Monday, August 31, 2020

Next 4 Years' Lesser-Evil Impact on Global Climate Cooperation?


Kamala and Joe by Nancy Ohanian

-by Emorej

Long-term, many have analysed how a Biden-Harris win in 2020 could cement Harris’s dominance of the Democratic Presidential nominating process, likely until 2032 (after 1 Biden term and 2 Harris terms). Similarly, one could argue that a Trump loss in 2020 would accelerate the Republican transition to a new Presidential nominee who would pursue most of Trump’s ugliest policies with more consistency, diligence and governing knowhow, and who could easily win in 2024 if Biden-Harris stick to their telegraphed track of too-little-too-late economic stimulus and healthcare reform while blaming "pantry emptied out by Trump’s [Pelosi-supported] bailouts of Wall Street!"

But the following shorter-term analysis also requires consideration:
Global action against climate change can only start with cooperation between USA, China, Russia, etc.
Such cooperation cannot start until the USA’s militaristic (& finance-weaponizing) hegemonism is downgraded to merely “first among equals” in a new balance of power.
This downgrading is unlikely to happen until Germany leads much of Western Europe into terminating their 75 years of mainly deferring to the USA.
Germany has been mainly waiting out Trump’s first term, but Trump’s re-election would probably catalyze that termination (facilitated by Trump’s absurd obsession with Germany’s failure to raise its military spending to 2% of GDP, although the biggest catalyst will probably be USA sanctions on the nearly completed Russia-German gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea).
In contrast, the Biden-Harris foreign policy team:

(a) will put top priority on restoring Germany’s prior trend-line of very slow erosion of deference to the USA,

(b) will put much lower priority on de-escalating the confrontations that Trump has initiated with China and (under pressure from Russiagaters) with Russia, and

(c) will put medium priority on de-escalating with Iran, which will not be easy when constrained by the political mentality behind Harris’s recent pledge that USA aide to Israel will be “unconditional.”
Meanwhile, domestically:
Serious action against climate change can only start when the federal government allocates massive new resources towards the poor people who are dependent on the fossil fuel economy, and away from the politically dominant industries who are enriched by fossil fuels and weapons manufacturing (and usage).
The unlikeliness of Biden-Harris making these politically difficult changes is dramatized by their refusal to even pretend to make the popular (with voters) and pandemic-justified (to many donors) change of supporting Medicare-For-All.
A re-elected Trump, in contrast, would be unpredictable. At worst, he would start a shooting war with China, and, when an aircraft carrier or two gets sunk, he would start firing nuclear weapons, which could easily trigger an uncontrollable cycle of retaliatory escalations. But the military command structure knows that Trump is impetuous, so they are more likely to delay and/or sabotage his impulsive military orders than they would if the same orders were generated by a more professional process of the more diplomatic Biden-Harris team. Trump is likely to find governing as a lame-duck second termer to be even less fun than what has happened so far, and it would be logical form him to be tempted to declare victory and resign (for health reasons, of course) in return for pardons from Pence. Europe would doubtless find anybody more tolerable than Trump, but Europe also hosted centuries of religious wars, and is unlikely to be wooed back, into deference, by a USA President with Pence’s profile of religious extremism.

Labels: , ,

Is Trump's Latest Twitter Rage Proof That He's Insane Or Proof That He Thinks His Base Is? Or Both?


By 6 AM on Sunday, Trump was up and doing what he enjoys most-- raging at his political enemies on Twitter, screaming about cracking down on "agitators and thugs" (for him a synonym for protesters, people of color and Democrats) and fanning the flames of civil unrest. In all, he entertained his followers with nearly 100 tweets and retweets about his great poll numbers-- from a GOP firm that allows their clients to practically pick their own results-- and both defending violent right-wing terrorists and savaging Democratic politicians trying to cope with the Trump-inspired chaos in their cities and states. His armed supporters drove into Portland to do one thing: wreak havoc on Trump's behalf-- a real caravan this time.

I believe someone may have since talked Trump out of going to Kenosha (still not sure), but on State of the Union yesterday Karen Bass (D-CA) explained that Trump’s trip there was "to agitate things and to make things worse... He is campaigning. It is clear his campaign is all about law and order. It is a throwback to the past. And he's going to do everything to disrupt law and order in this time period."

The NY Times' Peter Baker wrote the story everyone else is quoting: Trump Embraces Fringe Theories On Protests And The Coronavirus, although "embraces" is such a Times kind of description for what Trump is actually up to. Baker noted that President Sociopath was claiming on Sunday morning that the "street protests are actually an organized coup d’état against him."

One of the Trumpists was killed in Portland precisely what the country's chief agent provocateur was hoping for. In his weekend diarrhea of hate messaging to his Twitter followers, Trump "embraced a call to imprison Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, threatened to send federal forces against demonstrators outside the White House, attacked CNN and NPR, embraced a supporter charged with murder, mocked his challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and repeatedly assailed the mayor of Portland, even posting the mayor’s office telephone number so that supporters could call demanding his resignation."
One of the most incendiary messages was a retweet of a program from the One America News Network, a pro-Trump channel that advances extreme theories and that the president has turned to when he feels that Fox News has not been supportive enough. The message he retweeted Saturday night promoted a segment accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Mr. Trump’s downfall.

“According to the mainstream media, the riots & extreme violence are completely unorganized,” the tweet said. “However, it appears this coup attempt is led by a well funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.” Accompanying it was an image of a promo for a segment titled: “America Under Siege: The Attempt to Overthrow President Trump.”

Mr. Trump likewise reposted messages asserting that the real death toll from the coronavirus is only around 9,000-- not 182,000-- because the others who died also had other health issues and most were of an advanced age.

“So get this straight-- based on the recommendation of doctors Fauci and Birx the US shut down the entire economy based on 9,000 American deaths to the China coronavirus,” said the summary of a story by the hard-line conservative website Gateway Pundit that was retweeted by the president, denigrating his own health advisers, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Deborah L. Birx.
Over the weekend (Saturday + Sunday), there were 1,325 new COVID-deaths reported. The actual U.S. death total is 187,224, despite the denialism from Trumpist conspiracy theorists encouraged by Trump himself. The half dozen states with the most new deaths this past weekend:

Florida 163
Texas 188
Georgia 133
California 102
Alabama 55
South Carolina 54

Maybe Trump wants to tell their families that they didn't die of COVID and that's it's all a hoax and all about him. It is likely that by election day, something like a quarter million Americans will have been majority of American voters agree that Trump is an unreliable source of information about the pandemic and that, in general, he is untrustworthy and untruthful. Poor thing... must be frustrating for him.
But Mr. Trump also retweeted a message calling for Mr. Cuomo to be locked up because of the high death toll from the coronavirus in New York nursing homes earlier in the pandemic. “#KillerCuomo should be in jail,” said the message by the actor James Woods, a strong supporter of the president’s.

And the president even “liked” a tweet that offered support for Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump supporter who has been charged with homicide after two demonstrators were shot to death in Kenosha, Wis. “Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump,” the tweet said.

Mr. Cuomo responded on his own Twitter feed a few hours later, pointing to the Trump administration’s failure to contain the pandemic. “The White House has learned nothing from COVID,” Mr. Cuomo wrote. “National threats require national leadership. It’s been 6 months without a national strategy on testing or mask mandate. Only the federal government has the power to go to war with COVID. They are failing and the nation suffers.”

For his part, Mr. Biden issued a statement condemning the violence in Portland as “unacceptable” regardless of one’s political views and criticizing Mr. Trump for trying to raise the temperature rather than lower it.

“What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters?” Mr. Biden asked. “He is recklessly encouraging violence. He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong-- but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is.”

...Trump repeatedly assailed Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland for resisting federal help and delighted in showcasing a peaceful protest held at the mayor’s own home on Friday, even retweeting a post accusing the Mr. Wheeler of “committing war crimes.” Rather than calling for calm, Mr. Trump seemed to justify aggressive action against demonstrators by his supporters.

“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” Mr. Trump wrote, as he retweeted a journalist’s post reporting that Trump supporters were firing paintballs and pepper spray, including at the reporter. “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”

Mr. Trump plans to travel on Tuesday to Kenosha, where emotions have been raw since the police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times, leaving him paralyzed. The president’s trip has caused concern that he could inflame the situation. He made no comment on the shooting for days until he was asked about it on Friday in an interview with WMUR of New Hampshire during a visit to the state.

“It was not a good sight,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight of it, certainly. I think most people would agree with that. But we’ll be getting reports in very soon, and we’ll report back.”

His Twitter comments on Kenosha, however, have focused on restoring order in the streets. The president’s string of Twitter messages trailed off on Sunday morning before he got into his motorcade and headed to his golf club in Virginia, where he was greeted by a handful of protesters, including one dressed as a grim reaper holding a sign that said “183K,” referring to the number of people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus.

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian told NPR that Trump shouldn't come to his city tomorrow. "Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time... All presidents are always welcome and campaign issues are always going on. But it would have been, I think, better had he waited to have for another time to come... Peaceful protests are not a problem. Our biggest problem really did come from people coming from outside the area and causing a great deal of damage and destruction."

Meanwhile Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was more explicit. He told John King on Inside Politics that "You look at the incendiary remarks that the President has made, they centered an entire convention around creating more animosity and creating more division around what is going on in Kenosha. So, I don't know how given any of the previous statements that the President made that he intends to come here to be helpful. And we absolutely don't need that right now." 

Josh Paul is Wisconsin's Attorney General. He made some good points yesterday about why Trump should not show up in Kenosha tomorrow. He end his Twitter stream by reminding people that "While Donald Trump has spoken about law and order, he has pardoned his allies, flouted the law, and spewed hate and division, day after day, from our highest office. He is a catalyst for chaos and a threat to the rule of law."

Labels: , , , , , ,

What Will Joe Kennedy Do After His Congressional Career Ends Tomorrow? A Biden Sub-Cabinet Position?


Tomorrow is primary day in Massachusetts and the more progressive of the two candidates, incumbent Ed Markey, is ahead of Joe Kennedy III in the Senate race. Every public poll this summer has shown Markey ahead and the latest-- an Emerson poll released yesterday-- has him beating Kennedy 56-44%, The RealClearPolitics polling average has Markey ahead 52.0% to 40.8%, an 11.2% gap. That's some turn-around since the first poll taken a year ago that showed Kennedy beating Markey 42-25% (a since evaporated 17 point lead for Kennedy).

Much of the national coverage of the election has been about endorsements. One way of looking at it is that the entire progressive grassroots movement-- from MoveOn (92% of whose Massachusetts members opted for Markey), Daily Kos, NARAL, Sierra Club, HRC, Peace Action and the Working Families Party to DFA, Indivisible, Our Revolution, Sunrise, Justice Dems, PCCC, PDA and Blue America-- has come out for Markey. But the media is also looking at this as a battle between Pelosi-- who hypocritically endorsed Kennedy, probably doing him more harm than good-- and AOC, who validated Markey as the progressive choice. Kennedy was probably further harmed when the only sitting U.S. senator to endorse him was the most right-wing Democrat in Congress, Arizona crackpot Kyrsten Sinema. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is backing Markey. All the massachusetts members of Congress who have weighed in, have weighed in for Markey. And another major progressive validator, Ro Khanna endorsed Markey. Two other widely mistrusted members of Pelosi's leadership team-- Hoyer and Hakeem Jeffries-- have also come out for Kennedy.

Kennedy's congressional endorsement roster is a good signal to not support him. Some of Congress' most loathsome Wall Street-owned New Dems-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- are on Team Kennedy, from Filemon Vela, Conor Lamb and coke-freak Pete Aguilar to worthless conservative Dems like Gil Cisneros, Juan Vargas, Elissa Slotkin, Xochitl Torres Small, Sharice Davids, Sean Patrick Maloney, Derek Kilmer, Blue Dog chair Stephanie Murphy and David Trone the crooked Maryland businessman who spent a horrific $31,327,397 of his own cash over 2 cycles to buy a seat. Many are hoping to build relationships with the Kennedy Machine-- and it isn't only conservative Dems in ye ole tit-for-tat, transactional camp. Establishment progressive Mark Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who imagines himself running for Senate in 2022, has led a number of progressives into the Kennedy tent, putting them in opposition to their own grassroots supporters-- terrible mistake for a movement Pocan has never given a shit about.

Meanwhile, Gabe Debenedetti reported for New York Magazine that Bernie"has not endorsed Markey-- who backed Elizabeth Warren for president-- and shows no signs of planning to do so, despite pleas from Markey and plenty of his advocates... Markey and Sanders served together in the House for 16 years, and in the Senate-- where Warren also serves-- for six.)"
National coverage of the race has tended to focus on two big issues: Markey’s position in the progressive firmament and persistent questions about why, exactly, Kennedy is running if he has few substantive complaints about the senator. “I have been a fan of Ed Markey’s since he led the fight to reform the state’s judiciary when I was governor and that was a long time ago,” 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis told me this week. “I am also a fan of Joe Kennedy’s, my congressman, but I can’t for the life of me understand why he is putting us all through this to defeat a fine U.S. Senator. He should be in Iowa digging up votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.” Together, these arguments appear to have made Markey a slight favorite.

Largely inspired by the endorsements and ongoing involvement of Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement (a group of young environmental organizers), national progressives have joined Markey’s cause. In a year where the presidential race has offered few clear opportunities for the left flank of the Democratic party to push back against the center-left, this race has seen more vicious intra-party brawling than it might have in a different political context. “Kennedy is a really good release valve when you know you can’t go after Biden,” said one national progressive leader backing Markey.

“What the progressive movement is saying-- particularly the young progressive movement-- is they’re trying to make clear that what happened in 2018 is not just a bunch of women of color knocking off a bunch of old white guys,” Markey’s campaign manager John Walsh told me, explicitly comparing his candidate to Charles Booker, who fell short in Kentucky’s Senate primary in March, and Cori Bush, who defeated longtime congressman William Lacy Clay earlier this month. “When a 74-year-old almost-50-year veteran defeats-- if it happens-- the Mt. Rushmore legacy of Massachusetts politics, maybe national politics, it’s not about how old you are. It’s not about the color of your skin. It’s actually about the policy.”
Everything Kennedy does-- every breath he takes, every move he makes, every bond he breaks, every step he takes, every word he says, every game he plays-- is all about the presidency. It's revolting because it's based on absolutely nothing but his bloodline. He hasn't accomplished a single thing and hasn't distinguished himself in any way other thinly a disgusting display of naked ambition. He's going to lose tomorrow because he never managed to explain why he's running against Markey. In the age of Trump, Massachusetts doesn't have enough low-info Democrats for JK-III to win.

Yesterday Politico reported that "Kennedy’s campaign believes Markey has an advantage among voters who have already cast ballots by mail-- namely white, well-educated voters in the suburbs-- but that high turnout on voting day would lend itself to Kennedy... Pelosi also provided a financial bump for the congressman. Kennedy raised $100,000 within a day of Pelosi's endorsement, according to his campaign. But Markey, who’s assembled a potent small-dollar fundraising operation, says he raised four times that amount-- $400,000-- in the 24 hours after Pelosi weighed in, much of it from progressives frustrated with Pelosi’s decision to intervene."

Labels: , , , , ,

Member of Congress Asks Intel Agencies If They're Surveilling Members of Congress


Do America's intelligence agencies cast their shadow on the halls of Congress as well?

by Thomas Neuburger

"Collect it all."
—NSA chief Keith Alexander in 2005

This story is both very recent and old. The recent part: On August 28, 2020, a middling Democratic backbencher, "big Pharma shill" and reliable Pelosi loyalist, Rep. Anna Eshoo, asked the heads of two of America's spy agencies, the NSA and the DNI, if they were spying on Congress:
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked two intelligence agencies on Friday if surveillance has been conducted on members of Congress in the last decade.

In a letter to the heads of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Eshoo raised alarm over allegations in a book published earlier this year by journalist Barton Gellman. The book included claims about an NSA surveillance tool used by former contractor Edward Snowden to allegedly search for communications associated with a House member's publicly listed official email address where constituents can contact their office.

Eshoo further pointed to a claim from Snowden in the book that he “wiretapped the internet communications" of the so-called Gang of Eight — the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees and top party leaders in both chambers — as well as the Supreme Court.
Barton Gellman released Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State in May 2020, and apparently its revelations are just being absorbed by those who roam the halls of power.

The Business They're In

This story is remarkable for three reasons. First, that Rep. Eshoo actually cared enough to write the letter. Second, that Pelosi let her.

But third, and more importantly, that they don't already know the answer, given how old this story actually is. Spying on people is the business they're in, it's why they exist at all.

From January 2014: "The NSA has refused to confirm or deny that it is collecting information on the communications and email activities of members of Congress after being questioned directly by Bernie Sanders, one of two of the Senate's only independents."

From July 2014: "An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program. The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information, according to a summary of findings made public on Thursday."

As far back as 2005, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander (the NSA is a Pentagon operation) declared his agency's position on data collection: Why look for a needle in a haystack? he asked. "Collect the whole haystack. Collect it all."

We Wonder Why They Wonder

Rep. Eshoo asked, do our intelligence agencies spy on members of Congress? In light of their history, including what's been known about them almost since their founding, what’s the reason to presume they don’t?

The more important question is the one she didn't ask: If you are spying on us, how do you use the information? The two most common uses for covert wiretaps are blackmail and prosecution. Just saying.

Labels: , , , , , ,

It's All About The Racism... And Fear


A new poll for ABC News by Ipsos, isn't indicating that the conventions changed anyone's mind about Trump or Biden. Ipsos concluded that among all all Americans who watched at least some of the GOP convention-- about half of the voters-- responses to the RNC are more negative than the DNC. "Slightly more than one in three Americans (37%) approve of what the Republicans said and did at their convention, compared to 59% who disapprove. After the DNC, 53% approved of the Democrats’ message... Biden’s and Trump’s standings, along with their running mates, remains unchanged from after the DNC. Currently, 31% of Americans feel favorable toward Donald Trump, unchanged from last week (32%) and similar to his standing before both conventions (35%). The same is true for Joe Biden: 46% feel favorable, virtually the same as last week (45%). However, more Americans feel positive toward Biden than negative, an improvement from earlier in August. Just over a third of Americans (35%) approve of how Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus, unchanged from the end of July (34%)."

So what's a Republican operative class gonna do? Fear's worked for them in the past... and it's a natch for Trump. And racism... another Trump forte. NBC News had a cute report up late last week about how Twitter is trying to stop a Trump campaign spam operation that pushes messages from fake accounts about Black people abandoning the Democratic Party.
The fake accounts were purported to be run by Black people whose viral tweets received tens of thousands of shares in the past month. One of the accounts, @WentDemToRep, logged over 11,000 retweets on a single tweet that claimed that the user was a lifelong Democrat who was pushed to vote Republican by the Black Lives Matter movement. The tweet was posted shortly after the account was created Tuesday.

The WentDemToRep account quickly tagged two other accounts in a reply, @PeterGammo and @KRon619, which were suspended at the same time Tuesday. The Twitter spokesperson said all three accounts were suspended for spam and, "specifically, artificially manipulative behavior."

Disinformation experts and national security agencies are gearing up for the election, anticipating that social media platforms will continue to be central to foreign and domestic efforts to mislead voters.

The fake accounts, which used the images of Black men for their profile pictures, had five separate posts with at least 10,000 retweets. Recent attempts to co-opt the identities of African Americans to simulate support for President Donald Trump in the run-up to the election have had success online, researchers say.

The profile picture from WentDemToRep was stolen from the Instagram page of Nelis Joustra, a model who worked to get the fake account deleted.

...Brandi Collins-Dexter, a fellow at Color Of Change, an online racial justice nonprofit, said trolls' simulating the identities of African Americans is a coordinated practice that has been a common trope over the last decade for those trying to delegitimize social justice causes.

"The point is to provide ammunition against Black people for policymakers so they can point to things that are being said, allegedly from a Black person's account, to reinforce the idea that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist threat and put them on equal footing as white nationalists in terms of content moderation," Collins-Dexter said.

There is a decades-long history of non-Black actors posing as African Americans on social media. In 2016, Russia's Internet Research Agency "troll farm" targeted Black voters to depress turnout for Hillary Clinton, according to American intelligence agencies and bipartisan House and Senate reports.

Collins-Dexter also noted a coordinated campaign from the extremist website 4chan in April to pose as African Americans on Twitter who had just received COVID-19 stimulus checks. The fake accounts would thank the president for the checks, then brag about using them on alcohol, in "an effort to perpetuate the 'Welfare Queen' myth," Collins-Dexter said.

With Trump encouraging his KKK-like supporters to bring chaos and violence into the streets, in the hope of causing enough fear and backlash to reelect him, Biden barely understands how to push back at all. He seems torn and uncomfortable and might prefer taking a more rote "law and order" stance himself.

Frank Rich is a pretty perceptive observer of contemporary politics and he's come to the conclusion that Trump and his Republicans have decided their best shot at reelection is to just play the racist card-- heavy... and to the exclusion of anything else. Rich wrote that "During a week of police violence and vigilante murder in Wisconsin, in a year of preventable deaths and growing poverty, the Republican convention emphasized loyalty to Donald Trump, casting aside matters of policy and campaign law in favor of grievance. Was the convention just another concession to his outsize ego, part of the strategy to energize the party’s base in the run-up to November, or an attempt to win over undecided voters?" Like many Americans, Rich is worried that Trump could win and worried that if he loses "he would stop at nothing to take an already teetering country down with him."
The RNC was so boring Wednesday night that Tucker Carlson cut away early on, ditching the nattering Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn so he could launch into his now notorious defense of Kyle Rittenhouse’s killing spree in Kenosha: “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” At that instant, Carlson, implicitly speaking for Trump, the Republican Party, and its media enforcer, Fox News, crystalized what message mattered most about this convention and what message will matter most in Trump’s campaign over the crucial two months to come. As Trump would define it in a rare moment of focus during his endless drone of an acceptance speech, a vote for Joe Biden is a vote to “give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.” The corollary, stated directly by Carlson and repeatedly embraced by Trump, is that arms-bearing white Americans can’t be faulted for wanting to take the law into their own hands.

For “anarchists and agitators and criminals,” read “Black people.” This racially tinged “law and order” message is nothing new either for Trump or a GOP that has been pursuing a “Southern strategy” since Richard Nixon codified it half a century ago. As many have noted, Trump is at a logical disadvantage in using it since, unlike Nixon, he is the incumbent president and the disorder he keeps decrying is happening on his watch. But what grabbed my attention on the convention’s sleepy third night was how Trump, on the ropes in summer polling, is nonetheless determined to take that message to a new and even more dangerous level by fomenting racial violence if need be. He will not only continue to boost arms-bearing white vigilantes as he has from Charlottesville to Portland, but, when all else fails, unabashedly pin white criminality on Black Lives Matter protesters.

Literally so. While the unrest in Kenosha was referenced repeatedly on Wednesday night, no one mentioned that the violence was all committed by white men: Rittenhouse, and Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while his three young sons looked on. Then along came Pence to raise the ante in his closing address. While trying to pound in the fear that Biden will coddle and encourage violent thugs, he brought up the ominous example of an officer who had been “shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California.” The implication, of course, was that the officer had been killed by black rioters in that “Democratic-run city” when in fact the victim was murdered by a member of the far-right extremist movement known as “boogaloo” boys.

Next to this incendiary strategy, the other manifest sins of the week, though appalling, seem less consequential as we approach the crucial post–Labor Day campaign. They did keep those of us in the press busy. The news media were unstinting in calling out every lie and alternative fact in every speech as well as every violation of the Hatch Act. Full notice was paid to every shameless rhetorical feint and stunt contrived to create an alternative reality in which the coronavirus and mask-wearing are in the past tense, the decimated economy is about to skyrocket, and Trump is a champion of both immigration (even from what he calls “shithole countries”) and health care covering preexisting conditions. But aside from the 42 percent or so who consistently approve of Trump no matter what he or those around him do, most other Americans will see for themselves whether COVID-19 has evaporated or their economic security has improved this fall. Those are realities that Trump, for all his subterfuge, cannot alter. But racial animus is a less tangible and more enduring factor in America’s political fortunes, and it has been a toxic wild card in every modern election.

...Biden had it exactly right when he characterized this plan on Thursday by calling out Trump for “pouring gasoline on the fire” and “rooting for more violence, not less.” That was true from day one of the convention, when the gun-toting St. Louis couple, the McCloskeys, were given a prominent spot in the festivities. The rifle that Mark McCloskey pointed toward Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis, an AR-15, was the same that Kyle Rittenhouse fired at protesters in Kenosha the following night.

But it’s not enough for Biden to identify the strategy that is being unleashed to derail him, and it shouldn’t have taken him most of the week to get to the point. He’s in a fight for his and the country’s life. A Democratic campaign that was pitched most of all on targeting Trump’s criminally negligent response to the pandemic must now pivot to combat the most lethal of all American viruses, racism, in its most weaponized strain.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah
He went to school with my little sister and she said that everyone always thought of him to be a future shooter, and so did I when I met him in high school.
- a former schoolmate of Kyle Rittenhouse
All he needed was a little bit of encouragement and he got it. Teenage White Nationalist Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse was already about to be a young man of note in rightwing circles before he allegedly killed two people and wounded another with a hail of rifle fire on a street in Kenosha Wisconsin last week. A reporter from the Daily Caller, a kind of Daily Stormer in disguise co-founded by Tucker Tiki Torch Carlson in 2010, spotted him and interviewed him shortly before the murders. No doubt being chosen for an interview by such a publication filled Rittenhouse with even more confidence, validation, and encouragement to be who he dreamed of being.

But it's a good bet that it was the words of our president and the glorification of people like the front yard gun-waving Patricia and Mark McCloskey and their prime time nationally broadcast Republican Convention appearance on Monday that got him motivated to travel from his Illinois home to Kenosha. Pulling the trigger was only a half step away from what the McCloskeys did. He would be more famous. He undoubtedly longed to be more celebrated. Now, if he's convicted of the six charges he faces, his name can be added to the list that includes those who murdered Emmet Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, the students at Kent State, Jackson State, and so many others.

Remember Cesar Sayoc? He's the self-proclaimed Donald Trump superfan with a van covered with Trump and FOX "News" stickers who sent his homemade pipebombs to prominent democrats including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Maxine Waters, CNN, former president Barack Obama, Eric Holder, John Brennan, and others. Fortunately, none of them exploded. Last week's victims of Trumpism weren't so lucky.

These lunatics feel they have permission to act. They feel they are carrying out the wishes of those like Donald Trump who speak their sicko white supremacy language non-stop. This is not at all unlike Ronald Reagan calling for "a bloodbath" on our nation's campuses and Spiro Agnew calling protesters "bad apples" and worse in order to incite similar violence 50 years ago. It's not a matter of the Reagans, Agnews and Trumps learning from such grisly mistakes and toning it down. No, they don't consider what they say to be a mistake at all. They have a goal so they continue, hoping to bring on still more murderous mayhem. It's who they are and it's why their supporters vote for them. "Law and Order" isn't just a campaign slogan. It's code.

After the murders in Kenosha, Fox's Tucker Tiki Torch doubled down on his support for such actions as the Kenosha killing by attempting to cynically and sarcastically defend Kyle Rittenhouse by justifying the actions he's accused of:
How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain law and order when no one else would?
Other Republican types instantly joined in via social media, proudly collecting 'likes' for their support of Rittenhouse and lest you think that all of the sports world is supportive of the protesters, retired San Francisco Giant Aubry Huff proclaimed Rittenhouse "a national treasure" and Hall of Fame NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher joined in on defending the accused shooter.

This is only going to get worse if Donald Trump and his party have anything to say about it. How long before the McCloskeys get a Medal of Freedom just like another agent of mayhem and chaos named Rush Limbaugh did? Would Trump create a new award named after them? Will Trump pardon Rittenhouse and say he was only acting in the best interests of Republicanism? Would you risk money betting that such conversations haven't already taken place in the White House?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Sheer Incompetence Of The Florida Democratic Party Could Sentence All Of Us To 4 More Years Of Trump


On Friday, the Tampa Bay Times published another stinging indictment of the venal and incompetent Florida Democratic Party in the form of a question from top state Senate candidate Kathy Lewis: I can lift Biden and flip state Senate. Why won’t my party help?.

Kathy (who has been endorsed by Blue America) is running for an open seat to represent parts of 3 counties Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk. The Hillsborough part of the county has already turned blue and Hillary beat Trump there 50.4% to 46.0%. And Polk County is trending blue. Trump won the whole district 115,750 (52.3%) to 97,399 (44.0%). In 2018, running against incumbent Tom Lee, Kathy garnered 46.5% of the vote, significantly better than Hillary did there. But the Democrats decided to take this open swing seat off the table and allow the GOP to win it without a fight. That, in a nut shell is the Florida Democratic Party. Republicans outnumber Democrats among registered voters, but it is independents who will decide this race-- and independents are not happy with Republicans in Florida.

The district is suffering under Republican mishandling of the pandemic. Hillsborough County is the 4th worst-hit on the state with 210 new cases yesterday for a total of 36,784 (more cases than either Ireland or Austria). Polk County is is the 9th worst county in the state (111 new cases yesterday, for a total of 16,803) and Pasco had 40 new cases yesterday and now has a total of 7,989 cases, 16th worst. The 3 counties have over 1,000 deaths. Many people blame Trump, his puppet governor DeSantis and DeSantis' puppet state legislature. Without the Florida Democratic Party, this would be a very good year for smart Democrats like Kathy Lewis, who has a lot of what she didn't have last time she ran: name recognition.

Kathy told the reporter that she feels the state Democratic Party could be doing more to support her. "Her logic is simple: she’s a Black woman running in the Interstate-4 corridor of the country’s largest swing state. She represents a crucial Democratic constituency in a crucial part of the national electoral map. 'If we drive our race, we drive Biden,' Lewis said. 'Not helping us to the fullest extent potentially hurts Biden.' One of the state’s legislative bodies also hangs in the balance. Republicans currently hold a 23-to-17 advantage in the Senate. If Democrats flip three seats, the party could share power with Republicans in the chamber. For the first time in decades, Democrats could help set the legislative agenda in Tallahassee."

Goal ThermometerAfter the Florida Democratic Party failed in their efforts to recruit Alex Sink, they wrote the crucial district off entirely, even though Kathy is an extremely attractive candidate. The Florida Republican Party has given Kathy's opponent $9,500. The Florida Democratic Party has give Kathy ZERO. You can contribute to Kathy's race by clicking on the 2020 Florida state thermometer on the right.
"(Burgess) has the full force of the party on his side," Lewis told the Times/Herald. "There’s clearly a complete difference on the Democrat side, for whatever their reasons are."

This year, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has raised over $7.1 million. The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has pulled in just a fraction of that: $1.9 million or so.

...Spending heavily in a relative long shot district may not be sound strategy. But all summer, Democrats have said their recruiting efforts across the state will help Joe Biden turn the state blue in November.

"Politics is driven from the bottom up," Terrie Rizzo, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said in June. "Having a local candidate running talking about local issues, talking about how the issues affect local issues, helps drives turnout."

Democrats are running in 140 of 141 legislative races this cycle, with a 141st candidate fighting in court to get on the ballot.
Rizzo is parroting phrases she's been beaten over the head with. She and her deputy, Juan Peñalosa, have fought the theory she's "espousing" and the recruitment of candidates by the Environmental Caucus and 90 For 90. They didn't hep in recruitment and were largely negative and now they are trying to strangle those candidates in the crib, denying them access not just to party funds but to their district voter files. Both Rizzo and Peñalosa are rumored to be close to being fired, but by then it will be too late for many of the candidates whose campaigns they are sabotaging. If the Florida GOP decided who would run the Florida Democratic Party, they could never find anyone's "good" as Rizzo and Peñalosa.
Lewis said the party should follow its own logic: If Democrats want to help Biden, they should help her.

"I don’t think about winning or losing, I think about telling the story and carving the way in the forest," Lewis said. "I’m trying to over-perform so that Biden can get there."

Fergie Reid, Jr. said his progressive activism organization,, helped recruit dozens of candidates this election cycle in Florida state House and Senate races. To Reid, Senate District 20 is an example of how the party’s recruitment efforts could go to waste if the candidates aren’t supported.

And the activist said in 2020, with systemic racism at the front of many voters’ minds, it’s incumbent on Democrats to invest in Black women.

"They’re not investing in Senate 20 the way they’re investing in Senate 9 and 39," Reid said. "That may or may not have something to do with the candidate being Kathy Lewis. I think it does, and I don’t think it’s a good look for the party."

Labels: , , , ,

A First Realistic Step Towards Getting Rid Of Devin Nunes Is Getting Rid Of Devon Mathis In An Overlapping District-- Meet Blue America's Latest Endorsee, Drew Phelps


A week ago, we took a look at California's worst state legislator, Devon Mathis. Since then, I've had dozens of people asking me-- or telling me-- about his Democratic opponent, Drew Phelps. And, by popular demand-- as well as our own vetting-- today Blue America is officially endorsing young Mr. Phelps. Please consider contributing to his campaign to represent the Central Valley Assembly district that encompasses Tulare and Inyo counties (and a tiny bit of Kern County)-- AD-26-- by clicking on the 2020 state legislatures thermometer below.

Goal ThermometerPhelps told me that he's a 4th-generation Tularean-- as well as a healthcare advocate, and an affordable housing specialist running to bring much-needed change and progressive leadership to California's 26th Assembly District. In 2015, he actively led and organized residents of the district with the grassroots Citizens for Hospital Accountability, a diverse coalition of local activists fed up with the financial and legal mismanagement of the Tulare Regional Medical Center. After two years of constant organizing, Citizens for Hospital Accountability defeated a bond measure that would have funneled millions of dollars of public dollars to private healthcare interests, and successfully recalled all five members of the Hospital’s Board of Directors.

Currently, he told me "there are over 80 combined felony and misdemeanor counts against three executives who had been running the Tulare Regional Medical Center into the ground. The seeds of those charges were planted when the Citizens for Hospital Accountability contacted the Tulare County District Attorney to investigate possible wrongdoing." That's the kind of grassroots leadership Blue America looks for in candidates.

Previously, Drew served as the Director of Grant Oversight with the Manuel Torrez Family Resource Center, bringing in funding for the Center’s “Healthy Families, Happy Kids” initiative, as well as helping organize the program’s annual mobile health clinic and fair. His other volunteer experience in the South Valley includes directing a soccer camp for underserved youth and coordinating healthy food distributions for working families.

Phelps has deep roots in the community, being the grandson of the former mayor of Tulare and has been active in politics since childhood, knocking on his first door for a city council candidate at the age of 12. He is a lifelong Democrat from a family that has a progressive pedigree that focuses on solving local issues by building broad coalitions of working people.

His campaign is supported by a broad coalition of labor unions, progressive advocacy organizations, and local activists and elected leaders. His emphasis will be on basic quality of life issues that have plagued the residents of AD 26 for years. It is estimated that over 10,000 residents don’t have access to clean drinking water. In some cases it is because wells have gone dry and in others contaminated runoff have poisoned the water to the point that it is less safe to drink than what is coming out of the tap in Flint, Michigan.

Assembly District 26 is in an area of California that consistently lags other parts of California in terms of measures of economic growth, unemployment levels, air and water quality, educational attainment, and access to basic medical services. Drew is running to replace an incumbent-- the aforementioned Devon Mathis-- who is wholly ineffective when it comes to dealing with these issues and has no notable achievements in his six years in office.

When elected, Phelps promised me he will be laser-focused on addressing the drinking water issues, delivering quality healthcare options, and diversifying job opportunities-- all of which have been ignored for too long under his opponent's leadership. Drew Phelps will be a champion on the issues that matter most to the folks in his district, not the Sacramento special interests that support his opponent.

Labels: , , , , ,

Did The GOP Convention Lose Trump More Voters? Don't Ask The Facebook Propaganda Machine


On Friday night, Trump hosted another super-spreader event, this one in a crowded airport hanger in New Hampshire. In 2016, New Hampshire was essentially a 47-47% tie, although Hillary had a couple thousand more votes and won the states 4 electoral votes. Trump has always maintained he was ripped off and would win New Hampshire back in 2020. Polling doesn't indicate the race is even close in New Hampshire this year. Trump favorability is way underwater and the latest RealClearPolitics polling average shows Biden beating him by nearly ten points. The most recent poll from the University of New Hampshire shows Trump losing with 40% of the vote to Biden's 53%-- and with a 10% lead among independents. On Friday night in the hangar, while his supporters were giving each other COVID-- Trump blustered and projected ("If Biden wins, which I honestly can’t believe would happen, I will have lost to a low IQ individual") and threatened and raged, blasting "Democrat-run cities" ("We’re going to have an unbelievable year unless somebody stupid gets elected and raises your taxes").

Is it possible that the polls are all wrong-- again? I think it's more possible that the media is trying to make the election an exciting horserace but... there was that study by Cloud Research on who lies to pollsters. It shows that Republicans and independents are more likely to lie than Democrats. And they are twice as likely as Democrats to say they would not give their true opinion in a telephone poll question about their preference for president. What does that mean? Well, it raises the possibility that polls understate support for Señor Trumpanzee. Cloud Research reported that 11.7% of Republicans and 10.5% independents said they would not give their true opinion, as opposed to 5.4% of Democrats. "Shy voters" had 6 concerns:
A lack of trust in phone polls as truly being anonymous.
An apprehension to associate their phone numbers with recorded responses.
Fear that their responses will become public in some manner.
Fear of reprisal and related detrimental impact to their financial, social, and family lives should their political opinions become publicly known.
A general dislike of phone polls.
Malicious intent to mislead polls due to general distrust of media and political pundits (though a sentiment expressed only by a few “shy voters”). 
Slimeball by Nancy Ohanian

And then there's the Kevin Rouse OpEd in the New York Times that has gone viral, What If Facebook Is The Real Silent Majority? Nearly a dozen people sent it to me before noon on Saturday. I never got into Facebook. DWT posts get put up there and I'll occasionally answer requests I notice but I've never once, for example, looked to Facebook for news (or even opinion). I'm the opposite of Rouse, who wrote that since the 2016 election, he's "been obsessively tracking how partisan political content is performing on Facebook. I guess he takes Facebook a lot more seriously than I do. No offense, but I tend to think of people who use Facebook as a news source as being just slightly above brain-dead. But what do I know? I still blog all day. To me Facebook has always been a game I never played. To Rouse-- and I suspect, most people, Facebook is, as he wrote, "the world’s largest and arguably most influential media platform. Every morning, one of the first browser tabs I open is CrowdTangle-- a handy Facebook-owned data tool that offers a bird’s-eye view of what’s popular on the platform. I check which politicians and pundits are going viral. I geek out on trending topics. I browse the previous day’s stories to see which got the most reactions, shares and comments. Most days, the leader board looks roughly the same: conservative post after conservative post, with the occasional liberal interloper... It’s no secret that, despite Mr. Trump’s claims of Silicon Valley censorship, Facebook has been a boon to him and his allies, and hyperpartisan Facebook pages are nothing new. (In fact, my colleague John Herrman wrote about them four years ago this month.)
But what sticks out, when you dig in to the data, is just how dominant the Facebook right truly is. Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition.

The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump’s response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters.

Mr. Trump and his supporters are betting that, despite being behind Mr. Biden in the polls, a “silent majority” will carry him to re-election. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest and most online son, made that argument himself at the Republican National Convention this week. And while I’m not a political analyst, I know enough about the modern media landscape to know that looking at people’s revealed preferences-- what they actually read, watch, and click on when nobody’s looking-- is often a better indicator of how they’ll act than interviewing them at diners, or listening to what they’re willing to say out loud to a pollster.

Maybe Mr. Trump’s “silent majority,” in other words, only seems silent because we’re not looking at their Facebook feeds.

“We live in two different countries right now,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist and digital director of Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign. Facebook’s media ecosystem, he said, is “a huge blind spot for people who are up to speed on what’s on the front page of The New York Times and what’s leading the hour on CNN.”

To be sure, Facebook is not the only medium where right-wing content thrives. Millions of Americans still get their news from cable news and talk radio, where conservative voices have dominated for years. Many pro-Trump Facebook influencers also have sizable presences on Twitter, YouTube and other social networks.

But the right’s dominance on Facebook, specifically, is something to behold. Here are just a few data points I pulled from CrowdTangle this week:

The conservative commentator Ben Shapiro has gotten 56 million total interactions on his Facebook page in the last 30 days. That’s more than the main pages of ABC News, NBC News, the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR combined. (Data from a different firm, NewsWhip, showed that Mr. Shapiro’s news outlet, the Daily Wire, was the No. 1 publisher on Facebook in July.)

Facebook posts by Breitbart, the far-right news outlet, have been shared four million times in the past 30 days, roughly three times as many as posts from the official pages of every Democratic member of the U.S. Senate combined.

The most-shared Facebook post containing the term “Black Lives Matter” over the past six months is a June video by the right-wing commentators The Hodgetwins, which calls the racial justice movement a “damn lie.” The second most-shared Black Lives Matter post? A different viral video from The Hodgetwins, this one calling the movement a “leftist lie.” (The Hodgetwins also have the 4th, 6th, and 12th most shared posts.)

Terrence K. Williams, a conservative comedian and Trump supporter, has averaged 86,500 interactions per Facebook post in August, more than twice as many as Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, who has averaged 39,000 interactions per post. (Mr. Trump outdoes them both, naturally, with an average of 92,000 interactions per post.)

A few caveats, before my Democratic readers jump off the nearest pier.

These figures include only posts on public pages, in public groups, and by verified accounts, and they don’t include Facebook ads, where the Biden campaign has been outspending the Trump campaign in recent weeks. Counting Facebook interactions doesn’t tell you how someone felt about a post, so it’s possible some conservative posts are being hate-shared by liberals. And Facebook has argued that engagement isn’t the same thing as popularity.

“These points look mostly at how people engage with content, which should not be confused with how many people actually see it on Facebook,” Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement. Mr. Osborne added that “when you look at the content that gets the most reach across Facebook, it’s not at all as partisan as this reporting suggests.” (Facebook does not disclose this type of data publicly, except once in a while in response to my tweets.)

Democrats aren’t totally absent from Facebook’s upper echelon. Ridin’ With Biden, a pro-Biden page started in April by the founders of the liberal Facebook page Occupy Democrats, has quadrupled its following over the past three months, and routinely gets more engagement than Breitbart and other right-wing heavy-hitters. Individual posts by Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats have broken through in recent weeks.

And political campaigners have pointed out, correctly, that being popular on the internet isn’t a guarantee of electoral success. (“Retweets don’t vote,” as an experienced Democratic operative once told me.) In addition, Facebook’s older, more conservative user base may not reflect what’s happening on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, which draw a younger crowd.

Still, the platform’s sheer scale makes it vital to understand. As of 2019, 70 percent of American adults used Facebook, and 43 percent of Americans got news on the platform, according to the Pew Research Center. (Those numbers may have increased because of the pandemic.) We know that the company’s product decisions can make or break political movements, move fringe ideas into the mainstream, or amplify partisan polarization. Registering four million voters before the November election, as Facebook has said it would do, could be a decisive force all on its own. (Typically, higher turnout benefits Democrats, but given what we know about the media diets of hyperactive Facebook users, who knows?)

The reason right-wing content performs so well on Facebook is no mystery. The platform is designed to amplify emotionally resonant posts, and conservative commentators are skilled at turning passionate grievances into powerful algorithm fodder. The company also appears willing to bend its rules for popular conservative influencers. Recent reports by BuzzFeed News and NBC News, based on leaked documents, found that Facebook executives had removed “strikes” from the accounts of several high-profile conservative pages that had shared viral misinformation in violation of the company’s rules.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to view my daily Facebook data-dive as a kind of early-warning system-- a rough gauge of what’s grabbing America’s attention on any given day, and which stories and perspectives will likely break through in the days to come.

And looking at Facebook’s lopsided political media ecosystem might be a useful reality check for Democrats who think Mr. Biden will coast to victory in November.
And on his own Facebook page, Michael Moore couldn't agree more: "Sorry to have to provide the reality check again, but when CNN polled registered voters in August in just the swing states, Biden and Trump were in a virtual tie. In Minnesota, it’s 47-47. In Michigan, where Biden had a big lead, Trump has closed the gap to 4 points. Are you ready for a Trump victory? Are you mentally prepared to be outsmarted by Trump again? Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win? Are you content with the trust you’ve placed in the DNC to pull this off? The Biden campaign just announced he’ll be visiting a number of states-- but not Michigan. Sound familiar? I’m warning you almost 10 weeks in advance. The enthusiasm level for the 60 million in Trump’s base is OFF THE CHARTS! For Joe, not so much. Don’t leave it to the Democrats to get rid of Trump. YOU have to get rid of Trump. WE have to wake up every day for the next 67 days and make sure each of us are going to get a hundred people out to vote. ACT NOW!"

I thought Moore was the voice of doom in 2016. His prediction that Hillary would lose turned out to be correct, even if she did actually get 2,868,686 more votes than Trump did (48.2% to 26.1%). Yesterday Jonathan Lemire reported for AP that "The GOP convention’s target audience, according to campaign officials, was mostly former Trump supporters, those Republicans or independents who may have backed him in 2016 but grew unhappy with his rhetoric or handling of the pandemic. The goal, by trying to humanize Trump and demonize Biden, was to set up a permission structure to make those voters feel comfortable enough to vote for Trump again, even if they cared for his policies far more than his personality. Officials believe they accomplished that over the four-day convention and are encouraged by internal numbers that show Trump had begun closing the gap on Biden even before the events of this week in Washington. The campaign’s theory of the election has long been to turn out Trump’s base-- a smaller set of the electorate than which backs Biden, but more enthusiastic-- while also trying to win over nonvoters and drive up negative impressions of Biden so that some of his possible backers stay home.
The president’s advisers privately acknowledge minefields lay ahead in the final nine weeks before Election Day.

Trump aides are warily watching the calendar as Labor Day approaches, concerned that the three-day weekend, traditionally marked by parties and sizable gatherings, could trigger a spike in infections just like they believe Memorial Day did at the other bookend of summer.

Labels: , , , , ,