Saturday, January 14, 2017

Trump The Russian Puppet and other highlights from the week

The story of how Russian mobsters and spies helped Trump get elected continues to unfold and yet, with Republicans covering his flanks and the rumored cabal inside the FBI covering his rear, Trump is still marching toward his inevitable inauguration in one week’s time.

Why did Jim Comey's FBI hide the Russia allegations? He met with Democrats and it was a shit show.

From DailyBeast

Much of the in depth coverage is coming from the UK. This analysis from the Independent.

It was MotherJones' David Corn who first broke this Russian memo story last summer. His latest here

And from Rolling Stone

This is scarifying stuff and the Republicans seem unusually blasé about it. As if they were in on it. It smells like the Watergate coverup minus those responsible Republicans (an extinct species) who helped uncover it.

We have a president-elect who attacks the professional journalists while being feted and worshipped in the lurid tabloids. Politico explains how the readers of supermarket crap newspapers are now running America. We have a truth problem. America has decided truth and facts are the enemy and Russian spies are our friends.

This Quartz story argues that Putin is schooling Trump on how to discredit the American press

The Week asks what hath Trump wrought. Phraseology usually reserved for catastrophes, which this feels like.

The good news is Trump is historically unpopular for a president-elect. Politico reports on this

Lawrence O'Donnell runs us through the numbers on that. We are not alone feeling conned, cheated, scared, pretty much like our democracy has been stolen.

And this on the poll numbers and the Trump fiasco parade from The New Republic

But the Times’ David Brooks in his weekly NewsHour analysis says it was a good week for DonaldTrump has had a good week for the country. Does anyone else think David Brooks lives in a bubble? Or maybe he’s been institutionalized. “I hate to praise Trump so much…” said Brooks as he went on to praise Trump. Then he said John Lewis had dealt Trump a low blow by questioning his legitimacy.

Brooks said we need to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. Wait and see. Trust but don’t verify, to turn inside out what Reagan said about the Russians.

I guess Brooks wants to withhold judgment until the Russians are given our nuclear codes and various other things. As if these serious charges of Russian collusion with Trump and a coverup at the FBI to protect Trump and Russia––as if that is all nothing to worry about.

The Hill is reporting that there's one Republican senator who condemned Trump’s attack on John Lewis.

The Boston Globe has this column on how dangerous Trump is turning out to be.

Newt Gingrich via DailyBeast continues to give Trump political cover, suggesting Trumpism is a philosophy...

The Republican leaders in Congress are working very hard to reconfigure America’s idea of ethics to enable Trump to limbo into office and seat a corrupt cabinet without objections. This story from VOX

Bloomberg takes the quaint view that ethics actually matter, even if Trump is making corruption and treason seem more normal.

Instead of demanding completed ethics questionnaires from Trump’s cabinet nominees, Jason Chaffetz has decided to mount an investigation of the ethics office which is demanding Trump’s nominees fill out their ethics questionnaires… It’s very confusing. And some mainstream news sources are trying very very hard to persuade us that nothing weird is happening...

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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Russian/Republican Coup––With Jokes

Colbert explains how fun it will be to have a president who is a Russian asset.

A less humorous take on the Russian playing of the American electorate from the BBC. The implications are dire.

From the BBC

This explains why the Republicans are hurrying to confirm everyone Trump has nominated to run government departments. They don’t mind being tools of Putin as long as Putin lets them sit in the driver’s seat once in a while. Strange, isn't it? American sovereignty used to be important to Republicans. Right now the Republicans are quickly breaking our government into inoperable pieces before the public stops them. Is that vandalism what Putin asked them to do or is it their own idea? How can we tell the difference?

From The New Republic

The quick ObamaCare repeal doesn’t fix anything, it just undoes all the careful mechanisms of our healthcare system, especially the guarantees to people who need healthcare. Now we are all just fish in a barrel which Big Pharma and the healthcare giants can suck dry.

Oh… and it delivers a massive tax cut to rich people. I hope un-rich Trump voters will think about what they can do to fix this.

Reported in SLATE

The Republicans also passed a law that cancels all Federal authority to regulate important things like food safety and air quality and banks’ habit of defrauding people and stuff like that. This reminds me of how Enron (whose CEO was a key member of the Bush administration in that first disastrous year) gamed the California energy market, shutting off power to whole areas and hiking electricity charges sky high and laughing about the grandmas in Fresno who had to deal with it. That sort of thing will now be OK again, thanks to the Republicans. Consider it a late Christmas gift.

Reporting by Talking Points Memo

If Russia were controlling our new regime isn't breaking down the government the first thing they might do?

Oh, by the way, those true blue lefties who shunned Hillary because she wasn't pure enough? You were played by the Russians too. The Daily Beast details how Putin trolled the far left and helped split the liberals to elect Trump.

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The Apocalypse––brought to you by Russia and the Republican Party

30 million Americans lost their healthcare in the middle of the night. Cause of death: Republicans. Charlie Pierce explains what happened.

Why put millions of Americans in danger of financial collapse and death? Because Republicans worship at the altar of the Killer Business Model. People who are sick and in pain and afraid of dying will pay any price. This is a Killer Business Model.

From VOX: Analysis by several political experts leads to the conclusion that Comey screwed this election as much as Putin did.

"If it weren't for Comey, Hillary Clinton would have won the popular vote by about 6 points and the Electoral College by 70 or more. And that might have turned into control of the Senate as well, though that's a little more speculative."

Summary from MotherJones

Then there’s the report by a veteran from MI6 who believes Russia has been blackmailing the president elect...

The memo reported by CNN

The Russia expert cited by CNN is being backed up by other reliable sources. One cited in The Week

VOX does a good job of summarizing the story and what it could mean.

The response of Donald Trump is blunt and ugly: I won. You lost. Shut up. Fuck you all. (I’m paraphrasing.) Reported by New York Magazine.

When so many things go so wrong so quickly for all Americans the takeover by a foreign enemy story seems a lot more believable. And the Republican Congress seems in a hurry to make it all happen before we get wise.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How Trump Was Purchased By Putin

Reporting from the Financial Times explains how financial ruin put Donald Trump in the pocket of Russian crime bosses. (The only Russian criminals not in prison or dead are those who are close to Putin.) They put Trump back on his feet with laundered money looted from the Russian economy.

Following the money makes it very clear that Trump is not a business operator at all, not since his bankruptcy in the 1990s. He is instead a front man for shadowy Russian mobsters who are proxies for the Russian dictator.

Trump is their spokesmodel, selling and advertising their properties around the world, which they have stuck Trump’s name on. Trump is their prize poodle. Putin’s prize poodle.

The money comes from the Russian kleptocracy, which stole it from ordinary Russian citizens. It’s been looted from the Russian economy. While Russians live in squalid cold cramped apartments and drink themselves to early death, their national wealth has been laundered and invested in luxury towers in other parts of the world. That is Trump’s business model. Trump’s nominees to head various departments of our government share this kind of mindset: the selfish belief that the economy––which ought to work for all the citizens who work in it ––is there to be looted and pocketed by the people in positions of power. A kleptocracy. Trump and his mob seek to refashion America on the sad Russian model.

Daily Kos has this useful summary of the Financial Times series.

Scott Horton’s close analysis of the Financial Times story says this:

Among the powerful facts that DNI missed were a series of very deep studies published in the [Financial Times] that examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade—the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. ...

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Stink of the New Republican Revolution

From The Nation: the powerful who deplore working class people who aren’t working are the ones who are getting rid of the jobs those people used to rely on.

The last time jobs went away was in the 30s, and FDR created the New Deal to help save working people from disaster. Now Newt Gingrich is bragging how Trump and the Republicans are planning to rip out everything FDR put in place. Reported by ThinkProgress.

Paul Ryan, the pious, serious-looking Republican who rules Congress is the guy who will take the big knife to the safety net. What do you call someone who benefits from a program and then takes it away from other people who need it? Hypocrite. Yeah, Ryan is a class-A hypocrite. He plans to take away Social Security from working people but he grew up on Social Security benefits. The whole hypocritical story reported by Alternet.

Republicans find working people useful for gaining power but are happy to ditch them when it’s convenient–––and they find it’s always convenient to ditch working people. In this time of Christian devotion they seem to think Jesus preferred rich people and disliked the poor. I’m not sure which part of the New Testament this is drawn from but it certainly shapes all of GOP policy––Praise God! The New Republic summarizes the Republican Revised Standard Version of the New Testament.

Notice the bad smell coming from North Carolina? Is it the hog industry’s vast lakes of pig poop or is it the politics? The politics do stink in NC. The Republicans redrew the voting districts to confine majority Democrats into a permanent legislative minority. A ghetto project if there ever was one. But this year a Democrat defeated the Republican for the governorship. The legi answered by stripping the governor’s office of its staff and its powers. PeeeeeeYeeewwwww. A lot of the Republicans’ power (and money) comes from the hog industry. Maybe the pig should replace the noble elephant. Of course the pig is much nobler than what we are seeing in this failed state.

Bill Moyers on the stink of North Carolina's hog-manure Republicanism.

SLATE on the Republican coup in NC.

Meanwhile, in another failed state, Wisconsin…. Republican governor Scott Walker, the college dropout who is busily turning the University of Wisconsin from a premier university into a second rate one, is now reshaping all state bureaus and departments so all their information conforms to his belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax, and the environment does best when we fill the air and water with industrial waste.

UrbanMilwaukee on the Republican censoring of the state environmental scientists.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Build The Trump Presidential Library Immediately

The much larger, much worse reservoir of Trump vulgarity and abusiveness contained in the outtakes from The Apprentice were withheld prior to the election. People who had them were afraid of Trump's famous vindictiveness, and assumed like all rational people that he would lose anyway. There was a million dollar confidentiality threat written into all the contracts on the show and not everyone in show business is brave. Tom Arnold (Trump's retaliatory tweets about Arnold write themselves) has described the rapid fire vileness of Trump's tantrums in the Guardian and elsewhere. Such a rich trove needs to be preserved for our history, before our history comes to an end.

I think we need to build and stock the Trump Presidential Library right now. Now isn’t soon enough. It seems (at least to rational people, which may not be a good predictor) that Trump’s presidency might not last very long. It’s been solemnized by the college of party loyalists who decided to ignore the evidence of treason.

The reason the Trump era might end prematurely could be this treason suddenly blooming like a tropical corpse flower (but the aroma is already in the air and it hasn’t deterred the Republicans.)

The reason could be disgust at what we know about him. (That wasn’t enough to keep a near majority from voting for him.)

Or disgust at what more we learn, like his screaming vulgarity and racism and abuse on The Apprentice (which were edited out for public consumption the way the English language edition of Mein Kampf was expunged of the fuhrer’s promises to destroy the Jews and conquer Europe.)

Or it might be his corruption. The transition is already rife with it. The new corruptions outstrip the ones Trump has already boasted of from his sordid business career. Newt Gingrich has suggested that we rewrite our ethics rules to conform to Trump’s more flexible and capacious idea of right and wrong. (Reported by Politico, but the interview is everywhere.)

You could not write a political satire with enough irony and hypocrisy to compete with what we are watching unfold right now. This is where reality beggars fiction. George Orwell predicted some of this but didn’t have an imagination large enough or vulgar enough. This is the region of Roman emperors. This is Caligula and Nero material. We need a Suetonius or a Robert Graves. People have called the Trump juggernaut “Nixonian.” But Nixon was minor league by comparison.

I’ve been re-reading the Nixon years since November 9th. I read Evan Thomas’s BEING NIXON, which explained how Nixon developed the enormous chip on his shoulder. I’m reading John Dean’s BLIND AMBITION now. It reads like a novel, a mixture of Harold Robbins and Dostoevsky and Dickens. The machinations, the rationalizations, the dirty deals brokered to get money to cover up the earlier dirty deals, the vendettas, the rivalries. A chronicle of the intrigues and betrayals in the worst kind of Bourbon or Tudor or Byzantine court. But Nixon’s men were trying desperately to maintain a facade of respectability and legality; there is no indication the Trump court knows what respectability or legality are. Their hero is Putin, who murders his rivals and critics by remote control while scooping the profits and rake-offs and bribes and monetary ransoms from every part of Russia into his pockets.

This would make good television. Good bad television. Some enterprising producer may already be developing a Nixonian drama for one of the cable networks. (The profanity, clean by Trump standards) would require that it be cable. Like that review of the new Hitler biography that appeared in the New York Times, everybody would know immediately that we were being served Trump dressed as Nixon.

It’s a shame nobody is brave enough to produce a fact-based bio-drama about Trump. Trump would sue. Trump would phone Putin and ask for advice on icing his critics. (“Hey, Vlad, can I borrow an assassin?”)

The Trump Presidential Library might be the safest repository for all the hideousness, because Trump doesn’t read.

He might have the attention span to review his own outrages from The Apprentice, the “c-word”s and the “n-word”s and the ranting vulgar abuse of his children and his producers and his show assistants. He likes watching himself on TV. He wouldn’t see anything wrong with what he said or did. His response wouldn’t be suppression or a burning of tapes, like Nixon contemplated. Trump’s response would be “So?”

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Confederacy Has Won The Civil War

POLITICO has a very good article today about how the Republicans have managed to break our democracy.

The American people have, for over a decade, been saying they are sick and tired of government that doesn’t work.

Which is why they have elected the party that made government stop working.

It is a Southern revolt, Southern-driven, a revolt led by men with Southern accents and Southern roots and values. A barely disguised racism plays a key part. Racism seems to work for the Republican Party. The Republican Party is the Old Confederacy reborn.

If you dig a little you’ll find some racism in most white Americans, not a basic or an overriding racism but a small tumor of racism that you can cultivate and prod into metastasizing if you work at it. The Republican Party has become very good at cultivating this tumor in a lot of people.

John Dean famously said “There is a cancer on the presidency.” He was trying to warn Richard Nixon that his problems were fatal. Now you could say cancer has won the presidency. The Republican Party, which most of this past year seemed in the final stages of collapse has regained its vigor. They have done this by realizing they are the cancer.

Cancer is practically unstoppable without very unpleasant side effects. Nobody likes cancer. Everybody is deathly afraid of cancer. This explains its power, and maybe it explains the power of the Republican Party right now. They are the party of failing government and a degraded working class and racism and the theft of our American Dream by Wall Street billionaires and banking billionaires and healthcare billionaires. Why have we voted to empower the same people who have degraded our lives?

This election has played out like the Chris Rock joke: “I’m really angry that Obama hasn’t cured cancer. So you know what? I’m gonna vote for cancer!”

It makes no sense, that’s why it’s a good joke. It makes no sense but it is exactly what has happened. Reality doesn’t have to make sense. People behave stupidly. Large groups of people are especially prone to stupidity. Which is why the Founding Fathers invented the Electoral College, which tomorrow will finalize the election of a stupid, corrupt, ignorant, treasonous man to the presidency over the objections of a majority of the voters.

The Electoral College isn’t a perfect thing. It isn’t just a safeguard against mob rule. It’s also a relic of America’s slave past, designed to safeguard the less populous states (The South) from having their slaves freed.

It’s as if the Civil War hadn’t ended in 1865 with the defeat of Lee. It’s as if the assassination of Lincoln was the more important event, the continuation of war that led to Jim Crow and the murders and lynchings of many thousands of black citizens.

It seems like the dominant rump of our Congress is itself a recidivist remnant of the old Confederacy. The American flag pins in their lapels are only a disguise. The South never forgot the Civil War cause. They never really surrendered as a people, never accepted the values Lincoln set out for us, never relinquished the comfortable idea that whiteness is superior. And they have been an invading army long after Meade turned Lee back at Gettysburg. They have invaded, infiltrated and infected the northern states with their bigotry. Bigotry isn’t the goal, though, it is simply a tool.

Of course all white Americans have bigotry in them. It just needs bringing out. The racism in northern cities is different from the racism of the South. In some cases it seems more virulent.

The material that helps breed racism and division is what Republicanism has been manufacturing for decades: the careful degradation of working lives, the careful degradation of public sector protections of working people, the careful degradation of our democratic institutions which guarantee our rights.

The Republican goal has been to break the whole American democracy so people feel powerless, because powerlessness makes people angry, and anger makes them more easily divided and defeated.

In a way these unreconstructed Confederates have taken the Union strategy that defeated them in 1865 and turned it upon the North itself. Grant and most memorably Sherman took the war directly to the Southern infrastructure and broke it down. Sherman’s march to the sea burned a wide path of destruction from Atlanta to the sea, cutting the Confederacy in two.

Look at the Republican strategy unfolding this weekend in North Carolina. (Described here at MEDIUM) The defeated Republican governor is hurriedly destroying the power of his office before he surrenders it to the Democrat who defeated him.

Look at what Republican rule has done in Kansas (reported by USNews) and in Michigan (...Yo––Flint? Poisoned drinking water?) or what Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin, or just go read Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann's books about the march of Republican dysfunction from DC to the states

The modern Republican Confederates have brought their industrial and infrastructure and political destruction north to Michigan, to Ohio, to Wisconsin, to western Pennsylvania. Those places now feel like the old South––poorer working people, jobs gone, water systems broken, universities in decline (the Southern universities––not all of them certainly but many––have long been a great example of poorer education and superior football), bridges decaying, social fabric frayed, systems dysfunctional––and the dysfunction has been carefully achieved under strict Republican principles. Principles very unlike the ones that shaped the party under Lincoln, principles directly opposed to the founding ones, just as the designs of the modern “conservative” Republicans directly contradict the pocket Constitutions they carry around in their pockets and the flag pins they wear on their lapels.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

The FBI Did Their Best NOT To Protect The DNC From The Russians

Hillary Clinton's campaign head is angry about how the FBI didn't protect them from the Russians. He wrote about it in the Washington Post. Here's an article about it from Daily Beast.

If I were Podesta I’d be mad too. I’d feel betrayed. I feel betrayed as it is. The FBI let all of us down.

For years I have gotten numerous phone calls a week from helpful experts saying I have a problem with this or that, usually with my credit card or my bank accounts. You get them too.

The most laughable ones come routinely, once a week sometimes, from “Windows Technical Support”. “Hello this is Windows Technical Support and we need to fix a problem you may be having with your computer security.” They sound kind of nerdy and nerdy often means trustworthy, especially in technical areas, but I know they are bogus. I have fun with them, asking for their office address so I can bring my computer in. I sometimes send the information to my local FBI office. They are obviously criminals trying to gain access to my computer. I have never owned a Windows computer.

Now I am wondering if I was wise to contact the FBI. They appear to be ignorant of this kind of crime. Ignorant of their technique at least, because they use it themselves.

When the FBI learned of a Russian campaign to compromise the DNC, agents phoned the DNC's IT help desk and said "Hello this is the FBI and we need to fix a problem you may be having with your computer security.”

The DNC is blocks away from FBI headquarters. They did not go to the DNC and show their FBI identification. They phoned in a rough imitation of a phone scammer. If someone called me and said “This is the FBI and we need to fix a problem you may be having with your computer security” I would have laughed and hung up. I might have said “Is this you, Phil?”

Was the FBI this clueless? Were they being intentionally unhelpful? Contacting a person when you know they aren’t at home or sending them a letter with the wrong address and postage are good ways of not contacting them and saying you did. (There must be a term for this kind of intentional failure.) Was this a way of crossing the Russian hack off the FBI's to-do list without doing anything about it?

Did they not want to help the DNC confront a serious violation of our democracy? Our national sovereignty was also being threatened. Did the FBI not care about our national sovereignty as long as the violation helped a Republican become president? However it was allowed, the threat was fulfilled. We now have a president-elect chosen by a foreign enemy.

FBI? Is this what you wanted?

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