Florida Recount: Ballots Are the New Caravan

I’ve been too busy scraping, sanding, painting, unpacking, rearranging, etc., to pay much attention to what’s happening with the Florida recounts. To be honest, I don’t expect anything to change after the mandatory recounts; my guess is Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis will be certified as the winners of the senate seat and governor’s office and that Democrat Nikki Fried will maintain her lead for ag commissioner — maddeningly the only statewide win by a Democrat in Florida this cycle.

My wingnut county went for the Republicans overwhelmingly, as expected. Local reports say the recounts here are proceeding without controversy. Even the Democratic official overseeing the county recount says he trusts the Republican supervisor of elections to complete the job with integrity.

Contrast that with the screeching from Rick Scott and the orange fart cloud in the White House. Scott has always been a crook and jumped on the Trump bandwagon early. But one thing he’s done that struck me as smart politically was to cast himself as a hardworking, capable businessman rather than a Fox News ideologue, even if that’s what he was all along.

He dropped that ruse this go-round, absurdly (and ironically, given his own shady business history) crying “rampant fraud” before the damned votes were even counted the first time and going on the Hannity show to gin up hysteria and anger about the recounts. It looks orchestrated from the top since Lil’ Marco has irresponsibly joined in.

The orange fart cloud foolishly declared this morning that the ballots in Florida are “massively infected” (ballots are the new caravan) and that officials must stop state law-triggered recounts and declare election night calls the official tally. Real Banana Republican stuff.

Similarly, Scott ordered the state’s department of law enforcement to investigate fraud and was promptly told there’s no fraud to investigate. Their source of that information is the Republican secretary of state. Now Crooked Pam Bondi has joined in, sending a letter of concern to the department of law enforcement (headed by a Scott appointee!) since they declined to join the hysteria. Possibly this is her US AG audition tape, who knows.

It’s Trumpification at the state level. It echoes the dangerous split between career law enforcement employees at the federal level and their duties to citizens that is caused by Trump trying to press them into service as political props and enforcers. No good will come of any of it. It’s not surprising, but it’s dangerous and disturbing.

There’s a “massive infection” alright, but the disease vector isn’t the ballots in South Florida. The opportunistic infection is Trump in a host weakened by Republican parasites. Only their utter defeat will ensure the survival of the patient.



On the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month of 1918 World War I Did Not Come to an End

(Satwinder Sehmi’s Calligraphy: In Flander’s Field)

As Veteran’s Day 2018 comes to a close, and with it the commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, it is important to remember that World War I did not actually end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. While it is true that the armistice was signed and peace talks would soon begin, World War I did not stop on November 11, 2018. Rather, and more accurately, it transformed into a series of low intensity conflicts that would simmer until reigniting into World War II. At the heart of those conflicts was a war of ideas. One of these ideas was national identity. Specifically, how ethno-national minorities that were left behind the lines, so to speak, when the armistice was signed would relate to the governments they now lived under, their ethno-national majority neighbors, and how those governments and those neighbors would relate to them. Out of these tense, taut, and often violent relationships between ethno-national majorities and minorities in post World War I Europe would grow other even more dangerous ideas such as fascism, in its corporatist, nationalist-syndicalist, and racist forms. Even, to a certain extent, Leninism, was unable to escape the nationalist tensions that resulted from the way World War I never really ended.

The great power competition that had led to World War I was changed by these clash of ideas – nationalism, fascism, communism – and, as a result, World War II and the Cold War were as much wars of ideas and ideology as they were wars of conquest and for territory. These ideas were about how to better organize state and society. And they placed the ideas of liberty and liberal democracy in all of its various types in direct conflict with the totalitarian ideas of fascism on the extreme right and communism on the extreme left. And just as different forms of liberal democracy would develop, so to would different variations of fascism and communism. These clash of ideas, of how states, societies, and even the global system should best be structured, would lead to both World War II, a long Cold War, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a number of conflicts fought by the proxies of the two post World War II superpowers. to a certain extent they are also an undercurrent in the US’s seeming forever war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As 2018 moves towards 2019, the world is once again faced with a war of ideas. The ideas of well ordered liberty and its expression in the different types of liberal democracy are once again facing off against totalitarian ideas from both state and non-state actors. Vladimir Putin challenges the US and its EU and NATO allies and partners with his promotion of managed democracy as a façade for the kleptocratic organized crime state he has created in Russia. Xi Xinping, recently declared as President for Life, promotes his fusion of Maoism, state controlled capitalism, and Chinese nationalism through his Belt and Road Initiative. ISIS continues to promote an extreme version of tawheed, the Islamic theological understanding of the unity of the Deity, which includes violently imposing its doctrine on believers and unbelievers alike. 

The War to End all Wars did not do so because it could not do so. Nor did World War II. Now has any other war. So while we recognize and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, we need to be realistic about what we face both within and without the United States. We need to remain vigilant in order to ensure that well ordered liberty prevails in this 21st century war of ideas.

Open thread.



Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall: Presidential Indifference Edition

(Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Monument)

The President was supposed to go to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Monument today.

I’m sure all other forms of acceptable and securable transportation were also unavailable today in France because of the inclement weather. The Ainse-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial is only 50 miles from Paris in Belleau, France. Apparently The Beast doesn’t do well when its wet…

The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Monument commemorates:

With headstones lying in a sweeping curve, the 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia. Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. In 1940 during World War II the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery chapel was damaged due to heavy fighting in the vicinity. All damage was repaired except for one shell hole in the chapel, left as a reminder of what took place.

Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

Dedicated: 1937 Location: France Burials:2,289 Missing in Action: 1,060 Acres: 42.50

For those who aren’t into the history of World War I, The Battle of Belleau Wood was:

Set amidst small villages and farmland 50-odd miles north-east of Paris, Belleau Wood is as quiet now as it doubtless was before the fighting erupted there in June 1918. And that fighting was brutal.

On 30 May two other American divisions, the 2nd & 3rd*, were ordered into the area, arriving from different directions east and west. A machine gun battalion of the latter secured the south bank of the Marne at the key bridgehead of Château-Thierry as other of their number began to arrive on the scene.

But the main action of the weeks ahead would lie north-west of the town, involving men of the 2nd Division; in particular, two of their regiments, a brigade of Marines led by Pershing’s old chief of staff James Harbord. It would be their efforts to secure a woodland there that would capture headlines, helped in part by the purple prose of journalist Floyd Gibbons.

Belleau Wood was little more than a mile long and half a mile wide, yet it would cost many lives to capture and would be reported across the world.

“It was perhaps a small battle in terms of World War I,” says Professor Andrew Wiest of the University of Southern Mississippi. “But it was outsized in historic importance. It was the battle that meant that the US had arrived.”

Yet as operations go, as brave and tenacious as the soldiers were, it was poorly planned and badly commanded, certainly in its opening phases.

After adjacent areas were captured, the decision was taken to advance on the wood on the afternoon of 6 June. But little reconnaissance had been carried out as to what to expect when they got there and only scant artillery fire was laid down beforehand.

Inside, German machine gunners had taken up positions in defensive holes, behind rocky outcrops and shielded by dense undergrowth. Worse, the Marines now advanced towards them in rank formation over the exposed ground outside. They were slaughtered. By nightfall, 222 were dead and over 850 wounded.

Bloodied but focused on the task, they went again the next day. And the one after that. But little headway was being made. An intense artillery barrage now directed followed by yet another assault.

The casualties mounted, but still the German troops dug in. The fighting laboured on for three weeks, and in its final stages, foot by foot, hand to hand, it intensified in savagery.

Guns and grenades gave way to bayonets and “toad-stickers”, eight-inch triangular blades set on knuckle-handles, as the Marines slashed their way through the last of their enemy.

As the story goes, German officers, in their battle reports, referred to the Marines as Teufelshunde “Devil Dogs”; and journalist Gibbons also helped, singling out one gunnery sergeant in dispatches as “Devil Dog Dan”. Either way, the name and image stuck and went on to become a Marine mascot.

“It was the day the US Marines went from being a small force few people knew about to personifying elite status in the US military,” says Andrew Wiest. The corps had roots dating back to the American War of Independence but from Belleau, there developed much of its modern lore and myth.

More significantly, and of strategic importance, their intervention at Belleau and that of their 2nd and 3rd Division colleagues at the time in the surrounding area on the Marne put paid to the German advance, at what was a dangerous moment in the war for the Allies.

The commander of the US First Division Robert Lee Bullard declared after it: “The Marines didn’t win the war here. But they saved the Allies from defeat. Had they arrived a few hours later I think that would have been the beginning of the end. France could not have stood the loss of Paris.”

The Battle of Belleau Wood was a meat grinder. The Americans who fell there, as well as those who survived, are spoken of with reverence by both their actual descendants and those within the Profession of Arms. The US Marine Corps considers its modern history, especially of being something other than the Navy’s police force, began at Belleau Wood.

Author Alan Axelrod put it best in his book Miracle at Belleau Wood: “created … in 1775, the United States Marine Corps was born in that French forest … in 1918.”

Here’s a short video of Gen (ret) James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the US Marine Corps, at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Monument on Memorial Day 2014.

Today the President has failed to keep his honor clean…

Open thread.

* It is from this series of battles that the 3rd Infantry would pick up its nickname: The Rock of the Marne Division.



The Defenestration of Matthew Whitaker Has Begun

As expected the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have begun to strategically leak negative information about Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

From TPM (because I’m not subscribing to The Wall Street Journal):

The FBI is investigating a Miami-based company with ties to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker that was shuttered in May 2018 by the Federal Trade Commission, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Whitaker served on the company’s advisory board, appearing in promotional materials and, at one point, sending an email that appeared to threaten a disgruntled client.

The FTC, a civil regulatory body, called the company a “scam” in a press release, accusing it of persuading inventors to buy expensive marketing, patenting, and distribution packages and then blowing them off when they demanded fulfillment of their orders.

The WSJ reports that the FBI’s Miami field office is overseeing the criminal investigation along with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, citing a letter sent by an FBI victim specialist. The report also states that the investigation began as early as June 2017.

Whitaker received $9,375 from the company, according to court documents.

A court-appointed receiver told the Wall Street Journal that while other advisory board members had given back fees that the company paid them, Whitaker had not yet replied to a demand notice.

From Murray Waas at Vox:

Matthew Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump named as his acting attorney general on Wednesday, privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries, Voxhas learned.

Whitaker was an outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe before he became the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2017. That has rightfully raised concerns that Whitaker might now attempt to sabotage Mueller’s investigation. But new information suggests that Whitaker — while working for Sessions — advocated on behalf of, and attempted to facilitate, Trump’s desire to exploit the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the president’s enemies.

Sources say that Whitaker presented himself as a sympathetic ear to both Sessions and Rosenstein — telling them he supported their efforts to prevent the president from politicizing the Justice Department. A person close to Whitaker suggested to me that the then-chief of staff was only attempting to diffuse the tension between the president and his attorney general and deputy attorney general, and facilitate an agreement between the two sides.

But two other people with firsthand information about the matter told me that Whitaker, in his conversations with the president, presented himself as a vigorous supporter of Trump’s position and “committed to extract as much as he could from the Justice Department on the president’s behalf.”

One administration official with knowledge of the matter told me: “Whitaker let it be known [in the White House] that he was on a team, and that was the president’s team.”

During this period, Whitaker frequently spoke by phone with both Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, this same official told me. On many of those phone calls, nobody else was on the phone except for the president and Whitaker, or only Kelly and Whitaker. As one senior law enforcement official told me, “Nobody else knew what was said on those calls except what Whitaker decided to tell others, and if he did, whether he was telling the truth. Who ever heard of a president barely speaking to his attorney general but on the phone constantly with a staff-level person?”

Whitaker also counseled the president in private on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to name a special counsel to investigate not only allegations of FBI wrongdoing but also Hillary Clinton. Trump wanted the Justice Department to investigate the role that Clinton purportedly played, as secretary of state, in approving the Russian nuclear energy agency’s (Rosatom) purchase of a US uranium mining company.

Yet Whitaker suggested to the White House that he personally was sympathetic to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate these matters, according to the two officials with knowledge of the matter. A Justice Department official told me: “You have to have a predicate to open an investigation, or to reopen a closed case. You have an even higher one, an extraordinary threshold, to appoint a special counsel. If you don’t, what you are doing is unethical as a lawyer.”

Much more at the link.

The President is out of the country for the next several days. Despite the fact that he’ll be tweeting, and barring a major diplomatic incident while in France, which, to be honest with the President is always a distinct possibility, he has limited ability to drive the news cycle through the weekend. Whitaker will continue to suffer a death of a thousand cuts until the DOJ and FBI gets what it wants, which is, at least a recusal, if not an outright resignation.

Open thread!



Let’s Check In and See What the Leader of the Free World Was Up to Today

Oh, and the President spent most of the day on Air Force 1 live tweeting Fox News conspiracy mongering about the ongoing counting of ballots in Florida and Arizona! Though the President, like Fox News employees and others can’t seem to get their heads around that they’re still counting ballots cast, not conducting recounts yet.

Semi Break

A number of folks are expressing concern that a second Brooks Brothers Riot could take place again in south Florida. Aside from the fact that Matt Schlapp now has to shop at the Big & Tall store, which takes Brooks Brothers out of play, I don’t expect a bunch of MAGA hatted nuts having much impact this time around. The Democrats learned the lessons of 2000 well. Marc Elias, who is the top elections lawyer in the country, is working for Senator Nelson, as well as Congresswoman Sinema in Arizona, to ensure that every ballot is counted and that any recount necessary is completed properly. Barry Richards, who was the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign’s election attorney in and from Florida during the 2000 recounts and is the in the state of Florida equivalent to Marc Elias, is working for Mayor Gillum’s campaign. This is the A-Team of election attorneys.

Additionally, this isn’t 2000. Almost everyone has a smart phone. We have social media (for good and ill). People that try to shut down the actual counting of ballots, let alone recounts, by force will have their faces broadcast to the world. They’ll be identified. They’ll face actual consequences because unlike in 2000, these folks don’t work for members of Congress, the Republican National Committee, and/or the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.

(Matt Schlapp is at #6 in the green shirt)

The local supervisors of election aren’t having any of the President’s or anyone else’s crap either:

And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement isn’t having any of Governor Scott’s conspiracy mongering either:

It’s going to be a wild few days. But I wouldn’t bet against either Marc Elias or Barry Richards. They will ensure that every vote that is eligible to be counted is counted and that the recounts are done correctly.

Open thread.



I Hate Illinois NAZIs!

From The Chicago Tribune:

The long-shot candidacy of a Holocaust denier’s Republican bid for Congress was defeated Tuesday, but not before the neo-Nazi received more than 56,000 votes in Illinois’ 3rd District.

As expected, incumbent U.S Rep. Dan Lipinski cruised to victory with just under 75 percent of the unofficial vote tally in the Democratic stronghold that stretches from the city’s Southwest Side to the west and south suburbs.

With a little over 99 percent of precincts reporting, Lipinski received 155,940 votes compared with Jones’ 56,350 The results may not include all early voting tallies.

Obligatory!

Open thread!



FLOTUS on PEEOTUS

The Post shares some tidbits from an advance copy of Michelle Obama’s upcoming book, Becoming, which will be released on Tuesday. Reporter Krissah Thompson says that in the book, Ms. Obama lays “bare her deep, quaking disdain for Trump.”

I suspect we’ll all say amen to this passage about Trump’s racist birther nonsense:

“The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she writes. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

None of us will, Ms. Obama. And, as we’ve seen, Trump’s reckless blather has since acquired a body count. A deranged bigot in Kansas killed an Indian engineer after shouting anti-immigrant slogans that could have come straight from a Trump rally. The Nazi who murdered 11 people in Pittsburgh cited the “caravan” hysteria as his primary motivation. The MAGA bomber’s incompetence at bomb-building was the only thing that prevented more Trump-inspired carnage.

Ms. Obama had this to say about Trump’s misogyny as revealed by the pussy-grabbing conversation caught on a hot mic:

“It was an expression of hatred that had generally been kept out of polite company, but still lived in the marrow of our supposedly enlightened society — alive and accepted enough that someone like Donald Trump could afford to be cavalier about it.”

I’m glad Ms. Obama called Trump’s revolting sexism what it is — hatred. That gets glossed over way too much. It’s not “locker room talk.” It’s not “boys will be boys.” It’s not “he has no filter.” It’s an expression of contempt and hatred for half of the world’s population. A man in Tallahassee recently acted on that hate, killing two women at a yoga studio.

Thompson reports that Ms. Obama “tried to block out [Trump’s] election.” Me too, last real FLOTUS. Me too.

Anyhoo, I don’t think I’ve ever read a first lady’s memoir, but I plan to make an exception in this case.