Monday, May 22, 2017

Scenes from a Presidential Trip Abroad

Of all the things I was prepared to grimace about regarding President Trump's foreign travels, the idea of him giving a speech vaguely described as being "about Islam" in Saudi Arabia struck me as being obviously the most fraught with peril. The Muslim ban thing--not likely to be the greatest advance word-of-mouth recommendation regarding his opinions on things Islamic, you know? But the speech wasn't really terrible--given where many are setting the bar for such things on Trump's behalf, anyway. I'm not of the Muslim faith, so the eye-rolling parts might not stand out so much to me--I think that hitting on Iran's support of terror might be a little bit slanted to his SA audience (they just re-elected a moderate and ahem! SA also has their history with terror--and current events!)

But the part about "not lecturing" to the Islamic world also comes at the risk of admitting to the US turning its back to human rights issues in the Muslim world. I don't see that as a useful step for the US to be making, and it erodes the idea we've long-projected of American exceptionalism. The US has had its failings, but I don't think that means uselessness in the attempt to face what is, alongside of terrorism, a form of evil. It is this concern that casts a pall over the arms deal that has been signed--how are these weapons being used, and isn't Trump's Administration not, in signing this deal, also signing off on how they will be used?

I don't know what to make of the $100 million donation being made to Ivanka Trump's nascent women's empowerment fund that will be set up through World Bank and should not be, as I understand it, managed by Ms. Trump herself. (I basically think there's lots of room for crony capitalism in Trump's orbit.) Whether this is exactly like Trump's campaign criticisms regarding the Clinton Foundation strikes me as almost in the vicinity of the question of whether President Trump appeared to be curtseying like a lady--really? This is where we go? (Yeah--of course it is!)

But I have to give extra points to whoever set up the "hands on the glowing globe" photo, which is almost like movie shorthand for "we're just joining forces for world domination like villains do!" Of course, it's not a Giant Globe.  (We've seen how these can go wrong.) But it glows!



Saturday, May 20, 2017

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is Full of Nut Jobs!

It just keeps on coming back to the Russians, doesn't it? For a scandal that Trump and his supporters have tried to blow off as being "fake news" or, weirder still, as an excuse Democrats are using to explain Clinton's loss (yeah--an investigation that started roughly May 2016 is not being used as an excuse for the election results that happened months later!), Trump can't seem to act in any way like allegations of something being up between his campaign and Russian involvement aren't completely true.

It was just a few days ago that we found out that Trump blabbed classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak while they met with him in the Oval Office. Now, courtesy of The New York Times, we are hearing that President Trump also told his Russian guests that he had fired FBI Director Comey because of the Russian investigation:

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
This isn't exactly news--no one could have believed that Comey was fired over the handling of Hillary Clinton's email server investigation, and Trump said as much himself in his interview with Lester Holt. But why is he saying this to them? (And in "pot calling the kettle" terms, if Trump calling Comey a "showboat" was risible, calling him a "nut job" is a patella-shaking knee-slapper.) The White House statement doesn't even try to deny this is what he said, they only suggest it was  something he said for leverage. Or maybe, as I've been assuming, he brags about inappropriate things because he thinks it makes him look like a badass.

Of course, it doesn't make him look like a badass in a country where we think laws matter, and it comes even closer to looking like an attempt to obstruct justice. And while Trump personally might not be being investigated (as yet), there does appear to be a "person of interest" described in Washington Post's reporting as a senior White House adviser close to Trump. Following on that, some reporters maintain the person of interest is likely his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Which makes sense, in a way--who, after all, didn't report tons of money in loans and contacts that he had with folks in Russia? Jared  Kushner. (Who were some people hoping would "moderate" Donald Trump's views? Jared and Ivanka!)

But that doesn't leave Mike Flynn off the hook--after all, the Russians were caught bragging that they would have influence over Trump through Flynn.  If that sounds like crisis averted due to Flynn's firing (and all the odd stories we've heard about that, as well), the sad thing is, Trump might not understand even now why it had to happen, and wants him back.

That might sound a bit like Trump is the actual "nut job", vacillating over a firing that took place both long ago (in Trump-time) and too late. But we will be hearing from that other fired "nut job", Jim Comey, publically and soonish. I'm sure he has other interesting details from his memos. I wonder if there will be a Kindle version someday?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Roger Ailes is Dead

In the entire course of Strangely Blogged's nearly ten-year back-issues, I don't think I have ever said anything nice about Fox Mushroom Farm's founder and guru, Roger Ailes, who I credited with promoting misogyny, racism, fake news, conspiracy theories, and providing free advertising for the Republican Party to the vast injury of journalism, Fox's viewers, and, ironically, the GOP, by making the world a meaner, dumber, more partisan place where dumber, meaner, more partisan GOP-ers were more likely to get on.

I see absolutely no reason to say anything good about him in death. He was a dedicated sexual harasser and a blight on politics and cable television alike. Among his last deeds were advising Donald Trump, and that speaks for itself. The best thing I'll ever say is that he was mortal.

The Cat is Exiting the Trumpworld Grab-Bag

I'm a tired blogging fool. I took today off because I was getting a new railing installed on the front steps to my house and some ugly shrubbery taken down in my front yard and it seemed like a nice time to do some outside work myself and get some sun--so in the unseasonable 90+ degree May weather, I got burned to an unpleasant two-toned ouchiness. I lowered my A/C to 75 after dinner, took a cold shower, fixed some Campari and sodas, and spread a nice ($) chamomile face cream all over myself as if it was a (cheap) body lotion, and settled down to catch up on the news.

MMWHHAHAHAHA! Weed-whacking shrubbery to death isn't half the effort keeping up with the news is, these days. Most days, at my job, I sneak in news breaks at intervals, coffee breaks and lunch. Unplugging for hours was like spinning "Feeling Lucky?" on a time machine, and disembarking to about a year and a half's worth of news.

Well, maybe not exactly. But feels like it though!

I guess the biggest thing that happened was that Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy AG that Trump and them tried to stick with being the decider in the FBI Director Comey firing, made the positive decision to appoint a special counsel, and made it former FBI Director Robert Mueller.  That was a great, solid choice. Mueller is a serious person with bipartisan respect. He seems like the man to do a great job, and I will say this--appointing Mueller was a better response to how Trump tried to play the DOJ than Rosenstein resigning. This might make Trump think about firing him, too--but that would look weird and vindictive, wouldn't it? He should think a bit longer the next time he sets about firing people.

Another odd damn thing that came out was news that the Trump transition team should have been well aware that General Flynn was under investigation before putting him on as National Security Adviser.  This kind of undercuts the rationale that Flynn was fired because of lying to Mike Pence, because Pence was in charge of transition and of all people, how wasn't he in the know, already? And it certainly true that Trump et als took their good time after Acting AG Sally Yates made her concerns known, as well. It's like the nascent Presidential team very nearly saw Flynn's foreign entanglements as not a bug--but a feature.

How did this dynamic work? Appallingly, based on the possibility that Flynn, as a known compromised NSA, stopped a raid on ISIS because Turkey preferred it be stopped.  Flynn, a known hardliner about anti-Islamic terrorism, may have put a delay on a military op against ISIS because of what it looked like to the country paying him--that was not the US?

I don't know how Flynn was fixing to serve Turkey, and the US, and maybe Russia, all at once. I especially don't know how the Trump vetting process never picked up on how conflicted this should have left their guy. But you know who I don't think has got enough focus in this--Mike Pence. VP. The guy in charge of the transition, who for whatever reason is setting up a PAC right now like he wants a lifeboat berth if the fine-tuned Titanic he's on is going down. (Would those funds be applicable to defense costs in case of impeachment, one speculates? I can't be arsed to look this up--his problem, obvs.)

In other funny news, the GOP House leadership is a regular Abbot and Costello. Ryan and McCarthy were caught making the funny about whether Trump sort of seems like he might be a paid tool of Russia, which is spending money to try and subvert other governments. I'm trying to stay neutral in my feels about this. Is the funny because they are in on what they know is true? Or is the funny because they are skeptical of what they are seeing in the news? I can't decide. What is funny to Republicans might not really be up my funny bone, you know? 

Also guilty of having a funny bone when it comes to Trump? Vladimir Putin, who is also a gifted pianist, which I did not know. He made a great funny about our potential Constitutional crisis, implying that the Trump WH team's eagerness to invite TASS and Lavrov to the Oval Office resulted in "tapes" he had access to. (You know I love you Vladi, but this is too much joking for anxious Americans--we might get skittish like a horse that is impossible to ride. Being thrown off might hurt!)

Feh. I don't believe so much in following the funny, as following the money, anyway. Poor Donald Trump--he already thinks he has been so imposed upon, even though political figures have had so much worse. Imprisonment, torture, assassination. All he's had is people being mean!

It's almost worth his being elected, to see him so whiny and pathetic. But when will his base understand how buggered he truly is? And why they should never have set their Chinese-make red trucker caps for him in the first damn place? He's thinking of putting his old campaign squad together.  He's chumming the media sharks with red meat by appointing WI Sherriff Clarke, who is basically the Worst.  But is that really going to win anyone to him? He knows how to attract his base, but he's off-putting basically everyone else. 

I think he's screwed. I could be wrong. But today's over-excited news cycle is super-negative. And I don't see how it improves.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump Gets the Memo

Before the election, there was a fun story some of you might have noticed where, in a deposition, Trump's very own bankruptcy lawyers explained that they had to meet with him in pairs to be assured of getting the same story from him, because his story could change from moment to moment and person to person, and perhaps he would "forget" what he last said.

Those were his own lawyers saying under oath that Donald Trump was a big old liar and they did not trust him. So I think I understand very well why former FBI Director James Comey took copious memos of his interactions with Trump. He knew the story could change on him, and wanted good notes to check. This is a good way to deal with someone (Trump) who tells other people to get lost and then hits you up with a suggestion to let his buddy (Mike Flynn) off the hook because he's a great guy. A person who starts off like that and has the ability to fire you merits some pretty decent note-taking, you'd think? You know, in case it could come in handy in a dispute or a hearing or something.

I don't think it sounds vindictive at all--after all, the note-taking took place before the firing, not after. Unless someone is hinting that Comey's memos might be just as nebulous as Trump's "tapes".

That's another thing--the "tapes" that either do or don't exist and have been regularly denied at this point? Trump used that in a Tweet to imply he had a device that gave him leverage. Comey's memos seem to be a reply in kind--except I know which one I think has the kind of forethought to actually deliver, which might explain why the "tapes" are being denied. Consider the possibilities: a) Trump has "tapes" (digital, probably, because as with catapult systems on carriers, you can't use steam, apparently) which are being illegally gathered and might have much admissible incriminating evidence against Trump, or b) Trump is accusing Comey of having "tapes" because "wiretapping" which seems a little paranoid to actually believe, or c) pretty much a baseless threat against a witness lent some truth based on dodgy prior activity (?).  All of these things are stupid. The last feels stupidest. I call Trump's Razor. (But I am not a betting woman, so maybe tapes exist. Meh, she shrugged, licking her chops.)

And I know is, there are more memos and Comey will likely have things to say at a future congressional hearing. I'm sure Trump is confident that this will be just fine.  (Narrator: It would not be just fine.)

(Update: Also, Comey's memo mentioned that Trump wanted to put the press in prison for leaking, which sounds just like him. So, there's that.)