Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Regional Media

I found this tidbit in TPM's article about Trump's "not all media" comment a bit disturbing:

Cabinet officials will be “focusing on the regional media, which we find to be a much more credible media to be honest with you. In fact, I found it to be incredible how good they are,” he said.

Could this be a nod to Sinclair Broadcasting Group's takeover of local media stations?

If you haven't heard of it yet, Sinclair Broadcast Group is a media company that owns hundreds of local TV stations across the United States. By some estimates, it's able to reach 70 percent of American households. While there's nothing inherently wrong with owning hundreds of local stations, things do get morally questionable when it comes to how Sinclair approaches editorial control. Ideally, the news department of a TV station, be it local or one of the big national cable channels, would have editorial freedom from the channel's ownership. This is obviously not always the case (see News, Fox), but it's the goal. This freedom allows journalists to follow stories without fear that they might run afoul of a rich boss's financial interest or personal political grudges or what have you.
That is decidedly not what's happening at Sinclair broadcasting. In fact, just the opposite. Sinclair is taking newscasts that previously dealt in local news and politics and is now forcing heavily partisan, conservative opinions on national issues down every single station's throat.

I think the answer is yes. From Politico last December:

Donald Trump's campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives Friday in Manhattan.
Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks.
In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.

 And Trump's FCC has been helping this along:

Sinclair Broadcast Group is expanding its conservative-leaning television empire into nearly three-quarters of American households — but its aggressive takeover of the airwaves wouldn’t have been possible without help from President Donald Trump's chief at the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair, already the nation’s largest TV broadcaster, plans to buy 42 stations from Tribune Media in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, on top of the more than 170 stations it already owns. It got a critical assist this spring from Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who revived a decades-old regulatory loophole that will keep Sinclair from vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership.
The change will allow Sinclair — a company known for injecting "must run" conservative segments into its local programming — to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations. That’s nearly double the congressionally imposed nationwide audience cap of 39 percent. 

Yesterday, I noticed a sudden shift on CNN from a largely tepid "Did they do it?" with regards to #TrumpRussia to, "They did it, now what?" I think Trump was fed the line about regional media, and we need to be on the lookout for a stepped-up propaganda battle on local news now that Trump finally appears to be almost entirely losing the trust of mainstream media outlets.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Do You Feel Like We Do

Tuesday Morning Twitshit

Yeah, he has proven to have lied to the FBI. Which is why he had to flip and likely tape a whole bunch of juicy conversations that will help lead to your downfall.

Deflection and projection in 140 characters. Well done.

Wow, he truly does have the best words... "in a dither" is a new one to me;  but apparently it's a real expression. He knows words!

1. Is this a coherent statement? I don't know what it means. 2. Bob Mueller's the one making the indictments -- that has nothing to do with the news.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Earworm of the Afternoon -- My Own Prison

Monday Morning Twitshit

Having your former campaign chair indicted apparently calls for Metamucil... this is all Trump could manage early this morning:

But the laxative kicked in, and:

Ahhhh.... sweet relief.

There's gonna be more coming:

That's some real shit right there. Spin that, Trump. That ain't years ago. That's this year.

What's in the Manafort/Gates Indictment?

Here are the tidbits I picked up on the first reading:

Conspiracy Against the United States

So, it's Manafort and his partner...

Sunday, October 29, 2017

From Russia, With Love

UPDATE (10/29/2017 9:14 AM EDT): In case you need a little topping off after watching that:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

How Long Has the GOP Been Working with Russia?

We really have forgotten so much about the Bush years, but we can't let them drain permanently through the memory hole. So much of what happened there was a precursor to the horrorshow we're currently experiencing. #TrumpRussia? How about #BushRussia? Stay with me here...

Going into Election Night 2016, I had not given much thought to the Russian-Trump relationship. I did believe that Putin wanted Trump to win; it did seem like Trump had done him a favor by pulling anti-Russia language vis-Γ -vis Ukraine from the 2016 Republican platform.

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.

I thought this explained it:

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

I'd believed that Trump had brought Manafort in to do some very specific things that he had experience doing, like whipping delegates at the Republican National Convention. It was pretty clear that Manafort had ties to the Ukranian autocrat Viktor Yanukovich, and it seemed like Manafort was doing a favor for Yanukovich. That was certainly corrupt, but hell, what about Trump wasn't corrupt?.

I did also note that Manafort used a past campaign tactic to start the calls of "Lock Her Up!" that began around the same time:

It was March 2013, and the former U.S. congressman had traveled to Ukraine to persuade President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to free Yanukovych’s arch rival from prison. The statuette came with a hopeful message: You, Slattery told the president, could be the Lincoln of Ukraine—a leader who binds up the nation’s wounds.
What Slattery didn’t know was that another American operative was helping the president defend the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, an act widely condemned in the Western world.

I was outraged by this, but attributed it to Trump's openness to the tactics of dictators, and Manafort feeding him one that had worked for him in the past. It was offensive, even in the context of 2016, but Trump had done so much worse to that point and it was just another item on the list of things that Trump had gotten away with.

I started to suspect *something* when WikiLeaks dropped the Podesta e-mails and we found out WikiLeaks had gotten them from Russia, but thought that between Clinton's better campaign and the Billy Bush tape (not to mention shooting himself in the foot over Russia) had buried Trump for good and decided that dealing with Russia could wait until after Hillary's inauguration. But I dismissed other stories like the Alfa Bank server as mere crankery.

As for Trump's own passion for Putin, I chalked that up to pandering to his base. White supremacists and other conservative Republicans loved Putin, and I figured that he was just trying to make sure he kept their votes. From 2007, even before the election of Obama, whom Republicans compared negatively to Putin:

As Preston Wiginton, a white supremacist from Texas, stepped forward to address thousands of Russian nationalists at a rally Sunday in Moscow, he lifted his black cowboy hat high in the air.
"I'm taking my hat off as a sign of respect for your strong identity in ethnicity, nation and race," he said, exposing his close-cropped head to a freezing drizzle.
"Glory to Russia," Wiginton, 43, said in broken Russian, as the crowd of mostly young Russian men raised their right hands in a Nazi salute and chanted "white power!" in English.
Of course, I was wrong. So wrong. The facts that have come out on #TrumpRussia continue to surprise me --the whole Trump team was both brazen and stupid. But the volume of Trump/Russian activity that happened in 2015-2016 is not the only thing that has thrown me; it's how far back this all appears to go.

It took me until after the election before I started putting even the 2015-2016 parts of this together... but now I find myself going further. Much further:

I'm not following the JFK document dump story at all, but if it were to come out that the Soviets were in some way linked to the assassination, we would need to basically rewrite the through line of American history... These two bookends would likely change our entire view of the last 60-odd years, with Russia affecting nearly everything that's happened in world affairs in one way or another during that time.

Perhaps extreme, but let's follow this back a bit. I don't need to cover 2010 to now; people like Jacki Schechner's have done that really well.

But now we know that at the very least, Putin's attempts to undermine our democracy started a bit earlier than that.

As I mentioned the other might, we found out in May in Newsweek that in 2008, Russians hacked both the Obama and McCain campaigns -- to what extent, I don't know. But Putin's hackers at least proved to them that they could do it.

Anyone who was liberal and politically aware in 2001 remembers when Bush met with Putin and reported back: "We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship." We made fun of this and pointed out that Bush was probably a terrible judge of character, but it never went further than that.

I'd never read this article from 2001, but this post from the BBC may indicate that there was a lot more than that:

Bush and Putin 'best of buddies'
Just before President Vladimir Putin's arrival here on Wednesday, a large crowd had gathered in the dot on the Texas map known as Crawford.
They were there to catch a glimpse of the Russian's arrival.
Among them was a tall man with cowboy boots and hat, a real local.
Asked what he thought about the visit he paused for a second and then said he was "real excited" and that the two presidents "seemed like real good buddies". 

That attitude didn't start in 2001. From the same BBC piece:

As a candidate, Mr Bush had strongly criticised his predecessor Bill Clinton for his close relationship with Boris Yeltsin.
The US should have a policy towards Russia the country, the Bush campaign argued, not its leaders.

I don't know what there is on a presidential level in the following period, though weird things happened in the 2000 and 2004 elections. (Just sayin'). I'll leave it to the readers to help me fill in the blanks; I'm just providing the outline.

But moving on from the top of the government totem pole to a Congressman who was mostly irrelevant before the Russia story heated up -- Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher (R-Moscow), who is widely known as "Putin's favorite Congressman." How far back does Putin's relationship with Rohrabacher go? Could he have gotten flipped at some point of fighting against them in Afghanistan? It seems to me that perhaps the reason why Rohrabacher didn't do anything a few years ago when the FBI warned him the Russians might be recruiting him:
Four years prior to the hearing, Rohrabacher was taken into a quiet room in Congress and warned by FBI agents that Russian intelligence operatives were trying to recruit him as an asset.
If he took the warning seriously, it certainly didn’t stop him from spending time with figures linked closely to the Russian state apparatus.

... is because they'd already successfully absorbed him long ago?

The revelations of the last year have shone a spotlight on this, from Mother Jones in 2010:

In the aftermath of the attacks, Rohrabacher was in demand. In meetings with Rice, as well as Pentagon and CIA officials, he says, he argued that the Northern Alliance and a small US team should oust the Taliban—the more heavy-handed operation favored by some military leaders wouldn’t work. Rohrabacher’s aides, meanwhile, worked the phones with their Afghan contacts, gathering intelligence on the Taliban’s movements. “I had everybody’s sat-phone number,” says Al Santoli, a former foreign policy aide to Rohrabacher. “I spent as much time at the Pentagon as I did in the congressional office.”

Santoli is talking a 2001-2002 timeframe here, and Rohrabacher was in Afghanistan as far back as 1988.

He started out as a Reagan-endorsed Republican:

But during his time in Afghanistan, Rohrabacher developed a level of attraction that gave him a hard-on for Russia:

It started with a promise he made to Afghan fighters in the late 1980s when he was a special assistant to President Reagan, helping to arm the Afghani mujahedin during their battle with the Soviet Union. He vowed to one day fight alongside them.
Following his 1988 election to represent coastal Orange County in Congress, Rohrabacher joined the Afghan civil war, signing up for a week with a unit wielding AK-47s and grenade launchers. The mission: take out a Soviet position outside Jalalabad.
“I think, since that moment, I have realized that I was fighting communism all that time, but I wasn’t fighting Russians,” Rohrabacher said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office.
The Soviet Union would soon break apart, and Rohrabacher grew to respect his onetime enemies and champion their attempt at democracy. Two decades ago, he got to know Vladimir Putin while drunkenly arm-wrestling the then-deputy-mayor of St. Petersburg over who actually won the Cold War. (Putin won the matchup, and quickly, Rohrabacher notes.) [JASON NOTE (10/29/2017 9:29 AM): Rohrabacher also probably said that Putin had 18 holes-in-one that day.]

And what happened between 1988 and the 2010s? A lot. During the Bush I administration, in 1991, Rohrabacher claimed he could influence the Communist government in Vietnam:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said Saturday that he will urge that all U.S talks with the Vietnamese government be severed unless two Cypress ministers, believed to have been arrested in Vietnam for distributing Bibles, are released.
Rohrabacher (R-Long Beach) told family members who met at the Cypress home of one of the ministers that the U.S government has made return of the men a top priority.
He said the continued detention of the Revs. Nhi Van Ho and Tuan Phuc Ma, who were taken into custody on July 2, will have "severe policy implications."
"This is a step backward for Vietnam," he said. "If they expect the American government to establish better relations, then they will have to stop oppressing not only our citizens but their own people as well."
Rohrabacher said he will travel to Vietnam in early August if the two ministers have not been released, and will "pound on the desks of the communists bosses and on the jailhouse door."

There are a lot of ways to take that, but at the very least, it's safe to say that Dana Rohrabacher was involved in U.S foreign policy from his first days on Capitol Hill.

Later in the '90s, he was a thorn in Bill Clinton's side as Clinton was trying to end ethnic cleansing by Slobodan Milosevic (whom Putin supported). After that, in 2001, he blamed the Clinton administration for the rise of the Taliban.

I also flashed a crowdsource beacon on Twitter last night, and Lisa Jocko came through for me (and I looked like an idiot):

She could be right. Rohrabacher may have done a favor for Putin in 2008. Some background on this: Russia bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics in 2000. They ended up in Beijing. They were SO important to Putin that not only did he pull out all the stops on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he's already likely to bid for 2028.

In 2007, Rohrabacher called for a boycott of the Olympics in Beijing to protest its "human rights abuses." This from the guy supporting Russia. Isn't it more likely that he was just helping Putin gum up the works for his adversary who was hosting the Olympics that he believed should be his?

People who have followed the news closely the last few years have known that Rohrabacher was probably in the employ of someone powerful in the former Soviet Union, potentially Putin himself. But 1. Americans have been conditioned by the "both siders" to think that everyone in Congress is in someone's pocket (HINT: Many are, but they're overwhelmingly Republican!), and 2. what kind of real impact could one pro-Russian Congressman have among a caucus of well over 200? It just wasn't that big a story until we actually saw our democracy undermined by the people pulling that Congressman's strings. Though, even today, Rohrabacher is still mostly getting away with his pro-Kremlin activities. Mostly.

This all has me thinking -- we've all used clichΓ©s about history repeating itself, or not rhyming, or whatever. And of course the one about if we don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. But what if we (and I mean, even the most studied of us) are missing major swathes of cause and effect in history? Isn't it just as important to understand the "whys" of history as the "whats?"

2015 Me would think 2017 Me was a crank a la Glenn Beck or Alex Jones. 2019 me might just see 2017 me as hopelessly naΓ―ve, though I have essentially no predictions for what 2019 looks like, other than to say that it could feature anything from a Trump dictatorship to a Clinton presidency.

I remain scared but hopeful. #Scopeful. Monday is a big day.

P.S.: I just ordered this book; I'm curious how far back its stories go. I'll keep you posted.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Fear City

Is Jack Kingston on Putin's Payroll?

After his performance on CNN tonight where he was trying EVERYTHING to defend Trump (uranium, Clinton Foundation, #BothSidesDoIt....) and got laughed at by Don Lemon and his whole panel, it's really time to ask that question.

I mean, the guy has the shiftiest eyes I've ever seen.

He even has shifty eyes in his own Twitter background photo!

CNN, I think you have a mole in your midst. Look into that.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Don't Fear the Reaper

Deep Thought

I'm not following the JFK document dump story at all, but if it were to come out that the Soviets were in some way linked to the assassination, we would need to basically rewrite the through line of American history. We now know that the Russians were messing in our election as far back as 2008 (and I've suspected, perhaps longer), and they put the person who will likely be the most destructive person in America since, uh, maybe Jefferson Davis in the White House.

These two bookends would likely change our entire view of the last 60-odd years, with Russia affecting nearly everything that's happened in world affairs in one way or another during that time (What if Kennedy had remained as President through 1968? What if Hillary Clinton were in the White House beginning in 2017?).

Jesus, what would the American history textbooks published in 2040 look like?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Don't Feed the Grifters

[NOTE FROM JASON, 10/25/17 12:14 EDT -- I'm opening up the Blogger comments at the bottom of this post so that there can be a linear record of this conversation rather than Twitter threading, which is hard to follow... don't make me regret it, kids!]

A year ago, leading up to the election, one of my biggest worries wasn't yet what Comey's influence on the election was going to be, but rather what the impact of voter suppression would be.

On election night, watching the results come in, I sat at a volunteer desk at Hillary's Brooklyn HQ and scanned county-level maps in MI and WI long before the states were called for Trump. MI was going to be tight because the turnout in the Western suburbs of Detroit (like Dearborn and Ann Arbor) was far lighter than it had to be. WI, on the other hand, was lost. I looked at the numbers coming in from Milwaukee and Madison versus the rest of the state and saw what would turn out to be an insurmountable Trump advantage. The fringe Obama voters hadn't turned out... Or had they?

Days after the election theories were flying about faulty voting machines, Russian hacks, long lines of people being turned back, and people being denied for not satisfying the overtly racist Voter ID laws. The first two were an easy out: it wasn't our fault. America knew better than Trump but Russia stopped her from electing Hillary Clinton. I still believe that there was some illegitimate vote tampering that will be discovered as the evidence continues to roll in. But some took it on their own initiative to examine precinct-level results in Wisconsin and found a correlation between precincts that used voting machines and precincts that went for Trump. Fivethirtyeight looked into it and so did Nate Cohn:
I wanted to believe that there was some merit to their findings but I replicated the results that the two Nates each independently put out and came to the same conclusions. When you factor in demographics, the impact of voting machines comes out to be statistically insignificant.

Along came Mike Farb (@mikefarb1) who promised his own independent investigation. I, along with many others, followed him and waited to see what he would come up with. His initial results, while captivating, were really just a rehash of the New York magazine piece which had already been disproven. Curious, I asked him for his methodology:

It soon became apparent that he was not looking for help, rather he wanted to continue asking for donations to support his dubious results.

He continued to ignore my requests and then went on to Tweet about how Southern States had been experiencing stolen votes since the Nineties. Basically he was ignoring the party realignment that had occurred. Instead, he was chalking up the Republicans' statewide election wins to stolen votes. Of course, anyone who did in minute bit of research about politics in the South would know that while registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans, many white Democrats were just residual dixiecrats who had not yet switched party affiliations, but had become reliable Republican votes since 1994.

Each week he put out more graphs and charts without any formal methodology. Finally, I called him out on it. I ask him for his methodology once again and one of his associates pointed me to his website. I outlined three major points that were wrong with his work, and offered to help:

For a full account (since I was blocked shortly there after and his replies are unavailable to me), just do a twitter search for "@mikefarb1 @tgccombover."

As a statistician, it is abundantly clear to me that Mike Farb wants no part of an actual statistical methodology because that would show his results are junk. And it's exceedingly tough to grift people when you don't even have the appearance of something to offer them.

If you want to continue reading him, that's great. We could all use a little bit of fiction. But please don't feed the grifters.

UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only statistician he's blocked.

Monday, October 23, 2017


A year ago yesterday, I wrote: "'Trump's 'Gettysburg Address' was positively Lincolnesque...' is something no historian will say, ever."

I still believe that to be the case, but Trump did have something with Lincoln -- the guy he picked to be Secretary of State also did business with Russia:

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signs a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”

So there's that...

Am I Being Too Harsh on the Times?

My Twitter friend Linda Fader responded to my last couple of posts about the New York Times with a thread:

It's not that I think the Times, collectively, is asking themselves, "what can we do to ensure Donald Trump wins a second term?” But it just can't be 100% about balance and false equivalence. In the age of Trump, and after the 2016 election debacle, are the editors of the Times still blind to the fact that one side mostly lies to them and wants to do bad things to people, and the other mostly doesn't? It's hard to chalk this up to narrative building for narrative building's sake.

In trying to maintain the forced balance they’ve been giving us for at least 25 years, with the Republicans going so far to the right as a party that they’re literally bringing Nazis into their coalition (which remains an unbelievable thing to type without being hyperbolic), they've plucked out this narrative of "The Republicans are in disarray, but so are the Democrats. The Republicans may have a genocidal element to their ideology, but, my God, some Democrats want Medicare for all! The horrors! And furthermore, it's tearing the Democratic Party apart!"

And to do so, they're now citing people who aren't even Democrats. That's two columns of that nature in two weeks. It's inventing controversy to sell papers, as well as to a wealthier readership who still think to themselves, "Well, one side has Nazis, but the other is going to raise my taxes!" Only that sort of reader would look at the Times Op-Ed page and say that Paul Krugman and Ross Douthat are both providing something valuable to the conversation.

I do agree that their investigative reporting is better than their op-ed... but still, they gave us Clinton Cash and e-mails on the pages of their newspaper:

The WaPo's been impressive, and I actually subscribed to them a few months back -- the first time I'd subscribed to a newspaper in well over a decade.

Here's another example of the Times's bad behavior:

Click through to read the whole thing.

How can they "both sides" this? Yes, publishing news coverage is complex, but there has to be at least partly a simpler explanation somewhere. If none of what they're doing is deliberate, then the editors and writers at the newspaper widely regarded as one of the smartest publications in this country are really, really stupid and are incapable of learning from their mistakes.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The NYT Is Deliberately Trying to Undermine #TheResistance

It's hard for me to conclude otherwise...

Two weeks I took down a ridiculously misleading piece of slop by Kenneth Vogel about the perils the Democratic Party faced because some money was going to new groups like Indivisible. My response to it (which was the most read thing I've ever written, thank you!).

Mr. Vogel or his editor could have easily run a Twitter search and found Democrats from basically the entire spectrum of the Party, as well as independents both to the left and the right of the Party, and even some #NeverTrump Republicans. But he didn't. It wouldn't have been as juicy a story.

At the time I stated, "The New York Times Doesn't Get #TheResistance."

I think I may have gone too easy on them, as they really can't help themselves. Today's headline: "Is Donald Trump Turning Liberals Into Radicals?"

This enthusiasm has gotten the traditional Democratic donors and fund-raisers excited: From longstanding groups like Democracy Alliance to liberal tech entrepreneurs, money is pouring into Indivisible and similar organizations. But often these groups have focused on influencing Democrats or getting them elected (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) rather than building a broader movement.
Aside from referring to Vogel's awful slop here, The Nation's Sarah Leonard is contradicting her headline like Vogel did two weeks back. The above paragraph would indicate that these groups are NOT radical... they're supporting Democrats. Democrats of all stripes. But in order to answer her question in the affirmative, Leonard tries to encourage liberals to become radicals:

The Indivisible activists should be making common cause with another movement that has surged since the election: the Democratic Socialists of America, an activist group that works on both national and local levels, has grown to about 30,000 members from about 5,000 since the election, largely driven by its association with Bernie Sanders, who, though not a member, also identifies as a democratic socialist. (Disclosure: I’m a member.)

New members of the D.S.A., most of them millennials, have instinctively recognized the need for radical wealth redistribution, forming what the group’s national director, Maria Svart, calls “the left wing of the resistance.”
Nearly every goddamned Democrat supports significant wealth distribution. I'm not going to use Leonard's word "radical". This is not "radical." It's "being a fucking human being and a mainstream Democrat."
Two weeks ago, Vogel tried to cite an irrelevant entity, Third Way, to make his point. Leonard pulls the same shit -- The Democratic Socialists of America. 30,000 members? 30,000 members? The NRA has 5 million members. Nearly 66 million people voted for Hillary. But we're supposed to take 30,000 people seriously? But wait, it gets worse:
The D.S.A. — which isn’t a political party — has supported some left-wing candidates across the country, from the Brooklyn City Council to a Virginia House race.

"Which isn't a political party." "Some left-wing candidates." "From the Brooklyn City Council to a Virginia House race." Sounds like a groundswell to me.

But even as it is willing to work with some Democratic candidates or with Democrats on specific issues, its focus is pushing a broader agenda for equality, such as making the case for single-payer health care, while criticizing capitalism itself for driving upward redistribution of wealth. That might make some traditional liberals and Democrats uncomfortable, but in order to resist Mr. Trump, we ought to be thinking about how we ended up with a yawning wealth gap in the first place.

Once again, every goddamned Democrat, other than the wealthy Upper East Side NYT readers for whom each David Brooks 800 word column is their only generator of warmth between their legs they ever feel, is pretty comfortable with reducing inequality. But maybe 30,000 Democratic Socialists of America should apologize for scaring the boners off that crowd.

How can one at this point read another NYT column like this and not conclude that they're actively trying to split the Democratic Party? I can't.

And no, Trump is not turning liberals into radicals. He's put us in a place where we need to defend our small-d democratic principles and institutions so they continue to protect those who need protecting from those trying to hurt them. I can't think of anything less radical.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

R Leaders Iz Learning?

Yesterday, I shared Larry Lessig's vision for how Hillary Clinton could wind up in the White House sooner rather than later, and I mentioned last month that I think something must be in the ether about that possibility:

I'm not going to say it's likely that this scenario will happen, but putting it out there does 1. make it more likely and 2. indicate that *someone* is floating it in "serious" circles.

Well, if you've been hoping and begging like I have for the good guys to step in and rescue us (and I know you all have), here's a must-read THREAD! from the follow-with-a-grain-of-salt-but-consume-voraciously-citizen-journalist Eric Garland:

It makes sense. In a "nothing about this should ever be thought about as making sense" kind of way.

My only regret is that I have only twenty digits to cross!

Earworm of the Afternoon -- King of Pain

Lawrence Lessig on #HRC46

I've been fantasizing about a scenario in which the clear Russian interference and Republican collusion in it would result in a Clinton presidency for quite some time. I was a little late to the party; I didn't really believe there was much collusion beyond Manafort and Page until January or so, but it's a given now.

It only makes sense. If someone in a sport is found out to have cheated (and we're not even talking outright treason like in this case!), the victory usually gets awarded to the team that's been cheated.

People who are otherwise responsible, including Hillary Clinton herself, have in recent weeks talked about that possibility.

Now, Harvard professor (and brief presidential candidate) Lawrence Lessig lays out in Newsweek how that might work:

If number 1: If Trump is definitively found to have colluded directly with Russia, he would be forced to resign or be impeached.

If number 2: If Trump is removed, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.

If number 3: If Pence becomes president, he should resign too, given that he benefited from the same help from Mother Russia.

If number 4: If Pence resigns before appointing a vice president, Ryan would become president.

If number 5: If Ryan becomes president, he should do the right thing and choose Clinton for vice president. Then he should resign.

I'm pretty sure I wrote out basically the same thing about six months ago, but what I write isn't nearly as relevant as anything Lessig has to say.

I'm not going to say it's likely that this scenario will happen, but putting it out there does 1. make it more likely and 2. indicate that *someone* is floating it in "serious" circles.

So, as I like to say, go to sleep tonight and #DreamHillaryDreams. Maybe they'll come true.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Professional Left Podcast, 10/13/2017 -- Episode 410 -- Not Today Satan (or Trump)

I haven't been posting podcast episodes from our favorite shows (I haven't been posting that much at all), but this episode is important. After a week in which Trump lashed out and potentially wrecked the lives of millions of people, Driftglass and Blue Gal give us a different picture as for why things may not seem as bleak. Listen if you want to feel a bit better.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

These Are the Faces of Evil

The last 24 hours have been among the worst of 2017 as far as affecting America from a policy perspective, particularly Trump's signing of an executive order a few minutes ago that could totally upend the health insurance markets and throw everything into chaos, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans over time and making millions of others sicker.

Follow Andy Slavitt for the details:

I mean every word of this:

And now I'm going to hold myself to this:

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Kick Some Ass

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Times Doesn't Get #TheResistance

I wasn't going to post again tonight, but I keep seeing this same story pass through my Twitter timeline.

I believe that Kenneth Vogel of the Times is conflating #TheResistance with the Bernie vs. Hillary fighting... but I'm not sure. Decide for yourself:

It started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left's most venerable institutions -- and the Democratic Party itself.

It may no longer be a scrappy grass-roots protest, but that's largely because both the Democratic establishment and the "insurgent left" have embraced it. Mr. Vogel or his editor could have easily run a Twitter search and found Democrats from basically the entire spectrum of the Party, as well as independents both to the left and the right of the Party, and even some #NeverTrump Republicans. But he didn't. It wouldn't have been as juicy a story. As a Hillary supporter who is both ideologically pretty far to the left but a proponent of building up the Democratic Party's infrastructure rather than burning it down, I've written several posts stating that Democratic donors needed to provide more money to new groups, even though I've expressed some pretty harsh skepticism about the possibility of it happening:

But I digress. One of the reasons I was so excited about a Hillary Clinton presidency was the potential for a liberal-leaning Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United and start to take at least a chunk of the money out of politics. We're pretty clearly going the other way for at least the next decade or two. So we're going to need money. We can't pretend we don't, and we can't pretend that it wasn't big money that built the other side.
I continue to admire the goals of Indivisible, but it's really, really tough to get to the right conclusion when you're starting with the wrong premises. And until people like them acknowledge that they need to fight fire with fire, we're going to keep trying to douse gunfire with water because we learned the wrong lessons from history (and metaphors).

Well, if Vogel is right and it's happening, this is fantastic Back to him:

The jockeying between groups, donors and operatives for cash and turf is occurring mostly behind the scenes. But it has grown acrimonious at times, with upstarts complaining they are being boxed out by a liberal establishment that they say enables the sort of Democratic timidity that paved the way for the Trump presidency.

Isn't he contradicting himself here? His headline is, "The Resistance, Raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics." If they're raising big money, that's a ton more money than they had before November 9th, when they didn't even exist!

The tug of war — more than the lingering squabbles between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — foreshadows a once-in-a-generation reorganization of the American left that could dictate the tactics and ideology of the Democratic Party for years to come. If the newcomers prevail, they could pull the party further to the left, leading it to embrace policy positions like those advocated by Mr. Sanders, including single-payer health care and free tuition at public colleges.

Mr. Vogel, if you haven't noticed, the Democratic Party has been moving to the left since 2006, and especially since 2011. Read its damn convention platform. Better yet, read Hillary Clinton's book. She's for free tuition at public colleges (with the exception of for people wealthy enough to easily afford it), and while I don't believe she endorsed single payer health care (I'm with her on that; I don't care if it's single payer, as long as it's universal and good), she did endorse lowering the Medicare age to 55 (like she did in the campaign), and even explored Universal Basic Income, which is a position that's even further to the left than single payer health care. The entire Party is within a fairly narrow ideological window at this point.

The upending of the left comes amid a broader realignment in American politics, with the Republican Party establishment also contending with a rising rebellion, driven by pro-Trump populists.

This is also totally off. The Republicans are not facing a rising rebellion; they are being themselves. They've been moving in this direction for decades; Trump is the candidate their party's primary voters overwhelmingly supported because he is what the party is now, and frankly has been at least since the time of Newt Gingrich. They're also pretty homogenous policy-wise. A President Marco Rubio would not have pursued policies considerably different than Trump has, and he probably would've been more successful. There's a reason that no matter what Trump does, not ONE of the 240+ Republican members of the House will even utter a word about drafting articles of impeachment.

Just as the new forces on the right are threatening primary challenges to establishment Republicans, some groups on the left have begun talking about targeting Democratic incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections.

Wake me when there's a Democratic challenger from the left that has a serious chance of unseating an incumbent Democrat. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two did, but that's pretty inconsequential.

Entrenched Democratic groups are facing growing questions about the return on the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent over the years. Groups affiliated with Mrs. Clinton “spent so much money based on a bad strategy in this last cycle that they should step aside and let others lead in this moment,” said Quentin James, a founder of a political committee called the Collective PAC that supports African-American candidates.

Boy, did Vogel have to dig for this guy. His PAC spent a grand total of about $25,000 in 2016. Quentin Jones isn't exactly a player.

Mr. James’s committee is among more than three dozen outfits that have started or reconfigured themselves since the election to try to harness the surge in anti-Trump activism. In addition to political committees, grass-roots mobilization nonprofits and legal watchdog groups, there are for-profit companies providing technological help to the new groups — essentially forming a new liberal ecosystem outside the confines of the Democratic Party.

This is really light on the details in a place in the story where Vogel could be making his case. He doesn't provide much in the way of his details, and it leaves him without much of a case.

While the new groups gained early traction mostly on the strength of grass-roots volunteers and small donations — and with relatively meager overall budgets — they are beginning to attract attention from the left’s most generous benefactors.

“We’re in a disruptive period, and when we get through it, the progressive infrastructure landscape may look different,” said Gara LaMarche, president of the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberals who donate at least $200,000 a year to recommended groups. “There may be groups that have been around that don’t rise to the challenge, and there may be some new groups that do rise to the challenge, while others fade away.”
The Democracy Alliance has helped shape the institutional left, steering more than $600 million since its inception in 2005 to a portfolio of carefully selected groups, including pillars of the Clinton-aligned establishment like the think tank Center for American Progress and the media watchdog Media Matters.
But this year, the Democracy Alliance hired Archana Sahgal, a former Obama White House official, to help the new anti-Trump groups, and it suspended its intensive vetting and approval process to recommend donations to a host of groups created since last fall’s election.
The Democracy Alliance distributed a “resistance map” to its donors in July including new groups focused on converting the anti-Trump energy into electoral wins, such as Flippable, Swing Left and Sister District, as well as legal watchdog groups and others focused on mobilizing protesters, such as Women’s March and Indivisible.
Perhaps no group epitomizes the differences between the legacy left and the grass-roots resistance like Indivisible. Started as a Google document detailing techniques for opposing the Republican agenda under Mr. Trump, the group now has a mostly Washington-based staff of about 40 people, with more than 6,000 volunteer chapters across the country. The national Indivisible hub, which consists of a pair of nonprofit groups, has raised nearly $6 million since its start, primarily through small-dollar donations made through its website.

Indivisible was started by former Congressional staffers. That's not exactly anti-establishment.

Yet Indivisible has also received funding from the tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, as well as foundations or coalitions tied to Democracy Alliance donors, including the San Francisco mortgage billionaire Herbert Sandler, the New York real estate heiress Patricia Bauman and the oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix.
And an advocacy group funded by the billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, a founding member of the Democracy Alliance and one of the most influential donors on the left, is considering a donation in the low six figures to Indivisible. Mr. Soros has already donated to a host of nonprofit groups playing key roles in the anti-Trump movement, including the Center for Community Change, Color of Change and Local Progress.
Indivisible would “gladly” accept a check from Mr. Soros or his foundation, said an official with the group, Sarah Dohl. But, she added, the group is committed to ensuring that money from major donors does not become a majority of the group’s revenue “because we want to maintain our impendence both from the funders and from the party.”

Soros has been funding liberal-leaning groups for years, including ones that have been new. And he's only considering making a donation to Indivisible. I hope he does, but does that mean they submitted a grant application, or he had a chat with a friend about it? This is some seriously weasel-wordy stuff from Vogel.

The group may start a political committee that could support primary challenges in 2018 against Democratic incumbents, Ms. Dohl said.

They "may." It "could." Weasel weasel...
“It’s not a secret that we would like to move the Democratic Party further left,” she said, adding that “the party will only get to where it needs to go if it has groups like ours pushing them to do the right thing.” She cited her group’s aggressive opposition to Republicans’ initial efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a time when she said Democratic congressional leaders “didn’t really have a strategy.”

I'm not sure that's fair, but if Indivisible was largely responsible for saving the ACA (and they played a role, just not the biggest), there are very few Democrats that wouldn't thank them.

Established liberal groups like the Center for American Progress haven’t always been as forceful, Ms. Dohl said, though she added that the think tank “has gotten better at calling on Democrats to stand up and speak more boldly than they have in the past.”

Yes. CAP and other groups are getting better.  That's an acknowledgment that the groups are getting closer ideologically, not further apart.

The divisions have sometimes spilled into public view.
The leader of a group founded by Mr. Sanders called Our Revolution castigated the Democratic establishment as arrogant “dictators” who want to control the “terms of unity” after her group’s activists were met by barricades outside the Washington headquarters of the Democratic National Committee when they visited in July to deliver petitions supporting a liberal policy platform.

OK, we know that there's still some division between Hillary voters and *some* Bernie voters, but 1. Bernie isn't even a Democrat, and 2. most Bernie voters ended up voting for Clinton in the end, and not too many that didn't will receive much support from Democratic donors. Besides, how popular is Our Revolution? If I'm measuring by Facebook, the Democratic Party (just its one main group) is liked by more than five times as many users as Our Revolution is.

And Ms. Hunt-Hendrix has urged progressive donors to boycott Democratic establishment-aligned groups like the centrist think tank Third Way and the nonprofits spearheaded by David Brock, the former conservative journalist who became a leading Clinton supporter and founded Media Matters and the opposition research outfit American Bridge.

Very few Democrats support Third Way at this point. It's been irrelevant for a long time. They flirt with running Michael Bloomberg, another non-Democrat, every four years, and never do. And Media Matters is a pretty liberal organization and I believe it's doing just fine. American Bridge occupies a totally different space. I don't recall the last time I heard the name.

Those groups represent a “neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party” that embraces “broken tactics” and an “uninspiring” agenda “more focused on defeating the right than on creating an economy and society that lifts up all people,” Ms. Hunt-Hendrix wrote in an op-ed article this year for Politico.

Anyone who is using the term "neoliberal" in 2017 should be ignored.

Matt Bennett, an official at Third Way, challenged predictions that the new wave of resistance activism would substantially shift the axis of the party. “The idea that all the energy in the Democratic Party is on the far left is premature, and is going to turn out to be the worst prediction of the 2020 cycle,” he said.

Once again. You can't use a quote from a member of an organization that doesn't even really ever support Democrats to demonstrate a split in the Democratic Party!

Mr. Brock and Ms. Leger both said that their groups have been providing research, polling, training and other resources to the new groups, which they cast as a boon to the left, rather than a threat to more established groups.
“The resistance is strongest when everyone has access to our resources,” Mr. Brock said. Ms. Leger said, “These grass-roots groups play a different, unique role, and their energy is something the progressive movement hadn’t seen in decades.” And a D.N.C. spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, praised the new groups for their work to “bring about progressive change and elect Democrats.”

So David Brock is actually on board with these groups? I've written a number of posts imploring him to do so. If the guy you're holding up in your story as one of the main enemies of the new groups is funding them, how the fuck is that division? And the DNC is supportive of these new groups too!

Yet one major Democratic donor, the Virginia real estate developer Albert J. Dwoskin, said the fluidity in the universe of liberal groups would cause some donors to sit on the sidelines “to wait to see which ones have any legs whatsoever.”

I honestly don't even know what this means.

And veteran Democratic operatives are concerned that the proliferation could further fracture the left, widening ideological divisions and leaving groups fighting for resources.

Veteran Democratic operatives like who? Not David Brock, apparently. Name names, Kenneth.

That doesn’t bother Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political adviser to Mr. Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn, who has brought a venture capital approach to politics, seeding a wide array of new groups on the left.
“The Democratic Party has been fractured,” Mr. Mehlhorn said. “We believe that by investing in different people and groups to try different techniques that good ideas will emerge.”

OK, what he calls "fracturing" seems to me to be more like "opening to new ideas." But who's he funding?

Among Mr. Hoffman’s donations are at least $1 million each to two of the groups suing Mr. Trump’s campaign, his administration, businesses and associates

Is there a single member of the Democratic Party that doesn't support suing Donald Trump? I mean, there are some on the far left that appear to be against it because they say that Russia didn't have a role in the election. Pretty much every "establishment" Dem believes they did.
 — United to Protect Democracy, started this year by a former Obama White House lawyer, and Integrity First for America, which will be unveiled later this year by the pioneering New York trial lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan.

Someone who worked for Obama? How is that not "establishment?" Also, of course there are new groups that have been started to specifically sue Trump that didn't exist before. He's only been in the White House for nine months!

A Silicon Valley-like competition between start-ups might not be the best thing for the left right now, warned Rob Stein, a longtime Democratic strategist who helped create the Democracy Alliance to provide structure to the institutional left.
“Having a thousand flowers blooming at the beginning of a new era is generally a good thing,” Mr. Stein said. “But when you’ve got your back against the wall, too many new blooms can cause message and operational cacophony.”
He warned that the combination of ideological and structural divisions, along with a national party weakened by changes in campaign finance laws, could “make it very, very difficult for progressives and Democrats to drive a coherent message in 2018, and to align behind a single candidate in 2020.”

Once again, we have "can," and "could." Bernie Sanders taking a shit on a photo of John Podesta on the steps of the Capitol "could" split the party.

#TheResistance is not the Democratic Party coming apart. While there are divisions in the Party, to be sure, it's providing the rallying cries which have the potential to strengthen its Vogel's article provides little evidence this is happening, and mostly betrays its own premise.

Why does the New York Times publish content like this? The article in itself could sow more seeds of division than exist now. If they'd behaved more responsibly over the last couple of years, we wouldn't have a madman on Pennsylvania Ave. (well, when he's not golfing or throwing paper towels). They haven't taken much responsibility for that. Now they're putting out crap that might re-elect him?

I'll close by reiterating something I wrote in May:
The Times really is a Jekyll and Hyde publication. They break some of the most important stories in the world, and yet they've helped Republicans cover up bombshells and attacked Democrats for no good reason. I have some theories as to why, but it's safe to say that they're not coming at the news from the right perspective when we see ads like this:

That's exactly what Vogel's doing. Being part of the story. I believe the appropriate term is "journalistic malpractice."