Thursday, December 5, 2019

Poor Baby

The other kids teased him behind his back so he flounced home.

Trump arrived in London Monday evening planning to tout a foreign policy accomplishment his presidential campaign wants him to run on: successfully pressuring allies to pay more toward the costs of running NATO.

Less than 48 hours later — after he was put on the defensive in front of the cameras and then was the subject of gossip at a private reception of world leaders, a moment caught in a viral video — Mr. Trump canceled a planned news conference before heading back to Washington earlier than planned.

The timing was not perfect. Mr. Trump had hoped the 70th anniversary celebration of NATO might provide a flattering stage and a triumphant narrative, even as Democrats on Capitol Hill on Wednesday trotted out sober legal scholars to testify at the House Judiciary Committee’s first public impeachment hearing.

But instead of creating a split screen, Mr. Trump failed to produce the statesmanlike narrative his campaign had hoped for. The result was he appeared boxed in both at home and abroad, ultimately overshadowed by diplomatic dynamics that put him on his back foot.

They laughed even more when he left.

But Trump got his revenge by taking it out on — of course — poor people.

The Trump administration, brushing aside tens of thousands of protest letters, gave final approval on Wednesday to a rule that will remove nearly 700,000 people from the federal food-stamp program by strictly enforcing federal work requirements.

The rule, which was proposed by the Agriculture Department in February, would press states to carry out work requirements for able-bodied adults without children that governors have routinely been allowed to waive, especially for areas in economic distress. The economy has improved under the Trump administration, the department argued, and assistance to unemployed, able-bodied adults was no longer necessary in a strong job market.

That’ll show those meanies in France and Canada.  So there.

HT to Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Fine Judge Of Character

The White House had a little presser when they brought Conan the Army dog that was part of the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Check out the body language on Trump, Conan, and the First Lady.

Trump is notoriously anti-dog; Melania looks like she’s trying out for the part of Cruella De Vil on the road tour of “101 Dalmatians,” and Conan is desperately waiting to get the hell out of there.

Dogs are excellent judges of character.  They know instinctively and very quickly who likes them and who doesn’t, and once they’ve made up their mind, there’s not much you can do about it.

Good dog.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Military Imprecision

Everything I know about how justice works in the military comes from fiction (“The Caine Mutiny”) or watching TV (“NCIS” and the short-lived “The Code”).  So don’t expect me to unravel or explain what happened this weekend in the Navy with the resignation/firing of the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard Spencer by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.  For that, we have the expertise of Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice.

The story is too complicated to detail here — that’s why I linked to the piece — but suffice it to say that Trump’s pardoning of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher for his alleged war crimes and then going on Fox News and talking about it kicked over the trash can within the Pentagon and made the chain of command look like something out of a bad production of Gilbert and Sullivan.

I cannot express not only how irregular what I’ve just recounted is, but how BATSHIT FUCKING INSANE it is as well! Serving US military personnel, and to a lesser extent DOD and the Service civilians (civil servants) do not speak to and/or engage with the news media unless it has been approved by the Public Affairs Officer at their command. And they certainly don’t go on a cable news talk show program and publicly accuse their commanding officers of being derelict in their duty and insubordinate. If you were wondering if Gallagher was a disciplinary problem waiting to happen and a real impediment to good order and discipline, wonder no more. What he did this morning should dispel any doubt. And if you were Gallagher and trying to show the review board and the commanding admiral that you weren’t either or both of these things, going on Fox & Friends Weekend and making these statements is a really stupid way to demonstrate that you’re not a problem child and a shitbird.

And it’s only Monday.

Monday, November 18, 2019

In Perfect Health

The twitter machine was all abuzz on Saturday when Trump went to Walter Reed for what the White House is claiming was a “stage” of his annual physical and there’s nothing at all to report, and rumors that he had “chest pains” is a plot by Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi to undermine his god-given task of making America something something.

I’m a huge fan of the film “Dave” in which a president, who’s a philanderer and a shitty husband, is replaced by a look-alike good guy (Kevin Kline) who rights wrongs and treats the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) like a lady.  While I don’t think this White House is capable of pulling off such a ruse (for one thing, they’d have to get Alec Baldwin to portray Trump, and they don’t pay scale), it would not surprise me in the least that Trump had a more serious issue than just a preliminary check-up for his annual physical, and I wouldn’t put it past this White House to try to emulate another Hollywood blockbuster: “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Lowering The Barr

Via the New York Times:

Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday vigorously defended President Trump’s use of executive authority and suggested that House Democrats were subverting the will of voters by exploring whether to remove the president from office for abusing his power.

Mr. Trump campaigned on a vow to upend Washington, and voters were aware of his agenda when they elected him president, Mr. Barr said.

“While the president has certainly thrown out the traditional Beltway playbook and punctilio, he was up front about what he wanted to do and the people decided they wanted him to serve as president,” Mr. Barr said in a speech at a conference hosted by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group influential in Republican politics.

Mr. Trump’s opponents “essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple by any means necessary a duly elected government,” Mr. Barr added.

His forceful defense of the president came after some of Mr. Trump’s allies have in recent weeks accused Mr. Barr of failing to vociferously back the president. Mr. Trump was said to be frustrated that Mr. Barr urged him to release a reconstructed transcript of the July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine at the center of the impeachment case. The president also wanted Mr. Barr to hold a news conference to say the president had violated no laws, only to have Mr. Barr rebuff the request. Mr. Trump has denied that account.

Speaking for an hour at the upscale Mayflower Hotel a few blocks from the White House, Mr. Barr hit back at the president’s critics on an array of fronts as he argued that Mr. Trump, in his capacity as president, has not overstepped his authority.

While Mr. Barr never uttered the word impeachment, he castigated those he sees as stalling Mr. Trump’s agenda. He defended the president’s right to set policies, steer the country’s diplomatic and military relations and keep executive branch conversations confidential from congressional oversight.

“In waging a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in shredding norms and undermining the rule of law,” Mr. Barr said.

He noted that opponents labeled themselves “the resistance” immediately after Mr. Trump was elected and accused them of “using every tool and maneuver to sabotage the functioning of the executive branch and his administration.

“Resistance is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power,” Mr. Barr said. He added that it connotes that the government is not legitimate. “This is a very dangerous and indeed incendiary notion.”

This is both hilarious and troubling at the same time; a common reaction to most of the antics of the current administration.  While they reek of rank hypocrisy — carrying on about how “resistance” to Trump is somehow undemocratic while forgetting how they supported the Tea Party antics and right-wing nutsery against President Obama — Mr. Barr, who has been Attorney General before in comparatively normal times, seems to forget that the job of being Trump’s personal lawyer is already taken by Rudy Giuliani, and he’s doing a bang-up job at that.  Unless, of course, Trump is putting the squeeze on him to support him regardless of the fact that the Attorney General is supposed to work for us, not him.  That would explain, perhaps, why Mr. Barr delivered a speech that, as Charlie Pierce remarked, would have been “best delivered while wearing a uniform and mirrored shades, and while standing on a balcony.”

Thursday, October 31, 2019

“Who Says I’m Dumb?”

Trump says that if he wanted to commit impeachable offenses, he’s smart enough, by golly.

As Donald Trump gets dragged deeper, and deeper, and deeper into his Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry accelerates toward a likely House vote before the year’s end, the president is increasingly insistent that, if he wanted to commit a crime, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to get caught.

At other times, Trump has privately avowed that if he wanted to commit the crimes or outrageous actions he’s accused of, he’d be smart enough to do it—and that people should stop saying he’s too dumb or incompetent to do crimes.

Last week, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal launched a novel defense of Trump, who Democratic lawmakers allege—as Capitol Hill testimony from senior administration officials suggests—attempted to force the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top political rival of Trump’s, in exchange for military aid that was being held up. The newspaper’s esteemed board argued that any talk of impeaching Trump is silly, in large part, because this president is likely too bumbling to execute that kind of scandalous quid pro quo.

“Intriguingly, Mr. [Bill] Taylor says in his statement that many people in the administration opposed the [Rudy] Giuliani effort, including some in senior positions at the White House,” the editorial board wrote. “This matters because it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it. Impeachment for incompetence would disqualify most of the government, and most presidents at some point or another in office.”

Trump, a routine morning reader and skimmer of several newspapers’ print editions, saw this editorial—which was obviously meant to defend him—last week. And the president promptly began complaining about it to some of those close to him.

“[The president] mentioned he had seen it and then he started saying things like, ‘What are they talking about, if I wanted to do quid pro quo, I would’ve done the damn quid pro quo,’ and… then defended his intelligence and then talked about how ‘perfect’ the call [with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] was,” said a source familiar with Trump’s reaction to the Journal editorial. Another person familiar with the president’s comments on the matter corroborated the account.

“He was clearly unhappy. He did not like the word ‘inept,’” the first source added.

Okay, then how about “thick”? “Doltish”? “Numbskull”? “Inadept”? “Unapt”? “Incompetent”? “Loser”?

Proving once again that stupid people don’t know they’re stupid because if they did know they were stupid they wouldn’t be stupid in the first place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Richly Deserved

Via Charles P. Pierce: Trump got a chorus of Bronx cheers and catcalls Sunday night when he showed up at the World Series.  Let the pearl-clutching begin.

I never have seen a politician yet who wasn’t booed if he or she showed up at the ballpark. But, I have to admit, the reception given to El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago at the World Series on Monday night in Washington, D.C., was a remarkable exercise of the First Amendment right to deliver the ol’ bazoo. And the “Lock him up!” chant was a sauce for the goose moment to end all sauce for the goose moments. Nobody who sat through the orgy of unbridled hate in Cleveland in 2016 could see it as anything but a comeuppance richly deserved.

But the Civility Police never sleep. By Monday morning, a panel convened on Morning Joe was deploring the whole scene, and Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware had found something to meep about on CNN.

“I have a hard time with the idea of a crowd on a globally televised sporting event chanting ‘lock him up’ about our President. I frankly think the office of the President deserves respect, even when the actions of our President at times don’t,” Coons told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” He continued: “I certainly hope that we won’t hear ‘lock him up’ chants at Democratic rallies or at our convention. I think that’s one of the most regrettable, even at times despicable, actions by candidate Trump when he was running for president in 2016.”

That was the election that Going Low won and Going High lost.

This was 12 hours after he greeted Sunday morning by treating some heroic work by the U.S. military—and by the Kurdish forces he’d sold out a week earlier—as though those troops were his own personal button men. For that, I would argue, he at least deserved the same reception at the ballpark as a shortstop does when he boots three easy grounders in an inning, or as a manager does who leaves a reliever in one pitch too many. And, as for “Lock him up,” well, since he still uses the original chant as a highlight at every stop in his traveling wankfests, I’d say it’s well inbounds at least until the country is rid of him and the posse of fools he brought to the game with him.

But Coons’s argument is one I’ve heard all too often in my lifetime, very often as a dodge for inexcusable conduct and outright crimes. “Respect for the office” is a self-governing citizen’s sin of idolatry. In that context, the Presidency is a graven image. Why should I respect the office of the president when the occupant so clearly doesn’t? Why should I respect the office of the president when it serves as a clubhouse for cheap crooks and mountebanks? Guns don’t kill people, we hear after every mass shooting, only people kill people. So, The Presidency doesn’t commit crimes, only presidents do?

In my lifetime alone, from The Office of the Presidency, I have seen mass murder from the skies, torture, the overthrow of governments, burglaries and the cover-up of same, the selling of missiles to a terrorist state and the cover-up of same, the arming of distant murderers, and that was all before this president* even got there—and even he, with his exceedingly dim wits, saw the potential for high crimes that long had become inherent in the office.

So, no, I don’t Respect The Office any more (or less) than I respect the Congress or the federal judiciary or the Department of Agriculture, for all that. Right now, all over the world, from Lebanon to Chile, hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets demanding a voice in their governments. Capital cities are being shut down. And we’re all supposed to be alarmed that a renegade president* got heckled at a baseball game? For a country founded through acts of unruly dissent, that’s as mild as milk.

So there, Joe and Mika.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Never His Fault

I’ll say this about Trump: he’s consistent.  Nothing bad that happens to him is his fault, and he takes credit for things he has no right to do.  Just take a look at this series of quotes from his press opportunity during yesterday’s cabinet meeting:

Trump predictably went on a rant about the whistleblower at the heart of the House impeachment probe into Trump’s Ukraine scheme.

The rant got a little less predictable when Trump bizarrely suggested House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) was the informant in the whistleblower’s complaint.

“Maybe the informant was Schiff. It could be shifty Schiff,” the President said. “In my opinion, it’s possibly Schiff.”

[…]

As he was complaining about how the impeachment inquiry was distracting him from staying out of wars, Trump suddenly decided mid-sentence that he might go to war after all.

“In the midst of [the inquiry], I’m trying to get out of wars,” Trump said, immediately followed up by: “We may have to get in wars, too. We may have to get in wars.”

“We’re better prepared than we’ve ever been,” he continued. “If Iran does something, they’ll be hit like they’ve never been hit before. We have things that we’re looking at.”

[…]

Trump also spent several minutes moaning about being forced to cancel his plan to host next year’s G-7 summit at his Florida resort, claiming that using the resort for the summit would not serve to promote his businesses.

“Then they say ,’Oh, but you’ll get promotion,’” Trump said of his critics. “Who cares? You don’t think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that’s ever lived.”

“I don’t need the promotion,” he insisted.

He also derided critics for bringing up “this phony Emoluments clause.”

[…]

Trump repeatedly attacked Democrats during the presser, but he did praise them for one thing: Staying united with each other, unlike a certain someone in his own party.

“They’re vicious and they stick together,” he said. “They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst.”

[…]

Trump, ever obsessed with his rally crowd sizes and applause, brought up the two topics that apparently earned him “the largest cheers” at his rally in Dallas last week.

“My largest cheer that night was two things: We’re building the wall, that’s number one,” Trump bragged. “And number two, probably tied for number one, was we’re bringing our soldiers back home.”

[…]

Near the end of the pool spray, Trump grumbled about the “never-Trumpers” in his party.

“Those people might be worse than the Democrats,” Trump said. “The never-Trumpers.”

“The good news is they’re dying off fast,” he added. “They’re on artificial respiration, I think.”

Yeah, about that “phony Emoluments clause”?  It’s about as real as the ones about impeachment.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

For All To See

Everybody loses their shit every now and then.  If you’re in a very high-profile job with urgent matters coming at you in every direction and everyone expects you to make very tough decisions, you’re going to let off steam.  But you don’t do it in front of people who will walk outside and tell a gaggle of reporters that they just saw someone turn into a six-year-old brat in front of them.  You keep it together until the doors are closed and there’s no one who can hear you.

Not this guy.

Trump faced off against both parties in Congress on Wednesday in an extraordinary confrontation over his decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies as the vast majority of House Republicans joined Democrats to condemn his policy in an overwhelming vote.

Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated after withdrawing troops from Syria and clearing the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurds who had fought alongside the United States. The president all but washed his hands of the conflict, saying that it “has nothing to do with us,” generating withering criticism from Republicans and leading to a stormy clash with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bereft of supporters and under pressure from an impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump spent much of the day defending his decision and lashing out against rivals. He dismissed the Kurds, who until last week shared outposts with American soldiers, saying they were “no angels” and fought for money. And he berated Ms. Pelosi as a “third-grade politician” or “third-rate politician,” depending on the version, prompting Democrats to walk out of a White House meeting.

“I think now we have to pray for his health,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters afterward. “This was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.” She said Mr. Trump seemed “very shaken up” by the cascade of criticism.

Mr. Trump said it was the other way around. “Nancy Pelosi needs help fast!” he wrote on Twitter. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

Yeah, that last little bit of projection shows that he’s got all the tantrum moves down pat.

This will either be another bit of evidence at his impeachment trial or the invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Rudy’s Buddies

This impeachment inquiry is providing some great comic relief.

Rudy Giuliani lunched with two associates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday just hours before the duo was arrested at a Washington-area airport, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are business associates of Giuliani who had been working with the former New York mayor on his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden. A person who saw the trio eating at the Trump hotel spoke to the Journal for the story.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia on Wednesday and on Thursday were indicted for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections. A law enforcement source told CNN they were booked on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, to connect to another flight.

Giuliani declined to comment to CNN on the report.

Parnas and Fruman are two of four men who were indicted on Thursday. Andrey Kukushkin has been arrested and is expected to appear in court Thursday in the Northern District of California, according to the Manhattan US Attorney’s office. The fourth man, David Correia, hasn’t been arrested. All four are US citizens, according to the indictment.

When asked, Trump denied knowing either Parnas and Fruman, but a little digging came up with some lovely photos of Mr. Fruman’s dinner at the White House back in May.

And the one-way tickets to Vienna?  Oh, they’re going to take in some opera at the Wiener Staatsoper. And bring back some strudel.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

More From The Stable Floor

Sheesh.

Trump said Wednesday that it would be “easy” for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy” and were only interested in fighting for “their land.”

“With all of that being said, we like the Kurds,” he said in response to questions about Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

He got this talking point from some right-wing nutjob.  Who needs the State Department when you’ve got the blogosphere?

For more background on the history of the Kurds and our constant betrayal of them, read this post by Adam L. Silverman.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday Reading

The Smoking Arsenal — Charles P. Pierce.

What the hell do we call this? The smoking arsenal?

The release of a motherlode of criminal evidence in the form of texts between various inmates at Camp Runamuck, all of which concerns the president*’s attempt to extort Ukraine into helping him ratfck the 2020 election, establishes the guilt of the president* beyond the shadow of a doubt. In the released material, you can see a whole brigade of hapless functionaries stumbling from one crime to another, fully aware that they are doing so, and concocting strategies on the fly to carry out the president*’s criminal orders. You read for yourself how they all ended up toadying to Rudy Giuliani’s insane “mission” to Kiev. It’s like reading a John Le Carré novel starring the Marx Brothers.

The simple politics of the release is pure genius. On Thursday, former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker briefed House investigators on the matter. Around midday, presidential* lawn ornaments Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows threw themselves at a microphone to deliver the Nothing To See Here party line. Then, the texts were released and now every single Republican in the Congress looks like a fool or a crook. There’s no third alternative.

But the politics of it are a lesser concern. The conduct revealed in the texts is as subversive as anything undertaken by any KGB operative in the high days of the Cold War. The president* set the government of the United States against itself, and he used a vulnerable ally to do so. He could have travelled the world shooting our ambassadors personally and done less damage. Nobody will trust American diplomats again for a very long time, nor should they. From NBC News:

In fact, the only U.S. official included in the text messages who pushes back is a career diplomat, William Taylor, who became the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine after Trump pulled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch out of her post earlier this year. Yovanovitch’s ouster has become another topic of key interest to Democratic lawmakers in their impeachment inquiry.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor wrote, using an acronym for the White House, after Trump canceled a planned meeting with Zelenskiy in Poland. A week later, he told Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland, several hours later, pushed back, telling Taylor that Trump “has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind.” He suggests they stop discussing the matter via text message.

That certainly sounds legitimate to me. Sondland is Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Now, Ukraine is not a member of the European Union. So what, you may wonder, is Sondland’s dog in this fight. Clearly, he was one of the White House messenger boys in the extortion and bribery plot that was unfolding all around West Asia. And the conspicuous “no quid pro quo,” followed immediately by a suggestion that they no longer put these perfectly innocent requests into writing, would be comic if the stakes weren’t so very high. From The New York Times:

Mr. Volker told the House investigators that the Ukrainians had earlier proposed language promising a statement on fighting corruption that did not specifically mention Burisma and 2016. When Mr. Giuliani was shown that original language, Mr. Volker told the House, he indicated to Mr. Volker that it was not sufficient and said the Ukrainians should be asked for specific public commitments to investigate Burisma and 2016.

By Mr. Volker’s account, according to the person familiar with his testimony, he was eventually told by Mr. Yermak that the Ukrainian government could not agree to the language being sought by Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Volker told Mr. Yermak that he was right, and the idea was dropped, according to the account Mr. Volker provided the House.

I have no sympathy for any of these people, and neither should you. They sold their souls to a crook and a charlatan who may well be half-mad into the bargain. They sold out the diplomatic status of the country in service to a lunatic conspiracy theory that was the obsession of a president* who believes anything his favorite TV commentators tell him. They sold out an embattled ally in order to aid in the reelection of a president* against whom this country may not survive in recognizable form.

On Thursday, just as the current storm was rising, the president* tweeted of his “absolute right” to conduct foreign policy in this manner. No president has an “absolute right” to do fck-all. The longer this man is allowed to infect this republic, the more it will change into something very different. He cannot be allowed to remain in office and, god help us, he cannot be reelected. That would be the end of things.

Glamour and Substance — Nichelle Gainer has an appreciation of Diahann Carroll.

I am an ’80s kid. I grew up in a New Jersey suburb that, to my mind’s eye, bore more than a passing resemblance to the fictional town in “Stranger Things.” While I enjoyed shows like “Square Pegs” and movies like “The Breakfast Club,” I was perplexed by how homogeneous they were, especially since my high school had nearly an even balance of black and white kids.

That’s where Jet magazine came in. At that time, black faces were still rare enough on the big and small screens that the publication printed out a listing of every black performer appearing on American television that week. Thanks to those listings, I discovered a magnetic performance by one of my favorite stars Diahann Carroll, who died this week at 84.

It was from the NBC TV movie “Sister, Sister,” which first aired in 1982. Written by Maya Angelou, the story follows three very different siblings and their struggle to heal old wounds and sell their family home following the death of their mother. In one of my favorite scenes, two of the sisters (played by Ms. Carroll and Rosalind Cash) confront each other about long-held secrets and their screaming match turns to blows. It is glorious and satisfying — a “cat fight” that would make the “Dynasty” divas Dominique Devereaux and Alexis Carrington applaud in respect.

Even when she was sparring onscreen, Ms. Carroll’s class and elegance went unquestioned, but early in her career, the public perception of her commitment to issues affecting black Americans was another matter. Like many black stars in the ’60s and ’70s, her personal and professional moves were scrutinized relentlessly. She wore clothes by white designers, married white men and, to the untrained eye, appeared to live in a mostly white world, seemingly oblivious to “real” problems. Her character on “Julia” was a single mother, and aside from the occasional guest star the show lacked a consistent black father figure.

Yet Ms. Carroll is also the same star who testified before Adam Clayton Powell Jr. about the lack of opportunities for black performers and held a fund-raiser in her home for the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm. She never allowed public perception to dictate the choices she made.

It is crucial to remember her substance. Her educated and well-spoken character Julia Baker, the first black professional woman depicted in an American TV series, stood in stark contrast to the subservient roles typically reserved for black characters. Ms. Carroll was keenly aware of the responsibility she bore in this role and was strategic in how she handled the press at a time when riots in black neighborhoods in major cities across the country were not infrequent. She refused to do any interviews for “Julia” without “racial quotes” being read back to her.

She once said of a “well-meaning” reporter: “He was not aware that a little word here and a little word there could kill me.”

She added, “I told him I think everything going on in the black community now has a more positive feeling than before. He wanted me to say that a certain element was detrimental and I wouldn’t.”

She rebuffed those who felt she lacked social awareness. “I was not ignorant about the issues of civil rights in this country, or my place as a national celebrity who could voice opinions to help make changes,” she wrote in her 2008 memoir “The Legs Are the Last to Go.” She would point to the efforts she made in supporting the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers.

Beyond the checklist of history-making “firsts,” she was savvy throughout her career, navigating the minefields of racism and sexism with an aplomb that seemed effortless. She attended charm school, modeled for Ebony magazine as a teenager and transformed her glitzy look from her early days as a Las Vegas nightclub performer to the softer, housewife chic that would be more “relatable” to “Julia” television audiences who needed to be spoon fed images of a black woman who did not fit a stereotype.

She often told the story of her first meeting with Richard Rodgers, who created her Tony-winning role in “No Strings.”

“The day that he asked me to join him for lunch before he left for Europe, I thought it was very important that I startle him when I arrived at the restaurant,” she recalled in 1998. “I think that business of overwhelming people with your presence, and your grooming — it’s not part of today. It’s not important today. I cannot tell you what it meant then. I was dressed in Givenchy from head to toe. It meant a great deal during an interview.”

Sometimes, she deglamorized herself, as she did in her Oscar-nominated role as a poor mother of six in the 1974 film, “Claudine,” or as a fortune teller in the 1997 film, “Eve’s Bayou.”

Ms. Carroll’s career and life were long enough for her to bear witness to the fruits of her labor. Black performers of her generation were accustomed to the pressures of navigating rarefied spaces in Hollywood, and so it was no surprise that she said she was proud to see so many young black people behind the scenes on the set of “A Different World” and was “choked up” as she watched Shonda Rhimes call the shots on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” nearly a decade later.

“Some people come of age as teenagers, I came of age as a senior citizen,” she wrote in her memoir. Sometimes we forget that even timeless legends don’t see themselves the way that we do. Diahann Carroll not only embodied glamour, she expanded its very definition with her bold choices while never attempting to hide herself behind a perfect image. I will forever be in awe.

Photo: NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images.

Doonesbury — Pick a fact!  (Click on the picture to embiggen.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

If He Goes, Everybody Goes

Trump does not do a solo.

Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.

Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

I really doubt that Trump was thinking that if he got caught, impeached, and convicted, he’d make sure to take his veep with him, knowing that the next in line for the presidency would be the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, followed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Charles Grassley, before it reverted back to the cabinet in order of the creation of the department.  Trump has no idea how that works; he probably thinks he can hand it off to Ivanka.  Involving the vice president wasn’t strategy or a part of the cover-up; it’s the way he does business.  He staffs the knucklehead and gritty work to minions and then takes credit for the outcome if it’s good and has a scapegoat if it blows up in his face, which this Ukraine mess is surely doing, with cheese.  That’s a part of the art of the deal.

Based on what we saw yesterday in the rant-fest of a press conference, Trump is ready to scorch the earth and leave no one behind to pick up the wounded or the bodies.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Lying And Dividing

Anyone who’s watched law and order TV shows, including the actual “Law & Order” series and their offspring (all over cable TV if you look beyond the paid programs for skin cream and boner pills) knows the drill: a suspect will first deny any knowledge of the alleged crime.  “I had nothing to do with it; it’s all bullshit.”  Then under questioning and faced with the evidence, the line will shift to “Well, maybe I did know something, but it wasn’t me.”  Then with more evidence, such as pictures or recordings, it becomes “Well, yeah, okay, but there was nothing wrong with it; it was just two people talking.  Can I see my lawyer now?”

I think we’re getting to that last part now with Trump and the whistle-blower and Ukraine.  He’s gone from claiming it never happened (“Fake News”) to admitting — boasting — that he did bring it up more than once in his phone call in July with the president of Ukraine.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters Sunday morning. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”

And while Trump and his minions may try to cling to their stories as well as their Miranda rights, a large number of Republicans are making tracks.

Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows, nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), and some, such as [Rep. Paul] Mitchell, who are simply quitting in disgust.

As the article in the Post notes, as they go, the party is remaking itself in the image of Trump.  That means that for every Republican that retires or quits, there’s a bench of MAGA-hat wearing xenophobic evangelical hypocrites and know-nothings who will rush in to fill the void, especially in blood-red districts where fear and loathing of Others runs rampant even as their businesses and crops go rotting thanks to Trump’s tariffs and immigration deportations continue.

That scenario may be making it easier for the Democrats to take control of the House by a wider margin than they have now, and take back the Senate.  But that’s more than a year away, and meanwhile, we have a White House that is being run like a bad spinoff of “The Sopranos.”  And our adversaries are watching it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Art Of Ventriloquism

Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker look at what it takes to work as an adviser to Trump.

“You’re there more as an annoyance to him because he has to fill some of these jobs, but you’re not there to do anything other than be backlighting,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House communications director who is now critical of Trump. “He wants, like, a catatonic loyalty, and he wants you to be behind the backlights. There’s one spotlight on the stage, it’s shining on Trump, and you’re a prop in the back with dim lights.”

I think it’s more like being a ventriloquist: you’re there to make the dummy look good.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Optical Illusion

Whoever it was that put it in Trump’s head to invite the Taliban to come to Camp David for a secret meeting around the same time as the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks needs to be fired.  Oh, wait… it was probably Trump himself.

But never mind.  Trump called the whole thing off, firing off a series of tweets that both revealed this mind-spinning idea and then put the kibosh on it because the Taliban did what the Taliban does: blow up cars and kill people.

Digby:

The fact that the president tweeting out a temper tantrum about a supposed secret meeting with the Taliban at Camp David that was scheduled for the next day being canceled isn’t even considered weird is astonishing enough. That he thought this would be a good idea in the first place is simply gobsmacking. Presumably, he wanted to have the Taliban leaders around for the 9/11 commemorations so he could do some sort of Kim Jong Un photo-op and declare the Taliban a lovely group of guys who are looking to build some condos in Kabul.

Unfortunately for him, they don’t seem to understand the way to Trump’s heart is to kiss his ass first and save the violence for later when he will defend them in order to save face.

It also occurs to me that someone — certainly not Trump himself — remembered that Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement between Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel at Camp David in 1978, and Bill Clinton did the same with the PLO and Israel in 2000.  It was great optics for the presidents and there were Nobel Peace Prizes in play.  So someone must have put a bug in Trump’s ear that if he was able to work out some kind of deal with the Taliban, he’d be hailed as a peacemaker and have a lock on the Nobel.  (Trump’s interest in making the trip to Stockholm is based solely on his obsession with Barack Obama and his winning the prize in 2009.)

The fact that the high-profile meetings that Trump has had with our foreign adversaries such as Russia, China and North Korea have all blown up like a wet firecracker and that Putin, Xi, and Kim have played Trump like a five-dollar fiddle doesn’t mean anything to Trump.  He wants the optics and the BREAKING NEWS banners on cable so he can call into Fox and Friends and bloviate about what a Dear Leader he is.  That’s all that matters to him, and he knows the base will eat it up.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

It’s The Little Things

Via the Washington Post:

On Wednesday, it appears the White House attempted to retroactively justify a tweet that President Trump issued over the weekend in which he warned, erroneously, that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian.

In a White House video released Wednesday, Trump displays a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, indicating Alabama would in fact be affected. The graphic appears to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump said as he displayed the graphic from Aug. 29, which now includes an added appendage extending the cone into Alabama. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf,” Trump explained in the video.

Asked about the altered hurricane forecast chart at a White House event on opioids Wednesday afternoon, Trump said his briefings included a “95 percent chance probability” that Alabama would be hit. When asked whether the chart had been drawn on, Trump said: “I don’t know; I don’t know.”

White House deputy press secretary J. Hogan Gidley later confirmed the drawing was made using a black sharpie, while criticizing the media for focusing on it.

Trump’s tweet on Sunday came as Dorian was hitting the Bahamas as a high-end Category 5 hurricane, and the tweet sparked enough public alarm that it prompted the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala. to bluntly tweet 20 minutes later: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

Busted.  And as others have noted, not unlike a kid in grade school trying to change the grade on their math test from 62 to 82 to prove to their parents that they’re doing their homework.

Turns out altering official government reports is illegal.

Altering official government weather forecasts isn’t just a cause for concern — it’s illegal. Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, which addresses false weather reports, “Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.”

That law applies to what is now known as NOAA’s National Weather Service, which contains the National Hurricane Center.

So this may the how the House finally comes around to impeachment.  Hey, whatever works.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019