I more or less agree with this quite critical assessment in Slate of last night's "major scoop" concerning a release of President Donald Trump's 2005 income tax return by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. I only tuned in as a result of a friend's text message, and we both watched in rapt anticipation, which turned to disbelief when the first commercial break rolled around without "the big reveal." At that moment, we both knew not only that there was no there there, but that "the story" was that (IMHO) it was more likely than not that the President himself leaked his own tax returns to a journalist (in this case Pulitzer Prize winning financial journalist David Cay Johnston), for his own purposes, the most obvious being to change the subject.
And the subject includes the new and not much improved Muslim ban faces several immediate court challenges,
the FBI may or may not be investigating the Trump presidential campaign's ties to Russia, a "Trumpcare" debacle he'd probably prefer to not talk about, and assorted other crises of the petulant and childish President's own making.
What better way to distract than to come back to "the tax returns," a tactic (again, IMHO) he employed successfully during the campaign when he released a single schedule of a single return (1995, IIRC) that showed he had a humongous loss he could carry forward for a really long time-- a loss that he was still using in 2005 (a likely very successful year for him, as he sold two major properties and had over $150,000,000 in income, if the two page fragment of a single tax return is to be believed.)
It is an interesting scoop for a number of reasons-- including that the White House immediately pounced on it and confirmed the income and tax paid-- but does nothing toward establishing the obvious questions, to wit, whether or not the President is in deep hock to foreign powers China and Russia, of which there is strong anecdotal evidence that he is, as well as the extent he is molding national policy with his personal enrichment in mind (again, strong anecdotal evidence, at least.)
At noon EDT today, we'll be at 54 days of this
and I must hand it to the President: he has quite literally slowed down the passage of time, something I didn't believe was possible (and I don't know if Professor Stephen Hawking or other experts on the subject have an opinion). That said, his other "accomplishments" include emboldening anti-semitism, using the White House to tout his daughter's brand of clothing, and inventing "alternative facts" as a neologism for "bald-face lies."
In the face of this, a tax-return-fragment that undermines Rachel Maddow just a bit seems... a welcome diversion, as it were. Heckuva job, Donny!
"A few hundred, perhaps" pro-Trump supporters evidently showed up at rallies near NYC's Trump Tower, in Washington and perhaps elsewhere. To be fair, it's cold out and all.
We now pass through day 43 and into day 44 of the clusterfuck known as the Trump Administration, noting that Vegas odds-makers have now concluded that America's Own Annoying Orange[TM] won't last a full term, and of course, his polling numbers are at a record low for a President this early in his [it's always been a his] term, although unsurprisingly strong among Republicans, to whom he has been shamelessly pandering.
I don't know. My good friend Donald J. Putin reports that twittering remains a target-rich environment. Today, for example, the Jewish Sabbath under which Presidential-Minder-and-Son-in-Law Jared Kushner retreats for the holiday and Steve "Comic Book Guy" Bannon takes to the fore, the President has reverted to own his uncontrollable twittering habit to accuse President Obama of wire-tapping him at the Trump Tower last October. No evidence, of course. Evidently bored with the mere accusation that his predecessor committed Nixonian crimes against him, he also attacked his television successor Arnold Schwarzenegger, contending that the former California governor "was fired for pathetic ratings," again without evidence; for his part, Schwarzenegger observed that "the Trump brand" is pretty radioactive (you think?)
So here we are. It seems indisputable that the Russian state did all within its power to defeat Hillary Clinton, even if that meant that an unstable Donald Trump would win the presidency. It's not as if he doesn't owe lots of money to Russia, and hence, is "reliable" for Moscow's purposes, even if unstable for everything else.
And... well... here we are. It seems obvious that Mr. Trump, who has devoted his life to gratuitously making enemies (and then whining that he is the injured party) somehow believed that this troublesome modus operandi would somehow still play as President of the United States, where a vast bureaucracy of quite literally millions of people has an almost infinite array of means of pushing back against "leadership" with whom it "has issues." So far... it hasn't really played well. Sure, he's pushing a few Republican wet-dreams of abusing undocumented immigrants (many of whom have U.S. citizen dependents). talking up his attempt at a Muslim immigration ban, and of course, trashing regulations intended to protect health, safety and the environment, but by and large, he's mostly in his own way,
In short, his ineptitude appears to trump his malevolence. Not that I'm complaining.
Congressman Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina and most famous, ironically, for having disappeared for six days for an extramarital tryst with his Argentine girlfriend while telling his staff he would be uncontactable hiking on the Appalachian trail, is in the bizarre position of having absolute cover to criticize our new president from within the Republican Party.
His digs at Trump cover the spectrum. The president, Sanford says, “has fanned the flames of intolerance.” He has repeatedly misled the public, most recently about the national murder rate and the media’s coverage of terrorist attacks. He showed a lack of humility by using the National Prayer Breakfast to ridicule Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Most worrisome, Sanford says, Trump is unprepared for the presidency. From the Politico interview:
I ask Sanford, in our early February interview, whether it’s fair to say Trump doesn’t impress him. “Yeah, that's accurate,” he tells me. “Because at some level he represents the antithesis, or the undoing, of everything I thought I knew about politics, preparation and life.”
Sanford, an Eagle Scout, has long been renowned for a work ethic that straddles the line between tireless and maniacal. Famously brutal on staff members—his former speechwriter wrote a book documenting his workplace misery—Sanford recalls holding marathon meetings as a congressman and as governor to review every intricate detail of budgets, bills and other proposals that came across his desk.
“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford asks aloud. “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”
“You want to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I’ve learned that through my own trials and tribulations,” Sanford says, one of numerous nods to the Appalachian Trail episode. “But if you see a pattern of over and over and over again, wherein facts don’t matter and you can just make up anything ... ” He stops himself. “Our republic was based on reason. The Founding Fathers were wed to this notion of reason. It was a reason-based system. And if you go to a point wherein it doesn’t matter, I mean, that has huge implications in terms of where we go next as a society.”
OK, I'll get right to it. The President is supposed to be our national Daddy. It is not without irony that our first, and yes, IMHO, our greatest President, George Washington, though actually childless himself, is called "the Father of our Country." And who can forget (if they're really old!) FDR's fatherly fireside chats. Or in more recent times, Dubya (father of twin girls) bought himself a second term through his skillful father-like handling of the aftermath of 9-11. Barack Obama (also father of two girls) putting a nouveau spin on the function, constantly acting as "comforter in chief."
Needless to say, looked at in this light, since demographic shifts favoring the sun belt now prevent the ascendance of a President without winning at least a portion of the most conservative, if not atavistic, parts of the country (the South and the Rust Belt) a woman running for national Daddy was not going to have it easy (and surprise, surprise, while she cruised to an easy win in the liberal parts of the country, she made no inroads anywhere else and lost the election despite winning the popular vote.)
And while Donald J. Trump is the father of five, it is unclear what that really means. He famously bragged that he never diapered any of his own children, as he is a maniacal germophobe and hates touching anyone (let alone poopy infants). It seems clear that his own upbringing involved a father who was somewhere between strict and tyrannical, although Donald J. was the favored one, the heir apparent to the family real estate business.
And it is equally clear that, as a father, whatever Donald did with respect to child-rearing appears to be at least a little bit creepy (assuming he did anything at all, as his first wife, with more than a modicum of credibility on the subject, denies that he had much of a role in raising his first three children at all).
Why do I bring this up? We are fortunate in a sense that, at least in the last four weeks, the only real national crises have been those generated by Mr. Trump himself (although foreign powers ranging from Russia to Iran to North Korea seem hellbent on testing the new waters). And of course, he takes to Twitter several times a day to complain about "unfair treatment" from the people who put him in office. (Having my very close friend also take up that medium, I can attest to its vacuousness.) Specifically, Mr. Trump or his surrogates tastelessly rail against a media that put him in office. For the I don't know how many-eth time, media's monomaniacal pursuit of non-stories like Hillary's emails while not pursuing the real story of Trump's shady business deals and foreign entanglements, not to mention legitimating him with talk show (and SNL!) appearances, actually put him in the White House. Of course, he still complains that games in his favor are "rigged" and that coverage that is insufficiently fawning on his loathsome persona and dreadful performance is somehow "unfair."
Yes, it is a tactic learned from his long tutelage with
Satan Roy Cohn, but it seems to be sincere nonetheless: he genuinely fears-- FEARS-- criticism of any kind, which is why anyone who so much as says an unkind word about him is ineligible to serve in his government (despite the catastrophic cost of not having competent people in key positions as a result).
That is not a trait that sits well in Daddy, who is rugged, and tough, and does what he must. In short, the President (gak) is, in his own parlance, a disaster. He is quite likely a traitor to boot, having seemingly ordered his national security adviser to try to undermine American policy with some kind of implicit promise to Russia even as it was clear as day that Russia was directly interfering in an American election (in his favor of course), and, of course his known ties to Russia are legion, and we have no idea if there are more as he won't disclose his tax returns or provide a full accounting of his business interests, and he may well be being blackmailed, assuming details contained in a no longer secret dossier are to be believed.
We are only at two per cent of the time designated for his presidency, and things don't look good. Foreign powers, be they Iran, or China, or North Korea, or, of course, Russia, are testing, testing... and, well, if the President (gak) isn't actually beholden to Russia, he is certainly doing nothing that is not in the national interest.. of Russia.
Four years is a long time. Things are going to happen. And when our nation's head of state, who already is the least qualified man ever to be in the position, as well as the oldest, is nothing more than a needy, ego-centric and unstable individual with a tendency to being a pathological liar... that ain't good.
Item: The Oroville Dam in California, the nation's highest, in apparently in imminent danger of collapse after damage to the dam's main spillway following severe storms earlier this week. A metaphor for other things? Or a cautionary tale for a global-warming-denying-President?
Item: Democratic Senator Al Franken tells all who'll listen that his Republican colleagues in the Senate believe that Republican President Donald J. Trump is mentally unstable.
Item: The Grey Lady reports on turmoil at the National Security Council, where the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, may well have improperly signaled future American policy to a hostile power (that would be Russia) while not yet in office... a problem... and Steve Bannon is on the council... a problem... and the President (gak) is looking for public reaction to determine his next move. Meanwhile, the Jared Kushner owned New York Observer offers an analysis of an intelligence community determined to push back against the Trump Administration.
Item: The President is complaining that the media is not reporting about thousands of enthusiastic supporters cheering him at Mar a Lago. Given that he's probably paying many of them time and a half or more for their presence, his irritation is understandable. Perhaps the crowds are admiring the President's golf game, which he now devotes much time to (after, of course, criticizing Obama for playing golf.)
Item: At least someone is optimistic in light of the Trump Presidency: Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, who suggests that having "the idiot Trump" in the White house is cause for optimism.
Item: In the same week Nordstrom's dropped Ivanka Trump's clothing line, Kmart and Sears are dropping their connection to Trump branded products. If Walmart goes... he's sunk.
Kudos to (gak) the President, insofar as he has altered my understanding of the laws of physics, and, for the now just over three weeks (that's it?) he has been President, he has made time run slower. The question is... what can we take out of the fire-hose worth of activity that has been unleashed (often at the unfortunate speed of "Twitter"-- a medium whose stupidity I can personally attest to since
I've my good friend Donald J. Putin has been following the affairs of state.)
Superficially, Trump is a self-absorbed buffoon, stuck in a 3 or 4 year old's narcissistic state of demanding approval and recognition for his greatness. Part of this is his Roy-Cohn-Dark-Side-Jedi training of always lashing out at anyone who crosses him, no matter how small or meaningless the alleged slight, coupled with refusal to pay just debts. But there is also the master tactician at work, who always manages to squeeze something out of any situation for himself, while screwing vendors, contractors, partners, customers, etc. etc. (hint: this won't go so well for the American people). He has figured out that small-minded meanness (of a kind that comes naturally to him) is shockingly popular, and hence, he won't drop his idiotic calls for a Southern border wall and his downright psychotic insistence that Mexico will pay for it, and of course, his surprisingly popular attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States (then again... how unpopular is it?).
And that's just it. Never before have we had a government come in whose explicit goal was to lie about everything, from voter fraud to the size of crowds to their contacts with Russia presumably to their golf handicaps. So... it becomes hard to see what exactly is coming.
Damned if I know; I just know that I will be very likely poised to oppose it, because it's almost certainly anathema to every principle this country is supposed to stand for. I think.
Hey, boys and girls, we're not even two weeks into the (gak) Trump Administration, and we are so spectacularly dealing with all our old international friends, and our new BFFs over in Russia. In neighborly news...
Item: The President evidently berated and threatened the President of Mexico during a phone call, replete with the threat of U.S. troops to combat drug traffickers in cases where the Mexican military couldn't or wouldn't, to, as Trump described it, stop "bad hombres." According to reports, he also demanded Mexico pay for his God damned wall.
Item: The President berated the prime minister of Australia during a phone call, particularly over a long-standing U.S. commitment to accept some 1,250 refugees housed in island-based controversial refugee centers by the Australian government. Aside from abruptly ending the call early, he treated Prime Minister Turnbull to accounts of the size of his electoral win and presumably some of his body parts.
Item: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn "put Iran on notice" concerning its recent test of a missile that might or might not be a prohibited ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, which is barred by UN resolution and the recent nuclear deal, or... it might not be. Also, a naval assault on a Saudi frigate by Houthis operating in Yemen, believed to be allied with Iran... Well, that's pretty clear.
And a federal judge in Los Angeles issued one of the broadest temporary injunctions yet, basically ordering the government to stop enforcing much of the executive order
intended as a ban on Muslims intended as a ban on Muslims from countries where the President isn't doing business in a case brought by a family of 28 Yemenis.
In bonus domestic news, a draft executive order that would seriously curtail LGBTQ rights is circulating; Republicans are shifting their aspirations from "repealing Obamacare" to "repairing Obama care;" the President takes the hair growth drug Propecia; and the First Lady may never move into the White House.
For those keeping score, the number of days without a significant act of national humiliation as a result of actions by the Trump Administration remains unchanged, at zero.
A federal judge right here in Brooklyn (I was just at a rather spirited rally outside the courthouse) just issued a nationwide temporary emergency stay of the "controversial" immigration ban on nationals of seven Muslim majority countries issued by the President earlier in the week. Protests had broken out all over the country over an ill-advised and poorly drafted order intended to implement the Trump campaign promise made to White supremacists at his Nuremberg style rallies to ban all Muslim immigrants.
The order, which took effect without notice so that people literally in flight were effected, is deliberately intended to affect nationals from all Muslim countries not doing business with the Trump organization, notably refugees from Syria, and all immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, nations with well over 130 million people among them, but more to the point, around 500,000 persons with visas, or green cards, or otherwise, a legal entitlement to enter the United States.
Say this for the new President: he has no sense of the incremental. He went right for a sore point, and in a yuuuuge way.
The real question is, where the f*** are business leaders? And where the f*** are grownups within the GOP? What he is proposing is a f***ing disaster for American business-- we need talent to be able to enter the country to keep our dubious economy running. We won't even think about the fact that many people Trump intends to shut out have American citizen dependents, not to mention families, jobs and lives here. We'll forget about what this says about us as a nation... and the amazing thing is, there is no particular emergency involved-- the emergency is that we have elected a petulant asshole to the presidency who is too stupid to know what he doesn't know, i.e., the scope of his legal authority in the immigration area, for example. Where the f*** is American business, on the phone with Mnuchin and Ross and the money people, to say "keep this up and your party is dead to us." Where. the f***. are. they?
Just asking. The games will continue until morale improves. This man has been in the
Trump White House just over eight days, and he has already soured relations with our southern neighbor, abused hundreds of thousands of hardworking honest people who just want to make their lives here, threatened the health insurance of tens of millions, proposed re-instituting torture, and quite probably driven our Pacific region partners into the arms of China (and that's when he wasn't ordering his flacks to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd and threaten an investigation into non-existent voter fraud in an election he won)... all for no reason other than he is a small man (with small fingers and all that goes with that) and he is a huge bigot. And also because all of these policies are really good for Russia, a country to whom he is personally in debt for hundreds of millions of dollars and with whose oligarchs he partners with in a number of businesses.
Is a grown up going to come forward? I doubt it will be from the GOP... but you know who you are...
Brooklyn born Mary Tyler Moore passed away at 80.
Mary played Laura Petrie (of New Rochelle, NY) for much of my early childhood, and then, from the magical era of my age 7-14 years, she was the uber-cool Mary Richards of Minneapolis, a 30-something single working girl (a t.v. news producer; the back story is that she broke up with a man she supported through medical school). For a political blog (that pretty much no one reads) I certainly do spend what seems (to me anyway) an inordinate amount of time on celebrity deaths, I'll admit that this is that rare one that periodically brings me to tears notwithstanding, of course, that I never knew Ms. Moore in actuality, even though I thought I did.
Probably because it marks a major turning point, whether to me, or to the culture writ large. Mary Tyler Moore the person had a private life, with its own tragedies (she was divorced more than once, her only child died at 24 of a shotgun accident, and she suffered from, among other things, alcoholism and diabetes). She was also an amazing serious actress, as her performance in the movie Ordinary People demonstrated. But Mary the fixture of Saturday nights was a beacon of calm in a roiling culture,,, calmly depicting discussion of issues raging in the real world of the 1970's, particularly issues affecting the changing role of women, amidst the still-formulaic world of television... reality in art, long before any remaining value of the television medium was sucked away in the cesspool known as "reality television," which in turn has blessed us with the elevation of... well, never mind.
Those who know me know that I'm barely passed the one-year mourning period following my father's death, and in the last year, lost two of my friends of his vintage (and Ms. Moore herself was born just four months before my father). And all of this transpires against a maelstrom of national madness that a minority of our countrymen have inflicted on us. And it's not as if we were starting from a great place, either. And so, one must somehow continue to hold it together.
Time marches on, I know. Another icon of a key part of my life (and those of my contemporaries) passes on. It's the way of the world. Hang in there: you're going to make it after all.
We must remember that it was only the media that first gave us Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in the first place(how often can you report "superdelegates" in the count as real delegates...apparently as often as it takes). And then, it locked in our current predicament when it gave us Donald Trump as the Republican nominee (letting him be on all the talk shows without even showing up while the other candidates had to pay for ads... and don't forget his gratuitous Saturday Night Live appearance as guest host, a privilege no other candidate of either party was afforded.) And not to be outdone, said media breathlessly reported a series of meaningless internal campaign emails which showed up on Wikileaks (as a result of either an internal leak or an external hack) as if they were the most important news story ever, thereby, despite his unbelievable offensiveness (describing how he committed rape, insulting service members, including fallen heroes and Gold Star families, Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, and the list goes on)... the media ended up allowing an avowed television huckster and charlatan, utterly unfit for the presidency by experience or temperament, to assume that office over a former secretary of state and senator (and First Lady) who certainly had "issues," but among them was not being outright unfit, whether for reasons of experience or temperament (and quite possibly being mentally unstable).
And now that the media has gifted us with Mr. Trump as President, it is doing its damndest to maximize his "effectiveness" (if by effectiveness, we mean how quickly he can dismantle any function of government designed to check powerful moneyed interests of any kind in order to preserve the health and safety of the population at large) by doing exactly what it did in the campaign. And that, of course, is salivating every time Mr. Trump rings a bell. Currently, the bell tone is Mr. Trump's twin insistence that more people attended his inauguration than attended Barack Obama's and that he only lost the popular vote as a result of between three and five million illegal immigrants casting votes for Mrs. Clinton. Because both of these contentions are not merely easily disproved, but are facially absurd, the eager doggies of the press have locked on to both of them, and just won't let go. And yes, it's certainly interesting that the President has devoted the first few days of his administration to disseminating lies that his Bond villain gal Friday helpfully calls "alternative facts," at no point do any of the doggies drop the bone (you see, like me, these doggies can also talk) and ask, "Hey wait a minute... you're doing this for a reason... and why might that be?"
My good friend and nom de russe Donald J. Putin, has recently discovered twitter for the only possible use that makes any sense, i.e., hit and run parody. Comrade Donald J.P. tries to point out stories each day that the media is soft-pedaling while Rome burns (we seem to have both Nero and Caligula in the Emperor's spot at the same time), as it plays with itself and follows the most obvious Trump lies with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, as Mr. Trump, his party and their minions, steal from, and undermine what's left of, this republic right from under us, obvious stories and their implications are simply left on the table by media ineptitude.
The thing is, this is actually the perfect time to learn some shockingly well-kept secrets that shouldn't be secrets, i.e., just what the hell it is that our government actually does, and what will happen to us when, thanks to Mr. Trump, his party and their minions, government no longer does those things. Obviously, Mr. Trump's first order of business is ordering government employees not to talk to the public who pays for their employment-- a measure that his good friend Vladimir Putin (or perhaps, Kim Jong Un, for whom he has expressed admiration) would give their own personal approval. That said, we might expect some government employees for whom this does not sit well to engage in leaks, and even if not, we can certainly explore the question of what these government agencies are actually supposed to do, in the face of direct orders not to do it, and have the public debate over the function of government that we seem to have been denied for decades.
The irony is that it is Mr. Trump himself who showed us that we do not need media gatekeepers to have these discussions. While rising to command the ultimate in top-down hierarchies, the United States government, Mr. Trump ostensibly used "new media" tactics, primarily Twitter and his own personal appearances. Interestingly, this was the same way-- via a social media suggestion gone viral-- that got millions of women (and quite a few men) to take to the streets just one day after Trump's inauguration.
While I'm not suggesting that it will be successful in bringing down Mr. Trump's government, or even in keeping it particularly accountable, I will say that it could "change the story." Maybe it will take a year, or two, or four, or even eight. But the story has to change: let's see what happens when dedicated, hard-working highly skilled government-employed experts, whose job it is to make sure that we and our children aren't poisoned or defrauded or abused or that we can safely get from point A to B or whatever else their function is... suddenly can't do their jobs out of a well-established and extraordinarily profitable ideology. Blame that on the Democrats; I'm betting that a better story-- the actual story-- that a few fat cats who, ideologically, just want their fellow human beings to suffer for no reason other than that they enjoy it and they enjoy being higher on a hierarchymight just emerge as a narrative.
Will Hillary's emails still be so important in such an environment? The overall story has to change. Otherwise, Einstein's definition of insanity-- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results-- will continue to be the order of the day. If it's up to Pavlov's media lapdogs, we're screwed. A few intrepid members of the media will certainly move beyond the bullshit... but this is mostly up to us.
Final GTMO census number under now former President Barack Obama... forty-one men were handed off to the tender mercies of [gak] President Donald Trump, as of his inauguration mid-day on January 20. Andy, nearing the end of his American post-reality reality tour here has more on the ten men recently released to Oman.
And so we have a challenge...and an opportunity. As Andy and GTMO attorney Tom Wilner recently noted in an op-ed in NY's Daily News, at this census level, it costs around $10 million per prisoner each year... an insane amount of money simply to continue a pointless injustice. It would be a bizarre "only Nixon could go to China" development if Trump manages to shove the actual closing of Guantanamo through a Republican Congress. Not how you bet- but an opportunity. IMHO, people of goodwill were all too often stymied by Obama being notionally "on our side". It made getting public traction quite difficult.
Nothing will likely happen in the short run-- obviously, the rush for transfers comes to an end, and the Obama Administration itself has been oh so helpful in shutting down any legal options for detainees. Trump has threatened to "fill Guantanamo up with bad dudes," whatever that means.
But Guantanamo is still an insane expense, an insane moral stain on this nation, and will, hopefully, be a source of irritation to Team Trump, as, I hope, genuine left-wing opposition becomes a thing again. The concept of someone "who cannot be tried but is too dangerous to release" is anathema to an allegedly free country bound by the rule of law... but that is what GTMO is. But 26 men still fit that definition, including Candace's client Saeed Bakhouche, and have no recourse save executive whim; the courts have abrogated any responsibility over them. And five more are "cleared for release"-- some for as long as eight years in that status-- and yet... we the USA taxpayers will shell out $50 million a year to continue to hold them. And then we hold ten alleged terrorist kingpins as "high value detainees" subject to military commission trials at incredible cost, even though it is almost certain that, if the commission trials ever happen, that any convictions would probably be overturned by real courts.
But the game goes on. We need a better story-- and outrageous cost-- financial and moral-- is as good as any. Facts mean nothing to the American people-- as the obvious facts about the odiousness of the orange-hued cretinous boor we have just handed the presidency too mattered not a whit to millions of voters. They just liked his stories better. And so... the fact, of course, is that most of the men at Guantanamo are not, and have never been "terrorists"-- and the fact that only three have been "convicted" even by the flawed commissions tells you all you need to know. Indeed, they represent only about five per cent of the men who have cycled through the place, and again, five are "cleared" as it is, and, assuming the review process set up by Obama continues, we could assume more would be "cleared." And maybe "cleared" will lead to "transferred." Will any of this happen?
There's the challenge. I for one aren't giving up. Who's with me?
Given that we have the twitter President, at this point, I can only direct you to the twitter site of my good friend, Donald J. Putin.
With the new regime, we have to take it literally, but not seriously. Whatever that means.
With barely 72 hours or so left in his Administration, President Barack Obama announced a commutation of the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. From the Grey Lady:
President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.
At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also pardoned Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration has prosecuted either nine or 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.
In addition, Mr. Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations, mostly for drug offenders.
Under the terms of the commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place for Ms. Manning to live after her release.
The commutation also relieved the Defense Department of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery, that the military has no experience providing.
But the move was sharply criticized by several prominent Republicans, including the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees, Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who called her leaks “espionage” and said they had put American troops and the country at risk.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan called it “outrageous.” “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” he said in a statement.
But in a joint statement, Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward — two lawyers who have been representing Ms. Manning in appealing her conviction and sentence, and who filed the commutation application — praised the decision.
Oh... ten Guantanamo prisoners were released to Oman. No details on names and nationalities are forthcoming, but this transfer reduces the GTMO census from 55 to 45... will that be the number handed off to incoming President
Voldemort Cohn Trump? We will see,
Meanwhile, it seems, the Cockwork Orange continues to play out his pro-wrestler-heel fantasies... and in three days, from the squared circle known as the Oval Office.
And we're off. In an interview with the German publication Bild and London's Times, the president-elect suggested that the NATO alliance was "obsolete," that only five members (there are twenty-eight total members) are "paying their fair share," he praised the Brexit vote, called the EU a device for Germany's benefit to impose its will on the rest of Europe, and he threatened to impose import duties on BMW if it locates a plant in Mexico, as it proposes. He also suggested he wants a deal with Russia, to reduce nuclear weapons and to eliminate sanctions. He chided German chancellor Angela Merkel for her refugee policy (there's a surprise), noting he believed it a "catastrophic mistake."
And he's not even going to take office for five more days. Here's the thing: this is actually pretty consistent with what he campaigned on. And there is an interesting national debate that would not be inappropriate, as to the appropriateness of our contribution to NATO (which Mr. Trump unsurprisingly is overstating) and indeed, the appropriateness of our involvement in an alliance with other states that are in a far better position to defend themselves than they were in the aftermath of World War II. The bigger question is whether the United States's overall massive defense footprint and expenditures are actually required for our own security, or whether we should scale back in light of both world geopolitical conditions and our own financial situation. Seriously... why should all aspects of our present policies be taken on sheer faith? Same with the EU-- though that is the EU members' business-- as to whether they believe that trade accord is in their interest. That is, it is not Mr. Trump's business.
And import duties on a non-American company choosing to locate its operations in Mexico presents a host of troubling issues (including whether he has the authority to do it on this basis). But again, maybe "a businessman" (even a terrible one like Mr. Trump) might correctly ask why we don't have a national industrial policy? Maybe he's not answering correctly-- but it is somewhat refreshing to see someone asking this kind of question.
Obviously, if his "policy positions" are being driven by his personal financial ties to the Russian state and Russian oligarchs in particular, rather than by actual personal conviction that this is sound policy (a virtual certainty, as Mr. Trump believes in nothing besides his personal aggrandizement)... then we have some deadly serious issues (of a national security nature) in allowing him to proceed. But I am not saying that, in isolation of Mr. Trump's wholly inappropriate motives (some might call them-- correctly-- treasonous), that the policy direction he seems to be proposing is not worthy of debate, and possibly even implementation.
All this said, none of this means that this man who is entirely unfit to be president is not to be opposed, consistently, and vociferously, at every turn, unless and until he behaves in an appropriate manner. Which means, he will likely need to be opposed consistently and vociferously.
It's the 15th anniversary of the opening of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba today; Andy is stateside, and, when not sojourning at Stately Dog Manor, is down in Washington, where I will be as well, protesting near the Supreme Court (festivities start 11:30 a.m., for those able to join...)
Obviously, none of us really know what the next Administration will bring... but, in matters GTMO, drone, indefinite detention, war/peace, etc.... it's not like we don't have "issues" with the current Administration. Just sayin'.
The Associated Press (btw, thanks AP for handing the nomination to Hillary and hence, the presidency to
Voldemort Trump), via ABC, tells us that the president-elect seems to be moving at glacial pace (or not at all) towards divesting his far-flung corporate empire into any kind of "blind trust" prior to the inauguration.
Regular readers (whomever you are) know from a post just yesterday that Mr. Trump himself is deeply in bed with and/or in hock to Russian and Chinese entities. Aside from the possibility (or probability) that unwinding his own actual interests (as opposed to notional interests) might demonstrate once and for all that he is actually insolvent (he has a history of being a terrible, terrible businessperson), such unwinding might also unmask some of the shadowy arrangements he has made. And that would be both bad for bid'ness, and from Mr. Trump's perspective, probably bad for health as well.
In short, we can count on Mr. Trump to truly do what few politicians manage to do: he will stay bought. Yes, it seems somewhat problematic that his personal obligations to instruments of states usually considered hostile to this one to some degree or other might "influence policy"... but... but... Hillary's emails.