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Monuments to Treason in Defense of Slavery Celebrate Lawlessness in Defense of White Supremacy

[ 22 ] June 7, 2017 |

Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. For years, South Carolina lawmakers refused to revisit the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds, saying the law that took it off the dome was a bipartisan compromise, and renewing the debate would unnecessarily expose divisive wounds. The shooting deaths of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., have reignited calls for the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the Statehouse in Columbia to come down. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Adam Serwer’s response to a feeble National Review defense of Treason in Defense of Slavery monuments is worth reading in full, but this is a particularly important point:

The Lee monument in New Orleans went up not in 1876 but in 1884, as racist paramilitaries like the White League helped the Democratic Party re-establish its political dominance over the city; these statues are commemorations of those victories, not politically neutral commemorations of fallen warriors. They were raised to, in the words of the historian David Blight, help “construct a story of noble sacrifice for a holy cause of home and independence, and especially in the service of a racial ideology that would sustain white supremacy.”

The myths both about Lee and the Confederacy, his supposed hatred of slavery, his non-ownership of slaves, and his conduct during the war and his reasons for fighting it, are all sustained by the statues and monuments that honor him. The reverence for the people represented by those monuments interferes with the proper remembrance of history, it does not enhance it. You don’t need a statue of Lee to understand why white Southerners revered him, you need a book. The statue can go in a museum.

And, as Ed Kilgore observes, the second big round of Confederate memorializing happened when Jim Crow came under attack:

This is true not just of monuments to Lee and other Confederate leaders, but of that other recent source of controversy, the maintenance of Confederate emblems (typically the Confederate battle flag) on southern state flags and at state capitals. For the most part, these emblems were adopted not immediately after the Civil War, but after the South had regained its “sovereignty” and proceeded to erect a Jim Crow society (in Mississippi, that was in 1894) — or even much later, in the 1950s, when Jim Crow was finally challenged in the courts and in civil protests (the Confederate battle flag appeared on the flag of my own home state of Georgia in 1956). As the preeminent political scientists who studied this issue concluded:

The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.

The idea that monuments to the Confederacy are about “Heritage not Hate” is absurd on its face, and the history of these monuments makes this even more clear. Both the movement to tear them down and apologist for the monuments are “political” because the question is whether slavery, white supremacism, and apartheid are worthy of celebration is political. The only issue is which side you’re on.


The Clinton Rules, A Story In Three Tweets

[ 31 ] June 7, 2017 |

What can you say?

This is actually worse than false equivalence, because the Times story on Clinton and Russia was a big nothingburger — Clinton didn’t make the deal, she didn’t have the authority to veto the deal, and there’s no evidence she intervened with the president to get him to approve the deal (or, indeed, that she was involved in any way.)

In addition to the Clinton Rules, Lipton presumably is also downplaying the major Forbes story because he’s pissy that he got scooped. The reaction of the reporter who spent the 2016 campaign eating the NYT’s lunch is instructive:

Today In Donald Trump’s Highly Functional Administration

[ 120 ] June 6, 2017 |

Item 1:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign in recent weeks as he told President Trump he needed the freedom to do his job, according to two people who were briefed on the discussion. On Tuesday, the White House declined to say whether Mr. Trump still has confidence in his attorney general.

“I have not had that discussion with him,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters in the White House briefing room, responding to questions about whether the president has soured on Mr. Sessions.

Item 2:

The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.

On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.

Item 3:

The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

Mr. Comey believed Mr. Sessions should protect the F.B.I. from White House influence, the officials said, and pulled him aside after a meeting in February to tell him that private interactions between the F.B.I. director and the president were inappropriate. But Mr. Sessions could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk to Mr. Comey alone again, the officials said.

And last, but certainly not least derpy:

Alone in the White House in recent days, President Trump — frustrated and defiant — has been spoiling for a fight, according to his confidants and associates.

Glued even more than usual to the cable news shows that blare from the televisions in his private living quarters, or from the 60-inch flat screen he had installed in his cramped study off the Oval Office, he has fumed about “fake news.” Trump has seethed as his agenda has stalled in Congress and the courts. He has chafed against the pleas for caution from his lawyers and political advisers, tweeting whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

And on Thursday, the president will come screen-to-screen with the FBI director he fired, James B. Comey, thoughts of whom have consumed, haunted and antagonized Trump since Comey launched an expanding Russia investigation that the president slammed as a “witch hunt.”

Comey’s testimony is a political Super Bowl — with television networks interrupting regular programming to air it, and some Washington offices and bars making plans for special viewings.

Trump is keen to be a participant rather than just another viewer, two senior White House officials said, including the possibility of taking to Twitter to offer acerbic commentary during the hearing.

This is perhaps not the most well-oiled machine I have ever encountered.

Trump Looted a Children’s Cancer Charity

[ 157 ] June 6, 2017 |

Nobody could have etc.:

The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity’s efficiency: Because he can get his family’s golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. “We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” Trump tells Forbes.

That’s not the case. In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.

Still, someone once asked Clinton’s State Department for passports and didn’t get them, so Both Sides Do It but the Democrats are worse. (I also can’t help but wonder if the Times might have uncovered this if they weren’t so busy getting sent on snipe hunts by Larry Klayman.)

The contrast between how the Clinton Foundation — a well-run live-saving charity — and the Trump Foundation — a massive grift — were covered is perhaps the starkest evidence of 1)the Clinton Rules and 2)how the perception that Clinton’s win was inevitable shaped campaign coverage.

Partisanship Trumps (Almost) All

[ 120 ] June 6, 2017 |

Ezra’s discussion of Bartels and Achen and how it applies to the 2016 is very useful:

I sat down with Bartels shortly after the 2016 election, and I had a dozen ideas for how his book helped explain the unusual results. But he wasn’t buying my premise. To him, the election looked pretty typical.

The Democratic candidate won 89 percent of Democratic voters, and the Republican candidate won 90 percent of Republican voters. The Democrat won minorities, women, and the young; the Republican won whites, men, and the old. The Democrat won a few percentage points more of the two-party vote than the Republican, just as had happened four years before, and four years before that. If you had known nothing about the candidates or conditions in the 2016 election but had been asked to predict the results, these might well have been the results you’d predicted. So what was there to explain?

Bartels doesn’t deny that there were interesting oddities to this election. The small but crucial number of Obama-to-Trump voters are worth studying, for instance. The interventions of Russia and then-FBI Director James Comey may well have delivered Republicans the presidency. And surely it’s meaningful that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the least popular nominees in history.

But his point is that we’re so obsessed by what was different in 2016 that we’re missing the big story — how much stayed the same. For all the weirdness of the campaign, Trump and Clinton still got about 95 percent of the vote, and they did so by consolidating their own bases in ways that looked extremely similar to 2012. It’s easy to come up with counterfactuals where Clinton is in the White House today, or where Marco Rubio won the popular vote by 4 percentage points, but the basic similarity between Trump-Clinton and Obama-Romney deserves more attention than it’s gotten.

Given the unprecedented nature of Trump’s capture of the nomination, a lot of people who should know better (and I emphatically include myself here) assumed that the general rule that candidates and campaigns have only a very marginal effect might not apply. But the rule held. Assumptions that Trump was a bad candidate were, in themselves, correct with a major caveat. He underperformed by 3 or 4 points if (like me) you think she was a generic-minus candidate who ran a fairly good campaign, and by 5 or 6 if you think Clinton was a horrible candidate who ran a horrible campaign. Given the context of Comey and Wikileaks and the Gore II media coverage, that’s a really bad performance! Although of course Trump got some of that back because of he had a different regional appeal than a generic Republican — Trump would have been a terrible candidate if the president was selected democratically, but given the actual rules it’s a more complicated question.

But the key point here is that while candidates matter, they matter only very marginally. Given structural conditions that don’t strongly favor one party or another, it’s essentially impossible to for a major party to nominate a candidate who can’t win. And in 2020, Trump’s popularity and the condition of the economy will matter far more than the quality of the Democratic candidate or the choices made by the campaigns, even if the latter factors generate far more discussion.

And I’ve said this before, but Nate Silver still hasn’t gotten enough credit for not committing the gambler’s fallacy of overcompensating for getting the Republican primary wrong. (It’s worth noting here that while The Party Decides is a very good book its thesis was not nearly as robust as the science backing up polling is — Nobody Knows Anything was not the right lesson to draw from Trump getting the Republican nomination.) Don’t focus on the probability percentages — we can never know whether Trump had a 30% chance or a 10% chance of winning. Focus on Silver’s analysis. He stuck by what the data was telling him — Clinton would probably win, but Trump’s voters were more efficiently distributed, so Clinton was vulnerable to a larger-than-usual polling error or a black swan event. The polling actually held up fairly well, but the black swan event happened, so here we are.

You Can Never Be Enough of a Stooge For Donald Trump

[ 179 ] June 6, 2017 |

Apparently neoconfederate hobbit Jeff Sessions is the latest hack to attract the ire of the Franco of Fifth Avenue:

Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

If Session ever gets fired or reigns, I wonder which lickpittle Trump will make a point of considering in public and then humiliatingly rejecting? Well, Baker and Haberman provide one answer in this nice bit of shade-throwing:

Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School who has frequently defended Mr. Trump on cable news, said the president was clearly voicing frustration with Mr. Sessions. But he said it was not clear to him that it was a personal issue as opposed to an institutional one with the office.

Ah, the Dersh. If you had any doubt that he’s made the short journey from reflexive contrarian to outright Republican hack, he was recently seen arguing that Trump firing Comey couldn’t have been obstruction of justice, because he has the legal authority to fire the FBI director. So if a friend shows up to your front door and asks if he can hide out at your place for a while and wash the blood of the three people he just killed off his clothes, don’t worry, you have the legal authority to invite people into your home and to own a washing machine, so you’d be in the clear!

Next up after Dershowitz: Jamie Gorelick.

Today’s Neo-McCarthyite DISTRACTION

[ 248 ] June 5, 2017 |

Apparently, in addition to their almost certain successful indirect ratfucking of the election, Russia attempted to directly ratfuck the election:

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.

As Pierce says, this threat is likely to get worse before it gets better: “This is authentically terrifying and, at the same time, it seems horribly inevitable. If you could ratfck the election on a second-hand basis, why wouldn’t you try simply to ratfck the results as well?”

Still, I would say the integrity of American elections doesn’t seem that big a deal going forward; certainly, I hope it doesn’t distract us from the more critical question going forward, how much a candidate who will never run for president again sucked.

Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them

[ 41 ] June 5, 2017 |

In one of the many excellent parts of his 2003 book, Al Franken had a good discussion of how the media turned Al Gore saying that during a debate that he had visited a disaster site with James Lee Witt into a major scandal. You see, while Gore had visited more than a dozen disaster sites with Witt, in that case he had visited a disaster site with Witt’s deputy. Hence Gore was a massive liar, while Bush lying his ass off about his tax proposals was a matter of Views Differ. At least Bush winning the election did not have any bad consequences for management at FEMA!

The media covered the 2016 campaign with the same false equivalence playbook, with similar results:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt made the Sunday morning talk show rounds in an effort to defend President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Pruitt repeatedly argued the climate agreement would harm the U.S. economy, particularly coal industry jobs.

Pruitt make several misleading and inaccurate statements during his tour of the television networks. The EPA chief’s biggest fib was probably his statement, made on multiple shows on Sunday, that the coal industry has grown by 50,000 job over the last few months.

No data exists from government or industry sources to back up the claim that the industry has seen such a dramatic surge in coal mining jobs over this time period. In fact, the average number of coal mining jobs increased by only 586, or about 1.1 percent during the first three months of 2017, according to a report from S&P Global Market Intelligence, citing data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Heckuva job, everyone!

Finally, the Paper of Record Discovers America’s Loneliest Civil Rights Crusader, Mitch McConnell

[ 18 ] June 5, 2017 |

This was an actual headline of an article published in the New York Times in 2015:

Mitch McConnell’s Commitment to Civil Rights Sets Him Apart

I wonder what this civil rights crusader thinks about Shelby County?

The Kentucky Republican said the heart of the historic anti-discrimination law remains intact, and the Supreme Court correctly ended the need for certain states to get federal permission before making any changes to their voting procedures.

“What was struck down were the provisions that absurdly treated the South differently,” McConnell told USA TODAY. “They don’t apply anymore. It’s 50 years later.”

His comments seem to doom any chance Congress will act this year to update the law and restore the strict federal oversight of cities and states with a history of discriminating against minority voters.

Yes, it certainly seems unpossible that a southern legislature today would pass disenfranchisement measures that targeted African-Americans with “almost surgical precision.”

And then, that Senator whose civil rights achievements nobody recognized would steal a Supreme Court seat to ensure that Shelby County remained good law and that civil rights statutes would get the narrowest possible interpretation, while enabling an openly racist Republican president. But, to be Scrupulously Fair, I have no record of Mitch McConnell having used a private email server.


The Most Overrated Traitor in Defense of Slavery

[ 186 ] June 5, 2017 |

Serwer on Robert E. Lee:

The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.

Memorial Day has the tendency to conjure up old arguments about the Civil War. That’s understandable; it was created to mourn the dead of a war in which the Union was nearly destroyed, when half the country rose up in rebellion in defense of slavery. This year, the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans has inspired a new round of commentary about Lee, not to mention protests on his behalf by white supremacists.

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.”

I will have to defer to the group on the strictly military questions, but the rest is certainly right.

Today In Great Krugman Subtweets

[ 118 ] June 4, 2017 |

Hmmm, I wonder who Krugman could have in mind when he makes this argument?

Why, then, are so many people on the right determined to block climate action, and even trying to sabotage the progress we’ve been making on new energy sources?

Don’t tell me that they’re honestly worried about the inherent uncertainty of climate projections. All long-term policy choices must be made in the face of an uncertain future (duh); there’s as much scientific consensus here as you’re ever likely to see on any issue. And in this case, uncertainty arguably strengthens the case for action, because the costs of getting it wrong are asymmetric: Do too much, and we’ve wasted some money; do too little, and we’ve doomed civilization.

Don’t tell me that it’s about coal miners. Anyone who really cared about those miners would be crusading to protect their health, disability and pension benefits, and trying to provide alternative employment opportunities — not pretending that environmental irresponsibility will somehow bring back jobs lost to strip mining and mountaintop removal.

While it isn’t about coal jobs, right-wing anti-environmentalism is in part about protecting the profits of the coal industry, which in 2016 gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republicans.
As I said, however, these days the fight against climate action is largely driven by sheer spite.

I won’t tell you who it is — let’s call him or her “Bret S.” No, wait, that’s too obvious — call him or her “B. Stephens.”

Alas, I’m afraid another round of subtweeting is going to be necessary soon:

The Republican Party’s fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.

Yes, if only Obama had used his One Unspecified Magic Trick that would have caused Republicans to maintain their Totally Sincere Commitment to combating climate change. Also, Republicans totally have always favored the Affordable Care Act, and that their offer to the uninsured whenever they’re in power or are casting a meaningful vote is always “nothing” or “worse than nothing” is just playing a verrrrrry long game.

Both Sides Do It, But Democrats Are Worse: Senseless Political Violence Edition

[ 95 ] June 3, 2017 |

U.S. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gestures while talking to journalists during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Rand Paul Jim Webb* fanboy Michael Tracey is willing to really put himself on the line to prove that he is totally Leftier Than Thou, not to mention Maxine Waters:

I certainly hope this vicious assault won’t stop his campaign to make sure that Real Left Alternative Zell Miller captures the Democratic nomination in 2020.

*I honestly can’t decide what’s funnier — that Tracey sees Webb as a Real Leftist Alternative to Hillary Clinton, or that he thought Webb was a serious candidate to win the nomination.

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