Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Opposite Of FDR's 1933 Inaugural Address About Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

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After Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, Meghan McCain tweeted that the GOP is dead. A few minutes later, Elizabeth Warren was Stephen Colbert's guest on The Late Show (video above) acknowledging that “People are angry, and they have good reasons to be angry. Incomes are flat, expenses are up, young people can’t make it through college without getting crushed by debt, seniors can’t stretch a Social Security check to cover food and rent. Let’s be really, really clear. Donald Trump does not have the answers." She told the CBS audience that she thought the Trump show "was the nastiest, most divisive convention that we've seen in half a century. That speech tonight, he sounded like some two-bit dictator of some country you couldn’t find on a map. He sounded like a dictator of a small country rather than a man who is running for the highest office of the strongest democracy on the face of the earth... What Donald Trump says is, ‘there’s a problem out there and what you have to understand is, it’s all about each other. What you need to be afraid of is every other American.'"

And it wasn't just cutting edge progressive Democrats, like Warren who noticed this. When Eric Cantor was the House Majority Leader, Rory Cooper was his communications director. Judging by his tweet Thursday evening while Trump was screaming, Cooper doesn't seem inspired, uplifted or impressed with the dark, angry speech either.




Unless you spend your days listening to Hate Talk Radio and Fox News, you probably didn't recognize the ugly, dystopian picture of America Trump created in his speech, hailing "himself as an American Caesar, sacrificing a life of private ease to enter the public arena and save a republic sunk in decadence, and betrayed by its corrupt and mendacious elites."
Trump, as a strongman populist, does not traffic in complexity. He described simple reasons for the country’s woes, based on the wickedness or stupidity of officials and liberal politicians, amounting to a government-wide “rollback of criminal enforcement.” As for illegal immigrants, he growled, they are being “released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.” He named an “innocent young girl” killed by an illegal immigrant who had been released from custody, calling her “one more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

Repeating a signature policy that opponents call a fantastical lie, and adding new quasi-magical benefits that it would bring, Mr Trump proudly vowed to build: “a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”

His Caesarism is not modest. He presents himself as a strongman saviour, with the unique combination of wealth, insider knowledge, adamantine toughness and compassion for the common man to sweep aside the rotten status quo, and stop the mighty from oppressing those who cannot defend themselves. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he said, smirking and mugging at the thought of his corruption he has seen, before delivering the punchline: “Which is why I alone can fix it.”

In unscripted speeches at the rallies that carried him to the presidential nomination, Mr Trump became notorious for playing fast and loose with facts and for offering policies, such as an entry ban on Muslims, that threatened to shred the constitution. This speech in Cleveland was carefully, even at times brilliantly constructed, bearing the hallmark of skilled writers and well-honed legal minds who captured the essence of Trumpism, then buttressed it with cherry-picked statistics, polished anedotes and deft nods to the constraints of law.

...Once the red, white and blue balloons have dropped, and memories of an often chaotic and fractious convention fade, opponents starting with Mrs Clinton will pick over this policy and all the others in Mr Trump’s imperious, sweeping address. They will correctly note that his talk of restoring hope was mere gilding. Underneath this was a speech, and is a presidential campaign, built around thick beams and struts of fear, distrust and grievance. But it was skillful. Mrs Clinton should fear a Donald Trump whose demagoguery is so well-crafted.


This was a speech that contained its own pre-emptive strikes against critics, sceptics and fact-checkers. Mr Trump warned his supporters that-- though he and they saw chaos, despair and stupidity in high places with clear eyes-- vested interests in big business, big government and the establishment media would rush to tell them that they were wrong and foolish. Put another way, Mr Trump told his supporters that doubting him makes them dupes of the elites, while believing him uncritically is a mark of sophistication.

The Cleveland speech ended with a nifty, if not wholly truthful flourish. Mr Trump claimed that Mrs Clinton asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge: “I’m With Her”. That is nonsense: the phrase is a Clinton campaign slogan found on bumper stickers, not in a blood oath. But Mr Trump offered a clever alternative. His pledge, he told the crowd and millions watching at home, is “I’m with you.” Still more simply, he went on: “I am your voice.”

Republican primary voters have already spoken by choosing Mr Trump as their presidential nominee. If in November a majority of general election voters hear their voice in Mr Trump’s words, it is not just the American republic will be changed forever. The world should fear this man who sells himself as a new Caesar.
Jon Schwarz, writing for The Intercept always pointed out how Trump and his speechwriters used fear to weaponize his dystopian message... and went back even earlier in history than Caesar: "Trump had just one message for Americans: Be afraid. You are under terrible threats from forces inside and outside your country, and he’s the only person who can save us. The scariest part is how Trump subtly but clearly has begun melding together violence against U.S. police and terrorism: 'The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities,' he said, 'threaten our very way of life.' This is the favorite and most dangerous message of demagogues across all space and time. After all, if we know our external enemies are deeply evil, and our internal enemies are somehow their allies, we can feel justified in doing anything at all to our internal enemies. That’s just logic...This use of fear to destroy democracy is so old that it’s described exactly in Plato’s Republic, written in Ancient Greece around 380 B.C. Tyranny, says Socrates in The Republic, is actually 'an outgrowth of democracy.' And would-be tyrants always in every instance claim to be shielding regular people from terrible danger: 'This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.' ... As The Republic explains, leaders like this inevitably end up 'standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.' This is how liberty 'passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.'"




Americans would do well to watch closely what the populist democratically elected in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is doing to his country just as Trump is building his own case. Trump has been constantly compared to Mussolini, Hitler and Putin for the last year. Not many Americans know who Erdogan is, but if they did, they would recognize Trump and Trumpism in full flower.


Yesterday David Brooks was again warning NY Times readers about a Trumpian dystopia, a world without rules-- "a world in which families are mowed down by illegal immigrants, in which cops die in the streets, in which Muslims rampage the innocents and threaten our very way of life, in which the fear of violent death lurks in every human heart. Sometimes in that blood-drenched world a dark knight arises. You don’t have to admire or like this knight. But you need this knight. He is your muscle and your voice in a dark, corrupt and malevolent world. Such has been the argument of nearly every demagogue since the dawn of time. Aaron Burr claimed Spain threatened the U.S in 1806. A. Mitchell Palmer exaggerated the Red Scare in 1919 and Joe McCarthy did it in 1950. And such was Donald Trump’s law-and-order argument in Cleveland on Thursday night. This was a compelling text that turned into more than an hour of humorless shouting. It was a dystopian message that found an audience and then pummeled them to exhaustion."

Brooks concluded with more warning: "This is less a party than a personality cult. Law and order is a strange theme for a candidate who radiates conflict and disorder. Some rich children are careless that way; they break things and other people have to clean up the mess."


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Friday, July 22, 2016

Is A Republican Congress Or A Democratic Congress More Likely To Keep Trump In Check?

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Indiana's somewhat senile retiring lobbyist-turned-senator, Dan Coates, called Ted Cruz "a wrecking ball" yesterday and added gratuitously that "he's the most self-centered, narcissistic, pathological liar I’ve ever seen." He went on to accuse Cruz of trying to hurt the Republican Party. Trump's convention looks like a train wreck to me but tentative polling shows there were morons watching all over the country who were impressed and that he may be making headway against the Democrats' own horribly flawed, weak candidate.

The video up top was released yesterday by the cash-strapped Tom Wakely congressional campaign. Tom, a solid a Berniecrat, who won his Texas primary against a conservative Democrat, Tejas Vakil, 29,592 (59%) to 20,566 (41%), is now taking on an entrenched Republican incumbent, Lamar Smith, in a red district, TX-21. But it's a red-leaning district with significant and growing blue pockets, like downtown Austin. The Travis County part of the district is all in for Wakely and eager to get rid of Smith. Bexar County has been trending bluer as well, as has Hays County. Wakely has a narrow path to victory... but instead of helping him, the DCCC is ignoring his race and telling donors not to "waste" their money but to donate to the pitiful batch of the DCCC's own reactionary, Republican-lite candidates instead. If the Democrats are ever going to actually start taking back Texas-- instead of just talking about taking back Texas-- TX-21 is ground zero. Tom hasn't raised a lot of money but he's running a good, solid grassroots campaign.

He's far from alone in this predicament. We've talked a lot about similar situations Alina Valdes and Mary Ellen Baclchunis face, respectively, the official Democratic Party candidates for FL-25 and PA-07 and, like Tom Wakely, being ignored by an utterly incompetent DCCC, which has grown accustomed to one thing: losing.

Goal Thermometer When Trump makes a statement, like the one yesterday undermining NATO solidarity against aggression, GOP leaders McConnell and Ryan rush to the microphone giggling-- put on a serious face and say, don't mind him; wiser heads will prevail on him to abandon his crazy notions. But do you want to count on two weak, ethics-free political hacks like McConnell and Ryan, neither of whom could must the courage to oppose Trump? They will rein in Trump's dangerous excesses? I don't think so. But clear-minded progressives like Tom Wakely, Alina Valdes and Mary Ellen Balchunis will. Their opponents in fact, respectively Lamar Smith, Mario Diaz-Balart and Pat Meehan, all support Trump and are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt and back his initiatives if he winds up in the White House. Please consider making a contribution to their campaigns by tapping the thermometer on the right. And let me introduce you to another progressive Democratic candidate, like Alina from southern Florida, in a similar though not identical situation: Adam Sackrin.

Adam is a dedicated Berniecrat and took on the thankless task of opposing Debbie Wasserman Schultz's closest Republican ally, Ileana Ros-Letinen, who Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel have worked tirelessly to protect for well over a decade as the district turned bluer and bluer. In 2012, Obama beat Romney there 130,020 (53%) to 114,096 (47%), although Wasserman Schultz and Israel still insist that Ros-Lehtinen in invulnerable and persuade their colleagues it's a waste of time to try to win back this increasingly blue seat. In the past Wasserman Schultz has even helped recruit weak non-candidates to occupy the Democratic ballot slot so that there is no candidate running against Ros-Lehtinen. It looks like they may have done the same thing this year once they realized Adam is serious about winning back the seat for the Democrats. Adam has had a tough time with the Florida establishment Democratic Party. We reached him for his perspective earlier today:
Though I jumped in the race first and reached out to "my party," they chose to back someone who also has zero political experience, but who has a lot of family money and a long history of max contributions to establishment candidates… And being an eager young self-funder was enough for the party to overlook a history of evading responsibility and immaturity (his embarrassing criminal record). He is friends with Patrick Murphy and Andrew Korge, who have both made news for bad reasons lately. This cannot be the future of the Democratic Party, these are the spawn of the establishment trying to hoodwink everybody into voting for them and voting to keep the status quo. Vote to keep their parents and grandparents in power with their generous contributions. Vote to keep suppressing progressives who summon the courage to step up and run for what is right, only to meet resistance from the Party they grew up in.

The worst part is that my opponent has absolutely no chance to beat Ileana. She will clobber him and it won’t be close. His character will be so eviscerated by GOP SuperPAC money when they make FOIA requests for his Mugshots, he’ll never run again. It’s a suicide mission for him; his mother is likely the only person in the world who thinks he can beat Ileana. He is literally being propped up to take the nomination and take a dive for the incumbent.
Andrew is a firm believe in fighting hard now to lay the groundwork for future wins, investing in the future, a perspective that has been anathema to the DCCC from the time Pelosi handed it over to Rahm Emanuel. "If you want to lay the ground work for future wins," Andrew told us, "how about you identify the future voters in those elections, and make sure you’re not turning them off to politics completely. That’s a first. Young Americans should ALL be registering to vote as Democrats the day they turn 18. There is no excuse for them not to, unless they come from hardcore Republican areas or racist, intolerant families. The fact that an overwhelming majority of Millennials don’t register with a party, or don’t identify with a party, is telling more of the Democratic Party’s failures than the GOP. That the GOP doesn’t want our vote-- they want us NOT to vote-- should naturally push voters to DEM, but DEM is an awful mess too. We need to embrace the rising generation and bring them into the mix. Show them government can be responsive to the people, responsive to our needs and demands, and that government understands us. When government allows millions of college students to graduate with crushing student loan debt and enter abysmal job markets and does NOTHING about it, those college students are less likely to care what happens in government moving forward. Government is a nuisance to young Americans, another crappy reality tv show in a world full of crappy reality tv shows, only this one is on every night and on every channel, and election winners can turn our whole world upside down in an instant. EMBRACE MILLENNIALS, don’t push them away. Take anti-corporatist stances on cutting-edge issues like net neutrality and encryption, don’t pander to us about Pokemon Go and snapchat, or try to trick us into thinking stopping Trump is the most important reason in the world to go vote. It’s important, and voting is important, but this is more than Trump."

Getting specific, he pointed out that "there won’t be a future if we don’t act on climate change. There won’t be a future if we don’t seize this opportunity for social justice. There won’t be a future if we continue de-regulating Democracy and Trump is President, appointing Supreme Court Justices and rubber-stamping everything McConnell and Ryan do." And then he tackled another idea the DCCC has utterly abandoned-- helping Democrats up and down the ballot. "Go down the ballot," he urges. "Build coalitions. Identify good honest candidates and train them, and get them all on the same page. If I as a congressional candidate align myself with a slate of similar good honest candidates, progressive voters should identify with that and support it!" That's called investing in a political party of the future, something Democratic leaders don't do, possibly because they're all so old and don't spend much energy thinking about a future. The current Democratic congressional leadership is far older than the Republican congressional leadership. Older and not especially wiser and certainly not savvier.
Nancy Pelosi, 76
Steny Hoyer, 77
Jim Clyburn, 76
Xavier Becerra- 58, the youngster

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Will Hillary's Choice Of Kaine As Running Mate Push Progressive Voters Towards Jill Stein?

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Do you agree with Trump about anything? Even when he gets something right-- TPP for example-- his objections are not credible and invariably for all the wrong reasons. Well, he's wrong about Hillary too-- no matter what he says... and he's said everything! In terms of the election, all anyone really has to know is that however bad she is-- even after filtering out all the GOP/Hate Talk Radio slander and nonsense-- she is in all ways and on any day the far, far lesser evil than he is on his best day. There are some pros and some cons about a Hillary Clinton presidency. The only case to be made for a Trump presidency is apocalyptic... if that's your cup of tea.

She just selected Tim Kaine as her running mate-- this seems like too big a decision for any one person, especially when we're talking about people like Trump, but her too-- which has been a foregone conclusion all week. There was never a moment I thought it would be someone any better than she is. In my mind it would always be someone catering to the worst aspects of the wing of the Democratic Party that has more in common with Eisenhower Republicans than with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Democrats-- the Clinton wing. I was surprised yesterday when Markos wrote at Daily Kos, of late very much a mouthpiece for that wing of the party, that Hillary would lose ground with the base by picking a corporate centrist. He singled out Vilsack and Kaine; I' would have included Cory Booker and Julian Castro. Markos wrote than neither Kaine, who he deems particularly crappy, nor Vilsack is "palatable." Palatable to who? To the base? The base is as low-info as the Republican base... two-digit IQ morons who have saddled us with two miserable candidates the country seems to hate. The base can be persuaded. Or does he mean the activists and progressives who once, quite some time ago, alas, animated his then-revolutionary website? They want impossible dreams like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown or Bernie. That's never been in the cards, Hillary has less in common with them than she does with Susan Collins or Rob Portman.

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The perfect compromise between a candidate springing from her own Republican-lite instincts and those of the progressive wing of the party, would have been Labor Secretary Tom Perez. He's not Elizabeth Warren and he's not Bernie but you don't have to twist the meaning of the word "Democrat" to get that he is one. Tim Kaine should never be president for a wide array of reasons, starting with his fealty to Wall Street, to fracking and to the kinds of trade agreements just about everyone in America short of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (and Tim Kaine) now understands have been catastrophic. He has all of Clinton's policy flaws-- and more-- and none of her hard to discount saving graces. Kaine may well negate all the positive feelings Democrats who watched Trump's Hate Fest this week have allowed themselves to harbor about her. Markos seemed to be optimistic that Hillary was still going to "make the right call." I hoped he was right and that I was wrong. It's happened before. But not this time.

Jodi Jacobson at Rewire seemed as concerned and disturbed about the prospect of the Clinton's giving the slot to Kaine as we are. "The selection of Kaine," she wrote, "would be the first signal that Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours."
Standing up for progressive principles is not so hard, if you actually believe in them. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a progressive who actually gets shit done, like the creation against all odds in 2011 of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, perhaps the single most important progressive achievement of the past 20 years. Among other things, the CFPB  shields consumers from the excesses of mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies that have caused so much economic chaos in the past decade. So unless you are more interested in protecting the status quo than addressing the root causes of the many problems we now face, a progressive politician would want a strong progressive running mate.

By choosing Tim Kaine as her vice president, Clinton will signal that she values progressives in name and vote only.

As Zach Carter wrote in the Huffington Post, Kaine is setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party. Kaine is in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement largely negotiated in secret and by corporate lobbyists. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose voters Clinton needs to win over, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren oppose the TPP because, in Warren’s words, it “would tilt the playing field even more in favor of a big multinational corporations and against working families.”

The progressive agenda includes strong emphasis on effective systems of governance and oversight of banks and financial institutions-- the actors responsible, as a result of deregulation, for the major financial crises of the past 16 years, costing the United States trillions of dollars and gutting the financial security of many middle-class and low-income people.


...[A]s governor of Virginia, Kaine supported restrictions on abortion, such as Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law, which in 2008 he claimed gave “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, et cetera, and information about adoption.” In truth, the information such laws mandate giving out is often “irrelevant or misleading,” according to the the Guttmacher Institute. In other words, like many others who let ideology rather than public health guide their policy decisions, Kaine put in place policies that are not supported by the evidence and make it more difficult for women to gain access to abortion, steps he has not denounced. This is unacceptable. The very last thing we need is another person in the White House who further stigmatizes abortion, though it must be said Clinton herself seems chronically unable to speak about abortion without euphemism.

While there are many other reasons a Kaine pick would signal a less-than-secure and values-driven Clinton presidency, the fact also stands that he is a white male insider at a time when the rising electorate is decidedly not white and quite clearly looking for strong leadership and meaningful change. Kaine is not the change we seek.
Of course for those perfectly comfortable with going along with the lesser of two evils scenario that the two Beltway political parties insist defines democracy now... well Tim Kaine  is, arguably, far better than that walking freak show from Indiana (no, not Evan Bayh, the one... with the white hair... Mike Pence). As horrified as I was by the Cleveland Hate Fest and Trump's rantings and ravings-- and the overwhelming evil he and his horrid family-- sorry Chris Matthews-- represent, I will never vote based on who the lesser of two evils is. And if my resolve was weakening while I watched the GOP's deranged convention speakers and their hate-filled, ugly white audience, it just took a little focus back on Hillary-- and her announcement of Kaine half an hour ago-- to re-strengthen that resolve once again.



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It's lucky the WTC 9/11 Memorial is perfect, 'cause its overseers insist nothing can be changed

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"9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels . . . said the sculpture couldn't be placed inside the hallowed grounds.

" 'It's just not a part of the design of the memorial plaza itself,' said Daniels, who added that they are unable to add objects not part of the original plans."

-- from Ben Fractenberg's May 15 DNAinfo report (see below)



From the PWP Landscape Architecture website: "The National September 11th Memorial commemorates the victims of the attacks at the Pentagon, at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the World Trade Center site, both on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. Two gigantic voids – in the footprints of the Twin Towers – and a surrounding forest of oak trees form the core of the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City and provide a place for contemplation and remembrance within this revitalized urban center."

by Ken

I like the 9/11 Memorial on the site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers, especially now that the plaza is more or less open to pedestrian traffic, no longer requiring the visitor to go through the insane, blocks-long security rigamarole that used to be required to access the site. (The "more or less open" refers to the considerable areas around the plaza which are still cordoned off for ongoing construction.)

I also like the adjacent 9/11 Museum, though entry still requires security rigamarole that seems to me excessive. There's even interesting programming there. Why, I myself have attended a program there, a free one in May featuring NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, an established security and terrorism expert, talking about, you know, present-day security and terrorism issues, with specific reference to the interview he did with Osama bin Laden in May 1998 for ABC News. In my mind I still see John Miller as a hustling young local TV news reporter. He's built quite a career since then, though, in both journalism and government, and it was interesting as well as informative to see and hear him talk about the subject.

And now I realize it's a lucky thing that the overall project turned out pretty much okay, because we've discovered -- who knew? -- that the plan from which it was built was perfect and unchangeable, apparently in perpetuity.

The discovery came, for most of us, in the ongoing brouhaha over the ultimate destination of the sphere sculpture designed by Fritz Koenig which somehow survived the WTC devastation, and has been housed "temporarily" -- since 2002 -- in the northeast corner of Lower-most Manhattan's Battery Park, as noted in Irene Plagianos's DNAinfo report late yesterday afternoon (lots of links onsite):
Koenig Sphere Moving to WTC Liberty Park, Port Authority Says

By Irene Plagianos | July 21, 2016 4:32pm


The Fritz Koenig sphere sculpture moved to Battery Park in 2002 after being pulled from the rubble at Ground Zero. [Click to enlarge.] It will now be moved to Liberty Park at the WTC site.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A 25-ton bronze sculpture that became a symbol of resilience after Sept. 11 is returning to the World Trade Center site — but not to its original home.

Artist Fritz Koenig's Sphere which was pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center nearly 15 years ago damaged, but not destroyed after 9/11 will be placed at the WTC's newly opened Liberty Park, an elevated, leafy oasis that overlooks the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

Port Authority officials voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to move The Sphere, a globe originally designed to symbolize world peace, from its home in Battery Park into Liberty Park before the end of the year, officials said. The sphere had been at Battery Park since 2002 when it was rededicated as a memorial to those who died and an icon of hope.

The decision comes after years of debate about where the giant sphere would ultimately rest. Its placement in Battery Park had been deemed temporary by the Port Authority, which owns the sculpture, while scores of people — residents, families of 9/11 victims, survivors and first responders — have long demanded that 27-foot-high sphere return to its original location, where the 9/11 Memorial Plaza now sits.

While many, including the Battery Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that manages the Battery, wanted to see the Sphere moved, not all in the community were happy with the decision to bring the sculpture to the park, instead of the 9/11 Memorial.

At Thursday's Port Authority meeting, several people voiced concerns about the sphere being placed at the park, some saying it would create too much of a tourist attraction in an area meant to be a peaceful place. Others held that the sphere should simply return to its actual home, join a plaza that's meant to memorialize those who died, or be given a permanent home inside the 9/11 Museum.

“The sphere belongs on the memorial plaza — it can restore some dignity, some gravitas to the site,” said Richard Hughes, a co-founder of the Twin Towers Alliance, a citizens watchdog group for the WTC site. “Now it’s a place where people are playing Pokemon GO, rather than paying their respect.”

The 9/11 Memorial has long said that the Sphere was not part of its original plans, so it can’t be placed there.

Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority said Thursday that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is “unalterably opposed" to siting the sphere on its property, and there's nothing the Port Authority can do about it — however, he enthusiastically endorsed the Sphere's new Liberty Park location.

"I wholeheartedly recommend that you vote to bring the Sphere back home," he told the panel of Port Authority commissioners.

Foye also said that the relocation of the Sphere is being embraced by the St. Nicholas National Shrine, a reincarnation of St. Nicholas Church, the longtime Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed on Sept. 11 that is still being built atop Liberty Park.

Michael Burke, whose firefighter brother was killed on 9/11 and has long led the charge to bring the Sphere back to the WTC site, said that he's now onboard with the Liberty Park location.

"I toured this site the other day, and I think it provides a quiet place [for The Sphere], someplace unobtrusive and peaceful," he told the board.

The 92-year-old German artist behind the globe, Fritz Koening, has also said he is pleased with its new location.

I might add that every time I've passed the Sphere in its "temporary" location, it has been a center of attention, exerting an almost magnetic attraction for Battery Park passersby, of both the out-of-town and the local variety. I might also add that I'm not  offended beyond reason by the now-adopted plan to relocate the Sphere, now that it must give up its lovely spot in Battery Park, to the new Liberty Park adjacent to the WTC site.

What caught my attention, though, was this:
The 9/11 Memorial has long said that the Sphere was not part of its original plans, so it can’t be placed there.

Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority said Thursday that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is “unalterably opposed" to siting the sphere on its property, and there's nothing the Port Authority can do about it — however, he enthusiastically endorsed the Sphere's new Liberty Park location.
Huh? No consideration is possible of whether the Sphere belongs on the 9/11 Memorial site (can there be any question that it does?), or of whether it could be incorporated into the design of the plaza (which I'll bet it can). No changes are allowed to the original design.

There's a link here, which turns out to be to this earlier DNAinfo report by Ben Fractenberg, so I followed it. (Again, there are lots of links onsite.)
World Trade Sphere Must be Moved to 9/11 Memorial, Downtown Residents Say

By Ben Fractenberg | May 15, 2012 8:03am


The sphere in Battery Park in the spring of 2010. It has to move by this fall for construction.

DOWNTOWN — Downtown residents demanded that one of the last remaining objects from Ground Zero become part of the National 9/11 Memorial at a heated Community Board meeting Monday night.

A petition signed by more than 7,000 people asked that The Sphere — a 25-foot-tall sculpture originally at the World Trade Center and now in Battery Park City — become part of the memorial.

"[The Sphere] offers just how much horror, tragedy, violence went on that day," Battery Park resident Jeffery Mihok said.

Mihok called the current memorial "very crisp and antiseptic," and said the sculpture would provide a "great counterpoint to the thought-out nature for the rest of the memorial."

9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels, who was at the meeting to update the board about projects and construction, said the sculpture couldn't be placed inside the hallowed grounds.

"It's just not a part of the design of the memorial plaza itself," said Daniels, who added that they are unable to add objects not part of the original plans.

The Sphere is currently slated to be moved from Battery Park to a new location, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to announce this week.

It was supposed to have been moved to a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport until a new home was found, but officials decried the plan.

"It simply cannot be mothballed in some musty hangar at JFK," Sen. Charles Schumer told reporters Saturday.

"It must remain, like now, accessible as a public touchstone for New Yorkers and the visitors from the four corners of the globe."

But community members feel there is only one acceptable place for it to move.

"Putting The Sphere anywhere else denies its meaning," said Michael Burke, whose brother was a first responder killed during the attacks.

Burke started the petition and said he has gotten signatures from people from all over the world.

"'Do the right thing,' is the most common thing expressed on the petition," he said.

Daniels said that while The Sphere can't be placed inside the memorial, he wants to help make sure it is placed somewhere appropriate.

"The most important thing is that this artifact is preserved in a way the public can visit it, learn about it any way they want to," Daniels said.
Sandwiched in here, you'll note, we have the position on the Sphere of 9/ll Memorial President Daniels which I've put atop this post:
"It's just not a part of the design of the memorial plaza itself," said Daniels, who added that they are unable to add objects not part of the original plans.
Wow -- "they are unable to add objects not part of the original plans"! My first thought on reading this was: In the entire history of the human race, has anything ever been built to which nothing could ever be added, at any time, for any reason? My second thought was: Is it really God's-honest-truth, President Daniels, that absolutely nothing has been added -- or, presumably, subtracted? -- to the project since the original plan was designed? Cross your heart and hope to die?

As you may have guessed, I'm dubious. I'd like to know more about this absolute prohibition, this undeviating, unalterable fidelity to the original plan. I can understand as a general principle that the original plan be followed as closely as possible. That closes the way to all sorts of proposals, most of which would likely be highly objectionable. If the idea was that succeeding generations of site custodians might be dangerously susceptible to dubious proposals, the idea isn't without merit. Still and all, is the original plan so sacred that additions can't even be considered? Not even one as clearly deserving of at least consideration as the Sphere? (And is it just additions that can't be allowed? As opposed to subtractions and/or alterations?)

Apparently so. Because the only other explanation is that we've got some self-important bureaucrats digging in their heels on account of they don't wanna, you can't make me.
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Up on the High Wire

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Clinton and Trump, on the high wire,
Once side's ice and one is fire,
Putting on a show for you and me.

by Gaius Publius

I'm preparing for a month-long haitus (vacation, finally), and while I'll be reading the news I won't be commenting on it. Ahead of that, I'd like to offer these thoughts.

1. Our "Look Ahead" series will continue as the fall campaign kicks off. The outcome of the election, though, is very hard to predict. Each campaign seems determined to drive its own car into the ditch. Last car with wheels on the road will win this one. Plus there's those ever-present black swans, like this one.

As to what happens after the election, it gets more predictable. Whoever ultimately wins, we'll know enough in the fall to know nearly every player's fate for the next few years — Trump, Clinton, the progressive-hating Democratic leadership, the Koch-bossed Republican Party, Sanders-supporting progressives themselves; all of their Tarot cards will be laid out for reading, up to the moment when the climate throws its own card into the mix. We just have to be willing to look at what those cards say.

If you're interested, the parts so far of the Look Ahead series are these:


2. Clinton is looking more and more vulnerable, according to the latest Economist / YouGov poll (pdf). Whatever you think of the outcome of the Trump-Clinton contest, so far no one has a real lead, and both are playing a high-risk game of High Wire, a tightrope act without a net.

Surprising Poll Results

The following look at some of the poll results comes from poster Vraye_Foi at the Reddit site r/Kossacks_for_Sanders. The poll itself is long and worth a further look, if you're so inclined. My thanks for this summary of just a a few of its findings (my emphasis except where noted):
Pages 12 and 13 of the report [the "enthusiasm" pages] are full of interesting data, some of which I'll highlight -
  • 25% of Democrats are either Dissatisfied or Upset [Clinton] is the Democrat candidate for President
  • 62% of Independents are either Dissatisfied or Upset that she is the Democrat candidate for President
  • 43% of those polled across the board (includes all demographics and party affiliations) are "Upset" that she is the Democrat candidate for President
When it comes to Independents' view of Donald Trump, only 44% are Dissatisfied or Upset that he is the Republican nominee.

Enthusiastic Support for Trump within his party is at 51%. Hillary's Enthusiastic support within her party: 34%. 
The choices for this question are: Enthusiastic, Satisfied, Dissatisfied, Upset, Not Sure. The wording of the most extreme categories is Enthusiastic and Upset. So Trump starts the pre-convention head-to-head campaigning with more enthusiasm within his party and also with independents than Clinton does, by a lot if the poll is right.

When looking at support among women:
And continuing on the theme of "Enthusiastic Support", how about this surprise:
  • 18% of female respondents are Enthusiastic for Trump
  • 19% of female respondents are Enthusiastic for Clinton
So just an aside and speaking as a woman here, can the HRC campaign cut the shit bout how it's sexist if you don't support or vote for Hillary? Please? Because this poll shows that women are about as enthusiastic and thrilled about Hillary as they are about Trump. ...

On the negative side, when it comes to Hillary being the Democrats' candidate, 12% of the women polled feel "Dissatisfied but not Upset" and 42% are UPSET.

It must be troubling news for the HRC campaign to see Enthusiastic/Satisfied combined numbers (45%) linger behind the Dissatisfied/Upset numbers (54%). A lot of women are not happy that Clinton is the nominee.
We're not saying that situation is right or wrong, just that it is. Now about enthusiasm by age (emphasis in original):
The other shocker is that 49% of respondents age 45 - 64 are "Upset" she is the Dem's candidate. But wait - it gets even more shocking: 53% of respondents over the age of 65 responded "Upset" as well.

Hasn't the narrative been that HRC has solid support from the over 45s and women? This poll raises some questions about that. Just as with the women respondents, the 45 and older crowd's negative sentiments towards HRC's candidacy are HIGHER than the positive ones.
That "over 65" polling number is across all genders and party identifications, but so is the general election.

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein

There's Johnson and Stein polling in the report as well. The reddit poster quoted above notes this (regarding data on pages 21 and 23):
General Election | Johnson Preference

Would you say you are mostly voting FOR Gary Johnson, AGAINST Hillary Clinton or AGAINST Donald Trump? Asked of those who would vote for Gary Johnson
  • I’m mostly voting FOR Gary Johnson 38%
  • I’m mostly voting AGAINST Hillary Clinton 37%
  • I’m mostly voting AGAINST Donald Trump 23%
  • Not sure 2%
General Election | Stein Preference

Would you say you are mostly voting FOR Jill Stein, AGAINST Hillary Clinton or AGAINST Donald Trump? Asked of those who would vote for Jill Stein
  • I’m mostly voting FOR Jill Stein 36%
  • I’m mostly voting AGAINST Hillary Clinton 42%
  • I’m mostly voting AGAINST Donald Trump 8%
  • Not sure 13%
Page 25 of the poll gives data in general on whether people are voting For a given candidate or Against a given candidate. Those general results are mainly a wash. The split in voting for vs. against Clinton is 28%–23%. The same split for Trump is 23%–20%, with 2% each saying they're voting FOR Johnson or Stein.

But it's the Against Clinton number in the Johnson and Stein polling that should cause worry in the Democratic camp. The Johnson+Stein combined Against Clinton total, as shown above, is 79%. The Johnson+Stein combined Against Trump total is just 31%. In other words, prospective Libertarian+Green voters, as a group, are much more strongly against Clinton than against Donald Trump, at least prior to the start of the fall campaign.

Pages 27–30 are also interesting. The question is, "Would you consider voting for [Clinton/Trump/Johnson/Stein]?" Possible responses are Might, Would Never, Not Sure, with overall totals and cross-tabulated breakdowns by gender, age, and so on. The Might vs. Would Never breakdown for Clinton among Democratic primary voters who prefer Sanders is 59%–38%. The same breakdown  for this group (Democratic primary voters who prefer Sanders) for Johnson is 45%–28%, and for Stein is 44%–20%.

To put that more simply, 38% of Sanders supporters would never vote for Clinton. Where would they go? An even split — 45% would vote for Johnson and 44% would vote for Stein.

Independents Still Control this Election

It looks like it's still true, that this year's "radical independents," people who were attracted to Trump and/or Sanders as a way to raise a "pronounced middle finger" to the powers that be (Norman Solomon's phrase in a slightly different context), are likely to decide this election. They may not know who they're for, but they're pretty sure who, or what, they're against. For far too many voters, there is no good outcome.

 "Le Pendu," the one left hanging, suspended in time and awaiting the outcome (source).

Enjoy the rest of the summer. I'll be back with more in a month.

GP
 

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Why Is President Obama Lying About Patrick Murphy's Record?

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The TV spot targeting African-American voters in Tallahassee and Jacksonville that Obama cut for Patrick Murphy's drowning Senate primary campaign puts the president's credibility dangerously on the line. Murphy's record in the House is unquestionably one of the most reactionary and blatantly anti-progressive of any Democrat serving in the House. He has been an unabashed advocate for cutting Social Security and Medicare, an unflinching ally of Wall Street and payday loan predators and a consistent backer of Republican initiatives against the environment and, in fact, against the Obama administration itself. Murphy was one of just 4 Democrats still in the House to have voted with the GOP to establish the anti-Hillary Clinton witch hunt they called Benghazi and he was one of the only Keystone XL Pipeline supporters among the Democrats who actually voted to unconstitutionally remove Obama himself from the decision-making process. He even voted with the Republicans for oil drilling off Florida's pristine beaches!

"Patrick," lied Obama in the TV ad, "is a strong progressive." Obama is entitled to back whichever reactionary, corporate whore whose parents are bribing him with a donation for his presidential library he wants to, but to call Murphy "a progressive," is just monstrous and makes one wonder what else is Obama lying to the public about. He claims, falsely, that Murphy has "fought special interests on behalf of working families and won." Wall Street has given more money to Murphy than to any non-incumbent running for the Senate this cycle-- $1,413,950-- which is also more money the banksters gave any Member of the House other than Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. There is no other Democrat in even in the top 10! Obama knows better than most that isn't to reward him for standing up to special interests-- exactly the opposite in fact.



Obama cut similar spots to influence African Americans to vote for fracking lobbyist Katie McGinty in the Pennsylvania primary (and against Joe Sestak and John Fetterman) and has campaigned in Miami for Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the same distortions he's using to help Murphy. This week, he came out explicitly in the California primary race for murky, unproven Democrat Kamala Harris in her Senate race against fellow Democrat, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. (To my eye neither is remotely qualified for the Senate, Harris being merely mediocre and Sanchez nearly as bad and almost as reactionary as Patrick Murphy.)

Sanchez-- mindful not to offend low-info Obama supporters-- struck back tepidly. "I am disappointed," she wrote in response to the Obama-Biden endorsement, "that President Obama chose to endorse in an historic Senate race between two Democrats. I would think the leader of the Democratic Party would be focused on defeating Donald Trump and supporting Democratic Senate candidates against Republicans. I believe that California voters are deeply concerned about the entrenched political establishment which has failed to work for them. Yet, it has been clear for some time that the same political establishment would rather have a coronation instead of an election for California's next U.S. Senator. California's Senate seat does not belong to the political establishment-- it belongs to the People of California, and I believe California voters will make their own independent choice for U.S. Senate in November."

Neither Harris, Sanchez, McGinty nor, especially, Patrick Murphy, belongs anywhere near the U.S. Senate. Obama is wrong and he's making himself less credible by endorsing blatantly unqualified candidates, especially in primary elections. It's what you'd expect from a lifelong party hack like Biden-- a member of whose staff confided in us several months ago that Obama is trolling for presidential library money. The reason this is especially grievous in Florida is because by pushing the incompetent Murphy forward, Obama is diminishing one of the most iconic and accomplished progressives in Congress, Alan Grayson, and is making it far easier for Marco Rubio to win in November, since the unaccomplished and fatally flawed Murphy would be a complete push-over for an experienced politician like Rubio.

Please consider helping Alan Grayson win this one by contributing what you can to his campaign at the thermometer below. The Florida Democratic Party Senate nomination isn't the property of Beltway insiders like Schumer, Reid and Obama/Biden. Only Florida Democratic voters can decide this issue. Grayson has earned their trust and devotion; Patrick Murphy certainly hasn't.
Goal Thermometer


UPDATE

A very progressive and well-loved Member of Congress just e-mailed me her worries about Obama losing credibility just when the Democrats need him most in the battle against Trump. "What he says about all of the candidates he endorses is completely untethered from reality," she wrote. "He just says whatever he thinks will sound good. It’s very revealing about his own mental processes."

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Humiliation Of Ted Cruz, Mike Pence, The Republican Party-- While The Demented Donald Laughs At America

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The superficially crafted messaging of the Republican convention has been stepped on and obliterated every day. But Hillary better not feel powerful for having had anything to do with it. It's all Trump and his incompetent, deranged micro-campaign that's causing all the seemingly self-destructive chaos. Trump lifted those plagiarized passages from Michelle Obama's speech and put them into Melania's address and ate up two-and-a-half days of headlines that might have gone to republican messaging. Trump lured Ted Cruz into an untenable position last night, overshadowing, Mike Pence's introduction to the nation as the two squared off in some kind of an alternative universe 2020 preview.

I'm not Ted Cruz fan, but you almost feel sorry for the guy. Trump had originally said that unless his former rivals endorsed him in advance, they wouldn't get convention speaking slots. It kind of worked on sweaty, wormy Rubio but Ted Cruz-- who was not going to humiliate himself by publicly fellating the man who denigrated him and his family so violently-- well that turned into the kind of chaos Trump loves to spark and then take advantage of. Cruz decided to address the convention-- packed with really dumb Trump supporters-- without endorsing the legitimate party nominee. Trump was waiting for him, with a well-coordinated whip plan for strategic booing and camera-chaos. This is what America woke up to this morning:




David Frum referred to what Cruz did last night as "his brave and noble act" and I tend to see it similarly-- with reservations. Many others put Cruz in a far less heroic light-- even as a backstabber. Patricia Murphy at Roll Call: Having already identified Trump "a narcissist and a pathological liar," Cruz "exacted his revenge and refused to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention meant to unify GOP support behind his nomination." Politico noted that "Boos rained down on Cruz, and his wife had to be escorted from the hall amid verbal taunts in an unreal scene that marked an end to a surreal primary season."
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” Cruz said. “That is the standard we should expect from everybody.”

It was a standard that Cruz determined Trump did not meet.

“Don’t stay home in November,” Cruz told the audience. “Stand and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

But he wouldn’t say Trump’s name.

In doing so, Cruz handed Hillary Clinton and the Democrats a potentially devastating cudgel of a slogan-- “vote your conscience”-- with which to hammer Trump all the way through November. Clinton grabbed it immediately, tweeting the phrase and a link to a voter registration page.


So... yes, Cruz kicked off his 2020 election campaign-- probably against Hillary, in the GOP's alternative universe, against President Gas. Byron York pointed out Cruz is taking a big gamble with his political future. "No one," he correctly asserted, "will know whether he won or lost until a few years from now... The upside of Cruz's gamble is that in one brief appearance, he won the intensified support of those Republicans who cannot reconcile themselves to Trump. And, if Trump goes down to defeat in November-- and it's safe to say everyone in that group believes he will-- Cruz will have serious I-told-you-so cred. Then, the theory goes, he will be in a strong position to put the party back together and run in 2020.
The scene irritated the still-raw feelings of some veterans of the 2016 GOP race. Veteran Republican strategist Curt Anderson, who ran Bobby Jindal's campaign, saw in Cruz's action far more calculation than principle, recalling the days when Cruz expressed admiration and affection for Trump.


"No one did more to create Donald Trump than Ted Cruz did," Anderson wrote in an email shortly after Cruz's speech. "While others were attempting to stop Trump, Cruz was complimenting him and sucking up to him. It was a political calculation that failed. Everything he does is a political calculation. Tonight he calculated that not endorsing the Republican nominee will be good for him. That will be another failed calculation, no matter whether Trump wins or loses in the fall."

Anderson was by no means alone in that feeling. Talking to attendees leaving the hall Wednesday night, most were unhappy with Cruz's performance. They didn't like the fact that Cruz would not fall in line behind his party's choice, and they could not understand his decision in light of their strong belief that the country has gone downhill fast under President Obama and will continue unless Hillary Clinton is stopped.
On the other hand, Sarah Palin, one of Trump's most blood-thirsty lady enforcers, has declared Cruz, henceforth, a persona-non-grata in the Republican Party:
Cruz’s broken pledge to support the will of the people tonight was one of those career-ending “read my lips” moments. I guarantee American voters took notice and felt more unsettling confirmation as to why we don’t much like typical politicians because they campaign one way, but act out another way. That kind of political status quo has got to go because it got us into the mess we’re in with America’s bankrupt budgets and ramped up security threats.

It’s commonplace for politicians to disbelieve their word is their bond, as evidenced by Cruz breaking his promise to endorse his party’s nominee, evidently thinking whilst on the convention stage, “At this point, what difference does it make?” We’ve been burned so horribly by that attitude that voters won’t reward politicians pulling that “what difference does it make” stunt again. Politicians will see — it makes all the difference in the world to us.
Who knew Palin was such a Talking Heads fan!



Josh Marshall tried to make sense out of what happened last night for normal observers-- but found it almost impossible. "Trump's convention is everything you could have predicted: a mix of bracing disorganization, provocation, aggression and lies. It is simply impossible to pick apart the incompetence from the transgressive behavior and pettiness... Years from today we will still wrestle with the meaning of Cruz for once leveraging the awesome power of his assholery in a righteous cause. Perhaps there is a salutary bravery or solidity there I hadn't noticed, or at least a quality vouchsafed for this moment. This is Trump. His convention would be his presidency-- entertaining and hilarious if he weren't also a live wire against the fumy gasoline can set against our national home. It is quite literally a terrifying prospect. He's quite likely to lose his quest for the presidency. But he might not. He's that close to the unimaginable. And he's brought almost an entire political party along with him. We will be blessed if we can escape this with no more harm."


click on the image to enlarge

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How Trump Is Working Hard To Lose Ohio In November

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Tuesday's "Make America Work Again" was a follow-up to the Trump Convention's unhinged "Make America Safe Again" Monday theme. But there was basically nothing about work, jobs or anything related to either. In fact, Amanda Carpenter tweeted that "Unless the plan is to make all Republicans prison guards to lock up Democrats, I didn't see a jobs plan tonight." That kind of Trumpist incompetence was just one of the reasons John Kasich, who is boycotting the convention he worked so hard to bring to his state, gives when explaining why he can't support Trump. It's gotten so out of hand that Republicans-- who have never won a presidential election without carrying Ohio-- are fretting that the pig-headed Trump will so grievously offend Ohioans that he'll guarantee a Hillary win there... and nationally.

Byron York, writing yesterday for the right wing blog, Washington Examiner, contends that "the Trump-Kasich spat is more than a sideshow. It's at the very heart of the presidential campaign." Because Republicans who lose Ohio, lose the White House. "This fall," wrote York, "and especially in October, the GOP presidential candidate will need a huge assist from the Republican power structure in Ohio. He simply has to have it. And at the moment it looks very much like that won't happen."

Monday Trump called into his pals at Fox and whined incoherently about Kasich not supporting him: "I beat him very, very soundly. And you have to understand, this was a contentious, some people say the most contentious primary they have ever seen in either party. If I were him and gotten beaten that badly I probably wouldn't show up either. He has a problem that he signed the pledge. And from a standpoint of honor I think he should show up."
Whoever is really to blame, what makes Trump's handling of the Kasich problem so ill-advised is the fact that Kasich is truly popular here in Ohio. You know those moderate women suburban voters Republicans always wish they had more of? Kasich has them.

Yet at the same time, there are hints here at the convention that Kasich's supporters, many of whom voted for him in the March 15 Ohio primary, aren't happy with Kasich's decision to boycott the convention. Before the convention started, I received a note from a source who talked of unhappiness in the Ohio delegation ranks.

"They don't take Kasich's opposition to Trump as principle, but rather petulance," the source wrote. "One older man told me that whenever it's his guy who loses-- a Tea Party candidate or a more conservative primary challenger-- he's always been told that after the primary you have to fall in line behind the nominee, even if you disagree with him. Now, the same people who said that are telling him that they can't vote for Trump out of principle."

...Kasich is famous for having a difficult personality. But as far as Trump is concerned, Kasich is the governor of a swing state Trump cannot afford to lose. Kasich controls political resources in that critical swing state. So it really doesn't matter that many see Kasich as a sore loser after the GOP primaries. Winners have to manage losers wisely. Or, at a minimum, not attack them publicly.

...Insiders in both parties believe Trump has a chance to win Ohio. "He's going to kill it" in some key blue-collar areas of the state, the strategist told me. Some of Trump's weaknesses, like his low standing among Hispanic voters, won't be a big factor in Ohio. And dislike of Hillary Clinton is strong; the millions of dollars in ads she has aired in Ohio haven't made a huge difference, at least so far. It's probably fair to say that few would be surprised if Trump does better than Romney, who lost Ohio by three points in 2012.

But Trump has to do better than just out-perform Romney. He has to win Ohio, or lose the presidency. Which makes Trump's feud with Ohio's Republican governor more than just a quarrel left over from some tough primaries. It is a dispute that could determine the outcome of the entire national race.
Don't get the idea, though, that Kasich stands alone on this. Ohio's state House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger made that perfectly clear yesterday: "I am so proud of our Governor, John Kasich" for not backing Trump and this morning the Ohio convention delegation gave Kasich a spontaneous and heart-felt standing ovation when he entered room today at delegation breakfast. Nor should you get the idea that Trump is unaware just how important Ohio is in the service of his self-glorification. According to Robert Draper's explosive piece in the New York Times yesterday, Trump sent Donald, Jr. to Kasich's camp to offer him the running mate slot-- along with unprecedented power. Did Kasich have any interest, the Trumps wanted to know in being the most powerful vice president in history?
When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.
Trump then ordered the Ohio delegation, to be seated behind Pennsylvania at the convention, a slap in the face to the hosts, who are always given from row seats-- and an example of Trump's deranged idea of collective punishment and petty revenge. And self-destruction. Read these old Trump tweets about Kasich when you think about Trump offering to make him the most powerful vice president in history-- and when you think about Kasich telling Trump to go shove him offer up his ass:





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Today Is Probably An Eerie Day In Latvia, Estonia And Lithuania

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Could be nerve-wracking for the former Eastern bloc countries that joined NATO in 1999-- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland-- as well and crazy for the non-Baltic states that also joined in 2004: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, maybe even Melania's tiny little Slovenia. And in 2009, Albania and Croatia became members and I'm betting they're nervous about The Trump Doctrine as well, a doctrine that The Ballad of Abu Ghraib author Phil Gourevitc defined today by tweeting that "to Trump international relations is just a gangland protection racket-- pay me to protect you or swing in the wind-- & USA stands for nothing."

Today's chaotic blunder into foreign policy-- the shredding of NATO-- by the Republican nominee is probably far more of a deal-killer for many in the establishment-oriented Republicans than anything he said to insult women, Latinos, the handicapped, minorities or anyone else. Unlike Trump, many Republicans take foreign policy seriously. Trump made it clear he approves of-- or at least doesn't care about-- Erdogan's brutal transformation of Turkey into an authoritarian state. Green light!


A good friend of mine is spending a couple of weeks at the Bohemian Grove, Yesterday he told me it's roughly half Republican up there and half Democratic. But there are no Trumpists. The Republicans especially loath him. Far more shattering to Bohemian Grove bipartisan foreign policy sensibilities than Trump's hands-off attitude towards Erdogan, was an apparent decision to eviscerate NATO, whose viability allied defense against perceived and historic Russian aggression towards Europe is based.
During a 45-minute conversation, he explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. Mr. Trump re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States.

He said the rest of the world would learn to adjust to his approach. “I would prefer to be able to continue” existing agreements, he said, but only if allies stopped taking advantage of what he called an era of American largess that was no longer affordable.

Giving a preview of his address to the convention on Thursday night, he said that he would press the theme of “America First,” his rallying cry for the past four months, and that he was prepared to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada if he could not negotiate radically better terms.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

...Trump conceded that his approach to dealing with the United States’ allies and adversaries was radically different from the traditions of the Republican Party-- whose candidates, since the end of World War II, have almost all pressed for an internationalist approach in which the United States is the keeper of the peace, the “indispensable nation.”

“This is not 40 years ago,” Mr. Trump said, rejecting comparisons of his approaches to law-and-order issues and global affairs to Richard Nixon’s. Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, “We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” citing what he called America’s trade losses. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me.”

Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies’ borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.

No presidential candidate in modern times has ordered American priorities that way, and even here, several speakers have called for a far more interventionist policy, more reminiscent of George W. Bush’s party than of Mr. Trump’s.

But Mr. Trump gave no ground, whether the subject was countering North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats or dealing with China in the South China Sea. The forward deployment of American troops abroad, he said, while preferable, was not necessary.

“If we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy” from American soil, Mr. Trump said, “and it will be a lot less expensive.”

Many military experts dispute that view, saying the best place to keep missile defenses against North Korea is in Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Maintaining such bases only in the United States can be more expensive because of the financial support provided by Asian nations.

Mr. Trump’s discussion of the crisis in Turkey was telling, because it unfolded at a moment in which he could plainly imagine himself in the White House, handling an uprising that could threaten a crucial ally in the Middle East. The United States has a major air base at Incirlik in Turkey, where it carries out attacks on the Islamic State and keeps a force of drones and about 50 nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s increasingly authoritarian but democratically elected leader. “I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around,” Mr. Trump said of the coup attempt on Friday night. “Some people say that it was staged, you know that,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Asked if Mr. Erdogan was exploiting the coup attempt to purge his political enemies, Mr. Trump did not call for the Turkish leader to observe the rule of law, or Western standards of justice. “When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger,” he said.

The Obama administration has refrained from any concrete measures to pressure Turkey, fearing for the stability of a crucial ally in a volatile region. But Secretary of State John F. Kerry has issued several statements urging Mr. Erdogan to follow the rule of law.

Mr. Trump offered no such caution for restraint to Turkey and nations like it. However, his argument about America’s moral authority is not a new one: Russia, China, North Korea and other autocratic nations frequently cite violence and disorder on American streets to justify their own practices, and to make the case that the United States has no standing to criticize them.
Jeffrey Goldberg noted in The Atlantic this morning, in regard to the Trump-Putin long-distance bromance that fulfilling what might be the Russian autocrat’s dearest wish, Trump has openly questioned whether the U.S. should keep its commitments to NATO, referring to the clownish Trump as "a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower."

Goldberg reassured his readers that he's "not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin-- though his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych." Instead he was arguing that "Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin-- for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability-- much worse than anything we are seeing today-- because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation."
Trump’s sympathy for Putin has not been a secret. Trump said he would “get along very well” with Putin, and he has pleased Putin by expressing a comprehensive lack of interest in the future of Ukraine, the domination of which is a core Putinist principle. The Trump movement also agrees with Putin that U.S. democracy is fatally flawed. A Trump adviser, Carter Page, recently denounced-- to a Moscow audience-- America’s “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” Earlier this week, Trump’s operatives watered down the Republican Party’s national-security platform position on Ukraine, removing a promise to help the Ukrainians receive lethal aid in their battle to remain free of Russian control.

Now, in an interview with Maggie Haberman and David Sanger of the New York Times, Trump has gone much further, suggesting that he and Putin share a disdain for NATO. Fulfilling what might be Putin’s dearest wish, Trump, in this interview, openly questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its commitments to the alliance. According to Haberman and Sanger, Trump “even called into question, whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.” Trump told the Times that, should Russia attack a NATO ally, he would first assess whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.” If they have, he said, he would then come to their defense.

These sorts of equivocating, mercenary statements—unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking—represent an invitation to Putin to intervene more destructively in non-NATO countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, and also represent an invitation to intervene directly in NATO countries—the Baltic states, first and foremost. This is why the Estonian president tweeted in a cold panic immediately after Trump’s interview appeared online: “Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def[ense] expenditures commitment.” The president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, also noted that Estonia fought “with no caveats” with NATO in Afghanistan.

Unlike Trump, leaders of such countries as Estonia believe that the United States still represents the best hope for freedom. In his interview with Haberman and Sanger, Trump argued, in essence, that there is nothing exceptional about the U.S., and that therefore its leaders have no right to criticize the behavior of other countries: “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”

...Donald Trump, should he be elected president, would bring an end to the postwar international order, and liberate dictators, first and foremost his ally Vladimir Putin, to advance their own interests. The moral arc of the universe is long, and, if Trump is elected, it will bend in the direction of despotism and darkness.
I suspect this isn't going to hurt Trump with voters in Iowa or Montana. I'm eager to see what impact it has, though, on swing voters in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, even Georgia and Utah. It sure seemed to scare the shit out of Mike Pence and Tom Cotton (R-AR), who immediately tried to ameliorate Trump's assertions by claiming he'd understand better after he's briefed by the CIA. Wishful thinking? Lindsey Graham, who has no reason to blinker himself like that, said Trump's remarks were making Putin "a very happy man."


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