downhill

The Art of the Swamp (Smile Through)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The setup, via Jonathan Chait:

Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)Earlier this month, when Michael Avenatti reported that Michael Cohen’s Delaware shell company received half a million dollars from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch, it looked quite shady. But the firm, Columbus Nova, quickly asserted the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, had only a tangential relationship to it, and had not used it as a conduit to pay Cohen. Columbus Nova released a statement insisting it was “owned and controlled by Americans and not Vekselberg, and denied that Vekselberg had ever owned the company or used it as a conduit for payments.” So maybe it wasn’t a Russian bribe. Maybe it was just an investment firm, which happened to have a large Russian client, looking to get influence with the administration the way many businesses do.

As more information has dribbled out, the innocent explanation has looked less and less plausible.

And the punch line, from the New York Times:

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

(Rashbaum, Protess, and McIntire)

Such as it is, something about gravity goes here. There is a certain point at which it is not so much the notion of everything going downhill from there, but, rather, the appearance of trying to smile through a screaming, flaming plummet into a cursed abyss. No, really, there is even a clown car taxi joke in there having to do with a “series of coincidences” that really does sound like a its own manner of comedic setup about how there they all were minding their own business when all of a sudden . . . .

Something, something, #WhatTheyVotedFor.

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Image notes: Top — Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)  Right Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

Chait, Jonathan. “Did a Russian Oligarch Funnel Money From Russia to Michael Cohen?” New York. 25 May 2018.

Rashbaum, William K., Ben Protess, and Mike McIntire. “At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations”. The New York Times. 25 May 2018.

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Sixty Million Dollars, and Probably Still Counting

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Paul Manafort appears on Meet the Press, 10 April 2016; the Donald Trump campaign aide would eventually become campaign manager. (Detail of image from NBC News)

The headline from NBC News, that “Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch”, might actually be understated:

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

(Petropoulos and Engel)

The important point, then, might well be the sum of known dealings. In other words, the headline could soon need updating to a larger number. Then again, that would be kind of like the problem with trying to follow the sad, epic ballad of Paul Manafort, which, in turn, is much like trying to keep up with the spectacular disaster that is the Donald Trump Experience; things go downhill so quickly that if you stop to make the point it is already obsolete.

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Image note: Paul Manafort appears on Meet the Press, 10 April 2016. (Detail of image from NBC News)

Petropoulos, Aggelos and Richard Engel. “Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch”. NBC News. 13 October 2017.

The Scaredy Scare (#truthscare rising)

#ScaredyScare | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump): "The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW" (via Twitter, 24 February 2017)

It would seem ironic if, in the end, Republicans managed to make “patriot” the new “communist”. More than political irony, though, the strangeness of the Trump White House is such that we really cannot afford to skip the part that wonders if perhaps the president’s latest twitshit tantrum really does intend its darker implication.

(more…)

Your National Security Council (Flynntastic | Great)

#downhill | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

There is a moment in the New York Times’ account of “Turmoil at the National Security Council” in which the Trump administration pitches apparent incompetence as an asset:

In a telephone conversation on Sunday afternoon, K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, said that early meetings of the council were brisker, tighter and more decisive than in the past, but she acknowledged that career officials were on edge. “Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” said Ms. McFarland, a veteran of the Reagan administration who most recently worked for Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes―most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”

It remains uncertain just how that should make anyone feel any better, but at least we know why McFarland is there.

(more…)

Responsible Gun Ownership (#Benghazi!)

'Scuse me while I responsibly point this at you.

Ángel González of the Seattle Times landed the unfortunate duty of penning the article:

Dane Gallion, 29, told officers he took the gun to Regal Cinemas 14 at the Landing on Thursday night because he was “concerned about recent mass shootings in public places,” according to a police account in a probable-cause statement released Saturday.

That same anxiety prompted him to keep the gun unholstered in his waistband, the statement says.

This is one of those. Gravity. Downhill. Abyss of stupidity. Really, it only gets worse.

(more…)

The Dominant Force

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 9 November 2015.And with a setup like that ....

Something about gravity goes here, but we must caution against potential confusion. Gravity is an attractive force in general; that it happens to be what makes things go downhill has exactly nothing to do with Adam.

Or his great-grandpa.

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Huber, Adam. “Ball or Nothing”. Bug Martini. 9 November 2015.

Something About Adam’s Butt

Composite includes detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 24 August 2015.  'Bug Martini' and Bug Martini logo are drawn by Adam Huber, and presumably thus copyrighted.

For the puns on the buns this one’s got no good runs for the big guns rockin’ in a title really idle for the teevee something something oh Jesus God why are you letting me carry on like this?

There isn’t a frame in this one that isn’t … well … okay, Uncle Sam Bug kicking bug-ass isn’t exactly creepy, but as we’re fond of saying around here, it all goes downhill from there.

Don’t blame Adam; make him famous.

The fourth panel is worth a Nerd Bug that doesn’t know how to keep his damn mouth shut, too. Really. All that and a bag o’shivers, too.

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Huber, Adam. “Have Buns – Will Travel”. Bug Martini. 24 August 2015.

A Bug With Nipples

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 20 May 2015.This is the quandary: We could accept the narrative explanation. But it is much more fun if we don’t.

All the usual disclaimers go here, including the bit about how it all goes downhill from there.

Actually, I think doomed from the outset is the better phrase.

What? It’s a Bug with nipples. And nipple rings. Where can you possibly go from there, save straight into the chasm?

Sisyphus, stay!

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Huber, Adam. “Ring Around the Dopey”. Bug Martini. 20 May 2015.