PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED US ALL – REBLOG – The Shinbone Star

Say every bad thing you want about Vladimir Putin, but also give him credit: Planting a real, live Russian agent in the Oval Office! What a coup!

Maybe that claim is a little hasty, but the FBI didn’t think so, going so far as to launch a counterintelligence investigation of President Donald Trump in 2016 on suspicion that his activities as president were so off-the-wall crazy that he could be an agent of a hostile foreign government — Russia.

The status of that investigation, since taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is uncertain. Mueller’s report can’t come too soon.

The story about Trump as possible secret agent was published last week by our sister paper, The New York Times, and was followed by a report from our other sister paper, The Washington Post, which said that Trump has kept his own staff in the dark about his communication with the Russian president. In fact, The Post reported that Trump went so far as to confiscate a translator’s notes after a conversation with Putin so the notes wouldn’t become part of the federal record.

Trump’s action, as reported in both newspapers, is dangerous, suspicious and unprecedented in the history of the American presidency.

Homer Simpson as Vladimir Putin

While Putin might receive kudos for the success and sheer audacity of his spycraft, his choice of an actual spy leaves much to be desired. However much Trump sucks as president, he seems equally inept as a secret agent. Putin has to be smacking his own forehead in frustration at the way Trump has given himself away.

We Americans have to count our blessings where we can, so just imagine how much worse things might be if Trump were actually good at his job.

Imagine if he hadn’t fired James Comey, but had been smooth enough to keep stringing the former FBI director along. What if no special prosecutor had been appointed and what if Trump hadn’t mouthed off about Russia and Comey in that interview with NBC’s Lester Holt? What if he’d had the foresight not to invite those Russian diplomats into the Oval Office for a tête-à-tête held out of American media earshot? What if he’d been savvy enough not to parrot the words of his handler, Putin, in spurning his own U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in our election?

Instead of the suave, sophisticated Agent 007, Putin seems to have installed a bumbling pussy-grabber into the White House, someone more akin to Austin Powers than James Bond. Imagine if Trump hadn’t been so blatant in his groveling. Imagine if he hadn’t telegraphed his allegiance to the Kremlin with every move. He’s been so obvious that only the most shatteringly ignorant troglodytes in a base hardly known for scholarship can fail to see where his loyalty lies.

As scary as it is to contemplate that a Russian agent with access to the nuclear codes might be sitting behind the Resolute Desk as we speak, I also find these thoughts unsettling:

  • Republicans in Congress continue to support Trump despite evidence that he’s a numbnuts, at best, and very possibly a treasonous bastard worthy of a Tom Clancy novel.
  • Despite the Russian-sponsored election cheating that took place in 2016, enough Americans were stupid enough to fall for it and for Trump’s toxic blend of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. Congratulations, doofuses, it’s sure starting to look like you elected an actual fucking Russian asset!
  • Although the visible damage wrought by Trump is catastrophic, what else might he have already done or might he still do that we don’t know about?
  • How long will it take to repair the incalculable damage to U.S. integrity and esteem? The preeminent democracy in the world has harbored a Russian spy as its commander and chief and done nothing about it for two years and counting. It’s not a good look. Never think that Putin hasn’t diminished this country on the world stage. Mission accomplished!

There are times in life when something so devastating happens that all you can do is laugh. It’s gallows humor, like when one guy gets kicked in the nuts and his buddies stand around and guffaw while thinking, “Thank God that wasn’t me.”

But it IS me this time. In fact, it’s all of us. America’s president acting on behalf of a hostile foreign power. An entire country is left squirming on the floor, and it sure ain’t no laughing matter.

QUEST: HOW TO HAVE A SHUTDOWN WITHOUT SHUTTING DOWN? Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – QUEST

The government has recalled all the airline repair and inspection — and engineering — guys to work. It’s too dangerous, they said, to not have them working. The government is also calling back the TSA guys because it’s dangerous to not have them, either, and closed airports are not helping anyone.

And finally, yesterday, the IRS recalled more than half its workers. Haven’t you heard? It’s tax time … and if we don’t have tax people working, there won’t be any money coming in which definitely wouldn’t make anyone happy, at least not in the government.

How long before they recall the food inspectors? And everyone else?

Bit by bit, group by group, they will recall all of the ousted (outed?) workers. I’m pretty sure the Trump will eventually realize that he cannot serve foreign dignitaries McDonald’s, either. He doesn’t care, but other people will.

We aren’t going to end the government shutdown. We will have a permanent shutdown during which everyone works. This will continue to be a government shutdown — even though nothing is shut.

Protesters rally in Federal Plaza against the partial government shutdown, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Life, such as it is, can proceed more or less normally. This will make Trump feel like his two-year-old behavior is “doing something” while his moronic base can feel he is keeping his word.


NOTE: How can Trump be considered as “keeping his word” when he has never kept his word? About anything?


I’m sure this will be considered a “win” for everyone. People will work, the government will govern, Trump will believe his tantrum is accomplishing something …. and we can march forward to the next election.

You think?

WHEN TO WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE – Garry Armstrong

The lyrics of Kenny Rodgers’ “The Gambler” are applicable in many places today, from sports to politics and beyond.

In the classic western, “Shane”, the hero has sharp words with greedy land baron, Ryker, about violence and the days of the gunfighter being finished. Ryker implies it’s “over” for gunslingers like Shane.  Shane retorts “Yes, it is. The difference is — I know it.

The closing scene of another classic western,  “The Magnificent Seven,” has the same message. After the heroic gunfighters have driven a horde of bandits away from a poor village, they are thanked by an elder who tells them the farmers are the only victors because they survive to continue normal lives. Will the gunmen be able to ride or walk away from the profession that has given them fame and money?

The Magnificent Seven

As the two surviving gunfighters reluctantly leave the calm of the village, Chris (Yul Brynner) wryly observes. “The old man was right. Only the farmers have won. We lost. We’ll always lose.”

It’s the observation that their way of life is essentially over. They need to find a new way to live if it is possible.  The day of the feared, idolized gunfighter is passing into history before their eyes. It’s a bittersweet ending for our heroes.

As I write, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are giving the Los Angeles Chargers a nasty whipping in a playoff game that many felt would show cracks in the vaunted Patriots’ success, would show signs that Brady, the esteemed “GOAT” (Greatest of all time) would show age catching up with him.  So far, Brady and the Patriots are winning,  running the table with impressive success.

If victory is sustained, will Tom Brady continue to play until he’s in his mid-40s — or retire while he’s still at the top of his game and is recognized as the greatest quarterback in professional football history? It appears to be a no-brainer for Brady while many of his greatest admirers feel Tom Terrific should walk away he’s still physically intact.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles -Chargers at Gillette -Stadium on January 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When to walk away is a problem faced by many successful people who never want the music, money, or applause to stop.

In politics, it goes beyond the lives of the public official and his family. It impacts countless families represented by the Pol. Power is the elixir that our elected officials are reluctant to yield.

John McCormack with President Ford

I remember afternoons with the legendary John McCormack,  the one time widely respected Speaker of the House. I lunched with McCormack who usually sat alone at one of Boston’s iconic restaurants. “Old Man Mac” as he was affectionately called by friends, would observe people at other tables. Usually younger politicians, their aides, and lobbyists trying to curry favor.

“Mac” would chuckle to himself, wiggling his fingers at the other tables. He’d speak to me in a somewhat hoarse voice. “Son, those fellas don’t get it. It’s not a game. They don’t know what they’re doing and don’t care. They’re ignorant and blissfully happy in their ignorance.”

I’d listen closely as this venerable man schooled me in living history. He said the younger officials were making deals for reelection while ignoring promises made in their previous campaign. He laughed sadly, “You’ll never get the job done unless you listen to the people. It takes years.”

He paused, shook his head and continued, “Just when you get to know what you’re doing, it’s time to walk away.”   I stared at John McCormack. “You must walk away because you’re too old. Your mind argues with your body. But it’s obvious when you shave with toothpaste.”

I repressed a smile but he was laughing. “It’s not funny, really. You’re young, but it’ll happen to you. Trust me.”

I remember sharing the McCormack stories with Tip O’Neill, another widely respected Speaker of the House who shared lunches and stories with me.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

All Politics Are Local was O’Neill’s mantra. He was a man of his word. He nodded in agreement about John McCormack’s advice about knowing when to walk away. Tip O’Neill was keen about helping young politicians who could “carry the ball” when he walked away. He shared stories about colleagues who snored their way through crucial hearings. I’m sure Tip had advice for then young and rising Congressmen like Ed Markey — who we profiled in a shameless rip off of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”

These days, we look at video snippets of veteran pols who walk in lock step with the President.  These are seasoned officials who’ve made countless promises to do the right thing for their constituents. The recent mid-term elections were loud mandates for some of these pols that it’s time to walk away from the table.

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler



It appears some of our leaders prefer to hold their cards. Maybe they should listen to “The Gambler” again.

2020 is coming … and hell’s coming with it.

LOSING YOUR JOB WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND – Marilyn Armstrong

A lot of people figure that everyone “retires” on their own terms in their proper time. That hasn’t been true in our world. Certainly not in Garry and my world. Garry lost his job because the company he worked for decided to move on without “the old guy.” I lost my job because my bosses son needed one.

Many of the people I know were “laid off” which feels exactly the same as getting fired, except there’s no legal reason for it. They just feel like doing it. In Garry’s case, it was clearly age-related. In mine, it was just smarmy.

I’ve known at least half a dozen people who got forced out of jobs they’d held for as long as 40 years. They had no preparations for retirement, no significant saving, and no plans. They all figured they’d work until they hit the official “date” … but it didn’t turn out like that. Not even close.


All the awards you want … but no pension you can live on.


Garry, after 31 years at channel 7, was shown the door in literally five minutes. When he came home, he looked like he’d been bludgeoned. I should mention that Owen lost his job during the same week. It was a hell of a week.

I hadn’t been at that job for very long, but the boss had me “showing the kid” how to do the job. Sneaky. I was in my 60s. There wasn’t another job waiting for me and I was ill.

For two years, we lived on what Garry got as his union payout. No medical insurance — and I kept getting sicker. He was miserable too. He was terribly depressed and demoralized — while I was wondering if I was going to die.

He went to rehab. I found a doctor who would treat me for free and actually invented a surgery to “fix” me because I was very broken. We had no money. To keep afloat for those two years before Garry got his pension and I got disability, we refinanced the house multiple times which bloated the mortgage payment to an impressive amount we couldn’t pay. There was the HARP Program — which Obama started. The problem? The bank didn’t have to let you into the program. Great program, but all you could do was beg. Weird, right?

I had been negotiating with them for months. When finally I got cancer in both breasts, I called and said, “Well, now I have cancer. Can we please get into the program?” I think I actually shamed a banker because a couple of months later, our mortgage payment dropped by $1000 a month. That was the beginning of survival.

I found a doctor who treated me for free. A hospital that never asked for payment. A bank program that cut our mortgage in half. Finally, Garry started getting Social Security and his (very small) pensions … and I finally got Social Security Disability. We went from having no money (blessings on food banks everywhere) to almost being able to make it through a month.

I remember the day when we no longer needed the food bank. It was a small, but meaningful triumph.

Garry stopped drinking. I didn’t die.

These days, when I hear how people are melting down over getting laid off from their jobs and basically losing everything. I’m sympathetic … but mostly, I figure they’ll get over it. Not immediately. Eventually.

You have to get over it. It’s a terrible time. We went for two years without any income. None. Zero. Nothing. Whatever little we had put away disappeared. Somehow, we survived and damned if I know how. I got any help I could from anyone who gave help. I don’t even know how I did it.  We are both alive — and we still have the house. At some point, Mass Health (our version of Medicaid) kicked in. It was the idea on which Obama built his medical plan.

It was designed by our Republican governor. That’s one of many reasons it baffles me that the GOP has been so against it. It was their program.

When this was taken, I weighed 93 pounds. An XXS was too big for me. I wore a size zero and it was loose. It was not an attractive look.

Most people don’t get to retire like in the movies, with or without the gold watch. We get ditched, usually around age 59, typically 6 months before pensions fully vest.

For all of you who got dumped because you got “too old,” yes it was illegal to let you go. It’s call ageism, but it’s done all the time. You can sue, but unless you’ve got money to live on while you sue, by the time you get paid off — and you will get paid off — you’ll be up to your lip in debt.

Did we have mental meltdowns? Sure we did. That’s why Garry needed rehab. I would have been more melted down, but I was trying to save my life and it was sheer luck I bumped into a doctor who introduced me to another doctor who took me in. I was days from my demise by then.

I developed a sort of yellow-green complexion. Which was also not very attractive

If you have had a life calamity and everything gets taken away, it will take a couple of years before you pull yourself together. It’s not just your finances that take a hit. Your soul gets maimed. Your self-esteem goes down the tubes.

When anti-medical care legislators say “no one dies from lack of medical care,” that’s bullshit. Lots of people die without care. They don’t get written up because they aren’t in the hospital or seeing a doctor. They just die. Kids, old people, and all the others in the middle.

Why am I talking about this?

Because those of us who had this terrible disaster overwhelm us need to know we aren’t alone. It wasn’t just us. It’s lots and lots of people many of whom used to be solidly middle class before their world collapsed.

So try to remember one thing:


It gets better. Somehow, some way, it gets better.


AN AMERICAN CARAVAN STOPPED BY THE WALL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wall

Mexico is building a wall to keep Americans out. With hundreds of thousands of unpaid Americans, all of whom have no salaries on which to pay their mortgages or for that matter, buy peanut butter sandwiches, everyone is heading for Mexico. At least it’s warmer down there.

Ohio gets very cold in the winter and Washington D.C. is no picnic either.


“We cannot handle these caravans of starving Americans. They can’t just come into Mexico unless they can prove their value to our nation. So we are building a wall to keep them out.”


The president of Mexico said it in Spanish, so I can’t quote him directly … but as it turns out, Trump got what he wanted. All he had to do was turn America into a desperate shithole country, with starving people seeking asylum. In Mexico.

It wasn’t nearly as hard as he thought it would be. And see? The Mexicans ARE paying for it after all!

UPDATED: DRIP, DRIP, DRIP, PLUNK – Marilyn Armstrong

Da Prez is screaming “Witch Hunt.” Meanwhile, we wait. And wait.  Because we know there’s evil afoot. We want to know what kind of evil.

We want details.

We want to know.

Today we learned a little. It’s interesting that while the Fed – Mueller and associates – are not pressing down hard on Cohen, New York State is pushing for a substantial prison sentence. Garry — who has a tendency to be right about many things political — thinks it’s a “good cop, bad cop” thing except in this case, it’s “good judge, bad judge.”

Robert Mueller

Our chief mobster can pardon Cohen on Federal charges — of which there are very few with no jail time involved — but he cannot pardon him on those New York state charges. I don’t think there’s a lot of love in New York for Godfather Donzo and I’m not expecting a strongly positive reaction to another plea from Cohen. Or Donzo.

There was just so much news today. I haven’t fully processed it and neither has anyone else, probably because this is just the beginning and we aren’t entirely sure, but we can certainly make some solid guesses. What today’s filings on Michael Cohen said is that this is one bad dude. That not only was he a criminal, but he was in it for his own profit and did whatever he did from a position of privilege and power.

Godfather 2 in service to Godfather 1. Or, as Garry put it, “Cohen is one evil dude.”

What was 45’s reaction to it?

How does he figure that?

This is, to put it mildly, a peculiar reaction to the sentencing filings on Michael Cohen. Among many other things, Cohen says the president ordered him to do it.

Take-away from the Mueller document:

Individual 1 is Da Prez. Totally cleared? Seriously? But wait. There’s ever so much more!

And this is but the tip of a huge iceberg

I cannot help feeling that it’s about time we got a little feedback from the investigation. We have, after all, been enthusiastically supporting it even though we had no idea what was going on. We hoped and I think we hoped rightly.

I had to assume that something was indeed going on. I did not expect to get a final report saying “It really was a witch hunt and the poor, bedeviled prez didn’t do nothing wrong, just like he said.”

Michael Cohen

No, I assumed he had done everything wrong. It was more a matter of proof, evidence, facts, legal briefs. This has been a lot like Watergate times 20. I remember with joy the pleasure I felt as in Watergate, the dominos began to fall.

Drip, drip, drip … plunk … rattle, bang, bang, bang.

And they all fell down. Finally, down went the Top Dog. Never did I imagine we’d wind up back in this place again with even bigger and more dangerous fish to fry.

Aside from setting our country back to being a proper nation, we’ve got a planet to save, wars to end, an atmosphere to preserve. Oceans to clean and many kinds of wildlife to save from extinction. Medical care to make available to all. There’s barely anything that doesn’t need saving.

I’m going to go with “save the planet first,” but that’s only because if we lose the planet, nothing else will matter.

Maybe, along the way, we will save ourselves from extinction. That would be a nice touch.

I just wanted to add this last bit, in case you weren’t clear on what I’ve been getting at:

As Bump writes:

Linking Trump to knowledge of the payment and the payment to the campaign is important. One of the defenses that might have been offered by Trump is that he regularly had his attorney pay off women to keep their stories quiet. The government filing indicates that AMI and Cohen discussed the company helping to make such payoffs as early as 2014. But the references to the rationale behind the payments in 2016 and the inclusion of the phrase “at the direction” of the candidate bolsters the evidence that the McDougal and Daniels payments were not just run-of-the-mill behavior.

Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were meant to influence the election and that they came at the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told The Post, “there is little question Cohen, the campaign and the candidate are liable for the campaign finance violations.”

There are no innocents in this mix. They are all guilty and one of my biggest questions remains: HOW FAR DID THIS CORRUPTION GO? How many people — senators, military men, lawyers, wheelers and dealers, were paid to let the Russians play tiddlywinks with our electoral process?

To say that all politics is corrupt is maybe partially true, but this is not only corrupt. This is actively treasonous.

Actively treasonous and not just the president and his close little circle, but his whole “ring of thieves.” Nixon’s crime was a cover-up. This isn’t a cover-up. This is an active attempt to gain the services of an enemy foreign power to win the American presidency.

That’s treason and I don’t care how you spell it. I don’t merely want to “know more.” I want the whole story. Paragraph by paragraph.

It’s about time! – REBLOG – Gordon Stewart

Strange how this “old” movie is probably today’s most relevant movie. We don’t seem to learn from past errors. Maybe we can’t. There’s something wrong with humanity.

 

Views from the Edge

Timely reflections of an anachronist

Robert Mueller III’s and the Southern District of New York’s court filings, and the President’s response, confirm that “Individual-1” never should have been administered the oath of office “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” The people around the Oval Office are the only brakes on the man who, like Chauncey (“Chance”) Gardner played by Peter Sellers in the humorous film Being There, spends his days watching his favorite television shows, doesn’t read, and reduces complexity to the simplest of terms. 

Ron Steigler: Mr. Gardner, uh, my editors and I have been wondering if you would consider writing a book for us, something about your um, political philosophy, what do you say?

Chance: I can’t write.

Ron Steigler: Heh, heh, of course not, who can nowadays? Listen, I have trouble writing a postcard to my…

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