The Midday of the Plastic Sporks Begins

And so it begins…

NBC is reporting:

The Donald Trump transition, already off to slow start, bogged down further Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of former Congressman Mike Rogers, who had been coordinating its national security efforts.

Two sources close to Rogers said he had been the victim of what one called a “Stalinesque purge,” from the transition of people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who left Friday. It was unclear which other aides close to Christie had also been forced out.

The Trump transition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prior to entering politics, Congressman Rogers was a Special Agent in the FBI. He worked in the Chicago Field Office specializing in organized crime and public corruption.

NBC goes on to report:

Rogers was initially seen as a leading candidate for CIA director, but now is likely off the list, a source told NBC News. Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is now a top contender.

Rogers’ departure follows Christie’s demotion from head of the team to a vice-chair, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence taking over for him last week.

The purge indicates the emphasis on loyalty — and significant influence of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka — that characterized Trump’s campaign will carry over into his White House.

Multiple sources indicated that Christie was demoted because he wasn’t seen as sufficiently loyal to Trump, failing to vocally defend him at key moments on the campaign trail.

Elliot A. Cohen, a former senior advisor to Secretary of State Rice, has reversed his position of last week:

Cohen’s statement above is a reversal of his thoughts last week published at The American Interest.

You asked what I thought about going to work in a Trump Administration. I do not have to worry about that, of course: I was one of the ringleaders in denouncing him as unfit by temperament, character, and judgment for political office. They will have no use for me, or, to be fair, I for them. But others, including some of my younger friends, will have jobs dangled in front of them, because the government has to be staffed.

It seems to me that if they are sure that they would say yes out of a sense of duty rather than mere careerism; if they are realistic in understanding that in this enterprise they will be the horse, not the jockey; if they accept that they will enter an administration likely to be torn by infighting and bureaucratic skullduggery, they should say yes. Yes, with two conditions, however: that they keep a signed but undated letter of resignation in their desk office (as I did when I was in government), and that they not recant a word of what they have said thus far. Public service means making accommodations, but everyone needs to understand that there is a point where crossing a line, even an arbitrary line, means, as Sir Thomas More says in A Man for All Seasons, letting go without hope of ever finding yourself again.

It goes without saying that friends in military, diplomatic, or intelligence service—the career people who keep our country strong and safe—should continue to do their jobs. If anything, having professionals serve who remember that their oath is to support and defend the Constitution—and not to truckle to an individual or his clique—will be more important than ever.

It is unclear if Cohen’s reversal applies to those currently serving – I would hope it does not, we need them to do exactly what he suggests they do in that third paragraph.

None of this – the purging as related by NBC or the vindictiveness and revanchism related by Cohen – should be surprising. It was both a hallmark of the campaign, but it is also emblematic of the President Elect’s social darwinian outlook and belief in eugenics.

In an interview for US TV channel PBS, the Republican presidential nominee’s biographer Michael D’Antonio claimed the candidate’s father, Fred Trump, had taught him that the family’s success was genetic.

He said: “The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development.

“They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

As well as Steve Bannon’s avowed Leninism.

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

 Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

Bannon isn’t the only avowed Leninist on the American right.

[Norquist] talked about how to build a broad coalition. “If you want the votes of people who are good on guns, good on taxes, and good on faith issues, that is a very small intersection of voters,” he said. “But if you say, Give me the votes of anybody who agrees with you on any of these issues, that’s a much bigger section of the population.” To illustrate what he meant, Norquist drew three intersecting circles over a piece of paper. In the first one he wrote “guns,” in the second he wrote “taxes,” in the third he wrote “faith.” There was a small area where the circles intersected. “With that group, you can take over the country, starting with the airports and the radio stations,” he said. “But with all of the three circles that’s sixty percent of the population, and you can win politically.”

While I have a longer post on personalities matter, relationships matter, and personnel is policy coming later this week, the keys to continue to watch as this attempt at transition occurs are largely the positions for staffing key White House positions, many of which do not require Senatorial confirmation. We’ve already seen the Chief of Staff position go to someone with no experience except as a party functionary (largely for Governor Scott Walker) and the Chief Strategist/Senior counselor position go to an anti-Semite and white supremacist with no government service other than a ten year stint in the Navy. Reaching the rank of Officer Level 3 (O3) as a lieutenant senior grade in the Navy is not something that prepares one for elected or appointed office at the National strategic level. This has readily been apparent with several former O3s who are now serving in Congress.

So keep an eye out for the picks for National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor, as well as Spokesperson and Deputy Spokesperson, as well as the speech writers. The important Cabinet level picks to watch for are Attorney General, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Director of Homeland Security. The Directors of the FBI, CIA, and Directorate of National Intelligence all have time left on their appointments that extend past the end of the Obama Administration. The Director of the FBI serves a fixed, single ten year term – so he is very hard to replace, but the Director of Central Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence both serve at the pleasure of the President, so they will offer, at least, pro forma resignations. It will also be important, though we likely won’t see it until late January 2017, what happens with the Service Chiefs, as well as the Director of the NSA. All of these gentlemen are four star general officers/flag officers. What is important to realize right now, however, is that the Trump transition team has not, as of yet, even responded to the requests from the Department of State and Department of Defense to begin the transition work. This may very well be because of the sentiments expressed by Cohen and others to other Republican and conservative foreign, defense, and security policy professionals to not accept appointments in the Trump Administration. I’ll have more on this in the upcoming personnel is policy post later this week.

Update at 4:40 PM EST

After considering several comments regarding the title of this post, I have appropriately renamed it. We now return you to your regular Tuesday afternoon.

Late Night Open Thread: Propertied White Grifters

There is a long “Constitutional” tradition, going back to Thomas Jefferson and his fellow slave-run plantation owners, aping the worst European-aristocracy men-of-property kleptocracy. Our most perilous historical era came when the propertied “flower of Southern manhood” attempted by force to ensure that their title to outsized tracts of valuable land should not be imperiled by “stealing” their right to hold other humans in slavery. It is not a coincidence that today’s American neo-Nazis still aim so much ire at rootless money-grubbing cosmopolitans — people who don’t own land, property that can be milked for resources.

It’s unclear how much property Donald Trump actually owns, but it’s clearly important to him that his name be slapped on every physical ‘development’ for which his mortgage-holders allow him to stand as a figurehead. It’s also significant that some of his nastiest court battles have concerned his “right” to despoil such properties as he will, regardless of regulation, nuisance to his neighbors, or safety of his guests/clients. In such cases, his assertions somewhat resemble those of the Bundy clan — another bunch of dole-dependent grifters outraged at the idea that “tha gubmint” wants to prevent them from using “their” (our common) land however they will.

A slumlord like Trump’s old man, a real estate developer knocking together cheap McMansions and jerry-built office parks in hopes of a quick turnover before the basements start to subside or the parking lots to flood, is never a sympathetic figure. But a reality-tv “star” with a far-flung chain of celebrity properties — big-city skyscrapers, Palm Beach mansions, Scottish golf courses — there is a man who might gamble on becoming the closest thing America has to aristocracy. Assuming, of course, he can attract the support of the xenophobic, bigoted, socially inbred “Heartland”‘s revanchist white peasantry, living resentfully off government-paid agricultural support and federal welfare programs, and slobbering over (cosmopolitan media elite professionals’) fairy tales about the return of the Good Old Days, when only white men of property could act with impunity.

Gave ’em enough rope

So it begins:

Paul Ryan just announced that as part of repealing Obamacare he plans to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance for retirees.

I believe that part of why Trump was won the primary is that he didn’t go along with all the American Enterprise Institute about entitlements. Will he along with it now? If he does, that could do more damage to our country than just about anything else on the table (other than nuclear war or becoming a client state of Russia). It would also make him a one-term president. Let’s see what happens.

I think Trump is no genius and that he’ll mostly do what the Republican establishment tells him to do. I don’t know if he’s quite dumb enough to take a bite of this particular shitburger though.

Sometimes you get what you want and you lose what you had

My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.
–Hunter S. Thompson

I think Donald Trump is going to be bad president, worse than Reagan and possibly as bad as W. He could even be worse than W, though I’m holding out hope he won’t. I’m hoping that the mostly liberal asshole that he once was hasn’t been entirely subsumed by the frightening right-wing asshole that he now seems to be, and that he manages to surprised us by only being bad, rather that terrible.

But if he is terrible, that can bring us together. Remember how we used to all get together and hate George W. Bush as one? Before we divided into PUMAs and Obots, Bernie Bros and neoliberal shills, we just a ragtag team of misfits who banded together to laugh at a president who, to that point, had been the worst president of most of our lifetimes.

Remember how good that felt? We can have it again. But this time let’s try to do it without cheering on clowns like Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson.

Our Failed Intellectual Overlords Open Thread: Thiel Speaks Out for Trump

In the good old days, a white man with money could get the respect to which he felt entitled, no matter how inane his stated opinions! These days, even the NYTimes mocks Peter ‘Bathory’ Thiel…

Speaking on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr. Thiel argued that Mr. Trump was the best choice in the presidential race because he will not get the country into wars, will fix the problems caused by international trade and will remove government regulations that are hurting the economy. Americans should focus on that big picture, Mr. Thiel argued, rather than taking “literally” everything Mr. Trump says.

“What Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away,” Mr. Thiel said…

Instead of bothering ourselves with Mr. Trump’s statements, Mr. Thiel said we should worry that Hillary Clinton could escalate tensions with Russia because she might try to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria. In other words, don’t pay attention to what Mr. Trump says but definitely be very concerned about what Mrs. Clinton says…

As he did in his speech at the [RNC] convention, Mr. Thiel on Monday painted a dystopian picture of the economy, which he said had been devastated by the technology bubble of the 1990s and the housing bubble of the last decade. He appeared to blame the problem on government regulations and said Mr. Trump understood that and knew how to fix it. But Mr. Thiel offered no evidence to back up that claim…

Look, Donald Trump (a) has a penis, and (b) promises to slash Peter Thiel’s taxes, not to mention eliminating all those aggravating little ‘government regulations’ that prohibit Thiel from literally buying healthy young plasma donors on the open market, or starting a new Manhattan Project that would let America support its oligarchy through the threat of force. Why can’t the little people understand Peter Thiel’s whims are just more important than the survival of the world outside Peter Thiel’s barony?

From Russia with love

Nothing to see here, folks:

[A] former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.


In June, the former Western intelligence officer—who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a US firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients—was assigned the task of researching Trump’s dealings in Russia and elsewhere, according to the former spy and his associates in this American firm. This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.) “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”

This was, the former spy remarks, “an extraordinary situation.”

Bad luck ain’t got me so far

I am a superstitious man, as Don Corleone once said, so normally I would never say that my candidate had a race sewn up, because that might jinx my candidates. However, one of my superstitions is that Mark Halperin saying that something will happen makes that something less likely to happen. So this stupid Halperin shit about how Putin and Julian Assange may be about to swing the election probably means that the race really and truly is over

Let’s take the House and Senate too.

Goal Thermometer