Thursday, December 13, 2018

In Charge

After Tuesday’s meeting in which Nancy Pelosi basically ran the table, why would there be any doubt from anyone — Democrat or Republican — that she has the power and the smarts to be the leader of her party and Speaker of the House?

In contrast to Trump, she knows how to lead, she knows what she’s doing, and most importantly, she knows how to negotiate.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi clinched the votes for a second stint as House speaker on Wednesday after agreeing to serve no more than four years in a deal with a group of Democratic rebels — a significant concession to their demands for generational change.

The group of insurgents wanted new blood in the top Democratic ranks and maneuvered for months to deny Pelosi (D-Calif.) the votes she would need. After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiating, Pelosi backed off her resistance to setting a date for her departure but avoided becoming an immediate lame duck.

“Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Almost immediately, seven Democratic holdouts said they would back Pelosi. Their support would be enough to secure the House majority that she needs for her election to speaker on Jan. 3 — 218 votes if all members are present and voting for an individual.

That’s true leadership and confidence in your abilities and knowing when to leave.

And the way things are going with Trump, by 2022, she might be in the middle of her first term as president.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Live From The Oval Office

Via the Washington Post:

In his first two years in office, President Trump operated without a clear check on his power. With his party controlling both houses of Congress, he issued demands from his bedroom in the form of early-morning tweets, and legislative leaders got in line. He rarely was personally confronted about his untruths and misstatements. And he mostly ignored congressional Democrats, choosing to spar instead with journalists.

That all came to a crashing halt Tuesday. In an extraordinarily heated public fight with the nation’s top two Democratic leaders, the combustible president confronted for the first time the enormity of the challenge he will face over the next two years: divided government.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the likely next speaker, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called out Trump’s falsehoods. They exposed him as malleable about his promised border wall. They lectured him about the legislative process and reiterated to him that he lacked the votes to secure the $5 billion he seeks for the wall.

The Democrats also needled him for his party winning Senate contests last month only in reliably red states. They provoked him by highlighting the softening of the economy and the gyrations in the stock market. And they extracted from him a claim of personal responsibility for the current budget brinkmanship.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

During 17 extraordinary minutes of raised voices, pointed fingers and boorish interruptions in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer introduced Trump to Washington’s new dynamic.

And no apparent progress was made — perhaps a harbinger for what lies ahead.

“Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward,” Pelosi interjected midway through the televised meeting.

Once she returned to the Capitol, the speaker-in-waiting told some of her Democratic colleagues that she felt like she had been in “a tinkle contest with a skunk” — and even questioned the president’s manhood, according to a Democratic aide in the room.

“It’s like a manhood thing for him,” Pelosi said in reference to the wall, according to the aide. “As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

Is there any doubt as to what will be the cold opening for SNL this week?  Alec Baldwin, please report to make-up.

What’s extraordinary about this is that no one from the White House press office or staff moved in to hustle the TV crews out.  Usually they’re herded in, given a moment to get a few shots while the president and his guests nod and smile, then get shuffled out before they get down to business.  Not this time.  My guess is that Trump wanted to the show the world who was in charge and it promptly went south, he got owned, and by a woman.  Yeowch.

By the way, I think Mike Pence’s Secret Service code name is Potted Plant.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Never-Ending Mission

Glenn Kessler, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post, has had to come up with a new measure for the number of lies a politician tells and how often they repeat them.

The scale used to be one to four Pinocchios: one Pinocchio was a fib; four was a blatant falsehood.  But now we’re in the Trump era and that quaint measurement is shot to hell.

To accurately reflect this phenomenon, The Washington Post Fact Checker is introducing a new category — the Bottomless Pinocchio. That dubious distinction will be awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.

The bar for the Bottomless Pinocchio is high: The claims must have received three or four Pinocchios from The Fact Checker, and they must have been repeated at least 20 times. Twenty is a sufficiently robust number that there can be no question the politician is aware that his or her facts are wrong. The list of Bottomless Pinocchios will be maintained on its own landing page.

The Fact Checker has not identified statements from any other current elected official who meets the standard other than Trump. In fact, 14 statements made by the president immediately qualify for the list.

The president’s most-repeated falsehoods fall into a handful of broad categories — claiming credit for promises he has not fulfilled; false assertions that provide a rationale for his agenda; and political weaponry against perceived enemies such as Democrats or special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The number of Bottomless Pinocchios is legion, ranging from Mexico building the Wall to car companies building new plants to the number of people that showed up at his inauguration, and on and on.

The problem with fact checking Trump is two-fold: it’s never-ending (as it should be for any public figure who can change our lives) and the lies never die.  They’re zombies; no matter how often they’re debunked, disproved, and even mocked, they still get repeated and passed on by the gullible or those who would rather repeat a flaming lie than accept the boring truth.  (And, like zombies, they’re in search of brains.)

So while I applaud Mr. Kessler and his mission to expose the lies and the lying liars who tell them, he’s like Voyager 2: there’s no end in sight to his mission.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Long Slow Slog

Every time there’s a bombshell about the corruption in the Trump administration, pundits and those who get paid to put them on the air tell us that this is the last straw; the walls will come a-tumbling down and the whole sordid affair will, at long last, be over.

Not so fast, say Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes in The Atlantic:

We need to stop thinking of it as a fragile structure waiting for the right poke to fall in on itself. Think instead of the myriad investigations and legal proceedings surrounding the president as a multi-front siege on a walled city that is, in fact, relatively well fortified.

Siege warfare is not a matter of striking precisely the correct blow at the correct moment at a particular stone in the wall. It is a campaign of degradation over a substantial period of time. While those inside the fortified city may rely only on the strength of their walls and their stored resources, the attackers can take their time. Volleys of projectiles—arrows or trebuchets—pepper the city walls and those atop them, while the strength of the defending army diminishes as soldiers slip away and food dwindles. Moreover, active conflict is an episodic, not a constant, feature of siege warfare; the enemy army can encamp outside the walled city and blockade it without firing a shot. Over time, the walls and defending forces become degraded to such a degree that the invaders are able to scale the walls and sack the city.

No, Mueller and his forces are not a Mongol horde, but the Trump White House is very much under siege.

[…]

So what will the big one look like, if not some Mueller-lobbed bombshell? When the walls are finally breached, how will we know that it really is the beginning of the end? Here’s a hint: The big one will not be a legal development, an indictment, or a plea. It will be a political development—that moment when the American political system decides not to tolerate the facts available to it any longer. What does that look like? It looks like impeachment. It looks like enough Republicans breaking with the president to seriously jeopardize his chances of renomination or reelection. The legal developments will degrade the walls. But only this sort of political battering ram can breach them.

I wouldn’t sit around waiting for the Republicans to break away from Trump unless they see that standing with him jeopardizes their own livelihood, and as long as there’s Fox Nation and the 40% who see nothing wrong with being a white nationalist and playing footsie with murderous thugs from Saudi Arabia and Russia, they’ve got no reason to turn on him.  Nixon had that much support on August 8, 1974; the only thing that convinced the Republicans on Capitol Hill to come to the White House and tell him to resign — and he acknowledged as much in his resignation speech — was that he had lost the support of the party.  The GOP was staring down the barrel of the 1974 mid-terms and a Democratic House that was ready to vote out articles of impeachment.  The GOP leadership didn’t give a damn about the rule of law; they saw their doom riding full force at them.  So it will take a similar situation — the GOP facing electoral carnage — that will make them turn on Trump.

And no, the 2018 mid-terms, at least to Trump and the GOP leadership, was not a warning, even though they lost 40 seats in the House and the Democrats will start issuing subpoenas next year.  Delusion and denial is a powerful cocktail, so if the Mueller investigation and the rest emanating from the Southern District of New York is the siege, then the White House becomes the bunker where the leader hunkers down and assures himself and his few remaining loyalists that they can still fend off the horde; troops are on the march to defend us!

The only way to truly win is by beating him and the rest of the GOP in an election.  There’s one coming up in less than two years.

The question then becomes, will Trump concede and actually leave?  That’s another question, but then, the Secret Service works for us, not him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hanging By His Thumbs

As I noted last week, Trump may be in more trouble for trying to cover up his crimes than the crimes themselves.  Now it looks like his tweets could open the door to getting him on obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

Trump took to Twitter Monday morning, haranguing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and witnesses to his ongoing Russia investigation. His tweets have become a common morning occurrence, particularly in recent weeks. But legal experts are calling Monday’s missives a newsworthy development that amounts to evidence of obstructing justice.

Trump’s first statement went out after Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney who pleaded guilty last week for lying to Congress about the president’s real estate project in Russia. In his tweet, Trump alleged that Cohen lied to Mueller and called for a severe penalty, demanding that his former fixer “serve a full and complete sentence.”

After the overt attack on Cohen came a tweet encouraging Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, not to become a witness against him:

“’I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the most striking thing about Monday was that there were two statements in proximity.

“It comes very close to the statutory definition of witness tampering,” he said. “It’s a mirror image of the first tweet, only he’s praising a witness for not cooperating with the implication of reward,” he said, adding that Trump has pardon power over Stone.

“We’re so used to President Trump transgressing norms in his public declarations,” Eisen said, “but he may have crossed the legal line.”

[…]

Attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, referenced the federal statute most likely to create legal liability for Trump: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512, which outlines the crime of witness tampering.

What is the law?

Tampering with a witness is obstruction of justice.

It’s a federal crime for an individual to intimidate, threaten or “corruptly persuade” another person with the goal of influencing or preventing his or her testimony.

Did Trump break it?

Historically, there are plenty of cases where similar statements were used as part of an obstruction-of-justice prosecution, according to former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal.

Even if Mueller could technically satisfy the statute, few prosecutors would make a congressional referral based on tweets from the president alone.

Instead, Monday’s slew of tweets probably will be used to evaluate whether Trump’s intent was “corrupt.” They will also be used to show a pattern by Trump to interfere with law enforcement to serve his personal end, Katyal said.

I can’t decide if Trump is unaware of the liability he’s exposing himself to, doesn’t care (“Neener, neener, I’m the president and you can’t touch me!”), or he’s fully aware of it and is doing it on purpose in the mistaken belief that somehow his tweeting will damage the Mueller investigation and make it impossible for the prosecutors to empanel a jury.  Or, maybe, as the article suggests, he’s just melting down.

In any case, it makes you wonder where the hell his lawyer is in all this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

How It Affects Him

Notice that Trump’s response to the news that GM is closing plants and laying off nearly 15,000 workers at all levels is as if it’s an attack on him?

Before leaving the White House Monday for a campaign rally in Mississippi, the president told reporters he had complained to GM chief executive Mary Barra about the shutdowns.

“I was very tough,” the president said. “I spoke with her when I heard they were closing. And I said: ‘You know, this country has done a lot for General Motors. You better get back in there soon. That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon.’ ”

Because Ohio has all those electoral votes and GM is doing this just to mess with his reelection.

It’s not like he cares about the people losing their jobs or cities like Lordstown being stuck with an empty plant and turned into another Flint; it’s all about him.  That’s all that matters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

Raking It In

This is how you prevent forest fires?

With 76 people dead and nearly 1,300 unaccounted for and feared dead in California wildfires, President Donald Trump had a word of advice about stopping future blazes: “Raking.”

“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important,” Trump noted Saturday surrounded by the devastation of the burned town of Paradise in northern California.

“I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different —we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem. And when they do, it’s a very small problem,” Trump said.

Critics were stumped by the raking solution.

They also pointed out the many extreme differences between warm, sunny, drought-stricken California with its annual destructive (and growing worse) fire seasons and Finland, land of marshes, cold temperatures and snow. A quarter of the nation is within the Arctic Circle.

But even with the fire-preventing advantages of far colder temperatures and precipitation, Scandinavia and Finland were hit with serious fires this year due to unusually hot and dry conditions, which scientists attributed to climate change.

Over to you, Finland:

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto later disputed this. He told a local newspaper that he had briefed Trump on Finland’s efforts to surveil and care for its forests, the Associated Press wrote, “but said he can’t recall anything being mentioned on raking.”

Maybe it wasn’t Niinisto who gave Trump the raking idea. Maybe it was something he saw on TV.

“I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas. They were raking areas!” Trump told Fox News from the Oval Office on Friday — before he left for California. “They’re raking trees, little trees like this — nut trees, little bushes, that you could see are totally dry. Weeds! And they’re raking them. They’re on fire.”

“That should have been all raked out,” he concluded. “You wouldn’t have the fires.”

The Fox host, Chris Wallace, asked whether climate change might not be a larger wildfire factor than unraked debris, but Trump didn’t think so.

Wherever Trump got the notion that raking parts of California — be it entire forest floors or the areas around little nut trees — could have prevented the Camp Fire, not many people seem to agree.

There is seriously something wrong when the leader of your country thinks that the way to solve one of the most serious environmental challenges is to do yard work because he once saw it on TV.

The way he sees it, if the Southwest is ever overrun by a feral roadrunner population, the ACME Company is going to be really busy.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Of Course He Did

Trump basically says he fired Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to stop the Mueller investigation.  Via the Daily Beast.

There has been a persistent disbelief among many observers throughout the Trump presidency that the underlying reality is as bad as it appears on the surface. But the scumminess of the arrangement is increasingly naked. Here, lying about in plain  sight, is Trump’s response yesterday to a question from the conservative Daily Caller, which asked, “Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie?”

In response Trump embarked on a rant about the Mueller investigation:

I knew [Whitaker] only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, um, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.

It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.

Trump is all but confessing that he hired Whitaker to stop the “illegal” Mueller probe.

And he will deny he’s ever said any such thing, the same way he told Fox News in October that he knew Matthew Whitaker and three weeks later said he’d never met the guy.

Frankly I don’t think Trump cares what other people may take away from what he says, whether it’s a confession or an admittance; he says whatever works in the moment to make himself look — in his mind — like he’s the victim.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

He That Troubleth His Own House

According to NBC News, there’s some palace intrigue coming out of the East Wing.

In an extraordinary move for a first lady, Melania Trump’s office on Tuesday publicly called for the firing of a senior National Security Council official.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director issued a statement around 2:30 p.m. saying the official, Mira Ricardel, should no longer serve as the NSC’s No. 2.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Grisham said.

Meanwhile, over in the West Wing

John Kelly, mired in conflicts with a widening array of officials from the National Security Council to the office of the first lady, may soon depart the Trump administration, according to seven people familiar with the discussions.

Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, is among those being considered for the job, three of the people said, though President Donald Trump has mused about other possible candidates.

There’s been talk about canning a few other people, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who was a protege of Kelly.  All of this is a result of Trump’s temper tantrum after the GOP got their asses kicked in the midterms.  He’ll never admit it — even though he said it over and over, “A vote for a Republican is a vote for me” — but the blame clearly lies on him, and he knows it.  That’s why he’s obsessed with the recount in Florida (and carrying along his toadies, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio) in the torrent of his daily tweetstorms: there has to fraud and deceit because that’s the only way fair elections are won, dammit.

It’s common practice among authoritarians to blame the staff for the screw-ups of the dictator and then huddle in the bunker as the bombs drop around you, cursing the traitors that he entrusted to carry out his impossible policies.  Firing this aide or that cabinet secretary doesn’t get at the real problem: the rot is at the top, and in this case, it’s permed in Aqua-Sheen and susceptible to damage by wind and rain.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Slow Motion Train Wreck

The White House and its guardians of whiteness are freaked out about the caravan of migrants coming up through Mexico to the point that they’re sending troops to guard the border.

Fixated on the migrant caravan moving north through Mexico, President Trump is weighing a plan to shut the U.S. border to Central Americans and deny them the opportunity to seek asylum, asserting similar emergency powers used during the early 2017 “travel ban,” according to administration officials and people familiar with the proposal.

The White House is also preparing to deploy as many as 1,000 additional U.S. troops to assist in security operations at the southern border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival, officials said.

[…]

The migrant caravan remains more than 900 miles from U.S. territory and has dwindled to about 3,000 people, according to the latest estimates from Mexican authorities. But the scenes of young men breaking through gates along the Guatemala-Mexico border earlier this week have alarmed the White House, and Trump continues to depict the Central American migrant group as a criminal menace and a security threat.

Impoverished families, many of whom are traveling with children and surviving on handouts, comprise the bulk of those advancing slowly through southern Mexico.

The Trump administration has provided no evidence that Middle Easterners and dangerous criminals are mixed in.

Since hey’re traveling at a rate of about 20 miles a day, they will be at the U.S. border sometime around the middle of January, assuming they maintain their course and speed.  That makes the Okies in “The Grapes of Wrath” sound like they were flying to California on business class.

The message that’s apparently not getting through to anyone in authority is that these are desperately poor and tired people willing to sacrifice everything they have to get to the border to ask for asylum.  By the time they get here they’ll be so worn out and depleted that even if any of them had criminal intent, it will have been replaced by the basic instinct to survive, and it’s highly unlikely they’re going to mastermind some horrific plot to invade Brownsville.

But Trump and his racist and xenophobic allies are so twitterepated about a harmless group of poor people that they’re trying to send the Army to defend the border against… what?  There have been bigger crowds at Tiger Stadium waiting to take a piss during the seven-inning stretch.  Not only that, because of the Posse Comitatus law, the only thing the military can do is provide support to local law enforcement; they cannot themselves enforce the law.  So it would be a lot cheaper — and a lot more efficient — to get the Red Cross to come in and set up shelters and Porta-Potties to greet the caravan.  But nothing says Trump America more than welcoming asylum seekers with a machine gun nest.

By the time they get here, the election will be long past, the new – hopefully Democratic and therefore sane — House will have been sworn in, this crisis will have faded from the headlines, and Trump will have found another shiny object to obsess over.  Meanwhile, the situation that created the caravan in the first place — the horrific conditions in places like Honduras and the neglect by our quivering bully of an administration — will still be in place.  Everything is being done to send the migrants back, but nothing has been done to help them when they get here.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Listening In

I feel sorry for the poor guys in China and Russia who drew the short straw and have to listen to Trump on the phone.

When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.

Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them.

Scene: a bar in Alexandria where spies hang out.  Time: Late night; the vodka is flowing at a table where two men are bemoaning their assignment.

IVAN:  I had to hear how many times he got a hole in one… and I don’t think he was talking golf.

MENG:  Heh, you think that’s rough?  I had to listen to him bragging about how he got Kellyanne Conway to pull his finger.

IVAN:  I joined the “Intelligence” service to listen to this putz?

MENG:  Mother of Mao, I’d rather eat panda poop.

Mel Brooks couldn’t make this up.

It’s because Trump has no inner sense of boundaries or discretion.  He’s the kind of guy who will chat up a perfect stranger on the subway and tell him his innermost secrets and brag about the size of his dick just to hear himself talk.  The Russians and the Chinese probably have enough stuff on him to blackmail him out the ass, but he neither knows or cares.

And of course:

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Murder In Istanbul

The Turks have the tapes that lead to the conclusion that the Saudis did it.  From the Washington Post:

The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul this month, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said.

The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.

“The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

A second person briefed on the recording said men could be heard beating Khashoggi.

So far the response from the Trump administration has been a shrug and pre-recorded concern:

During a bill signing Thursday in the Oval Office, President Trump called Khashoggi’s suspected killing “a terrible thing,” but stopped short of assigning blame.

“We’re looking at it very strongly,” Trump said. “We’ll be having a report out soon. We’re working with Turkey, we’re working with Saudi Arabia. What happened is a terrible thing, assuming that happened. I mean, maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but somehow I tend to doubt it.”

That’s because oil and power trump everything.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Random Thought

I’m slightly amused by all the guessing about why Nikki Haley resigned her post as UN ambassador and what she’ll do now — run for president?  When? — and even more slightly amused by the speculation that Ivanka would or could get the job.

Whoever it is will be appointed by Trump and therefore will be just another sycophant or nationalist, so it really doesn’t matter.  We might as well argue who was the better Darrin on “Bewitched.”  Either way, you end up with a Dick.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Down To The Wire

There will be a vote at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate for cloture on the Kavanaugh nomination, which means that if there are enough Republicans to vote yes — assuming no Democrats do — the Senate will then move forward with the confirmation vote on Saturday.

According to Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, as of last night it was still a near thing whether or not there were enough votes for cloture.  At least one Republican will not be there on Saturday because of a family wedding, and wavering Democrats — the ones who are up for reelection in red states such as South Dakota and Indiana — are making their intentions known, however cautiously.

I’m thinking — and it’s based purely on history and age-old cynicism — that we will be will-o’-the-wisp hopeful that the Senate will not confirm him because of some kind of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” bravery from a few Republicans who would rather stand for decency than poll numbers.  But we know how this movie ends; if you’re over 30 you saw how it went with Clarence Thomas in 1991, and I’m yet to be convinced that we, and especially the old-boys club in the Senate, have evolved beyond that time.  I’ve also yet to see anyone of substance call out the Republicans for their rank hypocrisy in demanding due process for Brett Kavanaugh — innocent until proven guilty! — but chanted “Lock her up!” at Hillary Clinton and now Prof. Blasey Ford.

Their motives, by the way, are not to put just this one man on the court.  As far as his judicial rulings go and his history on the bench, he’s one of many conservative judges to pick from, and if for some reason Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t make it there will be plenty more for Trump to choose from, if he hasn’t already.  But with the slim possibility of the Senate flipping and the attitude of the GOP leadership being what it is, it’s more about sticking it to the Democrats than it is about the future of the Supreme Court.  They’re still pissed off that America elected a black man twice as president when everyone knows that the White House belongs to the rich white guys, not the descendants of the slaves who built it.  This is their continuing middle finger to the rest of us, including old white guys like me who happen to believe that everyone is entitled to a place at the table, not just the dudes and bros who puke beer, grope women, and go to Yale because, hey, it’s what’s expected.  It’s the continuing reinforcement of the idea that the Republicans don’t govern, they rule.

So I’m not holding out a lot of hope that there will be profiles in courage emerging from the Senate today or tomorrow.  I hope I’m wrong, but then, hope is my greatest weakness.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

This Vicious Buffoon

Charles P. Pierce:

Everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor and a scoundrel.

—HRH George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland

This video should be the only news from now until Election Day, and probably beyond that, all the way to the next Election Day in 2020 as well.

This video captures perfectly where we are as a nation at this moment in history. It shows with startling clarity the end result of civic disengagement and democratic apathy. It shows without question that we have allowed our republic to fall into the hands of a sociopath whose feeling for his fellow human beings can be measured against a poker chip. It shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the better angels of our nation have been sold out to anger, and greed, and stone hatred. It shows precisely the depths to which our fellow citizens will follow this bag of old and rancid sins. Some of those citizens know better. Some of them don’t. All of them are dangerous blockheads.

Look at the man behind the seal of the President of the United States, mocking the recollections of a survivor of sexual assault. In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.

And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.

The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides.

We have had good presidents and bad—a Buchanan is followed by a Lincoln who is followed by an Andrew Johnson, and so forth. But we never have had such a cheap counterfeit of a president* as currently occupies the office. We have had presidents who have been the worthy targets of scalding scorn, but James Callender went after giants. We never have had a president* so completely deserving of scorn and yet so small in the office that it almost seems a waste of time and energy to summon up the requisite contempt.

Watch him make fun of the woman again. Watch how a republic dies in the empty eyes of an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness, and who cannot find in himself the decency simply to shut the fuck up even when it is in his best interest to do so. Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity, and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.

Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Filthy Rich

We knew the “self-made billionaire” line was bullshit, and now the New York Times has the background to prove that Trump’s wealth was accumulated by inheriting it from his tax-cheating and law-breaking father.

Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

No wonder he never wanted to release his taxes.  Not that we’d find out that his family was ripping off the government — that’s everyone’s secret dream — but that he didn’t do a damn thing to earn his money and just sat there and let it roll in.

So what if he lived off Fred’s money?  Lots of presidents have been set for life from the time they were born, including FDR, JFK, and the Bushes, just to name a few.  It never seemed to bother them that they were to the manor born.  The big difference, though, between Trump and the rest of the rich is that he wants everyone to think he did it all by himself.  The rags-to-riches story, or so the thinking must go, is that it’s somehow more “‘Murican” if you started out with nothing — just a million or so inherited from daddy — and through hard work and smart deals you made your fortune.  But with his fragile ego — and the rest of it — he just had to live a lie and make up all this bullshit so he’ll seem more genuine to the base.

We all knew he was a con.  Now we have the proof.  The sad thing is that the base — the ones he tried to con — will think he’s some kind of hero for ripping off the guvamint.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Going After Women

Freud would have a field day with this.

Trump was noticeably quick to cut off, interrupt or scold female reporters who asked him questions about his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during a press conference Monday in the Rose Garden.

Before ABC’s Cecilia Vega had a chance to raise her question about Kavanaugh, Trump was immediately combative. After calling on Vega to ask a question, he joked that she was not expecting to get called on.

“She’s shocked that I picked her, she’s in a state of shock,” Trump said. Vega waited to be handed the microphone, and either said “I’m not — thank you, Mr. President” or “I’m not thinking, Mr. President” as she stood up and glanced at her notes. Trump clearly thought she said the latter.

“It’s okay, I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” he said.

“I’m sorry?” Vega said, before Trump prodded her to ask her question, which was about the White House limiting the scope of the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. Trump then steamrolled her, asking, “what does that have to do with trade?”

He refused to take any questions about Kavanaugh until he spoke more about the new trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Moments later, Trump scolded CNN’s Kaitlan Collins for attempting to ask a question about the limited scope of the probe. The two sparred briefly, before Collins’ line of questioning was cut off and she was forced to hand the microphone to another reporter who had questions about Trump’s new trade agreement.

“Don’t do that, that’s not nice,” he said.

Trump eventually took both Vega’s and Collins’ questions about Kavanaugh and the FBI probe into allegations of sexual assault against him, but interrupted Collins when he thought her turn was over.

“You’ve had enough,” he said.

While their questions weren’t about Kavanaugh, Trump was brusque with two other female reporters during the presser on Monday.

One woman asked him to clarify the comments he had made about Democrats not being “angels.”

“No, I think I’ll save it for a book like everybody else and I’ll write it, okay? I’m not giving it to you,” he said.

Trump also asked cut off another female reporter who asked him about the failure to follow through with a ban on bump stocks.

“No, you’re wrong about that,” he said.

We’ve always known that Trump has a problem with women being anything other than subservient or his target for sexual gratification, but after last Thursday when Prof. Christine Blasey Ford gave testimony in a calm and measured manner as compared to the dramatics and high dudgeon of Judge Kavanaugh, it’s obvious he’s taking out his frustration on women.  They’re ruining his nice he-men women-are-chattel club!

Polling indicates that women voters are going to return the favor in droves next month, and if he has to run against a woman for re-election, he’s going to be even worse than he is now, which is saying something.

Trump is not the only one attacking women.  Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) — whose name evokes a character from “The Hobbit” — has issues with them as demonstrated by his concern-trolling for Prof. Ford.  Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post:

Right-wing male politicians such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have the audacity to declare that Ford has been victimized … by Democrats. (Maybe ask her?) Even if you thought that, why would anyone say such a stunningly condescending thing? Telling someone who has said she is the victim of a sexual assault whom she should and should not hold responsible for her pain represents a new low in Senate Republicans’ twisted exercise in blame-shifting.

This will leave a mark.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sham Wow

If you believe the FBI investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh isn’t a sham, well, buddy, have I got some real estate just west of here for you.

The FBI has received no new instructions from the White House about how to proceed with its weeklong investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a senior U.S. official and another source familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

According to the sources, the president’s Saturday night tweet saying he wants the FBI to interview whoever agents deem appropriate has not changed the limits imposed by the White House counsel’s office on the FBI investigation — including a specific witness list that does not include Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in high school.

Also not on the list, the sources say, are former classmates who have contradicted Kavanaugh’s account of his college alcohol consumption, instead describing him as a frequent, heavy drinker. The FBI is also not authorized to interview high school classmates who could shed light on what some people have called untruths in Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony about alleged sexual references in his high school yearbook.

So basically the White House is doing what they do best: obstructing justice while saying they’re open to any and all investigations.  It’s all bullshit and they know it.

What I find impressive is that they can pull off this and expect — even count on — the rest of us to nod and say, “Oh, okay.”  That takes chutzpah; something never in short supply with these people.