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Professional Left Podcast #442

"Be excellent to each other."
-- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

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The isolationist speaks

The isolationist speaks

by digby

Trump said a bunch of words someone else wrote for him at the Naval academy today. It sounded absurd.

But this was him, all him:

You don’t give up. You don’t give in. You don’t back down. And you never surrender. Wherever you go, wherever you serve, wherever your mission takes you, you only have one word in mind, and that’s victory. That is why you are here. Victory. A very important word. You are now leaders in the most powerful and righteous force on the face of the planet. The United States military. And we are respected again, I can tell you that. We are respected again.

A lot of things have happened. We are respected again...

Each of you enters service at a truly exciting time for our country. For we are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might. We have rediscovered our identity, regained our stride, and we are proud again. Prosperity is booming at home. Our economy is the strongest it has ever been. And our country has regained the respect that we used to have long ago abroad. Yes, they are respecting us again. Yes, America is back.

We have begun the great rebuilding of the United States military. We have ended the disastrous defense sequester. No money for the military? Those days are over. And we have just secured, you have read all about it, a $700 billion, largest-ever amount of money to support our great war fighters. And I might add that next year—the $700 billion, not million. They’re liking the sound of million, but billion is better—the $700 billion goes to $716 billion, and we are going to be stronger than ever before. We will have the strongest military that we have ever had, and it won’t even be close. And when did we need it more than now?

And when did we need it more than now???


Meanwhile, in the camps

Meanwhile, in the camps

by digby

From the ACLU:

Separating children from their parents. Harassing and arresting passengers on Greyhound buses. Detaining asylum seekers for no reason. These are just some of the horrific abuses unleashed by the Trump administration’s anti-immigration deportation machine.

Now, we’ve uncovered tens of thousands of pages of evidence documenting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials physically, sexually, and verbally abusing children. The majority of these children are asylum seekers fleeing violence in Mexico and Central America. Some are teenage mothers. Some are escaping gang violence. Some are in need of medical attention. All of them have risked their lives to find safety – and tragically, CBP has shattered that dream for so many.

CBP’s abuses are not only unconscionably inhumane, but they also violate United States law and international human rights law, which give protections to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – no matter their country of origin.

The uncovered documents show CBP officials – including Border Patrol agents – committing the following abuses:

  • Threatening children with rape and death
  • Depriving children of food and water and holding them in freezing and unsanitary detention cells
  • Shooting children with Tasers and stun guns
  • Punching a child in the head repeatedly
  • Running over two 17-year-olds with patrol vehicles
  • Subjecting a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they forcefully spread her legs and touched her genitals
The violations are numerous. By law, CBP can’t hold unaccompanied children for longer than 72 hours. Children in CBP custody are entitled to safe facilities, adequate food and water, and proper medical care. And as federal officials, CBP officers are legally required to report all allegations of child abuse to law enforcement, child protective services, or the FBI.

All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their immigration status – and children, in particular, deserve special protection. The misconduct demonstrated in these records is breathtaking, as is the government’s complete failure to hold officials who abuse their power accountable.

What’s even more alarming is that these abuses occurred before President Trump came into office. The officials who oversaw these abuses are still in power today. What’s more, Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric are bound to worsen the treatment of immigrant children.

We have to do everything we can to stop CBP’s abuse of children. Add your name to hold the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection accountable and demand an end to the brutal abuse of children in his agency’s custody.

You can sign this petition here.


David Brooks: While My Caviar Gently Weeps

Today in the world of Advanced Brooksology, Yastreblyansky was up at the crack of dawn plowing the south forty.
Local Man Who Believed Saddam Hussein Had an Advanced Nuclear Weapons Program and Still Thinks Lincoln Unified the United States and If We Show Respect to Rightwingers It Will End School Shootings Among Other Things Complains that Under Trump America Is Descending Into Fantasy
You should go check it out. As for myself, it's going to be a hella long and exhausting day here in our Hobbit hole in the middle of Middle America, so on the subject of David Brooks wagging his finger at Donald J. Trump for...
...celebrity subsuming governance. Every day he produces great geysers of fantasy — some of which rip the cultural fabric (Mexican rapists), some of which merely tug it (“Obama had my ‘wires tapped’”).

Trump’s fantasies regularly collide with reality, and so far reality has a perfect winning percentage. That’s what happened with North Korea on Thursday. I sympathized with Trump’s efforts to give North Korea an opportunity to change, but his bluster, flattery and commemorative coins amounted to nothing more than pseudo-policy — a verbal meringue buttressed by no analytic substance, no institutional leverage, no real power force.

The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into co-creating it.
... I will simply add two things.

First,  Trump does not produce "geysers of fantasy".  

He lies.

He lies constantly, pathologically, about everything all the time.  And he is abetted in his every lie by a Republican media machine and political party which have been an existential threat to this country for decades.  An utterly toxic Republican media machine and political party which nominated and elected this racist, lying demagogue because he was the perfect manifestation of who they truly are and what they truly believe.  An utterly toxic Republican media machine and political party which Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times has spent his entire career ignoring, denying or otherwise dismissing by creating great geysers of fantasy.

From Mr. Brooks just eight months before Donald J. Trump oozed down the escalator and into the hearts of Republican voters everywhere:
The big Republican accomplishment is that they have detoxified their brand. Four years ago they seemed scary and extreme to a lot of people. They no longer seem that way. The wins in purple states like North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado are clear indications that the party can at least gain a hearing among swing voters. And if the G.O.P. presents a reasonable candidate (and this year’s crop was very good), then Republicans can win anywhere. I think we’ve left the Sarah Palin phase and entered the Tom Cotton phase. 
Second, let us turn in our vast collection of great geysers of fantasy which Mr. Brooks has eagerly produced to advance his own fortunes and the Republican Cause to April of 2003:
The Collapse of the Dream Palaces
Mass destruction of mistaken ideas.
APR 28, 2003

... Now that the war in Iraq is over, we'll find out how many people around the world are capable of facing unpleasant facts. For the events of recent months confirm that millions of human beings are living in dream palaces, to use Fouad Ajami's phrase. They are living with versions of reality that simply do not comport with the way things are. They circulate and recirculate conspiracy theories, myths, and allegations with little regard for whether or not these fantasies are true. And the events of the past month have exposed them as the falsehoods they are.

...Finally, there is the dream palace of the American Bush haters. In this dream palace, there is so much contempt for Bush that none is left over for Saddam or for tyranny. Whatever the question, the answer is that Bush and his cronies are evil. What to do about Iraq? Bush is evil. What to do about the economy? Bush is venal. What to do about North Korea? Bush is a hypocrite.

In this dream palace, Bush, Cheney, and a junta of corporate oligarchs stole the presidential election, then declared war on Iraq to seize its oil and hand out the spoils to Halliburton and Bechtel. In this dream palace, the warmongering Likudniks in the administration sit around dreaming of conquests in Syria, Iran, and beyond. In this dream palace, the boy genius Karl Rove hatches schemes to use the Confederate flag issue to win more elections, John Ashcroft wages holy war on American liberties, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and his cabal of neoconservatives long for global empire. In this dream palace, every story of Republican villainy is believed, and all the windows are shuttered with hate.

My third guess is that the Bush haters will grow more vociferous as their numbers shrink. Even progress in Iraq will not dampen their anger, because as many people have noted, hatred of Bush and his corporate cronies is all that is left of their leftism. And this hatred is tribal, not ideological. And so they will still have their rallies, their alternative weeklies, and their Gore Vidal polemics. They will still have a huge influence over the Democratic party, perhaps even determining its next presidential nominee. But they will seem increasingly unattractive to most moderate and even many normally Democratic voters who never really adopted outrage as their dominant public emotion.

In other words, there will be no magic "Aha!" moment that brings the dream palaces down. Even if Saddam's remains are found, even if weapons of mass destruction are displayed, even if Iraq starts to move along a winding, muddled path toward normalcy, no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, "We were wrong. Bush was right." They will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future. Nevertheless, the frame of the debate will shift. The war's opponents will lose self-confidence and vitality. And they will backtrack. They will claim that they always accepted certain realities, which, in fact, they rejected only months ago...
That is the raw and real David Brooks, boys and girls.  That is what it looks like when he feels the coast is finally clear and it's safe to take off his mask of civility and use his media platform to kick the living shit out of people like you and me.  By the way and for the record. here is Mr, Brooks after his fantasies collided with reality.  As with Trump, there was no apology.  As with Trump, there was no acknowledgement that he had ever been wrong. Instead there was this great geyser of fantasy, which began with Mr. Brooks denying that he had ever said anything mean or negative about Iraq War critics at all.

Back in the here and now, Mr. Brooks wraps up his column today by wistfully dreaming of a world after Trump,
I miss people thinking about the world outside the gravity field of Trumpian unreality, and about the world after Trump — the world we should be building.
I do not share Mr. Brooks' dream.

Instead I dream of a world where the Republican Party -- that cruel and implacable monster machine that spawned Donald Trump and a thousand other equally toxic and equally depraved Conservative ghouls and hobgoblins -- has been taken apart with an electoral sledgehammer and Chernobyled under 30 feet concrete so that something honorable might one day rise in its place. 

A world that has no time or money or patience for the craven opinions, gold-plated moralizing and great geysers of fantasy of Mr. David Brooks.

Behold, a Tip Jar!


Mad as tinfoil hatters by @BloggersRUs

Mad as tinfoil hatters

by Tom Sullivan

Yesterday's classified briefing at the White House were odd even for a day the president sent the leader of North Korea a "Dear John" letter. The briefings on the FBI's reported "confidential source" on the Trump campaign farcically included the presence of White House lawyer Emmett Flood.

Democrats responded:

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "Never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House. Those individuals left before the substance of it. Unusual times."

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, called Flood's presence "completely inappropriate." "Although he did not participate in the meetings which followed, as the White House's attorney handling the Special Counsel's investigation, his involvement — in any capacity — was entirely improper, and I made this clear to him," Schiff said in a statement.

The purpose of the meeting was to review information regarding Trump's concocted outrage over the FBI informant who provided information on Russian efforts to infiltrate the Trump election campaign. In Trump's mind, this counterintelligence effort is evidence of a "deep state" conspiracy against him.

"Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intel agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign," Schiff told reporters.

Steve Benen writes, "The president made this demand for brazenly political reasons, threatening to undermine not only the rule of law, but also a probe in which Trump is a subject." But of course he did. The White House is desperate to derail the Mueller investigation by any means necessary.

Benen provided a list of some of the other conspiracy theories floated by the White House and its coterie:

* Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. (He didn’t.)

* There were improper unmaskings. (There weren’t.)

* The FISA warrants related to Carter Page were improper. (They weren’t).

* It was Democrats who actually colluded with Russia. (They didn’t.)

* Conspiring FBI officials may be guilty of “treason.” (They aren’t.)

* “Uranium One” is a real scandal. (It isn’t.)

* Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) had improper communications with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch. (He didn’t.)

* Every member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is a rabid Democratic partisan. (Mueller is a Republican.)

* Law enforcement officials ”infiltrated” the Trump campaign, “implanting” a “spy” in the Republican operation. (They didn’t.)

"Innocent people generally don't try to undermine investigations through a series of ridiculous conspiracy theories," Benen tweeted.

Is he implying something? He might be implying something.

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Rick Lowry, Respected Conservative Intellectual


In Case You Were Wondering Where All the Money That Could Be Going to Build a Liberal Media Infrastructure Is Actually Going

Behold, a Tip Jar!

I'm putting the Tip Jar at the top of this post instead of discretely at the bottom.

In a minute you'll understand why.

Concerned by Trump, Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats

...In the past year, however, influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances...
In other words, the Repiublican rough beast we Liberals have been warning them about for decades has finally slouched all the way to White House to be born.

That's on the one hand.

On the other hand, they have gone all in on the Both Siderist lie and have all the money in the world to play with (with emphasis added):
...[Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein]added that there was a “sense of urgency and intellectual vitality animating these efforts” that could “challenge conventional political wisdoms, 20th century political alliances and the two major, internally fractious, parties.”
See, it has finally sunk in to Prince Prospero's revelers that the Red Death has breached their walled-city and that Donald J. Trump and his Republican party really are an existential threat to democracy.  But they are equally freaked out at the implications of admitting the terrifying truth that -- holy shit! the Left really has been right about the Right all along.  Because they they might get icky Libtard juice all over the bed ruffles and the good china.  And so...
The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.
Oh horrors!  The peasants might get affordable health care and a college education that won't sell their kids into debt bondage!

And the rest you already know, because the script and the players never changes:
The discussions at Patriots and Pragmatists meetings are intended to focus on big picture topics related to democracy, rather than elections or political funding...The group has held three two-day gatherings outside San Francisco, New York and Washington, to which Ms. Pritzker and her political adviser invited 20 to 40 people per meeting. Gatherings have drawn influential Democratic operatives like Mr. Bassin and the Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein. They have also attracted big-name Republican and conservative thinkers, writers and operatives including Mr. Taylor, the legal analyst Benjamin Wittes and the foreign policy hawks Mona Charen, David Frum, Robert Kagan, Mr. Kristol and Jennifer Rubin.
And the amount of money these people can raise never changes.
Perhaps most significantly, Patriots and Pragmatists gatherings have drawn major donors like William D. Budinger, a former Democracy Alliance board member, and representatives of deep-pocketed grant-writing foundations like Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative.

For the last few years, those foundations have been donating millions of dollars a year to bipartisan and nonpartisan groups advocating political reforms. But they redoubled their efforts after the 2016 election.

Stand Up Republic and Stand Up Ideas — founded by Mr. McMullin and Ms. Finn — have received a total of as much as $1.3 million from the Democracy Fund groups and the Madison Initiative. And Protect Democracy and the Protect Democracy Project — founded by Mr. Bassin — have received as much as $500,000 from those grant-writing foundations, according to financial information on their websites.
And is another paragraphs taken at randomly:
The Niskanen Center hosts a semimonthly invitation-only gathering of Trump critics called Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky and the Russian Provisional Government the Meeting of the Concerned, which attendees are asked to keep confidential. While it is attended primarily by a rotating cast of Never Trump Republicans — including the pundit Mr. Kristol and the former Representative Mickey Edwards — meetings sometimes include a Democrat or two presenting research or analysis on relevant issues.
And another:
Other Republicans have been wary to get involved, Mr. Bassin said. “There is a troubling dynamic happening where anytime a conservative expresses concerns, they get branded a Never Trumper and are excommunicated from the American right.”
And I'm done


Trump first, America last

Trump first, America last

by digby

Chris Hayes made an observation that would be really smart for Democratic politicians to take up:

It’s quite clear now that in many cases America came in second to the interests of the president and his associates.

His national security adviser Michael Flynn was secretly being paid by Turkey during the campaign and into the transition, pushing for more favorable policy towards the Turkish strongman in an op-ed he published on Election Day.

Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman running the campaign at a certain point, was deeply entangled with Russia and Ukrainian interests, which he apparently tried to appease by leveraging his role running a presidential campaign …

Michael Cohen was reportedly pitching the government of Qatar at Trump Tower during the transition, soliciting a $1 million payment in exchange for access to the new administration. It turns out the president’s own son, Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t just interested in what Russia could do for the campaign. He also met with an Israeli, an emissary from the Saudi government and the United Arab Emirates in the months before the election. These are just the instances we know about, what’s publicly come to light.

Today we learned of what looks like yet another example of the president’s inner circle selling off U.S. foreign policy. BBC reporting, citing sources in Kiev close to those involved, the president of Ukraine secretly funneled $400,000 to Michael Cohen to arrange a meeting at the White House.

You can add the Broidy and ZTE deals too ...

This really can't be said enough. Trump isn't for internationalism or America First. He is for Trump. Period. And he and his family and cronies obviously made it very clear during the campaign and since then that they are open for business.


So much losing

So much losing

by digby

As much as I loathe Trump I was still hopeful that somehow, by accident, he would be able to strike a deal to keep North Korea moving toward some kind of rapprochement with South Korea and a more peaceful, engaged relationship with the world. There are people living there. Nuclear war is unthinkable. Even temporary time outs are better than escalation.

But I can't say that I'm surprised it fell apart. Trump is in over his head that he can't really think about anything but Hannity and Nunes anyway. His team is unprepared and not cohesive. He refused to prepare and only cared about the pageantry. And all this talk about the Libya solution was just daft ...

This piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate sums up how it went down:

By canceling his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump has proved his lack of skill as a negotiator, handed the world’s most brutal dictator a win, and further isolated the United States as a world power.

In a letter to Kim, released at the same time as Western reporters were witnessing the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear test site, Trump wrote that proceeding with a summit would be “inappropriate,” given the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s recent statements. He thus revealed how little he knows about the history of diplomacy with Pyongyang—a true expert could have told him that fiery rhetoric is par for the course—and about Kim’s long-standing position on the issues that were to be discussed.

The statements that threw Trump for a loop—issued by North Korea’s vice minister for foreign affairs, who has been its top negotiator for more than a decade—were, in substance, no different from Kim’s public position since the idea of a summit came up months ago: that the goal should be “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (not just of North Korea), achieved, if at all, through “phased and synchronous measures” (not all at once).

Trump’s pullout is puzzling, in that, at his press conference this week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, he said that, while he would prefer instant disarmament by Pyongyang (the position pushed by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), a phased approach might be acceptable.

Trump may think that Kim will now come crawling back to the table, but this is a dubious proposition. First, Kim’s negotiator had already threatened to pull out, saying that there was no point talking if Trump endorsed Bolton’s public comparison of North Korea to Libya, a country whose voluntary surrender of its nuclear program led to a Western-backed ouster of its leader, followed by his brutal murder.

Second, Kim doesn’t need this summit. He has already, deceptively or not, cultivated the image of a peace-seeker, through a charm offensive that began with his New Year’s Day message and continued through the Winter Olympics, his own summits in China and South Korea (the first meetings with those countries’ leaders on their territory), his offer to meet with Trump, his suspension of nuclear and missile tests (though only after announcing that he now had a viable nuclear arsenal), and proposing “denuclearization” (though with a vague timetable and the usual caveats).

Imagine if Trump had gone ahead with the summit, which was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, and Kim hadn’t shown up, still protesting Bolton’s remarks. Trump could have touted himself as the real peace-seeker. He could have invited the leaders of South Korea, Japan, and perhaps China to come along and, in lieu of the scheduled summit, held a security conference, to discuss further steps to contain and isolate Kim’s regime. It would have been a double win for Trump.

No doubt Bolton and Pompeo are relieved, and may have prompted, Trump’s cancellation. They never wanted a summit to begin with. Bolton had said, as a guest on Fox News before he was hired by Trump, that he hoped the summit would end badly and quickly, so Washington could proceed with ousting Kim’s regime by force if necessary. Bolton had also written op-eds arguing that a preventive strike against North Korea was legal and necessary.

Trump’s big mistake was accepting Kim’s invitation to a summit without first discussing its potential risks and opportunities with people who know something about these things. His second, bigger mistake was hyping expectations, tweeting that a peace treaty was on the horizon and that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize simply for agreeing to meet. These absurd remarks only heightened his own stake in the summit’s success—and Kim’s leverage in the negotiations.

There's more at the link. He ends with this:

What is Trump’s Plan B? As usual, he doesn’t have one.

For Impeccable Service To The Russian State

Behold, a Tip Jar!


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