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Can’t make this stuff up

When clearly senile Rudy Giuliani was appointed to be Trump’s cybersecurity expert, I read somewhere that Rudy actually had no technical expertise and that all his “firm” did was provide legal advice about cyber security, advice that was probably 99% bullshit, although I don’t know that for sure.

Anyway, today I ran into this:

The former New York Mayor is credited with cleaning up the streets of that city and has said the US is “so far behind” when it comes to cyber security.

But online experts have been quick to point out that the 72-year-old had apparently failed to adequately protect his own company website.

His site is apparently run on an out dated version of Joomla! a free content management system (CMS).

Flaws in this system were pointed out on Twitter who outlined more than a dozen vulnerabilities.

Vvia The Sun (from England)

Check out the tweets reproduced at the link. You’d think that the guy would at least make a gesture toward making his own site secure, giving that he’s giving advice to other people about it.

Just wondering who Trump will put in charge of FEMA. Here’s hoping that the first disaster takes place in Trump country in some swing state.

History repeats itself

A bit of a heads up for folks who aren’t from this neck of the woods. Heather Somers, who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2014 is gunning for statewide office again. You remember Heather. She was such a strong vote getter that she managed to swing exactly no districts in the Groton area to the rich guy the Republicans nominated the last time. She was just elected State Senator, thanks in part to the determined efforts of the New London Day, despite the fact that she utterly failed Dave Collins’ Trump Test.

Heather apparently things it’s a good idea to follow the John Scott playbook, only with a bit of a twist. Here are the description of two bills she recently introduced:

Proposed S.B. No. 82 SEN. SOMERS, 18th DIST. ‘AN ACT REPEALING THE ESTATE TAX’, to incentivize residents to remain in Connecticut by repealing the estate tax. REF. FINANCE, REVENUE AND BONDING

Proposed S.B. No. 83 SEN. SOMERS, 18th DIST. ‘AN ACT REPEALING THE BUSINESS ENTITY TAX’, to provide economic growth incentives by repealing the business entity tax. REF. FINANCE, REVENUE AND BONDING

I’ve written in the past about now ex-Representative John Scott, who introduced a couple of bills designed to line the pockets of insurance agents, particulary insurance agents who placed health insurance for UConn students, of whom John was one of a very few. That didn’t go over so well with his former constituents, who were well aware of it, even though the New London Day took pains not to mention it. John now has more time to spend with his family.

Heather’s proposals are not quite that targeted, but among her constituents, she’s probably one of the few that would benefit, not that she’s likely to stay in the state anyway once she’s finished doing her best to line the pockets of the rich. But these proposals are bound to go over well in Greenwich and those environs.

Somers has proposed repealing the estate tax, a tax that falls only on the under burdened rich. It’s the Republican philosophy: millions for the rich and for Heather herself, but not a penny for the rest of us. She has also proposed repealing the business entity tax, yet another way of shifting money to the rich from the rest of us.

There are two ways to pay for tax cuts for the rich. The first is to raise taxes on the rest of us. The second is to cut the services for which we pay our taxes, such as schools, roads, libraries, health services, courts, and police. Either way, Heather and the rich gain, the rest of us lose.

It truly escapes me why we should relieve the rich from paying the estate tax in order to encourage them to stay here once they grow old and gray. If they’re not going to pay their fair share of taxes, who needs them. If they move away in droves, that would make for more affordable housing in the western part of the state.

Heather clearly ran for the Senate as a springboard for yet another run for statewide office. If she wants to get nominated for a statewide office, the last people she needs to please over the course of the next few years are her own constituents, so we can’t really expect much different from her. Can’t say we shouldn’t have known. When Heather was on the Town Council, she was in favor of letting non-resident property owners vote in our town wide elections. You know, the folks who have such a stake in the quality of our schools and other services. Other than that, which she never got (thankfully) I can’t think of a single thing she ever accomplished in all her years on the counsel. With Heather, it’s all about Heather.

So watch out folks. I don’t know which office she has her eye on, but whichever it is, be sure she wants it out of ambition alone.

We really can’t complain

A friend sent me this link, to an opinion piece in the Boston Globe that makes the obvious point that we have been “hacking” election for years, so we really don’t have much right to be outraged by what the Russians may have done.

Some of our politicians tell us we are a Christian country, but in this respect, we don’t even measure up to the Confucians, who formulated the Golden Rule a little differently. It’s called the silver rule and it goes like this:

“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

Not quite as noble as the Golden Rule, but we’d be a lot better off if we took even the silver rule to heart.

As contemptible as Trump is, and as treasonous as it was to collude with the Russians, which he surely did, the fact is that their efforts probably had little to do with the election’s outcome. Our government has been much more effective at stealing elections . No, this one was stolen by a homegrown fascist, the hypocritical James Comey. Let us not forget, as well, that this election was yet another casualty of the Democrats’ perverse need to appear to be bipartisan. Had Obama appointed a Democrat to head the FBI, Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect, and the American Republic would not be at this fearsome crossroads. I just wonder if the Democrats will learn anything from all of this. No, I don’t. I already know the answer.

No need for pundits

Slowly but surely I’m working my way back to normalcy so far as my daily intake of news is concerned. I still don’t read the papers as much as I did before the day the Republic died, but I’m coming around, and I’m pretty much back to full bore reading on my RSS reader. But there’s still an impediment to regular blogging and I fear it won’t go away. I give you this quote from Kellyanne Conway, in which she defends the Donald’s mocking a disabled reporter:

“Why is everything taken at face value?” she asked. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart, you always want to go with what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

You see, the mission of a pundit, even a dime store one like me, is to shine a light on aspects of the news that might not occur to those who have other things to think about in their busy days. But is there a brain so weak, likely to read this blog, that needs any help in deconstructing the absurdity of a statement like that? I used to think shooting fish in a barrel referred to a barrel full of many swimming fish, meaning you could still miss, but now I see the light. The Trump administration is a barrel full of tightly packed fish. You can’t miss. In fact, there’s no point in shooting because the fish are already dead.

Is there really any point in pointing out that Jeff Sessions is a racist, or that Trump’s cabinet consist mainly of kleptocrats who have already all but announced that their main objective is to siphon as much as they can from the U.S. Treasury and shakedown foreign governments for even more?

Oh, wait. I understand that the intelligence community has concluded that the Russians have something on Trump, and that some people are actually surprised! Maybe there is a need for someone to point out the obvious.

Book Plug and a bit more

My younger son (the Professor) gave me a book for Christmas, This Vast Southern Empire, written by Matthew Karp, a friend of his. I haven’t finished it, but if you’re a history buff I can certainly recommend it.

It shines a light on a portion of our history that I, for one, had never given much thought, specifically, the extent to which the South, and the slave interest, controlled our foreign policy in the years prior to the Civil War. The slaveowners had an interest in the survival of slavery in the Western Hemisphere, and the United States foreign policy was shaped, some might say distorted, by that interest.

Which brings us to another subject that I’ve been thinking about lately. We are raised to revere the Constitution, and to accept that if it is not god-given, it is certainly the result of a Miracle in Philadelphia, bequeathed to us by wise and disinterested patriots, who just happened to also be members of the 1% of the day, and, to a large extent, slaveowners.

Those slaveowners in 1840 could never have dominated American Foreign Policy had not the constitution been shaped, or misshapen, in order to give them a disproportionate influence over that policy. The United States Senate was designed to give disproportionate influence to the smaller states. The House or Representatives was similarly distorted, as each slave counted as two-thirds of a person for purposes of apportioning representatives, but no-thirds of a person so far as those representatives were concerned.

The two thirds issue is now a dead letter, but we are still burdened with a system that gives Wyoming the same influence in the Senate as California, as well as giving that state, and others like it, disproportionate influence over the selection of the President of the United States. The framers of the Constitution may truly have believed that the system they framed would prevent the election of demagogues and incompetents, but twice in this century we’ve seen that the people are a lot smarter than those scholars in the Electoral College. We’ve just gone through an election, which, had it been conducted as it would be in any other advanced nation, would have been considered a landslide victory for the candidate who lost. We have a United States Senate dominated by Republicans, yet:

The 48 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, in their most recent respective elections dating back to 2012, collectively earned 78.4 million votes on their way to victory. Republicans, by contrast, won just 54.8 million votes—even though there are 52 of them.

via Daily Kos

And then, of course, there’s the gerrymandered House of Representatives, enabled at least in part by the Constitution’s built in bias toward rural states.

The sad fact is that our constitution has doomed us to lose the Republic that Ben Franklin challenged us to keep. We are taught to be proud of the fact that the framers anticipated the need to change the constitution, but the fact is that the two methods provided in the constitution are both held hostage to the minority, which in this country is invariably reactionary. It is no doubt the case that the post Civil War Amendments, of which we can truly be proud, only passed because the Southern states were forced to approve them, though I believe Mississippi was somehow able to avoid voting to outlaw slavery until the fairly recent past.

Is there any doubt that if we were to hold a constitutional convention today, for which the constitution provides, which we desperately need to do since the document is so antiquated, that it would be dominated by the political heirs of the slaveowning aristocracy? We are probably in the final days of the Republic, and our vaunted constitution will likely prevent us from avoiding our fate.

Normalization begins-Local Edition

I’ve noted before in this space that we get three newspapers daily. Since the election I have hardly glanced at them, know what I was going to see, but my New Years Resolution is to force myself to do so.

So today, the front page news in all three papers involved the House Republicans backing away (I’m sure temporarily) from gutting the House Office of Congressional Ethics. My guess is that they figured since we’d just elected a kleptocrat in chief that they should be able to commit crimes with impunity as well.

Well, the New York Times and the Boston Globe both ascribed the backdown to the public’s pushback. But the New London Day? No, the day chose to push the meme that an “angry tweet” from the already most corrupt president in history had caused the retreat. Yet another example of the Donald taking credit for something in which he had no involvement, like those 5000 Sprint jobs he allegedly brought to the States, though the decision was made without his input before his rigged election.

The title of this post refers to normalization, but it’s more than that. The press, with the Day doing so more out of ignorance than anything else, will indeed normalize the fact that we have a fascist in the White House. But my sad prediction is that they will fall in line quite soon with his narcissism. If he says he’s the greatest, they will soon report that as fact. That fellow in North Korea will have nothing on the Donald. We saw a similar process, albeit at a far lesser magnitude, with W after 9/11. For quite a while he was the fearless leader, by dint, oddly enough, of doing nothing after receiving a warning that a terrorist attack was imminent. The Republicans have a tendency to deify their leaders, with Fox leading the charge. True, once that leader, like W, is in the trash can of history, they are more than willing to blame their failures on him, but while he occupies the Oval Office he can do no wrong, and anyone who disagrees is a traitor. So Trump’s coming deification is normal operating procedure, when Republicans are in office.

Whoever writes the headlines for the Day is definitely a right winger, as they always give a Republican spin to the syndicated stories they pass on. For instance, if the story is a negative one, the action is ascribed to Obama; if positive, it is ascribed to the U.S. But I’ve never noticed before that their choice of syndicated story to run had a right wing bias. In the case of the House ethics story, it certainly looks that way. They could easily have chosen the stories that ran in the Times or the Globe, or some other fact based account. Characterizing Trump’s tweet as “angry”, as the Day’s headline writer did, is laughable. Here’s a guy who has basically said that the rules of ethics don’t apply to him, that by definition he can’t have a conflict of interest, and to prove it he has strong armed foreign governments into lining his pockets, not to mention made money charging admission (all proceeds to him) to a New Year’s Eve party that amounted to nothing less than access buying. At least Hillary Clinton had to give a speech to get that Wall Street money. Trump’s tweet was not “angry”, it was cynical. He saw which way the wind was blowing and got out in front so he’d look good. The Day bought his act hook, line and sinker.

I wonder when Dave Collins will write his first column telling us he had it all wrong about Dear Leader?

Trump wins another award

It’s official. The American Historical Society announced today that it had taken a poll of its members, and there was surprising unanimity: Donald Trump is the worst president in American History. Well, actually, Donald Trump will be the worst president in American history, once he’s sworn in.

“There was a bit of debate about whether we should declare him the worst before his inauguration”, an Historical Society spokesperson said, “but in the end, we reached consensus that there was really no reason to wait, since he was such a clear winner….er… loser”.

Trump replaces George W. Bush as the Society’s worst president ever. Bush, unlike Trump, was not a unanimous pick for the highly coveted award. A history professor from Bowdoin College held out for Franklin Pierce, stating that while he saw the merits of the argument for Bush, as a matter of institutional pride, he felt it was important to stick up for a Bowdoin alum. That same professor was recently quoted as saying that “next to Trump, Pierce looks like Lincoln”.

The professors pointed to a variety of reasons for their unanimous decision. “We’ve had mentally ill presidents in the past”, one pointed out, “but you can argue that Lincoln’s occasional depression was part of what made him great, and while Andy Jackson was a bit of a megalomaniac, he simply can’t compare to Trump. ”

Another pointed out “that there’s no indication that any other president ever solicited payments from foreign powers, something that the constitution forbids, Trump has been pretty open about it, and then there’s the whole collusion with Russia thing prior to the election. It appears that a foreign power will have something on the president of the United States, and that as a result he may be forced to do its bidding, though I do admit that if the collusion did come out, it’s quite likely that Congress would do nothing about it.”

Many also felt that using the presidency for personal enrichment was a bit tacky, to say the least. Others pointed out that while there have been ill prepared presidents in the past, no prior president has ever lacked so much of the basic knowledge needed to do the job. “This guy makes George W. Bush look like a genius”, noted one historian.

Others pointed out that while most former presidents, with the possible exception of George Washington, sometimes told a lie, Trump will be the first president who has never told the truth.

The historians were nearly unanimous in their opinion that Trump will not hold his crown for long. As the Society’s spokesman observed: “We all thought you couldn’t do worse that George W, but the Republican Party managed to field a slew of candidates, each one of whom was worse than W, and from that pack they managed to select the very worst. We’re confident that the next Republican president will be even worse than Trump.”

Journalists attending the press conference at which the Society announced its conclusion went away puzzled. They noted that while all of the points the Society made about Trump were well founded as a matter of fact, that facts themselves clearly didn’t matter anymore, and that to them, Trump’s presidency was looking more normal by the day. Trump himself tweeted: “History on the way out. No one reads it and no one learns anything from it. So repetitious. Sad!”

Physician, heal thyself

This was in the New London Day a couple of days ago:

Hartford — The State Department will have $160 million at its disposal over the next two years to help news organizations overseas combat propaganda from countries such as Russia.

“This fund would be used to try to build up independent journalism in states that don’t have a history of it,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said to a room full of reporters Tuesday while announcing passage of bipartisan legislation that he cosponsored with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

The U.S. wouldn’t pick the message or censor any newspaper or website, Murphy said, but “would be simply offering to help other countries in their efforts to produce more independent journalism to counter this Russian propaganda narrative.”

via the New London Day

Quite laudable, I’m sure, but wouldn’t that money be better spent here trying to combat propaganda from sources such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the Koch Brothers, etc., etc., etc.? What is it that Jesus said? Oh:

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Impeachable Offense, #4

This sort of thing will get old fast, but these things have to be documented. It is, of course, a requirement that I point out here what would have happened had Obama done anything so blatant.

A source tells ThinkProgress that the Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The source, who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy, spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly. ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account.

Donald Trump and the businesses he owns and controls do not seem concerned about mixing his business and official activities. “The law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” Trump told the New York Times.

Although the president is exempt from some conflict-of-interest laws, the Congressional Research Service recently identified nine federal conflict of interest and ethics provisions that could apply to the president.

One looms large over the apparent hotel deal with the Kuwaitis: The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving money from a foreign government or head of state.

According to Democratic and Republican legal experts, such a payment is not only unconstitutional, it’s an impeachable offense.

via Thinkprogress

The amazing thing about this is that while it’s totally unprecedented and truly outrageous, it will likely passed almost unnoticed in the press. Weeks and weeks of stories about emails, but obvious corruption? Hell, that’s just Trump being Trump.

Cassandras at the Times

Krugman has it right on the nose this morning, making the obvious historical comparisons to the not quite Republic of Rome:

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Consider what just happened in North Carolina. The voters made a clear choice, electing a Democratic governor. The Republican legislature didn’t openly overturn the result — not this time, anyway — but it effectively stripped the governor’s office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn’t actually matter.

Combine this sort of thing with continuing efforts to disenfranchise or at least discourage voting by minority groups, and you have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.

via The New York Times

This is pretty much what I’ve been saying since the election, but not writing, as for reasons of my own I’ve tried to avoid being overly pessimistic, although really, you can’t be overly pessimistic.

Our election will quite likely henceforth be shams. We will go through the motions, but the outcomes will be preordained. People like Krugman will be ignored, even by the reporters at the Times. The normalization process has begun. It will take some time before it sinks in with the average voter that their vote truly doesn’t count, but the folks who own the country already know that they’ve achieved final victory. North Carolina is a harbinger.

I should give credit where credit is due. Krugman is not the only Cassandra at the Times. Charles Blow is trying his best.