Friday, December 28, 2018

Bros and Punks

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Beto O'Rourke is that rarest of political animals. Having been narrowly defeated, if we're to blindly accept the dodgy election results from Texas last November 6th, by Ted Cruz, O'Rourke retains his popularity even though he's in the last days of elected office. By January 3rd, O'Rourke will be out of a job. During and after his campaign, the middle-aged Beto remains a bigger rock star of sorts than he ever was during his teens (I know something about that).
     Compare that, for instance, to Christine O'Donnell, the special needs poster child of Senate candidates. Eight years ago, O'Donnell lost her Senate bid to Chris Coons by a full 17 points. (It ought to be restated here that O'Donnell tried to keep her nonexistent momentum going thanks in large part to Daniel Strone, CEO of Trident Media, when he catapulted himself to her doorstep and signed her to a seven figure deal that went down in flames faster than O'Donnell's campaign. So much for wingnut welfare, Danny Boy.)
     O'Rourke is, paradoxically, loathed on both sides of the political spectrum. The Cruz wing of the Tea Party reviles him as does the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party. In between, however, there's a vast swath of the electorate that'll vote for any Blue Dog like Hillary, or Beto, in order to keep the Republican out because they've been conned into thinking there's any substantive difference between the two monolithic parties (there really isn't.).
     And even though Donald Trump hasn't even been lounging in the White House for two years, there's speculation, straight-faced speculation, that Donald Trump will actually be around to run for office in the next two years. Equally straight-faced and straight-laced poobahs of the political punditocracy are saying at the same time that this is the beginning of the end for Trump, that after the Democrats take over the House, the investigations and subpoenas will begin flying like confetti during a 5th Avenue ticker tape parade. And then, there's the baleful specter of Robert Mueller who, by many accounts, will wrap up his final report by February.
     Smelling blood in the chum line, the opposing party, naturally, are already jockeying for position through their standard bearers. And, just as predictably, the opening salvos in the circular firing squad are already echoing across the political landscape like the first shots at the North Bridge in Lexington. Those shots have already been fired in Trump's favorite sandbox, Twitter, between Bernie Bros and Beto's Punks.
     However, a quick look into Beto's voting record over the last two years will show that his votes aligned with Trump's agenda across a broad spectrum of issues over 30% of the time (including, most notoriously, bills favoring the fossil fuel industry and Trump’s Draconian immigration policy that is literally killing children, two bad tacks for a Democratic Congressman from Texas to take). 
     Bernie Bros are also quick to point out, while Beto copied Bernie's insistence on not taking any lobbyist or PAC money (which is only half true), he's nonetheless vacuumed up cash from corporations and was supported by the Blue Dog wing of the so-called Democratic Party (who would've turned their jiggling collective back on him if it ever came out he was (gasp!) actually as liberal as the media and his voters claimed he was. Even up until almost the eve of the Midterms, anonymous Democrats were still whining to the NY Times about how O'Rourke, then down by 8 points in the polls, should throw in the towel and dispense his war chest to more competitive candidates).
     But when you break down Beto's donors and realize where the cash came from (He raised more than $70,000,000, more than any other Senate candidate, most of that money coming from, like Bernie's and his famous $27 average, small donors averaging $47), only a nit-picking purist would still try to make hay out of the fact that much of his out of state money came from West Somerville, Massachusetts. So we're left with, once again, the voting records, which tell a longer tale of the tape.

Somebody Else, He's Our Man!
Beto should run again in 2020 but against Cornyn, not the Republican presidential nominee.
     It seems inconceivable that a man who can raise $38,000,000 in just three months and over $70,000,000 overall, more than any Senate candidate ever, outraising his incumbent opponent by a solid two to one margin, would still lose by 2.6% to that opponent, by all accounts. one of the most unpopular Senators since McCarthy.
     And now, it seems Beto's seriously mulling a presidential bid. Perhaps Ted Cruz could counsel Beto as to the pitfalls of that ambitious strategy. Cruz won the Iowa caucus, barely, and little else after that. Now he has Trump's footprints all over his back for all eternity.
     And now, in advance of any decisions about the presidency, before any exploratory committees have been run, the 5th Estate is now awash in virtual blood over who the better candidate is: With all due respect to Senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, it already is shaping up to be either Beto or Bernie.
     And "purists", as they're sneeringly called by Blue Dog voters and radical centrists who will lunge for the first toothy machine Democrat who delivers the most withering bon mots at Trump and his deplorables (low-hanging fruit, though they are), have a tendency to squint more. And Beto has Bernie beat among those Democratic voters who still swoon at the sight of a picture of Bobby Kennedy, who Beto closely resembles if you don't squint. Who's more telegenic sways a lot more voters than we'd like to admit. It's been said more than once if Richard Nixon didn't look so sinister on national TV, he would've pulled it out and beaten Bobby's older brother John F. Kennedy in 1960.
     But neither camp would be attacking the other on social media while their standard bearers remain mum if each didn't see the other as a threat. Bernie Bros see O'Rourke as a threat because they know Bernie wouldn't stand a chance against Beto's superior photogenic and telegenic looks and the cult of personality surrounding him.
     Beto's fans attack Bernie Bros because they simply know that, while Bernie has better ideas, he stands little chance of many if any of his initiatives passed by a Congress with which he's simply out of step. Yet, Beto's presidential aspirations for 2020 could go up in smoke if Queen Hillary refuses to accept defeat and totters down the campaign trail one more time in her Quixotic quest for an office that she, like Trump, looks at as her birthright. Then there's the equally ancient Joe Biden, the King of the Blue Dogs, who last December 19th in a Quinnicpiac University poll finished with top honors among Democratic contenders. Moveon, on the other hand, gave the #2 score to Beto, with nearly 30% of those asked opting for, believe it or not, "somebody else.").

Beto Who?
The one other major thing hampering Beto's dreams for the White House is his very visibility. True, he got a lot of press during his Senate run but that was largely confined to Texas. In that same Quinnicpiac University poll, it was revealed that 59% of those questioned had no opinion on Beto for the simple reason they didn't know about his policy positions.
     A large source of Bernie's strength and viability as a candidate was his capturing the youth vote on that increasingly strengthening 18-35 demographic. It was that same demographic that largely made Beto such a viable challenger and, if they decide to throw their hats in the ring again, they will be fighting for the hearts and minds of those young voters. One or the other capturing that demographic would be catastrophic to the other. But evenly splitting that vote would have a negating effect, unless somehow one candidate or the other can magically engage the other 60% of those 18-35 who don't vote.
     So, while Bernie already has the brand name recognition from coast to coast, Beto still has a lot of work to do before he can begin to count on the same degree of visibility. That means Beto will practically have to remain in campaign mode from now until Election Day 2020 and win hearts and minds, and non-PAC cash, along the way.
     About the best chance Beto would have is on being on the flip side of a typical white guy ticket, with Biden being on the A side as the presidential contender. That's been trial-ballooned in the 4th and 5th estates, too, with sometimes withering reactions (although GOP insiders are shitting their pants over such a ticket).
     But the fact remains that even in the pre-Mueller probe political climate, the Democratic Party could successfully field a cardboard cutout of Obama or Bill Clinton with any other Democrats' face Photoshopped over it as long as that candidate's not under investigation by the FBI (sorry, Hillary) or a DOJ Special Counsel. Not that I believe Trump will be around in 2020 but Pence essentially has no political capital and wouldn't have much even if the presidency was suddenly thrust upon him (Gerald Ford, anyone?).
     However, it's futile to speculate who the Democratic nominee will be when there will be a long primary season before that and endless debates with stages filled with Democratic hopefuls looking their best to look presidential or least less guilty than the others. But for now, we're looking at the war heating up between the Bernie Bros and Beto's Punks because we have to assume maybe they know something that the rest of us don't.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gotham City Digest. 12/27/18

 (In which we promise to never divulge your classified identity or location for a cheap photo op.)

     Because electing a New York billionaire for president worked out so fabulously the last time...

     No face palm can possibly cover my disgust over this: A black Marriot sales executive was made to dance to Michael Jackson songs to amuse the white executives.

     This is a three and a half year-old piece in THE VILLAGE VOICE that resurrects a much older pair of articles by Wayne Barrett on Donald Trump. Here's the quote that jumped out at me: "Trump won’t do a deal unless there’s something extra — a kind of moral larceny — in it. He’s not satisfied with a profit. He has to take something more. Otherwise, there’s no thrill.”
      Amazing how little some things change over the decades.

     Politico's list of the Top 20 Worst Predictions of 2018. Not surprisingly, most of them were made by right wingers and Fox made four of them, including one that had to be walked back within minutes.

     It takes a REAL man to kick a black one year-old toddler then try to run away. This is Trump's America, ladies and gentlemen, like it or not. Master race, my ass.

     I can't even describe in words how furious this makes me. The first time he visits the troops anywhere close to a war zone, he does THIS. How anyone can continue to trust someone who more zealously guards his tax returns than the identities and location of Navy SEALs is beyond me.

     I never thought I'd ever hear myself say this but please, Rudy, keep talking.

     The political system of the United States is so staggeringly corrupt, even the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, rakes in $7.3 million for a recount and then has nothing to show for it, with little opacity and violates campaign finance law by not making expenditure filings every six months.

     So why is it explosive that Michael Cohen was in Prague around the time of the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016? Read on and be thou edified, Constant Readers.

     The Russiagate scandal is far from "unsubstantiated" but I agree with the rest of this (Aside from the misleading headline that all liberals are hypocrites and showing as their proof Clinton and Schiff. Which is a straw man argument. There is nothing even remotely liberal about Clinton and her cronies. Her and her husband's greatest legacy was in being moderate Republicans and passing themselves off as liberal Democrats in the post-Reagan Moral Majority America.).
     Plus, Mattis recently admitted there was never any evidence Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. We all know why Trump pulled us out of Syria and it was nothing so noble as bringing home the troops for the holidays. It was just to get out of Putin's way so he could continue propping up Assad's dictatorship. But in doing so, Trump also unwittingly exposed the hypocrisy of these neoliberal "Democrats" who've managed to look like the real thing with their constant criticism of Trump. There's nothing liberal or Democratic about pushing for war 24/7. And these "Democrats" ought to be ashamed of themselves. But they're beyond capable of feeling shame just as the Republicans are.

     Well, well, Matty Whitaker, aka the Kingpin, lied to get more power.

     As a reward for reigniting a race war in America, the Russians quietly got their sanctions lifted by Comrade Trump just before Christmas.

     Yeah, I AM outraged over Reality Winner's 5+ year-long sentence. Aren't you?

     Federal employees like the shutdown because they want the wall?! Jesus God, this man is a walking organ donor.

     No, they're not cardboard cutouts. They just play them on TV.

     Cadet Bone Spurs: The Origin Story.

     Another Guatemalan child died in US custody. I know this isn't the kind of news you want to read on the Christmas holidays but to my fellow Americans, I need to remind you this is happening within our borders, with our tax dollars and in our good names. THIS IS NOT BORDER SECURITY.

     Remember when Trump said he wouldn't do catch and release like the Obama administration?
     What the fuck does he call THIS?
     Here's what went on in El Paso: ICE dumped off 211 immigrants, including women and young children, at the El Paso bus station without plans for transportation or shelter, without food, drink, or enough money for a phone call, much less a bus ticket. This was the night before Christmas Eve. It was 42 degrees in El Paso that night. They would dump off 500 more the next day.
      Meanwhile in Mexico, Steve Mnuchin and his family are staying at a hyper exclusive estate resort in Cabo being waited on hand and foot by the same people Trump is deporting in droves. Now sounds like a good time to build that wall.
      This goes way beyond bad optics. This is proof of a warped world view of white supremacy and Manifest Destiny.
      Trump likes to brag that he brought Christmas back. He's done the exact opposite.

     So, on Christmas Eve, Trump asks a seven year-old NORAD caller if she still believed in Santa Claus. This douchebag should not be allowed to have contact with children. (This is the kid's end of the conversation.)

     So, three days after lung cancer surgery, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was already back at work. Compare this to Trump, who doesn't even show up for work until after he's done lounging in bed all morning watching Fox.

     The Dow dropped over 650 points on Christmas Eve alone. #Somuchwaning

     This is what the Dow was doing that day after Steve Mnuchin's call to bankers from his Mexican paradise resort. The only thing this clown's ever been able to do right is make millions off Madoff's Ponzi scheme and produce shitty movies that go directly to DVD. The Dow, as stated, lost another 100 points that day.
     Seriously, what the fuck was Mnuchin thinking that night when he called the nation's top bankers from his ultra-exclusive luxury resort in Mexico? In hindsight, he came off looking like a fireman showing up for a small blaze not with a fire extinguisher but a full gas can.

    Mark Meadows of the "Freedumb Caucus" actually compared what Trump's doing to the battle of the Alamo... which the Mexicans won.

     So, on Christmas Eve, President Obama played Santa yet again, this time at a children's hospital. I am absolutely incapable of imagining Trump doing this. It would simply never occur to him to do something like this. In fact, he'd probably go there expecting the kids to give him presents.

     Trump was calling his aides "fucking idiots"!? Talk about projection on steroids.

     Federal workers don't live from paycheck to paycheck, eh? Says the out of touch, right wing putz who makes $174,000 a year. And finally...

     Just to help you all get to to 2019.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

King Lear For the New Century

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
"I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security." - Donald Trump, Christmas Eve, 2018

412 years ago today, on what was then known as St. Stephen's Day (and now celebrated as Boxing Day throughout the British Empire), one of the most noteworthy literary and theatrical events of all time happened. That was the first recorded performance of Shakespeare's King Lear. It was on this day in 1606 that the world was first introduced (or reintroduced, as Lear was likely a real Briton King) to a character that would become the very synonym for madness and paranoia at the highest echelons of power.
     Just a couple of generations later, after the Restoration of the House of Stuart, King Lear would be revised with a happier ending and with less gloominess. These well-meaning revisionists (they are all well-meaning, don't you know?) would have robbed us of the deeper and fuller meaning of the lessons imparted through Shakespeare's play. Literary scholars to this day debate whether or not one of the play's central themes was in ascertaining the very nature of Nature itself. Indeed, the words "nature", "natural" and "unnatural" appear within its five acts no less than 40+ times.
     One critic said the play begins with Lear's "near-fairytale narcissism." Let me know if any of this begins to sound disturbingly familiar (Interesting note: the 2010 Hudson Shakespeare Company's production updated it so Lear was a ruthless, narcissistic corporate tycoon. It also made use of sets inspired by The Dark Knight.).
     King Lear opens with the old monarch, weary of the duties of state, who wishes to divide his kingdom among his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. And like Trump in that infamous, disgusting Cabinet meeting of June 12 last year in which many of the attendees fell over themselves verbally fellating Trump, King Lear commences with the titular character wishing to bestow his kingdom among his three daughters. But there's a price- They must flatter him first.
     Goneril and Regan do what is expected of them and earn their shares of the kingdom by flattering him. Then it comes time for Cordelia to do her part. She refuses to play along because, unlike her sisters who could easily be inserted as Cinderella's stepsisters, she's not power-mad and covetous and respects herself too much to debase herself by flattering an aging and foolish king even if he is her father.
     After one of the three presidential debates in 2016, Tiffany Trump had her own Cordelia moment when she adroitly avoided a kiss on the cheek by her famously lecherous father. Lord only knows the backstory behind that.

America in 2019

To use another literary allusion, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley began his sonnet, "England in 1819" with the famous opening line, "An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King," words that could very well be repurposed (and so many great lines of literary antiquity almost seem engineered to be repurposed for future generations, aren't they?) to describe Donald Trump.
     He is blind to the truth and the only question regarding that failure of vision is whether he knows he's lying or if, more alarmingly, he doesn't actually know what the truth is or believes in one of his own making that is diametrically opposed to the facts. Trump is certainly old even for the office of the presidency, he's just as certainly mad and it's indisputable that he is despised by a massive percentage of the population that's at odds with the biggest items on his agenda, especially the wall.
     And it is that wall that indirectly resulted in Trump being alone at the White House on Christmas Eve. Or he would've been had it not been for one of the three women in his own life, Melania, taking pity on him and joining him for whatever Christmas festivities were on the Beltway. Like Lear, shorn of his power, in the storm, Trump delivered one pathetic tweet after another, including the masterpiece of self-pity that serves as the epigraph at the head of this article: "I am all alone (poor me)..."
     And, really, he had no one else but to blame but himself for his isolation. Realizing they would get nothing useful from him, such as a signed stopgap spending bill from the Senate that he in fact had vetoed, everyone else, including the United States Congress, went home to spend the holidays with their families. Trump, ironically, someone who ordinarily would have been gone long before anyone else, who was fully expected to jet to Mar-a-Lago for a 16 day vacation, stayed in his office, pouting.
     Instead, he was practically alone in the White House, still awaiting suddenly relevant Democrats to give him the bill he's still waiting on as if Congress was still in session. It was as if everyone on Capitol Hill conspired in the most massive practical joke of all time and prevented Trump from learning Congress had adjourned for the year, that the 115th Congress would never again convene and that the 116th Congress with a vastly different makeup would take over on January 3rd.
     Perhaps Ivanka and Melania are still very willing and able to blandish the mad president with flattery as empty as Goneril's and Regan's. And Tiffany, the Cordelia of this triumvirate that never was, is well out of sight because that's the way she prefers to have it. It's impossible to imagine Trump firing Pence to make way for Vice President Ivanka just so he can, a la House of Cards Season 5, make her the President on his resignation.
     But Trump is nothing if not unpredictable (he openly prides himself on it) and is not above making horrible decisions just for the hell of it such as firing Comey, declaring a trade war. backing out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear pact, leaving the UN Human Rights Commission and abruptly pulling our troops out of Syria without consulting his commanders on the ground. In those respects, Trump is as mad as Lear and it's all linked to his monstrous hubris that, until now, remained solely in the realm of highly dramatic fiction.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Xmas to All

     The usual Christmas repast, albeit a bit blurrier than usual. Pork loin, Charlene's Cheesy Potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, stuffing, gravy and black olives. (Not shown: A good Riesling Spätlese.).
     Oh, and this was one of my best presents this year:

     ...Memento Mori, the latest in the Ruso the Medicus series by my good Facebook pal, Ruth Downie.
     So, what did Santa bring you this year and what did you have for Xmas dinner?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

You're a Foul One, Mr. Trump

     If Congress had one shred of heart tissue left in its foul body politic (and we all know they don't), they would not have adjourned for their winter recess without giving the people the bestest Christmas gift ever- Articles of Impeachment or at least the groundwork for invoking the 25th Amendment.
     True, there's always the upcoming next Congress along with its 40 new Democrats and the Democratic majority and the impeachment resolution and subpoena power that comes with it. They could have given us some hope that this fecal-flecked administration won't come close to lasting all four years as Frank Rich maintains.
     Really, Donald Trump should have been the only Grinch in DC this past week. Because in short order, this is what Trump did in his Orwellian #somuchwinning campaign just in the past week:
     Withdrew our forces from Syria after notifying Turkey's Erdogan (and most likely Putin) but not the American general who oversaw the entire American operation.
     That and his Afghanistan drawdown made Defense Secretary James Mattis quit effective February 28th.
     Angry over his resignation letter, 50 copies of which which Mattis ordered to have printed and distributed to the Pentagon, Trump said on Twitter today he'd be gone by New Year's Day.
     John Kelly quit as White House Chief of Staff and the two weren't even on speaking terms when he'd done so.
     He rejected a stopgap bipartisan spending bill from the Senate after saying he would sign it because it didn't give him five billion dollars for his vanity wall.
     The Dow tumbled hundreds of more points, making it the worst December for Wall Street since the Great Depression.
     About a quarter of the government shut down at midnight on Friday.
     After preemptively taking credit for it, he then (predictably) blamed Democrats for it on (predictably) Twitter.
     This means those affected federal employees will have to continue working without pay, right before Christmas...
     ...less than four months after cancelling pay raises for those same employees because of "serious economic conditions" after beating his chest at one MAGA rally after another touting the strong economy.
     And that includes Trump's Secret Service detail.

     But the Mattis defection really stung him, along with the letter. Out of the countless dozens of firings and resignations that have come right out of the gate (starting with Flynn), this is the one giving everyone the shits. Because Mattis was more than just a senior Cabinet official. He was the Defense Secretary of the United States at a very unstable time in our geopolitical relations with allies and foes alike.
     And, yes, up to a point these Cabinet officials' jobs is to advance the president's agenda. But these are bizarre times in which even the expectation of presidential behavior has been lowered so much because of this treasonous freak that the bar's been buried six feet under. True, we do not belong in Syria any more than we belong in Afghanistan. But one does not just abruptly withdraw from these places without consulting your own commanders in the field and huddle, instead, with tyrants and dictators.
     And it wasn't enough for Trump to withdraw from Syria. He had to cockwand on Twitter and have his "Mission Accomplished" moment by declaring that we defeated ISIS.
     ISIS responded by posting a video of two female backpackers from Scandinavia captured in Morocco, one of whom was beheaded.
     Right after Mattis quit, Brett McGurk, US envoy, also quit. McGurk was the head of the global coalition dedicated to defeating ISIL, in other words, one of the few capable men still working for this now partially-paralyzed government.
     By now, after nearly two years of this 24/7 shitshow, it ought to be screamingly obvious to anyone with one eye, one ear and one hemisphere of a brain that Trump is actively rooting out all the men and women who are even nominally competent at their jobs and doing everything in his power to drive them out. And if they won't go, he fires them with all the forethought and consideration with which he fired people on The Apprentice.
     So, to summarize, we go into the holidays with:
     An Acting Attorney General
     An Acting Chief of Staff
     An Acting Defense Secretary
     ...all during a government shutdown.
     And while Wall Street is having a shutdown of its own unseen since the Depression. Remember, when Wall Street has a bull market, the investment class gets richer. But when Wall Street has a bear market, everyone, theoretically, suffers.
     Oh, and he very quietly removed all sanctions on Putin-linked oligarchs and a Trump Tower Moscow-linked bank.
     Just as a reminder as to who Trump really works for.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Uniter


(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
"In the end, we’ll probably find out 'wall' was Trump’s 'safe word' with Stormy Daniels. It’s just something he blurts out whenever he’s in trouble." -Anne Coulter
"We’ve seen the president pushed around a lot by the swamp. This is a core campaign promise that crosses all demographics of his base." -GOP strategist Michael Caputo

Finally, after two years of this sleaze-laden, ersatz presidency, after more broken promises than a wife-beater who's still yet to turn over that new leaf, Donald John Trump, future Trivial Pursuit answer, kept a campaign vow- He's united the nation. He's done that this past week by getting Democrats and Republicans alike to hate him. In absentia in Mar-a-Lago, he's figuratively collecting enough mud from both sides of the Great Ideological Divide to build his damned wall.
     And how did Trump do this? Well, to do that, we have to go back to the day he announced his candidacy before a largely-mercenary crowd in attendance at Trump Tower. "I will build a wall," Trump vowed and those who weren't there much less those paid to be there were listening intently. From that moment on, Trump never looked back. After narrowly losing to Ted Cruz in the Iowa Caucus, Trump rattled off a string of Republican primary wins unseen since Reagan. And he thought people loved him.
     He was wrong, They loved the very idea of the wall. He was merely the avowed actuator of their racist will. And now, those racist right wing nut jobs who'd catapulted the man destined to be known as the most stupendously unqualified oaf for the Office of the Presidency into the White House are calling in the note. Actually, they'd threatened to call in the note way back when "President" Trump was still Republican nominee Trump. Back in August 2016, Glenn Beck fielded a call from someone named Nate from Virginia. Live on the air, Beck's caller chillingly said,
     “As long as he does the basic things, the foundational things, which is build a wall, he's not going to have people like me coming after him."
     “So if he doesn't build a wall like China, then he's in trouble?" Beck asked.
     “Oh, he's in so much trouble. You don't even understand the backlash of us, the ones who are so frustrated and angry and tired of all the political stuff. We're going to come after him personally. You know what I mean? We're going to get him." Beck later said it was the spookiest phone call he'd ever gotten.
     And now, as with so many contractors he's stiffed over the decades, Trump's mouth is writing checks he can't cash.
     In keeping with their party's symbol, Republicans are reminding Trump of just how long their selective memories go when it comes to the wall. Ann Coulter recently wrote a screed in Breitbart, parts of which being worthy of Maureen O'Dowd. It got Coulter unfollowed by Ill Douche on his beloved Twitter because, you know, it's not as if he has anything better to do while on vacation than to get even for petty grievances.

One Cave, Two Caves
Let's get one fact straight then we can argue about anything else- This isn't about a wall or the wall or Democrats vs Republicans or funding vs a shutdown. This isn't a debate about policy or monetary allocations or even about border security. It's about xenophobia, the fancy $10 word for racism. This is what got Trump elected. Racism. Racists. The mainstream media won't come out and say it lest they incur the impotent wrath of a few hundred right wingers who may set their televisions on fire for something they heard and didn't like on Fox.
     And, typical of their herd mentality and complete lack of imagination. the one word we're hearing from the far right lunatic fringe from Coulter to Malkin to Ben Shapiro is "cave." As in. "Trump caved on the wall." Which is an oddly satisfying and ironic word to use in this case when one thinks of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
     Plato's Allegory isn't one about control, which Trump completely lacks these days, but is about enlightenment. The people chained in the cave represent the limited knowledge with which we're born and our tendency to just accept what is in front of us as the only truth. Escaping the cave isn't about freedom but learning and seeing what is beyond our own noses.
     Trump has already cultivated a well-deserved reputation as an incurious oaf who makes George W. Bush look like a Renaissance scientist by conspicuous relief. Rather than read policy manuals and reports, Trump lazily goes on his "gut" and, as much weight as he's gained since sleazing into the White House, he can't seem to see beyond that.
     But now he doesn't know who or what to trust. First, he beat his chest before Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office, falling for the Democrats' trap by threatening to shut down the government and then preemptively taking credit for it, even going as far as to say he'd be "proud" to shut down the government. Then, when it looked as if the House wouldn't budge on the wall money, Trump signaled there wouldn't be a shutdown, after all, because they'd just reallocate money from somewhere else (they never said from where or what.). Cave number one.
     Cave number two came today after he watched Fox & Frauds and heard them raking him over the coals for the wall funding. Then there was the Coulter article, then every right wing dittohead in the country followed suit, so now Trump is saying it looks as if there will be a government shutdown, after all. He'd already preemptively begun blaming Democrats for the shutdown after taking credit for it in advance just past week. But it's not working. Everyone is blaming Trump for both the looming shutdown and the lack of border wall funding.

The Price Tag of Racism
And now, for the first time in American history, we have a clearly-defined price tag for our nation's racism and it's $25,000,000,000. Trump infamously said way back in Trump Tower, the place that launched a thousand shits, on June 15, 2015 that Mexico would pay for it. Then after Mexico, rightly, refused, we the people, through Congress, would pay for it. By this time tonight, he'll be back on the phone with Mexico's president begging and pleading for him to pay for it then will eagerly watch The Ingraham Angle to see if he got her approval.
     The first step to normalizing racism is by putting a wall before the very word and its warning signs. The wall allows the racists who'd elevated Trump to the most exalted office in the free world to show their racism by couching it in terms of the wall and "border security" (Or "boarder security" if you're Trump.). Right wingers have been able to use euphemisms to mask their racism for decades, such as "forced busing" and "states' rights" (infamously deconstructed by Lee Atwater).
     Now they don't need to use racial slurs, any more (although it seems some of them still prefer to since Trump announced his candidacy) because it's all about "national security" and "border security." And who doesn't want border security, right? It's like dressing up one of those "mongrel" vampires from The Strain, putting a cute little dress on it, calling it a girl then challenging any critics of it by sneering, "Oh, you got something against little girls, now?"
     And as Bush found out when he tried to pass a compromising immigration bill over a decade ago, when you try to please both sides in this highly-polarized nation. you end up by pleasing no one.
     This is the worst week in many nightmarish weeks for Trump's administration. His Secretary of Defense just quit yesterday. John Kelly left as Chief of Staff, Wall Street's in freefall, people are losing their jobs in droves, the government's about to shut down and the Trump Foundation was also just shut down under federal court order.
     Oh, and there's the baleful shadow of Robert Mueller and his army of investigators.
     Trump fell into the same trap Obama did when the latter made health care his signature issue defining his entire presidency. But the obvious difference is, while it may have involved countless sleazy compromises with bad actors that watered down the legislation, at least Obama was able to get the ACA to pass. 
     But Trump should take heart: Instead of giving him just one wall this Christmas, maybe Santa will give him four.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gotham City Digest, 12/20/18

In which we promise to never give you an STD from a Third World Dictator.

     Two questions: How can a veteran's health bill that sailed through the House by a vote of 382-0 get so quickly derailed in the Senate? (Answer- Mike Enzi)
     And how come veterans who'd fought for us during Vietnam and who have been living here for four decades or more suddenly become a threat to our corrupt, blood-soaked way of life? (Answer: Ask Trump.)

     Johnson & Johnson knew their baby talcum powder was laced with asbestos-related material since at least the early 70's, perhaps even the 50's, yet lied to regulators and their own customers and are continuing to lie to them.

     So, what do you do with a so-called doctor who's being charged with involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and lying to a law enforcement officer in the Flint water crisis? If you're like most politicians, you're going to distance yourself from such tainted goods, right? Well, this is Michigan we're talking about, the place where the Nazi Party crawled to die and was instead reinvigorated by the Snyder administration. Because Snyder and his cronies saw fit to give Eden Wells a sinecure that pays more than most people in Congress, or $180,000 a year. There was one cynical motivation for this obscene largess. According to the Detroit News:
Moving her from an appointed post to a civil service job would make it far more difficult for Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer to fire her when she takes office next month. Wells was originally set to leave state government at the end of the month.
     In other words, it's similar to the power grab carried out by Wisconsin Republicans after Scott Walker got his ass handed back to him.

     Ryan Zinke resigns to spend more time with his beer.

     Oh, I'm sure Sarah Sanders wants to be remembered as "honest and transparent". I'm also sure Capone wanted to be remembered as a used furniture dealer.

     One good thing about eulogies is that they're inevitably followed by the truth. I got this from Greg Palast's mailing list, a horrifying story of how Pappy Bush made lots of money off 50 miners who were buried alive. Not accidentally, deliberately.

     So, here's where we're at:
     Private prison companies like CoreCivic are murdering detainees not even charged with crimes, then bully law enforcement with the threat of a lawsuit if they reveal the full details of their investigation. They're using federal privacy rights to block transparency of murder investigations.
     A private company is bullying law enforcement into silence, in other words.
     THAT'S where we're at.

     It seems my old Twitter foil, con man Jerome Corsi, was involved in a crowdsourcing scheme involving a boy with cancer and an Israeli oncologist who doesn't seem to exist. Sounds like a typical Dave Chadwick crowdsourcing con job.
      Of course, this was orchestrated by a clown who claimed to have a magical epiphany about Wikileaks on a flight to Italy.

     When the ethics lawyer for the most ethically palsied president before you tells you to resign, you should resign.

     Why are Republicans so shockingly corrupt? Well, the answer is bit more nuanced than you may think.

     Donald Trump at last makes his foray into state-run media. And no, it isn't Fox.

     When all is said and done and the final chapter is written on the political career of Paul Ryan, one would have to come to the conclusion that he was a right wing sociopath (a tautology, I know) to the bitter end.

     And speaking of right wing sociopaths, here's DHS Secretary Eva Braun telling a smiling and nodding Fox & Frauds panel the death of that seven year-old girl in Border Patrol custody was her father's fault.

     Home, James. Home being Riker's Island.

    I hate linking to right wing sites but this was one of the last gasps of the doomed National Review and David French does make some good legal distinctions.

     From the Batshit Cold Case files is this oldie but goodie of professional Hillary Clinton stalker Judge Jeanine Pinhead who thinks Putin is a Christian. Must have been his murderous campaign against the Russian LGBT community.

     So, women should be blamed for their own rapes because of the way they dress, huh? Says the celibate man with the long dress and fabulous party hats whose church loves to diddle little boys.

     Because I'm sure a preacher giving his wife a Lamborghini for their anniversary wouldn't be frowned on by a certain Socialist who 2000 years ago rode a donkey and ministered to the poor while owning just the robe on his back

     I don't know who's more deranged, Giuliani or his boss.

     How they were able to hold it down to five and completely omitting Il Douche Trump is a mystery to me. When I was still doing Assclowns of the Week it was difficult for me to get it down to 10.

     Angry white woman assaults black boy, police called then bites and assaults police when they come to arrest her. Of course it was South Carolina.

     A clueless, thieving boob for a Chairman and CEO, a vicious, paranoid, right wing sociopath for a COO and uniting them, a fetish for expansion and profits above all else... Oh, yeah, THAT wasn't a recipe for disaster for Facebook AT ALL.

    Because if we can't keep our quaint New England bed and breakfasts safe, then why have Boarder Security?

     Melania's fearing for Donald's health? Oh, cry me a fucking river. Try having your health care taken away when you have preexisting conditions, losing your job just before the holidays or being tear gassed or having your kids ripped out of your arms. THOSE are legitimate causes for stress.

    Think we can grab a Senate seat in Tennessee? After Alabama and Arizona, anything's possible, I guess.

    If you thought capturing men in Africa for slavery was a thing of the past, think again. (Historical note: From my research into slavery for my novels, I'd learned that back in the 19th century, a young healthy black male could command as much as $900, well over $30,000 in today's money. Today in Libya, they're going for $400, which goes to show you how cheaply they value human life.)

     Baghdad Bob rides again.

     Accusing a black man for stealing a car and kidnapping a baby wasn't even the stupidest thing this kid did. It was done to get revenge on a drug deal gone bust.

     I don't feel one bit sorry for this idiot. He should've known Trump would be a threat to his life's work way back during the campaign.

     Obviously, this double-woven dweeb never heard of a little law called the First Amendment.

     We have completely lost our moral compass. At least this district in Tennessee has in reelecting a legislator accused by three women of sexual harassment, by a landslide.

     Police have to serve and protect? Where did you get that silly, quaint notion, said a US Circuit judge who dismissed a lawsuit brought by 15 Parkland students. According to her, they're not entitled to any protection... unless they're in custody, like mass murderer Nikolas Cruz, for instance.

     Another right winger who doesn't give a shit about the will of the people. McSally is the right wing nut job who lost her bid for the Senate but, hey, fuck the will of the people.

     Remember that criminal enterprise named the Trump Foundation? Say bye bye.

    Remember not too long ago when Trump was cock-wanding when the Dow was at alltime highs? This is looking to be the worst year on Wall Street in a decade. Not a single tweet or a word from him about this. Maybe he should call himself "Tariff Man" again. That'll do the trick.

     Does it really surprise you the Russians would go after Mueller with their usual ham-fisted propaganda games and that Trump would parrot these Russian sock puppet accounts? (And, yes, as usual, Facebook was part of it.)

     The Trump administration: "Don't listen to Trump."

     "Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms." Specifically, we own 120.5 guns per 100 residents, well over twice as much as the #2 nation. Banning bump stocks is a good start but it isn't nearly enough.

     What if Trump decides not to leave the White House when it's time? Well, this is why we have SWAT.

     Fox is actually reduced to asking its viewers to chip in  $80 apiece for the wall. Gee, wouldn't doing that make us a socialist country like (eeps!) Venezuela? Yes, this is how desperate right wingers are- They're trying to crowdsource the fabled, mythical "peoples' wall."

     That'll teach him for getting an honest job and trying to cash his legitimate paycheck. I absolutely guaran-fucking-tee you the teller was a white woman.

     And speaking of black men with too much money, here's a heart-warming holiday tale of a hip hop DJ who'd had $150,000 stolen from him in broad daylight for a traffic signal violation and the smell of nonexistent marijuana.

     Who among us hasn't dreamed and prayed for the day when Donald Trump and his crooked spawn are reduced to giving head out of refrigerator crates in the Bowery for subway fare? Well, your dream may come true.

     Little-known fact- Most people in Wakanda are albinos.

     Lying liars who lie about their lies. And finally...

     The NY AG says that Trump's Foundation will have to sell off its 3 physical possessions, including a Tim Tebow-signed helmet, and 2 paintings of Trump himself. Trump paid $42K for them, using foundation money.
      Now he says they're worth $975 combined and his six foot-tall portrait is worth nothing. Which is probably true, given his very dim future.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Banality of Corruption

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
So, after nearly two years of this feces-flecked nightmare passing itself off as an administration, what do Trump's fellow Republicans think of him?

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson
Given what we know about the collusion — and there is no other word for it — between then-candidate Donald Trump's most senior advisers and what they thought was a Kremlin-tied lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, the most shocking thing is that no one on the Trump side was shocked. The most offensive thing is that no one took offense. … It is the banality of this corruption that makes it so appalling. The president and his men are incapable of feeling shame about shameful things. (PennLive, July 14, 2017)
Trump's inner circle has always been a cesspool. And there is a reason for this — a reason Trump has traditionally employed unethical people to serve his purposes. It is because he has unethical jobs for them to do, involving schemes to remove political threats and gain electoral advantage. And there is every reason to believe that Trump has fully participated in such schemes. (The Washington Post, Nov. 29)
 George Will
America's child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing day care. … [J]ust as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man. (The Washington Post, July 17)
The late Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Psychiatrist
I used to think Trump was an 11-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value — indeed exists — only insofar as it sustains and inflates him. (The Washington Post, August 4, 2016)
David fucking Brooks
Trump's emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.
It's all so pathetic. (The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2016)
You're beginning to see a lot of Republicans who are looking seriously at 2019, with a lot of Fridays like this one, and Trump really hurting himself, and maybe not serving out the term. (Interview on the PBS NewsHour, Dec. 9)
William Kristol
I'm absolutist on Trump. He shouldn't be president. We should limit the damage he can do as president. And we should try as hard as we can to prevent him from being renominated or reelected.
In terms of the conservative movement, I do think it would be foolish to deny that Trump has exposed certain aspects of that movement as less healthy than I thought or hoped.
Their last line of defense is 'it's not Russia.' but how do we know it is not Russia? Michael Cohen seems to be cooperating. Michael Cohen may well know about the Trump Tower meeting... and Manafort was at that meeting... and Cohen was in touch with Trump throughout 2015 and 2016... I don't really buy the argument that this isn't important for the Russia side. (MSNBC, 8/22/18)
The last person quoted, Bill Kristol, cofounder and Editor-at-Large of The Weekly Standard, is significant because today it was announced that TWS will publish its last issue on the 17th. Today, after a meeting between editor-in-chief, Stephen Hayes and Ryan McKibben, the chief executive and chairman of Clarity Media Group that owns the Standard, employees were abruptly told to clean out their desks and back away from your laptops and no one gets hurt. They were also told the only way they could get severance was to sign an NDA.
     There's only one reason someone would be made to sign a nondisclosure agreement and that's if the higher ups don't want something to be known. That's why they're conditional and leverage is always applied, such as money or the threat of a lawsuit.
     And why did The Weekly Standard go the way of Gawker? Well, as with Gawker's case, a right wing billionaire was at the very center of it all. Again, the Weekly Standard is owned by the Clarity Media Group and that in turn is owned by right wing billionaire Philip Anschutz.
     Anschutz had donated millions to ultra right wing causes for many years, including anti-LGBTQ and pro life outfits. Then he cravenly expressed shock, shock upon discovering these right wing groups to which he's so generously donated over the years would actually work to strip rights away from our most vulnerable citizens. Because we all know billionaires are sweet, naive types who always give away vast sums of money to causes and organizations without doing the slightest bit of vetting on them.
     Anyway, Anschutz bought the Standard from fellow right wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch and I guess he decided he couldn't take any more apostasy from a staff that had back in the day dependably championed neocon causes such as the illegal war in Iraq.
I'm absolutist on Trump. He shouldn't be president. We should limit the damage he can do as president. And we should try as hard as we can to prevent him from being renominated or reelected.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/bill_kristo
     But CNN was wrong in its assessment that far right wing outfits have "flourished" while more moderate outlets such as the Standard have tanked. Glenn Beck's The Blaze has been on life support seemingly forever and is doing so poorly he had to sell off his private jet. Breitbart lost virtually all its sponsors (2200, according to MediaRadar), and in just two months flat mainly because of the clusterfuck that was Milo. To this day, it's essentially floated almost exclusively by another right wing billionaire scumbag named Robert Mercer. And, while they should never be classified as news sites even for the far right lunatic fringe, Stormfront and The Daily Stormer were taken off the internet for their neonazi views.
     And Rush Limbaugh? Who's he? The new Bill Kristol, that's who.

The Banality of Corruption
Hannah Arendt famously called Adolph Eichmann's seemingly inoffensive demeanor "the banality of evil" during his 1961 trial in Israel. Arendt took a lot of heat for that iconic quote and more by those who didn't know and those who did. They misinterpreted what she'd said about Eichmann, focusing on the "banality" part while glossing over that she'd also called him "evil" in her world-famous saying. In that phrase, she was merely describing the face of that particular evil, not the uncritical, unthinking mind behind it.
     What we're seeing in Washington, DC these days is an evil that is not so banal but almost what one would call "flashy." And it has to be acknowledged by both defender and detractor that Trump is nothing if not flashy. Think of Donald Trump and it's impossible for one to not imagine the billionaire surrounded by porn stars, Playboy bunnies, super models and other jiggly, giggly types of eye candy. He is to sleaze what Bill Gates is to software.
     The thing we ought to be paying attention to is what Michael Gerson had referred to as the "banality of (his) corruption", meaning Trump. Now, Trump certainly did not import corruption to the Beltway. Corruption has been a part of Washington since Jefferson was planting cherry trees there. And we've grown alarmingly relaxed with that political corruption to the point where it hardly raises an eyebrow to hear about a lawmaker figuratively if not literally getting into bed with a lobbyist.
     Eichmann's trial gave birth to the phrase "desk murderer", also coined by Arendt, by way of showing that as much, if not vastly more evil is launched from wooden desks than by the hands of those who actually put that evil into action. And Donald Trump certainly proves that the same certainly applies to the banality of corruption. It can be plausibly said even before Mueller's findings become public in the papers and in Congress that Trump has launched more evil from the Resolute Desk than any president in his first two years. And Trump's flashy corruption is also threatening to turn commonplace, so inured are we to it, as if we fully expect and even depend on it to hit us in the face to awaken us with our morning coffee.
     And those conservative news outlets that had grown critical of Trump have indeed suffered. Not exclusively but certainly they've suffered. That's why the abrupt termination of The Weekly Standard is an ominous harbinger of things to come. Different publications of different political stripes, most notably Gawker and now The Weekly Standard, have gone to that server or four color press in the sky. But these erasures from the national discourse have one thing in common: Right wing billionaires who are not only quite relaxed regarding Trump's flashy style of corruption but are also expecting us to be as relaxed with it, too.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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