The Suicide Pact as a Political Argument

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Contemplation of Justice

This is an interesting starting point:

If the Justice Department and the FBI knowingly used an unreliably biased witness to win a FISA warrant against Carter Page, violating his civil liberties in the process, you would therefore expect that there are some judges on the FISC who are concerned. They, after all, are the ones who were misled. They are the ones who signed warrants and renewals based on shoddy information. Conversely, if the judges on the FISC are not hopping mad, you might take that as evidence that they don’t, in fact, feel misled and that the Justice Department and FBI conduct was, after all, reasonably within the obligations of lawyers and investigators before the court.


One particularly difficult aspect of the #TrumpRussia scandal is the manner in which the context of dispute overshadows history itself. It is telling, in comparison, that Democrats have come to defend and advocate the individual mandate, but also that Republicans and conservatives turned on their own idea; at some point, we ought to take the note about insincerity. It has, for years, also been true that a liberal political relationship to law enforcement is fraught, to say the least; but it is also true that conservatives have simultaneously drummed up tough law-and-order talk while relying more and more on conspiracy theories denigrating and defaming law enforcement institutions. Naturally, the allegedly liberal party finds itself defending the law enforcement agency and agent that, to the one, undertook irregular actions wrecking the Democratic presidential candidate, and that alone ought to be boggling. To the other, if we set aside Donald Trump for a moment, the FBI is also the agency that reviews its own duty-related killings, and has found itself to be perfect, something like a hundred fifty out of a hundred fifty. Given a day in court to indict all the sleazy tactics of a powerfully effective eugenic “drug war” any liberal would find the FBI in line to defend the necessity of allowing law enforcement to behave that way. Yet the spectacle continues apace, with Republicans hollering until they wheeze and Democrats breathlessly defending one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies on the planet. Without this extraordinary, self-inflicted presidential scandal requiring our priority, what is up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, anyway? Federal law enforcement is still law enforcement.

Just as Democrats finding themselves rallying to defend the individual mandate ought to be significant of something about how we reached this point, or Jade Helm leaving liberals to consider posturing an ostensible general defense of the American military; or, if we can remember back to 2009, the conservative roll from patriotism and the indignity of protesting against the president to the patriotic necessity of threatening the president with firearms; or, hey, we might consider decades of conservative conspiracism including the National Rifle Association, and then wonder whether it will be law enforcement or the military confiscating the guns; so, too, might we wonder at the trend of conservatives behaving so badly that others need to do their jobs for them.



What They Voted For: Swampstyle

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

Ital Vardi brings this wonderful bit of news for the Huffington Post:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is a shareholder in a private Montana company that manufactures and sells firearms and advanced weapons materials, a financial interest he did not disclose when nominated last year.

In response to inquiries from HuffPost, both Zinke and the company, PROOF Research Inc., confirmed the secretary’s holdings, though the dollar value placed on them varied. This previously undisclosed holding comes to light after numerous decisions in his first year in office that benefited the hunting and gun industries.

PROOF Research Inc. was first established in 2011 in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana, under the name Extreme Precision Armaments Inc., according to state of Montana business records. The company specializes in the production of lightweight rifles with high-precision carbon fiber barrels for hunting and military applications and was born as a merger of four smaller firearms and gun parts companies. It later changed its name to PROOF Research Inc. and moved to the nearby town of Columbia Falls.

According to the company’s website, its facility in Columbia Falls produces “the world’s finest composite barrels, stocks, and complete rifles.” A second facility in Dayton, Ohio, makes specialized high-temperature composite materials for the aerospace and defense industries, including components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and B-2 stealth bomber.

Obvious questions present themselves, but there is also something inherently clownish about the brazen stupidity of the omission, and given everything else, Steve Benen’s point last week, that the “Interior Secretary can’t seem to stay out of trouble”, resonates anew. There is also some impulse to raise an eyebrow at the seeming strangeness of a small firearms firm with such specialized defense-industry pedigree.


Disaster, Dreaming

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Steve Benen, on the obvious:

As I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has agreed to a vote on an immigration bill, and unlike before, he won’t wait for Donald Trump’s guidance on the subject. If a comprehensive proposal isn’t ready by Feb. 8, today’s agreement says a DACA bill will get a vote on the Senate floor (though we don’t know precisely which DACA bill).

If you’re thinking, “Won’t McConnell just betray Democrats and refuse to bring up the bill?” that’s certainly possible, though that would practically guarantee another shutdown, for which the Kentucky Republican would be solely responsible.

Alternatively, if you’re thinking, “There’s no reason to assume a Senate-passed bill to protect Dreamers will pass the House,” you’re right to be concerned. But Democrats aren’t exactly negotiating from a position of strength right now, and they feel like they have no choice but to pursue incremental steps.

In the meantime, they’re taking CHIP off the table for the next six years, securing a key progressive priority. If there’s another shutdown on the horizon—a distinct possibility—Republicans won’t be able to hold children’s health care hostage.

Heads: McConnell backs out entirely, just walking away for his own reasons. Tails: The DACA vote is to table whatever DACA bill comes to hand.


The Man of the Hour

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The triple-bylined exclusive from The Daily Beast opens like sublime comedy:

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus.

The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.

Puti TootsBurck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe ....

(Woodruff, Markay, and Suebsaeng)

To the one, this ought to be in some manner artistically appreciable; to the other, we cannot reiterate enough that as much as Mr. Bannon needs to testify under oath, and about more than simply his time with the Trump campaign, neither, really, can he be trusted. That is to say, spectacularly flaming paragon of right-wing cynicism he might be, Steve Bannon not only can be expected to throw the House Intelligence Committee, and thus the entire Beltway, into chaos, but virtually cannot fail to discredit Congressional inquiries into the #TrumpRussia affair.


Something About Dignity and Filthy Mouths (Class Warfare Edition)


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), left, is flanked by House Speaker Ryan (R-WI), right, while signing the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, on Capitol Hill, 18 May 2016, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This is, thematically, more than simply important; it is basically the right-wing game:

Hatch had an opportunity to defend his proposal on the merits and/or explain why he disagreed with the non-partisan assessments, but he chose instead to make this personal. The Utah Republican is apparently under the impression that his upbringing matters, and factual descriptions of his legislation don’t.


This is standard Republican fare; they cannot defend the policy, so they pitch a fit about dignity, instead.

So damn old.

No, really, look, conservatives have this thing, like wanting to talk shit about other people but pretending offense at the notion they have a filthy mouth, and the thing is that in this dualistic societyα, people will line up to the tune of forty to forty-five percent, reflexively, just because. And the rest they can scrabble after, especially if forty-six percent, or so, will win.

What, does nobody remember when the wealthy bawled about class warfare just because Americans elected a black man?

Well, here’s the class warfare they wanted.

No, really, this is #WhatTheyVotedFor.


α Americans are post-Christian, and have thus always been polarized. Left/Right; Liberal/Conservative; Good/Evil; God/Devil; man/woman; white/nonwhite; binary/nonbinary (yes, really); Christian/Everybody Else (yes, really). What is that we hear? Americans are more polarized than ever? That pretty much means we are being ourselves. The functional question—(function/dysfunction)—has to do with juxtaposing the Constitution for ourselves and our posterity against the proverbial suicide pact.

Image note: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), left, is flanked by House Speaker Ryan (R-WI), right, while signing the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, on Capitol Hill, 18 May 2016, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “A senatorial clash that explains what’s wrong with the tax fight”. msnbc. 17 November 2017.

Cheap Sarcasm (w/Apologies to The Hill)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2017. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo/File)

Would someone please correct me, as I’m wrong?

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Friday that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush were referring to President Trump when they warned in separate speeches Thursday about politicians sowing anger and division in the country.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they’ve done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be,” Sanders said. “So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”


The thing is, I’m loath to pick on The Hill, this time around, but perhaps someone accidentally edited out the part where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually quoted or cited former Presidents Bush and Obama when claiming to “take them at their word”.

That is to say, she didn’t just make it up, right?


Required Reading (Justice and Dissent)

[#kneelbeforeJustice]Colin Kaepernick (r.) and Eric Reed kneel during the national anthem before a 2016 NFL game. (Photo: Associated Press)

“Donald Trump took time out from comparing missiles with Kim Jong Un and ignoring Puerto Rico to declare that the athlete who takes a knee is a ‘son of a b***h’ who should be fired for disrespecting America. He was harder on the athletes than on the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville.”

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This is not one of those things where I get to say something like, “What he said!” or, “Plus one!” More directly, we can rest assured my part has something to do with paying the fuck attention.

Dear black people:

I guess we’ve messed up again. Seems like we’re never going to learn how to properly protest, no matter how hard conservatives try to teach us.


Unhinged (Failure)

#failure | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

“Today, our president made his first speech before the UN General Assembly; he called Kim Jong Un, ‘Rocket Man’. He threatened to, quote, ‘totally destroy’, North Korea, and he said big portions of the world are, in his words, ‘going to hell’. He also bragged about his election victory, and the stock market. The president’s chief of staff did not appear to enjoy it, and just in case you thought that was just one bad picture, here’s another one.”

Rachel Maddow

Also of note is a particular question of implications, if the Trump administration is “failing to create diplomatic capacity, or is this them destroying American diplomatic capacity, on purpose, for some other reason”. And while Andrea Mitchell responds by reaffirming the mystery of the question, neither is a reporter of her station supposed to come right out and say it: “I don’t know the reason,” she replied, “other than Rex Tillerson did come in with a mandate to cut fat, and there is fat and bloat anywhere, but this is a rounding error”. The translation, of course, being that this is not how one trims fat or cures bloat. Meanwhile, for news consumers, the point might well have something to do with unfortunate tacitry giving way to the seemingly obvious, such that the question finds explicit voice among the talking hosts and heads we consume.

This is just one of those things that would seem significant of something, somewhere, in some context that really ought to be relevant to us. The hardest question to figure in virtually any context, though, is why the Trump administration would deliberately assail American prestige. And while the #trumpswindle will as the #trumpswindle does, it should seem absurd to wonder if this is really #WhatTheyVotedFor.

Then again, it should have seemed absurd to wonder about the white nationalism, too, and look what that got us.


Image note:White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Trump joins history’s list of unhinged speakers at UN”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 19 September 2017.

Inward Focus (Split Canyon Distraction Mix)


Protesters demonstrate on 16 September 2017 in Tunis against parliament passing an amnesty law for officials accused of corruption under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

There is nearly a joke waiting here—

Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Saturday in the streets of the capital against a widely contested new law that grants officials from the former regime involved in corruption amnesty from prosecution.

Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law protecting officials accused of graft during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, triggering angry protests by the opposition and activists.

Waving flags and banners saying “No to forgiveness”, “Resisting against mafia rule”, around 1,500 people marched through the capital’s central Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the company of opposition leaders.

After months of protests, the law was amended from an original draft which would have also granted amnesty to corrupt businessmen. Now they will be liable to prosecution for crimes committed during Ben Ali’s 24-year rule.


—because it should not be quite so easy for Americans to empathize so proximally.    (more…)

Full Color Horror: Abdul Masood Begum (d. 14 September 2017)


A Rohingya Muslim woman Hanida Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, kisses her infant son Abdul Masood who died when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

This is what you are looking at:

The wooden boat packed with Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar was a few meters (yards) away from shore in Bangladesh on Thursday when it capsized.

AP photographer Dar Yasin says what happened next will haunt him: a young mother’s horrified discovery that her infant son, Abdul Masood, had drowned in the waist-high waters.

Hanida Begum’s wails filled the air as she mourned her dead boy.

She had given birth to twin boys just 40 days ago. Now one was gone.

“She kept on kissing him. She held him and kept kissing his body,” Yasin said.

(Associated Press, “Photo”)

And this is why we see it:

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have been called the world’s most persecuted minority, a people without a country.

In the last two weeks, in numbers estimated to be nearing 300,000, Rohingya have been fleeing for their lives into already-crowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

It is the third such mass exodus in four decades.

An estimated 1 million to 1.2 million people in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine self-identify as Rohingya. The government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, refuses to recognize them as one of the country’s 135 lawful ethnic minorities, instead calling them Bengalis, with the implication that their native land is in Bangladesh and they are illegally settled in Myanmar. They are similarly unwelcome in Bangladesh. What has made the situation particularly dire for the Rohingya was the passage in 1982 of a citizenship law that had the practical effect of making most of them stateless and depriving them of most of their civil rights along with economic opportunities. They are legally restricted in their right to travel, to marry and in the number of children they can have. In practical terms, access to decent education and health care, as well as employment, is also limited.

(Associated Press, “Explains”)


Image note: A Rohingya Muslim woman, Hanida Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, kisses her infant son Abdul Masood who died when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Thursday, 14 September 2017. Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Associated Press. “AP Explains: What’s behind Rohingya exodus from Myanmar”. 10 September 2017.

—————. “AP Photos: A young Rohingya mother’s horrified discovery”. 15 September 2017.