Monday, February 20, 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos to Keynote CPAC

Oddball Breitbartian queer fetish-object Milo Yiannopoulos, recently seen on Real Time with Bill Maher, has been selected to be the keynote speaker at CPAC, a conservative shindig that pretty recently wasn't even cool with the Log Closet Cabin Republicans a mere two years ago. But after the reputed "smooth sailing" experienced by even the LCR last year, it's really quite something to have a very out British non-straight person actually as a feature, and not some weird kind of bug. Right? Progress! Big-ass tent. Room for Caitlin Jenner and all that.

I don't even know what to think about this. I actually think I should think nothing about it at all, and just make sure I have ample popcorn handy while viewing YouTube videos of what he has to say.

Now, there has been some question about whether Yiannopoulos is a supporter of pedophilia based on a certain video. . If Milo Yiannopoulos was a victim of pedophilia as a minor as he infers in that exchange (by a cleric in particular), and also in his Facebook disavowal of any support of pedophilia, I am prepared to support him in that disavowal as a supporter of victims' rights--

But he's proven over time that he has a slippery set of ethics in his reporting about various things. He mostly seems to be stunting, rather than having an actual intellectual point. His mishpacha refer to people being pedos either for the lulz or for great justice with no apparent commitment either way.  It's like "Jackass", but for Right-Wingers.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

I have some basic questions about what is happening with the very executive Chief Executive the USA has found itself with--how is he doing as a manager of an elite staffing arrangement that covers multiple agencies of varying disciplinary concentrations? Does he seem to be staffing these positions with an understanding of what these various Departments do, or does his placement of appointments and nominations suggest cronyism and "old boy's school" sort of handling? Is he right to complain about whether his nominees are being slow-walked to their eventual confirmation (because Democrats aren't numerous enough to block anything on their ownsome)? Or is he basically just crying in his oatmeal because he is overwhelmed about filling in positions he though were going to just fill themselves?

See, Trump has complained that his cabinet is uniquely bare because Dems are delaying confirmations. And I agree! But I think this is in part because he isn't picking the best people, but rather, people who are awful and who generate the kind of citizen calls to their representatives that really make a difference.  But Trump also isn't filling in spots all that quickly, and sometimes, when people are in, they find themselves out because not enough vetting. I think Trump thought this would be easier than it turned out to be, and there is a term for why he thought that. It isn't charitable, but can be summed up as: the reason a lot of us (2.8 million more than voted for Trump) rejected him as POTUS--he doesn't get what the job is or how to do it.

And that goes for how to staff it, or how to manage the press other than as an adversary, or how to not look like a Russian stooge.

Trump has a team, of sorts. But his White House falls short of the teamwork building I would think a manager of his experience should be producing. If he was a Celebrity Apprentice POTUS, I'd be think about his firing right now.

I think he should be thinking about his firing too.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Leaks are Real. The News is Fake

The press conference President Trump had Thursday might has been blogged about by yours truly as a "Trump Did Not Have A Great Day" post, but I'm not sure that's exactly how I would describe what transpired. I think a pretty good analysis of the entire presser with transcript was done by NPR, and I encourage looking at what I think is a pretty even-handed review. The presser itself took place while I was at work, so my impressions of what was said largely came through checking my Twitter feed at work whilst at lunch--and you would be quite reasonable to assume my Twitter follows lean left, and the conservatives and Republicans that I do follow lean "never Trump". My impression was that the nearly 1.5 hour event was kind of a damn mess.

I guess I still consider it a damn mess, but I recognize that for people who are pro-Trump, this is not a problem. Did he say things that weren't entirely factually true--sure, but they were "truthy" in the sense of fitting in with his worldview and specific hyperbolic style. Was he basically pissing and moaning about bad press coverage? You bet--but many people are critical of and even distrust mainstream media journalism. Also, I think because what Trump does and says is so highly different from what conventional politicians do or say, a person used to covering more traditional figures is liable to read his eccentricities as more erratic or disordered or imply that he's collapsing or self-destructing or that this one news thing is going to just disable his presidency--

It doesn't work like that, though. I think in both the liberal and conservative camps, we've gotten a little bit inured to clickbait-y titles that suggest that some figure was "destroyed" or "slayed" or "totally owned" by some event. But this never the actual case. Show me a chalk outline around a greasy spot where that individual once stood and I would call that "destroyed". "Made to look uncomfortable or even a bit emotionally aroused" is not actually "destroyed". In other words, from a liberal perspective, I am inherently distrustful of people who want to positively state that this early in a presidency, any number of off-the-wall utterances taking place can mark the end of a presidency. Especially for someone whose entire candidacy, nomination, and general election tactics were predicated on--what would I even call it? "Off-the-wall-ism"?

That said, as a critic of political communications and policy, I guess there might be any number of blogposts I could spin off of any given exchange or paragraph. I mean, seriously. Even basic things like Trump's fetish for discussing his electoral win is simply peculiar. His 304 electoral vote win was not the most significant since President Reagan. He likes saying it was "306" and seems to want to imply it was a massive landslide. It just wasn't. Or citing Rasmussen's claim that he has 55% approval--which disagrees with Pew and Gallup--but still wouldn't qualify as "through the roof" relative to being in what should be the "honeymoon phase" of his presidency. Which he isn't getting because his White House is not a "finely-tuned machine" (OMG--this was a thing he said!) but more like some good old boys making their way the only way they know how, which might be a little bit more than the law will allow.

He's obsessed with "ratings", but doesn't quite correlate the concept that popularity and effectiveness are not the same thing. And he's not yet achieved effectiveness despite his claims--shit like the botched Yemen raid and his skimpy staffing are on him, not the people reporting on him. He seems dilatory about vetting people or things. His "I can't believe it's not a Muslim ban" was not properly checked out. Leadership should include sharing responsibility for failures and taking a problem-solving approach to challenges--not complaining about them. For a person with business executive experience, he does not seem to be translating any acquired skills to government executive capacity. This is worrisome, because that is the exact flexibility his voters seemed to be counting on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Things You Say: Your Purple Prose

So, for the record, KellyAnne Conway said several times that Flynn tendered his resignation himself, because Trump is very loyal to his people, and would have supported him wholeheartedly, but had to accept his resignation because blah blah blah. Even when no less a journalist than Matt Lauer pointed out that her explanation made no damn sense.  In his press briefing, Sean Spicer alleged two interesting things: that President Trump called for Flynn's resignation because of an "evolving and eroding relationship" (not at all what Conway depicted), and that no Trump campaign folks had connections with Russia before the election.

And that was apparently as big a lie as any Conway ever told. Trump aides were talking with Russia all the damn time. And it's pretty damn obvious that Trump knew about at least Flynn longer than a minute ago--because Acting AG Sally Yates, who got fired, told him so. But I don't know whether either Trump or Pence needed to get told about what was up with Flynn contacting  Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak back in December, because nobody has to reach out five times or so to tell a person "Merry fricking Christmas".  Russians celebrate Christmas in January for one damn thing, and Flynn was on it right when Obama was slapping on the sanctions.  Please--it's an insult to pretend away what this implies--

But this is what WH spokesfolks are trying--to pretend it away.

And so are certain people in Congress.

But I will say this--both Spicer and Conway have just about zero credibility right now. I don't think we're ripe to make any odds about impeachment or resignation for Trump himself as yet--although some houses are making book about it. But I'll say there is a race as to whether Conway or Spicer get their separation orders first.

The pity of which is, they were both apparently just doing their jobs--you know: following orders about what to say. And bon chance to Trump&Co about filling their billets. Defending this in public feels like a suicide mission.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mike Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser

So, I was starting to save tabs to write a post on why Mike Flynn should absolutely be fired or resign, but then I saw my spouse off to bed (he gets up for work earlier than I do) and got a refill of my beverage, and found Twitter telling me that he had already resigned. Awkward! Not for me and my writing exercise about why Gen. Flynn had become toxic, but for the Trump spokesfolx, like Kellyanne Conway, who had just a bit ago assured us that Flynn had the full confidence of the President.

And maybe the President was still invested in Flynn, but Flynn felt it was time to go. Maybe Acting AG Sally Yates was exactly right in warning that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia. Maybe Russia's attempt at providing cover for Flynn wasn't going to hold up.

It's pretty obvious that Trump Administration already had built-in security issues, in no small part relating to their basic lack of appreciation for opsec. But Flynn himself seemed to have certain failings in appreciating what he needed to know to do the job, in addition to possibly being compromised by a foreign power.

It's good news for the Trump Administration, on one hand, that he removed himself and tried to minimize the damage in the press for his "team"--but on the other hand, his stepping down implies that there was a reason he wanted/needed to do so, and that there might be more behind the Trump/Putin connection than we already knew.

I think this should definitely continue to be investigated.

Monday, February 13, 2017

None of this Stuff is Normal

The above picture is Trump at Mar-A-Lago, where he received a call that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile. Although you could call the resort very exclusive (as in "pricey") I don't think you could actually call it "secure". As in, I don't know that it's actually ok that national security issues are mapped out in a place public enough that randos can take snaps of a curiously-composed CINC who seems cut-off from the flurry of discussion behind him-because a camera happens to be pointed in his direction.

This is fairly removed from a discussion one might have had about electronic communications occurring during the previous administration. This is not normal, and for an administration that already has engendered a fraught relationship with the intelligence community, openly flouting procedure is not going to be a good confidence-booster.

You'd think that Congress might offer some oversight--but no. Apparently, tax cuts for rich people and dismantling the social safety net have a lot more priority than complete confidence in the basic competence of the executive branch for GOP elected officials.

The result? I think Trump's basic unpopularity (although he and his supporters are loathe to admit or recognize it) could well rub off on certain House members--although 2018 seems such a long time from now. But in the short term, there may be economic indicators and other signs that all is not healthy in the US--let alone "great".  It's nonsensical when the "winner" of an election has to have his surrogates trot out in front of cameras and lie about voter fraud, and is so desperate for love he wants the press to cover his rows of supporters--when he was looking out at protesters (and somehow not noticing their "resist" signs).

There's a lot of weird going on. The only way for me to look at it is to point out: it is not normal. And the way it differs from normal is not good.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Taking it to the Streets and the Town Halls

The 2016 elections certainly seem to have had an effect on the populace at large--they have gone activist. The above video of UT Rep. Jason Chaffetz in all its length and glory shows people who have real concerns about what their US Representative is really representing, and who are demanding he hear them out. Chaffetz is a unique feature of the current House of Representatives. I don't much care for him, myself. And the US Representative's ever-so-very considered response to the hour plus of raucous exchange?

It was totally a Land of Thousand Fakes. He thinks the people who gave him a hard time were paid protesters instead of his actual constituents. I wonder what he'll think next time--there will be a next time.

(This is basically what some people have been trying on about the Women's March a couple weeks back. And nope--real women, real signs, real knitted hats, and really, really pissed off folks. Just try to imagine how much one would even have to pay to significantly fill out even a thousand-seat venue for a couple hours. Then imagine what it would be like to try and mobilize a protest for several hours in every state and every continent, basically. Not even doable.)

But to understand why people are getting the activist spirit, take a look at this Florida town hall:

The "death panels" lie was so widely reported that this crowd is completely wise to it. The phrase "OK children" is an appallingly insulting thing to say to people who actually do know what they are talking about. And no, I don't think these are fake protesters either. They know what the ACA is--and they know there has to be a replacement before any talk of repeal should happen--now that talk of repeal is more than just talk, but a real thing the GOP can do.

There have been marches and protests, some with a solid pedigree--like the Moral March in North Carolina, and the ever-present counter-protest to the anti-abortion "Defund Planned Parenthood" contingent.

The protest movements aren't new, but have renewed purpose.

Protest is the new normal--and it will happen way too often for anyone to believe it to be fake:

Expect it. Because  in a democracy, people feel it is right to petition their representatives for redress of grievances, and man, we are griefing.