Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Broadcast Nutsery

Via NBC:

Trump’s planned prime-time address on immigration Tuesday night put the broadcast networks in a difficult — and familiar — position as they debated whether to carry the address live. But in the end, they agreed to the White House request and will air the speech.

The White House asked the broadcast networks to set aside at least eight minutes at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday for an Oval Office address in which Trump may declare a state of national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

As of early Monday evening, CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC had decided to air Trump’s address, according to sources familiar with the decisions who were not authorized to speak publicly. Late Monday, PBS and Telemundo confirmed plans to broadcast Trump’s remarks. The major cable news channels — MSNBC, CNN and Fox News — were also planning to air the speech.

Even if I didn’t have a meeting to go to, I’d skip this live broadcast of id-blather for TV that’s really important: Season 6, Episode 4 of “Downton Abbey,” which I had to stop watching when the cable went out.

Besides, the only thing I want to hear from Trump is a quote from another president: “Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Real Work Begins Now

Charles P. Pierce in Esquire via Balloon Juice:

Besides Tlaib, Illan Omar, a Somali immigrant from Minnesota, also was sworn in, resplendent in a white-and-gold hijab. A few rows in front of Omar in the House chamber was Deb Haaland of New Mexico, dressed in turquoise jewelry and traditional Pueblo Native costume. Along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the Congress. After the morning’s business was concluded, the two women enfolded each other, weeping, in a long embrace, Haaland using David’s scarf to wipe away her tears.

All of these new members of the House, it needn’t be said, were members of the Democratic Party. So was virtually every person of color in the chamber. On the other side of the hall was a largely monochromatic new Republican minority that channelled its foul mood through the person of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, child of the Undead, who spit up a bitter, Trumpian nominating speech on behalf of Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy for the speakership. She even went to “build that wall,” which got her a hoot and a holler from her fellow Republicans, but which was drowned out by the sound of happy children and grandchildren from the other side of the aisle. It was as though someone had grafted a Chuck E. Cheese onto a funeral parlor.

Nancy Pelosi, because she is smarter than everyone in the House, and much smarter than anyone in the White House, god knows, was re-elected easily to be the new Speaker, although the balloting was not devoid of hilarity. Pelosi and McCarthy were the only two announced candidates, but votes also were cast for Reps. Jim Jordan, Cheri Bustos, and Marcia Fudge, as well as for Senator Tammy Duckworth, defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Conor Lamb, the rookie from Pennsylvania, voted for Rep. Joe Kennedy, who got a good laugh out of it, and Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, voted for Rep. John Lewis, who looked rather frosty about it. Two Democratic House members voted “Present.” And Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey haplessly voted, “No,” which was not on the menu. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, both of whom made noises months ago about challenging Pelosi, both voted for her. And, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted for Pelosi, there was some kind of organized whoo-hoo from the Republican side. She simply makes them completely crazy.

The most touching moment of the balloting came when Lucy McBath of Georgia dedicated her vote for Pelosi to her late son, Jordan, murdered for the offense of playing his music too loudly for the white guy in the next car. McBath threw herself into the fight for sensible gun laws, and that culminated in her election in November. This was quite a moment, as was the embrace between Davids and Haaland. It took 240 years for people like the two of them to represent their fellow citizens in a government that did so much bloody damage to their people…

It is a different place now, this House of Representatives. There is something of the future in it, and god alone knows where it will lead, but the work, the real work, begins now.

Let’s do this.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Day Dawning

I’m safely ensconced in my hotel in Blue Ash after an uneventful flight from MIA to CVG and picking up a very nice rented Cadillac (!) for the drive here.  (The Cadillac XTS was priced below the econo-box so of course I snapped it up.  It’s like driving a Barcalounger with a dashboard from an iPhone, but handles like a Mustang.)

I’ll be spending the day with Mom and Dad, visiting friends and running errands, such as doing bird-feeder maintenance and helping put away the Christmas decorations.

But in the background there will be the chatter from TV as the new Congress gets underway, getting the House back into safe hands.  And after seeing clips from the weird cabinet meeting at the White House yesterday, it will be like taking the keys to the Oldsmobile away from a relative who is piteously descending into the fog and setting off Silver Alerts from the highway patrol.

Normalization means seeing the POTUS ramble incoherently on important policy matters, watching the grifter he put in charge of the Department of Justice give a cringeworthy performance during the morning’s televised “dear leader” session, and yet being completely unsurprised.

[…]

This Trump press conference is like one of those viral videos where the kid in the back seat just got out of the dentist.

If it wasn’t for the fact that our safety, security, and financial future are in jeopardy by being run by a whackjob, this would be a laugh-riot worthy of Mel Brooks and Larry, Moe and Curly.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Monday, December 17, 2018

He Said It

The new “acting” White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, once offered this opinion of his boss: He’s a terrible human being.

Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director who President Donald Trump tweeted Friday would serve as acting chief of staff after John Kelly departs in January, has been a loyal Trump supporter—but he didn’t always like him so much.

During a debate with his then-congressional challenger, Democrat Fran Person, on Nov. 2 of 2016, less than a week before Trump was elected president, then-congressman Mulvaney was blunt with those gathered at York Middle School in York, South Carolina.

After decrying the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as a liberal who would take the country in the wrong direction, Mulvaney said he was supporting Trump, essentially by default.

“Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being,” he said, according to a report in The State newspaper.

In a perverse way, that may actually help him do his job; there’s no point in being a sycophant if your job is to actually run the White House and be the one to tell the president “no” on various occasions.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

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.