Thursday, May 25, 2017

The TrumpWorld Grab-Bag Mama Warned You About

Deep down inside, Trump probably won't understand why what John Brennan said about what he saw as a reasonable predicate for the FBI probe into Russian interference is damning in roughly the same way as he failed to realize how former DNI James Clapper's testimony did not mean that there was no particular investigation into his own involvement in the Russian incursion into our US presidential elections. I have begun to understand that President Trump is way too close to the idea of his election as president to acknowledge anything at all that might have been hinky about it--except for his own self-concocted theory that shit was rigged against himself.

So maybe  President Trump won't understand why the latest and greatest scoop disqualifies his Attorney General  from any old thing at all, not just a recusal from investigation into any Trump/Russia intrigue as his confirmation hearing shortfall resulted in.  He might also be enough of a concerned business man to understand why Democrats want a look at his Deutsche Bank loan history.  Who Trump owes money to is a way more interesting study than what he might be invested in. Maybe friends like Manafort and Flynn meant access by Russia, indirectly. But financial leverage might mean something quite else.

I feel like the investigation is getting so very close, now. We can almost ignore how terrible everything his policies stand for might be--except don't do that. They are still terrible, and all the reasons we need to not even trust the GOP. Ever.

In other news, a fake document influenced former FBI Director Comey to try and not make things seem like they were Clinton- centric. This is really weird.

So many things seem to have been weighing against the Clinton candidacy. It's like things were never rigged against Trump at all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's a Clearly a Budget. It's got Lots of Numbers in it.*

You can say a lot of terrible things about the Trump budget, but the bottom line is: They (Trump and Ryan and Mulvaney--oh, lots of folks) don't care. Is it based on a mathematical error? They don't care. Is it going to cut Social Security and Medicaid? They don't care. Is it actually going to add to the debt because they can't do math and Trump doesn't hire the best people? Is it sheer misery encoded in a document that nickel-and-dimes away basic decency?


They don't care! And they meant to do it like that. So there!

*Title courtesy of President George W. Bush.

"Not talking" Never Occurs to Him

Yesterday, hearing of President Trump's phone call with Philippine President Duterte, the obvious jarring note was Trump's praise of Duterte's "War on Drugs" stance, which includes severe human rights abuses, including murder. And yet, he's also sharing sensitive information when it isn't clear that he has any strategic need to. It's as if it never occurs to him not to say whatever he's thinking about--and yes:

Trump told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Washington had "a lot of firepower over there", according to the New York Times, which quoted a transcript of an April 29 call between the two.

"We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all," the newspaper quoted Trump as telling Duterte, based on the transcript.
Trump's comments take the tone of a person who can't resist bragging about his "firepower" ("the best in the world'). It's like the fool has no filter--and that is definitely not a feature, but a bug.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Obstructed Trumpworld Grab-Bag

I'm not one of those folks who would begrudge people claiming their Constitutional rights, nor am a person who confuses allegations with confirmations of wrongdoing. (I agree with Frances Langum--it's totally within Mike Flynn's rights to refuse to comply with a request if he thinks it will potentially hold himself liable.  I will add that if he wants to cite "escalating public frenzy" as his reason for non-compliance, it seems pretty weird because he used other people's non-compliance and allegations of wrong-doing as just enough predicate to incite others to "frenzy", so--there's that working against his logic.

But this is only tangentially about General Flynn. It's mainly about what President Trump did when people started looking into Gen. Flynn, which is interesting because as we all know, Trump fired Comey, who was looking into Flynn's connections with Russia, and he tried to tell him not to investigate that anymore.  But then, it turns out, he tried to get the heads of other intelligence agencies to do what they could to stop the inquiry. That adds to the idea that there was obstruction, because now we have the start of a pattern of obstruction.

On Flynn's part, he is doing his thing--not talking. It kind of makes me wonder if Trump's message to Flynn, "Stay strong", was code for "Sta' zitto".  If so, message received! But it looks like Flynn has always had an instinct for when to stay silent. And that's another part of the problem, if Manafort and Stone are giving up what they have...

(I dunno where Carter Page went--anyone else?) Well--what does it mean when people who talk a lot start to play mum? What has Trump and Flynn said? Nothing good.

Lessons of scandals past advise us that the devil isn't even always the scandal, but the cover-up. And I think it's starting to look too much like there's a cover-up. But these guys are insanely private.  Aren't they?  Everything starts to look like a red flag.

Terror in Manchester Targets Youth and is Immeasurably Disgusting

The latest news out of Manchester indicates that explosions at an Ariana Grande concert were deliberate, involved shrapnel bombs, just like the Boston Marathon attack here in the US, and have taken the lives of 19 people and wounded 50 or more others. The people of Manchester have risen admirably to the tragedy as details are still unfolding, which highlights something I have said about the use of terror before, and still think is meaningful--

It's useless. It conveys nothing but the willingness of the perpetrator to kill, and conveys nothing about the hopes, the concerns, the world the perpetrator wants to see. It is a desperate shriek for help spoken in gibberish. It's nihilism, and indifferent from the wreckage wrought by a drunk or a mentally ill person. Whoever had done this attack may have had some ideology in their fevered brains, but what have they accomplished? A terrifying and tragic time for concertgoers and their family and loved ones? But what does it say?

Nothing at all. This stupid wasteful act says nothing, but reminds us all of how precious life is, how much we desperately love those we love, how much we abhor acts of terror and violence. My thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy. This violence is not our humanity, what we do in the face of it is. And I refuse to assign ideology or politics or religion to this senselessness. It remains that: senseless, the self-negating act of people who no longer gave a shit for their humanity, and my agnosticism almost yearns for a hell for them to understand what they have rejected.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Presidential Trip Abroad 2: Israel

I don't know whether I want to say that President Trump misspoke when he said that because he was tired, or because, in his mind, "the Middle East" is Islamic and Israel isn't, even if he intellectually knows better, or, as an even dimmer take, he really didn't know Israel is part of the Middle East in the first place. It would seem that any adult person, on hearing "Middle East crisis" or "conflict" must have heard about Israeli/Palestinian...

But see? My idea of what one must have known is irrelevant, because my experiences are different from Donald Trump's. I know that Israel is in the Middle East, and Donald Trump is a reality tv "billionaire" who became president. He's old enough to be my father, and I am old enough to be his third wife. And I nearly dislike him as much, if a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, it really is hard to gauge the relative awareness of a person who addresses the problem of inadvertently (or "advertantly"?) leaking classified intelligence to Russian representatives by confirming the source of the intelligence:

To me, this all looks like someone who isn't ready for the job and who probably should have spent the weekend on one of his properties in his cleats golf-carting his way through 18 holes planning something cool for a reality show, not someone making a reality show out of other people's property tearing up diplomatic turf with his cleats-like tongue. And digging himself at least 18 holes in the process.

But that's just my broad take on the thing.

Scenes from a Presidential Trip Abroad

Of all the things I was prepared to grimace about regarding President Trump's foreign travels, the idea of him giving a speech vaguely described as being "about Islam" in Saudi Arabia struck me as being obviously the most fraught with peril. The Muslim ban thing--not likely to be the greatest advance word-of-mouth recommendation regarding his opinions on things Islamic, you know? But the speech wasn't really terrible--given where many are setting the bar for such things on Trump's behalf, anyway. I'm not of the Muslim faith, so the eye-rolling parts might not stand out so much to me--I think that hitting on Iran's support of terror might be a little bit slanted to his SA audience (they just re-elected a moderate and ahem! SA also has their history with terror--and current events!)

But the part about "not lecturing" to the Islamic world also comes at the risk of admitting to the US turning its back to human rights issues in the Muslim world. I don't see that as a useful step for the US to be making, and it erodes the idea we've long-projected of American exceptionalism. The US has had its failings, but I don't think that means uselessness in the attempt to face what is, alongside of terrorism, a form of evil. It is this concern that casts a pall over the arms deal that has been signed--how are these weapons being used, and isn't Trump's Administration not, in signing this deal, also signing off on how they will be used?

I don't know what to make of the $100 million donation being made to Ivanka Trump's nascent women's empowerment fund that will be set up through World Bank and should not be, as I understand it, managed by Ms. Trump herself. (I basically think there's lots of room for crony capitalism in Trump's orbit.) Whether this is exactly like Trump's campaign criticisms regarding the Clinton Foundation strikes me as almost in the vicinity of the question of whether President Trump appeared to be curtseying like a lady--really? This is where we go? (Yeah--of course it is!)

But I have to give extra points to whoever set up the "hands on the glowing globe" photo, which is almost like movie shorthand for "we're just joining forces for world domination like villains do!" Of course, it's not a Giant Globe.  (We've seen how these can go wrong.) But it glows!