Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Scarey Moocher Thinks He's King

Newly-appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, hereafter known as the Scarey Moocher, arrived in D.C. this week, with a lot of asskissing for Agent Orange, and a ton of outer-borough-New-York-Italian-style bluster. Tonight the media is all atwitter over a scatological interview with the Moocher in the New Yorker, in which he proudly lowered the political discourse to the level of a street-corner argument between two goombas from the old neighborhood in Canarsie.

Scaramucci threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff to squelch the leaks, intensified his feud with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who wanted no parts of the Scarey Moocher in the administration, and basically did an impression of The Sopranos' consigliere Silvio Dante:

                  Which one is the pretend mobster? (Answer: both!)

Scaramucci called Priebus "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” inaccurately complained that publicly posting his financial-disclosure form from his time at the Export-Import Bank was "a felony," (it's not; it's public information) and said that, unlike senior advisor Steve Bannon, "he had no interest in media attention. 'I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.'”

Why is everyone surprised about his language, his confrontational attitude, his lack of respect? Twitler himself has no respect for the office of the President, for our democratic traditions, or even the rule of law itself, and he sees something of himself in Scaramucci. Why, then, should a foul-mouthed ethnic from Long Island be such a shocker? What do you think Agent Orange, a Queens boy himself, is?

With the installation of the Scarey Moocher into the White House den of thieves, the transformation of the center of American government and the heart of the Free World, into a bad imitation of an extra season of HBO's The Sopranos, is complete. We've lost our democratic government, and replaced it with a television show... and a bad imitation of one, at that.

After publishing this piece, I came across this Silvio Dante quote from The Sopranos that seems uncannily appropriate for our time. The subject, of course, is open to your interpretation:

"I genuinely don't think there's anything to gain by keeping him around."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just Because You Can Spout Bullshit At Lightspeed Doesn't Mean It's Not Bullshit

My TV is in grave danger from the Republican Party. If I see one more, just one more fast-talking, superficially slick, intellectually bankrupt, morally deficient GOP representative, senator, or "strategist," I'm gonna toss a shoe at my TV! And since my shoe of choice is usually a size 12 EEE Tony Lama western boot, that sucker's gonna die.

Day after day, for the last week especially, every news channel - even MSNBC - has had one of two variations on this model. Either the Blow-Dried Yuppie Slickster, or the balding, fatassed Good Ole Boy. Both versions display the same behavior: first they deliver a rapid, breathless spiel on "the Many Evils of Obamacare, and How It Hurts The American People," followed by repeated assertions that "Obamacare is failing!" but a flat refusal to discuss the details of exactly how and why it's "failing." Then  they'll reject the idea of actually reflecting and considering the implications of their constant bleatings for their constituents who, under this newest scheme, could be left with no health insurance at all; and all this nonsense is being spewed out at the interviewer with all the fast-talking, morally vacant, ignorant aggressiveness of a used car salesman in a cheap polyester suit.

And by then, I'm ready to toss a shoe at the TV. Who do they think they're fooling with this routine?

A lot of people, apparently. I first noticed this susceptibility many Americans have to fast-talking con men years ago, when I first moved to the Midwest. College bull sessions would be dominated by some ignorant, corn-fed jackass repeating something he had read but didn't understand in the Wall Street Journal. (Well, they *tried* to dominate the discussion, but I usually sliced right through their bullshit.) After college, I noticed the same deficiency in many Midwesterners; then, with the rise of Reagan, this disease spread nationwide. It's frankly disgusting, but it goes a long way towards explaining the rise of conservatism, and the election of, and continued support for, Agent Orange in the hinterlands.

Just because someone sounds confident, sounds like they know what they're talking about, doesn't meant that they are confident or that they do know what they're talking about. And rapid-fire recitations of talking points is not a substitute for clear, analytical, factually-based thinking; quite the opposite, in fact. Whenever you hear someone spewing oft-repeated talking points, stop them and ask: what facts are there that support your assertions? How is the present system or situation or plan inferior to the one that was in place before its institution? What do you have for a replacement, and what's so great about it? Usually, you'll see them sputter, and then fall upon another set of talking points. What you won't hear, 99 times out of 100, is some original thinking, or some facts that are new to you, or just plain facts, and not some inane nonsense that makes you pinch yourself to make sure this is really happening, and isn't an LSD flashback.

What you will hear, though, as their defense of their bullshit progresses, is something even crazier than their initial assertion. For example:

"Who knew healthcare was complicated?" said Agent Orange.
"Everyone!" said the rest of America.

"Only Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and myself attended that meeting with the Russian lawyer," said Trump Jr.
A week later, the number of people attending that meeting had doubled, including a former Soviet intelligence officer, and the number of meetings had increased from one to two. By next week, we'll find out that Boris and Natasha were also in attendance, with "Moose and Squirrel" listening through the adjoining wall with the office next door.

"We're gonna build a wall on our southern border, and Mexico is gonna pay for it!" said Agent Orange.
"No we're not," said Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
"We're gonna build a big, beautiful wall, and Mexico is gonna pay for it!" said Agent Orange again.
"Fuck you, no we're not!" said former Mexican president Vicente Fox.
"We're gonna build a wall, and Mexico's gonna pay for it, and it's gonna have solar panels and be transparent, so you can see the 60-lb. bags of drugs being tossed over it, and not get hit in the head by them," said Agent Orange one more time.
"BHWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!! You crazy orange man!" said everyone in Mexico.
 "We'll pay to build the wall, and then get the money back from Mexico," said the crazy orange man, but by this time, only the other crazies were still listening.
Americans didn't used to believe bullshit just because it came wrapped in a nice box with a bow. (e.g., Ivanka: "I support working women." Truth: she supports them in Bangladesh, and Vietnam, and China, at $173/month in wages) We used to not fall for the Flim-Flam Man.We need to retrain ourselves in those skills.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Best Line of the Day

I'm catching up on a ton of new information about the Trump-Russia connection, in preparation for the next couple of posts, but this line stood out in all of my reading today, and I wanted to share it with you.

Linda Stasi at the New York Daily News:
The only Russian agents missing from Donny Jr.s’ meeting were Boris and Natasha from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wheels Are Coming Off The Clown Car

You really have to hand it to right-wing media. Give them a story about treason, collusion, and a hostile foreign power's interference with U.S. Presidential elections, and they'll respond with a red herring the size of the Larson C Antarctic iceberg. Today NBC News reported that the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law and current White House Whiz Kid Jared Kushner, and the at-the-time campaign manager Paul Manafort last June--you know, back when we had a functioning democracy?--brought along a plus-one: a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer:
The Russian lawyer who met with the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.
NBC News is not naming the lobbyist, who denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.
The Russian-born American lobbyist served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship.
Veselnitskaya acknowledged to NBC News that she was accompanied by at least one other man, though she declined to identify him.
The presence at the meeting of a Russian-American with suspected intelligence ties is likely to be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate panels investigating the Russian election interference campaign.
Just like in the Mafia, there's no such thing as a "retired" counter-intelligence officer. James Bond, or, in this case, Illya Kuryakin, never retires: he either dies in active service in the line of duty, or goes on the "inactive status list," still able to take jobs for which he can be hung if caught, but avoiding all the pesky responsibility on the part of the home government. They can just leave him out in the cold, alone, if detected, and never have to admit responsibility for his actions, or pay his pension. A pretty convenient arrangement - for the government, if not the agent - for those ultra-high-risk assignments, the kind that sound like a bad Hollywood movie, they're so outrageous. Like, for example, sabotaging an American presidential election. But that's who you choose for those kinds of tasks, someone who has no apparent or current ties to your government. "Once in, never out" is a motto shared by the CIA, Mi-6, and the Cosa Nostra.

The former spy in question has since been identified as "Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who since at least last year has been working with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to overturn a US law sanctioning Russians."

So here we have the candidate's son, his son-in-law, and his campaign manager - greedy, crooked idiots all - sitting in a room with a foreign, non-English-speaking woman whom they've been told is working for the Russian government and who has damaging information about the candidate's opponent, a former spy for the former Russian government, and a translator, since Ms. Veselnitskaya doesn't speak English. Sounds like a pretty memorable - and suspicious (but I'll get to that later) - grouping to me, how about you? I mean, it's not every day that you encounter a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet spy! And her translator, too. Seems to me that the people who attended that meeting would stick out in my mind for a long, long time.

But what does Jared do, when it's time to fill out his SF-86, the required government form to obtain a security clearance? A form that several times in several places tells you in no uncertain terms that supplying false information opens you to charges of perjury, with a maximum penalty of five years in a federal penitentiary? He forgets about this meeting! In fact, he forgot about meeting not only Ms.Veselnitskaya, but meeting over 100 foreign nationals, including a clandestine meeting during the transition with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Boy Wonder wanted to explore the possibility of setting up a back channel line of communications with the Kremlin, one that would use Russian communications equipment and facilities, and would be unknown to and undetectable by American intelligence services. In all, Young Jared forgot so much that he needed three supplemental forms to cover all the foreigners, especially Russians, that he's talked to over the last seven years.

But here's where it gets laughable. While every news organization is asking who was the sixth person in the room?" "Will Junior or Jared face perjury or conspiracy charges?" "Who were these people they met with, and what is their connection to Putin and the Russian government?", while all these serious and seriously damning questions are being posed, good ole Fox News "solves the mystery" with a "timeline shows how Russian lawyer got into US for Trump Jr. meeting." And the answer to the mystery which was not a question being asked by anyone, is, as always, the Obama Administration! Now and forever, ever ill of mankind, every trouble-spot around the world, every political drama, every Constitutional crisis, was originated by, and the fault of, Barack Obama's presidency.

And of course, just like a two-year-old who's not mature enough to take responsibility for their actions, Agent Orange rises to the defense of his son by smearing former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The Buffoon-in-Chief said that "somebody" - his favorite source of information, akin to an SNL skit by Bobby Moynihan, the all-knowing "somebody" - "said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago, but a little surprised to hear that. So, she was here because of Lynch."

Of course, he's dead wrong. The Daily Beast goes on to report that
“In Sept. 2015, DHS paroled Natalia Veselnitskaya into the U.S. in concurrence with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, allowing her to participate in a client’s legal proceedings,” the DHS statement to BuzzFeed News read. “Ms. Veselnitskaya was subsequently paroled into the U.S. several times between 2015 and 2016, ending in February 2016. In June 2016, she was issued a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Department of State.”
Trump's penchant for lying once again has put him at odds with the truth. His preoccupation with President Obama makes lie again and again, even when the facts are easily verified. But the way that wingnut media outlets like Fox support and defend those lies are what saddens me. Facts are no longer things that everyone can agree upon. Truth is relative to one's political persuasion. Reality is malleable, dependent on a person's party identification.

If we can't all agree on what's true or not, what's real or not, how can we ever solve the problems of climate change, economic disparity, racial division, educating the next generation in a manner that doesn't leave them destitute, repairing and revitalizing our crumbling infrastructure, and staving off the next global mass extinction event (coming to a polar bear near you!), as well as regaining our position as the leader of the free world, disarming North Korea, and finding a lasting peace in the Mideast?

We have to face our warts and confront our crazy relatives, not just over the Thanksgiving turkey once a year, but every day the clown car remains parked with the White House fleet. We have to hold the Trump Crime Family responsible for their words and their actions, and replace them immediately if they cannot.

This isn't funny, anymore.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Money Doesn't Change Everything

Ah but everybody's only
Looking out for themselves
And you say well who can you trust
I'll tell you it's just
Nobody else's money
Money changes everything
--Cyndi Lauper, "Money Changes Everything"

I'll say it: Trump Jr.'s emails prove collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Young Beavis (or is Junior "Butthead?" Hard to tell.) revealed in his emails that he knew that the Russian government was trying to help his father's campaign. Junior exposed the fact that his brother-in-law and now "Special Advisor to the President" Jared Kushner, along with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, knew the Russians were trying to tilt the election in their favor, and that they not only accepted, but sought out help from an adversarial foreign power. The emails - released only because the New York Times informed Little Trump that they were going to publish them - show clear evidence of an ongoing effort to solicit, accept, and utilize allegedly damaging information about another American from an unfriendly nation.

The Trump Crime Family has been corrupt for a very long time. From father Fred Trump's racist leasing policies, Agent Orange's own history of refusing to pay contractors, connections to organized crime, and cons like Trump University; Charles Kushner's (Jared's father) imprisonment for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering ( in a famously sordid episode involving Kushner's brother-in-law, hookers, and videotape); to Jared Kushner, whom former employee Harleen Kahlon described in a Politico article thusly:
“We’re talking about a guy who isn’t particularly bright or hard-working, doesn’t actually know anything, has bought his way into everything ever (with money he got from his criminal father), who is deeply insecure and obsessed with fame (you don’t buy the NYO, marry Ivanka Trump, or constantly talk about the phone calls you get from celebrities if it’s in your nature to ‘shun the spotlight’), and who is basically a shithead.”
There is a clear-cut history and pattern in the Trump family of avarice, arrogance, lawlessness, racism, narcissism, and ignorance. This is the family that has occupied the White House and turned our democracy into an autocratic banana republic. They know nothing, they value nothing except money and power, they have no ethics or moral center. Steal from your employees? So what? Refuse to pay for honest work? Business as usual. Deceive thousands trying to improve themselves, just to steal some more money? Great idea! Treat with our nuclear adversary in an effort to gain political power? Why not?

Why not, indeed? Because it's a crime, that's why. Because it's treasonous. Because it's dishonorable. Because it's a betrayal of everything that the Presidency represents.

Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, has said that the emails “borders on treason."
“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States “We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.”
The person who has the most to be worried about is Jared the Boy Wonder. Butthead Jr. is probably guilty of violating campaign finance laws, but those laws have been notoriously unable to actually put anyone behind bars. Brother-in-law Kushner, however, is a federal employee and White House staffer with a security clearance. To get that clearance, Boy Wonder had to list all his contacts with foreign nationals, but somehow he forgot about this meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He later added the meeting in a supplemental filing, but his initial omission opens him to charges of lying on a federal form, obstruction, and collusion. The penalty for which is a maximum of five years in federal prison. And not Club Fed, either, but "Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison."

Now, maybe in New York real estate circles, meeting someone named "Natalia Veselnitskaya" is a commonplace occurance, and maybe a person could forget about meeting said individual. Maybe you believe that, and maybe my ass farts perfumed clouds of golden mist, too. Either way, Jared's security clearance is something that could and should go up in smoke as a result of these revelations. Connecticut’s Chris Murphy (D-CT), a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: 
“I don’t know why Jared Kushner still has a job. He allowed the president of the United States, the vice-president, every spokesperson in the White House to openly lie about his contacts with the Russian government.
“You don’t think the Republicans would be calling for the resignation of an Obama official who allowed the president and the vice-president to openly lie about a major national security issue? He watched his father-in-law go on TV and say, ‘No one in my campaign talked to the Russian government.’
“He knew that was false. Either he didn’t alert the president or the vice-president, or there’s a much bigger problem, and the president and the vice-president knew that they were lying.”
Did they know, and were they lying? I think that they did. I believe that the president certainly, and possibly the vice-president too, knew about the Russian contacts, knew about the Russian government's efforts to aid the Trump campaign, and actively worked with them to steal the election. Agent Orange is well-known for his inability to delegate authority, and his statements during and after the campaign, seen in the light of these newest revelations, seem to indicate that he knew of, approved, and may even have been directly involved in the conspiracy with Russian intelligence services under the direction of Vladimir Putin to "rig" the election--a charge he loudly and repeatedly leveled at Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. For Trump, the opposite of what he says is often the real truth, and this is perhaps the foremost example of that pattern. He knew.

I believe that this is the tip of the iceberg, that we'll see more revelations and further proof of collusion and treason as events develop. I also want to state now, in writing, that some of us are not so easily deceived, some of us are not fooled by this orange-haired bully and his family of dimwits, shitheels, and buffoons. We only need wait; their own words and deeds will reveal and condemn them. They aren't smart enough to avoid causing their own destruction, as The Rude Pundit notes:
You can be corrupt. You can be stupid. You can't be stupid and corrupt. Otherwise, you don't know when to shut the fuck up. You don't know when to keep your head down. You don't know when to not fucking tweet out the evidence that, at the very least, reveals the very thing everyone has been trying to pin on you.
They're corrupt, but they're also idiots. It's going to be a rough ride, but the truth will out.