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The Republican’s hillbilly problem

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After Trump’s disastrous defeat over the weekend, with more catastrophes for him almost sure to occur, the national conversation now turns to how Democrats can regroup for the 2018 elections and beyond.

One heated topic is “the hillbilly” problem. Hillbillies were traditionally rural inhabitants in eastern and southern U.S. regions of the Ozarks and Appalachians. Nowadays, they can live anywhere. I think of the movie Deliverance—the simple-minded albino kid playing his banjo, and the two psychos who raped Ned Beatty in the woods. Among many Americans, there’s always been a certain looking-down-upon condescension towards hillbillies: they’re white, uneducated, prone to violence, love guns, racist and hate “gummint.”.

One meme surrounding Trump’s election is that he was voted in by just these hillbillies, a fact alluded to by Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment. Ironically, there also is in this country what we might call a “hillbilly pride” movement, in which these people—sometimes also called “rednecks” or “white trash”—self-identify with concepts like rugged individualism, not relying on the government, working hard, religiosity of the Christian variety, various forms of xenophobia and racism, and patriotism. Their music is country music, their politics (to the extent they vote) rightwing. And yet, these proud hillbillies have their own form of condescension: against “city folk” or “coastal elites” whom they deem “liberal” (a disparaging term), arrogant, effete, spoiled, entitled, naive and possibly communistic.

Another meme following the election is that Democrats have to do a better job of reaching out to these hillbillies. According to this analysis, the party, and the Clinton campaign, ignored them in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. As a result, these dispossessed farmers and assembly line workers revolted, voting for Trump in a sharp rebuke of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. To hear some tell it, Democrats must now figure out a way to regain the trust of these hillbillies.

I strongly disagree. Had a mere 70,000 votes switched in the three states I just mentioned, Hillary would have won. As it was, she took the popular vote in a landslide: 3,000,000. Had Democrats been better at getting out the vote, especially in key districts, particularly among Blacks, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because Hillary would be President and Trump would still be groping pussy. As for those 70,000 voters, my considered sense is that they’re beyond civil conversation. They’re so stubborn, so resentful, so low information, you just can’t get through to the rational part of their brains. They don’t analyze issues; they live in their Fox “News” and right wing talk radio bubbles, and don’t even know that the Republican Party is shafting them. (How many hillbillies did Trump ever invite to Mar-a-Lago? He wouldn’t have been caught dead socializing with them.) I used to try to reason with these people. Now, I no longer bother. Why bang your head against the wall?

So for me, 2018 is all about turnout. America has always been a Democratic country; when we actually get people to vote, we win. When we don’t, for whatever reason, the bad guys win. I have no desire whatsoever to “reach out” to the hillbillies and rednecks. I do expect, on the other hand, that those “moderate” Republicans with some education who voted for Trump are watching developments closely and witnessing the debacle of this regime.

You know, on my Facebook feed there are a couple pro-Trump people who put up ridiculous claims about him along the lines of “Promises made, promises kept.” I don’t think they can do that anymore. He promised the Wall would go up and Mexico would pay for it. Lie. He promised he’d ban all Muslims from entering this country. Lie. He promised he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something better. Lie. Now, he’s promising some sort of fantastical tax “reform” by which taxes on billionaires like himself plummet, even as he spends $1 trillion on infrastructure, and we’re supposed to believe it will somehow result in a balanced budget? This is not only a lie, it’s a pathological lie.

The hillbillies will never understand this. They don’t want to, and you can’t make a crazy person sane. For that reason—as the guys on Shark Tank say—“I’m out.” I don’t care about hillbillies. I don’t care about reaching out to them. I care about beating them.


So what does Comey get for helping get Trump elected?

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We found out yesterday that the FBI has been investigating possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign since last July—8 months ago—and we got that from the mouth of the FBI director himself, James Comey. He told the House Intelligence Committee how loathe he is to admit or deny the existence of an investigation but, in this case, due to the intense national interest, he felt compelled to do so.

Fine. But there’s a teeny weeny little problem with Comey’s position: He publicly announced the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server one week before the election, while it was still ongoing, only to be forced, days later, to say, in essence, “Oops, forget it. She didn’t do anything wrong.” By that time, the damage was done. Enough swing voters decided at the last minute not to vote for Hillary—an understandable decision, if they thought she was about to be indicted—and Donald J. Trump won.

So how does Comey square this circle? He claims he never talks about investigations while they’re ongoing—yet he did with Hillary–and then he talks about his Trump investigation, eight months in, but only the most historic duress. Was he under duress a week before Election Day to kill Hillary’s chances? If he was, from whom?

Comey cannot square this circle. This man has painted himself into a corner from which escape is not possible. But let us put ourselves into his head and imagine what he’s thinking.

Comey to self: “Sure, I’ve done something reprehensible. I wanted Trump to win, and I did what I had to, even though it cost me many friends and, probably, my reputation. But so what? I still have my job—Trump wouldn’t dare fire me. And when I leave, in 2023, I’ll be able to name my price. Maybe Goldman Sachs: I’m told they’ll pay me $10 million a year. Let’s see: reputation versus ten mil. What will it be? Hmm, give me a second. Okay, second’s up: Ten mil it is!”

There was much talk during the hearings of how many dots there are leading from Trump and his campaign and associates all the way to the Kremlin. Adam Schiff pointed them out; so did André Duncan, the Democrat from Indiana, with whom I was particularly impressed. The question is if the dots are connected, or just a coincidence. Nobody knows the answer, yet. But I went through Watergate, followed it intensely. Lots of dots there too. Nobody knew how they were connected for a couple of years, until dogged reporting, followed by Congressional hearings and a Special Prosecutor Republicans did not want but could no longer avoid, connected them. As it turned out, they led all the way to the Oval Office—and we know how that ended.

Yesterday’s hearing was very significant. Trump will fight this every inch of the way, using his usual methods of lies, smears and disinformation. His credulous, low-information supporters might even buy it. But I believe that the end game is coming, and it will bring him down, as well as many of his associates. As for Comey’s post-Trump career, let him make his millions. His grandchildren will have to live with the legacy that their grandpa sold his soul to the devil and immeasurably harmed America.


Trump considering big changes in U.S. policing

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President Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon, his senior advisor who also sits on the National Security Council, have proposed to the President a massive change in the way that American law enforcement agencies are organized, according to Breitbart News, which first broke the story.

The President is considering merging the country’s police departments, which have traditionally been under the control of local jurisdictions such as cities and towns, with state Highway Patrols and county Sheriffs’ Departments, into a single, unified domestic security agency. The new force would be housed within the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The combined force, to be called the Head Office for Security (HOS), would report directly to Homeland Security director John F. Kelly, but its operational head would be Henry Hammler, 57, a longtime aide to Bannon when the latter was head of Breitbart News. Hammler, a former poultry farmer and Army major, served in a non-combat capacity in the 1983 invasion of Grenada under former President Ronald Reagan.

According to sources, the HOS would be divided into two sections: an administrative wing and a financial wing. The proposed head of the administrative wing is said to be Richard Heydrich, a nephew of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher currently on trial for taking over Federal land. Leading the financial wing would be Dr. Julius W. Streicher, most recently a senior vice president for political affairs at Goldman Sachs.

An insider, who did not want to be named, told Breitbart that Flynn and Bannon proposed the change in order to streamline the nation’s multi-layered security apparatus, to allow President Trump “greater flexibility in determining how to deal with threats to national security, both foreign and domestic.” Since taking office, Trump is known to have complained about how complicated law enforcement in the U.S. is, with dozens of competing agencies, ranging from town constables to National Guards to the Central Intelligence Agency. According to the source, “He [Trump] wants to be able to give an order and have it apply anywhere and everywhere, instantly, without getting hung up in the bureaucracy.”

The idea of merging local and state police forces with federal security forces, without judicial enforcement, has generally been shunned in democracies, although it is standard practice in countries such as Zimbabwe and North Korea. In the West, the last time such forces were joined into a single entity, under the supreme authority of a leader, was in 1939, in Germany, when Adolf Hitler merged all law enforcement agencies into his Head Office for Reich Security.

The source said that at a recent meeting of the National Security Council, where the idea was discussed, Trump insisted that the new HOS would not be anything like Hitler’s Nazi regime. “That’s stupid,” Trump was reported to have replied when unidentified members of the N.S.C. questioned him about it. “This is nothing like the Nazis. Hitler was insane—although I do respect his ability to bring Germany together. Our new Head Office for Security will be completely different, that I can tell you.”

The changes would have to be approved by Congress. According to Breitbart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Speaker of the House of Representatives, when asked about the proposed changes, said he was not familiar with the plan. “I haven’t seen details yet. But President Trump is in the best position to determine how best to protect the people of the United States from harm, and if that’s something he feels is in the national interest, I’m sure that patriots in the House and Senate will be open to it.”

Trump is said to be anticipating fast approval of the new HOS and has even begun thinking about a new look for its officers. The source said that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who has run her own fashion company, is designing a uniform for high rankers. “Ivanka loves black for sheer elegance, but she’s concerned that all-black might be too severe,” the source said, adding, “She wants hints of color, but she doesn’t want it to look frivolous.”

This blog has obtained an exclusive sketch of Ivanka’s design, below. Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s senior counsel, told me that the cross-like figure on the hat “is not a religious reference. Don’t be so dramatic. It’s a ‘T’. For ‘Trump.’”

 


How we’ll defeat Trumpism

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I know a lot of liberals who are depressed these days, and I feel it’s part of my job to boost their morale and let them know that this is not the time to give up. It’s the time to resist.

People don’t know what to do. They feel so overwhelmed, so powerless. “What can I do?” they wonder. I tell them: “Do whatever you can, however small. Write a letter to the editor. Write your congressperson. Donate money to some campaign. Post on Facebook, on twitter, on Instagram. But don’t descend into lassitude. Fight back!”

It’s true that none of us can stop this catastrophe. The liar will take take office on Jan. 21; the thugs and psychotics he’s appointed will assume power in their various departments. So, yes, individually, we are weak. But collectively we can be a force. It’s not clear yet what organizational thing we can rally around. But the election was only six weeks ago. We were caught by surprise. Naturally, it’s going to take some time to get our bearings and figure out, collectively, what to do. In the meantime, do small things. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.”

For example, someone told me yesterday that Macys carries Ivanka Trump’s line of shoes, which I hadn’t known. So, you want to do something, but you don’t know what? Start by contacting Macys corporate and tell them if they don’t drop this product, you’ll stop shopping at Macys. Here’s the link to their investor relations department. It’s a simple online form with a comment section. What do you think Macys will do if ten thousand customers say they’ll never buy again at Macys unless the store drops those shoes? I guarantee you, they’ll be gone in a month. (And, by the way, this will also send a clear signal to Trump.)

That’s how democracy works. Boycotts are effective. Will it stop Trump from trying to push through his nasty agenda if Macys stops selling Ivanka’s shoes? No. But 65 million people voted for Hillary Clinton, and many, perhaps most of them are pissed off at what’s happening—the way Putin manipulated this election, the disgusting campaign Trump ran, with his lies and insults, the white supremacy, the hatred. That’s 65 million people who can be an army, if we pool our resources and energies. So my message is, never give up! Don’t submit to fear and depression! Find your anger and mobilize it. Anger can eat away at you like a cancer, or you can use it in a positive way, to motivate yourself and find the energy to act. This resistance is just getting started, believe me. Liberals, Democrats, humanitarians and people of goodwill across this nation—and the world—are gathering their strength, coming together to fight this catastrophe. We can win—but only if we keep our eyes on the prize.

So, peace, my readers and friends. In the spirit of the holiday season, I wish the best to you and yours. Then, let’s get on with defeating Trumpism. We can do it—and we will!

 


The Hatch Act and James Comey’s shame

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What is the Hatch Act? It is a 1939 law named after a lifelong Democrat, Carl Hatch, who was U.S. Senator from New Mexico for sixteen years before being elevated to the Federal bench by President Truman. Hatch, who was chairman of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, was bothered by partisan political activity by Federal government employees, Democratic and Republican, in the election process. The Act named after him forbade such employees from engaging in such activities.

The Act’s key wording is contained in the U.S. Code Section 7323: “a [government] employee may not use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” A sub-section of the Act (B II) specifically identifies employees of “the Federal Bureau of Investigation” as being subject to the Hatch Act.

The penalty for violating the Hatch Act is this: An employee or individual who violates…this title shall be removed from his position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual.”

We come now to the case of James Comey, the current FBI director, who this past week “sent Congress a brief, inscrutable, election-shaking letter about emails that may or may not be new or relevant to the previously concluded investigation in Hillary Clinton’s private email server.” Comey, who we must infer clearly understood the bombshell nature of his letter, which came little more than a week before the election, tried to defend himself by claiming he was obligated to inform the Congress as soon as he learned that new information pertaining to the emails had become available. The problem with this explanation, it now appears, is twofold: (1) Comey “knew nothing about the substance of the emails,” which suggests a distasteful rush to judgment (they could have been cookie recipes), and (2) the emails were neither sent to Hillary Clinton, nor were from her, but instead were found on the computer of Anthony Weiner (and I assume you all know who he is). So “breathtakingly rash and irresponsible” was this decision by Comey, says the New York Times, that even the conservative Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, sent Comey a letter stating, “Your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American People, or Secretary Clinton.”

When is the last time you heard a senior Republican elected official complain that something wasn’t “fair” to Hillary Clinton? The answer is Never, which means that what Comey did is pretty egregious.

Who is James Comey? We know he is a Republican. He was appointed a Deputy Attorney-General by President George W. Bush. He temporarily left government, to make some serious money, by going to work as General Counsel for Lockheed Martin, but was subsequently (2010) appointed FBI director by President Obama. Why would a liberal Democratic President appoint a career Republican, and one with close ties to the military-industrial complex, to head up the FBI? The best answer seems to be that Obama—already the target of a declaration of war by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell—realized he would never get the Senate to confirm a Democrat as FBI director. The move also reinforced the notion, which Obama was keen to advance, that Obama was a bipartisan President, anxious to work with a Republican Party that clearly was as hostile to him as any political party has ever been towards any sitting President.

It is obviously impossible to know what Comey’s true motive was in writing that notorious letter to Congress. His claim that he was simply keeping them informed about new information might be true; it might equally well, and more plausibly, be totally bogus. He might have done it deliberately to tilt the election to Trump (and Trump may well be elected because of Comey’s action). Short of a confession by Comey, which isn’t very likely, we’ll never know, which means that it cannot be determined if he actually violated the Hatch Act. It seems likely that he did. That his behavior  “influence[d]…[and]  interfer[ed] with or affect[ed] the result of an election” cannot seriously be denied, by even the most ardent Republican.

Which leaves us—where? Should Hillary Clinton be elected President, Comey’s days at the FBI are likely numbered: she will have the power to fire him, and should. Should Trump be elected, no doubt he will sing Comey’s praises, but Trump’s advisors will tell him he’ll have to let Comey go sooner or later (his actual term doesn’t end until 2020), because of the widespread perception that Comey enabled Trump. But it may turn out that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will have to deal with Comey. Yesterday, the conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, urged Comey “to do the right thing” and “resign” now. By sending that nefarious letter to Congress, Stephens writes, Comey “lost the trust of his political masters, his congressional overseers and the American public.” That’s coming from a Republican, mind you, not a Hillary supporter.

Well, whatever Comey does, he will eventually land back into the military-industrial complex, make many more millions of dollars, and try to avoid dining out at Washington’s toniest restaurants, where no doubt many of his former friends will no longer be pleased to run into him.


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