Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Rise of Rollerball

Trump's amphibian brain computes getting elected as his license to swell with power. As a cold-blooded denizen of watery climes, he'll devour every sitting insect and a few flying ones too. In human terms, he's authoritarian, and you need to understand that word. It means "demanding blind obedience." Dissent is betrayal and resistance will be punished.

Social media joked about him way back in 2015 as "Trumpolini," a tin-horn, would-be dictator so amazed by his own brilliance that he couldn't see his muddy feet. Now he's president, with his election shaded by Russian interference and alleged "massive voter fraud," with a rising resistance all around his new house, and the ever-present poking, poking, poking of a press not inclined to "keep its mouth shut."

He's the "I Alone Can Fix It President," and we better stay out of his way, cause he's got a sidekick with a loaded gun ... Steve Bannon ... and a poolroom-tough little hussy singer in Kellyanne, who also packs heat. People will die.

Dissent Is Betrayal

The exact wording of Trump's written firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates last night claimed that Sally had "betrayed" the Justice Department because she said she didn't think Trump's Muslim ban was strictly legal, and she wouldn't defend it in court. Betrayed in the context of democratic government, let alone the context of Donald "Rollerball" Trump's presidency, means treason (and you know what treason leads to).

It's not the firing of Sally Yates that cuts deep. It's the firing for implied treason against the regime. Sally Yates took a stand on what she believed, based on a knowledge of federal law, and she paid the price. We all knew she'd be fired as soon as she issued the statement yesterday. But it's not the firing. It's the imperial hand.

No Republican leaders in Congress will now admit to having been consulted by Trump people about the surprise Muslim ban (though some of their staff consulted with Bannon or his deputy on the language for the ban). Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was not consulted, nor was Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “This is emblematic of a new, power-hungry White House staff flexing its muscles without consulting the public servants responsible for implementing their fiats. If this type of behavior continues, then this administration is going to lose all of its friends very quickly,” one Senate GOP aide said.

Resistance Will Be Punished

The US Department of State -- and it alone among all cabinet-level departments (?) -- established guaranteed protection for any foreign service officer who dissented from administration policy and who spoke up about it, directly to the Secretary of State. The Dissent Channel was set up during the Vietnam War era as a way for foreign service officers and civil servants to raise concerns with upper management about the direction of U.S. foreign policy, without fear of retribution. Those last four words are essential for the procedure to work.

"Dissent" cables are sent to the State Department's policy planning director, who distributes them to the secretary of state and other top officials, who must respond within 30 to 60 days. They can respond with an opposite argument, or they can reassure the dissenters they're being heard, or they can stall. But they must acknowledge the dissent with a paper trail. There are typically about four or five dissent channel messages each year. "Freedom from reprisal for Dissent Channel users is strictly enforced," according to the State Department.

So what happened yesterday when "dozens of career diplomats" all over the world -- dozens -- cabled their dissents to the Trump Muslim ban?

This happened: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stood in front of the press corps and sent a dark warning to State Department dissenters: “Either get with the program or they can go."

Resistance is futile.

A Dictator Demands a Compliant Press

Is there any doubt now that both Trump and Bannon (and that saloon moll Kellyanne too) mean to use the national press to invalidate any news against its actions? If everything critical of you is "fake," then you might be able to get away with anything.

If this isn't a constitutional crisis -- this whole presidency -- then I don't understand the term.

Monday, January 30, 2017

We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Chaos

We have barely entered the second week of the Rollerball President, and the spontaneous uprisings against him should sober up any man drunk on his own ego.

Decisive action. Decisive action aimed at pleasing a rabidly nationalistic base. That's what Trump-Bannon will deliver. Forget careful deliberation. Forget planning. Forget coalition-building. Just give Franklin Graham the Muslim ban he's been praying for.

Green card holders are legal permanent residents of these United States, but Trump's executive order banning foreigners applied to them. Then it didn't apply to them. Then it didn't really seem to matter, as green card holders were being detailed at dozens of airports, both foreign and domestic. It took until late yesterday for the Trump administration to issue another order declaring that green card holders were exempt.

And, congratulations, Trump-Bannon! You now have your first constitutional crisis, as various judges are studying whether you crossed the line.

The order bars entry to refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely. That's just exactly how Trump feels about the promise carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty. The order blocks any visitors for 90 days from seven designated countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (Majority Muslim countries where Trump does business were noticeably exempt.) The Department of Homeland Security initially said the order would bar green card holders from those seven countries from returning to the United States. Many were trapped in foreign airports, trying to get home.

Trump is now claiming it isn't a Muslim ban. Of course, everyone knows that's precisely what he promised during the campaign, in those exact words. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in an interview on Saturday that President Trump had previously asked him about legally implementing a "Muslim ban." Certainly, all the Franklin Grahams in this country understand it as a Muslim ban.

As do all the Muslims in the rest of the world, who are now targets of jihadi propaganda showing conclusively that the United States has a religious crusade underway. All of which makes every last one of us less safe.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What Has He Done Now? Put Bannon Above All Others

Photograph by Jeremy Liebman
for Bloomberg Businessweek
Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart gunslinger and officially Trump's chief strategist, has been named to a "principal's seat" on the National Security Council, while the Director of National Intelligence and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs have been kicked out of those meetings, except by invitation.

Bannon is calling all the shots. National security is now in the hands of a political operative with no scruples. Reports from the White House are saying that Bannon and his deputy Stephen Miller are behind most of the executive orders (including the one yesterday banning Muslims from certain countries). Bannon and Miller also wrote Trump's inauguration speech, and Bannon is gleefully gas-lighting the national media. Screw the fact-checkers!

This is Bannonland now, where "fact-checking becomes an act of war by the media,” said Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity and the author of “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” a book about presidential deception.

Without scruples? Bannon told The Daily Beast last August, "I’m a Leninist ... Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment."

Heck of a job, Stevie Baby!

Another president, George W. Bush, much in thrall to his famous policy advisor, was a smarter man than Trump. George W. decreed that adviser Karl Rove not attend meetings where national security issues were discussed.

"It wasn't because he didn't respect Karl's advice or didn't value his input," Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff, said. "But the president also knew that the signal he wanted to send to the rest of his administration, the signal he wanted to send to the public, and the signal he especially wanted to send to the military is that the decisions I'm making that involve life and death for the people in uniform will not be tainted by any political decisions."

We're going to be in a new war before this year is over, because Steve Bannon thinks fear is the best motivator of the people.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

BREAKING: New Explanation for Why Virginia Foxx Walks That Way

People are talking about the leaked recording of Congressional Republicans arguing about Obamacare at their retreat Thursday morning. We find it especially compelling for the participation of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx.

Thursday morning in a private meeting, some Republican lawmakers expressed high anxiety about repealing Obamacare too quickly and without a viable option that doesn't throw millions off their health insurance, or costs them more in the long run. Like House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas): “I hate to think we’re going to keep going down this road that says, ‘You have to do it [repeal] now! Now! Now! Now! Now!,’ and then wake up and say, ‘What did we do?’ ”

Or Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.):“We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.”

Virginia Foxx, The Spirit of Christmas You're Never Going To Have, couldn't stand it. According to Politico, which received the leaked tape and listened to it, Foxx scolded Sessions and MacArthur and any other sob sisters: “I couldn’t believe a week or so ago that I heard there were people getting weak-kneed on the repeal. My, God! We all ran [on] repealing Obamacare! What is wrong? ... Sometimes people don’t have enough backbone to do what they’re supposed to do and you need to put a broomstick up their back.”

Politico chose to paraphrase what she said next:
...she suggested she’d do that herself to Republicans who don’t vote for their Obamacare replacement.
Politico added, "everyone laughed," I guess because they needed to break the tension, plus Foxx's saying it as a joke reinforced her role as unpettable House Republican mascot, the mean little ole lady from Appalachia.

More than that, we assume Foxx was confessing that she has a broomstick up her ass, presumably put there by her mother, and she won't be happy until everybody else has one too. She's a socialist like that.

Berger Sez: Forget Repeal of HB2, Chumps

Phil Berger, NC Senate Republican leader and ruler of all he surveys, is saying that the repeal of HB2 is pretty much off the table, because, evidently, the state can still lose more tourism and business development money as well as national prestige, and as long as there's yet an unexplored bottom to that barrel, we'll keep going down.

Suck on that, sane people!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Fox News Presidency

Does Donald Trump read anything longer than his own tweets? Did he read his own book? He is not a studious man nor a reflective man, and that famous book was the product of a ghost writer. He doesn't read books because he's already, like, very smart. He's told us. 

Trump speaks on impulse and decrees on impulse, based on what someone told him -- a golf buddy, the last person in the office, a TV talking head. Trump is said to consume TV compulsively, especially Fox News and most especially Morning Joe on MSNBC, and he obviously Googles his own name like an addict snorting a line.

Somewhat reassuringly, I think, for the future of the planet, at least some of his closest aides know what they're dealing with and are on nursery duty. Leaks coming out of the White House since Minute One paint a picture of Trump as "a clueless child" (Chris Cillizza). 

I like to think that son-in-law Jared Kushner is one of the leakers. He certainly knows Trump better than anybody, as the golden son-in-law with a fortune of his own. He also knows Trump through the eyes of his wife Ivanka, and she knows her dad. She's surely shared impressions with Kushner, who now sees everything at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Kushner has many press contacts; he was recently himself a newspaper owner. He's powerful, though obviously no match for Steve Bannon (see below). 

Kellyanne Conway must also be a prime leaker. Despite her TV act -- "Get-Your-Fortune-Here! One Dime, Get Positive Words. One Quarter, Get the World!" --  she clearly knows by now what she's dealing with. Trump doesn't always listen to her, with regrettable little media storms to follow. (Bannon, again, is stronger than she.) Trump doesn't read memos, and Conway's office is farther away in the WH than Bannon's, so she's resorted to "the best way to reach him, change his mind or otherwise bend his ear -- through a public airing of grievances." She's done it before, gone on TV and said things guaranteed to get his attention, even if it leads to a greater tantrum, so why wouldn't she be leaking an impression of him as a very bad little boy?
Time and again, the image of Trump pushed by his “aides” is one of a clueless child — someone who acts on impulse, disregarding the better advice of people who know better. We know he needs to be managed or else he will say and do stupid things, the message seems to be. "We're working on it." (Cillizza)
The Inner Trump Child
He is his very own North Korean anchorwoman. He can't stop talking about how wonderful he is, and watching to see how much we love his every antic. How's this for childish:
"On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him.
"In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average." (Karen Tumulty and Juliet Eilperin)
His more devoted followers, who evidently can't tell reality TV from reality, think he's just "being real," "speaking his mind," "saying what he thinks," and the hoariest and emptiest excuse of all, "he's  draining the swamp" (as though a 10-year-old knew the first thing about plumbing). Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina (the "Appalachian Trail governor"), said wisely, “I think you can move from 'real' to bizarre if you don’t watch out. And some of what he’s done in tweet-world and others certainly fit that mold.”

Steve Bannon Uber Alles
You can certainly see Bannon's fingerprints all over the CIA speech and the raging press conference that followed. If you couldn't see Bannon's fingerprints before, you could certainly see them after the extraordinary outburst yesterday in which Mr. Trump's chief strategist told the press that he views them as "the opposition party" (not the Democrats, who are feckless non-entities) and warned any media not Fox News that it had better just "keep its mouth shut."

Or else?

Before I forget: Fuck you, Mr. Bannon.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's Self-Love Is a Debilitating Sickness

I watched Trump's speech at the CIA last Saturday, a kind of desecration of the memorial wall he stood before, a meandering, self-obsessed, falsehood-filled, defensive and offensive big bowl of word salad, wildly applauded by Trump's traveling pep squad and only politely applauded by a non-plussed crowd of CIA props.

But last night, look at how our Narcissist-in-Chief could not stop bragging about it in a lengthy ABC News interview:
That speech was a home run. See what Fox [News] said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.
You probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.
If someone with that mouth and that lack of self-perception sat down next to you in an airport, you'd get up and move. You wouldn't vote that fat-head into your fraternity, even if you belonged to Pi Kappa Phi (except maybe to get access to his cash). If he were your uncle, you'd skip holiday meals he was scheduled to attend.

It's more than just laughable behavior, worse than just offensive self-promotion. It's a sickness, and it belongs to the most powerful man in the world.

Trump To His NSC: "Peel Me a Muslim, Would You?"

Our narcissistic president does stupid shit because someone got to him and told him something that he chooses to believe, or which tickles his fancy, which is about all the concerted cogitation that the man can expend before taking potentially disastrous steps. That's what you put into office, America.

I have spoken, as recently as 24 hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence and I asked them the question: does torture work?he told ABC reporter David Muir. “And the answer was: yes, absolutely.”

People at the highest level of intelligence is one of those dismal Trumpian bites of word salad that might mean something but probably don't, because the man wouldn't name who those "people" were. We know by now what "many people are saying" means, which is squat.

So our president it talking openly about torture and how he's inclined to do it.

With that as hors d'oeuvre, what should "spill into public view" early yesterday but a draft Executive Order advocating  the reinstatement of CIA "black sites," secret prisons around the world where we, the American commonwealth, famously tortured prisoners under the presidency of Dick Cheney. The draft Executive Order evidently came out of Trump's National Security Council (NSC) and was distributed via email (oh boy!) to NSC members. I cannot for the life of me imagine that such a thing got written and distributed without the express or tacit approval of Trump.

The Trump people are embarrassed about the leak (as they should be!), are denying that they or anybody they knew wrote the thing or caused it to be circulated, but anonymous White House sources are saying the denials are simply a lie. Trump's people are embarrassed but not Trump. He goes on national tv and brags he's up for some torture as soon as his cabinet-level guys ask for it. And it'll be the best torture, like no one has ever tortured before. The best!

Gen. Michael Flynn,
Trump's NSC advisor
Whatever happens -- and so far (at least, for public consumption) Trump's Sec. of Defense and his new CIA director say they will not participate in torture -- whatever happens and ends up coming out into public view, we have a sonovabitch as president who is capable of absolutely anything, especially depending on who was the last sonovabitch who told him something he liked hearing.

Because he himself is incapable of thinking with any human insight or foresight or just plain sight that doesn't involve gilded walls and trophy wives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Rest of the World Must Declare Us a "Rogue Nation"

“You are a slow learner, Winston."
"How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."
"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
George Orwell, 1984

The climate-change-denier in chief, Donald Trump, has named fellow climate-change-deniers to top posts in his administration -- Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry at the Energy Department, and Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department.

During the transition period (the first week of December), Trump officials demanded that the Energy Department turn over the names of scientists who had worked on President Obama's climate change initiative, a decree that the department refused, as anyone familiar with the history of witch hunts should have done.

Just yesterday, employees at several federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture have been barred by the Trump administration from making any statements, or providing any documents to the public or journalists -- a "gag order."

A memo sent to staff of the Environmental Protection Agency said that no press releases were to be sent to "external audiences" and that "no social media will be going out," according to a report by The Hill. The memo also says that a digital strategist will be coming in to oversee the agency's social-media policies, and that "existing, individually controlled social-media accounts may become more centrally controlled."

Centrally controlled. Big Brother is watching you.

Staff at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service also got a memo on Monday telling them not to provide any documents to the public, including press releases and social-media content. The email told employees, including about 2,000 staff scientists, that "starting immediately and until further notice," they were not to release any documents or post anything to social media.

The Trump presidency: "We will strangle science in its cradle in order to deny that two plus two is four."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This Man Wants To Make Yelling "Shame!" at Ex-Gov. McCrory a Crime

Meet Senator Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg County. He was a major sponsor of HB2, the law that got ex-Gov. Pat McCrory chased by a crowd of protesters in Washington on Saturday. They yelled "Shame!" and "anti-gay bigot" at him while he tried vainly to find someplace to hide.

Senator Bishop wants that behavior criminalized ... the behavior of the protesters, not McCrory's behavior in signing a law he hadn't read and didn't understand (which, come to think of it, might also warrant criminalizing).

Sen. Bishop has proposed a new law (the General Assembly meets tomorrow for the "long session") that would "make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties." Bishop said that offenders of his proposed statute should serve a prison sentence up to five years.

Gosh. Doesn't that just cry out for a major "Shame! Shame!" chant performed by a sizable group of people as Sen. Bishop walks past to take his seat in the General Assembly?

The Netherlands Are Extremely Excited About the Trump Presidency

Trump Is an Environmentalist Like Hurricane Katrina Was Urban Renewal

Photo Ryan McGuire
In 2008 when Trump was trying to build his golf course in Scotland on environmentally sensitive (and ancient) sand dunes, he met stiff resistance from the locals. They didn't want Donald Trump tromping all over their dunes with his rich loafers. How did Donald Trump respond to their opposition? He insulted the dunes as "kind of disgusting" and in need of his gold-plated improvement.

He also commissioned an environmental assessment and recommendations, but he made a point of not even reading it and bragging at a public hearing in Scotland that he didn't need to read it because he was already the greatest environmentalist in the universe, by instinct. According to coverage of the hearing in the Wall Street Journal, the laughter in the room when Trump made that assertion was so uproarious that the hearing officer had to gavel for order.

With that as background, you might be amused to hear that Donald Trump yesterday bragged to a roundtable of business leaders, “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.” He made that same brag on "Fox and Friends" in 2011 -- “I’ve received many, many environmental awards.” He repeatedly claimed this during the 2016 presidential campaign: “I’ve won many environmental awards, by the way. I’ve actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that.”

When you continue to repeat a claim that suspicious, you're bound eventually to attract the fact-checkers. This morning, they give him "Four Pinocchios" on the brag. The research of the fact-checkers makes for fascinating insight.

The man is perhaps incapable of telling the truth about himself, which goes along with that ego psychosis. He's so full of shit, it's coming out his nose. It's coming out of -- wherever.

Trump took executive action this morning to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Eff the effing environment, says the Great Environmentalist!

When Ego Becomes a Psychosis

According to people who witnessed Trump yesterday at a reception for Congressional leaders, he is hanging on to his self-puffing fantasy that 3-5 million illegal votes for Hillary Clinton cost him the popular vote last November.

It rankles him the way poor crowds on inauguration day rankle him. He can't accept rejection, which is going to make the next four years an escalating throb of pain.

If Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want to stir the opposition into another peak of froth, perhaps they'll act on Trump's whining and pass a national voter ID law. Expect the worst.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Resistance: Still Rising

The Peaceful People's Parade to raise awareness about global climate change ... getting underway this afternoon in Boone.

More Voter Suppression Coming in North Carolina, You Bet!

Colin Campbell, reporting in today's News&Observer:
Republicans have made it clear they want to ban people from voting outside their assigned polling place, end same-day registration during early voting, and limit early-voting hours.
Their cover excuse will be Pat McCrory's howls of voter fraud between Nov. 8 and the day he finally conceded the election. Don't expect logic. Only expect anti-democratic laws based on lies.

They will not notice that the voters are already pretty riled up about the loss of rights.

Lie Down With Dogs, You Get Fleas

The glorious honeymoon between Trump and WikiLeaks is likely over now (according to a McClatchy reporter):

Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway stated today that Trump will not release his tax returns. Send them to: https://wikileaks.org/#submit  so we can.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

In His First Hour, Trump Signed Order To Raise Mortgage Rates

Trump spoke at his inaugural about what a man of the people he's going to be, helping all the little guys in the red baseball caps who have been forgotten by Washington elites, and then he went to the Oval Office and signed an executive order rescinding a rate decrease on FHA-backed home loans.

One of those guys in a red baseball cap with a $200,000 FHA mortgage will pay an additional $500 a year on their mortgage now.

Do they care that Trump just screwed them?

American Carnage

So in his first full day in office, Trump went to CIA headquarters and stood in front of the Memorial Wall with its 120-some stars for fallen CIA operatives (about which he said not one word to honor their sacrifice) and talked about himself, about how the lying media did not report the "one million, million-and-a-half" people on the Mall for his inauguration speech (that he himself had clearly seen from the podium, "stretching all the way to the Washington Monument"), and he blamed the press for manufacturing a feud between Himself and the CIA, which just last week he was accusing of being no better than Nazis.

While Trump was speaking at the CIA, a group of White House aids bused in for the purpose cheered wildly in the back of the room for every Trump lie assertion.

Meanwhile, across this country and even in foreign countries (and including Antarctica, no less -- see below), protesters filled every major city, peacefully massing to resist Trumpism. Some speculate that Trump made his hasty visit to the CIA, which doesn't even have his director pick confirmed yet, in order to draw the TV cameras away from the anti-Trump crowds.

Women's March against Trump, Los Angeles:

Photo Brian Feinzimer

Women's March, Nashville, Tenn.:

Photo Melanie Balakit

Women's March, Raleigh, NC:

Women's March, Washington, D.C.:

Antarctica, y'all!

Yep. Trump is unifying the nation, all right.

When you lie as flagrantly as Trump does, with plenty of documentary evidence to the contrary, eventually even your most ardent supporters will be onto you.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The National Mall as Trump was being sworn in. All the white you see is unoccupied space. Photo Reuters Pictures

Stupid Protesters

Hearing reports of violence and property damage in DeeCee.

Please, people! You don't give a guy (Stephen Bannon) who made his reputation demonizing the Left all the ammunition that he and Trump need.

Protest, yes. But break stuff? Come on!

Trump at Noon Today: "Thank Whatever Gods That Be for Barack Obama!"

Donald Trump had 660 executive department appointments to make by noon today ... because at noon today, the 660 executive department managers who were Obama political appointees are out the door, no longer employed, paycheck ended. Some of the things they've been managing are highly sensitive and crucial for public safety -- disaster management, anyone? -- and Trump has made exactly 29 of those 660 appointments. America's wide ass is about to be hanging out there by noon today, and thank Gawd someone rational in the Trump organization realized they'd better be asking Obama appointees to stay on and continue to do their jobs, or crash the hell out on Day One. Last night, the Trump people begged 50 Obama appointees to stay on a while longer.

Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush got the inside scroop on why the Trump transition walks like a three-legged horse:

1. Turns Out ... Trump Is Superstitious
Trump didn't like the "bad Karma" of being too involved "in the minutiae of his transition." Whichever Trump insider Haberman and Thrush talked to told them that, "at one point, [Trump] wanted to halt the planning altogether, out of superstition."

Okay, didn't see that one coming.

2. Chris Christie Got Fired from the Transition
Haberman and Thrush document how meticulous Christie had been in laying out a rational and effective transition blueprint over six months ago. Son-in-law Jared Kushner got rid of Christie. No one was left capable of doing what Christie outlined.

Footnote on Donald Trump's inability to focus on but one shiny object at a time:
Still, there was thought put into the transition [after Christie's exit] and what would come next, including a draft of dozens of executive orders and recommendations for a communications plan to avoid “idle” time in the president-elect’s schedule that the news media would use to describe him as unfocused.
 The Donald, unfocused? Say it's not so, Omarosa!

3. Trump (A Notorious Gossip) Has a New Phone
"A secure, encrypted device approved by the Secret Service with a new number that few people possess."

Haberman and Thrush talked to several aids who said they were relieved about the new phone, because they were tired of being "blindsided when a reporter, outside adviser or officeseeker dialed the president-elect directly" -- because Trump had given out his cell number freely and likes to yak. (He's obviously still tweeting too.)

But get this: Trump's closest aids "expect the new president to satisfy his compulsion for continuous communication by calling outsiders and by tramping from office to office in search of gossip and sounding boards."

Who's got Trump's new number? Putin?

4. Priebus to Whitehouse Staff: Don't Even Look at the Boss!
According to Haberman and Thrush, Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Preibus "informed midlevel aides that they should avoid interacting with Mr. Trump without his permission, that they were prohibited from talking to the news media, and that they should carefully restrict their social media posts, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

Trump's Law: "Do as I say, not as I do."

How Fast Will Prez Trump Squash This New Russian Investigation?

Photo Ryan McGuire
News came out this morning that a multi-agency investigative team (including personnel from the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit) have been looking into (and have evidently found) multiple contacts between top Trump campaign people and unnamed officials in the Russian government.

The investigation was leaked and then confirmed by a half-dozen of the investigators because "they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts." As of noon today, Donald Trump will be in charge of all executive branch agencies, and as soon as he's confirmed, Jeff Sessions will be in charge of the FBI.

Three Trump campaign operatives were named as targets of the investigation: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign director up until August 20, 2016; Carter Page, businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and friend of Trump.

The NSC apparently has eavesdropped on conversations between these three and various officials in Russia and various Russia-friendly officials in the Ukraine. You can thank expanded eavesdropping laws put in place by the Bush administration after 9/11 for those intercepts.

Roger Stone

"Mr. Stone, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, said in a speech in Florida last summer that he had communicated with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that published the hacked Democratic emails. During the speech, Mr. Stone predicted further leaks of documents, a prediction that came true within weeks."

Stone is denying today that he has any Russian contacts.

Paul Manafort

"The F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Manafort began last spring, and was an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. In August, The Times reported that Mr. Manafort’s name had surfaced in a secret ledger that showed he had been paid millions in undisclosed cash payments. The Associated Press has reported that his work for Ukraine included a secret lobbying effort in Washington aimed at influencing American news organizations and government officials."

Manafort is calling the investigation "a Democrat Party dirty trick."

Carter Page

Page, a former Merrill Lynch banker, founded Global Energy Capital, an investment firm in New York that has done business with Russia. He's also been a foreign affairs advisor for Trump's transition.

Page decided to go one better than Manafort's denial: Page is blaming Hillary Clinton for this news.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Republican Members of Congress Adopting the "Virginia Foxx Way" -- Never Face Your Constituents!

Virginia Foxx just does not hold town hall events where any of her constituents can come in and put a question to her. She did it once in Boone waaay back and never did it again. Instead, she holds bogus telephone town halls by which she can insulate herself and screen the questions.

With Republicans in Congress now trying to take away Obamacare from 20 million Americans, the people would like to be heard, and the Republican members of Congress who dared hold town hall events recently wished they hadn't. The natives are restless.

Take Senator Thom Tillis. Instead of facing his constituents, Tillis recently announced a live, 30-minute Facebook event during which he would take and answer questions. Tillis lasted exactly 11 minutes, with over 200 people clamoring to ask him his views on health insurance.
Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan [for Obamacare]. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington.
Yep. Republican members of Congress are now very concerned about "YouTube moments," those instances of public outrage that get captured on camera and get replayed over and over to the embarrassment of Mr. or Mrs. Congressperson. The Tea Party was fueled by those confrontations in 2009. Virginia Foxx and her fellow cave-dwellers don't intend to let it happen to them in 2017.

Hard to Drain the Swamp When YOU Are the Swamp

Photo Ryan McGuire
Trump's HHS nominee Rep. Tom Price personally benefitted from stock in companies that benefitted from legislation that Rep. Tom Price pushed in Congress. Purely a coincidence!

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged during his confirmation process that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal employment taxes for a household employee.

Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the “dozen or so” housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented, which he said he discovered only recently. Yeah, we believe that.

The Swamp-Drainer-in-Chief refuses to separate himself from the businesses that he can vastly advantage in the presidency, and he refuses to release his tax returns because there's stuff in there that might give his most loyal supporters a new form of indigestion.

This Trump administration already has a distinct odor of corruption that will only grow as the garbage piles up.

Pruitt Will Do It!

In the same week that we learn the earth set another high temperature record for 2016 -- only the third year in a row that earth's high temperature has broken all previous records -- we also get treated with Scott Pruitt's confirmation hearing to be Trump's leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Irony, the Force is with you!

Pruitt stated flatly that climate change is not a hoax -- directly contradicting his ignorant boss -- but he's also largely hostile to the agency he seeks to lead ... like most of Trump's cabinet choices. Pruitt has been attorney general of Oklahoma and in that office has sued the EPA numerous times. Oklahoma is a safe zone for fracking, which has produced hundreds of earthquakes for the pleasure and enlightenment of its citizens.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Betsy All-Wetsy

Betsy DeVos had her confirmation hearing last night to become Trump's education secretary, and it was conducted by the Republican chair of the committee like tiptoeing past a cave full of dozing  vampires as the sun goes down. Chair Lamar Alexander limited the questioning to one 5-minute round per senator. Yeah, that's a thorough vetting.

DeVos has no experience with public schools, never attended them herself, and she never sent her own children to public schools.

A super-rich former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and no friend of public education, DeVos has not yet completed her paperwork for the Office of Government Ethics, which is responsible for vetting presidential nominees for potential conflicts of interest.

She declined to take a position on whether guns belong in schools, and she said that if President Trump wanted to end gun-free zones around schools, she would go along with him. She wouldn't commit to aggressive anti-rape policies on college campuses.

She seemed completely misinformed about federal law which requires states that take federal funding to provide children with disabilities the services they need to benefit from a public education. Not just misinformed. She expressed actual hostility toward that idea, saying the individual states should decide what they're willing to do for disabled students. “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities, and other states might not be so good, and then what? People can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?” Sen. Tim Kaine asked her.

A Watauga County school counselor posted this on Facebook last night: 
This is unbelievable. I am sitting watching the hearing of DeVos and crying. I'm crying for my autistic students, for my learning disabled students, for my students with all disabilities. If you are a parent of a student with a disability you MUST, for your child, call and demand that Sen. Burr not confirm her even though she was one of his largest donors.