Friday, June 16, 2017

Trump Administration, Government Hires All the Attorneys, Imports More From Russia

President Donald J. Trump arrives at Edwards AFB with his lawyered up lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Washington --- The Trump administration and United States government has hired so many attorneys in recent months that the nation is "perilously close" to running out of lawyers, making it all but a certainty that the government will have to start importing attorneys from Russia.
     President Trump himself began the lawyer-hiring frenzy after firing former FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9th, forcing Deputy DOJ Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to hire Robert Mueller as Special Prosecutor into the FBI's Russia investigation. Since then, Mr. Mueller has hired an astounding 13 attorneys to assist him in his ever-expanding investigation, with more expected to be hired.
     Just weeks after setting up a Super PAC of his own, Vice President Mike Pence has also hired an attorney. In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the Vice President has set up a GoFundMe account to pay his legal fees. "So far, after just a day, we've collected $410 from 41 donors," the Vice President said before the Naval Observatory, "so I'd say the campaign is going swimmingly well. Plus, I've added an incentive to anyone kicking in $10,000 that I'll go to their gay neighbor's house and personally heckle them on their front lawn for one hour."
     The lawyer hiring frenzy has reached such proportions, even Mr. Trump's own lawyer, Michael Cohen, has hired his own attorney. "Admittedly, this is going to be awkward," said Mr. Cohen. "I mean, suppose the President testifies before Mr. Mueller as he's promised and he asks me for advice? Will I have to ask my own attorney for advice before giving the President my advice?"
     Obviously, this has resulted in a backlog of legal cases from coast to coast, with litigants not having their scheduled cases tried because their attorneys are now working for either Mr. Trump, Mr. Mueller or other members of the administration. "Seriously, this is like something out of the Twilight Zone," said Travis County Judge Martin Wexler. "We've all fantasized about how happy the world would be without attorneys. Well, it's time to reap the whirlwind, folks."
     Consequently, law schools have accelerated their curricula in order to fast track law students toward graduation so they can take their state bar exams. Critics of the "lawyer drain", as it's called, have likened it to accelerated military basic training in order to get raw, untrained recruits into the battlefield that much faster. Says New Mexico attorney James "Slippin' Jimmy" McGill, "Pretty soon the legal landscape will be filled with idealistic 20-21 year-old attorneys with outdated notions about truth, justice and the American way. It makes me want to go out and kill Superman with a kryptonite dagger."
     However, even the accelerated law school curricula isn't enough to keep pace with the Trump administration's and Justice Department's hiring frenzy. This has forced the President to sign an executive order allowing Russian attorneys into the United States while waiving the usual State Department regulation of work visas. The first C5A transport plane that is expected to import 1000 Russian attorneys is slated to touch down at Edwards AFB by July 1st.
     "The fake news will scream bloody murder about these fine Russian attorneys not knowing American law. But who cares if they're not qualified? That's never stopped me before," said the President on Twitter.
     Thus far, the administration has failed to release the list of names of these Russian attorneys but Wikileaks is about to release documents that suggest at least 677 of the 1000 Russians either have ties to President Vladimir V. Putin, US Amassador Sergey Kislyak, several billionaire oligarchs and Politburo officials.
     "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the President is hiring Russian attorneys... yet," said Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a statement released through his attorney's attorney through their own spokesman's attorney.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ballots Then Bullets

     I am so sickened right now.
     It's a noteworthy day even in this bullet-riddled republic of ours when two mass shootings take place within hours of each other. The first was in Alexandria, VA when a practice was being held for the annual Congressional baseball game that's held for charity. A random and lone gunman from Michigan showed up with an AR15 and began spraying fire, eventually hitting four people. One of them was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who's in critical but stable condition. Another victim was a lobbyist who's also in critical condition. The shooter, James Hodgkinson, later died at the hospital.
     The next incident happened in San Francisco at a UPS sorting facility. Six UPS workers were shot and three were killed before the gunman turned the gun on himself. Two mass shootings in one day, Flag Day. And we will soon forget these and await the next ones. Nothing will change.
     Of course, the right wing nut jobs who accuse the left of politicizing everything because heaven forbid they would ever stoop to such levels will be short-stroking the fact the VA shooter was a Democrat and a Bernie Sanders backer without ever once touching on two crucial points: That their own are far more often responsible for mass shootings and terrorist attacks than the left and the need for strict gun control laws. One of their own Congressmen is now in critical condition after getting his hip shattered by a 5.56 slug. But, hey. Freedom!
     And I can perfectly imagine Trump saying this on Twitter:
     But the plain fact is Congressmen are getting shot while playing baseball. You have to wonder what went through Scalise's mind as he fell from second base, his hip shattered, and began crawling away from the gun fire toward the outfield. Was he thinking of every single vote he ever cast against gun control measures? If he was, who could blame him?
     But today's shootings are all of a piece. The harsh, nasty tone struck by the Trump administration, when they deign to come out of their hidey holes, is inspiring a lot of hatred. Shooting Congressmen and others is obviously not going to fix what's wrong with this country. The gun nuts keep calling for more and more and more guns and ammo then everyone acts surprised when mass shootings escalate.
     We're living in enough fear as it is. We have to remove our shoes, submit to invasive body searches and having our naked bodies scanned. We have to consent to our bags being checked before walking into a ball park or a courthouse or a school. And still this sort of shit keeps happening, now at the rate of two a day.
     I wonder if Alex Jones will promote another conspiracy theory that Alexandria didn't happen and that Scalise was fooling us the whole time?
     And now right wingers are realizing for perhaps the first time (or maybe they're not, since they're inherently stupid) that the 2nd Amendment applies to those of both sides of the political spectrum. Yes, we should have a substantive debate about gun control. The problem is, we're not yet mature enough to have that discussion.

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

     This was more than a casual reference to a 53 year-old movie. James Comey uttered this phrase to Senator Angus King in yesterday's testimony for some very good reasons.
     First and most chillingly, it underscored how literally a ruler's most casual comment can be taken by those beneath him. According to British legend, the monarch Edward II said it in a fit of pique at the end of his contentious relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The line passed into popular usage with the 1964 film, Beckett starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. The very next day after the king's casual command, as the ironically-named Sen. King reminded us, four knights confronted Thomas Beckett at Canterbury and eventually assassinated him.
     Of course, Edward's grievances with the Archbishop of Canterbury were vastly different than Trump's with Comey. But the parallels are irresistible and Comey made a very telling observation with the quote.
     Indeed, Trump's entire administration from Day One has more resembled a despotic monarchy than a modern day democratic administration in a free republic. As with all despots, he demanded a loyalty oath from Comey during their private dinner together last winter. With Trump, loyalty is everything and those who are not loyal are enemies, or, as Eric Trump recently said in his eliminationist rhetoric to Sean Hannity, "not even people."
     Trump, dullard though he is, was barely smart enough to glean that Comey didn't swear fealty to him. This was proven when Trump learned Comey was spearheading an investigation into Michael Flynn's dealings with the Russians. While Trump may not have been the exact focus of the investigation, he nonetheless knew many in his administration, past or present, would lead directly to him. The fat spider in the center of the web sits in the center in case any of the outer strands are pulled.
     It's hard to believe that there's still debate on whether what Trump said to Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Comey flatly said he interpreted Trump's troubling comments as such- That his hamfisted attempts at discretion came off sounding like baleful edicts. Listening to Comey yesterday, one actually felt pity for him, especially among women who'd been powerless secretaries or subordinates who knew what it felt like to be pressured into doing something they didn't want by a more powerful male figure.
     And Trump's entire attitude toward governance more closely resembles a dictatorship or a despotic monarchy that considers the land one rules to be one led by men, or a single one, and not by law. And of course, at least in theory, the United States is run by, in the words of John Adams in the Massachusetts Constitution, "a government of laws and not of men."
     It's a distinction Trump has never understood (nor needed to in the corporate world), doesn't now nor ever will.

Question:

      OK, so let me get this straight:
      The former Director of the FBI called the President a liar on national television, said he took detailed notes on his meetings with Trump because he thought he would lie about those meetings. Then today Trump claims Comey gave him "total and complete vindication."
      John McCain then asks Comey during the hearing about the Trump-Russia investigation about... Hillary Clinton's emails. Then repeats the question to Comey in written form.
      Theresa May attempted a power grab by ordering a snap election, thinking her Tories would win 100 seats in Parliament and wound up losing a dozen, giving Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party 18 more, ended up in a hung Parliament and, in the process, seriously eroded her power, forcing her to reach across the isle to the DUP in Northern Ireland for cooperation for her disastrous Brexit move.
      And now Alan Dershowitz is splitting hairs and trying to get us to believe there's a division between actual crimes and "political sins."
      What alternate universe did some cruel and capricious gods find these people and why did they inflict them on us in ours?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Infantilism of Donald Trump

      Over 20 years ago, a neighbor of mine once told me a story about a middle school-aged boy who'd brought a knife to school. When caught with the clearly prohibited weapon and questioned by school officials, the boy explained that he knew the knife was outlawed on school property but that breaking the law was OK because he hadn't intended on using it. My friend's intent in relating this anecdote was this was the perfect delineation between the juvenile and the adult mind.
     Not concerned with consequences, the more insular juvenile mind will happily break laws and rules because they honestly believe good intent makes them immune to punishment. And this is really one of the hearts of the matter: the civic infantilism of Donald Trump, an infantilism he inspires in his voters and supporters.
     Former FBI Director James Comey's highly anticipated and heavily-watched testimony before the US Senate today underscores that peculiar brand of political infantilism in Donald Trump that we've never seen in any other president. And Director Comey even attempted to cover for Trump up to a point by saying his peculiar brand of obstruction was rooted more in ignorance than criminal intent.
     A future jury, hopefully, will literally be out on that one. However, the statutes (such as 18 U.S. Code § 1505 and 1512, for instance) regarding obstruction clearly do not make distinctions of intent. Obstruction is obstruction. Even Major League Baseball understands that- If the batter (Ed Armbrister aside), however unintentionally or accidentally obstructs the catcher as he's trying to throw to a base, it is still obstruction and the runner is automatically out.
     In a civic sense, Donald Trump is palsied or infantile. What he thought was clever, sophisticated methods of persuasion were, in fact, criminal. Director Comey said in no uncertain terms today that Donald Trump was not the focus of the Russian investigation. But in light of the Director expanding upon his now famous notes of a January meeting with Trump (after which the 6'8" former Director asked Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump again) in which the latter hoped the investigation would end, it should be all but obvious to anyone, regardless of party affiliation, that Trump, if he isn't already, ought to be included into the main thrust of such an investigation.
     Ana Navarro, the Republican CNN commentator and Trump gadfly, made an excellent distinction when she'd said on TV that when a private citizen hopes for something and the President of the United States hopes for the same thing, it is two vastly different things. She nailed it.
     And in Trump's Mr. Bill/Sluggo mentality, intent is everything. He should have known, as had his 44 predecessors, that Presidents shouldn't even broach federal investigations, especially when that same President is even tangentially involved in such a probe. And Trump telling Director Comey in that winter meeting that he hoped the latter would make the investigation go away already skirted, if not outright fractured, the laws prohibiting obstruction of justice.
     And then, there was this:
“He told me repeatedly he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current attorney general and had learned that I was doing a great job and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce, So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russian investigation and learned again from the media that he was telling, privately, other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.”
     Those "other parties" were, of course, Russian diplomats he entertained in the Oval Office after kicking out the US media. Trump was also quoted as calling Director Comey "a nut job" and that firing him "eased the pressure" the Russian investigation was exerting on his administration.
     Calling an FBI Director who's well-respected and well-liked on both sides of the aisle a "nut job" reveals more about Trump's tenuous grasp on how government actually works than on how it does Mr. Comey. And a month ago, in a now-infamous interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump actually admitted he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation, despite the furious denials by his flacks and that he crossed the line by asking the FBI Director if he was under investigation.
     Of course, anyone in such a position, and one personally spearheading an investigation of such enormous import, would never answer that question (Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe reminded us and the US Senate that it is not the FBI's or DOJ's policy to discuss ongoing investigations with those involved or not in such inquiries).
     Former Director Comey's statements to the US Senate today contradict almost radically with Trump's personal statements, his tweets and the public pronouncements by his surrogates. In fact, Comey even admitted that he was so concerned that Trump would lie about the dinner meeting and the phone calls (which he did), that he was inspired to take more detailed notes than to which he was accustomed.
     And one of the biggest takeaways from the three hour-long testimony was when Comey was asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) if Trump had ever asked him if the federal government was doing anything to prevent Russia from meddling in our electoral process and Comey simply answered, "Never."
     What Trump did instead ask him, improperly if not illegally, was if he was the focus of the investigation regarding Russia's role in the last elections. Which is quite believable and even expected from someone trying to quash an investigation into a hostile nation's meddling in our sacred electoral process, someone who enormously benefited from such interference.
     And these were just some of the revelations, some surprising, some not, that were brought to light during the open hearing. I'm sure that everyone who has a stake in this, meaning every American citizen, would give anything to be a fly on the wall for today's closed session.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Backlist

     Hi, all. Sorry for the lack of posting since the latest Assclowns went up on the 2nd. I've been a little busy wheeling and dealing on Facebook and with publishers since last April and trying to get a book contract with an outfit that doesn't expect a fee in return (Yeah, I've run into a few of them.). Plus, I've been working with a new beta reader out of Chicago who's doing a serious rewrite of THE TOY COP. But rest assured, I'll be back in full pit bull mode when Comey testifies before the Senate the day after tomorrow. Until then, if you haven't already, please take the time to review my available titles And if you buy a copy of anything, please remember to leave behind a review. Reviews are almost as good as money and sales to an author.
     My Kindle titles:


     Links to the paperback versions:

https://www.createspace.com/6782677 (Bridge of Tarnished Angels- Short stories)
https://www.createspace.com/5609260 (The Kid- Scott Carson short story)
https://www.createspace.com/4220601 (The Misanthrope's Manual)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Assclowns of the Week #105: Blame it on Paris or Putin edition

"Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord -- (applause)" -Donald Trump
     Greetings, global cooling deniers, and welcome to a long, long overdue Assclowns of the Week. And it has been a busy week with Z list comedian Kathy Griffin (3) having Daniel Pearl fantasies about Donald Trump, Trump (1) jerking us off the Paris Climate Accord, Jared Kushner (6) being Vladimir Putin's back door man and Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (10) experiment in voice acting. So let's put on our water wings and as we paddle in the rising water review this week's top 10 assclowns and much, much more.

10) Debbie Wasserman Schultz
     Democrats used to be the smart ones. They were so smart, in fact, that for decades Republicans had accused them of being elitists. But gradually, establishment Democrats began moving in Republican and corporate circles in a highly successful attempt to hedge against charges of intellectual elitism. To wit:
     Last Thursday, an odd phone call came into Elizabeth Lee Beck's law office. Ms. Beck's law firm is the one litigating the DNC fraud lawsuit. The caller used a voice synthesizer so that it sounded "robotic and genderless." The voice made an inquiry: How's it going with the lawsuit? The receptionist gave the caller all the publicly available information then hung up. But apparently the caller forgot about a decades-old innovation known to the rest of elitist, tech-savvy people as caller ID.

     Oops. Looks as if the call came from Debbie Wasserman Schultz' Aventura, FL congressional office. Think they could be a little shaken up by the lawsuit and what the investigation will dig up? This is actually one step stupider than Donald Trump calling People Magazine and pretending to be a publicist named "John Miller." Or maybe this is evidence of Putin striking again.

9) EPA Director Scott Pruitt
     Just hours after Donnie Dumbo decided to pull us out of the Paris Climate Accord, the usual army of flacks took to the airways and did the talking head circuit, particularly climate change denier and EPA head Scott Pruitt. Trump making Pruitt the head of the EPA was on a par with making Ted Nugent the head of PETA. On CNN, Pruitt was grilled by Jake Tapper and this exchange took place:
Tapper: "Does the President believe climate change is a hoax?
Pruitt: "This is not about whether climate change is occurring or not."
     For once, Pruitt is right, albeit accidentally. The Paris Climate Accord was never about whether or not global warming is a hoax but acknowledging it is not and taking all the appropriate steps to curb the emission of greenhouse gases on a global scale. Late last month, Pruitt said satellite data proves global warming is slowing down, even though virtually every climate scientist on earth had confirmed the opposite. Hell, what did you expect from a guy who once tried to sue 13 times the same regulatory agency that he now heads up?

8) Rep. Darrel Issa
     Either Darrel Issa is preparing for his next career as a roofer for when he gets thrown out of Congress next year or he's too scared to face his own constituents. On Tuesday May 30, Issa showed up at his Congressional office in Vista, CA and was met with a knot of constituents who were angry about being excluded from a fake Town Hall Issa had recently held that admitted only Republican-friendly voters. Issa immediately ignored the small crowd, where he then did a creditable job of Michael Scott from The Office and hid on the roof. In a baleful move, Issa then took pictures of the protesters below. This knocks us down to just half a notch above a pitchfork and torch-wielding banana republic and after this I don't see how Issa can overcome a challenge from Democrat Mike Levin, who was savvy enough to quickly jump on this.
     At least Sean Spicer had the sense to hide in the White House bushes on ground level. And, oh, speak of the Devil's jester and he will come...

7)  Donald Trump and Sean Spicer
     Donald Trump recently took to Twitter just after midnight and seemed to drunk-text the world about the "constant negative press" and "covfefe". Then the day after, Trump made the mistake of trotting out Sean Spicer to explain what he meant. When asked by the press what Trump meant in his latest semi-coherent tweet, Spicey answered with, "The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant." Obviously, not included among that small elite group are the editors of Merriam Webster, Oxford and the New American Heritage dictionaries.
     Meanwhile, White House groupie Sarah Palin is immensely grateful to Mr. Trump for making most of us forget about her coining the word, "refudiate."

6) Jared Kushner
     A week ago (at the very end of the news cycle as it was not broken until after five PM last Friday). it was reported that Donald Trump's son in law Jared Kushner had conspired with Russian officials to set up a secret back channel to Moscow as far back as last December. This was backed up by five officials knowledgeable of the meeting. This marked a radical departure for US policy because this was a case of a private citizen working with diplomats from a hostile state to reach the highest levels of Russian political power behind the backs of the 17 intelligence agencies.
     On a very abstract level, this is not unprecedented. However, Professor Richard Moss, author of the book, Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Detente, recently said that such informal back channels are meant to supplement, not supplant official policy. Kushner's harebrained scheme was to use Russian equipment in Russian embassies to contact the highest echelon of Russia's political hierarchy (presumably Putin). And it's impossible to think Kushner would've even broached the subject behind Trump's back rather than Trump using his son in law as an envoy.
     But, hey, Michael Flynn was at that same meeting that Kushner failed to report on his SF86 form when he applied for his top secret security clearance and later he met with a powerful Russian banker (a meeting neither wants to talk about). Sounds legit to me. And I'm sure at the GOP National convention last summer, Trump, Flynn, Sessions and the rest of his mafia spoke with Kislyak (then failed to mention it) about Russia's cute little dancing bears and what a shame it was that Ted Nugent hasn't been entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5) Donald Trump
     I'm sure when Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle revealed today that Donald Trump actually called her to ask her how to do his job, she was bragging and wasn't at all horrified that he was soliciting advice from a talking head on how to run the most powerful nation on earth.
     Yes, if you're looking for suspects for who made Donnie Dumbo walk away from the Paris Climate Accord as well as what will surely be a huge raft of disastrous policy decisions, you can add to right wing nut jobs Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt a walking brain stem attached to two legs named Kimberly Guilfoyle.
     Imagine the outrage that would've ensued if it had come out that Obama had conspired with MSNBC for advice on policy matters...

4) The White House
     June is National Pride Month. It is set in June in commemoration of the Stonewall riot that took place in June of 1969. Since his first year as President and straight through until last year, President Barack Obama had designated June Pride Month. But things have changed considerably since January 20th. After proclaiming things such as National Homeownership Month and other pseudo month-long holidays, Trump failed to name June Pride Month. No doubt, his baleful hangeron Mike Pence (who by now must be measuring the Oval Office for racks and Iron Maidens), had some influence with this "oversight."
     Pence, you might remember, as Indiana's governor, signed into law the "It's OK to Discriminate Against Teh Gays Because I'm Giving You a Get Out of Free Jail Card Named Religion" bill. Pence was also the piece of shit who'd made it legal to siphon funds from HIV research to fund, instead, gay conversion therapy outfits. And still, reconstituted Log Cabin Republicans and big gay donors cling to this guy like he's the Second Coming of Harvey Milk. Their reason? See lead image above.

3) Kathy Griffin
     It's one thing to lampoon the President of the United States, whoever it is, and even call for their impeachment when circumstances warrant it. But part-time celebrity Kathy Griffin took herself a bit too seriously and was videotaped holding up a fake, blood-drenched Donald Trump head as if she was some ISIS terrorist with a new trophy. Despite how absurdly easy it is to ridicule Donald Trump, the Office of the Presidency, if nothing else, needs to be respected and this plainly sends out the wrong message to anyone with too much time and ammo on their hands. As a result of this stupid stunt, Griffin lost her one night a year gig on CNN plus at least one commercial endorsement.
     However, Griffin's tastelessness aside, it was amusing to see the right wing nut jobs (such as California Patriot, my latest stalker and troll), lose their shit over it while remaining silent about all the burning lynchings in effigy we saw over the last eight years (Sasha Obama was also 11, as is Barron Trump, when an effigy of her father was hung and burned in 2008.). What was funniest was Trump himself whining about how his kids were having a hard time dealing with the gory imagery .

     Like these kids, for instance?

2) Hillary fucking Clinton
     Yes. Her again. For those about to stick their faces in barf bags, we salute you.
     Showing that she'd learned absolutely nada through the countless mistakes made by her Tammany Hall 2.0 campaign, Hillary fucking Clinton took to Codecon and essentially blamed her campaign's failure despite massive backing from women, the establishment Democrats, the MSM, Wall Street and the DNC on everyone who wasn't married to the 42nd president.
     The newly-rebranded radical centrist also sorta half-joked that Trump's word of the day "covfefe" was a code to the Russians. Yes, it was Vlad Putin who orchestrated her ignoring an important union just before election night, alienated Hispanics with her "taco bowl outreach" and "abuela" comments and shoved her into bed with every banking and corporate scumbag within 100 miles of Wall Street.
     Oh, and she's writing a new memoir that'll crystallize these conspiracy theories for public consumption because the consolation of a high seven figure advance is exactly what Hillary fucking Clinton deserves after perhaps the most embarrassing defeat in US political history.

1) "President" Donald Trump
     Also late this past week, the Koch brothers' latest temp worker (aka US President Donald Trump) did as many of us predicted and pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord like his father Fred should've done from his wife's snatch back in 1945. That's right, this was in defiance of the skepticism of withdrawing from the Accord by business leaders, champion polluter Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn and even the First Lady Ivanka. This was bad enough, as the Paris Accord has 194 other participating nations (including North Korea). This puts us in a tiny, elite community with Syria and Nicaragua (which won't be joining in for very good reasons).
     But Trump, inevitably, made it much worse by taking to the Rose Garden and explaining his reasons, all of which were horseshit that could benefit only the flowers behind him. In the World According to Trump, if we ever violated the Accord, they could sue us (No, they can't.) Meaning the Accord would legally bind us (No, it wouldn't). We could renegotiate it later as if it's another bankruptcy settlement (No, we can't).
     Essentially, as if he hadn't during his Hindenburg of a foreign trip last month, Trump is isolating us from the rest of the planet save for Russia in every conceivable way and this is the icing on the cake. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the extraordinary step of saying the rest of the world could no longer rely on the US. French President Macron has been in Trump's grill ever since his decision (which Trump blamed on the latter's "aggressive handshake"). And at least three governors of big states (CA, NY and WA) have decided to sign on to the climate accord. Meaning, far from Trump distancing himself from the rest of the planet, the planet's moving on without him.
     Fellow billionaire Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger are among them.

Dishonorable Mention


     In a silly yet tragic reprise of Get Shorty, last March Oklahoma state senator and Trump backer Ralph Shortey was caught in a motel room with an underaged boy whom Shortey had solicited for sex via text message. To show how unbelievably stupid Republicans are, the day after he was busted for "engaging in child prostitution, prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church, and transporting a minor for the purposes of prostitution", he posted the above picture of himself on Facebook with Donald Trump, Jr, which I'm sure must've absolutely thrilled the First Family. To show what a craven piece of shit Shortey is, police found him hidden behind the door just opened by the underaged boy (Maybe he should have called Darrell Issa for tips on evasion). Oh, I'm sorry, did I refer to Shortey as an OK state senator? He's a former state senator now. He resigned his post so he can spend more time with NAMBLA.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Radio Interview


     Tonight at seven PM ET, I'll be interviewed for an hour on the ArtistFirst radio network. I'll be gabbing about writing, publishing, my novels and who knows what. You can go to www.artistfirst.com and click on "listen live". Or, if you can't listen live, after the interview, you can click on my name and listen to a recording of the show. Please try to make time to listen in. I promise a good time will be had by all.
(Addendum: The recording of my interview can be found here. Sorry for the quality. I had Tony the host call my cell phone. On reflection, I think my voice would've come through more clearly if he'd called my house phone. So if I sound as if I'm speaking underwater, I apologize. I'll know better next time.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

K, K and K

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
K, K and K. Funny how that letter keeps popping up in threes and dogging this administration. Of course, this isn't about Donald Trump's loyal fan base in the Ku Klux Klan. This is about the other KKK: Kushner, Kislyak and the Kremlin.
     Last Friday night, after what used to be the end of the weekly news cycle before social media made it 24/7, the Washington Post, followed by the New York Times two hours later published differing accounts of Jared Kushner asking Russia's US ambassador Sergey Kislyak for direct, secure access to the Kremlin, rendering deaf the prying ears of the intelligence community. This in itself should raise a lot of eyebrows but rather than retreading common ground, the Gray Lady decided to soft-pedal it.
     With tongue in cheek she says, perhaps with genuine naïveté, "Even if the proposal was designed primarily as a conduit to discuss policy issues, it is unclear why such communications would have needed to be carried out though a secret channel." Indeed. Especially as the Trump transition team didn't make this meeting at Trump Tower public knowledge and to this day still refuses to comment on it except through a veil of anonymity. Furthermore, the NYT went on to state,
The idea behind the secret communications channel, the three people said, was for Russian military officials to brief Mr. Flynn about the Syrian war and to discuss ways to cooperate there.
     One gets the impression this rationale, which allegedly took even Kislyak by surprise, was a glorified fig leaf for what would've been even more collusionary activity between the White House and the Kremlin had the idea not been abandoned by both sides.
     But then this came out: A few days after the meeting with Kislyak in Trump Tower, Kushner then had a meeting with another Sergey, this one Sergey Gorkov, a powerful Russian banker with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Well, "close ties" is understating it. Gorkov is actually a crony of Putin's and a graduate of the FSB's spy school. Later on, Putin made him the head of the VneshEconomBank (or VEB). It would be sanctioned under the Obama administration after Putin invaded the Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
     It ought to be mentioned here that unlike the Times, the WaPo had also reported that Kushner's idea at the time was to use Russian equipment at the Russian embassy so future communiques with Moscow couldn't be overheard by the FBI, which closely monitors all communications between Russian diplomats in the US and Moscow. That, obviously, would've caused security risks for both the Russians and us. It's an idea that on its face seems so naïve or absurd (as the Times would've had it), it was no wonder Moscow didn't approve it.

"Policy is the elephant in the room"
In Matt Yglesias' breakdown of the "dueling accounts", he mentions the core issue at the heart of these recent disclosures regardless of which account you read: The actual central policy these secret, behind locked door meetings signify. And, as is always the case, what we suspect always far outweighs what we actually know, especially when speculating on national security matters. So let's take stock of what we do know:
     The White House, through Kushner, wanted to set up hard, secured channels straight to Moscow, a request that was so bizarre even Kislyak was surprised. The very meeting was also such a potentially explosive revelation that Kushner (as had Jeff Sessions and several others in the Trump White House) had lied on his SF86 form (an application for top secret security clearance) by omitting his meetings with the Russians. Essentially, this means Kushner got his job through fraudulent means and ought to fired immediately according to Justice Department regulations.
     Yet, despite these disturbing requests, meetings with Russians and lying about them on his security clearance application, despite his name coming up quite frequently in the DOJ's ongoing investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia, Kushner himself is still not under investigation.
     Michael Flynn, Trump's short-lived National Security advisor, was present at the first meeting with Kislyak. He was being so openly groomed as a Judas goat/fall guy that Acting AG Sally Yates warned White Counsel three times about the danger of Flynn being compromised.
      We know for a fact Trump has had an antagonistic relationship with the intelligence community since he was Candidate Trump. Therefore it's only natural for a furtive, paranoid character like Trump to send in his son in law to lay the groundwork for a hard, secured channel straight to Trump's BFF, Vlad Putin.
     Rep. Adam Schiff took to the Sunday talk show circuit today to say in no uncertain terms that after this revelation of seeking back channels to the Kremlin (then withholding that information on his security clearance application), there's no way Kushner should be allowed to keep his security clearance. At the very least, Schiff added, it ought to be seriously reviewed.
     He's right.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Leading From the Rear

     Considering his boorish behavior in pushing aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro to be front and center for the photo op, I'm frankly surprised Trump didn't insist on being in front again in his little golf cart like a NASCAR pace car. That's right.
     As the leaders of England, Italy, France, Germany, Japan & Canada briskly walked through the quaint little streets of Taormina, Sicily, Donald Trump was humble enough to putter considerably behind them in a golf cart.
      It was a perfectly symbolic way to end the G7 summit that was largely concerned with the Paris Climate Accord that was created to lower global greenhouse emissions. The United States, leading from the rear as always in matters of pollution, lagged behind the other six world leaders, including arch conservative Theresa May. Great Britain and the other five nations renewed their commitment to the Paris Accord. Trump frustrated the other six leaders by saying he needed more time to think about it. I guess he's yet to read the Wikipedia article on the Paris Climate Accord.
     It's also perfectly symbolic of a fat, lazy son of a bitch who in his first four months as "president" has already put in more golfing than Obama probably had in his first term in office. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton were too "low energy" to be president, eh?
     Lastly, Trump's lackluster close to what was an unmitigated disaster on his first overseas trip was flawlessly symbolic of his lack of interaction and commitment to the international community whether it be our honoring Article V or signing on with the other member nations in the Paris Accord, it underscored, at best, an unhealthily isolationist attitude in international affairs (except where Yemen is concerned).
     At worst, especially as regards our belligerent posture toward our NATO allies, Trump going off script and insulting our NATO partners over a moth-eaten lie is in perfect harmony with Vlad Putin's own position toward NATO and the international community as a whole.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Red Line Republicans

     The more I study the latter-day Republican Party, the more I'm convinced red is the perfect color for it. Red, as in red zones, is the universal color for danger, which Republicans are constantly reminding us we're in then make their apocalyptic scenarios, for different reasons, self-fulfilling prophecies.
     Red is also symbolic of the old Soviet Union, which Republicans used to revile until the rise of Trump. Now, as far as US-Russo relations are concerned, the Democrats and Republicans have completely switched sides like drunks in a madcap game of Musical Chairs.
     Red also is the token color of rage, the color that drives bulls into a murderous frenzy or the stereotypical red fog that we metaphorically see when we ourselves are in the grip of rage.
     All three of these colors are perfect for a psychopath named Greg Gianforte.
     If you've been paying attention, Gianforte is the New Jersey-born carpetbagger piece of shit who'd gotten elected to Congress last night in a runoff election to replace former Montana Congressman-at-large Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of the Interior. Let's start with what happened on Wednesday the 24th and work our way back:
     Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was at Gianforte's campaign headquarters just as the candidate was about to make one of his final public appearances before Thursday's election. Jacobs had asked Gianforte a question about the CBO's troubling analysis of the health care bill recently passed in the House and he deflected the question yet again and told Jacobs to talk to his spokesman Shane Scanlon. Less than one second later, Gianforte can be heard grappling with the reporter and screaming at him.
     To show how completely unhinged and blind to optics Gianforte is, he attacked Jacobs in full view of a Fox news crew and other journalists. As horrifying as the tape sounds, what actually happened is much worse- According to Fox reporter Alicia Acuna, the Republican grabbed the Jewish reporter by the neck with both hands, body-slammed him, moved him sideways then began punching him while screaming at him.
     Fox's hosts completely ignored the incident, as if this is supposed to be the norm. In fact, some of them had pressured Acuna into retracting her eyewitness report (to her credit, she didn't, although that didn't stop lying right wing scumbags from saying she did, anyway.).
     Other right wing scumbags like Duncan Hunter of California said Jacobs got what was coming to him. Laura Ingraham, the one who tried to get Acuna to change her story, was basically splitting hairs and trying to make a distinction between what's assault or not depends entirely on what part of a person's neck you grab (Montana law enforcement charged him with misdemeanor assault, although it's difficult to see how grabbing a man's neck with both hands, body-slamming him and punching him isn't felony assault).
     Pedophile Rush Limbaugh, a ghost from the past, called Gianforte "manly" and "studly" for body-slamming the "pajama boy" journalist (which makes the rest of us wonder if Limbaugh has something he'd like to share with the rest of the class while he's just playing out the string of the rest of his contract that surely will not be renewed.).
     This is not new for Republicans. Nearly two and a half years ago, Rep. Michael Grimm threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony after "breaking (him) in half." And we've seen since Trump was still candidate Trump how antagonistic he's been to a press that over the decades had fawned over him and made him a household name. And of course, there was the still-recent example of Dan Heyman, the reporter who tried to ask HHS Secretary Tom Price a question about the AHCA and actually got expelled and arrested by West Virginia authorities.
     And let's not forget the abrupt expulsion of Univision reporter Jorge Ramos during Donald Trump's first presser since Election Day.
     From a purely objective perspective, it's easy to see why Republicans for decades have been antagonistic toward the 4th (and now the 5th) estate. Republicans by and large are furtive scumbags who much prefer to operate in the shadows, well hidden from public scrutiny. They hysterically accuse the very infrequent examples of actual investigative reporting as ambush journalism.
     And it's perhaps this very type of journalism that put Jacobs on Gianforte's baleful radar screen, especially since Jacobs wrote and published last April 28th this piece about Gianforte owning stock in two Russian companies that had been sanctioned by the US government since Putin had annexed the Crimea. "You did this the last time!" Gianforte screamed at Jacobs as he repeatedly punched him in the process of putting him in the hospital.
     Maybe his already thin skin was already rasped when the NY Times had reported earlier this month that the Republican candidate had been caught on tape thanking lobbyists for their work in passing the House health care bill. To hear Gianforte talk, it was as if they'd voted on the bill themselves. Which they practically had.
     This increasingly toxic relationship between the GOP and the press seemingly reached its apotheosis with Gianforte openly and brutally assaulting a reporter who was trying to do his job (then lied about it), in full view of a room full of witnesses, and had his fellow right wing nut jobs excuse his Neanderthal behavior. But was it the apotheosis? One must pay close attention to this deteriorating relationship between Republicans and the press that's supposed to be their watchdog in a supposedly free and democratic society. Republicans are making jokes about murdering the press, such as this one from the Secretary of Homeland Security when Trump was presented with a saber at his whiny commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy.
     Yes, our Homeland Security from the top down perceives the media as a threat to our nation that needs to be liquidated. Trump said so on Twitter. It must be true.
     It's a sad day in a so-called free Democratic Republic that the highest levels of our government coddle dictators like the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, North Korea and especially Russia while steadily escalating hostilities with the media that is supposed to be its watchdog. And now, we've just elected to Congress a psychopath who attacked and sent a reporter to the hospital (then, again, lied about it) and has to answer to assault charges this June 7th.
     And people are making excuses for him. Overton's Window. Assault, once a crime, is now proof of "manly" and "studly" behavior. Just asking a question of these arrogant douchebags is also asking for it. It wasn't assault, it was self-defense. He spoke too loud. He got too close to me, he grabbed me, Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?
     To say this incident last Wednesday as well as the others I've itemized, is having a chilling effect on the media is soft-pedaling it. But far from having a chilling effect, it ought to energize this lapdog media that will ignore, spin, deny and whitewash anything just for direct access to bullshit. The media at large should be going after these furtive scumbags with hammers and tongs. They hate the media because they have a lot to hide.
     When Adolph Hitler ascended to power 84 years ago, it was not a coup. He was democratically elected by the people of post Wiemar Germany. Though he'd consolidated power with astonishing rapidity (in about 70 days), the Third Reich still did not materialize overnight. He did so by stages, including suppressing the German media and demonizing and expelling from the business anyone who wouldn't get in line with the National Socialist Party's agenda. Before anyone knew it, virtually all 4700 of Germany's newspapers became mere propaganda arms for Hitler and Goebbells. And they were able to do so with the threat of a Communist takeover. Otherism. Fear. There's always a market for it and never goes out of style.
     Incremental stages. Frogs in the boiling water who fool themselves into thinking they can still take it, that the water's not getting too hot. It's not just a case of it possibly happening here. It is happening now as we speak.

From now on...

     .....when I hear that Mark Twain quote, "There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress," I'll think of Greg Gianforte. Because Gianforte just became the first man in US history to win a seat in Congress while having an assault charge hanging over him.
     Of course, one could say that the only reason Gianforte won is because roughly half of Montana's 700,000 registered voters mailed in their ballots long before Gianforte choked, body-slammed and punched Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs the day before election day.
     More on this later.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Musclehead From Brussels

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
It should've been written into the script: The Big Bully arrives in town, starts throwing his weight around, then Jean-Claude Van Damme leaps to save the day and kicks the bad guy senseless. Alas, that did not happen any more than a Batman will come to save Gotham City (formerly known as the United States).
     Any dead-end Trumper hoping against hope, reason and basic sanity that our Chief Executive would go on his first Big Boy Trip and not embarrass us should be bitterly disappointed. And if they're not, then they deserve to have their mental health care taken from them if Sauron gets his way and passes the AHCA, It all started, not so innocently enough, in Saudi Arabia.
     The tone for dysfunction was set when Trump reached for Melania's hand as they were leaving Air Force One and she rejected it by putting her left hand to her hair. Needing a consolation, Trump then patted the First Lady's ass. (Melania would do it again a couple days later in Israel.) Then, after agreeing, through a Jared Kushner-brokered deal to sell $110 billion in arms to the Saudis (in exchange for a $100,000,000 bribe to Ivanka's proposed foundation), Trump, the King of Saudi Arabia and Egypt's dictator held a glowing orb ceremony that looked as if it came out of a bad Roger Corman movie.

     Whether they were attempting to reach the blubbery spirit of Roger Ailes, the Dark Prince or Sauron himself, they reached someone- The very next day a 4x4 sinkhole opened up right in front of Mar-a-Lago (aka the Panhandle Kremlin). Then co-First Ladies Ivanka and Melania decided to opt out of wearing head scarves, something for which Trump himself raked Michelle Obama over the coals when she'd done the same (something for which even Ted Cruz had cheered her).
     Then after three of the world's biggest dictators and perpetrators of state-sponsored terrorism had their creepy seance pledging to end non state-sponsored terrorism, it was off to Israel, then the Vatican. And in the theological trifecta, Trump managed to thoroughly humiliate us in all three religions.

The Stupidest Person on the Face of the Earth

No, the Israelis didn't shoot Trump, even though he'd given away their secrets to the Russians, but they must've surely thought about it. As usual, it all started right out of the gate, literally, when Melania again swatted away Trump's hand on the red carpet in Tel Aviv. Then, as if the world's media wasn't already giving his itinerary and every detail within it enough press, he then announced to Israeli officials, in Israel, "I've just left the Middle East."
     
     It kinda went downhill from that point on.
     The Israeli visit at least held the faintest hope for Trump to acquit himself as something more than the mentally-challenged misfit he's proved to be on the world stage. After all, since Trump was on the campaign trail in 2015-6, he's been calling consistently for a two state solution between Israel and Palestine. Alas, it was not to be.
     When he left 28 hours later, he had not given one shred of evidence he'd thought this peace thingie through despite all the time he'd had to develop a peace plan during his campaign, his transition, and during the 120+ days he's been in the White House (aka Kremlin-on-the-Potomac). But there was one bright takeaway from Trump's visit- He'd told Netanyahu that when he was talking to the Russians in the Oval Office, he "never mentioned Israel."
     Which I'm sure came as a great relief to the Israelis even though their code-word protected intelligence about ISIS was given to a nation with whom they'd pointedly not shared said intelligence. And speaking of which, after Trump's visit, Israel has also decided not to share some of their classified intelligence with us. Yeah, maybe that's for the best.
     For any American President making an official state visit to Israel, a stop at the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem is a must. There's a guestbook for heads of state to sign. And Donald Trump's bizarre note in the Yad Vashem guestbook reads like something someone would write of their Disneyland vacation on Yelp.com. To say the least, it stands in stark contrast to the much lengthier, more comprehensive note left by President Obama. It essentially was all about him and what a great tourist stop was the memorial erected to remember the 6,000,000 victims of the Holocaust who were never mentioned in Trump's jaunty tourist memorandum. One can only wonder if Trump left an invoice to Mexico inside the Wailing Wall.
     Then it was on to the Vatican and beyond...

No Weddings But a Funeral For Democracxy
Pope Francis is certainly the most popular pontiff since at least Pope John XXIII. He seems to genuinely love his role as the Vicar of Christ as much as he relishes ministering to the poor. He seems like a nice, folksy head of state who has a ready smile for anyone he may meet... uh, with certain exceptions.
     It can't be said the two First Ladies didn't play their part. In stark contrast to their refusal to wear head scarves in Saudi Arabia, Ivanka and Melania, in keeping with papal tradition, wore black dresses and veils (and giving the photo op something of a creepy Diane Arbus ambiance to the whole thing.).
     I'll just gloss over the creepiness, the countless embarrassments Trump caused us in Vatican City and the two leader's prior barbs at each other over Trump's wall and just let the awkward pictures do the talking.

     Trump left the Vatican, saying he was more determined than ever to pursue peace in the world. Meanwhile, before he even got to the Vatican, this little tidbit about a certain Navy SEAL raid in Yemen somehow got pushed off the MSM's radar. I'm sure Trump felt real bad about it afterwards once he met with the Pope. Sure.

National Lampoon's Belgian Vacation
If anyone had any illusions that President Griswold wouldn't embarrass the United States at the dedication of the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, they were sadly misinformed. If there's anything else that Trump shares with the establishment GOP besides killing the poor and middle class, tax cuts for his billionaire buddies and deregulating every industry under the sun, it's his ignorant hatred of the United Nations and NATO's mission.
     At this point, it's difficult if not outright impossible to determine if Trump even knows what Article 5 in Chapter II of the UN charter is, much less remember that it was invoked only once by the UN- For our benefit right after the 9/11 attacks. But Trump today mentioned Article 5 in vague terms, preferring, instead, to focus on his moth-eaten lie of 23 of 28 NATO member nations not kicking in their fair share to fight terrorism (in reality, they'd paid more than mere money to that end- To date, over 1000 non-American NATO troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan alone). Ironically, standing next to Trump was a sculpture made of twisted metal found at Ground Zero.
     What Trump either doesn't remember or care to learn is that each nation pledges their support and pays for it out of their respective defense budgets. It's difficult to believe that one of Trump's more pragmatic and knowledgeable aides hasn't taken him aside and informed him of this simple fact.
     Perhaps it's that rampant ignorance that accounted for the faces and body language of the world leaders who had to listen to this drivel. Afterwards, Trump pushed Montenegro's Prime Minister aside so he could be front and center for the photo op, then refused to shake the hand of the lady who'd offered hers.
     It's that arrogant, right wing ignorance and hostility toward NATO (As well as the United Nations) that makes observers who actually have a functional cerebrum to wonder if he'll just as impetuously pull out of the 195 nation Paris Climate Accord. In light of his rolling back all the Obama regulations on polluting industries, a reasonable person would have cause to suspect it.
     So, let's sum up our Big Boy's First Big Boy Trip:
     He'd cozied up to dictators from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, had a creepy glowing orb ceremony, thought he was out of the Middle East once he landed in Israel and made an Israeli diplomat publicly face palm himself, left no evidence he has a peace plan for Israel and Palestine to follow, screwed the pooch as far as Israeli intelligence-sharing goes, left a chipper Yelp review of Yad Vashem, successfully wrestled the perpetual smile off Pope Francis's face, praised dictators while insulting our NATO allies, and managed to kill some Yemeni elders while preaching vapidly about peace.
     And if that doesn't sufficiently scare you, he found time to submit to Congress while abroad a budget with a two trillion dollar error.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Beautiful People

And I don't want ya and I don't need ya
Don't bother to resist or I'll beat ya
It's not your fault that you're always wrong
The weak ones are there to justify the strong
The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
You can't see the forest for the trees
And you can't smell your own shit on your knees
There's no time to discriminate
Hate every motherfucker that's in your way
Hey you, what do ya see?
Something beautiful or something free?
Hey you, are you trying to be mean?
You live with apes man, it's hard to be clean
The worms will live in every host
It's hard to pick which one they eat most
The horrible people, the horrible people
It's as anatomic as the size of your steeple
Capitalism has made it this way
Old-fashioned fascism will take it away
Hey you, what do ya see?
Something beautiful or something free?
Hey you, are you trying to be mean?
You live with apes man, it's hard to be clean
 
     Yes, we're all stars now in the Dope's show.

Good Times at Gotham City, 4/23/17









KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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