The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ Category

Happy Monday all! Our blithering idiot of a Presnit is off making an *ss of himself over yonder in those parts out there which are not ‘Murca. We’re so very proud, aren’t we?

While the Mango Meerkat bobbles along brainlessly, shedding havoc and treason like orange lint from his head, perhaps it’s now time for the media to admit something we always knew at TW: that the President is supposed to be…well, boring.

Our Hillary is inspiring, brilliant and and amazing, and would have been a great President – perhaps the greatest since FDR. What she isn’t, is a relentless tweeter of nonsense, a boundless gaffe machine, a man who loses his way on a one-way street. She also isn’t in Putin’s pocket, surrounded by sycophants, white supremacists and Children of the Corn. Despite decades of media creating faux scandals around Hillary, Our Girl has only ever been guilty of having a cheating husband, and a private email server.

But the headlines with Drumpf! The eyes, oh, the eyes on their shows and their newsprint and their podcasts and their Twitter accounts! They made so much money in the run-up to the election…so very, very much money. This is a great article from November 14, 2016 on how the media enabled and empowered him to rise.

In 1968 Roger Ailes, the future boss of Fox News, had a problem: how to get Richard Nixon on television without it being controlled and filtered by what he felt was a hostile media.

His solution was to create his own staged Nixon TV specials and offer them to TV stations. Forty-eight years later, CNN was effectively doing the same for Trump – free of charge.

The enthusiasm for Trump at CNN was simple: ratings. Jeff Zucker, the boss of CNN, is also the man who employed him to present The Apprentice when he worked at NBC.

Zucker, perhaps more than anyone else, turned Trump into a TV star.

Nope, there’s nothing to see here! These are not the droids you’re looking for.

And then they make this point:

The need for headlines that bring clicks and stories that get shared has changed everything. Dull, balanced articles (like this one) don’t provoke fury, laughter or much in the way of emotion.

Trump was simply more entertaining and generating more passion. In a news environment moving from a world of subscriptions and long-term appointments-to-view to the vagaries of clicks, friends’ recommendations and Facebook news streams, that makes him a winner.

I do disagree with that last sentence. The Donald has never been a winner. He managed to lose almost a billion dollars on casinos, which are basically like cash registers that are always full. He’s clearly an awful deal maker – so far he hasn’t done a single thing he’s said he was going to do. The arms deal with the Saudis, I’m sure, will turn out to be a disaster, just like the health care bill, “tax reform,” renegotiating NAFTA, and countless other campaign promises I don’t need to elaborate on here.

The media has a great deal of self-examination to do. It’s developed a clear preference for candidates who perpetually campaign and entertain; unfortunately, as we’ve seen, this type of candidate is singularly unsuited to governing. A yelling, lying, treasonous Cheeto in a bad wig does not have the gravitas, intelligence and temperament to do the hardest job in the world. This should have been the message the teevee and print media gave us. But instead, they equivalated this creature’s malfeasance and genuine danger to the Republic, with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while SOS…even though this was neither against the law, nor unprecedented, nor a threat to national security in itself. (It did give the Republicans a chance to investigate a Clinton, though – something they much prefer to the odious task of doing the people’s business.)

As the media continues to awaken, let’s hope that looking at Drumpf with a more objective eye will lead the media to start looking at themselves. Some are already doing so.

This is an open thread.

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As I have written many times, often writing posts in the Trump-age feels like an exercise in futility because by the time they are posted they are already out of date. I fear this post will be the same… so we must stay on top of latest news via the comments!

What we know: FBI Director James Comey has been fired by Donald Trump, his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, with Rosenstein writing the explanation. (Rosenstein had previously been viewed as an honest man. He was confirmed just a few weeks ago to the Justice Deparment with a 94-6 vote in the Senate. But as Philippe Reines pointed out, if Rosenstein was an honest man he would have answered Trump and Sessions’ demand that Comey be fired with: “No, I refuse.” Instead, he wrote his own epitaph as a coward.) The administrations explanation for firing Comey is: it’s Hillary’s fault. Also, her e-mails.

I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.

It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement. At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.

This is, of course, laughable on its face and no one can take this explanation seriously except maybe Fox News, which suddenly shows great concern for how Comey treated poor Hillary Clinton. Even Roger Stone (!) expressed regret: “What Comey did to Hillary was disgraceful. I’m glad Trump fired him over it,” he said to Alex Pfeiffer. We know, of course, the firing had nothing to do with Clinton. It is about the FBI’s investigation of Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 Presidential election.

Comey

James Comey has been an enigma for a long time. His press conference announcing that his agency would not recommend charges against Clinton over use of a private e-mail server, while blasting her in such a public manner, seemed inexplicable. Some stories later suggested Comey wanted to reveal information about Russian interference in our election in the summer of 2016, but was stopped by Obama. Then Comey refused to sign on to other agencies’ announcement of this info in the Fall of 2016 because it was too close to the election and he didn’t wish to interfere. But his Letter just days before the election, announcing discovery of new e-mails on the computer of Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin’s husband, did precisely what he claimed earlier he didn’t wish to do: he changed the outcome of an election. What a bizarre story arc for a man who once rushed to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop the Bush/Cheney administration from spying on Americans. None of it made sense. Until last week when Comey testified before the Senate. Finally the fog lifted.

I could see two doors and they were both actions. One was labeled speak, the other was labeled conceal. Because here’s how I thought about it, I’m not trying to talk you into this, but I want you to know my thinking. Having repeatedly told this Congress, we are done and there’s nothing there, there’s no case there, there’s no case there, to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning and not speak about it would require an active concealment, in my view.

And so I stared at speak and conceal. Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in 11 days, Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI, but well beyond. And honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we got to walk into the world of really bad.

In the end, this long term public servant fell for the oldest tragic flaw, the one Greeks wrote plays about: Hubris. Comey just thinks of himself as the last honest man in America. Our own Prolix has written a few times that Comey isn’t corrupt, he is Righteous and his own belief in his Righteousness is where things can get murky. It’s true that his Righteousness is why I think ultimately he could have been trusted with the FBI investigation into Trump/Russia. But his zealotry came with unintended – even by him – consequences: the election of Donald Trump as President. In an honest desire to be seen as non-partisan Comey managed to ruin the reputation of his favorite agency. With his fear of being taken to task by Republicans, who would smear him and the FBI if he did not tell them about the Abedin e-mails, Comey compromised himself as an honest broker of truth. He misassigned the concepts of “bad” and “catastrophic.” He thought not telling Congress about the e-mails would be catastrophic. In fact, not telling Republicans and becoming the target of their wrath would have been bad. Affecting the outcome of a Presidential election was catastrophic.

-Joy Reid Sally Yates comment

(There were also the grave issues that in his testimony to the Senate Comey gave inaccurate information about Abedin’s e-mails, falsely claiming “tens and thousands” of messages had been sent by her to her husband’s computer. It took 6 days, and prodding from ProPublica and Washington Post, for the FBI to issue a correction. The same day Comey was fired. Trump had his bodyguard Keith Schiller deliver the firing letter to the FBI headquarters, but they didn’t realize Comey was not in the office. Comey was delivering a speech and learned he was fired when the news popped up on the screen behind him.)

-COmey fired Petri

This brings us to the present. What does Comey’s firing mean in the larger scheme of things? Many Clinton aides have expressed concern, not joy, at the developments. That Clinton aides, who dislike Comey as much as anyone, are concerned about the firing speaks volumes about the Clinton candidacy and the people who supported her. We are more concerned about the Republic than petty revenge. Because what does Comey’s firing mean for the Russia/Trump investigation and the future of the Republic? It is impossible to know just yet. Some high profile Republicans, like Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, have lined up behind Trump. Collins told Judy Woodruff: “Well, the president didn’t fire the entire FBI.” Graham said: “I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.” This is worrisome because it shows a continued support for the insupportable Trump, his administration and his policies. The good news is that some others Republicans have expressed concerns. (And not just the Nixon Library tweeting an objection to people calling Trump’s behavior “Nixonian.”)

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John McCain tweeted that “Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia’s interference in 2016 election.” Tea Partier Justin Amash tweeted: “My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre.” Republican Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who heads the Senate investigation into Trump/Russia, wrote:

I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee.  Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.

Other notable Republicans who have expressed concern about Comey’s firing are James Lankford of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Senate Judiciary Committee member Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

I think we are at a cross-roads. What happens next is what history books will say about all of us. Will the firing of Comey bring about Trump’s downfall? Or will Republicans close ranks and save him, kill the investigation… and damn us all to a banana republic?

-History joke

Comey

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.

Alfa Bank

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.)

Trump

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.”

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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 thL. Cohene 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.

Cunning Con

Posted on: March 15, 2017

Conway caricature

There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their—certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life.

It’s not. But so said Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s senior advisor with an office on the 2nd floor of the White House (because he doesn’t like stairs), and the first woman to run a winning Presidential campaign. She is also the person who invented the phrase “alternative facts” and the Bowling Green Massacre. (Also fun fact: Conway’s husband, George T. Conway III, is a litigation partner at law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, whose previous notable alumni include Glenn Greenwald.)

Conway’s rise to power and fame has been long and steady. She first gained prominence as a right-wing blond pundit in the 1990s, along with Laura Ingraham and Barbara Olson. Over the years she has worked for Newt Gingrich and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Aikin. In 2016 she endorsed Ted Cruz for President and campaigned for him and against Donald Trump. Her numerous media appearances blasting Trump blasted her into election year stratosphere, so much so that when Cruz folded his wings, Conway was brought to the Trump campaign by the very scary Mercer family. (Mercers are just like the Kochs, but 100% more evil. They own Breitbart, among many other notable acts of devilry.) Once at the helm of Trump’s campaign, Conway really began to shine. Her dizzying feats of triangulation, circular talk and topic avoidance, became an Olympic sport. And it’s really not too crazy to say that she is a yuge reason Trump managed to “win.” She helped humanize him. Somehow, for a very long time, people managed to see Conway as a human herself, even SNL (where she is played by Kate McKinnon) always portrayed her as a good person stuck in an impossible situation working for an awful man, but not knowing how to stop him. (Same fantasies still exist about Ivanka Trump and Melania, contrary to all existing evidence.) That is patent nonsense, of course. Conway knew exactly what she was doing and helped give the world Trump. She is not a victim.

giphy

But everything that goes up must come down. And Conway is on her way down. Her TV appearances have dwindled because nobody wants to book her. She was temporary banned from CNN. She has been permanently (?) banned from Morning Schmoe. Shep Smith on Fox openly mocks her. (“…senior adviser Kellyanne Conway — who we don’t quote much anymore because, well, history”). Each time she gives a major interview she invents a crazy story (Bowling Green Massacre and spying microwaves are most notable over the past few weeks.) She also got a fair amount of… shall we call it “alternative feedback” to a photo of her sitting on the couch in the Oval Office with her feet up while surrounded by a large group of black men. Granted, she was prepping to take a photograph and that was one way to do it. (One way, not the only way). But when you combine all the nonsense, Conway really does seem to be coming undone and unhinged.

Conway microwave

In a February piece in the New York Times, Erin Gloria Ryan, summarized her growing dislike for Conway, which to her centers on Conway’s faux feminism.

Once she took the reins of Donald Trump’s campaign, though, she went from smooth to slippery. She’d hammer Hillary Clinton for talking too much about gender and duck behind her femininity in the face of legitimate criticism. If she succeeded, it was because she was Kellyanne. If she failed, it was because she was a woman.

As Kellyanne’s once-forceful cable news denials have disintegrated into whimpers, I can’t say I feel anything for her at all. I don’t mind when people point out how tired she looks. I simply cannot dredge up any sympathy for a person who has acknowledged the structural problems most women face only when she is personally facing them, or used them as derailing tactics when she’s losing an argument. I can’t mourn the downfall of a fair-weather feminist, a woman who has used her power to hurt other women.

Ms. Conway made her bed. And now it’s time for her to get some sleep.

 

In different, lighter and more empowering news: it took 188 years for Fanny Mendelssohn to get some recognition she deserves, but better late than never. Fanny was the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn, one of the great Romantic composers, who – among many great works of music – gave us the Wedding March. In 1829 he is said to have written a piano sonata. The manuscript, which was discovered in the 20th century, was autographed “F Mendelssohn” and the assumption was that it was Felix’s. But in 2010 a Duke graduate student proved that “F” was Fanny, not Felix, and last week the work was finally performed with Fanny’s name attached as composer. We actually know that Fanny composed over 460 pieces of music. It was unusual for women to openly composer and publish, so Felix arranged to have a handful of her works published under his name. In 1842, when visiting Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, the Queen told Felix that she intended to sing one of his songs for him. Felix confessed that the song was actually composed by his sister. Fanny died in 1847 and is buried in Berlin.

Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you had a good International Women’s Day. I saw quite a few women wearing red at my client site last week in honor of “A Day without a Woman.” It was inspirational. I think there are several more actions planned from the organizers of the Women’s March, so stay tuned!

Now to the title of my post. This comes from some research I’ve been doing on the human brain, and the way it works to keep us alive and protect us from threats. This won’t be a super-science-y piece – more of a meditation on the state our country is in, and how it’s possible for sub-human cretins like Drumpf, Bannon and their minions to win even one vote, much less 60-odd million.

As I’m sure many of you know better than I, there are older, more primitive parts of our brains that only exist to make sure we quickly and instinctively respond to threats. From an evolutionary perspective, these parts of the brains are extremely important. They initiate the “fight or flight” response, which actually also includes a “freeze” as well, giving us microseconds to decide either to go to war, or to retreat.

After millions of years of evolution, we actually developed the capability to process these responses and evaluate them. Ah, the frontal lobe! Human beings develop this part of the brain in young adulthood. At least, some human beings do.

…It organizes responses to complex problems, plans steps to an objective, searches memory for relevant experience, adapts strategies to accommodate new data, guides behavior with verbal skills and houses working memory. Its orbitofrontal circuit manages emotional impulses in socially appropriate ways for productive behaviors including empathy, altruism, interpretation of facial expressions. Stroke in this area typically releases foul language and fatuous behavior patterns [bolding mine].

My argument today is that Drumpf and his supporters have either not developed their frontal lobes, or they have developed them, but are unable to use them. Their amygdalae are in charge, causing them to respond unthinkingly to perceived threats without the calming influence of the orbitofrontal circuit. This inability to counter the constant screaming of “Danger, Will Robinson!” makes them extremely susceptible to manipulation by other like-minded people, who deeply understand the constant state of anxiety in which these primitive brains exist.

In other words…they are stupid. And because they’re stupid, they’re evil.

Read the rest of this entry »

-Trump Chuckie

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 Trump Obamaabout 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.

Medicaire

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 ForsterForster 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.”

Howards End

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.

hrc-reading-about-pence

Oh, No He Dwa – Wa

Good Monday, Widdershins! It’s been another dizzying, crazy-making week in Washington. It’s almost impossible to make sense of all the Republicans melting down in public, including the fact that Mike Pence (currently being marketed as “The Normal One”) used a private email server to conduct government bidness as Indiana’s governor! Yes, that’s Our Girl reading about it over there on the right side.

Let’s take a little break from the cray-cray and talk about some of the good things going on. As we know, March is Women’s History Month, and March 8, 2017 is International Women’s Day. Thanks to the Women’s March, a spontaneous outpouring of love, positivity and opposition the day after Drumpf’s inauguration, women, and those who support us, have been energized for activism in a way they haven’t been in decades.

This year, March 8 is A Day Without A Woman.

In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

Ah, but what are we women yammering about, skeptics may grumble. After all, women aren’t that far away from being equal. And it’s true, we’ve made some strides. Maybe we should wait! According to the IWD website, if we continue on our current course, women will achieve gender parity in 2186.

I’ll just let that sit there for a minute.

When I read that figure, I thought, huh. Weren’t we doing better a few years ago? Why yes. Yes we were.

On average, the 144 countries covered in the Report have closed 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men, unchanged since last year, and more than 95% of the gap in educational attainment, an improvement of almost one full percentage point since last year and the highest value ever measured by the Index. However, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide: only 59% of the economic participation gap has been closed—a continued reversal on several years of progress and the lowest value measured by the Index since 2008—and about 23% of the political gap, continuing a trend of slow but steady improvement. Weighted by population, in 2016, the average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at a score of 0.683—meaning an average gap of 31.7% remains to be closed worldwide across the four Index dimensions in order to achieve universal gender parity.

Out of the 142 countries covered by the Index both this year and last year, 68 countries have increased their overall gender gap score compared to last year, while 74 have seen it decrease. It therefore has been an ambiguous year for global gender parity, with uneven progress at best.

Sometimes statistics like this can seem dry. This year, in which we saw a feces-throwing orangutan being inaugurated as President, instead of the first woman ever, it’s as pertinent and full of emotional impact as the shameful and terrifying deportations, anti-Semitic hate crimes, and virulent, violent racism flourishing in the Age of Republican Hate.

But damn, I was going to talk about the good things, right? Here are 31 days of sheroes to inspire us. And for those who want to talk about the insanity du jour, this is an open thread.

 

 


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Our 2016 Ticket!

Our girl is gonna shine

Busted: Glass ceiling

HRC bumper sticker

She’s thinking “Less than 2 weeks I have to keep seeing that face”

Yeah I can make it

The team we’re on

Women’s March on Washington!

Right-click the pic for more info

Kellyanne Conway’s new job

So similar