Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:


1. Well, they did it.  In the dead of night, with enough screw-ups that they had to do it all over again the next day because Competence Just Is Not Their Thing, the GOP passed the most destructive financial legislation this country has seen in decades.  It makes a mockery of this country.  It is a mockery of this country.  It marks the end of the United States as a responsible fiscal entity and the official announcement of the kleptocracy’s victory over the American people.  And the GOP is going to be saddled with it forever.  How do you pass a bill that cuts taxes enough to cause a $1.4 trillion hole in the budget over a ten-year period and still have more than 75% of the American people opposed to it?  You do it the way these clowns did, by robbing from the poor, the middle class, and the only kind of wealthy to line the pockets of the ultra wealthy.

2. This is little more than a smash and grab raid on the American treasury by a small band of puppeteers and their dancing fools, a “heist” in the words of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  It is a moral disgrace and a giant “fuck you” to everything that once made this country decent and humane.  And if you truly want to lose what little faith in humanity you might still possess, try reading some of the semi-literate trollage that passes for support among the minions who think der Sturmtrumper and his band of vandals actually represent them.

3. If there is anything worse than the fiscal insanity of this tax bill – of cutting taxes on the wealthy at a time of low unemployment, high government debt, and a strong economy, which is something so blisteringly stupid that no civilized country has ever done it and no economic theory more complicated than HULK SMASH AND TAKE supports it – it is the utter contempt for democracy and constitutional process that the GOP has displayed.  There were no public hearings on this bill.  How could there be?  The bill was literally being scrawled on up to the last possible minute.  There was no time for a complete analysis of what this bill would do, and the GOP has gone to great lengths to slander and try to discredit every legitimate analysis that could be done in the meager time allotted.  There was no respect given to the will of the American people, and the GOP was honest about that at least – this was all about the ultra wealth donors who have the GOP by the short and curlies and don’t give a damn about the USA or anyone other than themselves.  Let’s be blunt here – this was not just an outright assault on fiscal sanity or economic reality.  This was the GOP’s declaration of war on democracy itself – a war they’ve been fighting for a decade now, and which has just now been made public.

4.  If you can support the GOP after this, you have no business calling yourself an American patriot.

5. Even Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand wunderkind who has never had a private sector job in his life and has lived off the public dime since he was a child, has no idea what this bill will do beyond SMASH GRAB ALL MINE.  Anyone surprised by this has never actually spoken to the man in person.  I have spoken with him.  I’m not surprised.

6. The transfer of wealth out of the middle class and working class and into the rich and ultra rich has been going on since the GOP swept back to national power in 1980, according to an authoritative new study on global inequality.  Since 1980, when the GOP decided that supply-side economics were going to be rammed up the ass of the demand-side economy without so much as a reach-around, the bottom 50% of American wage-earners has seen their share of national income drop from 21% to 13% while the top 1% has seen their share grow from 11% to 20%.  This new tax bill will simply accelerate that process.  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class gets smaller, and the pool of consumers that drive prosperity in a demand-side economy disappears, because that’s what happens when you force supply-side economics onto a demand-side economy, and welcome to 1929.  This didn’t end well the first time and it won’t end well this time. 

7. Remember, as always: when the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich.

8. If you don’t think that calls for that sort of thing are bubbling up to the surface, then you haven’t been paying attention. There are a lot of people in the US who are not fooled by what is being done to them and more who are figuring it out, and in a nation as heavily armed as this one there are very few ways for that to end well.  I don’t condone or desire violent revolution, but I won’t be surprised when it comes.

9. One of the things that is obvious to anyone who looks at the numbers is that American society is becoming increasingly stratified by wealth and the American economy is actively making that problem worse.  Household wealth is shrinking, middle class debt is soaring, wages – when they rise at all – are not rising fast enough to keep pace with housing costs, health care costs, or education costs, all things that are necessary for future prosperity, job growth is increasingly concentrated in part-time service-sector positions with few benefits or long-term security, retirement is increasingly out of reach for most Americans, and there are more Americans with zero or negative net worth today than at any point in the last half century.  And this is before the impact of the Reverse Robin Hood tax plan just shoved through Congress, or the unanesthetized chainsaw surgery that the GOP has promised on Social Security, Medicaire, and Medicaid to pay for all those juicy tax cuts for billionaires and the corporations they own.  Again, you know this won’t end well.  You know that, right?

10. If you look at the provisions in the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Act of 2017 (and now that it’s been voted on, perhaps the GOP Representatives and Senators who voted for it will finally take the opportunity to do so), it pretty much amounts to weaponizing the tax code against blue states.  It makes no pretense of being even-handed, just as it makes no pretense of being revenue neutral.  It is funding tax breaks for billionaires and corporations on the backs of blue state taxpayers by capping the SALT deductions, limiting homeowner mortgage deductions, and eliminating the personal exemption – all of which hit blue-state taxpayers much harder than red-state taxpayers.  We’ll leave unnoticed the premeditated assault on public education, which is generally better supported in blue states than red states (and the reader is invited to draw their own conclusion from that).  Not surprisingly, blue states like California are working on ways to fight back.  California is, for example, actively exploring ways to turn portions of its taxes into charitable donations – a strategy already used by right-wing states like South Carolina, Alabama, and Kansas to fund private schools.  By expanding this program, California would force the GOP into a choice – either let the blue states (because you know others will follow if this works) shield their taxpayers from right-wing raids on their cash, or eliminate programs that have disproportionately benefited red states up until now.  I don’t doubt the juvenile willingness of the modern GOP to cut off their nose to spite their own face, but perhaps that will cause problems for them down the line too.

11. And net neutrality is gone.  The federal laws that protected the internet from becoming cable television, that allowed new entrepreneurs to compete against monopolies, that allowed the voices of the voiceless to be heard over the din, have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and mindless ideological fanaticism.  This despite documented fraud in the comment period, where literally millions of Americans had their identities stolen and used to promote this theft – fraud that the FCC has aggressively defended.  Does this group of con artists and fanatics have no decency left at all? 

12.  On the other hand, Alabama did manage not to send the Child Molester Roy Moore to the Senate, so there is that.  Imagine – a victory for human decency, in this parlous time.

13. Of course, it was grimly noticeable how nearly evenly divided the voters of Alabama were on the issue of having a child molester represent them and how overwhelming the support of white evangelical men was for child molester representation, so one cannot take this victory as final.  And, as if on cue, the Child Molester Roy Moore spent most of the following couple of weeks whining and complaining that he’d been Done Wrong By Mysterious Ill-Wishers.  First of all, Sonny Jim, you lost and you need to get over yourself.  I know this is a difficult lesson for someone who still thinks it’s somehow okay to fly the Confederate battle flag, but consider it a wake-up call from the civilized world and move on.  Second, there was never anything mysterious about the ill-wishers.  We are the moral and patriotic Americans who think child molesters should be in prison, not in government.  We’re pretty proud of that, actually.  And third, the fact that right-wingers consistently complain about “librul snowflakes” is just further proof that if you want to know what the right wing is up to, all you need to do is listen to what they accuse their opponents of doing.  A more reliable guide you will never find.

14. The Child Molester Roy Moore even went so far as to file suit demanding that the election results be overturned because reasons.  To their credit, Alabama state officials – all of them Republican – laughed this out of court.

15. Is it just me or is the fact that der Sturmtrumper spent the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre meeting with NRA shills rather than doing anything to mark the slaughter of the innocent with high-powered firearms a rather telling example of his – and the GOP’s in general – priorities?

16. As the Russian noose tightens and Mueller’s investigation reaches further and further into the black heart of der Sturmtrumper’s administration, the panicked attempts by the GOP to shield their Fuehrer from further prosecution become more and more desperate and more and more authoritarian (no, my continued referrals to der Sturmtrumper and his enablers in language referencing the NSDAP are neither accidental nor hyperbolic, thank you).  Even former GOP officials have noticed and some have spoken out, to their credit.  When GOP Congressman Francis Rooney suggested that there should be a “purge” of the FBI to eliminate those willing to investigate der Sturmtrumper, Richard Painter – who had served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer – flatly accused them of dictatorship.  “Tell that congressman and all the rest of them who are shooting their mouths off without any knowledge of the facts that they are just flat-out wrong.  There’s not going to be any purge of the FBI on his [current FBI Director Chris Wray, a Trump appointee] watch.  He needs to stand up to these people.  They’re acting like dictators.  That doesn’t appeal to my type of Republican.  That doesn’t appeal to patriotic Americans, to see the FBI attacked that way.”

17. Unfortunately, the GOP has been taken over by a whole different kind of Republican, one who does not have the patriotism to stand up to such nonsense.  We’ll see how that goes.

18.  Apparently Mueller has begun seeking RNC campaign data, looking for exactly how compromised it was by Russian activity.  Meanwhile the FBI is taking a hard look at Kushner’s contacts with the Russian ambassador and a Russian bank that has already been sanctions for criminal activity.  Keep that popcorn popping.

19. For a guy who sits in the most powerful job in the world, der Sturmtrumper sure is insecure.  He recently bragged that he signed more laws than any president since Truman, which is absurd on its face.  He had actually signed fewer bills (96) at that point than any president since Truman, and more than two thirds of those are more or less trivial.  But even taking the 96 at face value, the fact is that Clinton, Carter, and Bush Sr. signed more than twice that many, while Eisenhower signed more than five times as many and Kennedy signed more than seven times as many.  You know, folks.  If you’re going to lie to pad your resume, you need to find things to lie about that aren’t so easy to check.

20. Remember Puerto Rico?  The American territory full of American citizens who got slammed by a hurricane back in the summer and whom der Sturmtrumper and his minions have done their level best to ignore ever since because why would they pay attention to an island full of brown-skinned Spanish-speaking people even if they are American citizens?  That Puerto Rico?  Yeah, on top of the colossal moral and political failure that this represents, it turns out that the vast majority of the IV bags used in American hospitals are made in one factory in Puerto Rico, a factory that somehow still hasn’t been put to rights.  If you’re wondering why hospitals in the US are now almost out of IV bags – why nurses have to inject fluids manually, a time-consuming and inefficient process, rather than just hooking you up to an IV – well, why don’t you take a moment and write to your president and ask him about that?  Surely self-interest will provide motivation for him, where civics and morality fail.

21.  For those of you who still think the right-wing media has any relationship with truth, morality, or reality as we know it, well, you could always listen to what they actually say.  Not just the mountain of fabrication and outright falsehood that is their stock and trade, but the times when they come right out and say that they’re lying to you.  Remember Rush Limbaugh declaring that he was “no longer going to have to carry the water” for the GOP at the end of the Bush Jr. administration?  How he proudly defended lying to his listeners for partisan gain?  Good times, man.  Now you’ve got Breitbart just as proudly admitting that they are glad to lie to people if it means protecting der Sturmtrumper from the crimes he and his minions perpetrate.  So next time someone tries to tell you that they rely on sources like this, feel free to laugh at them for as long as you have breath.

22.  So, have you read Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury yet?  I haven’t, but, like most people who don’t live in caves, I’ve heard of it and read both excerpts and analyses of it.  Which is, of course, part of the story.  Wolff had incredible access to der Sturmtrumper’s White House and the people in it, and his book is yet another damning indictment of the malfeasance, incompetence, and general unfitness of that crew – from top to bottom – to be in power.  But it’s not as if this is news to any American citizen who values this country and hopes for its continued prosperity and stability.  The fact that der Sturmtrumper has made such a big deal out of this book does, however, guarantee that what would otherwise have been a minor stir among the political class has now become a major cultural event.  For those of you new to this phenomenon, you can google the phrase “Streisand Effect” for the details.

23. There are, it turns out, a few interesting things described in Wolff’s book.  Such as:

a) Former President Steve Bannon explicitly described Don “Fredo” Junior’s meeting with Jared, Manafort, and Russian lawyer Natlia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016 looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton as “treasonous.”  In his words, “Three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers.  They didn’t have any lawyers.  Even if you thought this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

b) Bannon continues, “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”  Nobody knows what the word “jumo” means here.  Seriously – people have done research.  It clearly isn’t positive, however.

c) Bannon also has the cunning to know what Mueller is aiming for.  “This is all about money laundering.  Muller chose Weissman first and he is a money-laundering guy.  Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. … It’s as plain as a hair on your face,” according to an excerpt in The Guardian.  “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit.  The Kushner shit is greasy.  They’re going to go right through that.  They’re going to roll those to guys up and say play me or trade me.”  Bannon further predicts, “They’re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.”  Hey, I’ll pay money to see that.

d) One of der Sturmtrumper’s oldest associates, billionaire Thomas Barrack, Jr., described der Sturmtrumper this way – “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.”

e) Rupert Murdoch seems to share this opinion, labeling der Sturmtrumper “a fucking idiot.”

f) Apparently everyone in der Sturmtrumper’s administration – from Bannon to Ivanka to Jared to the cleaning staff – all think they’re going to springboard into the presidency after this.  Lawsey, that’s frightening.

g) Nobody in der Sturmtrumper’s campaign thought they were going to win.  They didn’t want to win.  They wanted to keep it respectable enough to leverage the exposure into a new news network and make money.  Der Sturmtrumper would be famous and even more rich than whatever he thought he already was.  Ivanka and Jared would be celebrities.  Bannon would walk off as the head of the Teabagger movement, Kellyanne Conway would go on to cable news, and Melania could go back to whatever she used to do before this insane idea took off.  And when it came out the way it did, der Sturmtrumper was first confused, then disbelieving, then horrified.  And then, of course, the Ego took over and he decided it was only fair that he be president after all.

h) In other words, we’re living in a real life version of The Producers, including the musical Nazi number.

i) If you want to understand the dysfunctionality and chaos of the current regime, it all goes back to that.  They didn’t want to win.  They did win.  And like the GOP in general, they have found that throwing spokes in the wheels of good governance is easy, but actually governing takes work and thought – two qualities they don’t have.

j) Der Sturmtrumper apparently didn’t enjoy his inauguration much, which is only fair as neither did most of the country.

24. All this of course led der Sturmtrumper to turn on Former President Bannon, calling him a self-promoting charlatan who’d lost his mind, which AGAIN brings to mind the fact that if you want to know what the GOP is up to just look at what they call their opponents.  Der Sturmtrumper couldn’t commission a better description of himself if he tried.  Naturally the rest of the civilized world looked on at the fracas between Bannon and der Sturmtrumper and laughed until they cried, then cried harder realizing that these two morally stunted hacks ran the country for a while and one of them still does.

25.  Probably the biggest single takeway from Wolff’s book – a fact which has long been obvious and which nobody who actually knows der Sturmtrumper bothers to deny – is that der Sturmtrumper is completely unfit to hold office.  “My indelible impression of talking to them [the senior officials and other assorted personnel in the administration whom Wolff interviewed] and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all – 100 percent – came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”  He repeats himself, he forgets simple things (such as the fact that the ran for president in 2000, apparently), he behaves in much the way that people in the early stages of dementia behave.  “He’s lost it,” Wolff quotes Former President Bannon as saying.  Steven Mnuchin and Reince “No, Really, That’s His Name” Priebus both called him an “idiot,” though without the “fucking” modifier that Rupert Murdoch used (vide supra).  Gary Cohn says he has shit for brains.  HR McMaster says he’s a “dope.”  Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Tillerson says he’s a “moron.”  NONE OF THIS IS NEWS.  This has been documented for years.  It was obvious during the campaign.  And none of it mattered because, as Mitch McConnell – the least honorable man in Washington, which is quite an achievement – said, “[Trump] will sign anything we put in front of him.”  There’s your GOP, ladies and gentlemen.

26. They continue to prop him up, to support his outbursts, to serve in his administration.  When this all comes crashing down and the rubble settles, there will be reckoning.

27. Of course they can’t really abandon der Sturmtrumper, can they.  He’s become their face.  He is what this party has been shambling toward since 1968 when Nixon first introduced the Southern Strategy.  If he goes down in flames, so too does the entire GOP.  And it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of guys.

28.  The larger point, however, remains.  All snark and partisanship aside, this president is mentally unwell.  He desperately needs to be tested by neutral mental health professionals.  The ones who have looked at the thousands of hours of him speaking publicly are extremely concerned – which means we should be concerned.  Compare der Sturmtrumper from 1980, for example, when – whatever you may think of the substance of what he is saying – he is coherent and able to express himself clearly to the rambling, disjointed, fragmented, empty, repetitive speech patterns he exhibits today, and you’ll be amazed that it’s the same person.  Because really it isn’t the same person.

29. As if to hammer that point home even further, der Sturmtrumper gave an interview to the New York Times at the end of December that was all kinds of scary.  He lied, as he always does – that’s not the problem.  He does that routinely, and those of us in the reality-based community are used to it and those who make up der Sturmtrumper’s base think it’s fine.  The problem is that the interview went in two equally disturbing directions.

a) First, it went directly toward authoritarian rule.  Der Sturmtrumper thinks he has the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”  Uh, no.  No he does not.  The president is not above the law and the Justice Department enforces the law.  Der Sturmtrumper then went on to point out how gracious he is being for not interfering with them, which is the equivalent of a street thug demanding applause for not murdering you.  He clearly thinks they owe him loyalty, which is nonsense – they owe loyalty to the Constitution and to the law.

b) Perhaps more importantly (which is saying something, because a president who thinks he can waltz in and be a dictator is something that will frighten every patriotic American citizen – and if you’re not frightened by that, the rest is left as an exercise for the reader) is the fact that the interview is disjointed, fragmented, and delusional.  He starts at uninformed and goes downhill from there straight into incoherence, conspiracy, and nonsense.  Which brings us back to mental unfitness.  “Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease,” writes Charles Pierce.  “(The president*’s father developed Alzehimer’s in his 80s.) … In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent.  He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier.  To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth.  This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart.”  Joe Scarborough, former GOP Congressman and current cable news host, pointedly observes that der Sturmtrumper’s mental decline was obvious during the campaign “and it’s getting worse, and not a single person who works for him doesn’t know it.”  This is a man who should not be where he is.

30. Yes, I know that getting rid of der Sturmtrumper will leave us with Toady Pence, the man who single-handedly turned the otherwise unremarkable state of Indiana into a pariah for a few months when he was governor.  Unlike the vast majority of people shouting about this on Twitter, Facebook, or other forms of social media, I have actually read the Constitution.  I understand the presidential line of succession.  President Toady will present his own problems, most of which stem from the fact that he is a bog-standard Dominionist blasphemer and a Koch Brothers meat puppet who can be counted on to implement the most catastrophically short-sighted and morally callous agenda in modern political history.  But Pence is not mentally ill.  This is no longer about policy and hasn’t been for quite some time.  This is about the survival of the republic.

31.  Naturally, der Sturmtrumper couldn’t let any of this slide.  So in what can only be described as a meltdown of Biblical proportions and kindergarten-level sophistication, he let fly with yet another rage-Tweet festival when perhaps he could have been, oh, reading intelligence briefings or in some other way doing his job.  “Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. ... I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try).  I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”  Uh, wow.  There is no proper adult response to this other than goggle-eyed horror at the fact that this is the guy with his finger on the nuclear button.

32.  Although Mark Hamill’s response comes pretty close: “Congratulations, sir!  This dignified, statesman-like tweet is the perfect way to counter the book’s narrative that you’re an impulsive, childish dimwit.”

33. As does this:

34. Meanwhile back in the rest of reality, der Sturmtrumper has apparently disbanded his Voter Suppression Commission, which means that Kris Kobach can go back to evicting war widows from their homes or whatever it is he does for fun.  This is what happens when your loudly trumpeted claims of “voter fraud” are so patently ridiculous and obviously partisan that even Republican states tell you to go to hell.  Don’t imagine this won’t come back, though.  Voter suppression has been the goal of the GOP since the early 1980s – they’re very open about it if you just listen to them (see below) – and pretty much by definition they’ll try again.  It’s how der Sturmtrumper won in Wisconsin, after all.  When you’re a minority party, democracy just isn’t for you.

35. Der Sturmtrumper isn’t kidding when he says he thinks the Justice Department owes loyalty to him rather than the law.  His continuing efforts to throttle Mueller’s investigation long ago crossed into obstruction of justice and are rapidly hurtling toward imperial hubris, and the more evidence comes out the harder it will be for der Sturmtrumper to control events and the more desperate he will become to do so.  That’s not a combination that bodes well for anyone who cares about the future of the American republic.

36. You can understand why he’s so desperate.  Mueller now has evidence confirming several of the allegations made by James Comey, evidence from independent sources.  The web of obstruction has expanded to Jared Kushner and Steven Miller at the minimum, and possibly Jeff Sessions.  They’re all going down, and you’d be a fool to think they’ll go quietly or without trying to take everything down with them.

37. One of the more interesting responses to Wolff’s book has been der Sturmtrumper’s quixotic threat to sue Wolff’s publishers for, well, reasons.  He’d like to quash this book.  Should this lawsuit ever become more than an empty threat from a hollow man, however, it would expose pretty much everything he’s tried to conceal.  One of the main events that happens in any civil litigation is called “discovery,” and it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – the attorneys on both sides demand documents from the other with the intent of using the information therein to bolster their case.  This is not optional.  In particular, a plaintiff (which is what der Sturmtrumper would be if he brought this suit) would have very little hope of refusing to turn over any document demanded by the defense since, after all, the whole thing could be brought to an end simply by his dropping the suit in the first place.  So long as the suit is there, pretty much everything connected to Wolff’s descriptions would be fair game for his lawyers to discover and make public, particularly as the suit alleges that there is no substance to the descriptions.  You can bet that Wolff’s lawyers are just salivating at the thought of such a lawsuit, and der Sturmtrumper’s lawyers are frantically trying to put that genie back in its bottle.

38. I’m not even going to go into the overwhelming mountain of Constitutional problems that would collapse down on der Sturmtrumper should he move forward with his attempt to impose prior restraint on the publishers of this book.  That’s not how the First Amendment works – that’s now how any of the Constitution works – and for a sitting president to make such a demand is both flagrantly unconstitutional and conclusive evidence that he has no business being in office.  As the Authors Guild president, James Gleick, noted, “This isn’t a country where we quash books that the leader finds unpleasant.  That’s what tyrants do, not American presidents.”  But when the American president is himself a tyrant, then what?

39. The Cardin Report, issued this week, presents a damningly clear and vivid analysis of how der Sturmtrumper’s collusion with Russia was just the most recent chapter in an ongoing effort by Putin and his Informational Warfare staff to corrupt and destroy Western politics.  It describes how and why this effort has been produced and how effective it has been.  And then it points out the obvious:  “Despite the clear assaults on our democracy and our allies in Europe, the U.S. government still does not have a coherent, comprehensive, and coordinated approach to the Kremlin’s malign influence operations, either abroad or at home. Although the U.S. government has for years had a patchwork of offices and programs supporting independent journalism, cyber security, and the countering of disinformation, the lack of presidential leadership in addressing the threat Putin poses has hampered a strong U.S. response. In early 2017, Congress provided the State Department’s Global Engagement Center the resources and mandate to address Kremlin disinformation campaigns, but operations have been stymied by the Department’s hiring freeze and unnecessarily long delays by its senior leadership in transferring authorized funds to the office. While many mid-level and some senior-level officials throughout the State Department and U.S. government are cognizant of the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s asymmetric arsenal, the U.S. President continues to deny that any such threat exists, creating a leadership vacuum in our own government and among our European partners and allies.”  In other words, we do nothing while der Sturmtrumper lets his puppetmasters have free rein over our once proud democracy.  Nice job, GOP.

40. The active refusal of GOP leaders to accept this reality – to deny categorically what has been extensively corroborated by independent research and is seen even within der Sturmtrumper’s administration as “objective reality” – is one of the great moral failures of our time.

41. On that note, we have the transcripts of the testimony before Congress of Fusion GPS, the agency that produced the Russian Dossier that hit the news during the 2016 presidential campaign.  The GOP had been doing its best to spin it one way, discredit it another way, and generally twist it to say pretty much exactly what it didn’t say, and then Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) decided to release the whole thing unedited.  And my doesn’t it get right to the heart of the matter.  You should read Elizabeth C. McLaughlin’s epic analysis of it.  McLaughlin was a securities fraud and human rights lawyer, so she knows what she’s talking about, and her basic point is that Fusion GPS did too.  Some of the highlights:

a) Fusion concluded fairly early that der Sturmtrumper has serious ties to Russian organized crime.  It is entirely possible that der Sturmtrumper – far from being a willing Russian agent – is effectively compromised and being blackmailed.

b) Der Sturmtrumper’s campaign was deeply compromised by Russian intelligence, and willingly accepted espionage reports from the Kremlin regarding the Clinton campaign.

c) Russian operatives actively attacked the DNC, the Clinton campaign, and anything else that might stand in the way of getting der Sturmtrumper elected.

d) The FBI was already investigating der Sturmtrumper’s Russian ties before this dossier came to their attention, so the connections were fairly obvious all around.

e) This is bigger than der Sturmtrumper and may well pull in much of the GOP elite of the last two decades.

f) One of the dossier’s Russian informants has already been murdered, which tells you that the Russians at least take it seriously.

g) “Now would be a good tie to ask yourself why it is that [GOP Senator] Chuck Grassley and others didn’t want this transcript released,” she points out.  Indeed it would.

42. North Carolina’s blatantly partisan gerrymandering scheme has been tossed out by a panel of federal judges on the grounds that it serves no purpose other than to “subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican domination of the state’s congressional delegation.”  Well, when you have GOP officials like Rep. David Lewis – the Republican in charge of the now overturned gerrymandering – flatly declaring that “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.  So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country,” what other conclusion could they draw?  This is about a concerted effort to turn what had been a democracy into an oligarchy where an entrenched minority could rule as it pleased.  It’s a temporary victory – voter suppression and minority rule have been the guiding stars of GOP political strategy for nearly four decades now – but any victory for democracy and American values is a rare and precious thing these days.


Ewan said...

OK, so we disagree on the desirability of senile-loony vs dominionist-bigot. If I bought into your premise that the former is an existential threat to the republic, I might be persuaded, so: what do you think the former might do that the latter would not, to be such a threat?

David said...

Well, random nuclear war would be one thing.

Pence is a meat puppet for the Koch Brothers and their ilk. They play a long game. They want to be rich and they want to enjoy their riches. To burn the place down and piss on the ashes leaves them not rich. But der Sturmtrumper has no ideology, no commitments, and no principles. He caters to people who would be happy to burn the place down and piss on the ashes if they can't control it entirely. That's another thing.

Also, my guess is that Pence has less of a petit-Fascist authoritarian streak to him - he doesn't see himself as the next Fuehrer the way der Sturmtrumper does.

On the downside, Pence would also be a much more effective politician - he knows how to run a government and his policy agenda would stand a much bigger chance of being enacted. But to me those are recoverable problems, while the problems presented by the current regime increasingly are not.

Ewan said...

If you believe that nuclear war is a real threat, OK. I don't - I just don't see anyone actually following that order. And while I agree that 45 would *like* to be Fuehrer, I don't think he's smart or focussed enough to manage it. Hence my conclusion.

Ah well. Let's just get rid of both of them..

David said...

I do believe it's a real threat. I teach a class on the atomic bomb and I've spent a fair amount of time studying US nuclear policy. There aren't that many safeguards against a rogue president, and most of those involve individual service members willing to disobey direct orders - an awfully narrow thread to hang civilization from, if you ask me. We've come numbingly close to nuclear war more than a handful of times even with competent leadership, over the years, and having this bloviating fool in charge makes me worry that the US may well blunder into such a war or provoke one, unintentionally or not. Der Sturmtrumper has clearly demonstrated that he has no real conception of nuclear weapons or what they can do (remember when he demanded that we triple our arsenal on a whim and then the military had to do the whole "haha, he must have been kidding" song and dance?). So yes, it sounds like I'm more worried about this than you are. I'd be happy to be wrong.

People underestimate Trump too much. He's not that bright and he has no intellectual heft to speak of, but he is cunning and ambitious and he is, after all, sitting in the Oval Office - a place nobody in their right minds thought he'd be two years ago. I didn't see that, and I'll be damned if I underestimate him again. He has a way of making his desires happen, and there are far too many people in this country who would be okay with an American Fuehrer and who aren't morons, who could make it happen. It can happen here.

And yes, getting rid of both of them would be great.

That of course leaves us with President Paul Ryan. Sigh.

LucyInDisguise said...

Sorry I'm late. Been a little crazy this week. (Well, to be truthful, I've always been ... never mind.)

You’re definitely getting better at this. I should note, however, that I was starting to get a little depressed about two thirds of the way down. Thanks for the intermission at #s 32 & 33. It helped to keep the voices at bay …

One area where you could improve, if I may be so bold, is ‘LINKS’ to source material.

[sarcasmfont]You have a degree, damn it! Back in the olden days guys like you used footnotes and bibliographies to drive me crazy. Now you send me off to search the google for something written by some McGeewiz securities lawyer? Without so much as a title or date of publication? Heck of a way to run a railroad! [/sarcasmfont]

Ewan, not long ago I was where you are regarding the possibility of a rouge president starting a nuclear war. I served in the Air Force. I worked on a base that had a SAC wing. I worked along side some of the most professional military specialists in the business of national defense. I could not envision any sane person obeying such a launch order.

I had this discussion with David. After serious thought and consideration, I realized that I had lost that debate. (You can never underestimate the power of a fool or an idiot. Drumpf is both.)

Then, on Thursday, just in case I had any remaining illusions, this came along:

You should too. It includes the entire letter from those former launch officers; please take minute or two to read it. It’s not long, but it is Spooky!


David said...

Yeah, that's a scary letter right there. Thanks for bringing it to my attention - I'd not seen it before.

It's sobering to realize that the greatest threat to US national security and global stability right now is the American president. It's even more sobering that there is an entire political party that is actively working to enable, excuse, and further his grotesque failures.

"I believe there is God.
I believe that God is merciful and just.
But if man desires to destroy himself,
I believe God will not save him."
-Whitney R. Harris, prosecutor, Nuremberg War Crime Trials


I could put links in, but then it starts to get too much like a scholarly monograph and not enough like something I'll likely do again. I can always provide sources if you ask, but it gets too close to my day job to put them in all the time!

You're welcome for the intermission, though! I did love those two things. Humor in the face of tragedy is the only way to get through it.

LucyInDisguise said...

Day job, we don't need no stinky day jobs!

(you did notice the [sarcasmfont] thingys, right?)

As for not seeing the letter, well it was just published a couple of days ago, so I'll give you a pass. This time. But watch it! You're treading on thin potato chips here ...


David said...

I saw it. :) I figured it was worth a response anyway.

I'll try to tread only on thick-cut chips from now on. Salt & Vinegar!