Mitch McConnell: American Insurgent

This is Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s statement regarding Congressman Steve King of Iowa (emphasis mine):

“I have no tolerance for such positions and those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.

To answer Senator McConnell’s question, perhaps this is why Congressman King doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive:

This is a picture of Senator Mitch McConnell receiving an award from the John Hunt Morgan Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans taken in the early 1990s at the Big Springs Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The picture is posted on the blog of an unrepentant neo-Confederate who posted it to call Senator McConnell out for his hypocrisy (I recommend not clicking across!). Also, it is nice to see people so enthusiastic about the Confederate Navy that they fly the 2nd Confederate naval jack!

I know a lot of folks have been speculating about what Senator McConnell will or won’t do in regard to the shutdown, the President’s desire to pull out of NATO, the President’s hiding the nature, details, and any agreements reached in his conversations with Putin, the President’s tariffs and trade wars, etc. The simple reality is that Senator McConnell will continue to do what he’s been doing every day since January  21, 2009. He’ll either make a lachrymose, more in sorrow than in anger speech from his desk on the Senate floor first thing in the morning where he telegraphs the norms he will break, the traditions he’ll abandon, and the rules he’ll violate regarding whatever issue he’s speaking on and providing heartfelt advice to his Democratic colleagues about what they should and shouldn’t do or he’ll say nothing and just get about breaking those norms, abandoning those traditions, and violating those rules. And he’ll do it quietly knowing full well that it will get little to no coverage by the reporters covering politics in DC or back at home in Kentucky. And he’ll continue to do it, just as he’s done every day since January 21, 2009 when he embarked on a strategy to bring the Republicans back into the majority in the US Senate, because for the past ten years he has paid absolutely no price whatsoever for doing so. Rather he has reaped great rewards. He brought the Republicans back into the majority in the Senate. He kept significant numbers of Federal district and appellate court judgeships open so that a future Republican president could fill them instead of President Obama during whose administration these vacancies came open. He kept a Supreme Court vacancy open so that both a future Republican president could fill it instead of President Obama during whose administration the vacancy occurred and so it could be used as a political weapon during the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. And he telegraphed during the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh that he’s gearing up to leverage another potential Supreme Court vacancy* in 2019 or 2020 as a political weapon in the 2020 presidential and senatorial elections.

As I wrote back in June 2018 in regard to the lamentations of Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins (emphasis mine):

Senate Majority Leader McConnell really isn’t a politician or like any politician who has ever served as Senate Majority or Minority Leader. Rather than view him as a politician, it is more appropriate to understand Senator McConnell as an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one. He recognizes no legitimacy but his own. When out of power he’ll do whatever is necessary using asymmetric, irregular, and/or unconventional means to achieve power. And once he achieves power he will do whatever he can to achieve his objectives to consolidate his gains as quickly as possible using any means necessary as he believes his actions are self justifying – that his achievement of power justifies his by any means necessary strategy. This is, by the way, the basic argument of the premier Italian fascist (national-syndicalist) theorist Sergio Panunzio, who delineated the fascist theories for the use of political violence and low intensity warfare in the 1920s. As a result, there is no law, rule, tradition, norm, ethic, promise, and/or deal he won’t violate or renege on. This also makes him an unreliable interlocutor and makes it impossible to negotiate with him in good faith as he doesn’t believe in good faith negotiations.

Since Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins, let alone anyone else, cannot negotiate with Senator McConnell in good faith, because Senator McConnell doesn’t do anything in good faith, if they want to get anything done, then they need to rely on their leverage as senators in a very slim Senate majority caucus to force their initiatives through. This means threatening to and/or actually caucusing with the Democrats. The last thing that Senator McConnell wants is to lose control of the Senate. Whether now because of the defections of a pair of his retiring members using it as leverage to achieve their own objectives or in the mid terms because enough voters want a check on the President to override the partisan Republican advantage in this senatorial election cycle. It is why he’s ground everything in the chamber other than handling nominations, specifically judicial nominations, to a halt. It is why he doesn’t want to do the legally required annual budgetary resolution so he can avoid having his members take tough votes before the midterms. And it is why he’s cancelled most of the August recess under the pretense that it is the only way he can move judicial nominees because of what he alleges is Democratic obstruction. Nominations that only exist because he prevented President Obama from seating almost any judicial nominees during his final two years in office. The Democratic minority has no tools to stop these nominations, regardless of what Senator McConnell says because Senator McConnell in conjunction with Senator Grassley has gotten rid of the blue slip rule and refuses to recognize Democratic senators holds on nominees. Senator McConnell’s cancellation of the August recess is really just a thinly veiled attempt to keep incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection off the campaign trail. Every Senate rule, tradition, norm, ethic, and even law (Congressional Budget Act) has been bent or stretched to breaking or just outright ignored by Senator McConnell in his quest to consolidate his power and achieve his revanchist and reactionary objectives. As an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one, Senator McConnell only understands and recognizes the application of leverage and force. As an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one, Senator McConnell only understands and recognizes the application of leverage and force. Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins have the ability to apply significant leverage and force. The question is whether or not they have the will to do so. The sad reality is the answer is almost certainly not.

Senator McConnell’s calculus, which has been his calculus since January 2009, is that if he’s quiet and boring, even if the political reporters initially cover it, they’ll soon get bored and chase something more exciting. Or something more exciting will happen and distract them.

Open thread!

* I’m expecting, provided Justice Ginsburg completes her recovery as expected and remains healthy, that the administration in conjunction with Leonard Leo from The Federalist Society and Senator McConnell will try to replicate with Justice Thomas what they did in the summer of 2018 with Justice Kennedy. Specifically, they’ll create a retirement and subsequent Supreme Court vacancy during the late summer to early fall of 2020 that the President and Republican senators can campaign for reelection on. Thereby replicating the dynamic that Senator McConnell created and the President leveraged in his campaign that it was necessary to elect him, in this case reelect him, and to reelect the GOP majority in the Senate to ensure that the Democrats don’t appoint the next Supreme Court justice, change the balance of the Supreme Court, and destroy the Constitution and thereby the United States.



Derp State

That we have a scabrous, demented swine thrashing around the Oval Office causing untold domestic and international turmoil is on the American people, the Republican Party, and the Russian Federation (in no particular order). But assuming our little experiment in democracy survives and committees are impaneled to study what the fuck happened in the detail such a calamitous clusterfuck warrants, should the role of our national security organizations and their political apparatuses be scrutinized too?

Hell yes, they should. It’s already clear Trump is a Russian asset. The only remaining question is how long and actively he’s been in on Putin’s con. That such a destructive, incompetent, addled and compromised fool got within a country mile of the fucking White House points to national security failures as vast as those that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen and enabled Cheney & Co. to falsely portray Saddam Hussein’s Potemkin nukes as an existential threat.

Like those monumental fuck-ups, I suspect the lapse that allowed a malignant orange clown to seize personal control of the world’s most fearsome nuclear arsenal was more a failure of imagination than a lack of dedication or skill, particularly on the part of the people doing the actual work. In other words, it was a strategic cock-up rather than a tactical one. But yeah, we’re gonna need a truth and reconciliation panel on national security too.



Irish Alzheimers Open Thread: NEVER FORGET


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For those of you who didn’t grow up among us, ‘Irish Alzheimers’ is the ‘Scots Irish’ term for the condition where “you forget everything but your grudges.”



The Questions Are Not What Did The President Know And When Did He Know it? The Question Is What, If Anything, Would The President Be Doing Differently If We Knew For Certain That He Was A Russian Asset Or Agent?

Cheryl did us all a service with her post, and especially her tables, that compare and contrast the timelines in the two New York Times stories she wanted to juxtapose. I think there is, however, a bigger and more important issue, really a question, that has been lingering over the investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign and what connections, if any, the President; his campaign; his business; his associates that existed around, but not in, his business and his campaign; and his surrogates had with the Russian government; Russian intelligence; and/or Russian organized crime in regard to the active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US. And this question is not groundbreaking or earth shattering. I’ve asked it here before. Others have asked it on twitter, other blogs, etc. The real question is what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent?

Vladimir Putin, despite being not the greatest strategic thinker in history, has a very specific set of goals. Some are US specific. Some are EU and NATO specific. Some are regional. And some are global. As we’ve covered here over and over since the late spring of 2016 is that Putin wants to roll back US power by weakening the US and by demonstrating that the liberal democracy and attendant values that the US promotes globally is no better, and may in fact be worse, than the managed democracy he’s created in Russia around his authoritarian rule. In regards to the US, Putin specifically wants to enflame political, social, religious, and ethnic grievances, which is why his cyber enabled information warfare targeted very specific groups over very specific issues. Often playing groups on both sides of an issue off against each other. He also wants to rollback US power projection. Specifically he wants the US military and defense posture to stop being expeditionary. Regionally in Europe he wants NATO weakened so he can reestablish the historic near abroad and sphere of influence that he believes are Russia’s due, including his claims on Crimea and Ukraine. And regionally in the Middle East and Central Asia (the Central Command Area of Responsibility) he wants the US out of Syria and, if possible, out of Iraq and Afghanistan – areas that he now perceives as part of Russia’s sphere of influence. Finally, he wants sanctions lifted so that he can leverage Russia’s petroleum wealth, as well as the wealth generated by the various oligarchs that he protects, to further stabilize his managed democracy and coup proof himself so he can remain in power.

And here’s where the key question – what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent? – comes in.

  • At the GOP convention in the summer of 2016, the President’s campaign changed the Republican platform regarding support to Ukraine by watering it down. This change supports Putin’s regional objectives in Crimea and in regard to Ukraine.
  • Prior to the vote on Brexit the President promoted Brexit from one of his golf properties in Scotland.
  • Two months before the convention the President gave his first major foreign policy address at a Washington think tank that is alleged to have curiously strange ties to Russia. In that address the President, as he’s done reliably since shortly after he returned from a Roger Stone organized, KGB coordinated visit to Soviet Russia, discounted the importance of all of America’s alliances, and placing special emphasis on his mistaken belief that our NATO allies, as well as Japan and South Korea, are ripping us off and taking advantage of the US.
  • Since being elected the President has routinely slammed NATO, Japan, and South Korea as ripping off and taking advantage of the US and has repeatedly demanded they pay up the arrears that he believes they owe the US.
  • The President kicked off his campaign in 2015 with a racist, xenophobic, and nativist screed against immigrants. Throughout his campaign and now his presidency, he has built on this to the delight of his base and is, essentially, promoting a white supremacist, if not an outright white Christian herrenvolk vision for America. This vileness has now bloomed into the separation of children from parents attempting to enter the US to seek asylum, the internment of children, the loss of interred children, and the deaths, in US custody, of children who came here with at least one parent to seek asylum.
  • The President has been trying for over a year to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan and Syria. Despite Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo this week, as well as Ambassador Bolton’s statements, the US has already begun withdrawing military personnel from Syria and the planning has begun for the drawn down in Afghanistan. In fact the Pentagon, when asked about Ambassador Bolton’s statements regarding US actions in Syria, responded with: “we don’t take orders from Bolton”.
  • Secretary Pompeo’s speech in Cairo was also notable for what he did not note: anything pertaining to the promotion of liberal democracy or human rights or civil liberties in Egypt, in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world. This follows on the US abandoning the UN Human Rights Council (probably because it abbreviates as HRC).
  • The President, supported by a trio of the kookiest economic advisors in Hassett, Kudlow, and Navarro, and in conjunction with congressional Republicans whose only consistent strategy is to always cut taxes regardless of what is actually happening in the economy, has managed to overheat the economy. He has started trade wars with both allies and competitors, which includes both imposing sanctions and having sanctions imposed on the US. As a result of this bizarre combination of mercantilism, protectionism, and supply side economics (itself a retread of a long discounted 19th century economic theory) , has spooked the markets causing a functioning economy to sputter.
  • The US government is now in shutdown. There is no indication that it will end any time soon as the Senate Major Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has abdicated his authority and ceded his power to the President in an attempt to avoid any blame or fallout for the ongoing shutdown. While this too will have significant economic effects because no one in the administration actually planned for a shutdown and what it meant even as they were threatening one, it further enflames the political, social, economic, and religious divisions within the US causing more political, social, and economic discord.

I could keep adding bullets to this list all night, but I think the point is made: the President’s positions during the campaign and the actions he’s taken, in regards to domestic, foreign, national security, and economic affairs, have given Putin almost everything he wanted. The only thing he hasn’t gotten yet is the lifting of sanctions, but there have been efforts within the administration to chip away at and/or redefine them in the favor of Putin and the oligarchs he protects.

And this brings us back to the question: what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent?

And the answer I keep coming back to, every time I ask it of myself or discuss it with those who I’ve been collaborating with on tracking the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign through open sources, is nothing. There is nothing the President would be doing differently. And that conclusion is one of the most disturbing I’ve ever come to in my professional career.

Open thread!



Fox News is Radio Rwanda

Is that hyperbolic? Maybe. But listen (if you can bear it) to this clip from the Blonde with Two Boobs on a Couch* from this morning:

Partial transcript:

“A few things really hit home, when you think about how hard YOU work, trying to put food on the table, many folks go to a job they don’t like, and then you look at the numbers, and you’re spending about $80K…over the course of one of those illegal’s lifetime to keep them here in the United States — you’re paying for them, and you’re working hard to pay for them. Then you look at the numbers of people that are doing illegal drugs here. A lot of the drugs are coming from the southern border, and the president highlighted that last night.

And then you hear him talk about, he said, “Imagine if this were your child that was killed by an illegal alien” because we hear Kate Steinle’s parents and the parents of, the fire chief parents, in Knoxville, Tennessee, their young son was killed by a suspected illegal immigrant, and you hear about Officer Singh in California…the president highlighted the Air Force veteran who was raped and murdered and beaten to death by an illegal alien. He talked about the Georgia illegal alien that killed his neighbor and beheaded him and dismembered him, he talked about the MS-13 gang members in Maryland who are unaccompanied minors who were arrested and charged with stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

You hear all of that, and you wonder why Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are calling this, are saying it’s immoral to build a wall, they’re saying it’s not a crisis. Look at the video! Listen to the numbers!”

It’s no coincidence that Trump and Fox & Friends name-checked states from coast to interior to coast. They want to incite fear and loathing from sea to shining sea. Fox & Friends is Twitler’s favorite program, and together they form a continuous feedback loop of hate.

Anyhoo, Ainsley Earhardt, ladies and gents — a Leni Riefenstahl minus talent serving a fuhrer without brains. Let us hope their incompetence and stupidity contain the damage.

*H/T: Adam



The President’s Address from the Oval Office January 8, 2019

Despite what’s been leaked and teased all afternoon, I don’t think anyone really knows what the President will or will not say in just a few minutes despite what has been fed into the teleprompters. The President’s address will be followed by an official response from Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, the Democratic leaders in Congress.

Here’s the live stream:

Open thread!



An Important Point About the Terrorist Watchlist in Regards to the Administration’s Anti-Immigration Talking Points

I want to make a couple of follow on points we should all keep in mind as the administration continues to tie itself into semantic knots with their talking points about the need for a wall along the southern border with Mexico. As I wrote about yesterday, NBC’s Julia Ainsley reported that the information that administration had been pumping out regarding what is happening at the southern border was bullshit. I want to highlight and emphasize these two items from her reporting:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018 and obtained by NBC News.

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.

The U.S. keeps databases of people it believes may have ties to terrorist networks based on their spending activities, travel patterns, family ties or other activities. It is not a list of people who could be criminally charged under terrorism statutes, and it is possible that someone could be stopped because they have the same name as a person on the list.

It is important to remember that Republicans and conservatives think that the Terrorist Screening Database has rampant inaccuracies, is unreliable, and is a threat to civil rights and liberties, especially the civil right to keep and bear arms! From the BBC in June of 2016: (emphasis mine)

The US Senate has rejected plans to tighten gun controls, including the restriction of weapons sales to people on terrorism watch lists.

Four proposals were brought before the Senate after 49 people died in an attack on a gay nightclub in Florida.

But Democratic and Republican senators voted along party lines, blocking each other’s bills.

Senators strongly disagreed about how to prevent more attacks happening in future.

Republicans accused Democrats of giving the government the power to arbitrarily prevent Americans from exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm based on a secretive “terrorist watch list” with no judicial oversight. Democrats charged Republicans with being more concerned with the support of the National Rifle Association than preventing the next gun-related massacre.

Republicans and members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) complained that the bills put forward by the Democrats violated the constitutional right to bear arms. They are concerned that without enough “due process”, law-abiding Americans wrongly named on watch lists would be prevented from buying weapons.

If being listed on the Terrorist Screening Database isn’t sufficient to prevent someone from buying and/or owning a firearm, and is a violation of due process regarding an enumerated constitutional right, then it certainly isn’t sufficient to prevent someone from entering the US absent other, confirming and verifying data indicating that an individual is an actual terrorist threat to the US, its citizens, its residents, and those visiting it.

The six individuals on the southern border that came up as a match on the Terrorist Screening Database were, as Ainsley reported, classified as non-US persons. Presumably the other 35 who were identified as US persons were ultimately permitted to reenter the US. Given how poorly the facts support the administration’s arguments, as in they don’t support the administration’s arguments at all, the administration is now trying to further confuse the discussion by conflating a positive return from querying the Terrorist Screening Database with an even more nebulous classification: Special Interest Alien. Here’s Julia Ainsley reporting on this again:

Special Interest Aliens are: (emphasis mine)

But special interest aliens are not necessarily terrorist themselves, they just come from countries that are regarded as potential sources of terrorism.

“In recent days, the terms ‘Special Interest Aliens’ (SIAs) and ‘Known and Suspected Terrorists’ (KSTs) have become more frequently used as part of discussions about the federal budget and border security,” the Department of Homeland Security wrote in a press release on Monday.

“These terms are not synonymous nor interchangeable, but are two separate terms that are commonly used in the national security community to describe different types of potential threats,” the agency clarified.

A special interest alien is a person whose travel patterns to the United States are known to have a possible connection to terrorism. According to Homeland Security, the term “does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual.”

Homeland Security data indicates that 3,755 known or suspected terrorists were prevented from entering the U.S. in 2017. That same year, the agency also encountered more than 3,000 special interest aliens at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the press release, the agency said that these “figures are not the same and should not be conflated.”

According to the libertarian CATO Institute, since 1975 just seven special interest aliens who entered the U.S. illegally have been convicted of planning a terrorist attack, though none of them ever successfully carried out the attacks and none of them crossed the border from Mexico.

It is important to keep in mind, when you hear or see or read an administration official or one of their external surrogates, make claims about immigrants, documented or undocumented, the Terrorist Screening Database and/or Special Interest Aliens that none of these things actually mean anything substantive. The Terrorist Screening Database often produces false positives because it is matching names, which is why we have something we refer to as flying while David Nelson. And all it takes to be a Special Interest Alien is either being from or transiting through, for any reason, a nation-state that is considered a possible source for terrorism. Which just happens to be almost every nation-state on the planet including the US.

There is no actual national security crisis at the southern border, the northern border, or any other border and/or port of entry that the US has. Even if we didn’t have all the other evidence we had that indicates that there is not a national security crisis at the southern border, the semantic gymnastics that the administration and its surrogates and supporters are engaging in is a good indicator that this is all bullshit. We do have a humanitarian crisis at the southern border that is getting worse, but that is largely because the administration, its surrogates, and its supporters are trying very hard to manufacture a national security crisis at the southern border that doesn’t exist.

We are, once again, off the looking glass and through the map!

Open thread.