Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Sunday, December 9, 2018

This Comey Transcript is Something

So, I've been reading this thing, and I'm a little weirded out, because it kind of looks like House Republicans are trying to legitimize idiotic stuff Tweeted out by President Trump.  They are asking him about private messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that he wouldn't have been privy to during 2016, and trying to get him to admit political bias made its way into their work product against Trump when I'm pretty sure that doesn't match either what publicly was released from FBI or what they could expect to get from Comey himself (which might have been a part of why they did not want this questioning made public). 

This definitely makes me wonder: was there some quiet, secret, desperate hope amongst Republicans that Hillary Clinton would have won in 2016, so that they could endlessly litigate what she had done (thus and so) over Benghazi and emails and any other little thing, and never actually shoulder the mantle of governance? Because this transcript reads like the forlorn hope that Hillary Clinton would become relevant again so they could get another bite. But all they have is Jim Comey, and his Boy Scoutish but dry-humored implications that they are not only not barking up the wrong tree, but that he is not, in fact, a tree at all, but a very tall human who was simply trying to do his job. 

In other news, they do, in fact, have Donald Trump as president, who Tweets things like this:

which must truly be a very great comfort to them. But it doesn't necessarily obscure the rather difficult reality that Trump lies and probably has materially obstructed justice rather a lot, right in front of us, and it is not the FBI's fault if they noticed it.

Also, Trump probably posts awful Tweets like the above, not because he is barking mad (although he might be) but to try and change the news cycle from a bad thing happening to him (because he is incompetent) to a bad thing he said (because he is a very bad boy, please love his badness). He also is using the John Kelly resignation announcement as the same kind of deflection, for the great number of people who don't speak knuckle-dragger. But the subtext is that the guy who sometimes facepalmed moments of utter Trump depravity will be banished, so let's bring on someone who is more of a Scaramouche. 

We don't know who this person will be, but rest-assured, they will be awful, and should not ever, ever, be intro'd as a signal of a Trump pivot. This dude doesn't pivot. He just spirals, wildly, always, flailing, like a tantrum-y toddler, and maybe takes a big enough dosage of adulting to sit through a funeral, a little bit. But it will not ever last.

And GOP needs to stop fronting for his dumb ass.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Pet Shop Boys ft. Lady GaGa & Brandon Flowers - 2009 BRIT Awards Perfomance

TWGB: Ready Individual One?

One way to set the stage for a busy news Friday is to note that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently sort of read President Trump for filth by saying things that Trump critics don't even find surprising:

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it, and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law. It violates treaty,’’ Tillerson said, before reiterating a claim he made before he was ousted on March 13—that “there’s no question” Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Trump did not take that well, and of course made a Tweet about it. But leaving that specific kind of knee-jerk response to things happening around him, here is a sample of Trump's "Boom" Twitter stylings (the venting Trump seems to do to keep his head from exploding when the pressure is on):

Yeah. I'm not going to bother refuting that hot mess. I'm just pointing it out as a symptom of a person who is not suffering from a case of anything "very legal and very cool" .  This is a person who is actually being sued over his bullshit charity, and over the emoluments clause. New York is also investigating possible tax fraud based on a well-researched report on how Trump got so "rich" (tax evasion, inheritance and super groovy loans!) This is a person who, during the 2016 presidential campaign, settled for millions over Trump University that was an actual scam (a settlement not so long ago approved, by the way).  Even if there is no Trump/Russia collusion, there is the definitely not okay hush money paid to mistresses which are basically illegal campaign donations, and his probably illegal campaign coordination with the NRA. Trump's way of life is experiencing legal jeopardy because of things he does, and then kind of denying that they even happened even though we are looking right at him. It has mostly worked for him, but I don't think he's ever tried to spin so many plates at one time.

Take the response he made to the filings today regarding former lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign manager Paul Manafort:

I think a Tweet that claims he's totally cleared is pretty weird considering he is basically factually named as "Individual-1" who seems to have suborned perjury and directed campaign fraud, which are crimes. A really good explainer of the Friday filings is laid out at Lawfare. But I'm struck by the idea that  Trump's response to this is a flat-out denial, when we were told by Trump that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani (who apparently occasionally experiences nightmares),  has an 87 page rebuttal to Mueller's claims.  Or, well, maybe there actually isn't anything

Tillerson told us Trump doesn't like to read things--is Trump counting on his fan club also not reading the black and white reality that a good part of Trump's 2016 campaign performance was fraudulent and that he really doesn't care what "legal" means even though he gave an oath to uphold the Constitution? 

Well, I guess that is probably close to the truth. As I see it, the unredacted Flynn and Manafort bits of this week's filings are likely disturbing, but the parts that have been made plain as day are well and truly bad enough. And I still think we've only seen the part of the iceberg above water. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Whatever, Ben

So, Kevin Hart, who is really a talented and likeable performer, was picked to host the Oscars, but the problem was, he used to say some pretty homophobic shit. It was offensive, and he recognized it enough to delete his previous Tweets, but people screenshot them because whoa!, and instead of apologizing, Hart sort of responded at first about how he was changed, but didn't exactly apologize or acknowledge how he knew what he said was wrong, and it just wasn't enough. Saying you've evolved pretty much means putting your better ideals into action, and he realized this shitstorm was something he owned, and he posted a Tweet that showed he owned where he went wrong, and stepped aside.

And that seems like a reasonable trajectory. Losing out on one gig isn't getting his career ended, and you can still like Kevin Hart's work otherwise and it really takes a lot to actually get one's career so fucked that, once a star, one doesn't work again. Mel Gibson still gets work, ok?

Ben Domenech wants to make a couple of points, here: Hollywood is two-faced because it celebrates black artists but then holds them to account when they have fucked up, that regular people hate Hollywood values because apparently that's the only place the gays are, that voluntarily choosing not to accept a job when it become controversial is solely the business of the "Liberals What Are in Charge of the Whole Entertainment Shebang" and there is a thing called "intersectionality" and it is really scary and fuck that thing.

So much ignorance there, Mt. McCain. See, I get where Kevin Hart is coming from: he went to George Washington HS and is a Gen X-er and I went to Northeast HS and graduated about six years before he did.  My frame of reference is Philadelphia and the culture we grew up with in that time. I listened to rap music that referenced f------ and this was how people talked around me, even though I was already recognizing I wasn't exactly straight. I don't know what language Hart was specifically raised with (his mother was a University professor) in the home, but we had anti-LGBT language in our experience; I did, I know he did. His perspective as a black male (intersectionality) may have informed his observation that life as both black and gay would be undesirable because of the way gay people were treated, but the reality is that gay and black people exist, and instead of counseling them to deny their existence, the empathetic course is to show them the love some retrograde parts of the world won't.

I don't necessarily think Hart is being held more to account here than a white artist having said the same things would be (although this is a reasonable distinction to draw--I would unquestionably want a white artist to be considered equally suspect for homophobic language). But part of his commentary was about his potential child displaying non-heteronormative behavior, and being punished not for even being gay, but for behaving in a way that could be perceived this way. Little kids have been beaten and killed by their parents for this kind of thinking. This is what kills so many gay or non-heteronormative-presenting kids all the time: the lack of support, denial of validity, the coached expectations to just try being straight, as if this was a choice, not an essential part of one's selfness. They are beaten, or disowned and put out on the street, or they suicide.

The harm of this language and what it means to LGBT people is real. His perspective might have been explained by culture and immaturity, but he made these statement when he was grown enough to know better and have seen better, and the gripe that he is being punished for them now seems to stem not from whether Hart's response was too little and too late, but from a culture (conservatism) that really has no problem at all with actual homophobia. With decreeing that gay or trans persons shouldn't fully participate in the military service or public life. With denying job protections against discrimination.

Kevin Hart is a talented comedian and I enjoy most of his work, but this is a problematic area. I think we need to get to where we can recognize that not all places and people experience "wokeness" vis a vis all cultural intersections at the same rate, but credit should be granted for trying. The culture war response downgrades the idea that one should even bother doing better, and this helps exactly no one. I don't want his career wrecked and don't think it will be. I just think he can do better and should. And if he's the guy I think he is, he will do better. (And sometimes I'm wrong, but here's me, doing the benefit of the doubt thing.)

Ben Domenech can also do better. I just don't have the same faith he will. Because his team seems to reward bullshit signifying (sort of a RW version of "virtue-signaling", I guess, where there is surely signals, but the actual virtue is harder to place).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

In the Long Run, We'll All Be Dead

There are a couple of instances in which the "we'll all be dead" paradigm makes its way into history. I guess for people who do economics, Keynes is the obvious one: In the long run we are all dead. Which is, on the face of it, absolutely true. To quote my father's favorite musical philosopher: "No one here gets out alive".   But just talking about myself, honestly, as a person past the age of 40 who might shuffle on another fifty years, what the actual fuck? Because I have come to grips the way a fragile mortal can having had near misses with blood alcohol flirtations and closed fist frustrations, and who can comfortably assert that my childlessness will proceed apace until my eventual oxygen permit revocation, that if and when I die, I'd like not to have fucked the entire earth up too much for the progeny of others. And I feel that way about the budget, also. We owe more to future generations than a government unfit to do more than bomb other countries and service its debt.

I see a really strong link between Trump's budget nihilism and his climate change nihilism. And for the record, I think this isn't any different from any other dues-paying practicing Republican, either.

I know George W. Bush understood his place in history might not even matter eventually, because he'd be dead when his legacy was eventually sorted out.  It could seem self-effacing that way, but in a more immediate way, it seems a bit like throwing off responsibility for the history one helped create. As if history would never affirmatively ascribe any blame, or convince one to take in the degree to which one was a person with agency to stop any harm, or constructively benefit lives.

And ever so many followed in this wake--they maintain they know climate change is happening, but can't be arsed to care. Or they deny it utterly, because they are Jim Inhofe or similar. Because the outcomes are not their problem, but service to their donors possibly is?  They realize that the debt crisis that looms is a real thing, but want to believe that slippery ideas about how much the economy can grow if people weren't taxed so much does more for us than the very simple idea that government should raise revenues from taxation to pay for the necessities of its ongoing missions.

We need pragmatists in government, and people who not only understand history, but will fight to improve upon it, regardless of the earth that will lay over their remains some day.

Trump thinks a debt crisis will not matter to himself when he is out or office or dead-- the same Donald Trump who records every knock or slight against himself, and rages against it on Twitter.

Dead or alive, we can blame such things as the trade war already hurting people in rural areas, leading people to sell their farms, or the trade war shutting car factories, as mistakes that, regardless of Trump's mortality, can be laid at Trump's feet from a policy stance.

He can leave office or die, in the long run, or even a short, angry, sedentary fat man's run, but he would still be responsible for his policies, his appointments, and the choices he made.

And fucking up the future for American business, farming, manufacturing, is not making America Great Again, ever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

TWGB: The Truth Shall Set You Free

The best place to start the post is with Trump's tweetstorm from Monday, wherein he implied that his longtime associate, Michael Cohen, had done terrible things (with Trump's knowledge apparently), and that he should under no circumstances receive any kind of sentencing deal for his cooperation in the Mueller investigation. He also indicated that the better example was set by Roger Stone, who had vowed not to testify against Trump, and also sort of tilted his hat at the peculiar claim by Larry Klayman on behalf of Jerome Corsi, that it was Special Counsel Robert Mueller who was trying to suborn perjury by leaning on witnesses to lie, instead of being engaged in a truthful fact-finding mission, which grasps at the same kind of "conflict of interest" straws as Trump's claim regarding "Angry Democrats".

Well, why wouldn't President Trump echo the ideas of Corsi's defense team? After all, he and Jerome Corsi have a joint defense agreement, almost just like the one Trump has/or had with Paul Manafort, according to Corsi who was told it by Jay Sekulow (who is so a good lawyer, stop that!) with the difference being I think Manafort is more screwed (because state charges)and yet Manafort is the one I've heard more newsiness about getting a pardon. Also--Mueller has Stone/Corsi emails, which might just be enough without Corsi--

Or without Stone, who is pleading the Fifth. (Egads, it only feels like it was a year and half ago, give or take a century, that it was Michael Flynn pleading the Fifth.) He will show up to any opportunity he is subpoenaed to and will say nothing. And he'll be goddamned if you take his papers, either. Also, maybe Mueller could get a warrant. Or grant limited immunity to get him to talk about, you know, other stuff. He is not a dead end, yet.

Anyways, don't worry--based on Tweets like these, the JDAs and some of the "who talks, who walks" stuff all looks like orchestrated obstruction of justice on Trump's part, a little bit. Or so noted conservative lawyer George Conway seems to think:

The statutes being mentioned here are, well, about witness tampering and obstruction--which is, after all, the crux of the Mueller purview: initiated with whether Trump was trying to tamper with Jim Comey and then fired him to stymie the investigation into whether Russia helped Trump (which it pretty ostensibly did). Folks may well grumble about whether the investigation is taking its sweet time--but this is bosh--it's been terribly successful at getting indictments, guilty pleas, and even a few convictions, and it could certainly be shortened: by people telling the truth more! (They could also probably try not continuing to obstruct justice in other ways.) But it is clearly by no means done, yet.

The best reason we have for knowing this is the Michael Flynn sentencing memo we waited so long for this Tuesday.  Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying about his Russia contacts and has now been interviewed 19 times, and has been very forthcoming about more than one investigation (?) with so many details redacted it is not even cute if you are a Trump or related personage sweating it. Because all that "redacted" means there is more truth out there. And Mueller has a pretty good idea of what it is and where to get more.

Michael Flynn is a great case where offering lower sentencing is a good deal for him--he was facing a lot of damage, as Martin Longman points out.

One great resource I have seen about this is Ryan Goodman's perjury chart, which gives a great overview about who, so far, has demonstrably lied about what, and which includes folks like Jared Kushner and Don Trump Jr, who haven't yet been indicted, but potentially could be.

So, it is to be noted, it is Robert Mueller who is sending the message "The truth will set you free". It is Trump who is saying "Keep shtum". Now, "tempus tacendi et tempus loquendi" is a very fine device for the Trump coat of arms, but maybe with applied friction, that "tempus loquendi" will start seeming more desirable?

But why is it Trump demands so much silence? (hush money, NDA's?) It looks like he is always about squashing the bad news that follows him as exhaust follows a bad muffler. He seems allergic to truth--

Maybe because he thinks it will do anything but set him free?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Recent Sign of the Lolpocalypse

These are all people who exist. People pay them for the ideas they have. I do my shit for free. And I even read stuff. You want to know why I think conservatism is some bullshit? This. Exactly this. However, if they all merged into a singularity called a "darkweb hole" and got spaghettied into nothingness, that would be kind of cool. Because the chaps therein assembled aren't the greatest at staying platformed. Mostly because of so much sucking.

This isn't about the Left hating on conservatives--this is about normal people looking at weirdo haters and figuring out that these are basically fascists and people who make shit up. You don't have to be explicitly Antifa or IWW to figure out that Mark Levin has guano for brains and makes actual conservatives flinch, or that Glenn Beck is a bottom-feeding grifter. (And that Gavin McInnes quitting Proud Boys is mostly so he can go back to yanking it, I think. Also Matt Kibbe needs to learn that there is no political ideology solely based on interesting facial hair. That is not a thing. ) And there is negative value in that. We would also suggest that conservatives consider if they also are tired of fascism and making up shit.

This would settle a lot of our private bets. But if Ben Shapiro wants to be a part of that human centipede of crap-sucking, at least he is fully qualified to play the world's smallest violin when it craps it's own bed. Or exists for a thousand years like FreeRepublic or Drudge seem to have but still needs a little night music.

I'm just saying it looks to me like a match made in hell that will be super the worst. That's all.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ken Berry 1933-2018

I mostly knew him from "Mama's Family", but he was not just a gifted comedic actor, but a brilliant dancer.  (This is nearly break dancing, right here.)

Rest in peace.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Whether to Bury or Praise

There is something fortuitous in the historical placement of George Bush in wherever he happened to be in the course of his long life. He was fortunate in being born privileged, he was fortunate in surviving a brutal war. He was fortunate in politics, after a fashion. He married the love of his life, and one of his sons followed him in the White House. As lives go, it wasn't half bad. He was surrounded with admiration and love at the end of his life, and that's nothing to scoff at. We could all hope to do so well. 

He also benefited by being neither so wretched as Nixon or crass as Trump, and the halo of his dedication was in part burnished by the haplessness of his son's time in office, and the bar of doing politics had dropped to where service and decency, just by being part of one's make-up, were all that needed to be present to gloss over really harsh truths. But his record was mixed, and a pretty damn comprehensive blog post of the not-great bits was served by Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns, & Money, so I'd say check that out for the stuff already said, and better than I would have, by him. 

As for me, I still simmer over 1988. This was the first presidential election I paid attention to, occurring after Iran-Contra, and in some way, my innocent soul thought Republicans should have been over, for at least this round. How in the world does a country accept Bush was "out of the loop" as a former head of CIA, and not think his principal job in taking office in the White House was to tidy up loose ends? I was all of sixteen and livid at the "pledge of Allegiance" nonsense and the entire crock of referring to Dukakis as an "ACLU card-carrying liberal" as if sticking up for the Bill of Rights was something to sneer at. Stupid wedge issue content (and maybe not the most competent campaign waged by Dukakis and Bentsen) dictated a win, and a pardon for several folks who participated in that debacle of literally extralegally arming a country that we considered a supporter of terrorism, to also extralegally support a faction in a war that wasn't any of our business. And cite the reason for these pardons as "patriotism". 

I still to this damn day don't know what American principles or interests were served by this thing. As with Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, it sits poorly with me as a violation of the concept that no one should be above the law. 

And the nomination of Clarence Thomas, whatever we think of his qualifications today or his sexual harassment concerns, was a slap in the face of civil rights legend Thurgood Marshall, whose seat he filled. As if this bland patrician looked on this black conservative, and gave no fucks for the vast difference in viewpoint but saw a certain blatant commonality, and rolled with it. 

I do not know the family or personally, any friends of George Bush. I knew I was slipping as a blogger when I tried to silver-lining the life of his beloved spouse. The War on Drugs,  and whatever crap example he set that made George W. Bush and Jeb Bush the politicians they were,  his poor response to the AIDS crisis, his feints to hardcore conservatism to try and obviate the claim he was a "wimp" which in some ways proved it--all stay in my memory as things that were part and parcel of his legacy, that should not be forgotten. 

And yet, in retrospect, he could have been so much worse. And he wrote lovely notes, and his family doesn't all suck, and his friendship with Clinton and Obama....? 

He was human, and we are all a mixed lot, and have redeeming features. He did his thing for charity, and I will allow I consider some of what people say about Carlyle Group and the defense industry and drawing arrows here and there from Halliburton/Dressher to the exploits in Iraq seems a bit paranoid. I can't dispute that the end of the Cold War would have been something difficult for any president to navigate. 

His family will bury him, and they can praise him as well. As well as can any of his loved ones. I am not in that circle, and I will tell the truth if I please. His civility was admirable. But we should not hurry to polish the reputations of those who have died when their legacies are still ongoing. And the stupid political postures of 1988 still resound in 2018. I can't shrug that off, or forget that Roger Ailes, who made Fox News, was one of his campaign advisors back in the day, and of course, the episode of peak Les Atwater--the Willie Horton ad. 

I am dry-eyed and unromantic about his legacy. We are here in it. And my Trump obit will definitely be even worse, come the day. I wish peace of mind to his surviving loved ones. (But not without clear memories.)

UPDATE: And just one other damn thing--he was for Brett Kavanaugh, and fuck him and his son and Brett Kavanaugh. But not the all the way, because none of them deserve the satisfaction.