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2018: Year of the Rats and the Sinking Ships

January 12

I am listening to Trump’s incendiary speech in Seoul. He is standing at the dais in Proceeding Hall, the National Assembly building in South Korea. Perhaps it’s the color saturation level on our old monitor, but on this night Trump looks like a grotesque figure from a George Grösz painting. His face is glazed an acidic orange as if slathered in mortician’s makeup. Even though he is reading from a prepared text written by one of his sycophants and projected for him on a teleprompter, he speaks in a switchbacking syntax that I’ve come to call Trumponics. He looks and sounds like the dictator of bad taste.

Of course, it’s useless to probe Trump’s ramblings for their symbolic content. He strikes right for the spleen. Still, I continue to hunt for some logic to what he’s saying, knowing it’s futile. Except, perhaps, for the logic of the suicide pact. But a pact implies a deal, and most of us haven’t signed away our consent, except, I suppose, through our passive acquiescence to his resurrection of the old nuclear demons.

Each Trump speech should come with a risk assessment of its potential fallout. Yet none of Trump’s military-grade handlers—McMaster, Mattis or Kelly—seem up to the calculus. Tillerson may have some idea, but Rexxon’s been locked out in the cold for months, as the State Department, though alas not the state, withers away. The State Department, which, since World War II, at least, has been responsible for far more deaths than the Pentagon deserves its vacancies.

Trump’s bombast never seems quite serious. But I fear we must begin to take him so. He is, after all, a man without humor.

February 2

With his customary bravado Donald Trump boasted that the TV audience for his first State of the Union address was the largest in history. This extravagant assertion was soon swatted down by none other than Fox News, which cited at least five other SOTUs speeches with bigger ratings since 1992, including Obama’s final bland monologue in 2016.

Even so, Trump drew a respectable viewership, many of whom, no doubt, were hoping to watch a live train wreck in the well of the House. They were a little premature. The live train wreck would take place the following day in Crozet, Virginia, when an Amtrak metroliner carrying the Republican leadership rammed a stalled truck. But don’t change that channel, the injured politicians will likely get a guest-starring role in next year’s State of the Union address.

By most accounts, Trump’s big speech fell flat. There’s nothing more deflating than tuning in expecting a Trump spectacle and hearing a meandering stream of florid platitudes that could have been written by Peggy Noonan. Most of the fun from watching Trump speak comes from his brusque improvisations. Like many a pitchman, Trump relies punchy one-liners, pungent putdowns and inscrutable maledictions. Yet, he gets lost reading compound sentences on a teleprompter, skidding to a halt at commas and running over periods.

It turns out that much of Trump’s speech was drafted by former investment banker Gary Cohn, now Director of Trump’s National Economic Council. So, Hillary gave speeches to Goldman Sachs and Goldman Sachs gave speeches to Trump to read. Plus ça change.

February 5

The great Nick Von Hoffman, who died last week, was fired by 60 Minutes for speaking this truth during height of Watergate “Nixon is the dead rat on the kitchen floor of America, and the only question now is who’s going to pick him up by his tail and throw him in the garbage.” Von Hoffman was a terrific journalist. His book on the Freedom Rides, Mississippi Notebook, is hard to find, but essential reading.

February 9

Even in the bestiary of Trump’s inner circle, Kelly comes off as a truly odious figure. It’s Kelly’s pseud0-piety that reeks the most pungently. The general has positioned himself as a chronicler of American moral decline. Last October during his nasty press conference defending Trump’s crude condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the wife of Sgt La David Johnson who was killed in a botched operation in Niger, Kelly bemoaned the decay of the nation’s values, including the place of women in society. “When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country,” Kelly sermonized. “Women were sacred and looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases.”

Now we learn that as chief of staff, Kelly had been fully apprised of the brutal behavior of Rob Porter, the wife-beating former White House Staff Secretary, who resigned this week after both of his former wives described enduring years of verbal abuse and physical violence. Kelly, self-proclaimed defender of the sanctity of women, kept Porter in the position, a kind of gatekeeper for who gets to see the president, despite the fact that the FBI had refused to grant the staffer a security clearance, as it pursued an investigation into the allegations, allegations buttressed by a restraining order and photos of the battered face of his first wife Colbie Holderness. Kelly, who hailed Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor,” reportedly encouraged Porter, now romantically linked to glam-staffer Hope Hicks, to stay in his job even after the incriminating photos of his former wife appeared in the Daily Mail. Sacred honor, indeed.

Most members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, are former prosecutors, who regularly used Confidential Informants and jail house snitches for warrants. Biased and purchased testimony is endemic to the prosecutorial state.

February 10

Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan, one of Trump’s pals, said this about Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who is now languishing in an Israeli jail with nearly 400 other Palestinian children: “If I was there, she would finish in the hospital. For sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick, kick her face, believe me”.

February 16

Americans have a remarkable tolerance for child slaughter, especially the mass murders of the children of others. This emotional indifference manifested itself vividly after the disclosure of the My Lai Massacre, when dozens of Vietnamese infants and children were killed by the men of Charlie Company, their tiny, butchered corpses stacked in ditches. After the trial of Lt. William Calley, more than 70 percent of Americans believed his sentence was too severe. Most objected to any trial at all. In the end, Calley served less than 4 years under house arrest for his role in the execution of more than 500 Vietnamese villagers.

Twenty-five years later, American attitudes toward child deaths had coarsened even harder. When it was revealed that US sanctions on Iraq had caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, icily argued that the deaths were “worth it” to advance US policy in the Middle East. Few Americans remonstrated against this official savagery done in their name.

Now the guns are being turned on America’s own children and the rivers of blood streaming out of US schools cause barely a ripple in our politics. If the Columbine shooting (1999) was a tragedy, what word do you use to describe the 436th school shooting since then?

Don’t look for an answer or even solace from any of our political leaders. All you’ll get is cant, hollow prayers and banal vituperations of the sort we’ve been hearing for two decades from the likes of Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi’s most restrictive gun control proposals wouldn’t have stopped any of the recent shootings. She plays politics with the blood of children as cynically as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. Both are adept at fundraising off the bodies of the dead.

February 23

My sense of anticipation was hyped. Robert Mueller had just indicted the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, along with several of the trolls who had slaved tirelessly from their cyber-cubicles in St. Petersburg in a plot to despoil American democracy. Having recently survived a hit-and-run collision with a suspected Russian troll, who had recklessly driven the internet highways using a false ID (Alice Donovan), I was eager to see what the former FBI man had uncovered.

My appetite was further whetted by an NBC News producer who proclaimed the Mueller indictment “one of the most important political documents in US history.” Right up there with the Monroe Doctrine, the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Starr Report, I suppose.

I greedily downloaded a pdf of the 33-page filing, expecting to finally get answers to questions that had been nagging me for months, such as: How could the Russians have been so sloppy as to get caught with their hands in Trump’s pockets? Did they believe Trump was smart enough to effectively collude with them? Did they really think Hillary needed any help blowing a sure thing? And, most importantly, what was Alice Donovan’s real name?

I was quickly disappointed. The Mueller indictment doesn’t charge any collusion between Trump and the Russians. In fact, it doesn’t even mention the word. Mueller also doesn’t draw any direct links between the troll farm in St. Petersburg and the Putin government in Moscow. And, most significantly, Mueller doesn’t allege that any of the nefarious trolling had the slightest “Butterfly effect” on the outcome of the 2016 elections. If there’s a conspiracy here, it’s looking more and more likely to be a conspiracy of dunces. Since there are many, many dunces in the White House, it’s still too early to rule out future charges against Team Trump. Thankfully, lack of evidence for collusion isn’t lack of evidence for criminal stupidity.

Let’s try to put the troll offensive in context. The 2016 presidential elections were the most expensive in history, with both parties spending a combined $2.4 billion. Of this, the Clinton and Trump campaigns bought $81 million worth of advertising on Facebook. Contrast this with the $100,000 the Russians spent on Facebook ad buys. In the battleground states, Russian Facebook ad buys totaled $300 in Pennsylvania, $832 in Michigan, and $1979 in Wisconsin, all but $54 of that before the primary. If this amounted to subversion, it was definitely subversion on the cheap.

March 2

This week it was Hicks’ turn to be stuffed into the meat-grinder. To the befuddlement of many in her family, the swimsuit model-turned-PR flak has proved stubbornly loyal to Trump, sticking with him through his raggedly improvised campaign and riotous first year in office. She has steamed his suits, with Trump in them, endured his rants, done damage control for his idiot son and edited his Tweets. Though the evidence is scant, it’s been argued that Hicks exerted a calming influence over Trump’s stormy moods, as if a glimpse of Hope fluttering across the carpet of the Oval Office was all Trump needed to gratify his low-grade libido. Only Hope Hicks, it was said, could nurse Trump through the incoming flak from the morning papers and cable news shows. Who knows? Perhaps Hicks saved us from Trump launching a “fire and fury” attack on North Korea after he got all worked up over something Mika Brzezinski said on “Morning Joe.”

Still even Hicks couldn’t escape Trump’s wrath. After enduring eight hours of testimony before the ludicrous House Intelligence Committee, where she copped to telling a few “white lies” on behalf of her boss, which is, of course, the top line in the job description for White House Communications Director, Trump hauled Hicks into the Oval Office and berated her for her testimony. Given the treatment of women inside Chez Trump, Hicks can be thankful she only received a tongue-lashing. She leaked her intent to resign a few hours later.

What was Hicks’ sin? She didn’t keep her mouth shut and let slip an obvious truth. Like most autocrats, Trump is obsessed with loyalty. Actually, loyalty is too grand of a word. Trump demands personal fealty and blind obedience. Trump had instructed Hicks to assert executive privilege to every question, including those asked about conversations before Trump’s inauguration. Sticking to that baseless plan would have only gotten Hicks cited with contempt. Of course, no one in his administration shoots their mouth off quite so self-destructively as the president himself, as when he publicly called for having cops seize people’s guns without due process.

The Trump inner circle is now whittled down to three holdouts: Dan Scavino, Ivanka and Jared. But Jared, the Dauphin of the White House, has just had his wings clipped by John Kelly. Kushner’s security clearance had been in limbo for months, ever since the FBI learned that at least four nations—Mexico, China, United Arab Emirates and Israel, naturally—had been plotting to exploit Kushner’s naiveté and financial entanglements to manipulate him into adopting positions more pliant to their interests. (Hard to imagine how much more contorted that position would be in the case of Israel.)

March 9

Last August, Johnnie Jermaine Rush was crossing the street shortly after midnight near the local baseball stadium in Asheville, North Carolina, when he was accosted by two police officers, one of whom, Verino Ruggiero, was a trainee. Rush was on his way home from his job as a dishwasher at the nearby Cracker Barrel. The encounter that followed was captured on the body camera of the other cop, Officer Chris Hickman.

Ruggiero approaches Rush and shouts, “You didn’t use the crosswalk four times in a row.”

“All I’m trying to do is get home, man,” Rush responds. “I’m tired. I just got off work.”

“I’ve got two options,” Ruggiero threatens. “I can either arrest you or write you a ticket.”

Rush seems to resign himself to the absurdity of his situation. “It doesn’t matter, man,” he says. “Do what you got to do besides keep harassing me, man.”

At that point, Ruggiero’s partner, Chris Hickman, orders Rush to put his hands behind his back and prepares to cuff him. Then Rush takes off with the cops in pursuit. They soon tackle him and pin him to the ground, where he is tasered, beaten and choked to the point where Rush screams in pain and yells out, “I can’t breathe.”

After the incident, a police supervisor arrived on the scene. Rush tried to explain what happened, but the supervisor kept interrupting him saying, “You’re lying. You’re lying! My officer would not do that.” The supervisor refused Rush’s pleas to view the body cam footage.

When they got back to the station, the cops piled up the charges, citing the beaten man with impeding traffic, second-degree trespassing, assaulting a government official and resisting a police officer.

The police video of the brutal encounter was uncovered earlier this week by the Asheville Citizen-Times, prompting widespread outrage in the city and the resignation of Officer Hickman.

MSDNC used to cover these horrific abuses in some detail. No room now with wall-to-wall RussiaGate coverage.

March 16

Before attempting to see things from Trump’s point of view this week, I consulted the great EM Cioran: “Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, chaos is being yourself.”

I mourn Rexxon’s passing. He was the least lethal Secretary of State of my lifetime. Tillerson was no Kissinger, Haig, Powell, Clinton or Albright and that was fine by me. Even though he was the former CEO of Exxon, Rex fought to save the Paris Accords. He stood up to Israel and the Saudis on Iran. He quashed McMaster’s “bloody nose” plan for North Korea. And he outed his boss as a “fucking moron,” and never apologized.

When John Kelly called Tillerson to let him know his firing was imminent, Rex was on the toilet, probably still straining to discharge that wilted salad Trump forced him to eat.

Tillerson may get a little cold revenge from the fact that his nemesis HR McMaster’s head appears to be next on the chopping block, with other “deadweights” in Trump’s  Cabinet of Curiosities to follow soon: Shulkin, Carson, DeVos, Sessions and Kelly. Of course, the real punishment is to be left behind, condemned to serve the entire four year term with no early release or parole.

***

There’s only one person I can think of who is consistently wrong about more things that he claims to know a lot about than Bill Kristol and that would be the person Trump just picked to replace Gary Cohn as his chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow. Kudlow, an economic fabulist who helped concoct and implement supply-side (aka, trickle down, voodoo) economics during the Reagan era, has repeatedly misread some of the most shattering economic events of our time, including the 2008 crash. Here is Kudlow, then a jabbering head on CNBC, in December 2007: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.” A month later, he was still boosting away: “Banks are taking significant steps to repair their balance sheets. Even though some people might not be happy with the speed, the reality is things are improving.” Amid the wreckage in February 2008, Kudlow still hadn’t recanted: “I’m going to bet that the economy will be rebounding sometime this summer, if not sooner. We are in a slow patch. That’s all. It’s nothing to get up in arms about.”

Kudlow will head the National Economic Council. Three weeks ago, an NEC staffer named George David Banks resigned after being told he would not be granted a security clearance. Why? Banks had admitted to smoking marijuana back in 2013. One wonders if the same standard will be applied to Kudlow. After leaving the Reagan administration, Kudlow went to work as an economist at Bears Stearns in 1987, where he soon developed a serious cocaine habit. By 1994, he was reportedly shelling out $100,000 a month for blow. Kudlow was fired from his job, entered a rehab program and landed a gig as economics editor at the National Review. But he hadn’t completely kicked his habit and was eventually canned from that job as well. Kudlow finally cleaned himself out with the help of the neo-fascist Catholic sect Opus Dei, admired by Antonin Scalia and villainized in Dan Brown novels. After going straight, the still-jittery Kudlow began dispensing his hallucinogenic readings of the economy on CNBC. The credulous people who followed his market tips over the years probably ended up worse off than many of Bernie Madoff’s clients.

Larry Kudlow, speaking about bombing Iraq in 2002: “The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points.” So watch the Dow closely. When the market slumps, the prospects for war increase.

March 23

With the hiring of John Bolton, it looks like the Trump administration took the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War as a celebratory occasion.

As John Dowd flees the Trump legal team, Bolton is coming in hot to head a war cabinet (Mattis, Pompeo, Haley, and Haspel)…. Perhaps Trump intends to blow up the encircling Mueller probe by doing what Bolton has long wanted to do… bomb Iran.

Standing arm-in-arm with Bolton on Iran is, you guessed it, the Senator from Citibank, Chuck Schumer.

Pre-summit briefing material for Kim Jong-un: Bolton makes “legal” case for pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

Almost repeating his murderous mistakes about Iraqi WMDs, Bolton pressed to strike Cuba over what he alleged were “bio-weapons” labs, which were in fact medical research facilities working on treatments for Meningitis B. But that’s just how Cuba rolls

Here is Bolton appearing in an NRA-sponsored video urging Moscow to loosen it’s gun laws…

The world is making less and less sense every day.

One theory making the rounds is that Trump may be trying to keep his enemies (i.e., the neocons) close, as he preps to summit with Kim and Putin. But I seem to recall that Bush met and even had eye sex with Putin at Ljubljana in 2001 and still blew up Iraq.

The Senate Bombing Caucus is clearly tumescent about Bolton’s appointment: “Selecting John Bolton as national security adviser is good news for America’s allies and bad news for America’s enemies,” said Lindsey Graham.

The failsafe against Bolton is that he is a pathological egomaniac and will, within weeks, clash fatally with the other pathological egomaniac in the White House. Trump hates anyone who steals the very spotlight which Bolton craves. So the Walrus is likely to have a shorter tenure than McMaster…if we survive that long.

March 30

The Palestinian situation grows more desperate than ever and the Trump administration is seeking to exploit this dire condition for its political advantage. Trump’s Middle East policy is largely dictated to him by the Vegas gargoyle Sheldon Adelson. Adelson spreads his money across the Trumpscape like an oil spill, contaminating every Trump foreign policy position—from Palestinian statehood to the Iran nuclear deal—with his own zany brand of extreme Zionism.

The centerpiece of the new Trump Israel policy is, of course, his zealous push to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city. There’s nothing particularly new here. Like many odious schemes, this has been the official position of the US government since Clinton-time, though both the sagacious George W. Bush and his successor Barack Obama, who followed the Bush precedent in so many matters, pretended otherwise.

Trump, ever the drama queen, intended to weaponize his Jerusalem gambit, hoping that the brash announcement would provoke a militant uprising that would give Netanyahu the excuse to crackdown with his customary savagery. Abdel El-Sisi played along, lending the plan his cruel endorsement, proving that Egypt hasn’t been this subservient since Octavian sacked Alexandria. In Fire and Fury, Steve Bannon gave Trump’s cynical game plan away, saying the ultimate solution to the Palestinian problem was to “let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.” Call it the Three State Solution.

Trump and Netanyahu engineered the outraged reaction they wanted, but not, perhaps, in a way they expected. A week after Trump announced his Jerusalem decision, a Palestinian protest erupted in the village of Nabi Salih. Claiming the Palestinians were throwing stones, Israeli soldiers moved in to quash the demonstration and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd, hitting a 14-year-old boy named Mohammed al-Tamimi in the face, inflicting a ghastly wound. His cousin, Ahed Tamimi, witnessed the shooting and rushed toward the Israeli soldiers, slapping one across the face. The 16-year-old Tamimi was arrested, charged with incitement and assault, and carted off to join more than 400 other Palestinian children currently held in Israeli prisons without bail. Tamini’s pleas for a public trial were denied. In a closed-door hearing, she was finally strong-armed into a plea bargain that will send her to prison for an additional eight months, 30 days less than an Israeli court sentenced Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who killed an injured Palestinian by shooting him in the head while he was laying on the ground.

April 6

+ The good news: Trump is pulling US troops out of Syria (eventually). The bad news: Trump, playing out his Black Jack Pershing fantasy, wants to put them on the Mexican border. Trump’s foreign policy strategy has been incoherent, but he’s always been quite clear about wanting to create a police (super-police) state on the home front. Strike that: Trump is keeping US troops in Syria and still sending troops to the border…until the wall is built.

+ But why is he sending troops to the border? In 2000, there were 1.7 million illegal border crossings. Last year there were 310,000, the fewest in more than 20 years.

+ Trump and his acolytes say the troops are needed to “stop a foreign invasion.” What foreign invasion? Asian Beetles? Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs? The “caravans” hyped by Fox News and Trump are of people displaced by a savage regime in Honduras installed by two US-sponsored coups and are legally seeking asylum from the agents of their misery…

+ Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she’ll refuse any request from the White House to send Oregon National Guard troops to the border. Good. But she should follow this up by mobilizing the National Guard to protect immigrants in Oregon from ICE…

+ Historically speaking, armies facing off against each other along borders hasn’t ended well, which is one reason to appreciate the Posse Comitatus Act, the greatest document Rutherford B. Hayes ever affixed his signature to…

+ Trump was in West Virginia on Thursday supposedly giving a speech glorifying his tax bill. Instead, he went off about migrants raping women. Meanwhile, his campaign hired serial wife-abuser Rob Porter.

+ Larry Summers has compared Trump to Mussolini. Nothing original there. But what does that make Summers, the architect of globalized misery? Eric Draitser: “Larry Mengele?” Craig Gordon: “An evil propellor head.”

April 9

+ Before testifying at his Senate confirmation hearings, Mike Pompeo Maximus consulted with Hillary Clinton on how to handle himself as Secretary of State. HRC to Pompeo: “First bomb the hell out of Syria, launch a few cruise missiles at Tehran and then send NATO into Crimea. Pick up the phone by at least the second ring whenever Bibi calls. Never send emails to anyone dating Anthony Weiner…”

+ Pompeo Maximus promptly announced that the “soft” approach to Russia was over, then bragged about the US killing 400 Russian mercenaries in Syria. Diplomacy by predator drone.

+ Pompeo Maximus at Thursday’s hearing:

Q. Did Trump ever ask you to do anything improper in regard to the Russia probe?

A. No.

Q. What did Trump ask you to do?

A. I don’t recall.

+ Pompeo’s bombastic performance convinced at least one mouthpiece of the Washington elite, the Bezos Post, which gave him its editorial blessing.

April 13

+ The Tweets that haunt:

Trump: “Why do we keep broadcasting when we are going to attack Syria. Why can’t we just be quiet and, if we attack at all, catch them by surprise?” August 28, 2013

Trump: “I would not go into Syria, but if I did it would be by surprise and not blurted all over the media like fools.” August 29, 2013.

Trump: “For the first time in the history of military operations a country has broadcast what, when and where they will be doing in a future attack!” August 31, 2013

Trump: “Who are our generals that are allowing this fiasco to happen right before our eyes. Call it the “PLENTY OF NOTICE WAR.”” August 31, 2013

Trump: “In war, the elememt of surprise is sooooo important.What the hell is Obama doing.” Sept. 1, 2013

Trump: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” April 11, 2018

+ Trump this week: “Assad’s an animal for killing women and children.”

Trump last week to CIA: “Why didn’t we kill women & children in that drone strike?”

+ I have no idea who was behind the ghastly chemical weapons attack in Douma. But I do know that prolonged wars make these kinds of atrocities almost inevitable, even by armies which are on the verge of victory: Wounded Knee, Dresden, Nagasaki, Grozny, Fallujah. So what is the response of the foreign policy elites, both Republican and Democrat? More war, more massacres…

+ Here’s an idea, Donald. Boast all you want about how smart your bombs are. How powerful they are. And when you’re going to launch them and how big the craters will be …. then don’t do it. Millions will back your crafty deception.

April 20

If you want an unimpeachable reason to impeach Trump look no further than the assault he made on the Constitution at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 13th, when he ordered cruise missile strikes against three Syrian government sites without authorization from Congress or the United Nations. It was one of those increasingly frequent occasions when you could watch a war crime unfold before your eyes in real-time.

+ In the span of one week, Trump hired John Bolton, pardoned Scooter Libby, bombed Syria and declared “Mission Accomplished.” He’s finally getting his full Bush on….

+ From the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Trump warned dozens of times about the dangers of US involvement in yet another Middle East bloodbath. None of these pacifist statements won Trump a Nobel Peace Prize, so he resubmitted his own nomination via cruise missiles instead. It worked for Obama….

+ It only took Bolton five days to steamroll Mad Dog Mattis, who had urged Trump to wait until Syrian culpability for the chemical weapons attack had been verified and then seek congressional approval for the missile strikes. But Trump and Bolton rejected Mattis’s advice, saying it was vital that the US strike quickly “in order to back up his bellicose Tweets.

+ I Tweet, Therefore I Bomb. Can we file a class action suit against Twitter for being a co-conspirator in a war crime?

+ 105 Cruise missiles at $1.4 million apiece: $147,000,000. Nice payday for Raytheon.

+ There still seems to be some question as to whether the cruise missiles launched at Syria to destroy chemical weapons production sites themselves contain Depleted Uranium as part of their guidance system. More than 900 DU missiles were dropped on Iraq in the first Gulf War, leading to a spike incidences of leukemia.

+ Chuck Schumer, commandant of the Resistance©, on Trump’s illegal bombing of Syria: “A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria.”

+ Trump bombing Syria out of humanitarian concern for the women and children he refuses to admit into the US as refugees takes his hypocrisy to a new level of depravity…

April 27

As the 2016 elections come into focus, James Comey’s book loses much of its momentum. It becomes a defense of Comey and, by extension, the FBI. Yet Comey’s defense of the agency, and his own actions in inserting himself into the election, are based on a corrupt premise: that the FBI is an apolitical agency. Trump, at least, understands, if only intuitively, what Comey pretends not to: that the FBI is a domestic security force every bit as ruthless and politically-driven as its long-time rival the KGB.

Comey, who brags about having kept a memo from Robert Kennedy to J. Edgar Hoover approving the wiretapping of Martin Luther King, on his desk at the FBI would have us believe that all of the agency’s sins expired when Hoover gasped his last breath in 1972. This disciple of MLK, Jr. is the same man who proselytized about an alleged “Ferguson Effect” in the wake of the police murder of Michael Brown, where increased scrutiny on the activities of cops supposedly made them gun-shy leading to a spike in urban crime rates.

The real power of the FBI relies not on “public trust,” as Comey repeatedly asserts, but on public fear. Fear of surveillance, fear of entrapment, fear of manufactured evidence out of the infamous FBI crime lab, fear of perjured testimony and black bag jobs and assassinations. Comey elides from his sanitized history of the agency its involvement in COINTELPRO, the FBI invasion of Pine Ridge, the framing of Wen Ho Lee, the shootings at Ruby Ridge, the burning of Waco, the Whitey Bulger case, the targeting of Steven Hatfill in the Anthrax case or the persecution of lawyer Lynne Stewart.

Comey’s memoir is redolent with self-preening rectitude, especially when it comes to his interactions with Trump, where Comey was brave only in the privacy of his own office writing up his famous memos. In the actual conversations, Comey often seemed to wilt before Trump’s strange blend of seduction and bombast. Comey never told Trump that his plea that he back off Michael Flynn was inappropriate. He didn’t tell Trump to stop inquiring about the status of Russia investigation and whether he was a target of the probe. Comey didn’t even have the fortitude to leak his own memos to the New York Times, instead he hid behind a cut-out, his friend Dan Richman, a professor at Columbia University’s law school.

The fact that Comey was fired rather than quit after being asked for his loyalty, tells us more about James Comey than Donald Trump. So much for the man of conscience. Comey thought he could outmaneuver Trump. Comey wanted to be a player, but in the end he got played, by a man he considered his moral and intellectual inferior.

May 4

+ Rudy the Truth-Teller: Trump knew about the Stormy Daniels Non-Disclosure Agreement and repaid Michael Cohen on the installment plan; the NDA was meant to suppress the Daniels story prior to the 2016 election; James Comey is a pervert and pathological liar; Trump fired Comey because the FBI director wouldn’t publicly clear him in Russia probe; the FBI are stormtroopers; and Jared Kushner is disposable. I don’t see how any of this helps Trump, but Giuliani has proved to be the most entertaining addition to Trump’s team since The Mooch left. Stay tuned: Next week Rudy will tell us who really shot JFK and how Stanley Kubrick faked the Moon landing.

+ One of the great karmic ironies of the Trump scandals is that it won’t be the Washington Post or New York Times that takes down Trump, but a damning disclosure he or one of his intimates or lawyers blurts out after a softball question on FoxNews.

+ Given Giuliani’s deranged performance on Hannity, the grand strategy now seems obvious. Trump is setting up an “ineffectiveness of counsel” defense…

+ Originally the Stormy Daniels saga was interesting in the way that the Paula Jones case was interesting, as a creative backdoor legal maneuver to force Trump into a deposition and get a look at his finances through the discovery process. But now Stormy has become the thread that could unravel the entire Trump operation, particularly the money-moving operations that have kept his real estate empire afloat through some dry decades. It all flows through Cohen.

+ After being caught lying to the press about Trump’s payments to gag Stormy Daniels, the White House press corps is lamenting the fact that Sarah Sanders has “lost credibility.” Don’t you have to have once had credibility to lose it? (Does this mean they’ll apologize to Michelle Wolf now?)

+ Giuliani said that America would never tolerate a female member of the president’s family being hauled before a grand jury, even if she’s a member of the administration who witnessed possible criminal behavior. (Jared fair game, but not Ivanka.) Ken Starr dragged Hillary, rightfully in my mind, before the Whitewater Grand Jury for four hours of testimony, two more hours than Rudy says Trump has the stamina for…

+ Even people who believe in Trump don’t believe Trump….

+ Mueller should just offer Trump immunity for his testimony. Trump will lie, because he can’t help himself, then indict him for perjury.

May 11

+ Gina Haspel: “I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral even if it was technically legal.”

+ But would Haspel do something “illegal” that she believed was “moral’? I’m sure Torquemada believed he was doing the “moral” thing as he put his suspected heretics on the rack and began to turn the screws….

+ As apologies for atrocities go, Charles Manson sounded more contrite during his parole hearings than than Haspel before the Senate intel committee.

+ The CIA has always appealed to liberals. Their officers and analysts “present” as intellectuals, capable of rationalizing any barbarity.

+ Sen. Jack Reed: If a CIA officer was being waterboarded by an enemy would you consider that immoral?

Haspel: I would never support that happening to a CIA officer.

Gina Haspel’s moral compass spins faster than one of those little black fans they sell at the Sharper Image…

+ Haspel just surprised all students of the Agency’s history by saying the CIA doesn’t normally do interrogations, which begs the question of what James Jesus Angleton was up to all those years, just chit-chat, gab sessions, gossiping, locker-room talk and extreme unctions, I guess…

+ Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and one of it’s top analysts, interrupted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing  to correct the record about Gina Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees. A longtime CounterPunch contributor, Ray was quickly surrounded by Capitol Hill police, savagely thrown to the ground, his arm twisted behind his back and hauled off to an undisclosed black site, where he was kept overnight, nursing a dislocated shoulder. Ray is 78-years old.

+ Watching Sen. Tom Cotton question Gina Haspel reminds me of how Lawrence Harvey melted under the maternal glare of Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.

+ Gina Haspel would have you believe that she’s just an all-American suburban woman, who bakes apple pies every Sunday afternoon, just before heading out to poison the pigeons in the park.

+ The most grievous crimes can be annulled, as long as one has the proper stance on Russia

+ Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who ordered the destruction of videotapes documenting the torture of two detainees by CIA interrogators, says that he told Gina Haspel that he was prepared to act without approval from their superiors at the Agency, flatly contradicting Haspel’s testimony to the Senate. So Haspel is revealed to be a liar by her own partner in crime. But then we knew that. It’s a prerequisite for her job.

+ Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and other detainees, endured more than 100 torture sessions under her watch. But Gina Haspel slithered back into the shadows after only 3 hours of softball questions, where she alone decided what her infatuated “interrogators” could and couldn’t ask her.

+ They say torture isn’t effective. They’re wrong. The objective of torture isn’t to extract information but to terrify, to demonstrate that the State is capable of inflicting its power without any moral restraint.

+ Everyone knows what Gina Haspel did, starting with Obama who gave her a get-out-jail pass. Trump has explicitly called for the use of waterboarding and more extreme measures of torture. That’s one reason he picked Haspel. The hearings today were a charade, where the subject determined what documents could be released about her own criminal actions and the senate passively went along with it. The culpability for the next torture victims will reside with those who knowing all this put her in power instead of prison. Who will hold them accountable?

+ Listen up, girls, if you’re having trouble cracking that glass ceiling, just waterboard the hell out of it until it falls apart….

+ The Dark Lord speaks…. “Blood, I need more blood.”

+ If you’re a loyal retainer in a spot of trouble with unruly natives & need to avail yourself of some of Gina Haspel’s interrogation methods with guaranteed impunity from war crimes, we at the CIA recommend the graduate level seminar in advanced torture at the School of the Americas. Scholarships, subsidized loans & grants are available. Apply soon, slots are filling up.

+ Kamala Harris: “The work that the men and women of the CIA do is noble work.”

June 1

What does it take to awaken a somnambulant media these days? Getting shot in the back 8 times by trigger-happy cops while standing in your grandmother’s backyard while holding a cell phone? That was the fate of young Stephon Clark on the night of March 18 in the Meadowview neighborhood of Sacramento, whose ghastly murder by police briefly diverted the attention of the national press from its Trump fixation. But after a couple of days, MSDNC and the New York Times, were, like the White House, content to let Clark’s killing recede from the headlines and become just another “local issue.”

Why did the cops fire 20 shots at Stephon Clark? The official story was that Clark had been seen breaking car windows in his neighborhood, a destitute area of Sacramento that is under police occupation. According to police, Clark had been tracked by a police helicopter for this alleged act of vandalism. The helicopter police warned the cops on the ground that Clark was holding a toolbar. When police confronted Clark, he was standing near his grandmother’s house and then ran into the backyard. The cops followed, guns drawn, body cameras rolling. One officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun!” Three seconds pass, before the cop again yells: “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!” Then Clark is shot multiple times in the back. He falls to the ground and is shot once more in the chest. The entire encounter, from the time the helicopter spotted Clark to the fatal shooting, lasted less than two minutes.

The police let Clark bleed out for five minutes before approaching him and placing him in handcuffs. “He had something in hands, one of the cops said. “Looked like a gun from our perspective.” But Clark was unarmed. No gun, no tool bar. His hand held only a white i-Phone that belonged to his girlfriend. When the reality of what taken place began to sink in, one of the cops says, “Hey, mute.,” and the audio from body cameras was silenced.

Cops wear a badge of impunity. More than 1,500 Americans are killed by police each year. That’s almost 10 percent of all homicides in the country. Yet few of these killings are questioned and almost none are prosecuted. Most homicide victims are killed by someone they knew: a friend, a business partner, a lover, a spouse, a parent, a child. In today’s America, when people are killed by someone they don’t know that killer is more and more likely to be a person who had sworn to protect and serve them.

June 15

+ “If the United States is accommodating, the North Koreans become accommodating. If the United States is hostile, they become hostile.” –Noam Chomsky.

Complicated, right?

We can always make things more complicated, with more possibilities for fatal misunderstandings, whose terms can only be divined by priests, specialists and experts. The challenge is to make diplomacy–or property disputes (see Rand Paul)–clearer and simpler.

+ Had Obama arranged a similar meet-and-greet with Kim (as he vowed to during the 2008 campaign), the Republicans would have likely initiated impeachment proceedings and Hillary might have plotted a White House coup. It’s a measure of his lack of moral spine that didn’t do so anyway. The Republicans, however, should be commended for their hypocrisy. Most of them didn’t let their previous violently expressed objections to any such parlay with Kim deter them from endorsing Trump’s impetuous gambit.

+ The post-Singapore dilemma for the Democrats and the Neocons: If there’s nothing to fear, how can you monger your way into power?

+ The Resistance© is in full flag worship mode today, outraged the US flag snuggled next to the North Korean flag. Will they soon be joining the Colin Kaepernick lynch mob?

+ Trump: “The World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe! No more rocket launches, nuclear testing or research!” Let’s not get carried away, Donald. The US hasn’t agreed to stop testing rockets, or halt nuclear testing or research. While Kim is denuclearizing, you’re building a new generation of nuclear weapons, keeping the world pretty much on the brink of nuclear catastrophe…

+ Give him credit. Trump is willing to meet with anyone. Except: the Palestinians, the Iranians, the Venezuelans, the Cubans, the Nicaraguans and, of course, the Philadelphia Eagles.

+ Did each side have their own Body Language Translators?

+ Trump is being crushed in the press for not chastising Kim on North Korea’s human rights abuses. But once that conversation started, Kim would have had no choice but to confront Trump over the US’s equally appalling human rights record, from police shootings to drones to assassinations and the forcible separation of immigrant mothers from their infants. As autocrats heading two carceral states, the back-and-forth could have gone on for weeks.

+ So Trump played a cheesy video to pitch Kim on some coastal condo units. It’s better than the normal sales job at summits like this, when the Secretary of Defense is called in to cue up some Raytheon videos hawking the latest version of the Patriot Missile system.

+ Any deal that ends US war games makes the world a little safer this morning than it was yesterday.

June 29

These occasions don’t come round all that often, so we should pause for moment amid the daily traumas of Trumptime to celebrate the departure of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court. With Kennedy’s exit, the high bench will finally be cleansed of the last remnant of Reaganism, a judicial contagion that has gnawed away at the legal foundations of the Republic for the past 37 years, since Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to replace Potter Stewart in the summer of 1981. Over eight years, Reagan remade the federal judiciary from top to bottom by appointing 383 judges, more than any other president.

Kennedy quickly proved himself to be one the court’s craftiest politicians, exploiting his position as a “swing vote” to curry favors from other justices, particularly Rehnquist who often rewarded Kennedy’s loyalty to the “cause” by assigning him the opportunity to draft majority opinions in high profile cases. Kennedy’s alleged “centrism” was really a marker for how far right the court had lurched by the 1990s. Kennedy’s cool temperament masked a vicious legal philosophy, as demonstrated in a 2008 study by Richard Posner and William Landed that ranked Anthony Kennedy as the 10th most conservative Supreme Court justice in the last 100 years.

There’s not much evidence that Kennedy got softer with age. In his last months on the bench, Kennedy shed his cloak of reasoned rectitude to reveal the judicial monster that has always lurked within. He voted to purge voter rolls and maintain grossly inequitable lines in gerrymandered congressional districts. He teamed up with the Roberts/Alito bloc to gut public-sector unions, backed mandatory arbitration provisions and gave his imprimatur to Trump’s vile Muslim travel ban, which will surely rank with Dred Scott, Plessy, Korematsu and Citizens United (which Kennedy drafted) as one of the cruelest and most cynical decisions in the Court’s history. Kennedy could have positioned himself a check on the unbridled power of an authoritarian executive. But at the most fraught constitutional moment of his long career on the federal bench Kennedy chose to play the role of enabler. It’s fair to say that Anthony Kennedy went out smelling of sulphur.

Liberals make far too much of the court. Across more than two centuries, the Supreme Court has functioned as the country’s most reactionary institution, the most resistant to social change, the final guardian of property, power and commerce against the aspirations for individual liberty, civil rights, war powers and environmental protection. Nearly all of the court’s most exalted rulings, from Brown to Roe, have been forced down its throat by years, often decades, of fierce political organizing.

So perhaps we should thank Kennedy for leaving. His exit should shatter any remaining illusions that the Supreme Court will intervene to save the nation in deus ex machina fashion from a tyrannical president. The salvation of the rights of the people are now solely in the hands of the people themselves.

Justice won’t be found in the courts. It will be won in the streets.

July 6

+ Jacques Derrida could’ve written an entire book trying to deconstruct these two sentences, plus fragment. Trump: “We also love the European Union. I was there many many years ago. Meaning my parents were born in the European Union.”

+ According to the Wall Street Journal, Silvio Berlusconi’s brand of populism is finally beginning to fade.  Looking back on those bizarre years, I find that I much prefer the Bunga-Bunga of Berlusconi’s proto-fascist Italy to the Womp-Womp of Trump’s proto-fascist America.

+ The kids at Mighty Writers’ El Futuro branch, an after-school writing academy in South Philly, had a great idea: collect Spanish language children’s books and deliver them to the kids locked up in  immigration detention centers. They got a grant to buy 700 books, most of them for the Berks Detention Center 75 miles north of Philly. The Mighty Writers packed the books in boxes and were prepared to deliver them, when ICE rang up to reject the offer. No explanation given. This is cruelty as policy.

+ In Philly, you can change the DA for the better, but the cops remain the same, which is to say eager to manhandle and cuff a disabled 85-year-old rabbi who was passively protesting ICE…

+ Meanwhile, a groups of NFL players headed to the border this week to deliver much-needed supplies to immigrants in detention camps. SOBs, Mr. Trump?

+ Infrastructure Week finally materializes: Trump’s plan to expanded detention centers for adult and juvenile immigrants is boosting the fortunes of the private prison industrial complex.

+ Who is making money from ICE in your state?

July 13

+ Tariq Ali: “The vaudeville President stirring NATO with attacks on the Germans for being Russian puppets. Bizarre, but the EU powers are so pathetic they can’t fight back because they’ve been ever so loyal to the US. Even now with Trump excreting on them…”

+ So Trump came Brussels not to kill off NATO, as both liberals and neocons feared, but to further weaponize it. He played the part of a blustery arms dealer, demanding that all NATO countries increase defense spending to 4% of GDP (double the current commitment), which would come as welcome news to Raytheon, Lockheed & Boeing. Of course, feeding defense corporations is what NATO has been about since the alliance became operationally obsolete in 1990.

+ Note that Trump’s call for NATO countries to increase military spending to 4% GDP would also mean another spike in US military spending, above the $718 billion check the Congress just wrote the Pentagon in the name of John McCain. Where are the protestations from the Deep State?

+ The Senate voted 97-2 to defend poor little NATO against Trump’s rhetorical blasts. Only Rand Paul and Mike Lee dissented…

+ Best slogan at London protests? “Take Boris back with you!”

+ Trump tells Putin shit that Putin (and nearly everyone else) already knows, namely that many of his top aides are “stupid people.”

+ Senator Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat, is very worried about what Trump might “give away” to Putin at their rendezvous in Helsinki. The problem is, what do you give the man who already has Crimea? What if he gifted-wrapped Stephen Miller? No returns, of course.

+ Robert Mueller just threw a stink bomb at the Trump/Putin summit with his indictment of 12 Russian GRU agents for hacking into the computer systems of the DNC, the DCCC and the Clinton campaign.

+ The FBI apparently knew that “Alice Donovan,” who was writing about Syria one day and creating the DCLeaks Facebook page the next, was a fictitious personality as early as 2015, but did nothing about it. Why not? This would have been a fruitful line of inquiry for Peter Strzok at the psychodrama masquerading as a Congressional hearing this week, but don’t expect the Democrats, who have lionized the FBI, to ask these kinds of questions.

+ The indestructible Donovan survived the Great Twitter Purge.

+ Hopefully at the next congressional hearing some member of congress will hold up a poster featuring Alice’s Twitter profile…

+ Will Putin respond by indicting CIA agents for hacking into Russian computer systems?

+ Nothing in the Mueller indictments, as intriguing as they are, alter the fact that Donald Trump is president because the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton as their candidate.

July 20

+ Based on Trump’s infantile performance in Helsinki, we’d probably all be better off if Putin just went ahead and annexed the US.

+ If Trump is serious about a dramatic realignment of US relations with Russia, why did he surround himself with people who are implacably opposed to his approach: Nikki Haley, John Bolton, Mad Dog Mattis, Pompeo Maximus, Bloody Gina Haspel, Christopher Wray, and  Dan Coats, who undermined him before Air Force One lifted off from Helsinki? Either Trump should fire them for insubordination or they should resign. Otherwise, this is all psychology not politics…

+ What kind of tyrant would appoint all of his own “deep state” coup plotters?

+ Trump’s doltish prevarications have done more to boost Mueller’s deflating investigation than 1000 hours of the hyperventilating Rachel Maddow….

+ Trump was momentarily on track when he wanted to draw a moral equivalence between the brutish global political games of Russia and the US. But instead of lashing Hillary over her stupid emails, which have nothing to do with antagonizing Russia, why didn’t Trump attack her for her nefarious activities in Ukraine and the decimation of Libya? I know, I know. He’s a dotard.

+ Will Mueller subpoena that soccer ball?

+ Trump didn’t do Putin any favors. The political over-reaction to Trump’s obsequiousness will almost certainly prevent the removal of sanctions on the Russian economy. It may even prompt the imposition of more onerous measures. Russian civilians will almost certainly bear most of the price.

+ Trump should have consulted with his Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon. She could have told him from her experience running the World Wrestling Federation that you have to at least put up a little fight during the Hoedown in Helsinki to make a fixed outcome look if not real, at least entertaining…

+ For those of us anxious for a de-escalation in tensions between the US and Russia, Trump’s petulant display probably ensured that the opposite will happen…

+ Putin and Trump both sought Bibi’s blessing before the summit. Bibi has become the new Billy Graham, who all politicians have on direct dial for consultation in fraught political moments. Graham always considered him a top notch military strategist, once urging Nixon to bomb the dikes in North Vietnam which would have killed a million people.

+ Trump: “What is the server saying?”

The Server: “This subpoena is for you, sir….”

+ Did QE2 ask Putin to show up 30 minutes late for his huddle with Trump as payback for Trump’s tardiness at Windsor?

+ Ari Melber, MSDNC: “Today, July 16, 2018, will go down in the history books as an inflection point in US-Soviet relations.” The Cold War may be over, as Putin declared, but not the Cold War mentality…

+ Ari Melber was 11 when the USSR collapsed.

+ You “raised vast amounts of money” for NATO to encircle and threaten Russia and then you had “an even better meeting with Putin?” Both of these things can’t be true. Most likely both are false.

+ Before the Helsinki press conference ended, I predicted that Trump’s puerile performance would led to new sanctions against Russia. Less than 24 hours later that’s exactly what Paul Ryan is proposing. The question is: was that his real intent or is he just too doltish to realize it would be the inevitable consequence? When stupidity cross-breeds with blinding narcissism.

+ House Republicans, led by Mark Meadows of the “Freedom” Caucus, rushed to defend Trump’s dalliance with Putin by arguing that it was entirely consistent with the policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as if the belligerent policies of those administrations toward Russia were a good thing. We’re definitely lost in the funhouse now.

+ Trump’s servile, almost slavish, posturing in Helsinki was eclipsed by the hysterical reaction of the Democrats and the neocons, who embarrassed themselves with their shrill bleating about Trump having committed treason.

July 27

+ The much-anticipated Pompeo Maximus hearing before the Senate showed both parties (and Pompeo) trying to be more hawkish than the other on Russia and Iran and slavish in their devotion to NATO.

+ After about 15 minutes, MSDNC broke away from the Pompeo hearing to replay the Cohen/Trump tape 15 times. Why? Perhaps because Pompeo undermined their 24/7 narrative by spending most of his time beating his chest about Russia.

+ Yemen’s not a “covert war” like Afghanistan in the early 1980s. It only seems that way because MSDNC chooses not to cover it

+ In the last year, MSDNC has done 455 segments on Stormy Daniels and none on Yemen. I’m all for Stormy Daniels, but she’d probably get the Nobel Peace Prize if she went to Yemen for the weekend so that MSDNC and CNN would cover the US-backed genocidal war going on there …

+ Of course, if MSDNC starts covering Yemen, they may also have to cover Gaza, and climate change. Who knows where it will end or what will happen to all of Rachel Maddow’s graphics, including the ones with scary Cyrillic script she used to wrongly accuse the White House of redacting from the official Helsinki transcript Putin’s admission that he supported Trump in the 2016 elections.

August 10

+ The unplugging of InfoWars from its corporate platforms was a stupid and cynical move to silence a cynical and stupid man after Alex Jones started to hurt their bottom line. As with all forms of censorship, Jones will portray himself as a martyr and probably make even more money. Still, I can’t imagine a true feral journalist like Jean-Paul Marat whimpering that the Bourbon-owned postal service refused to distribute his L’Ami du Peuple rag to the Sans Culottes…

+ Whether the “Left” defended Alex Jones’ fascist theatrics on free speech grounds or wanted to see his mouth firmly muzzled with a red ball gag, we can be certain of one thing: the desires of the “Left” played no role in the decisions of the social media companies to yank his plug.

+ Almost to the day Cockburn died, he referred to CounterPunch as a “Twitter-free Zone,” blissfully unaware that Nat had set up a CP Twitter account a couple years earlier. But Alex understood that relying on FB or Twitter meant that you submitted to their corporate rules & whims not our own.

+ The underground press was underground for a reason. The Left never had any expectation that the titans of capitalism would play fairly with publications whose stated goal was to take them down and put their owners in the tumbrils.

+ The lesson the Left should take from the Jones Affair is that if you’re organizing on Social Media platforms you’re building movement on a trapdoor that will open beneath your feet the moment you become a threat.

August 17

+ You have to give Trump credit. LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Cheney (I mean Bush), and Clinton kept their Enemies Lists secret. Trump ushers Sarah Sanders out to announce his on live TV at White House press briefings.

+ Are liberals who are bewailing the revocation of John Brennan’s security clearance worried that Trump’s drone strikes will become less accurate?

+ 13 former NatSec and CIA officials signed a letter protesting Trump’s stripping Brennan of his security clearance. There’ no solidarity quite like the solidarity of war criminals…This is the opposite of a Spartacus Moment. I imagine them all beating their chest and shouting, “I am Crassus!

+ Much more menacing than Trump’s rabid Tweets or his meaningless revocation of Brennan’s security clearance is the fact that the Pentagon is exiling reporters whose coverage Mad Dog and his generals find unflattering…

+ Trump signed one of the largest war-making budgets in history and the Resistance© is chaffing that he didn’t mention John McCain

+ Flexing his view of the limitless power of the executive, Trump is now asserting that he has the authority to ignore congressional limitsplaced on defense spending. This is bound to bolster his case for that Nobel Peace Prize….

August 24

+ Trump is acting like a mob boss. So sayeth Noah Rothman on the pages of Commentary. But surely hat’s giving Trump far too much credit. The Trump Syndicate is more like what Godfather III would have been like if Fredo was the only Corleone brother to survive and ended up running the show… in other words, a Mel Brooks movie.

+ What kind of mob boss can’t even keep his consiglieres in line? Michael Cohen, who once vowed to take a bullet for Trump, folded “like rat” before prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, pleading guilty to a slate of charges without even copping an immunity deal. Cohen was so eager to sing that he publicly implicated Trump in a conspiracy to buy the silence to two former paramours, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Cohen offered this juicy bit of inculpatory evidence gratis. Thanks for nothing Don Donald.

+ Meanwhile, as the legal walls close in, Trump could only vent his anger in yet another tirade about his other useless lawyer, J. Beauregard Sessions. “Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done, or he should have told me,” Trump puffed. “He took my job, and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of man is this?’ ” Mr. President, that’s the same question we’ve all been asking ourselves…

September 7

+ The big question now circulating amid the cubicles of the Gray Lady:  Who will Anonymous replace as a regular columnist at the New York Times?

A. Brett Stephens
B. David Brooks
C. Thomas Friedman

+ Will anyone notice the difference?

+ Anyone who denied being Anonymous should be suspected of being Anonymous. Those who denied the quickest and most vehemently (Mike Pence and Melania) are, naturally, the leading suspects.

+ As Claud Cockburn advised us many years ago: “Never believe anything until it has be officially denied.”

+ Trump wants Anon to be turned over to the government and tried for treason. He would set up his own band of White House plumbers, but the only people he know trusts are family and none of them have any experience with a basin wrench. Except for Melania, who is a suspect.

+ Noted civil libertarian Rand Paul advised Trump to subject his entire administration to lie detector tests to ferret out the traitorous columnist. The Trump administration has apparently come up with a list of 12 suspects. JC had his 12 apostles, Trump has his 12 apostates. Could it all end like Murder on the Orient Express: they all did it?

+ 10 days after the publication of All the President’s Men, this article appears in the Wall Street Journal, where the FBI’s Mark Felt denies being “Deep Throat”…

+ Ironically, Felt, it will be recalled by connoisseurs of Watergate, was charged by Nixon to track down who was leaking to Woodward and Bernstein…

+ Trump wants Beauregard to investigate the New York Times. But if he really wants to put the Times out of business, shouldn’t he simply resign? After all, in Billings on Thursday night Trump said the paper wouldn’t “exist without me.”

+ Did Mike Pence just shoot his “lodestar“?

+ Evidence for Mike Pence being Anonymous:

1. Gutless: Check
2. Coward: Check
3. Moral Prude: Check
4. Lodestar: Check
5. Denied being Anonymous: Check

+ Of course, Melania is a serial plagiarist. Maybe she lifted “lodestar” from Pence? Admittedly she usually swipes better material.

+ A summary of Anonymous’s op-ed: “Trump’s irrationality is threatening our tax cuts, our defense contracts and our carbon emissions!”

+ Following Anon’s lead, Elizabeth Warren is now calling for Trump to be removed from power through the cumbersome process set forth in the 25th Amendment, which would turn the Cabinet and the Congress into a kind of bicameral psychiatric review board, charged with evaluating the mental competency of the President, a task they are even less quipped for than determining whether he has committed a high crime or misdemeanor.

+ We have endured our share of demented executives in the recent past. Surely, Harry Truman was psychotic the moment he gave the order to nuke Nagasaki, after having witnessed the atomic horrors inflicted on Hiroshima.  LBJ staffer Richard Goodwin argued that Johnson suffered from paranoid delusions and that his “mental disintegration” led the president plunge the nation deeper and deeper into the Vietnam War. James Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense during the final months of the Nixon administration, instructed the Chiefs of Staff to ignore any orders for military action given by the president that didn’t contain Schlesinger’s own signature. Schlesinger feared that Nixon might summon the Marines to the White House grounds or launch nuclear weapons to save his presidency. As Reagan’s mind began to melt in his second term, chief of staff Don Regan fought furiously with Nancy Reagan, and her astrologer Joan Quigley, over running day-to-day operations at the White House, with Regan later charging in his memoir For the Record that: “virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.” It doesn’t get much crazier than that.

September 14

In the months after Hurricane, thousands of Puerto Ricans died from lack of basic medical care. They died because they ran out of crucial medicines. They died because they couldn’t get to dialysis treatments. They died because their breathing machines stopped working. They died of chronic conditions and acute disorders. They died of stress and heart attacks. they died of dehydration, exposure and starvation. They died from despair and suicides. They died from the criminal neglect of their own government.

Trump should thank Roseanne Barr, whose racist Twitter-spasm knocked the Harvard Report on post-Maria deaths in Puerto Rico off the Sunday morning news talk shows, none of which even mentioned the staggering mortality rate, which was 90 times the government’s own total. The press, which largely left the island after Trump’s paper-towel tossing photo op in San Juan, is nearly as complicit as the president.

For weeks, the official death toll in Puerto Rico stood at 16, an absurd figure that Trump repeatedly invoked in a running advertisement for how his administration should have rated a “10 out of 10” for its response to the Hurricane. This number eventually climbed to 64 deaths, and there it stood for 8 months, rarely questioned by the media despite the ongoing carnage of the island. The devastating Harvard Report, released on the eve of the new Atlantic hurricane season, came and went, a brief interlude in the national psychodrama.

“It took too long to understand the need for an appropriate response was not about politics but about saying lives,” said Carmen Yulín Cruz, San Juan’s feisty mayor. “ Now will the government believe it?” There’s no sign that the government even read it, nevermind absorbed its urgent lessons.

September 21

+ The transformation of the Democrats into the party of the neocons is now complete. The Senate just passed a  $674 billion military budget, the largest since the peak of Iraq War and a $17 billion increase from last year. There were only seven “No” votes, none of them Democrats: Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Jeff Flake, David Perdue and Bernie Sanders.

+ The original political neocon was Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the Democrat from Boeing, before they all fled into the lethal embrace of Reagan.

+ Now the chickenhawks have finally come back home to roost!

+ Trump at the press briefing with Polish president Andrzej Duda: “Costs, yes, costs. Something you didn’t hear anything about over the last 25 years.”

Trump, 20 seconds later: “We just got the biggest military budget in history, $670 billion. People have never seen anything like it.”

September 28

+ Let’s not get too carried away with high-minded talk about the sanctity of the Supremes. It’s nearly impossible for the sniveling brute Brett Kavanaugh to leave too much of a stain on the same Court that has decided Dred Scott, Plessy, the pro-eugenics ruling in Buck v. Bell, Korematsu and Citizens United. More likely Kavanaugh will blend right in with its sordid history. Real social change is driven by political movements not a few enlightened jurists.

+ We should thank Kavanaugh for dropping the mask during his mad rant on Thursday. This is what they are all like behind closed doors: Gorsuch, Comey, Holder, Yoo. Imagine the kind of shit Brett & his crew were saying while they edited the torture memos over a keg? And BK wasn’t the worst. Those goons were down the hall in Cheney’s shop of horrors.

+ Is it any surprise that Brett Kavanaugh, a man who was a sexual predator in high school and college, would “mature” into a lawyer who helped draft legal justifications for the torture of other humans?

+ Senator Grassley likes his persecutions to run on time…

+ Every question Dr. Ford answered that the Republicans didn’t have the guts to ask for themselves revealed them for the cowardly goons they are….

+ Lindsey Graham is a writhing toad of sexual confusion and animus.

+ In response to the testimony of a woman who was shoved from behind into a bedroom and sexually assaulted, Lindsey Graham says that he “feels ambushed.”

+ What happens when none of the questioners are competent to question the witness. Most of the senators and the prosecutor don’t even understand what Dr. Ford is saying…

+ GOP prosecutor interrogating Dr. Ford about every aspect of her finances and badgering her over “who paid for the polygraph” (her lawyers), but we still don’t know who paid off Brett Kavanaugh’s debts….

+  Here’s how the GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee voted on the 2013 Violence Against Women Act…

Mr. Grassley: NAY
Mr. Hatch: NAY
Mr. Graham: NAY
Mr. Cornyn: NAY
Mr. Lee: NAY
Mr. Cruz: NAY

+ Grassley: “Stop the clock, will you?” It won’t help stem the bleeding, Chuck.

+ Santorum on CNN: “Watching her, she seemed authentic…and that’s a big problem for Brett Kavanaugh.” When you’ve lost Latin for Asshole & all you’ve got left is Don Jr., you’re in a mess of trouble…

+ Thankfully, Kavanaugh didn’t bring the girls basketball team with him, still someone should probably file a restraining order against the judge before practices start for the new season…

+ No one would ever accuse me of being a fan of the Clintons, but how many times did Brett Kavanaugh and the Starr team come up with new evidence at the last minute that wasn’t even related to the crimes they were investigating?

+ Clarence “High-Tech Lynching” Thomas seems to have been the model for Kavanaugh’s belligerent, self-pitying angry man routine. Call it manufactured indignity.

+ Kavanaugh: “This is a smear, plain and simple.”

Brett had better hope he didn’t leave a smear…

+ Kavanaugh’s strategy: rage, tears and beers.

+ Brett Kavanaugh’s snarling voice is the squeal of white male privilege caught in a leg-hold trap…

+ Feinstein is pathetic. She can’t defend Ford, herself or her staff. Kavanaugh ran right over her and she just took it.

+ Would you document on your calendar a small gathering where you tried to rape someone?

+ Kavanaugh’s violent demeanor is that of a man who has enjoyed impunity for everything he has ever done in his life up to this point…

+ Kavanaugh: “Everybody praises my temperament, damnit!”

+ Liliana Segura: “It feels like we’re all at a wedding in hell and the best man’s toast has gone off the rails.”

+ Who will ask how many beers Brett had for lunch?

+ Brett: FFFFF referred to Squi’s stuttering way of saying “fuck”.

Every high school boy: FFFFF means “Find ’em, fetch ’em, feel ’em, fuck ’em, forget ’em.”

+ Charles Lane: “Since it’s come up — I grew up across the street in Chevy Chase from the guy known as ‘Squi’ and saw him every day in my childhood. He did not stutter, so nothing to mock in that dept. but he did have that funny way of saying the F-word, as BK said. FWIW.”

+ On the night Brett Kavanaugh told the Federalist Society he was “falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.”, “Roger Clemens was pitching, George Brett was playing third, no outfield that night….” Thanks for clearing that up, Judge. Did you keep the scorecard? Because it looks like Brett played first base that night…

+ Democratic senators are performing as ineptly as they did during the Anita Hill hearing.

+ Each Democrat should have focused on a separate line of questioning. Instead, they all asked the same three questions and got the same evasions and prevarications. The clumsy GOP surrogate elicited more useful information from both Ford and the Judge than all of the Democrats–until she was suddenly evicted to make way for Lindsey Graham’s volcanic tantrum…

+ Not one question for the great advocate of women clerks about the disgusting behavior of his mentor Kosinski, who I’m sure also studied hard in high school and college.

+ The best service the Republicans performed for their country during the hearing was to rub Joe Biden’s bullshit in the face of the Democrats.

+ Remember that Kavanaugh’s hero Antonin Scalia once dissented in a death penalty case (Herrera v. Collins) by arguing that innocence was NOT a legitimate grounds for granting an appeal. Sorry, Brett.

+ I don’t think Kavanaugh would hesitate for a minute to, as did his G-Prep alum Gorsuch in his first act on the high court, consign a man to the death chamber even though serious doubts had been raised about his guilt and the fairness of his prosecute. In other words, the man’s empathy is almost entirely self-directed.

+ What happened to the sex crimes prosecutor? Was that how she interviews all of her suspects? Why did the GOP suspend the questioning of the sex crimes prosecutor once she pointed out the July 1st notation on Kavanaugh’s calendar about a party that included Judge, PJ and Squi where “skis” (brewskis) were consumed?

+ This is the day of the snarling white men!

+ Q. How much beer is too much beer?

Brett: “Whatever the chart says.”

+ The sleazy yearbook reference to “Renata” was a sign of respect,  Kavanaugh claims, just like the UN ambassadors laughing at Trump….

+ Kavanaugh clerked for Judge Kosinski and swears he never saw any signs that the judge was serially harassing women. Why isn’t it reasonable that we might assume he has led the same secret life…

+ Rightwing sleaze-machine Erik Erikson proclaimed that after his own review of Kavanaugh’s resumé he counted possibly be a serial sex offender: “Garbage people do not accomplish what Kavanaugh has accomplished in the way he has accomplished it. Instead, garbage people tend to wind up writing for left-of-center online news outlets in DC.”

+ Of course, Kavanaugh clerked for certified “garbage person” Judge Alex Kosinski, the harasser of at least 12 women in the sanctity of his judicial chambers.

+ Does Kavanaugh’s vitriolic demeanor make it more or less likely that he is capable of committing an act of violence?

+ I sure hope The Cory Booker Show isn’t renewed for next season.

+ As Ralph Nader said, the Democrats should hold their own public hearing, question all the accusers and witnesses. They won’t. Because to be a Democrat is by definition to not do whatever it is that really needs to be done.

+ One would be tempted to say Orrin Hatch is senile. But he sounded just the same 27 years ago.

+ New liberal hero George W. Bush has been calling “moderate” Republican senators and a few of his old Democratic pals, like Joe Manchin, urging them to give his former staffer Kavanaugh a break: “Look, Flake, can you overlook the sexual predator stuff, so we can have our torture?”

+ Jeff Flake is the dead armadillo in the middle of the road. He is full of anguish, rending his conscience in public, before capitulating.

+ The Soul of Flake: I’m voting for Kavanaugh because I didn’t hear enough evidence to vote against him, this just after voting to suppress a subpoena that would have allowed him to hear more evidence against him. Then he calls for a weeklong FBI investigation, after voting to move the nominee out of the committee. On the Hill, this is called Flaking Out.

+ Dear Liberals, the FBI investigation will be overseen by director Christopher Wray, who was two years behind Brett-boy at both Yale and Yale Law. After graduation, they entered the same rightwing political orbit and both took jobs in the Bush Administration. How do you think it’s going to turn out?

+ I think the FBI investigation helps Brett-boy. The conclusion will be ambiguous and thus will seem to clear him, overshadowing the multiple reasons he should never be allowed near the Supreme Court.+ After all of Judge Kavanaugh’s self-pitying histrionics, he didn’t punch a single hole in the credibility of Dr. Ford.

+ Kavanaugh pursued Clinton for years over lying about consensual sex. Yet Brett-boy lied compulsively under oath while trying to defend himself against a credible allegation that he tried to rape a minor–to the wild applause of Bubba’s most puritanical scolds, like Graham & Hatch.

+ I couldn’t think of a better way to undermine the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh than what MSDNC is doing by putting Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor in the Central Park 5 case, on as “an expert “in the Kavanaugh case. As far as I know, Fairstein never recanted or apologized for her frame up of those innocent kids.

+ Here’s Linda Fairstein, MSDNC “expert” on the allegations against Kavanaugh, still defending a couple of months ago her false and malicious prosecution of the Central Park Five.

+ According to the Urban Dictionary, during the act of a “Devil’s Triangle” the two men must never engage in eye contact. Did Brett cop a glance at Mark? Maybe Lindsey Graham will inquire?

+ Brett Kavanaugh: “This is something out of a Twilight Zone episode.”

+ Stuart Newman: “I don’t remember any gang rapes in a Twilight Zone episode.”

+ Kavanaugh friend: “Brett never hung out with public school girls from Gaithersburg.”

+ So many shoes have dropped in the Kavanaugh affair that Nike’s thinking of building a new media campaign around him.

+ Actor Ken Olin: “Since Trump was elected he’s sent us more alleged rapists than Mexico.”

+ It looks like Kavanaugh learned something from his pursuit of Bill Clinton as part of Ken Starr’s legal posse: How to artfully dance around questions about sex…

+ Brenda from Missouri calls C-SPAN: “I’m a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in 2nd grade. This brings back so much pain. Thought I was over it but it’s not. You will never forget it. You get confused & you don’t understand it but you never forget what happened to you.”

+ Elizabeth Ferrari: “Sometimes memory goes sideways, too. This morning I didn’t remember the event but standing in a police station, surrounded by hostile cops who refused to take a report because they’d decided my aggressor was the good guy. And a woman cop very quietly walking up to me in the middle of that critical crowd and taking pictures.”

+ Brett the 30-Year-Old Virgin?

+ Elliot Sperber: “When Kavanaugh says he didn’t have sex until many years after college maybe he meant consensual sex.”

+ How frequently do the children of prosecutors, like Brett Kavanaugh, turn out to be privileged little deviants who feel they can get away with almost any act of depravity?

+ I guess we now know why Kavanaugh appealed to Trump from that list of other Federalist Society clones….

+ The Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans say they have spoken to two men who think they, not Kavanaugh, had the 1982 encounter that formed the basis for her sexual abuse claim. Are they Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.?

+ 48% of evangelicals say they’d support Kavanaugh even if the allegations made by Dr. Ford were proved to be true.

+ Brett may have won the hearts of the Southern Baptists, but he just lost the Jesuits

+ Let’s recall that the FBI investigation of Anita Hill’s charges did NOTHING to prevent Clarence Thomas from being elevated to the Supreme Court. But the Democrats couldn’t let this issue go, to their own doom.

October 5

+ As I predicted in this space last week, Chuck  Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and the Democratic leadership screwed this up as usual. They turned Dr. Ford’s compelling testimony into a debate about the FBI. For most of the people who watched her, her story didn’t need any more corroboration. Kavanaugh’s petulant demeanor, lies and own writing from the time offered all the confirmation that was needed. Now you have a constricted investigation, run by one of Kavanaugh’s bros, concluding there is no corroboration for her story or that of Deborah Ramirez. Schumer and Feinstein owe it to Ford and Ramirez to resign. Now.

+ The Democrats could have made the debate about Kavanaugh’s perjury and blatant political prejudice. The case was iron-tight after the judge’s self-incriminating testimony. Instead they made it about having the FBI “corroborate” an event that needed no corroboration. They repeated Biden’s blunder (one of many) from the Anita Hill hearings by demanding an FBI investigation. In 1991, the FBI was deployed not to corroborate Hill’s story, but to smear her. It’s why Poppy Bush agreed to it so eagerly.

+ In the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, FoxNews pollster Frank Luntz whined that: “Any political decision made now is accompanied by one side screaming bloody murder. It’s terrible for civilized discourse. It’s terrible for our democracy.” Of course, these are largely ritualized fights, as predictable and scripted as Wrestlemania. When bloody murder is actually taking place (like in Yemen or Gaza) nobody can be heard screaming bloody murder–at least on television.

+ In a similar vein, Justice Sonia Sotomayor piously admonished an audience at Princeton this week that the “Supreme Court must rise above partisanship.” Antonin Scalia, who understood that the Supreme Court functions as one of the ultimate expressions of political power, would never say anything remotely like this. Knowing they represent an endangered minority (the rich), Republicans take the court seriously, the Democrats never have.

+ How long before RBG invites Justice Kavanaugh to replace Scalia as her regular date at the Opera?

October 12

In just two weeks, the Mendocino Fire complex had scorched 340,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history. The Mendo fire started four days after the Carr Fire ignited, which destroyed more than 1000 homes and killed eight people near the city of Redding in northern California. The Carr Fire, still burning in mid-August, has seared more than 210,000 acres. In the Sierras, the 100,000 Ferguson Fire closed the Yosemite National Park and killed two firefighters. In southern California, the Holy Jack Fire erupted in a mushroom cloud of smoke on Hiroshima Day. California was burning from border to border.

Clarence Sibsey is a fire refugee. For the second time in two years, he was forced to evacuate his home near Clear Lake.  “We’ve never had fires like this before,” Sibsey told the Los Angeles Times. “Why now?”

In one of his most mystical Tweets, Donald Trump tried to give Sibsey an answer. The president blamed the California fires on the state’s policy of allowing some of the waters from its much-molested rivers to empty into the Pacific Ocean, instead of being totally diverted into the irrigation ditches of the Central Valley and the Klamath Basin. It may have escaped the President’s keen grasp of California geography that the two biggest fires are burning adjacent to several of the state’s largest lakes, including Lake Shasta, Trinity Lake and Clear Lake.

The Mendo fires are burning on the outskirts of wine country in (take note, Mr. President) Lake County about 120 miles north of San Francisco. Since 2012, more than half of the land in the county has been burned over. Lake County is now the most fire-prone county in California, perhaps the entire United States. In 2015, the Valley Fire consumed 1,300 homes and killed four people. The next year, the Clayton Fire roared through the town of Lower Lake, incinerating more than 300 houses, mobile homes, offices and churches. Land that was just burned is now burning again.

July 2018 was not just the hottest month in California history, it may have been one of the hottest months on Earth in the last 40,000 years with the daily temperatures (night and day) in Death Valley averaging 108 degrees, six degrees higher than normal. July 24th saw the hottest rain ever recorded, when a cloudburst opened over Imperial County when the temperature was 119 degrees.

October 26

+ The migrant “caravan” from Honduras is composed of people seeking political asylum in the US. This is entirely legal under US and international law. Closing the border and calling out the military against asylum-seekers violates both US and international law. Far from hiding “criminals,” the caravan has exposed one in the Oval Office.

+ Remember when Reagan claimed a caravan of Sandinista “terrorists” was only “two days drive” from Harlingen, Texas? Imagine how much better off the country would have become if that had been real and not fake news…

+ Unlike the Sandinista “terrorist” invasion force, the Honduran Caravan is 1100 miles away from the Texas border. If they average a good 20 miles a day on foot, they will storm across the Rio Grande 55 days from now…

+Trump is threatening to cut all US aid to Central American countries. What a shame that the death squads will be out of funds. Does this also mean that this year’s recruits for the School of the Americas will be taking their classes in torture, coups and assassinations online from Trump University?

+ Why are people fleeing Central America, you ask?

+ How many villages in Central America has this US barged into, taken what it’s corporations wanted–oil, fruit, copper–and left behind nothing but toxic waste pits and graves full of peasants?

November 2

+ After conferring with the Saudi King and MBS (Mohammad Bone Saw) Trump suggested that the assassins of Jamal Khashoggi were “rogue killers.” Maybe MBS’s people in the vicinity were architectural tourists visiting Istanbul to see the Hagia Sophia, whose dome is 182.5 feet tall.

+ Saud al-Qahtani, MBS’s top aide, oversaw the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, telling his killers via Skype to “Bring me the head of the dog.

+ If you considered the US/Saudi relationship a kind of gang, like say M-13, which it does resemble, Trump under US law might be considered a co-conspirator in Khashoggi’s murder…

+ From the mouth of the Rat Lord of New York City…”Mr. Kushner has argued that the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing will pass, just as it did after other Saudi errors like the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon and the killing of a busload of children in Yemen”

+ Did Gina Haspel rush to the Middle East to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, learn new techniques of torture and rendition or to recruit some enhanced interrogators?

+ Reporter: “Did they say that Khashoggi was alive or dead?”

Secretary Pompeo: “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn’t want to either.”

+ Trump: “We need Saudi Arabia to help fight terrorism.” Which is like saying we need the coal companies to help fight climate change.

+ Harry Shearer: “First rule of good consulate-keeping: always repaint after a fistfight.”

+ Rarely does blood money come fresher than this, as the Saudis rushed $100 million into US accounts to mount its public relations offensive in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul.

+ Rev. Pat Robertson: “We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of…it’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.” Who would Jesus carpet bomb?

November 9

+ It seems like everybody got something out of the midterms, except one lonely man. Nancy Pelosi won. Mitch McConnell won. Trump got a split decision. But Chuck Schumer got creamed. Has the senator from Citibank resigned yet?

+ After Trump’s election and the announcement that Chuck Schumer would lead the Democratic Resistance©, I predicted that Schumer’s infamous “Plan B” (pandering to upper-middle class suburban voters and disaffected Republicans with college degrees at the expense of blue collar voters) would result in the Democrats losing 5 senate seats. I confess I was wrong.  They only lost four, unless, like me, you consider the retention of Robert Menendez and Joe Manchin as a result even worse than a loss.

+ One big takeaway from the midterms: It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the next Democratic presidential candidate could win the popular vote by 10% and still lose in the electoral college. (Democrats have a 12.5-pt lead in the popular vote in all contested senate races and have lost 4 seats.)

+ Senate popular vote:

Democrats: 40,558,262 (55.4%)

Republicans: 31,490,026 votes (43.0%)

+ According to the normally reliable Cook Political Report, there were 46 GOP-held congressional seats in the House that were either favored for a Democratic win or considered a toss-up and another 49 GOP-held seats that leaned red but were still competitive. Of those 95 competitive seats, the Democrats only won 30. Can that result really be considered a success? In baseball, .315 would be a good batting average. But in politics shouldn’t you be hitting closer to .500 in a two-party system?

+ Of course, the Democrats in the House were running against the odds. The system is rigged and the rigging is getting tighter as the demographics change and the inequality gap widens.  When gerrymandering doesn’t work, voter suppression kicks in. Maybe a swing of 30 votes is all that could be expected at moment when the sinews of the Republic are under maximum stress.

+ The thing about postmodern America is that its politics remain resolutely pre-modern, where the failsafe systems are all programmed to protect property and its owners…

+ The exit polling reconfirms my long held belief, shaken for the past two years, that most Americans rightly despise their leaders, whoever they are….

2010 exit poll on Obama:
Approve – 45%
Disapprove – 54%

2016 exit poll on Trump:
Approve- 44%
Disapprove- 55%

+ Nancy Pelosi: “It might surprise you that the president I quoted most on the campaign trail was Ronald Reagan.” This was no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to Pelosi’s career for the past 20 years. The rightwing titan exert a powerful hold over the political consciousness of the neoliberal. There is much truth buried in Margaret Thatcher’s quip that “Tony Blair is my greatest accomplishment.”

+ True to form, Pelosi wasted no time revealing her eagerness to engage in a political Devil’s Triangle with Trump, announcing that the Democrats are ready to embrace the “bipartisan marketplace of ideas.”

+ Pelosi: “We are not going after Republicans the way they went after us.” They didn’t go after YOU, Nancy, they went after the poor, the atmosphere, the rivers, people’s health care, the banking regulations, Syrian refugees, migrant children, undocumented workers…Get over yourself.

+ David Swanson: “The last time the Dems won the majority they escalated the war on Iraq they’d been elected to end. Luckily they haven’t been elected to do anything this time.”

+ Best post-election troll: Trump offering to help Nancy Pelosi become speaker of the House, if she faces an insurgency from within her caucus.

+ Best post-election aftershock: Trump firing Jeff Sessions (or ordering John Kelly to do it for him) and sidestepping Rod Rosenstein to make Beauregard’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker the acting Attorney General. Whitaker, a man who believes that the judiciary should be an “inferior branch” of government, will oversee the Mueller investigation as it narrows its focus on Trump, his business and his family.

+ Who will be the first Democrat to start a Go Fund Me campaign for Beauregard? My money is on Adam Schiff, who seems a little more spry on his feet than Jerry Nadler…

November 16

+ The Camp Fire, which leveled the Sierra foothills town of Paradise (pop. 27,000), is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of California. As of Friday morning:

+ 63 people are dead

+ 630 people are missing

+ 11,000 structures have been destroyed, including nearly 9,000 homes

+ 52,000 people have been evacuated

+ 140,000 acres have burned.

+ The forests burned in Camp Fire were so parched by prolonged drought they were described by ecologists as “sucking water from the air.”

+ Of the 10 most destructive fires in California history, 9 of them have ignited since 2000.

+ According to the Ecologist-in-Chief, if only there was more clearcutting of forests  and raking of leaves, the California fires (many of them raging in coastal chaparral habitat–what’s left of it amid the subdivisions, malls and highways) wouldn’t be happening…

+ Trump’s a buffoon, but what’s the corporate media’s excuse? In it’s non-stop coverage of the California wildfires, the national news networks have mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of the total coverage.

+ The Woolsey Fire near Malibu roared across the best mountain lion habitat in southern California. Most of the adults likely escaped, but many of their cubs probably didn’t…

+ The Woolsey Fire jumped the freeway and scorched Bell Canyon in the West Hills area of LA, where I scrambled up El Escorpión Peak with the late Galen Rowell and a few others back in the early 90s. I had taken a fistful of magic mushrooms that September day, anticipating how they might enhance a tangerine sunset brewed up from fires in the Topatopa Mountains near Ojai. I don’t recall the sunset, but I can’t still shake memory of the three rattlesnakes I nearly stepped on during that climb. You don’t think of rattlesnakes, when you think of LA. But they are there and I hope they remain so, long after the ashes from this fire cools and the chaparral springs back to life …

+ In 1995, Mike Davis wrote an incendiary essay on why we should let Malibu burn. It’s truer today than it was when he wrote it 23 years ago.

+ 500 miles north of the Camp Fire, the smoke has clogged the skies in Portland, making the air quality hazardous for the old, the infirm and children…

+ If the air in Portland was awful, it was downright deadly in the Bay Area, where San Francisco topped the charts for the worst air quality in world on this week.

+ The smoke is so bad throughout the state that many California cities are handing out masks to residents. But are we sure the masks weren’t donated by the oil & gas companies to make everyone believe the air is safe to breathe on days when there aren’t any fires?

+ With smoke from the Camp Fire swirling inside Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento and LeBron James gasping on the court, will the NBA finally come out against climate change?

+ In Chico, Trump was asked if the devastation of the Camp Fire changed his views on climate change. “No, no. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate. We’re going to have that. And we’re going to have forests that are very safe. Because we can’t go through this every year.”

December 14

+ You might think the “biggest evil” in the US is the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, the droning civilians across the globe, the death penalty, the separation of children from their migrant mothers and fathers, endangering life on the planet by the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, homelessness, systematic racism in government institutions, police violence, slaughterhouses or the sexual abuse of children by people in power over them. But you’re not Cory Booker, who contends that the “greatest evil” is the “lack of engagement.” Rarely has a political campaign died so quickly in the womb from lack of inspiration or even a reason to exist…

+ Like Cory Booker, it seems Amy Klobuchar, who once had a sense of humor, is launching her campaign with New Age nonsense. I’ve read this statement made on the day our government allowed a 7-year-old girl to die from dehydration four times and still have no idea what the hell it means. Maybe that’s the point?

+ Maybe Marianne Williamson, who once counseled Dennis Kucinichhas a shot after all. She’s a much more convincing ambassador for this kind of self-help politics.

December 21

+ Temperatures in the Arctic are warming more than twice as fast as the overall planet’s average temperature, with temperatures this year in the highest latitudes (above 60 degrees north) coming in 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.1 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981-2010 average.

+ Stephen Jay Gould wrote a great book about the Permian Extinction (Wonderful Life: the Burgess Shale and the Nature of History), which functioned as a kind of Alt Control Delete reset for life on the planet. Is the Earth about to experience another mass extinction event, this one propelled by humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels…

+ Finally, some real collusion: Saudi Arabia, Russia and the Trump gang conspired to sabotage efforts to get the IPCC 1.5º climicide report officially adopted at COP24.

+ Brendan Kelly, University of Alaska Fairbanks, on the scale of the climate crisis and the response from academics and government officials: “It’s sort of as if there’s a meteor coming at the planet and we thought, you know, I think I’ll start a couple PhD dissertations.”

December 30

And finally a word on Holy War and the Rapture from Secretary of State Pompeo Maximus…

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

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