The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

In followup of yesterday’s post on the struggle of the Democratic leadership to revamp their party by coming up with a new slogan, Chuck Schumer has an op-ed in The New York Times on The Better Deal. As I quoted Nancy Pelosi in saying yesterday, this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” Democrats who turned out to willingly vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be pleased, but only a major course direction will satisfy those of us who did not. This offers little to win back the votes of those of us who did not vote Democratic in 2016. That includes those of us who voted third party, and the even larger numbers who crossed over and voted for Trump over Clinton or stayed home.

These proposals leave the Democrats as a party which stands for nothing. At least they didn’t mention Russia. Unfortunately this also didn’t really discuss  health care. It is like trying to steal Bernie Sanders’ agenda while ignoring Medicare-for-all or actually getting big money influence out of politics.

Beyond this, the problem comes down to thinking they can substitute a new slogan for real policies or ideas. They hardly inspire confidence when the principles of one election, to the limited degree they express any, are ignored in the next. Running on social issues alone was not enough (especially when led by a socially conservative presidential candidate), but that does not mean they should ignore liberal social issues now.

Those of us who voted Democratic because of outrage over policies of George W. Bush are hardly going to be enthusiastic about a party which nominated a candidate who supported the worst abuses under Bush–neoconservative interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties, and increased government secrecy.  Nor is there any offer to reform the undemocratic nomination rules which make the mockery out of the primary process, making it little different than picking the nominee in the old smoked filled rooms.

The new slogan has been received with considerable derision. Jonathan Allen compares the new Democratic slogan, “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” to the pitch from Papa John’s, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” Except the Democrats failed to add better ingredients.

First Read has a more serious but equally devastating criticism of Schumer and Pelosi in asking, “Can Democrats promise a ‘Better Deal’ with the same leaders in charge?”

The one thing that Democrats do have going for them in 2018 is that Donald Trump will (probably) be sitting in the White House, and Hillary Clinton will not be on the ballot. Hillary Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Donald Trump’s. FiveThirtyEight showed how the nomination of Hillary Clinton cost the Democrats not only the White House, but Congress:

Clinton’s unpopularity turned out to be a key factor in 2016 congressional races. Unsurprisingly, people who had a favorable view of Clinton primarily voted for Democrats in House races, while people with a favorable view of Trump primarily voted for Republican candidates. But among the 19 percent of voters who had an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates, House Republican candidates won by a margin of 30 percentage points. (Some voters may have cast a ballot for a Republican House candidate in the belief that a House controlled by the GOP would balance Clinton’s power after what most Americans thought would be a Clinton win.)

Not having Clinton on the ballot should help Democrats pick up seats in 2018, but it is likely to be a dead cat bounce, and perhaps more limited than Democrats hope, if the Democrats do not come up with more of a reason to attract voters than opposing Trump. It might be best if the Democrats could get out of the way and allow a new party to take over as a the true opposition and resistance.

SciFi Weekend: News From Comic Con Including CW Shows, Stranger Things, Star Trek Discovery, 12 Monkeys, Outlander, & Doctor Who; Briefs On Orphan Black and Other Current Genre Shows

There is a lot of news, and lots of videos, from San Diego Comic Con. Here are some of the highlights, with more likely to be posted next week.

The video above was released at the panel for The 100. TV Line has this information:

 “The prison ship [from the season finale] is from Earth,” Rothenberg revealed. “They’re from before the first apocalypse. They were in hyper-sleep for 100 years. They’ve come back to this planet that they don’t recognize. All that’s left is this Garden of Eden that Clarke’s been living in with her daughter.”

“It’s nice to be playing someone a little closer to my age,” Taylor said of the time jump. “It’ll be exciting to see her as a 24-year-old woman who’s been through so much, and is now taking on this maternal role.”

“Octavia doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing,” Avgeropoulos admitted, “but she doesn’t want to set off chaos with 1,200 people in the bunker. … You’ll see what her plan is to keep the peace and how she reprimands others in her own special way.”

“Raven is so special because she’s so smart,” Morgan said. “She’s a key ingredient in the mix for their survival. Her heart weighs on her a lot. The only reason everyone is in space is because of Raven.”

“All of us have to change up [in space],” Harmon said. “It’s freeing in a lot of ways. Over six years, a lot of therapy can happen. Murphy’s definitely going to change.”

“Harper is Monty’s main lifeline at the current moment,” Larkin said. “He owes her his life. She chose him. I don’t know if they’re still together. … Maybe Monty and Murphy are together. It’s been six years!”

New series regular Tasya Teles also arrived on stage to talk about Echo’s future: “I think about it a lot. Who will she become friends with? … I was thinking she’d get close to Raven for some reason. They’re girls who get things done. I see those two having an alliance.”

Rothenberg wouldn’t say whether any new couples have formed during the time jump, but he reminded us that “six years is a long time.”

Supergirl has new show runners, and it sounds like there will be more of Calista Flockhart. Entertainment Weekly reports:

Calista Flockhart will return as Cat Grant in the Supergirl season 3 premiere, new showrunners Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner told reporters ahead of the Supergirl panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday. She is expected to recur on the CW drama in the new season.

“The way that Calista appears in the first episode is really clever,” star Melissa Benoist told reporters.

Supergirl also intends to give up being Kara Danvers and be Supergirl full time, but I bet she changes her mind regarding this.

The trailer for The Flash shows a new team while Barry is in the speed force, with Iris left in charge. Caitlin Snow also appears to be back with the team, and the trailer does hint at Barry returning. SyFy Wire has this information from producer Todd Helbing:

According to Helbing, this season picks up six months after the events of the finale. Iris will be stepping up as team leader, trying to do what Barry told her to do. According to star Candace Patton, that means stepping back from her journalism career and taking over as leader of Team Flash at Star Labs. She’ll be playing a similar role to Felicity/Overwatch on their sister show, Arrow.

Wally will also be taking on new responsibilities this season as he goes from Kid Flash to just The Flash. That transition is a big challenge, though, says Keiynan Lonsdale. Wally’s relationship with Iris will also deepen as the two work through their respective grief over losing Barry.

And what about Barry? Well, it turns out we won’t be seeing him in the speed force at all, but we will see the effect the experience had on him. According to Grant Gustin, Barry spent his time in the speed force watching his life from start to end, and he’ll have much better insight into himself. He’ll also be a much lighter version of Barry in a much lighter season, a welcome reprieve from the darkness that has overtaken the show in recent years. Welcomed by both the audience and the actor. Gustin said Season 3 was hard on him, admitting that he sometimes went home and cried in the shower.

Helbing also stressed the lightness of the new season, saying they’ll also be taking a break from time travel this year.

The rest of the crew will be back too. Cisco will be further exploring his relationship with Gypsy this season, but he won’t be getting a new suit. Says Carlos Valdez, “My ass feels great in the pants.” Of course, the season won’t be entirely happy for Cisco. He’s feeling the loss of his friends and is working to bring them back.

Cisco isn’t the only one with romance in his future. Joe’s relationship with Cecile will also grow more. But, as always, Joe’s focus will be his children. According to Jesse L. Martin, while Joe is very proud that Wally was able to step into Barry’s shoes, he’s worried about all the pain Iris is going through.

Caitlyn fans, though, will apparently be the happiest of all this season. After succumbing to her Killer Frost instincts, Caitlyn ended Season 3 by leaving her friends to go soul searching, finding the balance between Caitlyn Snow and Killer Frost. Danielle Panabaker was particularly tight-lipped about what’s to come for her character, but she did say that she’s enjoying the opportunity to bridge light and dark.

Speaking of the darkness, what of this year’s villain, The Thinker? According to Helbing, he’ll be the big theme of the year. He did not elaborate, though, so anything beyond that will have to be left to the imagination.

Michael Emerson of Lost and Person of Interest will have a recurring role on Arrow next season, but there is no word about his role.

BuddyTV has this information on Legends of Tomorrow:

The quartet of villains who terrorized the group in season 2, The Legion of Doom is a large part of why Legends of Tomorrow was received so well in its second year. It is no surprise then then that in season 3, two of the four member of the group will make their reappearance. After the trailer which opened the panel, embedded below, the show confirmed that Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk will be back.
Miller and McDonough will both be series regulars for season 3 but their characters won’t be exactly as people remember them. The Darhk of season 3 will less “silly” than the version from season 2. As for Cold, Dominic Purcell who plays Mick Rory, cautioned that the Snart of season 3 won’t be exactly be the same friend that Mick lost in season 1 (and to a lesser extent season 2).

While Miller and McDonough will stay on the show as series regulars, Arthur Darvill won’t be quite as prominent. The actor who played Rip Hunter, the team’s original leader, will still appear in season 3. Darvill will just be a recurring role rather than a series regular one, which is not that surprising since Rip did give up his spot on the team in the season 2 finale. Rip will still play a big part in the season as he is mentioned to have some big secret that he is hiding in the trailer.

E! summarizes Marvel news from Comic Con here. The trailer for Thor:Ragnarok is above.

A trailer for the second season of Stranger Things was released with this description: It’s 1984 and the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.

TV Guide has this information from the Stranger Things panel:

1. The Duffer Brothers wanted to do TV because it’s more like movies now. “We were big movie nerds, and we started to get into television as it got more cinematic,” Matt Duffer told the room, crediting shows like True Detective. They thought about what would be the best “long movie,” and decided a Spielberg homage was the way to go.

2. They knew what the title font should be, before they even started. Producer Shawn Levy credited the Duffer Brothers’ clarity of vision coming in to the project as the reason Netflix decided to take a chance on the unknown filmmakers, citing that they even knew what they wanted the now iconic title to look like from their first meeting.

3. More Will in Season 2! Will was offscreen most of last season, but from Schnapp we learned that not only will, uh, Will show up more, but he’ll be “braver” and we’ll learn more about how the Upside Down affected him.

4. Eleven had less lines, but a harder job. Millie Bobby Brown cited the difficulty of acting with a minimal amount of lines — particularly around “boys who like to play pranks.” But ultimately it was about concentrating, and feeling inside what needed to be expressed — and then letting that come through just with her facial muscles.

5. Hopper may be connecting with Eleven. Harbour stated that his character’s arc in Season 2 is definitely “very different” than it was in Season 1, and “it all begins with some Eggos he’s leaving in the woods.” The actor added that we know he has some daughter issues from Season 1, and that may play out in Season 2. Chances are, Hopper and Eleven are gonna team up, right?

6. Meet the new guys! Dacre Montgomery is playing Billy, Sadie Sink is Max (“a.k.a. Mad Max” quipped Keery), and Paul Reiser is Dr. Owens. Max moves from California, Owens may or may not be evil (though he’s definitely brought in to “clean up Dr. Brenner’s mess”)… And that’s all the info we got on the new folks. This show is a big secret!

7. The new trailer dropped! The new trailer showed off bigger monsters, Halloween costumes, some Michael Jackson music — and Eleven is back! You can watch it right here.

8. No, Barb is not coming back. The first audience question was from — surprise! — Shannon Purser, who played fan-favorite Barb on the show. She asked if Barb was coming back for Season 2, which was, sadly, a resounding “no.” That said, Season 2 will deal with Barb’s death, and give us some #Justice4Barb. “She will be avenged,” swear the Duffer Brothers.

More at USA Today.

Star Trek Discovery trailer. From ScreenRant:

Viewers are told in the teaser that Klingons have been submerged in chaos for a number of years, but are coming back to the surface for a battle against Starfleet. They also get their first look at Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, and it’s revealed that the invention of warp drive will somehow also play into the series. It’s a lot to take in, but Star Trek fans will be thankful for it.

The trailer for the final season of 12 Monkeys was released last week with discussion at SDCC covered here.

The cast of Outlanders took questions at SDCC with video here. Deadline interviewed Ron Moore:

MOORE: It’s a transitional season. You know, the franchise kind of pivots from this point because, it’s not really a huge spoiler, but essentially, the show will relocate to the American colonies after this season. So they’ll always have a foot in Scotland, because there’s always a piece of the story that will continue to play out in Scotland, but Claire and Jamie and their family really do kind of relocate to North America after this season and establish a place called Fraser’s Ridge, which is up in the mountains of North Carolina — and that’s where the rest of the season in the books takes place.

So this is a really important year because it’s leaving sort of one setting, traveling literally across the Atlantic Ocean. You know, we went down and shot on the Black Sails ships and sets in South Africa to do that section of the story, and then end up in the Caribbean, and then eventually into the American colonies. It’s a big transitional year for this show…

Looking at some of the genre shows currently airing, Orphan Black is moving towards its end game, and had probably its goriest scene ever this weekend. There has been some real change for the better with Rachel, and change which I’m undecided about with Allison. Krystal Goderitch finally returned the previous week. (Was the actress who played her unavailable until then?) Recent highlights also include Cosima and Delphine at a strange dinner party on the island. Pictures of Delphine released before the season led to rumors that the two were getting married. While that did not turn out to be the explanation, there are still a few episodes left.

I hope that the writers on Dark Matter aren’t running low on original ideas. In recent weeks we’ve had their takes on Groundhog Day and The Mattrix. There are a lot of interesting threads being developed which will hopefully culminate in something great (and original).

Syfy has renewed Wynonna Earp for a third season.

Now that Game of Thrones is back we can explain the last election in terms which fans of the show will understand. We were spared having Cersci Lannister take over, but got stuck with Joffrey Baratheon. For those disappointed that we did not get a female president, keep in mind that should the earth fall under alien invasion after the regeneration to the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who, she will become the President of Earth to deal with the invasion (if Chris Chibnall keeps this rather silly idea from the Moffat era).

Unfortunately there have been some complaints about Jodie Whittaker being given the role of the thirteenth doctor. The BBC has issued this response to complaints:

Since the first Doctor regenerated back in 1966, the concept of the Doctor as a constantly evolving being has been central to the programme. The continual input of fresh ideas and new voices across the cast and the writing and production teams has been key to the longevity of the series.

The Doctor is an alien from the planet Gallifrey and it has been established in the show that Time Lords can switch gender.

As the Controller of BBC Drama has said, Jodie is not just a talented actor but she has a bold and brilliant vision for her Doctor. She aced it in her audition both technically and with the powerful female life force she brings to the role. She is destined to be an utterly iconic Doctor.

We hope viewers will enjoy what we have in store for the continuation of the story.

It is impressive that the BBC has a site to take such complaints and that they do respond. It is less impressive that this casting decision about a fictional alien is bothering so many people.

There is help for those men who cannot handle a female lead despite having thirty-six seasons with a male lead, The Doctor Who Help Line. For those who don’t want to watch the full video above, the funniest lines include a man calling in saying he hoped that at least Jodie Whittaker will only be paid  seventy-nine cents on the dollar of what Peter Capaldi was paid, and a suggestion that she get her own show about a time traveling nurse. The BBC says that Jodie Whittaker will be paid as much as Peter Capaldi. At least as of now this will be her last appearance:

 “That’s it,” said Mackie. “The Christmas special is your last chance to see Bill. But I mean, hey, it’s Doctor Who, so never say never.”

The trailer for the Christmas episode released at SDCC, entitled Twice Upon A Time, reveals that, in addition to two Doctors played by Peter Capaldi and David Bradley, the cast includes Mark Gatiss and Pearle Mackie, returning as Bill.

Deborah Watling, who played the second Doctor’s companion Victoria Waterfield, died last week.

Update: More news from San Diego Comic Con here.

The Democrats Are Hopelessly Lost

After terrible showings in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 elections, the Democratic establishment is looking for a solution. The Washington Post reports that they are going to announce a new slogan:

Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.

Nancy Pelosi remains one of the captains of the sinking ship, saying this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” No, the Democrats need a full fledged course correction. The Democratic Party’s answer for the Titanic would be to find a better way to talk about the iceberg before hitting it.

At least there was one bit of sense in the article:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Unfortunately the new slogan still sounds like they are against Trump but otherwise stand for nothing. As Mahablog says, “The Democratic Party is like your unhip parents trying to be cool, and failing.”

The Democrats took the wrong lesson out of their loss. The conventional wisdom is that they lost because they concentrated on social issues as opposed to economics, but that is a misreading of their problem. They compromised so much on social issues with a socially conservative candidate such as Hillary Clinton that they had no chance to build a winning coalition on social issues. That does not mean that they should abandon liberal social issues entirely.

Just as they now look to abandoning social issues, they gave up on opposing neocon interventionism and support for civil liberties in 2016 with a candidate who was far right wing on both, throwing out their previous advantages over the agenda of George W. Bush. Democrats need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Instead they focus on one voter group while giving others no reason to support them, and don’t even do a good job with the group they are focusing on.

The new slogan sounds like a watered-down copy of Bernie Sanders’ agenda. The Hill points out that Bernie Sanders is keeping the door open for 2020. Unfortunately the article points out that establishment Democrats oppose him, both because of Sanders being an independent, and as he is on their long list of people to blame for Hillary Clinton losing an election she should have been able to win. Establishment Democrats complain that Bernie Sanders is an independent and not a Democrat. In contrast, Sanders supporters complain about far more consequential matters, such as the Democratic establishment picking their nominees with an undemocratic process, the Democratic establishment choosing a neocon warmonger as their last nominee, and the Democratic establishment being in the pocket of corporate money.

Update:  The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

Investigations Of Trump Expand Along With Speculation That He Will Repeat Saturday Night Massacre

News reports discussed two avenues of investigation being pursued regarding Donald Trump. One of them, his business ties, appears to be of value. The other is of more questionable value–fake news on Facebook.

Bloomberg is reporting that Robert Mueller is expanding the investigation into Trump’s business ties:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Wall Street Journal has further information related to the investigation of Paul Manafort:

Mr. Manafort, a Republican political consultant, spent years working for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine. He served as Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign manager for roughly three months in 2016 before resigning.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also are investigating Mr. Manafort’s real-estate transactions, The Wall Street Journal has reported, with both offices examining his dealings for possible money-laundering and fraud. Messrs. Schneiderman and Vance are Democrats.

Mr. Manafort has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with properties in the U.S. over the past decade, including a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and California properties being developed by his son-in-law, the Journal has reported.

The nature of the investigation, along with the contempt for law enforcement expressed by Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times, has many predicting that Trump will wind up firing Paul Manafort in a scenario reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Periodically I receive comments that such criticism of Trump comes from out of touch left wingers, so I will note that the conservative National Review also predicts, Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller.

While I hope to see Manafort pursue investigations into the business dealings of Donald Trump and his associates, I question whether Congressional investigators will really find out much of value in an investigation of fake news and Facebook. CNN reports:

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, met with Facebook officials in California more than a month ago as part of his committee’s investigation into potential collusion or election interference, and he’s convinced the company can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Warner is testing the theory popular among Democratic operatives that Russia was behind spikes in fake news that were anti-Clinton and that Russia had help targeting those articles from US political operatives…

At the core of Warner’s questioning is a theory among Democratic operatives and former top-level Clinton campaign staff that Russia had help from domestic political operatives to micro-target fake news articles. No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.

Last month, Senate intelligence staff interviewed Brett Horvath, a social media technology expert who argues it’s possible that Russian operatives got political data that could then be used for successfully micro-targeting swing voters on Facebook.

“Facebook has all the data that could prove this is happening or not happening, that’s the starting point,” Horvath, a veteran Democratic political operative, told CNN.

The key line above is, “No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.”

There certainly was fake news spread during the campaign, as there also was against Barack Obama and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns. Only the Clinton campaign has gone so far as to blame Russia for this, with reporters covering the campaign to write the book Shattered reporting that Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia and others for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing, failing to take responsibility for her own mistakes. Whether or not the fake stories being spread came from Russia, they did far less harm to Clinton than the damage caused by her violation of State Department rules (as verified by the State Department Inspector General), and then repeatedly being caught lying about the matter. The truth was far more damaging than fiction.

The questionable business ties involving Donald Trump and others in his family and campaign appears to be worth investigating, but I bet it will be a mistake to divert resources from the more important issues to pursue partisan fantasies. If Democrats rely upon such weak attacks they risk allowing the Republicans to survive the actual Trump scandals.

Over 2000 Civilian Deaths From Trump’s Air War In Less Than Six Months

Donald Trump said before he was inaugurated that he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. This is one of the few promises he has kept, and the consequence is a marked increase in the number of civilian deaths compared to under Barack Obama. The Daily Beast, in a study conducted with the watchdog organization Airwars, reports:

Civilian casualties from the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State are on pace to double under President Donald Trump, according to an Airwars investigation for The Daily Beast.

Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration…

A number of factors appear responsible for the steep recent rise in civilian deaths—some policy-related, others reflecting a changing battlespace as the war enters its toughest phase. In one of his first moves as president, Trump ordered a new counter-ISIS plan be drawn up. Second on his list of requests were recommended “changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law regarding the use of force against ISIS.”

In short, Trump was demanding that the Pentagon take a fresh look at protections for civilians on the battlefield except those specifically required by international law. That represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war…

Though the U.S. military had shifted to such annihilation tactics—a change cited with glee by the Trump White House—Mattis claimed there have been no updates to U.S. rules of engagement. “There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties,” he told reporters.

When Airwars asked the Department of Defense whether, once implemented, the new plan was expected to lead to more civilian casualties, officials did not answer the question and only pointed to Mattis’ remarks.

Yet beginning in March 2017—the month after Mattis handed over the new plan—Airwars began tracking a sharp rise in reported civilian fatalities from U.S.-led strikes against ISIS. In part this was due to the savagery of the battle for Mosul. But in Syria—where almost all strikes are American—likely civilian fatalities monitored by Airwars researchers increased five-fold even before the assault on Raqqa began.

There is much more detail in the full report.

This report is consistent with  a recent UN report cited by Reuters of ‘Staggering’ civilian deaths caused by US-led air strikes in Syria.

In comparing the number of civilian casualties since Donald Trump took office to those under Barack Obama, it should also be considered that Hillary Clinton had supported much greater military intervention in Syria than under Obama, which would probably have also lead to an increase in civilian deaths. There is no way to compare what the number of deaths would be under Clinton compared to Trump.

Last week I looked at a report on the failures from the U.S. war on terror. Another recent study suggested that her support for greater military interventionism might have cost Clinton the election.

Partisan Claims From Both Sides Not Holding Up Re Trump And Russia

As more comes out, it increasing looks (not surprisingly) that both the Clinton and Trump camps have been wrong about Russia. The meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and a reportedly growing number of Russians shows (not surprisingly) a lack of ethics on the part of the Trump campaign, but neither actual collusion nor even any sign that the Russians actually had any information on the Clinton campaign.

This follows the pattern to date. While we do not know the final results of the investigations in progress, the facts we do have undermine both those who defend the Trumps (mainly on the right, but including a small contingent on the left), as well as those who blame Clinton’s loss on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The later is an excuse which Hillary Clinton latched onto withing twenty-four hours of losing  in order to place the blame on others according to Shattered.

There is no evidence of any successful collusion between Russia and Trump to change the election result as many Clinton supporters have claimed. However that now appears to be because attempts on the part of the Trump family and campaign were unsuccessful, not due to any innocence on their part.  The scandal is rapidly changing from alleged rigging of an election to a violation of election laws in soliciting information from a foreign government–not all that unlike what the Clinton campaign has also been accused of. In Trump’s case, this has become more serious because of what increasingly looks like a cover-up of Watergate proportions, including firing James Comey to obstruct the investigation. I also would not be surprised if there are major revelations to come regarding the Trumps’ financial affairs.

At this time we do not know for certain whether the accusations of Russian meddling in the election are true, but considering the long history of U.S. meddling in foreign elections, this is hardly justification for the anti-Russia hysteria and McCarthyism being generated by some Democratic partisans. The New York Times at least did take a more sensible approach in a recent editorial, concentrating on recommendations to improve the security of our election systems. This is warranted regardless of the validity of accusations against Russia.

While less dramatic than the unproven allegations of a foreign country affecting general election results, we do know that Clinton and her allies in the DNC were successful in rigging the Democratic nomination for Clinton–ultimately leading to the election of Donald Trump. While Trump’s actions should continue to be investigated, Democrats need to concentrate more on reforming their own party than engaging in unsubstantiated attacks. 

As was the case throughout the 2016 campaign, we continue to see that neither the Clinton camp nor the Trump camp can be trusted.

Lessons From The Failed War On Terror

The United States has been at war in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but has only been partially successful with regime change in Iraq, and far less successful in reducing terrorism. The United States has become the aggressor nation, with its actions only result in increasing anti-American sentiment and creating more “terrorists.” The “war on terror” started as a Republican mistake based upon lies under George W. Bush. Both major political parties now own this failure, with the Democrats nominating an ultra-hawkish candidate for president in 2016.

Hillary Clinton was not only one of the strongest proponents of the war in Iraq, making false claims of cooperation between Saddam and al Qaeda, but also was the major architect of the failed attempt at regime change in Libya, which was also based upon false claims. She also has pushed for greater intervention in Syria, including imposing a no-fly zone, which would have resulted in greater casualties, required U.S. troops on the ground to support, and would have put the United States into direct conflict with Russia. The revival of Cold War style anti-Russia hysteria and McCarthyism by establishment Democrats is also of great concern.

The Republican candidate, while less interested in interventionism, has been utterly incoherent on foreign policy. It is quite clear that Donald Trump’s claims of a secret plan to defeat ISIS were as imaginary as Richard Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. His only plan is more of the same type of counterproductive military attacks. At this point there are only signs of continued expansion of the warfare/surveillance state with no end in sight.

With both major political parties now becoming advocates of neoconservative interventionism, only third parties such as the Libertarian Party and the Green Party had a rational foreign policy position in 2016 opposing continued interventionism. In late June, the libertarian Cato Institute issued a policy paper entitled Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror. The full paper, along with an audio version, are available here.

Following is from the Executive Summary:

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched an international war on terrorism defined by military intervention, nation building, and efforts to reshape the politics of the Middle East. As of 2017, however, it has become clear that the American strategy has destabilized the Middle East while doing little to protect the United States from terrorism.

After 15 years of considerable strategic consistency during the presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama, Donald Trump now takes the reins having promised to “bomb the sh—” out of ISIS and “defeat them fast.” At the same time, however, Trump broke sharply in his campaign rhetoric from Republican orthodoxy on Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever President Trump decides to do, an evaluation of the War on Terror should inform his policies.

We argue that the War on Terror failed. This failure has two fundamental—and related—sources. The first is the inflated assessment of the terror threat facing the United States, which led to an expansive counterterrorism campaign that did not protect Americans from terrorist attacks. The second source of failure is the adoption of an aggressive strategy of military intervention.

The lessons from the War on Terror indicate that it is time for the United States to take a different approach. Policymakers need to acknowledge that although terrorism is a serious concern, it represents only a modest security threat to the American homeland. Further, the United States should abandon the use of military intervention and nation building in the War on Terror. Instead, the United States should push regional partners to confront terrorist groups abroad, while the U.S. returns to an emphasis on the intelligence and law enforcement paradigm for combating the threat against the American homeland.

Democratic Congressman Files Article Of Impeachment Against Donald Trump

It was only a matter of when. A California Congressman has introduced an article of impeachment against Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday that accuses the president of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

This is the first time a lawmaker has offered an impeachment article against Trump, and it comes as Democrats have debated whether it is politically wise to press the case for impeachment at this time…

In filing his impeachment article, Sherman argues that Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May amounts to obstructing justice and “high crimes and misdemeanors” amid the probes of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the election…

He cites Comey’s allegations that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into ousted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s shifting story on why he fired Comey.

“In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the article of impeachment states.

So far only one other member of Congress, Al Green of Texas, is supporting the action.

Of course it is rather early and the number of members supporting impeachment could increase after the current investigations, which are still in an early stage, are concluded. The firing of James Comey does certainly appear to have been done in order obstruct his investigation. At present there is far further evidence of a cover-up on the part of Trump and members of  his administration than of the actual crime. While it is possible that evidence of collusion with Russia to swing the election will be uncovered during the course of the investigation, there is not yet clear evidence that Donald Trump did collude with Russia.

I have suspected that, at least, Trump was acting to protect members of his administration, and that any crimes very likely involved their financial dealings. The recent revelation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with an attorney close to the Russian government, based upon an offer of information about Hillary Clinton, along with actions of Jared Kusnher, suggest that Donald Trump might have engaged in obstruction of justice to protect members of his family, along with members of his campaign staff and administration.

In order for impeachment to succeed it would require a simple majority vote in the House, but also require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president. Therefore it would require bipartisan support to remove Trump regardless of how well the Democrats do in the 2018 election. So far only two presidents have ever been impeached, including Bill Clinton, and technically no presidents have ever been removed from office by this route. Richard Nixon was forced to resign when his impeachment and conviction appeared inevitable.

An alternative mechanism under the 25th Amendment could also be used to remove Trump if he could be declared unfit to perform the duties of the presidency. While a quicker mechanism, this would be even more difficult to achieve as it would have to be initiated by the vice president and requires the support of two-thirds of each House should the president contest the action.

Andrew Cuomo Might Be The Hillary Clinton Of 2020

With the Democratic establishment moving to the right over the past several years, the primary battles such as the one seen between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton could be repeated. While some establishment Democrats have acknowledged that Bernie Sanders, or someone else from the left if he is too old to run, should be the front runner for the 2020, others have attempted to exclude Sanders, and some, such as Mark Penn, even think that the Democrats are too far to the left. Politico discussed Andrew Cuomo as a 2020 candidate, but noted the opposition to him from the left:

…if he runs, he’s got one big roadblock in his way first: The energy in the Democratic Party right now comes from a newly energized left. And the energized left, not to put too fine a point on it, hates Cuomo.

“The worst of the worst,” said Nomiki Konst, a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention and frequent cable TV defender of the candidate who now serves on the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Commission. “Andrew Cuomo is somehow the only politician in America who still thinks neoliberalism and triangulation work, who opens up the Blue Dog playbook and says, ‘How can I use this to run for president?’”

Ben Mathis-Lilley responded at Slate in an article entitled, We Need to Stop This “Andrew Cuomo 2020” Nonsense Immediately:

For the most part, we can dismiss this concept without even addressing the already tiresome idea that what a Democratic voting base that has spent the past six months getting jazzed up about aggressive resistance and unapologetically liberal policies is actually fixin’ to do in 2020 is nominate a moderate centrist triangulating triangulator who—as Politico points out itself!—lowered taxes on millionaires and has close ties to his state’s most powerful corporate executives. Let us simply look, in a nonideological fashion, at two of the most prominent things Andrew Cuomo has done in his time as governor of New York.

He also wrote that Cuomo, “would combine the worst qualities of Jeb Bush (being an dynastic insider) with Chris Christie (being unpopular and famous for an act of brazen corruption, in his own state).” He added another comparison in asking: “If Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Rahm Emanuel merged into a single person, would Politico declare that person a major contender for the 2020 nomination? (Yes, probably!)”

It looks likely that we will continue to see battles between the Democratic establishment and the left, especially with party rules continuing to favor more conservative nominees.

Clinton Adviser Mark Penn Advises Democrats To Move Back To The Center

While some Democrats realize that the party has to change course, former Clinton pollster and adviser Mark Penn has some especially dumb advice in an op-ed entitled Back to the Center, Democrats. It is hard to determine exactly what he means considering that his candidate lost in 2008 (and again in 2016 without his help) for going to far to the center, if not actually the right. Besides losing in 2016, the Democrats also lost in 2010 and 2014 due to running as a Republican-lite party. For many Democrats, moving back to the center might make them more liberal than they are today.

The general strategy of Democrats has been to move to the right, but slightly less so than the Republicans, and then say everyone has to vote for them or else the right wing crazies in the Republican Party will take over. Since 2008 that strategy has been a failure. Perhaps such triangulation and moving to the right helped Bill Clinton, but I suspect he won more because of his personal charisma than his conservative policies.

While Penn believes that the Democrats have moved too far left on most issues, he does believe that the Democrats have the upper hand with Obamacare. While Obamacare was a huge improvement over what we had before, it did not go far enough, and a growing number of Democrats are realizing that Bernie Sanders was right in proposing a single payer plan–which Hillary Clinton campaigned against.

The Democratic Party remains divided over its direction. As I discussed yesterday, some establishment Democrats are seeing the need to look toward new leaders such as Bernie Sanders, while others want to cling to the past.

Maybe Mark Penn has done us a favor in writing this once again as even many more establishment Democrats realize that when Mark Penn recommends something, the wisest course is to do the opposite. Former Obama speech writer Jon Favreau tweeted, “Zero Democrats who matter care about what Mark Penn says or does, unless he decides to work for your opponent. Then, lucky you.”

Alex Pareene, politics editor at Fusion, responded with a post entitled, Mark Penn’s Bad Column Also Makes No Goddamn Sense. Sarah Jones wrote Don’t Listen to Mark Penn at The New Republic. Martin Longman wrote Mark Penn Has Some Really Bad Advice at Washington Monthly. Philip Bump debunked Penn’s article in writing Breaking: The Democratic Party is different now than it was in 1995.