Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Calls Are Coming From Inside the House

This is insane:

President Donald Trump reportedly calls outside advisers from his personal cell phone when Chief of Staff John Kelly isn’t around. According to The Washington Post, the outside advisers include former chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Before Kelly’s arrival, the Post reports, Trump’s friends would be able to call the White House and be transferred directly to the president, and those inside the West Wing were able to walk in at any time and speak with Trump. Kelly’s crackdown has some individuals close to Trump referring to the chief of staff as “the church lady,” the Post reports.

Given that Trump uses an old Android phone (allegedly) and has to have access to Twitter and outside networks for his telephone calls, that means that the POTUS is holding a veritable miniaturized security threat in his hand. This is assuming someone has prevailed upon him to either upgrade to a secure device or something government-issued. I believe Trump has hung on to his civilian phone and has told everyone to go pound sand.

And what's more insane is that Dana Carvey doesn't deserve this shit:

Everything is crazy and no one is doing anything about it. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Twenty Percent Tax Cut For Businesses? Hell No

Trump's tax proposal should be considered dead on arrival. Cutting taxes on American companies from 35% to 15% would blow a hole in the deficit and increase our national debt. All of those profits would go into the hands of the people who own those companies, and those folks already pay a very low tax rate. This would shift the tax burden away from both corporations and high income individuals to the middle class and the working class and allow the 1% to finally end up undertaxed personally and undertaxed professionally. And I wouldn't put much faith in the chart above because it comes from Deloitte and the White House. So, take that with a grain of salt. All of this.

The end goal here is to cut taxes for the rich. It's a great scam, and it hinges upon people looking at the chart above and feeling "sorry" for corporations. 

See how low "personal" income tax is compared to "corporate" income tax? On the one hand, individuals are getting a huge break. On the other, they're getting soaked, as they should be. This is the price of living in a free country with a court system that can prevent the government from taking away all your wealth. Don't like it? Take your billion dollars to Russia and see how long you keep it.

So, anyway--we're in tax cut, I mean, tax reform territory and that's where everything is about to go off the rails. The media can't cover it because math and the government can't be trusted to do the right thing because of lobbyists and evil, so what's going to happen? We're going to run into a ton of problems on the road ahead understanding this argument and fighting against it. One of the advantages we have here is that Trump can't sell anything to anyone because he doesn't know jack shit about policy:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday delivered his opening pitch on tax reform, framing the effort in populist terms saying Republican plans to overhaul the tax code would be a boon for lower- and middle-class Americans.

But Trump offered only broad outlines of what the tax code would look like if his tax reform gambit succeeds, as GOP congressional leaders and the White House have yet to reach an agreement on the details of the tax plan. Trump will meet with congressional leaders to hammer out those details on Tuesday, a White House official said.

"We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crumbling burden on our companies and on our workers," Trump said in Springfield, Missouri. "The foundation of our job creation agenda is to fundamentally reform our tax code for the first time in more than 30 years."

All of a sudden, a Regime populated with Goldman Sachs alumni is championing "Main Street?"

Give me a break.

They want to screw Main Street every which way so that the tax rate on massive, "too big to fail" companies can be cut to the bone so that the owners can keep more cash. Who owns those big companies? Well, if you guessed a lot of overseas investors, you would be correct.

In effect, Trump wants to cut taxes for people who don't live in this country who own companies that already use tax shelters to hide what they make. This is supposed to help Mom and Pop stores in Podunk, Iowa get ahead? 

How many jobs are going to be created when profits become even more obscene than they are right now? None. How many people are getting raises? None. How many companies will do the right thing and expand and grow when given a twenty percent tax break? Absolutely none of them will because all that's happening here is that the ability to appropriate more profit will increase and their obligation to America's economy will stay the same. Hint--they have no obligation.

We already know the wealthy are criminally undertaxed. We know that corporations help make up for some of that, but not all of it, and we already know that the Trump Regime wants to find a way to kill off Obamacare. What better way to do that than to cut the corporate tax rate and deprive Obamacare of the money it needs to function? 

The end result of all of this, if it passes, will be to allow the wealthy to accumulate more money and stick everyone in America with the costs of maintaining civilization.

As a wise old man once said, fuck that shit.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trump Sells Hats While the People of Houston Drown

The people of Houston don't care whether or not the National Guard troops saving them are transgender:

President Donald Trump praised the "incredible" spirit of the people of Texas on Monday, one day before he heads to the Lone Star State to show support for areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. 

"Things are being handled really well, the spirit is incredible," the president said at the White House. "It's a historic amount of water, never been anything like it. The people are handling it amazingly well." 

Minutes later, during a joint press conference with the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, Trump said "tragic times such as these bring out the best in America's character."

"The best in America's character" would be anyone who is willing to serve their country and put the needs of the service ahead of their own. The worst of America's character would be a neo-Nazi defending president who sells hats while ignoring the fact that another American city is drowning on a Republican president's watch.

Houston is Under Water

The Great Flood of 2017:

Tropical Storm Harvey will drift slowly near the upper Texas coast the next few days, bringing more extreme rainfall to the flooded Houston metro area, piling onto record-breaking, catastrophic flooding.

Localized storm total rain amounts of up to 50 inches are not out of the question once Harvey's rain is finished later this week. This may end up being one of the worst flood disasters in U.S. history.

As of early Monday morning, flash flood emergencies remained in effect for 11 southeast Texas counties, according to the National Weather Service in Houston.

The only thing anyone can agree on right now is that FEMA will be setting up shop in Houston for the next few years. I don't know what anyone could do to prevent the next flood, but someone has to do something because this is not how people are supposed to live. Some 450,000 residents of south Texas are going to apply for Federal disaster relief in the days ahead, and I would imagine that that number will increase.

Worth remembering:

In Houston...this past spring, after two floods...this is what the people elected by Houstonians said about flood control measures.

"The longtime head of the flood control district flat-out disagrees with scientific evidence that shows development is making flooding worse. Engineering projects can reverse the effects of land development and are doing so, Mike Talbott said in an interview with The Texas Tribune and ProPublica in late August before his retirement after 18 years heading the powerful agency. (His successor shares his views.)
The claim that “these magic sponges out in the prairie would have absorbed all that water is absurd,” Talbott said.
He also said the flood control district has no plans to study climate change or its impacts on Harris County, the third-most-populous county in the United States.
Of the astonishing frequency of huge floods the city has been getting, he said, “I don't think it's the new normal.” He also criticized scientists and conservationists for being “anti-development.”
“They have an agenda ... their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense,” he said."

If you can help, please do so:

Red Cross

Houston Humane Society

San Antonio Humane Society

Austin Pets Alive

Update: Suggestions from the thread below.

SPCA of Brazoria County

Houston Food Bank

Portlight – Disaster aid for people with disabilities

Texas Diaper Bank

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cruz and Cornyn Are Hypocrites

Here in suburban San Antonio, everything is fine. We've had some rain, and we've had some winds, but things are pretty much back to normal. It's time to go to the aid of others.

In Houston, and throughout Southeastern Texas, there is unimaginable suffering underway and some folks back East are noticing that the two Senators representing Texas are nothing but hypocrites:

What blows around, comes around.

The devastation of Hurricane Harvey has two-faced Texas politicians looking for the same sort of relief funding they flatly opposed five years ago when Sandy pounded New York and New Jersey.

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were among the most adamant opponents to the bi-state aid in 2012 — and both already reached out this weekend seeking funds.

Both voted against a $50.4 billion Sandy assistance package after the storm, which caused more than 100 Northeast deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damage.

A lot of story lines are going to develop in the weeks ahead. One, the City of Houston has been growing at a phenomenal rate with what appears to be very little regard for drainage and infrastructure. Two, the Senators representing Texas have a pretty lousy track record when it comes to being gracious about Federal disaster relief. And, three, we are going to have to watch what FEMA does in relation to disaster relief.

Oh, and Houston is led by a Democratic mayor. Look for the GOP to exploit that fact and pull another Katrina. They'll turn Houston's mayor into a Ray Nagin before Trump lands in the state and hands out Play-Doh.

Ted Cruz is up for re-election. Help Beto O'Rourke throw his ass out of office.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Speaker Paul Ryan Has No Balls

It's a familiar cycle, and the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio fits right into what's happening

  1. Trump does something lawless or crazy or racist
  2. Speaker Paul Ryan is dismayed
  3. Nothing happens
  4. Trump does something else that is lawless or crazy or racist

So, in effect, the Speaker of the House is a man who doesn't have the balls to stand up to Donald Trump:

"The speaker does not agree with the decision. Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon."

When a President and a Speaker are from the same party, the general consensus of history is that there is more of a rivalry between them, and that the Speaker is a check on the President's power. This is certainly more of a case when they are from different parties, but, by and large, we have not had a situation like Trump in the modern era.

Speaker Ryan should be a check on the president's power, but he isn't. That's not only disturbing but it also threatens the institution of the Congress in ways that are not fully appreciated right now. If Republicans actually have to get rid of Trump, how can they when Ryan has never held Trump accountable? His statements need to be translated into actions. That's not what's going on. 

Trump is the destruction of all normal ways of operating and doing business. So, the very real power and threat from a normal Speaker of the House would mean that Trump would not have carried out such a pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio--it would not have been considered because Arpaio was convicted under Federal law by Federal prosecutors this calendar year. A normal pardon would require several years to have passed, for the person being pardoned to acknowledge their guilt, and for the Justice Department to review the case and make a recommendation. These are not all of the standard or criteria, but they are what is basically understood about a presidential pardon.

None of that has been followed. The president pardoned a racist individual who abused the civil rights of the citizens of his county. To say that we have no precedent for this is an understatement. We have no check on Trump's power right now, and that is due entirely to the obviously de-balled status of Paul Ryan.



Friday, August 25, 2017

Why Isn't This Man in Jail Already?

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty sick and goddamned tired of how slow the Robert Mueller investigation is moving. It's not that I don't think there should be trials. I want there to be trials. But why are Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and whoever else able to enjoy themselves while we all wait to see how this shakes out?

Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The effort to seek out hackers who were believed to have stolen Mrs. Clinton’s emails, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was led by a longtime Republican activist, Peter W. Smith. In correspondence and conversations with his colleagues, Mr. Smith portrayed Mr. Flynn as an ally in those efforts and implied that other senior Trump campaign officials were coordinating with him, which they have denied. He also named Mr. Flynn’s consulting firm and his son in the correspondence and conversations.

The special counsel is investigating potential coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

Mr. Smith believed that some 33,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton said were personal and had been deleted had been obtained by hackers. Last year, in the final months of the presidential campaign, he made contact with what he said were five groups of hackers, two of which he believed were comprised of Russians, who claimed to have obtained the emails.

Indictments would be nice right about now, is the point I'm trying to make. There are people in jail right now for a whole lot less than this.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elian Gonzalez

The year 2000 was a freaky year. You had Bush vs Gore, you had the whole Y2K thing, and you had the Elian Gonzalez saga.

It's hard to imagine this, but there was a time when both political parties feared the Cuban-American community in South Florida so much, they were willing to ignore the rule of law and fight over a little boy:

Elián González greets me with a smile and firm handshake.

He is unassuming and low-key despite once being at the center of a bitter international custody battle involving two Cold War enemies.

González sits quietly in his family home in Cardenas as his father, Juan Miguel, talks a mile minute. There are family pictures on the wall near images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

    I have been invited to interview Elián, now 23, and his father ahead of the release Thursday of the CNN documentary "Elián" that examines the fight over the Cuban rafter boy, then 6, that brought the simmering feud between Cubans on the island and in South Florida to a boil.

    Elián's fiancée serves us coffee, and I marvel at how after years of covering Cuba I am suddenly in his living room. Unlike so many reports from González's youth, there are no bodyguards in sight. And while the house is nice compared with some I have seen in Cuba, it's hardly the mansion many people in Miami said González and his father would be rewarded with when they traveled back to the island.

    I put it down to the insanity of the Republican Party. They had impeached Bill Clinton, they were riding high on a candidate who would go on to start a couple of land wars in Asia, drown an American city, and serve with no distinction as the second-worst president of the modern era. The Bush years were pretty fucking bad, but I think we can all look back and say that we would trade what we have now to get them back.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Standing in the Aisles With Itchy Feet and Fading Smiles

    If there's one sin that will not be forgiven, it will be the sin of boring your own supporters:

    Somewhere between his obsessive (if misleading) recapitulation of his Charlottesville reaction, and his umpteenth complaint about the Washington Post and Amazon, something unusual happened: Trump began to lose his audience.

    As Johnson reported for the Washington Post:

    Hundreds left early, while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up a conversation with their neighbors. After waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally hall — where their water bottles were confiscated by security — people were tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn't keeping their attention. Although Trump has long been the master of reading the mood of a room and quickly adjusting his message to satisfy as many of his fans as possible, his rage seemed to cloud his senses.

    This should be the lede everywhere because it shows that Trump's support is declining rapidly. The polls reflect this, and I think Trump's support is very soft right now. Those that say "I support him" are low information voters who aren't going to be motivated to deliver another "fuck you" to America's elites in 2020. They'll be too busy wondering why their pockets have been picked by a con-artist.

    American Fascism can be a lot of things, but if the crowds aren't into it, expect that it will disappear when people understand what it is costing them.


    Remember all of those times Barack Obama stalked around the stage, repeated easily-refuted lies, and talked about how all of his enemies were ganging up on him?

    Me neither:

    Donald Trump just showed why even some Republicans question whether he has the temperament and the capacity to serve as President.

    In an incredible performance at a raucous Arizona rally Tuesday, Trump rewrote the history of his response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture wars.

    Trump in effect identified himself as the main victim of the furor over the violence in Virginia, berating media coverage for a political crisis that refuses to abate over his rhetoric on race. 

      "They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history," Trump said, blaming "weak, weak people" for allowing the removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy.

      In defending his responses to the Charlottesville violence, Trump selectively omitted his reference to "many sides" or "both sides," comments he made that drew bipartisan condemnation for equating neo-Nazis with their counterprotesters.

      To say that it was an unpresidential speech is an understatement. It was pure Fascism, delivered by a man so unhinged, he probably thinks every song, every book, every movie, every conversation is about him.

      Tuesday, August 22, 2017

      The Daily Caller Rips Into Barron Trump

      There is no one 'editing' the Daily Caller because it's a shit-storm as per usual: 

      I’ve been on the Barron Trump train from the start, but it’s about time the president’s son starts dressing the part.

      The reaction of everyone normal is, "who cares about any of this? Don't attack the poor kid."

      In contrast, the reaction of the conservative media is, "here's something we can talk about that will gain us clicks and the attention of Steve Bannon, and maybe a gig writing for Breitbart when the Daily Caller goes tits up."

      The author of this piece, Ford Springer, goes on to write about how he was a badass at one point:

      What am I missing here? Is Barron just better than I ever was at rebelling against my parents? Yeah, I’d put the blazer and tie on and comb my hair and all that, but as soon as my mom turned her head you better believe I was messing my hair up and loosening my tie. Hell I might even undo a couple buttons on my shirt if I was feeling like a real badass.

      Barron doesn’t have to worry about all that, but he should. His dad is always looking dapper and his mom has become a worldwide fashion icon since becoming first lady. The youngest Trump doesn’t have any responsibilities as the president’s son, but the least he could do is dress the part when he steps out in public.

      Sounds like Ford wants to fuck her, doesn't it? This is what our new favorite badass looks like, by the way:


      Liberals always admonish each other when someone attacks the child of the sitting Republican president. This was what it was like when Bush was president and his daughters were running wild up and down the East Coast, tormenting their Secret Service protection details. Conservatives ripped into Chelsea Clinton and the Obama children mercilessly for years. Here we have proof that the conservative movement can't stop attacking children and their appearance, even when it's some unshaven goof pretending to know what 'journalism' looks like.

      Monday, August 21, 2017

      Trump Was Never Fit to be President

      Who are we kidding here? Journalists should have been asking questions about Trump's fitness and temperament over a year and a half ago:

      Is President Trump stable and competent enough to do his job?

      Investigative reporter and CNN contributor Carl Bernstein says reporters must be asking those questions. 

      "Republicans in Congress, the highest of intelligence officials, the highest of military officers in our country, leaders of the business community -- all of whom have dealt with the White House, and many of them dealt personally with Donald Trump -- have come to believe that he is unfit for the presidency," Bernstein told CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday. 

      He said those people are "raising the very question of his stability and his mental fitness." 

      "Maybe what I'm being told is not as pervasive as I believe it is. Let's find out," Bernstein added. "We need as journalists to make this our primary function right now." 

      Stelter said on CNN's "Reliable Sources" that Trump's "actions and inactions in the wake of Charlottesville are provoking some uncomfortable conversations." 

      The questions, he said, include these: "Is the president of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he's unfit -- then what?"

      Each and every one of these questions should have been asked in the early months of 2016 and the judgement of the press should have been that Trump was fundamentally unfit and incapable of being president. Full stop. Now, a few did and they were drowned out by the belief in the establishment media that the real story was her e-mails, dammit. Trump was a dumpster fire and everyone was looking elsewhere for something to cover. It was all on display, it was all well documented, and it was the press that let us down. Everyone who was paying attention knew Trump was off the rails before half the Republican field dropped out.

      Let's face it--the media was covering the horse race without bothering to notice that one of the horses wasn't able to do the job.

      What you see the media doing now is a casual rewrite of American political history. They "didn't know" he was like this? Really? Countless writers from New York and from the entertainment world were telling you that he was crazy and mercurial and had no patience for anything that didn't involve stroking his massive ego. Countless people from the business world were telling anyone that would listen that there was a reason why New York banks wouldn't loan him money--he's fucking nuts and won't pay it back.

      I wrote earlier this year that there should be a mandatory medical exam of Trump at Walter Reed. Just him and a Navy doctor. Has that happened yet? No, because it will likely reveal some form of dementia. If that got out, everything in this country would change in a moment.

      Bernstein is covering for the hacks that didn't do their jobs.

      Sunday, August 20, 2017

      Stand Up to Hate and Hate Runs Away

      [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1500.0"] A 'Free Speech Rally' attendee is ushered through the crowd of protesters by police. Mark Peterson / Redux for NBC News A 'Free Speech Rally' attendee is ushered through the crowd of protesters by police. Mark Peterson / Redux for NBC News [/caption]

      There are a lot of people like myself who were screaming about this stuff a year and a half ago. America has finally woken up to the Nazis in their midst. It is certainly not too late to fight back against neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and moderate Republicans, but where the fuck were these crowds when Hillary needed you?

      National attention focused on Boston Saturday as protesters planned to fill the streets to pronounce their opposition to bigotry and racism a week after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. 

      Many were concerned that the protests in Boston would turn into riots, causing property damage and producing casualties — a repeat of events in Charlottesville that led to one death and numerous injuries. The fear was that the violence would come to Boston, a major city where tens of thousands of angry anti-racist demonstrators were expected in the streets. 

      But after the marches concluded — more than 40,000 attended — those concerns seemed outsized. Boston’s city government and police force had allowed for a poorly attended so-called “Free Speech Rally," which had ties to the white nationalist Virginia rally, as well as the counter-protests that far outnumbered the original event.

      Now that white nationalists have been photographed and shamed, and now that they have started losing their jobs, the mainstreaming of hate has begun to unravel. They were proud as hell a few weeks ago, and now they're scurrying back under their rocks. Everywhere these right-wing pussies show up, meet them with crowds intent on peaceful protest. If they start swinging, swing back.

      What the media doesn't understand is that your garden-variety Neo-Nazi is willing to lash out and hit people in order to draw attention. Oblige them! Take their bait. And get it all on film so that the people who respond to this trash have a case they can make in front of a judge about self-defense. Definitely don't kill them, but don't let them game the system so that they can become martyrs. We don't need that bullshit.

      Saturday, August 19, 2017

      The US Government is a Disgrace Right Now

      I have no idea what's going on in this photo or what is being signed, but it is clear that the current leadership of the United States government is an embarrassment and a fraud. This is the single worst leadership team ever assembled, headed by the least qualified and most unfit man to ever hold the office of the presidency. All of the figures photographed here should never be allowed to hold office in another administration and they should all be hounded out of public life forever. And that includes the officers in the military, who should have resigned months ago.

      What a disgrace.

      Thursday, August 17, 2017

      I Knew They Were Going to Go After Lincoln

      This is a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago, Illinois. Someone burned it because that's what we do now in this country--we take the president's ridiculous public statements and watch people over-react to them and commit horrible crimes against decency:

      Abraham Lincoln has joined George Washington on the list of those targeted by Chicagoans in a national debate over Civil War-era monuments.

      Alderman Raymond Lopez took to Facebook Wednesday night to decry a defaced statue of the nation’s 16th president in the Englewood neighborhood. The giant bust appears to have been damaged after someone in the 15th Ward sprayed and ignited a flammable liquid.

      “What an absolute disgraceful act of vandalism. This bust of Abraham Lincoln, erected by Phil Bloomquist on August 31, 1926, was damaged & burned,” Mr. Lopez wrote, a local NBC affiliate reported. “If anyone has any information regarding this act, please contact the police or my office immediately.”

      “F- Abe Lincoln,” responded Quintin Mitchell, whose comment was “liked” or deemed “funny” by 160 others.

      Let me just point out that Chicago sent people and material to fight the Civil War, but no major battles were fought there. That must explain why the Lincoln statue is sitting in what looks to be an abandoned lot behind a Pep Boys. In any case, I can't wait to hear Trump's statement on this act of domestic terrorism. He already knows a lot about Lincoln, you know:

      Well, I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man who did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time. And Nixon failed, I think to a certain extent, because of his personality. You know? It was just that personality. Very severe, very exclusive. In other words, people couldn’t come in. And people didn’t like him. I mean, people didn’t like him.

      We are so fucked as a country right now. We are so fucked.

      Wednesday, August 16, 2017

      Steve Bannon Keeps Telling Us Who He Is

      How did this wonderful gem of an article disappear from the Internet? The American Prospect took it down, but the Internet is forever. Here's Steve Bannon telling the world who he is for about the hundredth time. No link because fuck that shit:

      You might think from recent press accounts that Steve Bannon is on the ropes and therefore behaving prudently. In the aftermath of events in Charlottesville, he is widely blamed for his boss’s continuing indulgence of white supremacists. Allies of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster hold Bannon responsible for a campaign by Breitbart News, which Bannon once led, to vilify the security chief. Trump’s defense of Bannon, at his Tuesday press conference, was tepid.

      But Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury. “They’re wetting themselves,” he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.

      Needless to say, I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me.

      Needless to say, I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me. I’d just published a column on how China was profiting from the U.S.-North Korea nuclear brinkmanship, and it included some choice words about Bannon’s boss.

      “In Kim, Trump has met his match,” I wrote. “The risk of two arrogant fools blundering into a nuclear exchange is more serious than at any time since October 1962.” Maybe Bannon wanted to scream at me?

      I told the assistant that I was on vacation, but I would be happy to speak by phone. Bannon promptly called.

      Far from dressing me down for comparing Trump to Kim, he began, “It’s a great honor to finally track you down. I’ve followed your writing for years and I think you and I are in same boat when it comes to China.  You absolutely nailed it.”

      “We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

      Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula, but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.

      Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim.

      “To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.”

      Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”

      But what about his internal adversaries, at the departments of State and Defense, who think the United States can enlist Beijing’s aid on the North Korean standoff, and at Treasury and the National Economic Council who don’t want to mess with the trading system?

      “Oh, they’re wetting themselves,” he said, explaining that the Section 301 complaint, which was put on hold when the war of threats with North Korea broke out, was shelved only temporarily, and will be revived in three weeks. As for other cabinet departments, Bannon has big plans to marginalize their influence.

      “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”

      But can Bannon really win that fight internally?

      “That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”

      “We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

      Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.

      There are a couple of things that are startling about this premise. First, to the extent that most of the opponents of Bannon’s China trade strategy are other Trump administration officials, it’s not clear how reaching out to the left helps him. If anything, it gives his adversaries ammunition to characterize Bannon as unreliable or disloyal.

      More puzzling is the fact that Bannon would phone a writer and editor of a progressive publication (the cover lines on whose first two issues after Trump’s election were “Resisting Trump” and “Containing Trump”) and assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.

      The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up. This is also puzzling, since Steve Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America.

      I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

      He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

      “These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

      From his lips to Trump’s ear.

      “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

      I had never before spoken with Bannon. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness. The waters around him are rising, but he is going about his business of infighting, and attempting to cultivate improbable outside allies, to promote his China strategy. His enemies will do what they do.

      Either the reports of the threats to Bannon’s job are grossly exaggerated and leaked by his rivals, or he has decided not to change his routine and to go down fighting. Given Trump’s impulsivity, neither Bannon nor Trump really has any idea from day to day whether Bannon is staying or going. He has survived earlier threats. So what the hell, damn the torpedoes.

      The conversation ended with Bannon inviting me to the White House after Labor Day to continue the discussion of China and trade. We’ll see if he’s still there. 

      Well, it's almost Labor Day. How much do you want to bet Bannon is still there?

      Tuesday, August 15, 2017

      White Power

      When Trump makes this sign with his hand, he is signaling to his devoted followers that he believes in "white power."

      Today, he made that sign and spoke as if it was somehow un-American to protest against Nazis in an American city:

      President Donald Trump, in a staggering, impromptu news conference in New York on Tuesday, blamed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend on both sides of the conflict -- equating the white supremacists on one side with the "alt-left" on the other side -- after his top White House aides spent days trying to clean up after Trump's initial vague response to the violence. 

      The news conference laid bare his unvarnished view of who was to blame for the violence and what he thinks about the nationwide effort to remove statues of Confederate leaders. Trump's comments were the latest in what has been a jaw-dropping saga ever since the President made his first vague statement on the violence, blaming the conflicts on "many sides." The comments also made clear that Trump's speech on Monday -- which vociferously blamed the violence on the "alt-right" and neo-Nazi groups who initiated the protest -- was largely a sterilized version of his view.

      "I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said during a contentious back-and-forth with reporters in the lobby of his Midtown Manhattan building.

      "What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?" Trump asked. "What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do."

      He added: "You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."

      This was the worst day (so far!) in American presidential politics. It was a day where decency, honor, and courage took the day off. It was horrible.

      The white power movement has a friend in Donald Trump. The American people don't have a president. And this country has not seen the end of this nightmare.

      He Would be Unable to Deliver Rousing, Healing Oratory

      Do you know what President Barack Obama was always able to do? He was always able to deliver rousing, healing oratory in times of national crisis.

      This fucking guy? Nope.

      President Donald Trump does not have plans to visit CharlottesvilleVirginiain the wake of the the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi gathering that took place in the city over the weekend. 

      “No stop planned at this time,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emailed The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon.

      The president is still technically on vacation, though he decamped back to Washington D.C. on Monday.  

      Though presidents are often hypersensitive towards appearing to be on top of national crises, it is not entirely surprising that the president is currently passing on a trip to Charlottesville. On Monday, Trump finally, and specifically, called out white supremacists and white nationalists in prepared remarks from the White House, after days of brutal, bipartisan criticism for his initial, response that chided “many sides.” Two senior Trump aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, had earlier told The Daily Beast that there was no serious sign that West Wing staffers were even exploring a Charlottesville visit at this point.

      “Why the hell would we do that?” one White House official bluntly said, stating that whatever the president did in Charlottesville at this stage would be “used against” him by critics and media voices. The official also conceded that it was unlikely that this president would be able to deliver rousing, healing oratory that is demanded in such a dire situation. Trump, the fear went, could potentially worsen matters by being there.

      Trump's aides now openly admit that the president cannot give speeches that help people feel better. Someone better fire the "official" that made these remarks because, wow.


      "Why the hell would we do that?" 


      Monday, August 14, 2017

      The Republican Party Owns Trump Forever

      The central organizing principle of the Democratic Party should be associating Trump with the GOP until both are driven from power:

      "The personal disgust for Trump within the Senate is really remarkable," a top GOP strategist told me last week.

      Now the president's refusal to condemn the "Unite the Right" gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, which included the former Klan leader Duke, has begun pulling private disdain into the open.

      The more obscure the president's actions, the likelier Republican leaders have been to remain quiet for fear of antagonizing his core supporters. But on Saturday, a Dodge Charger plowed into a group of people who were counter-protesting at that gathering of hundreds of white nationalists. One person died and more than a dozen were injured. The president's response blamed "many sides."

      The graphic, deadly events this weekend, and the president's response to them, threaten his party with the broader electorate that grows more diverse and more tolerant with every passing year.

      In addressing the attack, Trump cast white supremacists and neo-Nazis carrying torches onto the University of Virginia campus as morally equivalent to counter-protesters advocating racial equality. His stance — a purposeful choice by a president who relishes singling out so many others for criticism — places him at odds with the values of the nation he was elected to serve.

      That raises risks for elected officials who stand with Trump at a moment of legal, as well as political, jeopardy. It further complicates prospects for the Republican agenda on tax cuts, health care and other issues. It increases the possibility that Trump's presidency itself will be cut short.

      The agenda of the GOP controlled Congress is a non-starter for every decent American. This Congress and the president are one and the same. They had a chance to disavow Trump and they punted. The rich don't need more money. Everyone deserves healthcare. And paying people a living wage ought to be the rallying cry. Never, ever let the voters forget that saying 'fuck it' and voting for Trump means chaos, hatred, and fear.

      Sunday, August 13, 2017

      Tear Down This Statue

      The United States of America exists because this man was defeated in battle. General Robert E. Lee was a lot of things, but the defining moment of his life was when he decided that his loyalty belonged to the State of Virginia and not the United States. He led men in battle to destroy the country we live in today so that a relatively small group of wealthy white men could continue to own slaves. Many of the men who died in battle on his behalf did so without ever owning another human being. Lee lived out his final years trying to convince young men to abandon the "lost cause" and educate themselves in fields like engineering and mathematics so that they could rebuild what the war had destroyed. 

      Building monuments to him serves a single purpose--to remind African-Americans that this man is revered because he almost defeated the Army of the Potomac and crushed the government of the United States. He is a symbol of white supremacy and his statues and monuments should be treated as such and taken down. But, more importantly, the police in Charlottesville, Virginia decided that they were going to stand by and do as little as possible while mayhem broke out in their city:

      There was nothing haphazard about the violence that erupted today in this bucolic town in Virginia’s heartland. At about 10 a.m. today, at one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.

      A.C. Thompson is covering the rise in hate crimes in America as part of our Documenting Hateproject. If you've witnessed or been the victim of a hate crime or bias incident — in Charlottesville or elsewhere — tell us your story.

      Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing.

      It was a scene that played out over and over in Charlottesville as law enforcement confronted the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades. We walked the streets beginning in the early morning hours and repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.

      Officials in Charlottesville had publicly promised to maintain control of the “Unite the Right” rally, which is the latest in a series of chaotic and bloody racist rallies that have roiled this college town, a place deeply proud of its links to Thomas Jefferson and the origins of American Democracy.

      But the white supremacists who flooded into the city’s Emancipation Park — a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits in the center of the park — had spent months openly planning for war. The Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi website, encouraged rally attendees to bring shields, pepper spray, and fascist flags and flagpoles. A prominent racist podcast told its listeners to come carrying guns. “Bring whatever you need, that you feel you need for your self defense. Do what you need to do for security of your own person,” said Mike “Enoch” Peinovich on The Right Stuff podcast.

      I can assure you--control was not maintained. The police were not in control of anything on Saturday, August 12. So, if the symbol of defiance against public decency is allowed to remain standing, the racists and the bigots and the Nazis will come back and hold more demonstrations. They will march with their long rifles and terrorize decent, law-abiding Americans. This cannot be allowed. We cannot allow this in our country.

      There are precious few monuments to Northern generals. But the celebration of treason is unique to the American experience. We love us some Confederate ghosts. How long are we going to keep up this charade?

      As of August 2016, there were still more than 1,500 public commemorations of the Confederacy, even excluding the battlefields and cemeteries: 718 monuments and statutes still stood, and 109 public schools, 80 counties and cities, and 10 U.S. military bases bore the names of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and other Confederate icons, according to a tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center. More than 200 of these were in Virginia alone.

      And one sits in the center of Charlottesville. It was commissioned exactly 100 years ago, a gift to the city from a local philanthropist, to honor his parents with a physical incarnation of Southern ideals. But the statue was hardly the only contemporary effort to enshrine and defend these ideals. As it was being commissioned, sculpted, and erected, the second Ku Klux Klan was surging through the country. In Charlottesville, the local Klan gave $1,000 to the University of Virginia’s Centennial Endowment Fund in 1921, funds it gratefully received; there was a second Klan chapter for the students on campus.

      The statue stands 26-feet tall, despite its oddly small pedestal. “Let it stay that way,” urged a speaker at its dedication. “The planet as a pedestal would be too small for Robert Edward Lee.” It was unveiled in 1924, as the conventions of the Confederate Veterans and Sons of Confederate Veterans met, with “the greatest procession that ever threaded its way through the streets of Charlottesville.” The Boy Scouts policed the route; the National Guard and governor marched; the president, board, faculty, and students of the university joined in. The man who introduced the ceremonies praised the “deathless devotion” of the veterans, who had fought “at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg,” and now worked “to keep the record of Confederate heroism free from the stain of calumny!”

      It was less a dedication than a canonization. The master of ceremonies called Lee “the greatest man who ever lived.” The president of Washington and Lee proclaimed him “a Christian saint.” Lee, he explained, embodied “the moral greatness of the Old South,” with its “unusual combination of manly courage and womanly tenderness, its habitual tenderness toward the weak and helpless.” (When three slaves escaped, Lee had them tied to posts and whipped—50 lashes for the men, 20 for the woman—and then had their backs washed with stinging brine.)

      His defenders today insist that Lee’s heroism lay not least in his laying down his sword when the war was done, deciding to “promote harmony once he recognized defeat.” The speakers at the dedication likewise stressed Lee’s role as a peacemaker; one went so far as to imagine the statute depicted “not the lurid splendor of the battlefield,” but instead, Lee riding to Lexington to begin his tenure as a university president.

      Yet this is not what the statue depicts. Not this one, nor the others. Where are the statues of Lee seated at Appomattox, signing the terms of that surrender? Where are the marbles and bronzes of Lee the college president, wearing civilian clothes, ensconced behind a desk piled high with paperwork? Why is this peacemaker always immortalized girded for war?

      His defenders of today showed their true colors. How can we tolerate this in a democratic society? How can we stand by and do nothing? How can we allow the forces of the alt-right, white nationalism, and the racism encouraged by the Trump Regime to continue to inspire more heavily-armed young men to travel across state lines and kill, maim, injure and terrorize American citizens?

      The Police Were There to Save Jason Kessler

      I know this is shrill and unfair, but maybe next time the cops should protect the people FROM the white supremacists and not <a href="// {C} <ins class="adsbygoogle"style="display:block"data-ad-client="ca-pub-7549205993744809"data-ad-slot="3633004174"data-ad-format="auto"></ins> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </p> // {C} <ins class="adsbygoogle"style="display:block"data-ad-client="ca-pub-7549205993744809"data-ad-slot="3633004174"data-ad-format="auto"></ins> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </p> // {C} <ins class="adsbygoogle"style="display:block"data-ad-client="ca-pub-7549205993744809"data-ad-slot="3633004174"data-ad-format="auto"></ins> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); ">form a protective phalanx around the white supremacist leader and escort him to safety.

      In the marketplace of ideas, Jason Kessler is clearly not able to get the people to buy his unique version of racism and bigotry. In the face of this rejection, why are the police so quick to defend him? Can't they let capitalism work its special magic? No? Well, alrighty then.

      I mean, there sure were a lot of cops ready to protect him and his rights. They seemed to know what was going to happen. They seemed to be ready to ensure that he was given a chance to get out of town without being punched in the face for being a fucking Nazi. I guess this saved them some paperwork.

      It's a conundrum faced by all liberals--clearly, Jason Kessler has a face in search of a punch. But liberalism says no, we can't stoop to this level and celebrate violence. That allows people like Kessler to laugh, call us cucks, and go about his business of saying and doing things that, in another time, would have brought forth a fist to the soft curve of his weak chin. I am not an advocate of violence, but, goodness me, something about all of this requires a careful examination of liberal values and those who are worthy of some punches. I can tolerate a lot of things, but murdering alt-right terrorists is not something that is going to make me question my devotion to liberal values. These people need to be driven back under the slimy rocks that Donald Trump turned over in order to find his base.

      Maybe it's a good thing Kessler was not punched in the face or maced and left crying on the ground. I don't claim to have any special insight into any of this. If you or someone you love is willing to punch a Nazi and be arrested for it, I understand. If you or someone you love is willing to accept being charged with a crime and being sued, then that's a form of civil disobedience. And so, all I'm saying is that the same consideration shown today for Kessler has rarely, if ever, been shown for any of the Black Lives Matter activists or the counter-protesters who would really like all those Nazis to leave their town. This is not right. This is not fair. This is not American, by any stretch of the imagination.

      Is this a values thing? A rule of law thing? I have no idea. But let's hope the cops do a better job protecting the people who aren't Nazis the next time this happens. Let's hope for a world with no violence, no punches, and no civil disobedience being necessary.

      Look at the Campaign He Ran

      You can lay the violent radicalization of the alt-right at the feet of Donald Trump:

      Charlottesville Democratic mayor Michael Signer said Sunday that President Donald Trump had emboldened organized racists who caused the racially charged violence in his city over the weekend. 

      "Look at the campaign he ran," Signer said on CNN's "State of the Union."

      Signer called on everyone to join together to recognize and combat racism, adding that the effort should include Trump. 

        White supremacist demonstrators clashed with counterprotesters in the Virginia city on Saturday, with the violence culminating with a man ramming a car through a group of counterprotesters. Authorities said the attack injured 19 and killed one.

        There is going to be a tremendous effort undertaken by the alt-right to distance themselves from James Alex Fields Jr. and their movement. He is a terrorist. He is a registered Republican. He's a Trump supporter. He used his car to murder people in the advancement of his radical ideology and abhorrent beliefs. He committed multiple felonies against peaceful protesters in an American city. 

        I'm curious why no one has used a drone to raze the neighborhood in which he lived. Normally, that's what we see when dealing with terrorists.

        And Joy Reid said it best:

        JOY REID: Donald Trump failed sort of the fundamental test of leadership, and this was an easy test for any president of the United States to clear. This is the country that heroically swooped in during World War II. The idea that a president of the United States cannot unambiguously denounce Nazism is extraordinary, and Donald Trump has placed himself in a history. There is no way that I think the American people could have contemplated that their president could not unequivocally condemn David Duke and Nazis. And he couldn't, and he didn't.

        Saturday, August 12, 2017

        Scenes From Trump's America

        [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620.0"]   Photo: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress   Photo: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress [/caption]

        It's Saturday in Trump's America:

        President Donald Trump condemned hate "on many sides" in response to violent white nationalist protests and a terror attack Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

        "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. "It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America." 

        [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="750.0"]   Photo: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress   Photo: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress [/caption]

        The President did not mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a "study" of the "situation."

          At least one person was killed and 19 injured when a speeding car slammed into another car that was navigating through a throng of counterprotesters, according to a statement released on the City of Charlottesville's verified Twitter account.

          "On many sides" is a statement of pure, unadulterated bullshit. It is a a wholly unacceptable and useless remark. Blaming the people who have been victims of terrorism is just another way of passing the buck. Thousands of racist bigots are using Charlottesville, Virginia to start a race war. They're the ones showing up with torches, assault rifles, ballistic helmets, and store-bought camouflage uniforms. Every one of them wants to lash out and take the life of someone "if they can get away with it." These are fucking neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are doing this.

          In Trump's remarks, he said we should have "affection" for one another?


          As an American, I'm supposed to have affection for Nazis? Klan members? White supremacists?


          Fuck that shit.

          Behind the scenes, the White House is frantically trying to signal their white supremacist allies that  it's "business as usual" and that the people who were just run over were to blame, too:

          Asked what Trump meant by saying "on many sides," a White House official also pointed a finger at the counterprotesters.

          "The President was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counterprotesters today," the official said.

          I'm sorry, but there are fucking Nazis in the fucking White House. Whose side are they on?Not the side of the people injured or dying.

          The use of a vehicle to terrorize people has come to the forefront in recent years because of how protesters have been able to shut down traffic in certain areas. We saw this in the protests in St. Paul, Minnesota and elsewhere. Here's a great rundown of that history and why it resonates so strongly right now.

          The President of the United States cannot condemn Nazis or Vladimir Putin, but he can condemn any American who might not have voted for him.


          I want to give special credit to the Pulitzer-prize worthy photography of Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress. His work today has been amazing.

          [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="800.0"] Photo by Zach D. Roberts  (@zdroberts)     Photo by Zach D. Roberts (@zdroberts)   [/caption]

          Friday, August 11, 2017

          The Onion is Hard to Read in the Age of Trump

          On the weekends, the news gets repetitive and stale. I get that reporters and pundits have to recharge their batteries, especially in the summertime, but by Sunday morning, there's nothing to read. I started thinking about sites I used to look at all of the time, like:

          • Salon - went crazy because of BernieBros, used to feature a lot of H.A. Goodman.
          • Slate - too contrarian for its own good.
          • The Hill - someone drank the Kool-Aid and now it really, really sucks
          • Newsweek - what the hell happened to it?
          • The Onion - Yeah, it's hard to find absurdity in the news when the president is threatening to start World War III over nothing.

          That last one, The Onion, used to be a must-read in the days of Bush and Obama. People were always sharing Onion articles because that kind of absurdity was welcome in a time when the news was usually pretty dry and serious. We went from living in the age of Donny & Marie to being in the middle of an Alice Cooper Group concert and everything's on fire and the band is comprised of animatronic demons.

          I know. What. the. fuck. happened.

          The Onion is still good, and it still matters. But what is killing it is the age of Trump. Absurdity is something I am craving right now, but reality intrudes and it's just too depressing.

          And don't get me started on the absence of The Daily Show and Jon Stewart from our everyday discussion about current events.

          Thursday, August 10, 2017

          Trump Demeans Hundreds of Dedicated American Diplomats

          This is what you get when you run the government like a business. You can brag about cutting payroll!

          President Trump on Thursday said he’s thankful to Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats because now the U.S. government can save money on that payroll. “I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” the president said during a press availability at his New Jersey golf resort. “There’s no reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save money.”

          Diplomatic personnel stationed in Russia are among the best of the best. These are the elite of the State Department's overseas contingent of professional employees. These are dedicated public servants living in a very, very difficult country in which to operate as a diplomatic employee. They are followed, subjected to surveillance, and the Russians would like nothing more than to embarrass the U.S. and embarrass one of these people (who, very likely, have family members living with them in Moscow who have to maintain the same level of professionalism and who have to sacrifice years of their lives to live in a failed kleptocracy).

          For Trump to say this is...there are no words anymore. This is horrible. Demeaning the importance and the value of over 700 Americans is beyond the comprehension of decent people.

          Our New National Symbol of Resistance

          Can you imagine what it would be like if this symbol appeared everywhere?

          Symbols matter, and I know this is silly, but of all the things that could drive Trump crazy, why not this inflatable chicken designed to mock his appearance? The silliness of it works perfectly, and there are no dangling balls to offend blue haired prudes (like the naked statues that appeared last year, mocking Trump's bulging belly and undersized genitalia.

          It's a silly cartoon chicken. Every time Trump gets off a plane or gives a speech, someone should have one of these ready for him to see.

          Beware False Prophets and Republican Strategists

          Republican strategist Rick Wilson puts his country ahead of his party. I will grant that concession because this is not a post about bashing him for being temporarily sane. 

          There's a danger in thinking that there are a lot of people like Wilson scattered throughout the Republican Party who are, all of a sudden, going to put country ahead of their political ideology. This assumes too many facts not in evidence. Republicans vote for Republicans and that's why we have Trump. This past year, they didn't stay home like they did in 2012. They turned out in strong enough numbers to keep Hillary out of the White House. 

          My thinking runs like this:

          1. The so-called "sane Republicans" are the ones without power or influence so why bother listening to them?

          2. No matter who the Democrats pick to run in 2020, they will be History's Greatest Monster and people like Rick Wilson will go back to being Republicans and attack them in any manner they see fit.

          3. Why on Earth is anyone listening to a Republican nowadays? They gave us Trump. Fuck them.

          Anyway, Wilson seems to be trying to normalize having generals in charge of things:

          There was a palpable sigh of relief when General John Kelly was selected as White House chief of staff and when National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster finally began purging the nationalist Pepe-fanboy Bannonites from the NSC. Combined with the presence of SECDEF Jim Mattis, Nikki Haley’s star turn at the UN, and a more assertive Rex Tillerson, there was almost a sense that the Axis of Adults would help mitigate the crazy.  When news broke that North Korea was close to mounting a miniaturized warhead on an ICBM capable of reaching U.S. territory, there was a hope that the experienced military team around Trump would turn this crisis into a foreign policy win.

          Then came “fire and fury.”

          It is dangerous to think that three generals are the perfect antidote to institutionalized chaos. We are close to abandoning the idea of civilian control of the military because of the fact that Trump isn't interested in learning how to do his job. And I am very leery of any Republican strategist trying to set it up so that, years from now, we are forced to run against one of these three generals as the GOP's presidential candidate. The mere act of serving in an appointed position in the Trump cabinet should disqualify each and every one of the people who are there now from serving in any capacity anywhere in the public sector for the next fifty years or more.

          I think the general consensus is that Trump didn't all of a sudden do something that made him unfit for the presidency when he used that phrase. He was unfit from day one, and far too few Republicans put country ahead of party. In overwhelming numbers, they voted against their economic self-interest. They voted for a con man. They voted for a man who has broken so many laws, he came into power with more attorneys in his employ than any president we've ever had. They voted for him knowing full well that he was never, ever going to act presidential. A certain Democrat named Hillary told you this again and again but all y'all could come up with was "but her E-mails!" and "Benghazi!"

          The other dumb mistake pundits are making is thinking Chief of Staff John Kelly is his own man. He's not. He's only the latest sycophant to sell out his country and work for Trump. Plenty of other generals said no to this shit-sandwich and voted with their feet. Mattis, Kelly and McMaster have sold out their country in order to pretend they can run things. They amount to little more than a tin-pot junta without the slightest idea of what to do when the economy craters or when a reporter asks them a straight question. This country was never intended to be run by generals. It was meant to be run by the occasional general who knew when it was time to hang up the stars and deal with a world full of compromises and negotiations. 

          I truly believe we have abandoned democracy and the rule of law. This junta is what we have in its place. If the law says Trump is guilty of collusion with Russia, will the Republicans rediscover the notion of having an actual loyal American in charge? Or will they shrug like they do every day right now and go about the business of ignoring the fact that the President of the United States is under an active counterintelligence investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation? I can tell you with absolute certainty that if any Democrat sitting in the White House had just had the home of his presidential campaign manager raided at zero dark thirty by the FBI, they would pull down the fences and run him or her out of town on a rail, rule of law be damned.

          And what the fuck is all of this anyway? Generals are good at telling people what to do. They do not handle things very well when creative civilians come up with ways to not do what they've been told. The Mattis/Kelly/McMaster junta has been outclassed by a disheveled hobo who used to deal in conspiracy theories. McMaster's so-called purge means what? Nothing. Bannon is still Bannon. Who's running things? Trump is running things based on chaos and what they tell him on Fox & Friends. This is not a recipe for success. This is what it's like when people start thinking there's a reasonable Republican hiding in the fifth slot in front of Anderson Cooper.

          I put no faith in anti-Trump Republicans. They're just working the edges, looking for suckers who will buy what they're selling. Once this fever passes, they're going to go back to doing what they know how to do, and that's undermine everything decent about this country. I'm sorry, but I was awake and paying attention to the Reagan years. I'm never trusting these bastards, ever.

          I like Rick, and I think he's entertaining as hell. I like Steve Schmidt, and I have a certain fondness for the whimsical Republicanism of old Arne Carlson, the former governor of Minnesota. But, no. I don't sit around waiting for any of them to come with something that's going to make me forget that the only thing standing between us and oblivion are a handful of weatherbeaten Democrats who take way too much shit from people who ought to grow up.