aesthetics

The Pruitt Watch (#WhatTheyVotedFor)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Skyhobo, 2009)

Miserable: Jonathan Swan offers a glimpse “Inside Scott Pruitt’s ‘miserable’ bunker”, and what is unbelievable about the article is that it might be written at all. Starting with the incendiary report from The Atlantic about intracabinet political attacks and the typical Axios brief on “why this matters”—approximately that for whatever reasons, Administrator Pruitt still has his job—but then lays an ugly string of points from “behind the scenes”, starting with the idea that EPA senior staff apparently being surprised by a photo of the Administrator at lunch with “members of his team” emerging in a lobbyist’s tweet.

Gravity is gravity; the slope is uncertain, but something about downhill goes here.

• Over the last few months, Pruitt has walled himself off from all but five EPA political appointees: ​Millan Hupp, Sarah Greenwalt, Hayley Ford, Lincoln Ferguson, and Wilcox. Of those five, only Wilcox is over 30. Hupp, Greenwalt and Ferguson came with Pruitt from Oklahoma. Wilcox is the only press aide Pruitt appears to trust.

• Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, runs the agency’s operations but rarely knows where his boss is. Pruitt has frozen Jackson out of his inner circle—a disaster for a chief of staff. Pruitt and Jackson don’t trust each other, multiple sources told me.

• “All of us have been frozen out over time,” one EPA political appointee told me. “It’s absolutely unreal working here. Everyone’s miserable. Nobody talks. It’s a dry wall prison.”

And the band plays on as EPA tumbles down the rabbit hole: “Pruitt never trusted the EPA’s career staff”, writes Swan, and the understatement about the sentence is nearly unavoidable; the point is highlight the Administrator having “frozen out” political appointees as administrative paranoia apparently grows and staff morale similarly continues its plummet.

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Rudy’s Bizarre Adventure

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 19 July 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

In truth, the problem with calling Rudy Giuliani the gift that keeps on giving is not the fact of its politic, but, rather the disaster that statement represents. Caroline Orr, for instance, noted yesterday—

Speaking about the Mueller probe, Rudy Giuliani tells Judge Jeanine: “Maybe they think Manafort’s somebody they can flip faster.”

… hence implying that Manafort has incriminating evidence on Trump that would give him leverage to flip.

—and that ought to be hilarious except for the fact that it is real. And toward a certain political objection we might simply note that regardless of aesthetics and sincerely held beliefs, there really are investigations afoot, and one of President Trump’s attorneys really is putting on some extraordinary manner of flaming excremental spectacle.

The lede from Zeke Miller for Associated Press is striking insofar as it is a lawyer saying it instead of some conservative pundit on cable news—and, sure, go ahead and make the obvious point about Rudy Giuliani as a pundit, but what, really, is anyone to actually do with it?—but then we also face the prospect that this is an attorney for the President of the United States, which ought to be significant in and of itself even before begging the question of a sitting president pleading the Fifth:

President Donald Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, won’t rule out the possibility that the president would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the swirling Russia investigation.

“How could I ever be confident of that?” the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Giuliani said despite Trump’s openness to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller, he would strongly advise Trump against it.

“I’m going to walk him into a prosecution for perjury like Martha Stewart?” Giuliani said. Stewart was convicted in 2004 of lying to investigators and obstruction in an insider trading case.

Giuliani suggested that Trump wouldn’t necessarily comply with a subpoena from Mueller, but he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the president sitting for an interview with Mueller.

“He’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani said. “We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”

That last is, technically, true; many critics will rightly point out it is also functionally meaningless; asserting privilege is different from actually exercising them insofar as one must make the assertion stick, and history does in fact seem clear on this point, which in turn means invoking and asserting a constitutional right: The President of the United States will not convey any true information that would incriminate him.    (more…)

¿Normalization?

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.

The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”

The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”

What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.

This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.

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The Beltway Way (Moneygoround Mix)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL15). (Detail of photo by David Banks/Bloomberg)

We get a glimpse into the Beltway moneygoround; Curtis Tate looks into Congressional PAC spending:

The leadership political action committee affiliated with Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois has splurged on Napa Valley wine tours, Miami Beach luxury hotels and Washington Nationals baseball tickets worth tens of thousands of dollars over the past four years, federal campaign disclosures show.

The nine-term Republican represents a coal-producing region of southern Illinois and frequently speaks in defense of fossil fuels as a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But earlier this year, his John S Fund PAC put down a deposit for a fundraising event at a California spa hotel that’s powered by solar panels.

PACs are lightly regulated entities that members of Congress typically use as fundraising tools for their party, but not for their own campaigns.

The McClatchy report notes Rep. Shimkus (R-IL15) is not uncommon: “Most senior lawmakers with PACs spend at least some of the money on perks their salaries don’t cover”, Tate explains. Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics calls the PACs “a nice little piggybank to have”, explaining, “There are so few restrictions on how you can use it.”

The thing is that the story really is just a glimpse; the whole thing sounds sordid but in this framework it is a matter of aesthetics versus law, and the question of how to make these things work just right is pretty much as complicated as any other question of freedom versus civilized society as a suicide pact. That is to say, good luck electing a Congress that will get rid of the things; the Supreme Court is pretty much a wildcard, though we can easily guess it would be something of a stretch to imagine the judiciary banning these practices outright. And, really, just how badly will society and its political institutions fail at not being undignified if we hold a big sit-down in the public discourse and parse out the details of what is or isn’t acceptable?

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The Way of the Internet

Detail of frames from 'People react to being called beautiful', a 2015 short film by Shea Glover.  Source image via Danisius at BoredPanda.com.

‘Tis a crying shame I didn’t see Danisius’ post at Bored Panda about Shea Glover’s “beautiful” video; it’s an interesting idea.

Unfortunately, the video was first shown to me by an associate in defense of street harassment.

Too bad about that; I’m pretty sure advocating for sexual harrassment was not what the filmmaker intended.

Then again, I could be wrong.

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Bored Panda. “Student Captures What Happens When People Are Told They Are Beautiful”. BoredPanda.com. 4 December 2015.

Glover, Shea. “People react to being called beautiful”. YouTube. 27 May 2015.

The Supremacist’s Lament

Zombie Republic: The Demon Sisters cope with the results of their plan.  (Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 8, '… Of the Dead')

“Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.”

Win Johnson

The disgraceful derby scrambling in the wake of Obergefell has yet to settle out; with presidential candidates struggling to find ways to evade the U.S. Constitution, or taking up the notion of just calling the whole marriage thing off, an Alabama attorney named Win Johnson has appealed to Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to opt out of the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Johnson, for his part, is a state official, a director at the Administrative Office of Courts, which in turn oversees the courts for state Chief Justice Roy Moore.

It seems a striking letter; Charles J. Dean reported, for AL.com:

In harsh words and a lecturing tone, a lawyer who works for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has written a letter seemingly directed at Gov. Robert Bentley rebuking him for saying Alabama will obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal.

More appropriately, it really is a striking letter, so wild-eyed and seemingly irresponsible that the Souther Poverty Law Center has called for Johnson’s resignation.

And let us be clear; part of the problem with excerpting the letter is that the whole thing really is a show and a half. Christian supremacism, abdication of duty, rejection of the Constitution, and hey, even a Godwin violation just to hit for the cycle. Again, let us be clear: All for hatred in Jesus’ name, amen.

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The Value of Their Values

Lebanon ... and Hei (top), in thought (lower left), and mourning (lower right).  Details of frames from 'Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor'.

Speaking of incoherent, sputtering rage, because, well, nobody actually was, we do have this sort of sputtering, incoherent something to either amuse or distress or merely distract us:

The Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver is behind a new online petition asking supporters to reject a potential Supreme Court decision if justices vote in favor of making it unconstitutional for states to prohibit same-sex marriage.

“The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage,” which Staver co-authored with Deacon Keith Fournier of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, defines marriage as “ontologically between one man and one woman” and “not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason.”

Although specifics of how the pledge will be enacted are scarce, the authors nonetheless ask supporters “to stand together to defend marriage for what it is, a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children.”

(Wong)

Of course the specifics are scarce; they’re supposed to be when one is scratching around for straws to build a wall.

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