U.S. Politics

What Happens To A Country Whose Leader Can’t Say ‘I’m Sorry’

What Happens To A Country Whose Leader Can’t Say ‘I’m Sorry’



“I blame myself—it was my fault, and I take full responsibility for it,” Donald Trump never said, not once in his entire life.

Here’s what else the president didn’t say about the rout and ruin of repeal and replace: “I was clueless about health care policy. Instead of reading my briefing books or even my own bill, I played golf. I bullshitted my way through every meeting and phone call. And when it was explained to me that this dumpster fire of a bill would break my promise that everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they are now, which was a huge applause line by the way, I threw my own voters under the bus.”

In the wake of his Waterloo, instead of manning up, Trump blamed Democrats for not voting to strip health insurance from 24 million people, not voting to cut Medicaid by $880 billion in order to cut taxes by $883 billion and not voting to obliterate the signature legislative accomplishment of the Barack Obama years.

“Look,” he complained with crocodile bafflement to the New York Times, “we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero.” Yet Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had not asked a single Democrat what it would take to get them to support a health care bill. “The good news,” Trump said, seeing the sunny side of the catastrophe he predicts is coming, is that the Democrats “now own Obamacare.” Don’t blame me—it’ll be their fault when it explodes, not mine.

Trump blamed Republicans, too. The morning of Friday, March 24, when the bill was still in play, he tweeted that if the Freedom Caucus stops his plan, they would be allowing Planned Parenthood to continue. That afternoon, amid the wreckage, Trump told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa he was just an innocent bystander. “There are years of problems, great hatred and distrust” in the Republican Party, “and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”

White House aides, bravely speaking without attribution, blamed Ryan for snookering the rookie-in-chief into tackling Obamacare before tax reform. Trump himself told Costa, “I don’t blame Paul.” He repeated it: “I don’t blame Paul.” Then again: “I don’t blame Paul at all.”

The laddie doth protest too much, methinks. By tweet time Saturday morning, clairvoyantly touting Jeanine Pirro’s Saturday night Fox News show, Trump had found a surrogate to stick the knife in Ryan without his fingerprints on it. “This is not on President Trump,” Pirro said, avowing that “no one expected a businessman,” a “complete outsider,” to understand “the complicated ins and outs of Washington.” No, it’s on Ryan, she said. Ryan must step down.

Blame precedes politics. In Western civilization’s genesis story, Adam blamed Eve for tempting him, and he blamed God for Eve. But America’s genesis story contains a noble, if apocryphal, counter-narrative: When George Washington’s father asked him who chopped down the cherry tree, the future father of his country didn’t blame someone else—he copped to it. That’s the legacy Harry Truman claimed when he put “The buck stops here” sign on his Oval Office desk.

But Trump is the consummate blame artist, a buck-passer on a sociopathic scale. He kicked off his campaign by blaming Mexico for sending us rapists and stealing our jobs. He blamed Hillary Clinton for founding the birther movement. He blamed President Obama for founding ISIS. He blamed Obama’s Labor Department for publishing a “phony” unemployment rate. He blamed 3 million illegal voters for his losing the popular vote to Clinton. He blamed the botched raid in Yemen on U.S. generals. When U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled against his Muslim travel ban, he blamed Robart for future terrorism: “If something happens, blame him and the court system.” He blamed “fake news” for treating Michael Flynn, “a wonderful man” he had fired as his national security adviser, “very, very unfairly.” He blamed Obama for wiretapping Trump Tower. He made his spokesman blame British intelligence for carrying that out. When GCHQ called that a crock, Trump played artful dodger: “All we did was quote … a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”

Obamacare is imperfect but fixable. But Trump wants to bomb it, not improve it. He wants to light the fuse and then blame Democrats for exploding it. Trump could shore up the insurance exchanges that cover 10 million Americans by marketing them when enrollment opens again in November—but I bet he won’t. He could instruct government lawyers to appeal a lawsuit halting federal subsidies for co-payments and deductibles of low-income enrollees that House Republicans won last year—but I bet he won’t. On the other hand, he has the power to narrow the essential benefits Obamacare requires insurers to provide by, say, limiting prescription drug coverage and lowering the number of visits allowed for mental health treatment or physical therapy—and I bet he will.

Will Trump get away with it? He’s spent a lifetime banging his highchair and blaming the dog for his mess. No wonder he calls the free press fake news; no wonder he calls citizen activists paid protesters. You call someone who gets away with blaming others “unaccountable.” You know what the antonym of that is? Impeachable.


This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

U.S. Politics

Russia, China making gains on US military power

Russia, China making gains on US military power© Getty


Russia and China are increasingly challenging the military superiority that the United States has held since the early 1990s.

Since the end of the Cold War, America’s naval, air, land and space capabilities, paired with key bases in Europe and Asia, has created a strategic advantage over other major superpowers.

The United States still outspends its rivals on the military, with a roughly $600 billion budget that is three times as much as Beijing and more than six times as much as Moscow.

But much of the U.S. spending is paying for military operations overseas, such as the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“U.S. forces … go halfway around the world to fight. And they fight in the other guy’s backyard, at times in places of the other guy’s choosing. And that’s the problem,” said David Ochmanek, senior defense researcher at the RAND Corporation.

China and Russia, meanwhile, are spending heavily on “modernization” to improve the quality, efficiency and overall performance. The strategy is paying huge dividends, especially for China.

“It’s not just one area or few areas. If you look at the evolution of [China’s] military over the last 15 years … it’s rather astonishing. Ballistic missiles, air defense, aircraft, electronic warfare, naval vessels — they’ve just invested very substantially in modern capabilities,” Ochmanek said.

But China is not trying to match America’s military might, experts say. Their objective is greater control over the Asia-Pacific region.

“China doesn’t need to reach parity with U.S. capabilities to pose a major threat, they just have to be ‘good enough’ — and they will be there soon, if they are not already,” Harry Krejsa, a researcher at Center for a New American Security, told The Hill.

“China’s goal is to [exert] control over their near seas, a much narrower ambition than the United States’ global mission to assure freedom of navigation and commerce.”

According to the experts, China’s military advancement is most noticeable in its new naval and ballistic capabilities. These include anti-ship missiles that are designed to destroy aircraft carriers and cyber systems intended to disrupt U.S. logistics and communications.

China’s ballistic missiles also pose a new threat to the U.S., particularly when it comes to air bases in the region.

“If you think about the conflicts we fought since the end of the Cold War going back to Desert Storm, we have not worried about missiles landing on our air bases … So that creates serious problems for U.S. military planners,” Ochmanek said.

Researchers at the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted the rapid development of China’s new air-to-air weapons that will “make the air environment more difficult for the F-35 and supporting aircraft.”

Krejsa explained that the latter advancements are a part of a “bucket of capabilities sometimes called ‘anti-access/area-denial’ or A2/AD,” and are created in order to “target the United States’ ability to project force and influence in the western Pacific.”

Moscow, meanwhile, is seeking to develop new technologies that would undermine U.S. capabilities in Europe and Asia.

The Kremlin’s most visible progress comes in the sphere of modernizing its nuclear weapons and improving offensive capabilities that can bypass U.S. missile defense systems.

In summer of 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the country’s military progress, asserting that Russia had achieved “substantial success” in modernizing its forces.

“I am not going to mention everything, but we have modernized our systems and are successfully developing new generations. I am not even talking about the technologies that penetrate missile defense systems,” Putin said in June of last year.

“We warned that we are going to do this, we said it, and we are doing it. And I guarantee you, today, Russia has achieved substantial success in this area.”

Tony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said improvements to Russia’s nuclear weapons and precision cruise missiles should be a major concern for the Pentagon.

“Were you have seen technological improvement are in areas like missiles. They are obviously pursuing more modern nuclear weapons including strategic systems,” Cordesman said in an interview with The Hill.

“Certainly Russian performance with precision cruise missiles is also of concern,” he added.

Another highlight of Russia’s push toward military innovation is it’s lethal T-14 tank. The Military Balance 2016 report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies said “revolutionary” tank will feature new technologies that will “change battlefield dynamics” in the future.

“Most revolutionary is the Armata-based T-14 Main Battle Tank featuring an uncrewed turret … When it enters service Armata will be the first tank designed for an unmanned turret and [an active protection system] APS … This will change battlefield dynamics by increasing the importance of cannon, anti-tank guns and tanks,” the report stated.

However, unlike China’s broad push to modernize its entire military, the Kremlin’s defense spending is strongly affected by Russia’s recent fluctuations in economic productivity. Despite spending much less on defense than U.S. and China, Russia often ends up allocating a larger share of its GDP on the military.

According to the latest figures of the World Bank, Russia spent approximately 5 percent of its GDP on defense in 2015 as opposed to 2 percent by China and 3.3 percent by the United States.

All the recent innovations of Russian and Chinese forces seems to have prompted a response from the new U.S. administration. President Trump’s upcoming defense budget is expected to grow by another 10 percent in 2017.

Immediately following Trump’s announcement of additional military funds, Beijing promised yet another 7 percent increase to its own defense budget.


U.S. Politics

Australian comedian perfectly sums up why other countries think US gun laws are crazy


The assault on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is officially the deadliest mass shooting in American history — with 50 people dead (including the shooter) and over 50 more wounded. The shooter has been identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, and he appears to have pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attack.

The shooting raises questions about why the United States, which has by far the highest rate of gun violence in the developed world, makes it so easy to acquire guns.

This baffles people from other countries — for reasons that Australian comedian Jim Jefferies explains in a bit from his 2014 Netflix special, which we’ve noted before. Jefferies was actually attacked in his home and tied up while captors threatened to rape his girlfriend. But instead of making him pro-gun, it taught Jefferies that a gun would never have protected him — “I was naked at the time. I wasn’t wearing my holster.”

Instead, Jefferies says, he decided that America’s approach to gun violence is totally bonkers:

In Australia, we had the biggest massacre on earth, and the Australian government went: “That’s it! NO MORE GUNS.” And we all went, “Yeah, all right then, that seems fair enough, really.”

Now in America, you had the Sandy Hook massacre, where little tiny children died. And your government went, “Maybe … we’ll get rid of the big guns?” And 50 percent of you went, “FUCK YOU, DON’T TAKE MY GUNS.”

He hammers home the idea that Americans keep guns just because they enjoy them, not because they seriously think they can protect themselves:

You have guns because you like guns! That’s why you go to gun conventions; that’s why you read gun magazines! None of you give a shit about home security. None of you go to home security conventions. None of you read Padlock Monthly. None of you have a Facebook picture of you behind a secure door.

And Jefferies also notes that the underlying mentality behind American gun culture, that people are always out to get you, is utterly bizarre:

By the way. Most people who are breaking into your house just want your fucking TV! You think that people are coming to murder your family? How many fucking enemies do you have?


U.S. Politics

Obama kills it at White House Correspondent Dinner (Full text and video)

Barack Obama drops mic

Barack Obama drops mic at White House Correspondents Dinner (Screen capture)


Well played, Mr. President. Well played.

Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last — and perhaps the last — White House Correspondents’ Dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.

I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for “jokes that white people should not make.”

Anyway. Here we are. My eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m gonna use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans! That’s right. That’s right.

My brilliant and beautiful wife, Michelle, is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. It’s called “practice.” It’s like learning to do 3-minute planks. She makes it look easy now, but next year at this time, someone else will be standing in this very spot. And it’s anyone’s guess who she will be (laughter). But standing here, I can’t help but be reflective — a little sentimental. You know, eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific.

Eight years ago, I was a young man, full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now: I am grey, grizzled, just counting down the days til my death panel.

Hillary once questioned whether I’d be ready for a 3am phone call. No, I’m awake anyway, because I gotta go to the bathroom! (laughter.) I’m up.

In fact, somebody recently said to me, “Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He’s so handsome. He’s so charming. He’s the future.” And I said, “Justin, just give it a rest.” I resented that.

Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one if from two weeks ago.

So time passes.

In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck. Which means Congress will now flat-out reject my authority. And Republican leaders won’t take my phone calls. And this is really gonna take some getting used to! It’s a curve ball. I don’t know what to do with it. Of course, in fact for months now, Congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.

But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican Senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardiner, they’re in the house. Which reminds me: Security, bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland? Come on out! We’re gonna do this right here, right now!

It’s like the Red Wedding.

But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders have been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.

Although, while in England, I did have lunch with the Queen. Took in a performance of Shakespeare. Hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anybody is still debating whether I’m black enough, I think that settles the debate.

This is a tough transition. It’s hard. Key staff are starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she’s left the White House press corps to host The Today Show. Nora O’Donnell left the briefing room to host CBS This Morning. Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

But, the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week. But, I have to give Secret Service credit. They found Michelle, brought her back. She’s safe, back at home now. It’s only nine more months, babe. Settle down.

And yet somehow, despite all this, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major.

And here’s the thing: I haven’t really done anything differently. Even my aides can’t explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed? Nobody can figure it out.


Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me for this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. Love that guy. I love Joe Biden. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel. For always giving it to me straight. For not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.

Also, I would be remiss — let’s give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as “One Of The Two Black Guys Who’s Not Jon Stewart.” You’re the South African guy, right?

I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is a great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award-winning reporters that we have here tonight: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Shriver. Thank you all for everything you have done.

I’m just joking. As you know, Spotlight is a film — a movie — about investigative journalists with the resources, the autonomy, to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since Star Wars.

That was maybe a cheap shot.

I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner, somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year, the Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard.

There was kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.

GOP Chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you’ve earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success. The Republican party, the nomination process; it’s all going great. Keep it up!

Kendall Jenner is also here, and we had a chance to meet backstage. She seems like a very nice young woman. I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.

Helen Mirren is here tonight. I don’t even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. She’s awesome. Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial, New York billionaire is leading the GOP Primary and it’s not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and The Donald. After all, Mike was a big city mayor, he knows policy in depth, and he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season! For example, we have the bright new face of the Democratic Party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each. A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were going to actually let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Bernie might let her go, but not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you’ve been distancing yourself a little from me. I mean, that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.

Bernie’s slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. “Feel the Bern.” Feel the Bern. It’s a good slogan. Hilary’s slogan has not had the same effect. Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hilary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got to admit it though, Hilary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative signing up for Facebook. “Dear America, Did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hilary.” It’s not entirely persuasive.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more . . . how should we say this. . . a little loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests we asked to check if they wanted steak or fish, but instead a whole bunch of your wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.

Meanwhile, some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. The rules were well established ahead of time.

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. Ted went to Indiana — Hoosier country — stood on a basketball court, and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon? Baseball sticks? Football hats? But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want to thank the Washington Press Corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. You know, free press is central to our democracy. . . Nah I’m just kidding. You know I’ve got to talk about Trump! We weren’t just gonna stop there. Come on!

Although, I am a little hurt he’s not here tonight. We had so much fun the last time. And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras, and he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home, eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?

The Republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous! Shocking! They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan. There is one area where The Donald’s experience could be useful, and that is closing Guantanamo. Because Donald knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.

OK, that’s probably enough. I’ve got more material. [But] I don’t want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that, from the start, he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost, and now we’re praying that Cleveland makes it through July.

As for me, and Michelle, we’ve decided to stay in DC for a couple more years. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day. Take a look.

But our decision has actually presented a bit f a dilemma because, traditionally, presidents don’t stick around after their done. And it’s something I’ve been brooding about a little bit. Take a look.

I am still waiting for all of your to respond to my invitation to connect on LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do, which is what really brings us here tonight. I know there are times that we’ve had differences, and that’s inherent in our institutional roles. It’s true of every president and his press corps. But we’ve always shared the same goal — to root our public discourse in the truth, to open the doors to this democracy, to do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just. And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. And our Free Press is why we once again recognize the real journalist who uncovered the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice to thousands of victims throughout the world that are here with us tonight. Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Carroll, and Ben Bradlee Jr. — please give them a big round of applause.

U.S. Politics

Obama: Sanders Deserves Credit For Campaigning On Small Donations



Obama said, “Heyy” back to her.

Watch the exchange:

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump’s supporters are so fanatical that now they’re sending threats to other conservatives

Donald Trump's supporters are so fanatical that now they're sending threats to other conservatives

AP/Matt Rourke


A Daily Beast article highlights the role of right-wing news site Breitbart in agitating the abuse of Trump critics

As Donald Trump rolls around in the heap of delegates he won on Tuesday, let’s all break out the world’s tiniest violins for the conservative political and media figures who opposed him, and whose opposition resulted in their suddenly noticing that their movement attracts vile racists and anti-Semites. Welcome to the party, folks!

Even while being disgusted by the abuse targeting conservative critics described in this Daily Beast article that dropped on Tuesday, one has to also feel just the tiniest bit of schadenfreude. Or maybe not even a tiny bit. Maybe you’re swimming in a vast ocean of satisfaction as the chickens that liberals have been talking about for years have finally come home to roost.

The piece in question examines the role of the right-wing Breitbart news websites in fluffing Donald Trump’s candidacy and defending the tangerine-shaded mogul from other conservatives who have questioned his right-wing credentials. In doing so, Breitbart has unleashed (wittingly or unwittingly) mobs of anonymous, angry wingnuts spewing such vitriolic threats that one writer mentioned in the piece, Bethany Mandel of the Federalist, recently bought her first gun.

Savor that irony for a minute. A card-carrying member of a political movement that often espouses unfettered gun ownership for protection from the scary hordes of (implicitly dark-skinned) haters and knockout gamers and members of ISIS who might invade Miami has had to buy a gun to protect herself and her family from fellow conservatives. Other conservatives profiled by the Daily Beast article mention death threats and promises to gang-rape family members.

Here’s a thought for conservatives: Maybe next black president, you won’t spend eight years telling the mouth breathers who make up your audience that his agenda revolves around destroying America by handing out food and healthcare to people with darker skin. Of course you’ll all deny you’ve done this, but liberals have spent years watching the right pump up every vaguely racialized trope it could to dog-whistle at its adherents.

Which is how you find yourselves needing guns to protect from people who are now angry to find out you are not their ideological allies.

But back to Breitbart. Conservatives seem to have only noticed in the last year or two that the website is a sewer filled with racist neo-Nazis. If you have followed the site’s falling out of favor with other right-wing media organs, you might have seen conservatives lamenting the ruination of its “good name,” or moaning about how far it has fallen since the death of Andrew Breitbart four years ago.

But Breitbart has always been a purveyor of the worst kind of reactionary, racist, dog-whistle politics, since long before Trump declared his candidacy. No, scratch that. The site didn’t send out dog-whistles. It blasted full-on air-raid sirens. Anyone with half a brain noticed this years ago, which I guess explains how the conservatives quoted by the Daily Beast missed it.

Two easy examples from the early years of the Obama administration tell you all you need to know. The first was the scandal over the ACORN videos made by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles. As the videos allegedly showed ACORN employees giving a pimp advice on how to hide the income his prostitutes were bringing in, O’Keefe spiced them up by filming himself dressed like a pimp right out of a Blaxploitation flick from the 1970s. He even appeared on Fox News to promote the videos while wearing the costume. Since ACORN was devoted to helping low-income, often African-American people, the dog-whistle was hard to miss.

The videos were later found to be heavily edited, but by that time it was too late to save ACORN from being shut down. The footage was first acquired, shown and heavily promoted by Andrew Breitbart, who let the story that he was a sort of mentor to O’Keefe float around. They were the first exclusive of Breitbart’s Big Government website, and helped launch the organization into the stratosphere, making it a major player on the conservative side.

Breitbart followed this up with the infamous Shirley Sherrod incident, in which he also presented video to “prove” that an African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture was actually a reverse racist who hated white people. This smearing cost Sherrod her job and her reputation, even though it quickly became clear the video, like those of ACORN, had been misleadingly edited, leaving out important context that negated the central thesis that the mild-mannered Sherrod was some sort of Foxy Brown cosplayer. She later sued Andrew Breitbart for defamation, eventually reaching a settlement with his widow.

Were Mandel, John Podhoretz or any of the other conservatives cited in the Daily Beast worried in 2010 that these kinds of bullshit stunts were creating a danger to the party by fueling the racial resentments of white conservatives, playing to their innate fears that the homogenous America they knew was being replaced by a multicultural, multiethnic society where previously marginalized people gained power and agency? Or were they perfectly happy to have Andrew Breitbart and his site out there feeding this monster because it meant more elected Republicans and more engaged conservatives reading not just Breitbart, but their own work as well?

I know which of those possibilities I’m betting on.

The ACORN and Shirley Sherrod events were only two of the highly racialized events the right wing has played up for years. Who can forget the New Black Panthers, or the constant demonization of Eric Holder and his Justice Department as being some sort of racial justice squad primed to get revenge on white people for centuries of oppression? Who can forget the smearing of Debo Adegbile or all the new voter ID laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from casting ballots?

Breitbart made its name by hyping and promoting these incendiary racial politics. It played up every single one of these events, and more, and heard nothing from conservatives beyond Attaboy! Now those who ginned up the voters by pushing this kind of garbage are finding out that the wave they have been riding is too big to handle, that it threatens to drown the GOP, and all they can do is blame other people when it was they who ignored the warnings of rough surf.

U.S. Politics

Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump Is “The Candidate That ‘Fox & Friends’ Invented”

Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump Is “The Candidate That ‘Fox & Friends’ Invented”



Newt Gingrich unloaded at the Fox News morning chat show on Monday, for the role that TV hosts have played in giving Donald Trump an easy platform for his candidacy. The Fox hosts actually mounted a decent rebuttal, illustrating how other campaigns have failed to exploit the media as effectively as The Donald has.

Fox & Friends Co-host Steve Doocy asked Newt what the Republican establishment is doing now about the rise of Trump: “This is their nightmare scenario. What are they trying to do?

“Oh, I think they live in a fantasyland right now,” Gingrich said bluntly. “Donald Trump is tapping into something in the country that’s real. And if you take Trump’s vote, and Cruz’s vote, and Carson’s vote, the three outsiders, they are once again at about 62 percent in South Carolina. And they have been consistently above 60 percent everywhere in the country, if you pool together all of the insurgents. And there’s a message there: People believe the country’s decaying; they believe Washington is the heart of that decay. They want somebody who’s gonna kick over the table and change Washington. That’s why Cruz has done so well, and it’s why Trump has done so well.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade chimed in. “What’s interesting is, I remember Mitt Romney, one of his great advantages was money, and that’s why a lot of you guys couldn’t keep up,” Kilmeade said, which got Newt laughing. He continued: “This time, the billionaire is spending the least amount of money, and running away with this thing.”

“Wow,” Newt said, in a suddenly stern tone, “But that’s because of you guys.”


“Look, that’s because of you guys,” Newt explained. “Donald Trump gets up in the morning, tweets to the entire planet at no cost, picks up the phone, calls you, has a great conversation for about eight minutes — which would’ve cost him a ton in commercial money. And meanwhile his opponents are all out there trying to raise the money to run an ad — nobody believes the ad.”

Kilmeade then felt the need to defend himself from the charge of building up Trump — and indeed, he offered a good critique of how other candidates simply didn’t embrace the free media strategy in the same way as Trump.

“Well I mean, people make decisions. Newt, people make decisions,” Kilmeade said. “Mitt Romney made a decision — for three months he wouldn’t do us at all. I mean, people decide — for a while, Jeb Bush wouldn’t hop on any television at all.

“Oh, I know,” Gingrich responded.

“Hillary Clinton didn’t do anything in the beginning. Donald Trump from day one made himself available to big and small — it paid off.”

Doocy added: “Plus, he’s invented scenarios where suddenly he’s got all this free media. You know, that pope thing at the end of the week? Who wasn’t talking about that?

Next got accusatory again: “Look, you could say that Trump is the candidate Fox & Friends invented. He was on your show I think more than any other show.”

“Every Monday,” Doocy helpfully interjected, referring to The Donald’s old regular slot on the show, which he had for several years before ever launching his campaign.

Newt continued: “—It was always a happy, positive conversation. He just kept going around the country — and this is one of his great advantages: He loves what he’s currently doing. And he is having a ball. That gives him more energy, and the fact that he can get on his plane to go back home, to get up in the morning, get back on his plane — a pretty comfortable life for a presidential candidate.”

“You know what?” Doocy said, bringing the segment to a close. “I want to be a billionaire, too — just saying.”


U.S. Politics

‘The Russians are going to have a cow’: The US’ latest message to Putin ‘is a really big deal’

Carolyn Kaster/AP


The US will devote a substantial portion of its defence spending to building up its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region, Obama administration officials told The New York Times.

Countries belonging to the NATO alliance in central and Eastern Europe will apparently receive heavy weaponry, tanks, and other equipment from the US, which quadrupled its budget from $789 million to more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe through 2017.

“This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow,” Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon’s top policy official on Russia and Ukraine until October, told The Times on Tuesday. “It’s a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”

The move comes four months after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a move widely seen as an attempt by Russian president Vladimir Putin to secure and expand Russia’s influence in the Middle East.

Russia’s presence in Syria, however, has “undermined” virtually everything the West is trying to accomplish in Syria and beyond, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with Reuters from a refugee camp in Jordan on Monday.

That includes the US’ attempts to bolster “moderate” Syrian rebel groups — who have been targeted by Russian airstrikes — and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s attempts to wipe out the Islamic State in Syria (who have largely been spared the brunt of Russia’s punishing air campaign.)

As such, the new funding being allocated to fortify Eastern Europe against Russian aggression “is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official told the New York Times.

“This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor,” the official added.

Russia is unlikely to react kindly to an expanded NATO military presence along its western flank. In an interview with the German daily newspaper BILD in January, Putin asserted that Russia’s tensions with the West largely resulted from NATO’s eastward expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Of course every state has the right to organise its security the way it deems appropriate. But the states that were already in NATO, the member states, could also have followed their own interests — and abstained from an expansion to the east.”

He added: “NATO and the USA wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union. They wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone.”

Incidentally, Russia is now trying to dethrone NATO and position itself as an alternative to US influence in the Middle East, as evidenced by its alliance with Iran, Syria, and Iraq — under the guise of fighting ISIS.

“Russia is of course trying to leverage the entire intervention [in Syria]as a way to lap up as much real estate in the Middle East as possible,”Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider in September.”It’s classic Putin.”

In pushing himself to the forefront of an “anti-ISIS coalition” and creating a distraction from Ukraine, Putin has tried to coerce the US into accepting — and potentially embracing — Russia’s role in the conflict.

But Obama’s new funding plan to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe shows that his administration is trying to put a damper on Putin’s plans to dislodge the West from the Middle East entirely by re-asserting the US’ role in the region.

From The Times:

Administration officials said the new investments were not just about deterring Russia. The weapons and equipment could also be deployed along NATO’s southern flank, where they could help in the fight against the Islamic State or in dealing with the influx of migrants from Syria.

Another anonymous administration official speaking to The Times put it bluntly: “This is a message that we see what they’re capable of, and what their political leadership is willing to do.”



Racism · The United States Capitol Bldg. · U.S. Politics

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism

The United States Capitol Building holds a fantastic piece of artwork titled The Apotheosis of Washington. The fresco was painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865, taking 11 months. The painting was completed at the end of the Civil War, two years after the construction of the dome. It is 180 ft (55 m) above the rotunda floor, covering 4,664 square ft (433.3 m2). The figures in the painting measure up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall.
Brumidi had previously worked in the Vatican under Pope Gregory XVI, yet worked on a Pagan masterpiece in the United States.
There are a number of different themed sections to the fresco, which highlight different aspects of America and the Greco-Roman gods who rule over them. | http://www.whiteartwork.com/the-apotheosis-of-washington/

The New Republic

The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, is a fresco of the first president of the United States ascending to the heavens. The goddesses of Victory and Liberty, along with 13 maidens who represent America’s original colonies, flank George Washington; here, he’s elevated to the status of a god (and it’s worth noting that “apotheosis” actually means “deification”). In the 150 years since Brumidi’s last brushstroke, the painting’s characters have borne silent witness to the machinations of the U.S. Congress from the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. When the fresco was completed, four million black people called the United States home but were only that year able to enjoy even the most limited experience of citizenship when the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation began the process of ending slavery. Of course, Brumidi’s fresco only features white faces.

His painting illustrates the complexities of a nation inextricably informed by the religious ethics of its founders and those who continue to wield power today: Religious white men, ascending to fame on the strength of their ideals. Even those founding fathers—who identified primarily as deists—shared views that aligned with Christian theologies. American society is heavily informed by this religious foundation, specifically in terms of racial injustice, even as religious identification declines.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute on police brutality showed that between December 2014 and April 2015 the percentage of white Americans who believed that police killings of black Americans were part of a broader pattern jumped from 35 percent to 43 percent. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, see the recent homicides as isolated incidents—62 percent of them said that police treat blacks and whites equally. This isn’t an accident of demographics; it springs from the religious framework that undergirds American societal values. To deny the ongoing influence of Protestant ethics is to be willfully ignorant.

The “Protestant work ethic” is a term coined by sociologist Max Weber, whose seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,delineated how links made by theologians between religion, work, and capital laid the groundwork for capitalism. Calvinist theology holds that only an elect few are predestined for salvation from birth, while the rest are damned. The anxiety this produced compelled people to look for hints or signs that they were members of the elect; they believed that material success was among the most notable indicators of God’s favor. Doing the hard work of creating God’s kingdom on Earth through a secular vocation was considered a pathway to God’s grace. The opposite also held true: Just as material success indicated God’s grace, poverty was a sign that you’d been denied God’s grace. In this context, slaves could be both blamed for their own plight and have the legitimacy of their labor erased.

“When the Protestant work ethic was being developed here, many people who were in the country weren’t even considered people and that continues to inform how we think about work,” said Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University whose research includes the intersection of morality in the context of white supremacy. “It cannot see certain kinds of work and labor as real and therefore virtuous,” she continued. It’s easy to be outraged when something as tangible as a video of a man being executed by police surfaces, but more insidious forms of racism still permeate our views of what does and does not constitute valid work—even among those who don’t subscribe to Protestant ethics.

A survey of millennials conducted by MTV showed that only 30 percent of whites reported being raised in families that talked about race at all. Adifferent survey from PRRI in 2014 found that “[W]hile more than three-quarters (76 percent) of black Americans, and roughly six-in-ten Hispanics (62 percent) and Asian Americans (58 percent), say that one of the big problems facing the country is that not everyone is given an equal chance in life, only half (50 percent) of white Americans agree.” An even more comprehensive study of young Americans in 2012 showed that 56 percent of white millennials believe the government “paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities.” Considering the fact that so many white people were raised in families that erased race by not talking about it at all, it’s not hard to see how the government’s attention to other races could seem excessive.

Dr. Ray Winbush is the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, and he said that his work in Baltimore has recently increased his exposure to racial conceptions of work and goodness. “White people will say, ‘Why don’t you black people pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. This is America, everyone is free to do what they want,’” Winbush told me. “But what was the civil rights struggle of the 1960s if not the greatest self-help movement in American history?” Through the old lens of work as an act that contributes to building God’s kingdom on Earth in a very physical way, the work of political organizing can’t be recognized as a legitimate form of labor. Denying the labor of black Americans reinforces white supremacy.

“The Protestant work ethic that influenced the founding of this country included a belief that the more material wealth you have, the closer you are to God,” said Robin DiAngelo, a professor whose research focuses on how white people are socialized to collude with institutional racism. “So during slavery, we said, ‘You must do all the work but we will never allow that to pay off.’ Now we don’t give black people access to work. Then and now they have not been allowed to participate in wealth building or granted the morality we attach to wealth.” This historical entanglement of property and virtue continues to inform racial views. “Property among white Americans is seen as something to be treasured and revered,” said Winbush. “Black Americans do not view themselves as truly owning anything in America.”

DiAngelo noted that we sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events and don’t even flinch at “the land of the free” lyric written in 1814, a time when the country was home to millions of slaves. Winbush pointed to the black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was burned to the ground in 1921 by white mobs enraged by the incredible prosperity blacks had created there. Black attempts to participate in the promise of America are met consistently with this kind of violence. Ethicist Katie Geneva Cannon has written at length about how the institutional denial of citizenship and freedom to black people essentially wrote out the possibility of them ever being seen as virtuous in white society. “The ‘rightness of whiteness’ counted more than the basic political and civil rights of any Black person… Institutional slavery ended, but the virulent and intractable hatred that supported it did not,” Cannon wrote in The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness. Through both erasure and ignorance, we continue to deny the virtue and legitimacy of black citizenship and labor.

As we abandon our explicit ties to religion, religious ethics still inform our views of race, prosperity, and even personhood. It’s easy to blame older white Protestant evangelicals for the country’s residual racial strife, even as it represents white America’s refusal to interrogate the source of our worldviews and our tremendous social and political capital.

What is troubling about the fresco in the rotunda is that it functions as a mirror: The Congress those white faces look down upon is 92 percent Christian and 80 percent white. George Washington and his cohort of virtuous states are enshrined above so, theoretically, we’ll forever remember the virtuous, godly work of “protecting freedom.” Meanwhile, the black human lives whose uncompensated work built America’s prosperity—and the Capitol building—with their blood, sweat, and tears are consistently forgotten.

Alana Massey

TSA No-Fly List

U.S. to tell Americans why they’re on no-fly list

Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they've been banned from flights.
Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they’ve been banned from flights | Attribution: none


Americans on the United States’ no-fly list will now be privy to information about why they have been banned from commercial flights and be given the opportunity to dispute their status, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department this week.

The revised policy comes in response to a June ruling by a federal judge that said the old process was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The decision was part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans on the list.

But the ACLU isn’t satisfied with the government’s new policy, outlined in documents filed Monday in federal courts in Oregon (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).

“After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it’s good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and the lead attorney on the case, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the government’s new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we’re challenging it in court again.”

People on the no-fly list, managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, are prohibited from boarding a commercial flight for travel into or out of the United States.

The number of people on the list is classified. An official with knowledge of the government’s figures told CNN in 2012 that the list contained about 21,000 names, including about 500 Americans.

Before the change, American citizens and permanent residents who inquired with the government about being denied aircraft boarding received a letter that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the no-fly list. Now, they’ll be made aware of their status if they apply for redress, with an option to request further information.

“The U.S. government is making enhancements to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to provide additional transparency and process for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been denied boarding on a commercial aircraft because they are on the No Fly List,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

In cases in which travelers included on the list request to receive or submit more information about their status, the government will provide a second, more detailed response, identifying “specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List,” according to the court documents.

An unclassified summary of that information will be provided “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake,” court papers said.

Those who appear on the no-fly list will then have further opportunity to dispute their status in writing, with supporting materials or exhibits, and will receive a final written decision from the Transportation Security Administration.

The 2014 ruling that prompted the policy changes had called for passengers on the list to be given the opportunity to dispute their status before a judge.