Category Archives: Michael F

Zombie Special Envoy

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Drain the swamp? Elliot Abrams IS the swamp, or at least the zombie swamp thing that won’t go away. And good that Ilhan Omar took some time to remind us.

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush,” Omar begins. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

“If I could respond to that …” Abrams says, before Omar cuts him off.

“It wasn’t a question,” the lawmaker says icily.

Abrams reacts angrily to this response, and only gets angrier from there. Omar pushes Abrams on Reagan-era policies in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua, and he flatly refuses to answer. Instead, he angrily dismisses the entire line of questioning as a “personal attack.”

Omar points out that it isn’t a personal attack at all, but rather quite relevant to his current job. Trump has contemplated intervening militarily in the Venezuela conflict before; it’s reasonable to ask, with Abrams in a key office, whether he has learned from the cruel and illegal positions he took in the Reagan years.

But more fundamentally, what’s striking about this video is how angry Abrams gets about being held to account for his past actions.

Oh, and pointing this out is not a defense of Nicolás Maduro, who combines malevolence and incompetence. This is also about the United States. And when Elliot Abrams is your public face, the message is more than a little malevolent and incompetent as well. Not to mention just plain gross. Abrams is a creep.

So, Did I Miss Anything While I Was Away?

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Wow — there are places in the world where people live their lives without the unwelcome and unpleasant truth that our own country is nominally headed by a guy who can’t get out of bed or away from the television most days (and that’s probably for the best…really. I mean, do we actually want this guy doing anything besides muting the commercials now and again?).

That said, and also having thankfully missed the Toddler SOTU, I did see it included a firm warning about the dangers of socialism…from someone who’s almost certainly up to his eyes or beyond in debt to Russians. Wow. That he wasn’t immediately drummed from the stage by the echoes of divine/derisive laughter — and likewise manged to get through the national prayer breakfast without something similar — suggests either a lack of divine presence, or maybe that the Supreme Being is telling us something…something like, “Medamnit, Trump’s your problem. You deal with it.”

Two more years…or, heaven forbid, six…

 

Forget The SOTU. The State of the POTUS Is…

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evidently toddler, and it’s also evident the press still can’t help themselves in making this a both sides story, even though, for fucks sake, it’s only one side. Christ.

On Day 33 of the longest government shutdown in history, Washington took on the air of a split-screen television. On one side was a spat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi over the president’s constitutional duty to periodically report to Congress on the state of the union. On the other, the House and Senate trudged along with their daily business, with lawmakers in both parties grasping for a way out of the shutdown stalemate.

It now seems all but certain that 800,000 federal employees who have been either furloughed or working without pay for more than a month will miss another paycheck on Friday. The best hope, people in both parties say, is that the expected failure of both bills in the Senate on Thursday will prompt bipartisan negotiations that could lead to a compromise.

During a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, Ms. Pelosi urged her caucus to stay unified and not to peel off and begin negotiating with the president on his terms, which could muddle the stark differences between Mr. Trump and them on a critical issue.

She also told rank-and-file lawmakers that they should not get “too bogged down” on what legislation was being voted upon — a direct message to some of her restive centrist freshmen, who have been meeting with Republican freshmen to discuss a bipartisan path out of the shutdown. The appeal seems to have worked; as they emerged from the closed-door meeting, rank-and-file Democrats appeared united behind their leaders’ demand that the government open before border security negotiations took place.

No. What’s happening is that the fucking president — who’s supposed to faithfully execute the laws, etc. etc. — is throwing the mother of all hissy fits because Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh called him a wuss. That’s it. No both sides, and there’s no massive border crisis that requires a $5 billion-with-a-b dollar appropriation for a wall that will never get built anyway…which means that’ll be $5 billion-with-a-b dollars that gets grifted by someone who, among other things, insisted he’d get another country to fork over the money anyway.

Christ, is that too difficult? It never ceases to amaze me just how eager the media is to accept the wingnut case…a case that doesn’t exist, but which is now front page news, at least until the toddler POTUS gets something he can call a win (and you can bet the same media will make that the story)…while people who keep working for no pay are getting ever more desperate (not that the same toddler POTUS gives a shit).

Geez.

Yes!

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My own effort isn’t nearly as impressive, but I cranked it out pretty quickly; The Yes Men’s latest was carefully crafted and well worth a look

Early this morning, thousands of commuters in Washington, D.C. were handed a spitting image of the Washington Post. But this one was dated May 1, 2019 — and in lieu of the Post’s usual tagline, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” the phrase “Democracy Awakens in Action” appeared at the top. The paper’s lead headline: “Unpresidented: Trump Hastily Departs White House, Ending Crisis.” (An online version of the paper has also been making the rounds, at democracyawakensinaction.org, complete with PDF of the print version.)

A scan of the paper’s front page offers up a compelling backstory for Trump’s flight: a women-led, multi-racial grassroots resistance. Their winning strategy is borrowed from other movements against authoritarian rulers: target those who support the tyrant, rather than the tyrant himself.

That strategy has also led to growing support for a package of groundbreaking progressive legislation known as the “Bundle”64 bills sure to be popular across the political spectrum, including some — the Green New Deal bills, Medicare for All, the H.R. 1 election reform bill — that already are.

“The story this paper tells is more reasonable than our current reality,” says author Onnesha Roychoudhuri, who created the paper together with author L.A. Kauffman and trickster activist collective the Yes Men. “And it’s anything but far-fetched. We’re already seeing unprecedented levels of protest and resistance. Now we just need to ask ourselves: What’s next? This paper offers a blueprint to help us reclaim our democracy.”

One can hope.

Famous Front Page Updated

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Whether for show or not, the toddler administration was on full display. Big lies, petulance…about all that was missing was a threat to hold his breath until he turned blue. Meanwhile, the shutdown is causing real pain and having real effects.

Just a thought, but if I was negotiating, I’d offer to appropriate however much money it takes to make a state visit to Mexico. Trump could do his song, pout, and dance there.

I’m also wondering if this is both a pathetic, craven suck up to Limbaugh, Coulter, et al, but also an attempt to distract from what’s likely to be a pretty damning Mueller report.

Maybe he’s running out of cards to play. One can hope.

“The French Revolution? Too Soon To Say”

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There’s some question as to what Zhou Enlai really meant, but the post title is a fairly accurate quote…and worth considering in light of this op-ed  (hat tip to Adrastos, who pointed it out).

Today’s Christian nationalists talk a good game about respecting the Constitution and America’s founders, but at bottom they sound as if they prefer autocrats to democrats. In fact, what they really want is a king. “It is God that raises up a king,” according to Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher who has advised Mr. Trump.

Of course, there are those on the Christian right who have made a show of holding their noses while supporting Mr. Trump to advance their aims of stacking the Supreme Court or ending abortion. But we are kidding ourselves if we think their continuing support for him is purely transactional.

I have attended dozens of Christian nationalist conferences and events over the past two years. And while I have heard plenty of comments casting doubt on the more questionable aspects of Mr. Trump’s character, the gist of the proceedings almost always comes down to the belief that he is a miracle sent straight from heaven to bring the nation back to the Lord. I have also learned that resistance to Mr. Trump is tantamount to resistance to God.

This isn’t the religious right we thought we knew. The Christian nationalist movement today is authoritarian, paranoid and patriarchal at its core. They aren’t fighting a culture war. They’re making a direct attack on democracy itself.

They want it all. And in Mr. Trump, they have found a man who does not merely serve their cause, but also satisfies their craving for a certain kind of political leadership.

Yep. They’d be perfectly happy getting rid of the whole enlightenment thing…minus of course the parts that are explicitly racist.

All that said, still, wow: yesterday, once again, Trump demonstrated he’s their Angel Moroni…minus the “i” at the end.

Worst Hallmark Christmas Movie Ever

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Get over it, Virginia…

“Besides, Santa could be Russia, he could be China, he could be a guy sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds … a real Santa would stop the witch hunt … put Crooked Hillary on his shit list …”

“I’m like, really smart, see? On trade, we’re being played for suckers … they need to start paying for our protection … I tell you, it’s a disgrace, a real disgrace … believe me, many people are saying this …”

“No, wait, wait, excuse me, EXCUSE ME … that was a very stupid question. A stupid question … I know nothing about it. My attorney handles that, my attorney who only did a bit of public relations work now and again.”

“I have to go. I’m leaving for a surprise visit to the troops. Merry Christmas, and you can thank me for winning the war on Christmas so that you can say Merry Christmas again, even if Santa is marginal. You’re seven. Deal with it.”

“Happy Holidays.”

Mission Accomplished! The Remake

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Gee, who knew — is 45, deep down, a peace-loving pacifist? Of course not, but this underscores how limited the president really is: oh, they’ll let him sign bills, bark up a storm on Twitter or at rallies, and even release a Rose Garden video, but his grand pronouncements might as well be delivered while playing on the White House swing set.

I’d set odds of no worse than 50-50 that in a week, like so many other DJT pronouncements, it will be forgotten, swept under a rug…and with surprisingly little followup from the media (e.g., it’s rare to see or hear news reports noting Trump insisted, over and over, Mexico would pay for a border wall).

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, then as opera buffa. Toy soldiers have more gravitas and authority.

“I alone can fix it.” Oh, he’s in a fix alright.

Medicated? Or Something Else?

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Yesterday was surprisingly quiet for Trump — for the most part an unusual Twitter silence, a late day even by his lax standards, more TV (they call it Executive Time) than usual. Did they dose POTUS? Or was he in an extended snit after Tuesday’s Oval Office command performance.

Of course, his hard core base probably loved the act. But they’re not exactly known for deep thinking either.

And with sentencing day for Cohen, and, potentially much more damaging, prosecutors announcing they’ve struck a deal with American Media, Inc. — the general mood at the White House can’t be good.

Aside: Speaking of American Media, Frank Figliuzzi told quite a story on the Brian Williams show last night. He was part of the FBI team investigating the anthrax attacks at AMI’s Florida headquarters. In the process of decontaminating the office, he asked David Pecker what objects he wanted above all to save. Pecker’s response? Photos of Elvis Presley in his coffin…and Bat Boy. No, Really.

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(slightly modified).

Anyway…is the reality show finally coming to a close? Well…unfortunately, probably not. GOP elected officials are as slavishly cult-like towards Trump as the party’s evangelical base…

And with patriotism as the last refuge, I won’t be surprised over the near term to see DJT cozying up to as many American flags as he can get his small hands and stubby fingers on…he might even find a cross of some sort to carry as well.

And Then He Loudly Cleared His Throat…

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…pocketed his monocle, put on his white gloves and top hat…while muttering about how difficult it is to find good help these days. I swear, Ross Douthat is the world’s youngest grumpy old man.

…the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country.

And somehow the combination of pious obligation joined to cosmopolitanism gave the old establishment a distinctive competence and effectiveness in statesmanship — one that from the late-19th century through the middle of the 1960s was arguably unmatched among the various imperial elites with whom our establishment contended, and that certainly hasn’t been matched by our feckless leaders in the years since George H.W. Bush went down to political defeat.

Someone needs to sit Ross down and tell him — then maybe explain — the Aristocrats joke.

House of Cads

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Maybe it’s just another cycle of ebb and flow, but again Trump’s acting for all the world like he’s guilty of something (based his compulsive/chronic lying, I’d guess of something that rhymes with “delusion”). And because Manafort lies as much as Trump, we should finally see something official from Mueller.

Well, keeping them sweating/looking nervously over their shoulder is better than nothing. Besides, someone might crack under the strain.

Or if Trump goes full clod and tries some sort of pardon maneuver, it would or should generate enough heat/fury to keep him sidetracked…one would hope.

Could be an interesting holiday season, with a number of folks getting lumps of not-very-clean-coal-at-all in their stockings. We’ll see.

Here’s Something to be Thankful For…

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With Democrats soon to take over the House Intelligence Committee, a top item on the agenda is …. hiring money laundering and forensic accounting experts.

…the purpose of the potential new hires is to examine unanswered financial questions about Trump and Russia, but their work could apply broadly across the panel’s intelligence oversight.

[Adam] Schiff, a California Democrat, has said publicly and privately that he’s interested in President Donald Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant that has been scorched for its connections to money-laundering. When other lenders were loath to lend money to Trump in the 1990s, Deutsche Bank stepped up and spotted him tons of cash. The president may still owe the bank up to $175 million, according to MarketWatch. Bringing on staffers with expertise in financial crimes would position the committee to pursue those questions.

I’ll drink — and eat — to that.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Cereal Liar

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Sure, in ranking Trump’s lies, a-voter-ID-for-a-box-of-cereal would be pretty low on the list…while disguises-to-illegally-vote is both deranged and just plain weird…but to repeat, it’s the lying itself that underscores a particularly sinister method to his madness.

In Trump’s case, though, the flouting of the truth serves a particular purpose: it is always a declaration not of any moral or legal or philosophical principle, but of power. As Masha Gessen once noted in The New York Review of Books, authoritarians in the mold of Trump or Vladimir Putin do not lie or distort to truly convince the listener that what they are saying is true. They seek to demonstrate power over the truth itself, and thus dominate the body politic.

Trump lies so often and about matters so trivial that the natural impulse is to shake your head and move on. But that’s the problem. I also can’t imagine a similar reaction/dismissal if the tables were turned, i.e., if a Democratic politician displayed an equal disregard for the truth, the gauntlet would be severe, a combination of GOP officialdom taking the hissy fit to high art, magnified through the lens of the puke funnel’s usual suspects.

And on a related note, the midterms turned out to be pretty good, though you wouldn’t have known that from election night coverage. Convenient that Democratic victories always elicit advice of caution from the punditry…wouldn’t want an excess of democracy, right?

World’s Creepiest King Cake Baby Holds Press Conference

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What’s it going to take? A diaper, bib, and crown before the press points out how full-on nuts this is? I’m trying to think of an equivalent — and can’t. Even at his worst, Nixon managed to more or less keep his head screwed on.

The hour and a half of jarring, ricocheting, free association almost makes performance art seem tame, if only because Donald Trump: Let Me Tell You What I Really Think, isn’t performance art. This idiot actually is president. On the one hand, that’s embarrassing as all hell, on the other…geez…fucking scary.

And, if I remember…it’s a stretch to go back all the way to the early 2000s, but Team Bush was regularly uncooperative with a Democratic Congress, though now that’s now seen in retrospect as kind of a modern day Era of Good Feelings. And, who knows, maybe it will seem like that come January.

The ride is only beginning.

Boo

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Hope everyone enjoyed Halloween; on the other hand, I can’t think of anything scarier than…Donald Trump is president of the United States.

November 6th won’t change that, but it could serve as quite the wake up call or expression of buyer’s remorse (well…considering he was elected but didn’t actually win, an expression of actual intent).

Last night was yet another ugly, vile display…and I still shudder to think what could happen if/when there’s a genuine crisis on Trump’s watch (note: not that Puerto Rico and Florida aren’t, but I mean something like a national or international economic shock, or, heaven forbid, terrorist act, etc.).

Five days…as Adrastos says, tick tock.

It’s Also The Lying Itself

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Jack Holmes notes a particularly sinister aspect of Trump’s self-described nationalism

Inconsistencies and outright contradictions are fixtures of his rhetoric. He bangs on about “due process” and “the presumption of innocence” when his Supreme Court nominee is accused of sexual assault or Saudi allies are accused of murdering and dismembering a U.S.-resident journalist who criticized the regime. But he encourages his crowds to chant “Lock Her Up!” at the very mention of Hillary Clinton’s name—and, for that matter, of Dianne Feinstein’s. He sees no contradiction. Kavanaugh and the Saudi princes who may or may not be putting money in his pocket are his people. They deserve the protections of the law. Clinton and Feinstein are not just Democrats—enemies—they are powerful women, symbols of that which his movement was built to negate. The law can and should be used against them.

In Trump’s case, though, the flouting of the truth serves a particular purpose: it is always a declaration not of any moral or legal or philosophical principle, but of power. As Masha Gessen once noted in The New York Review of Books, authoritarians in the mold of Trump or Vladimir Putin do not lie or distort to truly convince the listener that what they are saying is true. They seek to demonstrate power over the truth itself, and thus dominate the body politic

Is it really that big of a jump for a true believer to take matters into their own hands to demonstrate tribal or nationalist loyalty (possibly with the assumption of protected status)? Maybe…though just as or even more troubling are the bottom feeders who twist themselves in knots trying to claim they’re the real victims…victims in desperate need of vengeance.

The midterms are a critical first step, but it’s a long march…

The High Priests Of The Cult Of Savvy

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I’m with Charles Pierce on this.

She is accused of “playing on Trump’s field.” So what? Only a child believes that there is one field on which an election is contested. And, truth be told, the elite political press has a great deal to do in defining what the “field” of play actually is. It was the elite political press that helped establish the “field” of play in 2016, even though they’d rather pull out their own fingernails than admit it. The way you win an election is that you beat the opponent on his field, on your field, and on any neutral fields that pop up during the campaign.

It might be worth remembering the backstory, given that I doubt Elizabeth Warren ever thought she’d have to defend this or deal with it in the first place. If I recall, this was nonsense dug up by the Scott Brown campaign: Warren included a family story in a brief bio of the kind that colleges routinely publish in “who we are” promotional material. Unknown to her, Harvard University used this to cynically tout their own cause.

Brown’s smear was elaborated upon by the puke funnel, and topped off by Orange Narcissus’s particular short-fingered vulgarian touch…a smear that implied Warren, and by extension her family, were undeserving, opportunistic liars, unfairly attempting to claim quota status…which is exactly the sort of lie a media worth the name would immediately put an end to. Or, absent that, might at least note how reckless Brown et al were in describing their opponents as a “basket of deplorables”…wait, sorry…I meant undeserving liars getting free stuff that regular (i.e., white) folks can’t.

Oh, and that the Senator is, you know, a little girl.

As far as I’m concerned, Warren’s response is exactly what she should do: stand up to a bully, close the chapter, and move on. It’s also an excellent introduction of a good, even superb, candidate for high office.

But, as usual, the where-are-the-Republican-heroes cultists and their enablers will do everything they can to keep the playing field tilted rightward. Hence, the handwringing and head shaking. She wasn’t…sufficiently savvy, in their august judgment.

Well…fuck ’em.

They’re All In With Him

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Never Trump was never much to begin with…and definitely stick a fork in it now.

Republicans have also exploited their insulting thesis that #MeToo is really about lying or delusional women falsely accusing men, which they are trying to spin into a female lament about sons and husbands and fathers and brothers being the real victims.

Then there are the down ballot acolytes

A Republican lawmaker in Minnesota is under fire for snatching the microphone away from his Democratic rival during a debate.

The two had been passing a single microphone back and forth, sharing their thoughts on a wide variety of issues. However, as Mahlberg was answering a question about linking education funding to the Consumer Price Index, Quam raised a card indicating he would like a rebuttal. Instead of waiting for Mahlberg to pass him the mic, he seized it from her hands…After Quam was finished speaking, he tried to pass the mic back to Mahlberg, but she literally wasn’t having it. When she didn’t take the microphone from him, he tossed it in front of her.

The GOP is Trump, and he is the GOP.

Come to think of it, that’s probably been the case for some time. Maybe it hid behind  cheerier or at least most respectable facades, but you can go back a generation and find the kind of hostility that’s DJT’s trademark. Plus, it’s not like Nixon (or Wallace) appealed to the better angels of our existence.

It’s his party.

Tired Of All The Winning Yet

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Because this is what it looks like. I keep repeating stuff, apologies, but because that’s what the midterms come down to: Donald Trump. This is his vision for the presidency (well, to the extent his handlers allow him to be president), this is his vision for the country. His base feels the same way. They few as features what we think are horrible, disqualifying flaws.

It sucks that we’ll have to overcome a significant and ongoing voter suppression effort on the part of the GOP (which helped get us to this to begin with), but, so it goes. Same with the gerrymandering. That’s just more proof that Trump is not an anomaly, but the purest expression of the party (and for shit’s sake can Democrats STOP rehabilitating previous GOP politicians like the two Bushes and Reagan? Republicans don’t laud FDR…).

Next month will tell us a lot about this country…here’s hoping what it tells us isn’t genuinely disturbing.

The Kavanaugh Mess: It’s Over (Not Quite)

The mess itself is not over but the possibility of defeating the nomination died this morning when, predictably, the Senator from Arizona flaked out. There are a few holding out hope that Collins and Murkowski remain undecided but I am no longer among them. Absent a miracle, the confirmation fight is over.

There were several reports last night that a “gang of four” including the aforementioned GOPers and Joe Manchin plan to vote as a bloc. The first time I saw that I knew that Judge Bro would be promoted to Justice Bro. I feel sorry for the three women justices and even sorrier for the country.

Nothing that Judiciary Committee Democrats did or said yesterday mattered. The Senate has been fundamentally changed by Mitch McConnell, what the minority thinks no longer matters.

The fact that the American Bar Association wants an investigation does not matter either. Angry white men want one of their own on SCOTUS and they will get their wish.

The fact that Republicans applied criminal law standards of corroboration and reasonable doubt to what is really a job interview shows that they followed the Thomas-Hill playbook. The only difference was that Senators did not yell at Christine Blasey Ford. They let Brett Kavanaugh and Lindsey Graham do the yelling instead.

I’m feeling alternately angry and numb this morning. I put a lot into covering this story. I made the mistake of thinking that Senate Republicans would act like rational politicians looking at the next election. Instead, they put all their chips on promoting Judge Bro to the Supreme Court. The voters need to make them pay for their short-sighted thinking.

Even though yesterday’s hearing was as much Kabuki theatre as Kangaroo court, Michael F provided me with an alternate image. I hate to waste such generosity. Here’s the earless version:

Image by Michael F

The last word goes to Roy Orbison. We could all use some beauty in our lives right now even if it comes from a sad song.

UPDATE: As of 1:45 CST, Senators Flake and Murkowski are withholding an aye vote on the nomination unless there’s a one-week long FBI investigation. That’s my current understanding but the situation is FLUID and CONFUSING. It’s up to the White House to re-open the background check.