Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

He’s Got Their Vote

There’s one bloc Hillary Clinton will never be able to persuade:

With bellicose foreign policy and his hostility to Muslims, Donald Trump has fashioned himself as a major threat to jihadist extremists, but they themselves see his posturing also as an opportunity, according to analysts who study their communications.

[…]

“It’s clear they find his comments, they find his demeanor, they find his approach, in some way serving the goals of ISIS in some manner, whether it be in having a ground war in Syria or weakening the United States,” Laith Alkhouri, a counterterrorism analyst and co-founder of the threat intelligence firm FlashPoint, told TPM. “They believe that with the U.S. weakening down that the Caliphate will actually rise.”

Alkhouri researches online networks used by terrorist groups and their supporters, including one dark web site he described as a “holistic jihadist web forum” the also serves as an Islamic State mouthpiece.

One such discussion began with a meme posted by a user of a homeless person in California holding a sign that says “Give me $$$ or I will vote for Trump,” which the commenter captioned, “even the American beggar knows the danger of Trump on the Americans.”

[…]

Mara Revkin, a PhD student at Yale who has studied ISIS governance, told TPM that in her interviews with both current Islamic State supporters and defectors, Trump is viewed as the ultimate enemy, someone who may push the U.S. into a ground war in the Middle East.

Revkin–who has traveled a total of four times to Turkey and Iraq this year for her research– said that one Syrian Islamic State defector told her in Turkey that ISIS uses Trump in their propaganda because he is the “perfect enemy.” Revkin added that the Arabic might translate more directly as “excellent enemy.”

“His anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim rhetoric totally validates ISIS claims that Muslims are unwelcome in Europe and the U.S., and that they would be better off living in its so-called caliphate,” she said. “ISIS exploits these inflammatory statements to mobilize its supporters around the idea that the West—and America in particular—is hostile to Islam.”

Between these folks and our home-grown KKK and Neo-Nazi alt-right fans, Mr. Trump’s hold on the extremists is unassailable.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

Birtherism Born Again

Here we go again.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Thursday went where the candidate has refused to publicly go — saying Trump does believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States, even though the GOP nominee on Wednesday ducked the question.

Trump told the Washington Post in an interview Wednesday night that was published Thursday that “I’ll answer that question at the right time” and “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

But Thursday night, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement: “Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”

Here’s the Trump campaign statement in full:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joe admits that it was Clinton’s henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.

In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.

Tim Murphy at Mother Jones took a look at the Trump campaign statement and says that “virtually every line of the statement is a lie.”

Hillary Clinton did not allege that the president was born in Kenya. Trump did not compel Obama to release his birth certificate “when others had not”—Obama had already released a copy of his birth certificate, but critics, including Trump, believed it to be a fake. So Obama released a longer birth certificate in 2011—but that release did not bring “closure” to the issue. Instead, Trump called it a forgery, citing “Israeli science,” and announced that he was sending a team of investigators to Hawaii to uncover the truth. He suggested that a Hawaiian health official who knew of the cover-up had died in suspicious circumstances.

And no, Mr. Trump does not believe that President Obama was born in the United States.

He’s got himself in the corner now because he’s going to be asked about it again and again, and he’s not going to give in.  First, he never gives in on anything.  Second, even if he did, he’d be blowing it with a large number of his base — aka The Deplorables — who firmly believe that Barack Obama is an alien, a usurper, the Anti-Christ, and the guy who keeps calling and telling them he’s from the IRS.

The only way to get out from under this would be to release his taxes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

He’s Worse

I actually think Mike Pence is a worse candidate for national office than Donald Trump.  Not because he’s more bellicose, avowedly racist, and a serial liar who makes stuff up just to see if the CNN crawl will call him out on it.  It’s because he’s comparatively low-key and seemingly nice and polite with a restrained ego and comparatively polished demeanor.  Those are the ones you have to really watch out for.

For example, he was shocked and saddened that Hillary Clinton pointed out that there are those who support his ticket who are racists and religious bigots.  Not because they are not (because that’s glaringly obvious), but because that would be rude.

BLITZER: But [Clinton] said, there are supporters, and you know this, there are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, who, David Duke, for example, some other white nationalist, who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?”

PENCE: “As I’ve told you the last time I was on, I’m not sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke’s name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.”

BLITZER: “You called him a deplorable. You would call him a deplorable?”

PENCE: “No, I’m not in the name-calling business, Wolf, you know me better than that.”

So he refuses to call a card-carrying, robe-wearing, cross-burning racist anti-Semite “deplorable” because it might hurt his feelings?  Aw, isn’t that nice?  And he won’t renounce Mr. Trump’s birther campaign because that’s old news; it happened four years ago.  (News flash: Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State four years ago when she had the private e-mail account.  Why isn’t that old news?)

The loudmouths get all the attention for their outrageous statements and policy pronouncements, but it’s the quiet ones who are genial and benign on TV — “you know me better than that, Wolf” — who do the dirty work behind the scenes and implement the evil that men do.  Think Dick Cheney and company.  Or if you need a more extreme example, think Himmler and Eichmann.

Oh, okay, so Mike Pence and the Trump enablers may not be harbingers of the Third Reich, but there are those among his followers who would be happy to teach them how to goose-step.

Overcompensating For A Loss

Kentucky’s governor calls for bloodshed if Hillary Clinton wins.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made an appearance at the “Values Voter Summit” last weekend to rev up the haters and “patriots” for November.

During his speech, Bevin related a story. “Somebody asked me yesterday, I did an interview and they said, ‘Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive? That we would ever be able to recover as a nation?’ And while there are people who have stood on this stage and said we would not, I would beg to differ,” he said.

He continued, “But I will tell you this: I do think it would be possible, but at what price? At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood, of who? The tyrants to be sure, but who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children.”

“It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away,” he concluded.

(Nine children?  What did he do, marry a Xerox machine?  Ever heard of overpopulation?  And bragging about it… ever heard of overcompensation?  We get it: your dick works.  Mazel tov.)

Advocating armed rebellion because you don’t like the way an election turned out is what makes you “deplorable.”

Thursday, September 8, 2016

General Tech Support

Colin Powell sent Hillary Clinton an e-mail on how to get around the security apparatus for e-mails at the State Department.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, publicly released an email exchange in which former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the use of personal email two days after she was sworn in as Secretary.

“This email exchange shows that Secretary Powell advised Secretary Clinton with a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice.

This email exchange also illustrates the longstanding problem that no Secretary of State ever used an official unclassified email account until the current Secretary of State.”

Full e-mail exchange between Powell and Clinton here.

Lock him up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Little Boys and Their Little Toys

The New York Times did a piece on white guys and their obsession with blowing black smoke out of their big butch trucks.

But to diesel owners like Corey Blue of Roanoke, Ill., the very efforts to ban coal rolling represent the worst of government overreach and environmental activism. “Your bill will not stop us!” Mr. Blue wrote to Will Guzzardi, a state representative who has proposed a $5,000 fine on anyone who removes or alters emissions equipment.

“Why don’t you go live in Sweden and get the heck out of our country,” Mr. Blue wrote.” I will continue to roll coal anytime I feel like and fog your stupid eco-cars.”

Sounds like they’re trying to overcome another shortcoming.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Short Takes

President Obama cancels meeting with Philippines president.

Obama and Putin have “blunt” talk on summit sidelines.

Hillary Clinton gives the press a lift on campaign plane.

Roger Ailes hints he’ll sue New York magazine.

Tropical Update: The newest model is Invest 92L southeast of Hispaniola.

The Tigers beat the White Sox, keep in the hunt for a wild card spot.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Yes, It Can Happen Here — Part III

Following up on the post below, Rachel Maddow looks at the scare tactics and frankly scary bloviation by Donald Trump in his speech in Phoenix.

Ms. Maddow’s comparison to the Know-Nothings and the anti-immigrant wave in 19th century America is spot on, but if you want to really get down to where we’ve seen this blame-the-Others more recently, all you have to do is look at 1930’s Europe when the post-World War I economies crashed and let in the rats of fascism and racism.

Yes, it can happen here.

HT to CLW.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mixed Message

Donald Trump held a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, last night in order to show the world that of course he’s not a racist because look, Jackson is three-quarters African-American.  Oh, and look who he brought along.

Nigel Farage, the man who helped lead the movement in Great Britain to leave the European Union, is expected to campaign with Donald Trump Wednesday night at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi.

The former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party will not offer an endorsement of Trump, a source close to Farage said, but will instead offer remarks on how to beat the odds and win an election.

“It came about after his visit to the Cleveland convention,” the source said. “He’s not here to endorse Trump but explain the Brexit story which has similar parallels to the current presidential race — he is going to be talking to grassroots activists about Brexit.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Farage was already in Mississippi Wednesday morning, where he did an in-studio radio interview. The source close to him said he will attend a private reception with Trump and 600 Republican donors Wednesday, where he will also be joined by Aaron Banks, a friend of Farage’s and a multimillionaire who bankrolled the U.K. Independence Party.

Following the reception, Farage is expected to attend the Trump rally where he will deliver his speech. He will likely be followed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who will be followed by Trump himself.

So in order to promote his message of outreach to the black community, Mr. Trump is going to hang out with the man who led the anti-immigrant, basically pro-white party in Britain and who agrees with him that too many brown and black people are ruining this great nation of ours.

They Deserve Each Other

On the very day that Ann Coulter, the whitest woman in America, releases her new book that lathers up her affection and devotion for Donald Trump, he goes mushy on immigration, the one topic that Ms. Coulter never gives ground on.

Oh, she is pissed.

Would you like some popcorn with your schadenfreude?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Nice People

Just the sort of people who will be helping Donald Trump reach out to minorities.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, mocked how Mexicans talk, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims.

A graphic designer for Trump’s advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that “those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight.”

The AP’s findings come at a time when Trump is showing new interest in appealing to minority voters, insisting he will be fair in dealing with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and explicitly pitching himself to African-Americans, saying “what do you have to lose?”

Wingnuts need jobs too, y’know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Here’s The Pivot

Via TPM:

“The liberal media took what I said and went against the law and the Constitution and ran with it, and they said that I wanted her assassinated, which I never did,” Baldasaro told The Republican/MassLive.com. “I said I spoke as a veteran, and she should be shot in a firing squad for treason.”

Thanks for clearing that up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Well, There Was That

How quickly he forgets:

Speaking in Youngstown, Ohio ahead of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City on 9/11, declared that Islamic extremists hadn’t carried out any terror attacks on American soil before Barack Obama’s presidency.

“Under those 8 years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the US,” Giuliani told the crowd. “They all started when Clinton and Obama came into office.”

Except for this:

New Yorker 9-11 cover 09-08-06

Monday, August 15, 2016

That Which Survives

Labor Day, the traditional start of the presidential campaign in years past, is three weeks from today and it already looks like the campaign is over.

Via Washington Monthly:

First and foremost is the new CBS battleground tracker showing Clinton with sizable leads in Florida and New Hampshire, and within four points even in Georgia. Clinton’s lead is outside the margin of error in Florida at 5 points, and in blowout territory in New Hampshire at 9 points. Even if Clinton can’t pull ahead in Georgia (contrary to other polls that have shown her doing so), the likelihood of forcing Republicans to play defense there is already a big win for the blue team.

Meanwhile, a new USA Today poll shows that Trump is getting creamed among young voters by unprecedented margins, dwarfing even the gap faced by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. Clinton is leading Trump by an astonishing 56% to 20% margin among voters under 35. By contrast, Nixon got 32% among 18-29 year olds in 1972.The RCP average with no toss-ups gives Clinton a whopping 362 electoral votes In other words, this isn’t just a single-year disaster for the GOP. This is an ongoing generational and demographic catastrophe that threatens to permanently change the electoral map.

Nor is it entirely clear where Republicans can go from here. Younger and middle-of-the-road voters are deeply offended by the overtly racist and sexist appeals of the white supremacist Alt Right. But even the white male working class voters that Republicans have long relied on for support no longer buy into the Romney Republican supply-side argument: minorities aren’t being adequately disadvantaged by subtle economic discrimination on behalf of the rich to make up for the damage that blue-collar white men are facing from free trade and Wall Street friendly policies.

Meanwhile, the voters under 40 of all races and genders who so strongly backed Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialism are just as hostile to Paul Ryan’s objectivist economic agenda as they are to Trump’s bigoted cultural one.

If the campaign stays on the track it’s on, Hillary Clinton will win with such numbers that challenging her totals will be akin to Walter Mondale asking for a recount in 1984.

Via FiveThirtyEight, the Nowcast; if the election were held today.

FiveThirtyEight Nowcast 08-15-16What will be left of the GOP?  Will Donald Trump still remain a force in the party or will he be given the bum’s rush like the Democrats did with Michael Dukakis and will the party reshape itself along more moderate lines?

Wait, didn’t they try that in 2013 with their autopsy that called for reaching out to minorities and women and embracing such things as immigration reform with a path to citizenship and less emphasis on being the Stupid Party?  How’d that work?

The problem isn’t the candidates that they march out and get their base to vote for, it’s the base they’ve recruited.  Doubling down on the Nixon-era Southern Strategy, the Republicans have gone after the foolish, the bigoted, and the gullible (see here for a sample of that) who now make up the foundation of the primary voters.  Through abstract threats about gay marriage, who is peeing where, abortion via vending machine, defending the indefensible (the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage, right?), and shredding the Constitution in the name of defending it, they have let loose the worst of the American id.  And losing three or four presidential elections in a row will only make them madder.

This corner they’ve painted themselves into won’t be easy to get out of.  The various state legislatures have gerrymandered all these safe Republican districts and it won’t be until after the next census in 2020 that they will be able to reconfigure them even if they wanted to.  They are bought and paid for by a murderous lobbying group, the NRA, who can, at the push of an e-mail blast, replace a moderate Republican with a gun-stroking ammosexual in a primary who is sure the Bill of Rights ends after the Second.

Donald Trump co-opted the base of the GOP and exploited it for his own self-aggrandizement, and once the election is over he will — or so he says — retreat to his lair for a “long vacation.”  Trumpism will not survive without him because it is a cult of personality, and without him, it will return to what it has always been: white people who believe that their entitlements to wealth and power — or the dreams thereof which keep the poor buying Powerball tickets and drooling over celebrity gossip — are threatened by unknown conspirators and boogedy-boogedy Others.  It’s what gave rise to the Know-Nothings in the 1850’s, the Klan during Reconstruction, the Tea Party in 2010, and it’s been the fodder of dictators for centuries.  Exploiters like Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy come and go, but the seething base — those who believe somehow that their skin color and religion give them the right to surrender their grievances to grifters — will never die.

The only question is who will be the next one to pick up the burning cross and run with it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Reading

Charles P. Pierce — Sarcasm?  What sarcasm?

All votes are in, people. Donald Trump is the third Piranha Brother. There are now Doug, Dinsdale, and Donald.

In case, like all sensible Americans, you’ve been watching the Olympics and haven’t noticed what’s been up with El Caudillo de Mar-A-Lago, he spent a couple of days telling his audiences of screaming geeks that the president was “the founder of ISIS.” Then he spent yesterday saying that, when he said “founder,” he meant “founder,” dammit. Then this morning, he took to the electric Twitter machine and declared that he was only engaging in “SARCASM” and that all the dim bulbs in the dishonest press don’t get the vast sweep of his subtle wit.

For his next trick, he’s going to swallow his own head.

Just for information’s sake, as any middle-school teacher knows from long experience, this is an example of sarcasm:

“Yeah, sure, like we’re going to hand the nuclear codes to a vulgar talking yam who stiffs his subcontractors and doesn’t know enough about any major issue to throw to a cat. Yeah, we’re gonna do that. Surrrrre.”

Sarcasm.

Accusing the president of “founding” a barbaric terrorist group and then insisting you were serious?

Not sarcasm.

You know what else isn’t sarcasm? Suggesting that you intend to turn the American system of criminal justice unilaterally into a Peronist nightmare. That’s not sarcasm. The Miami Herald was there.

“Would you try to get the military commissions—the trial court there—to try U.S. citizens?” a reporter asked. “Well, I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all,” he said. “I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine.”

Actually, that would not be fine. The Constitution says it would not be fine. I suspect more than a few lawyers in the Pentagon would say that it would not be fine. Actually, I suspect Alexander Hamilton, an actual Founder of something, would say that it would not be fine, because he wrote this in Federalist 28:

Independent of all other reasonings upon the subject, it is a full answer to those who require a more peremptory provision against military establishments in times of peace to say that the whole power of the proposed government is to be in the hands of the representatives of the people. This is the essential, and, after all, the only efficacious security for the rights and privileges of the people which is attainable in civil society.

Actually, I suspect that Thomas Jefferson, another actual Founder of something, would say that it would not be fine, because this is one of the particulars on which he arraigned George III in a little document you may have heard of called “The Declaration of Independence.”

(That last part, by the way, was sarcasm.)

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

So, no, I don’t think he’s being sarcastic about any of this. I think there’s only one joke out there, and it’s the one over which obvious anagram Reince Priebus presides.

Ninety Years of Fidel — Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker.

Fidel Castro is turning ninety on Saturday. It has been a long life, and a most eventful one. He was born on August 13, 1926, three years before the Great Crash and the start of the global depression. Feature films were still silent; commercial air travel was in its infancy; most people who moved around the globe did so by ship; many navies still used sailing ships. The telephone existed, but for instant global communication and news, the telegram was still the thing. Most cars still had to be started with a hand crank.

Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States, which at the time had a population of a hundred and seventeen million—a third of its present size—and there were forty-eight states. The United States was not a superpower. The country had few paved roads, and less than ten per cent of the rural population had access to electricity. A Sharia-style ban on the consumption of alcohol, known as Prohibition, had been in force since 1920 (and would last until 1933). Cuba had been an independent republic for a mere twenty-four years. It was the last of Spain’s colonies in the New World to be relinquished, but only after intervention by American forces, in 1898, had ended decades of bloody warfare with Cuban nationalists. Cuba had then fallen under U.S. military administration; it gained its independence in 1902, but only after it had agreed to have the so-called Platt Amendment embedded in its new constitution. This provision granted the U.S. control in perpetuity over Guantánamo Bay, as well as the right to intervene in Cuba whenever it saw fit. For decades thereafter, Cuba remained a virtual American colony, a period that Fidel has always referred to as the “pseudo-republica.” The U.S. Marines intervened repeatedly, and the Presidents were of the pliant variety.

Fidel, and his younger brother Raúl, grew up in Birán, then, as now, a provincial backwater of eastern Cuba, an area dominated in those days by carpetbagging U.S. agribusinesses like United Fruit, which had swooped in and bought up most of the productive land in the halcyon days that followed the Spanish-American War. Fidel’s father, Ángel Castro, had emigrated from a godforsaken corner of Galicia, in Spain, as a teen-ager, and stayed, eventually becoming a kind of peasant overlord with a large and prosperous finca on which he harvested sugarcane with Haitian laborers that was sold to the United Fruit Company.

By the time Fidel was sent to Havana for a private Jesuit education, and from there to Havana University, to study law, he had become an ardent nationalist, a fervent admirer of the country’s nineteenth-century national-independence hero, José Martí—a poet and journalist who had joined the war against the Spaniards and died heroically when he charged the enemy on horseback in his first day on the battlefield. He was an admirer of other historic men of action as well, including Robespierre, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

By the age of twenty-one, Fidel had begun to entertain political ambitions of his own, and was becoming known to Cuban authorities as a hothead with political aspirations and a penchant for the dramatic gesture. In 1947, he joined a boat expedition with other would-be revolutionaries planning to violently unseat the neighboring Dominican Republic’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The expedition was intercepted by Cuban troops before it ever made it off a remote Cuban cay, but the next year, while Fidel was in Bogotá, Colombia, for an anti-imperalist youth congress, the popular Liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, sparking massive rioting; Fidel participated. Back in Cuba, in 1949, Fidel helped organize a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy after an incident in which American sailors clambered onto a statue of José Martí in a prominent plaza in Old Havana and urinated on it; Fidel got a police beating for his troubles.

By 1953, aged twenty-seven, Fidel’s ambition was no less than the seizure of power in Cuba, which by then was in the hands of an especially corrupt dictator, Fulgencio Batista. In July, he led a full-frontal assault with several fellow-armed youngsters against the Moncada army barracks in Cuba’s second city of Santiago. It was an unmitigated disaster. A number of rebels died in the fighting, and dozens more were executed, some after being brutally tortured. Fidel survived, and when he was put on trial he defended himself with an impassioned piece of oratory that took him four hours to read out, in which he declared, “History will absolve me.” He was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but the proceedings solidified his position as a national figure.

Nearly two years into Fidel’s imprisonment, in an ill-advised act of magnanimity, Batista signed an amnesty that freed Fidel from prison. He immediately went into exile in Mexico, where, with his brother Raúl, who had recruited a young Argentine named Ernesto (Che) Guevara to their cause, he began planning for a guerrilla war against Batista. Within a year and a half, he and his followers had begun that war, and by New Year’s Day, 1959, Batista had fled, and Fidel and his rebels had won.

Then followed the big stuff of history: the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the creation of a one-party state presided over by the Cuban Communist Party; myriad attempts by the C.I.A. to kill or oust Fidel, and his remarkable ability to survive, and to stay in power; his support for guerrilla struggles in dozens of other countries; the great exodus of Cubans who fled the island, mostly to Florida, some for economic reasons and others in search of political freedom. The Soviet Union collapsed, but Fidel remained in power until 2006, when he fell ill and handed the job over to Raúl.

When Fidel came to power, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President. Today it is Barack Obama, an African-American, who visited the island last March at the invitation of Raúl, after the two leaders restored diplomatic relations, in 2014. Fidel was not part of the official visit, nor did he appear in public, but his presence was felt. Over the past decade, as Fidel has adapted to his role as Cuba’s elder statesman, he has expressed his opinions in occasional columns published in the official Communist daily, Granma. In the past year and a half, since the restoration of relations with the Americans, he has made it abundantly clear that he remains deeply skeptical of American intentions, while emphasizing that he supports his younger brother’s decisions. But, coming as it does in the twilight of his life, the fact that the Americans are back—initially in the form of a growing flood of eager tourists, but also as prospective investors—must be deeply poignant for Fidel, whose opposition to el imperialismo yanqui was the mainstay of his political career. What did Fidel think of the fact that American personalities of the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and Jerry Springer were touring Havana last spring, taking selfies and tweeting about what they did and saw and ate and drank?

In his last public appearance, at the seventh Cuban Communist Party Congress, in April, a frail-looking Fidel gave a speech in which he did not once mention the Americans. He spoke instead of his preoccupation with the challenges confronting humankind, including the risks posed by arms proliferation, global warming, and food scarcities. And Fidel reaffirmed his faith in Communism, in the future of Cuba, and the legacy that he believed Cuba’s Communists had forged. He also mentioned his looming birthday. It was a milestone, he said, that he had “never expected to reach.”

Stopping Zika Cold — Erica Langston in Mother Jones.

Mosquitoes may be small, but they pack a mean punch. Weighing in at a measly 2.5 milligrams, these buzzing arthropods are responsible for more deaths than snake bites, shark attacks, and murders combined. A whopping 725,000 people die each year from diseases transmitted by this common pest. Researchers have spent decades and millions of dollars fighting dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya—dangerous viruses that female mosquitoes can spread in a single bite. Now—as scientists rev up efforts to tackle the worsening mosquito-borne Zika epidemic that’s rocked the Americas—some scientists are tapping into Earth’s oldest organic armies as they seek to wipe out these diseases.

In this week’s episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, journalist and author Ed Yong explores the emerging science of the microbiome—the trillions of tiny organisms that inhabit the bodies of humans and other animals. Along the way, he tells host Kishore Hari about Wolbachia—one of nature’s most successful land-based bacteria—and its potential to aid the fight against Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Wolbachia, says Yong, has “tremendous promise in bringing tropical diseases to heal.”

Wolbachia is extremely versatile; it can infect more than 40 percent of all arthropod species, including spiders, insects, and mites. Research has shown that female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the bacteria are unable to transmit common viruses, including Zika and dengue. And because Wolbachiapasses from a female mosquito to her offspring, it could spread easily through a wild population. That means releasing a small batch of mosquitoes infected with the bacteria could help eradicate mosquito-borne diseases in a potentially short amount of time, says Yong. For a mosquito whose global range spans six continents—and includes a large chunk of the United States, the impact on global public health could be substantial.

Despite years of research, treatments for many mosquito-borne illnesses is limited. Clinical trials for a Zika vaccine are underway, but researchers don’t expect one to be available to the public for at least 18 months. “There are no vaccines,” Yong says. “There are no good treatments for dengue. We need better ways of controlling these diseases.” Field trials of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitos have been underway in Australia since 2011, and in Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam since 2014. The results have shown great promise, with no ill effect on people or the environment.

Yong argues that Wolbachia is safer and more cost-effective than traditional vector control methods, such as spraying with insecticides. And unlike insecticides, bacteria are self-perpetuating. And Wolbachia doesn’t appear to affect mosquito populations, so other insects and animals that feed on these pests won’t miss a meal. “It’s not about killing mosquitos,” Yong says, “it’s about turning them into dead ends for viruses.”

Doonesbury — Meeting of minds.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Git Out

Donald Trump’s latest brainwave:

A President Donald Trump might push for Americans accused of terrorism to be tried in military tribunal at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Republican nominee told the Miami Herald on Thursday.

“I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine,” Trump said in a brief interview ahead of his speech to home builders in Miami Beach.

Under current federal law, it’s illegal to try U.S. citizens at military commissions. Changing the law would require an act of Congress.

In the wide-ranging interview focused on key South Florida issues, Trump continued to question climate change caused by humans. He said he plans to soon sit down with Cuban Americans in Miami to hash out a Cuba policy. And for the first time, he said Congress should set aside money to combat the Zika virus.

Asked about Guantánamo in the past, Trump has said he would like to “load it up with bad dudes.” He wouldn’t specify to the Herald whether as president he would again allow terrorism suspects captured abroad to be transferred to the detention center.

“I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them,” he said. President Barack Obama, he added, is “allowing people to get out that are terrible people.”

“Would you try to get the military commissions — the trial court there — to try U.S. citizens?” a reporter asked.

“Well, I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all,” he said. “I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine.”

Why is it that when this guy comes up with some new idea it turns out to be illegal, immoral, or unworkable?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

They Won’t Give Up

I said something like this a while back, but it bears repeating.

So basically, Trump’s “rigging” argument comes down to this: “Nice little government you’ve got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” Sadly it’s almost certain that if he doesn’t win his followers and the GOP will do everything in their power to ensure that Clinton and the rest of us pay a heavy price for it. That’s pretty much what they’ve done for the past 24 years and there’s little reason to think they’ve changed.  They simply refuse to believe they can lose.

This is why the Democrats need to win not only the White House, but the Senate, the House, and start to work on the state legislatures.  The only way to ensure that we won’t have another four or eight years of stagnation and pious tantrums from the likes of Peter King and Mitch McConnell is to leave them with nothing but stand-ups for Fox News.

They can refuse to believe they can lose all they want.  The trick is to make them lose no matter what they believe.