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Monday, August 21, 2017


A few minutes of spectacular darkness

by Tom Sullivan

If you are reading this, we are setting up already up for today's total eclipse at an undisclosed location in the path of totality. Three hours' drive east of here, information signs on I-40 Saturday morning between Winston-Salem and Greensboro warned of high traffic on Monday.

It's going to be a zoo out there. The I-85 corridor in South Carolina will be inundated with visitors for the eclipse scheduled for 2:38 p.m. EDT. The path of totality spans from the Georgia welcome center nearly to Spartanburg, SC. Visitors are coming from Charlotte and points east to Atlanta and points west. From there the shadow tracks down I-26 through Columbia to Charleston, SC and out to sea.

Closer to home, mountain ridges on the Blue Ridge Parkway would make for spectacular viewing if one can get up there. But it's two lanes and 45 mph. We expect a parking lot. Blue Ridge Public Radio advises:

Unless you're walking to your spot to watch Monday's total solar eclipse in Western North Carolina, you will be sitting in some kind of traffic. Authorities are expecting heavy traffic just about everywhere in the region, compounded by the fact many of the rural roads in the path of totality are only two lanes.
People I know are leaving at dawn. The eastern edge of totality passes less than an hour east of Asheville, NC.

Please pass along any reports of animal or human sacrifice to the proper authorities.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Day the Clowns Cried: R.I.P Jerry Lewis

by Dennis Hartley

“Jerry Lewis is never just OK or adequate; he’s either very funny or he’s awful.” – Jerry Lewis, commenting on his film oeuvre.
Yes, I used “Jerry Lewis” and “oeuvre” in the same sentence. “Ouevre” is fancy French word that means “Hey, LAAY-DEE!”

I’m kidding. Mirriam-Webster defines it as “…a substantial body of work constituting the life work of a writer, an artist, or a composer.”

Jerry Lewis, who died this morning in Las Vegas, certainly left behind a substantial body of work. From 1949 to 2016, he acted in over 50 films; out of those he directed 23, and wrote 20 of them. And, as Lewis himself observed, some were very funny, others not so much.

Some of Lewis’ early, funnier movies include 1952’s The Stooge, 1955’s Artists and Models, 1959’s Don’t Give Up the Ship (those three co-starring his decade-long stage and screen comedy partner Dean Martin), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Disorderly Orderly (1964).

Martin Scorsese gave Lewis a second wind when he offered him a juicy part in his brilliant 1982 show biz satire The King of Comedy (highly recommended). It not only introduced Lewis to a new generation of fans, but allowed him to demonstrate that he had chops as a dramatic actor (when he wasn’t pulling faces, that is). Two more post-Scorsese Lewis performances worth a rental are Emir Kusturica’s 1993 off-the-wall sleeper Arizona Dream, and Peter Chelsom’s 1995 dramedy Funny Bones.

While he had continued writing, directing and starring in films through the early 70s, Lewis floundered at the box office as his particular brand of shtick went out of vogue in Hollywood. “Hollywood” is the key word here; as everyone and their grandmother knows, it was the undying admiration by the French that ultimately kept Lewis’ rep as a film maker afloat during his wilderness years (they gave him the Legion of Honor award in 1983).

Despite all the joking and ridicule spawned by France’s love affair with Jerry Lewis, they were on to something. He was, by definition, an auteur, having written, directed and starred in so many films. A lot of people are not aware that he was also an innovator. He essentially invented the “video tap”, a signal-splitting device that attaches to a movie camera and allows the director to share the camera operator’s view in real time, via a separate video monitor.

I am aware that Lewis’ self-appraisal as being either “very funny or awful” as an artist could apply on occasion to his off-stage life. He didn’t always think before he spoke. That noted, stepping back to look at the big picture, this was a human being who devoted well over 70 years of his long and productive life to making people laugh.

And that’s a good thing. Going up?

And they call us snowflakes

by digby

Why are young white men radicalized by white supremacy? German Lopez at Vox delves into the question and it's interesting. But it always comes back to this, doesn't it?
If radicalization is a result of messaging that extremists deploy to attract people with specific grievances, then one way to prevent radicalization may be to develop countermessaging that addresses those grievances in a way that avoids radicalization.

In the context of white supremacists, part of addressing this may mean expanding the Overton window — meaning what’s acceptable to talk about in public discourse. “The more we put things off limits, the more we empower bad actors who will talk about things other people aren’t willing to,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

For instance, right now it’s difficult for a white man to bring up concerns about changing racial demographics without getting labeled as racist. But maybe his concerns don’t have anything to do with race. He may be concerned that as the group he belongs to loses status, he will as well — economically, socially, and so on. A good response to this could point out that, for example, New York City is very diverse and still people, including white men, lead prosperous lives (and it has a below-average crime rate, contrary to what some dog whistles may suggest).

But if that person never has that kind of discussion because he’s dismissed as a racist, his concerns about changing demographics won’t go away. So he might search for answers outside the mainstream, and that might lead him to an extremist group. That is especially true if he experiences what sociologists call “white fragility”: When white people are asked to answer for potential racism, some become defensive — pushing them into denial that they’ve done anything wrong and, in some cases, hardening their racist attitudes. (Much more on that in a previous piece I wrote about this research.)

I know I'm supposed to be empathetic toward all this. But racism has been with us forever and it's really hard for me to believe that if we only allow racists to express their hatred without passing judgment and then offer them some statistics about how they're wrong, they'll come over to the light. But that's just me --- I'm not terribly tolerant of this idea that we have to be kind to racists because nobody know the trouble they've seen.

When I see these young dudes sneering at the Korean immigrants who work 14 hour days 7 days a week down at the corner store in my neighborhood or condemning Latina maids sending most of their paychecks home to their families or treating hard working middle class African American men like lackeys I'm not inclined to feel sorry for them because their granddads lost their factory job back in the 1970s. We are at 4% unemployment right now. I know there are still places where the jobs are scarce but those white college boys and their KKK pals shouting "Jews will not replace us" the other night don't live there.

Maybe we could offer more mental health care, better schools, and drug treatment to communities full of hopeless, directionless people. I've always been for that. But racism didn't cause those problems and coddling people in their belief that their lives have gone to hell because people of color, foreigners and uppity women have ruined everything isn't going solve them.

He was always a hawk, folks

by digby

I've been reading a lot about how Trump firing Bannon means that his alleged isolationism will now be subsumed by the generals' hawkish desire to take over the world. I thought it might be a good idea to reprise this piece I did at the beginning of Trump's term to explain why I think that's nonsense. Trump was never an isolationist and to the extent Bannon had an influence it wasn't in this regard, no matter how much he claimed it was:

Donald Trump’s inaugural address produced yet another torrent of commentary about his “populist, isolationist” ideology and what it means for the future of the republic and the world. Unfortunately, he is all about neither of those things.

It’s true that he deployed the voice of a demagogue to rant about elites and powerful politicians and repeatedly evoked “the people.” But considering that his hires include six Goldman Sachs alums, three billionaires and several more vastly wealthy multimillionaires for his Cabinet, his alleged populism seems a bit strained. After all, to the extent the hellscape he described in that speech exists, it was created by the very people he is now empowering.

Calling Trump an isolationist rests mostly on his use of the archaic term “America First,” which was associated with attempts to keep America out of World War II (and also came with strong undercurrents of anti-Semitism.) But there is no evidence that Trump had a clue about that association when he started using the phrase.

Recall that when journalist Michael Wolff interviewed him in June, just before the big vote in the U.K., Trump clearly hadn’t heard of Brexit. Granted, he subsequently become fast friends with Brexit architect and right-wing provocateur Nigel Farage. But his idea of “isolationism” in this case is a simplistic belief that any nation “run by smart guys” can “make better deals” without having other countries represented at the table.

As far as security is concerned, Trump’s threats to withdraw from NATO and other alliances aren’t really about wanting to pull America to remain within its borders. He never says that. In fact, he wants a huge military and wants to show it off so everyone in the world will be in awe of American power. He just wants NATO and other alliances to pay protection money to the U.S. for whatever price he sets.

Trump has repeatedly made the fatuous claim that he’s going to make the military so massive that “no one will ever want to mess with us” but never has actually suggested that he would have any reluctance to use it. Indeed, he’s made it clear that he intends to do just that, telling his rowdy crowds during the campaign:

ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because of the oil that they took away, they have some in Syria, they have some in Iraq, I would bomb the shit out of them. 
I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes. I’d blow up the refineries. I’d blow up ever single inch. There would be nothing left. 
And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months — you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies. They’ll rebuild it brand new. . . . And I’ll take the oil.

This has been his promise from Day One. Yesterday, press secretary Sean Spicer, reacting to Russian reports that the U.S. military was already engaged with Russia’s forces in bombing Syria, offered up this startling answer:

Spicer: I know it’s still developing and I would refer you back to the Department of Defense. I know that they’re — they’re currently monitoring this and I would refer you back to them on that. And I think . . . 
Question: Generally open? 
Spicer: I think, the president has been very clearly. [sic] He’s gonna work with any country that shares our interest in defeating ISIS. Not just on the national security front, but on the economic front. If we can work with someone to create greater market access and spur economic growth and allow U.S. small businesses and companies to . . .
Question: [inaudible] to doing joint military actions with Russia in Syria? 
Spicer: I — I think if there’s a way that we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it’s Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure we’ll take it

The Pentagon adamantly denied that the U.S. military was currently helping Russia in Syria, where the Russian military has been accused by the U.N. of committing war crimes by using bunker-busting and incendiary bombs on civilian populations. Spicer didn’t mention any of that, but Trump is undoubtedly unconcerned since his strategy is the same: “Bomb the shit out of them.”

As for “taking the oil,” which is a suggestion Trump has repeated for months (including as recently as Saturday when he told the CIA officials they “might get another chance at it”) even conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer was taken aback, correctly noting that “seizing the oil is a war crime.”

If you have listened to Trump talk about China over the past 18 months, it is clear that he is not simply talking about a potential trade war but is prepared to confront the world’s largest nation militarily. In his confirmation hearings, secretary of state-designate Rex Tillerson made it clear that he agreed with Trump that the U.S. would not allow China to build military bases on islands in the South China Sea, and Spicer made that official yesterday:
I think the U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there. If those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.
Does that sound like any definition of “isolationism” you’ve ever heard?

When Donald Trump says “America First,” he really means “We’re No. 1.” He talks incessantly about “winning,” so much we’ll be begging him to stop. He openly declares that he believes in the old saying “to the victors belong the spoils,” either suggesting that he has no clue about the West’s colonial past and how that sounds to people around the world or simply doesn’t care. He’s not talking about isolationism but the exact opposite — American global dominance without all those messy institutions and international agreements standing in the way of taking what we want.

No, Trump is not an isolationist. He’s not a “realist.” Neither is he a liberal interventionist or a neoconservative idealist. He’s an old-fashioned imperialist. He wants to Make America great again by making it the world’s dominant superpower, capable of bullying other countries into submission and behaving however we like. He doesn’t seem to understand that the world won’t put up with that.

Trump Embodies Conservative Ideals

by tristero

There's a whole new literary genre, as yet unnamed, that's sprouting. It's theme is:

Say what you want about Trump the man, but he has some good ideas. 

Here's the latest example.  It's titled "I Voted for Trump. And I Sorely Regret It." Let's not dwell on the fact that the title is a gross distortion of fact (Krein didn't merely vote for Trump. He founded an entire far-right magazine devoted to glorifying Donald Trump and Trumpism). And there's no reason to directly engage  Krein's op-ed, because, thankfully,  Eric Armstrong has so thoroughly ripped Krein's reasoning to shreds

Let's just briefly focus on the intellectual conceit behind the entire Krein initiative, the notion that Trump articulated actual ideas during the campaign. We will be hearing this a lot going forward from rightwing pseudo-intellectuals and apologists. Sure, Trump's a moron, but he was on to something with that Wall. Or yes, Trump's a racist who hired racists, but white lives matter, too. 

Don't be fooled. It's just an attempt to separate the walking stink bomb that is Donald Trump from the intellectual stink bomb that is modern conservatism. 

There's just one problem here. Modern conservatism is Donald Trump. He embodies all their most cherished values. Modern American conservatism is ignorant, denies science, denies economic reality, is racist, misogynistic, power-hungry, narcissistic, and extremely dangerous. 

Like Donald Trump. There is no way to reject the man and not also reject conservatism's fundamental ideas and ideology. 

And if, like Krein, you're a member of the conservative movement and think that you can reject Trump, you are consciously being intellectually dishonest. Oh, the media will fall for it if you're glib enough - and Krein is plenty glib - but there's still no there there. 

In the Seattle mist with Confederate Dead

by Dennis Hartley

A friend and I were commiserating the other day about how demoralizing the events in Charlottesville were. Being a couple of old lefty Seattle hippies, we were of course feeling the need to “do” something; how to make a counter-statement to this brazen display of racism and hate? I joked, “It’s not like we can go out and pull down a Confederate statue…good luck finding one in this town, amirite?”

In Seattle, you’re more likely to bump into a public statue of Lenin:

Or Jimi:

Or a troll under a bridge, crushing a VW bug in his huge maw:

Seattle is funky. Whimsical. Confederate memorials? Nah! Well, shit:

[via The Seattle Times]

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray expressed “concerns” about a monument to Confederate soldiers in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery, which closed Wednesday afternoon for security reasons.

A statement issued by Murray’s office said he called a cemetery representative Wednesday regarding the monument, which was erected in 1926. The cemetery is privately owned.

Lake View Cemetery closed Wednesday afternoon after receiving threats related to the monument, said Craig Lohr of the Lake View Cemetery Association. Seattle news media recently reported on the existence of the monument.

The cemetery — best known as the final resting place for martial-arts star Bruce Lee and his son Brandon, as well as Seattle’s founders — will likely reopen Thursday morning.

The mayor’s statement said:

“We must remove statues and flags that represent this country’s abhorrent history of slavery and oppression based on the color of people’s skin. It is the right thing to do. During this troubling time when neo-Nazis and white power groups are escalating their racist activity, Seattle needs to join with cities and towns across the country who are sending a strong message by taking these archaic symbols down.”

The mayor’s office couldn’t be reached to clarify Murray’s statement. A petition on Change.org calling for the removal of the memorial had more than 3,200 supporters late Wednesday afternoon.

Also on Wednesday, a small group of protesters gathered around the Vladimir Lenin statue in Fremont to demand its removal. The statue, located on private property, has been for sale for years and has been vandalized with red paint on one of its hands.

What our mayor said. And I’m sure Bruce Lee would concur.

And OK, I “get” what the handful of protesters calling for removal of the Lenin statue are trying to say…in theory. And if it was any other week, I’d give ’em a fair hearing. But you know what? In the context of the events of this past weekend, that’s a false equivalency. I don’t believe I spotted any overt Leninist marchers carrying (and beating people with) tiki torches in Charlottesville. I believe some of those fine people were self-avowed, oh, what are they called again…Nazis?

In this case, what the mayor (and most of the other people of the world who aren’t Donald Trump) are saying is, that if the first step in purging this legacy of violence, bigotry, and (oh yes) sedition against the United States of America is to take these archaic symbols down…then by all means, take all these fucking archaic symbols down.

The president stated that history and culture are being “ripped apart” by tearing these statues down. That is just an extension of the tired old argument that’s been used in the past by individuals and organizations who concern troll about “historical preservation” when attempting to legally block Confederate flags from being removed from government property. The Jim Crow laws are also part of the south’s history and culture…is anyone clamoring to have those resurrected and preserved as well? (I’m sure there’s some.)

It is possible to purge such symbols of hatred while keeping your democracy intact. Just ask any German. From The Washington Post:

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Monday that the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville was “sickening.” He described the symbols and slogans employed in “the right-wing extremist march” — including swastikas and chants of “Blood and soil,” a Nazi-era motto — as “diametrically opposed to the political goals of the chancellor and the entire German government.”


“Most people in Germany have difficulty understanding that gatherings like in Charlottesville are possible in the U.S., because we have drawn a different lesson from history,” said Matthias Jahn, chairman of criminal law at Goethe University in Frankfurt. “Our German law centers on the strong belief that you should hinder this kind of speech in a society committed to principles of democratic coexistence and peace.”

Those Germans sound like a bunch of old lefty Seattle hippies.


The fight continues

by Tom Sullivan

Confederate memorial statue, Statesboro, Georgia, U.S. Photo by Jud McCranie via Creative Commons.

A small "free speech" rally scheduled for Boston Common yesterday by men wearing Trump hats and flags drowned in a sea of as many as 40,000 peaceful counterprotesters:

As the crowd grew, Superintendent in Chief Willie Gross of the Boston Police Department worked the crowd. He thanked marcher after marcher, individually, for coming out to make their voices heard. He complimented people on their creative signs. He took dozens of pictures with marchers who looked relieved to discover that the police weren’t there to give them a hard time.

“This is how we do it in Boston,” he said. “We exercise our right to free speech, but we do it peacefully. If anyone starts anything [at the Common] we’ll get them right out.”

But white nationalism and Confederate statuary at the center of the violence last week in Charlottesville are distractions. The Washington Post Editorial Board this morning cautions that voter suppression is this era's civil rights issue:

Yet even if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.

In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.
Coming in for well-deserved criticism is of course the president's voter fraud commission led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, described as "the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression." A close second might be Republicans in control of North Carolina's statehouse.

After 50 weeks of foot-dragging in redrawing 28 state House and Senate districts ruled racial gerrymanders, and after asking for an additional three and a half months, three federal judges in Greensboro took Republican leaders to task on July 27.

“You don’t seem serious, so what’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” asked District Judge Catherine Eagles. The judges gave Republican legislators in charge of the redraw a September 1 date for approval of new maps. They presented the new House map on Saturday. Release of the Senate map is expected today. Supporting data will follow on Monday, officials say. The machinations echo with history.

Ryan Cooper writes for The Week how briefly freed slaves enjoyed voting rights after the Civil War:
After the war came Reconstruction. Disgruntled ex-Confederates, assisted by the deeply racist President Andrew Johnson, attempted to return their states to a condition as close to slavery as possible — in essence overturning the result of the war (in which some 200,000 black Union soldiers had constituted one key to victory) through terrorism. Enraged Radical Republicans, with the strong support of President Ulysses S. Grant after he was elected, occupied the South with federal troops and enforced protection of black suffrage. From 1867-1876, while ex-slaves did not get meaningful economic help, their voting rights were protected.
But a financial crisis and a return of racist Democrats to power ended Reconstruction and ushered in the myth of The Lost Cause. The South's effort to rewrite its history succeeded, and the Jim Crow of racial oppression continued until the 1960s. The Civil Rights era merely drove white supremacist culture underground. Cooper concludes:
If the federal government had beaten ex-Confederate terrorists into submission for as long as it took — particularly in the crucial two years after the war, when Johnson's stubborn racism allowed them to regroup and regain some initiative, we would not be having this crisis. Instead tyranny displaced democracy in the American South, white Americans swallowed a lot of comforting lies to cover up that fact, and open racism continued to thrive — only partly beaten back by the civil rights advances of the 1960s. Violent white supremacy lives today, as does political racism from conservative Southern politicians, who are to this day working feverishly to disenfranchise as many black Americans as possible, because of that moral failure.

Let us remember this the next time some conservative argues, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts did when he gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, that measures to protect American democracy from racist tyranny are "based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day." White terror today grows up the frame of a historical trellis well over 150 years old. Perhaps someday America's history of racism can truly be buried. But first, it must be killed.
Like kudzu, another southern bane, efforts to keep power in the right hands, white hands, are harder to eradicate for not having been yanked up by the roots a century and a half ago.

* * * * * * * *

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Night at the Movies

Celestial seasonings: A total eclipse mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

Depending on your worldview, Monday’s super-hyped solar eclipse may be interpreted as: a). A sign of the impending apocalypse, b). A sign that once in a blue moon, the moon blows in and obscures the sun, giving humanity the impression (for a few heart stopping moments) that the apocalypse has, in fact, arrived, or c). A dollar sign for event promoters, hoteliers, tow truck drivers, and people who sell cheap cardboard sunglasses.

I know. I’m a cynical bastard.

If the “Eclipse of the Century” forces people to tear themselves away from their 5 inch iPhone screen to gaze up at The Big Sky, and ponder the awesomeness and vastness of the cosmos (and most importantly, humankind’s relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things)...then I’m for it (I Googled “can you view the eclipse with a...” and right after “mirror”, “sunglasses” and “welding mask”, there it was- goddamn “iPhone”).

So do me a favor? If you’re lucky enough to make it through the horrendous traffic and wriggle through the madding crowd and snag a perfect observation point in one of the areas that will experience totality...don’t view it through a 5-inch screen...LOOK at it! Wear eye protection, of course, but experience the ACTUAL PHENOMENON! Thanks.

After all, as Carl Sagan observed:

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

BTW, here’s evolutionary perspective on why we sophisticated, technically-advanced humanoids still get the tiniest little lizard brain-fueled twitch when Big Light Go Away:

With that in mind, please enjoy this special mixtape that I have assembled to accompany the solar system’s ultimate laserium show (don’t worry-I didn’t forget the Floyd, man!).

The Rolling Stones- “2000 Light Years from Home”

Paul Weller- “Andromeda”

The Orb- “Backside of the Moon”

Kate Bush- “The Big Sky”

Soundgarden- “Black Hole Sun”

Husker Du- “Books about UFOs”

Pink Floyd- “Brain Damage/Eclipse”

Crosby, Stills, & Nash- “Dark Star”

The Ian Gillian Band- “Five Moons”

Moxy- “Moon Rider”

King Crimson- “Moonchild”

Nick Drake- “Pink Moon”

Elton John- “Rocket Man”

David Bowie- “Space Oddity”

Liz Phair- “Stars and Planets”

Yes- “Starship Trooper”

Bonnie Hayes- “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

The Church- “Under the Milky Way”

Paul McCartney & Wings- “Venus + Mars”

Gamma- “Voyager”

Previous posts with related themes:
T minus-5

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

Music to my ears

by digby

I just can't get enough of the right wing crazies rending their garments over Trump. It's actually making me feel better about life.

This is Ann Coulter talking to gossip columnist Lloyd Grove, of all things:

In a conversation that amounted to a primal scream, Coulter repeatedly attacked her former hero for betraying his constituency, belittled White House aides such as Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller, accused the president of kowtowing to the same news media he professes to loathe, and otherwise raged at the dying of the wall along with any number of other populist policy prescriptions that Trump touted to beat the Republican establishment and Hillary Clinton.

“The millions of people who haven’t voted for 30 years and came out to vote for Trump, thinking ‘finally, here’s somebody who cares about us’—Nope!” Coulter declared. “Republicans, Democrats—doesn’t matter! Jeb exclamation point, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton—doesn’t matter. Goldman Sachs is running the country!”
As for Stephen Miller, the former Jeff Sessions aide who briefly became the architect of the president’s anti-Muslim ban and occasionally jousts in the White House press room, “he’s just a speechwriter for the White House staff,” Coulter said. For a good part of the 2016 presidential campaign, Coulter insisted, Conway was a diehard Ted Cruz supporter.

“As late as the summer [of 2016], Kellyanne was saying that Trump built his business on the backs of the little guy,” Coulter continued. “You know I love the Emperor God, but he does have flaws. And one of them is his vast, yawning narcissism. He just seems to be obsessed with the fact that people give Bannon credit. And we all know that [Jared] Kushner is the one who won the White House for him.”

Coulter claimed it’s interim communications director Hope Hicks and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski—whom Kushner pushed out of the campaign—who really deserve the credit for Trump’s political success. Coulter added that it was Kushner, along with former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn and national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, who finally got Bannon’s scalp and are probably targeting Conway and Miller as well.

Coulter added: “The Time magazine cover [a big-headed portrait of the man headlined as “President Bannon”] and the Saturday Night Live sketch [in which “Bannon,” wearing the black shroud of Death and carrying a scythe, sat at the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk while “Trump”/Alec Baldwin was vanquished to a tiny kindergarten desk]—every time he’s asked about Bannon, the Emperor God goes, ‘He didn’t win it for me! He only came in August! I already wrapped up the nomination!’ You don’t have to be a very sensitive person capable of reading body language to understand that Trump is obsessed by that. It’s driven him crazy.

“So did Kellyanne [arrive late to Trump’s campaign] and Trump gives her credit.”
With Bannon, however, “his little tiny ego explodes,” Coulter went on. “All you have to do with whatever White House staffer the media would like to get fired—just put him on the cover of a magazine and call him ‘President Whatever the Guy’s Last Name Is.’ It’s not good to show the media that you are so easily manipulable… The media is running the staffing at the White House now.”

Lulz... I love it.


The Big Kahuna has always been in charge

by digby

I rarely agree with anything Matthew Continetti says but this op-ed in the NY Times sounds right to me:

Mr. Bannon’s reputation is overrated. Yes, he transformed Breitbart from an irreverent blog into the iconoclastic tribune of nation-state populism, the anti-elitist ideology of border walls, travel bans and political incorrectness.

But his career as a political consultant has been short and checkered. As the president has observed, Mr. Bannon did not join Mr. Trump’s campaign until August 2016, by which time Mr. Trump had secured the Republican nomination. Mr. Trump’s general election victory was remarkable. It was also something of a black-swan event. There is a tendency, especially among Mr. Trump’s supporters, to overlook the fact that, had some 79,000 votes in three states gone the other way, the winner of the popular vote would now be in the White House.

Since his inauguration, President Trump’s numbers have steadily declined. He is at 39 percent approval and at 55 percent disapproval in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. The low standing depletes Mr. Trump’s political capital and his leverage over Congress. It endangers Republican control of one or both legislative chambers. Perhaps it is time to take advice from someone else.

Of course, Mr. Trump does not seem inclined to listen to anyone at all. That is even more reason not to exaggerate Mr. Bannon’s influence. Mr. Bannon may have encouraged Mr. Trump to follow his instincts, but that is precisely the point: Mr. Trump’s natural inclinations are in perfect harmony with the voters he refers to in casual conversation as “my people.” Mr. Bannon may have encouraged Mr. Trump not to back down from his positions on the violence in Charlottesville and on the place of statuary memorializing the Confederacy. But the final decision, like all decisions in this White House, was Mr. Trump’s alone.

Mr. Bannon has flitted through an eccentric career in the Navy, on Wall Street, in Hollywood and in the populist faction of the conservative movement. He has a reputation as a well-read autodidact whose syncretic worldview is the result of years of independent and wide-ranging study.

But he is a terrible colleague. His unprompted interview last week with the editor of a liberal magazine not only demonstrated a naïve willingness to forge alliances with the economic left on trade and infrastructure. It also confirmed everything that has been said about Mr. Bannon: He disparages his co-workers behind their backs; he postures as the force behind personnel decisions; and he pretends to know more about national security than James Mattis, John Kelly, H. R. McMaster and Joseph Dunford (not to mention Donald Trump).

The conflicting reports about the timing and method of Mr. Bannon’s fall, whether he was fired or resigned, whether he knew he was on his way out or was suddenly expelled, are additional signs of his habit of manipulating the press for his personal benefit.

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview with The Weekly Standard on Friday. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.”

“President Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues,” Axios.com reported last week. The American Prospect interview made Mr. Trump’s suspicions impossible to doubt.

The costs of Mr. Bannon’s presence in the West Wing outweighed the benefits. You can’t have an underling raise the white flag in the middle of a nuclear standoff with North Korea. You can’t tell Mr. Kelly to impose order on the staff while allowing Mr. Bannon to run around D.C. impugning the men and women who stand in his way. You can’t begin to rebuild your presidency with Mr. Bannon on payroll.

Between May 9, when he fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and Aug. 15, when he said there were good people “on both sides” of the clash between racists and antifa, or anti-fascists, Mr. Trump has done more damage to himself and to his office than any president in memory. Whatever hopes he has of salvaging his presidency begin in suppressing the infighting, factionalism, subversion, dysfunction and flirtations with extremism within his inner circle.

The myth of Steve Bannon’s power may live on. But the reality is that Mr. Trump no longer needs him and is unlikely to be harmed by Mr. Bannon’s sniping.

The connection between Mr. Trump and the forces Mr. Bannon represents is visceral and durable. To save his presidency, though, Mr. Trump must join with another, far larger constituency: the American people.

Yeah, that's not going to happen.

Trump's relationship with his base is secure. They see him as besieged by all the same forces they feel are victimizing them: political correctness, elites of both parties, racial and ethnic minorities, foreigners, liberal hippies, uppity feminists and the media. They don't care about his policy agenda. He's their Jesus being crucified for them.

Breitbart is a powerful megaphone. But it's far more likely Bannon is going to use it to blow up the GOP congress and take on the media than Trump. Bannon's overrated as a thinker and a strategist. But he's a good propagandist for this cause. He'll keep at it and Trump will thank him for it.

They had the time of their lives

by digby


Trump does not have a "philosophy"

by digby

According to Mike Allen at Axios:

At the end, Trump was beyond fed up, viewing Bannon as a self-aggrandizer who had built a personal narrative as the grand puppetmaster.
"Who the f**k does this guy think he is?" Trump has said incredulously to associates. 
Axios' Jonathan Swan tells me it's no surprise Trump didn't issue a farewell message on Friday: The president can't stand Bannon at the moment. (Trump tweeted a belated "Thanks S" about Bannon on Saturday morning.) 
But few people are ever really gone from Trumpworld, and we bet it won't be long before Bannon is regularly gossiping with Trump and counseling him.
That'll produce a huge tension: Bannon is more ideologically aligned with Trump than are the other members of the inner circle. So Bannon will be in his head and in his ear, while top advisers are counseling moderation.

A big irony: Bannon got personally crossways with the president at a time when nationalist policies were ascendant with POTUS. Trump agreed with Bannon's formula for confronting China on trade, although he later succumbed to the effort of other officials to dial that back. And Bannon egged on Trump with the view of Charlottesville that later drew such a backlash.

The post-Bannon presidency: West Wing sources expect that with Bannon gone, the administration will be less likely to use trade as a weapon, and more likely to flex military muscle against bad actors.

Be smart: A huge tension that'll unfold beginning this fall is that Trump is more ideologically aligned with Bannon than he is with the more moderate officials who now surround him in the West Wing.

So Steve Bannon will remain in the president's ear and in his head, telling Trump to be Trump. And that's a message this president has never been known to resist.

Some of this sounds right to me. Bannon will be back in Trump's good graces and will tell him to be himself.

But Trump is not ideological in the way Allen seems to think he is. His beliefs on both "trade" and national security are based on his simplistic worldview that says the United States needs to be "respected" and if it isn't he's going to do something about it. He'll torture, kill and steal if that's what it takes. That has always been the case.

Bannon is a self-professed chaos agent who is happy to use Trump's simple-minded vacuousness for his own purposes, one of which is obviously to "let Trump be Trump." But they are not on the same page, not really, and the fact that people still think that Trump is some kind of an economic populist or an isolationist in any way is frustrating. He has no philosophy, he has domination impulses. That's it.

Soulless cult

by digby

This Bannon postmortem by Ryan Lizza is very good and well worth reading. This is a particularly great insight:
But in the Trump White House there is no Trump agenda. There is a mercurial, highly emotional narcissist with no policy expertise who set up—or allowed his senior staffers to set up—competing ideological fiefdoms that fight semi-public wars to define the soul of Trumpism.
Of course Trumpism has no soul so that fight will never end.


A question of conscience

by Tom Sullivan

Bloody Sunday - Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers, 1965. Public domain.

I am trying to weigh the merits of the “antifa” (antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action) groups confronting the alt-right assemblage of Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, etc. at the recent white power and Unite-the-Right protests. The violent clashes between antifa counterprotesters and the alt-right in Charlottesville last weekend, and the death of Heather Heyer, have put a spotlight on the antifas the groups have not received in the past. Like their opponents, the antifas are not a monolithic group, and loosely organized into local cells, sometimes overlapping with masked, black bloc anarchists. While clergy and Black Lives Matter groups prefer nonviolent protest, the antifas prefer more direct confrontation.

Peter Beinert writes at The Atlantic:

Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.
The local Indivisible chapter organized a peace vigil downtown here last Sunday in solidarity with Charlottesville. It was one of many such vigils around the country. Not a Nazi symbol in sight. Yet the local antifa group that attended seemed bent on taking over what was intended to be a peaceful rally. There was a shouting match with police the organizers had requested. Later, the group split off and marched through downtown chanting slogans. To the usual "Whose streets? Our streets!" they added “Cops and the Klan go hand in hand.” and "What do we want? DEAD NAZIS. When do we want 'em? NOW!"

One protester was later arrested for assaulting a TV reporter, although no injury was reported. The accounts of witnesses I spoke to suggest it was a local antifa member.

”The antifa protesters disrupted what was supposed to be a peaceful vigil,” organizer Valerie Hartshorn told reporters.

The New York Times this week reinforced Beinart's assessment:
Unlike most of the counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville and elsewhere, members of antifa have shown no qualms about using their fists, sticks or canisters of pepper spray to meet an array of right-wing antagonists whom they call a fascist threat to American democracy. As explained this week by a dozen adherents of the movement, the ascendant new right in the country requires a physical response.

“People are starting to understand that neo-Nazis don’t care if you’re quiet, you’re peaceful,” said Emily Rose Nauert, a 20-year-old antifa member who became a symbol of the movement in April when a white nationalist leader punched her in the face during a melee near the University of California, Berkeley.

“You need violence in order to protect nonviolence,” Ms. Nauert added. “That’s what’s very obviously necessary right now. It’s full-on war, basically.”
In contrast with that portrait, Brandy Daniels, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia who holds a doctorate in theology from Vanderbilt, told Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" that antifa activists defended her and fellow faith leaders from a group of "white supremacist/nazis."

Charlottesville resident Dahlia Lithwick interviewed Daniels and several other witnesses for Slate. They praised antifa activists for interposing themselves between peaceful protesters and the alt-right's shock troops. Rev. Seth Wispelwey believes the antifas saved his life twice on Saturday from "men carrying weapons, shields, and Trump flags and sporting MAGA hats and Hitler salutes and waving Nazi flags and the pro-slavery 'stars and bars.'” He tells Lithwick:
A phalanx of neo-Nazis shoved right through our human wall with 3-foot-wide wooden shields, screaming and spitting homophobic slurs and obscenities at us. It was then that antifa stepped in to thwart them. They have their tools to achieve their purposes, and they are not ones I will personally use, but let me stress that our purposes were the same: block this violent tide and do not let it take the pedestal.

The white supremacists did not blink at violently plowing right through clergy, all of us dressed in full clerical garb. White supremacy is violence. I didn’t see any racial justice protesters with weapons; as for antifa, anything they brought I would only categorize as community defense tools and nothing more. Pretty much everyone I talk to agrees—including most clergy. My strong stance is that the weapon is and was white supremacy, and the white supremacists intentionally brought weapons to instigate violence.
Eyeroll here for the minister's using "community defense tools" as a euphemism for fists, sticks, and pepper spray.

Living as I do in the home state of Rev. William Barber, Moral Mondays, and the Greensboro lunch counter, violent confrontation feels like the wrong approach both tactically and politically. Yet no one should confuse those using violence to combat Nazis with Nazis. To do that would be to condemn the Allied effort to liberate Europe in WWII. But neither is this "full-on war," as Nauert believes.

What makes Nazis, Klansmen, and white nationalists worse than antifas is being Nazis, Klansmen, and white nationalists. But what makes them all punks is both groups arriving itching for a fight. This makes antifas look no different from the Sharks rumbling with the Jets over turf. That is the story the "both sides do it" press will run with. The alt-right just brings superior firepower.

Antifa's self-righteous aggression and anti-establishment militancy reinforce the veneer of patriotism for those claiming persecution while espousing race hatred, and furnishes them both cover they don't deserve and the battles they crave for growing their movement. Peaceful counterprotest throws the light of truth on the bad guys without muddying the waters. Violent confrontation won't stop alt-right bigots, only justify them. Violent confrontation gives them just what they want.

Certainly, the frustration is real that "white liberals are not up to the challenge of beating back right-wing extremists." But it wasn't white liberals primarily who beat back white, right-wing extremists in the 1960s anyway, but a multicultural coalition of dedicated faith leaders and social justice activists who rejected the notion that you needed violence in order to protect nonviolence. It was the spectacle of Bloody Sunday police violence against nonviolent protesters in Selma that shocked the nation's conscience and turned the tide in the battle for civil rights.

But to give antifas the benefit of the doubt, after government-sanctioned torture, repeated police shootings of unarmed black men, and a morally bankrupt president's white nationalist rallies, the question now is whether this nation has any conscience left to shock.

* * * * * * * *

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Steve Bannon was fired.

That is all.

Just kidding:

Three baby Rock Hyraxes have made their public debuts at Chester Zoo. The pocket-sized pups, which are yet to be named or sexed, arrived to mother Dassie and dad Nungu on July 21 weighing just over half a pound (250g) each – no heavier than a bar of soap!

Rock Hyraxes may be short in stature but these tiny animals have a surprising genetic link: they are more closely related to Elephants than any other species on Earth. Scientists posit that Hyraxes and Elephants evolved from a single common ancestor.

Rock Hyraxes’ two tusk-like incisor teeth constantly grow, just like the tusks of an Elephant. The two species also have similarly-shaped feet and similar skull structure.  

Small mammals often experience a short pregnancy period, but Rock Hyraxes are different, with their pregnancy lasting more than seven months. The young are well developed when born, just like miniature adults.

David White, Team Manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo said, “Rock Hyraxes have helped conservationists learn so much about the evolution of different animals, and how animals can evolve and adapt to the environments where they live – they really are special little creatures."

In the wild, Rock Hyraxes are known as ‘Rock Rabbits’ or ‘Dassies’ and can be found in large colonies across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Scientists believe they even have their own form of language, using 20 different vocalizations in particular tones and orders to convey meaning.

Genuinely Sickening, On So Many Levels 

by tristero

If this is true, the karma the men (because it has be men, or mostly men) who did this will take aeons to purify. And it is a reminder it is the Republican party - not just Trump - that is callous to the point of monstrousness:

When he was 11 years old, LJ Stroud of St. Augustine, Florida, had a tooth emerge in a place where no tooth belongs: the roof of his mouth. 
LJ was born with severe cleft lip and palate, which explained the strange eruption, as well as the constant ear infections that no antibiotic could remedy. 
With her son in terrible pain, Meredith Stroud arranged for surgeries to fix his problems. 
But just days before the procedures were to take place, the surgeons' office called to cancel them. 
Like nearly half of all children in Florida, LJ is on Medicaid, which has several types of insurance plans. The state had switched LJ to a new plan, and his surgeons didn't take it... 
"He was in pain every day," Stroud said. "I just felt so helpless. It's such a horrible feeling where you can't help your kid..." 
 ...parents and Florida pediatricians raise questions about the true reasons why Florida's Republican administration switched the children's health plans. They question whether it was to financially reward insurance companies that had donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party of Florida. 
"This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it's the children who suffered," said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 
 I'm truly at a loss for words. This is an explosive accusation. But CNN has pretty good fact checkers so I'm going with the story being accurate.

And now excuse me, I'm going to be sick.
80% of Republicans back Trump on Charlottesville

by digby

Despite the fact that a neo-Nazi plowed into a crowed of people injuring many and killing one "counter-protester" by the name of Heather Heyer, and a group of torch bearing Nazis marched through the streets shouting "Jews will not replace us", 80% of Republicans think that "both sides" were to blame for the events in Charlottesville.

It would seem that the Republican party believes that Nazis should be left alone to do whatever they want unopposed. I don't see how you can look at that result and think otherwise.

Such good people they are, every last one of them.

I think that Democrats had better start grappling with the fact that Republicans will follow him anywhere and back him no matter what he says or does.  It is now a cult, not a political party.


The 2nd Amendment cannot be allowed to usurp the 1st

by digby

Yes, finally, good on them:
The violent events that transpired at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend has pushed the American Civil Liberties Union to take a tougher stance on the hate groups it defends in court.

The civil rights group will now screen its clients more closely and won’t represent groups who protest while carrying firearms, the executive director told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the neo-Nazis’ right to assemble when the group gathered last weekend to protest the removal of the confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. The organization is known for its defense of the free speech rights of hate groups, claiming that creating exceptions to the First Amendment for hate groups make the less stringent for everyone.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Executive Director Anthony Romero told the Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

The group’s Virginia branch defended the white supremacists against Charlottesville’s efforts to deny them a permit. City officials wanted the protest moved a mile away from the park to better accommodate the crowd. The ACLU argued in federal court that the city’s decision was based on opposition to the group’s views, not safety concerns.

Many lashed out against the civil rights group when violence broke out at the rally. A self-proclaimed white supremacist allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Hayer and injuring 19 others.

Several members of the group that assembled last Saturday were carrying firearms, but no one was hurt by them. Romero said the ACLU thinks just having guns at a protest can suppress freedom of speech through intimidation.

I have long believed that the open carrying of firearms at political events was an assault on free speech. This one's from 2013:

Fine defenders of the Second Amendment

by digby

I've been writing about the gun rights zealots who use their second amendment rights as a license to intimidate those who disagree with them by appearing armed at gun control rallies for a long time. That's not all they're doing: 
Shannon Watts knew she was heading into a rough neighborhood when she became an activist in the battle over gun control. A former corporate executive and mother of five children, Watts launched a gun-control group, now called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, not long after the Newtown shootings. As the new push to restrict guns grabbed attention over the ensuing year, Watts and other activists experienced the blowback up close, in sometimes frightening detail.

At protest rallies, they have been met by men carrying rifles. (It's legal: many states permit the open carry of “long guns.”) Watts has had her home address in Indianapolis posted online along with the suggestion that “people show up and show why it’s important to have a gun.” She has gotten letters at home saying that the sender knows where her kids go to school and where her husband works. On the lighter side, an ironist has been sending her free issues of Guns & Ammo.

She has a harder time finding irony in images floating around online featuring her head bloodied by a huge knife stuck into her skull.

On the Facebook page of Starbucks—a battleground, thanks to Moms Demand Action’s successful effort to get Starbucks to discourage open carry of weapons in its shops—McBeefington posted a map of Martin’s neighborhood with the message: “I saw there was a recent incident where an NYPD officer got shot by someone—in the middle of Bloomberg’s gun-free utopia—and quite near your home, to boot.” (The image, in fact, depicted Martin's old neighborhood.) On the same page, he posted another message noting that Martin's son was about to turn four: “I went to Starbucks and had an early celebration for his upcoming birthday,” he wrote, with an accompanying photo of a birthday cake set beside an NRA membership card. (He’d apparently deduced the child's age from years-old postings by Martin elsewhere online.) Also on Facebook, someone else sent Martin a direct message with a gory picture of a badly wounded foot. “BTW, this is what happens when careless people tread on coiled, venomous snakes,” the message read.
It's logical that people who feel the need to carry guns in public might be prone to violence, especially those who ostentatiously carry them at political events with the obvious intention of intimidating those who disagree with them. These are not your benign game hunters or fellows who have a gun in the house for protection. They are armed fanatics.  This social media harassment is a slightly less intimidating approach, but considering the statistics on abuse, it's predictable that it features such violent misogyny. There's just something about guns that brings out the assholes.
Like Watts, Martin is relatively unperturbed by the harassment. But she does worry others could be dissuaded from getting involved in gun control activism by the online nastiness or by the open-carry protesters, like the large group that gathered recently outside a strip-mall restaurant near Dallas where a few Moms Demand Action members were meeting for a strategy session. “I’m not worried about any of this stuff. But what about the mom in Texas who’s scared shitless?" said Martin. "If I were younger and less vocal and more easily intimidated…who are they stopping from sharing their thoughts?"
Let's just say that when I see someone openly carrying a gun I avoid him like the plague. I keep quiet in his presence and I get out of there as soon as possible. I've always done this, even when I lived in Alaska where there are a lot of guns. They are deadly weapons and people who feel the need to prove their macho bonafides in public by carrying guns already prove they have a psychology of bullying and intimidation that makes them dangerous. Certainly, if I go to a political event and someone is armed I will leave. It's possible that tempers will flare, as often happens around politics, and there will be unintended violence or, more likely, the intimidation will work and it will be a waste of time because half the people will keep their opinions to themselves. (Nice little first amendment you have there ...) 

The vast majority of Second Amendment activists are upright citizens just doing what we're all doing. But unlike most activists, it only takes one armed gun fanatic to lose his temper at a political event for something very bad to happen. It is, by its very nature, undemocratic to come armed to a rally. And they know it. That's why they do it. They could, after all, just carry a sign and make speeches like everyone else. 

Two more chairs to go

by digby

Bannon vs Trump's "Democrats, Globalists and Generals"

by digby

Steve Bannon is reportedly going back to Breitbart. That is a mistake and I'm surprised he's doing it. He has an agenda and part of it is to sow dissension on the left over "identity politics" vs economic populism and hostility toward the "deep state", which is a real fault line, if less of a chasm than some people want to believe. He could possibly make progress on that if he started a new project and re-branded himself as an isolationist, economic populist but Breitbart's "alt-right" identity is toxic to everyone on the left. From what I'm seeing so far, Breitbart is planning to "go to war" against the administration saying that it's full of "Democrats, globalists and Generals." (You can be sure that they will also continue to be a hub for the "alt-right's" connection to the Nazis and Neo-confederates too.)

From the commentary I heard this morning, much of the punditocrisy apparently agrees with Bannon that all that confederate statue stuff has no salience among Trump voters since they inexplicably continue to contend that those nice salt-o-the-earth All American boys and girls reject white supremacy and just want some good union work in a factory somewhere and are looking to Donald Trump to finally deliver now that he got rid of that awful racist.

The pundits are deluded.

Greg Sargent explained why this is utter nonsense:

[Heather Heyer's mother Susan ]Bro’s emotional response to Trump is a reminder that his reversion to his current reprehensible posture didn’t have to happen. While his flat condemnation of white supremacy did not undo the damage caused by his initial statement on Saturday blaming “many sides,” it largely said the right thing. Republicans were pleased and relieved by it. The mother of the young woman who died had thanked him for it.

But then Trump just had to make a large show of returning to his original position, dividing blame between white supremacists, Nazis and Klansmen on one side, and those protesting their racism, hatred and belief in the inferiority of African Americans and Jews on the other. We know Trump did this at least in part because he did not want to be seen surrendering to pressure to single out racism and white supremacy for full blame. He was in a rage because he “felt he had already given too much ground to his opponents.” He didn’t want to deliver the statement condemning white supremacy because he was “loath to appear to be admitting a mistake.” It is utter madness that these sentiments played such an important role in shaping the presidential response at such a fraught moment of national tension and introspection.

Meanwhile, Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is strutting around extolling the political brilliance of Trump’s Charlottesville response. Bannon did a media tour yesterday boasting that Trump’s escalating defense of Confederate statues is a political winner for him. Now Bannon adds to this in a brash email to The Post:

“This past election, the Democrats used every personal attack, including charges of racism, against President Trump. He then won a landslide victory on a straightforward platform of economic nationalism.”

The idea that Trump won a landslide is an absurd lie, and the idea that Trump has any kind of agenda of “economic nationalism” to speak of is laughable. There are no trade or infrastructure plans (something progressives would actually like to see) in sight. The only real policies Trump has embraced that fit under what Bannon describes as “economic nationalism” are stepped-up deportations, slashing legal immigration and the thinly disguised Muslim ban. Indeed, it’s telling that Bannon defends Trump’s Charlottesville response by pointing to the alleged power of his alleged “economic nationalism” — it validates suspicions that this was always intended largely as a fig leaf for xenophobia and racism.

Bro’s appearance today throws all of this into even sharper relief. We expect presidents to recognize that their role carries with it obligations and duties to try to calm the antagonisms that are being unleashed at moments like this. That’s particularly true right now, with experts warning that Trump’s handling of Charlottesville’s aftermath could cause an escalation in white supremacist activity — meaning it could end up encouraging more violence and death. But Trump’s response at this critical moment is rooted largely in megalomania and a desire not to be seen capitulating, and his chief strategist is barely disguising his view that racial strife and turmoil are good for Trump politically.

Trump will always be driven by his own infantile need for attention. But he's demonstrated over and over again that he is also a simple-minded bigot with a violent imagination and has been for years. These two characteristics in the office of president of the United States present a clear and present danger no matter who is advising him.

Bannon, on the other hand, is a wily operator whose essential philosophy is that we are on the cusp of a completely new system born of chaos and he wants to be the instrument that brings that about. He's essentially a secular armageddonist. Reports as of right now are that he's already been in contact with the Mercers and has secured their financial support. We don't know what he'll do with it but it would probably be a good idea not to take anything he says at face value. When he starts talking about economic populism and trade wars with China, watch your back. There's probably an "alt-right" neo-Nazi wearing khakis and nice white polo shirt standing there with a gun at your head.

Oh, and by the way --- Trump's not going to change. He can call up his bud Steve any time he wants. He was a pussy-grabbing, torture-loving, Mexican hating, Central Park Five black-lives-don't-matter, bomb the shit out of 'em and take the oil guy long before he ever met Steve Bannon. And as the conservative commentator Charlie Sykes said on MSNBC this morning, anyone thinking that Bannon or anyone else can part Trump from his base underestimates the cult of personality that's built up around the man. Those rural white voters love him. And they will take his word over anyone else's including Steve Bannon.

The best we can hope for is that he doesn't start a nuclear war. Anyone saying that this departure means he's going to make that pivot once and for all is making a fool of herself. We may be entering a new phase, but Trump is Trump. Things will never be "normal" until he and his sycophants are out of power. (That means the enabling wimps of the Republican Party too, in case you were wondering.)