Category Archives: Political Crack

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Look Now

Dresden Street by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

I don’t usually go in for cross-cultural generalizations about the state of the world but for every rule, there’s an exception. And 2018 has been an exceptionally bad year. Hell meet hand basket.

The US, UK, and France have gone to political hell and back in 2018. Our main problem is obvious: a corrupt and deeply stupid president*. In Britain, they’re still paying the price for the Brexit referendum catastrophe, which has resulted in bad leadership in both of the “big parties” and political paralysis. In France, Emmanuel Macron compared himself to Charles DeGaulle once too often, now there are riots in the streets just like in DeGaulle’s day. In 1968, they waved red flags. In 2018, they wear yellow vests. There’s a good chance that Macron will be France’s third consecutive one-term president. Burning it down is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I wish I had solutions for these problems but I’m a pundit, not a prophet. I don’t even have a prophet and loss statement. I can hear them groaning all the way to Bunkie, so it’s time to move on.

This week’s theme song was written in 1969 by John Fogerty for CCR’s Willy and the Poor Boys album. The title has been shortened over time from Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You or Me) by dropping the parenthetical aside. You may have noticed that I live for parenthetical asides but I can live with the deletion of this one. In fact, it’s a delightful deletion.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Creedence original and a 2005 cover by my main man Dave Alvin.

Don’t Look Now is also the title of a fine film by director Nicolas Roeg who died last month. And don’t look now is excellent advice when one jumps to the break: every time I peek, I get dizzier than Tommy Fucking Roe.

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Butina Your Lip

Former Gret Stet Governor Bobby Jindal with Maria Butina.

I have been accused of constructing posts around a punny title. I plead guilty as charged. There’s a lot of that going around this week. The latest to cop a plea is Maria Butina. I have abandoned my futile attempt to popularize the Russian spelling of her name. She’s Two-I Mariia no more. Life goes on and on and on; much like this introduction.

The facts of the Butina case have become somewhat murky. Initially, I compared her to Elizabeth Jennings of The Americans but it looks as if she was more of an influence peddler than a spy; as much K Street as Kremlin.

The prosecution has even withdrawn some of the more sensational characterizations of her activities:

Yet even as prosecutors secured Ms. Butina’s conviction and cooperation, they faced questions about their initial portrayal of Ms. Butina as something like a character out of “Red Sparrow,” the spy thriller about a Russian femme fatale.

Prosecutors had already been forced to back off the most salacious accusations against Ms. Butina — that she used sex as spycraft — and acknowledged in court filings this week that she genuinely wanted a graduate degree, and was not simply posing as a student to live in the United States. They also dropped accusations of her being in contact with Russian intelligence agencies, and that she was only using Mr. Erickson to gain access to other influential Americans.

Agents come in many forms: from the covert to the overt. Butina appears to have been the latter. She bamboozled American gun nuts in broad daylight, revealing them as gullible fools willing to fall for a pretty face and a ridiculous story: a gun rights group in Putin’s Russia? Yeah, right.

There was even a memorable public exchange with the Insult Comedian:

While I still hope that Butina can damage the NRA, it’s unclear how much she knows and who, other than her boyfriend/whatever Paul Erickson, she can hurt. She certainly played them for fools, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Those pictures with PBJ, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Wayne LaPierre are priceless.

The minute I heard that she’d agreed to co-operate, I knew that she was not a spy. We usually trade their spies for our spies. I’m puzzled by Butina’s motives in co-operating with prosecutors as she still faces deportation. Failed Russian agents tend not to have a long shelf life when they return home.

Our readers have surely noticed by now that my mind works in weird ways. This time, it has connected Maria Butina and the Rolling Stones. Her American adventure involved making connections with the NRA in the hopes of influencing the Republican party. That, in turn, evokes a song from the 1967 Stones album, Butina the Buttons:

The album’s real name is Between the Buttons and, in the end, the real connection Maria Butina made was with federal prosecutors.

The post title is also Stones inspired. The opening line of Mixed Emotions is “button your lip, baby.” It wasn’t much of a leap to Butina Your Lip.

The Rolling Stones get the last word:

Cohen Family Values

This post title may be ironic but it contains a kernel of truth. Trump’s former fixer spent a good deal of time in his remarks at his sentencing hearing discussing the importance of family and his regrets at having let them down. Bigly.

Cohen’s family values are also the best explanation for his limited co-operation with the Southern District of New York. I spent too much time Wednesday watching MSNBC and listening to pundits and legal experts alike discuss this “mystery.” There’s a simple explanation: both Cohen and his brother married into families with extensive ties to the Ukrainian and Russian mobs. It’s unclear if they’re gangsters or associates, but they’re connected. Flipping on them would not only blow up Cohen’s family, it would be hazardous to his health. There’s no mystery there at all.

Additionally, Cohen’s uncle runs a social club in Brooklyn that’s frequented by wise guys from the former Soviet Union. The Fixer sold his stake in the club after Trump’s fluke election victory. At the very least, Cohen’s uncle is a mob associate. To put it in terms that Sopranos fans will get: he’s the Artie Bucco of the story. Artie was, of course, Tony’s childhood friend whose eatery Vesuvio was a hangout for the fictional Jersey mob. Artie was a hapless schmo and sporadic wise guy wannabe, which is how Cohen is perceived by many in the MSM.

The mistake the MSM has made in covering  the Trump scandals is that they’ve treated it as strictly a political story. It’s really the story of how a career criminal was elected president* by defrauding the voters. It’s a crime story. The victim is the American people.

I think all the wise men and women on cable news should read Josh Marshall. He’s been on top of the Cohen/mob story since the Spring of 2017. In case you’ve missed his coverage, here are links to some of Josh’s Cohen stories:

From February 26, 2017: It’s All So Confusing.

From March 1, 2017: Piecing Together The Michael Cohen Story.

From April 17, 2018: The Closer I Get.

From April 18, 2018: Cohen-ology Pays Off After All.

It’s all there, y’all. It explains why Michael Cohen cannot offer the sort of co-operation demanded by the SDNY. They expect co-operators to discuss *every* crime a witness is familiar with, not just their own malefactions. Cohen would rather spend 3 years in jail than deal with the shitstorm that would ensue if he flipped on his friends and family from Brooklyn and Brighton Beach. Who the hell can blame him?

Having explained why I believe Cohen will never sign a full co-operation deal with the SDNY, working with Team Mueller is an entirely different kettle of fish. Cohen seems willing to spill everything he knows about Donald Trump. Those bridges are burned and the only way Trumpberius can hurt Cohen now is with his mouth and tweets. Cohen doesn’t give a shit about that any more. He’s done covering up for the Insult Comedian’s “dirty deeds.”

The last word (image?) goes to my First Draft colleague Michael F:

Quote Of The Day: Repulsion Edition

I wish I had read Frank Bruni’s column about the Ayers rejection before writing my Staff Infection post. I would have quoted it then. There’s no time like the present:

It’s about how he behaves — and the predictable harvest of all that nastiness. While other presidents sought to hone the art of persuasion, he revels in his talent for repulsion: how many people he attacks (he styles this as boldness); how many people he offends (he pretties this up as authenticity); how many people he sends into exile. His administration doesn’t have alumni so much as refugees. H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn and Reince Priebus are a dumbfounded diaspora all their own.

Careerists who would normally pine for top jobs with a president assess his temper, behold his tweets, recall the mortifications of Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, and run for the hills. Trump sits at the most coveted desk in the world, but almost no one wants to pull up a chair.

I’ve gone round and round on the subject of Trump’s atrocious manners with people who insist they matter less than his awful policies. They matter equally. Exit polls after the midterms indicated that many suburban swing voters turned against Trump because of his unpresidential behavior. That’s why I call him the Insult Comedian.

Shame is a powerful thing. Trump is shameless but a majority of Americans are ashamed of having this obnoxious creep in the White House. He shows no signs of understanding that a president who takes a “shellacking” in the midterms needs to reach out and broaden their base. It’s what Reagan did after 1982 and Obama after 2010. Trump is obsessed with his base, which is one reason why he’s politically doomed. I’m not sure when his demise will come or what form it will take, but it’s coming.

The last word goes to Country Joe McDonald:

Staff Infection

Photo via Vanity Fair.

I used to think the Bush-Cheney administration was the most incompetent of my lifetime. But they occasionally looked as if they knew what they were doing. That’s something that can never be said of the Trump regime. If there’s a way to fuck something up, they’ll find it. It reminds me of a venerable military acronym: FUBAR. That stands for “fucked up beyond all recognition” although there’s a G-Rated version that substitutes “fouled up.” Fuck that version: Team Trump is fucking up the country, not fouling up, the foul stench emanating from the White House notwithstanding.

The ongoing saga of John Kelly’s departure from the White House is the best example of Trump’s staff infection. Kelly’s firing has been rumored since March but he’s become the Trump regime’s Keith Richards: a human cockroach who refuses to die.

The Kelly gag was perfected on Sunday when the guy who was expected to replace him, Nick Ayers, turned the job down. Hilarity and chaos ensued. Ayers is Pence’s chief of staff and a greedy hustler who wants to return to the private sector to cash in on his White House connections.

There are manifold reasons for Ayers to leave. Trump’s legal woes have led to an exodus of staffers who don’t want to have massive legal bills. Reporters have started asking Ayers questions about how a 36-year-old political consultant has amassed a vast fortune. The shortest reason is a classic: rats flee sinking ships. And Ayers is a blonde rat with a blonde wife and a blonde family. One could even call his life story Blonde Ambition but I think Reese Witherspoon would object. Who could blame her?

The main reason the Kelly exit is so FUBAR is because the train is being driven by the Slumlord and the Princess. Make that trainwreck:

After Nick Ayers, the Georgia political operative who was the president’s top pick, declined the job — something of a plot twist in a presidency notorious for its episodic cliffhangers — Mr. Trump is without a Plan B. Several of his aides expressed frustration that months of intense campaigning to replace John F. Kelly — an effort led by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s elder daughter and son-in-law — resulted in yet another chaotic staffing scramble in a White House splintered by factions and rife with turnover.

“Why would anybody want to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff unless you want to steal the office supplies before they shut the place down?” said Chris Whipple, who wrote a book on White House chiefs of staff called “The Gatekeepers,” expressing the views of many outside the White House about Mr. Kelly’s job. “If you’re coming into that job, you’ve got to lawyer up.”

The Other Mr. Whipple knows his shit. Javanka should have squeezed the political Charmin before assuming that Ayers would do their bidding. This was a shit show even for Team Trump.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about, here’s one of the “don’t squeeze the Charmin ads” featuring Mr. Whipple that ran for some 20 years:

The terlet paper analogy is apt. The Trump regime seems to be circling the bowl right now. His legal situation is dire and nobody reputable wants to be his chief of staff. Leo McGarry weeps. Perhaps Trump should hire an EMT for the job, they’re used to running toward danger.

As someone who watched a certain shitty reality show so you didn’t have to, I have some suggestions for the next chief of staff among Celebrity Apprentice contestants:

  • Gary Busey would appeal to the Trump base; ain’t no man whiter or angrier than Gary Busey.
  • In the unlikely event that the president* wants to expand his base and appeal to black voters, there’s always dreadlock wearing rapper Lil Jon.
  • If Trump wants to retain the support of Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy, Meat Loaf is his man.

A side benefit of the latest White House shitshow is that it’s serving up an extra dose of humiliation for the ultimate Trump dignity wraith, John Kelly. The retired general has been behind Trump’s horrific immigration and detention policies from the git go. Instead of being the adult in the room, he was the other bigot in the room.

I will never forgive Kelly for lying about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and dismissing her as an “empty barrel.” John Kelly has reached the bottom of the barrel. I hope he drinks deeply of the dregs and sickens himself.

Team Trump’s staff infection shows why nepotism is frowned upon in our government. The Slumlord and the Princess may be grand in a way that their cruder fathers never will be, but they haven’t the foggiest idea of what they’re doing.

As Trump’s legal woes mount and his popularity plummets, he will rely more and more on Javanka’s bad advice. The FUBAR watch remains in effect for the duration. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos. Believe me.

Your President* Speaks: Smocking Gun Edition

I swore off doing these posts because the Insult Comedian says and tweets stupid shit pretty much every day. In the wake of his own personal Black Friday, he’s been tweeting up a flop sweat storm. There have been several instant classics, so I decided to bite the bullet much like Neil Young in this song:

We’ll proceed in reverse chronological order. The first panic tweet is a two-parter.

A smocking gun? Is that a cross between smoke and smock or mock and smoke? In either case, it’s eminently mockable.  Try singing this song as Smocking Gun:

Our second entry is the Insult Comedian’s dickish assault on the Senior Senator from the nutmeg state:

You’re planning to travel with the Dick? Will you have spotted dick for dessert?

Now that the Trump-Macron bromance is over, the president* has turned on the younger handsomer man:

The riots aren’t about the Paris climate change agreement. And the rioters are certainly not shouting “we want Trump.” If they were, I’d be more than glad to send him to Paris. It’s time for another marginally relevant musical interlude:

It’s rich for Mister Bone Saw’s best buddy to talk about “questionably run” countries. I bet some of those dictators know how to get away with paying off their side-chicks without getting caught. MBS would just have them killed and dismembered. Perhaps they’d use one of these:

I need the musical interludes to retain what little sanity I still have left. Besides, One Night In Paris is about an American procuring Parisian prostitutes.

Finally, the Insult Comedian had some twitter tea for the Tillerson:

This is, of course, classic Trump projection. He’s the one who’s “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.” I guess  that makes Mike Pompeo “very legal and very cool.” Sycophants always are. I just realized that made no sense: Trump disease is very very contagious.

Tillerson may not be my cup of tea but he’s an engineer who rose to the top of a massive oil company. He’s an arrogant asshole but not as dumb as a rock. Trump wins that particular trifecta.

The last word (image?) goes to Michael F:

The Fog Of Scandal: Hey Nineteen

I’m one of the Mueller probe’s staunchest supporters and biggest fans. They inadvertently gave me an early Christmas gift: Michael Flynn met nineteen times with Team Mueller. That allowed me to use a Steely Dan song as the title of this post. The late Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, and I would like to thank Bobby Three Sticks. I somehow doubt he’d get the joke. He’s a good man but not known for his sense of humor. He’s closer to a Bodhisattva than a Gaucho. Hey, Bodhisattva is the B-side of Hey Nineteen, so it’s kinda sorta relevant. End of egregious Steely Dan reference.

Mike Flynn is the most interesting person to get caught up the fog of Trump’s scandals. He’s more like a tragic Graham Greene or John LeCarre character than a typical Trump associate. He’s the only Kremlingate figure who is not a lifelong dirtbag. Instead, he’s a highly decorated army intelligence officer who rose to the rank of Lieutenant General: that’s 3 stars for us civilians. He was essentially a good person for the first 50 years of his life. It’s a truism that when people like that go wrong, they go all the way.

Things started to go sideways when Flynn landed a desk job at the Pentagon as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was a swashbuckling field officer, not an administrator skilled at keeping the paper moving. It was as if Hawkeye Pierce had been put in charge of running all the MASH units in Korea. He was a surgeon, not a bureaucrat.

Flynn was a fish out of water at the DIA who was fired amid allegations of emotionally abusive treatment of his subordinates. He was so embittered that he went from moderate Democrat to an Islamophobic wingnut. His open bitterness toward the president who hired and fired him, Barack Obama, made him easy pickings for Russian intelligence.

Flynn’s post-DIA behavior was disgraceful. His full-blown paranoia about Islamic extremism landed him in the Trump campaign. He traveled extensively with the candidate; more often than not he was seated next to the irascible and unstable Trump. He was considered something of a Trump whisperer.

Like pretty much everyone else in Trump’s orbit, Flynn expected to lose the election. His plan was to cash in as a lobbyist for Turkey, which led to his role in a proposed scheme to kidnap the Turkish dissident, Fetullah Gullen. Team Trump looked into deporting Gullen not long ago. These machinations *could* discussed in the redacted portions of the sentencing memo.

I nearly called this post Sympathy for the Devil. Flynn’s post-DIA conduct has involved, lying, cheating, scheming, and scamming. Flynn’s descent to hell was accelerated by his exposure to Trumpberius. Flynn is the most tragic of Trump’s many dignity wraiths. His life was turned to shit by his time on the campaign and 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Flynn’s sentencing memo details his crimes but discusses the extent of his co-operation with the Special Counsel’s Office. The recommendation for no jail time indicates he sang like Sinatra and may well have expressed contrition and shame over his wicked, wicked ways. FYI, My Wicked Wicked Ways was the title of Errol Flynn’s memoirs. End of obligatory Errol Flynn reference.

I liked how the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman characterized Flynn’s plea.

Watching the Flynn plea play out will be fascinating. It’s a pity that cameras aren’t allowed in federal courts. I’d love to see for myself if my “Mike Flynn as repentant criminal” theory holds water. The mere fact that his sentencing will take place *before* investigations pertaining to it conclude, is an indication of sincerity, good faith, and contrition.

Donald Trump is clearly afraid of Mike Flynn’s testimony. As of this writing, the disgraced General and Vladimir Putin are among the few who have not been given the Insult Comedian treatment. Trump’s house of cards continues to teeter. It may well lead to my best case scenario Mueller probe outcome: a grand family plea bargain that results in a presidential* resignation. That’s rank speculation but it’s what pundits do.

The last word goes to (who else?) Steely Dan:

On Ceremonies

I hadn’t planned to watch any of Poppypalooza. I tuned into see how Trump interacted with his predecessors. Protocol saved the former presidents from having to sit next to the Current Occupant. They appear to have taken his phone away from him for the duration so the crazy anti-Mueller tweets will just have to wait.

Back to the state funeral. I sat down and was hooked. I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony and since I’m neither a Poppy Bush hater nor idolator,  I enjoyed the speeches, especially the funny bits. It’s gotten a bit noxious to hear the political media go on about Bush but these were his friends and family. They’re entitled to gush. It’s human nature.

I’m honestly surprised that Poppy outlived his wife of 70 years by 8 months. My parents were married for almost 60 years and my mom lasted for only 5 months after Lou’s passing.

I mention my father not because he was a Poppy Bush fan (he was) but because we once had an interesting conversation about ceremonies when Jimmy Carter was president.

Lou: Why has your man Carter dropped so many public ceremonies?

Me: He ran as a man of the people.

Lou: <snort> The people *love* ceremonies. Hell, even you love ceremonies.

Me: You’re right. He should bring some of them back.

Lou: <laughs> I’m right? Maybe we should call your mother at work and tell her you said that.

Me: Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We rarely agreed on much of anything, which brings me to my next point. I saw some lefty twitteratti hating on Joe Biden for saying nice things about Poppy Bush as a person. People who say shit like that have probably never worked in politics. Like everywhere else in life, personal relationships matter in politics. It’s okay if Joe liked Poppy as a person. He still opposed his policies and planned to run against him in 1988 until fate, in the person of a Neil Kinnock speech, intervened.

The weirdest Poppypalooza tweet of the day came from a former W flack who is *not* a nice person:

Uh, Ari, he was there. The star of the show, in fact. Ari has never been able to get his facts straight. Long before Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Ari was a liar for hire.

I didn’t say you had to like everyone in politics.

UPDATE: Fleischer is an Ari head. My man Walter Mondale was not there and Poppy was. It was his funeral, dude.

Neelyisms At The Bayou Brief

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. In case you’re wondering what a Neelyism is, here’s a nifty definition:

Neelyism (noun): a scripted aphorism made by chronic kibitzer and soundbite machine Sen. John Neely Kennedy.

I’ve never created a noun before. I’m as proud as Octodad before he was thrown out the house.

You may have heard that Neely isn’t running for Gret Stet Goober. I was already compiling Neelyisms but his withdrawal made it a hot topic. Thanks, Senator.

I’m hoping my noun creation will lead others to refer to the Senator as Neely. In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N.

The last word goes to this splendid image created by my publisher, Lamar White Jr,. and the fine folks at the Bayou Brief:

Poppy Bush

The MSM tends to the hagiographic when a former president dies. They were even relatively charitable when Tricky Dick went straight to hell without passing go. In the case of Poppy Bush, the people who covered him liked him as person, which makes it easier to gloss over his political flaws and vices. This was my initial reaction upon hearing that he’d died:

In its rush to paint Bush as a “kinder gentler” president, the MSM has focused on his thank you notes instead of his record.  As president, Poppy Bush was determined to disprove this Newsweek cover:

That was when Newsweek was owned by the Grahams and what it said mattered. Bush was a genuine war hero who should have been secure in his masculinity, but instead was overly fond of military solutions to political and diplomatic problems. His former boss, Ronald Reagan, spent Word War II in uniform in Hollywood, but he was more secure than his Veep so there was tougher rhetoric but fewer military deployments when he was what Gore Vidal called “the Old Television President.”

My head started spinning when I heard CBS’ Bob Schieffer claim that the “Wimp Factor” flap was caused by Poppy’s niceness and good manners. Wrong. It was caused by his obsequiousness as Reagan’s Veep. Bush was a moderate Republican who abandoned most of his previously held positions in a full embrace of Reaganism. It was Bush who dubbed Reagan’s tax cut plan “Voodoo Economics.” Bush arguably moved to Reagan’s right because the hardcore wingnuts never trusted him, so he was obliged to appease them. Appeasement is never appealing.

While we’re on the subject of Newsweek covers, Gary Trudeau did the mud bath cover that is this post’s featured image. He also did a hilarious strip wherein Poppy Bush “put his political manhood in a blind trust” for the duration of the Reagan-Bush administration:

Repeat after me: the Wimp Factor was about George HW Bush, subservient Veep. It was particularly noteworthy as he followed in office the first modern Vice President, Fritz Mondale. Mondale saw his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, humiliated by LBJ and insisted on becoming the first Veep to have any power and influence. Poppy Bush was a throwback Vice President as was his own Veep, J Danforth Quayle.  Ironically, W followed the Carter-Clinton model and gave Dick Cheney too much power. So it goes.

I gotta give Poppy Bush credit for being able to laugh at himself. He befriended Dana Carvey who was best known for his Bush impression on SNL. Carvey portrayed Bush as an amiable somewhat dim aristocrat. Carvey famously said his Bush combined Mister Rogers and John Wayne. It’s a good day in the neighborhood, Pilgrim.

Poppy even invited Carvey to do his impression at the White House:

There’s been a lot of babble on the MSM about Poppy’s decency. It’s been exaggerated BUT I’ve enjoyed it when it serves as a rebuke to the Insult Comedian. Trump has not been barred from the DC memorial service so, he’ll be there. I hope he’s not allowed to speak: eulogies are supposed to be about the dead guy, not the speaker. I don’t think Trump is capable of that. Besides, he might confuse Poppy with Jeb and say 41 is too low energy,

I still have mixed feelings about Poppy Bush’s presidency. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law and presided over the demise of the Soviet Union with skill and tact. His weaknesses on the domestic front emboldened the Pat Buchanans and Newt Gingrichs of the world, which gives Poppy some responsibility for the GOP becoming the Party of Me. I never voted for him and would give him a gentleman’s C as president. The worst thing about his Presidency is that it made the Bush-Cheney administration possible. I give them a lout’s F.

I wish hagiography weren’t the American way, but it’s as old as the Republic itself. See Weems, Parson. George HW Bush was neither all bad nor all good. I didn’t like his policies but, unlike the Current Occupant, he was not a raging gaping asshole whose hand I would have refused to shake. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about a Republican in 2018 except this: Poppy Bush was the best of a bad lot.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deportee (Plane Crash At Los Gatos)

Roots by Frida Kahlo

I’ve been following the horrific events at the US-Mexico border. After a few weeks of relative quiet on the caravan front, the Insult Comedian has ramped up the war of words in this fake crisis. He added a new weapon to his usual arsenal of hot air and bullshit: tear gas. Trump claimed that it was “very safe tear gas” but there’s no such thing, especially since they tear gassed babies. Exposure to tear gas has detrimental effects on childhood development. It’s some nasty shit. I was exposed to tear gas in the Paris Metro many years ago. I don’t recall what the protest was about, but I recall feeling woozy, raspy, and weepy for hours after being tear gassed. I guess it wasn’t the “very safe” kind that Trump is so proud of. #sarcasm

Trump’s ridiculous claim that tear gas is “very safe” reminds me of an encounter with one of my Greek Greek relatives. I called him Theo (Uncle) Panos but he was married to my father’s  cousin. He was a proud and boisterous man who had a small business making and selling taverna-type chairs in the Monastiriki district in old Athens. He believed that everything Greek was the best. It was one reason he and Lou got on so well. I’ll never forget dining al fresco one evening with Panos and his family. There were flies swarming and  I kept shooing them away. Panos laughed and said, “Don’t worry. In Greece, the flies are clean and very safe.”

This week’s theme song was written in 1948 by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman in protest of the racist treatment of Mexican nationals who perished in a plane crash in Los Gatos, California. 32 people died: 4 Americans and 28 Mexican migrant workers who were being deported to Mexico. The media of the day listed the names of the dead Yanquis but referred to the Mexicans solely as deportees.

Sometimes the “crash” in the title is replaced with “wreck” but the song remains the same. Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos) is one of the great protest songs and has been recorded many times over the last 70 years.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Woody Guthrie, Dave Alvin & Jimmie Gilmore, and Nancy Griffith.

Now that we’ve been deported, it’s time to jump to the break. We’ll try not to crash-land but I make no guarantees. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

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The Fog Of Scandal: Individual 1

Image by Michael F

Thursdays are rarely important. But Thursday November 29, 2018 is the day that Donald Trump’s legal house of cards began to collapse. It was no surprise to this blogger: it was jerry-rigged and built on a rickety foundation of lies and greed.

I’ve used my friend and colleague Michael F’s images before but never the next day. The image above and the post title House Of Cads, seem almost premonitive in the wake of Michael Cohen’s latest guilty plea.. Yo, Michael, if you have any lottery number suggestions, I’m all ears.

Individual 1 is, of course, Donald J Trump, accidental president* and sleazy real estate developer. His story about the unconsummated deal for a Trump Tower Moscow was exposed as a lie yesterday. We don’t just have the former Fixer’s word for it: there are digital recordings and documents. Cohen’s bill of information is, well, informative.

Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress. He lied out of loyalty to Individual 1 who went into full Insult Comedian mode upon learning of the plea. He called his former Fixer “not very smart” and a “very weak person.” There’s that word again.

This morning Trumpberius tweeted about his Russia un-deal:

He forgot to invoke McCarthyism, which is always hilarious given that his mentor Roy Cohn was Tailgunner Joe’s right-hand man.

I’ve had some semi-heated discussions with people about charging Trumpers with lying to Congress. People tend to be dismissive about perjury. It’s a sign of the times: lying is in fashion. Lying under oath is never “very legal & very cool.” A reminder that lying to the Senate Watergate Committee was one of the charges that brought down Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell. Are you listening, Junior?

The Mueller investigation is unfolding like a long running teevee drama; more like The Sopranos than The Godfather. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg but with each new court filing Team Trump melts a bit more. As Josh Marshall put it: “They all lied. They’re all guilty.”

Very Deep Thought

I just saw the Liar-in-Chief on cable teevee. In addition to incorrectly claiming that Michael Cohen had already been sentenced to a long prison term, he used his favorite word:

Trump’s mangled and gnarly syntax has actually impacted my writing style. When I finish a draft of anything but a shopping list, I scrub out the verys. Occasionally they survive but that’s a very rare occurrence. Oops, I did it again.

The last word goes to Richard Thompson:

 

Life Imitates The Godfather: Paulie, Won’t See Him No More

Clemenza and Paulie Gatto in The Godfather

There’s something about the Manafort-Trump relationship that makes me think of gangster movies. Imagine that. During Manafort’s trial, the Insult Comedian rhapsodized about Al Capone as a stand-up guy, so naturally I wrote a post called Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort?

I’ve tried to avoid Godfather references in order to stand out from the mobster movie analogy crowd. And I realize the Clemenza-Paulie Gatto analogy is imperfect because Paulie G was whacked for betraying his Don whereas Paulie M first betrayed, then stood by Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto. I should apologize for that long sentence but it would break my momentum. I don’t mess around with either Jim or Big Mo. The Seventies references are really flying today.

Now that I’ve Godfathered the hell out of you, let’s turn our attention to the Manafort at hand. After weeks of quiet, the Manafort case has exploded. Team Mueller pulled out of its plea deal with Manafort because of his incessant lying. Imagine that. Then, it got messier when the Failing New York Times broke the story that Manafort’s lawyer has been briefing Trump’s lawyers about their discussions with Team Mueller. There *was* a co-operation agreement between Teams Manafort and Trump but such deals usually end with a plea bargain. This is sleazier than hell but may not be illegal. It may, however, be actionable by the relevant bar association. Stay tuned.

Making matters even stranger is that mob buster turned wartime consigliere Rudy Giuliani was the source for the bombshell NYT story. We’ve gone from Gatto to Gotti in a heartbeat, a lovebeat. It’s unclear if Rudy did this out of an inability to NOT brag about the contacts or because he’s a stupid twat who thinks this helps his client’s case. It does not. It makes Trump look guilty. But Team Trump agrees with Tricky Dick:

This gambit is classic Manafort. He’s an expert at playing both ends against the middle. It’s why he’s in the jam he’s in today. But at least Trumpy loves him again.

I agree with those who think Manafort is playing for a pardon. He’s also playing the long game. Even for Trump, it’s politically impossible to pardon Manafort before the 2020 election. In his more lucid moments, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover has admitted that a Manafort pardon would be disastrous politically. Of course, his idiot client is quite capable of impulsively issuing one just to blow shit up. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

There are many Manafortian theories out there. Former US Attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and MSNBC legal eagle, Harry Litman, has written a must read op-ed analyzing them. Unlike Litman, I believe that Manafort has a legitimate fear of being whacked by Russian spooks or wise guys in jail. It’s why he’s in solitary. It’s a plot line straight out of  The Americans.

The other Manafort news involves a story in the Guardian describing three meetings between him and albino devil Julian Assange. Many have discounted the story because of its sourcing. It *is* possible that the Guardian got played but the suspicion of the story strikes me as rank provincialism. The Guardian is one of the world’s great newspapers so its stories should be accorded the same respect as those in the NYT or WaPo. Besides, its sourcing is quite similar to many Woodstein Watergate stories. I also think the Steele Dossier implicitly supports the story. Stay tuned.

I’m used to making Watergate or Iran-Contra references about the DC scandal of the day. I am, however, unused to comparing our politics to gangster movies. What can I tell ya? I call them as I see them.

The last word goes to Corleone Caporegime Peter Clemenza:

Sorry for the last word fib, but I would be remiss in my duties as a mob movie maven if I didn’t post Clemenza’s lines after Paulie G met his maker:

Mississippi Goddam

Source: Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Facebook page via the Bayou Brief.

I feel like an interloper to this story. Athenae wrote a slam-bang post about it yesterday and my friend and Bayou Brief publisher, Lamar White Jr. broke the story of Cindy Hyde-Smith’s bigoted comments. I also could not resist using the Nina Simone song for the post title. I know I’m not the first to do so, my friend Kat did it at Sky Dancing. I am a derivative motherfucker. I do, however, have talented friends.

While I’m giving credit where it’s due, there’s a remarkable piece in the Jackson Free Press by Ashton Pittman (names don’t get more Southern than that) that fills in many of the blanks about Cindy Hyde-Smith aka the Racist Lady. Nobody should be shocked that, not only did the appointed senator attend a “segregation academy,” she sent her daughter there. And yes, she was an elected official when her daughter matriculated. It doesn’t matter to prosperous white Mississippians. It’s what they do, y’all. Cannot mix with “those people.”

Another note about Lamar’s reporting. He tells us exactly who and what, Greg Stewart, the guy in the Facebook pictures with the Racist Lady, is:

In the early 2000s, Stewart was specifically identified as a leader of a recognized hate group- Free Mississippi- by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group went defunct, and as a result, it was de-listed by the SPLC. But you can still find his name on their database. He  served as the group’s “parliamentarian.”

You can also still easily find him on Facebook, where he makes it abundantly clear that he is very much still involved in the business of the Lost Cause. (Stewart enthusiastically supported Chris McDaniel in the general election and is now cheering on Hyde-Smith).

McDaniel is the arch teabagger and Lost Causer who opposed Thad Cochran in 2014. He’s also the creep whose supporter harassed the Senator’s elderly wife in her nursing home. I am not making this up.

Back to Cindy Hyde-Smith. I wish I could say that her racist remarks and inept campaign will defeat her but I don’t think they will. Her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, is infinitely more intelligent and qualified to serve in the Senate. He’s also black and the vast majority of white Mississippians will never vote for a Democrat let alone a black Democrat. It’s the party of “those people.”

I’ve watched with amusement people who know nothing about the South opine on cable news about the Mississippi runoff. I saw one otherwise intelligent person say on AM JOY that Espy will win because there was not supposed to be a runoff in this race. Wrong. Chris McDaniel nearly unseated an incumbent Senator in the 2014 GOP primary. He only got 17% of the vote this time, in part, because Trump supported the Racist Lady in the first round. He’s still popular with white voters in the Magnolia state, alas.

What Cindy Hyde-Smith’s bigoted bumbling has done is to make the runoff closer than it should be. Republican political pros are nervous about the race but think she’ll pull it out after Trump rallies the peckerwoods later today. Their mantra is: “We don’t want an Alabama.”

They’re referring to Senator Doug Jones’ thrilling win last year in his race against Judge Pervert. I think that’s unlikely for reasons stated on the tweeter tube:

Alabama is NOT a progressive paradise but it has some big cities, a major medical research hub in Birmingham, and the rocket eggheads in Huntsville to partially offset the rural peckerwoods and rednecks. Also, Doug Jones is white. An African American candidate would not have beaten Judge Pervert, alas. The Bradley effect remains in effect in the South, as we saw in Florida where many white voters could not bring themselves to vote for Andrew Gillum.

I think Mike Espy has a good chance to get 45% of the vote if his GOTV effort is strong, otherwise he’ll hover at around 40%. If it’s the former, it’s a Beto-style moral victory. I hope I’m wrong and we wake up to an upset victory on Wednesday morning.

One thing that national Democrats seem to have learned this year is to CONTEST every race even those that look difficult. You never know when an inept candidate will talk about hanging or disenfranchising their opponents. In another state, those comments would have destroyed the appointed senator’s campaign. It’s a sign of progress that they damaged it severely. And in Mississippi of all places. Goddam.

The last word goes to the great Nina Simone:

Trump Fatigue

Image by Michael F

His detractors have long had it but Trump fatigue is afflicting many who voted for him. They’re beginning to spill the Trumper Kool-Aid instead of drinking it. The election was a disaster for the GOP: they lost the national popular vote by 8 points. As a point of reference, Ronald Reagan’s margin over Jimmy Carter in 1980 was 9 points.  Reagan was a master of expanding his base, all Trump does is shrink his.

In addition to being a corrupt obnoxious idiot, Trump’s primary political problem at this point is overexposure. Most of us would prefer not to think about politics on Thanksgiving. Trump was busy bragging, hate tweeting, and informing the country that we should be grateful for HIM.

The vast majority of people cannot sustain the level of intensity generated by this president*. People need a break from politics. Past presidents understood this, went on vacation, and made few public appearances during the holidays. Trump must always be the center of attention. He’s incapable of dialing it back during the holidays. That’s a big mistake. Thanks, Donald.

I had a brief encounter with an elderly Republican this week: “You were right about this guy. He never shuts up. He’s going to die of overexposure.”

That’s my new favorite image. Here’s another twist on it: the Donner party died of exposure, the Trump regime will die of overexposure.

As I wrote this, a classic Neil Young song lodged itself in my head. Neil gets the last word:

Sorry about your house burning down, man. I guess you should have raked more. #sarcasm.

Trump’s Sordid Saudi Word Salad

I guess the Insult Comedian hadn’t heard about the decline and recall of the Romaine empire when he issued his appalling statement about the Saudis and their murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The statement is pure word salad, peppered with Satan’s punctuation: 8 exclamation points. The late language maven William Safire weeps as do I.

Trump is proud of this illiterate, immoral, incoherent, and imbecilic statement.  It continues his seemingly endless race to the bottom, which has the nation’s moral compass spinning out of control. It was dictated by the president* to enable the Saudi dictator. Sad.

In this despicable document, Trump informs us that money matters more than the truth, human life, or national honor. None of this is surprising but if we lose the capacity to be shocked by the baseness of this president* he has won. I dislike the clunky word normalization, but if  it ever fit a situation this is it.

Trumpberius and Slumlord Jared are all in on Mohammad bin Salman. In fact, Crown Prince MBS is making the already awful Saudi dictatorship even worse. It’s moving from a family owned, consensus oriented authoritarian state to one man rule. That’s why nobody believes his claims about the Khashoggi killing. Not even Trump, but as far as he’s concerned, it doesn’t matter:

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

Trump claims that there are 450 billion reasons why we should turn a blind eye to this act of barbarism. He is, of course, full of shit on the details, but it does not matter. The Saudi dictatorship butchered a legal US resident for the “crime” of being a dissident writer. That’s all that matters.

I’m grateful to whoever leaked the story of the CIA’s Khashoggi report. Perhaps the same person leaked this appalling story to NBC last week:

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey’s case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

The Trump regime subsequently denied the story but such denials ring hollow in the face of its overt hostility to human rights, and our country’s tradition of being a safe haven for dissidents. We should never extradite dissidents to their country of origin to face execution. We should never even consider doing so to help *another* dictator out of a jam. This is, in a word, reprehensible.

It’s indisputable that the American record on human rights is a mixed bag. We’ve done more than our share of dictator coddling BUT we’ve always aspired to be better. Even past “tough guy” leaders paid lip service to human rights This makes Trump and his lackeys worse than John Foster Dulles, Richard Nixon, or Dick Cheney. “Worse than Cheney” is not something anyone should want to hear about themselves. Trump, of course, hears nothing and learns even less.

I was raised by my parents to be proud of my country and tolerant of its flaws. I am ashamed to be an American right now. It hurts to say that but I know we can and will do better in the future.

The last word goes to Randy Newman:

Tweet Of The Day: Nancy Smash Challenge Edition

It’s no secret that we’re Nancy Pelosi fans here at First Draft. The first female speaker was also one of the most effective. It’s why she was targeted by Republicans in the 2010 teabagger wave election and in every subsequent campaign. It’s best when your boogieman (boogiewoman in this instance) can really boogie.

Pelosi just led Democrats to their biggest gains in the House since the post-Watergate wave election way back in 1974. Instead of meeting with acclaim, she’s facing a challenge led by the #FiveWhiteGuys with support from the cats and kittens at Politico.

Since none of them has the balls to stand for leader, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, and the other #FiveWhiteGuys thought they’d found the perfect stalking horse in African American Congressperson Marcia Fudge. They were outmaneuvered by the wily Pelosi who cut a deal with Fudge yesterday. It’s why she’s been House Democratic leader longer than anyone since Sam Rayburn.

That brings us to the tweet of the day. It’s a joke I considered stealing outright but decided not to. Without further adieu, here it is:

Decorum, Nevermorum

Chris Wallace conducted one of the best televised Trump interviews thus far. The clips I’ve seen reminded me of his late father Mike who was one of the best and toughest interviewers in teevee history. The son may work for Fox but this interview would have made his father proud.

Trump has a new favorite word: decorum. He’s been using it, like some people in the Gret Stet of Louisiana use hot sauce, on everything in sight. It’s unclear if he knows what it means since he continues to display a lack of decorum: the Adam Schitt tweet springs to mind. If that’s decorous, Beavis and Butthead are highbrows. They’re not. Believe me.

The most unsettling portion of the Wallace interview was this exchange about retired Admiral McRaven:

WALLACE: Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL, 37 years, former head of US Special Operations —

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton fan.

WALLACE: Special Operations —

TRUMP: Excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan.

WALLACE: Who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden, says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.

TRUMP: Okay, he’s a Hilary Clinton, uh, backer and an Obama backer and frankly —

WALLACE: He was a Navy SEAL 37 years —

TRUMP: Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice? You know, living — think of this — living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan, in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer. But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year and they don’t tell him, they don’t tell him—

An incredulous Wallace then asks, “You’re not even going to give them credit for taking down bin Laden?” But by this point, Trump has pivoted to the separate question of whether American financial assistance to the government of Pakistan is a good idea.

This appears to be Trump’s sincere view: Any person or institution that would have the temerity to criticize him on any grounds is corrupt and incompetent and thus not worth listening to on any subject.

McRaven’s real “crime” in Trump’s eyes is that he rose to John Brennan’s defense after the former head spook’s security clearance was taken away.

Our readers know that I’m a liberal who has tremendous respect for the military. It’s rooted in a conversation I had with my father near the end of the Vietnam War. I was in the habit of ragging on servicemen at that point in time. Lou sat me down and said something like this:

“Son, I don’t like this war either. As far as I’m concerned you, either fight all out or you don’t fight at all. I was lucky enough to fight in a war I believed in, but if I hadn’t it wouldn’t have mattered. Those boys in Vietnam didn’t choose to go there. Save your harsh words for the politicians who got us into this mess, not the kids who are fighting there.”

I don’t recall the exact words but the sentiments have stuck with me. Admiral McRaven deserves the same respect my father urged me to have for our troops. He’s a brave and intelligent man who has served our country with distinction and honor. Donald Trump is a man with no honor whatsoever. He’s incapable of understanding people like McRaven or Robert Mueller. It’s one of the primary reasons he’s unfit to sit in the Oval Office and why he richly deserves the asterisk I’ve given his presidency.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. I suppose I shouldn’t use a punny title for a serious post but I cannot help myself. Y’all should know that by now.

I love, love, love Admiral McRaven’s surname, which evokes Poe’s classic poem. In my hands it comes out: Decorum, nevermorum.

I never claimed to be decorous or decorative for that matter. I could even be described as rotten to the decorum.

That is all.

Trump’s Raking, California’s Burning

There have been so many pinch me moments since Donald Trump became president*. The latest came with his bizarre response to the California wildfires. As always, this fucking moron thinks he knows everything when, in fact, he knows absolutely nothing. It’s always made worse by the refusal of anyone around him to tell him when he’s wrong, which is more often than not. The only Yes-men I’ve ever cared for were Anderson and Squire.

About the featured image. I felt it was important to translate it to the original Astoria-Queens dialect. If I could line up Joe Pesci for a reading, I would. My cousin Vinny knew a thing or two about da utes.

Back to Donald’s Excellent California Misadventure. Make sure you click on the embedded video in the tweet:

There’s just so much to unpack from Trump’s latest big bag of stupid. First, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he NEVER said anything about raking to Trump. Second, Finland is a small-ish, cold, and wet country. California is vast and dry from an epic drought. My home state is inherently prone to wildfires and all the raking in the world will not end that. Additionally, most of the forests there are managed by the Federal, not state government. But when did the Insult Comedian ever let the facts get in the way of making him look stupid?

When did da president* from Noo Yawk become an expert in forestry? Has he ever even wielded a rake? Perhaps he’s thinking of the kind of rake described in this tweet:

I attempted to post that tweet at a rakish angle but it proved impossible. Unlike the Current Occupant, I know when I don’t know something, you know.

One of Trump’s few talents is his eerie ability to make everything about himself. In this instance, it’s a horrific talent: 76 people have died and over 1000 are missing as of this writing. The Camp fire is a bona fide tragedy that all the raking or Smokey Bear bashing in the world will not solve. Yes, I said Smokey Bear bashing:

I would loved to have been a fly on the wall when Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsome discussed the presidential visit.  I thought I saw Jerry grit his teeth when Trumpberius went on about raking. The temptation to put the business end of a rake where the moon don’t shine must have been overwhelming. I applaud the outgoing Governor for his restraint. It must have been hard for Jerry: he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

Nero had his fiddle, Trump has his rake. Dave Alvin has the last word: