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15.Feb.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gimme that old time religion Permalink to this item

There's a long list of things like to make your head explode this week, but how about nearly half—half!—of what's left of people who will call themselves Republicans so embedded in their cognitive dissonance that they think the Supreme Being wanted this man to be president.

For the "white evangelical" tranche, it's over half who were willing to tell a pollster that yes, they believe it. As Mehdi Hasan put it, "it's probably the best argment for atheism out there."

Either that, or you're longing for the Old Testament God, capricious to a fault, endorsing incest and mass murder, pillage and what-not, even to the point of wiping out the whole of humanity, save for one special family. Which, yeah, is about right where we are in the plot today.

Valentine's Day 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And now, the emergency Permalink to this item

From January 20, 2017, through the end of 2018, the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, and had installed their hijacker in the White House. The kitschy campaign slogan about a wall on the southern border that Mexico would pay for was lost in the chaotic noise for most of that, but it now demonstrates its utility as a mnemonic device for a man who can't seem to stay on-topic for a whole sentence, let alone a paragraph.

Build the wall.

He couldn't even stick with that. At the most recent rally, it had morphed into FINISH THE WALL, which, ok, there has been some wall (and fencing, and steel slats, vehicle barriers, what-not) for quite some time, so technically correct, in a weird way. (We don't expect anything the president says these days to be correct.)

Screen shot from CNN report

Facing another round of whithering criticism from Fox News harpy Ann Coulter, and his bedtime phone pal Sean Hannity, SOMETHING had to be done, and who better to enable SOMETHING than the Senate's Majority Leader and quisling-in-chief, Mitch McConnell.

THE NATIONAL EMERGY IS OK WITH ME McConnell told his colleagues in the Senate. Thank god he'll sign the dog's breakfast spending bill, and no one will talk about how the FY2019 budget should have been done 4 or 5 months ago, back when the GOP controlled the Congress.

Instead we'll be talking about the full-on Constitutional crisis enabled by the Congress' long-term fecklessness and the rise of autocracy, driven by fascist ideology under cover of the "theory" of the "unitary executive." (That is, until the president tries to get his newly minted AG to fire Bob Mueller, and the crisis kicks into third gear.)

Peter Schuck: The Real Problem With Trump’s National Emergency Plan is that the president "may actually possess the legal authority to require agencies to waste billions of dollars simply to fulfill a foolish campaign promise he thinks won him the election."

"In hundreds of laws, Congress has given the president the power to decide. (The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled an exhaustive list.) But by failing to define crucial terms, legal standards and accountability rules, Congress has handed presidents an all-too-handy tool of tyranny commonly used by autocrats to amass more power, crush dissent and eviscerate democratic institutions. In Mr. Trump’s case, it has handed an unguided missile to an ignorant, impetuous man-child."

As crazy as all that sounds Permalink to this item

Liz Cheney, spawn of "Dick" and Wyoming's offering to GOP nepotism, is sending political spam my way, at least 3 in the last 2 days, addressing me as "Friend." Wouldn't that be a thing?

She and her fellow GOP members are talking about taking back the House, naturally, and using the most caricature of strawmen to giddyup. Seems appropriate enough for them to put it on a bullet list, here on Valentine's Day, notorious for that other mob boss, Al Capone, and now the one year anniversary of the Parkland mass shooting. The "true" political ideology of the left-wing party of NO! is, she tells me, based on:

You hardly need to say "crazy" and "wholly misguided" and "dangerous," and "totally ungined," right?

"The contrast between House Democrats and House Republicans couldn’t be starker."

Amen, sister. What with Fearless Leader making a mockery of religion, democracy, decency, honesty, integrity, and respect for the rule of law, and how long the right wing has been going along for that ride.

But wait, there's more.

Rep. Gym Jordan is in the news, or the next best thing, Twitter, to enumerate the "un-elected" members of the Department of Justice who have been fired, demoted, and/or resigned during the current administration, and saying that they "all plotted against the president."

Kevin Kruse responds with the first draft of history on that:

So these non-political law enforcement officers were investigating the president for possible crimes and they were all summarily fired?

That's an argument you're making in *support* of the president?

Good luck with that, champ.

— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 14, 2019

Speaking of nepotism and unelected officials, what is up with the William Barr family business? The patriarch awaits his Senate confirmation vote for Attorney General, and he's got a daughter and son-in-law already embedded, although the latter is on his way to the White House counsel's office.

I'm sure that's perfectly normal, too.

That 1:27 snippet from Andrew McCabe on 60 Minutes (that Jordan retweeted to deride) is definitely worth a listen.

And the Senate confirmed Barr, 54-45. Party on, dudes.

8.Feb.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The tangled web coming into focus Permalink to this item

Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner's point that getting out of the swamp will take some Republicans seems likely true. What will be the tipping point? They're fine with the attacks on the press, up to and including murder, and the parade of indictments, guilty pleas and convictions swirling around the chief grifter have so far been ignored. Our you-cannot-be-serious executive doth tweet-shout too much that it's a GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX.

The criminality "by the president or those closest to him (including family members)" hasn't been "clear" enough yet, really? The Trump Tower meeting with Junior, Jared, Manafort and Russian agents in June, 2016, with Senior dictating a cover-up letter wasn't clear? Trump firing the FBI director to get out from under "this Russiar thing" and then laughing with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office with the Russian press agency and no US media sitting in does leave some things to the imagination, but it's nothing if not clear.

And yet that may have been too much in plain sight. Will Bunch's twitter thread about "last night's bombshell developments," about the "tangled web involving the Saudis, MBS, their allies, Team Trump, global hacking rings, Khashoggi, the Washington Post and Bezos" could be what "take[s] everything down." One of our very own oligarchs, who wouldn't be blackmailed.

Touching the orb

There is apparently direct evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia threatened to murder Jamal Khashoggi, who is now "a close ally of the Trump White House," and its "senior adviser" Jared Kushner.

There was another Trump Tower meeting during the campaign, summer of 2016, reported on by the NYT last May, that was arranged by mercenary specialist Erik Prince, and including "two wealthy Arab princes" and "an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation," whose company had "drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal ... to help elect Mr. Trump." That was during Junior's "I love it" phase. There were continuing meetings with Kushner and Michael Flynn.

That's quite a lot of work for the Special Counsel's team to unravel, but I suspect they're up to the task. While you're helping with the election, could you also help finance some of Kushner's funky real estate deals? How about David Pecker's Saudi propanda deals?

Just what will be too much for the cuckolded GOP to quietly accept? Back to Wehner and Rauch:

"There may be no single smoking-gun tape in Mr. Trump’s case, but the sheer weight of financial and ethical wrongdoing could become too much, even for many Republicans. And today’s Republican politicians, while more partisan than in Nixon’s day, remain acutely sensitive to public opinion. If some combination of criminality, incompetence or crisis moves the center-right against the president, his end could come quickly."

Which will still not be before one hell of a lot of damage has been done.

"The most troubling — and from our point of view the most disappointing — development of the Trump era is not the president’s own election and subsequent behavior; it is the institutional corruption, weakness and self-betrayal of the Republican Party. The party has abandoned its core commitments to constitutional norms, to conservative principles and even to basic decency. It has allowed itself to be hijacked by a reality television star who is a pathological liar, emotionally unsteady and accountable only to himself. And it has embraced presidential conduct that, if engaged in by a Democrat, it would have been denounced as corrupt, incompetent and even treasonous."

6.Feb.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You've got to pick up every stitch Permalink to this item

The southern border wall wasn't actually born as "campaign-rally red meat" as much as a convenient, bland, talking point that a man with an infamously short attention span could reliably remember. As with any catchy phrase ("drain the swamp"), if the crowd loves it, it stays part of the schtick. Which is, ah, "great" for campaigning, but for governing, not so much. Long after a wider, taller, longer, and "more powerful" wall had lost even tepid same-party support, the little dictator could not get it out of his mind.

The jingoistic scapegoating of immigrants is the beat Trump's speechwriters are working to drum up support for the lost cause. Is there anything those e-legals can't ruin for true blue patriots? As comically as the president* is claiming credit for everything we like ("I accomplished the military"), he's blaming every imaginable ill on the foreign menace. Lost your job? Didn't get a raise? Can't afford healthcare? Your kid is failing 5th grade? Crime in the streets? You Know Who Did It.

But this is not actually a demonstrable emergy, even with more troops (and—ahem—fewer Guardsman) rushing south, so this is awkward. How's he going to keep the excitement going after Feb. 15 comes and no one wants to go another round of shutdown? Damn the torpedoes and stop paying millions of federal workers and contractors again? Or just declare victory with a "strategically" see-through barrier.

Yeah, that's right, it'll be the Emperor's New Wall.

4.Feb.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What have you got to lose? Permalink to this item

If you were banking on Canada's biggest cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX, the answer might be your share of $190 million. That's only a couple grand on average (115,000 clients), but still, it seems irksome. The founder died sooner than he expected to, and... didn't share his password with anyone. Awkward.

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Duck and cover Permalink to this item

The midcentury headline is back in style again, with the U.S. abrogating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, one of the Ronald Reagan administration's (and Gorbachev's) most important accomplishments. As drily noted in the New York Times report, "some experts are skeptical."

“Nobody in the administration has laid out what the action-reaction cycle looks like as the United States makes all these moves — building new warheads, withdrawing from treaties, pursuing new missiles,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

“The enemy gets a vote,” he added. “The idea that we’re going to do these things, and they’re going to stand still, is nonsensical. They’re going to respond for both political and military reasons.”

One thing is clear: If a new arms race begins, it will be expensive. ...

We're looking to spend half a $trillion in a decade on "nuclear upgrades." What could go wrong?

NYT graphic, Federation of American Scientists data

It also occurs to me to wonder how much of the plan was decided by Vladimir Putin, and dictated in those secret meetings with Trump in recent months.

Congressional oversight has never been more needed, but one of the key committee chairs, Idaho's Senator Jim Risch heading Foreign Relations is a Trump Tower doormat. He issued a statement to say "I know that we have unanimity of our allies in the decision," which is presumptuous bullshit on his part. Deutsche Welle reports that Merkel's government "regrets" the decision, the German Foreign Minister saying that it puts Europe at risk, their Defense Minister emphasizing the importance of including "all NATO states" in the discussion, which of course they haven't been.

1.Feb.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The sabotage plan Permalink to this item

The Koch brothers and their ilk are getting full value for the investment in deconstructing government, as the fetid swirl of current events distracts us from the underlying program that Nancy MacLean detailed in her 2017 book, Democracy in Chains: The deep history of the radical right's stealth plan for America.

However the captains of industry planned to bend the future to their will, it beggars my imagination to see it involving an ignoramus-King showing up to randomly break things, but here we are. One of the most over-the-top moments of the Trump Time was his in his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican national convention, when he said "I alone can fix it." It was preposterous, ludicrous, absurd, unbelievable, and cheered wildly at the rancid red meat.

In this interregnum between shutdowns (you know he's going to do it again; because he can), we have a moment to consider the depth of incompetence, and malevolance being carried out on the federal government. With most of the marginally decent, and capable adults gone run out of the room, we're down to Trump's closest, most complicit advisors and lieutenant fixers. The nepotic duo of Javanka, and the unexpectedly gigantic John Michael "Mick" Mulvaney, acting as most everything, risen up from a TEA Party backbench flamethrower into an all-purpose blunderbuss. You need a fiscal conservative? To lead the Office of Management and Budget? He's your man. Now let's blow up the deficit with a $trillion give-away to the people and enterprises who need it least.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offering too much protection? Not a problem! No one answering the call for Chief of Staff to a deranged narcissist? Mick is happy to step in, and doesn't mind an "acting" asterisk. Look at him go.

A week ago, the Washington Post reported that his organization acumen was being applied to "press[ing] agency leaders to provide him with a list of the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April." He wanted it "by Friday" last week, which turned out to be the day that part 1 of the shutdown ended, hoist on the petard of air traffic control beginning to stop working, and Congress' Speaker barring the attention-mad president from a State of the Union audience in her House.

There were two million people with their paychecks cut off, less than half of them with an expectation of backpay being made up. A few of their stories were being shared, but if we give each one a minute, it would take almost four years for them all to be heard.

Mr. I-alone-can-fix-it might have felt a twinge of pique and annoyance, slightly flushed at "Nancy," as he calls her getting the best of him, but no interruption in the flow of hamberders into his feeding trough. The man who complained the White House was a "real dump," has visited a genuinely real dump on the nation. For example: Joshua Tree National Park could be centuries recovering from the Make American Great Again deputies.

The libertarian looters don't care much about small, midsize and rural transit systems, so what's their existential crisis to them? Transit users are not really their people. Politico reports that "some agencies, if they shut their doors, may never reopen" which is exactly what Steve Bannon and so many others had in mind. That's the "fix it." The Fix.

And in his next tranche of airtime, the president is bragging about all his "accomplishments," including "I accomplished the military." (Not bad for bonespur-hobbled draft dodger.) Also, did you hear? He single-handedly made the U.S. the largest economy in the world. In just two years on the job! He's accomplished so much.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007