Sunday, August 20, 2017

Trump Is a Cancer on the Presidency

Trump repeated his statement that there is blame on both sides in Charlottesville. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsi)
Trump repeated his statement that there is blame on both sides in Charlottesville. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsi)

By Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post
18 August 17
n Monday, I declared that President Trump had neither the moral core nor the moral authority to respond properly to the openly racist horror that took place in Charlottesville. I said flat out that I didn’t believe him when he mouthed words that fell short of what was required for a moment so pivotal. Trump’s denunciation of “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” later that day was as forced as the confessions from the Central Park Five.

On Tuesday, he proved my gut feeling right.

In the lobby of his tacky tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the president of the United States defended the torch-bearing racists who lit up the night sky on the University of Virginia campus as they chanted “white lives matter.” He reiterated his “both sides” blasphemy, equating the racism and violence of the bigots who rallied last weekend with the counterprotesters who gathered to uphold the ideals of this nation. And he defended the cause of the Confederacy by siding with those trying to prevent the removal of statues that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu correctly called “murder.” 

The damage Trump has done to the presidency is unmistakable. The damage done to the nation is incalculable. He is unfit to serve.

Up until Trump’s election, the American people sent to the Oval Office men (thus far) who were a reflection of our better selves. None was perfect. All had shortcomings.

But they revered the Constitution and its ideals. Expanding their support to buttress their moral authority to make decisions on behalf of all Americans was paramount to preserving national unity. Those men understood that the presidency was bigger than themselves. Not Trump.

He is siding with racists who want to turn the clock back to the 1800s. He is giving comfort to bigots who want to “take our country back” with racial violence. He is fueling the hate that allegedly drove James Alex Fields Jr. to plow his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. He doesn’t see how doing these things is tearing the country apart. And he doesn’t care. Rather than a reflection of our better selves, Trump is a cancer on the presidency.

In his book “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” journalist Joshua Green notes the lesson Trump learned in 2011 while pushing the racist birther lie against then-President Barack Obama.
Trump, who has an uncanny ability to read an audience, intuited in the spring of 2011 that the birther calumny could help him for a powerful connection with party activists. He also figured out that the norms forbidding such behavior were not inviolable rules that carried a harsh penalty but rather sentiments of a nobler, bygone era, gossamer-thin and needlessly adhered to by politicians who lacked his willingness to defy them. He could violate them with impunity and pay no price for it. …
Privately, what amused him the most, he later told a friend, was that no party official in a position of power dared to stand up to him.
Trump must be held accountable for his false moral equivalency and his willingness to exalt the treasonous Confederacy at the expense of our union. The “harsh penalty” that escaped him in 2011 must be visited upon him now. People of good conscience must speak up and stay vocal. More Republicans must stand up to him now and do so boldly. They have to put the country before party or some longed-for policy that pales in comparison to the preservation of our ideals. And if Trump succeeds in surviving this unbelievable affront to all we say we are, he will not be to blame. We will.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cartoon: Obama couldn't have done this crap

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump's Civil War

Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Getty)
Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Getty)

Will Bannon's departure change anything?

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
17 August 17
rump’s unwillingness to denounce the white supremacists who came to Charlottesville last weekend bent on violence has been part of his political strategy from the start.

Remember, weeks after he began his campaign by alleging that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists, two brothers in Boston beat up and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national, subsequently telling police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning the brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

During campaign rallies Trump repeatedly excused brutality toward protesters. “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

After white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Trump was even reluctant to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

Since becoming president, Trump’s instigations have continued. As Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina, told the Washington Post, “the president has unearthed some demons.”

In May, Trump congratulated body-slamming businessman Greg Gianforte on his special election win in Montana, making no mention of the victor’s attack on a reporter the night before.

Weeks ago Trump even tweeted a video clip of himself in a WWE professional wrestling match slamming a CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with punches and elbows to the head.

Hateful violence is hardly new to America. But never before has a president licensed it as a political strategy or considered haters part of his political base.

In his second week as president, Trump called Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association to the White House.

Soon thereafter, LaPierre told gun owners they should fear “leftists” and the “national media machine” that were “an enemy utterly dedicated to destroy not just our country, but also Western civilization.”

Since then the NRA has run ads with the same theme, concluding “the only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”

It’s almost as if someone had declared a new civil war. But who? And for what purpose?

One clue came earlier last week in a memo from Rich Higgins, who had been director for strategic planning in Trump’s National Security Council.

Entitled “POTUS & Political Warfare,” Higgins wrote the seven-page document in May, which was recently leaked to Foreign Policy Magazine.

In it Higgins charges that a cabal of leftist “deep state” government workers, “globalists,” bankers, adherents to Islamic fundamentalism and establishment Republicans want to impose cultural Marxism in the United States. “Recognizing in candidate Trump an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative, those that benefit recognize the threat he poses and seek his destruction.”

There you have it. Trump’s goal has never been to promote guns or white supremacy or to fuel attacks on the press and the left. These may be means, but the goal has been to build and fortify his power. And keep him in power even if it’s found that he colluded with Russia to get power.

Trump and his (now former) consigliere Steve Bannon have been quietly encouraging a civil war between Trump’s base of support – mostly white and worried – and everyone who’s not.

It’s built on economic stresses and racial resentments. It’s fueled by paranoia. And it’s conveyed by Trump’s winks and nods haters, and his deafening silence in the face of their violence.

A smaller version of the civil war extended even into the White House, where Bannon and his protégés have been doing battle with leveler heads.

National security advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster fired Higgins. Reportedly, Trump was furious at the firing.

McMaster was quick to term the Charlottesville violence “terrorism.” Ivanka Trump denounced “racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.” Reportedly, chief of staff John Kelly pushed Trump to condemn the haters who descended on Charlottesville.

Now that Bannon is gone, let’s hope the leveler heads win the civil war in the White House. Let’s pray the leveler heads in our society prevent the civil war Trump and Bannon want to instigate in America.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Democrats in Congress Explore Creating an Expert Panel on Trump's Mental Health

President Trump in the Oval Office. (photo: AP)
President Trump in the Oval Office. (photo: AP)

By Sharon Begley, Scientific American
17 August 17

There is also a bill aimed at establishing a “commission on presidential capacity”

hree congressional Democrats have asked a psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine to consult with them about forming an expert panel to offer the legislators advice on assessing President Trump’s mental health.

Yale’s Dr. Bandy Lee told STAT that over the last few weeks members of Congress or their staff have asked her to discuss how members might convene psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals “to review the president’s mental health, and review it on a periodic basis.” The closed meeting is expected to take place in September, she said.

The request came from three current congressmen and one former member, she said. She declined to name them, saying they told her they did not wish to be publicly identified yet.

The invitation comes as 27 representatives, all Democrats, have co-sponsored a bill to establish “a commission on presidential capacity.” The commission would carry out a provision of the 25th Amendment, which gives Congress the authority to establish “a body” with the power to declare a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Under the bill, H.R. 1987, eight of the 11 members of the commission would be physicians, including four psychiatrists.

STAT contacted the sponsors’ offices, which either did not respond or declined to comment.

Trump has not released his medical records beyond a brief summary from his physician last year. He has said he never sought or received a mental health evaluation or therapy.

But since his election and, increasingly, his inauguration, a number of mental health experts have spoken or written about what Trump’s behavior and speech suggest about his cognitive and emotional status, including impulsivity and paranoia, with some offering formal diagnoses, such as narcissistic personality disorder.

In a book scheduled for publication in October that was edited by Lee, 27 experts offer their views of what Lee calls “Trump’s mental symptoms,” including his impulsivity, “extreme present focus,” pathological levels of narcissism, and an apparent lack of trust that is a sign of deep paranoia. The book is based on a small meeting Lee organized at Yale in April on whether psychiatrists have a “duty to warn” about any dangers Trump poses because of his psychological make-up.

If members of Congress form an expert panel like the one Lee has been asked to advise on, psychiatrists who participate would be at risk of violating a decades-old ethics rule imposed by the American Psychiatric Association on its members. Called the Goldwater rule, it prohibits APA members from diagnosing the mental health of public figures whom they have not examined. (Sharing such a diagnosis of someone they have examined would, of course, violate a different ethical rule, on patient confidentiality.)

In March, after growing criticism that the Goldwater rule was essentially a gag order that prevented the public from hearing from experts, the APA not only reaffirmed the rule but extended it. Now, in addition to the prohibition against suggesting that someone might (or might not) have a specific mental disorder, APA members are barred from “render[ing] an opinion about the affect, behavior, speech, or other presentation of an individual that draws on the skills, training, expertise, and/or knowledge inherent in the practice of psychiatry.”

While there is an exception for court-ordered evaluations and for consultations even without personally evaluating someone, there is no explicit exception allowing psychiatrists to tell elected officials, in public or in private, their views of a public figure’s mental state. Last month, the American Psychoanalytic Association, another psychiatrists group, sent an email to its members reiterating that they are not bound by the APA’s rule.

Lee, whose academic research focuses on prison reform, recidivism, and the causes of violence, said she “kept with the Goldwater rule’s original conception of refraining from making diagnoses, but speaking to dangerousness and the need for an evaluation.”

The expert panel that Lee was asked to discuss convening would have several members, she said, but it remains to be worked out who would serve, how and by whom they would be chosen, what their mandate would be, and how and when they would offer their opinions to Congress, should the proposal even get off the ground.

On Friday, Lee and four other psychiatrists sent a letter to all members of the U.S. Senate and House arguing that Trump exhibits “severe emotional impediments that … present a grave threat to international security,” and asking Congress to “take immediate steps to establish a commission to determine his fitness for office.” The letter signers are staunch Trump opponents and believe his presidency should end.

The letter echoed one that Lee and a slightly different group of colleagues sent to Congress in July. The most recent one came in the wake of Trump’s reportedly ad-libbed statement last Tuesday that if North Korea carries through on its nuclear threats, “they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” On Thursday, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened to bomb the American territory of Guam, Trump said, “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Lee and the other signers of the new letter, including Dr. Lance Dodes, recently retired from Harvard Medical School, argue that Trump’s “alarming patterns of impulsive, reckless, and narcissistic behavior — regardless of diagnosis … put the world at risk,” posing an “imminent danger” that psychiatrists are ethically obligated to warn about.

“The role of honor or, rather, perceived humiliation is often overlooked as a powerful stimulant of international violence,” they write, adding that the “president may not have the capacity to consider an array of possible choices, due to his own emotional needs.” They ask Congress to “take immediate steps to establish a commission to determine his fitness for office.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump retweets racists, fascists, and the man who held up a 'Rape Melania' sign

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press on August 10, 2017, at his Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey before a security briefing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Who's got two thumbs and loves to retweet violent fascists? This guy!
And he's probably going to pardon Arizona's racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio 
Donald Trump has repeatedly maintained that his Twitter feed is vital for providing him a direct connection to the public, unfiltered by the media. That gives him the opportunity to share pure expressions of his deeply held beliefs.

What were those thoughts in the last twenty-four hours since the words “racism is evil” were finally dragged from Trump’s mouth?
  • That he intends to let a brutal sheriff who repeatedly went beyond the law and conducted racisl profiling go with a nice pat on the head.
  • And that the free press deserves ...

Yes. That’s Trump supporting running down a journalist. This comes just hours after Trump refused to answer questions from a CNN reporter about an act of terrorism in which one of his supporters drove a car into a crowd, injuring 19 and killing paralegal Heather Heyer.

As a retweet, the post also gives a sense of just who Trump is reading on Twitter. The source would be this account from an “independent thinker and truth seeker” who posts plenty of “I love Trump” images, but also contends that Charlottesville was a “false flag” operation, in which KKK members were actors hired off of Craigslist. Oh, and she supports Nazis.
“UniteTheRight gets permit, peaceful but pushed out by violent Left groups (ANTIFA/BLM). Local govt may be complicit.”
Trump has since deleted the train-running-over-reporter tweet, but the morning’s activity shows that Trump’s Twitter habits including reading, as well as writing, fascist posts suggesting violent solutions to the “problem” of a free press.

But if the run-over-reporters post was odd, it wasn’t nearly as deranged as Trump’s choice to retweet this post from Jack Posobiec.

Jack Posobiec is one of the people behind the “Pizzagate” hoax, creating a disgusting and disturbing story of child sexual abuse that led to threats of violence and an armed supporter showing up to threaten innocent people. He’s also the guy who went this far.

Less than a week after the 2016 presidential election, a Trump supporter named Alan Beck tweeted two photographs of an anti-Trump protest in Washington, DC, in which a hooded figure held aloft a sign reading "Rape Melania." …  the "Rape Melania" sign was not the work of an anti-Trump protester at all. Instead, according to sources, it was the brainchild of a group of Trump supporters led by Jack Posobiec, one of the organizers of the controversial DeploraBall inauguration party and a prominent figure in the pro-Trump internet.
So Donald Trump is retweeting posts from a man who went to a rally and held up a sign saying people should rape his wife. There really do seem to be many sides suggesting violence … and they’re all Trump supporters.

Like the kill-the-free-press tweet, Trump has since deleted his retweet of Posobiec’s “ignore the Nazis” post.

But that didn’t finish off the strange retweets from Trump in the last day. On Monday evening he re-tweeted a link to an article suggesting that he was considering a pardon for convicted, racist sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio’s widely publicized tactics included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in desert tent camps where temperatures often climbed well past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He also controversially brought back chain gains, including a voluntary chain gang for women prisoners.
That’s from the article that Trump linked. But since Trump doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with abusing and humiliating people, he’s all for Arpaio. The disgraced sheriff has repeatedly violated court orders, openly carried out racial profiling, and cost his county millions in law suits that he lost through his disregard for the law, racism, and brutality. He’s the perfect person to receive Donald Trump’s first pardon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville: Gun in his face, he gets the photo

Four neo-Nazis beat black school teacher De'Andre 
Harris with iron bars and lumber. (photo: Zach D Roberts)
Four neo-Nazis beat black school teacher De'Andre Harris with iron bars and lumber.  (photo: Zach D Roberts)

By Greg Palast, Greg Palast's Website

15 August 17

on’t look away. Four white neo-Nazis are beating a Black man, crawling on the ground, with their metal poles and a yellow hunk of lumber. The beating continues — there’s blood on the pavement.

Our photographer, Zach D. Roberts, continues to shoot — even as a white militant raises a 9mm pistol to his face.

(photo: Zach D Roberts)

Zach got a shot of the gun and gunman, too. Luckily, the gunman didn’t shoot back.

One photo has gone viral internationally. These others we bring you here because they must be seen. Including, for the first time, the gunman.

Welcome to Charlottesville, USA. Trump’s America, month eight.

The young victim is De’Andre Harris, a special education teacher in Charlottesville.

According to the President, the violence was perpetrated on “many sides.”  The only sides I see are the beaters and the beaten; De’Andre on the ground with the alt-Right storm troopers with weapons.

Zach D. Roberts is an investigative photojournalist who has been with the Palast Investigations team for eleven years.

Here is Zach’s report:

De’Andre Harris, the school teacher, was walking down the street with friends, trading taunts with the white supremacist demonstrators.
Harris’ jibes were hardly fighting words. “Go home!  Leave town!” Locals like Harris resented the jack-ass invasion.
That’s when fists flew and Harris was slammed by one of the white guys straight into a parking lot barrier so hard the yellow wooden arm broke.
De’Andre fell to the ground, alone, surrounded by all these white guys — and they started beating him with the poles that almost all the white supremacists were carrying.

In the photos, you can see one white guy picking up the yellow barrier arm and raising the three foot hunk of lumber high over his head before he brings it down on De’Andre — who is being kicked by another white man’s boots while two others bring down metal rods on the prone man.

And no, that’s not a cop on the left in the photo — that’s a neo-Nazi in full riot gear.  (Where were the cops? Good question:  this parking garage is next to the Charlottesville Police Station.)

De’Andre was saved when some gutsy young Black men — with no weapons — ran into the underground garage, which promted the white posse to scatter.

Except for one. The gunman.

He pulled out what looks to be a 9mm pistol, maybe a Glock semi-automatic, and positioned himself to fire on the rescue squad. But then he heard the click of Zach’s camera, just three feet away, and realized he was getting photographed.

Simultaneously, Zach realized he’d left his bullet-proof vest in his car. (I’ll have that discussion with him later.)

In this strange stand-off, the camera proved mightier than the bullet. In his tiny little brain, the would-be shooter figured it would be wiser to quickly conceal the weapon and flee.

De’Andre “ran into the garage’s staircase and collapsed bleeding profusely from the face.” Zach waited with him and his protectors for half an hour but no ambulance arrived for him or the other people who were injured.

So, that’s the news from Trump’s USA. Nazis marching in the street, nuclear war with Korea, the “military option” for Venezuela. And it’s only Monday.

I was going to write about Korea, then Venezuela, but then the Armed Alt-Righteous exposed themselves to Zach’s lens.

White militant with 9mm, then aimed at rescuers. (photo: Zach D Roberts)
The Virginia story is not over. We will be going back to Virginia on September 9, to the capital, Richmond, to fight for the right for Black folk to arm themselves with the one weapon these white punks fear most: the vote. 
Between snapping photos of America gone mad, Zach has been working these past four years with me on a story of how Trump’s henchman, one Kris Kobach, now head of Trump’s so-called, “Election Integrity Commission,” conceived of a secretive program to remove hundreds of thousands of Black Americans from the voter rolls. 
Virginia removed an astonishing 41,637 voters based on Kobach’s accusation they could have voted twice. Not one of the accused was arrested — but, you won’t be surprised to hear, the list of the “scrubbed” was filled with African-American names.
And Virginia is removing tens of thousands more with this Jim Crow tactic — despite a nominally Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe. 

Virginia refused us their “scrub” lists. But Zach Roberts, by stellar investigative work, obtained a copy — half a million names in all — much to the state’s dismay. And those lists are every bit as obscenely racist and, in the long run, far more wounding, than the iron rods of the neo-Nazis.

So, thank you, Zach, for the photos that bear witness and inside documents that reveal their secret schemes.

For the rest of us, our job is simpler: not to look away.

Monday, August 14, 2017

NY Times editorial board lambasts Trump

It is a signed editorial.   Signed by the editorial board.  Meaning all of the board.

Its title is blunt  The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of.

It begins as bluntly as any Times editorial I can remember:
Let’s discard the fiction that President Trump wasn’t placating white supremacists by responding so weakly to the neo-Nazi violence that killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counterdemonstrator in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. The neo-Nazis heard his message loud and clear.
They they quote the response in The Daily Stormer  to  Trump’s weak response to what happened. They quote it.  I will not.

The make sure we know that Trup’s advisers wanted him to make a more forceful statement, and that he did.

They set the stage for their final pronouncements with this paragraph:
Mr. Trump is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself. He began his political career on a lie about President Barack Obama’s citizenship and has failed to firmly condemn the words and deeds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan leaders and other bigots who rallied behind him. A number of these people, including David Duke, the former Klan imperial wizard, and Richard Spencer, self-styled theorist of the alt-right, were part of the amen chorus of bigots in Charlottesville.
There is more to the editorial, including the multiple weak statements emanating from the White House.  The editorial then provides a contrast from another Republican voice, and then concludes.

Here are the final two paragraphs:
Meanwhile a handful of congressional Republicans have condemned the hate on display in Charlottesville, and in our politics. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said of white supremacists, “We don’t want them in our base, they shouldn’t be in a base, we shouldn’t call them part of a base.”
But Mr. Trump does, and in his desperation to rescue his failing presidency, he again clung to them.
Yeah, I know that Trump probably does not care what the “failing New York Times has to say about him, but a lot of people will.

That this is a statement by the entire editorial board will also carry a lot of weight.