It Was a Very Weird Year…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the year 2013 over the past couple of months.  It made me want to do some research.  But since I’m a lazy bastard, I spent about an hour on the “regular web” and came up with the following.

2013 Involvement with Russia

Donald Trump:

  • Miss Universe pageant hosted in Moscow – Trump paid roughly $14MM (pee tape?)
  • Met Herman Gref, CEO of Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s largest bank
  • FBI wiretapping of suspected Russian money laundering in Trump Tower (Unit 63A, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov)
  • “I do have a relationship” with Putin – Tweet: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”
  • On 2013 sarin attack in Syria, repeatedly tweeted that Obama should not attack Syria
  • Unit 61L at Trump Tower sells for $14,300,000 (asking price $1.290MM) – other units in the tower were going below asking price
  • Meets Aras Agalarov, Russian real estate developer and recipient of the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation” (received from Putin)
  • Deutsche Bank, primary lender for Trump when US banks bail on him, investigate Trump’s relationship with Russia, as well as accounts held by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner (Deutsche Bank was recently fined a total of $10 billion for its role in a Russian money-laundering scheme)

Carter Page:

  • Met with Russian intel operative (Victor Podobnyy) and delivered information to him while Podobnyy was trying to recruit him as a foreign agent
  • Declared an “idiot” by Podobnyy

Boris Epshteyn:

  • Moderated “Invest in Moscow!” panel with Russian officials, aimed at Americans interested in investing in Russia

Roger Stone:

  • Quoted as saying that Trump told him on New Year’s Eve that he was running for president

Jared Kushner:

  • Met with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of state-run VEB (Putin’s “slush fund”) and graduate of Russia’s “spy school”, prior to Trump’s inauguration during the transition. Prior to 2013, VEB had a spy ring in its New York City offices, and one of its operatives, Evgeny Buryakov, was deported for his role in the spy ring. Another of those agents was Victor Podobnyy (see Carter Page)

I didn’t mention Paul Manafort because he’s been active in Russian circles for a long time.  This is just a quick search for Trump team involvement with Russia in 2013. I chose that year for two simple reasons: I’ve been hearing it mentioned a lot in the past couple of months, and it makes logical sense that it’s the time Trump would’ve started going public about running for president after Obama’s evisceration of him at the 2011 Correspondent’s Dinner.

Can we agree that 2013 was an active year for the Trump team with regard to Russia?  I now firmly believe that this is part of the reason we haven’t heard more from the FBI on the investigation into the Trump campaign – it feels like things started to coalesce in 2013, and from that point forward there are a lot of moving parts than need to be put together.  Stay tuned.

Let’s Hope There’s a “There” There…

So… Trump made the decision, while meeting with the leader of China at Mar a Lago (yet another $3 million a weekend on your taxpayer tab), because apparently he needed to prove that his hands are a completely normal size and there’s no problem “down there” at all, so he fired off a bunch of fireworks in the general direction of an airbase in Syria.  It’s curious that the 59 Tomahawk missiles that were launched from destroyers in the area – missiles that at least one Army general-turned-pundit stated could be programmed to “hit the target’s living room window from a thousand miles” – didn’t damage that airbase’s runways, or target the chemical weapons stockpile that clearly exists in the area.  Sure, we blew up some Syrian planes.  No military personnel were killed or wounded, because apparently the Syrian and Russian troops in the area were given two hours warning.  And according to reports, the Syrian army was back running flights out of that airbase the next morning.

New presidents are always presented with a challenge early in their first term.  It’s just become a global given that some renegade douche halfway around the world is going to see what our new leader is made of.  And some people are applauding Trump’s $30 million adventure, others (John fucking McCain, at the top of that list) are looking at the strike as an open door to a declaration of war against Syria.

Who knows where this goes from here.  We could be looking at another war.  We could also be looking at a staged event, as some are speculating, coordinated between Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad to give Trump some military bona fides.  I don’t think it matters in the grand scheme of things.

What matters more than this kabuki theater that we’ve witnessed over the past few days is what’s going on at home.  After the Republicans “went nuclear” by eliminating the rule that requires 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by simple majority vote (some wise person once said “elections have consequences”).

Justices sometimes surprise their nominating president by operating under a different ideology, but from all accounts Gorsuch will be a one-for-one swap for Antonin Scalia, the dead asshole he’s replacing.  You might be asking yourself: “Didn’t Scalia die a long time ago???”  And the answer is: yep.  Last February, to be exact.  He just had the unmitigated gall to die while the Black Muslim Kenyan Socialist Fascist was still president.  Obama did what he had every right to do under the Constitution: he nominated a replacement.  And by all accounts, Merrick Garland was everything you want in a Supreme Court justice, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on.  He’s a moderate, a centrist – hell, he could’ve even surprised Obama as much as Gorsuch could surprise Trump.  But we’ll never know, because the guy never even got a committee hearing in the Senate.

Scalia’s seat on the court sat vacant for almost fourteen months.  And by leading the charge to block Garland’s confirmation hearings, Mitch McConnell, after failing on his promise to make Obama a one-term president, fully succeeded in preventing Obama from winning a third term.

So at best, we’re back to where we were before Scalia shuffled off this mortal coil.  But there are several problems with this.  First, the president who nominated this guy is surrounded by people who are under federal investigation for possible collusion with Russia.  Just this afternoon, we have confirmation that one of his campaign advisers, Carter Page, was the focus of a FISA warrant.  These warrants are very difficult to obtain, and require a reasonable suspicion that the subject may have committed a crime such as espionage.

Page isn’t the “big fish” the Senate, House and FBI investigations are looking for, but the fact that he was surveilled under FISA is an indication that these investigations might be closing in on the big one.  And that’s the reason the Gorsuch appointment is so significant.  A lifelong appointment was just given to a man who was nominated to the position by a person who may not finish his first term, and may well end up in prison.

Elections do indeed have consequences.  And it is up to us to make sure that the last presidential election has consequences:  every House election, every Senate election – hell, EVERY election from here on out needs all liberals to participate.  The Tea Party started this shit in 2009-2010, which led to the bloodbaths in ’10 and ’12.  It’s time to flip the script, because Gorsuch might not be the only vacancy on the Supreme Court that this incompetent gets to fill:  Anthony Kennedy, a moderate and often the “swing vote” on the court, will be 81 in July.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg – The Notorious RBG  – is staunchly liberal and is 84, with recent health issues.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump could fill three vacancies before the end of his first term.  Let’s wish all of our Supreme Court justices good health, and that when it comes to these investigations, there’s a there there.

 

So… What’d I Miss?

It’s been a while.  I admit that I’ve been too flabbergasted to put pixel to page lately.  But the events of the past couple of weeks have been pinging around in this little pea brain of mine, and since male pattern baldness has a low R value (damn you, DHT!!!), words were bound to come out at some point.

So today is the first day of the death of a presidency.  While the end date on the headstone is still unknown, it’s as if this administration was rolled into hospice this afternoon.

Former (for less than a month) national security adviser and all-around disgrace to the military Michael Flynn sent a letter today to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, along with the FBI, proposing that he testify in exchange for immunity.  When you are given immunity, that means that you’ve probably committed a crime.  But don’t take my word for it:

I’d like to brag about predicting this – I had Flynn as the first to flip the day he resigned after a long (24 days) and storied (I’m sure there are PLENTY of stories…) tenure as the FUCKING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER because of his ties to fucking RUSSIA.  I’d like to, but I can’t, because it was too fucking easy of a call.  I’m sure someone in the Orange Shitgibbon’s transition team asked him if they should vet Flynn.  I have absolutely no doubt that this is an actual transcript of that exchange:

Lackey:  Mr. President-Elect, should we go ahead and vet Michael Flynn?
Orange Shitgibbon:  Vet?  why does Mike need to see a vet? Does he have rabies?
Lackey:  Very well then, sir.  More fries?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself binge watching “Today at the White House with Baghdad Bob”, aka the White House daily briefing.  I have to say, Sean Spicer is really starting to nail his Melissa McCarthy impression.  Every once in a while, I start to feel bad for the guy.  Then I remember:  fuck him.

So today is the day the morphine drip started for this stupid fucking illegitimate money- laundering Russia-loving insecure nepotistic piece of shit presidency.  It’s the exact same feeling that you’re going to have when you hear that Charles Manson has been hospitalized for stage four lung cancer… and then you’ll realize that he was never PRESIDENT OF THE FUCKING UNITED STATES.

The end is going to be bumpy as hell.  There could be hearings that go on forever, slowly circling in on Trump like a turd that just doesn’t want to find its way down the toilet until the very end.  Or, as some people are predicting, Trump steps in front of a microphone some day soon and announces  that he’s resigning because being away from lil Barron has really taken a toll on the kid.

Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele (“the black guy” who Republicans chose because, you know, we elected a Kenyan Muslim dude) is telling clients to start developing relationships with Pence, because Trump isn’t going to finish his term.

And then there’s this, late today, on a fantastic Twitter feed by the patriotic hacker The Jester:
Jester-Trump-Resign-Twitter

So… yeah.  And then we get Pence.  Just when I was starting to have fun with this.  Fuck.

Midnight in America

So… this is it.  The Obama presidency is coming to an end, and uncertainty begins at noon Eastern tomorrow.  Every presidential transition carries with it some level of the unknown – we’ve gotten to know the existing president, the media has exposed all the warts, and our opinions are set.  But positive or negative, our feelings are comfortable, because we’e had time to establish and validate them in our own way.

This transition is different in a variety of ways.  The man assuming the title of “most powerful man in the world” was a national  joke as recently as six months ago.  That same man will settle into the Oval Office with the lowest popularity rating of an incoming president in a generation, rampant conflicts of interest, and more than one investigation into his campaign’s relationship with a major foreign power.  Most of his nominees for cabinet positions not only have no experience which qualifies them for the positions for which they’ve been nominated, many of them have advocated for the removal of or filed suit against the very departments they’ve been selected to lead.

Betsy deVos, Trump’s nominee for head of the Department of Education, did not go to public school.  She did not send her children to public school, and it showed during her confirmation hearing.  She has no personal experience with federal (or even personal) financial aid.  She’s an advocate for stripping funding from public schools and moving it to charter schools.  When questioned in committee, she could not figure out the difference between measuring students on proficiency vs growth, and her response to a question about the 1975 IDEA act, which ensures that children with disabilities have the same access to a free and appropriate education as mainstream students, was this:  “I think that’s best left up to the states”.  IDEA is a Federal law.

Rick Perry, former failed presidential candidate and nominee for the head of the Department of Energy, was totally pumped to be nominated for the gig – he thought he’d be able to run around the world lobbying for the oil and gas industry.  He actually had to be briefed on what the job would entail.  And let’s not forget that he wanted to eliminate that department during his 2012 run for president, despite forgetting the department’s name, along with that whole not even knowing what it does thing.

Tom Price, a current congressman and Trump’s pick for head of the Department of Health and Human Services, is an actual physician.  He’s also under fire for purchasing stock in companies who benefited from legislation he helped pass after those purchases.  That’s a giant no-no.

There are more nominees with more issues.  But the bottom line is this:  the incoming administration is not in it for America – it’s in it for itself.  Most of these nominees will fly through confirmation, because elections have consequences.  The other side is in complete control of our government for the next two years.  What are you going to do about it?

Resist.  Peace.

Crash/Burn

The recent North Dakota Crash is representative of all that is wrong with our current political environment.  According to a recent Chapman University poll, 25 percent of those who were asked agreed—and another 7.5 percent strongly agreed—that the government is concealing what they know about the incident.

Here’s the problem:  The North Dakota Crash isn’t a real thing.  The Chapman poll referenced above is their annual Survey of American Fears, which measures the level of belief in nine different conspiracy theories.  This year, they threw in a non-existent scandal to gauge how people would respond to something that sounded “vaguely ominous”.  Sure enough, 33% of the respondents took the bait.

The survey results were posted on October 11, smack in the the home stretch of the election.  Which means that the survey was most likely conducted this past summer, while the two party conventions were taking place.  The link above is an incredibly compelling read (as are the very limited number of comments on the article), and NYMAG.COM’s analysis of the survey is also interesting.  Both the survey and the article illustrate how easy it is to distribute what has become known as “fake news”: all you have to do is write something that has enough in it to interest a certain group.  In the case of the North Dakota Crash, that would be conspiracy theorists, “Big Government” skeptics,  or people who are simply not fans of the current administration.  During the election, we had plenty of fake news about Hillary Clinton, culminating in the pizzagate doozy.

Fake news like this forces the consumer to do the research, and as we have seen, many people just aren’t motivated to do that.  And today’s revelation that the US intelligence agencies presented evidence to both Trump and President Obama indicating that Russia has intel on Trump that they could use to blackmail him is the next step in the evolution of this phenomenon:  Trump’s Twitter reaction:

trump-fake-news-twwet

So… fake news essentially helped this clown get elected – well, along with the true news that Russia took a real special liking to him (because they had the goods on him), but leaks about his penchant for hookers and golden showers are “fake news” and a witch hunt.

The 18 -month Trump presidency is going to be a nightmare.  The Pence presidency is going to be even worse.

 

Resist.

A successful resistance relies upon well-equipped troops.  If you’re here and reading this, it means you’re at least “resistance-curious”, so I’d like to offer some places you can go to become well-equipped.

First and foremost, communication with your local and state elected officials is the most direct form of democracy we have.  Regardless of where you live, Common Cause has a great, user-friendly site that will point you to contact info for your local and state elected officials.  You can argue whether it’s effective to contact our politicians at these levels, but it’s democracy at its root.  It’s our right and, increasingly, it will be our obligation.

While you’re working to hold our officials accountable, it’s important to stay informed.  There are some great liberal-leaning media avenues that focus on issues we’re concerned about (or should be), and who work to keep us aware of what’s going on not just in the opposition party, but in our own as well.  Below is an admittedly less-than-comprehensive list of cable, internet, and news resources that either lean left or are at least majority neutral in their coverage of news in general and politics specifically:

Cable
MSNBC:
All in With Chris Hayes – 5pm PT M-F.
The Rachel Maddow Show (must see TV) – 6pm PT M-F.

CNN:
Anderson Cooper 360 – 5pm PT M-F.

Blogs:
Talking Points Memo – the go-to place for liberals.  Become a Prime member for fewer trolls, more long form content.
Media Matters for America – unofficial watchdog of conservative media.  Best viewed in small doses.
Daily Kos – There’s a fair bit of handwringing and fainting couch stuff here, but also some quality reporting.

Online News (some are also available in print with subscription):
Mother Jones
The New Yorker Magazine
The New York Times
The Nation
The Atlantic

Advocacy:
Moveon.org
Planned Parenthood
Center for American Progress
A pretty complete list of advocacy groups can be found at Sourcewatch.org

Last, but not least:  the title of this post is Resist.  You’ll be seeing this word used more frequently as we move into actual, production-level Trumpism.  One of the first media figures to use that word was our old friend Keith Olbermann.  Yes, Keith is a blowhard.  Yes, he’s so hard to work with that he’s been fired from ESPN, MSNBC, and Current TV (Al Gore’s TV enterprise – now defunct).  But one thing about Keith is that he’s a passionate progressive.  And he might have found his sweet spot.  GQ has given him a podcast that started out as “The Closer“, and after the election became “The Resistance”.  Despite his checkered past, he’s come up with some of his best work for this web series.  Start from the beginning, pre-election, and binge watch every. damn. episode.

We need to be prepared to resist.  The links above are just suggestions to get you started if you’re a neophyte.  Activism, with your voice, your time, or your wallet, will help.  Holding your elected officials accountable will help.  Everything you can do to resist will help.

As Keith would say: Resist.  Peace.

Edit:  Previous version indicated that Keith was fired from Al Jazeera America.  Keith never worked for AJAM.  Although I have no doubt that he would have been fired if he had.

Forest > Trees

I’ve been reading a lot lately about important issues like the imminent repeal of the ACA, the dismantling of Medicare, the reconfig of Social Security, the relentless parading of extremist potentials for cabinet positions… but that’s all noise.  The real problem with the Trump transition is that the string of events over the past few weeks, while we were focused on this or that, has showed us his expertise in distraction.

Let me be clear:  Trump is an idiot.  He’s unread, anti-intellectual, and uncouth.  But there is one area where he is a master:  Simultaneously funneling all the attention in the room to himself, and not allowing you a straight line vision to what he’s really doing.  I’m certain that it’s the cornerstone of his “success” in business, and he took that into the political realm during this election cycle.  But at its core it’s a scam – Trump’s entire life and career has been a giant shell game.  A street hustler is about to become our 45th president.

Hustlers are primarily out for themselves.  Their livelihood depends on the ability to pull one over on their mark.  They’re known by other names – con men, grifters, swindlers… but the thing that sets Trump apart from the minor characters of the past is the fact that he ran for president.  And enough marks chose the empty shell.

While we were busy looking over there,  Trump’s been working on a cabinet that will significantly alter our country’s relationship with the world.  If you’ve been paying attention, you know that no less than three retired generals have been offered major roles within the Trump administration:  John F. Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security, James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Defense Secretary, and, perhaps most concerning, Michael Flynn as White House National Security Adviser (Confirmation not required by congress).

This military influence will no doubt affect the Trump administration in a lot of negative ways, due to the fact that Trump is an idiot.  But what’s more concerning to me is the combination of this military influence and his most likely choice for Secretary of State, the ultimate shell game:  while you were worried about the repeal of Obamacare, let me present Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil.  Yeah.  Exxon.  As in gas stations, etc. Did you know that ExxonMobile made $16.2 billion IN PROFIT last year?  And that was in a low price-per-barrel environment.

Put that all together – heavy military presence in the cabinet alongside an oil and gas capitalist as our top diplomat – not just a corporatist, but an environment raping opportunist – in charge of our relationships with other countries.  A Secretary of State who just happens to have interests in the most profitable commodity in the world.  Ever wonder why it’s a bad thing when oil prices drop?  We have a tendency to get excited when we hear that, because it means that our bill at the gas pump will be lower.  But our lower gas prices are bad for Big Oil and the folks who invest in it.  And apparently, now it’s bad for the presidential administration.

I wonder what possibly could happen.  No worries though… I’m sure most of us will be looking the other way when it does.