Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Random Barking

I Dreamed That Dream Again


In a room crowded by Nabobs and Archons, Exalted Persons with collagen and plastic bags of saline in their Parts, who rub orange cream on their skin, who enjoy Oil and a State Of Emergency at home, gather together beneath the Eye to pay homage to those who own us. (News Item)
But before champagne corks pop in Manhattan and Berkeley and other capitals of liberal America, people might want to consider the government’s track record of holding elites accountable over the last decade. It’s not a pretty picture from the standpoint of justice or fairness. ... because America doesn’t prosecute anyone with money or power anymore. ... much has changed since Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, went to jail in 2005 for tax evasion and witness tampering.
--  David Dayen, "Why Trump Didn't Have To Obstruct Justice: The US No Longer Holds The Powerful Accountable"; Fiscal Times, May 23, 2017
(Courtesy Soul Of America.)
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Crimes And Misdemeandors

Incoherence

Last week, I waited in line at O-Dark-Thirty for coffee at a [Redacted] near the Embarcadero Bart station. A half-dozen of us, corporate Sheeple, mildly sleepy, stood to the right of an open-fronted display case holding yogurt, hard-boiled eggs; sandwiches and bottled drinks.

As we waited, one of San Francisco's homeless pushed his way through the line to the cooler. With a badly shaved head and dressed in a long cloth jacket that had once been blue, he reminded me of the escaped convict, Magwitch, in Dicken's Great Expectations. The man bent down towards the display case, reached into it and began stuffing the pockets of his jacket with bottles and packages of food.

Alerted by some of the patrons ("Hey, this guy's stealing stuff"), the early shift manager -- a nice guy, in his late 20's whom I see almost every weekday morning -- came out from behind the counter. The homeless man -- his pantslegs rolled up to reveal badly swollen lower legs and ankles  -- had already hobbled out of the shop.

The manager caught up with him, but wasn't confrontational. "You can't just take stuff, man," the manager said quietly. "That's completely uncool."  With a wild, intense expression on his face, the homeless man took one wavering step backwards, spread his arms, and bellowed something spectacularly incoherent before hobbling away up Market Street into the dark. The manager watched him go, looked over at me, and shrugged.

Talking with the manager about the incident as he rang up my coffee, we agreed: The Man was a figure of pathos, straight out of Hugo: Jean Valjean and the loaf of bread. The man was ill, and hungry, and to make a larger issue out of the theft would be sanctimonious assholery of a particularly low order. Neither of us felt like Inspector Joubert that morning.

We spoke about other things. "Wish that had been Trump," the fellow laughed. "I would have called the cops on his ass."

I laughed back, and mentioned the early-days investigations by the FBI of Trump and his campaign's connections to the Russians. "We could get lucky," I said.

Then, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and, pushed along by a series of Tweets both pathetic and bullying by turns, the antics of his Clown Car government went into screaming, vibrating overdrive.
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Down here in the trenches, everyone likes to try and read the Tea Leaves and divine the future. How does this all play out? There are a few broad categories, and all this is just one Dog's opinion.
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1.) Impeachment

We all went through this less than twenty years ago, with Saintly Bill-O's lying about Monica and his What-Is-Is.  But getting there in 2017 would be difficult (this graphic may help explain why).

A Special Prosecutor conducts an investigation. It takes as long as it takes. Apparently, Robert Mueller will have broad investigative powers and independence from his putative boss, Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenstein, author of That Memo.  Mueller will deliver a report to Rosenstein, and will have the ability to recommend criminal charges be filed.

Having a Special Prosecutor gives the appearance of a no-dog-in-this-fight neutrality necessary to "ensure Americans may have confidence the investigation is fair and complete". However, the efforts of Mueller's team will automatically take precedence over (one might say, trump) the congressional inquiries already in motion through the House and Senate intelligence committees, investigating the Trump campaign's Russian connections.

Let's say Mueller's team can't tie Trump to any High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some lower-level apparatchiks would be found to take the fall (with promises they and their families will be 'taken care of' if they stick to their stories), while Trump remains in command of the nation, bloated and raving, Tweeting nonstop from the Bunker.

But, if someone breaks ranks (for example, if Michael Flynn were granted immunity and had a real story to tell), or other evidence surfaces which implicates Trump in a conspiracy or obstruction of justice -- then a Bill of Impeachment would have to be passed by the House. The Senate would have to agree to put Trump on trial. This spectacle goes on for months.

Senators may vote to impeach, or a vote could fail. They may, or may not, demand the President be removed from office. In Clinton's case, the political Right wanted to leave a wounded, sitting Democratic President, publicly soaking in his shame, ahead of the 2000 elections.

You can already see how high the bar has been set.  First, serious, unequivical proofs of Herr Trump's crimes must be found which meet evidentiary standards. Second, will Little Bobby Rosenstein (and in the background, crazy ol' Jeff Sessions) agree with Mueller and allow a criminal indictment, sending the matter to Congress? This could play out in a number of different directions. Then what?

More to the point -- will a Congress dominated by a Republican party (Rightist factions at war with each other, really) agree to a process that will drag out for over a year, and certain to damage the Republican 'brand' during midterm elections?

2.)  Resignation

Trump has revealed to us all, on an almost daily basis, the paranoid alt-Right universe which he lives in -- where Trump, like 'forgotten' Americans who voted for him, is an innocent victim of a vast conspiracy. Its tentacles are everywhere. Everyone knows it.

And he must fight that conspiracy, because he is a fighting fighter, who fights, and doesn't give up. He is the only one who can fight it, because he is Trump. Now he is in the White House, sometimes, surrounded by barely competent advisors who constantly disappoint him and must always be watched, Trump fights on and on and on. He does it all for you. He doesn't rest, except when he is in Florida. But he doesn't give up -- because he is Donald Trump.

That said: were Trump faced with incontrovertible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Speaker-To-Animals Paulie Ryan, Sen. Yertle The Turtle, 'Bomb Bomb Bombin' John McCain and a few other GOP stalwarts would approach Trump at his More-Lego palace in Florida in the dead of night. They would tell him he should spare the country a wrenching Impeachment spectacle (read: please leave us our Republican party), and strongly recommend he resign.

Donny waffles; he shouts, he cries like a child. They wait. Then they offer him a one-time deal:  He will stay out of jail; his immediate family will be spared, but they all must go. Now. And like any leader of a Banana Republic where the mob is at the gates of the palace, it will take Trump five seconds to understand: He'll get to keep whatever he's looted from the nation during his time in office.  

In a Kleptocracy, it's still a Win if you are forced away from the table, but get to keep the offshore accounts. You can always claim in your ghosted biography that your downfall was someone else's fault; a forced error. In Trump's mind, Aber Natürlich, his numbers would still be all-time highs.

So, he accepts the offer. After a last, GBCW speech that rivals Nixon's blubbering farewell in its bitterness and surreality, Trump is whisked away to his anti-environment compound in Florida, faithful Melania at his side in a tasteful Victoria Secrets day dress.  Mike Pence is sworn in as the 46th President, and as his first Executive Order declares Jesus is his Co-President.

To bring this scenario to fruition, however, the traditional conservative, Old Money leaders of the GOP will have to win their bloody civil war with the alt-Right (the Tea Partei, their radical Billionaire financiers; and the Evangelical Brownshirts).  This has been a slow-motion hostile takeover over twenty years in the making: to borrow a term from The Soul Of America, it's one bunch of rich, asshole Triskellions against another. The prize is control of a corporation called "The Republican Party", and all the marketing associations with that brand. 

It is in no way clear who will win that battle. My guess is it will continue playing out for the next five or ten years, and that if Trump and his Familia Criminale have to be removed, some truce will be declared between the factions of the Right. A majority will support his being told to resign.  The longer he remains in office, the more the Republican brand suffers, and the more the alt-Right becomes the 21st century political equivalent of the Whigs, or the Monster Raving Looney Party.

3.)  Distraction, Manufactured Or Otherwise

As the Mueller investigation proceeds, some event in the world causes Trump to increase the Defcon level, start moving aircraft carriers and battle groups, and a manufactured military crisis begins -- North Korea is the most likely candidate, but any situation that would allow Trump to distract everyone's attention in a Wag The Dog effort could serve.

The world is volatile enough that it's also possible an actual crisis, one not engineered, may occur -- but which Trump & Co. will seize upon as a heaven-sent distraction: a regional conflict (India and Pakistan; Russia and Ukraine / The Baltics; China and Japan / Taiwan), or a pandemic disease outbreak (Ebola, H5N1) or Zombie Apocalypse, for example.

4.)  Very Bad Things

This is something that can't be spelled out because it might be misinterpreted. In his first speech from the Oval Office, President Pence will use the word 'God' 147 times, 'punish' 238 times, and 'Satan' 61 times.

Sidebar: Bob and Jimmy's Excellent Adventure

A story worth remembering: Robert Mueller and James Comey have known each other a long time, and both have spent their careers in 'official' Washington.  Both served in the Department Of Justice and both ended their careers as Directors of the FBI -- Mueller passing the baton to Comey under President Obama.

You may recall that in 2001, the Patriot Act was signed into law by George "Lil' Boots" Bush, after the September 11th attacks, giving intelligence agencies new powers to Hoover up all emails and telephone or digital communications conduct surveillance of everyone in America suspected terrorists. The Act effectively allowed warrantless wiretaps by the NSA.

The fact of domestic wiretapping had been leaked; members of Congress complained; Bush and others squeaked in protest that the surveillance was 'limited'. It was agreed the surveillance program would be 'reauthorized' on a regular basis over the signature of the Attorney General,  then John Ashcroft.  At the time, James Comey was Deputy Attorney General.

Ashcroft was deeply conservative but also very disturbed at the legal implications of a vast, warrantless wiretapping operation, and in the spring of 2004 made it known he would not sign off on reauthorization of those activities. Lil' Boots wasn't happy.

As he later testified to a Senate committee, in March, 2004, Comey received a telephone call from Ashcroft's wife, who was with her husband at a Washington, D.C. hospital after Ashcroft had gall bladder surgery -- which made Comey the acting Attorney General of the United States.

She was badly distraught: at Bush's direction, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Bush's Chief Of Staff, Andrew Card, had shown up at Ashcroft's hospital room to pressure the AG into signing the reauthorization document for the domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft refused and told them to leave, but they wouldn't. She pleaded with Comey to help.

Comey's first telephone call was to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They met at the hospital and sent Gonzales and Card, two despicable little men on an errand from another despicable little man, away. It was the position of the Department of Justice that the domestic wiretapping program was questionable if not illegal. Ashcroft had already made his position clear; Comey agreed.

This event started a battle between the Justice Department and Lil' Boots. In his Senate testimony, Comey noted that the domestic surveillance program was reauthorized at Bush's order the next day, without his approval as acting Attorney General.

Since Bush had shown he was willing to run roughshod over the Justice Department to achieve a legally questionable end, Comey, Mueller and several other officials planned to resign. Lil' Boots, petulant and mulish as always when his wishes were thwarted, reluctantly agreed to meet Comey and Mueller; after the meeting, Bush agreed the surveillance program should be restructured to make it more legally defensible. As a result Mueller, Comey and others dropped their plans to resign

The takeaway here is not that Mueller or Comey were necessarily such heroes by standing up to power in 2004 -- they didn't object to mass warrantless searches per se; but in order to allow violations of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution they wanted band-aids in place to provide the surveillance of the U.S. population with a legal fig leaf. And it would all still be secret, anyway.

Sidebar: The Fourth Estate

While there are journalists out there who want to uncover and report the truth of events, America's media (and in other countries) have been played like a harp when it suits people who wish it. The CIA has routinely planted information with 'friendly' reporters, under the guise of providing them an inside scoop, to discredit enemies, pass false information, or influence a debate.

The media has also been used for recent political payback: remember the stories about Saddam Hussein's Yellowcake Uranium, based on 'sheep-dipped' intelligence given to a reporter for Italian newspaper La Stampa, used by 'Dick' Cheney to justify invading Iraq but then shown to be false (rumor was, the intel had been manufactured by CIA officers opposed to an unnecessary war)?

(And, not only intelligence agencies get to have their fun: Rumor was that, through a cut-out, Karl Rove provided CBS' Dan Rather with forged documents about "Lil' Boots" Bush's weak point in the 2004 Presidential election: his ducking out of service in Vietnam by joining the Air National Guard. Lil' Boots was facing John Kerry -- both a decorated Vietnam Vet and one who had returned home to vocally and eloquently protest that war. 

(The worst of the Right went after Kerry's military service, head-on, suggesting he was a liar who never deserved a Silver Star or three Purple Hearts -- but, then in 2002 that fat ol' nightcrawler, Saxby Chambliss, had suggested Max Cleland, triple-amputee Vietnam Vet, was a traitor. So no one should be surprised.

(The charge that Lil' Boots' military service was a sham, an arrangement for his powerful Daddy, was true -- but the documents supporting it given to Rather were not. CBS broke the story, and was then forced to publicly recant when assailed by Little Rupert and Fat Roger, Lard Boy, and a chorus of Republican politicos. The story was no longer about Bush's military non-service; Rove had neutralized the entire topic for that 2004 presidential election, destroying Dan Rather's career and CBS News' credibility in the process. I'll bet Karl bought himself an extra dozen doughnuts that day.)

If you're a major American political figure, perhaps even a president, you do not want to make enemies out of the CIA and FBI (remember what happened to JFK). Trump knows this, but doesn't seem to care. By disrespecting the CIA and firing a highly respected FBI Director, apparently to save his own ass -- if there is evidence of Trump or his campaign's wrongdoing regarding the Russians, he should expect it to appear in the media, drop by drop. And, not just in America -- it could easily be a breaking story in the UK Guardian or Die Welt.

In fact, it's already begun: Tuesday, with reports of the Comey memos; and Thursday, a story of 18 separate contacts (all electronic intercepts) between Russians and the Trump campaign during 2016 has surfaced as an 'exclusive to Reuters'.

Somewhere, journalists may dream of being the next Woodward and Bernstein -- but they had their Deep Throat; and Mark Felt may or may not have been just an angry, principled FBI agent motivated to become a whistleblower.

Where this ends is anyone's guess.  It will either be a long string of embarrassing leaks which don't lead to prosecution, but wound Trump and his cabal for a time. It might allow the DNC to grab seats in Congress ... or, that string of embarrassments leads, like Watergate, to the Oval Office.

It's also possible that the media's revelations will cause Trump to finally pop -- a Macaca Moment, a full-on meltdown in front of the cameras, leaving no doubt he is unfit to hold office.  Invoking the 25th Amendment, Mike Pence becomes the 46th President and demands prayer be made mandatory in our nation's schools.
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MEHR, MIT EIN TIEFERES VERSTÄNDIS DER PUNKT: 

And they came unto him saying, Lord, we are confused greatly in our minds and hearts and there is the sounds of keening and the gnashing of mandibles in the land. And the LORD spaketh saying, I am reminded that Kayfabe is Kayfabe -- and the individual user's inability to discern fake Kayfabe from true-true Kayfabe is like he who stood waiting for that Uber ride which never came, for he was drunk and knew not. Go now, and do not buy into that crap, sayeth the LORD. Or, words to that effect.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Random Barking: The Daze Of Wonderboy

And A Child Shall Lead Them
Being President doesn't change who you are. Being President reveals who you are.
-- Michelle Obama; September, 2012 Speech, Democratic Nominating Convention
Yesterday they were ruffians; today they control our lives. Tomorrow they will wind up as keepers of the public lavatories.
-- Juvenal, The Satires; 2nd Century, A.D. 
These days, consistent with the magnitude of the Ruh-Roh, it's easy to gravitate between an addled hope and a bitter apathy.  And somewhere in there one must labor, and eat Kibble; look at art; read other things, sniff other Dogs.

1.)  What Atrios (And Others) Said

“This is now a consistent pattern of obstruction [of justice] by the President,” said Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent ... “The loyalty oath dinner, the request to squash the Flynn investigation and Comey’s firing over Russia all point to a President Trump who has no respect for the rule of law, and doesn’t realize that he should not run the country the way he ran his businesses.”

--  Markay, Suebsaeng, Winter; Daily Beast, May 16, 2017:  "Trump Officials On Comey Memo: 'Don't See How Trump Isn't Completely F*cked' 

 2.)  What Digby Said:
For me, none of what he has said or done over the past four months as president comes as a surprise. The way he has behaved over the past week — firing FBI Director James B. Comey, undercutting his own aides as they tried to explain the decision and then disclosing sensitive information to Russian officials — is also entirely predictable...

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

To survive... Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear or you succumbed to it — as he thought his older brother had. This narrow, defensive worldview took hold at a very early age, and it never evolved. “When I look at myself today and I look at myself in the first grade,” he told a recent biographer, “I’m basically the same.”
--  Tony Schwarz (Trump's [Co-]Author of  'Art Of The Deal'), "I Wrote 'The Art Of The Deal' With Trump. His Self-Sabotage Is Rooted In His Past," The Washington Post, May 16, 2017
(Quoted by Digby)
3.)  Little Davy Brooks Has A Sad
 At base, Trump is an infantalist... Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif... Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

...Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

...We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

--  David ("Bucky The Beaver") Brooks; The New York Times, May 15, 2017; "The World Is Led By A Child" (Column)
4.) Führertreu In The Bunker
The president’s appetite for chaos, coupled with his disregard for the self-protective conventions of the presidency, has left his staff confused and squabbling. And his own mood, according to two advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has become sour and dark, and he has turned against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — describing them in a fury as “incompetent,” according to one of those advisers...

... Late Monday, reporters could hear senior aides shouting from behind closed doors as they discussed how to respond after Washington Post reporters informed them of an article they were writing that first reported the news about the president’s divulging of intelligence.
--  Thrush, Haberman; "At A Besieged White House, Tempers Flare And Confusion Swirls"; The New York Times, May 16, 2017
5.)  Nasty Penguin's Friend Breaks It Down For You

Right in public and everything, where people can see.

6.)  What Chris Hedges Said:
Forget the firing of James Comey. Forget the paralysis in Congress. Forget the idiocy of a press that covers our descent into tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the idiots that surround him. Forget the noise. 

The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our dysfunctional government. The crisis we face is the result of a four-decade-long, slow-motion corporate coup that has rendered the citizen impotent, left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent. 

This crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalized bribery and empowered those public figures that master the arts of entertainment and artifice. And if we do not overthrow the neoliberal, corporate forces that have destroyed our democracy we will continue to vomit up more monstrosities as dangerous as Donald Trump. Trump is the symptom, not the disease. 

-- Chris Hedges, "Trump Is The Symptom, Not The Disease", TruthDig, May 14, 2017
7.)  Then, There Is That Odd Resemblance

Between Wonderboy and Slim Pickens as Major "King" Kong, in Stanley Kubrick's 1963 Doctor Strangelove.  You will of course recall Maj. Kong's actions in the last five minutes of the film, and what that led to.


The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.  [Note: This was April 13, 2017; two guided-missile frigates were in the South China Sea at the time. Chinese officials were apparently able to dissuade the North Koreans from conducting the test.] -- NBC News
Any questions?
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MEHR, AUSSER DEM HUND-TRAINER:  My Dog Trainer is a Red-Diaper Baby. He's (apparently) Buddhist-leaning, but hasn't forgotten where he came from; ironically, he makes a more than comfortable living helping HNWIs deal with serious emotional issues -- he believes it's a responsibility to do this, even for the rich, and he's very good at it.

I'm not a HNWI; part of his practice are people like myself, a financial lightweight managing 48-year-old PTSD that Group at the VA didn't budge very much. Intrigued enough with my individual circumstances, he accepted me a a client, charges me about a third his normal rate, and I owe him a debt I can't repay.

Some days, we just talk, as two Old Guys headed down La Chute will do; this week, looking at the current bread-and-circuses Clown Car Government, I asked him for a professional appraisal of Wonderboy.

He'd read the Brooks' column quoted upstream in this post, and the Schwarz article (where he'd recalled Trump claiming not to have changed much from the boy he was in First Grade). "[Brooks'] description of Trump, like a child desperate for approval to stabilize his sense of self, is right. But, all children are like that. The difference is, Trump is a 70-year-old man still behaving like a six-year-old boy. And that comment about First Grade is right in line with that.

"How does it end? Resignation is always a possibility, but not likely. You heard him speak to the Coast Guard academy graduates today?  'You have to keep fighting; you can't give in' -- all very familiar stuff for someone with his pathology. 

"When you equate behaving in a certain way with survival, and that's linked to very old, deep stuff -- then he'd rather die than give up. In fact, to do so would be capitulation -- in his case, to his father, who from all accounts was not a very nice guy."
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

All This, All Of It, Cannot End Well

Abrupt Termination

Our Leader: Stark, Stoltz u. Richtig, On The Day Of His Ascension To Power
Three figures stand out prominently among all those whom Trump has fired since appearing in Washington. While The Leader has fired many lesser figures, these three are particularly deserving of attention for what they appear to have in common.

Sally Yates (fired Jan. 30, 2017): Acting Attorney General. Ordered the DOJ not to defend Trump's travel ban, issued within days of his taking office. As acting AG, Yates was a principal figure in the investigation into Trump's circle and potential connections to Russia; she was investigating the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and members of the Trump campaign team he had been in contact with. Yates warned the White House and was ignored, then fired -- ostensibly for her refusal to carry out Trump's travel ban order. 

Preet Bharara (fired March 11, 2017): U.S. Attorney for the District Of Manhattan. While Bharara had been criticized for not more aggressively pursuing 2008-Crash-era financial oligarchs, he was still a capable and respected prosecutor. He refused to resign after Trump announced he wanted all U.S. attorneys to do so, and demanded to be fired; Trump fired him. At the time, Bharara was investigating Trump's HHS Secretary Tom Price's financial investments. He was also investigating corrupt Russian businessmen and officials. A Russian attorney in one of the cases Bharara investigated fell or was pushed from a window the day before he was set to testify in another matter.

James Comey (fired May 9, 2017): FBI Director. Comey revealed on March 20th that there are ongoing, multiple criminal investigations in connection with Russian government officials' tampering with or attempting to influence the 2016 election.
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...[Understand events in the context of] the Family, Brand-driven, Kleptocratic nature of the Trump White House. The core aim is for the President to be popular, to succeed, a goal in key ways even more important to the thirty-something Kushner/Trumps than the 70 year old President.

Politics or policy and ideology, whatever you want to call it, is changeable and secondary, just as Trump can shift from authoritarian isolationist to faux values driven internationalist in a day and a half.  This is precisely what you’d expect from people who [execute political and policy about-faces] ... Words and policy have no meaning.

What matters is protecting and maximizing the value of the new family acquisition: the presidency.

Chas Danner, In The Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 2017; "Fragile Peace Accord Reached In The White House's Bannon-Kushner War" [Paragraphing added]

(Courtesy of Soul Of America)
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There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
-- Herman Mellville / "Moby-Dick, or, The Whale"
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UN AUCH NOCH IMMER MEHR MIT GOEBBELS:
Yesterday, some 24 hours after the compelling testimony of Sally Yates and James Clapper made his shady Russia ties impossible to deny, Donald Trump fired James Comey, the FBI director leading the investigation into said ties. Today, Trump will meet with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian diplomat who the Steele dossier claims is his handler for Russian intelligence...

Firing Comey was, simply put, the stuff of banana republics. If this is allowed to stand, if Republicans in Congress laugh this off, it means that we no longer live in a functioning democracy. Yesterday, a journalist was arrested in West Virginia for shouting questions to Trump’s odious HHS secretary, Tom Price. Stephen Colbert was attacked via the FCC, a fancy federal way of threatening his First Amendment rights. Laws are being written to criminalize protest, and paid alt-right goons are appearing at events to stir up trouble and create the impetus for doing so. Oh, and the New York Fucking Times now has a feature in which we’re supposed to write nice things about our Great Leader.

This is Fascism, guys. As some of us said months ago. ...
Multiple sources have reported that there are tapes, audio tapes, of the Russian ambassador offering money and help to Trump, to Jeff Sessions, and to Paul Ryan. I’ve heard there is also audio of multiple Trump family members engaging in illicit conversations, recorded by foreign intelligence services. If these tapes exist, will they be leaked? ...

...This is going to be the end of Trump, or the end of democracy in this country. This is not a hyperbole and not a joke. This is the gravest threat to our way of life since the Civil War.

Greg Olear / The Weeklings, May 10,2017; "After Comey: Will Democracy Die In Darkness?"
 (Also courtesy of Soul Of America. All links in the original)

MEHR, MIT ZEITGEIST: I have been asked to explain what the Blog Category, "Kicking The Baby", means. It's a 2011 reference to then-Senator Jon Kyl of (aber natürlich) Nebraska, a fool and a poltroon, who made public comments in the Senate about "90% of all funding for Planned Parenthood" being used to provide abortion services -- what we once called a gross and distorted lie, but now refer to as "alternate facts". 

[Note: Poltroon -- 1. An abject or contemptible coward. adjective. 2. a rare word for cowardly.]

Herr Kyl later said his remarks were not intended to be "factual", but only to emphasize and illustrate his point. Not too sure what that point was, now, but I'll bet it was a real Corker.

But: Kicking The Baby. As seen on South Park, Kyle has fun by "Kicking The Baby" -- booting his little brother, Ike, through a window. Ike -- not Kyle -- is then scolded by their mother for breaking the window.

Kicking The Baby makes it appear as if Ike was to blame. It is ascribing qualities or behavior to Ike that were not accurate, in order to portray The Baby in the worst possible light -- or, if you prefer, it's Lying In Order To Defame And Demonize Ike The Baby. Or, Planned Parenthood.



Almost any position can be made to appear defensible -- so long as you grossly distort and lie, and later state you only did so to illustrate and underline your main point. Whatever it was.
MONGO: You know, [Fill In Blank With Name Of Anyone You Dislike] is an unindicted pederast who continues to be one of the largest distributors of child pornography in North America.

NOT MONGO: Are you insane?? There isn't a shred of truth in any of that! Everything you just said is a lie !!!

MONGO: Oh, I'm sorry. That wasn't intended to be a factual statement.
Do I need to explain further?  No? Ausgezeichnet, Kinder.
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

And Reduce The Surplus Population

Sickness


Here is what the bill actually does:

Takes a machete to Medicaid. The bill would cut $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, the program that provides health care to about 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans. That’s one-fourth of its budget. As a result, 14 million fewer people would have access to health care by 2026, according to a C.B.O. analysis of the earlier bill, which contained similar Medicaid provisions... [and] special education programs, which receive about $4 billion from Medicaid every year.

Slashes insurance subsidies. It would provide $300 billion less over 10 years to help people who do not get insurance through employers and have to buy their own policies. This would hurt lower-income and older people the hardest. For example, a 60-year-old living in Phoenix and earning $40,000 would have to pay an additional $12,370 a year to buy a policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many people who find themselves in this situation would have no choice but to forgo insurance.

Eliminates the individual mandate. Many people hate that the A.C.A. requires people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. But without the mandate, fewer younger and healthier people would buy coverage. This would lead to what health experts call a “death spiral” as insurers raise rates because they are left covering people who are older and sicker, leading to even more people dropping coverage. Eventually, companies could stop selling policies directly to individuals in much of the country.

Guts protections for people with pre-existing conditions. An amendment by Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey would allow states to waive the requirement that insurers sell policies to people with prior health problems and not charge them higher rates. The chief executive of Blue Shield of California said the bill “could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance.” Republicans say they will require that states with waivers offer high-risk pools and find other ways to help treat these people. The bill offers $138 billion over 10 years to help states pay for such programs. Health experts say this is far too little; Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation estimates that at least $25 billion a year would be needed.

Makes insurance less comprehensive. The bill would also let states waive a requirement under Obamacare that insurers cover a list of essential services. This means people in some places might not have access to maternity care or cancer treatment. This provision could also hurt people who get insurance through work, because federal regulations allow employers to opt into the rules of any state for the purposes of determining annual and lifetime limits on coverage, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.

Defunds Planned Parenthood. Republicans have included a provision that takes federal money away from the organization, which provides birth control, cancer screenings and other health services to 2.5 million people, mainly women. About 60 percent of people who use Planned Parenthood depend on government programs like Medicaid.
--  New York Time Editorial, 5/4/17: "The Trumpcare Disaster
    (All Links Above In Original)
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...In in the summer of 2009, Ryan argued that the healthcare bill was moving too quickly through Congress without an adequate CBO estimate and a full understanding of the legislation. "If you rush this through before anyone even knows what it is, that's not good democracy," he explained... "I don't think we should pass bills that we haven't read that we don't know what they cost."

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Just a few hours before a scheduled vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the House voted 429-0 to strip out a provision in that legislation that would have exempted members of Congress and their staffers from some of the most radical changes to health care law...

“They planned to exempt themselves from Trumpcare until they got caught,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) accused Republicans from the House floor.
-- Alice Ollstein, TPM, "House Votes To Eliminate Congress Carve-Out From O’Care Repeal Bill"
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Today, I hope there is a hell. If such a place has a use, it is to house people who celebrate with a cold beer after voting to endanger the lives of millions to enrich the already wealthy. These people should be trembling in fear before the justice and wrath of God. But since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to [do] things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.
--  Adam Kotsko / An und für sich: "A Theological Reflection On The Obamacare Repeal Vote"



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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Right Action

Adolfo Kaminsky, Forger

Courtesy of The Paper Of Record (please god never let the Ruperts 'acquire' it, as they lust to do): An amazing story, told principally in silhouette animations; almost like Javanese shadow-puppets -- which if you think about it isn't a bad analogy for whatever this is that we inhabit. Some people I know will understand why this story resonates.

A  small meditation on our ability, with a single act, to change the direction of the lives of others whom we will never see. Never let anyone say that art has no power.  Enjoy.


(If for any reason you can't see the embedded video, go here.)

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Can't You See That I Am Not Afraid

C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon Touch Me Babe

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MEHR; MIT DER BOOM, UND DER BING, 
UND DER BING BING BOOM BOOM BANG:

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sleep

More Random Barking

We read stuff, and we learn things.

You yearn, you hunger, for Daddy to take care of you, to give you candy, and an occasional afternoon off. And, to beat you whenever it pleases them you deserve it.

And -- admit it, now -- you do deserve it. You know that you do lots of stupid stuff. You have to be watched carefully, all the time, so that you don't lie, or slack off, or 'borrow' things that don't belong to you. Or touch each other in places where you shouldn't. Or ask questions like Why do Mom and Dad and their friends have it so soft, with treats? How come the police open our emails and listen to our mobile calls? How come boys get fifty cents an hour and girls only get thirty? Will there be another war? Why do the brown people next door get taken away by the police? How come they shoot black people? What's that little helicopter thing flying over our neighborhood?

See, the world is really big. You just don't know enough to figure it all out. It's all so confusing! And tell the truth, now -- who wants to rubberfy their little heads with all that? But Daddy, and Mommy, Do know. Jared Kushner knows. And they Care; they really do. They'll take care of everything.

So, sleep now. Sleep. There's candy for you, tomorrow, after all your work is done. If you're good.
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If you followed the link (be advised, you may have to take a Google test; that's what you get for accessing sites that know better than you and went to an Oxbridge college, too), the article is "Angry Voters Are Nostalgic For Powerful Elites", by Janan Ganesh in the online Financial Times.

Similar themes were being discussed by Very Serious people out on the Intertubes, even before the U.S. election. In Austria, it was "Faced With Angry Voters, The Elites Sour On Democracy." Glenn Greenwald noted that the Brexit was just one more proof "Of The Insularity And Failure Of Western Establishment Institutions." And Jeff Bezos' Washington Post quipped that "Everyone Hates The Elites. Even The Elites."

Ganesh is, outwardly, a member of the Labor Party in Britain who once declined to attend local Party meetings because they were "too dominated by Trots". Ganesh describes himself as essentially liberal on social affairs, center-right on economics; he co-authored a book in 2006 with a dyed-in-the-wool Tory, entitled Compassionate Conservatism.

That was all before The Crash, however, when conservatives could afford to ignore The Peasantry, which was besotted on ARM loans and cheap refinancing to turn their homes into ATMs. After the Crash, governments were unable to pay for their whining (or much else), and as a result turned the failure of private banks into public debt the Peasants would have to pay. And there would be Austerity for at least 99% of everyone. Yay!

Ganesh's thesis is simple: So long as Elites actively use their power for the material betterment of the people, "voters do not mind elites."
[They] do not want a putsch against elitism. If anything, they want its restoration. They want the ordered world they grew up in, when a measure of central direction kept jobs secure and neighborhoods familiar... The West is not in revolt against elites. The people who voted Britain out of the EU and Donald Trump into the White House ... are nostalgic for a time when elites were more, not less, powerful.
...To read about the architects of [that era] is to bathe in shameless, seigneurial elitism. ...They were extreme in their isolation from normal people. Some had beliefs that touched on the pre-democratic. But that was the point: it was their expert imposition of order on chaos that was so prized, and so missed when that order turned to flux in the 1980s and beyond.

...The trouble is that “oligarchy” is a serviceable description of the social system that angry voters miss. A system of large companies with implicit political duties to maintain jobs onshore, of government as a screen between worker and market, of the armed forces as a large employer and source of cultural mores, of immigration levels set by tight diktat rather the interplay of supply and demand, of free exchange as a curbed and conditional thing.
The masses deferred to elites as long as the elites managed the masses’ exposure to the brute realities of the market. The fraying of that contract led to the bitterness of today. ... In 2016, voters did not ask elites to abdicate their power. They punished elites for [abdicating it].
This assumes that the world, so complicated a place, filled with human folly, can only be tamed and controlled by the Barons and Dukes of Capital which literally and figuratively litter the planet. Genesh's perspective is a love letter to the world Our global HNWIs want -- a New Feudalism, one more financial Crash away.

This perspective also assumes that 'voters' (read: human beings) are children, or chattel, who need to be managed -- sometimes sternly -- rather than addressed and enabled as equals. That government is not a compact between citizens and the representatives they elect; that it is supposed to elevate only the interests of a few over the rest of the population; and that government holds property to be sacred over persons. It's a perspective which seems to suggest that the 'voters' don't have to be considered as human beings at all.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Id's Of March

Random Barking

JFK In Berlin, June 1963 (AFP / Esquire)
At Amherst College in late October, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave a short speech in honor of  Robert Frost, but in a broader context of the Arts, and Artists (you can listen to it here). Roughly five weeks later, JFK was dead.

When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

In the same speech, Kennedy also observed that A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.

(Kennedy made another, longer and more formal speech -- this time about science and the environment -- in October, 1963; read a transcript here. Then compare it with this.)

So, just a question: Whom do we honor, as a nation and a culture? What kind of persons are held up (and, by whom?) in America as examples of right choices and right action -- those who we hope our children will emulate and become? The values and behaviors we promote as the "content of our character"?

Insane Murderous Clowns :  ©2016, Victor Juhasz / Rolling Stone
The failure to bring Trumpcare to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote was a blow to Wonderboy and the Clown Car government. Nearly every media organization (beyond Fox, the Washington Times, and Breitbart, now the White House's propaganda mouthpiece) used headlines  with some variation on "Republicans Pull Healthcare Bill; Sharp Rebuke To Trump".

Make no mistake: the Ryan/Trump plan would have created chaotic disaster. It would have thrown 16 million people, at a minimum, under a Trump In 2020 campaign bus, and directly caused physical pain and real misery. The healthcare industry would have gone into a competitive frenzy -- an inconvenience for the wealthy, but a catastrophe for the sick, the chronically ill, and the poor.

But, make no mistake about this, either: The largest factor leading to the bill's being pulled was not an overwhelming rejection of it in the Congress -- but because a key number of House Republicans, the self-styled 'Freedom Caucus' (whose Kangaroo Court-membership is secret) believed Ryan/Trump's legislation was insufficient. That the cuts and changes weren't severe enough.

Media organizations and any number of liberal pundits can crow about how terrible a blow this all is to Wonderboy, and Little Paulie Ryan. If it were due to a concerted and organized resistance to Trump and his cabal, we should be celebrating.  But it isn't: Trumpcare never made it to the floor because of the continuing struggle between traditional Beltway insider Republicans, and Alt-Right teabag, Evangelical crazies, for control of the Republican party.

That internecine war is far from over.  But no matter what your political analysis of all this is, once one side or the other in that conflict is dominant, or both sides make a truce in order to save the GOP from possible Midterm election losses -- the next time, there will be nothing (let me repeat that; there will be nothing) standing in their way.

After the bill was pulled, Schumer and Pelosi crowed about 'victory' -- but the Democrats had little to do with it. There is no organized Resistance. Paris is occupied and the Germans are free to go anywhere, say anything, take anything. They will lock down your borders -- no one can get in, but (depending on what happens in future) it's also harder to get out. Their judges will sit in your courtrooms. Their teachers in for-profit schools will build a curriculum around 'Alternative Facts'. They will pump chemicals in your rivers, CFC's into the air. And one day, they will come in trucks for your Communists and Jews -- they've already come for Latinos and Muslims.

And there will be nothing to stand in their way, until the Resistance is real, and not simply a pretty graphic or soundbite used to sell trendy clothing or music or tickets to an event -- and not until there is a real alternative to a political structure which benefits so few and takes from so many.
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MEHR, MIT EIN SCHLAG IM GESICHT:  Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, which (according to SourceWatch) was founded before Bill Clinton's run for the to become the Democratic candidate for President, "and after the 1992 election gained notoriety as [his] 'idea mill'."  

The PPI is the think-tank for the Democratic Leadership Council, a group founded by primarily conservative southern Democrats, which essentially believes Republicans are people, too also, and that we should learn to compromise with them in order to, you know -- get stuff. Some things.  A few. One?  

Okay -- we'll let them take things from us, but they have to promise to think very, very seriously about giving us some things, too. How about maybe just 'lend' us stuff? 

Will Marshall contributed an op-ed piece for yesterday's The Paper Of Record, titled "Why Democrats Should Work With Trump".  The title says it all.  

This little crayon-written missive attracted 1,288 replies; no I did not read them all, but those which said, in essence Are you fucking kidding me? What planet are you living on, dude? were overwhelmingly in the majority.  My favorite:
[Peter, In Connecticut]
If someone is punching you in the face, try to get them to slow down, or maybe not hit so hard. Compromise is a wonderful thing.
(100 Recommend)
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Up

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And, courtesy of First Dog On The Moon at the UK Guardian online (Click To Enlarge! Easy! Fun!):

 
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