Archive for the ‘Election 2016’ category

One More Thing: I Do Dare Call It Treason

December 10, 2016

There’s no way to parse what happened in the few weeks before the election without recognizing that both FBI director Comey and Senate Majority Leader McConnell effectively colluded with Russia to throw this election.

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Comey can’t not have known about the Russia connection to the emails, and yet chose to violate policy, precedent and explicit advice from Justice in his email letter ten days before the vote.

McConnell was specifically briefed on Russia’s efforts to influence the election, and he pressured (successfully, alas) the Obama administration to withhold that information from the public.

Both of them made choices that directly enabled Putin’s efforts.  Both of them knew, to a virtual certainty, that this was the case.

Both of them are in my view traitors — both to our country as it is now, and to the idea of a representative democracy America is supposed to embody.

And one more one more thing: Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, is Trump’s nominee for Transportation secretary. It is unconfirmed at this time that this is payment for services rendered.  It would, however, be irresponsible not to speculate.

Image: Andrea del Sarto, Study for a “Shame Painting” — In Italy, this form of execution was associated w. traitors. Before 1530.

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Reds Under The Bed

December 10, 2016

The non-revelation that Vladimir Putin actively tried to select the next US President — and succeeded — has been pretty well covered by now.  I just want to add one question that’s been bugging me all day:

What did the Trump campaign do, and when did they do it?

We do know a few things.  Michael Flynn was both a national security advisor to the Trump campaign and has ties to the Russian propaganda apparatus.  Former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort has worked for Russia and allied states, and has a rich, long-held trove of contacts with the state apparatus there.  Donald Trump himself famously asked Putin to hack Hillary’s emails.  I’m sure if we had the same access to Trump’s, his campaign’s and the RNC’s communications that we had to Hillary’s and her team’s, we could well have some very interesting reading.

Short of that, it seems a basic question to ask of the Trump circle.  Did any of them conspire with a foreign power to manipulate (steal) the election?

The fundamental crisis we face, of course, is that a foreign power fucked with our election, which ended in the result sought by an adversary.  But while that’s the obvious disaster,  it gets worse if the Russians had active co-conspirators within the Trump camp.  That moves them from illegitimate, to traitors.

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That may seem a stretch — but given the extremely well documented Russian connections that obtained in the Trump campaign through the crucial months of the general election, it’s seems to me that it’s imperative we get real answers as to who did what to whom over here.  This is where I hope Marty Barron has his people working (I’ve given up on Dean Baquet).  And I hope there are folks at the CIA pissed off enough to help out.

Whoever does it, this really is a time that puts the idea of the elite press to the test.  Either they cover Trump and all his high crimes and misdemeanors, or they give up, and the American experiment lurches to its increasingly imminent collapse.

I live not in expectation, but in hope.*

*Hope is the thing with feathers. The one Dick Cheney kept trying to shoot out of the sky.

Image: Giotto, The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)betw. 1306 and 1308.

Moral Action in Trump’s America

December 7, 2016

I’m way deep in a big project, and rather significantly behind on it too, so my blogging for the next few months is going to be quick-hit stuff rather than anything thought through.  I’ll try to make up for that by making it as regular a practice as I can to toss good reads your way.

Todays comes from Masha Gessen, someone y’all know I greatly admire.  About a week ago she posted a piece on The New York Review of Books site.  In it, she asks if the realist stance in politics can function in the context of Trump.  To find out, she looks to her own family history — including choices she made — to answer no.  She takes no prisoners:

In Bialystok ghetto, my great-grandfather’s responsibility in the Judenrat was to ensure that the ghetto was supplied with food. He ran the trucks that brought food in and took garbage out, he ran the canteen and supervised the community gardens that a group of young socialists planted. He also discouraged the young socialists from trying to organize a resistance movement: it would be of no use and would only jeopardize the ghetto’s inhabitants. It took him almost two years to change his mind about the resistance efforts, as he slowly lost hope that the Judenrat, by generally following the rules and keeping the ghetto inhabitants in line, would be able to save at least some of them.

As in other ghettos, the Judenrat was ultimately given the task of compiling the lists of Jews to be “liquidated.” The Bialystok Judenrat accepted the job, and there is every indication that my great-grandfather took part in the process. The arguments in defense of producing the list, in Bialystok and elsewhere, were pragmatic: the killing was going to occur anyway; by cooperating, the Judenrat could try to reduce the number of people the Nazis were planning to kill (in Bialystok, this worked, though in the end the ghetto, like all other ghettos, was “liquidated”); by compiling the lists, the Judenrat could prevent random killing, instead choosing to sacrifice those who were already near death from disease or starvation. These were strong arguments. There is always a strong argument.

But what if the Jews had refused to cooperate?

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Was Arendt right that fewer people might have died? Was Trunk right that Judenrat activities had no effect on the final outcome? Or would mass murder of Jews have occurred earlier if Jews had refused to manage their own existence in the ghetto? We cannot know for certain, any more than we can know now whether a scorched-earth strategy or the strategy of compromise would more effectively mitigate Trumpism. But that does not mean that a choice—the right choice—is impossible. It only means that we are asking the wrong question.

The right question…or better, the right stance, the right scale on which to weigh any choice of action?

We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge….

Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.

I’m convinced Gessen is correct.  More, I believe her demand that we make the moral choice first, and then pursue whatever particular tactic seems most likely to embody that choice while advancing (or at least defending) the cause will be the most effective, as well as the right thing to do.  A Democratic response to Trump that says we can make this work a little better enshrines Trumpism, and all the vicious GOP assumptions as the ground on which such matters get decided.  One that says “No. This is wrong.  Democrats will oppose, not mitigate…” is the one that creates a real choice going forward on the ground on which we want to fight.

Read the whole thing.

Image: Charles Le Brun, Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridgec. 1642/3 (I know it’s not dead on point, but it’s close, and I always loved the story, so there.)

Listen To Someone Who Knows Something About The Shitgibbon’s Mentor

November 16, 2016

Masha Gessen knows from vicious fascist dictators.  Here’s what she has to say under the headline “Autocracy: Rules for Survival“:

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says….

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.

[See Betty’s post below]

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you….

Rule #4: Be outraged

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises

Rule #6: Remember the future….

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This is one of those read-the-whole-thing deals.  Masha has lived what she’s talking about here.  I have had the good fortune to spend some evenings talking with her, and she is at once one of the sharpest, most un-bull-shit-able political thinkers I know and among the most courageous people I’ve ever met.

If you don’t have time, or, like me, have only a finite tolerance for looking straight at the beast looking back at us, here’s the short form, as stated in Rule 4:

If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

That leads to the logic of Rule 6:

Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

I expect we will lose most battles for years to come. Perhaps all of them.  But I keep coming back to Masha’s conclusion and it makes sense.

I’ve more to say, as I think towards what specific forms my resistance may take, but none of that’s really formed yet, beyond giving some money to some of the most obvious targets.  More later.  In the meantime, what Gessen says:  Trump will not last forever, and resistance is many things — but not futile.

Image: the Ozymandias Colossus — Raames II, mistakenly identified as the mythical king Ozymandias.  This ruin inspired Percy Bysshe Shelly to write this.

I Hate Every Democrat…

November 5, 2016

…Who keeps on sending me begging email, even (or especially) five minutes after I’ve dropped a few more bucks.

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I care about politics. By all the noodly appendages of the FSM, y’all know that, right?

I genuinely believe this is an existential election, one in which it’s not enough (though vital) to take the presidency.  We need the Senate, and we pretty close to need the House, which we are unlikely to get, alas.  It takes dollars to do all that, I know.  I understand that you don’t get if you don’t ask, which means the campaigns gotta try.

But I hit the breaking point yesterday.  My wife and I had decided to drop our last contributions in a flurry of mixed support and magical thinking (this $10 bucks to whoever will propitiate the electoral gods…or this one…or this on…).  I allowed all the emails from all the campaigns we’ve given to over the last  year, plus all the campaigns and PACs folks who bought my info from someone I actually support, to accumulate over a few hours.

There were more than 200.  I ended up sending off a cash to Hillary, the DSCC, the DCCC, and the top Senate races I’ve been following — PA, NC, NH, MO, NV.  YMMV, but that’s where I completely unscientifically decided to put what final $s my wife and I figured we could spare. Deleted all the emails. Exhaled.

Within a few minutes — really — more rolled in.  No surprise; why should the folks I didn’t give to stop — how could they know I’m tapped out?  But still, I was getting tired of the whole thing when I noticed within not that long yet more email from some of the folks I’d just given to.  I snapped.

I don’t want much.  Maybe a three hour window between last contribution and next ask? (I’d prefer 24 hours, actually, but I’ll take what I can get.)  And perhaps a little less agony in the subject lines? Every now and then, maybe a positive note — even something like “let me tell you how we’re going to put each new dollar to use”?

Anyway. Just ranting. Good news out of Nevada, and seemingly so out of Florida, which has me off the ledge.  And I’ll further calm myself by getting out and doing something — GOTV tomorrow and Tuesday in New Hamster.*

But sweet Jeebus on a corndog, it’s not just the sheer awfulness of the campaign on the other side, nor the grotesque reality of racism, sexism and misogyny, anti-Semitism, the power of post-truth ideology, the failure of the elite media, and all the rest of the horrors the Trump freak show has dragged up from the shadows.  I’m ready for this to be over so that all my first-name email friends quiet down. Just a bit.

Please.  I’m begging.

*Yeah. I’m a Masshole.  I wear it proudly.

Image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, undated drawing.

All Hat, No Cattle

November 3, 2016

Too f**king little awfully late in the game, but the Grey Lady has come up with another good story on the long-con that is Donald J. Trump.  Ross Buettner reports:

…an examination of his tax appeals on several properties, and other documents obtained by The New York Times through Freedom of Information requests, shows that what Mr. Trump has reported on those forms is nowhere near a complete picture of his financial state.

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The records demonstrate that large portions of those numbers represent cash coming into his businesses before covering costs like mortgage payments, payroll and maintenance. After expenses, some of his businesses make a small fraction of what he reported on his disclosure forms, or actually lose money.

Donald Trump got his start in life with his dad’s money. The rest of us helped him out by paying his taxes for him for almost two decades.  Shafting his subcontractors and partners helped build the kitty.  And he still can’t actually make (much) money at his supposed vocation.  I loved this bit:

On the financial disclosure forms that Donald J. Trump has pointed to as proof of his tremendous success, no venture looks more gold-plated than his golf resort in Doral, Fla., where he reported revenues of $50 million in 2014. That figure accounted for the biggest share of what he described as his income for the year.

But this summer, a considerably different picture emerged in an austere government hearing room in Miami, where Mr. Trump’s company was challenging the resort’s property tax bill.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer handed the magistrate an income and expense statement showing that the gross revenue had indeed been $50 million. But after paying operating costs, the resort had actually lost $2.4 million.

Donald Trump is a bigot, a thug, the kind of man whom women know all too well.

He’s a braggart, a bully, and the least self-made alleged rich guy short of the Walton kids.

And through it all, he’s crap at the stuff of which he claims to be the world champeen.  Would you trust the coffee fund, much less the national budget, to this guy?

But time and again, what the form presented as income did not match what was reported in other documents. Mr. Trump also runs several publicly owned attractions — the carousel and ice rinks in Central Park and a golf course in the Bronx — under agreements with New York City.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure forms reported income from the Wollman and Lasker ice rinks of just under $13 million last year, and $8.6 million the year before. But accounting figures provided by his company to the city show that those figures represent gross receipts…Recent figures were not available, but a 2011 city audit showed that for the previous three years, an average of $25,340 a year for both rinks was left after expenses.

With Logan Airport charging roughly eight bucks a gallon for Jet-A fuel right now, that would pay for barely more than a quarter of a tank of gas for The Donald’s aging jet.  He’s a bust-out artist, not a businessman.

Last word to the magistrate who heard Trump cry poor on his misbegotten Doral Golf Course purchase:

“So he spent $104 million to lose two and a half million dollars a year,” Mr. [Leonardo[ Delgado said. “I know how to lose that money without having to spend $104 million. How ’bout you, Murry?”

I’d laugh, except for the non-zero (though still small) chance that this lying sack of ferret fæces could be President-elect next week.

You’re The Puppet

October 31, 2016

Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

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Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.

Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.)  I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative.  Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.

Well, perhaps, not so much.

One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too.  Foer writes:

Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)

I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.

But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is.  For months, with communication peaking at politcally significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.

Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query.  Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.

Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.

And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.

Mind boggling.

Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899