Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Friday, September 29, 2017

More On Our Intrepid Moose Hunter

Over at the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca gave his (much better written) angle on my little conspiracy theory from earlier in the week:

Why wouldn't Junior talk about what he "bagged" on the trip? It makes sense to ask, especially given his history of clandestine meetings with, say, Russians. And why would it be a problem for Junior if at least one Secret Service agent tagged along on such a mundane hunting trip?
Hell, at the end of the day, it might've been just what it appeared to be. Occam's Razor would lead us to that conclusion. But the absence of a requisite entourage of federal agents adds a layer of suspicion, given how his Secret Service protection was reinstated days later without explanation. Naturally, then, we have no choice but to wonder whether Junior met with someone more nefarious than a big ass moose that he summarily executed just to watch it die -- someone who the Secret Service might object to on numerous grounds. And if he met with someone on the trip, was that person's name spelled with Cyrillic characters?

Yes, so maybe Junior was really hunting moose. But also squirrel! An artist's rendition (credit to Andy Marlette at the Pensacola News Journal):

At the advice of TenGrain, I looked into the whereabouts of the Russian attendees of DJT, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner's June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where they discussed "adoption," to see where they might have been last week.

One of those attendees was Russian pop star and friend of the Trump family, Emin Agalarov. When I Googled him, I found this article, hot off the presses from Mother Jones:

The Embassy of Azerbaijan is touting a meeting last week between the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and President Donald Trump. In fact, while Aliyev may have merely posed for a photograph with the president and their wives while attending a reception Trump hosted at the outset of the UN’s General Assembly, the photo is valuable for Aliyev—and awkward for Trump.
It’s not just that Aliyev is jailing journalists while deflecting accusations of vote-rigging, kleptocracy, and international bribery. (Leaders who do that sort of thing don’t seem to faze Trump.) It’s also that Aliyev himself has multiple connections to Trump’s own scandals.
Aliyev’s daughter, Leyla Aliyeva, who posted a picture of the presidents on her Instagram account shortly before drawing mockery for making faces and taking selfies while her father delivered a speech on genocide, is the ex-wife of Emin Agalarov, the pop singer son of Aras Agalarov, a billionaire Russian real estate magnate.

The timing of this is almost surely a coincidence, but the Trumps never seem to be far from corrupt Russians.

Bottom line on this: At this point, I feel like everything with these fuckers has to be looked at through a #TrumpRussia lens until proven otherwise. It pissed me off that the New York Times (with which I've made my displeasure known many times) made it a personal interest story -- "Oh, he disappeared without the Secret Service and no one knew where he was... how interesting and funny it was moose hunting!" Fuck that. We're beyond presuming innocence, because every time I give the Trumps the benefit of the doubt, it turns out to be undeserved.

For the love of all that is holy, I hope Bob Mueller had this fucker tailed last week.

UPDATE (10/1/2017, 11:36 AM EST): Welcome, C&L readers! @ me on Twitter at @tgconsolidation if you have thoughts on this...

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Hotel Rio

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Moose Hunting, My Ass

So, as the story goes, Fontange Fuhrer (TM Ari) Junior ditched his Secret Service protection for privacy reasons:

Donald Trump Jr. had his Secret Service protection restored this week after briefly giving up the protection for a hunting trip in the Canadian wilderness.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump Jr. was ditching his security detail for unknown reasons, but noted Trump Jr. was seeking more privacy.

For a few days, nobody knew where he was. He's now turned back up and has his security detail back. But where was he?

It turns out, according to a reporter for New York Times Magazine, that Trump Jr. was leaving the Secret Service behind so he could be alone during a hunting trip in Canada's Yukon Territory. The reporter, Luke Dittrich, spotted Trump Jr. at the airport in Yukon's capital city after receiving a tip from a friend, and detailed his exchange with him in an article published on Wednesday. 

I don't know if anyone's noted this yet, but the Yukon Territory is not just remote; from the porch of his hunting lodge, Junior Dunce could see Sarah Palin on her porch watching Russia.

I'd put better than even money on the "hunting trip" being something much more sinister.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Prescience Coupled With Coincidence

In 1951, a philosopher named Eric Hoffer published a book on extremism entitled The True Believer. I'd never heard of it until recently, but somehow had made a close personal connection to this particular title (I can't go into it, but it's weird). I'd been given a copy of the book a couple of months back. I finally got around to reading it this weekend on an airplane. The True Believer was written in the wake of the Holocaust and during some of the worst of Stalin's atrocities, and Hoffer wrote it with that in mind. But of course history repeats itself, or rhymes, or whatever, and I was going to share a couple of quotes I thought were apropos yesterday, but didn't get around to it. Anyway, here's one:

The traitor is usually a fanatic -- radical or reactionary -- who goes over to the enemy in order to hasten the downfall of a world he loathes. Most of the traitors in the Second World War came from the extreme right. "There seems to be a thin line between violent, extreme nationalism and treason."

Sounds about right.

Here's where this gets freaky. Yesterday, I picked up the book I really wanted to read (though I of course wish it didn't have to exist), What Happened -- Hillary Clinton's post-mortem on the election (and a lot more). I began reading it tonight, and found that I wasn't the only one that found the book relevant. From page 10, where Hillary gives some context to the America in which she campaigned in 2016:

I hadn't been blind to the power of this anger. During the campaign, Bill and I both went back and reread The True Believer, Eric Hoffer's 1951 exploration of the psychology behind fanaticism and mass movements, and I shared it with my senior staff. On the campaign trail, I offered ideas that I believed would address many of the underlying causes of discontent and help make life better for all Americans, But I couldn't -- and wouldn't -- compete to stoke people's rage and resentment. I think that's dangerous. It helps leaders who want to take advantage of that rage to hurt people rather than help them. Besides, it's just not how I'm wired.
Maybe that's why Trump was now delivering the inaugural address and I was sitting in the crowd.

She understood the ugliness she was up against. It took the aforementioned right-wing treason to put it over the top.

Back to Hoffer:

The fanatic who personifies this phase is usually an unattractive human type. He is ruthless, self-righteous, credulous, disputatious, petty, and rude."

Remind you of anyone?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Emboldening White Collar Criminals

In 2002, hot on the heels of the most aggressive deregulatory moves in fifteen years, the Bush Administration opened the doors for egregious risk taking and poor bookkeeping by three large corporations: Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom. While the CEOs were punished with fines and brief jail time, the deregulation continued on for years -- until everything came crashing down in 2007.

Jump ahead another decade and here we are in 2017 with the broadest financial scandal in history, one that brings back memories of Enron. The Equifax data breach affected 143 million American consumers -- largely because someone thought it would be a good idea to set the username and password for the network admin to: admin, admin respectively.

But sloppy security only scratches at the surface.  Apparently Equifax had been hacked twice, with the most recent hack coming in March 2017, nearly six months prior to their news release. What took them so long to announce the hack? Equifax executives were busy dumping $1.8 million in their stock holdings:
It’s the stock sales by several executives that are likely to get the most scrutiny in light of the new timeline. On Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, regulatory filings show that three senior Equifax executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million, with none of the filings listing the transactions as being part of scheduled 10b5-1 trading plans. Equifax’s Chief Financial Officer John Gamble sold shares worth $946,374; Joseph Loughran, president of U.S. information solutions, exercised options to dispose of stock worth $584,099; and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold $250,458 of stock.
And from today's Twitter Moment: 
This goes beyond insider trading.  Doing the math, those three executives sold out 143,000,000 people to avoid losing $235,000 in stock value.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Do We Need a Recall Process?

I just undertook a relatively spontaneous week to detox from a number of things... I did a three day news cleanse (no food), a six day overall nutrition cleanse (no non-plant-based and few processed foods), a five day liver cleanse (no alcohol), and a week-long brain cleanse (no politics, and especially, no Trump!).

I pulled it off somehow, but in the same way I came back from those cleanses somehow not craving meat, cheese, carbs, fat, and alcohol, I find myself today returning to the internet with still very little desire to read or watch anything about politics and can't even look at Trump's face. We'll see if I can ease my way back into it, and if I can't, I might turn this blog back into its original topic -- the consolidation of industry, money, and power in this country, which did get some attention a week or so ago.

After getting back to the news late last night, the only thing that stood out to me (beyond the hurricanes) was Ta-Nahisi Coates' latest piece for the Atlantic on race relations:
In a recent New Yorker article, a former Russian military officer pointed out that interference in an election could succeed only where “necessary conditions” and an “existing background” were present. In America, that “existing background” was a persistent racism, and the “necessary condition” was a black president. The two related factors hobbled America’s ability to safeguard its electoral system. As late as July 2016, a majority of Republican voters doubted that Barack Obama had been born in the United States, which is to say they did not view him as a legitimate president. Republican politicians acted accordingly, infamously denying his final Supreme Court nominee a hearing and then, fatefully, refusing to work with the administration to defend the country against the Russian attack. Before the election, Obama found no takers among Republicans for a bipartisan response, and Obama himself, underestimating Trump and thus underestimating the power of whiteness, believed the Republican nominee too objectionable to actually win. In this Obama was, tragically, wrong. And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.
The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off “moderate” whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

Coates is right -- Trump's "appeal" (as it were) has been to white resentment, and his voters love it. Racism is still rampant, and today it's more apparent than it had been in a couple of decades.

However, I'm not 100% discouraged -- 10 months ago, we came 70,000-odd votes from electing a Democrat for the third term in a row since the '40s. The Obama presidency was an incredible success, and without Republican cheating that involved serious treachery, some missteps by the FBI, and/or voter suppression, Hillary Clinton is in the White House, with a mandate to build on Obama's accomplishments. Frankly, we were within reach of having as many as eight Democratic terms in the White House in a row. During that span since 1992, each Democrat that has won has done so fairly easily:

  • 1992: Clinton by 5.8 million votes and 202 electoral votes
  • 1996: Clinton by 8.2 million votes and 220 electoral votes
  • 2008: Obama by 9.5 million votes and 192 electoral votes
  • 2012: Obama by 5 million and 126 electoral votes

While not so for the Republicans:

  • 2000: Bush *lost* the popular vote and won by 5 electoral votes
  • 2004: Bush by 3 million votes and 35 electoral votes
  • 2016: Trump *lost* the popular vote by 2.9 million votes and won by 77 electoral votes (and many of those states when to him by tiny margins)

Prior to 1992, Reagan-Reagan-Bush slaughtered their Democratic opponents. So, while he Republicans have gotten very openly racist again and it certainly helps them among whites, they're still trending downwards at the presidential level to the point that when they do win, it's always controversial (and two of those three elections were definitely stolen and a third very suspicious).

When Democratic Presidents have been elected since 1992, they stayed in office relatively easily for two terms. Both Clinton and Obama won reelection by at least 5 million votes. They entered office popular, endured insidious beatdowns by the Republicans that hurt their approval ratings for a stretch of their presidency, but left office fairly popular (and in Obama's case, much more shortly after).

Republicans lose their shine within months of the beginning of their terms (Bush was in the low 40s on September 10, 2001, and Trump is historically unpopular for someone this early.

Additionally, two of those narrow three Republican "wins" happened on the back of a sudden spike in a political environmental factor favoring them. 2004 was really a war year and also would've gone against Bush if it weren't for the groundswell against gay marriage (yes, that was really a thing!) because of anti-gay marriage legislation on the ballots in many states. In 2016, the Comey letter torpedoed Clinton unexpectedly for two weeks. It's been said by Nate Silver and others that Clinton would've won had the election been held on October 25th. I'd also assert that if the election had been held on November 25th (which is an egregious counterfactual because that wasn't a Tuesday, but it works rhetorically), she would've won, as well. The Comey "retraction" happened on November 6th and never got time to register with voters.

Nothing in particular happened at the last minute to tilt Clinton to reelection in 1996 or Obama in 2012, and the 1992 and 2008 recessions turned elections that were already leaning towards the Democrat into a Democratic landslide.

The trend appears to be in our favor. The problem is, that unlike in in many other countries (and a number of U.S. states), we lack the ability for the to recall a President at the popular level. The end result is that the length of a President's term has no ability to correlate with a President's long-term job performance and a premium is placed more on the equivalent of a political insulin spike rather than keeping the populace properly fed (both literally and figuratively) over a longer span of time. To use a metaphor that's morbidly apropos, the odds of a Republican hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. are less likely than a nice spell of Democratic sunny days, but the citizens on the coast get the exact length of time to rebuild their homes as the hurricane does to destroy them. That's not a recipe for much, if any, new construction. Or, in the real world, constructiveness. It's a wonder we ever make any progress at all. It would be really helpful if we could shorten the length of those storms. 2020 and 2024 will tell us whether our political oceans are cooling (going "blue") or warming (going "red"). If we had a way to fix our impulsive mistakes in the middle of a term, I think we'd be far better off. I'd posit that there'd be a good chance Trump would be recalled if there were a recall election held today.

In the meantime, I find myself wondering whether, as one person who values his sanity, I should ride this out in the storm cellar with less awareness of what's going on in the rest of the world, or whether I should stay above ground trying to scream for someone to save me ("Barack? Mr. Comey? Mr. Mueller? Frau Merkel?") while watching the debris fly dangerously close to my brain...