Trump needs a new enemy


❝ Last week, a senior White House official shared a candid theory with me about why President Donald Trump and his team have been adrift since November: they’ve yet to adjust to the post-election reality, and they haven’t yet learned how to operate without a single, common enemy — Hillary Clinton — to focus on. It was a frank admission that a team built for winning a campaign has so far failed at governing.

❝ Incoming Presidents usually trade in some of their political tacticians for experienced Washington hands when they take office, but Trump installed his entire senior campaign leadership into top positions in the White House, a place where few of them have ever worked before…

The early results of this experiment in governance by the least experienced have not been promising…

❝ …The big debate inside the White House has been who to define as Trump’s “enemy.” At his press conference on Thursday, Trump appeared to settle the issue by declaring — or reigniting — a war on the media. This was the target that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who calls the press “the opposition party,” favored. But not all of Trump’s advisers agreed with this approach…

Still, faced with a crisis of government management, the Trump team has responded with the two campaign tactics that helped him win the election: his political performance art at press conferences and rallies. On Saturday, the White House will follow up on Trump’s anti-media tirade by sending Trump to Florida for what it has billed as a “campaign” event.

❝ The reaction of many large media outlets to Trump’s mishaps and blowups has been predictable. On Thursday and Friday, journalists picked apart the many lies Trump told at his press conference and reported earnestly on the numerous outrages he set off…

❝ But Republicans control Congress, so Trump’s fate — for the next two years, at least — will be decided by members of his own party. Right now they fall roughly into three camps. The first is made up of Republicans who see Trump, for all his obvious faults, as a vessel for a fairly standard Republican agenda of tax cuts and deregulation. Trump’s attacks on the media and the left can be seen as a way of keeping this group loyal by defining common enemies…

❝ The second group on the right is the Never Trump movement, whose warnings about Trump during the campaign look more and more prescient, even as its ranks have diminished…

❝ Finally, there is the swing group: Republicans who privately despise Trump and who share many of the concerns that are aired publicly in the press and by Democrats, but who so far don’t see a reason to speak up…

Partisanship is a powerful force in American politics. It is strong enough that most swing Republicans will remain quiet in the face of a growing crisis of leadership at the highest levels of the American government. A sure sign of the Trump collapse, if it comes, will be when those seemingly unbreakable partisan bonds finally crack.

Many Democrats are about as independent-minded and aggressive as the Congressional Democrat Establishment allows. See faction #1 above describing their Republican counterparts. Lots of folks rejoice in the pissed-off groundswell nationwide. As if it somehow was the result of leadership by the Democratic Party.

I still have my Wellies on while that cowshit is getting deeper. I don’t see many truly modern folks lining up to campaign as official Democrat choices against the Republican wall of obedience. Yes, there are principled Dems of the progressive flavor among the sparks igniting grassroots confrontation. They were ignored through the end of the Hillary march to coronation that didn’t happen. They’re moving forward, now…in the absence of serious challenges from status quo Dems who [I believe] are sitting around waiting for Trump to turn into Nixon.

Gun safety campaigns merge to form grassroots approach

background checks

A new gun control campaign backed by $50 million from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged on Wednesday to focus its efforts outside Washington, claiming to be the first nationwide movement to rival the National Rifle Association.

Despite initial attention on wealthy backers such as Bloomberg and Warren Buffett, leaders of the group, Everytown For Gun Safety, insisted their strategy differs from previous attempts at reform because they would seek to influence politicians through grassroots campaigning rather than primarily by lobbying Congress…

The two groups merging to form Everytown – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – already have 34,000 smaller donors, insisted Feinblatt, who rejects the top-down characterisation of the group by its opponents.

Everytown aims to grow the groups’ combined membership from 1.5m to 2.5m over the next year, through a range of initiatives from a traditional political action committee through to “stroller jams” and “diaper-dumps” outside city hall offices, said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action…

A year ago on Thursday, attempts to pass limited background checks on gun buyers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to make progress in the US Senate despite a wave of national revulsion following the Newtown shooting.

All but three of the 45 senators who blocked passage of the bill had received campaign contributions from firearms lobbyists, and they raised record sums from their members and gun manufacturers in the months following Newtown.

But senators who voted against last year’s background check bill, particularly four rebel Democrats, fear the negative political consequences of crossing the NRA far more than direct campaign contributions.

Some of this is due to spending on attack ads against reformers running in conservative states, but Everytown concedes much of it is also due to the effective political mobilisation of gun rights campaigners.

The ideologues who think they can maintain their position of prominence and control of political hacks – Congressional and closer to home – are whistling in the dark. If they had brains to match their hubris they might look around their Conservative Fortress and wonder what ever happened to the George Wallace Brigade, the Birchers who pledged a battle to the death against miscegenation, the much larger Legions of Christian Wrath defending biblical definitions of marriage [other than polygamy, ahem]?

Will the conflict between good sense and regulation for safe ownership of firearms on one hand versus nutball fanatics who believe every felon has as much right to a gun as the cops trying to arrest them – last for years? You betcha. In the end, will generations growing up in mainly urban and urbane America find politics which needs a Beretta to have balls, an Uzi to protect a uterus – to be nothing more than demented? You betcha.

That’s the confidence side of my cynicism.

Feel represented by the Democrats or Republicans — or would you rather have a 3rd Party?

Americans are divided as to whether a third major party is needed in U.S. politics today, after having given majority support to the concept in 2011 and 2010. Americans’ views today are remarkably similar to what they were in September 2008, before that year’s presidential election…

Support for a third party has varied substantially since Gallup first asked this question in 2003. It was highest in 2007 and 2010, at 58%. In between those peaks, however, support dropped to less than the majority level two months before the 2008 election, as it has in the current survey, conducted Sept. 6-9 — two months before this year’s election. Thus, it may be that in election years — particularly shortly after the parties’ conventions, as was the case for the 2008 and the 2012 surveys — Americans look more favorably upon the two dominant political parties.

As would be expected, Americans who have the weakest ties to either of the two major parties — independents — are consistently more likely to favor having a third party. The current 58% support level among independents, however, is the second lowest on record.

Republicans’ and Democrats’ support for a third party has fluctuated over the past nine years, but the two groups now have similar views, as they did a year ago. Now, 40% of Democrats support the concept of a third party, compared with 36% of Republicans…

The biggest problem – perfectly consistent with American politics – is that 3rd Party campaigns may represent a portion of grassroots identity; but, they pretty much always start at the top. It was essentially true of the Progressive Party and more recently, the Greens. It was even more so the case with Ross Perot and George Wallace.

Between impatience and self-importance, the idea of building in the style of the civil rights movement seems to require more patience than the not-so-oppressed minority of political independents can muster. In the United States that is.

Grassroots voters turn their backs on Republican ideology

Voters turned a skeptical eye toward conservative-backed measures across the country Tuesday, rejecting an anti-labor law in Ohio, an anti-abortion measure in Mississippi and a tightening of voting rights in Maine.

Even in Arizona, voters turned out of office the chief architect of that state’s controversial anti-immigration law. State Senator Russell Pearce, a Republican power broker and a former sheriff’s deputy known for his uncompromising style, conceded the race Tuesday with a look of shock on his face.

…Taken together, Tuesday’s results could breathe new life into President Obama’s hopes for his re-election a year from now. But the day was not a wholesale victory for Democrats. Even as voters in Ohio delivered a blow to Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure to exempt Ohio residents from the individual mandate required in Mr. Obama’s health care law.

And while voters in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states, turned away a measure that would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of contraception, they tightened their voting laws to require some form of government-approved identification. Democrats had opposed the requirement, saying it was a thinly disguised attempt to intimidate voters of color.

Which is why I consider yesterday’s polling a victory for grassroots, working class, middle-class Americans. These victories didn’t come from Democrat leadership – they came from groups ranging from local unions to Planned Parenthood to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Spanish grassroots party wins local political victory

Elena Biurrun, the mayor of Torrelodones, is not only new to the job but is also an unusual addition to the Spanish political landscape.

Rather than representing one of Spain’s two dominant parties, the governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Popular Party, Ms. Biurrun last month became mayor of this town of 22,000 on the outskirts of Madrid at the helm of a local party, Vecinos por Torrelodones, or Neighbors for Torrelodones.

Vecinos did not start out as a political party. Instead, it grew out of an environmental protest group that Ms. Biurrun and others formed to block a real estate project that had the backing of the town hall but would have threatened 128 hectares of protected woodland. The group’s successful environmental crusade, which went as far as filing a complaint with the European Commission, convinced members that they could make other improvements to life in Torrelodones by running for office.

Gonzalo Santamaría Puente, now the deputy mayor, said achieving cost cuts was relatively easy in a town with “an envelope culture,” whereby kickbacks would be offered to secure contracts. In addition, he said, most past contracts involved “useless middlemen who each had to get a share…”

Her victory also coincides with a youth-led movement that has been demanding an overhaul of Spain’s political system. The protesters have accused traditional parties and other institutions of putting their interests ahead of those of the citizens, even at a time of record unemployment…

Since taking office, Ms. Biurrun and her team have focused on renegotiating supplier contracts in a town that has debt totaling €13 million… The company that provides school bus services, for instance, recently agreed to cut the value of its contract by 30 percent.

At a time of austerity, another of Ms. Biurrun’s priorities is trying to lead by example. She cut her own annual salary to €49,000 from the €63,000 that her predecessor earned. Gone also are his chauffeur-driven car and round-the-clock police escort.

“Nobody in our team had previously held any party membership, and our only shared ideology is that of common sense,” Ms. Biurrun said in an interview. “Politics, at least at a local level, should be about providing the sound management that residents deserve rather than parading around with a party tattoo.”

Which goes to show that ordinary mortals can deliver a grassroots assault on the Establishment without ending up as flunkies for reactionary corporate interests. Of course, this movement – and a few others in my experience – is grounded in the needs of working people regardless of color or creed.

The last time Spain had a movement approximating our red-white-and-blue Tea Party – they were the Falange, headed by the fascist who eventually became dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco.

Republican teabaggers challenge Congressional Republicans

I’m glad this guy isn’t on my side

Kelly Ayotte, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, reaping the benefits of being a favored Republican Senate candidate. She collected checks at a series of fund-raisers, including a reception that drew Senate Republican leaders eager for her to join them as a colleague come 2011.

Back in New Hampshire, Ovide Lamontagne, a potential Republican rival to Ms. Ayotte, was reaping the benefits of not being in Washington, hosting scores of supporters at a Manchester club and collecting canned and dry goods in a food drive.

The contrast was no accident. In New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado and other states, the push by Washington Republicans to identify preferred Senate candidates has stirred resentment and prompted competition from those not impressed by the Washington seal of approval…

The pushback on national Republicans is striking because it comes at a time when many in the party believe the political environment is rapidly improving for them and after party strategists were initially keen on the early effort to single out Senate choices…

To some, the resistance is an extension of the grass-roots distrust of the government that was on vivid display during town-hall-style meetings this summer and at the recent conservative protest on the National Mall. Though much of the antipathy was aimed at Democrats, there is unhappiness with Republicans at the national level as well, with home-grown conservatives citing them as part of the overall problem.

The leading Republican opportunists in Congress who have chosen to chase the nutball base – now find their shock troops coming back to bite them.

RTFA. I think it’s mostly good news. Let the egregious and arrogant divide themselves on grounds of purity of their bodily fluids.

Coal Group picked up the tab for phony letters on Climate Bill

A trade group representing coal producers and power companies says that it indirectly hired a lobbying firm that sent fake letters to lawmakers purporting to be from nonprofit groups opposed to climate-change legislation.

The group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in statement Monday that it was considering legal action against the lobbying firm…

It’s called plausible deniability when your favorite hack gets caught like this.

A Washington lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates, has admitted sending the letters and said it had fired the person responsible.

The coal organization said it had hired the Hawthorn Group, a public affairs consulting firm, to lobby against the legislation, and Hawthorn in turn hired Bonner. The coalition said it was indirectly the client on whose behalf the letters had been sent, even though it deplored the tactic…

Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and a sponsor of the climate bill, has begun an inquiry into whether the fake letters amount to fraud on Congress, and the Sierra Club has petitioned the Justice Department to bring criminal charges against Bonner for wire fraud.

An aide said Mr. Markey hoped to combat the tactic of astroturfing in which a professional lobbying effort is made to seem like a grass-roots movement.

“Astroturfing”, eh? I like that.

It is, of course, a long-time right-wing stunt. Whether we’re reviewing ancient history like the White Citizens Councils back in the 1960’s or today’s “manifestations” like tea-bagging or hate mobs bussed from one town hall meeting to another on behalf of the insurance industry – same shit, different day.

Either way, our lazy-ass Free Press usually does nothing more than repeat the PR releases from these scum. Passing it along as news.

Radio provides communications for poor Indian women

In the hot and arid countryside of Andhra Pradesh, T Manjula goes from house to house checking the year’s harvest. Born on the fringes of Indian society, she has fought her way up through hard work and guts.

A volunteer with the Deccan Development Society (DDS), she now tries to help other poor women, most of whom are Dalits, the lowest group in the Indian social hierarchy.

But while food distribution is a vital part of what she does, Manjula is more excited about her role as a radio journalist. And it is in this job that she thinks she can really make a difference.

The local radio station has a state-of-the-art studio in a very ordinary looking house in Pastapur, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Hyderabad.

Its daily two-hour broadcasts are peppered with small tidbits on farming, medicine, health and music

“It’s a great way for us to document all the local knowledge that otherwise would have just remained within families,” she explains. “Many people have benefited because of this and everyday I am learning something new as well.”

In fact the community radio concept has caught on so well that many women from the village have become regular contributors.

For many of the audience it is a bit of entertainment, for the women involved it is a lot more than that. It is a means of asserting themselves in this rural setting, of finding a voice and putting themselves in greater control of their own destiny.