Sunday, August 20, 2017

Midnight Meme Of The Day


-by Noah

When Herr Trump decided to further embolden, legitimize, and normalize American Nazis, the KKK, and other White Supremacy advocates the other day, it wasn’t the first time. It was just the most forceful time he’s done it. He was no longer just re-tweeting the tweets and sentiments of these groups, as if that wasn’t horrific enough. It also wasn’t just like when he encouraged these sick people by accepting and welcoming their attendance at his campaign rallies last summer. No, this time it was at a nationally televised press conference at his home, surrounded by his staff and other members of his team. It was at Trump Tower, a place that now might as well be flying a Nazi flag above its Fifth Avenue doorway.

As Trump spoke and gave succor to people who, like him, stand for fighting against the America our founding fathers envisioned, I thought of my father’s generation and how that generation came together to crush like-minded people in World War II.

I can’t speak for my father’s generation, a generation often called “the greatest generation.” But, to say the least, I, and so many others, have a good idea that they would be more than a little dismayed and saddened to see that we now have to fight such human perversions again; this time in our own streets and towns, while an elected President Of The United States, his White House staff, and even the vast majority of his party, try to grow their numbers. Such people who fought fascists were not “alt-left”; they were patriots.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Is There Anything Trump Won't Lie About? Trump Winery Is Not The Biggest Winery And He Doesn't Own It Anyway


The Bird is a restaurant in Northwest DC, in the Shaw neighborhood a nd, according to the Washingtonian's Jessica Sidman, they were so excited a couple weeks ago when Señor Trumpanzee fired The Mooch that the began a new policy: offering discounted drinks whenever Trumpanzee offs one of his co-conspirators-- happy hour cocktails, beers, and wines for $4. Same deal yesterday when Trumpanzee kicked out notorious meth manufacturer and neo-Nazi Steve Bannon. What about the Trump Winery in Charlottesville? Wondering if they offer discounted wine when the owner offs a Nazi? They don't-- and Trump was lying about the winery anyway. Here's a disclaimer they added a year or so ago at the bottom of their official website:

In case you don't know what I'm talking about here, remember back to the fateful press conference when the Baboon-in-Chief gratuitously ended a press conference by claiming that he owns Charlottesville's Trump Winery, claiming it one of the largest wineries, not just in Virginia but anywhere in the country? Our poor delusional fake president! PolitiFact smelled a rat when he first started making the claim at election rallies and over a year ago rated Trump's claims another lie.
"It’s the largest winery on the East Coast," Trump said.

The Republican frontrunner added that he owns the winery "100 percent." Trump did purchase the 1,300-acre vineyard in 2011 where the winery is based and turned over the management to his son, Eric.

A legal disclaimer on the winery website says the GOP presidential candidate doesn’t own the winery. The venture is a limited liability corporation, and its owners are not a matter of public record.

That point aside, let’s move to the focus of this Truth-O-Meter: Is the winery really the largest on the East Coast, as Trump claimed? We emailed his campaign three times seeking backup for the statement but didn’t hear back. So we began our own investigation.

First, we contacted the Virginia Wine Board, a panel created by the Virginia General Assembly to promote state wineries and vineyards. Annette Boyd, the board’s director, said Trump Winery has planted 200 acres of vines. By that measure, called "acres under vine," Boyd said Trump Winery has the largest vineyard in Virginia.

The Trump Winery website, citing the same 200-acre figure, also says it’s the largest vineyard in the state. It additionally claims that it’s the largest "vinifera vineyard" on the East Coast, referring to a species of grape.

But the website never goes as far as Donald Trump did in making an unconditional claim that the winery is the largest on the East Coast. He’s made that statement a number of times.

Several wine industry analysts told us that when calculating a winery’s size, the best measure is not the acreage of vines that have been planted-- it’s the volume of wine produced. By that standard, wine experts told us there’s no way Trump Winery is the biggest on the East Coast.

"That’s not correct," Michael Kaiser, spokesman for the National Association of American Wineries, told us about Trump’s claim.

In fact, by that measure Trump Winery is not even the largest in Virginia. The Trump Winery produces about 36,000 cases of wine each year, according to Boyd. The top producers in the state are the Williamsburg Winery and Chateau Morrisette in Floyd County-- each making about 60,000 cases a year, Boyd said. Barboursville Winery in Orange County, meanwhile, makes about 37,000 cases a year, Boyd said.

It’s not hard to find wineries along the East Coast that make even more. Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, N.C., produces about 390,000 cases of sweet wine a year, Dave Fussell Jr., Duplin’s president, told us in an email.

Duplin, on its website, claims to be the "largest winery in the South." Its grapes come from more than 1,000 acres, the vast majority from farmers who grow them off-site.

The Biltmore Winery in Asheville, N.C., says on its website that it produces about 150,000 cases of wine a year.

Lastly, we wondered whether there are wineries on the East Coast that have more grapes than Trump Winery’s 200 acres of vines. The answer is yes.

The Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York says it cultivates 250 acres of grapes (and makes 50,000 cases of wine a year). The vineyard manager at Pindar Vineyards on New York’s Long Island said in a November 2015 interview that its vineyard has more than 300 acres of grapes. Pindar says it makes 70,000 cases of wine a year.

Our ruling

Trump said that Trump Winery is the "largest winery on the East Coast." It’s not, regardless of whether you measure it by acreage of vines or the production of wine.

We rate Trump’s statement False. offered a Fake wine news alert this week. "The winery that bears Donald Trump’s name," they reported, "which is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, has long denied having anything to do with the current president of the United States... Fake winery news aside, Trump has an unethical habit of mixing his personal business with policy matters. Whether entertaining heads of state at the restaurants inside his D.C. hotel, hosting foreign dignitaries at his properties, or plugging his businesses during official statements Trump has more conflicts of interest than hairs on his head."

Yesterday, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced a resolution in the House that Paul Ryan is likely to bury and prevent from ever coming to a vote. The resolution calls for Señor Trumpanzee President Donald Trump to get a psychiatric examination to determine if he should be removed from office. The resolution reads, in part, "President Donald J. Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties" [and urges Pence and the Trumpanzee Cabinet to] "quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to examine the President… to determine whether the President suffers from mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his constitutional duties."

She speculated that either Trump "has early stage dementia" or that "the stress of office aggravated a mental illness crippling impulse control."

Labels: , , , , ,

How "Both Sides" Forge U.S. Supremacy: The Nationalistic Hypocrisies of "Violence" and "Free Speech"


-by Sam Husseini

Many have focused on President Donald Trump's statements on Charlottesville condemning the "violence" from "both sides." Which is understandable, since the killing of Heather Heyer and overwhelming violence came from white supremacists. But virtually no one has scrutinized the first half of his remarks: Trump criticizing the "violence" of others.

How is it that Trump is designated to be in a position of judging the perpetrators of violence? The U.S. government is regularly bombing a number of countries. Just last week, Trump threatened North Korea with nuclear destruction in unusually blunt language-- "fire and fury" rather than the typical Obama administration veiled nuclear attack code lingo "all options are on the table."

On Monday, the same day Trump read a scripted condemnation of white supremacist violence, reported that in Syria: "Marwa, Mariam and Ahmad Mazen died with their mother and 19 other civilians in a likely Coalition strike at Raqqa."

You'd be hard pressed to find a "news" story about them. That's the concern with the effects of "violence" when it emanates from the U.S. government.

But the threats and use of violence are not new, nor is the hypocrisy. As he was ordering the ongoing bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, President Bill Clinton took time out of his schedule to address the shooting at Columbine High School: “We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons.”

Such outbreaks of domestic political violence are used not as openings for introspection about longstanding violence in U.S. society, but for rallying cries to uphold alleged virtues of the nation. The recent attacks are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans" Trump claims.

Since we live "under law and under the Constitution...responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice. No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."

The words Trump uttered seemed to echo Saint Augustine. Charles Avila in Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, outlines Augustine's beliefs: "The Creator, who alone is Absolute Owner, did not make us human beings so many 'islands,' without any relation to each other, but one human family, 'made from one mud' and sustained 'on one earth.'...We enjoy the same natural conditions: 'born under one law, living by one light, breathing one air and dying one death.'"

Thus, what seemingly originated as a universal theological admonition-- to attack the notion of private property no less-- has been perverted into a narrow nationalist one with universalist trappings. It simultaneously seems to condemn violence while actually facilitating it.

Nor is this new, either. during the presidency of Bill Clinton, he ordered up an "Initiative on Race". It's largely forgotten because its primary goal wasn't actually improving relations between different ethnic groups. Its goal was noted in its title: "One America in the 21st Century.” Not “Finally Overcoming Racism.” Not “Towards an America of Equality.”

National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. See my piece at the time: "'One America'-- To what Ends?"

There's a tightrope being walked here. There's a functionality to the "debate" between "both sides." The system requires a great deal of tension to keep people in their partisan boxes. The main thing that each political faction has going for it is the hatred towards the other.

But there's the threat that it could reach a threshold that tears at national unity, which is why you get Terry McAuliffe and other political figures making Trump-like brazen contradictory statements, pleading for unity one minute and denouncing white supremacists as being repugnant to American values the next, wholly unworthy of engagement.

The Democratic Party has to offer people something more than Russia-bashing, and that something seems to be opposition to a war that the party of Jefferson was on the losing side of.

Many were aghast at Trump's remarks about Washington and Jefferson: "So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

If we do honest history, it doesn't stop. That's the point. It condemns most of the political class. And would do so to most of current political class. But that's not a conclusion many in the political class are interested in. A line can certainly be drawn from Washington to Lee, as Confederates frequently argued.

As historian Gerald Horne has argued, the U.S. Revolutionary War was largely a war to ensure the continuation of slavery. Part of the "genius" of the U.S. was the "unification" of many non-black and non-native people as "white," including southern and eastern Europeans and Arabs. So you have a large immigration pool to forge the nation.

Nor of course is slavery the only crime. It's perhaps focused on to at least some extent in our current political discourse because it's the main aspect of the imperial project that created, rather than destroyed, a major domestic constituency that was a victim of it. Native Americans are not a major domestic constituency because, unlike black folks in the U.S., their ancestors were not chained and brought to U.S. shores as slaves, but were driven out, killed en mass or made to die or be confined and marginalized.

And that project predated the formal creation of the United States. Kent A. MacDougall notes in "Empire-- American as Apple Pie" in Monthly Review that "George Washington called the nascent nation 'a rising empire.' John Adams said it was 'destined' to overspread all North America. And Thomas Jefferson viewed it as 'the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled.'"

Of course, Trump isn't raising Washington and Jefferson to broaden the critique of the crimes of white supremacy, but to try to limit it. This is somewhat similar to when Bill O'Reilly said in an interview with Trump that Putin is "a killer"-- Trump replied: "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump thus becomes the only honest person on the national stage, but largely not for the purpose of positive change. He's using what is mostly a left wing critique to entrench the establishment, which is similar to what "neocons" have done.

Trump's statements, understated as they were, about current U.S. government violence were roundly condemned by most of the political class. CNN's "chief national security correspondent" Jim Sciutto called them "relativistic"-- when they were they are the exact opposite. What's relativistic is condemning the actions of others while approving of similar actions by one's "own side." Of course, Trump is relativistic when he condemns the violence from "many sides" in Charlottesville.

So we have two relativistic dead ends: Trump "vs" the rest of the establishment. One victim for the time being is people's brain cells who have to endure and try to parse through the constant machinations.

Comments like those about U.S. violence or the history of Washington give Trump a legitimacy of sorts. The establishment media effectively keep the microphone away from anyone else who would note such defining facts, while giving reams of coverage to Trump. He effectively becomes the leading "dissident" while also being the head inquisitor. This discourse effectively immunizes the establishment from meaningful change or even dialogue.

Contrast Trump's realistic statement with what passes for dissent on Democracy Now, which recently reverentially interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates of the once somewhat dignified journal The Atlantic. Coates stated: "The Civil War was the most lethal war in American history. The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than all other wars-- all other American wars combined. More people died in that war than World War II, World War I, Vietnam, etc."


Martin Luther King warned African Americans were "integrating into a burning house." Robert E. Lee said of blacks in the U.S.: "The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things." Many have seemingly accepted such instruction.

A path for "acceptance" by the establishment for African Americans, immigrants and others is to kiss the ring of U.S. supremacy.

This insular discussion of "both sides" in the U.S. context frequently renders the non-U.S. "other" even more expendable. As I wrote in 2015: "How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life":

Both sides limit who they mean by “lives.” They effectively exclude the victims of the U.S.’s highest officials. When most people use #BlackLivesMatter, they seem to be saying that all black U.S. lives matter when taken unlawfully by the government. And when most people who use #AllLivesMatter use it, they seem to be saying all U.S. lives matter when taken at the hands of police authorities-- not just black U.S. lives. But the formulation effectively excludes the lives of millions of people who U.S. officials have deemed expendable for reasons of state.

Coates also claimed: "What you have to understand is, Donald Trump’s very essence, his very identity, is the anti-Obama. ... I mean, there was a piece, I think, like just last week in BuzzFeed. It was talking about, you know, Trump’s foreign policy. And his basic deal is: 'Is Obama for it? Well, I’m against it.'"

This shows remarkable ignorance or deceit about the continuity of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades, which obviously extends to include Obama and Trump. This is especially the case for someone who lives outside the United States. Certainly, the branding and rhetoric is different, but it's supposed to be the job of "public intellectuals" to see beyond that, not calcify it.

There are many ramifications of the nationalistic blinders that are dutifully imposed by so many. Take the discussion of the ACLU's role in defending the white supremacists marching. The "both sides" here are: We should care so much about bigotry and violence that we should curtail the right of gun wielding white supremacists to march wherever they want. The other side is: Our devotion to free speech is so great that we should even allow this.

They both ring hollow to me. It is not at all clear that what is happening will root out structural racism; it has been at the level of symbols, which is where the establishment wants it to remain contained. Nor do I see a serious commitment to freedom of speech being displayed by the ACLU and others, as serious infringement of freedom of speech occur with hardly an objection. Partisan establishment apparatchiks dominate media at virtually every level, with government facilitation. Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have effectively taken over much of the town square and are increasingly skewing what speech gets heard. Such is the nature of corporate power, backed by the state, right now.

The likely "collateral damage" of such "debates" will be critics of U.S. empire. Consider that as the national ACLU seemed to be backtracking from their position, the California ACLU put out a statement that read in part "First Amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence." Who is going to be the likely victim of this? White supremacists-- or someone who explains why Hezbollah might want to lob missiles at Israel? The line that the California ACLU seeks to draw would seemingly ironically lynch John Brown, whose actual execution was overseen by none other than Robert E. Lee in blue uniform.

Twitter suspended hundreds of thousands of accounts last year allegedly linked to ISIS, with hardly a word of protest.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel-- possibly the most anti-ISIS outlet going-- is banned in the U.S. without outcry; with barely a note.

The very discussion about "hate groups" is perverse. The entire political culture in the U.S. lives off of hate. The pro Hillary Clinton rhetoric is "Love Trumps Hate," but Clinton, like Trump, feeds off hate. There certainly are explicitly white supremacist groups. And there can be some distinction made between them and the merely implicitly structurally racist establishment. But the Democratic and Republican Parties would implode in a minute if it were not for the hatred of the other.

What's needed is that freedom of speech triumph and in today's world it's not clear if that is compatible with the nation state and corporate power in their current construct. In its present form and use, the internet is ceasing to be "world wide web"-- it is constricted in a myriad of ways by national boundaries and unaccountable corporate diktat that need to be questioned if not obliterated in our contemporary world.

The taking down of Confederate monuments poses a some opportunity-- a groundswell of democratic grassroots action could happen. But the tearing down needs to be built upon. In Baltimore, faced with the prospect of activists taking down Confederate statues, city officials abruptly arranged for their overnight disappearance. Local artists put a sculpture of an African American woman atop the pedestal in their place.

This hints at a greater solution to the immediate controversy over Confederate monuments. I recall the first time I saw, or at least comprehended, a Confederate memorial-- with Lee or some other general atop a horse, I think in New Orleans. I thought the solution would be not to remove them, but to build around them. A tree could hover above with strange fruit hanging down, for example.

This would diminish the "beauty" that Donald Trump sees in the Confederate statues while acknowledging the history, both in its illusion as to what it pretends to depict-- and the reality of the selective erection of such statues.

Indeed, perhaps we need more-- not fewer-- monuments to the Civil War, to all wars. If done right, they would actually be monuments for peace. Consider the nature of war, the consequences, the actual reality of mangled corpses beneath the "great men" atop their horses.

But there are perils at every turn. When the U.S. Treasury decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill last year, many welcomed it. But it seemed to me to be a subtle but real step to co-opting the legacy of the Underground Railroad to one that could be used to help justify "humanitarian interventionism"-- ie, U.S. militarism with some bogus moral pretext attached. That is, the language of the U.S. Civil War could be used to "free" people around the world as the State Department sees fit, as now with Venezuela. As Simon Bolivar said: “The United States seems destined by Providence to plague America with torments in the name of freedom.”

Ironically, some denouncing Trump's "fascist" proclivities have taken refuge in the actions of corporate bosses who have resigned from the American Manufacturing Council that Trump launched earlier this year. As Noam Chomsky [see video up top] and others have long noted, corporate structure is totalitarian. The saviors here are part of the threat. Perhaps doubly so since the Council was a corporate-government cooperative entity.

The pretexts and posturing run throughout public discourse in the U.S., as it's dominated by apparatchiks around Trump and around the Democratic Party. Only an ever vigilant parsing of the deceits and actions that are rooted in principles and a sense of the global commons will see us through.

Sam Husseini is founder of, which advocates principled left-right cooperation to break the duopoly. He's also the founder of, an art project to make apparent the one world we inhabit. Special thanks to Berkley Bragg.


Labels: , , , , , ,

Sorry, Mitt, But Señor Trumpanzee Is The Circei Lannister Of American Politics


There was a moment during a recent episode of Game of Thrones where Cercei Lannister tells her brother/lover Jamie that she's pregnant with his baby. He asks who she will say the father is. Cercei, having grabbed the crown from her dead son's head and put it on her own, says "you." Jamie says something to the effect of "the people won't like that" and Cercei responds by asking him to remember what their father thought of "the people," basically what many authoritarians with their kind of personality disorder think: "The lion doesn't worry about what the sheep think." And for an ignorant sociopath like Trump, that includes Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Jerry Moran, Marco Rubio... even Miss McConnell-- enough Republican senators to sink his agenda and make the rest of his term a living hell.

Yesterday, on his Facebook page, Mitt Romney, posted a call for Señor Trumpanzee to apologize to the nation for his behavior regarding Charlottesville.
I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.

The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president's words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces--made up and sustained by men and women of all races--could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?

In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis-- who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat--and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.
Olga Khazan, writing for The Atlantic Thursday, look a look into the dark minds of the folks in Charlottesville who waved Nazi insignia and chanted anti-Jewish slogans but who Señor Trumpanzee said weren’t all nefarious-- some "were very fine people." The Republican party doesn't want to acknowledge that this isn't just Trump's base of support; it's what Fox News has created for all of them. "A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University," wrote Khazan, "seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?"
For the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, Forscher and Kteily recruited 447 self-proclaimed members of the alt-right online and gave them a series of surveys. How did they know these people were really “alt-right?” The individuals responded to questions like, “What are your thoughts when people claim the alt-right is racist?” with statements like:
“If it were not for Europeans, there would be nothing but the third world. Racist really needs defined. Is it racist to not want your community flooded with 3,000 low IQ blacks from the Congo? I would suggest almost everyone would not. It is not racist to want to live among your own ... Through media [the Jews] lie about the Holohoax, and the slave trade. Jews were the slave traders, not Europeans ... many people don't even understand these simple things.”
The researchers compared the responses of the alt-right people to a sample of people who did not identify as alt-right. What they found paints a dark picture of a group that feels white people are disadvantaged. They are eager to take action to boost whites’ standing. What’s more, they appear to view other religious and ethnic groups as subhuman.

Importantly, the study authors did not find that economic anxiety was driving the alt-right’s sentiments, debunking a popular theory in the wake of the 2016 election. “Alt-right supporters were more optimistic about the current and future states of the economy than non-supporters,” they write.

 But there were key ways that the alt-right participants differed from the comparison group. The alt-right members trusted “‘alternative’ media” such as Breitbart and Fox more than mainstream outlets. They were much more likely to have a “social-dominance orientation,” or the desire that there be a hierarchy among groups in society.

One can easily guess who they want at the top of this hierarchy. The alt-right participants were more likely to think men, whites, Republicans, and the alt-right themselves were discriminated against, while minorities and women were not. This is in line with past research showing that white supremacists have a victimhood mentality, in which they consider whites to be the real oppressed people of American society.

In this study, the alt-right members were much more likely to be willing to express prejudice, to engage in offensive behavior and harassment, and to oppose Black Lives Matter. And here’s the scariest part. The researchers showed the participants the below scale, which psychologists use to ask people how “evolved” various groups are. A score of zero puts them closer to the ape-like figure on the left, while a 100 is the fully evolved human on the right. It’s a scale, in other words, of dehumanization.

The alt-right members were much more likely to consider groups they see as their opponents-- people like Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, journalists, Democrats, and feminists-- to be less evolved than they are. “If we translate the alt-right and non-alt-right ratings into their corresponding ascent silhouettes, this means that our alt-right sample saw religious, national, and political opposition groups as a full silhouette less evolved than the non-alt-right sample,” the authors write.

Vox’s Brian Resnick further breaks down the data here:
On average, they rated Muslims at a 55.4 (again, out of 100), Democrats at 60.4, black people at 64.7, Mexicans at 67.7, journalists at 58.6, Jews at 73, and feminists at 57. These groups appear as subhumans to those taking the survey. And what about white people? They were scored at a noble 91.8. (You can look through all the data here.)

The comparison group, on the other hand, scored all these groups in the 80s or 90s on average. (In science terms, the alt-righters were nearly a full standard deviation more extreme in their responses than the comparison group.)

“If you look at the mean dehumanization scores, they’re about at the level to the degree people in the United States dehumanize ISIS,” Forscher says. “The reason why I find that so astonishing is that we’re engaged in violent conflict with ISIS.”
Forscher and Kteily also found there were two distinct subgroups in their sample of alt-righters. Some were “populists,” who were concerned about government corruption and were less extremist. The more extreme and racist among them, meanwhile, were the “supremacists.” The authors speculate that people who start out as populists might become radicalized into the supremacist camp as they meet more alt-righters.

This study, once it is peer-reviewed, may have broad implications for the fight against hate groups-- and for psychology itself. As the authors note, modern psychology studies mostly focus on implicit bias-- the internal racism that most people don’t outwardly express. They might be, say, slower to associate “professor” with a picture of an African-American person, but they’re not grabbing torches and heading to rallies. Perhaps psychologists simply thought society had progressed to the point where overt racism is so rare as to be difficult to measure. But this study shows that hundreds of actual, proud racists can be easily recruited online for a study for the low price of $3.

The authors of this paper write that “blatant intergroup bias has by no means disappeared.” It’s something the events in Charlottesville revealed all too vividly last weekend.

Friday, Señor Trumpanzee lost his entire Committee On The Arts And Humanities in one swell swoop. (I can't believe Chuck Close and Kal Penn were ever on a Trump committee!) With the exception of honorary chairman Melania Trump and, inexplicably, George Wolfe of Angeles in America fame the whole committee resigned. Those are going to be some lonely meetings. If you put together the first letter of each paragraph in their letter below, you'll notice it spells out RESIST and you'll get an idea about why it's an arts and humanities council and not a business council, which also disbanded itself-- although Trumpanzee tried to claim he disbanded it... another of his silly, gratuitous, childish, churlish lies.

Labels: , , , ,

Get To Know Kansas Progressive Democrat Jim Thompson A Little Better-- The Reddit AMA


Earlier this week Kansas Berniecrat James Thompson, the progressive candidate running for the Wichita-based congressional seat (KS-04) did an Ask Me Anything on the Sanders For President reddit page. If you were unable to participate, the archive is available at the link just above. Thompson has been endorsed by Blue America and we enthusiastically vouch for his character and his positions. He's our kind of candidate. Here are some of the questions and responses that I hope will help you get a better understanding of who James Thompson is and why he deserves your support.
Q: In a state that historically votes Republican, what do you plan on doing differently as a democrat to capture some of the moderate vote or even some of the Republican vote?

JT: We only had 60 days during the special election to get out to 16 and a half counties-- talking to people and hearing their concerns is the key. This time, we have 15 more months to go out and listen. I believe that people will follow their convictions and choose me over my opponent if they're just given the chance to meet me. With all the success we had in just two months in our April election, imagine what we're going to do with a full election cycle!... I'm going to get out to the whole district more, talk to as many folks as possible, and help build infrastructure across the district. Specifically, we're working to register voters and continue the progress we made in Sedgwick County, and building out across the district. We believe this will help up and down the ballot. We're identifying and supporting local candidates. We're doing weekly training with volunteers working with these local campaigns... I know a lot of Republicans who respected Bernie Sanders because they always knew where he stood in regard to the general public. I will also never waver in my fight for the people of Kansas. While we may not always see eye to eye, people from all parties respect me because they know I care about them and the issues impacting their lives. That's something that's important regardless of party. In the end, people want leaders who are real."

Q: 5 months ago in an AMA, you wrote: "I like the idea of single payer, I don't see it getting accomplished in our current political environment. The main goal is to make sure that everyone gets covered, and we have to keep pushing towards that goal in whatever steps we can take to get there." I have some follow ups and want to know your current opinion of Medicare For All.
1- Most importantly, would you co-sign HR 676 if elected?
2- What steps do you think we should take to get to universal coverage?
3- Shouldn't the main goal instead be to get everyone healthcare without a financial burden, not just "covered"? Many people are "covered" by the ACA but have such high premiums and deductibles that they are too discouraged by costs to go to the doctor. Also, medical debt is the #1 cause by far of personal bankruptcy.
JT: 1- I would absolutely be a co-signer for HR 676 because that's where I want us to go, eventually. Rep. Conyers' bill has a lot of good pieces to it. However, I think that this bill as it stands now faces a hard uphill battle to pass in the current political environment.
2- I plan to push for a Medicare public option, similar to what was in the original Affordable Care Act before it was removed in the Senate. If you want to learn more about where I stand on healthcare, please check out our healthcare town hall coming up on this Sunday, August 20th. We'll be livestreaming the Q&A from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. CST on our Facebook and Twitter pages!
3- There's always going to be a financial burden for healthcare. The goal is to make it affordable for everyone; so yes, I agree with you. This public option will decrease costs for everyone because the program will also have the power to negotiate medical costs and drug costs. There will be some, namely the very poor, who would be unable to pay for coverage with a premium. The public option will have a large enough risk pool, however, that we can cover the unemployed and very poor.

NOBODY should ever be forced into bankruptcy because of a medical crisis. We have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone in our country receives healthcare.

Q: What was the most surprising and/or difficult thing you learned about running for office? What advice do you have for anyone who might be thinking about running for office, especially if they might not have institutional support?

JT: Great question. The most surprising thing? Some of our worst enemies are within our own party. That was pretty disappointing, and the most difficult thing to come to terms with. But that's OK. You just have to build up your campaign, your vision and your movement on your own terms. My advice? Be true to yourself, no matter what. Stay authentic. Don't talk at people, listen to them and discuss issues. If you want to help on a grassroots level, that's amazing, because that's exactly what we're going to need: click here.

Q:: As a civil rights lawyer, what's your take on tearing down the confederate statues?

JT: As a civil rights lawyer, and as a human being, I believe they should be taken off of public lands. I believe they belong in a museum, and not in places of honor like public squares or schools. They should serve as reminders of a history we need to remember but not memorialize.

Q: You ran in the special election, and for that race, you were considered the sign that midwest progressivism was a real thing.

What have you learned, other than you need to get more people in rural areas?

JT: We learned many important lessons, the need for rural outreach being central among them. We also learned that there's not a great deal of difference between what urban and rural voters want. We all want a good job to support ourselves and their families, a good education for our kids, and affordable healthcare.

Most importantly, though, is that people respond to authenticity. I never said anything on the trail that I didn't believe and refused to hedge on my convictions. Voters can smell bullshit from a mile away. More Democrats need to stand up for their progressive beliefs and stop running away from them!

Q: What are your foreign policy views? Specifically, in what circumstances would you advocate military intervention?

Thanks for doing this!

JT: I believe we should always seek diplomatic solutions before using force. If diplomacy fails, we should seek to create multinational alliances as we did during the first Gulf War. Unilateral actions should only be used when American lives or land is at stake. I believe in the Powell Doctrine that says if you use force, you should use overwhelming force.

Q: Stand up for progressive values (like Bernie) and you might win. If you try to be "conservative lite," you don't deserve to win.

JT: I agree! We can't pretend to be Republicans running under a different banner anymore. It's time for us to stand up and make our voices heard and run as proud progressives.

Q: What policies would you support to strengthen the union movement; i.e. increase union membership and make it easier to form/join a union, etc. Also, what do you think of a federal jobs program, similar to the WPA, that would be devoted to the transition to green energy.

JT: The best thing we can do is ensure if employees have an election petition, that they hold that election within a short timeframe, say 21 days. If you give longer than 21 days, companies often wage a misinformation campaign. During the Bush administration, many stretched out campaigns over years. If we're to be a democracy, we need to honor the right to organize. We need to give teeth back to the NLRA. It's been watered down continually since the Wagner Act, making it harder and harder to organize. Right now, the NLRB is rolling back more and more rules that help workers make their voice heard in the workplace. W/r/t a federal green jobs program, I think the idea is good in theory, but I'd be curious to see legislation dedicated to this before proceeding. Green energy is an economic engine in Kansas, and it's the right thing to do, so of course I like that idea.

Q: Should there be a "litmus test" on abortion for Democrat candidates?

JT: I am a pro-woman candidate and I support our Constitution and the Democratic platform, which are both pro-choice. I believe we should be seeking other pro-woman candidates whenever we can find them. I trust women to make decisions about their own healthcare. I also support a woman's right to accessible and affordable birth control. In the end, being pro-woman is not solely about access to abortion. We need to close the wage gap, make health care affordable, ensure families have access to affordable and excellent childcare, encourage our school girls to be involved in the hard sciences and mathematics... among other things. This is just a start. Women's rights are human rights and none of us make progress until we on equal footing. As far as a "litmus test," I will leave that up to voters to decide.

Q: Hey James-- I live in Olathe (KS for you non-Kansans, which isn't in his district). Thanks for doing this AMA.

How do you see the race between Democrats shaping up in your area? I know Lawrence would have a lot of further left supporters, but I'm not as familiar with Wichita. But outside that, it seems like you'd be trying to attract more center left rural Dems, who maybe wouldn't have supported Bernie.

What's your take on how segmented Dems are between center and further left, and what your approach is to attracting each group?

Edit: Another follow-up question-- I think we're familiar with the type of talking points you're running on, but if you're elected, what are the things you'll work on where you expect to actually get something done in a currently GOP-dominated Congress?

JT: Great questions. I believe progressive values are much more prevalent in rural areas than many people believe. Rather than try to shift my positions with the various political winds out there, I give my opinion on what I believe to be right. People respond to authenticity and honesty and want their elected representatives to listen, even if they disagree. I think Bernie winning the Democratic caucus, and then our special election showed that the Democrats as a collective group respond to the progressive platform. I do believe there is some segmentation in the party but that people will hopefully come together for the greater good. It often plays itself out in a Hillary vs Bernie model, which is counterproductive. 2016 is over and we need to move on together.

Goal ThermometerWhen I am elected, I will go to Washington to get things accomplished regardless of who holds the majority. That means looking for common ground. For example, infrastructure is a great area where both sides can come together and accomplish great things for the good of this country. Kansas is in desperate need of infrastrure repair and improvements, especially in the rural areas and green energy. This will create good jobs with fair wages. I also see opportunity in Agriculture with the upcoming farm bill to provide certainty for our producers. Education is also ripe for reform to better fund our schools and protect our teachers. Finally, healthcare is an area where I think we can make improvements and get somethings accomplished to reduce the burden on Americans, particularly in regards to closing loopholes in the ACA that cause hardship on poor people in states like Kansas because of the Republicans refusal to expand Medicaid.
If you happen to be in Wichita on Sunday... James' campaign is hosting a healthcare town hall tomorrow to hear from the people of Kansas about their concerns and ideas for America's healthcare system. It's planned for 4pm at Aero Plains Brewing, 117 N Handley St in Wichita. If you can't make it and want to support Jim's campaign, please consider clicking on the Blue America ActBlue thermometer just above and contributing what you can. Just because the DCCC persists on writing off huge swathes of America, it doesn't mean progressives have to.

Labels: , , , ,

DCCC & Kings Landing Consultants Are Instructing Candidates How To Deceive Democratic Primary Voters On Healthcare


I know it's hard to imagine but there was a time when the DCCC used to give their candidates my contact info and tell them to talk with me about progressive issues. That was almost a decade ago. Today they tell their candidates to avoid me at all costs-- or else! And many of their candidates do... but not all. I have decent and professional relationships with some of the DCCC candidates and this week one, a centrist guy who feels his district will respond to centrism better than to a progressive approach, sent me a note about one of his primary opponents sending out a notice embracing Medicare-For-All." I wrote him back and told him that that's the Blue America standard and wondered why he sent something that we would admire about his opponent.

That's when it got interesting. He said the DCCC is now instructing their candidates to thwart progressives by pretending to be for Medicare-For-All to help them defeat progressive primary opponents who are for Medicare-For-All. This is what he sent me, in confidence:
Short version is this: As you know, "Medicare for All" is language that can either refer to Medicare as a public option or Medicare as a vehicle for single payer. It's intentionally confusing (my DC consultants advised me to use this language, and I told them I wanted to be very clear about where I stood). The language below (including talking about Medicare for All in the context of "access to health care for all" and "improving on the successes of the ACA") sounds consistent with the public option version of Medicare For All and not a single payer approach.
He was referring to his opponent's notice. On a follow up phone call he went on and on about the DCCC and their associated consultants are telling their candidates to say whatever it takes to trick Democratic primary voters. Admirably, he refuses but he's one of the few who is refusing. So now, I guess, we have to ask candidates for fuller explanations about why they're for Medicare-For-All and if they will pledge to co-sponsor John Conyers' Medicare-For-All legislation, H.R. 676, as 116 House Democrats have, the most recent being the just-elected Jimmy Gomez, who won a special election in Los Angeles this summer, beating a conservative "ex"-Republican.

First sign of trouble is when a candidate starts hemming and hawing and seem unable to give a public yes or no answer. As Kaniela Ing, Hawaii's most progressive state legislator, told us a week or so ago, "The consultant class is obsessed with having candidates try to sound like America's most popular politician while somehow not upsetting their donors. Unfortunately for them, authenticity matters, and voters are smarter than they think. A silver tsunami of aging boomers is approaching, and single-payer, Medicare-for-all is America's only sensible and sustainable healthcare solution. Anything short will continue to allow big-pharma, corporate hospitals, and insurance companies to exploit the sick and their cash-strapped families into paying way too much for needed services. This in turn could have devastating effects for our overall economy. Democrats know that healthcare is a human right. If you want to reach Republicans, add that Medicare is the most efficient system we got, and that Medicare-for-all will save taxpayers $17 trillion. We have facts on our side and shouldn't run from them. Voters in both parties recognize that the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and corporate hospitals have too much power. The People's trust will go to the party or set of candidates willing to take them on."

No one has to twist Kaniela's arm to get him to say he's for Medicare-For-All, for single payer, for Conyers' H.R. 676. That's what he's about. Similarly, David Gill, a progressive candidate in Illinois' 13th district and an emergency room doctor for nearly 3 decades, has been aggressively working on this issue for 25 years. "I think the most important part of my ability to appeal to people across the political spectrum, even those who disagree with one or more of my progressive positions, is the fact that I am genuine. I simply say what I believe-- I don't try to tailor my talk or be particularly nuanced. I've been a physician for 29 years and I've been a member of Physicians for a National Health Program for 25 years, and I'm sick and tired of watching the vast majority of Americans get ripped off by a for-profit private health insurance industry that doesn't provide them with one iota of health care or actually give a damn about their well-being. I use that type of language while also incorporating the terms 'single payer' and 'improved Medicare for all', and I make it clear that I'm running because I ACTUALLY CARE about their well-being. The same caring instinct that drove me into a career in medicine is what drives my desire to be a leader in Congress. Each candidate has a unique set of circumstances, but I think that demonstrating a passion is ultimately even more important than the particular words that we put forth."

Goal ThermometerThe newest Blue America candidate-- we're endorsing him officially tomorrow-- is Derrick Crowe for the TX-21 seat currently occupied by Science denier and anti-healthcare fanatic Lamar Smith. Derrick told us, simply "I support Medicare For All in virtually every speech, in front of every audience. It's in our literature and is one of our main platform planks. Democrats shouldn't shy away from it for any reason. Most Americans think our country should make sure everyone has health care coverage, and among those under 30, a stunning 89 percent support that statement, with 66 percent of those young people saying they want a single national government program. Nearly two-thirds of Americans have a positive reaction to the term, 'Medicare For All.' If Republicans want to try to attack you for supporting Medicare For All in public, hand them a microphone, because we'll take their seats. Beyond the polling, it's just simply time for America to get back into a leadership role on health care. We spend more money on health care and have worse outcomes than virtually any other well-developed nation. Of the 35 countries in the OECD, we rank 27th in life expectancy, despite spending the most on health care-- so for those worried about the cost of a single-payer system, I'd challenge them to prove the value of a private system. Tell me why we should die earlier so insurance CEOs and pharma bosses can get richer off our misery."

And Derrick is eager to co-sponsor H.R. 676. His top primary opponent is "ex"-Republican Joseph Kopser, who a year ago was happy to have himself described as a "Reagan Republican" and who sits on the board of the Texas Association of Business, which the Texas Tribune describes as "the most powerful conservative business lobby on the state." Kopser uses the misleading DCCC/Beltway consultant misdirections, talking about how he supports "health care for all," but carefully skirting anything about "single payer" or Medicare-For-All.

Geoffrey Petzel, the progressive Chicagoland candidate running for the IL-06 seat occupied by TrumpCare-backer Pete Roskam, said that "Personally I agree with Our Revolution. Dems who don't publicly support single payer should get a primary challenge. I strongly support single payer, have since I ran in 2011, and proudly show my battle scars for taking that stance. Because I support single payer I was not endorsed by local media in 2011. In a bigger picture, Dems lack of vocal support for single payer is my biggest personal issue with the party. Just the other day I had a serious discussion about running as an independent instead of a Democrat because the party isn't pushing progressive policy positions like they should. The reason I'm not running as an independent, other than the prohibitive ballot requirements in Illinois, is that I believe we need to re-set the Democratic party and place it back on a track that supports progressive ideas proudly and loudly. [Democrats who] fear to proudly promote single payer makes me believe they're not real progressive and represent the status quo we have been served by the DCCC over and over again."

Little on-topic bonus, this morning: remember a couple months ago I warned you about longtime corporate shill and Blue Dog wretch Elen Tauscher trying to worm her corrupt right-wing ass back into California Democratic politics? It didn't take long. This week she was on the attack-- against Elizabeth Warren. She could hardly wait to croak out the same old corporate shill tune to The Hill, which reported that Tauscher, a surrogate for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who is leading the Fight Back California super PAC aimed at winning back seven House seats for Blue Dog-type characters in the Golden State, said "We can't win the House back with progressives running in swing states." Democrats will never take back the House with people who lost it originally calling the shots. (And of course, her crooked website asks for contributions for herself, not for any candidates-- always the mark of a criminally-minded conservative.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Midnight Meme Of The Day


-by Noah

A prayer for the weekend. Oh Lordy, hear our prayer!

Labels: ,

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Film Rumble Reclaims Indigenous Roots of American Music


-by Denise Sullivan

Forget everything you think you know or have been told about the birth of the blues and the histories of jazz and rock 'n' roll: Rumble-- The Indians Who Rocked The World has a different story to tell and by the sound of it, much of what's been handed down to us about North American music and its origins has been wrong.

The sound of the American South-- the rush of its waters, the song of the bird, the crack of thunder and the rain that follows-- informs the sound of Native American music, the root of all other American forms. Take the story of the Mississippi Delta's Charley Patton, widely acknowledged to be the father of the country blues. An existing photograph of him reveals he is likely a man of mixed race origins, though without clear proof, historians have remained perplexed and inconclusive in their findings. Rumble reveals through interviews, research, and recordings, that Patton's blood ties are to the Chocktaw nation and moreover, his connection to Native American music contributed to the rhythmic and vocal patterns of what we know as country blues. In the film, musician Pura Fé (Tuscarora) a/b's his technique with a turntable and her voice: “That's Indian music with a guitar,” she says. Calling on a kind of pre-blues origin of his sound, the assembled scholars and musicians, including modern day bluesmen Corey Harris and Alvin Youngblood Hart, go into deeper explanation of Patton's relationship to Dockery Plantation, the setting where he developed a showstopping style living among Black, Choctaw, and European farmworkers. He went on to pass on what he knew to other area musicians like Son House and visiting players like the young Roebuck Staples and Chester Burnette (who of course became Howlin' Wolf). So why is Patton's history generally painted so sketchily in the history books?

Pura Fé

Insufficient investigation into Native America's contribution to popular music is of course by design. Following the US government's attempts to eradicate the tribes and erase all vestiges of its culture, particularly following the slaughter at Wounded Knee, embracing and promoting Native ways became a dangerous pursuit. And yet, despite the genocide, Native musicians continued to innovate with sound.

Link Wray (Shawnee), with his heavy touch on the guitar strings, as on his signture song “Rumble,” became the inventor of rock's power chord. Iggy Pop, Slash, the Band's Robbie Robertson, MC5's Wayne Kramer, bluesman Taj Mahal, and Little Steven Van Zandt, all testify to the startling, life-changing power of Wray's sound. Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page owe their electric styles to him.

Monk Boudreaux and Cyril Neville unravel how Indian music came to New Orleans where indigineous people of the US and the indigenous people of Africa met and stirred it up. Poet Joy Harjo (Muscogee) explains how blues, rock, and jazz are tied up in these origins.Historian Erich Jarvis puts together how the slave trade resulted in African-Americans and Native people living in close proximities and why many Southern Indians lived their lives masked as Black. The lineage is matrilineal, usually a great grandmother on the mother's side, though none of this information is generally incorporated into our understanding of the origins of American music. Rumble lays down all of the prequel and more in the first 20 minutes of the film, and then it goes deeper:

Mildred Bailey, the first woman with her own radio show and to perform in front of a swing band was born on the Couer d'Alene reservation in Idaho; she was a profound influence on Tony Bennett and also informed the melodic styles of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The details are best left to be revealed by the excellent use of original recordings, film stock, and interviews collected by filmmakers Cathernine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana who left no Indian unsung in their effort to make their definitive documentary about Native Americans and popular music.

The film's producer, hard funk and rock guitarist, Stevie Salas (Apache), introduces Jimi Hendrix's story into the mix. Hendrix's ties to his grandmother's Cherokee ancestry extended not only in the way he looked and to his style, but in the touch with which he played (“I Hear My Train A'Comin'”). His sister Janie recalls Jimi's pride at his mixed cultural heritage (and the way his interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner nearly 50 years ago at Woodstock was a reflection of that pride). Derek Trucks calls Hendrix a national superhero for the power his multi-ethnicity brought him-- and in turn to his listeners. Trucks words serve as a critical reminder that a society's multiethnic pride is in fact its strength.

Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) and John Trudell (Santee Sioux) address the government's continued interference with their art and activism; Robbie Robertson recalls his journey from a partime reservation Indian to full tilt teenage rocker who toured the world with Bob Dylan. With the Band, Robertson forged a timeless vision of American electric music. Names lesser-known to casual listeners, from folksinger Peter LaFarge, Redbone's Pat Vegas, metal drummer Randy Castillo, and Jesse Ed Davis also get their due.

It was Taj Mahal who brought the guitarist best known to friends and fans as Jesse Ed into his band, and the Rolling Stones who brought the band to Europe, introducing Jesse Ed to the rock aristocracy for whom he became the sideman of choice. Davis is perhaps best known for his solo in Jackson Browne's hit, “Doctor My Eyes;" he later collaborated with Trudell on the acclaimed Graffitti Man, a groundbreaker in spoken-word recording in the '90s. A moving sequence pairs Salas and Trudell (who passed away in 2015 after the film's making) on a trip to New Mexico in memory of drummer Castillo, who died in 2002: It is in fact Castillo's story that underscores why the imprint Native Americans have left on popular music is singular: It is of the earth.

After viewing Rumble, it's unlikely you'll hear, sing, or play music the same way: Now we know not only was the land and air we breathe stolen, but the music we claim as our own was Native American too.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep On Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop and an occasional contributor to DWT! on arts, culture, and gentrification issues.

Labels: ,

There's Never Been A More Fetid Swamp In Washington Like The One Trump Has Set Out To Create


NPR's Fresh Air has a fascinating piece on Wednesday that sought to shone some light on how the Trump Regime is accomplishing quite a bit while everyone is paying attention to the clown tripping all over himself in the center ring. The guest was NY Times journalist Eric Lipton and he's been reporting on how the Trump Regime has brought in lobbyists to help destroy the regulations that have protected the public from the very industries that those lobbyists were working for-- and no doubt will again. The whole show in worth listening to and it's embedded above.

Lipton began by explaining how the Trumpists quickly changed the rules governing lobbyists in government. "[T]he Obama administration explicitly banned lobbyists from going to work in agencies that they had in the prior two years lobbied. And Trump removed that explicit restriction and has allowed quite a number of lobbyists to come into agencies to regulate the same sectors that they just a few months ago had been trying to influence... Trump eliminated the prohibition on lobbyists coming in, but he kept the two-year ban in participating in the same matter. And so then the question becomes, well, how are they enforcing this two-year ban because there are now dozens of lobbyists and lawyers who represented private industry who have been placed into the Trump administration in the same sectors that they had worked in for the private industries. But the question is, you know, how are we looking and knowing whether or not they are then working on essentially their former clients to-do lists but now with the power of the government agency that they're running?

"During the Obama administration, there was an agreement that anytime anyone was given a waiver, that waiver would be either posted on the White House website or shared with the Office of Government Ethics and made public. So we as reporters could look and see, well, this, you know, man or woman is working in the same area that they had previously been paid to represent. But we would know the conditions upon which they could do that and why they had been granted such a waiver. Then when the Trump administration started, they initially were refusing to make those waivers public despite the fact that we were asking for them. And it became the subject of a pretty intense fight. And ultimately, they made some of them public, but they don't continue to post them.

"...One of the more prominent ones is Michael Catanzaro, who was a lobbyist for Devon Energy and also for an electric utility that operates some of the largest coal-burning power plants in the United States. And so he was lobbying on things like trying to block a rule that the EPA had passed that was going to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling sites across the United States. Methane is many times more potent as a climate change component than CO2. And methane also-- when you release methane, you're often also releasing volatile organic chemicals, which are... you know, can be carcinogens and cause other health consequences. So the EPA was trying to regulate methane emissions. And Michael Catanzaro was working for Devon Energy to try to kill that rule. So he then goes into the White House. And he also had previously been representing the largest-- one of the largest coal-burning utilities in the United States. And he had been fighting the Clean Power Plan, which was trying to force coal-burning power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions. And so once he gets to the White House, among the things that he does is he helps write an executive order that essentially instructs the federal agencies to terminate the Clean Power Plan and the methane rule. And so he is essentially continuing the work that he'd been doing on behalf of his private-sector clients. But he's now doing it as one of the most powerful, you know, policy people in the United States. And so you wonder, how is that possible? So we were aware of Michael Catanzaro's shift. And I then went and interviewed a number of industry lobbyists who were lobbying the White House to try to get those rules repealed because they hated it. And now all of a sudden, they've got their former, you know, colleague and, you know, compatriot who is essentially helping run the show. And I said, have you talked to Michael Catanzaro since he went into the White House? And they said, yes. And I said, how is this possible? I thought there was this two-year ban on participating in a particular matter that you had represented a client on. And so we-- and then I asked the White House, well, can I see his waiver because he must have been granted a waiver. And they would not give it to me.

"After I wrote that story, the Office of Government Ethics said, you know what? This is an impossible situation. How can we have an ethics program if there - if we can't see the waivers? So the head of the Office of Government Ethics did what he called a data request, and he made a request of every federal agency. And he asked every federal agency for copies of any waivers that had been issued through April. And as a result of that request-- and there was a bit of a fight where initially the White House indicated that it may not comply with the request. But ultimately the White House complied. And there you go. On the day of the deadline, they-- the White House issues a list of waivers that had been issued, and there's Michael Catanzaro. And he was in fact-- had been granted a waiver to participate in the same matters that he had previously been paid to represent.

..."There's a guy at the Department of Transportation Security Administration. And in this case, I don't know the extent to which he has participated in the same manner. But he was working for a company that was trying to sell the Transportation Security Administration new equipment that would do security screenings. And that company had just gotten its agreement from TSA, the airport screening agency, to do kind of actual testing in its laboratory to see whether or not this equipment was worth buying and spending, you know, potentially tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to install in airports in the United States. And then the same gentleman, Chad Wolf, then became the chief of staff at TSA, which would-- you know, as the chief of staff, you're involved in issues across the agency. And you know, if you're going to be making a major change in the way that you inspect carry-on baggage to look for explosives and then potentially commit to buying, you know, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment, you know, the chief of staff of the agency is going to be involved. So he is now the former lobbyist for the, you know-- explosive detection equipment is now the chief of staff overseeing, you know, various things at the Transportation Security Administration.

"There's a woman that is working in the Environmental Protection Agency who had worked for the chemical industry. And it was lobbying to try to limit the-- kind of the strength of a law intended to regulate toxic chemicals. Now she's at the EPA, helping establish the rules that will regulate the same chemicals and the same companies that she just previously had represented. And so I mean literally there are dozens of people who have made this shift from being the regulated to the regulators, and so-- at a pace that I have going back to George W. Bush and being in Washington and covering administrations that I have not seen before."

We asked two of the sharpest attorneys running for Congress this cycle, Dan Canon in Indiana and Sam Jammal in California. Dan's running for the 9th district seat held by a rubber stamp backbencher, Trey Hollingsworth. He told us that Trump's systemic dismantling of regulatory protections "is consistent not only with the unashamed corruption on display in this administration, but also the unchecked dismantling of the federal government we've seen over the last 7 months. The executive branch wants to make government into a private corporation, free from the fetters of ethical rules, public transparency, and the democratic process. And Congress isn't doing anything to hold these oligarchs accountable."

Sam Jammal, an Orange County candidate for a seat held by an entrenched top ally of Paul Ryan and the Trump Regime-- Ed Royce-- is concerned with the way the Trump Regime is perverting the role of the federal government on behalf of powerful special interests. "We need a government that works for us," he told us, "not one filled with individuals looking to turn around and make a quick buck or so biased towards one powerful interest. Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems we face in government that no one discusses. Its an even bigger problem now with Trump and his revolving door of special interests running our government. But this has been going on for a while. The result is that we have policy decisions focused solely on the interests of the most powerful incumbents, which hurts innovation, competition and ultimately the rest of us. Everyone-- regardless of political leanings-- should be concerned. I saw this firsthand as thousands of solar jobs were lost due to regulatory capture in state public utilities commissions.

"The best way to avoid regulatory capture and the revolving door are clear rules and oversight. First, we shouldn't make it so easy for special interest representatives-- it's not just lobbyists-- being in positions to influence policy on their former employers. There must be transparency and some waiver process in order to at least require a case be made for the hire. Additionally, there should be a longer ban on returning to lobby or participate in policy roles within the regulated industry. This will remove the profit motive to write policies to open doors for the next job. Lastly, we need congressional oversight. Congress stopped holding oversight hearings years ago, which leads to powerful interests shaping policy when there are bad actors like Trump, but also leaves our government vulnerable to only favoring the loudest voices and usual suspects since no one is paying attention."

Labels: , , , , , , ,