Sunday, January 19, 2020

Last Call For In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions, Con't

Author and editor Windsor Mann asks in an LA Times op-ed:

If Trump loves America, why does he call our cities ‘disgusting’ and ‘embarrassing’?

The answer of course is that Donald Trump doesn't consider anyone who lives in cities (filled as most are with liberal governments who resist his autocracy and filled with people who didn't vote for him) as Americans at all, and will do everything in his power to hurt those cities by abusing his office. His base follows suit.

That is because Donald Trump, like most people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, is driven purely by petty vengeance and bitter hatred for anyone who doesn't agree with his worldview that he is the most important human being on earth.  The concept of anyone not agreeing with how great he happens to be is so alien to him that anyone who holds that view offends him to the point where they must be destroyed.

This is a man who has fever dreams of shutting off every single federal dollar to cities like New York and San Francisco, causing racist riots so bloody that their local governments are overthrown and that the new people that rise swear public fealty not to America, but to Trump himself.  This is what he wants to do, and he will incite this violence in his base for this purpose every chance he gets.

Here endeth the lesson.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Who could have imagined that the kind of ambitious people who would want to be Donald Trump's third Russia expert in under a year would be both watched carefully and also stupidly corrupt?

The top Russia expert on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council has left his post after about three months, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Andrew Peek, the NSC’s senior director for European and Russian affairs, was escorted from the White House grounds on Friday, two of the people said, asking not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss personnel matters. A spokesman for the NSC declined to comment, citing the same reason. Peek also declined to comment.

Axios reported earlier Saturday that Peek was placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation.

Peek is the third departure from the position in less than a year. The NSC has been marked by turbulence and turnover over Trump’s three years in office, as the president has repeatedly sought national security advisers more in-line with his own ideology.

Peek assumed the top Russia job on the NSC in November, according to his LinkedIn page. The position and the people who have occupied it have featured prominently in the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives last year.
Peek replaced Tim Morrison, who left the position late last year. Morrison testified in the impeachment inquiry that the U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, had told him there was a quid pro quo in which U.S. aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the country’s government opening an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Morrison took over the job from Fiona Hill, a longtime Russia expert who also testified as part of the impeachment inquiry. In her testimony, Hill said Republican accusations that Ukraine -- rather than Russia -- meddled in the 2016 presidential election amounted to a “fictional narrative.”

The Senate’s impeachment trial is expected to begin on Tuesday.

Trump fired his last two Russia experts because they told him things he didn't want to hear.  The third is being carted off for possible criminal violations while Trump is facing impeachment. I'd feel sorry for Mr. Peek here, but there is that whole thing about actively choosing to work for the Trump regime that often leads to, well, being scrapped once your usefulness to Dear Leader expires or getting pinched by the feds for doing what Trump wants and getting caught.

Not a good look, but then again, Trump has near total control of his enablers, because if Trump goes down, nearly every single Republican goes down with him. There are plenty of Republicans who have gone so far out on a limb for Trump that there's no climbing back without his help.

We'll see how the trial shapes up, but the Parnas fountain of fun isn't being shit down anytime soon.

Sunday Long Read: Ghost Writer

Author Rax King explains how, in a world of both lasting grief and constant, instant communication, there's always someone on the other side.  When her father died, she sent emails to his old work address, which was active.  And then, somebody wrote back.

As expected, I found only about 10 emails between us in as many years of Gmail use. The revelation was not in anything I read but in the mere typing of his name—an icy wave of relief splashing me in the face. How good it felt to write his name for no reason, in a place that only I could see, and not on some piece of paperwork related to his death or in response to some well-wisher’s post on Facebook. It was like charging a magical sigil. I’d never been one of those writers who attached fetishistic significance to the physical act of writing (or to books themselves, or paper). But I finally understood how those writers felt. Writing to my father, I realized, was a charmed act. It didn’t summon him, but it raised the friendly shadow of him in the room; that was something.

I began writing him emails. I didn’t send them at first. Typing his email address into the recipient bar was enough to conjure up his listening presence. For months I transcribed the hostile anguish in my head into emails to my father, which I would then seal off with the addition of his email address and save in my drafts folder. It was the high school diary, unfiltered. He would never find out how it ended now; it felt good to “tell” him.

The first time I pressed “send,” it was by accident, and I was horrified. I was worried not that someone would receive and read the email, but that the recipient address would bounce back a message that the account had been deactivated.

I stared at my inbox for a minute, waiting for the inevitable. It never happened. The email address was still active.

So I continued the ritual, except now I sent those long-winded emails out. I wrote to my father anytime I needed him. In my letters I tried to talk myself around to whatever he would have said to me, hoping I could reverse-engineer the advice he might have given me. Then I pressed send, which never stopped being thrilling—I’d sidestepped the finality of death and found a plane where my father could thrive unchallenged. I put disclaimers at the beginning of every email: Hey, if you can somehow read this, please ignore it; hey, I don’t think anyone’s checking this email, but if you are then please just delete without reading; I’m lonely, I’m grieving, I miss my father, nothing to see here. But nobody ever responded.

One day, a year and a half later, someone did respond—not from my father’s email address, thank God, or I likely would have passed out at my desk. Still, it was frightening to see another email address from the same Workplace suite, with the same subject line. I don’t know what I was frightened of, exactly. Only that the stakes felt terribly high. I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of doing anything online, even sending emails to a dead person’s inbox—everything that happens online can be witnessed by an audience.

The response I received is the reason you’re reading this, because I posted it on Twitter and it went viral. “I’m sure you remember me,” my father’s former coworker wrote. “I want you to know that I never read these emails because I can tell they are very personal. But I do see them coming in and I can see that you must still miss your dad terribly.” There was more; I’m self-conscious about typing it all out, because of how generous it was for this person to not only share memories of my father with me, but to interpret them, color them with our shared understanding of what my father and I had been together. Like, for example: “Watching the two of you together wisecracking…it was like watching a Mel Brooks movie.”

Zandardad hangs around here and makes his views known in the comment section, and I message him pretty regularly, especially whenever there's a Democratic debate.  I'm lucky that I have a chance to still get advice from pop.  He's a good person, and I've always looked up to him.

In an era of instant messaging, don't take it for granted.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Dear Leader Trump demands that his impeachment be annulled or removed on unimpeached because it's against the law or something, year, that's the ticket.

President Donald Trump launched his first formal attack on the House’s effort to remove him from office on Saturday, calling the Democrats’ impeachment case against him fatally flawed and “constitutionally invalid” while blasting the effort as a political hit job by his adversaries.

“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away,” Trump’s lawyers argued in a six-page response filed with the Senate just days before the president’s trial begins in earnest.

The allegations raised by Trump’s attorneys — a soft swing at the substance of the impeachment articles and a more direct rebuke of the process Democrats used to get there — mirror the House’s charges against him. Democrats allege the president pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf by launching investigations into his political opponents.

Saturday’s filing from Trump marks his initial entry into the impeachment battle. The president and his lawyers had explicitly sat out the House investigation, complaining in a December letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”

But that approach won’t fly in the Senate, where Chief Justice John Roberts last week outlined a detailed schedule of separate legal filings for both sides of the debate. Trump’s initial reply will be followed by a more exhaustive trial brief from his lawyers that’s due on Monday.

In its first filing, the Trump legal team hammered what it calls “procedural irregularities” in the House’s impeachment process and the decision by Democrats not to accuse the president of committing a statutory crime — a threshold that constitutional scholars have long said isn’t a necessity when Congress seeks to remove a federal officeholder.

“In the end, this entire process is nothing more than a dangerous attack on the American people themselves and their fundamental right to vote,” the Trump legal filing says.

I can't tell if Trump honestly thinks everyone is as stupid as he is, or if this is the best his legal team can do with impeachment.  Either way, it's embarrassing, America deserves a much better class of villain running the place.

"Impeachments aren't legal because they overturn elections!" except for the part where impeachment is spelled out in the Constitution, making it legal.  I'm not even a lawyer and I think this brief should be written in crayon or finger painted in baby poop, but here we are.

Of course as soon as Chief Justice Roberts rolls his eyes at this, Trump will have all the evidence he needs to convince his base that it will never be a fair trial, so that Trump can and should do whatever he wants regardless of the outcome.

Meanwhile, Mitch is up to his tricks again.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would leave room for President Trump's lawyers to move immediately to dismiss the impeachment charges if they so choose, according to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

Yes, but: Republican Senate leaders, including McConnell and Roy Blunt, the senior senator from Missouri, have already said members aren't interested in a vote to dismiss. And it seems unlikely that Trump's team would push for what would almost certainly be a losing vote — a move that could be seen as a sign of weakness at the outset of the trial.

Behind the scenes: "I am familiar with the resolution as it stood a day or two ago," Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, told me in a phone interview on Saturday. "My understanding is that the resolution will give the president's team the option to either move to judgment or to move to dismiss at a meaningful time..." 
Hawley added that in the most recent draft of the organizing resolution he saw there was an option for the president's counsel to make a motion in multiple places, including at the beginning of the proceedings. 
A Republican leadership aide responded: "The White House has the right to make motions under the regular order, including a motion to dismiss, right after the resolution is adopted because a motion to dismiss is a motion permitted by the impeachment rules."

The real reason?  It's the final option in case the trial goes south.

The big picture: Trump endorsed on Twitter the idea of outright dismissal of the charges against him. It could be an opportunity for some of Trump's closest Senate Republican allies to register their contempt for the case that House Democrats marshaled against the president — even if the motion is doomed to fail. 
It could also serve as a break-glass option if the trial took a turn and Trump's allies felt they needed a mechanism to bring about an abrupt end to the trial.

The Trumpies expect an acquittal or dismissal by January 31, before the State of the Union speech on February 4.  If the trial's not done by then, Trump can't take his victory lap on national TV.

That appears to be the most important consideration for this regime.
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