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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, November 18, 2017


But he plays one on TV-Bill Nye: Science Guy (***)

By Dennis Hartley

In a nonsensical world such as ours, it somehow makes perfect sense that it took a Cornell-educated Boeing engineer-turned late night TV sketch comic-turned-goofy kid’s science show host to become logic’s ultimate champion in the sometimes downright insane public debate amongst (alleged) adults regarding human-caused global warming.

Such is the long strange trip of one Bill Nye, aka “The Science Guy”, recounted in a new “warts and all” documentary from co-directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg called (wait for it) Bill Nye: Science Guy. While the filmmakers’ non-linear structure (which vacillates abruptly between eco-doc, non-chronological biography and NOVA-style science lesson) takes acclimation, there does seem to be a method to the madness.

Is there “madness” behind Nye’s transition from the bubbly “Science Guy” persona to the relatively more glum-faced crusader we have seen in more recent years taking the science deniers to task? Even the film’s subject himself is unsure of exactly “who” he is at times; as revealed in a fascinating segment where Nye is interviewed by neuroscientist Heather Berlin, who is conducting a study on the effects of celebrity and fame on the brain and the psyche. She sees in Nye “a great test case” with which to explore her thesis. After admitting that the pressures of fame have made him “close [himself] off” to a certain extent in his public and personal life, Nye begins to act and look palpably uncomfortable.

As if to further assure us of no hagiographic intent, the film makers allow some of their subject’s former TV collaborators to dish some passive-aggressive disgruntlement that suggests Nye’s desire for fame and fortune (in the early days, at least) may have trumped any altruistic intentions to bring science to the masses. That said, there are still a number of admirers like Neil deGrasse Tyson on camera to praise Nye and his accomplishments.

My favorite part is where Nye goes to Kentucky for a public debate with anti-evolutionist Ken Ham. Nye first takes us along on a tour of Ham’s Creation Museum, where he finds one particular exhibit suggesting dinosaurs and humans co-existed at the same time to be “very troubling”. Luckily, for viewers like myself who are fully ready at this point to begin hurling objects at the screen, an antidote is administered soon thereafter with a shift back to reality (and sanity) when Nye attends the National Science Teacher’s Conference.

There are also some genuinely touching moments, like during a family visit, when Nye reveals that his brother and sister struggle with Ataxia, a rare neurological disease that affects balance and gait. While it is a hereditary affliction in his family (his father had it), Nye has never shown any signs of having the affliction himself. Consequently, he admits to suffering from a kind of “survivor’s guilt”, which has haunted him all of his adult life.
Another chunk is devoted to examining Nye’s current “day job” as CEO of The Planetary Society, which was co-founded by his mentor Carl Sagan (Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, who co-wrote the original 1980 PBS series Cosmos and is the creator-producer-writer of the 2014 sequel Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, also makes an appearance in the film).

While they may not have crafted a definitive portrait of Nye, the filmmakers do manage to pass on his “Science Guy” persona’s infectious enthusiasm for the joy of discovery. And it did leave me with the comforting thought that he’s one of the good ones who are out there, holding up the line of defense against blind superstition and purposeful disinformation. In light of the current state of our union, we need all the help we can get.

Previous posts with related themes:

Greedy Lying Bastards
Carbon Nation
Chasing Ice

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

They finally got Clinton to resign

by digby

Hillary Clinton, that is:


Where did the Pizzagate conspiracy come from?

by digby

This is the best article I've read about the propaganda/fake news phenomenon I've seen yet. It attempts to unravel the inane Pizzagate conspiracy and it's fascinating. The article talks about the first twitter message about the conspiracy and traces it back to a right wing nut in Joplin Missouri who unconvincingly claims her account was hacked. She's a piece of work but it's pretty clear that the whole thing didn't originate with her.

That's where the story really begins:

On a pair of anonymous message boards, we found several possible seeds of Pizzagate. On July 2nd, 2016, someone calling himself FBIAnon, who claimed to be a "high-level analyst and strategist" for the bureau, hosted an Ask Me Anything forum on 4chan. He claimed to be leaking government secrets – á la Edward Snowden – out of a love for country, but it wasn't always clear which country he meant. At various times, he wrote, "Russia is more a paragon of freedom and nationalism than any other country" and "We are the aggressors against Russia." FBIAnon's secrets were about the Department of Justice's inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, which federal prosecutors never formalized. "Dig deep," he wrote. "Bill and Hillary love foreign donors so much. They get paid in children as well as money."

"Does Hillary have sex with kidnapped girls?" a 4channer asked.

"Yes," FBIAnon answered.

Another possible germ of Pizzagate appeared online about 10 hours before Katz posted her story on Facebook. TheeRANT describes itself as a message board for "New York City cops speaking their minds." Virtually everyone on the site uses an identity-masking screen name. Favorite topics include police body cameras (bad) and George Soros (worse). On October 29th, 2016, someone calling himself "Fatoldman" posted that he had a "hot rumor" about the FBI investigation.
"[T]he feds were forced to reopen the hillary email case [because] apparently the NYPD sex crimes unit was involved in the weiner case," Fatoldman wrote. "On his laptop they saw emails. [T]hey notified the FBI. Feds were afraid that NYPD would go public so they had to reopen or be accused of a coverup."

Someone posted the news to a law enforcement Facebook group. From there, a user called Eagle Wings (@NIVIsa4031) posted it to Twitter. Eagle Wings' profile picture shows a smiling middle-aged woman above the description "USAF Vet believes Freedom Soars." Among her more influential followers are former deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka and former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who actually shared a separate Eagle- Wings tweet last year. Eagle Wings' enthusiastic following likely has something to do with membership in "Trumps WarRoom," a private group of online activists who share and amplify political messages. Participants told Politico's Shawn Musgrave that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pro-Trump rooms coalesced during the campaign. "The members aren't stereotypical trolls," Musgrave tells me. "Most are baby boomers." A lot are women from the Midwest.

But Eagle Wings is not a typical political enthusiast, says Woolley, who directs research at the Institute for the Future's Digital Intelligence Lab. She tweets too often (more than 50,000 times since November 2015) to too many followers (120,000 as of November 2017). "Without a shadow of a doubt," he says, "Eagle Wings is a highly automated account [and] part of a bot network" – a centrally controlled group of social-media accounts. To explain how they work, Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, uses a shepherding analogy. "A message that someone or some organization wants to 'trend' is typically sent out by 'shepherd' accounts," he says, which often have large followings and are controlled by humans. The shepherds' messages are amplified by 'sheepdog' accounts, which are also run by humans but can be default-set "to boost the signal and harass critics." At times, the shepherds personally steer conversations, but they also deploy automation, using a kind of Twitter cruise control to retweet particular keywords and hashtags. Together, Nimmo says, the shepherds and sheepdogs guide a herd of bots, which "mindlessly repost content in the digital equivalent of sheep rushing in the same direction and bleating loudly."

Whether Katz repeated something a herd of bots was bleating, or repackaged tidbits found on other parts of the Internet, her Facebook post was the "human touch" that helped the fake news story go viral. The "tell," says Watts, was what happened next. Most of us post into Internet oblivion. But about 12 hours after Katz shared her story, a Twitter user named @DavidGoldbergNY tweeted a screenshot of her post, twice – adding, "I have been hearing the same thing from my NYPD buddies too. Next couple days will be -interesting!"

It's literally unbelievable and yet we know what eventually happened. Aside from that cretinous moron getting elected, some kook took his AR-15 and went to the Pizza parlor looking for Hillary Clinton's kidnapped kids and shot the lock off of a storage door.

The fact that millions of people are trafficking in theselies is a huge problem and I haven't got the faintest idea about how to fix it. People believe what they want to believe and there are some actors in this world who are ready to give them what they want in order to advance their own agenda. Indeed, a whole population has been primed by talk radio and right wing media to accept a certain kind of propaganda with no questions asked. We are all susceptible to confirmation bias but this is on a level that approaches brainwashing.It's very, very disturbing.

Read the whole thing or listen to the Reveal podcast discussing it here.



Chris Hayes lays out the sexual harassment and assault evidence against Donald Trump

by digby

It's just a helpful little reminder of all the women who came forward to accuse Donald Trump on camera:

And that doesn't even include his ex-wife who said he raped her when he was angry that the plastic surgeon she'd sent him to botched his scalp reduction hair transplant surgery in 1989.

This was all aired just a year ago. 63 million people didn't care. I doubt they care now.



Ivanka's Law is toxic

by digby

But get this:

Republicans really can't afford to give up on the tax bill, after suffering an embarrassing defeat on their health care effort. But when something is as central to their agenda as the tax rewrite, they're going to have serious headaches if they can't win more support with the public.

Uhm, maybe these serious headaches might be worse than being "embarrassed?" Like the fact that they are going to cause millions of people to pay more in taxes, critically degrade higher education and health care so that Ivanka gets a tax break? Those kind of "headaches?"

We know that their donors are demanding that they deliver and that's why they're doing this. So, let's not pretend it's anything other than that. Many of them realize that Donald Trump has destroyed their party and this is their last chance to pay back their rich benefactors and perhaps secure a future for themselves outside of politics.

This is a political crisis. But you knew that.


So him

by digby

Charles Blow found this video of Trump that illustrates his future presidency so perfectly:


When party becomes religion

by Tom Sullivan

"This is what happens when party becomes almost a religion," MSNBC's Joy Reid told Chris Hayes last night on "All In." Reid was commenting on the GOP's defense of Alabama's Roy Moore and acceptance of a Republican president with a lengthy history of sexual misconduct. "We don't care how low he takes this country, how low he takes our party," she said, or "what a scoundrel he is, what a scam artist he is, what a con man. And literally, it can be a child molester as long as it's a Republican ... Nothing comes before party ever. Ever."

The Republican Party and the country didn't sink to these depths overnight. The right has, over decades, acculturated its base to lies as one of the basic food groups. Our sitting president is simply the main course.

Fear has been a conservative staple from the early days of the Cold War, the Birchers, and before. Robert Kagan noted before the election last year how "resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger," the core of the now-president's message, had incubated inside the party for years.

I recounted how creepy the appearance of "Rush rooms" was in the early 1990s, and how the dittoheads at work marinated their brains in his toxic message all day, every day.

As Rush faded, Fox News ascended. Fox News has been a propaganda channel for decades now. The "Fair and Balanced" network has dropped that branding and, with few exceptions, any pretension that what it presents is news. Where once there were Rush Rooms at lunch, now every other bar, restaurant, and public space has a telescreen broadcasting the message approved by Minitrue and News Corp.

Conservative chain emails have faded as well, replaced by Facebook. Through the Cold War years, we'd been warned that the communists would try to undermine America from within using propaganda and disinformation. With the emails, fathers and uncles were trafficking in it, passing them on to family and friends as instructed at the bottom of each. What made chain emails popular was they maligned people senders hated. With forward after forward, they built a discomforting community of resentment. I have a collection:

Now, out of those 200 chain emails, maybe three or four are not outright lies, distortions, and smears. Easily debunked on Google in the time it takes to attach your email list and forward to all your friends. They are lies and, deep down, right wingers know it. Yet they pass them along dutifully, almost gleefully. They know it's wrong and they don't care.
Their purpose was to get people angry and keep them angry about real and imagined slights committed against them by political enemies. After last year's election and the revelations about Russian ads on Facebook, one wonders if some weren't once drafted in St. Petersburg. The First Amendment has been weaponized and used against us.

Mr. “And when you're a star, they let you do it” is simply a walking, talking, tweeting version of the conservative chain email. His fans don't care if what he says is true so long as he attacks the people they hate and gives them approval to do the same.

David Brooks argued the other day that "naked liberalism" has undermined the social contract. He defines naked liberalism as an assumption shared by both right and left that "if you give people freedom they will use it to care for their neighbors, to have civil conversations, to form opinions after examining the evidence." The right wants to maximize economic choice while the left hopes to maximize lifestyle choice (in which Brooks glosses over both positions). This position, "all freedom and no covenant," he believes, maximizes personal freedom while undercutting the bonds that hold a society together:
Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war.
Or worse. "[P]eople will prefer fascism to isolation, authoritarianism to moral anarchy." In pursuing individual and economic freedom, we have sacrificed the bonds that held human society together for millennia. "Congressional Republicans think a successful tax bill will thwart populism," he writes. "Mainstream Democrats think the alienation problem will go away if we redistribute the crumbs a bit more widely." These band-aids aren't likely to hold back the erosion.

People under 40 get that these aren't solutions, Brooks writes. I must agree. Steve Bannon wants to tear down the entire edifice and start from scratch, an answer not so different from one we heard from certain quarters on the left last fall. So far, Democrats haven't offered a more compelling, healing narrative.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Friday Night Soother: Bearcats!

by digby

Perth Zoo is celebrating the birth of the first Binturong cubs in the Zoo’s 119-year history.

Two cubs, a male and a female, were born September 6 to mother, Selasa, and father, Rabu. The parents arrived at the Zoo from Singapore Zoological Gardens, in 2016, to establish a Perth Zoo Binturong family.

Perth Zoo Keeper, Marty Boland, said, “It’s very exciting to welcome two rare Binturong cubs, less than 12 months after their parent’s arrival in Australia.”

“Binturongs are capable of delaying their pregnancy after mating until they feel the environmental conditions are favourable. So, it’s great to see that Selasa is feeling secure and content here in WA!”

“She is a first time Mum, but has been lovingly tending to her offspring in the nest box and also allowing us to photograph the cubs’ progression. She’s even trusted us to handle her cubs to quickly weigh them.”

“They tip the scales just over one kilogram, a good weight for Binturong infants,” said Marty.

The new arrivals recently opened their eyes, and they are beginning to take in the world around them. Zoo Keepers expect they will start exploring their exhibit in coming weeks and become more visible to the public.

Marty continued, “Visitors who are unsure of where to catch a glimpse of the Binturong family may smell them first. They are famous for their strong odor, which is often likened to popcorn!”

The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as a Bearcat, is a viverrid that is native to South and Southeast Asia.

Binturongs are omnivorous, feeding on small mammals, birds, fish, earthworms, insects and fruits.

The estrous period of the Binturong is 81 days, with a gestation of 91 days. The average age of sexual maturation is 30.4 months for females and 27.7 months for males. The Binturong is one of approximately 100 species of mammal believed by many experts to be capable of embryonic diapause, or delayed implantation, which allows the female of the species to time parturition to coincide with favorable environmental conditions. Typical litters consist of two offspring, but up to six may occur.

It is uncommon in much of its range, and has been assessed and classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to a declining population trend that is estimated at more than 30% over the last three decades. The main threat to the species is severe destruction of habitats in their native parts of the world.

Those wanting to help save Binturong from extinction are encouraged to “adopt” one of Perth Zoo’s cubs. Zoo adoption packages ensure more funds are poured into giving wildlife a chance of survival. More information can be found at: www.perthzoo.com.au


Oh God

by digby

Politico says that we should all enjoy November because December is going to be a living hell:

DECEMBER is going to be really, really, really brutal. Spending caps deal. Government funding. Potential legislation to deal with the expiration of DACA. Action to prop up the health care law. And now, we hear that THE DEBT CEILING could be part of the mix in the final month of the year, as well. Treasury says Congress has until January to lift the debt limit, but some say if Congress is going to slap together a big package, the debt limit might as well be included. No one really wants to raise the debt limit in an election year, anyway. But the negotiations have to be going really well for the debt limit to be included. It's not a must-pass at the end of the year, and it could just as easily slip to 2018. In other words, Republicans tell us they won't let the debt limit be a bargaining chip for Democrats who are trying to get a DACA deal.

WE ALSO HEAR Congress will pass a short-term government funding bill in time for the Dec. 8 deadline, kicking the deadline toward the end of the month in time for a large spending deal. OH YEAH -- THE WHITE HOUSE has made it clear they want tax reform done in December as well. Whoever wins the Alabama Senate race will join the chamber toward the end of December, too. THIS COULD EASILY BE the most consequential legislative month in years.

And that's just the legislative stuff. We've also got Roy Moore and whatever freakshow Donald Trump puts on on a daily basis.

I'm so tired.



Jared needs some Gingko

by digby

Jared has a real memory problem. Seriously. A bad one. He should have some tests. But not by this guy:

Mother Jones reports:

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was aware of a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” but failed to provide that information to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the leaders of that committee said in a letter Thursday to Kushner’s lawyer. The reported overture is one of multiple revelations about Trump campaign contacts with Russia that Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) disclosed in their letter accusing Kushner of improperly withholding information about the communications.

The letter marks the resumption of a joint Russia investigation led by Grassley and Feinstein. The two senators had stopped cooperating last month due to a disagreement about the scope of the probe.

The senators said they know Kushner withheld the information because people questioned separately by the committee disclosed emails detailing contacts with Russia on which Kushner was copied. “Other parties have produced documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ that Kushner forwarded to others,” the senators wrote. Kushner is one of several Trump associates who reportedly had multiple contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent transition period. Those include a November 16, 2016, meeting in which Kushner reportedly requested Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s help in setting up back-channel communications between Trump and the Kremlin. Kushner claims that he was responding to Kislyak’s request to set up a secure line to convey sensitive information on Syria. It is not clear if that meeting represented the “overture and dinner invite” the senators cited or if the overture is a newly disclosed contact between the Trump camp and Russia

Grassley and Feinstein also said that their committee has obtained communications, on which Kushner was copied, with Sergey Millian, a Belarusian-American businessman with multiple ties to Trump and his campaign. Millian, the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the United States and the owner of a translation service, once described himself as the Trump Organization’s “exclusive broker” helping Russians buying apartments in Trump buildings. Millian is also reportedly one of the key sources whose claims about Russian attempts to cultivate Trump were cited in the set of memos compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The Washington Post has reported that Millian last year told associates he was in touch with George Papadopolous, the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians. Papadopolous and Millian were Facebook friends, the Post noted.


We are insanely stupid

by digby

No civilization where this happens can be expected to survive. It's people are just too stupid:

A man accidentally shot himself and his wife at an East Tennessee church on Thursday while he was showing off his gun during a discussion on recent church shootings, police said.

Elder members of First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains were cleaning up about 1 p.m. after enjoying a luncheon held to celebrate Thanksgiving. They began talking about guns in churches, according to Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks.

A man in his 80s pulled out a .380 caliber Ruger handgun and said, "I carry my handgun everywhere," according to Parks.

He removed the magazine, cleared the chamber, and showed the gun to some of the men in the church. He put the magazine back in, apparently loaded a round in the chamber, and returned the gun to its holster, Parks said.

"Somebody else walked up and said, 'Can I see it?' " Parks said. "He pulled it back out and said, 'With this loaded indicator, I can tell that it’s not loaded.' "

He pulled the trigger.

"Evidently he just forgot that he re-chambered the weapon," Parks said.

The gun was lying on its side on a table. The bullet sliced the palm of the man's upward-facing hand, then entered the left side of his wife's abdomen and exited the right side, Parks said.

Both the husband and wife, who is also in her 80s, were flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center with injuries that police said didn't appear to be life-threatening. Their names had not been released as of Thursday evening.

Charges will not be filed, Parks said.

It's hard to believe a bullet in the abdomen isn't life-threatening to a woman in her 80s but that's good news.

Meanwhile, it great that this man will be allowed to keep his guns. What could go wrong?



Sherrod Brown takes Hatch downtown

by digby

Sherrod Brown really upset Orrin Hatch last night when he correctly described the tax plan as a giveaway to the rich. Hatch, a millionaire, says that he comes from "the poor" and he resents the implication.

The truth hurts:

Greg Sargent explains:

Late last night, just before the Finance Committee passed the Senate’s version of the tax bill slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, a remarkable moment unfolded that perfectly captured the GOP’s whole handling of the tax debate — in all its dishonesty, misdirection and bottomless bad faith.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) engaged in extended sparring with committee chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) over who would benefit from the Senate bill, with Brown insisting that it fundamentally represents a tax cut for the rich and not the middle class. This drew an enraged response from Hatch, even though Brown’s argument was 100 percent correct:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had a tense exchange during a markup of the GOP tax bill on Nov. 16. (Senate Finance Committee)
Brown’s reference to an amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at the beginning of the exchange is crucial to what transpired. That amendment would undo the tax cuts on corporations if wages don’t grow. The Senate bill would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent — permanently — and one of President Trump’s and the GOP’s chief stated rationales is that the move will unleash massive wage growth. The amendment called the GOP’s bluff for messaging purposes.

And it worked. Indeed, Brown’s questioning of this Republican argument is exactly what ticked Hatch off. Brown claimed that “this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich,” and that the GOP argument about tax cuts on corporations leading to higher wages is just a “good selling point.” Brown pointed out: “Companies don’t just give away higher wages just because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now. They’re sitting on a lot of profits now. I don’t see wages going up. Just spare us the bank shots.”

All this made Hatch angry. “I come from the poor people,” Hatch said. “And I’ve been here working my whole stinkin’ career for people who don’t have a chance. And I really resent anybody saying that I’m just doing this for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time, and it gets old. And frankly, you ought to quit it.” When Brown pushed back by suggesting that previous tax cuts for the rich haven’t produced the results Republicans are once again predicting, Hatch silenced him.

Now, Hatch was probably angered by the questioning of his motive — the idea that Republicans are disingenuously packaging a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations as a tax cut for the middle class. But whatever is in Hatch’s heart, this is exactly what the Senate bill does. It front-loads the benefits for non-wealthy people by making its various tax preferences and its cuts to individual income tax rates temporary and subject to expiration while making the corporate rate cuts permanent. It also ties tax brackets to an alternative inflation measure in a way that will result in out-year tax increases for everyone but the top 1 percent. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has concluded that in 2027, most poor and working-class people will see a tax hike, while upper-income earners (who benefit from corporate tax cuts) continue to pay less.

Hatch, as other Republicans, claims to have “no intention” of raising taxes on lower-income people, meaning Congress will renew their tax cuts later. The suggestion otherwise got Hatch angry. But there is zero guarantee that this will happen, and indeed, this claim actually ratifies the objections of Brown and Democrats. It reveals in a backdoor way that the whole reason for making all these provisions temporary is to pay for permanent tax cuts on corporations, which is necessary to comply with the procedural need to avoid raising the deficit later. Indeed, the bill’s repeal of the individual mandate is also designed to cut health spending on less-fortunate people precisely to fund those corporate tax cuts — which shows, as Brian Beutler points out, that this bill partly represents another version of the massively regressive Obamacare repeal efforts that have already been defeated, this one just in a new packaging of grift.

As it happens, there is good reason to doubt Hatch’s motives — or, at least, those of the GOP more broadly. Multiple Republicans have admitted on the record that if Republicans don’t pass these tax cuts, their donors will stop giving them money. If Republicans wanted to cut taxes for the middle class, they could cut taxes for the middle class and remain within deficit and procedural constraints by limiting the bill’s massive giveaway to their corporate donors, which would not necessitate hiking middle-class taxes later. Yet Republicans aren’t doing that. Hatch claimed that pointing this out “gets old.” But this week’s Quinnipiac poll finds that Americans say by 59 percent to 33 percent that the GOP plan favors the rich at the expense of the middle class, which means they are on to the GOP game.

Click over to read the rest. This bill is an atrocity. The donors want it and the people hate it.



Bannon vs Rove

by digby

I wrote about Bannon and Rove for Salon this morning:

It had been reported all week that President Trump wasn't going to comment personally on the underage dating and sexual assault scandal whirling around Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore because he knew it would raise the issue of his own sordid history. Trump refused to take questions about it from reporters and let his press secretary say only that the White House found the complaints "troubling" but planned to let the people of Alabama decide what to do about it.

But obviously he was watching Sean Hannity late at night, as he is wont to do, and his uncontrollable, juvenile compulsions finally won out. The need to insult Sen. Al Franken was too overwhelming and he had to take to Twitter to let it out:

Trump may not realize that the Alabama election isn't for another four weeks and he's likely to be grilled about his own "issues" every time he faces the press. And he has another little problem that he may not have counted on. The team at Breitbart News is not happy with the fact that the first daughter said that there was "a special place in hell" for people who do what Moore is accused of doing. This was Breitbart editor Alex Marlow on a talk radio program:

Caller: Well, when Donald was being accused of these things where there was definitely more proof and more opportunity, where was she then? But now she's all outraged by Roy Moore. I don't know why she just doesn't keep quiet. 
Marlow: Right, especially when there's been so many allegations against President Trump, I don't know why the daughter of President Trump who has been accused by [attorney] Gloria Allred and some dozen, maybe two dozen, women over the years doing something inappropriate, and nothing's ever come of that. So why does Ivanka want to continue to pile on? I don't know. I think that she just loves getting her name out there in the headline and they can put more photos up. So that's her M.O.
Roy Moore is of course being backed by Breitbart's executive editor, the former Trump campaign manager and senior policy adviser Steve Bannon.

Has Bannon decided that MAGA belongs to him now? According to this fascinating piece in the New Yorker by Susan B. Glasser, Bannon's battle against the establishment is very personal and is not entirely motivated by his apocalyptic vision of impending chaos but something much more prosaic: a need to defeat the man who held his position in the previous Republican administration, Karl Rove.

I was unaware that Bannon was so competitive with Rove but according to Glasser's article there's so much bad blood there that Bannon decided to take on an incumbent Republican congressman in North Carolina solely because Rove knew the guy and gave a speech on his behalf. It's the only House race in which Bannon has endorsed a primary challenger.

Breitbart published a story in which it called the incumbent, Rep. Robert Pittenger, a tool of the “Karl Rove-backed elites” who had “sold out his district.” But Pittenger is actually a hardcore Trump supporter who's voted with the president 96 percent of the time. He told Glasser, “I’ve never met Steve Bannon, but it seems to be a game. There’s all kinds of games up there in Washington.” Pittenger and Rove both said that they'd known each other for a long time and that Rove was simply doing a solid for a friend.

One can understand why Bannon wouldn't like Rove, who has been very critical of both Bannon and Trump in his Wall Street Journal columns and told Glasser that they knew nothing about electoral strategy and had no idea how to win races around the country, much less upend the establishment, as Bannon has vowed to do. Rove is probably right about that. The Trump operation, both inside and outside the White House, is a mess.

Until 2016, Steve Bannon was running his upstart web site, and that no doubt burns Rove, a political junkie who has spent a lifetime studying political history and the minutiae of electoral strategy, and worked in the political trenches for decades before he made it to the White House. Of course, that's exactly what Bannon loathes about Rove, believing that he's a dinosaur with nothing to offer the revolutionary new politics he and Donald Trump have created.

It's interesting, however, how much the two men actually have in common. Both are autodidacts who think of themselves as strategic and tactical geniuses. Rove may seem like a staid elder statesman compared to Bannon, a self-styled "Leninist" and agent of chaos, but Rove was just as grandiose in his thinking when he came to Washington 17 years ago. He believes in realignment theory and thought that Bush's hanging-chad victory in the 2000 election was the beginning of a major shift, led by him, to GOP dominance for the foreseeable future.

Bannon believes in a bizarre prophecy of "four turnings," in which world events unfold in predictable cycles of roughly 80 years each that can be divided into four chapters, or turnings: growth, maturation, entropy and destruction. Under this nutbar theory, it's been 80 years since fall came, in the form of the Great Depression and World War II, and now winter is upon us.

Both of these guys have way too much faith in their own insights and abilities. This article by Joshua Green in the Atlantic about Rove at the end of Bush's second term should serve as a cautionary tale for Bannon. The arrogant, "go-it-alone" strategy in which the White House and its allies don't bother with politics and simply depend on dominance didn't work for Bush, who ended his disastrous reign having diminished the Republican Party to such a degree that it enabled the man whom he holds in total contempt to become its leader. All the mistakes that Trump and Bannon are making today were first made, if in less crude and obvious fashion, by the Bush administration.

Rove should be a bit more humble and Bannon should be a bit less smug. Neither one of them is nearly as smart as they think they are. And both of the men who employed them are even worse. Bush left the Middle East in ruins and presided over an epic financial crisis. Trump is busy finishing the job in the rest of the world and is turning the United States into a banana republic. Spare us any more of these "geniuses." They're killing us.



Breitbart picks Moore over Trump

by digby

From Media Matters we find the editor of Breitbart slagging Ivanka for calling out Roy Moore --- because of her father:

ALEX MARLOW: Ivanka [Trump] made a very strange statement because she came out, with guns ablazing saying there's a special place in hell for child predators and that she believes the accusers. But she also -- she didn't say that Roy Moore needs to step aside. So, she didn't do that, because President Trump hasn't called for that. So, I'm guessing she's going to take some heat from the left also. So again, were we really dying for Ivanka's opinion on this? Can we not get Ivanka's opinion on some of these things? Can she just go work on her tax thing that she's working on and just leave us alone? But Mike, go ahead.

CALLER: Well, when Donald was being accused of these things where there was definitely more proof and more opportunity, where was she then? But now she's all outraged by Roy Moore. I don't know why she just doesn't keep quiet.

MARLOW: Right, especially when there's been so many allegations against President Trump, I don't know why the daughter of President Trump who has been accused by [attorney] Gloria Allred and some dozen, maybe two dozen, women over the years doing something inappropriate, and nothing's ever come of that. So why does Ivanka want to continue to pile on? I don't know. I think that she just loves getting her name out there in the headline and they can put more photos up. So that's her ammo.

Oh my ...


Men behaving badly

by Tom Sullivan

Day off the Dead art by José Guadalupe Posada.

"Testosterone poisoning" has been a joke for some time now. But it's no joke to women harmed by it. This summer, Roger Ailes got the boot at Fox News for a lengthy history of sexual harassment. Then the Harvey Weinstein story broke in October and #MeToo became a phenomenon. With stories of Roy Moore and teenage girls threatening his Senate bid and shaking up the GOP caucus in Washington, it seems we are on the cusp of a cultural shift a long time in coming. Women feel empowered, finally, to bring their stories out of the shadows in the way cell phone videos made visible police violence against black Americans. So many skeletons.

But the cultural moment has had that knife-edge quality that hinted it might tip from healthy reckoning to moral panic. Erin Gloria Ryan writes at Daily Beast that radio host Leeann Tweeden's story about Al Franken (and his public apology) feels like the first, while a second allegation agsinst Franken worries her for different reasons.

Former KSFO conservative talk host Melanie Morgan now alleges she was "stalked and harassed" by Franken who, she says, called her several times to continue a policy debate they'd begun on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.”

Ryan writes:

Even giving Morgan the extremely generous benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to pretend what she alleges Franken did is the same thing as what Tweeden’s picture shows Franken actually doing. Nor is what Tweeden’s picture shows, horrible as it is, the same as what somebody like Roger Ailes or Bill Clinton did.

Which gets to a problem. Right now, the court of public opinion is faced with the awkward task of assigning degrees of severity to sexual misconduct, because, while they all cause harm, they don’t all cause the same amount of harm and thus don’t merit the same punishment. Furthermore, punishment varies by the power the offender wields. A senator, for example, should have a much higher moral threshold than, say, a comedian. Writing in The New Yorker this week, Masha Gessen treads lightly in making this point, warning that the #MeToo moment could devolve into “sex panic” if we’re not careful. “The distinctions between rape and coercion are meaningful, in the way it is meaningful to distinguish between, say, murder and battery,” Gessen writes.
It's just that Morgan's account "reeks of naked political opportunism, of weaponizing victimhood in a way that is so morally bankrupt that it threatens to derail the entire #MeToo conversation," Ryan writes. Brian Beutler, she adds, days ago expressed similar reservations about how the “believe Women” movement might get derailed by Breitbart, which has already dispatched journalist/hit men to Alabama to discredit Moore's accusers:
Unfolding against the backdrop of the post-Weinstein revolution, the Moore scandal exposes the conservative propaganda machine in the ugliest and most discrediting possible fashion. But these cultural changes are all but destined to collide with one another in the opposite direction, in a way that exploits both the beneficence of the “believe women” campaign, and the even-handedness of the mainstream media. It is a collision we as a political culture are not equipped to handle, the consequences of which are almost too awful to contemplate.
That's why this all seems so perilous. We are on the cusp of a cultural shift that revanchist forces would just as soon kill. Skeletons love their closets.

Fox News on Wednesday banned Kiss frontman Gene Simmons from its building and network for life for behaving like Gene Simmons, so there's that.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Kowabunga --- an epic wave?

by digby

A little hope to end your day:

The last two weeks have seen some significant movement in Democrats favor. First, there were the impressive results from last Tuesday's elections. This week, we’ve seen two polls — one by Quinnipiac and one by Marist — that show Democrats with a congressional ballot advantage of +13 to +15. Three other recent polls — ABC/Washington Post, Fox, and NBC/Wall Street Journal — show Democrats with an advantage of anywhere from +7 to +15.

But, is it realistic to think that Democrats could retain this kind of advantage into 2018? Moreover, given the Republican structural advantage — gerrymandered seats plus Democrats’ self-sorting into urban areas — is that kind of margin even big enough to net 24 seats?

My colleague David Wasserman has been digging into the question of just how big of a wave Democrats need to get in order to surf into the majority. The short answer: they need to see a generic ballot advantage of +8 or more, which roughly translates to getting at least 54 percent or more of the national House vote in 2018.

The last time Democrats enjoyed a margin of +8 or more in a mid-term year was 2006. That year, Democrats won the House vote by 8.5 percent. The last time that Democrats got into the double digits was 2008 when they carried the House vote by D+11. This has led to a lots of talk that Democrats can only hit significant margins of victory in presidential elections when their base is more engaged and involved. It also helped to have a transformational candidate - Barack Obama - at the top of the ticket. Something they obviously don't have in 2018. But, there is precedent for Democrats winning the House vote by double digits in mid-term years. In the post-Watergate midterm of 1974, Democrats won by a whopping 17 points. In Ronald Reagan’s first midterm of 1982, Democrats won the House vote by 12 points.

Democratic House Vote Margin in Midterm Elections

Of course our country is more polarized than it was in the 20th Century. And, redistricting/gerrymandering has gotten more sophisticated. As everyone knows by heart right now, just 23 Republicans sit in seats carried by Hillary Clinton.

I don't dismiss those realities. However, I am having a nagging sense of deja vu - a feeling like I've been here and heard these same arguments before. Way back in 2006, my boss Charlie Cook was warning that the year was shaping up to be a wave year. I argued that unlike the last wave election of 1994, the party holding the White House was much better prepared. Republicans in 2006 had significant financial advantages. They had structural advantages. And, Democrats couldn’t sneak up on Republicans as Republicans had to Democrats in 1994. Obviously, my theory was wrong and Charlie was right.

Lots has changed over the course of those years — the rise of SuperPACs, digital targeting, data analytics. But, there has been one important, overarching constant: a candidate can control for many things, but he/she can’t change the political mood. If it is with you, you get an extra advantage you may or may not deserve. When it is against you, even the best, most prepared candidates can lose. This was true in 1994. It was true in 2006. It was true in 2010.

Getting a tax bill across the finish line isn’t going to be enough to change the mood of the country. It is going to take something much more significant to do that. A good economy is helpful to the GOP as it can cut down on some of the headwinds coming at them right now. But, it’s not clear to me that it’s enough to fundamentally alter the way voters see Congress, the GOP and the President.

In 2016 we made the mistake of rationalizing away the prospect of a Trump victory. He was too unorthodox. He couldn't possibly sustain momentum through the grueling primary campaign. We should not make same mistake in 2018. Sure, a lot can change between now and next November. And, Democrats have a narrow path to 24 seats - even with a big wave or tailwind. But, do not ignore what’s right in front of us. A wave is building. If I were a Republican running for Congress, I’d be taking that more seriously than ever.

Sounds good to me.



Calls for impeachment grow --- for Hillary Clinton

by digby

I guess they want to impeach her and then lock her up.

This was in Nashville last spring:

Just a month and a half ago:

President Donald Trump told an Alabama crowd Friday night that if "Crooked Hillary" Clinton had won the 2016 election, "you would not have a Second Amendment."

"You'd be handing in your rifles," Trump said. "You'd be turning over your rifles."

The comment was met by chants of "lock her up," reminiscent of his own campaign rallies during the 2016 presidential rally.

"You've got to speak to Jeff Sessions about that," Trump replied, referencing his US attorney general.

Aaaaand here's the New York Times this week:

President Trump did not need to send a memo or telephone his attorney general to make his desires known. He broadcast them for all the world to see on Twitter. The instruction was clear: The Justice Department should investigate his defeated opponent from last year’s campaign.

However they were delivered, Mr. Trump’s demands have ricocheted through the halls of the Justice Department, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now ordered senior prosecutors to evaluate various accusations against Hillary Clinton and report back on whether a special counsel should be appointed.

Mr. Sessions has made no decision, and in soliciting the assessment of department lawyers, he may be seeking a way out of the bind his boss has put him in. At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, he pushed back against Republicans impatient for a special counsel. But if he or his deputy ultimately does authorize a new investigation of Mrs. Clinton, it would shatter post-Watergate norms intended to prevent presidents from using law enforcement agencies against political rivals.

The request alone was enough to incite a political backlash, as critics of Mr. Trump quickly denounced what they called “banana republic” politics of retribution, akin to autocratic nations where election losers are jailed by winners.

“You can be disappointed, but don’t be surprised,” said Karen Dunn, a former prosecutor and White House lawyer under President Barack Obama who advised Mrs. Clinton during her campaign. “This is exactly what he said he would do: use taxpayer resources to pursue political rivals.”

Democrats vividly recall Mr. Trump on the campaign trail vowing to prosecute Mrs. Clinton if he won. “It was alarming enough to chant ‘lock her up’ at a campaign rally,” said Brian Fallon, who was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman. “It is another thing entirely to try to weaponize the Justice Department in order to actually carry it out.”

The hatred for her is irrational. But it exists. All those people in Kimmel's man on the street videoclearly don't follow politics closely. But they know they are supposed to hate "that woman."




Do NOT question Dear Leader

by digby

You can fly your confederate flag and wear your gun to political events and they're protected by the 1st Amendment. But do NOT insult Donald Trump:

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls on Wednesday created a social media firestorm with a Facebook post threatening to bring disorderly conduct charges against the driver of a truck displaying a profane anti-Trump message on its rear window.

Nehls told the Houston Chronicle that he had received calls, texts and emails in recent days from people who took offense at the language in bold, white lettering: "F--- TRUMP AND F--- YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM."

The sheriff, a Republican who is weighing a bid for Congress shared a photo on his official Facebook page in hopes that it would help to identify the truck owner. The license plate is not visible in the image.

Update: The photo has now been taken down. The sheriff's office released this statement on Thursday afternoon:
"The Sheriff made the post on his Personal page. The objective of the post was to find the owner/driver of the truck and have a conversation with them in order to prevent a potential altercation between the truck driver and those offended by the message. Since the owner of the truck has been identified, the Sheriff took down the post. Due to the hate messages he has been receiving towards his wife and children, the Sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further."

Turns out, a woman who identified herself as the driver said she used to work for Nehls in the county jail.
Karen Fonseca said the truck belongs to her husband but that she often drives it. They had the sticker made and added it to the window after the billionaire real estate magnate and reality TV star was sworn into office.

The sticker has attracted attention many times before, Fonseca said. People shake their head. They take photos of it. Officers have pulled her over but failed to find a reason for writing a ticket.

Now the sheriff is taking it on, but Fonseca did not plan to contact him.

"It's not to cause hate or animosity," said Fonseca, 46. "It's just our freedom of speech and we're exercising it."
Concerned that the language could incite a confrontation on county roadways, Nehls said he wanted to have a conversation with the truck owner.

A woman biking by a presidential motorcade near a Trump golf course in Virginia was photographed recently with her middle finger raised; she was then fired from her job at a government contracting firm after identifying herself as the cyclist.

"I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck as it is often seen along FM 359," Nehls wrote in his original post. "If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you."

Nehls wrote on Facebook that a county prosecutor had agreed to accept disorderly conduct charges — an opinion that District Attorney John Healey disputes, as does the ACLU of Texas.

"Many families have called that have seen that truck on our county roadways and are very offended by the language on the truck," Nehls said. "I think they're walking a fine line."

Healey, a Republican not seeking re-election next year, said he wished the sheriff's office had contacted him earlier about the incendiary issue. He said he did not receive a call until around the same time the comments were posted. In disagreeing with his own prosecutor, Healey noted that his office lacked any information about how the public was reacting to the truck.

"I did not believe it was a prosecutable case based on the definition of disorderly conduct," Healey said.

Ya think?

But the sheriff made his point.


Men are pigs volume 79,965

by digby

So, Al Franken is accused of forcibly kissing a woman named Leeann Tweeden. There's a picture of him making a juvenile gesture of squeezing her breasts (it's unclear whether he actually touched her) while she slept on an airplane. It's damning and it's probably not the only thing that will come out about Franken. He was a comedian during the 70s and 80s and I can only imagine the gross behavior he probably participated in and I would be shocked if nothing more turns up. The stories from SNL during that period are legion although I have no knowledge of anything he did personally. I always thought that past would be a deal breaker for higher office.

Tweeden is a well known radio personality here in LA and has been a guest many times on Sean Hannity's show. She's a strong supporter of the military and has done tours and charities for the troops for many years. It would be easy to dismiss her because of her political affiliations but that picture tells the story and Franken admitted to doing it. It will, however, be intresting to see how Hannity handles the story since he's vociferously defended Roy Moore .... and Donald Trump who was accused by 20 women of doing what Franken is accused of doing. He's even on tape saying that he carries tic-tacs just in case he gets the opportunity to forcibly kiss a woman he likes the looks of.

I suspect Franken will end up resigning from the Senate. The Governor of Minnesota is a Democrat who will appoint his replacement and I would hope that whoever that person is will be thoroughly investigated for any such behavior before he decides who it should be.

By the way, his behavior in this incident took place on a USO tour which have always been exploitative sex shows. (Here's a video of the one with Franken and Tweeden)It's long past time to retire that particular format too.

What a mess.



Brexit! Nostrovia!

by digby

This is interesting but not surprising:

More than 150,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts posted tens of thousands of messages in English urging Britain to leave the European Union in the days before last year’s referendum on the issue, a team of researchers disclosed on Wednesday.

More than 400 of the accounts that Twitter has already identified to congressional investigators as tools of the Kremlin, other researchers said, also posted divisive messages about Britain’s decision on withdrawing from the bloc, or Brexit, both before and after the vote.

Most of the messages sought to inflame fears about Muslims and immigrants to help drive the vote, suggesting parallels to the strategy that Russian propagandists employed in the United States in the 2016 election to try to intensify the polarization of the electorate.

The separate findings amount to the strongest evidence yet of a Russian attempt to use social media to manipulate British politics in the same way the Kremlin has done in the United States, France and elsewhere.

The disclosures came just two days after Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain delivered a speech accusing Russia of using cyberattacks and online propaganda to “undermine free societies” and “sow discord in the West.”

On Tuesday, the chief of the National Cyber Security Center released a summary of a prepared speech asserting that in the past 12 months, Russian hackers had unleashed cyberattacks on the British energy grid and the telecommunications and media industries.

Taken together, the flurry of reports and accusations adds to growing pressure on Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies to disclose more of their internal records about advertising payments and account registrations, information essential to illuminating the extent of Russian meddling in the referendum on Brexit.

Any evidence that Moscow did, however, may also complicate the already vexed politics surrounding the issue.

I guess this could all be made up just like the interference in the American election could all be made up. So could all the other evidence be made up. But it's not looking as though this is just a big, crazy conspiracy theory.

Now people will have to grapple with whether such propaganda is effective. I don't know that anyone will ever be able to conclusively prove it is. But I suspect that one should be a little bit suspicious that the Russian government seems to think it's worth expending so much effort.


Zombie Scott Walker,Trump loving beltway darling

by digby

I wrote about Scott Walker's comeback for Salon this morning:

It seems like a million years ago that the political world was convinced that the most formidable Republican in all the land was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He was the ultimate mainstream Tea Party "reformer" of the Obama era, slashing taxes and regulations and defeating his state's Democratic machine up and down the ballot. He was what I called the Great White-Bread Hope, a nice young conservative Christian Midwestern governor with appeal across all factions of the Republican Party. For many months he led in the early polling, and political pundits considered him to be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2016.

Walker first vaulted to political superstardom back in 2012, when he faced a recall election during his first two years as Governor and managed to survive. Why this was considered to be sign of his tactical genius was always a mystery, since facing a recall in the first place would normally suggest that an elected official has done something wrong. But that made Walker's name as a politician destined for greatness. As the New Republic swooned back in 2014:

Scott Walker, the battle-hardened governor of Wisconsin, is the candidate that the factional candidates should fear. Not only does he seem poised to run — he released a book last week — but he possesses the tools and positions necessary to unite the traditional Republican coalition and marginalize its discontents.

The bloom began to come off the rose just a little when Walker was hit with corruption scandals that dented his "reformer" image, including charges that he illegally colluded with some big-money national conservative groups, including the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. Three of Walker's close aides were indicted for felony embezzlement, and charges were brought against a major campaign donor along with one of his appointees. It was a mess that had the Walker boosters at the Wall Street Journal editorial page screeching about suppression of free speech and warning him that he'd better not settle the case or he'd risk losing his luster as a right-wing hero. (He settled it and they forgave him.)

Walker was a gaffe machine, churning out memorable lines such as his response to a question about what he would do about ISIS: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.” He once said that Ronald Reagan's greatest foreign policy achievement had been taking on the air traffic controller's union. Nonetheless, Walker was widely assumed to be the choice of the Koch brothers, the right-wing bogeymen of the Tea Party era. They had talked him up for years, and their PAC had backed him to the hilt in Wisconsin.

But Walker made an aggressive move in the spring of 2015 that apparently alienated the Kochs and many members of the Republican mainstream -- he consulted with then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and adopted an extremely hard line on immigration. At the time, it seemed to be an appalling lurch rightward into Ann Coulter territory, but it turned out Walker was actually prescient about where the 2016 race, and the Republican Party, were heading.

Walker abruptly dropped out of the race in September 2015, surprising everyone by being the first casualty of the primaries. Then he shocked the political world with the revelation that he'd burned through vast sums of money during his short run. According to The Washington Post:

[M]oney went toward a payroll of more than 80, generous paychecks for top staffers, dozens of consultants and vendors who were paid tens of thousands of dollars, and elaborately staged campaign events. For a candidate who bragged on the campaign trail about finding deals at Kohl's and packing sack lunches to save money, the reports show that the campaign spent lavishly even as fundraising dollars began to disappear.

Recall that Walker had risen to fame as a fiscal conservative who drastically cut services and government jobs as governor. After that spectacular crash and burn, national office did not seem to be in his future.

Well, it looks as though he may be planning a comeback. The Washington Post reported that Walker is running for a third term as Wisconsin governor, and he seems to be dazzling Beltway journalists, just like in the good old days. He may have spent like a Saudi prince during his presidential campaign but once again reporters are taken with his "regular Joe" ways, talking about how he doesn't have any money of his own and charmingly eats homemade ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day, which he charmingly tweets on his charmingly homespun Twitter feed.

Walker went back to Wisconsin after his fall from grace, where his approval rating was mired at 37 percent, and then traveled the state on a "listening tour." He's now in the mid-40s and believes he can win again, despite his unpopularity, because he "gets things done," unlike those losers in Washington. He's counting on his enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump and his close relationship with Vice President Mike Pence to put him over the top.

Well, so what is Walker's assessment of the president today?
His actions speak louder than words. A lot of people get hung up on his words or his tweets. If you look at the actions from where I sit in Wisconsin, this is a solid administration with a good Cabinet.

Walker hopes to put together the "Trump coalition" for the Wisconsin governor's race, which essentially means running up huge numbers in rural ares and suppressing the vote in the cities. He's raising tons of money already, with the Koch brothers back on the team. Walker is a Trump man through and through, which means he's happy to wallow in the swamp while pretending to be a populist. Republicans seem to like that.

But by affiliating himself so closely with President Trump in what has always been a purple state, which Trump won by the narrowest of margins, Walker is taking a huge risk. There are a number of Democrats already running, and the hope is that one of them will finally be able to take down Walker in the "big blue wave" that everyone prays will continue to swell into 2018. Clearly, Walker still has presidential hopes. and if Trump is not on the ballot in 2020 -- which remains a possibility -- it's unlikely that any Republican who backed him so fervently will be chosen to replace him.

Still, Walker has some things going for him. For obscure reasons, the media can't get enough of this guy and rich people just love to throw millions his way. He's still very young by political standards -- he will only be 59 years old in 2024. If the Democrats are smart and focused, they'll be sure to put a stake in his zombie career so they don't have to face him later when he's regained full strength.


Slow earners

by Tom Sullivan

All this time we spent wringing our hands over the U.S. becoming a kakistocracy, a government run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens, we missed a major fringe benefit: Americans would all be extras in the next blockbuster in the Batman franchise.

The studio rolled out its first promotional poster this week:

In homage to the late Adam West, the supervillains in the next "caped crusader" installment will be just as dim as in Batman's 1960s incarnation. Note the counterfeit one-dollar bills.

Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times how tough life is these days for supervillains:

The investment income on, say, a $4 billion fortune is a mere $1 million a day, which makes it tough to scrounge by with today’s rising prices. Why, some wealthy folks don’t even have a home in the Caribbean and on vacation are stuck brooding in hotel suites: They’re practically homeless!
Needing an infusion of cash to keep their private planes aloft, our bilious billionaires have found willing henchmen in the U.S. Congress. (What's a good Batman villain without dimwitted henchmen?) The GOP-led Congress aims to give them windfall tax cuts to finance their next schemes. Not without harming the citizenry, of course, Kristof observes. They plan to gut Obamacare in the process:
But what’s the big deal? The United States already has an infant mortality rate twice that of Austria and South Korea. American women are already five times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as women in Britain. So who’ll notice if things get a bit worse?

Perhaps that sounds harsh. But the blunt reality is that we risk soul-sucking dependency if we’re always setting kids’ broken arms. Maybe that’s why congressional Republicans haven’t bothered to renew funding for CHIP, the child health insurance program serving almost nine million American kids. Ditto for the maternal and home visiting programs that are the gold standard for breaking cycles of poverty and that also haven’t been renewed. We mustn’t coddle American toddlers.
Special guest villains are phoning their congressional lackeys to warn them if they don't deliver they won't get a piece of the action, writes Jonathan Chait:
If tax reform fails, Senator Lindsey Graham recently warned, “the financial contributions will stop.” Representative Chris Collins reported, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’ ”
Believe it or not, the administration's fellow billionaires are not buying the rationale behind the tax-cutting scheme. Oh, they'll take the money. Just don't ask them to swallow the same trickle-down nonsense the GOP has been peddling since the Reagan years. They may be greedy, but they're not stupid. They especially don't want to look Gary Cohn stupid.

Cohn, the president’s chief economic advisor, was out stumping for the "job-producing, wage-boosting dynamo" of a plan at the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council. Why, cutting taxes for big business will give tycoons more to invest in their businesses and extra pocket money for raising salaries for the little people. Having a roomful of tycoons handy, the Journal asked if the tax bill passes how many thought they would do just that:
People were asked to raise their hand.

When few hands were raised, Cohn, the White House Economic Council director, asked: "Why aren't the other hands up?"
Greedy, but not stupid.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Trump's template to lock her up

by digby

Trump's threat to lock up a political enemy puts him in the company of authoritarian leaders around the world. That picture above is Paul Manafort's old boss, former Ukrainian president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych. The woman is former prime minisiter Yulia Tymoshenko, a heroine of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, who Yanukovych jailed after she was convicted in 2009 over a gas deal she struck with Russia that was seen as “criminally exceeding her powers.” She served three years of her seven-year sentence.

That is what they do in places like Ukraine. And soon, maybe here too.


Her eyes are full of money

by digby

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, and his wife Louise Linton, left, react as Mnuchin holds up a sheet of new $1 bills, the first currency notes bearing his and U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza’s signatures, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington. The Mnuchin-Carranza notes, which are a new series of 2017, 50-subject $1 notes, will be sent to the Federal Reserve to issue into circulation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

No word yet on who she's wearing this time but I'm sure someone will tell us soon. That get up is obviously very expensive.

Love that populism.

It's happening everywhere

by digby

Oh, look, more upsets:

Democrats added another win in the deep-red Oklahoma Legislature on Tuesday, continuing the minority party's string of success and chipping away at the Republican Party's hold on state government.

The previously GOP-held House seat and two Senate seats on the ballot were all in mostly Republican districts around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

But Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman, a therapist at a nonprofit mental health agency, eked out a win in Senate District 17 over Republican Brian O'Hara, a former Jenks city councilor and district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine. The seat that represents parts of Sand Springs, Jenks and west Tulsa.
Oklahoma is among the most conservative states in the U.S. and there are nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats in the areas where voters headed to the polls Tuesday. Oklahoma Democrats had already won three GOP-held seats in special elections this year and they nearly won a fourth in a heavily Republican district in Seminole County.

New Mexico:

Democrats wrested control of New Mexico's largest city from the GOP on Tuesday as Democratic New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller easily won a race to become Albuquerque's next mayor.

According to unofficial results, Keller beat Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis with 62 percent of the vote compared to 38 percent – results CBS Albuquerque affiliate KRQE called "a blowout" -- in a race that centered on the city's raising crime rates and its struggling economy.

The election came a week after Democrats won governorships and legislative seats in Virginia and New Jersey and took mayoral seats in places such as Helena, Montana.

Keller told a packed room at Albuquerque's historic Andaluz Hotel his victory was a rejection of fear and "language that divided us" - a veiled jab at President Trump.

Keep your fingers crossed that this energy stays high enough to take back at least one house of congress. It remains vitally important that the American people repudiate Trumpism or we are well and truly screwed.