The Widdershins

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I can hardly believe it, but it’s Thanksgiving next week, Widdershins! I hope you’re all going to take some time to relax. Two viruses – the pandemic and the Republican virus of vaccine and mask resistance – have cast a pall over holiday gatherings this year. The pandemic is the one affecting Thanksgiving for me. I am thankful that my family is all vaxxed, AND, that I am seeing my aunt and uncle from Baltimore for the first time since the Rona reared its ugly head. We’ll still need to get negative PCR tests before we can go inside my brother’s house for Turkey and Tofurkey Day (my sister-in-law is vegetarian), but it’s worth it to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Despite the wretched Rittenhouse verdict, we had a lot to be thankful for this week. President Biden signed the BIF and Speaker Pelosi got the Build Back Better bill signed in the House. Now, the bill goes to the Senate, but thanks to the reconciliation process, only Democrats need to vote for it. Despite Manchinema saying they’ll wait for the CBO report to say how they vote, the report is coming soon, and I don’t think they’ll make a lot of trouble after what happened in New Jersey and Virginia. Oh, and remember how McConnell insisted a couple of months ago that he would absolutely, totally, NOT vote yes on raising the debt ceiling on December 15? Looks like he and Chuck are talking about it now. Something tells me Chuck will get what he wants.

I hope you all will indulge me as I take a minute to marvel at what the Democrats have accomplished so far. The Party has had full control of the federal government only since February 3, 2021, when Schumer and McConnell agreed on power-sharing in the Senate. Given that metric, it’s been nine and a half months.

We have been so traumatized and terrified by the hostile maladministration of Rethugs that we are not used to any good news coming from government sources. I believe this trauma, in combination with our blatantly fascist media, are what’s preventing us from appreciating the revolutionary nature of this time in our political history. There has not been a truly significant investment in the 99% since the Affordable Care Act – and even that was weak sauce compared to what’s being passed now. I can only compare the current furious activity to the New Deal, without the racism of that legislation. And Democrats are doing it all with a majority of 1 vote – the revolutionary, first Black and Asian woman Vice President Kamala Harris. (PRESIDENT Kamala Harris for a few hours this week! Incredible!)

I have often said that the job of President of the United States is the hardest job in the world. 350 million souls, so many of them suffering due to social and economic inequality; and the rest of the world, looking to Biden for leadership, aid and partnership – with a few countries trying to destroy him and America from the inside. Imagine coming into that job after almost 27 years of Rethug destruction, plus a global pandemic that has been botched almost beyond repair, with a forever war to end in Afghanistan and an ongoing attempted coup added in for good measure!

Leaders talented enough to take on this job successfully need two traits in combination. One is, the ability to communicate a shared purpose that people can believe in; and the other is the ability to build the right team to drive it forward.

I think Pelosi and Schumer have been able to wrangle the Democrats into passing these historic bills not just because they too are very talented leaders (they certainly are!), but also because Biden has convinced Congressional Dems that his purpose is the right one. (This doesn’t count the Squad, of course, but they’re DINOs.) His purpose to me is quite simple: let’s join the 21st century so China and Russia don’t destroy us. He’s looking ahead strategically and seeing how many of our people are mired in poverty, illness and incarceration without access to the Internet, child care, education and healthcare. This state of the Union makes us less competitive on the world stage, holding us back from making progress on difficult problems like climate change and clean energy. Every initiative Biden has put forward has been consistent with this purpose; whether it’s the American Rescue Plan, which included an increased Child Tax Credit that has already cut child poverty by 50%; or the BIF, which includes billions for clean water and renewable energy; or the Build Back Better Act, which in its current form regulates the cost of child care, provides four weeks of paid parental and sick leave for all American workers, provides free universal pre-K for all 3 and 4-year-olds, and boosts Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, as well as containing $500 billion to address climate change. Women’s rights are far from forgotten – the latest annual budget proposal drops the Hyde Amendment for the first time since 1976, as well as the less-known Weldon Amendment that works in tandem with it, and includes historic amounts of funding for Title X and access to abortion. And let’s not forget the executive orders he’s signed to mandate vaccines in workplaces through OSHA, and block the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For more details, this poster on Twitter always has receipts.

Biden’s ability to build a stellar team is on display all day, every day. From our marvelous VP Kamala Harris, who (despite getting the Hillary treatment from the media) is succeeding on multiple fronts, to his diverse and talented Cabinet, Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, all of his team are on point, on message and doing what needs to be done.

There is plenty of bad that’s going on in this world, but today, I’m thankful for what the Democrats have done for the American people. And today and every day, I’m thankful for all of you Widdershins who have kept me going through good times and bad, for lo, these many years.

Happy Thanksgiving all! Open thread as always.

Well, it looks like Barr is doing the job Drumpf hired him to do. He is whitewashing and weaseling and trying like hell to protect the criminal and his cabal currently sh*tting all over American democracy. His four-page summary left much to be desired, and quoted not a single full sentence from the Mueller Report. And the Democrats are determined to get the full story.

The Democratic chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight, Intelligence, Financial Services, Ways and Means, and Foreign Affairs committees have written a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting that he submit the full Mueller report to Congress by April 2.

What they’re saying: “Your four page summary of the Special Counsel’s review is not sufficient for Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, to perform [our oversight activities]. The release of the full report and the underlying evidence and documents is urgently needed by our committees to perform their duties under the Constitution … To the extent that you believe applicable law limits your ability to comply, we urge you to begin the process of consultation with us immediately in order to establish shared parameters for resolving those issues without delay.”

So that’s one thing the Democrats are doing. But it’s clearly not enough, so I would like to pose this question to all of you Widdershins out there:

What [Else] Should Democrats Do?

I think there are a number of avenues they can pursue.

  1. Subpoena Robert Mueller. The DOJ might block it, but “what are they trying to hide” is a powerful question.
  2. Turn their focus to other matters. There’s an interesting argument at the link…and, I just read that now that Barr is in charge of the DOJ, all of a sudden they’re cool to overturn the entire ACA. Seriously! This is truly horrendous, and it’s happening right now, when no one is paying attention.

    The Trump administration wants the federal courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, an escalation of its legal assault against the health care law.

    The Justice Department said in a brief filed on Monday that the administration supports a recent district court decision that invalidated all of Obamacare. So it is now the official position of President Trump’s administration that all of the ACA — the private insurance markets that cover 15 million Americans, the Medicaid expansion that covers another 15 million, and the protections for people with preexisting conditions and other regulations — should be nullified.

    When combined with Trump’s endorsement of the various Republican legislative plans to repeal and replace Obamacare and other regulatory actions pursued by his subordinates, the Trump administration’s clear, consistent and unequivocal position is that millions of people should lose their health insurance and that people should not be protected from discrimination based on their medical history.

  3. Continue to investigate. In the absence of any real insight into what Mueller found, the Democrats seem to be committed to continuing to probe the most corrupt administration in history.
  4. Something else. Any other options you can all think of!

What do you think, Widdershins?

This is an open thread.


Oy vey! Today it’s the SOTU – or as I call it, the “STFU.” As usual, I have no interest in watching the Mango Moron spew his ignorance and lies for the 8,000th time. Literally! As of January 21, 2019, the man has told over 8,158 lies since his inauguration, an average of 11.35 per day.

Ah, but what may be worth watching is the Democratic response, given by the fabulous Stacey Abrams…yet another strong, intelligent woman who was cheated out of victory in a transparent case of (say it with me now) Republican. Election. Fraud. Abrams was an unusual choice, given that the respondents both usually hold elected office, and are not African-American women.

That’s what makes it so brilliant.

“I know there were some headlines that characterized her as the future of the Democratic Party. In my estimate, she is the present and the future. She’s shaping the future,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who in 2018 became the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress, said in an interview with ABC News.

And while Abrams’ defining characteristics set her apart, they also match her up for the current, unpredictable era — one in which the State of the Union is pushed back after a historic government shutdown, and the president giving the address had never held elected office himself before taking office.

“I think it’s untraditional in all the right ways — and ways voters are showing themselves to have an appetite for,” said Jamila Michener, a professor at Cornell University who researches racial inequality and the electoral system. Particularly African-American women, Michener said, who are “the electoral bedrock of the Democratic Party.”

“It’s almost a kind of ‘duh’ moment for the Democrats, and one it’s good they finally had,” she said.

After the triumphant Blue Tsunami of 2018, which women of color played an enormous part in making possible, it seems like the entire Democratic Party is finally overcoming their gender and color blindness to honor their true base.

This awakening does not, of course, include that self-centered screamer who won’t release his tax returns. You know who I’m talking about…the one who’s only a Democrat when he wants to run for office to help elect Comrade Drumpf. Yup, he’s just certain that all his fauxgressive cultists cannot live another day without hearing the same bullsh*t from his yelling pie hole.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will deliver his own response to President Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday for the third year running.

The senator’s office confirmed to The Hill that his response will follow Trump’s State of the Union address as well as the Democratic rebuttal and be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

So, not on TeeVee then? Mwahahaha.

All righty then, here’s my plan. Who’s with me?

  1. Don’t watch Drumpf.
  2. Tune in to Stacey. (And, Xavier Becerra is giving the response in Spanish, so you can also tune in to him.)
  3. Ignore #theBernout.

This is an open thread.

Tags: ,

Trump-Bannon.jpg

Good morning Widdershins,

There’s a storm coming, so I hope anyone being effected is prepared and staying warm! I think it’s supposed to come to NYC as well, but honestly, since I’m working from home I’m not too concerned. Although my dog might not enjoy blistering walks (he likes snow.)

Speaking of storms, category 6 Hurricane Bannon hit the Dump White House yesterday. Excerpts from a new book by Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury,” were published in The New Yorker. (The book is already #1 on Amazon’s best seller list.) Whether or not it’s true (and there are reasons to question Michael Wolff’s often imaginative imagination) isn’t even relevant. I’m sure some of the stories are true and others are true in part. And it’s not the stories themselves that matter, it’s the fact that Steve Bannon told some of them them, Michael Wolff put them in a book, and Donald Dump thought they were true enough to release a blistering attack on Bannon (on official White House letterhead via Sarah Huckleberry), calling Bannon insane. Don Junior activated his attack mode and called Bannon a lying, backstabbing ingrate on Twitter.

DNVVqxAUIAAFYb4.jpg

Rebekah Mercer

Rebekah Mercer, the former actress (whose credits include “Xena: Warrior Princess) and evil billionaire who has been funding Bannon’s Breitbart and the Dump campaign has, supposedly, severed all ties with Bannon. Which part of all this is not living up to Mercer’s expectations, I don’t know. I suppose she may have expected loyalty from a man she gave so much money to. Perhaps she expected honor among thieves? Dump doesn’t have any; he has destroyed more people than one can count. But it will be interesting to see what happens in this angry divorce between Bannon and Dump. So much of their followers are the same people: alt-right, white supremacists. Arguably they were Bannon’s first. He gifted them to Dump. Now they will have to choose sides. It’s a real pickle they find themselves in… Who do you think they will choose?

 

And what does the GOP think about all this? Well, Mitch McConnell’s official Twitter feed posted this creepy gif:

Image result for mitch mcconnell smiling gif

Draw your own conclusions. Everybody else has been strangely quiet. (But we can imagine their responses. For example, when asked about Dump’s tweet threatening nuclear annihilation, Susan Collins said … “I’m going to vote” as she stormed away to vote on something. Bob Corker laughed and said he hadn’t seen the tweet, but Trump will be Trump. LOL.) So as a Civil War breaks out in the GOP – what do we think Widdershins? What is Bannon doing? We know his real desire is to destroy everything. So are his opening shots at Trump a surprise? He built Dump and he will destroy him. What will Dump do in response? He’s certainly going to do something… What will McTurtle do besides grin? Is this war good or bad for the GOP? And how will Democrats screw everything up?

I know only one thing: in 2020 Bannon will endorse Bernie Sanders for President. Mark my words.

 

Christiane Amanpour interviews Hillary Clinton. | CNN/David Holloway

Another week… another Twitter meltdown at the Clintons. Last week Chelsea was in the crosshairs, on Tuesday it was back to Hillary Clinton. And it’s all the usual suspects who returned into the arena.

Earlier in the day Clinton spoke to Christiane Amanpour in a town-hall interview at the Women For Women International, an organization that helps women in war-torn countries. Amanpour asked Clinton about the 2016 election and Clinton responded:

I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate, I was the person who was on the ballot. I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the short falls that we had. […] I have been in a lot of campaigns and I’m very proud of the campaign we ran. and I am very proud of the staff and the volunteers. It wasn’t a perfect campaign — there’s no such thing — but I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off and the evidence for that intervening event is I think compelling, persuasive and so we overcame a lot in the campaign. We overcame an enormous barrage of negativity, or false equivalence, of so much else, and as Nate Silver … concluded, if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president. [ …] Did we make mistakes? Yes. [But] The reason I believe we lost was because of events of the last 10 days.

This is where the hyenas descended. Today it was Glenn Thrush’s turn to lead the pack. There were many messages from him over the course of several hours. One tweet read: “Hillary takeaways 1) Loathes Trump 2) blames Comey/Putin 3) the ‘real’ Hillary-funny, hard-edged, unguarded 4) blames everyone but self.”

Thrush’s Times colleague and mentor Maggie Haberman tweeted many messages of personal support for Thrush and critiques of Clinton. At one point Haberman actually said to Greg Sargent of The Plum Line, who posted an article in which he argued the fault  for the loss was not entirely Clinton’s, that one of her – Haberman’s – objections to Clinton’s statement, and the reason she doesn’t believe her, is that the order of Clinton’s statement was all wrong. Haberman argued that if Clinton ended her argument with contrition, it would have made all the difference. Am I the only who thinks this is one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard?

Then later in the day Bill Maher told Jake Tapper that he doesn’t understand why Hillary just won’t go away already.

Chris Cillizza also participated in this feeding frenzy, but I won’t even bother you with his nonsense.

To my surprise a number of journalists came to Clinton’s defense. More importantly, a number of them specifically criticized Thrush and Haberman, some times by addressing them directly, for the behavior.

Chris Hayes of MSNBC responded to Thrush: “I find this obsession with Clinton taking full responsibility for her loss from ostensibly “objective” observers really weird.” (To which Thrush answered without any irony: “I don’t care if she takes responsibility.”)

Mark Murray of NBC initially blasted Clinton, but then seemed to change his mind and posted a series of tweets showing poling data: “Just look at the national polls: Pre-Comey, she was up 5-6pts, Post-Comey, 3pts. From outside MOE to inside it.” Perhaps Murray was convinced by actual…data. Data doesn’t lie.

Because of data, Nate Silver has been one of the strongest voices in the “blame Hillary” debate: “We’ll have a piece out on this tomorrow. Issue is that some of the competing explanations for Clinton’s loss implicate the media’s judgment… / Did they jump the gun on Comey letter? Drop the ball on Russia? Cover email too much? Not fact-check Trump enough? / What were ethics of Wikileaks coverage? What role did Clinton’s gender play? Tough questions! Easier to say Clinton durg her own grave.”

Michael Cohen (no, not that one) of Boston Globe: “Genuinely fascinating that so many NYT reporters are so focused on Hillary Clinton’s self-flaggelation / I mean it’s never true that a single candidate is personally responsible for losing a presidential campaign. It’s a confluence of factors / So it’s mystifying how many reporters are adamant that Clinton must take personal responsibility for her loss… / did reporters insist that Romney take personal responsibility for losing? McCain? Gore? The media obsession w/HRC’s self-flaggelation is such an obvious case of diverting responsibility I can’t think of another explanation. / I mean it’s ok to say “we made some mistakes in how we covered the 2016 campaign.” None of [us] are perfect; pencils, erasers etc / and every time reporter tweets “it’s Hillary’s fault” it only serves to highlight how obvious this effort at diverting responsibility is.”

I was stunned when even Bernie Bro with serious case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome Matthew Yglesias of Vox wrote in response to Matt Viser of Boston Globe (Viser: “Clinton in one breath: “I take absolute personal responsibility.” Clinton in the next: “I would have won if not for Comey and Wikileaks.”). Yglesias’ response: “Despite the valiant efforts of many in the press these are not really contradictory statements. / To take responsibility for something is an ethical stance not a causal analysis. / When Harry Truman said “the buck stops here” he was not saying that all events in American life were under his total personal control.”

There is a “mean girls” quality to Thrush/Haberman/Cillizza/Barro/etc. attacks on Hillary (and Chelsea) Clinton. One person starts, the others jump in, sharks sensing blood. Or the last person standing in dodge-ball. The same names come up time and again. But I was encouraged to see several people – especially surprised by Yglesias – break with the pack and directly argue with them. Is this change temporary? Or a new awareness on the parts of some reporters that perhaps, maybe, just possibly they are not infallible?

But… back to Thrush and Haberman. On Tue they published a piece in the Times about Ivanka Trump, who has a book out, which she is not supposed to promote. Former Fortune publisher and current digital director of Columbia Law School Pamela Kruger tweeted at Haberman: “Ivanka gave this in depth interview just as her new book comes out. The book she isn’t promoting.” Haberman, who often reveals herself in spontaneous responses to others, fired back: “We were doing a profile and we went to them.” Kruger retorted: “Timing worked out pretty well for her.”

When I say Haberman often reveals herself in spontaneous tweets, the following may be one of the most revealing messages Haberman ever sent. After stories came out about in-fighting between Bannon and Kushner, Breitbart wrote an article attacking Kushner’s staff. To which Haberman tweeted: “Do folks there seriously believe hitting the president’s family, even by extension, is going to help their access?” I think this message needs to be framed because it reveals everything about not just Haberman specifically, but reporters generally who survive on the need for access.

I also ran into this tweet from Thrush that really made me cringe: “Anyone who thinks [Trump] is ‘incoherent’ has it exactly wrong. Every speech is 100% coherent. Every speech is 100% about Trump.” This message that Trump is a genius is something Haberman has stated in the past as well. A few months ago I followed her arguing with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. Rosen wrote that the idea that Trump is some sort of media genius is nonsense. Haberman responded that she’s been following Trump for many years and he is, in fact, a master manipulator of the media. I recall responding that just because Trump manages to masterfully manipulate her, doesn’t mean he is a master at manipulation.

Eric Boehlert summed up the day’s events fairly well: “for those keeping score, NYT reporters who typed up Ivanka puff piece today, spent the afternoon trolling Hillary on Twitter /



 but the newsroom gets very very mad when anyone threatens to cancel subscriptions.
 / 



keep in mind, same day WH press secretary Refuses To Take Any Press Questions, reporters spent afternoon attacking private citizen.”

Joy Reid

As I was finishing this post, I ran into an astonishing piece in WaPo by Dave Weigel. It shows how somebody in the media can take a single statement, misrepresent it, and create a tornado of attacks. In this case, no surprisingly, it was a statement by Hillary Clinton to Amanpour that was misrepresented by Phil Elliott of Time – creating a storm of attacks on Clinton.

Trump may be the first president whose plunge to 40 percent approval was marked by stories about the voters who still loved him. And Clinton may be the only politician who can talk about the need for rural broadband — at this point, an almost banal priority of rural politicians — and be accused of snobbery.

For a final laugh, see this from the NY Times, trying to explain Trump’s comments about Andrew Jackson:

C-2IOOHXkAEVpit

And then this:

Chelsea Handler


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