Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tax Season is Over and the Vixen Returns

My regular business hours have now become amenable to regular blogging. I thank my regular readers for their understanding during this month or so of irregular posting, and hope I can swiftly return with all due speed. In the duration, I have drank less, slept more, and endured remediation of my good health. I hope to maintain some quantity of those things. Why am I working more and also enjoying things more while blogging less?

Because blogging is sort of OCD (which I could wax large about my own experience of, and won't, except to explain that the thing I do for no money should not impair my ability to do the things that actually do make money). 

I have had no lack of material to work with in this interval, only lack of time to properly whip said material into bloggular shape. 

This lack of time has passed. On with ye bloggings. I hope they count. 

Barbara Bush Was Unique, Wasn't She?

I guess the thing that sticks in the memory for me regarding Barbara Bush was how she had spoken about the Hurricane Katrina survivors who had been displaced by circumstance; they were "underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."  It was, if not racist (who knows to what extent she was looking at this through the lens of race?) at least deeply classist. She was privileged, and she could only see silver linings because she did not understand how desperate it was for people to lose literally everything they had. One thing you could say about the former First Lady--she was blunt, and she did not go out of her way to camoflage her meanings. If anything, she was highly articulate and sharp-tongued. It was hard to say she "mispoke" when she held forth.

This isn't the sort of thing one normally thinks about when considering a political wife--the spouse of a president and mother of another. The stereotype of the political "helpmeet" is inoffensiveness, but that was not really Mrs. Bush's style. But, she made her sarcasm and directness work for her, even if she could not always help the fortunes of her spouse or her first-born son with them. 

Without gilding over her flaws, Barbara Bush was a serious and intellegent person. She was not an orthodox conservative, and one of the things she did best was simply be, quite publically, an imperfect figure. She stood in her prematurely white hair and solid frame, and just was herself

She isn't alone by a long shot at being a first lady who I liked better than I liked her spouse, or, for that matter, her son. And while I do wonder how GWB's values reflect how he was raised, I can't help but wonder about her speech to Wellsley in 1990:

For over 50 years, it was said that the winner of Wellesley's annual hoop race would be the first to get married. Now they say the winner will be the first to become a C.E.O. Both of those stereotypes show too little tolerance for those who want to know where the mermaids stand. So I want to offer you today a new legend: The winner of the hoop race will be the first to realize her dream ... not society's dreams ... her own personal dream. And who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President's spouse.
I wish him well!

Her understanding of what it meant to be a mermaid--to do one's own thing and do it with one's heart, to be connected and live so as to have no regrets, resonates with me. Her thing was marriage and children, but she wasn't judging anyone else's thing. That was saying a lot.

And as for her son, who I like far more as a late-blooming painter than I ever did as a president, he summed something up about her so aptly:

Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was,” George W. Bush said. “Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us she was so much more.”

"Our souls are settled because we know hers was."  It was her time, and she went with no regrets and laid her down with a will.

We could anyone of us do worse, couldn't we?

I could wish some of her family anything at all as a political happenstance, but about seeing her life through and the business of burial, I wish them well. She had a great if awkward spirit. She knew educational inequality and illiteracy were such great barriers to success that she strove to see people acheive parity. She was kind of like America's occasionally not enlightened Mee-Maw, whose pronouncements were not right, but she thought you should hear them anyway.

She was unique.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Paul Ryan is Tired of this Crap

I think I've made a regular point of noting that Paul Ryan is a little overrated and has been given a very strange reputation for seriousness--and the idea that Ryan's retirement means that "Trumpism" will follow his departure or that he looked at a potential "blue wave" coming up in the 2018 mid-term elections equally sound a little false to me.   Speaker of the House Ryan made his mind up in 2016 that if he could work with the Freedom Caucus, he could work with Trump, so long as his agenda got accomplished.  And there was nothing about that that really surprised me, there. It's one thing to note that Paul Ryan didn't so much "run" for his speakership, so much as happen to be the least awful person for the job, and even then he made clear he still wanted his family time. 

The reason why should be clear--the job sucks. It sucked when John Boehner was doing it. Boehner looks like a healthier man after his retirement. Weathering the whims of the Freedom Caucus and Trump and trying to maintain his reputation for seriousness, and dealing with what could be a loss of the GOP House majority sounds like a courage-sucking tightrope act. Of course he's ready to bail.

I just don't think what come after is worse or more necessarily "Trumpist". Let Scalise and McCarthy fight over leading the House GOP. Let Wisconsin Republicans try to find someone less odious than Paul Nehlen to run in Ryan's district. I don't think the next handful of months is going to show us a new, more liberated Paul Ryan who will, say, yank Devin Nunes from the Intelligence committee or anything really stunning like that. He's already done his big act--planning an exit. And if that puts the GOP in a tighter spot?

They deserve it. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This Sounds Pretty Healthy

Yeah, I figured he was about due for one of those "Boom" on Twitter moments. Explaining that things are "very calm and calculated" on Twitter while both threatening "get ready Russia" in one Tweet, then "Stop the arms race?" in the next is about as calculated as one can get, right?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Raiding the TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

There's just something about a raid on Trump's personal attorney and the deputy national finance chairman of the RNC (or at least, he was--maybe not so much anymore) and Stormy Daniels pay-off patsy that perks me right up. It's not very usual to see a raid that goes after various documents at a president's lawyer's office, home, and the hotel room were he happens to be staying.

You just don't. I take people more experienced in these things at their word that this is a serious development that suggests Cohen has got himself into something deeper than just the Daniels pay-off situation (although that in and of itself might touch on campaign finance violations, bank fraud, bribery and intimidation if Daniel's recollection of being personally threatened bears out). I recall in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury reading that Steve Bannon had indicated that there might be rather a large number of similar arrangements, but that still doesn't quite seem like what would call down this kind of activity. 

It kind of reminds me of the raid of Paul Manafort's offices and home and whatnot. Deputy AG Rosenstein and special counsel Mueller seem to be proceeding from a pretty high confidence that there was a "there" there in pursuing connections between Manafort and Russia.  What they uncovered was sufficient to indict him for a buttload of money laundering and it looks like he was up to some damn unsavory shenanigans for the benefit of then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (which included, interestingly enough, smear campaigns against political rivals and a certain US Secretary of State). I doubt Cohen was into anything that deep, but he did arrange for a 20 minute Trump speech to be made in exchange for a $150K contribution to the Trump Foundation by a Ukrainian billionaire, right at the beginning of Trump's campaign. 

Laundering contributions by foreign nationals through one's foundation in return for speeches in what is an apparent attempt to gain influence? Gosh--where have I heard of such a thing before?

Anyhow, and this is all very slap-dash, since the last damn TrumpWorld Grab-bag I've filed, Guccifer 2.0 turned out to be probably GRU and was in contact with Roger Stone and WikiLeaks seems to have been communicating with him, too, and Stone either did or didn't have foreknowledge about Wikileaks', um, leaks, maybe someone heard from George Papadapolous in a nightclub that Jeff Sessions wanted him to go after dirt on Clinton (the Papadapolous guy either needs a big operational security lecture or to start attending AA). Basically, there were a lot of people in the Trump orbit who were really all about those damn emails. None of it looks like a big old smoking gun that of course the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russian agents mind you. It looks like a pattern of just not being terribly particular where dirt on Clinton came from. And odd connections with Russians keep coming up.

Of course, we'll doubtless learn more about what this Cohen situation anon, and it does seem like this particular development has POTUS exceptionally rattled. It may be that this really does just boil down to the bizarre ethic compromise of paying off an adult film actress to keep shtum over a one-night stand, but then again, even that points to a takeaway from the Steele Dossier--that Trump could be subject to blackmail over his sexual business. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Aw, Screw it, Fire Pruitt!

One might have expected that there was something a little weird about Pruitt when he wanted the $43k soundproof booth in his office, or when he alleged that he really needed to fly first class because people said mean things to him when he flew coach. But I really think this past few days' worth of revelations has exceeded all expectations regarding a man and his grift. The sweetheart condo rental deal made between Pruitt and the wife of a lobbyist who had projects subject to the approval of Pruitt's office is pretty dodgy once the details come into focus, and his deliberate staff manipulations look an awful lot like an abuse of power. Little details like wanting to use the sirens on his motorcade to get through traffic more quickly when he was running late, or noting that he not only had a deep discount on his Capitol Hill digs, but fell behind on paying for it, seem almost comical, but point to a truly cavalier attitude towards government service. 

But what is frankly amazing is that, despite all this, Pruitt's effectiveness in dismantling the EPA's regulatory abilities outweighs what one might suppose would seem an embarrassing appearance of corruption. All in all, a touch of corruption doesn't seem to be all that new a detail in Pruitt's bio, to the extent that it becomes clear that the Trump Administration and it's admirers may feel that Pruitt's corruptibility is a feature, not a bug. What else can one make of the rumor that Trump is considering not just not firing Pruitt, but considering him as a replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Because if a person is not merely corrupt, but almost comically so, why wouldn't someone with Trump's obvious baggage want to have him running the Department of Justice?

I could be wrong--Fridays are made for firings in TrumpWorld, after all, and many an official has found themselves getting the axe after getting the "full confidence of the President" guarantee. It's possible that the Samantha Dravin/Rob Porter leaking angle will eventually do Pruitt in in a way that the misuse of taxpayer funds has not. But seeing Senators Cruz and Paul come to Pruitt's defense and blame his scandals on the media makes me wonder if we might be about to see an experiment in just seeing if this can be "weathered out". 

This is pretty terrible--the guy definitely seems shady as hell and should be out! But if Trump starts tossing every shady person working for him...who is he going to have left?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Atlantic's New Hire Might Be Problematic

My schedule has been kind of bananas lately, which has precluded regular blogging, but I couldn't help but weigh in on The Atlantic's troublesome new affirmative action for conservatives hire, who has made statements in his columns, etc., that have been interpreted as racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic. I think The Atlantic is perfectly free to promote a writer in the name of ideological diversity if the editors think this is a good thing to do, but they had best just recognize that disdain, contempt, cancelled subscriptions, and sternly-worded missives will, perforce, necessarily follow in the wake of such a decision. 

No lie, I don't read the National Review much, from which Williamson comes, although I can't help but think that calling a small black child a "primate" and filling his mouth with an improbably stereotypical dialog (I feel, if not apocryphal, this child has certainly been embellished by the author) probably fit in far better there than it will at his new perch. But as for the outrage regarding his statements that women should be hanged for seeking abortions, which, it seems, Williamson has said more than once or twice, and not just in tweets? 

Well, there's your ideological diversity, because this isn't some weird fringe-y thing that Williamson alone on the right has espoused at all. We have at least two legislators in Ohio who think this is a fine idea: the death penalty for doctors and patients alike. The candidate for Lt. Governor in Idaho seems to think this is a completely acceptable discussion, as well as do others in that state. Why in the world would I pretend to be shocked that Williamson holds a position that red state elected officials and clinic bombers alike also hold? Isn't the entire point of having a commentator on board with interesting and divergent opinions getting to hear those opinions spelled out in excruciating detail?

Perhaps he can expand for us the idea that women might be dissuaded from ending their pregnancies if they thought they might be hanged by the neck until dead (despite countless women having sought unsafe abortions at the risk of death by sepsis or hemorrhage when safe and lawful procedures could not be obtained).  Perhaps he can elucidate the ways in which a fetus has personhood and agency and a right to the body of another person greater than that female-bodied person has over her own body. And perhaps he can't, but that shouldn't be because The Atlantic hasn't let him, now that they've offered to be so accommodating. (And while he's at it, he can get reiterate his greatest hits from the National Review--second chances, amirite?)

There is a tremendous whinge heard on the right (from the White House, even!) that the mainstream media just doesn't allow conservative voices on--even though that is patent bullshit. Every Sunday chat-show roundtable has its conservative contingent, Republican politicians have long outnumbered Democratic politician on such shows. CNN bent over backwards to try to have Trump-friendly commentators on air the past two years. Mainstream newspapers have certainly tried to find conservative columnists. The Atlantic has Williamson, and a well-feathered albatross he seems be, for the moment. (Who knows how enjoyable he will be once he's been around their necks for awhile?) 

But I think it's a damn shame folks will insist on pointing out the sexism and racism and the homophobia and transphobia, as if they are missing all the conservative thought just sitting out there in the open in the gentleman in question's previous missives. I mean, not all conservatives can be Andrew Sullivan (last seen still defending Murray's The Bell Curve, I believe), of course.  But here's to The Atlantic for taking that chance. 

As has been famously said, what have they got to lose?

UPDATE: The Atlantic has decided to lose Kevin Williamson, and will, presumably, seek conservative opinions from people who are not racist or transphobic or in possession of the idea that killing women is a way to reduce abortions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Hope the Kids Will Be Alright

The March For Our Lives march/movement has gotten a very special response from pro-gun RW voices--personal attacks against the leaders of the movement, who also happen to be kids who have endured a traumatic event in the form of the school shooting, and are not just working through the grieving process of having lost people, but doing so with courage, thoughtfulness and purpose in a very public way.

Some of these wretched excuses for public comment, such as these comments put out by an NRA spokesperson:

"To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else's Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like Blaine Gaskill had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month, because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names, because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story, the way they ignored his," Noir said.

treat these young people as if they are opportunists who were just looking for the right occasion--like the murder of their friends--to become "famous". (The individual, Blaine Gaskill, did not actually stop the shooter at Great Mills High School, it turns out--and the presence of resource officers don't always act as a deterrent to the murder-minded, because individuals who intend to kill people don't necessarily seek out "gun-free zones"--they seek out the people they mean to kill, and often have no expectation of their own survival.) It's fine to wish someone had stopped Nikolas Cruz before he murdered 17 people, but it's something else to suggest this tragic event simply gave these young activists a "story" or that the media gave them a platform that they have no right to. What happened was tragic, it was their experience, and it is their right to tell their own story, and not have it taken away from them because it doesn't agree with someone else's political views.

Others, like my former Senator, Rick Santorum, want to suggest that their time could be better spent doing something (or rather, doing something else, because they certainly are doing something, or you wouldn't hear such raging and gnashing of teeth). He suggested "taking CPR classes" because he is a fuckwit:

“How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that?” the former Republican senator suggested on State of the Union.

Notwithstanding that Santorum seems to have being a qualified pool lifeguard confused with anything like the life-saving interventions that might be required to save someone whose flesh, bones and organs might be pulverized by bullets, consider the stupidity of saying the high school kids are "looking to someone else to solve their problem". Well, yeah. They are high school kids. But how is school shootings just "their problem"? But also, appealing to elected officials to pass laws to remedy problems is something a former legislator should comprehend as being a part of democracy. He doesn't seem to get it, which really explains why he no longer holds an office.

But then, there are the just plain sick attacks, the smears and lies. There is really very little we can expect from Infowars, home of the Sandy Hook Truthers, and Brietbart is not much better. Likening activists who are just interested in promoting a debate about stopping school shootings to neo-Nazis (when actual neo-Nazi sympathizers like Anders Brievik and Dylann Roof have actually been mass shooters) is hyperbolic, confusing a raised fist for a Nazi salute is just plain moronic. And running a smear that pretended that David Hogg was not present at the school during the attack and then claiming that one was "confused" is kind of pathetic. The Photoshop of Emma Gonzalez that is making the rounds should make people feel ashamed, but the sort of people who would share that are not the sort of people who feel ashamed about such things.

And yet, for sheer inappropriate, personal, bigoted, and wrong, I present Rep. Steve King of Iowa (for now), who went after Gonzalez for wearing a patch that honors her Cuban heritage. I thought so much (or little) or his meme that I made one of my own (above).

These young people have shown they have real wit and humor, but this kind of attention, and these kinds of attacks, are intended to wear them down. Finding purpose in loss and tragedy is healthy, but I hope they give themselves the self-care of shutting out these negative voices, and I also hope people don't treat them like mascots or pour more on their shoulders than they've already got. They are human, and human beings are never perfect, and life is fragile. I wish them the best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Data-Driven TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

Things seem to be moving quickly in TrumpWorld, which seems like a quite a statement given the usual pace. It was no sooner than AG Sessions had fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe over a "lack of candor" (and if there is one thing old Jeff Sessions will not stand for, it is a lack of candor...right?) than President Trump was lighting up Twitter with a self-serving and as usual, mostly untrue rant because firing McCabe wasn't quite the job he wanted to accomplish. It was noted that Trump finally mentioned the Mueller investigation, something he had very likely not done because his lawyers would have counseled him not to.  

And then it just seemed like everything was coming up Cambridge Analytica. First, FaceBook suspended CA, but suddenly the story opened up to connect dots to working with Russian organizations, reaching out to Corey Lewandowski (Trump's first campaign manager), and then, explosively, a Channel 4 investigation revealed a Cambridge Analytica exec admitting to using spies, bribes and even sexual entrapment to compromise people into, um, changing their behavior due to the, err, data that has been gathered on them. 

Wild, right? Anyhow, we all know Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn are connected to Campaign Analytica, but gosh! No reason to suspect there's anything shady about how the company performed for the entirely aboveboard Trump Campaign, right? 

At some point, it really becomes difficult to look at the big picture and presume it only holds together in a rather circumstantial way. 

In somewhat related news, Mike Flynn was recently seen campaigning for Republican Omar Navarro against Rep. Maxine Waters, whose intellect Trump recently denigrated for some reason, and Steve Bannon was in Europe being fascinated by fascism and encouraging the Far-Right. So those guys are still....around.