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Random thoughts, 2 days after the Tuesday night massacre

We are in one of those periods where things are moving a bit too fast for pundits of any stripe. I was looking through my RSS feeds a few minutes ago and came upon this post at Hullabaloo, in which Digby made the obvious point that Comey’s firing was all about Russia, adding some evidentiary proof, though as the title of the post pointed out, none was needed. So when I read it I looked to see when it was posted, and it was last night shortly before 7:00 PM.

A waste of effort, because within far less than 24 hours, Trump admitted that he intended to fire Comey regardless of what Rosenstein or anyone else had to say. He also owned up to obstructing justice, but he was unaware of doing so at the time.

My wife and I were saying earlier today that if we come out of this alive, it will be one heck of a movie. Hopefully a comedy.

In the interests of pointing something out that I haven’t seen other take note of, let me note that Trump has a habit of accusing others of sharing his faults. There are a lot of disparaging terms one could apply to Comey, but “showboat” and “grandstander” don’t appear to apply. But I can think of a certain orange tinged man to whom they might apply.

It just might be that the Democrats are getting out of their sustained defensive crouch:

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) has company in adopting a district where a Republican member of Congress won’t hold a town hall. On Monday, Maloney held his town hall in New York’s 19th Congressional District since Rep. John Faso wouldn’t, asking the crowd “Where the heck is your congressman?” And Tuesday evening, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) went to Rep. Martha McSally’s district to do the same. 

via Daily Kos

I understand they are trolling Paul Ryan too. This is the party that has refused to help some credible candidates against Ryan.

I still think that somehow Trumps recent crime will be forgotten within another 48 hours. But, who knows? Maybe he really should try shooting someone on Fifth Avenue just to see if he can get away with it.

Finally, let us pause and reflect on the upcoming death of Li’l Trumpy. If you read Bill Griffith’s Zippy comic strip, you know what I’m talking about. Personally, I don’t think Bill will pull the trigger, because he’s like the rest of us: obsessed with the fact that this small handed man holds the most important political office in the world. Maybe Li’l Trumpy will be gone, but Trump himself will haunt the strip.

A prediction

I just heard that Trump fired Comey. I can still recall the night of the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon fired his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General when they refused to help him cover up Watergate. I still remember an alarmed John Chancellor, of CBS (I think it was CBS) emphasizing that “nothing like this has ever happened before”. I still remember that it was one of the events that took down Nixon, because back in those days there were still Republicans with integrity, not to mention that the Democrats were in the majority in both houses. I still remember that the massacre gave the investigations into Nixon momentum. I still remember that very day thinking that this would surely, eventually, spell the end of Nixon, who, in my naivete, I thought was the worst president we could ever possibly have.

Now, a sad prophecy. Comey will be a headline story tomorrow. By Friday, it will be forgotten. Whoever Trump nominates to manage the coverup at the FBI will be approved by the Senate. There is absolutely no chance that Trump’s crimes will ever be exposed, and even if the press is somehow able to expose the Truth, there will be no Consequences. In fact, with total control of the FBI Trump inches that much closer to total authoritarianism. He’s an incompetent at everything else, but he seems to be pretty good at destroying democracy.

I hope I’m wrong.

I wonder if Comey is still proud that he deliberately torpedoed Hillary.

By the way, I’ve put this in the Impeachable category, because it’s a crime to engage in a coverup, and that’s what this is, make no mistake about it.

UPDATE: Technically Nixon’s AG and Deputy resigned rather than obey his order to fire the Special Prosecutor. The practical effect was the same. The special prosecutor was eventually fired by Robert Bork, later nominated for, and rejected for, a seat on the Supreme Court. 

Distraction free

First, a bit of a trip in the Wayback machine. As Reagan was sinking deeper into senility in the waning years of his presidency, it was revealed that he had surreptitiously sold weapons to Iran, our ostensible adversary. My guess is that had this been properly investigated, it would have been seen as payback (or perhaps the result of blackmail) for whatever deal was made with Iran by the Reagan people to keep the hostages safely in Iran until after the 1980 election. But I digress a bit.

They had Reagan dead to rights. It didn’t matter what motivated the deal, it was an impeachable offense par excellence. It was admitted by all concerned that Reagan knew all about it, though how much of it his befuddled brain understood is, perhaps, a question. But the Reaganites pulled a brilliant move. Reagan’s loathsome AG, Ed Meese, (almost as loathsome as Sessions) announced that the money from this deal had been paid to the Contras in Nicaragua, and that Reagan didn’t know anything about it.

Well, that threw everyone off the scent. Both the press and the politicians, including, of course, the Democrats, forgot all about the confessed crime, and concentrated on whether Reagan did or didn’t know about where the money went, as if it mattered. I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe they could so easily manipulate the press and, by extension, the public debate. Probably not the first time the Republicans engaged in this sort of distraction, but one that really left an impression on me.

So, it’s something of a pleasant surprise when you see signs that the press is resisting distractions. Yesterday, I didn’t get to read about Sally Yates testimony until somewhat late in the evening. The blogs I frequented couldn’t get enough of the fact that Yates had made Cronyn and Cruz look like idiots when they attacked her for refusing to defend Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban. Good example here, but trust me, it’s not unique.

It occurred to me that this couldn’t be better for Trump. If everyone concentrated on the fact that Yates made mincemeat of Cruz, they’d forget all about the main event: Trump was warned about Flynn in no uncertain terms, and ignored the warning.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Cruz was intentionally making a fool of himself. He would never do such a thing for Donald Trump. Nonetheless, he was trying to distract. Cruz thinks he’s always the smartest man in the room, and he seems to believe that every man in the room is smarter than any woman in the room. It’s clear from the video that he thought he would crush Yates, and that by doing so he would change the subject of the hearing and the coverage. By making an idiot of himself, he merely unintentionally increased the chance that the distraction tactic would work, and, as I said, it seemed to work with the left wing blogs I visited, though their audience is already convinced that Trump is in the tank for the Russians.

So, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to read the Boston Globe’s article on the hearings. It was actually a reprint, or perhaps first draft, of this article from the Washington Post. It has since been replaced at the Globe (I don’t know why) by an article from the Times, which I’ll get to in a minute. The Post’s reporters appear to have made a conscious effort to avoid even mentioning the subject, at least in the printed version. It is covered incidentally in the on-line version, to which I’ve linked. In the print edition it was alluded to like this:

Her brief tenure in the top job ended days after her meeting with McGahn, when she was fired by Trump over an unrelated issue. (Emphasis added)

Over at the Times, the issue is also largely ignored, despite the White House’s attempt to shift the focus.

The Globe’s website has a bunch of articles about the Cruz and Cronyn story, and that’s okay. They are in the nature of a sidebar, not the main story.

Could it be that the press is beginning to get wise to this tactic? If so, Trump has no one but himself to blame. He engages in it in too blatant a manner. Not only does he insult their intelligence, he insults them personally. School yard bullying may work on Republican presidential aspirants, but it won’t necessarily work on reasonably intelligent adults. Also, if you threaten them, as he has done, they fight back if they can.

So, a sign, perhaps, of a newly invigorated press. On the other hand, perhaps just an aberration. Time will tell.

Enablers

I’m not sure who I detest more: the outright propagandists at Fox News, or the faux intellectual conservatives who put lipstick on the pig of Republican racism and corporate greed. No, I am sure. Those folks on Fox and Friends are just doing what they’re paid to do. They make no pretense of having anything between those ears of theirs.

Today we learn from George Will that Donald Trump has “a dangerous disability”. Can’t argue with that conclusion, but how did we get here. Not entirely due to folks like Will, but he played his part. His job has been to put an intellectual veneer on a party that has now been convincingly exposed, by this recent health care law, as a mere tool of the rich (Yes, I know lots of us have known that for years, but some people don’t pay attention). Folks like Will and the ghastly David (“Please think Edmund Burke when you read my columns”) Brooks have specialized in putting a phony intellectual gloss on political positions that can’t withstand moral scrutiny. They get away with it largely because we have a media that has been browbeaten by Republicans into adopting an official religion of bothsidesism that has no basis in reality. In Will’s case he does it by using multi syllabic words. In Brooks’s case, he does it by appealing to cultural traditions and moral principles that shapeshift to suit the argument he’s making.

Will helped legitimize the Donald Trumps of this world whether he wants to accept that fact or not. Is Donald Trump mentally ill, as Will charges? Of course he is. Is he pursuing policies any different than, say, a Ted Cruz would be pursuing had he gained the White House last November? That would be a hard case to make. It is now obvious that besides the inability to think that Will decries, Trump has no interest in policy when it has no obvious impact on his own personal wealth. His sole interest is in “winning”. If that means destroying health care for millions of people, he’ll do it. Same goes for destroying the environment or democratic institutions. But he’s not doing these things because he necessarily wants to destroy health care, the environment, or democratic institutions. He’s doing it because if he doesn’t do those things, he can’t “win”. He can only “win” if he aligns his objectives, and his definition of winning, with the objectives of the Paul Ryans and Koch Brothers of the world.

Had Cruz been elected, would Will have any problem with his policies, which would differ in virtually no respect from Trump’s? No, he’d have that lipstick case out, and that pig’s lips would be a shiny red.

Free Speech for Me, but not for Thee

It seems that some of our friends on the right are demanding that CBS fire Stephen Colbert because, among other things, his latest monologue about 45 was “homophobic”. These people have no sense of irony.

It has been only a few day since these same people were condemning the University of California for abridging Ann Coulter’s right to free speech, yet here they are, not only pretending to care about homophobia (Colbert was, in fact, not homophobic) but seeking to, by their recently professed opinions, seeking to deprive Colbert of his right to free speech.

But, I must be fair. Their demand that Colbert be fired is no more a denial of his right to free speech as was the student opposition to Coulter, or the boycotts that led so man advertisers to abandon Rush Limbaugh. Coulter has just as much right to spread her lies as Colbert does to spread his truths (and his truthiness, can’t forget that), but neither has the right to demand a forum provided by a third party in which to speak. CBS has the right, should it wish to do so, to fire Colbert for his statements, and his first amendment rights would not be infringed in any way. It will doubtless not do so, since he’s giving the audience what it wants. It might be different if the pressure was coming directly from the White House, in which case there would be some First Amendment concerns. Nonetheless, it’s richly ironic that a group of people who get their news from Fox, Limbaugh and Infowars are demanding Colbert’s head because he said something they characterize as homophobic. The real problem, of course, is that he scored some direct hits on 45. The American right has no monopoly on hypocrisy, but they make everyone else that dabbles in it look like amateurs.

As a public service, I am embedding the offending video below. Speaking of richly ironic, it is supremely ironic that if we survive this administration, we may owe that survival to the comedians, which reminds me, if you haven’t watched Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue about his new born son, you should do so here.

More Democratic Incompetence

If you go to this link you will find yet another story about Trump’s criminality. But let’s put that to the side. I want to concentrate on this paragraph:

Senator Schumer released a statement on Friday about Trump’s tax reform principles: “Until President Trump releases his full tax returns, a cloud of suspicion will remain and make it much more difficult to get tax reform legislation through the Congress.”

My beef is with the word “reform”. Here is the definition from my OED:

  1. The removal of faults or errors, esp. of a moral, political, or social kind; amendment, change for the better; reformation of character. m17.
    ?b A particular instance of this; an improvement made or suggested; a change for the better. l18.

Etc.

There is absolutely no chance that the tax bill proposed by Republicans will be a “change for the better”. It will be yet another vehicle for shoveling money to the rich from the rest of us. The word “reform” not only means a change for the better, it is widely understood to mean just that. Note that in the above paragraph even the writer at Crooks and Liars used the term. When people hear a Democrat call this rape of the taxpayers “reform”, they get the message that overall, it’s a good thing.

If the Republicans were opposing a Democratic plan, you can bet your ass the wouldn’t tolerate the word reform being applied to that plan. They would call it something else, and they would carp at the news media for using the word. I would suggest “tax deform”, but I’m not wedded to that. I’m only saying you shouldn’t give away the game by once again accepting the Republican frame.

Market forces

Surely anyone reading this blog has read a lot of stories making this basic point:

There’s a reason that Donald Trump didn’t have a crowd of wind power workers standing behind him at his rallies, and it goes beyond just his disdain for windmills off the coast of his Scottish golf course. The reason is that anyone who knows how to build or service wind power was out building and servicing wind power. It’s not just the fastest growing segment of America’s energy picture, it’s the fastest growing occupation, period.

The fastest-growing occupation in the United States — by a long shot, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — might surprise you: wind turbine technician. …

In 2016, for the first time, more than 100,000 people in the United States were employed in some manner by the wind industry, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association.

But Trump lined up coal miners. Why? First because Trump’s anti-regulatory bent was beloved of coal mine operators who expect to increase their profit per ton by using cheaper practices requiring less labor. Second, because … they make great props. Coal miners are the go-to occupation when it comes to dangerous, under-appreciated labor. They also happen to be in a failing industry that’s in a steep decline on its way to extinction, so they’re always available.

via Daily Kos

This is by no means a new phenomenon. I’ve read a lot of history, though I freely admit I may have missed some things. But I’ve never heard of a major political party, candidate or office holder suggesting that we turn back the hands of time. I don’t recall Teddy Roosevelt promising to squash the auto industry to preserve the jobs of carriage makers, or Franklin Roosevelt trying to stop refrigerator production in order to keep the icemen comething.

Oddly enough, this is being pushed by the party that is supposed to believe in market forces. In fact, of course, it’s a party that disrupts market forces whenever those forces threaten the interests of the carriage makers and icemen of our day, provided, of course, that those carriage makers and icemen fill the campaign coffers of the Republican party. It’s a recipe for national disaster, since it discourages innovation here. It’s also a recipe for worldwide disaster, since it reduces the chance of a effective response to climate change to almost zero, for make no mistake, the Republican Party is filled with climate denial because that’s where the money is.

I should add that I am not a believer in allowing the market to bring us anywhere it wants to go. There are certainly times when market forces should be diverted or channeled. That, for instance, is why we have laws protecting the environment, which laws have pushed the market toward wind power rather than coal. It’s why we have laws protecting us from snake remedies.

It’s a major failing of the present day Democratic Party that it has failed to articulate an argument to win over the icemen of our age. Their decision to back Trump was not entirely irrational (90% irrational is about it). Nothing Hillary had to say gave them any hope, and, for many of them, they listened to Trump’s advice to black people: “What have you got to lose”, and applied it to themselves. Black people know the system all too well, and were perfectly aware they had a lot to lose, but the white males from the backwoods still think they’re special and that the system is supposed to work for them. It will be interesting to see if they ever wake up and listen to that nagging voice inside them telling them they’re being played for suckers.

Blumenthal doing good work

Give Dick Blumenthal a big round of applause:

Although some pessimistic Donald Trump haters are certain he’ll remain in office until the bitter end no matter how tough things get for him, his own track record suggests the opposite. Trump has shown a consistent willingness to quit once he concludes he can’t win, having strategically declared bankruptcy six times over the years and walked away from his various business endeavors. And now the Senate Democrats are hatching a plan that could lead Trump to conclude that he has no real choice but to resign.

The plan, on its surface, is simple enough: sue Donald Trump. But the genius is in the details. This isn’t a plan to merely tie up Trump in court with some willy nilly lawsuit. The effort is being crafted by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former State Attorney General with detailed knowledge of how these things work. The idea is to sue Trump over his financial conflicts of interest in violation of the Emoluments Clause, forcing him to think twice about how far he’s willing to go to remain in office.

via The Palmer Report

The difficulty will be in crafting the complaint in such a way that the judge can't duck out of deciding it by calling it a political question. If it gets to the discovery phase, it will get very interesting.

I first read about this case on The Palmer Report (to which I've linked), a site I just recently discovered. (I have since seen the story confirmed by other media). I'm still trying to figure out whether Palmer really knows what he's talking about, or is mostly engaged in wild speculation. His take on the above is that it might force Trump to resign rather than disclose his criminality. I disagree somewhat, as I think Trump believes he is invulnerable. After all, this is the guy who said he could shoot someone in Times Square and lose no support. Anyway, I recommend the site, though I'd suggest keeping an open mind on precisely how much to rely on it. As it's new to me, I don't know his track record, but he seems to know what he's talking about, and much of what he has to say is unlikely to hit the mainstream for weeks after he writes about it. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about.

Compare and contrast

As I’ve said more than once, we subscribe to three daily newspapers. It’s often instructive to compare and contrast how an event is covered.

Today the main story was Trump’s tax “plan”, if you can call it that.

Let’s see how the three papers covered it. I’m referring here to the print editions. I haven’t checked to see if anything is different on-line.

The New York Times headline reads: Tax Overhaul Would Aid Wealthiest. A sub headline (is that the term?) reads: Radical Revision of Code, on a Single Page.

The Globe has two articles, the main one bearing a headline: Trump plan takes ax to tax rates. The sub headline reads: GOP says it’s a good start; Democrats call it a giveaway to the rich. The second article is headlined: Breaking down potential winners, losers of cuts. There’s a sidebar note (again, I’m not sure that’s the correct nomenclature), in which Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, is quoted as saying that Trump “cares about making the economy work better for all American people”.

The Day reports: Trump proposes major tax cuts. The subheadline reads: New plan with few specifics would also mean huge deficits.

I’m not going to get into the weeds of the substance of the articles, for I think we can stipulate that most people might read a paragraph or two rather than the whole thing. My premise here is that the initial presentation matters a lot, because most people will form their impressions based on what I’ve related above.

So, lets rate them, first to last.

The Times wins running away. Given that it’s a one page document, there aren’t many weeds to get into, but what there is, is clear: the “plan” is a massive giveaway to the rich. One thing it is going to allow the rich to do, in addition to paying almost no taxes, is corporatize themselves, avoid personal liability for their sins, and pay the new low corporate tax rate on their personal income. The rest of us will be paying personal tax rates.

Surprisingly enough, the Day comes in second, if only by a hair. The caveat in the subheadline is probably the least of the problems the plan would cause, but at least it’s not covering for the Donald.

The Globe, for once, loses. The blaring headline about Trump taking an “ax” to tax rates sets the table, since who in this benighted land, where we expect infinite government services without paying for them, isn’t for lower taxes. The subheadline is a perfect example of both sideism. The fact is that one of those statements is true in essence, rather than simply from a propaganda standpoint. But the most egregious sin on the Globe’s part is giving prominence to Cohn’s bullshit about Trump caring about the American people. As numerous people have pointed out, if you wanted to design a tax code to maximize Trump’s wealth, this would be that code. The manner in which that quote was presented amounts to an endorsement of Cohn’s quote. The Globe would disagree with me, and I’m sure they’d be making that claim in good faith, but the fact is that the effect on the casual reader is just that. After all, if Cohn was bullshitting (which, of course, he was) why, muses our casual observer, would the Globe promote that quote? Actually, the musing would never take place, except on a subconscious level. That same observer might discover, if he or she read the entire piece, that Cohn was, in fact, bullshitting, but again, we must stipulate that if one in a hundred does so, that would be surprising.

The Times got it right, and it’s refreshing to see it covered honestly, without, at least in the headlines, any attempt to give Trump the undeserved benefit of the doubt. More of this, please.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the Globe added to it’s sins in the caption to the picture accompanying the piece, in which it quotes the Treasury Secretary as saying “We will unlock economic growth”, an implicit endorsement of that statement as well. 

Corruption of the first order

It’s really not hard to see why Ivanka is Trump’s favorite. She’s just like him.

When I read this a few things came to mind. The gist of it:

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

First, even the commenter at Kos failed to connect the dots from Ivanka’s new foundation to a certain foundation about which Daddy railed during the campaign, and about which he made certain baseless charges that will no doubt be well founded when leveled against Ivanka. After all, Ivanka has a family tradition to uphold, and it’s a near certainty that when all is said and done she’ll be putting the arm on countries and corporation in order to empower one certain woman, rather than women as a whole.

But, what is truly amazing is the sheer openness of the corruption. They really don’t even bother to hide it anymore, and since the commit an impeachable or indictable offense every day, no one even notices any longer. Even if this were well intentioned, and it’s not, it would be a dubious endeavor. The Trumps have hit on a winning formula. If you do something outrageous every day, after a while people will just stop noticing, particularly when you have a substantial portion of the press that is eager to justify your corruption.