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The Airing of Grievances V: Jill Stein

[ 150 ] November 24, 2016 |

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Kara Brown had a loving tribute to Jill Stein:

Without ever possessing even a sliver of a chance of maybe possibly ever becoming President of the United States, Jill Stein continued her farce of a campaign drawing attention and support away from the only goal any of us should have had: defeating Donald Trump.

Now, she has the nerve to post these janky-ass Martin Luther King, Jr. memes.

[click through for infuriating-in-context meme]

I’m guessing MLK would not be thrilled with you right now, Jill! He’d probably wonder why you didn’t rally your supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton so, I don’t know, maybe we could avoid Donald Trump unraveling eight years of Obama gains and appointing two Supreme Court justices. I DON’T THINK HE’D FIND YOUR FUCKING MEME VERY HELPFUL.

I know that white people are not familiar with the concept of voting for survival and my god was that apparent this election. I of course blame myself for absolutely none of this, but I do feel like an idiot for even believing, when faced with this test, that this country would do the right thing.

Stein has apparently raised $2.5 million for recounts in WI, MI, and PA. I guess this is supposed to be a mitigating factor, but it pisses me off even more. What could be more Green than investing in almost-certainly-futile recounts to stop Trump rather than just, you know, telling your swing state supporters to vote for Clinton, the vastly superior candidate from any point on the left spectrum?

To me, Stein’s after-the-fact attack of conscience just underlies the extraordinary bad faith behind her entire enterprise. Nobody who knows anything really thinks that there’s no meaningful difference between a competent, moderate liberal and a grotesquely corrupt and unfit authoritarian committed to Coolidgnomics. Nobody can claim with a straight face that “1. Running an ill-informed buffoon for president every 4 years. 2. That’s about it” represents some kind of serious theory of social change that would justify putting the much worse candidate in the White House. The vast majority of Stein voters (or people on the left who just wouldn’t vote for Clinton) were just free riders who didn’t want Trump in the White House but expected this not to happen. This kind of thing works until it doesn’t.

To be clear, I don’t think that in the end Stein swung the election; like most such counterfactuals, it founders in Pennsylvania. I also don’t think this is much of a defense. In a period of political crisis, she ran a campaign whose only possible material effect would be to put Donald Trump in the White House, and spent her campaign reinforcing the ridiculous narrative that this was a race between to equally corrupt candidates who were similar ideologically. We can be extremely confident that this campaign was dishonest as well as counterproductive. When you willingly join a firing squad set to execute much of the New Deal and Great Society, it’s not much of a mitigating factor that you were ultimately given a blank.


The Irreplaceable SEK

[ 27 ] November 23, 2016 |

Like most of my colleagues, I never met Scott in “real life.” Although it’s an increasingly odd thing to say; after all, I interact more with most of my closest friends from “real life” online, and it’s not really less real. His horribly premature death is a tragedy I haven’t even begun to process yet (on top of the other such tragedies November 2016 has given us, tragedies we needed SEK to write about.)

I’m glad that Erik linked to Scott McLemee’s tribute to Scott. As it happens, when I heard that Scott’s health had taken I severe downturn I was also thinking of the “Ivan Tribble” controversy and Scott’s inability to attain the academic position he merited. The hollowing-out of This Thing Of Ours has many dimensions and has been caused by many things. But it was kind of remarkable to see a self-appointed Gatekeeper Of Intellectual Standards 1)make one transparently specious argument after another about a medium he didn’t understand and 2)openly boast about basing decisions for precious tenure-track positions largely on random personality trivia. Scott’s body of work was, in addition to its many other virtues, a compelling rebuke to assumptions that writing for a general audience is somehow “unserious.” Had he focused on writing jargon-filled articles that would sit permanently unread he would have had a better chance at economic security, but the world would have been much poorer for it. As Paul and Rob both said, something has gone seriously askew when a talent like Scott was ultimately forced to write clickbait for a living.

He was a good man and a great talent who produced a body of work I will never stop coming back to or learning from. It was a privilege to have him here and I am deeply saddened by that he will not be adding to it. The most sincere condolences to his family and friends.

More Please

[ 110 ] November 21, 2016 |

ryan is a working man

This is more like it:

Hopefully this is the sign of a serious push by the left flanks on Schumer.

I’m finding all of these discussions what to do if Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell offer decent legislation that advances progressive ends faintly surreal. I mean…”Paul Ryan” we can stop right there. At best you’re going to get terrible legislation, like the Trump infrastructure proposal, framed in a concern trolling manner (“you said you wanted infrastructure! Now you don’t want to vote for a bill that mostly consists of tax breaks for projects that would be built anyway! Make up your mind!”) Should we be worrying about what to do if Trump nominates Pam Karlan to fill Scalia’s seat too?

This really isn’t complicated. The default position for Democratic legislators is “don’t vote for anything, because this is right both substantively and politically.” If there’s ever an exception we can deal with it then.

Politics Is Identity Politics

[ 511 ] November 21, 2016 |
President Reagan greets Sen. Jesse Helms at a dinner honoring the North Carolina Republican in this June 16, 1983 photo in Washington. (AP Photo, Ed Reinke)

President Reagan greets Sen. Jesse Helms at a dinner honoring the North Carolina Republican in this June 16, 1983 photo in Washington. (AP Photo, Ed Reinke)

Above: Remember the Good Old Days, When Politicians Avoided Appeals to Racial Identity?


I was going to ignore Mark Lilla’s “identity politics” essay — it’s pretty much the definition of self-refuting — until I saw that Bernie get back on the “class not identity” chicken. So let us get to the grim task at hand:

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

Note here that Lilla is playing the same card from the center that is sometimes played from the consciously anti-liberal left, identifying “improved corporate life” and “Hollywood’s efforts” as the primary goals of “identity politics,” and describing the end goal of Black Life Matters as delivering a “wake-up call.” The silliness of Lilla’s argument would be more ready if he identified products of “the moral energy surrounding identity” like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, additional antidiscrimination laws at the federal and state level, a federally established right for a woman to choose to obtain an abortion, a federal right to same-sex-marriage, etc. This would also allow us to see that far from being settled issues these rights are all under serious threat and many or all are about to be diminished severely during a Trump administration. A “wake-up call” is not enough to address the effects of unjustified police violence and mass incarceration. And of course, none of these issues can be meaningfully separated from class. It isn’t affluent women in big cities who will have their effective access to safe abortions severely curtailed if Roe v. Wade is further cut back or overruled. Mass incarceration combined with felon disenfranchisement (and other forms of vote suppression) is crucial to Republicans maintaining advantages in state and federal legislatures. Lilla gives away the show by trivializing the issues at stake from the get-go.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life

I dunno, just me but I would say that the ongoing segregation of our schools is a far greater factor in any such bubble that any alleged “fixation on diversity.” Whoops — did I just engage in “identity politics” by noting the concrete effects of ongoing racial discrimination and their material effects on American politics? Sorry about that!

By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.

I have to say, I’d like to see some actual evidence for such claims. It sure seemed like Sanders’s appeals on economic policy were effective at reaching young people who only care about diversity.

How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them?

Who could possibly care about the dignity of a group of people routinely subjected to discrimination, harassment, and violence, amiright? Where is the MORAL URGENCY?

This campus-diversity consciousness has over the years filtered into the liberal media, and not subtly. Affirmative action for women and minorities at America’s newspapers and broadcasters has been an extraordinary social achievement — and has even changed, quite literally, the face of right-wing media, as journalists like Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham have gained prominence. But it also appears to have encouraged the assumption, especially among younger journalists and editors, that simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs.

First, I would say that the attempted diversification of the major American media is an…incomplete project. Second, an alleged tendency among journalists “simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs” is something I’m going to need more evidence for than random anecdotes from someone who’s obsessed with spotting “identity politics” while sojourning in Europe.

But it is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly, as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality.

I see, so Donald Trump riding the politics of white resentment to the White House is the fault of “identity liberalism?” And when have American politics ever not involved “difference”? Wait, he has an answer:

And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny

He wrote this in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump winning a presidential election. Really.

Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully

Remember that campaign that started in Philadelphia, Mississippi talking about states’ rights and talked about strapping young bucks buying Cadillacs with welfare checks? It was an appeal to our shared destiny that did not involve a politics of “difference.”

So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook. He seized the Democratic Party away from its identity-conscious wing,

That’s…one way of looking at it!

concentrated his energies on domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance) and defined America’s role in the post-1989 world. By remaining in office for two terms, he was then able to accomplish much for different groups in the Democratic coalition.

It’s interesting though — he might have “focused” on national healthcare reform legislation, but he didn’t preside over its enactment, although he did sign a terrible welfare reform bill, a terrible anti-LBGT bill, and some bad crime control bills. (None of which had anything to do with identity politics, of course.)

I do have a very dim memory of a politician who is not mentioned in Lilla’s piece. He abandoned Clinton’s “seizure” of the party from its “identity-conscious wing.” If I recall correctly, this guy not only won two terms in office but actually signed a major health care reform law, as well as several more good laws and many fewer bad ones than Clinton. Anyone remember?

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

Nah. Also, on what planet did Hillary Clinton not appeal “to Americans as Americans” or “emphasize issues that affect the vast majority of them?” You’d think from Lilla’s account that Clinton’s speeches consisted of thirty seconds of shout-outs to various democratic constituencies, “elect me, I’m a woman!” and leaving the stage. It’s certainly true that the media failed to report on the important economic issues that Clinton’s campaign talked about constantly, but I don’t think an excessive concern with “identity politics” is the problem. Have our schools with their excessive fixation on diversity caused the media to become selectively obsessed with email server management?

But, of course, takes like this never address what candidates are actually saying. As always, any election with a bad result means that the Democratic Party should do what the pundit is saying it should be doing had it won. But advocates changing the direction of the party need to make a case on the merits, and in this case I’m giving a hard pass.

…Echidne has more.

Saving Medicare

[ 135 ] November 21, 2016 |

There are going to be many, many battles, but this will be the most important:

Trump’s election has sprung into overdrive a debate we’ve been having in the world of politics for more than a year: Is Trumpism largely about economic distress tied to globalization and neo-liberal economics or is it mainly driven by a white racial backlash against minorities Trump supporters believe are cutting to the front of the line in the race for economic preferment and cultural centrality? I largely put myself in the second camp. But as I think most people realize, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. And whichever side of the equation you come down on, what the Democrats need are issues that cut across the regional/racial/class divide we saw in the 2016 election.

Medicare does that.


Getting rid of or gutting Medicare is incredibly unpopular. It can only be accomplished by a mixture of bamboozlement, scare tactics and unified party government which will allow the GOP to push the change through regardless of public opinion. Saving Medicare or giving everything in the effort to do so is a tailor-made way for Democrats to cut across the Trump-Clinton divide and undermine the idea that Trump or the GOP have the interests of the middle class or really anyone but libertarians and the extremely wealthy at heart.

I’ll summarize my point. Medicare is hugely important for everyone, for the reasons I noted above. But it should become a central focus even if those who don’t see it as the most important issue because it is an issue where Democrats can score a win and in doing so they will empower the opposition to defeat the Trump GOP on other critical fronts. Critically, it is a cross-cutting issue. They will either drive a wedge between Trump and the GOP or undermine for many voters who supported Trump the belief that he cares about the needs of people like them.

There cannot be any political weapon left off the table. As Marshall says, this is one where the right politics and the right policy line up perfectly.

Can We Try This Year Over?

[ 42 ] November 20, 2016 |

Sharon Jones, R.I.P.

NFL Open Thread

[ 129 ] November 20, 2016 |


Last week, when anyone with any conscience really needed some bread and circuses one of the two early games in my market was Rams/Jets, an inspiring tale of what bad talent poorly coached can accomplish on offense. Apparently, Jeff “7-9” Fisher was as bored as I was, since the guy he traded up to acquire with the #1 overall pick has finally been deemed more playable than Case Keenum. Tanier explained two weeks ago why this was overdue:

How much more of Keenum are Rams fans, football lovers and sane human beings expected to take?

Now is not the time to start Goff. Last month was the time to start Goff. After the four-interception London catastrophe and bye week was the time to start Goff. Now is long, long past the time to start Goff.

There is no good football reason to keep Goff on the bench. Oh, there are plenty of plausible-sounding-but-bad football reasons. Emily Kaplan itemized them in a recent MMQB feature: He’s learning footwork and terminology, learning how to read defenses, adjusting from an Air Raid college offense with fewer adjustments and variables than the offense the Rams hypothetically run, and so forth.

Piffle, poppycock and balderdash. These are the same things every rookie quarterback must learn. None of them are left moldering on the bench while a third-string-caliber veteran pretends to be a switch-pitcher.

Either Goff is spectacularly unready, even by the standards of rookie quarterbacks, or the Rams have no idea how to properly develop him. Goff did not look spectacularly unready leaving Cal, no one on the Rams coaching staff has developed a quarterback in this millennium, and Kaplan quotes Rams coaches stating that they won’t change their offensive scheme (masterpiece that it is) to acclimate the rookie. So this mystery of whether Goff or Jeff Fisher’s staff is the problem doesn’t seem all that hard to solve.

The Rams need to start Goff immediately. If he really cannot outperform Keenum, then it’s an indictment of the brain trust that traded up to acquire him, one that should cost all of them their jobs. That may be precisely why Goff isn’t playing. Better to bury the kid on the bench and be thought a fool for one more year than stick him in the lineup and remove all doubt.

That’s the kind of reasoning that has kept the Fisher Rams under .500 for years. The only thing funny about it is Keenum’s highlight reel.

Either Keenum started about 5 weeks too long, or the Rams made one of the worst trades in NFL history. Come to think of it, both of these things could still be true.

For the people who want to talk hoops in these threads, I can say that the LeBron hot take uncovered by Magary in the Easterbrook section is one seriously spicy meatball. I give it four Baylesses.

Well, At Least This Didn’t Result In Donald Trump Becoming President or Something

[ 262 ] November 19, 2016 |


I’m trying and failing to wrap my mind around a scenario in which Bill or Hillary Clinton paid $25 million to people they defrauded by offering “seminars” which were essentially nothing but high-pressure sales pitches to purchase access to future sales pitches. I mean, a years-long scandal that would ultimately result in the second impeachment of a president in American history was created out of the Clintons losing money in a minor Arkansas land deal, a deal that not only involved no illegal behavior but no unethical behavior on the part of the Clintons. This year, lengthy articles were written literally trying to create scandals out of Clinton Foundation donors asking for meetings with Hillary Clinton and generally not even getting them. Coverage of the 2016 election campaign in which Clinton ran against a racist con man and alleged serial sexual assaulter was dominated by Clinton’s perfectly legal decision to use a private email server. If either Clinton had actually bilked large numbers of desperate people out of their money…I can’t even imagine. I assume they’d still be hanging on a lamppost on Eighth Avenue.

When Donald Trump swindles a lot of ordinary people out of their money, though, he can’t even get above the fold. It really is amazing. To review:

  • James Comey announces the existence of unread emails, on a computer not belonging to Hillary Clinton, pertaining to a trivial pseudo-scandal. [Covered like a Kanye/Kate Middleton sex tape.]
  • Donald Trump pays $25 million dollars to settle with ordinary people he swindled out of considerably more than $25 million. [¯\_(ツ)_/¯]

It’s all fun and games until millions of people lose their health insurance, Miami is under two feet of water and a guy who a Republican Senate deemed too racist to be a District Court judge in 1986 is the Attorney General of the United States. 


On The Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else Posture

[ 434 ] November 19, 2016 |

Amazingly, Glenn Greenwald has gone back to this well a second time:

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Democratic Party is in shambles as a political force. Not only did it just lose the White House to a wildly unpopular farce of a candidate despite a virtually unified establishment behind it

I mean, Paul has already been through this, but this assertion couldn’t possibly be more wrong. It is astoundingly wrong. It’s so obviously wrong that when I tweeted about this after Paul’s first post I was accused of arguing against a strawman. Perhaps you’ve heard of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? They’re the Republican establishment, two of the three most powerful elected officials in the United States. They supported Trump. And they will have very wide latitude to gut the Great Society and New Deal because most of the Republican conference supported Trump, with any opposition melting away as the campaign proceeded. (He called Ted Cruz’s wife ugly and accused Ted Cruz’s father of conspiring to kill JFK. He endorsed Trump anyway, and please spare me the bullshit about how a public official announcing who he plans to vote for isn’t an “endorsement.”) And if we extend this beyond elected officials, the American establishment is firmly in support of Trump — he was sent to the White House by rich white people.

And even among the parts of the American establishment that nominally opposed Trump, we have to question how serious and effectual this opposition was. Yes, virtually every newspaper op-ed page came out against Trump. But far more important than this was their coverage of the candidates, and here their obsessive focus on EMAILS! to the exclusion of discussions of public policy were a huge benefit to Trump. Trump did receive a fair amount of negative coverage, but because his scandals didn’t receive the kind of sustained attention Clinton’s pseudo-scandals did, the result was at worst a wash for Trump that allowed this to play out essentially as a fundamentals-and-partisanship election. And it was possible for him to win that election…because the Republican Party was united behind Trump.

…and not only is it the minority party in both the Senate and the House, but it is getting crushed at historical record rates on the state and local levels as well.

There’s something rather important being left out of the analysis here — namely, that the Democratic candidate for president won the popular vote by a margin likely to exceed two million votes, and Democrats also got far more total votes for the Senate. The Democratic Party certainly has serious problems, particularly in relatively low-turnout state elections, but they also have to deal with the fact that the Constitution massively over-represents the conservative rural and suburban interests represented by the Republican Party.

We then get to a monocausal explanation for Clinton’s defeat:

Quite the contrary, Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats – from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college, “fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves – to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

I do agree that it’s wrong for the DNC to focus solely on external factors as a way of ducking responsibility for mistakes they made. But this cuts both ways — it’s equally wrong to deny responsibility to other actors who affected the election results because you want to make the strategic decisions of the DNC the One True Cause of losing the election. The idea that we shouldn’t criticize James Comey’s massively inappropriate intervention into the election is absurd. The idea that we should ignore Comey’s intervention even though Clinton lost a substantial amount of support after the letter was released is absurd. (And if you want to say that we should ignore this because we can’t prove to an absolute certainty that any of Clinton’s accelerated loss of support was caused by the extraordinary amount of coverage given to Comey’s letter about nothing, OK, but then you certainly can’t turn around and make inherently unfalsifiable assertions about how Clinton lost because of “bad messaging” or whatever other Halperinism.) It is absurd to say that we shouldn’t criticize the media for treating Clinton’s EMAILS as more important than Trump’s racism or to deny that this had a significant effect on the race. I agree that Stein probably did not materially affect the outcome in the end, although how much of a pass she deserves because her campaign, whose only possible effect would be to put Trump in the White House, failed to be consequential because she failed to attract enough support is questionable.

But of course, the key people Glenn asserts have to be preemptively cleared of any responsibility for the catastrophe are “Julian Assange” and “Clinton-critical journalists.” The Intercept, during an election campaign between a competent, moderate liberal and an unprecedentedly unfit and corrupt candidate who ideologically represents a cross between George Wallace and Calvin Coolidge, devoted a substantial amount of resources to analyzing hacked emails from the campaign of the former. And rather than admitting that they had been sent on a snipe hunt by an Australian libertarian who was plainly trying to throw the election to Wallace/Coolidge, they decided to hype up inane trivia (“Hillary Clinton’s campaign has a PUBLICIST!” “Candidates say snarky things about opposing candidates in private emails!”) as if they were revealing the Pentagon Papers. And, as Paul says, they did this in the context of media coverage being dominated by the coverage of Clinton non-scandals that revealed no significant misconduct, drowning out coverage of the countless examples of Trump’s actual misconduct. I can’t blame Glenn and his publication for wanting to be preemptively absolved of any responsibility, but it won’t fly. It is absolutely true that The Intercept — like mainstream publications — also published coverage critical of Trump. Both Sides Do It was perfectly good enough for Trump, and while that it helped Trump in itself doesn’t condemn the press coverage the fact that this effective false equivalence is utterly ludicrous certainly does.

And, appropriately enough, we finish with Glenn being far more generous to the Republican Party than is remotely merited:

This Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else posture stands in stark contrast to how the Republican National Committee reacted in 2012, after it lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential elections. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Mitt Romney’s loss “a wake-up call,” and he was scathing about his party’s failures: “there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement . . . So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

The RNC’s willingness to admit its own failures led to a comprehensive 1oo-page report, issued only a few months after its 2012 defeat, that was unflinching in its self-critique.

Whoa, whoa, are you shitting me? The RNC is getting credit for its SEARING SELF-EXAMINATION about its perception of being too close to plutocrats and unfriendly to racial minorities before the election in which they nominated Donald Trump? Fortunately, Glenn saves me the trouble of further critique:

One irony of 2016 is that the candidate who won the GOP nomination, and ultimately the presidency, not only ignored many of the autopsy’s core recommendations but embodied everything it warned against.

Uh, yes, that’s one hell of an irony — indeed, one can say that it completely destroys the underpinning of Glenn’s entire take. But to a lot of the media, Both Sides Do It But Democrats Are Worse is always an essential truth irrespective of the facts.

Trump Agrees to Pay Off People He Swindled

[ 115 ] November 18, 2016 |


Donald Trump doesn’t settle, with notably rare exceptions:

Donald J. Trump has reversed course and agreed to pay $25 million to settle a series of lawsuits stemming from his defunct for-profit education venture,

Can we stop here? Trump University was not an “education venture” in any sense. It was not designed to provide information to its customers. Trump University seminars were offered with one purpose: to sell more worthless seminars and products until the marks ran out of money or got wise.

The settlement was announced by the New York attorney general on Friday, just 10 days before one of the cases, a federal class-action lawsuit in San Diego, was set to be heard by a jury. The deal, if approved, averts a potentially embarrassing and highly unusual predicament: a president-elect on trial, and possibly even taking the stand in his own defense, while scrambling to build his incoming administration.

It was a remarkable concession from a real estate mogul who derides legal settlements and has mocked fellow businessmen who agree to them.

It certainly is unusual that Donald Trump would make a statement that is not consistent with his future actions! Anyway, let’s examine the human cost to the people Trump conned:

Seven years ago, Kathleen Meese received a mail invitation to a free real-estate course, taught by the faculty of Trump University. It was at the historic theater in downtown Schenectady, a 40-minute drive from her house in upstate New York. The advertising materials claimed Donald Trump could “turn anyone into a successful real estate investor.” Meese, a teacher, was intrigued by the prospect of extra income from flipping houses; her son had Down syndrome and needed ongoing medical care. She decided to go.

A few months later, her savings had been wiped out, and she was in debt that would take years to pay off — with nothing to show for it. “There is no Trump University,” she ultimately concluded.

Trump used his name to take large amounts of money from desperate people in exchange for services he knew had no value. But at least he didn’t use a private email server!

The Gift the FBI Gave America Will Keep Giving to the FBI

[ 50 ] November 18, 2016 |


There are many horrible things about Jeff Sessions being nominated to serve as Attorney General. One of those things is that you can forget about any reform to the criminal justice system:

Then, with the 2016 elections pending, the junior U.S. senator from Alabama began raining on the criminal-justice-reform parade, attacking pending Senate legislation on both traditional war-on-drugs grounds, and the new claim that America was being subsumed in a new “crime wave.” Jeff Sessions’s close friend Donald Trump was soon echoing the claim that violent crime was sweeping the nation (untrue, but also hard to refute in the wake of homicide spikes in many cities), while his Senate wing man Tom Cotton of Arkansas argued the real problem with the criminal-justice system was “under-incarceration.” Revisions to the main Senate bill on sentencing reform to ensure violent offenders did not benefit kept some jittery conservatives onboard — but not Sessions. Partly due to Sessions’s and Cotton’s demagoguing on the issue, Mitch McConnell shelved action on the bill for the year.

He really does represent Trump’s white nationalist authoritarianism perfectly.

Sessions Confirms That the GOP is the Party of Calhoun

[ 121 ] November 18, 2016 |

sessions trump

That a candidate who rode racism to the White House is packing his White House and cabinet with racists is less than surprising. But the idea of Jeff Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement officer is particularly appalling:

In 1986, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was—correctly!—deemed by a Republican Senate to be too racist to serve on the U.S. District Court. This was a highly uncommon step: Sessions at the time was the second federal judicial nominee in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the bipartisan consensus that open racism is unacceptable is, alas, now completely shattered. In the logical culmination of the Republican Party’s transformation from the party of Abraham Lincoln to the party of John Calhoun, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Sessions to be the top law enforcement office in the United States.

It is hard to overstate what a calamity this is. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act are just paper without active federal enforcement. The Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, for example, has to decide what kinds of cases to prosecute, what kinds of problems need to be prioritized, and how the law should be interpreted and applied. Under both Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch—the first African-American man and woman, respectively, to serve as attorney general—President Barack Obama’s DOJ had a strong record of advancing the rights of African-Americans, women, LBGT people, and the disabled. Obama’s DOJ was also especially active on behalf of voting rights.

The DOJ is about to change course, hurtling back towards Jim Crow. When he was a U.S. Attorney, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general declared that “I wish I could decline on all” civil rights cases. Sessions called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and “communist-inspired” organizations. He joked that used to think the Ku Klux Klan were “ok” until he found out they were “pot smokers.” He once called a black former assistant U.S. Attorney “boy.”

And his actual record is arguably even worse. “Jeff Sessions got his start prosecuting voting rights activists in Alabama on bogus voter fraud charges,” notes Sam Bagnestos, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and the number two official in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division under Holder. “Throughout his career, he has shown hostility to the historically important work of the Civil Rights Division. The damage he can do to civil rights enforcement as attorney general is incalculable.” Nothing about his subsequent history suggests that he’s changed.

The consequences of this will be dire. States will likely be able to pass discriminatory vote-suppression legislation with impunity. It will be much harder for workers facing racial and gender discrimination to get the remedies to which they’re legally entitled. Sessions—who has been nominated in part because of FBI director James Comey’s unconscionable decision to violate Justice Department rules and intervene in the election—will be a disaster for victims of unjustified police violence.

But at least the public was properly informed about the stakes:

And, of course, Sessions is just part of a trend. Sessions is exactly the kind of attorney general you’d expect from president-elect who made a white nationalist his top adviser and strategist. And you can’t say that Trump’s agenda was hidden. He became prominent within the Republican Party by repeatedly asserting that Barack Obama was not born in the United Sates. Trump kicked off his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants, as a class, “rapists.” He called on the judge presiding over the lawsuit over Trump’s fraudulent “university” to recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage. He called for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States. At the height of the campaign, he called for punishing five innocent African-American men.

You would think that an overt racist running for a major party nomination would have been the story of the 2016 campaign. But it wasn’t even close. The media devoted far more coverage to Hillary Clinton’s email server management practices than to Trump’s many racist actions. Trump’s call for black people to be punished for crimes for which they had been exonerated by DNA evidence received scant coverage, while Comey’s letter indicating that he may or may not have had new information about a trivial pseudo-scandal was covered like the Kardashian sisters had landed on Mars. This bizarrely skewed coverage played a crucial role in normalizing Trump, making his racism just one more scandal not really different than a Clinton Foundation donor asking for favors and not getting them.

As Erik says, not only must every Democrat vote against Sessions the hearings need to lay his racism bare. The Democratic Party may not be able to stop Sessions but it cannot join the media’s normalization of Trump.

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