What If – Trump And Others Are Guilty?

David Rothkopf asked a good question on Twitter:

He provides a short thread of subsidiary questions, but I’d like to take a different approach.

The investigations will take time. Many things can happen between now and when the results come out. The bottom line is what the Russians did to influence the election results, how much of an effect they had, and who in the administration was involved. Read more

Hope Votes

Somewhere around the year 2042 or so, I hope to remove from my pocket a shimmering, translucent, flexible square about the size and weight of a hanky and use it to read this B-section article in the NEW New York Times:

Hope springs eternal, mostly. And yet. Ryu Spaeth published a piece in the New Republic last week that stuck with me because it captures the sense of trauma and despair of the Trump era so well:

There is so much selfishness and ignorance and hatred in this county, and they have found their concentrated embodiment in Trump, who bludgeons us with the worst aspects of humanity every single day. This is self-evidently traumatic for the body politic, harming our capacity for empathy and reason and decency. And yet it is difficult to express just how awful it is: how it makes us worry for our children in existential terms, how it makes our lives a little more sordid every day, how it slowly bleeds our world of joy and purpose.

The traditional response to bad presidents is to resist, to organize, to prepare for the next election—to have faith, even if everything else fails, in democracy. But democracy already failed us once, handing the presidency to a man who lost the popular vote by a resounding margin. It has been subverted by gerrymandering, and is being weakened by those working to keep minorities and the poor from the polls. It was compromised by the intervention of a foreign government, and the president is reluctant to even acknowledge that fact, let alone make sure it doesn’t happen again…

This is the point in the essay where I should say that we mustn’t lose hope, that we must impede Donald Trump at every step, and I do believe that. Still, to quote Howard Beale, everyone knows things are bad. I wake up each morning prepared for something terrible to happen. But something terrible is happening, every day, all around us. The most frightening part is that we’re not sure if Trump’s America is rock bottom or if we have further to fall.

All of that. The only way out of this mess is to roll back Trumpism and make the GOP pay for damaging America so grievously. But it will be a long, hard slog; we don’t even know yet how long or how hard. And the outcome is uncertain.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours registering voters and collecting signatures for a ballot initiative in support of ex-felon voting rights restoration. Taking even modest action like that makes me feel less powerless. But after this week, it also feels a bit like throwing a thimbleful of water on a raging grenade warehouse fire.

Many of the people I talked to yesterday seemed similarly overwhelmed and despairing. But in a way, that’s a hopeful sign, I think, the widespread horror at the damage done.

Thimblefuls of action — volunteering to assist immigrants, helping people get ID to vote, showing up when Nazis try to assert ownership of our streets, voting in every single election — add them up, and they become a deluge. I hope? I hope. I hope!

Anyhoo, open thread!

That Echo Chorus Lied to Me

Let’s feel really, really sad about the dilemmas that Republicans and Trump appointees find themselves in.

In the aftermath of the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Republican lawmakers and leaders face the most unpalatable set of choices yet in their relationship with President Trump. They are caught between disgust over his failure to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazism, a desire to advance a conservative agenda and fears of rupturing the Trump-GOP coalition ahead of the 2018 elections.

If you enjoy watching a bunch of powerful assholes wring their hands about their self-induced powerlessness, read that whole piece.

On the one hand, Nazis. On the other, tax cuts. What’s an old white man to do?

And then there’s Mnuchin:

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement released by the Treasury Department.
His comments followed assertions by Trump last week that there was blame on “both sides” at the Charlottesville gathering organized by white supremacist groups that turned deadly and that some “fine people” participated in a march to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.
Mnuchin was among the Trump administration officials standing by Trump’s side as he made those comments at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday at an event advertised to focus on Trump’s plans to spur new investments in the nation’s infrastructure.

First, let’s pause to note that those three paragraphs of straight reporting should be taught in what’s left of journalism schools as a primer on showing that a politician is full of shit. Second, Mnuchin is worth something like $500 million, yet he’s willing to serve as a cabinet member of an obvious clown who thinks there are some good Nazis.

On the one hand, selling out, losing friends, betraying your long-suffering people, and being on the wrong side of history. On the other hand, a little power.

Dilemmas, they’re everywhere.

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Instructions for the Upcoming Solar Event

If you haven’t been able to score a proper pair of eclipse glasses, the Washington Post weather page has instructions for making your own personal cardboard projection ‘theater’.

If you’re not going to be able to get outside for the event, the NYTimes has a useful article on How to Watch the Eclipse Online.

If you’re just exasperated / infuriated by all the clueless ombraphiles-come-lately cluttering up the perfect eclipse-watching venue you chose months ago, the NYTimes explains Why Some Say the Eclipse Is Best Experienced in a Crowd.
Apart from preparing, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Meanwhile, the Proper Authorities are issuing warnings both serious…

The Federal Highway Administration is offering a number of tips for drivers who will be on the road during the event:
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But Wait, It Gets Better!

This is my favorite thing on the internet (and it’s not the same as the one Anne Laurie posted below):


Open Thread: More Notes from Today’s Boston Farce Rally

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His Life is Over!

This story about a Nazi who lives in a bedroom suburb of Rochester, Honeoye Falls, is tragicomedy:

“No Nazis in our neighborhood,” read the words emblazoned in large, bold type across the tops of the fliers, which also show a picture of a group of demonstrators carrying tiki torches on the campus of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville the night of Aug. 11. One man carrying a torch near the bottom right corner of the image is circled.
The fliers identify the circled man as Jerrod Kuhn and claim that he is a “leading figure with the Daily Stormer, an avowedly neo-Nazi website around which local groups have been organizing to promote anti-Semitism, white supremacy and violence against LGBTQ communities.”
Speaking early Wednesday afternoon outside his Honeoye Falls residence, Kuhn staunchly denied being a neo-Nazi, calling the assertion “a crazy accusation.”
“I’m not a neo-Nazi. I don’t belong to a German workers’ party from 1933,” he said. “… I’m a moderate Republican.”

I guess that settles it. The swastika was just a decoration. The whining continues:

Kuhn said the fliers have ruined his life and that, after they were posted around the village, he and members of his family have received death threats. Law enforcement has been made aware of the threats, said Kuhn, but he thinks he’ll probably have to move out of the area.
“I can’t live in this community anymore. I’m in the process of figuring out what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m 21 years old and now my life is over in this area.”

I don’t condone death threats, but I do want to point out that his life is not over in the same way that Heather Heyer’s is.

Boston ‘Free Speech’ Rally: Well, That Was Anticlimactic, Fortunately

From local news channel WCVB [warning: autoplay]:

One of the planned speakers for the “Free Speech Rally” has said the event “fell apart” and the crowd cheered as police were seen removing flags and other items from the bandstand at Boston Common.

The rally was met with overwhelming opposition as thousands of people gathered on the Common and another 10,000 or more marched to the area from Roxbury…

Several verbal confrontations were observed between counterprotesters and rally attendees as they tried to reach the bandstand. Some of the counterprotesters, who said it was their duty to support free speech, were seen helping the rally attendees through the dense crowd.

Eventually, however, the “Free Speech Rally” organizers seemed to give up.

“I didn’t realize how unplanned of an event it was going to be,” said Samson Racioppi, a candidate for congress who was on the list of speakers publicized by the rally organizers. “I really think it was supposed to be a good event by the organizers but it kinda fell apart.”…

A few dozen people had gathered on the bandstand for the controversial rally, but reporters observed them departing around 12:45 p.m. A few minutes later, police were seen taking down the flags and other items that the rally organizers had hung on the bandstand.

Police escorted the rally attendees out of the area, but some physical conflicts were observed and a phalanx of officers in riot gear emerged near Emerson College as a show of force to quell the crowd.

At the same time, the “Fight Supremacy” march began to reach the area with 10,000 or more participants who were led into downtown from Roxbury by organizers including Black Lives Matter and the Mass Community Action Network…

Video clips at the link.

Kudos to all the local organizers who did non-violence workshops this week. With any luck, Charlottesville will have been a turning point — just not the kind the murderous white supremacists intended.
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Open Thread: “Donald Trump’s Despicable Words”


It’s become a truism that professional comedians are doing some of the best Trump denunciations, but this Washington Post column from Alexandra Petri deserves wider attention:

Of course they gathered with torches, because the only liberty they have lost is the liberty to gather with torches and decide whose house to visit with terror. That is the right that is denied them: the right to other people’s possessions, the right to be the only person in the room, the right to be the only person that the world is made for. (These are not rights. They are wrongs.) You are sad because your toys have been taken, but they were never toys to begin with. They were people. It is the ending of the fairy tale; because you were a beast, you did not see that the things around you were people and not objects that existed purely for your pleasure. You should not weep that the curse is broken and you can see that your footstool was a human being.

But to rejoice in that discovery you have to stop being a beast first, and they have not. Why would they? Trump promises to turn the world back and bring the curse again. That is implicit in his every speech, a dog whistle strong enough that every dog in America is deaf and in constant pain.

Here we are in the year of our lord 2017 and the president of the United States lacks the moral courage to condemn Nazis and white supremacists. And they are not even making it difficult. They are saluting like Nazis and waving Nazi flags and chanting like Nazis and spewing hatred like Nazis. Maya Angelou was not wrong. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. Especially if what that person is telling you is “I am a Nazi.”…

“So important,” Trump said. “We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.”

Maybe. But there is nothing more pathological than the desire to be liked by everyone all the time. If you are continually attracting Nazis and white supremacists, you shouldn’t say, “WOW, everyone LIKES ME! Great!” you should ask yourself, “Where in my life have I gone seriously wrong?”…

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Will the Eclipse Confuse the Beasts?

You think it drives just animals nuts? It’s causing thousands of otherwise sane humans to visit Hopkinsville, KY — WaPo commentor

Per the Washington Post, “During the solar eclipse, animals will be extremely confused“:

Margarita Woc Colburn’s childhood memories of a July 1991 total solar eclipse in Central America are of a social gathering for excited adult relatives who spent hours waiting for an event that was over in minutes.

But the future veterinarian’s gaze was drawn earthward.

“I was looking down on a valley in Guatemala, and I just remember the flock of birds, this massive thing going down to the trees getting ready for nesting, just like what you see at night,” Woc Colburn said, describing a short span when the moon completely obscured the sun. “Then, it felt like a new day. Birds came out and were singing.”

Today she is an associate veterinarian and researcher at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere — which is in the path of totality. During Monday’s total solar eclipse, Woc Colburn’s primary concern once again will be on the animals she has made her life’s work. She predicts birds are likely to provide the greatest spectacle this time around, too.

“We might see something similar with the starlings,” she said. “I’m interested to see whether they go to roost. It will get very noisy if they do.”

Woc Colburn thinks additional bird species and other zoo animals such as lemurs, clouded leopards and kangaroos may also begin to exhibit nighttime habits when totality hits, whether that’s waking up, going to sleep or lining up for a feeding.

It’s all speculation, however, which is something Woc Colburn finds quite surprising.

There is scant research on animal behavior during solar eclipses, owing primarily to the rarity of such events and the difficulty of recording enough observations. That’s poised to change…

Observers nationwide, including visitors to the Nashville Zoo, are being encouraged to join an ambitious and unprecedented attempt at crowdsourced scientific research by using the California Academy of Sciences’ iNaturalist app to document animal reactions.

Nashville researchers also plan to scrape social media postings that tag the zoo. Spokesman Jim Bartoo said researchers will accept any analog observations that are submitted…

Eclipse watchers are bracing for a major bummer should clouds obscure their view. While Woc Colburn agrees that would be a serious letdown, she also noted that clouds shouldn’t affect how animals react, so those who choose to spend the eclipse at the zoo won’t be wholly deprived of a unique experience…

From the earlier WaPo story on the iNaturalist app:

Created by the California Academy of Sciences, iNaturalist allows anyone to take a picture of an animal (or plant or fungi or whatever) and make an attempt to identify it. Then others, including experts, weigh in on whether your ID is correct or not…

On the day of the eclipse, the app will feature a special drawdown menu that allows you to record observations leading up to, during, and after the astronomical event. Simply keep an eye out for any interesting or unusual behavior and snap a few pics while you enjoy the show…

I’ve never tried to download any apps to my second-hand Galaxy S6, but I may have to encourage my ombraphilic Spousal Unit to do so for the big event. Since he plans for us to observe the partial eclipse from our back yard, this will put him into a Virgo dilemma — on the one hand, he could record any unusual behavior on the part of our little rescue dogs; on the other hand, he’ll be terrified that they’ll damage their retinas…

(For the record, I predict even Sydney, who is the youngest and most nervous of our pack, will pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to the Great Event. And even were he to notice, dogs don’t stare at the sun. But if I’m gonna be dragged out to watch the show, I might as well enjoy whatever side benefits I can derive.)

Apart from eclipse-watching preparation, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Friday Night Fights Open Thread: Bannon, the Mucker

Since he first shambled into media view, I’ve thought of Steve Bannon as a mucker… which was not, in the Irish-American community when I was growing up, exactly a term of endearment. To us, a mucker was a guy known to be connected, not exactly a leader but intimately associated with the leadership — someone you called a friend because you sure as hell didn’t want to be known as his enemy.

The Dominican nun who taught theology at my parochial high school said that St. Peter was a mucker (possibly the patron saint of muckers): He was an early, enthusiastic supporter of The Big Guy; he seemed to be around for all the important events, usually making needless trouble; and when worse came to worst, he publicly denied any association with his chieftain, not just once but three times. And yet — as soon as Jesus the radical insurrectionist emerged triumphant from that whole torture-and-crucifixion incident, look who ended up in charge of the Jesus Empire, with his name at the top of the historical plaque!

Steve Bannon, also Irish-American, would’ve been taking catechism classes at approximately the same time as I was. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he heard some version of the the St. Peter, Patron of Muckers story. Everybody needs a role model…

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Calm Before the Storm

I think in the next couple of months, I think we will look at this week with the President outing himself as a Nazi and then trying to cast off Bannon like his pair of jackboots and pretend he is really just Wehrmacht as a relatively peaceful time. He’s increasingly isolated, people are coming at him from all directions, and he has no real beliefs or principles to guide him or orient himself. With the Mueller investigation focusing on his son and everyone abandoning him, things are going to become much more tumultuous and quickly. I also suspect the racist rump of the country is going to become more like Isis than we think, with attacks starting. The rally in Boston tomorrow is something to keep your eyes on.

Back to watching the Defenders.

Economic leverage

Josh Marshall makes a very good point this morning about Trump’s toxicity:

Every president has these industry councils like the ones we’ve been talking about in recent days. They range from meaningless to not terribly important. They’re mainly symbolic. With everything that’s happened in recent days, I don’t want to make it out like the decisions of a small number of CEOs is the biggest news. Still, we should recognize that it is entirely unprecedented to have a sitting president become so toxic that corporate America feels unable to publicly associate with him. That is totally, totally new territory.

Last November, the Brookings Institute looked at the election and they made a very key point. The areas of the country where there was both population density and wealth voted for Clinton.

Visibly enraging not-Trump voters is a money loser.

Early Planning: NYC Meet-Up, Labor Day Weekend?

Got this from prolific Pacific-based commentor NotMax:

Very early feelers regarding a NYC meet-up sometime on Labor Day weekend.

Have a venue in mind but would help to know if Friday, Saturday or Sunday night works best for folks (holiday weekend). Personally partial to Sunday as it would probably offer a less crowded atmosphere.

Leave your notes / suggestions in the comments, or send me an email and I’ll forward it to NotMax.

Friday Afternoon Break Between the Breaking News Open Thread

Knock yourselves out!