Lumpish Trump and Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin

Josh Marshall, who has been on fire during this primary season, IMO, has a must-read piece up at TPM on the ties between Trump and Putin. An excerpt that summarizes the case for closer scrutiny:

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump’s financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That’s simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

Marshall explores the strong circumstantial evidence that suggests a Putin-Trump connection, including the fact that Trump owes his recovery from multiple bankruptcies to infusions of cash from Putin-connected oligarchs, Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort’s strong connection to the Kremlin and the fact that the Trump people’s sole involvement in the GOP platform was a pro-Putin intervention.

Marshall is sticking to publicly available facts, so he doesn’t address in depth the suspiciously timed Wikileaks DNC doc dump, which exposed emails that were obtained by a Russia-connected hacker and emphasize Democratic discord that Trump is playing to the hilt. But that’s one of the clearest signs yet that Putin is trying to manipulate the U.S. election, just as he supports right-wing nationalist movements in Europe to weaken the Western alliance that keeps his revanchist ambitions in check.

It remains to be seen whether the hardcore Sandersites will play the useful idiots here; I don’t think there are enough of them to swing the election, but it’s clear that is the aim of the wingnuts who are playing up the “Bernie wuz robbed!” aspect of the Wikileaks story, including Trump, who has been tweeting like a madman about it.

And maybe this is just me being paranoid, but this latest blatant attempt to divide the Democrats and advance Trump’s prospects explains a longer-term trend I used to find puzzling but no longer do: a weird affinity for the autocrat Putin among the fringier left in the U.S. I’ve seen it in the crackpot corners of the web for far longer than Trump has been a credible candidate: a drive to paint Putin as a victim of U.S. aggression. I used to write it off as individual crackpottery, but maybe Putin has been playing a long game.

FWIW, I don’t think Trump is directly taking orders from Putin. I think Trump is a vain and silly man, and Putin is playing him for a fool. But while Trump is certainly a clown, Putin’s interference in U.S. politics is serious shit. It would be swell if the Very Serious Persons in the Beltway would spend 1/100th of the effort they’ve expended on Secretary Clinton’s email server on the ongoing attempts of a hostile foreign government to manipulate a U.S. election.



The Kaine Mane

Tim Kaine gave a pretty good speech today in Miami. He was warm, earnest and self-deprecating. He fulfilled the VP’s traditional attack dog role without a hint of meanness.

Overall, I’d call it a great roll-out. I was especially moved by what he had to say on guns. He nearly choked up at one point, recalling the Virginia Tech shooting when he was governor.

Kaine seems like a great fit for the Clinton campaign. But one unique Kaine asset I haven’t seen noted by Democrats was raised by Peggy Noonan nearly eight years ago when Kaine was being considered as a running mate for President Obama: Kaine’s haircut. No, really:

I end with a thought on the upcoming announcements of vice presidential picks. Major props to both campaigns for keeping it tight, who it’s going to be, for by now they should know and have, please God, fully vetted him or her. On the Democrats, who are up first, I firmly announce I like every name floated so far, for different reasons (Joe Biden offers experience and growth; Evan Bayh seems by nature moderate; Sam Nunn is that rare thing, a serious man whom all see as a serious man.) But part of me tugs for Tim Kaine of Virginia, because he has a wonderful American Man haircut, not the cut of the man in first but the guy in coach who may be the air marshal. He looks like he goes once every 10 days to Jimmy Hoffa’s barber and says, “Gimme a full Detroit.”

That settles it then. I suspect Noonan finds Kaine’s no-nonsense ‘do especially reassuring when contrasted with Trump’s gravity-defying quadruple-combover. We can count on at least one cross-over Republican vote on the Upper West Side.



Only love can break your heart

I’ve been impressed by how many right-wing pundits — George Will and Robert Kagan stand out — are so freaked out and upset about Trump that they’re willing to be anti-Trump all the time and note devote any columns to fragging Hillary. Meanwhile, the professional centrists continue to treat Trump and Hillary as two sides of the same coin:

Why is the convention so negative? For the same reasons next weeks’ Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia likely will be an anti-Trump orgy.

[….]

Shouts of “fascist” from the convention floor, for example, would be the Philadelphia analogue of “Lock her up!” Smug dismissals of Trump’s populist approach and policies might be viewed by undecided voters as an indictment of them.

Ron Fournier and Matt Bai aren’t upset that the country could devolve into a fascist dictatorship under Trump (note: I don’t think it probably would, but some on the right make a good case that it might). It would just be further proof of the corrupt duopoly derp derp and, anyway, they have plenty of money so it probably wouldn’t hurt them much.

A lot is made about how the country has become too polarized and angry. Well, fury can be misdirected but being mad as hell is at least a sign that you give a fuck.

In the comments a few times, some of you have mentioned studies that show that people can’t make decisions if the part of the brain that deals with emotion is incapacitated. I hate to go into Boboish pseudoscientific gibberish here, but I do think that sober-minded, nonpartisan, objective blah blah blah analysis has its limits. That it’s not just that Ron Fournier is a sociopathic asshole but that the whole nonpartisan project is doomed to failure.



Which Of These Is Not Like The Others?

Andrew Sullivan — yes, I know, and I’ll get back to that in a moment — is live blogging the RNC for New York Magazine.  His reaction on Day 2  to the Christie-led witch trial “lock her up” frenzy was as it should have been:  it was vile and the mark of a neo-fascist campaign.  That evoked a response from a reader Sullivan then posted to the blog, which argued, reasonably enough, that errors in office are not criminal offences.  For example, that reader wrote and Sullivan published:

Politicians and presidents make serious ethical mistakes. Reagan/Bush 41 on Iran-Contra, Bush 43 on WMD intelligence/torture, Bill Clinton on perjury.

Let’s review.

Iran -Contra:  trading with a reviled adversary to fund an illegal covert war that killed thousands of the most vulnerable, least powerful people in our hemisphere.

Fra_Angelico_003

WMD intelligence/torture: launch a war on false pretexts that left thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, many more wounded, millions displaced, an ongoing conflict that has spawned attacks on innocents all over the world, and that has led the United States government at its highest level to countenance war crimes.

Coloured_Figures_of_English_Fungi_or_Mushrooms.djvu

Perjury:  lying about a blow job.

Elephant_and_Whale_Screens_by_Ito_Jakuchu_(Miho_Museum)L

That one could write that sentence without a hint of irony is a measure of the damage done to US politics by the Republican party made as far back as 1968 to put power at all costs before all else.  That Andrew Sullivan could disseminate it without comment reminds us of his own Clinton Derangement Syndrome, and his unreliability as any kind of moral arbiter.

Sullivan is a clever man, a fast and fluid writer, and does get some things right; certainly, for all his CDS, he’s got no illusions about Trump as anything more than a Mussolini wannabe.

But for all that, he’s a terrible thinker.  Through the live blog (I’ve gotten through day 1 and most of day 2 so far) he talks repeatedly about the GOP’s focus on feeling at the expense of facts and reason — and he’s right of course.  But when the issue strikes one or another of his standing emotional chords, he’s no better.  I hope tomorrow to have the time to write up his stuff on Black Lives Matter.  It is everything you’d expect, and the current debacle turns on his unwillingness to do the intellectual work needed to test his own assumptions.

OK — it’s over to you, and back to the problem of figuring out 17th century share prices from one end of a coffee shop to another for me.

Images:  Fra Angelico, The Massacre of the Innocents 1450.

James Sowerby, Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushroomsplate 43, 1798.

Ito Jakuchu, Elephant and Whale Screens, 1797.



Let the Stalinist Purges Begin (Zombie Lies Never Die)

This is a charming little tidbit of what a future Trump administration will do to the country:

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

At least they are not threatening to publicly execute them. Yet. The reason for this is simple- Republicans don’t like a functioning government, so they will replace all the civil servants who actually do their jobs with apparatchiks. Monica Goodling, “Heckuva job Brownie,” anyone?

Christie, who is allegedly a former prosecutor who is supposed to deal with facts, offers up this justification for this purge of civil service employees:

“It’s called burrowing,” Christie said. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Christie was referring to pranks committed during the presidential transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. During that period, some White House staffers removed the W key on computer keyboards and left derogatory signs and stickers in offices, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

Except that never happened, and our failed media let’s it slide:

The technological problems the vandals wrought were so severe that, according to a report in the New York Daily News, “a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing.”

“Phone lines cut, drawers filled with glue, door locks jimmied so that arriving Bush staff got locked inside their new offices,” a disapproving Andrea Mitchell reported on NBC News. The message seemed clear: The trailer-trash Clintons and their staff had enjoyed one last bacchanal at taxpayer expense.

Now it seems those closely detailed stories were largely bunk. Last week it was revealed that a formal review by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative agency, “had found no damage to the offices of the White House’s East or West Wings or EOB” and that Bush’s own representatives had reported “there is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by the employees of the Clinton administration.”

While cautious GSA staffers won’t issue a blanket exoneration of the Clinton team, Bernard Ungar, the agency’s director of physical infrastructure, told Salon the media clearly exaggerated the extent of the damage. According to the terse GSA statement that formed the basis of Ungar’s conclusion, “the condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy.”

Heckuva job, Reuters reporter Emily Flitter!



What Ailes The Republican Party?

To follow up on Betty’s post below…

I’ve been thinking about Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against that omphalos of evil, Roger Ailes, since it dropped.  You all know the essence:

In a suit filed Wednesday in superior court in Bergen County, N.J., Carlson alleges that Ailes “unlawfully retaliated” against her and “sabotaged her career after she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”

“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” the complaint says Ailes told Carlson last September when she complained to him. He allegedly added, “Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.”

Even in that first story, there was plenty of evidence that Ailes is a serial harasser, a man for whom the women in his employ are objects to be manipulated (in the root sense of that word) at his pleasure:

While an executive at NBC, Ailes was accused of making sexually suggestive comments to various female underlings, according to a 2014 biography of Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” A young woman named Randi Harrison said Ailes offered to her increase her salary by $100 a week if she would have sex with him, according to the book. A producer named Shelly Ross said Ailes posed “romantically suggestive questions and made flirtatious comments about her appearance.” Ross said she told him, “This is making me uncomfortable.”

Over the next several days, many more women have come forward to add their accounts:

In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey–based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period, dating back to the 1960s, when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in a lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities…

Vouet,_Simon_-_Lucretia_And_Tarquin

Read the whole piece at that link for some heart breaking memories.

If Ailes is really gone, the nail in the coffin may have been hammered by the Fox News megastar,  Megyn Kelly:

According to two sources briefed on parent company 21st Century Fox’s outside probe of the Fox News executive, led by New York–based law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox. Kelly, according to the sources, has described her harassment by Ailes in detail.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has been doing seriously good work on this story, which makes this nugget from his Kelly post so interesting:

According to two sources, Monday afternoon lawyers for 21st Century Fox gave Ailes a deadline of August 1 to resign or face being fired for cause.

So, good.  It looks like a truly monstrous figure is on his way out.

I’m as thrilled as anyone at that likely outcome, for all that Ailes’ well-padded crash ($40,000,000 buys a lot of whisky to cry into) is coming decades late.  But there’s a larger story that isn’t getting enough attention.

That is:  Roger Ailes isn’t just a network boss who has managed to deliver ratings to his owner.  He has been perhaps the single most important figure in the forging of today’s Republican party.  His Fox News has set the agenda, constructed the alternate reality, shattered the norms, and altered much for the worse what it means to be a Republican leader or voter.

He’s the architect and engineer of the hate-based, race-focused, anti-science, know-nothing tendency in American politics.  His triumph, his conquest of so much of American government at every level, has reached its apotheosis in the home-video version of Triumph of the Will we’re all seeing in Cleveland this week.  And he is a person who has, throughout his entire working life it seems, defined women as toys to be played with or broken at his whim.

I do not suggest that the Republican party, even in its current desperately debased state, is filled with people who would do as Ailes is alleged to have done.  But Ailes’ signal success has been in shaping how the party thinks, how its members and leaders think the world works.  And that influence is shot through with a sense of whose views count and whose don’t.  In Ailes life, half the world doesn’t rise to the level of agent, of people whose existence demands respect.

The fish rots at the head.

Image:  Simon Vouet, The Rape of Lucretia, 17th century. (Not my favorite of this subject. Rubens’ is great, and I’m a sucker for Tintoretto’s pearls.  But I wanted to keep the post SFW, so Vouet will do.)



Is Evil Prick Roger Ailes Out at Fox News?

Can it be true? Can the vile body-snatcher who orchestrated the replacement of so many nice nanas and agreeable grampies with angry, sputtering, screechy FoxBots have been shoved out of the Murdoch dirigible with a hefty cash cushion? Maybe! From the Beastly Beast:

Several outlets reported Tuesday that beleagured chairman and CEO Roger Ailes will depart the cable news network following sexual harassment claims by former anchor Gretchen Carlson. According to a document obtained by the Drudge Report, Ailes will receive at least a $40 million buyout from the network. The news comes hours after New York Magazine reporter Gabe Sherman wrote that Fox News star Megyn Kelly told investigators hired by 21st Century Fox that Ailes had sexually harassed her ten years ago.

Fox initially confirmed Drudge’s report to The Daily Beast, and subsequently walked back that confirmation. Additionally, Drudge replaced a headline touting the buyout with a new one on “Fox News Drama,” including a statement from the network: “Roger Ailes has never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly. In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her to achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.”

Yeah, women who’ve been sexually harassed never have to make nice with the powerful fucks who demean and humiliate them. Anita Hill can tell you all about that.

Anyhoo, true or not, this is a wonderful time to be alive, comrades, what with the Trump convention imploding like a barrel of rancid haggis and now the possibility of the obliteration of the Fox Death Star. Yub-yub, motherfuckers!