Friday, December 29, 2017

Trump, the U.S. President, Lies Nearly Once a Minute in Rare, Taped Interview

Oddly, the title of this post is neither hyperbole nor misleading, as Trump supporters relish it while Trump detractors' heads don't even explode. Trump's unreality is our reality.

On Monday, Trump said he was heading back to work. By Friday, he hadn't,
playing an additional four days of golf. At one point, he opened his mouth
for an interview. What came out wasn't pretty, or true, but hey, he's Trump.

I suppose musing on the truthiness of Donald Trump is a losing game, stuck between amusement and disgust. So we leave it to Glenn Kessler's Fact Checker.
President Trump gave an impromptu half-hour interview with the New York Times on Dec. 28. We combed through the transcript and here’s a quick roundup of the false, misleading or dubious claims that he made, at a rate of one every 75 seconds. (Some of the interview was off the record, so it’s possible the rate of false claims per minute is higher.)
Imagine that. Kessler's assumption is that the off-the-record part contained more lies. What ever gave him that impression?

I remind everyone he's our president, much as most Americans wish that fact would just go away, like that first DUI.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Alt-Right, Please Please Please Invest in Bitcoin (Did I Say Please?)

Okay, someone invented a secure code for an alternative currency. That's like saying "I'm not investing in gold ever ever again, I'm investing in platinum, I'm so brilliant. Except, hmm, it's not a thing, it's, hmm, code. But I'm brilliant!" Er, do it do it do it.

Above: fascist, white nationalist motherfucker. His name? Who cares? Buy bitcoin!

Yes, you guessed it. I think -- have thunk a while now -- that bitcoin is the tulip du jour. Now read of the fascists' erstwhile dream:
After Charlottesville’s bloody Unite the Right rally in August, technology companies tightened rules against hate speech and banned many extremists from using Web hosting services, social media platforms and online payment systems.
But some on the farthest edges of the political spectrum soon found an effective tool for thwarting this industry crackdown: bitcoin.
I've been into technology for over forty years and think of innovation as powering the future. (Well, who doesn't?). But I wouldn't buy bitcoin if it was called, er, I don't know, Apple?

Please, fascists, explore the alternative universe of alternative currency. PLEASE. Then go blow yer bubbles.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Trump's Ridiculous Mar-A-Lago Christmas Tell: "You All Just Got a Lot Richer."

Since Donald Trump cannot keep his mouth shut, it only took days -- and the feeling that he couldn't be heard among his rich brethren at his resort -- for him to admit his tax cut was for his multimillionaire class.

This guy would be at 5% in the polls if his base was in touch with reality.

 Say it with me: Fucker.
President Trump was in a celebratory mood on Friday night and told a group of his wealthy friends, “You all just got a lot richer” after he signed the tax cuts into law. Trump reportedly uttered the words to a group of friends who were having dinner nearby at Mar-a-Lago, including two friends who spoke to CBS News about the remark.

Trump’s words to his rich pals mark a stark contrast to what he has been saying for weeks now as he has insisted that the massive tax cut would benefit the middle class above all. “The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs — jobs being the economy,” Trump had said in September, for example. In November, the president had gone as far as to say that the tax cuts would actually hurt the rich. “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s OK,” Trump told a Missouri crowd. “You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”
Now, I guess, his friends know about it, and so does the world, except, perhaps his base, each member of which is something that rhymes with fucker.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Two Views of the News

The "mainstream media" does the best job it can. Whether it succeeds -- or even does the best job it can -- is an open question. But contrasting Trump's fucked-up view with a more enlightened one from my favorite blogger, Atrios, shows the limits and foibles of the press, regardless of your politics.

Atrios, aka Duncan Black, promotes his words, not his photo. Hence just the Donald.

Here, then, are the contrasting views, one a tweet, one a blog post:

Typically grotesque. I would add that Trump's approval numbers. Are. Sad!

Now Atrios:

Both Sides

The myth of the last several decades is that bothsides wanted similar outcomes, but they just disagreed about the way to get there. Evil socialist communist liberals thought that big government was the answer, and hot sexy randian conservatives thought the private sector was the answer, but but both, ultimately, thought that the welfare of all human beings was important.

This was bullshit. The goals were not the same (I'll leave aside the issue of how much elite goals of both parties were, actually, the same). But it was the myth the press propped up for decades. Should federal money go to welfare queens, or to heroic capitalists in Jack Kemp's empowerment zones? The question was ridiculously framed as, "which would be better for the poor?" Instead of, "who should receive the welfare." That rich people should get all the welfare won. Heckuva job, opinion shapers.
Sounds about right.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Many Ways Can Trump Cause Havoc? How About Foreign Policy?

Our allies are confused, even revolted, by America under Trump "foreign policy," which for him is self-congratulation offered as "principled realism." What's that? Who knows. Trump sure doesn't.

Trump's national security speech didn't align with the National Security
Statement released earlier in the day. What, we expected it to?

Coherence is welcome when it comes to foreign policy. If a leader or a diplomat says something, it's helpful if actions resemble those words. Can't expect that from Trump.
The [National Security Statement] also goes on at great length about the need for expanded diplomacy. “Across the competitive landscape,” it reads, “America’s diplomats are our forward-deployed political capability, advancing and defending America’s interests abroad … Diplomacy is indispensable … We must upgrade our diplomatic capabilities.”
And yet, Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have gutted the diplomatic corps, offered buyouts to seasoned negotiators, left vacant nearly every second- and third-tier policy position in the State Department, and failed even to appoint new ambassadors in the most troubled regions (after firing all the existing ambassadors in the first week on the job).
So much for diplomacy. What about dealing with adversaries?
 The NSS named both China and Russia as countries that "are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence." But Trump, in his speech, was conspicuously silent on Russian interference in the U.S. election, and he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for thanking him over the weekend after Russia successfully foiled a terrorist attack using intelligence provided by the CIA.
 The NSS harps on "American values" — a theme dear to Trump, who champions a much different vision of American identity and culture than his predecessors. "There can be no moral equivalency between nations that uphold the rule of law, empower women, and respect individual rights and those that brutalize and suppress their people," declared the NSS. "Through our words and deeds, America demonstrates a positive alternative to political and religious despotism."
Of course, much of Trump's politicking in 2017 has seen the White House cozy up to political despots and tone down the nation's traditional messaging on democracy and human rights.
Trump's foreign policy team attempts to offer a coherent message. In his speech, he then turns it upside down:
By contrast, Trump’s speech—like many of his other speeches—focuses almost entirely on “America First” and the need to treat other nations as sovereign entities in transactional arrangements. He has abandoned the TPP and the Paris climate agreement. Just this month, he repeated his long-standing disparagement of the NATO allies, suggesting that he would not come to their defense if they hadn’t paid what he regards as their fair share of expenses. During his speech on Monday, he displayed an odd misunderstanding of NATO’s very nature. “We have made clear,” he said, “that countries that are immensely wealthy should reimburse the United States for the cost of defending them.” He seems to think (and it’s worth noting that he was reading a teleprompter, not extemporaneously) that the NATO allies pay us for their defense—as if the alliance is a protection racket and Trump is the don—when, in fact, each member-state builds its own military force and arranges to coordinate its logistics with the other members.
Why does he flip the message?
 The confusion may be understandable in one sense: On Monday evening, a White House official admitted that it was unlikely Trump had read the entirety of the 70-page strategy document.
Good to know. Don't bother to scratch your head. Our allies are doing it for you. Our adversaries? Ordering more beer and popcorn.

(Note. For a complete view, read both the Slate and Washington Post commentary I used in this Post.)

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Tax Bill Might End Trump's "Populist Street Cred." Ya Think?

Turns out the last version of the bill is a giveaway -- as if it wasn't before -- to real-estate developers and limited partnerships, which is how a key vote, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, was bought and paid for.

We're going to see quite a few of these "this tax bill really sucks for the poor and middle class" articles before the bought-and-paid-for senators pass it.
Bloomberg News reported this morning that the conference committee added a complicated provision late in the process that will provide a multimillion-dollar windfall to real estate investors such as Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner: “The change, which would allow real estate businesses to take advantage of a new tax break that’s planned for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called ‘pass-through’ businesses, combined elements of House and Senate legislation in a new way. … James Repetti, a tax law professor at Boston College Law School, said: ‘This is a windfall for real estate developers like Trump.’
“The revision might also bring tax benefits to several members of Congress, according to financial disclosures they’ve filed that reflect ownership of pass-through firms with real estate holdings,” per Lynnley Browning and Benjamin Bain. “One such lawmaker, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’d voted against an earlier version of the legislation, said on Friday that he would support the revised legislation. Corker said in an interview on Saturday that his change of heart had nothing to do with the added benefit for real estate investors.
So now we know why "deficit hawk" Bob Corker changed to "yes" out of the blue. Susan Collins of Maine has agreed to vote yes in exchange for protections for Obamacare subsidies that the House has already telegraphed "no fucking way," and Jeff Flake of Arizona had held out for Dreamer protections that they've promised him to get his vote, even though he'll run into the same "fuck you, please" Susan Collins will get.

And brave, maverick John McCain because he's dying gets to head back to Arizona ahead of the vote, so he's off the hook. He'll be accorded "not my fault" status even as the Senate is avoiding "regular order" -- the civilized process of examining and crafting bills -- that he railed about during the earlier Obamacare repeal votes that failed in the end because of his startling "no" vote. Sorry, McCain, but your cancer doesn't cancel out you role in this debacle. Besides, you'd already said you'd vote for it, so destiny meet legacy. McCain's last stand was to skip out. I'll remember it even if others want to say "he's dying, let him off the hook." I say he's dying, and this is how he goes out. Sorry.

So tax cuts for the rich and bad times in store for the poor and middle class are headed our way thanks to A COMPLETE SELLOUT TO THE RICH IN EXCHANGE FOR DONATIONS IN THE 2018 ELECTION CYCLE.

This is how we lose our democracy to plutocracy, in case you haven't thought of that. By the way, the chart above shows that American voters already have mostly figured this out. Do Republicans hope they get enough money from the donors to mitigate the effects of the disaster they've perpetrated on the citizenry? Yes, I guess they do. Fuckers.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Charge that Mueller Illegally Obtained Transition Team Emails Is Nonsense

What's more, the lawyer leading the charge against Mueller knew this was bullshit before he made the claim. Was he employing Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts?" Could be...

Who's turn is it in the barrel? That question haunts Trump, no doubt.

Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Trump for America attempting to do damage control, has claimed that emails, laptops, and cell phones provided to the Trump transition team by the GSA have been illegally provided to the Mueller investigation.

The trouble with this argument is that it's horseshit, and Langhofer surely must know it:
In the seven-page letter, which was sent to congressional committee leaders on Saturday, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, Kory Langhofer, wrote, "We understand that the Special Counsel’s Office has subsequently made extensive use of the materials it obtained from the GSA, including materials that are susceptible to privilege claims."
According to the letter, the Mueller investigation requested, in a pair of August letters, "the emails, laptops, cell phones, and other materials" for nine transition team members working on "national security and policy matters" and four other "senior" transition team members.
Langhofer argues in the letter that decision by GSA officials went against what he calls "the GSA's previous acknowledgement concerning" the Trump campaign's "rightful ownership and control of" transition team materials.
Okay. On its face, the claims seem sensible, so what gives? The problem arises because the claims are all nonsense:
Specifically, [GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny] Loewentritt said, "in using our devices," transition team members were informed that materials "would not be held back in any law enforcement" actions.
Loewentritt read to BuzzFeed News a series of agreements that anyone had to agree to when using GSA materials during the transition, including that there could be monitoring and auditing of devices and that, "Therefore, no expectation of privacy can be assumed."
Case closed. Alternative facts not in evidence. Better luck next time.

Note. Do realize that this kind of nonsense fits a pattern, one of making false claim after false claim to bolster a narrative that Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt, Fake News, "proves there's no collusion", Democratic sour grapes, illegal, partisan, part of the Deep State, the-system-is-rigged, etc., etc. It's very lawyerly and it's part of Trump's overall Big Lie strategy, to render Mueller's conclusion suspect and/or irrelevant. The one reason that may not be enough to save Trump is that Mueller can indict using grand juries. He doesn't need the DOJ or anybody. So, what happens when Mueller's indictments reach closer to home? Oh boy.

Robert Mueller Is a Republican and a Decorated Vietnam Vet. It's Not Easy to Trash Him.

Congressional Republicans have done their best in recent hearings to build a case that Robert Mueller's Special Counsel team is bad news. The trouble is he's a Boy Scout who's bad news for Trump.

The political Republicans are attacking the apolitical Republicans. Jeez, this is totally going to work out. Actually, there's a reason why it might:

So there it is, classic epistemic closure. The GOP believes what it needs to believe to survive. The Trump/what's-left-of-the-Republican base doesn't need to hear the truth. It's got Fox News for that.

Attacking Robert Mueller, a Bad, Bad Republican (How Dare He Be Apolitical?)

For weeks now, the anti-Mueller campaign has been growing. There's no there there, but Trump's minions will to anything to discredit him. Is an attempt to fire him is store?

They hired Robert Mueller because his reputation is impeccable. So how do
they go about destroying him? Not hard for the truth-challenged Trump GOP.

Problem: Robert Mueller has obtained thousands of emails sent by the Trump transition team, almost certainly legally. Solution: Claim, wrongly, that he obtained them illegally. Trump team for the win!

Others, like experienced prosecutors, disagree.

Hard to tell how this ends up, but I've got a feeling that the Trump legal team has made a mash of everything so far, so it's unlikely this will do much beyond adding to the drumbeat, which grew louder in Washington these past two weeks. The GOP attack machine is just only getting revved up.


Life in the Time of Trump: E.P.A. Hires Firm to Root Out Anti-Trump Employees

Scott Pruitt has hired a Republican opposition research company -- ordinarily used for political campaign purposes -- to find employees that disagree with the Trump agenda, all on the government's dime.

E.P.A. head Scott Pruitt is not paranoid. To prove it, he had a sound-proof,
secure phone booth, costing more than $25k, built in his office, even
though his agency already has one he can use nearby.

This is not how our government is supposed to do business:
One of the top executives of a consulting firm that the Environmental Protection Agency has recently hired to help it with media affairs has spent the past year investigating agency employees who have been critical of the Trump administration, federal records show.

The firm, Definers Public Affairs, based in Virginia, specializes in conducting opposition research, meaning that it seeks to find damaging information on political or corporate rivals.

A vice president for the firm, Allan Blutstein, federal records show, has submitted at least 40 Freedom of Information Act requests to the E.P.A. since President Trump was sworn in. Many of those requests target employees known to be questioning management at the E.P.A. since Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, was confirmed.
The contract, which was awarded this month, is part of an unconventional news media operation that Mr. Pruitt has set up at the agency as he tries to get a handle on the coverage of him by newspapers, including The New York Times, and criticism by Democrats in Congress and environmental groups. The decision to award the contract was first reported by Mother Jones.

The founders of Definers, Joe Pounder and Matt Rhoades, are longtime Republican political operatives. Mr. Pounder was the research director for the Republican National Committee and worked on the presidential campaign of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in 2016. Mr. Rhoades managed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.
Okay. Scott Pruitt is using taxpayers' money to hire a Republican firm to rid a government agency of employees in non-political positions if they have political beliefs that run counter to his -- mostly anti-environmental -- agenda. Good to know.