Archive for the ‘Breaking News’ Category
James Comey is the strangest, most mysterious man in the known universe. And boy, does he have a poker face. What is his deal? What is his game? Officially people in the world of politics still vouch for his integrity. But the rest of us mortals can probably say: “Comey, I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I like you. I’m not sure. I hate you. Huh?”
Most citizens probably never gave Comey much thought until his press conference announcing FBI would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server, although Clinton was very very naughty. The bizarre “She broke rules but we won’t prosecute” announcement brought out angry responses from Republicans and grudging gratitude from Democrats. When Comey was called to explain his actions before Congress, Democrats shielded him. Then the tables flipped when 12 days before the election Comey sent The Letter, making Republicans dance with joyful glee and sending Democrats into apoplectic fits of rage. There is no doubt that The Letter swung the election to Trump. Through all this Comey was investigating Trump’s connections to Russia. FBI started their investigation at the end of July. (July 27th is when Trump called on Russia to hack Clinton’s e-mails, but rumors of Trump’s relationship to Putin were already swirling. See Robby Mook/Jake Tapper clip below.) How in the world does the head of the FBI throw one candidate’s candidacy into chaos while knowing that the other candidate may be colluding with a foreign power to manipulate the election? These actions are inexplicable. And through it all Comey’s Mona Lisa smile is infuriating.
Now again Comey, with Trump installed in the White House, has unleashed the wrath of the Republicans and weary excitement from Democrats in Congress. Democrats need him. Republicans and Trump need him to shut up. If you’re keeping score, Comey has pissed off Republicans more often than Democrats. But he also handed Republicans the ultimate gift: The Presidency of the United States. What is his deal? What is his game? Will we ever actually know? Or will his motives and actions forever be the source of speculation? What will history books say about James Comey?
Of the people within Trump’s administration who seem likely to go down hard are Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone. (Davis Nunes says he’s never heard of Page and Stone… make of that what you will… ) CNN put together a handy guide to Stone’s public comments regarding his connections to Assange, WikiHacks and Guccifer 2.0. These are great for when Stone says he didn’t know anything about anything. The timeline spans from August 10, 2016 (“Stone tells a local Republican Party group in Florida “I’ve actually communicated with Julian Assange”) to March 20, 2017 (“It’s only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged “Collusion with Russians” from 2day’s Intel Hearing.”) I hope Stone starts prepping himself for a stone cold cot.
One of the sources of concern to Trump and Co. is Alfa Bank. The second largest private bank in Russia it came to some people’s attention when it was caught trying to communicate with a Trump server. The original story on the bank’s strange behavior came to light before the election, but the story was dismissed by almost the entire media. NY Times infamously dismissed it on October 31, 2016 with the following headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” And with that, the media’s interest in the Trump/Putin connection died. The only person who followed up on it was a Republican writer Louise Mensch. She reported days later (late evening of November 7, to be exact) that the FBI had a FISA warrant to examine communications between Trump’s campaign and a Russian bank. Mensch claims the NY Times (Erich Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers wrote the article) knew about the FISA warrant. And that they even interviewed then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about it. But threw out the entire Reid interview and buried the FBI/FISA detail. She continues to question Lichtblau on twitter about why he did these things and he largely ignores her. Meanwhile Alfa Bank is now claiming they have been hacked and are suing one of the analysts who examined their suspicious communications with Trump organization.
The information on Trump’s connections to Russia were discussed in public as early as July 24, 2016 by Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. On CNN’s State of the Union, on the first day of Democratic convention, Mook told Jake Tapper there were great concerns regarding potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia, stolen DNC e-mails published via WikiLeaks, and RNC’s watering down of Republican platform on Russia/Ukraine. These are now all vital parts of FBI’s investigation that could sink Trump and will most certainly sink many of the key players of his campaign. The media did not investigate this story until it was too late. (Notice also the chyrons on the Mook/Tapper video. An intellectually dishonest representation of the e-mails being published by WikiLeaks.) The media dedicated all of their resources to the Clinton e-mails. They dedicated no resources to potential collusion between Trump and Russia. This will always be one of the great journalistic disasters of all time. Perhaps greater than their failure to vet the Iraq War (NY Times again.)
Which brings me to Donald Trump himself. I won’t use any of the big words like sociopathic or narcissistic. I think he’s just a man who has never in his entire life had to deal with consequences for any bad behavior. Rich white man. If he did anything wrong, he got a gold star from daddy and lawyers took care of the fallout. He said and did as he pleased. No blowback on anything his entire life. 70 years of this. Imagine what this complete lack of accountability and self-awareness can do to a human brain. He goes bankrupt 7 times? Meh, someone will take care of the fallout and get him more loans. Wife isn’t pleasing anymore? Meh, someone will take care of the divorce and settlement. Being sued for racial discrimination? Meh, someone will take care of the settlement. This is a man who has thrown money at his problems and the problems went away for 70 years. He behaved during his campaign the way he has behaved his entire 70 years on Earth. Badly. Rude, arrogant, mean, vicious, malicious. Said everything that came into his head. And the crowds adored him. Think about what a crowd of 10,000 people chanting “Lock her up!” can do to your brain. Adoration. Say and do anything you like – and TV gives you hours of non-critical coverage. The crowds go crazy. Your approval ratings go through the roof. Your opponents, seasoned politicians all, go down in flames. And you don’t even have to do anything different! It just happens. For a man who has spent his entire life with zero accountability runs his campaign the same way – and he is rewarded with the Presidency of the USA. Think what that does to your brain. Everything he has ever done and said has been vindicated. He does not recognize that things are different now. His brain can’t process this information. Incapable of self-awareness or awareness of others. For 70 years he has done as he pleased, said as he pleased. And an army of Yes-Men have enabled and encouraged his delusions for 70 years. But it is different now. He is stunned that his inauguration crowd isn’t as big as his predecessor’s! (A Black Man!)
“No, it’s just not possible. Fake news! The Black Man wire-tapped me! Obviously. Why do I have to retract this? I don’t have to do anything I don’t want. I want to golf. Why can’t I golf? I said I want to golf! This is my resort! This is my home away from gilded home in NYC! I’ll do what I want! I’m President! I won! I did everything the way I always do! And I won! People love me! They all voted for me! All voted for me! Because I’m President! Those who didn’t vote for me have no right to exist! Deep state is out to get me! How else to explain that these things I said are being held against me? I always say what I want! Why are you ganging up on me?! I’m not a puppet! Tillerson will go to Russia! Because I said so! Because I won! This is a conspiracy to destroy me! You can’t tell me what I can and can’t say about Putin! You don’t like Putin? Too bad! I love Putin! I’ll say what I want! I won! I’m President! And you are nothing.”
I will finish on a completely different note. It is a story of love, regret and perseverance.
Through all the madness music has been a great source of solace to me. (Classical music and opera generally, but then…) Here is my favorite performer Madonna, in a “pirate” recording of her classic song “True Blue” at Barclay Center in Brooklyn on September 19, 2015, as part of her “Rebel Heart Tour.” Two nights earlier Madonna celebrated 30 years since her Madison Square Garden debut with a concert at MSG. (Amy Schumer was Madonna’s opening act at the NY shows in 2015, that’s why Madonna gives Schumer a shout-out in the clip below. At that tour way back in 1985, “The Like A Virgin Tour,” her opening act were the Beastie Boys.)
“True Blue” was written in the mid 1980’s by Madonna as a declaration of love for her then-husband Sean Penn. He was in the audience at MSG two nights earlier and there is private video of him watching Madonna singing the song. At Barclay’s (one of the two times I watched this show), Madonna told the story that after the MSG anniversary concert she received a letter from Penn. In it he wrote that watching her perform that night, after so many years and everything they’d each been through, he really appreciated everything she had accomplished and he acknowledged he was a fool to not have recognized her talents when they were married. “Thirty years!” Madonna screamed to the audience. “Thirty years I’ve been waiting for those words! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is marriage and why I will never get married again.”
Last time she sang “True Blue” live was in 1987, just as her marriage to Penn was falling apart.
On March 4th, The Thing in the White House sent out a bunch of angry tweets blasting the previous President for wiretapping Isengard Trump Tower. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then 30 mins later: “How long has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” When asked to clarify this insanity, The Thing’s minions really could do nothing but heee and hawww. The Thing read it somewhere, they said. NY Times! Louise Mensch! BBC! Naturally once reporters dug deeper, they found that NO, none of those reports talked about wiretapping. Mensch broke the story on her right-wing blog HeatStreet on November 7th about the FISA warrant, but all she said was that a FISC court granted permission to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” In question was a mysterious communication between two Russian banks and a server in Trump Tower. (David Corn of Mother Jones broke the story of the two banks and Trump Tower, but all media dismissed it as a bizarre conspiracy theory a couple of weeks earlier.) In the follow-up reports to Mensch’s story, BBC and the failing NY Times confirmed a FISA warrant, but nobody mentioned wiretaps… except Breitbart and then The Thing in its Tweets. Ahhhhh, the plot thickens. Where did Breitbart get the information about wiretaps at Trump Tower and did The Thing just leak top secret information in a series of Tweets? Sure seems that way. Will anybody hold him accountable? LOL.
There are fleeing moments when it feels like Lady Lindsey Graham and Hero John McCain might hold The Thing accountable for the numerous impeachable offenses it has committed. Earlier today Graham tweeted: “An attack on one political party should be considered an attack on all. We must push back on Russian election interference at home & abroad.” That sounds great! However it should also be noted that Graham had lunch with The Thing earlier in the day.
“Great lunch meeting with @POTUS today. President Trump is strongly committed to rebuilding our military which is music to my ears. (1/3)
President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded. (2/3)”
“How good was the meeting with @POTUS?
I gave him my NEW cell phone number.”
Somebody responded: “1-800-DOOR-MAT?” And then “You, sir, are a profile in courage.”
And that, folks, is Lindsey Graham summarized in a handful of tweets. We have to get used to the notion that no, Graham and McCain won’t hold The Thing accountable for anything until they’ve gotten what they want from him: tax cuts for the rich, bigger military, gutting ACA, etc. etc. etc. Then maybe, possibly, once that’s all done, they’ll throw The Thing overboard.
Speaking of handing out cell numbers, can anybody afford a new cell phone after Republicans pass Trumpcare? Jason Chaffetz, the man who investigated Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to death, and who doesn’t think there is any reason to look into Trump’s connections to Russia, went on CNN to start selling Trumpcare to America.
Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.
This is, of course, patently absurd. An iPhone unsubsidized by a phone company might cover one month’s premium for a single person. How many iPhones does Chaffetz think people buy? Of course, Chaffetz himself doesn’t have to buy his own phone. He gets one from work. His cell bill gets covered too. “How much does an iPhone cost” is the new “How much is a gallon of milk?” and Chaffetz doesn’t know the cost of either.
Overall Trumpcare is going to gut poor people into oblivion. It gives tax breaks to the rich, provides insurance companies with tax deductions on CEO salaries, will raise costs of premium, reinstate caps, gut preexisting conditions. Millions of people will lose their insurance. Many of them were Trump voters. Sadly many of them were not. But they will suffer also.
Why do Republicans hate poor people? It’s a question that has been asked often and there are many answers. As it came up again in the current Trumpcare discussion, I was reminded of a scene in E.M. Forster’s great novel “Howards End.” In the 1910 novel Forster explored 3 groups of people from 3 different classes: the extremely wealthy and conservative Wilcoxes, upper middle class but liberal Schlegels, and poor but aspiring for something bigger Basts. The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, try to help poor Leonard Bast, but their well-meaning interventions in his life, as well as not-well meaning interventions from the Wilcoxes, prove disastrous. He loses his job as a clerk in an insurance company after following bad advice from patriarch Henry Wilcox. When the impetuous Helen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the magnificent film, with Emma Thompson as Margaret) tries to make her case for helping the poor to the condescending 1%-er Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins in the film), the following exchange takes place. Written in 1910, “Howards End”is still relevant in 2017.
From Chapter 22
He [Henry Wilcox] raised his finger. “Now, a word of advice.”
“I require no more advice.” [said Helen]
“A word of advice. Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn’t, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk’s loss of salary. It’s just the shoe pinching–no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse.”
Helen quivered with indignation.
“By all means subscribe to charities–subscribe to them largely– but don’t get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question–except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal–”
“I didn’t say–”
“Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can’t. There always have been rich and poor. I’m no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces” (his voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), “and there always will be rich and poor. You can’t deny it” (and now it was a respectful voice)–“and you can’t deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward.”
“Owing to God, I suppose,” flashed Helen.
He stared at her.
“You grab the dollars. God does the rest.”
It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.
“Don’t ever discuss political economy with Henry,” advised her sister. “It’ll only end in a cry.”
“But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,” said Helen slowly. “I don’t like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good–it is always that sloppy ‘somehow’ will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in pain.”
Also, in brief: Richard Steele, the British spy who wrote the infamous “pee pee” dossier, has resurfaced. While American Senators want to hear him testify about what he knows.
WikiLeaks is dumping top secret CIA documents.
And contrary to earlier denials that he’s never met the Russian Ambassador (a man nobody has ever met), a newly unearthed article in the Wall Street Journal from last April says that Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and greeted him warmly.
What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.
As I sat down to write Wednesday morning’s post on Tuesday night, I realized by the time it published it would already be out of date. The dizzying speed with which Bannon and Trump are trashing our democracy is impossible to process and stay up to speed on. In just 10 days they’ve managed to create multiple constitutional criseses [sic]. Aside from the original sin of conflict of interest we don’t know the full extent of because Trump has not and will not release his tax returns (WikiLeaks says they plan to find them and release them… the irony of that can not be avoided, to paraphrase Angus King’s comment to James Coffey at a Senate hearing after Comey said he does not comment on ongoing investigations when asked about FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in our elections). But since then Trump/Bannon’s multiple executive orders, that anathema he and other Republicans screamed at Obama about for 8 years, have created nothing but chaos in our system. The biggest one, of course, was the refugee executive order. Throwing people’s lives into chaos by refusing previously vetted refugees into the country, but also by refusing people with green cards into the country, they revealed – well, it’s hard to tell. Incompetence or malice? Perhaps a combination of the two. Bannon and another Trump aide Stephen Miller wrote the executive order and forced it to be signed without consulting with any other agency, or even Congressional Republicans. Though Congressional aides helped write it….without telling their bosses. That is a big deal. I wish I could see the expression on McTurtle’s face when he learned of his aides secrecy. It would be funny if the secrecy also wasn’t terrifying.
To add to the chaos, Border Patrol defied a judge’s ruling that people detained be allowed to see a lawyer. That is a very big deal as well. We now have the judicial branch being openly defied by the administration and part of its security force. Federal Marshalls would have to go in and force Border Patrol to follow court’s orders. Imagine how that would play out. Because I can’t.
Which brings me to this: for many months now Democrats have been waiting and begging Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to save us from Trump. Throughout the insanity of the campaign Ryan and McConnell became almost sane. But in truth they were just sane compared to Trump and that’s not a fair comparison. In fact, Ryan and McConnell are fucking scum. We have been waiting for them and the Republican Party to come in and save us all from Trump. That didn’t happen during the election. The Republican Party never turned on Trump, no matter how awful he became. Even John McCain (when will be get used to the fact that the war hero died when McCain ran for President?) didn’t fully turn against him. McCain just refused to talk about him, which isn’t the same thing. So no, McCain and Lady Graham won’t save us either. The endless articles being written about how Trump will alienate Republicans enough that they will turn on him are as tiresome as the endless articles about what white men want. It’s nonsense. Nothing Trump does will ever make the Republican establishment turn on him and impeach him. Nothing. McConnell and Ryan are not biting their tongues. They are not cowards who just need a little bit of encouragement and courage. They are not spineless – they are soulless. They want everything Trump is doing. They might be annoyed at some of his methods. But they want what Trump wants. That’s the truth we have to face.
So where does that leave us? I honestly have no idea. I’m sorry for the downer post. I’m sure the comments that follow over the next couple of days will fill us with even more dread as Bannon/Trump continue their destruction of America and the world around us. I do fear, however, that Trump’s Presidency will not end peacefully. I don’t know how big the violence will be or who it will be directed against, but I think that is the only way this can end.
Please tell me that I’m wrong!
Breaking news out of Washington is something that’s been discussed before the election (like HRC during a debate, and Harry Reid in a letter he wrote to Comey asking him to explain if there are ties between Trump and Putin.) But with the exception of David Korn and Kurt Eichenwald nobody paid attention. Until now. Why now? Who knows. Maybe Trump just pissed off the CIA too much and they leaked more than is normal. Or maybe CNN wanted to crawl to number 1 spot by publishing the story first, unleashing the flood of what Trump would call “yellow journalism” from everyone else. Now it’s everywhere, the media is treating it like watergate. Twitter is the best though because you don’t need more than 140 characters to discuss the PEEOTUS’ sexual fetishes. Trump and his team have been astonishingly quiet about this. Trump did tweet somethings about FALSE NEWS (capitals not mine). Of course it’s a trap he’s boxed himself into with years of “People say so there must be something to it” mongering. Whether it’s Obama’s birtherism or HRC’s supposed Alzheimer’s. “People say…” His followers have said we live in a world that no longer has such a thing as facts. WikiLeaks takes on a whole new meaning (Assange has already stepped out to defend Trump) and Glenn Greenwald made his name publishing things without sourcing, so here we are. You live by fake news, you die by fake news. I’ve heard people say somewhere on the internet that Greenwald is a pedophile. I don’t have this info myself, it’s just something people say. But besides Trump’s salacious sex stuff, there are issues of greater concern, of course. However, it’s the sexual stuff that will keep the story in the news. Too bad the CIA didn’t e-mail these documents to HRC or John Podesta. Then maybe we would have been reading it about November 8th. But now it’s too late.
We are slouching towards Bethlehem. January 20th approaches and who knows what will come after that. We know Trump is basically a Russian spy and the US has lost the Cold War. But some people are still trying to tar and feather HRC for losing the electoral college. Chief among them is Bernie Sanders. Many are still feeling the bern. I’ve always been told that if a bern lasts more than 4 hours to contact a medical professional. But there is no cure for their rash. Instead of looking towards the Trump/Putin/Pence Presidency, Sanders has been taking a victory lap since November 9th trying to convince everyone that he would have won against Trump.
First, to quote someone famous, at this point what difference does it make? Second, Sanders’ claims are strictly anecdotal anyway. Unless someone has a time machine stashed away and we try the election over again with Sanders, the hypothesis is completely rhetorical. But if we must speculate, in my humble opinion, Sanders would have lost and lost bigly. He would have split the angry white men vote in the rust belt with Trump. (These white supremacists would have voted for a self-described Socialist Jew from Vermont? Are you nuts???) And Sanders would not have brought out the rest of the non-white coalition HRC was able to bring to the polls and win the popular vote by almost
3,000,000. He didn’t bring them out in the primaries and he wouldn’t have brought them out in the general. This is why Bernie’s unending “All White Men In The Rust Belt Matter and Democrats Should Love Them More” tour is so tiresome and unecessary. And as the white Independent Senator from the white state of Vermont continues to slam Democrats for not loving white people enough, I wonder what the non-white Democrats who voted for HRC think about being considered chopped liver, because once again they are told that they are not enough and that white people matter more. I think Democrats will face disaster if they follow Sanders’ line of thinking. Not only will they not get those white people from the rust belt to vote for them later, but they will lose a good number of non-whites who support them and HRC in 2016. Democrats’ solution to the 2016 disaster and the loss of a small football stadium worth of white voters in a few states should be surgical, not a nuke at the entire strategy because HRC’s strategy actually worked. She won by 3,000,000 votes across the nation and I fear that by appointing Sanders as their white people outreach ambassador – an ambassador who insists on using his bully pulpit to continue fighting the 2016 Democratic primaries – they will alienate the strong coalition of non-whites HRC built in 2016.
Speaking of Sanders still fighting the 2016 primary battle – like the South continues to fight the Civil War after all these years – why does Sanders refuse to acknowledge that HRC won the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 souls? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him state this fact. It’s kind an important one. Sanders’ refusal to acknowledge it is similar to his refusal to discuss how terrible caucuses are when he bashes closed primaries for the Democratic nomination. It’s just so convenient for his self-aggrandizing narrative to ignore the popular vote vs. electoral college problem, just as it is inconvenient for him to discuss how terribly undemocratic caucuses are – because he won the caucuses. Sanders is intellectually dishonest. As Drumpf is about to be sworn in as President, Sanders and his Bros continue to wage war against Democrats, not Drumpf. It’s almost as if they don’t know who their actual enemy is…
Speaking of enemies – on Sunday January 8th I attended a “What Do We Do About Drumpf?” meeting in NYC organized by NYC Councilman Corey Johnson. Johnson is something of a hero to the LGBTQ community in NYC because he’s a young, openly gay politician. His life story includes being a popular captain of his high school football team when he came out of the closet in 2000; the story made it as far as the New York Times. His teammates didn’t kick him off the team. Since November 8 he has been organizing these monthly meetings for members of the community to meet and discuss what we are going to do about Drumpf. Last month he had NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio as speaker. On Sunday he had NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. So he’s getting heavy hitters involved, though at this point nobody has any idea about what to do about anything.
Schneiderman’s presentation was fascinating. He discussed the fact that Republicans have managed to take over the country at the local levels because for many years Democrats just didn’t think local elections were that important.
The GOP now controls 69 of 99 legislative chambers across America. They hold nearly two-thirds of the governors’ mansions. And, in 25 states, they have complete control of the government, including both executive and legislative branches. This gives Republicans control of the rules that govern voting and the reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts.
The big takeaway from 2016 is that, despite the public supporting many Democratic positions on policy, Republicans are now reaping the benefits of their 30-year organizing strategy, supported by dozens of mega-wealthy donors. As someone who has recruited and fundraised for state candidates, I know that while Democrats have been great at raising money for presidential candidates, Republicans have an overwhelming advantage as you move down-ballot.
Schneiderman spoke of his own experience trying to raise money for local Senators and Representatives and being dismissed by donors. Result after 30 years of neglect is that Republicans have a whole lot of privileges, which includes gerrymandering. If we thought (and I thought so too) that gerrymandering is something that only happens in red states – we were all a bit stunned to see these maps:
I mean….What In The Actual Fuck?! This is New York City folks.
Big problem New York state faces is that even though Democrats won majority of the votes – a handful of Democrats have chosen to back Republicans to run the NY Senate. They call themselves the Independent Democratic Conference and they have put Republicans in charge. What do they get out of it? Well, they get leadership positions as payment! Yay, Democracy. (Tony Avella of the 11th District, for example, chairs the – I kid you not – Ethics Committee). One wonderful fella, Simcha Felder of District 17 of Brooklyn (with a largely Hasidic and Russian Jewish population), actually ran as both a Democrat and a Republican. He explicitly said he’ll caucus with whomever gives him the better deal. I suppose we should at least praise him for being honest about his lack of principles. Another wonderful Democrat, Marisol Alcantara, of District 31, was a Bernie Sanders delegate. People swear she’s super nice and liberal. But after the Democratic state party didn’t back her candidacy in the primaries she threw her lot with the Independent Democratic Conference, which gave her cash for her campaign, which she won by about 1% over a Democratic challenger, and now she backs Republicans to control NY Senate. Isn’t she wonderful? One woman at the meeting on Sunday stood up to defend her. She said she knows Alcantara personally and Ms. Alcantara is a “magnificent human being” who didn’t get money from the Democrats and “she really wanted to win” so “she did what she had to.” And there ladies and gentlemen, is all we need to know about Ms. Alcantara. “She wanted to win” and “did what she had to.”
The suggestion on what to do about people like Felder and Alcantara (the Independent Democratic Conference has 7 Democrats who caucus with Republicans), is that we need to get in touch with them and make them – shame them to – do what we need them to do. People also noted that we need to be constantly keeping Chuck Schumer in check to make sure he does the right thing. One gentleman said he and about 100 other people protested outside of Schumer’s apartment earlier in the day. He was home but refused to come out and meet them. And this reminded me of the moment in one of the Presidential debates when HRC discussed how Drumpf was bringing cheap steel from China to build his hotels, instead of getting American steel. And Drumpf responded: “Make me stop; pass laws to make me stop.” So this is what we have come to. We shudder at Drumpf saying “make me do the right thing,” but let’s get honest about this: Democrats insist on the same thing. We are supposed to make Schumer and Alcantara do the right thing. Aren’t they supposed to be on our side? Why don’t they just, you know, do the right thing? Corey Johnson pointed out at the meeting on Sunday that when the redistricting in NY was done – Democrats signed off on it. If they had rejected it, courts would have drawn the district lines. But Democrats worked out deals with Republicans to allow these travesties. Just like Obama knew about Drumpf’s ties to Russia – and just let it all slide, along with Mitch McConnell and the rest of them. How is it that members of our own party sell their souls to the devil and then look at us and say: “Make me do the right thing?” The answer might lie with the nice lady at the meeting who said: “She really wanted to win and she did what she had to do.”
As a new year begins and Drumpf’s inauguration approaches a few interesting developments have enveloped us. Things that signal what is to come in the next 4 or 8 years (or forever, who knows.)
Remember when the Rockettes were told that they would have to perform at Drumpf’s inauguration, and then after a public backlash the management and the union (which is meant to protect them, but didn’t) said that participation wouldn’t be mandatory? It’s not over yet. While kicking for Drumpf at the inauguration may not be 100% mandatory (just, you know, strongly encouraged if you know what’s good for your dancing career), Marie Claire and Rolling Stone report that participation at the White House’s 4th of July celebrations will be obligatory. Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan held a “private” meeting with the dancers, which was secretly recorded by one of the Rockettes.
One dancer said, “I mean, it just sounds like you’re asking us to be tolerant of intolerance.” He paused to consider his answer and said, “Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that. What other choices do we have? What else would you suggest?”
“I don’t believe it’s going to hurt the brand,” he said. “And nobody is more concerned about that than the guy sitting in this chair.”
Herr Dolan is very concerned about the brand, and that right there is everything you need to know about Mr. Dolan, ladies and gentlemen.
Then there’s the story of everybody least favorite Moe Joe Scarborough and his love affair with Trump. Joe – and Mika Brzetaedtaisdksnksy – spent New Year’s Eve with Drumpf at Mar-a-Lago. NY Times’ Maggie Haberman tweeted this seemingly innocuous tidbit and Joe had a full on meltdown. Why were Joe’s panties up in such a furious twist? Because some people think schmoozing like that is not appropriate for a journalist. Joe thinks everybody can go eat a bag of Dick Tracies. He says he’s just trying to secure an interview with Drumpf and wants Drumpf to feel comfortable. I don’t know why Joe thinks a politician must feel comfortable with the journalist. Washington Post’s media critic Margaret Sullivan doesn’t either.
Despite all the silliness that’s piling up here — and it is getting almost as tall as Trump Tower — there is a serious principle at hand. It’s this: There should be some distance between journalists and elected officials. If that doesn’t exist, independence and impartiality are sure to be questioned. And rightly so.
And in other media related news – everybody favorite blond right-winger Megyn Kelly has announced that she is leaving Faux News and is going to NBC. This may or may not be bad news for Faux. Her program is their 2nd highest rated, but I think her disappearance from the Faux roster won’t make a difference. The right-wingers hate her because they think she’s too liberal. So let’s not worry about Faux News. But this is quite the blow to NBC. Their interest is obviously monetary. Kelly has been gracing magazine covers, including Vanity Fair, for months. Because she occasionally asks a tough question of a right-wing politician, a question Hannity and O’Reilly wouldn’t ask – suggests to some on the Left that she is an impartial journalist. Many friends of mine have posted on Facebook how much they do like Kelly. Horseshit. Megyn Kelly is a right-wing nutjob. Just because the Right is now so far to the Right that it’s a dot to us doesn’t mean that she is that far off it. Problem for reasonable people is that the media and public embrace of Kelly legitimizes her Right-wing insanity, which includes declarations that Jesus and Santa Claus were most definitely white and that the Black Panthers are destroying America. Her arrival at NBC – which also gifts us the previously discussed Moe Scarborough and soon Greta Van Susteren – is certainly creating an odd Right-wing wing at the network. This isn’t good news folks.
Just a tiny bit (very tiny) of good news though. After House Rethuglicans met at night and in private and in secret to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics – a shitstorm hit the fan. After a public outcry and a media firestorm Rethuglicans backed off. Even Drumpf tweeted
a critique. But it’s important to note that Drumpf doesn’t object to gutting OCE. He wants to get rid of it. And he had Baghdad Conway on the boob tube bashing it. Drumpf doesn’t even object to how Rethuglicans tried to do it in secret in a late-night meeting without a single Democrat present. Drumpf only objected to the timing of their actions. So while they have backed off for now, we can expect them to do this again in the near future with full support from the White House.
As the horrific 2016 drags itself to a miserable close, and since the day the electors put You-Know-Who You-Know-Where, I’ve been trying to cheer myself up with more cheerful topics. Like assassinations. I kid, of course.
On Monday, as our country was committing ritual hara-kiri, a horrific assassination took place at an art gallery in Turkey. The Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot as he delivered a speech, with an Associated Press photographer there to capture every horrific moment. These photos will probably win awards. Perhaps they should. The assassin, who was killed, was shouting “Remember Syria! Remember Aleppo!” Long-term fallout from these events are impossible to predict. Turkey is quickly transitioning from a Democracy into a dictatorship. Russia is a dictatorship. The USA is experimenting. And Europe is at a crossroads with England exiting stage Right. It’s unlikely the assassin’s
purported concern for Syria and Aleppo, which Russians have been annihilating, will get much sympathy from the public at large. In general it is a terrible idea to commit murder while feigning concern for anyone. A better route for this miserable man may have been a public suicide. Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, starting uprisings and revolutions in Tunisia and then a wider Arab Spring.
Perhaps the most famous case to be made against all assassinations is the murder of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Serbia on June 28, 1914. Who thought the death of such a minor person would lead to the deadliest war up to then and millions of deaths.
Many great people fell to assassinations throughout history of the world. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., Anna Politkovskaya. The list is long, dark and full of terror. I think we all agree that there are better ways to make political statements.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . .”
Which brings me to a question: what do we do to make political statements in a post-Drumpf world? I ask for very practical reasons. Some of my friends and I really want to do something over the next 4 years. Besides donating to worthy causes that will combat You-Know-Who, what else can we do? We had a meeting last week and decided we will join some local long-standing organizations that fight for political change. But that seems sort of hollow. What ideas do you all have for us Widdershins? We are all in NYC. One of us an insufferable Bernie Bro. But we must learn to live with that – he did vote for HRC, though he is very angry that she wasn’t as perfect as Bernie. In any case, we discussed the presence of the vile Peter King as a Representative from NY. He’s an institution at this point and hails form the conservative Long Island. It would feel so so good to kick him out. We will definitely support whoever runs against him, but chances of unseating him are slim. What else do you all recommend? Locally and nationally.
This is an open thread. What’s on your minds?
Madonna singing “Imagine” at a HRC rally in Washington Square Park on November 7, 2016.
The problem with the Russians is that they are always fighting a world war. No matter what it is. An actual World War or the Eurovision contest. The public and the government treat the two with equal ferocity and dedication. When the Soviets formed a human shield around Stalingrad in 1943 they beat back the Nazis with the same fanaticism with which they try to defeat foreign pop singers, especially the transvestites. Wall-to-wall coverage on the news, front page headlines, celebrity coaches, personal visits and encouragements from members of the government – all the way up to Comrade Putin – it’s literally all the same thing to them. There is always an enemy at the gate, ready to destroy Mother Russia and all that is Holy about it. Sometimes the enemy carries a machine gun, sometimes a microphone. But to come in second is to come in last.
So when the mighty Soviet Union fell, something Vladimir Putin once declared to be the greatest tragedy to befall His people, it brought with it festering and oozing scars of humiliation and anger. USSR fell not because it was incapable of functioning, but because the West destroyed it. The West – and Reagan specifically – happily embraced this view of events. But they underestimated just how deeply these events cut the Russian people.
The West – and America as its face – have always been the Enemy of Russia. As much as the Russian public is obsessed with American money, culture, fashion, etc., it also views it as a perversion of purity and righteousness which Russia represents to its people. It is very much like Gollum and The One Ring. It hungers for The West and hates it in one breath. This belief among the general public that the West generally and America specifically are always trying to destroy Russia should not be underestimated. It’s why the Russians love strongment leaders like Putin. These leaders are the forces who will protect the people from Western interference. Because the West wants all that is Russian: to take it, eat it, consume it and destroy it like it destroys everything. The West is an agent of greed and sexual perversions – and Russia is always under attack. They believe these things with the sincerity of saints.
Russia’s rejection of The Other has over the years taken on odd forms. For example, in his day Tchaikovsky’s music was seen as too European, his embrace of Europe suspect. The real champions of Russian music in the 19th century were The Mighty Handful, consisting of Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Cui, Balakirev and Borodin. They deeply resented the fact that Tchaikovsky was conservatory trained and attacked formal education of music. Though they tolerated Tchaikovsky himself, Rimsky-Korsakov once wrote that “Tchaikovsky’s Conservatory training still constituted a considerable barrier between him and us.” (None of the Five received a formal education in composition.) To this day Russia – a deeply homobigoted country – refuses to acknowledge that Tchaikovsky was gay. Russia – also a deeply racist country – refuses to discuss that Alexander Pushkin, its greatest poet, was half black. These ideas are revolting to them, too Other.
So as we learn more details about Russian interference in American elections, we must understand that this is Russia’s war for survival. The attempt to reverse decades of what they see as humiliations at the hands of the West – and America specifically. Russia is like a Holy Land, its people its righteous pilgrims, and the barbarian Western hoardes are at the gate.
The news of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf (and they are now attempting to take down Angela Merkel too), isn’t news to anyone who paid attention before November 8th. Hillary Clinton discussed it in the 3rd Presidential debate on October 19th.
CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…
TRUMP: You’re the puppet!
CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…
TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.
CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.
So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election. We have 17 — 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton…
CLINTON: And I think it’s time you take a stand…
TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.
CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.
TRUMP: She has no idea.
CLINTON: I am quoting 17…
TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.
CLINTON: … 17 intelligence — do you doubt 17 military and civilian…
TRUMP: And our country has no idea.
CLINTON: … agencies.
TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it.
CLINTON: Well, he’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely…
TRUMP: She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way.
But for reasons that will spend decades trying to understand, the story never found traction in the media or among the patriotic Americans who supported Trump. John McCain and Lindsay Graham were silent. The New York Times did not cover the story above the fold of its print edition, like they covered FBI’s announcement that they were looking at Anthony Wiener’s computer with 3 stories above the fold in a single edition. I suppose we should be grateful that finally people are taking notice, although Mitch McConnell prefers not to drag Trump into it.
This was a very long game played by Putin. One really should try to admire it, if one was not the victim of it. Putin will have Trump’s election engraved on his own tombstone. “Here Lies Vladimir Putin, Wrestler of Bears, Shirtless Horseback Rider, and Conqueror of America.” Putin is making Russia Great Again. With the assistance of Julian Rapist Assange and Glenn “Leftwing Dictators are grrreat and Putin totally has nothing to do with this election” Greenwald. Bernie Bros reposting fake news stories on social media and the American news media that never met an e-mail it didn’t like to speculate about. Soviet leaders spent decades trying to bring Red Russia to Blue America. Putin has finally succeeded. Putin has put a momentary numbing balm on Russia’s persecution mania.
Note that the color Blue in Russia represents homosexuality. That depraved Blue America has taken on the color of Red Mother Russia means so much to them. Hail Comrade Putin! We thought we would all have to learn Chinese in the new century. I suggest people start taking up Russian instead.