Missouri’s governor stayed the execution of a death-row inmate on Tuesday, just hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
Marcellus Williams was sentenced to death in 2001, after being found guilty of stabbing reporter Felicia Gayle to death in 1998. The prosecution argued that Williams had been burglarizing her home when Gayle surprised him, prompting him to stab her 43 times as she tried to fight back.
Over the past year, however, recently tested DNA evidence has raised questions regarding Williams’s guilt. DNA on the murder weapon did not match Williams and instead was found to belong to an unknown male.
Greitens said he will appoint a board of inquiry to review the case and the “newly discovered DNA evidence, which was not available to be considered by the jury that convicted him.” The board will recommend whether Williams’s death penalty will remain or be commuted.
“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt,” Gov. Eric Greitens said in a statement.
The Missouri Supreme Court previously gave Williams a stay of execution in 2015 to allow time for the new DNA testing, which had not been available at his trial. Williams’s attorneys have maintained his innocence and argue that the DNA evidence exonerates him, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Just last week the state’s highest court denied petitions to stop the execution due to the new evidence. A spokesperson for Attorney General Josh Hawley arguedthat the DNA tests made no difference since the state had enough non-DNA evidence proving Williams is not innocent. The state said it has two witnesses who said Williams confessed to them, and can also prove that he sold Gayle’s laptop after her murder, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“The item was a kitchen knife with both male and female DNA on the handle,” Hawley’s office argued in a court filing. “It is reasonable to assume people not involved in the murder handled the knife in the kitchen. And there is no reason to believe Williams would not have worn gloves during a burglary and murder, as he wore a jacket to conceal his bloody shirt after he left the murder scene.”
They are saying that eye witness testimony is enough to execute someone even when there is DNA of an unknown person on the murder weapon. If it's not enough to get him a new trial the state should certainly have found that it's enough to commute his death sentence. Prosecutors cling to their convictions no matter what and it's sick. They are supposed to have a higher calling than defending their record.
To go ahead and kill when there is any doubt at all about guilt is barbaric. Of course, it's always barbaric.
During Steve Bannon’s first full weekday back running Breitbart, the website he once called “the platform for the alt-right” published a defense of the VDare Foundation, a white supremacist organization that cancelled a conference scheduled to take place in April 2018 after a Colorado Springs resort owner warned they couldn’t ensure attendees’ safety.
The piece, written by openly xenophobic former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, claims the resort owners’ decision — which came in response to pressure from local officials — shows that “the left does not need to show up and disrupt an event, they can merely threaten to do so and city officials run for cover like cockroaches.” Though Bannon tried to distance himself from white nationalism shortly after the election, Breitbart’s decision to run the Tancredo column on his first full day back indicates that the site will continue to defend and promote white nationalism — sometimes under the guise of the First Amendment.
Bannon’s return comes after a tough stretch of time for Breitbart. According to Sleeping Giants, a online group that has successfully pressured hundreds of advertisers to abandon Breitbart.com, the site has lost more than 2,500 advertisers in recent months.
They have multi-billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer. They don't need advertisers.
LAUER: You are a loyal defender of this president and you should be commended for that. But other top Republican leaders have rebuked him. Top military leaders have rebuked him. Business leaders have rebuked him for his comments on Charlottesville, and you continue to defend him. Are you putting your loyalty above, and in front of, what’s in your heart and your gut?
PENCE: Matt, I know this president, I know his heart. And I heard him on the day the Charlottesville tragedy happened when he denounced hate and violence in all of its forms from wherever it comes. I heard him on that Monday, and I heard him as well on Tuesday, like millions of Americans did, where he condemned the hate and the bigotry that was evidenced there.
LAUER: But [he] went back to saying there’s blame on both sides.
PENCE: Look, we understand that criticism comes with this job and this president has the kind of broad shoulders to be able to take it.
Pence’s claim that Trump has “broad shoulders” and can take all the criticism is especially comical. Trump reportedly raged in private that his early comments were deemed insufficient, and he spent most of last week lashing out wildly as the condemnations, and defections, rolled in.
If Pence somehow succeeds Trump in the White House it will just be a slightly lower number of the seven circles of hell.
Trump “didn’t run as a pacifist and he didn’t run as an isolationist,” the spokesman said, nor did he “say America was going to cut and run out of every theater of war where we’re fighting.” Instead, Anton insisted, the president promised a smarter, more focused use of the U.S. military and an end to nation-building policies.
“This is consistent with the president’s campaign promises and themes from 2016. I think there’s an impulse among some to try to paint this as a departure, as a break,” Anton said of Trump’s Monday night announcement. “This idea that there’s some, you know, huge gap between what he promised and what he talked about in 2016 and what he laid out last night, I personally don’t see it. I was involved in the strategy development all throughout this process, never saw it."
He's right. Trump talked endlessly about building up the US Military, torturing, bombing the shit out of places, stealing resources, making sure that nobody "laughed at us anymore" during the campaign but for some reason nobody thought that meant anything. They kept looking at his tweets during the Obama administration and taking his word that he had secret plans that he wouldn't reveal because it would be "stupid."
Trump's previous complaints about Afghanistan and other wars were just trolling Obama and Bush. That's the extent of his strategic vision. Now he's got a chance to "win" and he is perfectly willing to use lethal force to do it.
"Shorter, more focused" means "bomb the shit out of 'em."
"No nation building" means "to the victors belong the spoils."
Why, after observing him for more than two years, would anyone doubt that?
I wrote about Trump's big speech for Salon this morning:
According to NBC News, last month President Donald Trump met with his generals and angrily demanded to know why we haven’t “won” the war in Afghanistan since he became president. He wanted to fire the commander there and find someone who could get the job done.
Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth [sic] and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.
As with everything else on earth, Trump is clueless about the history of Afghanistan, the conditions on the ground or the war’s ostensible objectives. To call it complicated is to understate it by a factor of a thousand.
Trump had been talking to some veterans who complained, as soldiers have been doing since time immemorial, about the generals not knowing their top brass from a foxhole in the ground. He believed them. But since his only frame of reference in life is that of an heir to a fortune who lives between Manhattan and Palm Beach, he explained his position by recounting a story about how the 21 Club had hired an expensive consultant to come up with a renovation plan when they should have just consulted with the waiters.
Trump’s complaining about NATO was more of the usual ill-informed crankiness about U.S. allies, and the questions about why we aren’t stealing minerals from Afghanistan (which would be a war crime) are par for the course. He’s always said that his military strategy is to “bomb the shit out of ’em and take the oil,” so one assumes that after dropping the MOAB, the biggest bomb short of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, he logically felt the next step was to take whatever he wanted.
In any case, the Pentagon’s plan to have Trump sign off on a plan didn’t happen that day. It took military brass until this past week to finalize one and get the president to approve a new “surge,” which will probably do the same thing as the last surge: Not much. Politico reported that National Security adviser H.R.McMaster and Vice President Mike Pence actually rehearsed their pitch to Trump last Friday to get him to agree to the consensus. One imagines that it consisted of lots of pictures, small words and flattery. Apparently it worked.
Thank goodness for small favors. As useless as another surge in Afghanistan might turn out to be, it could have been a whole lot worse. A few weeks ago I wrote about the plan Steve Bannon and Eric Prince had reportedly cooked up, which Bannon and Jared Kushner were reported to have delivered personally to Defense Secretary Mattis. That plan was to privatize the war by hiring a mercenary army under the auspices of an American “viceroy,” modeled on the old colonial British East India Company. They would then “take the minerals” as payment to finance the war, ostensibly on behalf of the locals.
Mattis told Bannon and Kushner that he wasn’t looking for any “outside” plans at this time. Although the president was said to have been intrigued, this idea lost favor in the end, for unknown reasons. Perhaps the fact that the Trump Organization wouldn’t be allowed a piece of the spoils soured the president on the scheme.
In any case, after some final deliberation over the weekend, on Monday night Trump took to the airwaves to announce his new strategy. He spoke stiffly from the teleprompter in flowery words that sounded nothing like his own and omitted the magic words “radical Islamic terrorism,” which, according to his own campaign rhetoric means he supports the terrorists.
He cranked up the temperature on Pakistan and asked India to “help” more, which may very well have serious repercussions down the road. Apparently the Trump administration has decided that the nuclear standoff with North Korea and destabilizing the nuclear deal with Iran isn’t enough of a challenge. Now it wants to get into the middle of that ongoing mess between two nuclear powers as well.
Trump also made some vague references to “defraying the costs” of the war, which may very well translate into grabbing Afghanistan by the minerals. And somebody definitely needs to answer for letting him say that the country has a prime minister when it has a president. Overall the whole thing was very light on details, which he once again explained away as his secret, special, super-duper surprise attack strategy.
Essentially Trump told us, “We have a plan, we won’t tell you the plan and the plan will cost a lot of money.” In other words: “Trust me.”
Trust him? Let’s review why those might be the scariest words in the English language right now. Two weeks ago, Trump inexplicably escalated the war of words with North Korea to the point at which Guam was issuing warnings to residents not to look up at incoming missiles in case Kim Jong-un came through with his threat to launch bombs in their direction. The possibility that one of the unstable men in charge of either the U.S. or North Korea might miscalculate and start World War III was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in recent memory. This was particularly true since Trump clearly didn’t understand the nature of the nuclear threat during the campaign and obviously hasn’t learned anything since becoming president.
But Trump’s campaign promises were full of chilling messages that seemed designed to make our allies frightened of us and our enemies hate us even more. As I mentioned above, he’s threatened to bomb, raze, torture, execute and pillage any country and any people he deems to be an enemy or a friend of an enemy. He routinely endorsed war crimes, even repeating one of the most lurid of them all just five days ago, when he tweeted his oft-repeated apocryphal tale about Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing dipping bullets in pig’s blood and staging a mass execution of Muslims in the Philippines. Doing this just days after pronouncing that Nazis marching in the streets was no worse than your average protest march undoubtedly reinforced the message that the U.S. military answers to a bloodthirsty thug no better than the worst banana-republic tyrant.
The New York Times' Emily Badger examines the processes by which we identify beliefs as "fringe." Tina Fetner, Associate Professor of Sociology at McMaster University in Ontario, believes white supremacist groups are actively trying to mainstream views once considered taboo. By staging events that get press national coverage, they are doing just that. Having a president and a major party slow to condemn those views helps normalize them as well.
When norms change, the highly educated tend to adopt them the fastest. And when political leaders agree, those attitudes spread through the population the more information people have about them. When political leaders don’t agree, attitudes tend to polarize (for example, liberals say climate change is human-driven; many conservatives say that it’s not).
Polarized issues have two-sided information flows, as John Zaller, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has described it. Mr. Trump’s comments about Charlottesville raise the possibility of creating a two-sided issue out of racial equality.
“That’s what really dangerous about what’s happening right now,” said Michael Tesler, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “There should be a one-sided information flow condemning Nazis. And when there’s not, it’s very problematic.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting's "Reveal" radio program last weekend revisited the alt-right and an interview with white nationalist Richard Spencer. Host Al Letson questions Spencer's giving a straight arm salute and saying "Hail Trump" during a speech after the president's inauguration. That was just "being provocative," Spencer insists, and finds it unreasonable that people might think him a Nazi because of it.
Like Grover Norquist and Ann Coulter, Spencer seems to enjoy being provocative in public appearances. It gets him attention and press. It makes him marketable. He tut-tuts any notion that his actions and statements make him complicit in inciting violence. When Coulter gets blowback, for example, she tosses her hair, rolls her eyes, sighs, and claims she was just joking. Her stock reply is lefty critics are so humorless they simply don't get it. But a tone is set. Signals have been sent. Plausible deniability is part of her shtick. And Alex “the performance artist” Jones' shtick, too. And Spencer's. Personal responsibility can be shrugged off should some overzealous fan kill and injure people with a car. No one told them to do that. In the "Reveal" interview, one can almost hear Spencer toss his hair, roll his eyes, and sigh.
The exchange that most caught my attention was Spencer's complaint that white people are losing their power in America. Letson asks, isn't Spencer's being "provcative" giving license to his followers to engage in violent behaviors he doesn't expressly condone while winking at it? Spencer replies [timestamp 21:04]:
"I actually fundamentally disagree with you. I would actually say the opposite is the case. The fact is, when people have a suppressed identity -- and I am referring to white people -- when they are not allowed to express their sense of themselves, their sense of their extended family, and so on, in the real world ..."
Letson (himself black) interrupts to point out that power in this country is solidly in the hands of the white majority. Who's suppressing them?
Spencer replies that white people are bringing about their own demise:
"I don't really blame black people for this. I really don't. I blame ourselves. We are bringing about our own demise. We are removing ourselves from cultural and social power. If you say white people have accumulated a lot of wealth, yes. Where is that arrow pointing? Which direction are we headed? It is toward the loss of power for my people in North America and around the world."
In a couple of interviews, Letson says, he never got a satisfactory answer from Spencer to the question of who he thinks is suppressing white people.
But by the provocative symbols and signals white nationalists employ, it is understood who they think is suppressing them: anyone who isn't white. By definition. Loss or dilution of white majority power after enjoying centuries of unchallenged dominance equals "white genocide" committed by Others against them, not auto-genocide, as Spencer argues when pressed. That genocide demands a response, perhaps a violent one, is also understood, even if Spencer coyly never calls for one.
It is a perspective white nationalists, the KKK and Nazis hope to mainstream with the help of the sitting president. Because sharing power is a bad deal. Sharing isn't part of their social contract. They scratched through that clause and initialed in the margin, or didn't you notice?
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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
“The most difficult thing to get people to do is to accept the obvious.”
Man, did Dick Gregory pick a bad weekend to go. With the passing of Jerry Lewis and eclipse mania building to a fever pitch, his death in Washington D.C. this past Saturday earned him but a few perfunctory thirty second obits on network and cable newscasts.
Truth be told, Gregory was not so much a “comedian” who went out of his way to make you laugh as he was a righteous, erudite truth teller, who also happened to be very funny. He was a trickster of a sort; he would lower your guard with a perfect zinger, then seconds later he would raise your consciousness with a sharp social insight.
“Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said, ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘that’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ “
When it came to his political activism, he didn’t just talk the talk:
An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.”
He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters.
In the late ’60s, he began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War.
In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.
Not exactly your everday “ha-ha funny” type of clown, was he?
His activism never stopped. From today’s Democracy Now tribute (I’d recommend watching the entire tribute-its quite moving)…
Gregory became one of the most popular comedians in the country, paving the way for generations of African-American comedians. On Sunday Chris Rock wrote on Instagram, “We lost a king. They’ll never be another. Read his books. Look him up you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately the America that produced Dick Gregory still exists.” Dick Gregory was the first African-American comedian to sit on the couch of The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Parr. As his popularity grew, so did his activism.
More recently, his face appeared in newspapers across the country for his community action to — approach to investigate allegations behind the CIA’s connection with drugs in the African American community. He camped out in dealer-ridden public parks and rallied community leaders to shut down head shops. He protested at CIA headquarters and was arrested. Throughout his life, Dick Gregory has been a target of FBI and police surveillance. And he was virtually banned from the entertainment arena for his political activism.
The last sentence above explains in part (sadly) why, despite his long career, you’ll find virtually no Dick Gregory performance clips on YouTube. That’s because he has essentially been blacklisted for years; there are very few archived TV or club appearances that exist.
Here’s a little taste of his early standup days:
Here’s a rare latter-day television appearance, on Arsenio in 2014:
There’s a lot of truth-telling going on in that interview. Interesting to note that Arsenio Hall’s “revival” run (that started in 2013) was cancelled soon after (file under “Things That Make You Go: ‘Hmm.'”)
“To me, seeing a great comedian is a bit like watching a musician or a poet.”
Accept the obvious: America’s conscience has lost its Poet Laureate. R.I.P.
Donald Trump will ask Americans Monday to trust him on his new Afghanistan strategy, exercising a president's most somber duty, a decision on waging war, at a time when his own political standing is deeply compromised.
Trump will make his first prime-time broadcast on a specific policy issue to the nation as president at 9 p.m. ET to unveil his new plan, and a potential escalation of the nation's longest war, after a lengthy period of deliberations that carved deep splits within his administration.
The speech will test the President's capacity to convince Americans that he has settled on the right course of action on a major national security issue, and to unify the nation around it, despite his own depleted approval ratings and behavior that has alienated many voters in his first seven months in office.
Trump's first major national security address will also begin to show whether the credibility that the President has squandered, with his provocative rhetoric and frequent resort to falsehoods, will hamper his capacity to lead.
After all he said on the campaign trail the American people would be more likely to trust Carrot Top than this bozo when it comes to any military matters.
I doubt he'll mention it in the speech but we know what he would order if he could --- torture, bomb the shit out of 'em, dip bullets in pig's blood and stage mass executions --- and take all the natural resources because to the victors belong the spoils. I don't know if that's what they're going to do but it's most certainly what HE wants to do.
The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump's family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.
Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.
The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump – who has traveled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia – and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.
"The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,'' Alles said. "I can't change that. I have no flexibility.''
Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That's up from 31 during the Obama administration.
Overwork and constant travel have also been driving a recent exodus from the Secret Service ranks, yet without congressional intervention to provide additional funding, Alles will not even be able to pay agents for the work they have already done.
The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump's first term.
But even if such a proposal was approved, about 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed, according to the agency.
"I don't see this changing in the near term,'' Alles said.
I think many people thought he'd be picking up the tab for some of this stuff. He says he's a billionaire. Instead, the taxpayers are picking up the tab to protect Uday and Qusay as they go all over the world selling the presidency and making corrupt deals on behalf of the family business. Sweet little scam.
It's so stupid not to be nice to the people who protect your life. I'm sure they'll do their jobs anyway. But it's not smart. Of course, this is Trump and his travelling family freaskshow so what do we expect?
He likes destroyers that don't collide with other ships, ok?
President Donald Trump on Sunday called the collision between the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and a tanker that left at least 10 sailors missing “too bad” before tweeting support for the sailor's families.
“That’s too bad,” the president said when asked about the incident, according to a pool report.
Honestly, I think even Sarah Palin could do better than that.
Naturally, Breitbart blamed McMaster and Kelly both of whom Steve Bannon is clearly on a crusade to destroy:
A source with direct knowledge of these matters told Breitbart News that the original mishap from Trump that caused the “that’s too bad” flap comes because senior staff originally kept the president in the dark about the incident. The source specifically fingered new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly and embattled National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster. Kelly is a retired four star Marine General who served later as President Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security before his promotion to White House chief of staff. McMaster is an active duty three star U.S. Army Lieutenant General.
“What went wrong is the president was not briefed and was not kept abreast as the incident developed,” the source with direct knowledge told Breitbart News late Sunday evening. “This is part of a bigger pattern of growing evidence of disrespect for the president and manipulating the information that is given to him similar to the decision with Afghanistan. The blame for this rests solely on the shoulders of two individuals — General H.R. McMaster and General Kelly — both of whom as flag officers should know better than to keep the commander-in-chief in the dark on these types of issues.”
You know, Trump should not have to be briefed to understand that when someone asks the Commander in Chief about a naval accident, even if it's the first he's heard of it, the correct answer isn't "that's too bad."
He could have just said "no comment" and then later told the press he didn't want to say anything because the facts were still coming in or he had to tell the families or any number of excuses. But he doesn't know how to be president and has no ability or desire to learn. That's not Kelly or McMaster's fault. And there's nothing they can do to change him.
One thing you can say for Steve Bannon, the former presidential adviser and newly returned Breitbart News executive editor, is that he knows how to make an exit. Bannon’s series of interviews both before and after being fired last Friday put chief antagonist Anthony Scaramucci’s diva departure to shame (although Twitter wags were quick to point out that the first headlines from Breitbart News certainly evoked the memory of some of “The Mooch’s” choice comments about Bannon).
Rumors had been out there since the spring that Bannon was on thin ice. And the reason given, then and now, that makes the most sense is that Donald Trump didn’t like his minion receiving so much attention. He was angry last spring when Bannon made the cover of Time, which Trump considers to be such a tremendous honor that he constantly boasts about his own covers, even going so far as to mock up fake ones for Trump properties. The headline for Bannon’s Time cover was even worse: “The Great Manipulator.”
They seemed to have papered that over until recently, when Bannon was the subject of considerable press coverage after reporter Joshua Green’s new bookabout him was published. Trump was reportedly upset that the cover featured an unappealing picture of him and that the title put Bannon’s name first. Considering the president’s overwhelming vanity and narcissism, I’m inclined to believe that was the ultimate reason he was fired.
Bannon’s departure will have little effect on the Trump administration. Even if John Kelly succeeds in making the trains run on time, that doesn’t solve the central problem of the Trump administration. Bannon was not the reason this dumpster fire of a presidency has exploded into a raging conflagration. He wasn’t mouthing the words President Trump spoke in that odious press conference last Tuesday. He didn’t force him to play chicken with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un the week before that. He certainly didn’t have control of Trump’s Twitter account, the window to the president’s frightening mind. Other than convincing the newbie Trump that the entire government bureaucracy is a “deep state” out to get him, Bannon has been no more influential on Trump’s behavior than the latter’s son Barron.
Bannon is, however, highly influential among Trump supporters, although not as much as when he was building the Trump mystique. As conservative talk show host and Never-Trumper Charlie Sykes has been pointing out for some time, Trumpism is not a movement — it is now a full-fledged cult of personality in which the president’s followers believe themselves to be under siege from the same forces Donald Trump rails against: the media, political correctness, elites of both parties, liberals, racial and ethnic minorities. The more they see Trump being attacked the more they identify with him.
Nonetheless, as I pointed out on Friday, Bannon is a professional propagandist with a feel for the right-wing Zeitgeist. We can expect that he will be a player going forward. He told people different things in his manic series of exit interviews, at once claiming the Trump presidency was effectively over and promising to go to war on its behalf. But it’s pretty clear that Bannon is going to war for Bannon, and for a movement that he apparently believes still exists outside of Trump: “In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” Bannon told The New York Times. (Emphasis mine.) “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”
The New York Times reported that Bannon had met with Breitbart benefactors Robert and Rebekah Mercer on Monday night to plan his post-White House strategy. According to Axios, it’s a much bigger deal than little old Breitbart.com:
Bannon has told friends he sees a massive opening to the right of Fox News, raising the possibility that he’s going to start a network. . . . He believes Fox is heading in a squishy, globalist direction as the Murdoch sons assume more power. . . . His chief financial backer, Long Island hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer, is ready to invest big in what’s coming next, including a huge overseas expansion of Breitbart News.
Bannon may be right that Fox is a shadow of its former self. But the problem isn’t that it’s become squishy and “globalist.” It’s that for the last 20 years the whole network was pretty much a brothel, and since the departure of the sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly and the sexually harassed Megyn Kelly, its only “star” is Trump’s smarmy sycophant Sean Hannity. Most importantly, the network lost Roger Ailes at the helm, the TV impresario who understood the Fox audience and would have understood how to effectively surf the Trump wave. Ratings are down and the network seems lost without him.
So, there’s an opening in right-wing television news for something fresh. Bannon perceives of himself as an all around agitprop genius, but his terrible movies certainly don’t demonstrate that. He may turn out to be more Trump hot air than Ailes-style brilliance.
As for the Breitbart new media extravaganza, back in October, Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg previewed Bannon’s post-election plans (presuming Trump wouldn’t win) with a big story about the site’s plans for European expansion and a Mercer-funded merger between the Trump digital operation and Breitbart.com. Bannon told Green, “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine. Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”
Whether Bannon will have access to all that juicy campaign data is unknown, but since he’s funded by Mercer, a partial owner in the data mining company Cambridge Analytica, odds are he’ll have plenty of technology to work with.
It’s a new era for right-wing media (as for everyone else). For the last couple of decades the conservative media barons have been ahead of the political curve. We’re about to find out if they’ve lost their touch.
We are on a precipice. What happened in Charlottesville is not the end of something but, rather, the beginning. And it is from this precipice that I am reminded of everything I did not do during the 2016 election. Hindsight reminds me that resistance must be active, and constant. Resistance is the responsibility of everyone who believes in equality and demands the eradication of racism, anti-Semitism and the hatred that empowers bigots to show their truest selves in broad daylight. I am reminding myself that I should never allow my fears to quiet me. I have a voice and I am going to use it, as loudly as I can.
If you are reading this, we are setting up already up for today's total eclipse at an undisclosed location in the path of totality. Three hours' drive east of here, information signs on I-40 Saturday morning between Winston-Salem and Greensboro warned of high traffic on Monday.
It's going to be a zoo out there. The I-85 corridor in South Carolina will be inundated with visitors for the eclipse scheduled for 2:38 p.m. EDT. The path of totality spans from the Georgia welcome center nearly to Spartanburg, SC. Visitors are coming from Charlotte and points east to Atlanta and points west. From there the shadow tracks down I-26 through Columbia to Charleston, SC and out to sea.
Closer to home, mountain ridges on the Blue Ridge Parkway would make for spectacular viewing if one can get up there. But it's two lanes and 45 mph. We expect a parking lot. Blue Ridge Public Radio advises:
Unless you're walking to your spot to watch Monday's total solar eclipse in Western North Carolina, you will be sitting in some kind of traffic. Authorities are expecting heavy traffic just about everywhere in the region, compounded by the fact many of the rural roads in the path of totality are only two lanes.
People I know are leaving at dawn. The eastern edge of totality passes less than an hour east of Asheville, NC.
Please pass along any reports of animal or human sacrifice to the proper authorities.
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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
“Jerry Lewis is never just OK or adequate; he’s either very funny or he’s awful.” – Jerry Lewis, commenting on his film oeuvre.
Yes, I used “Jerry Lewis” and “oeuvre” in the same sentence. “Ouevre” is fancy French word that means “Hey, LAAY-DEE!”
I’m kidding. Mirriam-Webster defines it as “…a substantial body of work constituting the life work of a writer, an artist, or a composer.”
Jerry Lewis, who died this morning in Las Vegas, certainly left behind a substantial body of work. From 1949 to 2016, he acted in over 50 films; out of those he directed 23, and wrote 20 of them. And, as Lewis himself observed, some were very funny, others not so much.
Some of Lewis’ early, funnier movies include 1952’s The Stooge, 1955’s Artists and Models, 1959’s Don’t Give Up the Ship (those three co-starring his decade-long stage and screen comedy partner Dean Martin), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Disorderly Orderly (1964).
Martin Scorsese gave Lewis a second wind when he offered him a juicy part in his brilliant 1982 show biz satire The King of Comedy (highly recommended). It not only introduced Lewis to a new generation of fans, but allowed him to demonstrate that he had chops as a dramatic actor (when he wasn’t pulling faces, that is). Two more post-Scorsese Lewis performances worth a rental are Emir Kusturica’s 1993 off-the-wall sleeper Arizona Dream, and Peter Chelsom’s 1995 dramedy Funny Bones.
While he had continued writing, directing and starring in films through the early 70s, Lewis floundered at the box office as his particular brand of shtick went out of vogue in Hollywood. “Hollywood” is the key word here; as everyone and their grandmother knows, it was the undying admiration by the French that ultimately kept Lewis’ rep as a film maker afloat during his wilderness years (they gave him the Legion of Honor award in 1983).
Despite all the joking and ridicule spawned by France’s love affair with Jerry Lewis, they were on to something. He was, by definition, an auteur, having written, directed and starred in so many films. A lot of people are not aware that he was also an innovator. He essentially invented the “video tap”, a signal-splitting device that attaches to a movie camera and allows the director to share the camera operator’s view in real time, via a separate video monitor.
I am aware that Lewis’ self-appraisal as being either “very funny or awful” as an artist could apply on occasion to his off-stage life. He didn’t always think before he spoke. That noted, stepping back to look at the big picture, this was a human being who devoted well over 70 years of his long and productive life to making people laugh.
Why are young white men radicalized by white supremacy? German Lopez at Vox delves into the question and it's interesting. But it always comes back to this, doesn't it?
If radicalization is a result of messaging that extremists deploy to attract people with specific grievances, then one way to prevent radicalization may be to develop countermessaging that addresses those grievances in a way that avoids radicalization.
In the context of white supremacists, part of addressing this may mean expanding the Overton window — meaning what’s acceptable to talk about in public discourse. “The more we put things off limits, the more we empower bad actors who will talk about things other people aren’t willing to,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
For instance, right now it’s difficult for a white man to bring up concerns about changing racial demographics without getting labeled as racist. But maybe his concerns don’t have anything to do with race. He may be concerned that as the group he belongs to loses status, he will as well — economically, socially, and so on. A good response to this could point out that, for example, New York City is very diverse and still people, including white men, lead prosperous lives (and it has a below-average crime rate, contrary to what some dog whistles may suggest).
But if that person never has that kind of discussion because he’s dismissed as a racist, his concerns about changing demographics won’t go away. So he might search for answers outside the mainstream, and that might lead him to an extremist group. That is especially true if he experiences what sociologists call “white fragility”: When white people are asked to answer for potential racism, some become defensive — pushing them into denial that they’ve done anything wrong and, in some cases, hardening their racist attitudes. (Much more on that in a previous piece I wrote about this research.)
I know I'm supposed to be empathetic toward all this. But racism has been with us forever and it's really hard for me to believe that if we only allow racists to express their hatred without passing judgment and then offer them some statistics about how they're wrong, they'll come over to the light. But that's just me --- I'm not terribly tolerant of this idea that we have to be kind to racists because nobody know the trouble they've seen.
When I see these young dudes sneering at the Korean immigrants who work 14 hour days 7 days a week down at the corner store in my neighborhood or condemning Latina maids sending most of their paychecks home to their families or treating hard working middle class African American men like lackeys I'm not inclined to feel sorry for them because their granddads lost their factory job back in the 1970s. We are at 4% unemployment right now. I know there are still places where the jobs are scarce but those white college boys and their KKK pals shouting "Jews will not replace us" the other night don't live there.
Maybe we could offer more mental health care, better schools, and drug treatment to communities full of hopeless, directionless people. I've always been for that. But racism didn't cause those problems and coddling people in their belief that their lives have gone to hell because people of color, foreigners and uppity women have ruined everything isn't going solve them.
Donald Trump’s inaugural address produced yet another torrent of commentary about his “populist, isolationist” ideology and what it means for the future of the republic and the world. Unfortunately, he is all about neither of those things.
It’s true that he deployed the voice of a demagogue to rant about elites and powerful politicians and repeatedly evoked “the people.” But considering that his hires include six Goldman Sachs alums, three billionaires and several more vastly wealthy multimillionaires for his Cabinet, his alleged populism seems a bit strained. After all, to the extent the hellscape he described in that speech exists, it was created by the very people he is now empowering.
Calling Trump an isolationist rests mostly on his use of the archaic term “America First,” which was associated with attempts to keep America out of World War II (and also came with strong undercurrents of anti-Semitism.) But there is no evidence that Trump had a clue about that association when he started using the phrase.
Recall that when journalist Michael Wolff interviewed him in June, just before the big vote in the U.K., Trump clearly hadn’t heard of Brexit. Granted, he subsequently become fast friends with Brexit architect and right-wing provocateur Nigel Farage. But his idea of “isolationism” in this case is a simplistic belief that any nation “run by smart guys” can “make better deals” without having other countries represented at the table.
As far as security is concerned, Trump’s threats to withdraw from NATO and other alliances aren’t really about wanting to pull America to remain within its borders. He never says that. In fact, he wants a huge military and wants to show it off so everyone in the world will be in awe of American power. He just wants NATO and other alliances to pay protection money to the U.S. for whatever price he sets.
Trump has repeatedly made the fatuous claim that he’s going to make the military so massive that “no one will ever want to mess with us” but never has actually suggested that he would have any reluctance to use it. Indeed, he’s made it clear that he intends to do just that, telling his rowdy crowds during the campaign:
ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because of the oil that they took away, they have some in Syria, they have some in Iraq, I would bomb the shit out of them.
I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes. I’d blow up the refineries. I’d blow up ever single inch. There would be nothing left.
And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months — you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies. They’ll rebuild it brand new. . . . And I’ll take the oil.
This has been his promise from Day One. Yesterday, press secretary Sean Spicer, reacting to Russian reports that the U.S. military was already engaged with Russia’s forces in bombing Syria, offered up this startling answer:
Spicer: I know it’s still developing and I would refer you back to the Department of Defense. I know that they’re — they’re currently monitoring this and I would refer you back to them on that. And I think . . .
Question: Generally open?
Spicer: I think, the president has been very clearly. [sic] He’s gonna work with any country that shares our interest in defeating ISIS. Not just on the national security front, but on the economic front. If we can work with someone to create greater market access and spur economic growth and allow U.S. small businesses and companies to . . . Question: [inaudible] to doing joint military actions with Russia in Syria?
Spicer: I — I think if there’s a way that we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it’s Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure we’ll take it
The Pentagon adamantly denied that the U.S. military was currently helping Russia in Syria, where the Russian military has been accused by the U.N. of committing war crimes by using bunker-busting and incendiary bombs on civilian populations. Spicer didn’t mention any of that, but Trump is undoubtedly unconcerned since his strategy is the same: “Bomb the shit out of them.”
As for “taking the oil,” which is a suggestion Trump has repeated for months (including as recently as Saturday when he told the CIA officials they “might get another chance at it”) even conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer was taken aback, correctly noting that “seizing the oil is a war crime.”
If you have listened to Trump talk about China over the past 18 months, it is clear that he is not simply talking about a potential trade war but is prepared to confront the world’s largest nation militarily. In his confirmation hearings, secretary of state-designate Rex Tillerson made it clear that he agreed with Trump that the U.S. would not allow China to build military bases on islands in the South China Sea, and Spicer made that official yesterday:
I think the U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there. If those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.
Does that sound like any definition of “isolationism” you’ve ever heard?
When Donald Trump says “America First,” he really means “We’re No. 1.” He talks incessantly about “winning,” so much we’ll be begging him to stop. He openly declares that he believes in the old saying “to the victors belong the spoils,” either suggesting that he has no clue about the West’s colonial past and how that sounds to people around the world or simply doesn’t care. He’s not talking about isolationism but the exact opposite — American global dominance without all those messy institutions and international agreements standing in the way of taking what we want.
No, Trump is not an isolationist. He’s not a “realist.” Neither is he a liberal interventionist or a neoconservative idealist. He’s an old-fashioned imperialist. He wants to Make America great again by making it the world’s dominant superpower, capable of bullying other countries into submission and behaving however we like. He doesn’t seem to understand that the world won’t put up with that.
Let's just briefly focus on the intellectual conceit behind the entire Krein initiative, the notion that Trump articulated actual ideas during the campaign. We will be hearing this a lot going forward from rightwing pseudo-intellectuals and apologists. Sure, Trump's a moron, but he was on to something with that Wall. Or yes, Trump's a racist who hired racists, but white lives matter, too.
Don't be fooled. It's just an attempt to separate the walking stink bomb that is Donald Trump from the intellectual stink bomb that is modern conservatism.
There's just one problem here. Modern conservatism is Donald Trump. He embodies all their most cherished values. Modern American conservatism is ignorant, denies science, denies economic reality, is racist, misogynistic, power-hungry, narcissistic, and extremely dangerous.
Like Donald Trump. There is no way to reject the man and not also reject conservatism's fundamental ideas and ideology.
And if, like Krein, you're a member of the conservative movement and think that you can reject Trump, you are consciously being intellectually dishonest. Oh, the media will fall for it if you're glib enough - and Krein is plenty glib - but there's still no there there.
A friend and I were commiserating the other day about how demoralizing the events in Charlottesville were. Being a couple of old lefty Seattle hippies, we were of course feeling the need to “do” something; how to make a counter-statement to this brazen display of racism and hate? I joked, “It’s not like we can go out and pull down a Confederate statue…good luck finding one in this town, amirite?”
In Seattle, you’re more likely to bump into a public statue of Lenin:
Or a troll under a bridge, crushing a VW bug in his huge maw:
Seattle is funky. Whimsical. Confederate memorials? Nah! Well, shit:
[via The Seattle Times]
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray expressed “concerns” about a monument to Confederate soldiers in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery, which closed Wednesday afternoon for security reasons.
A statement issued by Murray’s office said he called a cemetery representative Wednesday regarding the monument, which was erected in 1926. The cemetery is privately owned.
Lake View Cemetery closed Wednesday afternoon after receiving threats related to the monument, said Craig Lohr of the Lake View Cemetery Association. Seattle news media recently reported on the existence of the monument.
The cemetery — best known as the final resting place for martial-arts star Bruce Lee and his son Brandon, as well as Seattle’s founders — will likely reopen Thursday morning.
The mayor’s statement said:
“We must remove statues and flags that represent this country’s abhorrent history of slavery and oppression based on the color of people’s skin. It is the right thing to do. During this troubling time when neo-Nazis and white power groups are escalating their racist activity, Seattle needs to join with cities and towns across the country who are sending a strong message by taking these archaic symbols down.”
The mayor’s office couldn’t be reached to clarify Murray’s statement. A petition on Change.org calling for the removal of the memorial had more than 3,200 supporters late Wednesday afternoon.
Also on Wednesday, a small group of protesters gathered around the Vladimir Lenin statue in Fremont to demand its removal. The statue, located on private property, has been for sale for years and has been vandalized with red paint on one of its hands.
What our mayor said. And I’m sure Bruce Lee would concur.
And OK, I “get” what the handful of protesters calling for removal of the Lenin statue are trying to say…in theory. And if it was any other week, I’d give ’em a fair hearing. But you know what? In the context of the events of this past weekend, that’s a false equivalency. I don’t believe I spotted any overt Leninist marchers carrying (and beating people with) tiki torches in Charlottesville. I believe some of those fine people were self-avowed, oh, what are they called again…Nazis?
In this case, what the mayor (and most of the other people of the world who aren’t Donald Trump) are saying is, that if the first step in purging this legacy of violence, bigotry, and (oh yes) sedition against the United States of America is to take these archaic symbols down…then by all means, take all these fucking archaic symbols down.
The president stated that history and culture are being “ripped apart” by tearing these statues down. That is just an extension of the tired old argument that’s been used in the past by individuals and organizations who concern troll about “historical preservation” when attempting to legally block Confederate flags from being removed from government property. The Jim Crow laws are also part of the south’s history and culture…is anyone clamoring to have those resurrected and preserved as well? (I’m sure there’s some.)
It is possible to purge such symbols of hatred while keeping your democracy intact. Just ask any German. From The Washington Post:
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Monday that the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville was “sickening.” He described the symbols and slogans employed in “the right-wing extremist march” — including swastikas and chants of “Blood and soil,” a Nazi-era motto — as “diametrically opposed to the political goals of the chancellor and the entire German government.”
“Most people in Germany have difficulty understanding that gatherings like in Charlottesville are possible in the U.S., because we have drawn a different lesson from history,” said Matthias Jahn, chairman of criminal law at Goethe University in Frankfurt. “Our German law centers on the strong belief that you should hinder this kind of speech in a society committed to principles of democratic coexistence and peace.”
Those Germans sound like a bunch of old lefty Seattle hippies.
A small "free speech" rally scheduled for Boston Common yesterday by men wearing Trump hats and flags drowned in a sea of as many as 40,000peaceful counterprotesters:
As the crowd grew, Superintendent in Chief Willie Gross of the Boston Police Department worked the crowd. He thanked marcher after marcher, individually, for coming out to make their voices heard. He complimented people on their creative signs. He took dozens of pictures with marchers who looked relieved to discover that the police weren’t there to give them a hard time.
“This is how we do it in Boston,” he said. “We exercise our right to free speech, but we do it peacefully. If anyone starts anything [at the Common] we’ll get them right out.”
The guy who starts talking halfway through this video gets America so much better than our president. https://t.co/xHcIKDVFtn
But white nationalism and Confederate statuary at the center of the violence last week in Charlottesville are distractions. The Washington Post Editorial Board this morning cautions that voter suppression is this era's civil rights issue:
Yet even if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.
In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.
Coming in for well-deserved criticism is of course the president's voter fraud commission led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, described as "the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression." A close second might be Republicans in control of North Carolina's statehouse.
After 50 weeks of foot-dragging in redrawing 28 state House and Senate districts ruled racial gerrymanders, and after asking for an additional three and a half months, three federal judges in Greensboro took Republican leaders to task on July 27.
“You don’t seem serious, so what’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” asked District Judge Catherine Eagles. The judges gave Republican legislators in charge of the redraw a September 1 date for approval of new maps. They presented the new House map on Saturday. Release of the Senate map is expected today. Supporting data will follow on Monday, officials say. The machinations echo with history.
Ryan Cooper writes for The Week how briefly freed slaves enjoyed voting rights after the Civil War:
After the war came Reconstruction. Disgruntled ex-Confederates, assisted by the deeply racist President Andrew Johnson, attempted to return their states to a condition as close to slavery as possible — in essence overturning the result of the war (in which some 200,000 black Union soldiers had constituted one key to victory) through terrorism. Enraged Radical Republicans, with the strong support of President Ulysses S. Grant after he was elected, occupied the South with federal troops and enforced protection of black suffrage. From 1867-1876, while ex-slaves did not get meaningful economic help, their voting rights were protected.
But a financial crisis and a return of racist Democrats to power ended Reconstruction and ushered in the myth of The Lost Cause. The South's effort to rewrite its history succeeded, and the Jim Crow of racial oppression continued until the 1960s. The Civil Rights era merely drove white supremacist culture underground. Cooper concludes:
If the federal government had beaten ex-Confederate terrorists into submission for as long as it took — particularly in the crucial two years after the war, when Johnson's stubborn racism allowed them to regroup and regain some initiative, we would not be having this crisis. Instead tyranny displaced democracy in the American South, white Americans swallowed a lot of comforting lies to cover up that fact, and open racism continued to thrive — only partly beaten back by the civil rights advances of the 1960s. Violent white supremacy lives today, as does political racism from conservative Southern politicians, who are to this day working feverishly to disenfranchise as many black Americans as possible, because of that moral failure.
Let us remember this the next time some conservative argues, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts did when he gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, that measures to protect American democracy from racist tyranny are "based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day." White terror today grows up the frame of a historical trellis well over 150 years old. Perhaps someday America's history of racism can truly be buried. But first, it must be killed.
Like kudzu, another southern bane, efforts to keep power in the right hands, white hands, are harder to eradicate for not having been yanked up by the roots a century and a half ago.
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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Depending on your worldview, Monday’s super-hyped solar eclipse may be interpreted as: a). A sign of the impending apocalypse, b). A sign that once in a blue moon, the moon blows in and obscures the sun, giving humanity the impression (for a few heart stopping moments) that the apocalypse has, in fact, arrived, or c). A dollar sign for event promoters, hoteliers, tow truck drivers, and people who sell cheap cardboard sunglasses.
I know. I’m a cynical bastard.
If the “Eclipse of the Century” forces people to tear themselves away from their 5 inch iPhone screen to gaze up at The Big Sky, and ponder the awesomeness and vastness of the cosmos (and most importantly, humankind’s relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things)...then I’m for it (I Googled “can you view the eclipse with a...” and right after “mirror”, “sunglasses” and “welding mask”, there it was- goddamn “iPhone”).
So do me a favor? If you’re lucky enough to make it through the horrendous traffic and wriggle through the madding crowd and snag a perfect observation point in one of the areas that will experience totality...don’t view it through a 5-inch screen...LOOK at it! Wear eye protection, of course, but experience the ACTUAL PHENOMENON! Thanks.
After all, as Carl Sagan observed:
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”
BTW, here’s evolutionary perspective on why we sophisticated, technically-advanced humanoids still get the tiniest little lizard brain-fueled twitch when Big Light Go Away:
With that in mind, please enjoy this special mixtape that I have assembled to accompany the solar system’s ultimate laserium show (don’t worry-I didn’t forget the Floyd, man!).