Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Tragedy of Errors (A New Play By Donald J. Trump)

The great Charlie Pierce: “It simply comes down to money: the Russians, the meetings that mysteriously slipped everyone's minds when they were testifying before Congress or filling out disclosure forms, the vanishing tax returns, the emoluments mess, the bizarre attraction to wealthy overseas authoritarians, the unshakable presence of Michael Flynn. All of it, simple American greed magnified by a culture of celebrity and, through a fluke presidential election, dropped like a dead squirrel in a chimney into the world's greatest democracy—and, as a result, stinking up the entire joint."

From The New Republic, a summary of how Trump is destroying the US's global standing. It begins with the rich irony of House Speaker Paul Ryan's demanding the American intelligence services cut Hillary Clinton off from classified briefings while the Trump campaign was known to be welcoming the aid of the Russian spy services.

“Today I am writing to formally request that you refrain from providing any classified information to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the duration of her candidacy for president,” Ryan wrote last July to James Clapper, who was then the director of national intelligence, after then-FBI Director James Comey described Clinton’s handling of classified information as “extremely careless.”
“I firmly believe,” Ryan added, that “this is necessary to reassure the public that our nation’s secrets are secure.”

The Republicans expressed no worries about Trump’s blabbermouth tendencies, and a truckload of gaffes and blurts and lapses later they are still not too worried about the Traitor-In-Chief…

From Newsweek we learn the reason the Russian scheme to corrupt the US presidential election worked was because the Trump campaign worked with them, adopted their techniques, targeted their attacks and fully utilized their stolen data. The GOP and the Russians were full partners. The most crucial participant in the US appears to have been Jared Kushner.

Since the election it’s been all hands on deck, trying to prevent the American public from learning what happened. From SLATE a report on GOP obstruction of justice.

From VOX, a chart showing the various ways Trump and his proxies have obstructed justice. (These are just the obstructions we knew about a week ago. A lot has been disclosed since.)

From The Nation: Conservatives are complaining that a majority of the news coverage of President Trump is negative. "The obvious response is that the vast majority of stories about famine, natural disasters, and genital warts are negative, and that doesn’t imply a bias on the part of those writing them.”

From the UK's The Independent we learn how our chief executive appeared to our allies (former allies?)

“When it comes to diplomacy, President Trump is a drunk tourist. Loud and tacky, shoving his way around the dance floor. He steps on others without realising it. It’s ineffectual.” ~unnamed State Dept official

From the LATimes: While great harm is being done to the US’s global standing, great harm is also being done here at home. But there are powerful interest groups who complain not enough harm is being done.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Trump's Violent Attack On Truth

The other day, after Trump gave Turkish dictator Erdogan a cordial meeting at the White House, Erdogan watched his personal security detail attack and violently tackle, beat and kick peaceful protesters across the street from the Turkish ambassador's residence. This occurred on our soil while the Turkish president watched.

Reported by the Guardian.

Video at BoingBoing.

This appears to be where Trump is headed. This was a demonstration of the kind of brute force President Trump envies and admires.

Across the country there are new legislative efforts to criminalize peaceful political protest, to criminalize free speech. And what informs free speech? The information and facts we get from a free press. Trump is cracking down on press freedom already.

A reporter asking questions at the FCC was manhandled and arrested.

"Security guards at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters here manhandled a well-regarded reporter at a public hearing today and forced him to leave the premises after he had tried to politely ask questions of FCC commissioners.

"The reporter, John M. Donnelly of CQ Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist. He is also chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Team and president of the Military Reporters & Editors association. He has chaired the NPC Board of Governors and formerly served on the Standing Committee of Correspondents in the U.S. Congress, which credentials the Washington press corps.

"Donnelly said he ran afoul of plainclothes security personnel at the FCC when he tried to ask commissioners questions when they were not in front of the podium at a scheduled press conference.

"Throughout the FCC meeting, the security guards had shadowed Donnelly as if he were a security threat, he said, even though he continuously displayed his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad. They even waited for him outside the men’s room at one point.

"When Donnelly strolled in an unthreatening way toward FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to pose a question, two guards pinned Donnelly against the wall with the backs of their bodies until O’Rielly had passed. O’Rielly witnessed this and continued walking…"

In West Virginia, a reporter asking HHS Secretary Price questions was arrested and faces charges. Charges of what? Of asking questions.

"On Tuesday evening, Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol after asking Price about the Republican health-care bill that passed in the House last week. Heyman wanted to know if domestic violence will be considered a preexisting condition if the bill becomes law.

"Price didn’t respond, so Heyman kept asking his question. He said he followed Price down a hallway and reached past people in his entourage while holding his phone. Then capitol police “decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me,” Heyman said."

This is the Trump administration’s goal: to suppress, intimidate, and jail journalists for doing their job.

The Pointer Institute reports that Trump asked FBI director Comey to jail journalists who were embarrassing him.

"President Trump asked former FBI Director Jim Comey to lock up journalists for publishing classified information during a February Oval Office meeting, according to a memo written by Comey shortly after the meeting summarized Tuesday by The New York Times.

"Trump urged Comey to imprison journalists at the beginning of an exchange during which he also asked the former FBI chief to back off an investigation into then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to the story."

The story reported in The Guardian.

This intimidation predates the inauguration. We saw it on camera. We saw it in his legal intimidation of women who charged him with sexual assault. If Trump dislikes what someone says or reports, even if it’s true, he will retaliate––with all of the power and leverage a billionaire possesses, and with violence. Now he has the power to retaliate with the full force of the federal government and its police agencies.

How violent might this get? Trump has a record of defying rules and limits. He has a record of retaliating with force. Look at the foreign leaders he admires. Putin, whose operatives have been silencing his critics and opponents with lethal poisonings and machine guns and by throwing them from high windows. Trump admires Philippine leader Duterte who has bragged about joining his death squads on killing sprees.

Which brings us back to one of the tyrants Trump is modeling himself after.

Trump invited Turkey’s dictator Erdogan to a warm embrace in the White House, and Erdogan returned this favor by staging a vivid demonstration of how his dictatorship works at home. Kurdish protesters were assembled legally and peacefully across the street from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, when this happened. The video is shocking. Muscular thugs in dark suits chasing and beating peaceful protesters, knocking them down then kicking them in the head and the groin. Brownshirt behavior in Washington DC carried out by a foreign dictator friend of our president. Think of it as an advertisement for Trump’s kind of leadership. Jackboots worn with business suits.

Reported in The Guardian.

This is not new. Erdogan’s personal security guards beat up journalists outside the Brookings Institution in March of last year.

Donald Trump’s campaign showed an escalating tendency toward violence. Trump himself has shown a tendency to push things as far as he can go and then further. When stopped or discouraged by officials or judges or rules he challenges their validity, questioning the law, discrediting the rules and norms that make the United States a democracy. Trump obviously would much prefer being president of a dictatorship where he can do whatever he likes and destroy whoever opposes him or criticizes him or asks him embarrassing questions.

Trump, the man who brazenly slanders and libels anyone who stands up to him, wants to change the libel laws to enable him to go after his critics. Now he has presidential powers to follow through on his threats. His goal? To undermine Americans’ ability to sort fact from fake and truth from lies.

Reported by Politico.

Newsweek analyzes Trump's threats to the First Amendment and lays out what it means going forward.

Trump fears the truth because truth and facts are our best defense against tyranny.

Trump won the election because of the flood of fake news. His campaign repeatedly cited and pushed fake news stories. They applauded and validated the fake news being produced by Russian proxies to pollute our politics.

The Trump campaign won the election in large part because they adopted the strategic false memes and smears the Russians were producing. They welcomed it and distributed it. They were playing by the Russian playbook and it worked. This according to intelligence expert Clinton Watts, in testimony before Congress.

Video testimony via CNN

The White House staff feeds President Trump a steady diet of fake news stories, which shape his “reality” (which is entirely unreal). And this enables him to shape his devoted followers’ reality to conform with his delusions.

Reported by Newsweek.

This war against truth and information is central to tyranny and Trump’s goal is exactly that. It’s happened before, but earlier tyrants did not have the power and machinery this president has to undermine our free access to good information. Trump is weaponizing the Big Lie, which is the tool Hitler and Stalin used to consolidate their power.

At VOX, historian Timothy Snyder explains how tyrants gain power by first destroying free and reliable information, by destroying truth.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Putin's Useful Idiot

Then this happened.

First the Washington Post broke the story about how Trump blurted out top top secret national security information in a meeting with the Russians. Then others verified the story. Buzzfeed, then Reuters, and others.

Here’s some useful analysis of what it might mean, the harm it has done. From The Atlantic.

The blindly loyal Republican chain-of-command is full of enablers and explainers. The line of succession is full of them: Pence, Ryan, and down the line, all bound by ties of loyalty and fealty to Trump as Trump appears to be bound to Putin and our worst global enemy. The Republican Party is like malware that has infected and corrupted our democratic systems and put our security at risk.

"When history holds its trial to account for the Donald Trump presidency, Trump himself will be acquitted on grounds of madness. History will look at his behavior, his erratic and childish lying and his flamboyant ignorance of history itself and pronounce the man, like George III, a cuckoo for whom restraint, but not punishment, was necessary. Such will not be the case for Mike Pence, the toady vice president and the personification of much that has gone wrong in Washington.”

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post and NYDailyNews.

The club of Trump enablers includes many talking heads in the news media. One of them being Mara Liasson, a terrific normalizer of the abnormal. There was this exchange recently on NPR:

Garcia-Navarro: What about the left? I see a whole political spectrum mobilized by Comey's firing. You know, you look on social media and cable news, they're calling for Trump's impeachment. What do you think when you hear calls like that? Is it feasible?

Liasson: No. I don't. I think there's a lot of magical thinking on both ends of the political spectrum. You know, his supporters think he's rewritten the rules, and they'll tell me, “It doesn't matter what he does, it doesn't matter what his approval ratings are.” Remember during the campaign he said he could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters. On the left, I think they are in the grip—many people, critics of him—are in the grip of this delusion that he's going to be impeached, or that we're in a full-fledged constitutional crisis. So this is a phenomenon of our very tribalized politics.
(Shared by blogger Erik Lundegaard)

We’ve been doing various kinds of magical thinking. On the right and in business circles they’ve been imagining magical ways this might turn out all right, how making a nincompoop/criminal/traitor president might benefit them personally. This is the default of many Americans: "This might not hurt me. How can I profit from this?” Millions of Germans went along with the Nuremberg Laws that confiscated property, positions, businesses and finally gold fillings from the mouths of Jews because it didn’t hurt them personally and they actually profited from it by accepting their share of the confiscations.

Republicans are cynically calculating how much they can confiscate from the American economy and from working Americans before this White House drops us in the soup. The White House has been dropping us in the soup for 100+ days now and most of what we hear from the Republicans is about how nice and warm the soup feels and how nourishing it is.

Sometimes you need a lawyer to sort the sense from the nonsense in the damage control pronouncements the White House makes on a daily basis. Yesterday’s bombshell had officials of ascending importance marching out of the White House to try to discredit and deflect and spin the catastrophic news story. Just like the bogus “certified letter” that Trump’s Russian lawyer wrote to say "he had not had relations with that Russian”, the letter and these announcements certified nothing and said nothing. From LawFare Blog

Conservative icons like David Brooks and Erick Erickson and The Economist are beginning to shout fire. It’s a shame they waited this long, but of course they were calculating how they might profit from President Trump and the damage he was bound to do, assuming the damage wouldn’t be to them personally. Because what damages others might wind up being personally very profitable. (Tax cuts. Deregulation. Big spending aimed at profiting loyal Republicans.)

The Economist compares the Trump White House to a medieval court.

The useful idiot explanation is the least incriminating one Trump’s enablers can offer and White House insiders are suggesting that is the case. We don’t have a Chief Executive at the helm of our executive branch, we have a clown, a naif, a fool, a useful idiot. Republicans thought he would be useful to them, but mostly it appears he is useful to Russia and Russian mobsters and probably a coterie of American criminal counterparts.

From Politico:

“…Several advisers and others close to Trump said they wouldn't be surprised if Trump gave information he shouldn't have. One adviser who often speaks to the president said the conversation was likely freewheeling in the Oval Office, and he probably wanted to impress the officials."
"He doesn't really know any boundaries. He doesn't think in those terms," this adviser said. "He doesn't sometimes realize the implications of what he's saying. I don't think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn't want to do that."

Some of the White House staff play a game where they troll the president, playing tricks on him to see how gullible he is. They are constantly amused. He is very very gullible.

Politico on Trump's suppliers of fake news.

But who’s laughing?

Look at the photos the Russian spy agency photographers provided from inside the Oval Office meeting. The meeting American journalists were barred from. They show Trump, red-faced and bloated, laughing with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, both known intelligence operatives at a high level, but are the Russians laughing with him or at him? Or at us?

Trump has in just over 100 days not only compromised our national security and turned the White House into a chaotic mess, but he has made us a global laughingstock.

Eight years ago President Obama had managed to steady a collapsing U.S. and global economy. He was admired by the world. He was given the Nobel Peace Prize. Not only was Obama admired, we were admired. I miss that. I don’t like being made a fool of but many conservatives are comfortable with that.

There's a phrase from WW2. Everybody's heard it. "Loose lips sink ships." The concern was that a GI or a dock worker or a worker in a munitions factory or a clerk would get talking in a bar and get the urge to brag about how important they were. Knowing something other people don't know makes little people feel important, so they brag. There were instances during WW2 when loose lips did sink ships. This sort of foolish pathetic treason was never the sort of thing that occurred in the Oval Office. We never had to worry that the sad, boastful, little person was the President of the United States.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Angry 70 Year Old Man Barricaded In DC Mansion

We wake up every morning wondering if it’s still true. Is Trump still president. If a President Hillary Clinton had presided the way Trump has these 100+ days she’d be on her way out. Congress would have had bills of impeachment prepared before she’d given her victory speech on November 9th. The pitchforks and torches and nooses were out for Hillary from the moment she announced her candidacy. From that date on the Republican Congress had busied itself with hearings and subpoenas. The investigative committee chairs had installed a teleport to transport them quickly onto FoxNews the moment they left the floor.

Jason Chaffetz was one of the most dogged accusers. He never let up. His goal in life was to jail Hillary Clinton. When FBI director James Comey found “carelessness” but no criminality, the Republicans were furious. They felt betrayed, as if they had a contract promising them that the investigation would serve her up to them. The line in Alice In Wonderland is “Sentence First. Verdict Afterwards.” Jason Chaffetz embraced the role of the Red Queen. He’d turned his congressional seat into a prosecutor’s office, an inquisitor’s office.

So when the Trump presidency debuted with its own palpable and juicy prosecutable charges hung round the president’s and his staff’s necks you’d expect an eager prosecutor would get to work.

But Chaffetz seemed bored with the allegations against Trump. Betraying our country to Russia? Meh. Using the presidency to enrich himself? Who cares. Chaffetz’s response when asked about Trump’s many disturbing and possibly incriminating financial entanglements and the glaring conflicts of interest was especially peculiar:

“He’s already rich.”

Meaning? The only meaning we can deduce is that Jason Chaffetz and his fellow Republicans believe it’s OK for a rich person to engage in criminal behavior. A rich person is allowed to enrich himself further by illegal means. A rich person is allowed to turn the Oval Office into a moneymaking machine. When a relatively middle class person enters the White House, say a Bill Clinton, it’s a different matter. Then they investigate. Republicans are immune. Rich people are immune.

Reported in The New Yorker

Reported at greater length in The Atlantic

The danger Trump presents is increased because the Republicans in Congress are so craven, so obedient, so partisan. James Fallows writes about this in The Atlantic, giving five reasons why Kremlingate is worse than Watergate.

This article from The American Interest examines Trump’s Russia entanglements.

"Whatever the nature of President-elect Donald Trump’s relationship with President Putin, he has certainly managed to accumulate direct and indirect connections with a far-flung private Russian/FSU network of outright mobsters, oligarchs, fraudsters, and kleptocrats. Any one of these connections might have occurred at random. But the overall pattern is a veritable Star Wars bar scene of unsavory characters, with Donald Trump seated right in the middle. The analytical challenge is to map this network—a task that most journalists and law enforcement agencies, focused on individual cases, have failed to do.”

It appears that Donald Trump has been a very useful asset in a massive and long-running Russian money laundering scheme.

Vanity Fair explains why a note from your lawyer won’t get you off the hook, especially if that lawyer was named Russia’s Lawyer of the Year.

When I heard Trump promise that a “certified letter” would clear him of any wrongdoing I laughed. As if the Post Office, for an additional fee, will certify the truthfulness of a letter. (That joke appeared on SNL last night so I wasn’t the only one who thought of it.)

This Dutch documentary goes into Trump’s deep ties to Russian mobsters. All Russian mobsters still living operate as Putin henchmen.

Google Trump and Bayrock and Russia and you find some interesting stories, all about money laundering, the looting of the Russian economy, and the rescue of a bankrupt Trump over the years. There's more than one way to launder a ruble.

This one's from the Guardian.

The reliably conservative Chicago Tribune has this to say:

“We have the tin-pot leader whose vanity knows no bounds. We have the rapacious family feathering their nests without regard for the law or common decency. We have utter disregard for values at home and abroad, the disdain for democracy, the hunger for constraining a free press, the admiration for thugs and strongmen worldwide.”

The New Yorker's Amy Davidson analyzes the problems Trump created in his Lester Holt interview.

Trump’s business dealings are under scrutiny by the Senate. From the New Yorker.

Mother Jones gets down to the facts in the Russia story.

The White House staff meanwhile is in turmoil. Staffers responding with “Jesus!” when they see Trump’s latest tweets. From The Daily Beast.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump Ushers America Into A Late Medieval Period

Charlie Pierce manages to make the grisly affair of this presidency seem almost funny. (A proper heir to Hunter S. Thompson.)

“When we last left Camp Runamuck, and it was only this morning, there was some question as to whether the walls of the East Room ought to be discreetly padded. Since then, and it's only been about six hours, every single element of the most recent account of why the president* iced James Comey had been refuted, much of it by the president* himself, who sat down for a whopper of an interview with Lester Holt of NBC and proceeded to make clowns out of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rod Rosenstein, and most conspicuously of all, Vice President Mike Pence, who must wish he were back being the incredibly unpopular governor of Indiana. It is getting very crowded under the bus."

From CBS News we learn how much the White House has been interfering with the Kremlingate investigation. A lot. As in Coverup. As in Obstruction of Justice.

"Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be "a crisis," the source said, and "there is a whole lot of interfering." The succession of events surrounding Comey's firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.”

Here's a good Washington Post summary and analysis of Trump’s motives and the lies he’s told to cover up those motives. This is the sort of capricious behavior you see in tinpot dictators but seldom see in elected leaders of advanced western nations. With it’s intrigues and contradictions and whispered betrayals and brazen threats it’s reminiscent of a medieval court. Until now America has not experienced a medieval period.

Juan Cole describes the significant steps Trump is taking in his march to dictatorship. (He has not burned the Reichstag yet. But wait.)

"One of the classic techniques of dictatorship is humiliation, a manifestation of the sadism of the regime. Most people want to avoid being made the butt of ridicule, and authoritarian personalities calculate that they will even surrender some rights and liberties to avoid it… Comey was personally humiliated. He was giving a talk in Los Angeles when the news came across the television screen. Here you have the Director of the FBI appearing in public and having his dignity abruptly stripped away… What is the message here? If you work for the Federal government, you work for Trump. And if you work for Trump, and you cross him or he just decides he doesn’t like the look of you, he will degrade you and make you abject in front of the whole world. Therefore, be afraid, be very afraid.”

And then we have Trump’s Russian friends (or masters) casually humiliating him, making it clear he is their poodle.

CNN reports that the Russians are laughing at Trump and us.

"Russian officials are having a grand old time laughing at the United States -- and at President Donald Trump. The events of the past few days would seem to indicate that their efforts to aid Trump's election may have paid off after all -- and paid off handsomely -- with a United States weakened by division, its government consumed with a crisis rooted in Moscow's 2016 election interference.”

Trump isn’t the only one caught in this. Jefferson Davis Beauregard Sessions is also caught in a trap he built and walked into. He could be disbarred and removed from office.

From the Washington Post: (Remember them? They brought down Nixon.)

"Refusing to recuse oneself from a conflict or breaking the promise to recuse from a conflict is a serious breach of legal ethics. “Someone could file a bar complaint, and/or one with DOJ’s office of professional responsibility, if Sessions had a conflict of interest when it came to the firing decision, and if he did not follow the ethics rules, including those of DOJ by acting when he had a conflict of interest,” legal ethics expert Norman Eisen tells me. “The fact that he broke his recusal commitment, if he did, would be relevant context, and violating an agreement can sometimes in itself be an ethics violation.” In sum, Sessions has risked his law license.”

Commentary from Elizabeth Drew who covered Watergate.

Vox explains what Trump is afraid of and why he’s barricaded himself in the White House with loyal henchmen and henchwomen… if he can be sure of them. (There are a lot of leaked stories coming out.)

Let’s review the score here.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House about Michael Flynn’s compromised position and Russia links… so Trump fires her.

Preet Bharara, US Attorney in New York, is putting together cases touching on Trump’s and Trump’s allies’ relationships with Russian oligarchs and money-launderers… so Trump fires him. (This reprise of Bharara's investigations comes from The Week.)

From The Hill newspaper: FBI Director Comey asks for more funding to increase the size of his investigation into Kremlingate and begins subpoenaing Trump associates… so Trump fires him. He pretends to be following AG Sessions’ advice but he demanded grounds to fire and got it from Sessions (who violated his recusal to do so; see above)

Top legal experts are calling this a dangerous move. Dangerous for Trump to have done it, but mostly dangerous for our democracy and rule of law––because Trump has the Republican Congress trained like poodles. (From Lawfare Blog.)

One or two Republicans in Congress are showing some ability to grow spines and walk upright. Lindsey Graham goes back and forth between admiring Trump’s muscles and asking difficult questions. We learn from Reuters that just before Comey was fired Graham expressed interest in Trump’s business dealings, which no doubt increased Trump’s paranoia.

Like the mobster he is, Trump is now threatening people. He’s always threatened people who threatened him, but usually those were people with little power, people he’d abused or refused to pay. Notice he doesn’t threaten his Russian masters. He does like to threaten people he’s fired in case they disliked being fired. In case they know things and might talk. (From the Guardian)

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

We Are All In Putin's Pocket Now

In the early 19th century, when Britain ruled much of the world, their king was cuckoo. Maybe it was because he’d lost the American colonies. He was nuts. And his young son was appointed Regent to handle the duties his incompetent father was unable to handle. The Prince Regent was not cuckoo but he was thick as two planks and very irresponsible.

We are in a similar situation now. Britain wasn’t actually ruled by their monarch even then; they had Parliament, and their Parliament was not a houseful of poodles. Our president has awesome powers and an obedient Congress, and he is still not in control. He is cuckoo and irresponsible and impulsive and delusional and corrupt and a liar.

Weirder still: the oddball scenario of Trump huddling with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador (spy master really) in the Oval Office, with the American press barred but the Russian press invited. If it sounded like a script written in Moscow it’s because it was. It was Putin who demanded the press exclusive at the high level meeting. Putin set the guidelines. Trump is not in control. Putin is. I was joking yesterday about how this is all completely normal, how it’s routine for Russian assets to have regular sit downs with their Russian spymasters. Joke, no joke. Our president is being operate by remote control from Moscow. Persuade me this isn’t true. Since we don’t have any American press coverage of the meeting we will not be able to observe the Russian technicians installing the listening devices.

How did we get here? The Washington Post gives us a picture of the president’s latest temper tantrum. How it happened and what it means.

The only thing that Russia’s press exclusive with Trump did not publish was the photo of Trump kneeling to receive commands from his master.

Politico describes the Russian tete a tete yesterday as a Russian victory dance. The Comey firing is only part of this Russian operation. Previous to this president the Russian prpresident did not have the power to fire American FBI directors.

Do we feel diminished yet? Do we feel like a Russian satellite yet? Do we feel as stupid as we look to the rest of the world? A new Quinnipiac poll asked respondents what word they would use to describe President Trump. (Via NY Magazine.)

The number one response by 8 percentage points was IDIOT.

Next in line: INCOMPETENT.

Next: LIAR.

Fourth place was a tie: 25% are still brainwashed and responded with LEADER. But 25% also responded with UNQUALIFIED.

The White House is lying about the Comey firing. Slate counts the ways.

Via Business Insider: A former CIA deputy director explains why it was dangerous to let the Russians bring their news [sic] crew into the Oval Office.

Constitutional Crisis? The New York Review of Books thinks it is.

Charlie Pierce: "Really, unless a fresh crop of spines suddenly sprouts within the Republican congressional majorities, nothing is going to happen. Unless a fresh crop of balls suddenly sprouts within the federal bureaucracy—hey, there are even more parking garages in D.C. now than there were in 1973—the odds are that the White House is going to skate on this.” Pierce also draws parallels with Watergate. But as I've been saying: Nixon at least hired domestic spooks. He didn't hire the KGB to secure power.

From Rolling Stone: Trump’s few Republican critics are not confronting him. Why?

Michael Tomasky goes through the five key players who might checkmate the Russian puppet in the White House

The Republicans are acting strangely. Like a police chief holding back to make sure the bank robbers finish looting the bank and put the money safely offshore before he does anything. As long as the Russians seem to be in control how much strategic information are they collecting? Which did they steal first, the keys to our nuclear arsenal or the keys to our economic infrastructure? Maybe the keys to the Federal Reserve. They may soon have our entire country in their pocket.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tuesday Night Massacre

This afternoon the president had his personal bodyguard, not a government employee but his longtime henchman, deliver a firing letter to the FBI director who was leading the investigation into Trump's possible collusion with Russia.

Bloomberg is reporting that Trump has promised Senator Lindsay Graham a certified letter avowing Trump's innocence on the Russia allegations. Does this president believe that paying a bit more to send a certified letter somehow certifies the truth of the contents?

Instead it tends to indicate the president's slender grasp on reality.

Live coverage on MSNBC


From Slate

The Atlantic’s analysis

Toobin, from a few months ago

Trump and the GOP have a record of killing messengers. Note the firing of EPA personnel who were disloyally reporting on climate change.

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The Meanness Of Republican Policies

Is there something about being a Republican that makes you anti-woman and anti-working people?

Jonathan Chait of NY Magazine summarizes the Republican mindset pretty well: "Conservatives have made all kinds of practical arguments for the Republican health-care bill. They have made a smattering of moral arguments, too, such as the principle that people with more expensive medical needs have failed to make healthy choices and deserve financial punishment for their failings. What is telling about the gender debate is that it lacks even the pretext of personal responsibility. There is no case to be made that women ought to pay more for insurance because they chose to be female. There is no principle at all except that people who have more ought to keep it."

There seems to be a simpleminded self-centered misanthropy in Republican thinking, or at least in the thinking of the Republicans writing our laws right now. I say right now because Republicans used to be cheap without being mean. I know it's not just racism, but racism is in there. It's not just sexism but sexism is in there. Consider some of the shit these Republican white men say about people who are not white men. People who are not white men come in for a lot of abuse from Republicans, and their voters seem to like this about them. It gets them elected.

"We have folks who try to get pregnant in this state so that they can get a free trip to the city, and we have folks who want to carry their baby past the point of being able to have an abortion in this state so that they can have a free trip to Seattle.” ~Rep. David Eastman (R/Alaska)

"Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging…” ~Rep. Roger Marshall (R/Kansas)

(Oh, but he is judging.)

Meanwhile, in the Senate, a whole parliament of judgmental and punitive white men are figuring out how to fix healthcare in America in a way that covers white men but not other kinds of people.

Fixed the way you might fix a dog, is what they are planning.

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Deconstructing Trump

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank on Trump’s fantasyland. "...What does [Trump] do now that he is in a job that is so hard, running a government that is so big? He pretends. He has developed an elaborate fantasyland in which everything goes according to plan." While Trump is fooling himself is he also fooling us? Or is he just making us look like fools?

From CNN: What if Hillary were a fraction as corrupt as Donald Trump? What if she funneled millions in taxpayer dollars into her own pocket via resorts she owned? Trump's corruptions are hard to count, there are so many and so massive Americans seem unable to process what is happening. ...but Hillary's emails.

Brexit was a rehearsal for what happened here. A big part of the coup there and here was achieved by a big data company owned by the Mercer family who, like the Russians, found a useful stooge in Trump. From The Guardian.

Golf writer James Dodson accepted a golf invitation from Trump and son. From WBUR.

“As we were setting off, I said, 'Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.' And this is what he said. He said, 'Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.' I said, 'Really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’"

The Palmer Report is out on the far leading edge of the reporting on this, so its content is sometimes short on substantiation. But this is a very interesting post from the other day, drawing a set of connections between Trump and Betsy DeVos’s money machine, a Russian server located in Trump Tower, and the possible hacking of thousands of voting machines in swing states. It will be interesting to see if this story emerges in more substantiated form in the NYTimes and Washington Post.

The Atlantic, a far more reliable journal (believe me, I’ve undergone the Atlantic’s rigorous fact-checking on a story) gives a summary of the unfolding Kremlingate treason (calling it a mere scandal doesn’t indicate its scope and significance) with individual segments about the persons involved.

Also from The Atlantic: Trump has been spinning his wheels for 100 days, but the House passing the repeal of ObamaCare may indicate that he’s finally getting traction. Repealing not just a fairer healthcare system but repealing the centuries-old principle of America as a nation that cares about its people, where the people give a damn about each other. The rise of TV evangelism marked the rise of a new kind of pseudo-Christianity, one that preached wealth as proof of godliness, and poverty as a sign of sinfulness. As if Jesus preferred rich people and damned the poor to Hell.

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