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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote up the results of his meeting with Merrick Garland before he met with him

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Embarrassingly flagant example of pre-judgment, reported by Tierney Sneed at TPM:

“Senator Hatch has made clear from the beginning that he intends to meet with Judge Garland out of respect for their longtime friendship,” the spokesperson, J.P. Freire, said. “He looks forward to their meeting and the opportunity to explain his position on the current Supreme Court vacancy.”

Paul Edwards, executive editor of the Deseret News, called the publication of the op-ed an “unfortunate error” in statement emailed to TPM.

“This morning, the Deseret News website mistakenly published a draft of an op-ed from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch explaining his position on the Supreme Court vacancy,” Edwards said. “The electronic publication of this version, awaiting edits from the Senator following his meeting with Judge Garland, was inadvertent.”

Garland — a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — has met with more than a dozen GOP senators, at least one of whom was willing to break with party line and say he deserved to go through the typical consideration process. The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Hatch sits, have pledged to refuse to give any nominee of Obama’s a hearing, because, they say, the successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia should be picked by the next president.

Coincidentally, days before Obama announced Garland as his selection, Hatch said the President wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Garland, whom Hatch called a “fine man.”

In the op-ed that was taken down Thursday, Hatch continued his praise for Garland, while reiterating his claim that the blockade was actually benefitting the appeals court judge. . .

Continue reading.

It seems generally true that Republicans take their positions without regard to evidence or facts, so Hatch’s deciding before having the meeting what the meeting will show is quite consistent with Republican values.

It’s evident that Garland himself is beside the point for the GOP: their main goal is to once again demonstrate disrespect toward President Obama.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 May 2016 at 7:49 am

Donald Trump Tried to Cheat Veterans Out of $1 Million

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How despicable is Trump? This despicable.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2016 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Philanthropy

Not talking about Trump specifically…

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There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents… The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provisions should be made to prevent its ascendancy.

-Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect, and author (13 Apr 1743-1826)

Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2016 at 10:06 am

Posted in Election, GOP

War of the Roses in the US

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This interesting piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker, which that our political leaders are devolving into a kind of titled aristocracy and royalty in the context, say, of the War of the Roses, during which great struggles were undertaken within the public on which party to support. And those leading the parties might be purely a fiction of position: the person designated to be “x”, but of course succession is never, as we’ve seen, certain. It’s going to make a fantastic miniseries by some future Shakespeare interpreting (and thus shaping) the preceding history of the culture. They have power, but otherwise they are placed by position and cultural role and family connections (just as with royalty and titled artistocrats) and so on. Looking at it from that perspective US political history since (say) 1932 has been extremely interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2016 at 1:08 pm

The GOP digests Trump (or vice versa)

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Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. . .

Continue reading.

It is truly a serious—and dangerous—situation. We’ve seen this movie before, and it ended all in tears.

Update: And this long and insightful essay by Jonna Ivin in Stir is worth reading in this context. From the link:

. . . Marginalized people have been fighting for equality for decades. Admittedly, in the quest to fight for the oppressed — people of color, women, religious minorities, the LGBTQ community — we often overlook the fact that classism never completely disappeared. For the white underclass, it’s tempting to feel left out of this fight. But how can people fighting for social equality include poor whites who see them as the enemy?

If poor and working class whites who chant, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” believe they have little in common with these “enemies,” they are mistaken. We are all sides of the same coin, a coin that has been held in the pocket of the elite class since the first settlers arrived in the American colonies.

I’m no one special. I am a poor, uneducated, white woman. I am the white underclass, and I am no one’s enemy. I fight for racial equality because people of color are not my enemy. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people are not my enemy. Immigrants and refugees are not my enemy. Muslims are not my enemy. Native Americans are not my enemy. Single mothers and fathers are not my enemy. People on Medicare, disability, food stamps, and unemployment are not my enemy. The homeless are not my enemy. And it turns out that the people of a small Arkansas town in the middle of the Ozarks are not my enemy.

Other poor people are not the enemy, no matter how they look, how they pray, or who they love. They are fighting to be heard. They are people who, like Trump supporters, agree with the statement, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2016 at 11:53 am

James O’Keefe III and Inspector Jacques Clouseau: Birds of a Feather

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Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker:

As Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.” Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.

“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.
She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”
That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”
She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks.
The money that would be offered, Kesh said, couldn’t come from “offshore British Virgin Island companies,” because “Soros’s people don’t want to take money from a group like that.” He claimed that “Bill Clinton would” take suspect cash, “and Hillary Clinton would, and Chelsea would.”
One member of the team suggested to Kesh that he knew someone who could infiltrate the Soros network: an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent,” who was in the U.S. and was “more than happy to do anything he can do for us.” The surgeon was sophisticated about technology and would not “have any problem with the cameras.” The team member said, “He’s a very talented guy, so, I mean, he’ll be able to pull it off.” As Kesh mapped out the covert attack, however, he had no idea that the only person he was stinging was himself.
The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”
Geraghty forwarded the voice-mail recording to Chris Stone, the president of the Open Society Foundations. “The Watergate burglars look good compared to these guys,” Stone told me last month. “These guys can’t even figure out how to use an Internet browser, let alone conduct an undercover operation. You read the transcript and you can’t help but laugh.” He went on, “But the issues here aren’t funny. There’s some kind of dirty-tricks operation in play against us.”

In the Westchester County suburb of Mamaroneck, a street-level office has reflective glass doors and windows that make it impossible to see inside. This is the headquarters of James O’Keefe III—the conservative activist who placed the phony phone call pretending to be Victor Kesh. As he showed me around, in late April, O’Keefe, who is thirty-one, told me that he is not a dirty trickster but an investigative journalist and a leading practitioner of modern political warfare. “We’ve got this guerrilla army, and it’s coming to fruition soon,” he said. “This is our base of operations.” Waving his hand around seven thousand square feet of empty office space, he said, “This is our norad. It’s our field operation.”

The back wall of the office, he explained, would soon be hung with an enormous corkboard covered with maps. Affixed to each map would be a card with the location and the assumed name of every undercover political operative working for his nonprofit, Project Veritas. Created in 2010 as a charity that could accept tax-deductible contributions, Project Veritas says on its Web site that it is dedicated to exposing “corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct.”
O’Keefe graduated from Rutgers University in 2006. He says that a professor there, David Knowlton, urged him to follow Saul Alinsky’s rule book, which advised radicals to use their enemies’ rules against them. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2005, O’Keefe lampooned campus political correctness by demanding that the dining hall ban Lucky Charms cereal. The box’s depiction of a leprechaun, he proclaimed, perpetuated “offensive” stereotypes about Irish-Americans. He videotaped a confrontation that he’d had with a school administrator and posted the footage on YouTube, launching his career as a political stunt artist. The Lucky Charms prank remains “a crowd favorite,” O’Keefe told me.
In 2014, his organization became more directly involved in electoral politics, sprouting a “social welfare” limb called the Project Veritas Action Fund. Such organizations, referred to in the tax code as 501c4 groups, have proliferated since 2010, when the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case essentially legalized unlimited corporate and individual spending on politics. Unlike ordinary charities, 501c4 groups can accept unlimited contributions from secret donors and spend the cash directly on campaigns. They just need to make a plausible case that they promote social welfare and that politics is not their primary purpose. O’Keefe says that the new group “allows us to literally put someone undercover in a campaign.”
In the era of “dark money,” as anonymous political donations are often described, Project Veritas has been thriving. According to its federal tax filings, between 2013 and 2014 its budget doubled, from $1.2 million to $2.4 million. O’Keefe told me that he has “about a dozen undercover operations ongoing at any given time.” One of these, he said, involves “someone working for Hillary Clinton full time, as a paid staffer.” This “embedded” operative, he said, “is employed in the campaign in the highest echelons.” (He declined to be more specific.) Every day, the operative sends “video to us over our own server.” He added, “Just like Hillary Clinton, we have our own Internet server in Westchester County!” He went on, “We see everything. We have thousands of hours of video. You’ll see infighting, plans, strategy.” O’Keefe said that he has been compiling a feature film from the operative’s footage, but won’t release it until the late summer or fall, when it will have maximum impact. In the meantime, he has posted teasers online; several of the clips end with the words “Stay tuned, Hillary, and check your e-mail.”
O’Keefe promised that footage he has acquired through his various operatives “will force people to resign.” He later added that he had video of “top, top, top-ranking officials discussing how and why they commit” voter fraud “to sway races.”
Given O’Keefe’s track record, it would be a mistake to take his grand statements too seriously. He first gained wide notoriety in 2009, when he released a series of undercover videos attacking the liberal community-organizing group acorn. The videos had an immediate effect, but raised serious questions about his methods and ethics—questions that have trailed him ever since. He secretly filmed encounters in which he and a female colleague showed up at acornoffices in various cities, claiming to be a pimp and an underage prostitute who wanted advice on how to make prostitution look like a legal business. acornofficials appeared to oblige them, in one instance advising them to make sure that the immigrants O’Keefe claimed he was going to prostitute actually went to school as exchange students. After O’Keefe began releasing his exposés ofacorn, the House of Representatives voted to cut off federal funds to the group, which soon collapsed. But an acorn official filmed in California, who was fired because he seemed to embrace the proposed scheme, successfully settled a lawsuit against O’Keefe for a hundred thousand dollars. He argued that he had not consented to be videotaped, as is required in California, and that after learning about the prostitution idea he had called the police. O’Keefe hadn’t bothered to contact the employee before airing the damning footage.
In January, 2010, the F.B.I. arrested O’Keefe and three accomplices, two of whom had disguised themselves as telephone repairmen in order to enter the New Orleans office of Mary Landrieu, then a Democratic senator for Louisiana. (O’Keefe says he had hoped to disprove Landrieu’s claim that her phone lines were too clogged to answer the many angry calls coming from Tea Party activists.) O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation and a hundred hours of community service; he also paid a fifteen-hundred-dollar fine.
In 2011, O’Keefe embarrassed . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2016 at 8:01 pm

Posted in GOP

“I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump”

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Jonna Ivin writes in Stir:

I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

I met the man who said those words while working as a bartender in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It was a one-street town in Benton County. It had a beauty parlor, a gas station, and a bar where locals came on Friday nights to shoot the shit over cheap drinks and country music. I arrived in Arkansas by way of another little town in Louisiana, where all but a few local businesses had boarded up when Walmart moved in. In Arkansas, I was struggling to survive. I served drinks in the middle of the afternoon to people described as America’s “white underclass” — in other words, people just like me.

Across the highway from the bar was the trailer park where I lived. I bought my trailer for $1000, and it looked just like you would imagine a trailer that cost $1000 would look. There was a big hole in the ceiling, and parts of the floor were starting to crumble under my feet. It leaned to one side, and the faint odor of death hung around the bathroom. No doubt a squirrel or a rat had died in the walls. I told myself that once the flesh was gone, dissolved into the nothingness, the smell would go away, but it never did. Maybe that’s what vermin ghosts smell like.

I loved that trailer. Sitting in a ratty brown La-Z-Boy, I would look around my tin can and imagine all the ways I could paint the walls in shades of possibility. I loved it for the simple reason that it was the first and only home I have ever owned.

My trailer was parked in the middle of Walmart country, which is also home to J.B. Hunt Transportation, Glad Manufacturing, and Tyson Chicken. There is a whole lot of money in that pocket of Arkansas, but the grand wealth casts an oppressive shadow over a region entrenched in poverty. Executive mansions line the lakefronts and golf courses. On the other side of Country Club Road, trailer parks are tucked back in the woods. The haves and have-nots rarely share the same view, with one exception: politics. Benton County has been among the most historically conservative counties in Arkansas. The last Democratic president Benton County voted for was Harry S. Truman, in 1948.

There is an unavoidable question about places like Benton County, a question many liberals have tried to answer for years now: Why do poor whites vote along the same party lines as their wealthy neighbors across the road? Isn’t that against their best interests?

Ask a Republican, and they’ll probably say conservatives are united by shared positions on moral issues: family values, religious freedom, the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, and, of course, guns.

Ask a Democrat the same question, and they might mention white privilege, but they’re more likely to describe conservatives as racist, sexist, homophobic gun nuts who believe Christianity should be the national religion.

But what if those easy answers are two sides of the same political coin, a coin that keeps getting hurled back and forth between the two parties without ever shedding light on the real, more complicated truth?

I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

What if he’s right?

• • •

People want to be heard. They want to believe their voices matter. A January 2016 survey by the Rand Corporation reported that Republican primary voters are 86.5 percent more likely to favor Donald Trump if they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”

What is it about a flamboyant millionaire that appeals to poor white conservatives? Why do they believe a Trump presidency would amplify their voices? The answer may lie in America’s historical relationship between the wealthiest class and the army of poor whites who have loyally supported them.

From the time of slavery (yes, slavery) to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the allegiance of the white underclass to retain their affluence and political power. To understand this dynamic, to see through the eyes of poor and working class whites as they chant, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” let’s look back at a few unsavory slices of America’s capitalist pie.

Until the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, wealthy plantation owners relied on indentured servants for cheap labor. These white servants were mostly poor Europeans who traded their freedom for passage to the American colonies. They were given room and board, and, after four to seven years of grueling servitude, freedom.

About 40 percent lived long enough to see the end of their contract. Colonial law provided “freedom dues,” which usually included 100 acres of land, a small sum of money, and a new suit of clothes. Yet some freed servants didn’t know what was due them, and they were swindled out of their land grants. With no resources and nowhere to go, many walked to regions where land could still be homesteaded, and settled in remote areas such as the Appalachian Mountains.

As the British labor market improved in the 1680s, the idea of indentured servitude lost its appeal to many would-be immigrants. Increasing demand for indentured servants, many of whom were skilled laborers, soon bumped up against a dwindling supply, and the cost of white indentured servants rose sharply. Plantation owners kept skilled white servants, of course, often making them plantation managers and supervisors of slaves. This introduced the first racial divide between skilled and unskilled workers.

Still, African slaves were cheaper, and the supply was plentiful. Seeing an opportunity to realize a higher return on investment, elite colonial landowners began to favor African slaves over white indentured servants, and shifted their business models accordingly. They trained slaves to take over the skilled jobs of white servants.

An investment in African slaves also ensured a cost-effective, long-term workforce. Female slaves were often raped by their white owners or forced to breed with male slaves, and children born into slavery remained slaves for life. In contrast, white female servants who became pregnant were often punished with extended contracts, because a pregnancy meant months of lost work time. From a business perspective, a white baby was a liability, but African children were permanent assets.

As the number of African slaves grew, landowners realized they had a problem on their hands. Slave owners saw white servants living, working, socializing, and even having babies with African slaves. Sometimes they tried to escape together. What’s more, freed white servants who received land as part of their freedom dues had begun to complain about its poor quality. This created a potentially explosive situation for landowners, as oppressed workers quickly outnumbered the upper classes. What was to prevent freed whites, indentured servants, and African slaves from joining forces against the tyranny of their masters?

As Edmund S. Morgan says in his book American Slavery, American Freedom, “The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt.”

Many slave owners in both the North and South were also political leaders. Soon, they began to pass laws that stipulated different treatment of white indentured servants, newly freed white men, and African slaves. No white indentured servant could be beaten while naked, but an African slave could. Any free white man could whip a Black slave, and most important, poor whites could “police” Black slaves. These new laws gave poor whites another elevation in status over their Black peers. It was a slow but effective process, and with the passing of a few generations, any bond that indentured servants shared with African slaves was permanently severed.

As slavery expanded in the South and indentured servitude declined, the wealthy elite offered poor whites the earliest version of the American Dream: if they worked hard enough, they could achieve prosperity, success, and upward social mobility — if not for themselves, then perhaps for future generations.

But few realized that dream. In “The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy,” the Rev. Dr. Thandeka notes: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2016 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics

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