Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, February 16, 2019

TWGB: Everyone's Lying For Some Reason

There's a weird common thread that runs through all the Trump World Grab-Bag posts: people just keep lying about things. Michael Flynn Flynn lied about contacting Russia. Jeff Session lied about it, too. Michael Cohen seems to have lied about things having to do with Russia because Trump told him to. It hasn't become an issue just yet, but Don Trump Jr. has apparently lied to Congress.

It's been established now that Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, lied about certain particulars involving the Trump campaign and this voided his plea agreement. He's now looking at about 20 years or so in prison, which for a man his age, is basically a life sentence. Roger Stone sort of told on himself about contacting Wikileaks, and seemed kind of forthcoming about the depth of his WikiLeaks contacts, but this picture looks to be complicated.

The big, operant question here is, "Why does everyone around Trump lie?" Just recently, two of Trump's other attorneys were openly suspected of having lied about details regarding Michael Cohen's hush money deals, and this sounds pretty much in line with how Trump wants his circle to operate. With "alternative facts".

Pretty much everyone around Trump lies. For some reason.

And even regarding the congressional investigations, we already know Rep. Devin Nunes didn't always tell the truth (actually, he straight up lied) about matters dealing with the Russia investigation. But for that matter, it looks like Senator Richard Burr is also falling short of accuracy, with claims (picked up by the White House) that he sees no evidence of collusion. But Burr is basically lying about how accessible Christopher Steele has been, and Burr, just like Nunes, can be connected to the Trump campaign.

It's not a curiosity or a coincidence when you see this pattern of lying. It looks like a coordinated cover-up, and that means that the parties involved know very well what it is they don't want to be known because it's real and it's bad. It's Manafort is willing to void his plea agreement bad. It's Cohen goes to jail bad. It's Roger Stone's last ratfuck bad. It's respectable people will possibly become anathema bad.

My mantra all along has been "It looks bad because it is bad." Lying can temporarily make things look like they are not bad. But badness will out.

Friday, February 15, 2019

So, Uh, Did He Need to Do This?

There is an argument that he did not need to do this; I just didn't think he would say it, himself.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

This is What Should Happen

In my humble opinion, if someone's history involves covering up a massacre (El Mozote in El Salvador), supporting a dictator later convicted of genocide (Rios-Montt, in Guatemala) and withholding evidence in Iran-Contra (where the Reagan Administration sought to extralegally arm the Contras in Nicaragua), maybe that person's diplomatic expertise should very well be questioned.

This is very different to how "old hands" in the foreign policy business have often been treated, and Abrams' response to Omar shows it. And there have been no small number of supporters of Abrams who know him from CFR or other associations who somehow don't think that there's something about being tangentially connected with atrocities in countries (whose people still try to seek asylum here due to the very long-term destabilization that shitty diplomatic policies exacerbated) that might, even a little, let's say, be disqualifying.

Well, no. If his work in these areas had really bad outcomes that were appalling for human rights and involved mass graves, maybe whether he's otherwise a decent and well-educated chap who pays his bar tab and scintillates at social gatherings is not really germane here. Maybe it takes an outsider to the Washington culture who appreciates the import of bad diplomacy, mass killing, and population displacement, to say the thing that ought to be said.

There's reason to believe Abram's judgement with respects to Venezuela might be already influenced by past information.  I'm no fan of Maduro, who looks to me to be a thief. I just believe that a hand less bloodied should be involved in a region where the people have already suffered so much privation.  In any event, he was only subjected to a harsh question--and that should not be considered out of bounds. It is what should happen, because our diplomats abroad should be answerable to the people they represent and report honestly and deal faithfully.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Matter of Speaking

There have been two episodes of absolute communications-failure that have happened lately that I think expressed dangerous anti-Semitic tropes (whether inadvertently or not) and are truly regrettable, but should, I hope, teach something. (And not to the same degree.)

One of these things was when Turning Point's Candace Owens blathered about nationalism and felt she had to use Hitler and National Socialism as her example, which ignorantly resulted in her sort of forgetting that scapegoating a minority population and exterminating them was a large part of the nationalist domestic policy of Hitler's Germany. She let on that she felt the problem wasn't so much what Hitler wanted to do in his own country but just the way he exported it. A thing just isn't national if it goes "international" am I right? Which gave off the grim idea that she didn't find the "Vernichtung durch arbeit" (where "arbeit macht frei" means through death) entirely condemnable except when it was franchised, to, say Poland, or....

For a communications person repping Turning Point, she had a pretty serious communication problem if she only understood the nationalism she wanted to represent via the literal worst and most murderous example. She could have expressed nationalism in the actual immediate founding sense of Garibaldi for Italy or the unification of Germany under Bismarck, or even the Young Ireland movement. But no, she went to Hitler. This is how I know American children just don't learn world history--and it well should settle whether Turning Point speakers actually have anything to show a broader audience. (They do not. They do not know, in fact, actual shit. But they may have made more money at not knowing shit than I did at their age actually knowing shit with an entire liberal arts degree and doing retail work, so basically, I hate them body and soul. Except you could not have paid me to ever say the things they do even when I was living off dollar store beans in my 20s.)

The other thing was when recently sworn Congressperson Ilhan Omar made a Twitter commentary to the effect that the RW in this country is beholden to the "Benjamins" of pro-Israel lobbying groups like AIPAC. Everything about the way she said this was flippant and a bit insensitive. I don't know that in essence, what she said was factually entirely wrong--AIPAC is a broadly influential political group--but expressing their influence solely in terms of money was wrong, and I would say the kind of abbreviated wrong that Twitter definitely lends itself to. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

TWBG: The Trump Theocracy

One of the things that strikes me as astonishing about Trump's biggest fans is that they may even know that he is actually incurious, ignorant and lazy and basically spends the first five hours of his day watching news shows and Tweeting shitposts but on a spiritual level, they don't care. The real Trump, the one that pays off porn stars or cheats his employees and the government, is nonetheless "good for the evangelicals" that make up a strong part of his base. It reminds me, in a way, of how George W. Bush (in standee form)  was made a literal item of worship for the kids in the documentary "Jesus Camp".

The president may be fake, but the worship is real. Ish.

This is why Trump can assert, in the midst of a flurry of pious falsehoods, that he will never let the folks assembled at the National Prayer Breakfast this past week down. He won't, because they won't let him let them down. They will believe in him, because he is improbable and could only happen if God willed him.  (But then again, folks, some believe God willed Hitler, so...YMMV.) And he can also gaffe and state that people of faith can be celebrated for the "abolition of civil rights".   (But is that just a gaffe, or is it more of a Kinsley gaffe? Because while the modern religious right likes to pretend they always convened over something like, well, the "right to life" , which is nothing to do with the rights of mothers with respect to prenatal health care or maternal mortality or even doctors, nurses, or patients at reproductive health care clinics for whatever reason when harassment, closure, or even terroristic threats and actions may be concerned) but probably has a lot more to do with the kind of white nationalism Trump more or less advertently espouses.

And all of this makes it a fine time to take note of how the National Prayer Breakfast was used to insert Maria Butina into the right wing social circuit because as luck would have it, the RW evangelical set had gotten a bit of a crush on Putin, and well, it was for the kinds of anti-Muslim and anti-gay things you might think. (Consider the relationship of Scott Lively to anti-gay laws elsewhere in the world with Manafort picking Mike Pence to be Trump's running mate--a guy who basically tried to make segregation for LGBT people a thing. This is the religious right in the US influencing and being influenced by an authoritarian current in the world.)  But this sort of thing becomes very awkward when it is revealed that Maria Butina was in favor of arming anti-American, pro-Russian Crimean separatists to be totally acting in self-defense and Paul Manafort was still working on Ukraine politics even after his indictment.

This really makes me wonder to what extent the religious right here in the US is letting their hot buttons about things like LGBT marriage and participation in the military and telling women they are murderers for having fetuses they can't carry to term or will to live even if they desperately wanted to, has them choosing to ignore things like absolutely naked corruption and graft.  And how this lets them ignore detailed documentation of the real money-grubbing connections, soundly and roundly lied about, between Trump and Russia even during the 2016 election.

This isn't even really about how Russian adoptions or the placement of South American children in the care of an agency connected to Betsy De Vos--except it is--about how the religious right concerns (like raising the theocratic children of the future) can influence US policy in ways that immiserate  millions, undermine US democratic institutions, and work with foreign influences that don't have the best interests of our republic at heart whether because of apocalyptic (it doesn't matter because we'll all be dead in the long run" or absolutist (destroying current day America to create a better, more pure tomorrow) reasons.

The Trump Theocracy isn't strictly religious--but it has aspects of a cult, with hidden knowledge (Q Anon) and shunning of family and friends who aren't on board. Reinforcing the god-cult of infallible Trump seems to be an important part of conservatism at the moment, with many Republican figures assumed to be sane mouthing words that make no sense except as respecting Trump as a kind of sacred figure who cannot be criticized. Which is absurd and demeaning--he is a man, elected for a four year term (barely) and can obviously be challenged.

Unless his installation as president had an indispensability for some force, somewhere, that had nothing to do with his actual competency for the job, which still appears to be slight to nonexistent.  But about that, I can only assume this serves the highest bidder based on the swampiness of Trump associations.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Jeff Bezos Does Not Have Time For You, Pecker

On some level, I think the epic news that AMI (the media company that is David Pecker's joint, which includes the National Enquirer, which could have been fuxxored over Trump bullshit but apparently is staying on their bullshit,) actually this late in the game, even thought of trying it with the richest man in the world (give or take) is some amazing commitment to the business model. I mean, seriously?

Is AMI trying to screw with Bezos because of Trump's regular war with Washington Post  and competent journalism in general or is it because they are being ink for hire for MbS because WaPo naturally has an interest in the death of Jamal Khashoggi? It doesn't freaking matter and Jeff Bezos doesn't freaking care about anything but guess what--you picked the wrong guy

Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)
In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

And long story short, you can display pics of Jeff Bezos' dick all you want, but no camera can encompass the size of his balls. He told his representation to look into this shit but to not even preoccupy him with it because that wasn't even his biggest concern.

I don't love your labor actions always, Jeff Bezos, but for telling the blackmailers to go eat shit you have my admiration, because sextortion is the lowest of the low, and no one should put up with that shit and watching Bezos end the National Enquirer for just being shitsacks is entirely my brand of "here for it".

John Dingell: An Historic Life

Because John Dingell's life was so extraordinary as a witness to and participant in history and American politics, it feels weird to acknowledge him as a kind of great and feisty Twitter grandpappy--which is the way I will actually miss him. You follow some people on Twitter knowing of their contributions to politics or entertainment but come to admire them as people. I felt that way about the late Harry Leslie Smith, about Rose Marie, about Leonard Nimoy. I felt that way about John Dingell, who is his retirement took to social media and was a witty and incisive critic. It didn't obscure his congressional legend, it just reminded us he was still out there, sharp to the last. And still on the right side.

Recounting the life of John Dingell from his service record to his swearing in to finish his father's term in Congress, to his championing of universal health care, his participation in the passage of key environmental legislation, and his support for civil rights-- he tried to be on the right side. In his time, he evolved on LGBT rights.   He was outspoken about the collapse of our institutions and the lack of education about civics and history, and the fault that lay in the failure of government to always be truly representative. 

He was one of the good ones, and it is harder to know if we are sadder for his passing, than glad that we had him to begin with. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Stacey Abrams Made My Evening

Watching the SOTU is kind of a perfunctory thing for me because, well, I do this thing on the internet where I talk about politics stuff. But I don't think I've ever had the experience of feeling like a SOTU response actually merited more of my time--usually, these are deeply awkward at best! Sometimes they seem like just a litany of negativity aimed at the current POTUS and don't so much respond to what the POTUS said, as state "I'm agin' him!"  They can go long, the speaker has the unenviable spotlight of following the actual President, and the venue, lighting, etc. all seem so less-imbued with dignity and all that. And they are so often remembered for their awkwardness! Rubio's water-grab and Jindal's walk and Kennedy's Chapstick.  Ernst's bread bags--although in retrospect that anecdote was not as corny as it could have been.

But I think what Abrams did exceptionally well was keep her message short, relatable, on point and pleasant.  (Here's a transcript and fact check via Politico--my reference to refresh my memory, but not my entire source for what I think about her speech.)

I was worried with her upfront personal anecdote about her parents that she was about to launch into a basic stump speech that made the response more about her than about US--the United States, and how and what we are doing. But what she was laying out was a vision of shared responsibility to be good to one another because we can afford to be generous and kind when we know someone is there for you. When you know someone has your back also, you will stick up for the other. When you know the government will protect your rights and safeguard you when you need it--you can excel.

She was critical of the shutdown, because it did not reflect our values, but she did not let her criticism overwhelm the bigger message of responsible government and civic participation. Her speech was a call for elected representatives of the people to be honest and do what was right, not just what was ideologically correct. She was able to use her personal narratives to illustrate what ordinary Americans are facing all of the time, regarding the cost of health care, for example. Or even ballot access for legitimate voters.

She spoke up also for the rights and value of immigrants and for the necessity of access to health care options for everyone. She addressed climate change.  Her expression of the value of civil rights was brief but said everything.

I don't really have anything to say about Trump's speech, because it had nothing to say to me. She spoke to me. She demonstrated she understood the issues, she was positive and hopeful and smiled. And I will state for the record, she is a million times more graceful about being robbed than I am about her being robbed, and I don't even live in her state.

Here's what gives me hope--the same thing that Trump acknowledged to get the biggest applause of his own speech--the women politicians who are making history and bending this arc of justice.

I don't want every politician I love to run for President, but I totally think she belongs in the US Senate because this is a stateswoman and natural leader. I just want every good thing to come her way because her speech lifted me.