Open Thread: “Do You Like Gladiator Movies, Donny?”

Since their domestic agenda is proving as popular as a weeping chancre at a hot-tub party, the Trump BRAINZZZ trust goes back to spinning let’s-kill-us-some-dirty-furriners fanfic…

Beginning with the account of Greek historian Herodotus, the clash, which took place in 480 B.C., has become a kind of foundation myth of Western civilization. The heroic Spartan stand — whose numbers were closer to 7,000 than 300 — in the face of the mongrel, polyglot Persian hordes is cast as a primordial act of sacrifice for the liberty of a people. The historical consensus, both among ancient chroniclers and current scholars, was that Thermopylae was a clear Greek defeat; the Persian invasion would be pushed back in later ground and naval battles. But its legacy still reverberates millennia later…

This is a powerful claim that many in the West intuitively accept: Thermopylae is the Alamo of antiquity, a doomed contest between the brave few and a gargantuan foe that stirred their compatriots to action. Had Xerxes, a Persian emperor, snuffed out all Greek resistance, then the scattered city-states on the western side of the Aegean Sea would have just become one more province of what was a vast, multi-ethnic empire…

“Ancient Sparta is proto-fascist,” Paul Cartledge, a celebrated British classicist and author of “Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World,” among numerous other works on ancient Greece, said in an interview with WorldViews.

Although the clash between Greeks and Persians may be remembered now as the battle that crystallized Western liberty, the ancient Spartans were no model democrats — even in their time. Their society was communal and militarist. It practiced early forms of eugenics and infanticide. It kept a huge slave population in thrall to its warrior elite. Some contemporary scholars even liken conditions in the city-state to a kind of apartheid…

“It’s a clash of political civilizations, it’s not a clash of religions,” Cartledge said, arguing the difference between the two sides was less cultural than it has been made out to be. “Xerxes didn’t conduct his campaign on the basis of a crusade.”

And, ultimately, for all the heroism of the Persian wars, the Greeks would turn against one another. In the wake of the Persian retreat, the rival powers of Sparta and Athens built regional alliances and mini-empires of their own and soon locked horns in three decades of ruinous conflict that spanned the Mediterranean.

“The Greeks fought each other as much they fought others,” Cartledge said…

But they looked so butch while they did!

Trump’s Foreign Policy “Team”: Uneasy Sits the Arse That Warms A Throne

Like any other cartel boss, Trump can’t trust his lieutenants unless he’s got them within arm’s reach — forever checking their body language, the eye contact between underling & underling, the pauses after his applause lines and the enthusiasm of their individual responses. And it’s not as though the Trump administration took any effort to keep the lower bureaucratic offices they inherited properly staffed or funded while the new crew figured out how to work the light switches…

The CIA director’s treks to the West Wing reflect Trump’s insistence on frequent meetings with favored members of his team. Every president has regular contact with key Cabinet members, but Trump, who remains deeply mistrustful of career agency officials, has turned the White House into a hangout for his chosen department heads.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has met with the president at least 34 times since he was confirmed in February, according to a POLITICO analysis of Trump’s interactions since taking office. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are also frequent guests at the White House — so much so that one White House staffer quipped, “Wilbur practically lives here.” Defense Secretary James Mattis has enjoyed private meetings with the president, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken to eating at the White House mess several times a week.

Senior aides say Trump demands face time with his appointees in part because he doesn’t trust bureaucrats who do the day-to-day work of the federal government. The president shuns them as tools of what he often refers to as the “deep state,” and blames them for frequent, unflattering news stories coming from his White House, according to two White House aides…

Two administration officials said the parade of Cabinet officials going into the White House on a daily basis has prompted worries that their focus is being diverted from the day-to-day operations of their departments and agencies.

“We’ll see how long it lasts,” one of the officials said, noting that many secretaries don’t yet have a full cast of undersecretaries to brief top White House officials. “They don’t have their politicals yet, so some of it is a necessity.”…

Some of the Cabinet officials are also his friends, and they are beckoned to the president for political advice, even if it’s outside the purview of their agency…

One senior administration official said White House staff members understand the president’s desire to rely on agency heads to learn about complex issues, but they wish that the meetings would be coordinated in advance. Instead, Cabinet secretaries like Mnuchin and Ross just stroll in with little notice.

Others in the administration remain concerned that Cabinet officials are spending too much time schmoozing with the president and attending events, and not enough at their agencies…

Just a buncha guys from the old neighborhood, hangin’ around, shootin’ the breeze. They’re not running the country, they’re too busy running the ongoing Donald Trump campaign / crime cartel.


Drip Drip Drip

Least surprising headline of the day, but am I the only one enjoying every single one of these leaks that Trump created with his threat to fire Mueller? In addition to this story, Kenneth Starr weighs in with a op-ed in support of Mueller, and that’s just the Post.

After you’re done with the post-reading afterglow of the Kushner story, be sure to call Congress to tell them you don’t want them killing Americans with mean old Trumpcare.

Open Thread: Rust GRIFT Never Sleeps

I know, I know, but… can you imagine the screaming if a Democratic president had even suggested that grifting this blatant might theoretically be acceptable, in some legalistic reading of an alternate-universe scenario?

Friday Night [Face-Palm] Open Thread: Somewhere, Joe Isuzu Is Contemplating A Trademark Infringement Suit

(Benny Johnson, 2015, and again in 2017)

Bread and Circuses

While gathering kettle corn and assembling beer bingo supplies for the Comey Show, let’s keep in mind that the spectacle means jack and shit, aside from its entertainment value. Trump essentially confessed to Lester Holt that he shit-canned Comey because of the RussiaGate investigation. At least one Republican operative has admitted he used information from Russian hackers to tailor campaign outreach to win a tight House race — and said he’d do it again.

On the strength of what are acknowledged facts right now, Republicans in congress who wanted to act in the interests of the American people rather than their donors could work with Democrats to rid us of the manifestly incompetent and embarrassing buffoon in the Oval Office. They could work with Democrats to get to the bottom of Putin’s meddling in our election and force the resignation of anyone who benefited from collusion with a hostile foreign power (looking at you, Brian Mast [R-FL]). But they aren’t, and they won’t.

Valued commenter Ruemara eloquently described this reality in a thread yesterday:

Let’s get honest. There isn’t a damned thing that would get the GOP to impeach this American fascist regime. They could (and are) very much implicated in colluding with a foreign power, they’ve already been shown to be undermining fair & free elections in America and every newspaper could have bombshell testimony that Trump gave the nuclear codes, and the NSA wifi password to Russia and Saudi Arabia and all the GOP would do is justify it. Not to mention that fuckheaded base of craven peasants that are key.

They are going to crack down on voting in the black, latino and young communities. Meanwhile, Dems and progressives are still humping Wilmer’s leg. We need your help to get us our votes. There is no savior coming out of these hearings. We need to know, but the work is not about knowing this. It was obvious from last May. Systemic voter suppression is why Clinton lost. Illegal voter tampering aided, but it wouldn’t have worked without the blind eye to local seats endemic to liberal & progressive voters and failure to act with full force on getting people registered, and out to vote.

If I sound angry, you’re goddamned right. Watching yet another person of color get choked to near death on video because the husband(!) of an off-duty sheriff felt he had a right to chokehold him until he stopped moving, while white people blocked access to the pair and tried to block them from taping the assault, it fucking makes me all the more aware of how the results of the 2016 election are affecting my communities. We pay first in our blood while everyone else gets to be “tired” and waiting for someone to say just the right goddamned thing to move people who’ve been proven to have the ethics of a worm.

Nothing coming out of this week will save this country from a party in control who have abandoned the principles of democracy. They’ve been showing that’s who they are for years. Yes, pay attention to what’s going on in the hearing, but don’t look for some grand denouement of criminality brought to justice. That’s movies and tv. This is real life and the people in charge will glad break this country down to its evil roots of terror, disease and poverty for everyone except a bare few. And enough voters are stupid enough to believe that they’re part of the few.

Ruemara is right; the Republicans aren’t going to do the right thing — they’re corrupt shitweasels who will countenance any attack on democracy, any loss of national credibility, any destruction of our institutions to hang onto power. The brain-dead morons who are sticking with Trump even as he schemes to take away their healthcare so he can give himself and the billionaires in his cabinet tax cuts aren’t going to suddenly gain 50 IQ points, lose their racism/sexism/xenophobia and stop punching themselves in the nuts.

So it’s up to us to turn the collaborators out of congress, and one of the best ways to do that is to counter voter suppression and gerrymandering efforts. Ruemara mentioned and Those organizations focus on getting IDs to folks the GOP deliberately disenfranchises and swinging state-level races so that statehouses reflect the political will of the voters rather than the Koch Bros.

Got any other ideas about how to make this happen? Here’s mine: Go to your local Democratic Party meetings and advocate for this approach. Volunteer to register voters, and when there’s an election — any election — volunteer to get out the vote. Donate to organizations that are taking on the vote thieves and gerrymanderers.

Meanwhile, enjoy the show.

Repubs in Disarray Open Thread: Sessions & Trump, Falling Out of Love

Ms. Reid is, of course, correct: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III scrambled aboard the ‘Trump train’ early, because Trump seemed like his best chance for a position where he could really abuse all those uppity people of color / women / liberals with impunity. And Donald J. Trump welcomed the Malevolent Leprechaun aboard, because he assumed that their shared revanchist social goals would keep ol’ Jeff from looking too closely at Don’s myriad ethical peccadilloes.

Now Jeff feels that Trump is treating him like a house… servant, someone required to yes-massah the Big Man’s every whim. And Don feels like Sessions is attempting to weasel out of his contract, as so many of the losers and haters in Don’s past have attempted to do…

Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation…

David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the White House and Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, said Mr. Trump clearly looked at the case from the lens of a businessman who did not get his money’s worth.

“He’s unhappy when the results don’t come in,” Mr. Rivkin said. “I’m sure he was convinced to try the second version, and the second iteration did not do better than the first iteration, so the lawyers in his book did not do a good job. It’s understandable for a businessman.”…

However, Mr. Trump is said to be aware that firing people now, on the heels of dismissing James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, would be risky. He has invested care and meticulous attention to the next choice of an F.B.I. director in part because he will not have the option of firing another one. The same goes for Mr. Sessions, these people said…

To quote an old saying: May they be chained to each other in hell.