Friday, August 4, 2017

Random Barking: Our Weak In Review


Kim Jong FatBoy Demands Additional Helping Of Foreshortening With His Dessert

In The Boom Boom Room
The military might of a country represents its national strength. Want pizza?
-- Kim Jong FatBoy, That Guy of Korea
On July 29, Kim Jong Un, Happy Killer of the Korean peninsula and starver-in-chief, rejoiced at the launch of (yet another) version of intercontinental ballistic missile -- the second in less than a month, and claiming this one has the capability of striking a target anywhere in the mainland United States.

There's no doubt that Kimmy is Bad, even if he hangs out with Dennis Rodman (okay; maybe because too, also, he hangs out with Rodman). He starves his population, is a despot, has a friggin' wacky haircut, and likes to execute his potential enemies with antiaircraft guns or have them torn apart by dogs. And he has nuclear weapons. And now ICBMs.

It appears to be an even chance that the U.S. could choose to launch a strike against North Korean infrastructure and its military in the near future, and if that happens it's anyone's guess where it would all end.

And, of course, the most important thing in these circumstances is to lower tensions as much as possible. So the U.S. response was to hold joint military exercises with South Korea, around the Korean peninsula, which in the past has driven the North Koreans bugshit.

But, I'm curious: while he is undoubtedly a despot and his rule over North Korea is brutal... has it occurred to anyone that the characterizations of Kim Jong-Un and reports on the state of his regime sound almost identical to those in the western media about Saddam Hussein, in the year or so leading up to the PNAC-sponsored invasion of Iraq? Or, is it just me?

Da Mooch: Race You To The Bottom

I'm not Steve Bannon. I'm not trying to suck my own [redacted].
--  Da Mooch, To New Yorker Journalist Ryan Lizza
Just when you thought Be No More Weird, This, it got even stranger.

Two weeks ago, Little Seany Spicer, nine years old, was forced out of his position as Mr. PotatoHead at the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda, and replaced by that peevish Middle School teacher in a Wal-Mart sack dress, Miss Sarah. Then, we were introduced to the new White House Communications Director.

Anthony Scaramucci was already a curious figure in American business: a hedge-fund manager who built his own trading house, a known GOP fund-raiser (who once called Trump "a hack" and "a mouth") who sold his stake in his company to a Chinese consortium, expecting he would aber natürlich be brought into the new administration -- after all, he was The Mooch. That didn't happen, and Tiny Tony was at loose ends. 

I'm not the first person to use this turn of phrase to describe the man -- but from the moment Scaramucci appeared in the White House Press Room, he seemed the personification of the Trump regime -- baseless self-confidence; foul-mouthed, bullying; not a person adding clarity to our experience of life, but an obfuscator -- a person who tells lies or half-lies to hold an advantage.

The Mooch (a Nick that encapsulated him, both alliteratively and specifically) was another despicable, tiny, tiny, tiny man -- like his good buddy, who got him that gig. This was the public face of Trumplandia -- this figure out of a Renaissance Commedia del arte?

It's taken just seven months for this Clown Car government to drag most Americans down to a level of cynicism which past presidencies have taken well over a year to achieve. Even Trump's supporters expect that cronyism and nepotism is normal, here in Trumplandia -- as in any corporate Oligarchia.

Then, Reince ("Nancy") Priebus was out the door. The Mooch claimed he was behind it, of course, hinting that he believed Priebus was a "leaker" within the administration. After a dinner with Trump at the White House, The Mooch made an evening phone call to New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza, whom Mooch believed used Priebus as a White House source.

It was a foul-mouthed, bullying conversation, full of threats and grandiosity. However, Da Mooch neglected to advise Lizza that his excess of Self was all Off The Record -- and so the following day, the New Yorker ran an online article by Lizza, to share the Plaint Of Tiny Tony, a man in full (and later, releasing an audio recording of the call).

In short order, Trump announced he had chosen current Homeland Security Director and former Marine Corps General James Kelly as his new Chief of Staff. One of Kelly's first acts was to demand Tiny Tony be fired; as reported by CNN, Tony was escorted from the White House. At almost the same time, his wife of three years filed for divorce, having just given birth to their child.

If Past is indeed Prologue, I'm expecting Kim Kardashian to become our first female president in 2020. And, given the general tone and tenor of these United States, she'll probably win -- on a platform of "Gettin' that, you know -- good stuff" for all Americans.


Und Sie, Meine Deutscher Jugend

My German youth.
-- Hitler, Speaking To Mass Hitlerjugend, 1938 Nuremberg Rally
The day before Da Mooch was frog-marched from the building, Trump appeared at the annual National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America.

(1)  During the 2016 election season, Trump had appeared at the traditional Al Smith dinner, "where presidential candidates roast their rivals and themselves every four years", per the Atlantic Monthly -- an opportunity to show graciousness and humor even in the middle of tough and even dirty political campaigning. While Clinton sat and watched him, Trump called the U.S. media "Hillary's team", referred to her questioning by the FBI over the then-present Emailgate -- then said with a trademark Hey-Whadya-Whadya shrug, "Hillary is so... corrupt!" The audience was stunned. In retrospect, they shouldn't have been.

( 2 )  Within days after his election, and after publicly railing against America's intelligence community during the campaign, Trump appeared at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and -- standing in the building's lobby before the marble Memorial Wall, marked by 125 incised stars, representing intelligence agents killed in the line of duty -- "stunned CIA employees by delivering a campaign-style speech".

( 3 )  Two days before his appearance at the Boy Scouts' conclave, Trump appeared at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford, and surprised -- well, some people, I suppose -- by asking the crowd of soldiers and sailors to support his agenda, which increases defense spending at the expense of other domestic priorities. “I don’t mind getting a little hand," Trump said, "so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it." Then he added, “And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.”

( 4 )  Appearing before a crowd of police and other law enforcement officials in Brentwood, New York on July 28, Trump spoke about the brutal reality of a specific Latino gang, MS-13, and urged police to go ahead and "treat 'em rough... Don't be too nice... Like when you guys put somebody in the car? And you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put [your] hand over [the top of their heads]. Like, 'don't hit their head' -- and they've just killed somebody... I said, 'you can take the hand away;' OK?"

So when Our Oligarch appeared at the Jamboree, everyone should have seen it coming. In a rambling, disjointed, 38-minute speech, he spoke little of community service or the scouting tradition; instead, Trump referred to that favored topic -- himself.

Washington is "a cesspool... a sewer," Trump told the Scouts. He recalled the "beautiful date" of November 8: "Do we remember that date?" he asked, to applause. Reporting the progress of the election that evening, Trump described television network "maps were so red [for Republican victories in various states]... it was unbelievable."

Trump told the assembled Scouts his election was "an unbelievable tribute" to those who voted for him "to 'Make America Great Again'." He referred to his secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, and said that if the secretary couldn't obtain the votes to kill "this horrible thing known as Obamacare," that perhaps he would fire him.

Trump also mentioned the Republican Senator from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, who had openly criticized previous versions of the GOP healthcare legislation. Reflecting on the word 'loyal' in reference to the Scouts, Trump quipped, "We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that." 

The first National Jamboree was held in 1937. It was attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who told the assembled scouts, "When you go out into life, you come to understand that the individual in your community ... who by inaction or opposition slows up honest, practical, far-seeing community effort, is the fellow who is holding back civilization and holding back the objectives of the Constitution of the United States."

The remark absolutely had a political reference. Despite an easy reelection in 1936, FDR found his New Deal stymied by Republicans and declared unconstitutional by a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives, and he was deeply frustrated. But his comment was an oblique reference -- FDR's speech that day was about public service, and the values Scouting was supposed to foster. It wasn't a self-referential rant by a low-class, narcissistic opportunist. Trump's speech could just as easily have been delivered by Recep ('Kiki') Erdogan.

 Song Of The Volga Boatmen

...Why won't you go away?
-- Randy Newman, "I'm Dead But I Don't Know It"; Bad Love (1999)
The Trump - Russia connection will not fade away. Even former CIA officers, old Russia hands, believe that based on the evidence and their own experience of how Russian intelligence runs an operation, there is some kind of fire beneath all the smoke.

This past week, Reuters broke the story that Trump Jr.'s initial statement about his 2016 meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya had ben dictated by his father, aboard Air Force One while returning to the U.S. from the G20 summit when the initial story was reported in the New York Times on July 10.  Missy Sarah, when asked about this by the hated fake media, did not deny it, saying only that Trump Sr. had done "what any father would do."

The statement dictated by Trump Sr. claimed the meeting with the Russians was "short", that Trump Jr. had "asked Jared [Kushner] and Paul [Manafort] to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.

"I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance," Trump Sr. dictated while in flight, "but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand."

This initial statement was so vague, and contradicted by other reported details, that Trump Jr. was forced to issue a 'clarification' which amounted to a contradiction. Additional details to come out after that second statement even threw its accuracy into doubt. All any one could say was, there's a great deal of smoke.

The immediate view by a number of opinion commentators and news journalists was, even if Trump Sr. were responding as a father, crafting an inaccurate and/or incomplete statement about l'affaire Veselnitskaya, from an investigative perspective at least, gives the appearance of an act in furtherance of covering up a crime, an obstruction of justice. Unless he already knew about the meeting (which raises additional questions), Trump Sr. could not write even an inaccurate statement without talking to others who did know what happened, when, and why.

More important, it was revealed yesterday to the public (not a surprise for the Trump legal team, surely) that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had been dealing with not one but two Federal Grand Juries to hear evidence in two separate matters.

Trump characterizes this kind of activity as a "witch hunt," that it's all about Democrats being sore losers. Most news commentators have said grand juries are a normal occurrence, not anything particularly notable -- but as an ex-investigative Dog at the Federal level, let me observe: that's not entirely true.

Federal Grand Juries aren't empaneled unless sufficient grounds exist to suspect a breach of Federal law. While they have a large amount of power to direct the inquiries themselves, through their Forepersons, Grand Juries rarely do so -- the old adage about a Grand Jury being something a District Attorney or United States Attorney can play like a piano is often the case  Their members are primarily retirees who have the kind of free time needed to sit on a jury and hear evidence, often for months. 

Grand Juries exist to compel production of documents, and the testimony of witnesses. And, Grand Juries cost money. There is no guarantee they'll find in favor of handing down a criminal indictment -- but they aren't convened for no reason. And Robert Mueller has apparently been managing two separate juries, dealing with two separate lines of inquiry. 

But it's early days; many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, and all that. Still, small wonder everyone on Team Trump is lawyering up, including the Vice President.

Public Trump = Private Trump, And No One Is Surprised

Yesterday, transcripts prepared by the White House but not released were published by The Washington Post of telephone conversations between Trump and the Australian Prime Minister, and the President of Mexico, shortly after his inauguration.

With the Mexican President, Pena Nieto -- whom he kept calling 'Enrique' -- Trump alternately threatened and flattered him, and then said Mexico had to pay for construction of a border wall with the United States. Because. 

>> TRUMP:  The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall ... I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives. They are beating us at trade and they are beating us at the border, and they are killing us with drugs... 

>> NIETO:  ...But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall. 

>> TRUMP:  But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that...

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (whom he insisted on calling Malcom) had reached an agreement with President Obama to resettle 1,250 Syrian refugees in the U.S., initially taken in by the Aussies. Trump was on record as saying the deal was bad, and used a blend of self-pity and begging to get Turnbull to agree not to send the refugees, to no avail. 

>> TRUMP:  Malcom [sic]... This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week. 

>> TURNBULL:  With great respect, that is not right – It is not 2,000... The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting... 

>> TRUMP:  Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible... 

Finally, in a related item, Federal prosecutors in New York are issuing subpoenas, looking into the propriety of a Kushner family project -- selling EB5 visas, allowing immigration into the U.S. for (principally Chinese) investors who pay $500K to support real estate projects which claim to hire construction crews from the neighborhoods where the building takes place. This, at the same time his father-in-law supports restricting any legal immigration to half of its current annual level.


But I feel like a stranger
Feel like a stranger
You know it keeps getting stranger and stranger
If it's love then how would I know?

Yes and it's gonna get stranger
Some things you just know

If this were love then how would I know
(Feel like a stranger)
(Feel like a stranger)
Feel like a stranger
(Feel like a stranger)
It's gonna be a long hot crazy night
It's gonna be a long long crazy crazy night
Yeah crazy night
Silky silky, crazy crazy night
--  Grateful Dead (Weir/Barlow), "Feel Like A Stranger"; Go To Heaven (1980)