Sunday, December 30, 2018

trump's Shutdown Gambit

For the Republicans and for trump, the game is pretty simple: Blame the Democrats for the chaos they themselves are causing and keep the Dems from passing their own agenda (via Sam Stein and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast):

In their eyes, a prolonged stalemate will likely fracture voters along traditional partisan lines, and the ultimate outcome will be a debate waged largely on the president’s terms. Increasingly, they see an upside in forcing likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to spend the first days, if not weeks, of the next Congress engaged in an argument over border wall funding rather than her preferred agenda: a mix of sweeping ethics and election reforms and congressional oversight. And they continue to believe that a conversation around immigration and border security is in the president’s best political interests.

Meanwhile, trump is using the excuse of the shutdown to cut federal workers off from their scheduled pay raises due in February 2019. It's a direct act of cruelty for people already facing troubles without their paychecks.

trump is also threatening to physically close the Mexican border - well, closing the roadways and cutting off all trade - if he doesn't get *his* border funding AKA that goddamn trump Wall. Never mind the fact that our trade with Mexico generates about $600 billion a year and that we're already suffering from the tariff war over soybeans with China.

It's less a Game of Chicken than it is a Round of Schoolyard Bullying.

But it's all trump knows. This is his art of the deal.

  • He wants something.
  • Someone else has it or has means to make it for him.
  • He bullies and intimidates that person, balancing between legal threats and false promises.
  • He gets what he wants (or he gets humiliated enough to go skulking away whining he never wanted it anyway).
  • He immediately reneges on his end of the deal, forcing his victim to fight a legal battle that ends up resolved in a plea deal because trump pushes them to the point of personal bankruptcy and they can't fight any further.
  • He mismanages whatever he gets into bankruptcy anyway, and goes off desiring the next thing.

Here, trump wants a goddamn border Wall, not because it will be effective - it won't even stop the major part of illegal immigration (visa overstays) in the first place - but because it will be a physical monument to his very existence. he may even try to get his name plastered all over it.

In the meantime, he doesn't care about who gets hurt in his "deal-making" because he calculates the other side WILL care. He's trying to inflict enough harm - fiscal, emotional, even actual death - to try and drive Democrats to the bargaining table and succumb to his whims.

If he thinks this is how the great deal-makers in politics played the game... he's wrong.

Look to LBJ. Arguably one of the best deal-makers in American political history. He wooed, he manipulated, he bartered behind the scenes to get small deals done that paid off with big laws. And where he couldn't buy off - legally and illegally - or block off from interfering, LBJ used his Treatment method - very much akin to bullying but not as blunt or ill-informed as how trump does it - to gain enough of a concession to pull off the big win.

Can you picture trump playing the game like Johnson?

Watch how trump tried to bluff and bully his way against incoming Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer in a meeting earlier this month. He never stayed on point, never argued on any merit, and walked himself into making gaffes and indefensible statements. There is no way LBJ would have gotten played like that in his own White House. Even Jimmy Carter wouldn't have been that easily provoked or duped.

trump is trying to play Chicken - "Give me what I want or I drive this bus over the cliff!" - with the government budget and with the nation's economy and with people's lives, and driving that bus up and over the edge with gleeful abandon.

A REAL President would have been playing poker, bargaining and bartering and yes bluffing into getting his opponents to fold. Except it's a poker game where the players know not to push all their chips in to win big once, but upping the ante and scoring good-sized pots to keep the game going.

As far as Shutdown experience matters, the Republicans really don't win much except generating more frustration and despair out of voters about how broken government is. That actually helped them win midterm elections by driving voter interest to horrifying minuscule numbers.

They have to be careful this time, however. The guy they've got playing the game is a rank amateur at political game theory, and he's making bets he can't back.

We are talking about a guy in donald trump who bankrupted his own casinos. This is no poker player at all.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

With Thanks To Batocchio and the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2018

As the year ends, fellow blogger Batocchio - a regular at Crooks and Liars and Balloon Juice - does a Memorial Roundup of blogs in honor of an early revered blogger who wrote under the nom de plume of Jon Swift (in honor of the original snarker). 

I've been honored in previous years to include my blog, and this year I was invited back for the 2018 list. I heartily encourage the seven readers here to click and follow those links to the other honored blogs.

This year's entry is a brief but rage-filled Where Are the Children? rant from the early days of the ongoing national tragedy of the trump Administration's horrific treatment of asylum families, especially the jailing of young children, the physical and psychological damage inflicted on those children (to where children are dying in our government's custody!), and the more horrifying evidence that many children have gone missing from a system that's supposed to be keeping track of everybody.

Our federal government under trump and his fellow corrupt Republicans have turned our immigration system into internment camps, and God help us our nation has been ruining thousands of lives of those who want to come here as honest citizens instead of being treated unjustly.

This story needs to be on the front pages of every newspaper and on the first fifteen minutes of every news channel. The coverage on trump's criminal ties to Russia can take a back-burner while the very real and very painful crime trump is committing in front of the whole world needs to be confronted and pushed back 24/7.

MY GOD. Answer the question trump. WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?

Monday, December 24, 2018

On This Christmas Eve 2018

As I head out to a family gathering:

The stock markets are having their steepest decline in a single month in almost 15 years, with this December poised to wipe out nearly every stock gain since the GOP passed their tax-cut bill in mid-2017. This is what you get, Wall Street, for blindly accepting a bad businessman you KNEW was a bankrupt con artist all because he promised you massive tax cuts... that are now turning useless even for yourselves.

The federal government is in partial shutdown, still forcing thousands of federal employees to work without pay and even taking some away from planned vacations to cover for employees barred by rules to work during such things. Merry Christmas, Republican assholes!

trump himself is sitting alone in the White House, trapped by his shutdown stunt (and oddly enough not celebrating with any of his five kids: his wife Melania is traveling back from Mar-A-Lago to give him some company on Christmas Day itself but then will depart the next day) and whining like the spoiled brat he is. Every sign of his instability and willingness to bash at anything and everyone is getting more obvious... and of course nothing will be done about it by Republicans until it gets too worse even for them.

Other than that, America, all I got for you is this one True Meaning of Christmas:


Welcome to the party, Hans!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

This Day I Can't Even: December 20 2018 A Day Which Will Live in OMFG

I was going to write about things but other things kept popping up.

I was going to write about trump's ongoing tariff wars combined with market anxiety over oil, interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, and growing concerns over a dysfunctional federal government had dropped the New York Stock Market deep into the red over the last two-three months and seriously deep over the past week.

I was going to write about the ongoing revelations in Mueller's Russia-trump Investigations, including how the judge overseeing Michael Flynn's plea agreement openly flipped out in court over Flynn's transgressions and accusing Flynn of treason, "You sold this country out!". Judge Sullivan walked it back later by noting treason only applies in times of war against a declared hostile foreign power, but still whatever the judge saw in the un-redacted portions of the plea deal made the judge recoil in horror.

I was going to write about the REAL power in the Republican Party wasn't trump or the deep pocket SuperPACs, but the Far Right Noise Machine of Limbaugh, Fox Not-News and assorted partners in crime. It's an open secret trump doesn't listen to advisors or experts, he listens to the ill-informed pundits on TV. Considering how the wingnut media has been berating trump for his failures to get his coveted trump Wall funded by Mexico Canada tariff hikes China the U.S. Defense budget American taxpayers...

I was going to write about how trump's sudden temper tantrum - spurred on by that Far Right Noise Machine on Fox & Friends - over getting HIS Wall built created a last-minute scramble by the outgoing Republican House to pass a new Continuing Resolution / Budget... with the glaring problems of A) the Republicans don't have the votes to support including $5 BILLION for the Wall, B) the Senate already passed a CR without it and will NOT be able to vote for a changed bill including it, C) half of the Republicans in Congress have ALREADY GONE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. We're essentially going to get a trump Shutdown after all...

But no, I get home today after a crazy day at work and get my dinner done and then I check Twitter and I see stuff about Secretary of Defense Mattis (the last Sane Man in trump's chaotic White House) RESIGNING FROM THE POST AND STEPPING DOWN SOME TIME IN FEBRUARY OMFG OMFG WE ARE SO DEAD THIS IS HORRIFYING WE ARE FORSAKEN BY THE OLD GODS AND NEW THIS NIGHT...

Oy. Seriously, this is a bad thing. Mattis is leaving under duress, no longer willing to abide by trump's unwillingness to listen to reason and trump's impulsive foreign policy moves such as the recent decision to withdraw (ABANDON) from Syria regarding the ongoing civil war/fight against ISIL. To refer to Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice about the Syrian withdrawal, this is how bad it's going to get:

The immediate, within 24 hour removal of State Department personnel, while not logistically difficult, is a huge issue. The personnel being withdrawn were working on the civilian side of the Stability Operations we are conducting. This includes the USAID personnel who are working with internally displaced Syrians, as well as refugees in the region and coordinating humanitarian relief and assistance with local NGOs and other local groups. The military withdrawal will, of course, take longer because it isn’t just removing personnel, but equipment, which will obviously take longer than 24 hours...
If we pull out there will be four immediate effects.
  1. The collapse of the local stabilization we’re contributing to. This will result in increased internally displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees who will flee ahead of both Syrian and ISIS efforts to fill the vacuum the withdrawal will create.
  2. As a result of the first effect, we will see an increased humanitarian crisis in the areas we withdraw from.
  3. We will once again have abandoned the Kurds despite the promises we’ve made to them, which further diminishes the United States ability to exercise any form of national power (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic), because it further demonstrates that we can’t be trusted, won’t keep our word, and can’t be counted on.
  4. The vacuum and destabilization created by the withdrawal will be filled by both Syrian forces and ISIS. They will move to occupy and control the areas we’ve left, will fight each other in them, and this will lead to further destabilization in Syria and, potentially, throughout the Levant. It creates new stresses, challenges, and threats for Iraq and Lebanon, as well as for Israel and Turkey even though both of those states have been pursuing their own interests in Syria. And because of increased refugee outflows, it will increase pressures and problems for our allies in the EU...

The upshot of all this: Russia profits because they keep their allies in Syria in power, Iran profits because they gain from the chaos of the civil war to retain control over Lebanon and keep Iraq destabilized, Turkey profits because the Kurds will become vulnerable again and lose any hope of establishing their own nation. The world has to cope with an escalation in refugees fleeing the war zones, which adds to the Far Right/Nationalist uprisings happening in Europe against that refugee crisis (again, benefiting Russia). All the U.S. will get out of it are the personnel coming back home, but with no guarantees we are leaving a stabilized, functioning Syria and nowhere near a stabilized Middle East. Essentially, we're giving up on trying to help the Syrian people, and that abandonment is going to make the U.S. more despised and disrespected on the global stage than ever before.

Mattis leaving now points to the recent Syria move as a major factor, although working for trump has clear soul-scarring issues that would drive any sane man to have left months ago (Mattis likely only took the job out of a sense of patriotic duty).

Silverman added a copy of Mattis' resignation letter at Balloon Juice - follow the link please - so you can read it and draw your own conclusions.

I've already drawn one conclusion from all this week (and it's not even Friday News Dump Day yet!):

The chaos of the trump Administration is going to destroy this nation. It's no longer a matter of IF it's a matter of WHEN, and that WHEN is now counted by days instead of weeks or months.


It's days like this I *wish* I could drink Saturnalia wine...

Update: It's not so much that I believed Mattis was great as a Secretary of Defense, it's just that he did what he could to keep trump's partisan, unpredictable, and noticeably corrupted ideas away from influencing the military in ways that would have proven disastrous for the nation's well-being. In an administration full of corrupting individuals - some of whom are just now facing criminal investigations for the crimes they're committing in office - Mattis was one of the few who could have been trusted to serve the nation's interests and not trump's. We have no guarantee the next Defense Secretary is going to do that: For what we know, it's going to be a trump-suckup who'll willingly abuse the authority and power of our armed forces to serve trump's whims (and GOD KNOWS what they'll hand over to Putin)...

Monday, December 17, 2018



Break out the wine!

Gamble with dice!

Wear ALL the funky hats!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Republican Wall Already Up, a Republic Itself Falling Down

If you've been reading this blog since 2008, you might notice I've been yelling and screaming about the damage caused by the modern Republican Party.

But since I only get about seven people reading this blog, it's good to see when the national publications/websites get on the same wavelength I've been all these years. For example, a much-promoted essay from George Packer at The Alantic:

Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt? The reason is historical—it goes back many decades—and, in a way, philosophical. The party is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start...
The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means. Political corruption usually trails financial scandals in its wake—the foam is scummy with self-dealing—but it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, a representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries. But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.
Republican majorities are rushing to pass laws that strip away the legitimate powers of newly elected Democratic governors while defeated or outgoing Republican incumbents are still around to sign the bills. Even if the courts overturn some of these power grabs, as they have in North Carolina, Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results. Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin, a purple state, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.
The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means...

I'd written earlier this year about the political minority status of the GOP, given how they've pandered to an ever-shrinking voter base and using that to ignore the majority's needs across every issue. Packer makes note of it too:

Today’s Republican Party has cornered itself with a base of ever older, whiter, more male, more rural, more conservative voters. Demography can take a long time to change—longer than in progressives’ dreams—but it isn’t on the Republicans’ side. They could have tried to expand; instead, they’ve hardened and walled themselves off. This is why, while voter fraud knows no party, only the Republican Party wildly overstates the risk so that it can pass laws (including right now in Wisconsin, with a bill that reduces early voting) to limit the franchise in ways that have a disparate partisan impact...
The party purged itself of most remaining moderates, growing ever-more shallow as it grew ever-more conservative—from Goldwater (who, in 1996, joked that he had become a Republican liberal) to Ted Cruz, from Buckley to Dinesh D’Souza. Jeff Flake, the outgoing senator from Arizona (whose conservative views come with a democratic temperament), describes this deterioration as “a race to the bottom to see who can be meaner and madder and crazier. It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” The viciousness doesn’t necessarily reside in the individual souls of Republican leaders. It flows from the party’s politics, which seeks to delegitimize opponents and institutions, purify the ranks through purges and coups, and agitate followers with visions of apocalypse—all in the name of an ideological cause that every year loses integrity as it becomes indistinguishable from power itself...

And it should be noted: Where Flake was a known public critic of Republican "viciousness" he DID NOT DO A DAMN THING TO STOP IT other than running away. Him and most other party leaders. They gave up on controlling the GOP and let the rioters from the wingnut media take the wheel.

We see these critiques among the punditry: David Frum with his "Waterloo" remarks regarding the Republicans' failure to compromise and accept Obama's health care reforms; Andrew Sullivan trying his hardest over the last decade to revive an intellectual conservatism that the Republicans will no longer tolerate; nearly every article by every pundit decrying the Republicans' descent into dogma and powerlust.

The problem is that every article is about trying to find some redemption in a shitpile of Far Right corruption. The pundits still think there is something worth saving in a Republican Party that has long since died.

The nation may need a two-party system to provide a choice for the voters when the time comes, but it is now a False Choice. Like John Cole said YEARS AGO, we're choosing between someone who'll suggest Italian for a dinner date and someone who'll insist on tire rims and anthrax. There's no viable choice there. This isn't a "Both Sides" worldview worth defending. One side - the Republicans - is simply power-mad and flat-out batshit crazy.

We are at the point where the media has to realize they have a First Amendment obligation not to allow "both sides" to present their arguments but a First Amendment obligation to inform their readers and viewers and listeners that one side is no longer interested in serving the public trust. We're at the point the media has to warn every American that the Republican side is wrong, just straight-up wrong.

The media has to report this. They have to report how the modern GOP has shut itself away from the realities of how things work, how the modern GOP refuses to play by the constitutional norms that have been in effect for decades if not centuries, how the modern GOP is closed off from open debate, differing life experiences, or the virtues of compromise.

The Beltway punditry has to admit - first to itself, and then to the nation - that the Republicans already have their Wall, built on ignorance and vanity, designed to keep THEIR kind in power and the rest of the nation out in the cold.

The national media, the local media, anywhere and everywhere across the information spectrum. THAT has to be the main story, this day and every day.

It has - by the way - the virtue of being the truth. Everything you see about the Republicans' cruelty, the Republicans' greed, the Republicans' ineptitude: It's really happening, and people are suffering.

That's how the truth should matter. That's WHY the truth should matter.

We as a nation need that truth. Or else the Republic truly falls and never gets up again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

You'll Shoot Your Io Out, Kid. It's SATURNALIA TIME

Okay, for those who are wondering how you say "IO SATURNALIA" the secret is to say the "I" in Latin like it's a hybrid of the English "J" and "Y". Sorta between the JO and the YO.

So for this season of Latin gambling and drunkenness, I call upon the Roman god Saturn and say unto him "YO BRO GIVE ME SOME NALIA!"


Okay, I might be losing it this year. But I do have a wish list and it pretty much goes like this, O Ringed God One:

1) Mueller indicts the whole damn trump criminal empire from the Shitgibbon himself down to the lowest-ranking Russian spy at the NRA.

2) Look, I know there are arguments about sitting Presidents and whether they can be charged/indicted while still in office, but a lot of the deferring relies on the belief that a functioning Congress would actively impeach such a crook in office so that the legal system wouldn't have to get into the political pitfalls. Problem is, THIS CONGRESS IS NOT FUNCTIONING. The Republicans in the Senate will NEVER follow through on any impeachment the Democratic-controlled House may file, meaning trump gets to sit in the Oval Office eagerly committing more crimes on a daily basis (for the Love of GOD every minute he is in office trump is violating the Emoluments Clause!) and maybe even cheat his way into a SECOND TERM OF CROOKED SH-T.

There's also a serious concern about Statute of Limitations: the fraud charges trump currently faces have a time limit to where they expire the year after this one term ends (2021). If trump were to steal (there is no GODDAMN way he wins a legitimate election in 2020) a second term, those charges may well evaporate.

I SAY CHARGE HIM NOW. No man should be above the law.

3) Totally hoping that Saturn pushes a little harder on the NRA's current fiscal woes to where they DO file for bankruptcy. Just desserts for a group that actively teamed up with a con artist in trump and with foreign crooks like the Russians.

4) A paid two-week vacation to Hawaii would be nice. Maybe Mercury can line up some speedy transportation.



Monday, December 10, 2018

The Chief of Staff Blues w/Update

Somewhere in the world, Prince Rebus is finishing off a bottle of whiskey with a smile on his face.

Popehat remains infallible among hats.
To wit: John Kelly, current Chief of Staff to the worst-managed White House in American history and someone who went into that job with eyes open and soul lost, is heading out the door and all of a sudden trump cannot find a single sucker to take the damn job.

As of right now - 7:30 PM or so EST - relatively respectable Republicans have turned down the offer, starting with the guy hand-picked to replace Kelly - Pence's CoS Ayers - en route to half the Cabinet and maybe even "acting" AG Whitaker saying "uh no can do, I gotta go wash my hair or iron the dog or something" and running for cover.

To be fair, the Chief of Staff to the President is one of the hardest jobs in Washington DC. While it's a powerful position with a massive West Wing staff at your command, the headaches outweigh the perks. As the gatekeeper to the President, you have to manage everyone from Cabinet Secretaries all the way down to some part-time intern wanting face-time with the Boss. You have to keep the administration on target with its agenda. You have to keep the scandals to a minimum and the public approval to a maximum. You get yelled at by Congress when the President is refusing to work with them, and you get yelled at by the President when his cereal gets too soggy in the morning.

To be a Chief of Staff you have to have the patience of Job, the zen of Buddha, the golf skills of Arnold Palmer, and the stern determination of a T-800.

So of course, the mayhem and insanity of a trump organization would be an impossible task to oversee.

The Republicans sent in a seasoned political operative in Rience Priebus to try and control trump's worst impulses, and he couldn't. They sent in a veteran Marines (!) general in John Kelly to try and control trump's worst impulses, and HE couldn't.

Who the hell CAN keep this trump administration under ANY semblance of focus and control? Who the hell wants to walk into a job that is - any day now - going to have to handle the revelations of Mueller's (and the other criminal investigations) grand juries into Russia's conspiracy with trump's campaign to subvert the 2016 elections?

Anyone sane and anyone with working brain cells should be saying NO to this job and run for the hills.

You do NOT board a sinking sink, people. You just don't.

You just watch from the shoreline enjoying the schadenfreude. BWHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Update 12/16/18: Trump is getting Mick Mulvaney, currently at his Budget Office, to be the "Acting" Chief of Staff. I thought the name was familiar, and I found I had blogged about THIS crook before...

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Unavoidable Conclusions To an Ongoing Train Wreck

Welcome to the Darkest Timeline (via Ken White at The Atlantic).

Federal prosecutors filed three briefs late on Friday portending grave danger for three men: the former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, the former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and President Donald Trump...
In brief No. 1, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office argues that Paul Manafort breached his cooperation agreement with the government by lying to the FBI and the Special Counsel’s Office in the course of 12 meetings. The brief oozes a level of confidence notable even among professionally hubristic prosecutors: Mueller says he’s ready to present witnesses and documents, and that he gave Manafort’s lawyers an opportunity to refute the evidence but they could not. Mueller is sure he has the receipts.
According to the brief, Manafort lied about his communications with the reputed Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik, whom Mueller has scrutinized as a possible conduit between the Trump campaign and the Russian government... Mueller also asserts that Manafort lied about some of the payments he received and about an investigation in another district—possibly, based on the context, the Southern District of New York investigation of Michael Cohen and the president. Finally, and of great concern to the White House, Mueller claims that Manafort lied about his contacts with the Trump administration before his guilty plea, and that text messages, documents, and witnesses prove that he was in contact with administration officials...
In brief No. 2, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York asks a federal judge to sentence the former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to a “substantial term of imprisonment”—meaning between three and four years...
The New York prosecutors blast Cohen’s “rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes,” accusing him of a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” Prosecutors portray Cohen as stubbornly obstructing his own accountant to cheat at taxes, even refusing to pay for accounting work that raised inconvenient issues he wanted suppressed...  Cohen, they say, schemed to pay for two women’s stories (Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, we now know) in violation of campaign-finance laws in order to influence the 2016 election, and did so “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1”—that is, the President of the United States...
And that brings us to brief No. 3: Special Counsel Mueller’s separate sentencing brief in Cohen’s lying-to-Congress case. He does not recommend a sentence but informs the court about the nature of Cohen’s assistance to his office. Mueller discloses that Cohen has “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct” by pleading guilty to lying to Congress and meeting with the special counsel seven times to discuss his own conduct and other “core topics under investigation.” That includes information about multiple cases of contact between other Trump-campaign officials and the Russian government, and about Cohen’s contact with the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice...

Just to note, the Obstruction of Justice relates to trump firing James Comey for refusing to stop the investigation on Michael Flynn, a retired general and major trump campaign player who was in deep with Russians already and was tagged as a serious security risk.

Everywhere in this mess of trump scandal, there are Russians. Russian business partners. Russian contacts. Russian handlers and GRU agents. At some point we're going to find red trump hats reading Druzhishche (buddy).

How serious a breach of national integrity is this?

I normally don't quote from Wired magazine, and you wouldn't normally think it would have any political insight to give. But Wired is tied into network security issues - which is where all the Russian hacking/subversion of our national security comes into play - so they would have a reason to comment. Or at least Garrett Graff would:

WE ARE DEEP into the worst case scenarios. But as new sentencing memos for Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen make all too clear, the only remaining question is how bad does the actual worst case scenario get...?
A year ago, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic outlined seven possible scenarios about Trump and Russia, arranged from most innocent to most guilty. Fifth on that list was “Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known,” escalating from there to #6 “Kompromat,” and topping out at the once unimaginable #7, “The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.”
After the latest disclosures, we’re steadily into Scenario #5, and can easily imagine #6...
In fact, what’s remarkable about the once-unthinkable conclusions emerging from the special counsel’s investigation thus far is how, well, normal Russia’s intelligence operation appears to have been as it targeted Trump’s campaign and the 2016 presidential election. What intelligence professionals would call the assessment and recruitment phases seems to have unfolded with almost textbook precision, with few stumbling blocks and plenty of encouragement from the Trump side.
Mueller’s court filings, when coupled with other investigative reporting, paint a picture of how the Russian government, through various trusted-but-deniable intermediaries, conducted a series of “approaches” over the course of the spring of 2016 to determine, as Wittes says, whether “this is a guy you can do business with.”
The answer, from everyone in Trumpland—from Michael Cohen in January 2016, from George Papadopoulos in spring 2016, from Donald Trump, Jr. in June 2016, from Michael Flynn in December 2016—appears to have been an unequivocal “yes.”
Mueller and various reporting have shown that the lieutenants in Trump’s orbit rebuffed precisely zero of the known Russian overtures. In fact, quite the opposite. Each approach was met with enthusiasm, and a request for more.
Given every opportunity, most Trump associates—from Paul Manafort to Donald Trump, Jr. to George Papadopoulos—not only allegedly took every offered meeting, and returned every email or phone call, but appeared to take overt action to encourage further contact. Not once did any of them inform the FBI of the contacts...

What we are uncovering - something I'd long noted and what Graff is highlighting now - is not only a Presidential campaign willing to break election laws but also willing to betray our nation to a foreign power, driven entirely by a lust for everything that foreign power offered them.

I admit to personal bias. I wholeheartedly believe with only the partial evidence shown of Worst Case Scenario #7: trump AS A RUSSIAN AGENT. Straight up treason.

But here's the upsetting thing. Scenario #7 isn't the breaking point. Scenario #5 - where Russians actively infiltrated a Presidential campaign and trump knew/should have known - is just as bad as #7. This is the level where any honest citizen would have stopped and said "No". This is the point where a legal campaign would have drawn a line. ANY foreign intervention into our internal decision-making - our elections - would be tantamount to betraying every American living or dead who stood for our own nation's sovereign status.

trump and his Inner Circle crossed that line. They never said "No," they said "Yes" and repeatedly. They did it with eyes open and arms wide. Violating national security protocols we have in place to prevent foreign meddling, to stop foreign espionage and spying. They propped the door and let every crook in, because they are crooks themselves.

We're openly seeing evidence of Scenario #5 for trump's campaign, and every bit of it points to acts of treason.

And Cohen's revelations point to Russia being involved since the damned PRIMARIES, when trump was kneecapping Republican candidates from Jeb to Rubio to Kasich to Cruz to every other wanna-be who were left whimpering on the sidelines wondering how the hell they were beat. How does it feel, Republicans? HOW DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW YOUR OWN PRIMARY WAS COMPROMISED BY PUTIN?

To quote my boss Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice:

But here’s what matters: If Trump isn’t brought to justice, the United States of America will cease to exist as a sovereign nation. It’s frightening to face that fact, but face it we must because a criminal gang has seized the executive branch. We and our fellow citizens will either root them out, or we’ll pretend accept that this is just how things are now.

Welcome to the Darkest Timeline. Welcome to the Second Civil War, between us and Putin's Puppets.

Get to work saving the United States. STOP trump NOW. STOP THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FROM STEALING THE REST OF US. 'Cause right now, it's not really trump or the Republicans profiting from this crime. It's Putin. And the United States is going to suffer if he wins outright.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Grand Theft Elections

Update: (Not again! Every time it gets busy at work, I miss getting added to the daily Mike's Blog Round-Up at! Sigh. Thank you this time to Frances Langum of the Professional Left podcasts!)

It used to be, not even that long ago, that the political parties showed at least some deference some respect to how the voters made up their minds each election cycle.

But something changed with the Republican Party. Whatever it's been that has driven that party further to the Right on issues, it's also driven them to a point where they won't even give Democrats a modicum of respect when the voters side with Dems.

We've seen it at the national level, when the Republicans dismissed and belittled Bill Clinton's Presidency, even pursuing any hint of scandal to find a way to impeach him out of office. We've seen it from Day One of Obama's entire tenure - with a plan of obstruction and denial on a scale never before seen - where they even denied Obama was an honest-to-God American.

And now we're seeing it at the state level. In situations where the voters have put a Democrat into the governor's office (or other elective executive offices like the Attorney General in Michigan), the Republican-controlled legislatures are holding "lame duck" sessions passing extremist laws taking away much of those offices' power or authority to do ANYTHING.

We saw it last elections in 2016 when North Carolina's GOP legislature decided to kneecap the incoming Democratic governor there (via Tara Golshan at

Within 48 hours, on a late December night in 2016, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a series of bills that pulled Cooper’s ability to make key cabinet appointments without their approval, drastically cut the size of Cooper’s administration, and changed the Board of Elections so that Republicans would control it in election years. They ensured lawsuits had to first go through the Republican-controlled appeals court, before the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court.
Democrats — who thought of Cooper’s victory as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise devastating year for the party — were blindsided...

It doesn't matter if the North Carolina Dems have fought every twisted GOP law in the courts. It's caused just enough delay and confusion to where Governor Cooper has achieved little in office. A perfect example the state Leges in Michigan and Wisconsin are following with great relish.

Worse, the Republican legislatures are insulting the voters directly. Voter referendums that went against GOP dogma - like raising the minimum wage, or opening up voter registration to make it easier to vote - are being blatantly ignored, sabotaged, and overwritten.

To note what is happening in Michigan (via Nancy LeTourneau in Washington Monthly but linking to Paul Waldman in the WaPo ):

Republicans are responding to a Democratic sweep of statewide offices by giving the legislature the ability to overrule the attorney general on state lawsuits and take authority over campaign finance regulation away from the secretary of state. They are also considering a bill to cut off voter registration 14 days before every election, in effect overruling a same-day registration initiative voters just passed...
...Michigan activists had organized to get enough signatures to put a couple of items on the ballot: an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave for all workers. If those initiatives had been approved by voters, a two-thirds majority in the legislature would be needed to amend them.
In September, both of those measures were passed, exactly as written, by the state legislature, ensuring they would be removed from the ballot. Over the last week, however, Republican legislators have amended them via a simple majority vote...

The Republicans knew those referendum items were too popular, so they staged a fake-out to get them removed from the ballot and then when all was safe rewrote everything so that the voters would get screwed.

This is not governance. This is bullying.

If we can go back to Golshan at Vox:

“North Carolina set a precedent in playing a kind of political hardball that we haven’t seen in other places,” Rick Hasen, an election law scholar with the University of California Irvine, said. “Does it spiral out of control? This has been more asymmetric with Republicans, but I don’t think it would always stay that way...”
In Wisconsin, some of these proposals passed on Wednesday, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he would sign them into law. In all, they would limit Evers’s power to change policies around welfare, health care, and economic development, cut down early voting, and allow the Republican-led legislature to undermine the attorney general, giving them the power to block his decision to remove Wisconsin from federal lawsuits.
“Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th,” Evers said in a statement.
In Michigan, a Republican proposal would guarantee the GOP-controlled legislature the right to intervene in any legal battles involving state laws that the attorney general may be reluctant to defend, like restrictions for same-sex couples looking to adopt...
This isn’t normal. There’s a basic understanding in a democracy that when one party wins, they have won.
But Republicans across the country are explicitly rejecting election outcomes. In Wisconsin, the Republican state House Speaker Rep. Robin Vos said the reforms were necessary because otherwise, he said, “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”
These legislatures are turning to extremes, and before long those extremes can become the new norm.
“It’s a further devolution of norms of democracy, where the losers accept the results of an election and move on,” Hasen said. “This is about polarization generally, and a break down of political norms...”

Back to LeTourneau:

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed many examples of how Republicans have been willing to spit in the face of our democratic principles to maintain their power. But this one should probably take its place at the top of the list. Could it be any more obvious that Republicans have nothing but contempt for the voting public? If this little charade is allowed to stand, what it will take to wake people up to that reality?

This has been one of the reasons why I'd been screaming STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN for the longest time. Republicans are not concerned with leading or responding to the people's will: Republicans want power and more of it, and Republicans want their tax-cut and patriarchal Utopia at all costs. They are willing to bend and break every rule to keep in power even when the majority of Americans are telling them NO We Do Not Trust You With That Anymore.

This is how we've gotten to Minority Rule of an increasingly shrinking and dying party unwilling to accept their losses when they happen and rebuild into a more responsive party.

It would be pretty to think that the growing Majority of Voters will push back, stop voting Republican, drive them out of office. But the bastards are exploiting their ungodly advantage of Gerrymandering to rig the votes, to give them enough seats in the Legislatures to keep rigging more votes and more tricks and more obstruction to favor them.

We're not going to see a truly representative state where the Republicans hold sway. They can't afford to let that happen. We are not going to see any salvation until Gerrymandering itself is wiped out of our electoral process once and for all.

Until then, every election is under threat of thievery by the GOP.

Gods help us.

Getting Ready for the 2018 Saturnalia Season

I've been thinking about making a Saturnalia logo or artwork to make my own Saturnalia stuff - Hallmark DOES NOT respect the holidays like this - so I went and made this:

Thing is, it just... sits there. Kinda underwhelming.

I think I need to add more wine and gambling imagery.

Anyway, I got a little shop up on CafePress to see about getting myself greeting cards printed up.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Things I Remember About Bush The Elder 1924 - 2018

With Bush Sr's. passing yesterday, this has been a day of reflection and pondering.

His was the Presidency of my college years, and the first election I voted in. So there's a lot of significance in this for me looking back at what I recall (more than the Character review I made about five years ago).

  • I voted for Bush as President. Yes, in hindsight voting for ANY Republican feels blasphemous. But in 1988 as a college freshman I couldn't really recognize the damage - on social issues and public health issues like the AIDS crisis and the Drug War - being done. And a lot of the REALLY BAD stuff the Republicans would get into came during the 1990s under darker leadership by Newt Gingrich and others.
  • Bush on foreign policy was one of the more competent Presidents we had, overseeing a serious transitional moment with the collapse of Communism, the opening of Eastern Europe, and political power shifts across every continent.
  • Bush *was* quick on the trigger finger when it came to troop deployments, border clashes, and straight-up war. People seem to forget we sent in armed forces to overthrow Noriega in Panama in 1989 on what turned out to be sketchy reports. There was also the first Persian Gulf War/invasion of Iraq in 1990-91 where U.S. mishandling of Saddam - our government saw him as a useful opponent against a hostile Iran throughout the 1980s - allowed that dictator to invade Kuwait and disrupt the local balance of power. Towards the end of his term, Bush sent troops into Somalia as a peace-keeping force to help the citizenry during a famine caused by civil war... but doesn't leave in place an agenda or pull-out strategy, leaving it to Clinton.
  • Bush did attempt bipartisan dealing with a Democratic-controlled Congress... by agreeing to tax hikes that went against the Supply-Side dogma of many Republicans who came to power during the Reagan years. It actually triggered an intraparty revolt by Newt that drove out moderates (RINOs) and led to the current monstrous party leadership running the GOP now.
  • As a political campaigner, Bush was a nasty piece of work, relying on slander and mudslinging even in the 1960s as a Texas Congressman. The Willie Horton attack ads of the 1988 Presidential campaign was a new low - even compared to the harsh "Daisy" ad LBJ ran against Goldwater in 1964 - and essentially opened up a new era of dirty campaigning that has darkened our electorate since (and it's a tactic his own sons Dubya and Jeb rely on far too often themselves).
  • Bush *did* preside over major achievements such as the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a major Immigration Reform act (something the modern GOP would never touch), a key Civil Rights Act protecting workers from discrimination, overall reductions in nuclear weapons across the globe...
  • Oh, and he gave Dana Carvey good reason to earn a paycheck on Saturday Night Live for 4 straight years.

Seriously, message received.