw when Trump tries to stick Congress (aka YOU!) with the bill for his wall. Then graduate to the First Lady of the Treasury’s “let them eat cake” moment.

Paying your taxes is not a sacrifice, says Mark E Andersen to Louise Linton. Until you sell that giant rock on your finger to buy a gallon of milk, you do not know what sacrifice is.. [For the rock, check out the photo in Andersen’s Daily Kos post.]

This past week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, wrote the following about their tax burden: “Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”

The irony of that statement is that Linton claims that the person she is responding to on Instagram is out of touch. Well, Ms. Linton, I hate to break it to you, but you are the one who is out of touch. Paying taxes on wealth that most Americans can only dream of is not a fucking sacrifice. It is your duty as an American citizen to pay your fair share toward the common good.

The very definition of sacrifice is the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost. That says nothing about paying your damned taxes. It’s doubtful Linton will be reading this, but just in case she does, let’s throw out some actual sacrifices.

During the Great Depression many sacrifices were made. Parents would go hungry so that their children could eat. …

During World War II the sacrifices ranged far and wide. On the home front, everything from gasoline and tires to meat and sugar was rationed, and families even gave up their family dogs for the war effort. Young men put their lives on hold to serve their country, with 407,000 of them making the ultimate sacrifice and never coming home.

Sacrifices are made every day in this country … [like] the single mother who works full time and goes to school part time to make a better life for her children. And the elementary school teacher who uses his own money to purchase school supplies so no student in his classroom goes without. …

Sacrifices are all around us. We see them every day. Some of them may be small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things while other sacrifices can make you wonder how much someone can give. In all cases, paying your taxes is not a sacrifice. It is your duty as an American.

Linton’s thoughts are just a small microcosm of the Trump administration’s views. They have never known want, and they have never known sacrifice. There is precedent for Linton’s comments. In philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, he related the story of a great princess saying “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or as we know it today, “Let them eat cake,” a phrase often erroneously attributed to Marie Antoinette (even during her time). And we know how things turned out for her.

Ms. Linton, her husband, and his associates have no idea what it is like to sacrifice, or how it feels to struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck. They will never know what it is like to have to decide between putting gas in the car to get to work or buying a gallon of milk. For her to even utter the word sacrifice shows how little she has in common with the average American, and shows just how far out of touch the Trump administration is.

Jobs and jabs

From the FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits email:
50 jobs
The state of Iowa will give Apple $208 million in tax breaks in exchange for promising to create at least 50 jobs as part of a $1.4 billion datacenter project near Des Moines. Iowa, I will gladly hire a personal assistant in the Des Moines area if you give me $4 million dollars in tax incentives. [Yahoo]
Well, we’ve known for a long time that cities and counties and states are so desperate for corporate investment that they are willing to pay what amounts to bribes to lure said corporations.


Trump Gives Mattis Wide Discretion Over Transgender Ban. That’s the good news, I guess. The bad news is that Trump troubled himself to sign a ban against transgendered persons serving in the military. HIs rationale made no sense. But since when has anything he does made any sense? With all the things on the presidential plate, he has time to stew about what’s in your pants?

And then there is another matter he has time to stew about before Hurricane Harvey. A Pardon for Arpaio Would Put Trump in Uncharted Territory. We are now in that territory.

CHICAGO — Note: Friday night, after this Op-Ed was published, it was announced that President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio.

At his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, President Trump strongly implied that he would pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who was found guilty in July of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order against prolonging traffic patrols targeting immigrants. This is not idle presidential chatter: On Thursday morning, CNN reported that the White House has prepared the necessary paperwork, along with talking points for its allies.

This is uncharted territory. Yes, on its face the Constitution’s pardon power would seem unlimited. And past presidents have used it with varying degrees of wisdom, at times in ways that would seem to clash with the courts’ ability to render justice. But the Arpaio case is different: The sheriff was convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling. Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.

Consider this a test case. If Trump gets away with this, he can pardon anyone for anything at any time - no matter what the gravity of the offense.

Here is what a Montmartre street artist thinks of all this.

France looks better every day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Monday Mourning Illustrated News - some of it good.

Trump's view of WWII
President Trumpan leading us in WWII

It’s all about Trump (and a smidgen of Bannon).

Check out the Blue Meanie’s selection of illustrated news.

For your added edification, here is why we can sleep easier from Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker: Trump’s Horrific Spelling Reassures Nation That He Cannot Correctly Enter Nuclear Codes.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Who will abandon Trump if he resigns?

Strapped for time? The answer, basically, is no one. His followers will follow him into the wilderness.

Art of the Deal co-author predicts Donald Trump is about to resign. Trump’s presidency is effectively over. Would be amazed if he survives till the end of the year. More likely resigns by fall if not sooner,’ says Tony Schwartz.

But even if Trump does resign, the nation still has a very big problem. Most likely, Scriber thinks, Trump will not go peacefully or gracefully. He’ll take it as a personal slight by a cabal of elitists and fake news journalists. He’ll repeat his slights and diatribes against his perceived enemies - the GOP, the military chiefs, and the media. And he will abscond with a sizable portion of the electorate essentially fracturing the GOP and providing a political base for the white nationalists. You think not? Read on.

Mark Sumner (Daily Kos) asks us to Please stop asking Trump voters if they’re abandoning Trump. Please.

Donald Trump attacked prisoners of war. Trump supporters didn’t care. Trump attacked Gold Star families. They didn’t care. Trump invited Russia to hack into our election. They didn’t care. He said that his celebrity status allowed him to grab women by the pussy and finally … nope. Still didn’t care.

Look, this is just a small sample, but it should get the point across.

Fired the FBI director in the middle of an investigation
where he was the subject
Let go his national security adviser for having an
unknown number of charts with Russia
Admitted to pulling down at least $100 million
in income from Russia
Cheated untold number of contractors out of millions,
including during the campaign
Called an Indiana judge a Mexican who
couldn’t be trusted
Still has an active lawsuit against him from 15 women
(yes, it’s still underway)
Raised Mar-a-Lago fees to $400K while letting his
“special people” listen in on war planning.
Said blacks were intrinsically “lazy” and he only trusts
Jews to count his money
Ignored the emoluments clause. And again. And again.
And … so on.
Compared Nazis to people standing up to Nazis0

Just listen to these people and believe them.

Six in 10 people who approve of President Donald Trump (61%) say they can’t think of anything Trump could do that would make them disapprove of his job as President, according to a Monmouth University poll released this week.

Just understand that the things he does that infuriate everyone else, are the things they like.

Insulting immigrants, blacks, Muslims, people with college degrees, poor people, smart people, fat people, ugly people, people who used to be hot but had the bad taste to actually get older? They’ve always wanted to do that.

Coddling Nazis? Well … they always did have a Confederate flag somewhere in a box. Now they get to hang it up.

Fifty-three percent of all Republicans said there’s nothing, nothing, nothing that would get them to stop supporting Trump. Don’t even bother thinking up scenarios involving puppies and babies. And for goodness sake, don’t try to test that 5th Avenue thing.

Just believe it. They’ll support this Russia-loving, Nazi hugging, pussy-grabbing, thieving, petty, ugly son of a bitch. No matter what.

So stop asking. Or at least stop acting shocked when you get the same answer.

Oh, and I don’t know what this means, but thinking about it makes me a little queasy.

So who are the most hardcore groups of Trump backers? Women who approve of Trump are most likely to say they will never change their minds: 72% of female Trump approvers say they will never strip their support, vs. only 54% of male Trump approvers.

Is Trump the center of the universe?

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources report that Trump has a new slogan: Make Universe Great Again. To make that work, he would have to discredit the last 474 years of astronomical thought.

We, I think safe to say, all of us now believe as Nicolaus Copernicus did in his 1543 book, that the earth revolves around the sun. That was not immediately accepted in the community of astronomers and theologians. The prevailing theory in Europe during Copernicus’s lifetime was the one that Ptolemy published in his Almagest circa 150 CE; the Earth was the stationary center of the universe. Stars were embedded in a large outer sphere which rotated rapidly, approximately daily, … (See the Wiki entry on.)

Suppose you were so ego endowed that you thought that the entire universe revolved around you. When challenged, by way of explanation you might upend nearly five centuries of astronomic theory and evidence. So it went on Saturday when Donald Trumpeted a new theory of the solar eclipse.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz explains in Trump Says Sun Equally to Blame for Blocking Moon.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Attacking the media for its “very unfair” coverage of Monday’s solar eclipse, Donald J. Trump said on Saturday that the sun was equally to blame for blocking the moon.

“The fake news is covering the eclipse from the sun’s side instead of the moon’s side, but if you look at it from the moon’s side the sun is blocking the moon’s side,” he said. “There are so many sides you can’t count all the sides.”

Additionally, Trump tore into the sun itself, calling it a “showboat” for its role in the solar eclipse. “The sun thinks the world revolves around it,” Trump said. “Sad.”

Trump said the sun was a “big problem” that his predecessor, Barack Obama, did nothing to solve, but that that situation was about to change.

“It will be handled—we handle everything,” Trump said, adding that a preëmptive military strike on the sun was “very much on the table.”

Scriber’s Sources reported that Donald said “Because I handle everything, I am at the center of the universe.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

Charlottesville documentary is a must-view

If you have not already seen this documentary about Charlottesville, see it using the links in this report: Vice Media’s immersive Charlottesville report gets serious traction. It shows us exactly what the mind-set is in the violent right-wing groups that converged on Charlottesville. One of the main leaders of this movement is caught on film threatening more deaths: Christopher Cantwell: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know. This is gritty stuff but you need to know what and who is on the side of the white supremacy movement.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A quiz

Here’s a quiz for this morning. Which of the following does not belong with the rest?

(1) CEO of major corporations
(b) chiefs of army, navy, air force, coastguard, national guard
(c) many Republican politicians
(d) Chief of Staff John Kelly
(e) President Donald Trump.

You might be tempted to pick John Kelly but that is likely to be wrong sooner than later. He’s reported to be frustrated. See the other post here this morning.

So the best answer is (e) President Donald Trump. The rest, excepting Kelly, have bailed because of the president’s incendiary remarks about the Charlottesville protests and murder. Here’s a good read about the current status of the Trump’s presidency. Trump Comments on Race Open Breach With C.E.O.s, Military and G.O.P.

Scriber on vacation

The Scriber family is going on vacation for the rest of August. Our access to the internet may be spotty. I’ll try to keep up with the news and post as I have the time and access. Ditto for Facebook. I will update Bill Maki’s Facebook page with posts and photos about our travels when I can. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump to CEOs: You're fired - and other Trump Timeless Troubles.

John Kelly's nightmare
This photo beats a thousand words.

Let’s start with how Trump’s braying about the good people in the alt-right, white sepremacist movement, and how that energizes said hate groups. It’s not just that he empowers such folks, but, in the process, he inflicts self-mutilation on the White House and the office of the president.

NY Times reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman show how Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost. And the body language in this photo illustrates just how bad the WH staffers have it when Trump goes public with his defense of white supremacists and other alt-right groups. Is John Kelly’s WH clock running? It looks like it.

WASHINGTON — President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.

Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.

Many sides to blame

On Saturday, in his first comments on Charlottesville, Mr. Trump blamed the violence on protesters from “many sides.”

After a storm of criticism over his remarks, Mr. Trump’s aides persuaded him to moderate his message by assigning explicit blame for the violence to far-right agitators, which led to a stronger denunciation of hate groups — emailed to reporters and attributed to an unnamed “spokesperson.”

When that failed to quell the controversy, aides, including Mr. Trump’s new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, pressed him to make another public statement. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, urged him to take a more moderate stance, according to two people familiar with the situation. But as with so many other critical moments in Mr. Trump’s presidency, the two were on vacation, this time in Vermont.

So he did. But then he reverted to the Real Donald Trump.

But his unifying tone, which his staff characterized as more traditionally presidential, quickly gave way to a more familiar Trump approach. No sooner had he delivered the Monday statement than he began railing privately to his staff about the news media. He fumed to aides about how unfairly he was being treated, and expressed sympathy with nonviolent protesters who he said were defending their “heritage,” according to a West Wing official.

He felt he had already given too much ground to his opponents, the official said.

So, given that Trump must always win, …

The president’s fury grew Monday as members of a White House business council began to resign to protest his reaction to Charlottesville. As usual, Mr. Trump found his voice by tweeting angrily about the news media.

More on that below.

By Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump’s staff sensed the culmination of a familiar cycle: The president was about to revert to his initial, more defiant stance. As Mr. Trump approached the microphone in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, aides winced at the prospect of an unmediated president. With good reason.

“Alt-left” groups were also “very, very violent,” Mr. Trump said early in his exchange with reporters.

He went on to assign “blame on both sides” — echoing his comments on Saturday, and reigniting a fight that has sunk staff morale after a brief bump in enthusiasm that followed the hiring of Mr. Kelly, who was to impose discipline on a chaotic West Wing.

Trump disbands CEO councils

The NY Times reports how Trump Ends C.E.O. Advisory Councils as Main Group Acts to Disband.

President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday after the president’s controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.

Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, rather than put “pressure” on executives.

That’s sort of like “you can’t quit - you’re fired”.

The quick sequence began late Wednesday morning when Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

On the call, the chief executives of some of the largest companies in the country debated how to proceed.

After a discussion among a dozen prominent C.E.O.s, the decision was made to abandon the group altogether, said people with knowledge of details of the call.

Here’s the Times’ graphic on who’s who and who did what.

Two additional chief executives — Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M — had announced Wednesday morning they would resign from the manufacturing council.

Here is A STATEMENT FROM DENISE MORRISON, PRESIDENT AND CEO. “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the President should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point. Following yesterday’s remarks from the President, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. I will continue to support all efforts to spur economic growth and advocate for the values that have always made America great.”

The defections left Mr. Trump all but isolated from the business leaders whose approval he covets.

BTW - check out the Campbell company’s site for the alt-right letter writing campaign against Morrison’s action and her company.

John Cassidy at the New Yorker offers additional observations about those who did not resign prior to being fired - Corporate America Loosens Its Awkward Embrace of Trump

Before the Trump disbanded both groups, a majority of the corporate bigwigs who served on them—sixteen members of the manufacturing council, and sixteen of the White House’s Strategy and Policy Forum—hadn’t resigned. What stopped them? Perhaps some of them privately agreed with some of the sentiments Trump expressed. More likely, they were still fearful of incurring his wrath and retribution. If this was the case, then, as Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary, noted in a withering blog post, “it is a damning indictment of the President and of their own cowardice.”

Summers ended his post by asking the C.E.O.s who hadn’t distanced themselves from Trump to wrestle with their consciences, and with Edmund Burke’s famous admonition that evil triumphs only when good men do nothing. The Jewish sage Hillel had an equally apposite quote: ”If not now, when?”

So let’s take stock. Trump has burned bridges in the Senate (warring against Sessions and McConnell), diminished his respect as Commander in Chief (negative command reactions to transgender tweet and command opposition to discrimination), unsettled our allies (attempts by the McCain and others to reassure them), gone to war with the media, and now alienation of the business community - CEOs of large companies at least. What else does he have to do to convince America that this guy is seriously bad news? And that news ain’t fake, bubba.

By the Numbers:"A New Kind of Civil War?"

That’s the number of alt-right rallies scheduled for this weekend. [The Atlantic]

That’s the number of right-wing hate groups operating in America [Southern Poverty Law Center].

Below I expand on each of those numbers and what they might mean for a divided America.

The Atlantic speculates about What the Next Round of Alt-Right Rallies Will Reveal Protests scheduled in nine American cities for Saturday will provide a sense of where the movement is headed.

… Turnout for [the Saturday] events will help illustrate exactly what kind of moment this nation has come to. Here’s what to look for:

  • How many people will come out to march with the alt-right after the events in Charlottesville?
  • Which faction will come out on top? Will marchers primarily consist of the same old-school, everything-but-a-hood white nationalists seen in Charlottesville, or will they represent the “fashy” element of the alt-right, which seeks to offset the repugnance of its views with a less ostentatious veneer?
  • Will the marchers be armed and spoiling for a fight, as the rally participants were in Charlottesville?
  • Will they be met by sizeable crowds of counter-protesters?
  • Will those counter-protesters be peaceful, or will they be looking for a fight themselves?

How each of these questions plays out will reveal something about the future of the alt-right. If attendance is very low, for instance, it may signal that Charlottesville was a sobering moment for the movement, perhaps with some adherents reconsidering their tactics, and with other people reconsidering their involvement altogether.

If attendance is very high, on the other hand, it likely means that the Charlottesville rally was an energizing event for the alt-right, even with its culmination in a terrorist attack, and that would be cause for serious concern. If attendance is high and the participants include more of the same Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists in garish costumes and armed to the teeth, it would be hard to interpret that as anything less than extremely alarming.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reflects on The Year in Hate and Extremism. The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century. How did it happen?

The number of hate groups operating in the country in 2016 remained at near-historic highs, rising from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year, according to the latest count by the SPLC. That’s only about 100 fewer organizations than the 1,018 tallied in 2011, which was the all-time high in some 30 years of SPLC counts.

And the numbers undoubtedly understate the real level of organized hatred in America. In recent years, growing numbers of right-wing extremists operate mainly in cyberspace until, in some cases, they take action in the real world. Dylann Roof, who was convicted late last year of the racist murder of nine black churchgoers, is an example of that — he had no real-world contact with hate groups before deciding, based on propaganda he read on the Internet, that it was time to start a race war.

Right-wing populism, driven in part by the kind of conspiracy theories and bigoted thinking that was espoused by Trump during his campaign, has become the answer for many Americans and millions of Europeans as well. Populism is the idea, as scholars Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell phrased it, that “pits a virtuous and homogenous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are depicted as depriving the sovereign people” of their prosperity and rights.

Translated for today’s situation, the elites are seen as a global plutocracy of self-interested politicians, media leaders and capitalists — or, in the case of Europe, as the well-paid leaders of the European Union. The “dangerous others,” meanwhile, are immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews and virtually every other minority.

The June vote by 52% of the British electorate to quit the European Union (EU) is in very many ways a close analog to the Trump vote in the United States. Those who voted to leave the EU, which requires open borders and migration within Europe and has welcomed millions of refugees from the Middle East, were mostly older middle- and working-class whites from troubled industrial areas. Also, as in the U.S. after Trump’s victory, the United Kingdom saw a wave of celebratory hate violence — up 47% over a year before — wash over the island nation.

It’s hard to predict where all of this will lead.

On one hand, it does seem likely that Trump’s ostentatiously right-wing politics will continue to dampen the Patriot movement, as happened under the last conservative Republican administration. It is also possible that, like the Patriot groups, the number of hate groups will fall as members look to Trump to pursue their program. On the other hand, it seems certain that Trump will be unable to fulfill many of his harder-line campaign vows — to ban Muslims, build a 2,000-mile border wall, or deport up to 12 million people — and this could easily result in an explosion of anger from extremists who feel betrayed. Historically, it is in just such situations that disappointed extremists may resort to domestic terrorism.

One thing seems certain. The radical right is feeling its oats today in a way that few Americans can remember. There are very large numbers of Americans who agree with its views, as sanitized under the deceptive Alt-Right label, although many of them may be less visible than before because they are not affiliated with actual groups. Whether or not the movement grows in coming years, it seems indisputable that its views have a better chance to actually affect policy now than in decades.

Finally, Robin Wright at the New Yorker asks Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction:

  • entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution;
  • increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows;
  • weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a
  • sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership;
  • and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

President Trump “modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,” Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. “Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,” he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

And Donald Trump seems destined to go down in history as The Great Divider as he fans the flames.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How Trump might help Dems take the U. S. House in 2018 (or not)

FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits email has this woo-hoo item.

11 points
Generally speaking when the president is at an approval rating of 38 percent we’d expect (historically) the president’s party to lose 11 points or so off its House margin of victory. If the midterms held today in the current congressional playing field, the GOP would lose the national House vote by 10 points. [FiveThirtyEight]

Of course, there’s lots of time between now and 11/2018 and lots of ways for those 11 points to fade away. But let’s look at the analysis that is the basis for FiveThirtyEight’s story, The Normal Rules Of Politics Still Apply To Trump — And To Republicans In Congress.

One of the big questions heading into the 2018 midterm elections — maybe the biggest — is how President Trump’s unpopularity will affect Republican fortunes. Normally, a president with historically low approval ratings would be a disaster for his party in Senate and House races in a midterm year.

But should we really be presuming that what “normally” happens will happen again? For one, Trump won the White House despite having record low favorable ratings. And it’s possible, as CNBC’s John Harwood pointed out, that partisan allegiances may be so baked in nowadays that Democrats won’t be able to attract Republican voters, however much they’ve soured on Trump. Maybe partisan polarization has grown too strong.

Some commentators have taken this argument to extremes. Fox News host Eric Bolling last month effectively argued that Trump is immune from the normal rules of politics. “Just look at those crowds,” he said, referring to a recent Trump rally in Ohio. “Watch the people, not the polls.”

Unpopular presidents swing congressional races
Unpopular presidents swing congressional races

The available evidence, however, suggests many of the old rules do still apply. Caution, like what Harwood and political analyst Scott Rasmussen have advised, is more than warranted, especially given Trump’s history of surprising analysts and pundits. Partisan polarization has increased, and there is plenty of time for Trump’s approval rating to improve. But caution is one thing; ignoring history and evidence, as pundits like Bolling want us to do, is another. And the idea that “the normal rules of politics don’t apply to Trump” strikes me as the latter — at least according to the data before us. Early signs suggest that Trump’s low approval rating is having exactly the negative effect on down-ballot Republicans that history would predict.

Midterm elections are often thought of as referendums on the sitting president. When there’s been an unpopular Democrat in the White House, voters have swung toward Republicans in congressional races. With a struggling Republican president, voters swing Democratic. You can see this by looking at the effect a president’s approval rating has on the national House vote. Specifically, we can look at how much the national House margin would be expected to shift from the previous presidential election based upon the president’s approval rating right before the midterm election. [See accompanying graphic.]

It’s far from perfect, but in midterm elections since 1946, there’s a clear relationship between the president’s approval rating and the swing in the House vote.

Trump’s current approval rating is 38 percent.1 Historically, we would expect a president that unpopular to cause his party to lose around 11 points off its previous House margin. Republicans won the national House vote by 1 percentage point in 2016, so this suggests they would lose it by 10 points if the midterm elections were held today.

Obviously, the 2018 midterm isn’t being held today. Trump’s approval could rise or fall over the next year. But we do have some measures of the current political environment we can use to see if the normal relationship between a president’s popularity and voter preferences is holding.

First up: the generic congressional ballot, a common poll question that asks respondents whether they will vote for the Democrat or Republican in their congressional district. Democrats right now hold a 46 percent to 37 percent lead, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate. That’s a bigger lead than Democrats had at any point in 2016 cycle, and it’s in line with the margin necessary for Democrats to take back the House.

[Second,] OK, I can already feel the “FAKE POLLS!” tweets coming. But it’s not just in polling where we see the negative effect of Trump’s unpopularity on Republicans. You can also see it in the special elections held so far this year — actual voters actually voting.

There have been 30 special state legislature and U.S. congressional elections3 since Trump was sworn-in as president. Democrats, as a group, have been outperforming the partisan lean in these districts — tending to come close in ruby red districts, winning swing districts and romping in light blue districts. More specifically, Democratic candidates have done about 16 percentage points better, on average, than you’d expect in a national environment in which no party held the advantage.

So the generic ballot and the special elections held so far both suggest Trump’s low approval ratings are having a normal effect on down-ballot races. The question going forward is whether Trump can improve his approval ratings or whether congressional Republicans can distance themselves from the Trump brand. If either occurs, then Republicans stand a good chance of holding onto their majority in the House. If neither happens and Republicans lose the House, Trump will get a big portion of the blame.

Locally, we have some vulnerable Republican candidates for national office. CD2 Rep. Martha McSally is one. I have this mental image of a cartoon. McSally is jumping out of a sinking ship (USS Trump) clutching the boat anchor (her voting record).


For every reaction, there is a …

Dan Balz at the Washington Post adds a cautionary note in Think things will be rosy for Democrats in 2018? Not so fast. Here are some of his observations.

… there are … factors that could frustrate the Democrats, from the state of the economy to obstacles created by structural aspects of a polarized electorate to the peculiar ways in which the president defies or at least confounds some traditional measures of public opinion.

Democrats hope to see a replay of the 2006 midterm, when they took advantage of dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush to regain control of the House. But between 2006 and today, something important happened. The shape of congressional districts changed and changed in the direction of the Republicans.

Part of this was through redistricting and the success of Republicans in the states to draw lines most favorable to them. Part of it has come through the sorting out of the population. Democrats are now heavily clustered in urban areas; Republicans are spread more evenly elsewhere. That makes it more difficult for Democrats to compete in some congressional districts.

Add to that the reality that in a red-blue nation, red areas have become redder and blue areas bluer. Especially in Senate races, that tilts the field toward the Republicans.

One other wild card is the relationship between Trump’s numbers and the GOP’s fate in the fall of 2018. His approval ratings are so low that Republicans should brace for substantial losses, big enough to cost them the House. Also, his current distemper toward his party’s leaders could pose turnout issues next year.

But Trump’s numbers sometimes defy conventional analysis. On Election Day last November, about 6 in 10 voters said they did not think Trump was qualified to be president. Enough of them cast their votes for him to make him president.

Lastly, but not insignificantly, there are the Democrats’ internal problems — the divisions between the left wing of the party and more moderate progressives, and the related challenge of developing a message with broader appeal. Democrats could do well in 2018 with nothing more than an anti-Trump message, but that might be shortsighted.

Democrats can win the popular vote for president by rolling up huge margins in California and New York and big cities elsewhere, as they did in 2016. They can’t win the House and particularly the Senate that way. They need a message that appeals beyond their base, and they need more candidates who can compete effectively in less friendly territory.

The silent president's supporters have "murder on their minds".

At a Donald Trump rally, supporters call for<br>the death of Hillary Clinton.
At a Donald Trump rally, supporters call for
the death of Hillary Clinton.

Back in July of 2016 I blogged about Lessons from Trump’s rallies: ungentleness at best, bloodlust at worst. Here are quotes attributed to Trump supporters from a New Republic article I cited.

  • "Trump That Bitch”
  • “Hang that bitch”
  • "Hang Hillary!”
  • Clinton should be “shot, executed” for “high treason.”
  • The first time I heard someone yell “Hang that bitch!” was during a speech by Trump policy advisor Stephen Miller. I heard “hang that bitch” at least twice more during Trump’s speech,
  • A pro-immigration protester … wearing a sign that says “veteran: u.s.m.c. and c.i.a.,” tells me that two Trump supporters came up to him separately after the Fountain Hills rally and whispered “almost verbatim the same thing, not quite, but in a nutshell”: that they’d like to shoot him in the back of the head.
  • Later that night, in a frenzy himself, the architect of this bloodlust would tweet that “Crooked Hillary” got away with “murder.”

And that’s how Trump supporters “got murder on their minds.” He owns all of that.

But he does try to cover it up. Here is his initial statement about the attack in Charlottesville.

We condemn in the strong possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.

He repeated “on many sides.” The false equivalence in that statement caused a national firestorm. The result was that, while the president was silent for two days, the WH crafted a different statement for another Trump try. The NY Times has the story.

“Racism is evil,” said Mr. Trump, delivering a statement from the White House at a hastily arranged appearance meant to halt the growing political threat posed by the situation. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Yet even Mr. Trump’s allies worried that his measured remarks, delivered two days after dozens of public figures issued more forceful denunciations, came too late to reverse the self-inflicted damage on his moral standing as president. And they came on the heels of a snide remark by Mr. Trump on Twitter about the resignation of the head of the pharmaceuticals company Merck, who is black, for quitting an advisory board over the president’s initial failure to criticize white nationalists.

And now another CEO has quit that advisory board. CNN reports Under Armour CEO quits Trump’s manufacturing council.

The reactions of the [August 14th Morning Joe panel] were right on the mark. “The panel continues its discussion about the weekend violence in Charlottesville during a white supremacist rally and President Trump’s response to the rally, which many saw as insufficient.” The White House’s managed statement was seen as “playing the game.” “OK, fine. You guys win. We’ll say what you want us to say.”

AZBlueMeanie relays reactions from conservatives in A failure of moral leadership.

I watched an interview with Bill Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard, who said that he has “given up” on Donald Trump ever being capable of moral leadership. Donald Trump has no interest in providing moral leadership. Kristol called on Republican governors, mayors, civic and religious leaders to fill the void of moral leadership lacking from Donald Trump.

Kristol, as well as many Republican elected officials and political pundits, have been highly critical of Trump’s failure to condemn White supremacist groups for their violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday.

Trump’s reticence was because these white supremacist groups are a key constituency of his base. It was a crass political calculation.

The Blue Meanie quotes David French, editor of the National review:

As David French of the conservative National Review said, The Alt-Right’s Chickens Come Home to Roost:

Incredibly, key elements of the Trump coalition, including Trump himself, gave the alt-right aid and comfort. Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, proclaimed that his publication,, was the “the platform for the alt-right,” Breitbart long protected, promoted, and published Milo Yiannopolous – the alt-right’s foremost “respectable” defender – and Trump himself retweeted alt-right accounts and launched into an explicitly racial attack against an American judge of Mexican descent, an attack that delighted his most racist supporters.

In other words, if there ever was a time in recent American political history for an American president to make a clear, unequivocal statement against the alt-right, it was today. Instead, we got a vague condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” This is unacceptable, especially given that Trump can be quite specific when he’s truly angry. Just ask the Khan family, Judge Curiel, James Comey, or any other person he considers a personal enemy. Even worse, members of the alt-right openly celebrated Trump’s statement, taking it as a not-so-veiled decision to stand against media calls to condemn their movement.

In the end the White House covering statement rings as hollow as the silent president.

And it will keep getting worse. Here’s an attack ad released Sunday (h/t AZBlueMeanie), Trump TV Ad Attacks Democrats, Media As ‘The President’s Enemies’.

With “murder on their minds” what could go wrong?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another Trump failure to step up and do the right thing: No condemnation of white supremacists


Julie Pace, AP Washington Bureau Chief covers more reactions to Trump’s false equivalence statement about the Charlottesville terror attack in Analysis: Questions about race follow Trump (reprinted in this morning’s edition of the Daily Staras “Trump’s caution with white nationalism”).

Why doesn’t President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists?

It’s a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it’s also one made unavoidable by Trump’s delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Saturday, as Trump read slowly through a statement about the clashes that left dozens injured and one woman dead, he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides.” The president was silent when journalists asked whether he rejected the support of nationalist groups.

That silence was cheered by the white supremacist website Daily Stormer: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Charlottesville’s mayor, Democrat Mike Signer, said Sunday that Trump made a choice during his campaign to “go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.”

“I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices,” Signer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

…The reaction from Republicans following Trump’s statement Saturday suggests there may be greater political risks for the president in aligning himself with bigoted groups.

“The president needs to step up today and say what it is,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who was one of several GOP lawmakers urging Trump to be more strident in calling out the nationalists and neo-Nazis that gathered in Charlottesville. Gardner said plainly: “It’s evil. It’s white nationalism.”

By Sunday, the White House was scrambling to try to clean up the president’s statement. The White House issued a statement saying the president does condemn “white supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups.”

That’s the spin. But: “The spokeswoman who issued the statement refused to be named. And the president himself remained silent.

That left Vice President Mike Pence, traveling in South America, to offer the kind of comment Trump’s critics sought from the White House: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” he said. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

WE, White Hair? You and who else?

Pima Supe Ally Miller is "WHITE-and proud of it"

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller starts reelection campaign with a new slogan: Make Ally Great Again.

Naw, she didn’t. But it would fit right in if she did.

The Daily Star features a local reaction After Charlottesville attack, Ally Miller’s Facebook post: “WHITE - and proud of it”

Hours after a white nationalist rally and violence that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller appears to have posted from her personal Facebook account that she is “sick and tired of being hit for being white.”

“It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE — and proud of it! No apologies necessary,” the 6:19 p.m. post went on to say.

I owe her an apology anyway. I had no idea that she was so oppressed!

Dark days ahead: Is Charlottesville a canary in a coal mine?

Jelani Cobb writing in the New Yorker takes Trump to task for his morally weak response to The Battle of Charlottesville. Following on, the New Yorker has an eye witness account of what is being widely recognized as a terrorist attack.

… this weekend in Charlottesville was not the first time this country has witnessed the mass mobilization of Nazis. But it is the first time we’ve seen such a feeble response to those gatherings in the upper echelons of American power.

Cobb refers to the German American Bund in the 30s opposed and investigated by NY Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and the American Nazi Party in the 60s opposed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Now we have a white supremacist movement that at best is allowed by our President and at worst is abetted by his vapid rhetoric and un-presidential inaction. Trump’s comments were designed to excuse the white supremacists by the device of “false equivalence.”

… When he did speak about the crisis, he denounced bigotry and violence “on many sides,” … When questioned about the rationale for Trump’s evenhandedness, the White House clarified that both the protesters and the counter-protesters had resorted to violence. This is notable in that the United States was once a country that did not see Nazis and those willing to fight them as morally equivalent. Aside from that, however, there were no images of anti-fascist protesters mowing down reactionaries with their cars.

There have been at least thirty attacks carried out by white terrorists since 9/11; the victims of those attacks constitute the majority of people killed on American soil in acts of terrorism. Two years ago, when Dylann Roof murdered nine people, in the sanctuary of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in Charleston, he described himself as a kind of rageful prophet, one whose actions would awaken white people to the perils they faced from people of color in the United States. Those forces took Trump as a like-minded figure, and saw in his reluctance to denounce David Duke during the campaign, and his willingness to retweet white-supremacist accounts and parrot their mythical statistics about black crime, a sign that their moment had arrived.

Car plows into crowd
Car plows into protesters in Charlottesville

The sickening images [see accompanying photo] that emerged from Charlottesville herald that some moment has arrived. It is a moment of indeterminate morality, one in which the centrifugal forces of contempt, resentment, and racial superiority are pitted against the ideal of common humanity and the possibility of a civic society. We have entered a new phase of the Trump era. The breach that Trump has courted since he first emerged in public life has become apparent; it is more deadly and its architects more emboldened. What happened in Virginia was not the culminating battle of this conflict. It’s likely a tragic preface to more of the same.

Charles Bethea reports on an interview with A Witness to Terrorism in Charlottesville.

Eyewitness accounts and photos of the moment a car plowed into counter-protesters during an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, capture the terror of those present at the scene.

Kristin Adolfson was there. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Adolfson, who is forty-one, works as a graphic designer at a nonprofit. “I left Charlottesville after graduating, in 1998 — I was, like, ‘This town is too small and insular and southern’—and moved to New York City,” she told me over the phone on Saturday night. “Then I returned, in 2003, because there was an element of community that I really loved about this place.”

“I was prepared, in my mind, for tear gas and pepper spray. And possible conflict with the police. I was also scared of, like, ‘O.K., could I get stabbed by the white supremacists? Could I get shot?’ We all knew—through reading alt-right posts online—that they were bringing their guns. Virginia is an open-carry state, and they can walk around with their assault rifles. I was worried about getting beat up and having my teeth knocked out.

“One of the alt-right factions marched right by and we just stood there and watched them intently, making eye contact. At that point, they ran into another group of counter-protesting locals, who were African-American. The alt-right people were chanting, ‘Heil Trump!’ That got really intense, so we tried to get some cops, but they didn’t come at that point.

… I was with five people, all locals. I was kind of on the edge of this one-lane road, an area that was mostly blocked off. I still don’t know how a car got down there. Then I heard shouts and this sound of, like, hitting, like, traffic cones. This hollow, horrible sound. Like dominoes. And I saw bodies fly up into the air. People were running away. …

“Then I just couldn’t leave. I had to be there. I didn’t really feel unsafe and I just couldn’t leave. Me and a few others stayed for about half an hour, in shock and processing. This was a terrorist act. Something that happens in so many places around the world, and it happened here in our little town. It was hard to process that. And the hate—that someone could actively take people’s lives, that’s what their goal was.

“Heil Trump.” Coming soon to a town near you? These are Trump supporters. Why would he turn them off by joining Kristin Adolfson in “standing up against their hatred, the bigotry and racism”? Why indeed. “Heil Trump.”

Ivanka should market new fragrance "Fire and Fury.". That and more in the Monday Mourning Illustrated News.

Three men in the WH
The Executive Branch

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona reports on the state of our government in this morning’s line-up of cartoons to start your week.

Never has so much depended on so few.

Feel safe, America.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

White supremacists and Trump's impotency condemned by the left and the right

Clear thinkers on both ends of the political spectrum unite to condemn white supremacy and a president who hypocritically condemns white bigots and those protesting bigotry. Trump’s morally spineless response just feeds the white supremacist’s rhetoric and allows, if not condones, their violence.

From the left: Michael Eric Dyson, in the NY Times, addresses Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy (h/t Sherry Moreau). Here are highlights.

… when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president. We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump … Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.

… President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise. They have emptied their ethical and economic pockets in support of him even though he turned his back on them the moment he entered the Oval Office. The only remnant of his leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history. Facing this unadorned hate tears open wounds from atrocities that we have confronted throughout our history. It is depressing to explain to our children that what we confronted as children may be the legacy they bequeath to their children as well.

It is more dispiriting still to realize that the government of our land, at least in the present administration, has shown little empathy toward victims of white bigotry, and indeed, has helped to spread the paralyzing virus of hatred, by turning a blind eye to what is done in their name.

Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents. If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.

From the right: Erick-Woods Erickson explains What Trump Got Wrong on Charlottesville. Snippets follow.

As a conservative, I see both the social justice warrior alt-left and the white supremacist alt-right as two sides of the same coin. Both would punish others for wrongthink. Both see the other side not as opponents, but as evil that can justifiably be silenced. Both have risen in recent years as a response to the crumbling of Western civilization’s certainties.

But white supremacists, not social justice warriors, were the ones marching with citronella-filled tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va. this weekend.

That is why it is perplexing that President Trump condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.” …

The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi publication, noted of President Trump’s post-Charlottesville news conference that, “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” Silence and obfuscation in the face of evil only feeds evil. Naming and exposing evil forces it back into the shadows. The president who wanted Barack Obama to name radical Islam should take his own advice and be forceful. On a day that saw one person killed during the Charlottesville violence, the president did not need to play the “both sides are culpable” game. No side would be protesting in Charlottesville had not the white supremacists decided to march.

The idea of white supremacy also has no place in science. We may be of different skin colors, ethnicities, heights, widths, eye colors and genders, but we are all part of the same human race. Out of the womb we are all equal, and equally in need of care. Theologically too, the idea of a superior race is anathema to our Judeo-Christian heritage. Genesis 1 makes clear that all of us are created in God’s image and likeness. To claim one race is superior to others is a sin against God, and Christians in the United States must forcefully condemn this.

This president is our president. He is the president of the United States. But as we become less united as a nation, he seems unwilling or unable to speak with conviction and moral clarity. We will all be worse off for it.

Can what half the GOP believes hurt our democracy?

Probably not, but it sure scares the crap out of me.

what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
- Michael McDonald.

Among other sources, reports that We’re Supposed to Be a Democracy, But Half the GOP Is OK with Postponing 2020’s Election. A party full of delusions exposes the dark underbelly of America.

The Washington Post’s latest poll is enough to make the Statue of Liberty cringe.

“In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it,” read the headline of the paper’s Monkey Cage blog (for election geeks) on Thursday, which quickly reverberated around the internet.

“According to a poll conducted by two academic authors and published by the Washington Post, 52 percent of Republicans said they would back a postponement of the next election if Trump called for it,” quickly reported. “If Trump and congressional Republicans proposed postponing the election to ensure only eligible citizens could vote, support from Republicans rises to 56 percent.”

The Hill’s summation didn’t stop there, but affirmed that nearly equal numbers of Republicans—47 percent—think Trump won the popular vote. And a big majority, 68 percent, “also thinks millions of illegal immigrants voted in the presidential election and 73 percent think voter fraud happens somewhat or very often.”

Republicans who believe every one of these assertions are dead wrong. But this sizeable slice of America doesn’t know how uninformed it is and apparently doesn’t care. What don’t they know?

Let’s start with postponing the 2020 election. Not having a vote for Congress and the presidency presumably would allow the current regime to remain in power. Right?

No, wrong. The Republican super patriots favoring a possible delay in 2020 are completely unaware of the U.S. Constitution’s 20th Amendment.

The U.S. Constitution, which both the Congress and the president swear to uphold, states that Congress and the president have fixed terms of office with expiration dates. It’s over on January 20 for the president, and on January 3 for Congress. There’s no postponing, unless somehow, there’s a 21st-century civil war—or a similar coup.

The other GOP fantasies, voter fraud and voting by non-citizens, fare no better. The evidence is squarely against those beliefs.

… claims of small-scale voter fraud are also not true. It happens less than once in a million voters—whether those keeping score are liberal civil rights lawyers or right-wingers like the Heritage Foundation that issue fancy reports they file in lawsuits, like this one that cites 492 cases and 733 voting malfeasance-related convictions from 1982 through 2016. That’s one case for every 2 million presidential election voters from 1984 to 2016 (roughly 980,000,000 votes). Millions more voted in other elections in this period.

That means that Trump’s own personal favorite fantasy, that Hillary Clinton’s 2.9 million popular vote advantage was fraudulent, is also bogus. Under the best case for Trump’s fantasy, Clinton’s win was only 2.9 million minus 3.

But what about all those millions of undocumented immigrants repeatedly voting for Democrats using fake identities? That’s another of Trump’s fantasy claims. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law went looking. Its survey included the 10 counties with the highest non-citizen populations in America, and found “fewer than 10 [non-citizen] votes” cited by local election official.

Check out the post for more evidence counter to GOP beliefs.

The author, Steven Rosenfeld, “covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cecil's son, Xanda, shot by head hunters.

It’s not what you think. The head hunters I refer to are modern day trophy hunters who pay big bucks to Zimbabwe so that they can lure a lion and, from the protection of a hide, shoot it with a high-powered rifle. The head ends up on their living room wall. More than likely, UPS ships the head back to the US. It’s all legal. has a petition you might want to sign. Here’s their story.

When Cecil the lion was killed by a trophy hunter, it made worldwide headlines. Now, Cecil’s son has suffered the same fate. Xanda the lion was recently shot and killed by a trophy hunter, leaving behind a family of eight young cubs.

Shipping company DHL has banned the shipment of hunting trophies, helping cut off an avenue for trophy hunters to bring their “prizes” back home.

UPS, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, has refused to take the same step. They have double downed and refused to enact a policy to stop shipping hunting trophies. Advocates say the simple policy change by UPS could help save the lives of thousands of animals.

Here is a more complete account of what happened from the UK Telegraph, What really happened to Xanda, the son of Cecil the lion? In part, it reads:

The exact circumstances of Xanda’s death remain unknown, although the WildCru team has seen enough over the years to have a good idea of what may have transpired. First, the lion is tracked and an animal such as a zebra is shot, butchered and strung up in the forest for bait. The shooters then lie in wait behind a hunting screen before a lion arrives and the trigger is pulled.

That strikes me as a supreme act of cowardice. But, read the Telegraph’s story for the entangled legal and conservationist concerns. Then decide if you want to sign the petition. I hope you do.

P. S.: I am not neutral in this one. The Scribers were on safari in Zimbabwe’s Hwange park in 2016 and had the good fortune to observe Xanda mating. We’ve lost a truly magnificent animal so that a head hunter has bragging rights.

Kyrsten Sinema gearing up to challenge Jeff Flake

Here’s an item from the Washington Post Plum line.

JEFF FLAKE GETS A CHALLENGER: A local news outlet in Arizona is reporting that Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is gearing up to challenge GOP Sen. Jeff Flake in 2018:

Sinema has locked down her swing district and proved to be a prolific fund-raiser, with $3.2 million in cash on hand as of June 30, a solid base for a Senate run in Arizona. … Recent polling shows Flake with high disapproval ratings among Arizona voters, driven down in part by his recent votes for the Obamacare repeal.

This might explain why Flake has been escalating his criticism of Trump of late. But he’s on record voting for the repeal bill that failed in the Senate — i.e., for an effort to move Trumpcare forward.

China to North Korea: If you strike the US we will not protect you. China to US: We will not allow a first strike or regime change.

The Washington Post reports that China warns North Korea: You’re on your own if you go after the United States. That’s only the first half of the story. I’ll get to the second half in a moment.

China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and strongly reiterated that idea Friday.

The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy, experts said.

In an editorial, the Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides: “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

So here are both parts of the Washington Post’s story referenced above.

  • Point #1: “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” [the Global Times] added.
  • Point #2: “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

Here is (some of) the rest of the story

The paper’s comments reflect the 1961 Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which obliges China to intervene if North Korea is subject to unprovoked aggression — but not necessarily if Pyongyang starts a war.

“The key point is in the first half of the sentence; China opposes North Korea testing missiles in the waters around Guam,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

China has become deeply frustrated with the regime in Pyongyang, and genuinely wants to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But it has always refused to do anything that might destabilize or topple a regime which has long been both ally and buffer state.

That’s because Beijing does not want to see a unified Korean state allied to the United States on its border: Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers died during the 1950–53 Korean War to prevent that from happening.

… experts said debate is underway behind the scenes in China about its support for the North Korean regime.

In an article on the Financial Times China website in May, for example, Tong Zhiwei, a law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, argued that China should make terminating the 1961 treaty a near-term diplomatic goal, because North Korea, also known as the DPRK, had used it as cover to develop its nuclear program and avoid punishment.

That, he wrote, was not in China’s interests.

“In the past 57 years, the treaty has strongly protected the security of the DPRK and peace on the Korean Peninsula, but it has also been used by the North Korean authorities to protect their international wrongful acts from punishment,” he wrote.

If I were sitting at a negotiating table, I would try to qualify China’s first point resulting in a modified proposal.

  • Point #1: “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil or that of its allies first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added.
  • Point #2: “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

So in my modified proposal China gets protection for its ally and we get protection for ours.

China does seem interested in ratcheting down the rhetoric. In statements that seem directed at President Trump’s bellicose language China urges U.S. to stop hurling threats at North Korea.

If China’s two points carry any validity, Trump’s advisors should be doing everything possible to make sure that he does not screw this up.

North Korea has the bomb. We should get used to it.

Implicit in what’s said here so far is that North Korea would be admitted to be now a nuclear nation. Hoping for NK to give up the weapons they think deter aggression from the US is only that - a hope. For more on this see John Cassidy’s essay in the New Yorker in which he asks Is It Time to Accept the Reality of a Nuclear-Armed North Korea?

One line of thought is that military solutions might be “locked and loaded” but to use them as a preemptive strike would be catastrophic.

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted, “Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely.” But, in truth, there is no straightforward military option. If there were one, a previous President might have used it, or, at least, threatened to use it. “Mr Kim’s bombs and missile-launchers are scattered and well hidden,” an editorial in this week’s Economist points out. “America’s armed forces, for all their might, cannot reliably neutralise the North Korean nuclear threat before Mr Kim has a chance to retaliate.” Even if a U.S. strike did take out Kim’s nuclear weapons, his forces have thousands of artillery pieces trained on Seoul, a city of ten million people located only thirty-five miles from the border with the North. Retaliation with these conventional weapons could kill tens of thousands of people. Not for nothing did James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, say in May that a war with North Korea would be catastrophic. (On Thursday, Mattis repeated the warning.)

“This young guy leading North Korea will not denuclearize, period,” Kathy Moon, a professor of Asian studies at Wellesley College and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, said earlier this week in an interview with WBUR, a Boston-based public-radio station. “What the U.S. faces is a problem between North Korean capabilities and intentions, and an anachronistic, outdated U.S. policy-strategy called denuclearization. The North doesn’t want to talk as long as denuclearization is on the table and is the goal of the United States. We need to really think hard and face the reality and suck it up—that this is a fully nuclear state. We don’t have to say, ‘Hey, welcome to the nuclear club.’ But we could work towards arms control and disarmament, which is a different framework, which acknowledges that it is a nuclear state, and try to get some diplomatic headway on that level.” This is similar to what Michael Hayden, the former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told my colleague Robin Wright this week. Any diplomatic solution to the situation, he said, “will have to, in one way or another, concede North Korea’s nuclear status. No other deal is possible.”

We are left with “the least bad option there is left.”

Treating North Korea as another rival nuclear power would involve using the tools the U.S. has employed for decades to deal with such adversaries: containment, deterrence, and measures designed to lower the risk of a small incident escalating into an all-out confrontation. It might be the least bad option there is left. “If military action is reckless and diplomacy insufficient, the only remaining option is to deter and contain Mr Kim,” the editorial in The Economist argues. “Mr Trump should make clear—in a scripted speech, not a tweet or via his secretary of state—that America is not about to start a war, nuclear or conventional. However, he should reaffirm that a nuclear attack by North Korea on America or one of its allies will immediately be matched. Mr Kim cares about his own skin. He enjoys the life of a dissolute deity, living in a palace and with the power to kill or bed any of his subjects. If he were to unleash a nuclear weapon, he would lose his luxuries and his life. So would his cronies. That means they can be deterred.”