Russiagate Open Thread: Exposing the Tinpot Dictator Squatting in the Oval Office

(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)
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It’s a tragic status that’s getting noticed more & more…

The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official who spoke with CNN.

Because there is currently no money set aside for a parade in the military budget, the Pentagon would likely use those private donations to offset the cost of the non-military components of the event, according to CNN. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he estimates the parade could cost between $10 million to $30 million.

Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade, CNN reported. A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare, according to the official who spoke with CNN…

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Hey, remember how offended the Trumplodytes were when the South Korean government was nice to Kim Jong-un’s sister?…

The government is preparing a VIP welcome for U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who comes to Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25. The government apparently wants to soften her up so Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae-in…

Trump runs the White House like a private fiefdom and has levered both Ivanka and her husband Jarred Kushner into ill-defined foreign-policy roles.

Technically, Seoul has no diplomatic obligation to roll out the red carpet for the child of a U.S. leader, and even the head of a U.S. presidential delegation does not receive the treatment given to a head of state…

Moon himself seems minded to greet her cap-in-hand. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, “Ivanka enjoys sports and especially skiing, so we are discussing having the president travel to Pyeongchang with her to watch a skiing competition.”

Ivanka Trump is the mother of two sons and a daughter, whom the government wants to lavish with presents.

The government has to calibrate the red-carpet treatment so it meets at least the welcome given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Yo-jong, who visited the opening ceremony. The first daughter has repeatedly been treated as a virtual head of state during visits to other countries, not least to Germany, where she shared a stage with Chancellor Angela Merkel…


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BREAKING…

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China…

It’s not clear what’s behind Mueller’s specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller’s team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the presidential transition, Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments, speaking to “over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries,” according to a statement he gave to congressional investigators…



That is all they talk about, at data control

Great article about Beto O’Rourke in the Times:

Mr. O’Rourke told the crowd at Suga’s that the “Dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — should be protected. No wall should be built on the border with a friendly country. College must be more affordable. Women deserve access to reproductive health services. All Muslims should not be banned, and the press is not the enemy of the people.

[….]

The crowd cheered, they hooted, they left saying things like “he was great” and “I’m in.”

[….]

If the hill weren’t steep enough, Mr. O’Rourke also has refused to hire outside consultants or pollsters, and he will only accept contributions from individuals. He has no interest in using big data. When he tells this to Democratic colleagues in the House, some have simply turned and walked away from him, unable to take him seriously.

I fucking hate all the big data, I’ll be honest with you. And I hate all the money wasted on consultants too. So let’s raise some more money for Beto O’Rourke. Even if he loses, he’s energizing the Texas Democratic party. Mark my words, Texas will go blue eventually, and candidates like Beto are speeding up the process.

Goal Thermometer








Good News for the White House

If those 17 kids hadn’t been killed, just think of the ugly questions the White House would have had to answer:

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October 2017 gun massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

Another winner:

Last Wednesday’s shooting, however, effectively stabilized Kelly’s standing internally, officials said, shifting the media glare away from him and giving the retired four-star Marine Corps general a chance to perform his job in helping coordinate the federal response. Though Trump remains frustrated and at times angry with his chief of staff, Kelly’s presence on the weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago was interpreted as an indication that he was on firmer ground with his boss.

Just think – only a few more killing sprees and Kelly might make it to the midterms!



Rapid Evolution of Columbus Man

Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich went on CNN to sell himself as a reasonable Republican on gun issues. In the convo with Dana Bash below, Kasich says he suggested to a “gun collector friend” that a ban on AR-15s wouldn’t erode his (the friend’s) the 2nd amendment rights, which is straight-up heresy in the Church of the Gun, though Kasich did stop short of endorsing an assault weapons ban. Kasich got plenty of plaudits from non-Republicans for his leadership on the issue!

Mistermix covered it here, noting that Kasich had conveniently transformed himself into a 2nd amendment absolutist when it suited his purposes a few years back.

After the tweet above went viral, I took a look at Kasich’s 2nd amendment “issues” page. Here’s what it looked like earlier in the day on Sunday, as the CNN tweet was blowing up:

Sounds like a typical NRA shill, right? “[S]igned every pro-2nd amendment bill that crossed his desk,” and “endorsed by the National Rifle Association” and “opposing Barack Obama’s gun control efforts” blah blah blah.

I took a screen shot of that page to disabuse people on Twitter of the notion that Governor Kasich, who wants to be President Kasich, is in any way a moderate on gun control — at least, he wasn’t before the brave kids in Florida started calling out NRA-branded politicians.

But later yesterday afternoon, on another device, I went to take another screen shot of the page above for the same purpose, and poof! It was gone!

Huh. It’s almost like the Kasich social media team realized the staunchly pro-NRA page didn’t match up with the candidate’s governor’s new persona. Someone put in weekend overtime to produce today’s page:

So, in 24 hours, Kasich evolved from “Defending the Second Amendment” to “Common Sense on the Second Amendment.” Good for him, I guess.

Was it a sincere conversion, or has he sensed a shift in the political wind? I quit giving Republicans the benefit of the doubt before the turn of the century, kids. But whether Kasich is a cynical bastard is beside the point: Something’s happening here.



Churn, prophylaxis and incentives

Craig Garthwaite makes a very good point on the problems of paying for prophylatic treatment in the current US health finance system:

He is commenting on a specific case. But the general point is that the incentives for costly upstream care to deliver large downstream savings are seldom aligned in the United States. The insurer paying for the expensive care seldom receives the benefit of future cost savings. Unless there is a strong mandate that requires all insurers to pay for this type of high cost and long pay-off care and perfect risk adjustment to eliminate the incentive for insurers to dodge, private insurance models will provide less of this type of care than optimal. This is true if a person is likely to churn to another private insurer or if in this case a person is highly likely to churn to Medicare.

We either accept this is the case or we perfect our mandates with precise risk adjustment or we carve out increasing classes of care so that they are paid for by entities with very long shadows of the future.








Monday Morning Open Thread: Mean Shouty Granpa Having A Bad Weekend

Uneasy squats the arse that warms a throne… and one can only hope it’s chafing the Oval Office Occupant’s something fierce. Per the Daily Beast:

According to the White House, Trump on Saturday made phone calls to Parkland, Florida, Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson to offer continued support and gratitude. On Saturday, the president also made an appearance at a fundraiser thrown at Mar-a-Lago for Orphan’s Promise, a special ministry of televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. (Recently, Robertson had linked the Las Vegas mass shooting to a nationwide “disrespect for our President” Trump.)

Despite staying off the green, the president largely spent the weekend attempting to settle some scores with political enemies and perennial adversaries, binge-watching cable news, rage-tweeting late into the night, lashing out as his own national security adviser, and making the solemn moment about himself and his personal grievance…

The New York Times, turning on their man-crush:

President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him. An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing. “No collusion” was his refrain.

But once ensconced at his Florida estate on Friday, Mr. Trump, facing long hours indoors as he avoided breezy rounds of golf after last week’s school shooting a few miles away, began watching TV.

The president’s mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate, according to three people with knowledge of his reaction. Those commentators called it proof that he had not won the election on his own, a particularly galling, if not completely accurate, charge for a president long concerned about his legitimacy.

What followed was a two-day Twitter tirade that was unusually angry and defiant even by Mr. Trump’s standards. In his tweets on Sunday, Mr. Trump sought to shift the blame to Democrats for Russia’s meddling, saying that President Barack Obama had not done enough to stop the interference…

EVERYBODY IS LAUGHING AT YOU AND YOUR TINY, INADEQUATE POPULAR VOTE TOTALS.
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On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

More Raven – yay!

Read more



I ain’t gonna work on Vladie’s farm no more

I recommend this interview with one of the people who worked at the St. Petersburg troll factory that was the subject of several indictments on Friday.

How did the trolling work?

You got a list of topics to write about. Every piece of news was taken care of by three trolls each, and the three of us would make up an act. We had to make it look like we were not trolls but real people. One of the three trolls would write something negative about the news, the other two would respond, “You are wrong,” and post links and such. And the negative one would eventually act convinced. Those are the kinds of plays we had to act out.

[…..]

Why did you leave?

I left for moral reasons. I was ashamed to work there.

Also, too, let’s raise a little more money for Swing Left, which is helping progressives target over 70 Republican-held House seats:

Goal Thermometer








Olympics Open Thread: Keeping It Positive!


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From NYMag, “That Shirtless Tonga Hunk Is Mighty Proud of His 114th-Place Olympic Finish”:

Pita Taufatofua, a taekwondo athlete who was propelled into the international spotlight at the 2016 Olympics thanks to his above-satisfactory chest region and flag-waving skills, made his valiant Olympiad return with the Winter Games. He earned a spot to compete for his home nation in the 15k cross-country ski race on Friday — despite never training for the sport, or laying eyes on snow, until a few months ago. In a pleasant surprise to everyone, including himself, Taufatofua managed not to finish dead last in the rigorous race, instead placing 114th out of the 119 total competitors. He ended about 22 minutes behind the race’s winner…

“Everyone was at the front racing to come first, we were racing not to come last, but we’ll have a good laugh over dinner,” Taufatofua joked after the race with his fellow stragglers. “I’d rather be finishing towards the end of the pack with all my friends than in the middle by myself. We fought together, we finished together.”…

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Well, mostly positive…

Can’t resist!

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Everything But the Obvious

They did everything right, but missed one key detail:

Nikolas Cruz was immature, quirky and depressed when James and Kimberly Snead took him into their Parkland home. But he was pleasant and seemed to be growing happier, they said.

How the 19-year-old turned into a killer still baffles them.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in an exclusive interview Saturday. “We didn’t see this side of him.”

“Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” James Snead said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cruz still lived with the Sneads on Wednesday when he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people — the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook.

***

Five days before the shooting, Kimberly Snead took Cruz to the office of a therapist she has been seeing. Cruz said he was open to therapy but didn’t like medication. He took a business card and was figuring out what his health insurance would cover.

James, 48, is a decorated army veteran and a military intelligence analyst who served stints in the Middle East between 1988 and 1996. Kimberly, 49, is a neonatal intensive care nurse who cares for premature and ill babies.

They told Cruz there would be strict rules in their home.

“I told him there’d be rules and he followed every rule to the T,” James said.

The couple both grew up around guns and are comfortable with them, but they insist on gun safety.

They made Cruz buy a locking gun safe to put in his room the day he moved in. Cruz had a handful of guns, including the AR-15 and two other rifles that Snead said would be considered assault rifles. Cruz, a hunter, also had knives, BB guns and pellet guns.

Snead thought he had the only key to the cabinet but has figured out Cruz must have kept a key for himself. The family kept their own rifles, bought after a burglary a couple of years ago, in a separate locked cabinet.

They told Cruz he needed to ask permission to take out the guns. He had asked only twice since November. They said “yes” once and “no” once.

These seem like really sweet people, and I feel horrible for them. And they did everything right. Except one thing. They kept guns in the house and he had access to them.

I just don’t know why this is so damned hard, how many members of our society are so blinded by the obvious. Imagine if you went to the doctor and s/he said “Your test results show you have a fatty liver and early stages of cirrhosis, you just absolutely have to stop drinking and now.” If you acted like we do regarding gun violence, here is how the rest of the conversation would go:

You: What if I drink a lot of cranberry juice. I hear that is good for the liver.

Dr.: Yes, cranberry juice can be good for the liver, but you have to stop drinking alcohol. It’s going to kill you.

You: What about coffee and tea?

Dr.: Yes, those are both good, but you have to stop drinking alcohol. You are killing yourself.

You: WHat if instead I stop using butter and other oils and switch to olive oil?

Dr.: Yes, that would be good, too, but you need to stop drinking alcohol because your liver is very damaged.

You: How about if instead I start a good diet and exercise program and lose some weight?

Dr.: That would also be good for your liver and long term health, but you need to stop drinking alcohol immediately or you are going to die.

You: Thanks for all the helpful advice, Doc.

*Drinks a gallon of vodka. Dies.*

It’s the same damned things with guns, and we have this god damned debate every time there is a mass shooting. Yes, we need to spend more time and money addressing mental health issues. Yes, we need to engage our children more. Yes, we need to keep our eyes open for socially isolated individuals. yes, we need to report people who make threats to the authorities. Yes, we need to deal with people being radicalized online and via social media. Yes, we need to do all those things and more.

BUT WE NEED TO DEAL WITH THE FUCKING GUNS.

This is why all those kids from Florida who are speaking out sound like they are making so much sense- BECAUSE THEY ARE. They aren’t taking a simple issue and and getting wrapped around the axle by turning it into something complicated. The clarity of youth lets them embrace the principle of parsimony that for a number of reasons eludes the adults in the room. Crazy and dangerous people repeatedly for a variety of reasons keep killing people with guns, so we should do something about guns. When someone takes a knife into school, they get kicked out. When someone takes an AR-15 into a school, 20 kids get killed. The kids aren’t confused by all the bullshit that has seeped into our discourse, so they say things like this:

America has a gun problem, and no amount of diet, exercise, or cranberry juice is going to fix it. It’s the fucking guns, stupid.



Russiagate Open Thread: Has Manafort’s Crony Rick Gates Flipped?

Well, it would explain some of pants-pissing tantrums on His Short-Fingered Lordship’s twitter feed this morning (especially if Trump’s not the only one sending them.) Per the L.A. Times:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case…

Gates’ defense lawyer, Thomas C. Green, did not respond to messages left by phone and email. Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, declined on Saturday to comment…

The imminent change of Gates’ plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller’s prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.

According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said that Gates is apt to serve about 18 months in prison.

The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.”

One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables – derived from Gates’ allegedly illegal activity – that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.

Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense…

According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts” and took steps to evade related U.S. taxes.

If Manafort maintains his not-guilty plea and fights the charges at a trial, the testimony from Gates could provide Mueller’s team with first-person descriptions of much of the allegedly illegal conduct. Gates’ testimony, said a person familiar with the pending guilty plea, would place a “cherry on top” of the government’s already-formidable case against Manafort.

The same individual said he did not believe Gates has information to offer Mueller’s team that would “turn the screws on Trump.”

In mid-August 2016, Trump fired Manafort following reports of possibly improper payments he had received from a pro-Russia political party aligned with his longtime client, Viktor Yanukovych, who was Ukraine’s prime minister from 2010 to 2014.

Gates, however, remained with the Trump campaign through the election, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee. He also assisted Trump’s inaugural committee.

My emphases. “Mistakes were made. Just not by Mr. Trump.” Uh-huh…



Sunday Afternoon Open Thread

“Hi! My name is Roseate Spoonbill, and I’ll be foraging for minnows, crawdads and bugs in your pond today.”

“I’ll just be over here sweeping my weird bill from side to side. Don’t mind me!”

“Glug-glug-glug…”

Saw this lovely critter yesterday in a suburban pond. There are tons of spoonbills around here, but I’ve never seen one with such a dark pink bar before.

Open thread!



Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

To follow up on DougJ’s generational musings last night let me share a story with you. A few years ago I was worrying over my figure and when I expressed concern to my wife she said, “Chubby? No. You’re not chubby. I mean, you wouldn’t call Bing Crosby chubby, would you?” I still puzzle over this.  Not too long after that we were listening to something or other by Crosby and my wife was telling me  about this soporific’s profound popularity. It was seriously like Beatlemania. Sarah observed that Crosby was emblematic of the war generation. Play some Bing and you’re right there spiritually.

For the boomers when you play “Paint it Black” I fully expect to see helicopters flying over the jungle. “Magic Carpet Ride” will always be accompanied by hippies cavorting naked in some sylvan setting.

“But what music is emblematic of your generation?” she asked. What will be the documentarian’s shorthand for Generation Xers? My first impulse was to say The Pixies but she rejected that as being too artsy and underground. She’s probably right. They are not universally known. I thought about it some more and concluded, for better or worse, it’s probably U2. Or maybe Run DMC? Michael Jackson?

What do you think? What about you in-betweeners who are too old for MTV but too young for the Beatles. Is it disco? And if there are any millenniums out there (this is what may dad calls millennials) what is the one song or band that will be the shorthand for your period?

And after you’ve sorted that out, go ahead and see if you can dig a little deeper for the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer



Florida Woman vs. Florida Man

In case you missed it, here’s a speech by a young woman, Emma Gonzalez, who survived the Douglas High School massacre. She calls out Trump, the NRA, Senator Grassley and the other cowardly shits who have done nothing while people, including school children, are slaughtered by maniacs with easy access to weapons of war:

I’m so damn proud of these kids. Some highlights for the video-phobes:

If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

You want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.

[Crowd chants: “Shame on you!”]

If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once? You know what would be a good way to act like it? I have an example of how to not act like it. In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don’t really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don’t need a psychologist and I don’t need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.’ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

[Crowd chants: “Throw them out!]

Several hundred folks in my part of Florida — hundreds of miles from the Douglas High massacre — had a rally against gun violence yesterday. Wouldn’t it be ironic as shit if FLORIDA, of all fucking places, ends up being the birthplace of gun sanity?

Meanwhile, from his Disgraceland estate in Florida, Trump uses dead kids and teachers as human shields:

That deranged globule of rancid marmalade is on a Twitter tear this morning. I’m not going to subject you to further rantings from that quarter in this post, but it confirms what we already knew: Now that Trump can no longer deny Russia’s cyber attack on U.S. democracy, he’s casting himself as its chief victim, and he’ll do absolutely nothing to stop further attacks.

Like the high school kids in Florida, we must find the courage to put an end to this bullshit ourselves. Our government, as presently constituted, isn’t going to help us. We have to change it.



Shot, Chaser



Sounds like he’s whatever kind of “guy” he needs to be on any given day. Fuck him, and mark your calendars for March 24.