U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: January 8, 2017

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

THE WEEK

1. Florida gunman charged and may face death penalty
Esteban Santiago, the 26-year-old veteran accused of killing five people and wounding eight more in an attack at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Friday, was charged Saturday with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death. That makes him eligible for the death penalty, which prosecutors will pursue. Santiago told investigators he planned the attack in advance, but his motives for targeting the Florida airport have not been determined. Santiago, who has a history of mental illness, was already being prosecuted for domestic violence. In November, he told FBI agents he was experiencing delusions and “terroristic thoughts,” but authorities ultimately returned his gun because he had no ties to terrorism. It is unclear if the gun that was returned is the gun used in the attack.

Source: Star Tribune, Sun Sentinal

2. Trump transition faces ethics obstacles
The Senate’s aggressive schedule of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s high-level nominees is of “great concern” and may mean deliberations begin without resolution of some candidates’ “potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues,” the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) said in a letter to Senate leadership on Friday. The Trump team did not clear any of its selections with the OGE in advance, so many ethics reviews are still underway. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) responded to the letter on Twitter Saturday, saying no confirmation hearings should be held until reviews are complete and accusing Trump’s picks of “drag[ging] their feet on ethics paperwork while their Senate friends try to run out the clock.”

Source: Politico, The Hill

3. Trump: Only ‘fools’ oppose good relations with Russia
President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to criticize those who oppose his efforts to establish positive relations between the United States and Russia. “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said. “Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!” His comments come in the wake of Friday’s report from the CIA, FBI, and NSA which concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to help Trump’s “election chances” and undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Source: Politico

4. Trump nominee accused of plagiarizing 50 passages of her book
President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, Monica Crowley, has been accused of plagiarizing more than 50 passages of her 2012 book, What The (Bleep) Just Happened. A list published by CNN on Saturday compares sections from the conservative media personality’s book with online content from sources including Wikipedia, Fox News, Investopedia, National Review, Politico, and more. The book does not have a bibliography. The Trump team stood by Crowley, saying efforts to discredit her are “nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.”

Source: CNN Money, Business Insider

5. British prime minister says Brexit plans are not ‘muddled,’ details forthcoming
British Prime Minister Theresa May said in an interview Sunday her plan for Brexit, the United Kingdom’s intended departure from the European Union, will be revealed in the next few weeks. “Our thinking on this isn’t muddled at all,” she said. “Yes, we have been taking time. I said we wouldn’t trigger Article 50 immediately — some said we should.” May weighed in on President-elect Donald Trump in the same conversation, saying she finds his comments about sexually assaulting women “unacceptable,” but that she is “optimistic and positive for the future” of cooperation between her Conservative government and the Trump administration. Trump on Saturday night tweeted, “I look very much forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington in the Spring. Britain, a longtime U.S. ally, is very special!”

Source: Sky News, The Independent

6. Trump confirms Coats pick for intel chief
President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday confirmed Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) is his nominee for director of national intelligence. “Dan has clearly demonstrated the deep subject matter expertise and sound judgment required to lead our intelligence community,” the president-elect said in a statement. “If confirmed as director of national intelligence, he will provide unwavering leadership that the entire intelligence community can respect, and will spearhead my administration’s ceaseless vigilance against those who seek to do us harm.” Coats’ likely nomination was first reported Thursday in a New York Times story describing him as a “mild-mannered conservative.” He served on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees before retiring from the Senate.

Source: The Hill, The Week

7. EU breakup ‘is no longer unthinkable,’ says German vice chancellor
The breakup of the European Union in the relative near future is not inconceivable, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel in an interview published Saturday. “I know that this discussion is extremely unpopular,” said Gabriel, who is the German analog to a vice president. “But I also know about the state of the EU. It is no longer unthinkable that it breaks apart.” If that happens, he continued, “our children and grandchildren would curse us, because Germany is the biggest beneficiary of the European community — economically and politically.” Gabriel is expected to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel for her seat later this year. He argues that German taxpayers should do more to support other European countries, while Merkel leans toward austerity.

Source: Reuters

8. ISIS car bomb kills 12 in Baghdad
A suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed at least 12 people and wounded about 50 more in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday. The blast targeted a vegetable market which has been bombed before. ISIS has increasingly shifted toward relatively small-scale attacks like this one as it continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria. The Shiite area was chosen because ISIS, as Sunni extremists, believe Shiite Muslims are heretics.

Source: Al Jazeera, BBC News

9. The Limited shutters all its stores
Clothing retailer The Limited announced Saturday its final 130 stores will be shut down Sunday. “We’re sad to say that all The Limited stores nationwide have officially closed their doors. But this isn’t goodbye,” said the company’s website, which will continue to offer the brand’s online shopping until all inventory is sold. Once a popular and growing clothing chain, The Limited has seen its fortunes decline since its 1990s heyday. The closure was blamed on “significant debt obligations” and The Limited’s failure to find a buyer that could keep the stores afloat.

Source: CNN Money, Cleveland.com

10. SeaWorld San Diego hosts its final killer whale show
Just two days after the death of Tilikum, the SeaWorld Orlando orca who was involved in the death of three people and was the subject of a documentary about SeaWorld’s treatment of its killer whales, SeaWorld San Diego hosted its final orca show Sunday. After years of uproar over the large marine mammals’ captivity and performance requirements, the park promised in 2015 the shows would be phased out. SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Antonio will end their killer whale shows within the next two years. The signature attraction will be replaced with an educational program about whales and conservation.

Source: Reuters, Associated Press

U.S. Politics

Here are 10 Trump fails and lies — from just this week

(Photo by a katz / Shutterstock.com)

(Photo by a katz / Shutterstock.com)

RAW STORY

Every post-election week with Donald Trump feels like an eternity. The details change but the story stays the same: Trump whines, lies and pleads for attention, scrambling facts, fiction and conspiracy into a fatiguing, but now familiar blend. Last week followed the same formula, with Trump pretending not to know what he knows and to be an expert in everything he doesn’t know, all while waging petty wars using time that could be spent boning up on policy. He ended the week with an intelligence briefing (we’ve sunk so low, PEOTUS doing his job qualifies as news), but it did little to markedly shift the tone. And in that tone is the message, “We are so screwed.”

So we don’t forget, here’s a look back at just 10 of Trump’s most recent lies and fails.

1. Calling for an investigation of NBC instead of the Russian hacks.

Trump’s denial of Russian cyberattacks in the face of tremendous evidence may be because he 1) actually thinks he knows more than the generals do; 2) is the ultimate Putin fanboy and debtor to Russia; or 3) is a Kremlin puppet. Add to this the fact that Trump refuses to have daily intelligence briefings because he’s “like, a smart person,” and the knowledge gap makes yet more sense. After making a big show of his disinterest in national security issues, Trump got huffy after NBC News offered a sneak peek into the findings detailed in an intelligence report on the Russian hacks. Though he’s steadfastly stood against an investigation into Russian cyberespionage against American democracy, he’s now calling for an investigation into “top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.” He cares because he was left out. Trump only wants to be in a club that won’t have him as a member.

After finally sitting down to be briefed by intelligence officials Friday, Trump released a statement saying the meeting was “constructive,” but he still failed to focus on Russia as the primary culprit, talking in circles. He announced that he’ll be putting together a team to broadly combat cyberattacks, but said nothing about digging into the hacking the entire rest of the country wants to know about.

2. Making personal calls instead of doing his friggin’ job.

A bitter, pathetic man who has dedicated his life to seeking revenge, Trump is still duking it out with Ohio governor John Kasich, who dropped out of the GOP presidential race nearly a year ago. Instead of attending to the things an incoming president should be, Trump took a break from hate-tweeting at TV shows to make personal phone calls to Ohio voters, all because he wants a Kasich-backed candidate to lose in the state GOP race. Funny what he finds time for.

3. Accepting Julian Assange’s word over 17 intelligence agencies.

Trump doubts the experts of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies who contend they have concrete proof of Russian hacking, and thinks we should just go with Wikileaks founder and rape suspect Julian Assange on this one. Trump sent multiple tweets this week pushing Assange’s claims on the matter, along with bloviations from Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity. When called out on it, Trump tweeted, “The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

4. Admitting he duped his know-nothing voter base on the border wall, then lying again.

As was apparent to any non-delusional person since Trump launched his campaign, there is no way Mexico is going to pay for Trump’s big, dumb wall. Trump, correctly estimating the sky-high gullibility of his base, knew this the whole time. In recent days, his team reportedly told House Republicans “that [Trump’s] preference is to fund the border wall through the appropriations process,” i.e., taxpayer dollars.

After news leaked that Trump’s central campaign promise was a big lie, he told another lie to cover it up, insisting, “that any money spent on building the Great Wall…will be paid back by Mexico later!” Except no, it won’t. You can’t just invoice a country for your nonsense bad ideas, sorry.

5. Lying about having a hand in every job-saving deal.

Trump has lied about creating or saving jobs for Sprint, Carrier and Ford.

6. But refusing to take credit for job losses.

After Macy’s responded to Trump’s racist comments about Mexicans by removing his clothing line from the store (though his daughter Ivanka’s label is still sold there), he demanded his supporters boycott the department store chain for being “disloyal.” Whether that boycott was the source of Macy’s recent financial woes is up for debate, but since Trump has taken credit where it definitely isn’t due for the last 18 months (and pretty much his whole life), he deserves at least part of the blame for the 10,000 job cuts and 68 store closings the retailer announced days ago.

That’s also true for Boeing, which saw stocks tumble after Trump tweeted negatively about it because he was angry about a magazine article. The company has announced it’s cutting 8 percent of jobs in 2017. And what about the 109 Kmart and 41 Sears stores that are shuttering? Or the jobs McDonald’s is outsourcing to India? Not a peep from Trump, despite that fact that those unemployment numbers will be absorbed by the working class he lies about defending. All in all, the thousands of people who will be losing their jobs far outpaces the people whose jobs Trump only pretended to save.

7. Calling Democratic senator Chuck Shumer a ‘clown,’ then saying we need to unite 9 minutes later.

trump-tweet-1

8. Throwing Obama’s political ambassadors and their families out on short notice.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s team has “issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day…breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.” There are reportedly “no exceptions,” including those previously granted to ambassadors who will need to uproot their families, especially those with school-age kids. The Times reports that the Trump decision “threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain.”

“It feels like there’s an element just of spite and payback in it,” Derek Shearer, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland, told the newspaper. “I don’t see a higher policy motive.”

9. Scheduling a news conference to distract from his appointee hearings.

Trump tweeted a few days ago that he “will be having a general news conference on JANUARY ELEVENTH in N.Y.C.” That means nothing, considering Trump is a pathological liar who promises things all the time. Still, this press conference may happen, if only because it’s scheduled the same day as confirmation hearings for his cabinet picks. As Media Matters notes:

“The strategy seems designed to ensure that the media is unable to devote sufficient scrutiny to each story and to reduce the possibility of an educated public responding…[B]y refusing to give a press conference for so long…Trump has created such a backlog of potential issues that it will be impossible for reporters to give all of them the time and coverage they deserve. Meanwhile, McConnell has done his best to fracture journalist attention by ensuring that six different confirmation hearings are scheduled for the same day…Several of these nominations are extremely controversial…But with all the hearings stacked on the same day, on top of Trump’s press conference, it’s impossible for the media to provide the information people need. And that’s the point—it appears to be a deliberate effort to manipulate both the press and the public.”

10. Still publicly smarting about being dissed by all the cool-kid pop stars for his little inauguration thing.

He’s super bad at playing it cool.

trump-tweet2

 

U.S. Politics

Zuckerberg’s Latest Move Leaves Conservatives TERRIFIED

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22:  Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg waves as he arrives for a keynote conference on the opening day of the World Mobile Congress at the Fira Gran Via Complex on February 22, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The annual Mobile World Congress hosts some of the world's largest communications companies, with many unveiling their latest phones and wearables gadgets.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

David Ramos/Getty Images

ADDICTING INFO

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook is becoming a large public figure to the world, and not just for creating the world famous social media website we’ve all come to know so well.

Mark first launched Facebook in February of 2004 with his college roommates at Harvard University. The group then introduced Facebook to other campuses. Facebook rapidly gained popularity, with just over a billion users by 2012. As Facebook grew, so did Zuckerberg’s net worth, which is now just over $50 billion USD. However, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, vowed to donate 99% of that wealth to charity.

Since 2009, Forbes Magazine has created an annual list of the top 10 world’s most powerful people, and in December of 2016 Mark Zuckerberg made that list. Although Mark is at the bottom of the list, he is much younger than anyone else on the list. However, Mark’s influence doesn’t stop there. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg has launched a mission to give the entire world internet.

Yet, what’s the point of all this? Does Mr. Zuckerberg just have a strong urge to make his mark, which is already a big one, or does he have a bigger plan? In the last summer Facebook was accused by a group of conservatives of being liberally biased. In response Mark met with some conservatives to ease their troubled minds. Mark has never publicly taken a side in politics, but he’s involved in a handful of organizations that terrify republicans.

On January 3rd, Mark posted about some of his goals for the new year:

Going into this challenge, it seems we are at a turning point in history. For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.

My work is about connecting the world and giving everyone a voice. I want to personally hear more of those voices this year. It will help me lead the work at Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative so we can make the most positive impact as the world enters an important new period.

We are indeed at a turning point in history, and it’s very intriguing to see what role Mark will play in it, maybe he will undo some of president-elect Donald Trump’s damages come 2020. If Donald Trump can rally up enough support to get elected, Mark Zuckerberg can easily do the same.

By Michael Angelo

U.S. Politics

California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter censors painting of police as animals in Capitol

California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter censors painting of police as animals in Capitol

Image Credit: AP

POLICY.MIC

A Republican congressman from California stole the prize-winning work of art from a congressional art competition on Friday night, saying it was disrespectful to police.

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s office says Duncan’s removal of the art from a student competition, titled “Untitled #1” and depicting police officers arresting protesters as various animals including a boar, earned him accolades from law enforcement agencies, the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Fraternal Order of Police, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Hunter delivered the piece of artwork to the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., an African-American Democrat from Missouri who sponsored the competition. Clay’s district includes Ferguson, the small city in St. Louis County, Missouri, where massive demonstrations and clashes with police broke out in 2014 over the police killing of 18-year-old black man Michael Brown.

California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter censors painting of police as animals in Capitol

California Rep. Duncan Hunter |  Carolyn Kaster/AP

According to the Union-Tribune, the painting has hung for months in a tunnel connecting the U.S. Capitol to House office complexes. It only became noteworthy after right-wing site Independent Journal Review reported on its presence several weeks ago. After the report, police associations and conservative commentators like Fox News’ Eric Bolling began aggressively demanding its removal.

In a press release, the Union-Tribune reported, Clay’s office had called the painting “a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.”

clay-painting

“The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom, not censorship,” Clay said, according to KNTV. “The young artist chose his own subject and the painting will not be removed.” In an email sent to the Congressional Black Caucus, Politico reported, Clay’s chief of staff, Yvette Cravins, said Clay “will not tolerate the removal of a painting from the First Congressional District of Missouri’s art contest due to a Member’s personal objections.”

Hunter is no stranger to exaggerated controversy. In recent years, Hunter as drawn attention for vaping during sessions of Congress as well as racking up over $1,300 in misallocated funds spent on video games.

Tom McKay

U.S. Politics

The 1987 TV Miniseries That Predicted a Russian Takeover of America

amerika.jpg

POLITICO Magazine screen grab

POLITICO

Long since forgotten, ‘Amerika’ was a commercial and artistic flop. Watching it today makes for uncomfortable viewing.

If the election of an American president abetted by Russian interference seems stranger than fiction, you’re almost right. Exactly 30 years ago, in the midst of the Cold War, ABC aired a seven-night, 14-and-a-half-hour miniseries depicting life 10 years after the Soviet Union manipulates the presidential election as meek and deflated Americans shrug. “Amerika,” was heavily criticized at the time for peddling the histrionic premise of a bloodless coup. And while much of the production remains implausible, its core message is more relevant today than ever: They did it because we let them.

In the alternate universe of “Amerika,” (available only in VHS, though it can be found on YouTube) a puppet government was installed in 1988, after a sham election in which both major party candidates were Soviet stooges. By 1997, the 50 states had been replaced by 12 “administrative areas.” Communication systems had been taken out – no Internet or cell phones in this version of 1997 – cutting Americans off from each other. The mighty U.S. military is no more; the areas are patrolled by Soviet-controlled “United Nations Special Service Units.” Dissidents, if not simply exiled to desolate parts of the country, are brainwashed at the “People’s Acceptance Hospital.” Older Americans grumble about food shortages and a lost way of life, but are resigned to their fate. Kids are taught their “ancestors” were “bullies” who only killed Indians, exploited workers and dumped those who couldn’t work into “slums” to die. (Lincoln is still revered, but his image now gets paired with Lenin.)

Hope for a restoration of democracy is personified in Devin Milford, played by Kris Kristofferson. Milford, clearly styled on then-first term Senator John Kerry, is a Vietnam vet-turned antiwar activist-turned Massachusetts congressman. He was the last gasp for freedom, running as an independent in the 1988 presidential election before being sent to an American gulag. “Amerika” begins with his release after a six-year imprisonment. He’s not free. He’s confined to 25-mile area in his hometown of what was called Nebraska, but is now part of the “Central Administrative Area.” The Russians try to pressure him to help stifle nascent protests, but he is too stubborn and becomes the symbol of the resistance.

Milford’s refusal to bend is contrasted by his childhood friend Peter Bradford (Robert Urich). Bradford begins as a county administrator disgusted by his Russian overlords. But as he tries to do as much good as he can within the system, he gradually becomes closer to the regime. He eventually agrees to help formally dissolve the United States by turning the administrative areas into rump countries – the final phase of the Soviet’s grand plan, expedited by a false-flag massacre of the entire U.S. Congress, blamed on American terrorists. Bradford is tapped to become president of the new country, “Heartland.”

Hovering over them is the Andrei Denisov (Sam Neill), a KGB agent effectively running the Central Administrative Area (not to be confused with the real-life Andrey Denisov, who is Russia’s current ambassador to China). Cynical manipulation comes as easy to Denisov as breathing – he casually takes credit for a “controlled provocation,” stirring up “young people” to “resist in ways that make them feel good, not those that actually accomplish anything.” But he holds a soft spot for America. At key moments, he lectures Milford and Bradford – with a trace of sadness – on why their fellow Americans surrendered the Cold War.

How was it that the Soviets were able to waltz into America? The specifics of the coup are never spelled out, but various explanations are given as to why Americans were too demoralized to resist. Milford, in archival footage from his doomed presidential campaign, blames the scars from Vietnam, which “struck the core of our perception of ourselves as a people.”

Some point to economics. One man cites the decline of American manufacturing: “They wanted a country which didn’t have a productive capacity. I guess we were [already] well on our way to giving it up.” Marion Andrews (Wendy Hughes), Milford’s conniving ex-wife who betrayed him in 1988, rationalizes that Americans chose to welcome the communists because they were tired of chronic inequities: “Many of us took the opportunity to create an America we believe in. There were millions of people who never participated in the so-called ‘American Dream.’”

Milford has a different explanation. In a separate scene, he tells his sister soon after his return home that Americans were too scared and selfish to support his campaign and stand up for democracy: “I lost faith in everybody. Nobody wanted to risk anything for anybody else. Everybody afraid they were going to lose what they had. They knew it was bad. They were just afraid it’d get worse.”

Bradford, angrily defending his decision to be the face of secession from America to his horrified wife, echoes Milford: “For most people, being an American never meant that much anyway … Damn, I am so tired of this ‘I’m an American’ bull! Where was all that patriotism when it counted? Where was that willingness to sacrifice? Nobody wanted to join the damn Army to defend the country unless they got paid well. Nobody wanted to give any time to public service unless they could make a career out of it.”

But Denisov sums it up most succinctly, “You lost your country before we even got here.”

The mini-series is all but totally forgotten today, largely because it was an overhyped ratings bust. In the run up to its premiere, it had attracted massive controversy, especially among the left, which presumed it was going to be seven nights of right-wing war-mongering propaganda. (Mother Jones magazine published a six-article attack spread ahead of its airing.) Not only did the Soviet Union complain, but so did the United Nations, which threatened legal action over the use of its name and logo. (In fact, “Amerika” treats the U.N. like an essential institution; Milford laments America “abandon[ed] the principle of a United Nations,” letting Russia, “usurp its name and debase its function.” Denisov further explains that America’s disinterest in the U.N. and international affairs was what turned the world against it.)

Mother Jones’ Todd Gitlin hoped that “CBS and NBC will rise to the occasion with some ingenious counterprogramming.” NBC came through. While “Amerika” won the ratings battle on its opening night, attracting 22 million households, “The Facts Of Life Down Under” was close behind with 19 million. Lacking a gangbusters premiere installment, ratings for “Amerika” steadily declined over the week.

Beyond artistic merits, “Amerika” suffered from poor timing. Production began a few years earlier, when President Ronald Reagan declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and joked on a hot mic that he signed legislation to “outlaw Russia” so “we begin bombing in five minutes.” (Many presumed ABC greenlighted “Amerika” to pacify conservatives livid over “The Day After,” its 1983 depiction of nuclear holocaust, though the network denied it.) But by February 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had acknowledged the USSR’s economic troubles, begun his glasnost reforms and reached out to Reagan. “’Amerika’ became an anachronism before it ever saw the light of day,” crowed The Nation’s Andrew Kopkind in his critical review.

Watching “Amerika” through the lens of 2016 is a wholly different experience.

It’s still a slog. This is not a pulpy “Red Dawn” or a grippingly tense “Manchurian Candidate.” The pace is slow, the lectures often leaden and the editing nonexistent. Seven hours could have easily been lopped off, if not for the desire to have a momentous, week-long television event. The New York Times TV critic warned, “getting through the enormous glut of stereotypes and preachifying dialogue … will tax even the most willing suspenders of disbelief.” The Washington Post was more charitable, deeming it “worth enduring” because of its “daring grimness.”

And there are plenty of outdated references. The 20th century Cold War with the Russians was an existential battle against communism. The question posed by “Amerika” was whether Americans were capable of giving up on democracy, but also on capitalism. In turn, “Amerika” is at its most incredulous when depicting Americans accepting the thin gruel of communism. An early scene shows Bradford at the local diner, wistfully ordering “Aunt Jemima pancakes, real maple syrup and tiny pork link sausages.” The owner, in no mood for jokes, shoots back, “I’ve got soybean cakes and I’ve got molasses and that’s better for you anyway.” This is nonsense. If there’s one thing Americans would get up off the mat for, it’s pork.

But the New York Times TV critic’s conclusion in 1987, “that the United States would simply crumble from within because of a national moral flabbiness — is monumentally implausible,” doesn’t seem so implausible today.

With the economic argument over communism resolved, the remaining divide with Russia is political: democracy vs. dictatorship, humanitarian internationalism vs. cold nationalism. Access to sausage is not in danger, giving Russia a fresh opening.

American conservatives with a nationalist, and even authoritarian, bent like Donald Trump are not unnerved by the prospect of Russian influence over the U.S. government. Some see common cause with President Vladimir Putin in the war against Islamic militants, shelving concerns about Russia’s imperial ambitions and comfort with genocidal tactics. Much like how the Russians in “Amerika” want the United States of America to dissolve, both Putin and Trump have rhetorically undermined the European Union, and Trump has questioned America’s commitment to Putin’s bête noire, NATO. Weaker global and regional institutions make it easer for individual nations to act with impunity.

Russia isn’t popular with most Americans, but Trump supporters did not flinch when he deflected allegations that Putin’s government murdered journalists by defending him and smearing America: “at least he’s a leader … I think our country does plenty of killing also.” And those in the “alt-right” movement see Putin as a symbol of white nationalist values. News of how Russia used hacking to manipulate voting behavior has only increased Republican approval of Putin in polls. His net favorable rating among Republicans has jumped from minus-66 to minus-10 in little more than two years, while Barack Obama’s festers at minus-64.

What’s even more disturbing is Trump’s dismissal of the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia not only meddled in the election, but actively sought his victory—and then celebrated it. Trump’s reaction has been to mock and misrepresent their findings, while blaming the victims for being hacked. His aides scoff at the implication that he’s too pro-Putin: “He is going to modernize our nuclear capability, he’s going to call for an increase in defense budget, he’s going to have oil and gas exploration—all which goes against Russia’s economic and military interests,” Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway recently noted. But these moves are not all that provocative if Trump and Putin have overlapping foreign policy goals. Moreover, Trump himself has had every opportunity to clear up any misconceptions, and he hasn’t done it. American presidents have had warm relationships with Russian leaders in the past—Reagan and Gorby, Clinton and Yeltsin—but this feels different.

***

Before America in “Amerika” is fully occupied, we see Milford in 1988 make a final desperate pitch to the country: “No, we’re not all in prison camps. We’re not all beaten down by an occupying army with tanks on every corner. But we don’t need troops to tell us we’ve lost our vision. We don’t need Soviet advisors to prove that we’ve lost our national purpose. Americans have allowed themselves to become immobilized by their own selfish concerns. Immobilized by a lack of understanding of the freedoms secured by our forefathers into which most of us were born, and now have lost.” Today we see immobilization as well, from those plaintively wailing on Facebook that Russia has executed something akin to a coup, but feeling powerless as to what to do about it.

“Amerika” did not foresee that Russia’s entry into America politics would be greased by a bombastic right-wing populist billionaire. The fictional president is a mild-mannered, self-described “figurehead.” But he is not without insight, telling Bradford, “Totalitarianism doesn’t need armies. It only needs to control a couple of things: the media, and the ability to dispense privilege to some, and withhold it from others. And of course, a weak and divided people helps.”

The seeds of that dark future are already in the soil. Russia executed a subtle control of the media—weaponizing mainstream institutions through releases of stolen emails and flooding social media with fake news. Fox News is airing uncritical interviews with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, an organization U.S. officials have linked to Russian intelligence. And the American people are not only deeply divided along geographic and cultural lines, but new research shows them to be increasingly dubious about the importance of democracy.

“If the dream of democracy cannot survive in America, it cannot survive the 20th century,” Milford declared in his announcement address. Denisov, studying videotape of the speech, notices his normally apolitical American girlfriend transfixed. “He’s touched you,” he purrs to her, his expression both intrigued and disturbed. Part of Putin’s agenda is to convince Americans not to be touched, but instead, to believe that our democratic institutions can no longer be trusted. Our challenge, in the face of Russian interference, is to remind ourselves that despite the deep ideological and cultural differences that are testing American unity, the unifying principle of America remains.

Thirty years ago, a bloated, overwrought TV miniseries tried to make that point and missed the mark. We didn’t need to fear the gulag then, and we don’t now. Hysterical prophesizing of totalitarianism can also be counterproductive, making it easier to shrug off quieter erosions of democracy. But no matter how imperfect, “Amerika” was more prescient than its creators ever could have expected, reminding us that we can only can lose what makes America great if we surrender it ourselves.

January 07, 2017

U.S. Politics

ETHICS OFFICE RAISES ALARM: TRUMP PICKS NOT VETTED!

Drew Angerer via GETTY IMAGES

THE HUFFINGTON POST

“The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me.”

The head of the Office of Government Ethics expressed alarm Saturday that the Senate would begin considering President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions before they’ve been fully vetted for conflicts of interests.

“As OGE’s Director, the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” wrote OGE director Walter Shaub Jr. in a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,” he added. “More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”

The letter comes ahead of a week in which there will be a flurry of hearings for Trump’s cabinet picks. There will be hearings on six nominees on Wednesday alone.

Trump himself faces numerous questions about his business ties and extensive potential conflicts of interest. He refused to release his tax returns during the presidential campaign and has continued to do so even after winning the presidency.

Shaub wrote that he was unaware of an instance in the four decades OGE has existed in which potential cabinet picks had gone before the Senate before being fully vetted.

“This normally intensive process has been further complicated by both the Senate hearing schedule and the announcement of nominees prior to consulting OGE for an evaluation of any ethics issues. In the past, the ethics work was fully completed prior to the announcement of nominees in the overwhelming majority of cases,” he wrote.

In a Saturday statement, Schumer said the letter “makes crystal clear that the transition team’s collusion with Senate Republicans to jam through these Cabinet nominees before they’ve been thoroughly vetted is unprecedented.”

OGE emails that MSNBC obtained through a public records request showed that the ethics office had lost contact with Trump after repeatedly trying to contact them in November. The emails showed Shaub warning Trump transition officials that they were risking embarrassing the president-elect by announcing cabinet picks before notifying OGE. Without receiving guidance, White House staff could also violate conflict of interest laws.

Officials at the OGE also warned the transition team they needed to consult with the office before putting assets in a blind trust and that it could block such an arrangement if the office did not feel the trustees were truly “independent.”

Trump is expected to hold a press conference Wednesday to detail how he would resolve his business ties.

You can read Shaub’s full letter here:

U.S. Politics

Sunday Talk: Artificial “Intelligence”

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attribution: None

DAILY KOS

With less than two weeks to go until PEOTUS @realDonaldTrump is sworn in, he continues to grow into the job.

Not the job of President of the United States, mind you—the job of Kremlin stooge.

As more and more details about Russian interference in the presidential election have leaked out, Trump has remained strikingly consistent in his belief that his BFF, V. Putin, would never get caught (dead or alive) doing anything like that—he’s way too smart.

In fact, Putin’s (alleged) innocence and smarts are pretty much the only issues about which Trump has remained consistent over the years.

If I didn’t know better—which, thanks to his lack of disclosure, I don’t—I might even suspect that Trump had been compromised by Russia, ethically and/or otherwise.

Perhaps Trump will shed some light on this at his press conference this week—his firstsince the one at which he called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails last summer.

_________________

Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Counselor to PEOTUS Kellyanne Conway; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Roundtable: Andrea Mitchell (NBC News), Former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), David Brooks (New York Times) & Rick Santelli (CNBC).

Face The Nation: Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).; Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell; Former CIA Director James Woolsey; Roundtable: Ezra Klein (Vox), John Heilemann (Bloomberg Politics), Tammy Bruce (Washington Times) & Ed O’Keefe (Washington Post).

This Week: President Barack Obama.

Fox News Sunday: Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus; Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA); Roundtable: Radio Host Laura Ingraham, Julie Pace (Associated Press), Dana Perino (Heritage Action for America) & Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: Counselor to PEOTUS Kellyanne Conway; Roundtable: Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress), Former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D) & Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: an interview with the parents of slain American captive Steven Sotloff (preview); a report on the Pentagon’s testing of autonomous drones (preview); and, a report on evidence of a ninth planet at the edge of our solar system (preview).

Late night shows:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Monday: Singer-Songwriter Billy Joel; Actor Josh Holloway.

Tuesday: Actor Andrew Garfield; Erin Andrews (Fox NFL); Rock Band Cage the Elephant.

Wednesday: Actor Jude Law; Actress Gabrielle Union; Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times).

Thursday: Actor Tom Selleck; Musical Group A$AP Mob.

Friday: Actor Cuba Gooding Jr.; Actor Rupert Friend; Comedian Gary Gulman.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Monday: Susan Goldberg (National Geographic);  Tuesday: Actor Aasif MandviWednesday: Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine);  Thursday: Guest TBA.

Elsewhere…

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) ran a Twitter poll on Obamacare repeal that didn’t produce the results she was looking for.

A Twitter poll by ardent Obamacare foe Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on whether the health-care law should be repealed backfired big-time Wednesday as lots more people — a whole lot more people — tweeted “No,” rather than “Yes.”

Blackburn posted the poll Tuesday, asking people their views on repeal, and requesting that they retweet their support for killing Obamacare if they favored repeal.

She also asked in that tweet what people want to see as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

When the poll closed Wednesday, a whopping 84 percent of the nearly 8,000 votes were for “No” on the question of repeal.

Meanwhile…

“Morning Joe” Scarborough spent a good part of the week defending his and Mike Brzezinski’s honor.

Joe Scarborough on Monday ramped up his criticism of a reporter who suggested  that the MSNBC “Morning Joe” host partied with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve at the president-elect’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

On Sunday, [Sopan] Deb, a former CBS reporter who is joining The New York Times, referenced a Times report by Maggie Haberman that said Scarborough and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, were among the party’s attendees.

Scarborough also criticized Haberman on Twitter for not calling him to confirm that he was a “reveler.” The “Morning Joe” host said he went to Mar-a-Lago to discuss a future interview with the president-elect.

And, in other news…

Sarah Palin penned a heart6felt apology to the right’s newest hero, Julian Assange.

Sarah Palin on Wednesday apologized to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for condemning him in the past.

“Exposing the truth re: the Left having been oh-so-guilty of atrocious actions and attitudes of which they’ve falsely accused others,” the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee wrote on Facebook.

“The media collusion that hid what many on the Left have been supporting is shocking. This important information that finally opened people’s eyes to democrat candidates and operatives would not have been exposed were it not for Julian Assange.”

Palin’s comments come after Assange said in a Tuesday interview that there was an “obvious” reason the Obama administration has focused on Russia’s alleged role in Democratic hacks leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential election.

“They’re trying to delegitimize the Trump administration as it goes into the White House,” Assange told Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

сделать америки здорово снова

– Trix