Saturday, January 21, 2017

And Now Donald Trump is POTUS

It's something from the "They said it couldn't happen" files: Donald Trump, real estate baron, reality show celebrity, conspiracy theorist and tabloid news regular, has been sworn in as the United States' 45th president. There was no last-minute intervention from earthly or celestial forces to spare the dissatisfied and disappointed from this event, because that isn't how our democracy works. Although Trump's failure to divest himself of his various holdings (such as the DC hotel lease which, as an elected official, he is now in violation of) reflect a conflict of interest (or Constitutional crisis, depending upon how you look at things) that could result in impeachment proceedings (sure, with a GOP congress?) and the investigation into potential correspondence between his presidential campaign staff and Russia may turn up something devastating--Trump is now the president, and will be, very likely, for the next four years.

What does it mean? Well, gosh, it's only just begun, but going from the brief but emphatic inaugural speech--which sounded like the campaign spiel he'd been giving all along, he's doubling down on America First--for a definition of America that I'm pretty sure doesn't mean all of us. I think his depiction of the current state of the country sounds awfully "homeless vets, foreign debts, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz"-- a valid criticism of the 1980's, but not really as accurate a picture of today's America. He says he's for the forgotten man, but I don't even know what his cabinet picks or policies will necessarily do for a soul. I'm a little put-out that anyone at all is chuffed enough just to feel name-checked.

As for the festivities themselves, well, it's a rainy Friday in DC, with a president-elect with an historically low approval rating. It was bound to be poorly-attended, relatively speaking.

Friday, January 20, 2017

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

There's something that struck me as very poignant in the image of the empty frames lining the walls of the West Wing (well done, David Nakamura/WP). The "ghostly" quality of the empty frames prompts the mind to refill them with memory. It is hard to say "goodbye" to an exceptional president and his exceptional family. It will never be hard to recall them.

(Damn everyone seems so young there. Those little girls became young women before our eyes.)

The trust and affection of the Obama/Biden partnership always seemed unforced, natural, a real "friendship goals" situation.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

This is All So Very Wrong

PEOTUS Donald Trump's cabinet, etc., picks have, in retrospect, come to not actually look like the "best people" as was foretold in the Prophetic Book of Big Daddy Trumpisms.  For one terrible example, it turns out that being Secretary of the Department of Energy actually has a lot to do with maintaining our nuclear infrastructure, both regarding weapons stockpiles and energy generation, which is probably why the last handful of Energy Secretaries were actual scientists. Trump didn't have the least idea what the Energy Department did. Neither did former Governor of TX and Dancing with the Stars contestant Rick Perry. Rick Perry once actually wanted to do away with the Department of Energy.  Having no idea at all about what it actually did. Now he will sort of know.  But I think the actual comprehension, arriving this late in his life, sort of renders him at very poor odds of understanding his new role in this department which is actually very important, and which he deemed dispensable.

He chose snaggle-toothed former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani, who utterly fucked up ops during 9/11, to be his cyber-security guy, and it turns out he is shit at cyber security.  His Health and Human Services pick, the guy who will oversee the death of the ACA, seems to have benefited from insider trading which is very illegal. Another of the people Trump has selected to help with Technology issues is apparently a hardcore racist.   

Betsy DeVos is actually really unfit as all hell to be involved with Education. She doesn't know the difference between testing for proficiency vs growth. She doesn't seem to know that most kids in America attend public schools, or that public schools are responsible for living up to our ideal of educating disabled youth. I think she's awful.

But even while Trump is presiding over a crisis situation where he isn't appointing staff in line with the operational needs, he engages in Twitter Wars of shocking uselessness. All this while his own legitimacy is questioned. Because it has to be. There is too much information out there to pretend his legitimacy can't be questioned.  The sad finale to all this being, there will be  no end of scandal after this inauguration goes down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Putin's Cover Looks Like Shade

There is a certain surrealism to Russian President Vladimir Putin's defense of Donald Trump against the claims that Himself, the Donald, has been put in a difficult position due to kompromat that most probably does involve Russian call girls. Who are the best call girls. Putin argues: would it not be ridiculous for a man like Donald Trump, who has been with some of the world's most glamorous women (or lied about being with them, as he did about Carla Bruni) and who is married to an absolutely stunning woman, to have hired girls perform for him? Would that not be really weird? Sick, right?

Well, yeah. Thanks for including the details of the most lurid bits of the alleged smear in the defense, Vladi. But since it looks like the dossier was compiled by a private investigator (if former foreign intelligence agent) on behalf of a GOP candidate for oppo--this could hardly be construed as a case of the Obama Administration doing anything to delegitimize Trump. On the contrary, I think Obama and his immediate circle have tried to be appropriately available and gracious to the incoming Trump folks.  Also, the general picture about Russian interference is as old as early last summer, and doesn't seem to have Obama fingerprints in the placement of that story.

Providing a denial is as good as half-admitting to a confirmation of all the collusion. Providing a denial that makes it look like Trump is the worst human if any of it was proven correct is also priceless. And an especially great mind-fuck treatment in the event that all the blackmail tea gets spilled before Putin gets to enjoy any of it--so that he loses his investment in Trump but saves face by letting it be understood, Trump was the idiot who compromised himself.

Leaving us with a President who is still delegitimized--not by the Russian hack/WikiLeaks stuff. But because Putin just told us Trump, too, is dispensable. But for the moment, merely compromised.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can Trump Take up This Cause?

President-Elect Donald Trump may have missed visiting the African-American Museum (if he ever was going to go there), but he did meet with the son of Martin Luther King, Jr. This comes after making negative statements regarding civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who I believe was just responding quite emotionally and truthfully in calling Trump "illegitimate" from his perspective as a Clinton supporter and having heard out the intelligence regarding the level of Russian assistance to the Trump campaign. If any of my gentle readers are Trump supporters, imagine how you might respond if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was Clinton herself who was the beneficiary of foreign-influenced news-fuckery. Rep. Lewis's outrage makes a lot of sense to me. It is how I feel, too. Trump came by his win under dodgy circumstances, and from here on out, his respect needs to be earned by showing he can relate to all his citizens.

We need leaders who will meaningfully counter voter ID laws that discriminate against ethnic and LGBT groups. We need leaders who will address poverty and how to raise up people by getting them not just jobs, but jobs with good wages and opportunities to advance, save money, afford healthcare.

All of these things have nothing to do with Trump's current cabinet choices or many of his stated policies. I don't think he has it in him, and while I know he is accepting people to "listen to", I don't even know for sure what he hears when they speak. I'd like it if I thought he would work with minority or marginalized populations in the US, but since he built his campaign on demonizing those exact people, I just doubt it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

This Russia/Trump/Comey Thing Bugs Me

On Friday, legislators were angered by FBI Director Jim Comey's lack of candor regarding his agency's investigation into the connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian hack ops waged against the DNC and John Podesta in a closed-door meeting. It's one thing that he was cagey about what information he had in a public venue, but it's a bit something else to be less than forthcoming in that environment. This has raised questions about whether Comey ought to really resign for showing a double standard, having offered a kind of "October Surprise" in his openness to discussing FBI workings regarding Hillary Clinton, but a tendency to not even pretend to be half-interested in the real concerns regarding Donald Trump. The concerns raised about this lack of proper investigation lead to some further questioning of President-Elect Trump's legitimacy.

What bothers me about this is the report that the former MI6 agent who had gathered the information in the dossier was reportedly agitated that the FBI had not been acting on the information provided immediately. This sort of makes me wonder if the agency experienced a kind of institutional "slow-down" with respects to looking seriously into a Republican candidate's very real (or at least, plausible and serious) corruption, while still flogging Democratic candidate's Clinton's (despite Rep. Chaffetz's burblings) dead letter.

It bothers me because it implies that our own institutions aren't as good or fair as they ought to be. It's disturbing because some of the information is not just plausible but probable, and the sources of the information aren't that hard to get at. It bothers me because we now have agencies globally trying to research what dirt might be had on our President-elect, and I'm pretty sure there's a lot of it, just based on very public information like the Howard Stern radio program or TMZ, or the business pages of any good newspaper. You really don't have to look that hard to find evidence of "Trump + debt" or "Trump + womanizing". There is plenty of cringe-worthy data right out in the open.

But the results of that compromise are hard to get around--imagine US IC warning our allies, like Israel, that maybe they don't want to share information with Trump for fear it will spread from Russia to Iran.  Imagine this subhead from The Times:

"Britain fears leak of its secrets to Moscow." Since Trump's first moves seem to be to meet with Putin, and to, as Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov predicted, end sanctions, what else could anyone think, but that he's turned?

Which isn't even to say this connection is for real, although the Trump team hasn't tried hard enough to make it look otherwise. (Gen. Flynn, by the way, is just not the right guy for any position if Trump wants to do away with allegations of Russian coziness. ) It's that once the FBI had something to work with, they could have worked at either finding out he had indeed connections, or clearing him if he did not, whatever the case might be. We'd know for sure. Trump wouldn't be going into this inauguration under a cloud--that extends beyond our borders, but affects his administration's dealing with any other government.

That, right there, is the real price of a dereliction of duty--it's not just "What if Trump is guilty of colluding with a foreign power to win his election?" It's "What if Trump isn't actually guilty of that thing, but we don't know yet because the FBI didn't work on answering it?" I have been covering Trump's Russian connections and the possibility that the hack was for his benefit as a serious thing since July, but only because I had no research that told me different from trusted professionals. (And I continue to lean "pro-Trump compromised", based on all the circumstantial things. Also I hate every cabinet pick and most policy positions. So there.)

I'm glad that there is interest in the Senate in pursuing an inquiry into this--but I'd have liked the relevant info to have been available sooner. This isn't about Comey's reputation or partiality--it's a damn competence issue. Did Trump and Russia and WikiLeaks not look collusive as all hell? And how big a stick had to hit the FBI Director in the head before he was arsed to think about it?

Friday, January 13, 2017

This is Really Weird

I'm not any kind of security expert or anything, but wouldn't the beginning of the inauguration, in a town swamped with folks for both the ceremony and multiple protests, be the last time in the world you would want this hand-off to happen?

Just asking for, oh, everybody, I guess.

UPDATE: And the Trump transition has now, after the report, decided Maj. General Schwartz should stay on a few more days.