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Staring into the abyss @BloggersRUs

Staring into the abyss

by Tom Sullivan

Still from Oculus (2014)

First and foremost, Donald Trump looks out for Donald Trump. His only friends are those who increase his wealth, flatter his ego, or cover his backside. World condemnation of the Saudis over the suspected death and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi? Our sitting president views that through the lens of Trump. How does it hurt the Trump Organization? What other Gulf States hotel deals dance in his head? Haven't the very rich Saudis said nice things about him? Saudi Arabia has "been a great ally to me," Trump told Fox Business Network.

Not that anyone should take Turkey's claims of having audio recordings of the alleged atrocity at face value. President Recep Erdoğan is leveraging Khashoggi's disappearance for his own ends. That Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is not in dispute. The authenticity of the rumored Turkish recording will be.

That Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands accused of ordering the dismembering of a Virginia resident is an inconvenience to Donald Trump. "It’s not a citizen," Trump said of the missing journalist.

A network of bots is busily spreading pro-Saudi disinformation about Khashoggi's disappearance. “They’re posting the same stuff at the same time repeatedly," Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab told NBC News, adding, "they’re all posting the same content in the same order.”

Twitter began pulling down the accounts on Thursday:

Some of the bot accounts tweeted using a hashtag in Arabic that became the top worldwide Twitter trend on Sunday. The hashtag roughly translated to “#We_all_trust_Mohammad_Bin_Salman,” the Crown Prince and putative leader of Saudi Arabia, who has come under international scrutiny following the disappearance of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia has widely embraced social media. A study by Crowd Analyzer, an Arabic-focused social media analysis firm, found that there were 11 million active Twitter users in the country.

The bot accounts pushed messages over the weekend imploring users to express doubt about news stories reporting that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2 at the order of the Saudi government, as Turkish officials have alleged. The Saudi government has denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi commentator who was a former advisor to Saudi royals and later fell out with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It was not immediately clear who created the network of bot accounts, NBC reports.

The U.S. president also has acolytes lining up to cover his royal backside with a whispering campaign against Khashoggi:

In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Those aspersions — which many lawmakers have been wary of stating publicly because of the political risks of doing so — have begun to flare into public view as conservative media outlets have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights.

If "Fox and Friends" suggests suggesting Khashoggi killed himself with his own bone saw, it could be the product of the Republican National Committee's "research shop of 15 and a 10-person war room." The crew stands ready to churn out tweet-worthy, misleading information on the president's foes on a moment's notice:
... a team of about 60 GOP researchers, bookers and attack dogs [spends its] time churning out the ammunition that conservative media and Trump supporters use daily to pummel the president’s foes.

The relentless stream of carefully curated — and sometimes misleading — political hits has been throwing Democrats off message for months while steadily stoking the daily fires of conservative outrage that power Trump’s political movement.

We don't call rage "blinding" for nothing.

The would-be tough guy, would-be American president blanches at the sight of blood but praises political allies who body-slam reporters and concocts implausible alibis for flattering autocrats who (allegedly) poison and dismember opponents.

One of his friends murdering a journalist and American resident is an inconvenience to Donald Trump. So are dignity, honor, and America principles. The longer Trump remains unchecked, the farther down the path to Trumpistan he and his followers in and out of government will take this country.

Gaze long into Trump, and Trump also gazes into you.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Tectonics Game

They're limiting the playtesters to type A3 V stars, so the games will all end before the Sun consumes the Earth.

How to please His Majesty King Donald

How to please His Majesty King Donald

by digby

It appears that John Bolton has become quite the energetic Trump suck-up:

A heated argument in the West Wing between chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton over a recent surge in border crossings turned into a shouting match Thursday, two sources familiar with the argument told CNN.
The exchange lay bare a bitter disagreement that has existed between two of President Donald Trump's top aides for weeks now. 
Trump, who was incensed about the rising levels of migrants and threatened to shut down the southern border on Twitter earlier that morning, took Bolton's side during the argument. Bolton favors a harder line approach to the issue and criticized Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the argument, a source said. Nielsen used to serve as Kelly's deputy when he ran DHS. Bolton reportedly said Nielsen needed to start doing her job, which incensed Kelly.

This is all about stroking Trump, who hates Neilsen, thinks she's weak.

The President, who sources say was present for the beginning of the shouting match, later denied knowledge of it.

"I've not heard about it. No," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to fly to Montana on Thursday afternoon. 

This isn't the first time Nielsen's handling of border security has been scrutinized by the Trump White House. 
Trump and Nielsen got into a heated argument during a Cabinet meeting in May over border security, a source with knowledge told CNN. 
Trump said he didn't think she was doing enough to secure the border and two people told The New York Times, which first reported the argument, that Nielsen drafted a resignation letter over the matter. 

Bolton was characterized as the winner of the fight, which must have pleased Trump. It's a perfect way to make him happy. He is yearning to make this "caravan" the big midterm issue:

The caravan issue has been the subject of several White House meetings in recent days, according to an administration official. The conversations have centered around not only how to stop the caravan, but also how to use the issue for the upcoming midterms, the official said. Stephen Miller has been heavily involved. 
According to unpublished Department of Homeland Security statistics reviewed by The Washington Post, the number of migrant families entering the US reached record levels in the three months since

Earlier this week Trump also took note of a migrant caravan formed in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Saturday and crossed into Guatemala on Monday. The caravan numbers in the thousands, organizers say. 

Members of the group told CNN en Español that they decided to join the caravan and head to the United States because of insecurity and a lack of jobs in Honduras. Many are traveling with children in tow. 
Trump posted several tweets about the caravan on Tuesday, calling for an end to foreign aid should they continue to travel. 
"We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!" Trump tweeted Tuesday night
Trump has repeatedly called for cuts to foreign aid in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, which, in all, obtained some $260 million in foreign aid for fiscal year 2019.
I don't think you need to be a foreign policy expert to see that what Trump is demanding is for those countries to arrest people who try to leave their country. Maybe they could build a wall?
In any case cutting off aid will almost definitely make things worse for the people living there. And it's already so deadly that people are willing to travel a thousand miles on foot to come to America.

He doesn't care.  But neither do Kelly, Bolton and Neilsen. This "fight" is just about sucking up to Trump and jockeying for favor with the Mad King. They all have nothing but contempt for these poor migrants.


Trump: Rosenstein “mentioned certain things to me that are very positive about that event”

Trump: Rosenstein "mentioned certain things to me that are very positive about that event"

by digby

Fox News and the House wingnuts are very upset that Rosenstein isn't coming before congress but the president is weirdly fine with it:

Steve Doocy: You know the rumor is the day after the midterms, you're gonna fire him and you're gonna fire the Attorney General.

Trump: Well I actually get along well with Rod

Doocy: (interrupts) Right but Mr. President, the people in your Administration, Rod Rosenstein, will not show up on Capitol Hill to, because Congress ...

Trump: I was surprised at that. Actually I was surprised at that. I would think he would. He mentioned certain things to me that are very positive about that event and I would imagine that he'd want to put that down, and frankly whether you were under oath or not shouldn't matter But he mentioned things to me that I would think would be fine for him to testify and so, you know when Congress calls. So I'm a little surprised that Rod wouldn't do it.

This is what he's talking about:

Rep. Jim Jordan said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be subpoenaed if he refuses to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee for his role in the FBI’s Russia probe and for allegations that he wanted to invoke the 25th Amendment against President Trump.

“He’s got to come in and answer questions,” Jordan, R-Ohio, said during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “If it takes a subpoena, then that’s exactly what needs to be done.”

Rosenstein had been tentatively scheduled to appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, but that meeting has been delayed. A House Judiciary Committee aide told The Hill that the panel does not have a time confirmed for Rosenstein to appear on Capitol Hill.

Jordan’s comments come just days after Trump declared that he has no plans to fire his deputy attorney general.

"He mentioned certain things to me that are very positive ... I'm a little surprised."

Please. Something has happened with all this and we don't have clue about what exactly it is. And by "we" I mean the New York Times who said this on MSNBC earlier today:

Michael Schmidt: We don't know. What is it about the president's relationship with the Trump that Rosenstein has been able to keep him at bay? If Rosenstein has told him something that the president thinks is favorable to him, why is it that he doesn't want to testify about it on Capitol Hill? It seems Rosenstein told him that it was sarcastic, at the same time not willing to go up to Capitol Hill. Going back further to earlier in the year, what has Rosenstein has done to manage this, to protect Mueller? It's just one of these things that we don't know and it's one of these sort of mysteries that we won't know until after Rosenstein is gone?

Schmidt is one of the reporters who "broke" the big story about Rosenstein and the wire, apparently uninterested in the fact that the New York Times was being used by their sources and without any concern for reporting the context that might make that clear. Maybe they could work on finding out exactly what in the hell happened there because they are right in the middle of it.


Today on “Asked and Answered!”

Behold, a Birthday Fundraiser!

In his Washington Post column today, Former George W. Bush chief speechwriter, senior Republican policy adviser and reliable Beltway Republican stalactite, Michael Gerson, asks:
What does Trump’s ascendance mean about America?
And here is your answer, Mr. Gerson:
It means the Left has been right about the Right all along, you complicit clown.
Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of  "Asked and Answered!"


Never Turn Your Back on a Never Trumper. Continued

Behold, a Birthday Fundraiser!

A few months ago as many of my allies were co-signing ideological third mortgages for their new Never Trump friends, I remember saying ...
Repeat after me:   There is no such thing as a "former" hard-core Republican.

A causal, occasional Republican voter?  Sure.  They can kick the habit.  Over the course of many years I've voted for Republicans once or twice on down-ticket races or in board elections where I knew the person and they were extraordinarily well-qualified.  Hell, in my misspent youth I also voted for John Anderson, because Reagan was clearly dangerous, but Carter wasn't pure enough for my noble and rarefied political tastes.

But this it not so for the hard-core Republican.  The party activist, campaign coordinator, door knocker, serious donor, straight-party ticket voter, pundit, elected official, analyst or pollster.  Anyone who has evidenced a keen and active interest in advancing the Republican party's depraved agenda over any length of time.

They've been in the life too long.  They have been too conditioned.  Too bent.  Their brains and political pleasure centers have been permanently rewired.  And so, like any other kind of toxic, lifestyle addiction, the best you can ever hope for with your hard-core Republican is a state of recovery that they can maintain one-day-at-a-time until they shuffle off this mortal coil

But until they join Ronald Reagan in Republican Heaven, they will always be junkies who, given the slightest opportunity to rationalize themselves into just one more little taste, will backslide right back into their bad habits every fucking time...
Since then, I've gotten quite a number of cold shoulders from some of my Liberal brothers and sisters, and some blunt feedback, which is fine.  I went through a somewhat similar cycle when I was one of the only people in the Liberal blogosphere who bothered to kick the tires on Glenn Greenwald's shtick and notice that there was something drastically wrong going on.

And boy howdy, lots of Liberal "friends" did not want to hear anything like that.  They either got very, very angry with "droneglass" (which was kinda hilarious coming as it often did from people who were barely aware of my existence before then) or timidly stood aside while the Spleenwald Horde slagged me on a daily basis.  I had done the unforgivable.  I was voted off Liberal Island, and I lost a lot of traffic and big chunk of supporters.  Which was fine.  You do you, and I'll do me, and if it occasionally costs me dearly to write what I please, unbought and unbossed, well that's part of the deal.

Eventually the slow grind of time and events revealed that my bead on Mr. Greenwald was essentially correct.   There was no "Welcome back to our good graces"party with balloons and a giant novelty check.  I was never officially voted back onto Liberal Island.  Things just gradually got quieter and quieter, and by the time Mr. Greenwald started showing up on Fox News as Tucker Carlson's smirking side-kick, I got the very clear impression that my once very loud Liberal critics would really rather forget the whole thing and never speak of it again.

I don't really care either way, but the experience did reinforce a valuable lesson about how quickly and imprudently many of my Liberal brothers and sisters will rally to the flag of anyone who tells them pretty things that they very much want to hear, even (as in the case of Never Trumpers) when the person whispering sweet political nothings to then has built a career out of calling them a traitor and stomping on their values.  Even when their half-assed apology reeks of expedience and desperation. 

It also reinforced a corollary lesson about how reluctant those same Liberal people can be to bury the hatchet with someone who generally supports their values and enthusiastically sides with them most of the time, but also dared to tell them something they did not wish to believe that later turned out to be true.

Which brings me to this very timely post on alicublog:
As I've said before (and it's not just me and the leprechaun who tells me to burn things saying so, either, but also credentialed bigbrains at major publications) that the Kavanaugh nomination has basically blown the whole NeverTrump and KindaTrump and JustTheTipInTrump phenomenon, making it obvious that Trumpism is conservatism and vice-versa. And it's had the knock-on effect of making rightwing authors who were previously pitched as prim-and-proper True Conservatives into something more suitable to Trump Time -- that is, trolls.

Take David French, one-time NeverTrump Presidential contender, who has gone on since the dawn of Trump about how real conservatives like him were fighting for the True Cause despite, not enabled by, the vandal Trump; last year he was blubbering over "O’Reilly, Ailes, and the Toxic Conservative-Celebrity Culture," in which he lamented that conservatives' reflexive defense of Fox News "knifework" had "reached its apex in the person and personality of Donald Trump."

But now French is juiced that Trump has with Kavanaugh brought America one step closer to Gilead, and hardly ever bothers to wring his hands anymore. Just recently he defended Trump calling for his opponents to be jailed. But as the example of his cabinet shows, you're not totally in the tank for Trump until you've humiliated yourself as French does here...
For me this is actually pretty simple.

I don't believe in being stupid, or credulous, especially when it comes to trusting the good intentions of life-time repeat offenders.

On the other hand,  I do genuinely believe in redemption, but in the case of the Never Trumpers, it would be insane for anyone to settle for anything less than redemption though restorative justice, which emphasizes accountability, making amends, and repairing the profound harm the offender has done.

And frankly, if you're coming right out of the gate swearing that there was nothing all that bad going on inside the GOP before Trump...or if there was, you personally just never knew about it...or if you knew about it, well. so what, because Both Sides are equally terrible...then you're either lying or your an imbecile.

And in either case, there is no reason on Earth why anyone should trust you.


Laura Ingraham’s favorite xenophobe snowflake

Laura Ingraham's favorite xenophobe snowflake

by digby

David Brat has problems:

While meeting with an addiction support group of inmates at the Chesterfield County Jail, Rep. David Brat (R-VA) downplayed an inmate’s addiction worries in comparison to his own trials being the subject of attack ads.

According to a Thursday ThinkProgress report, his comments came as a response to a female inmate’s concern about issues she would face when she left prison.

“You think you’re having a hard time. I’ve got $5 million of negative ads against me. How do you think I’m feeling?” he said.

“Nothing’s easy for anyone. You think I’m a congressman. Oh, life’s easy, this guy’s off having steaks,” he continued. “I got a daughter, she’s gotta deal with this crap on TV every day. No one out there’s got some easy life. And you’ve got it hard, I’m not dismissing that. You’ve got some fears, real anxiety coming up with a job, and whatever. And what you’ve got to find is a support system.”

Brat is running in a tight race against Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

Poor, poor David Brat.

This is the perfect characterization of Trump's Republican Party. Nobody ever has it worse than they do.


Because This Is the National Conversation on Race We Deserve…

...but not the one we need right now.

At this rate, by next week Congressman Hill will have a spot up featuring Uncle Ruckus telling us all about the glories of White Heaven.

Still, he's gonna have to let his spurs all the way out if he wants to beat the sheer, unhinged lunacy of the director's cut of Carly Fiorina's Demon Sheep.

Meanwhile, my birthday-fundraiser continues...

Behold, a Birthday Fundraiser!


Welcome to the new baby

Welcome to the new baby

by digby

Personally, I think they should fly one over Trump's golf course here every single day.


Trump says it’s impossible for him to lose

Trump says it's impossible for him to lose

by digby

I'm sure everyone remembers this little bit of snotty, in-your-face, 6th-grade brazenness:

With similar narcissistic defiance, Trump now says that if the Republicans lose next month, it's not his fault. But he takes full credit if he wins.

Trump said he would not bear any personal responsibility for a poor showing from Republicans in the 2018 midterms, he said in a rare interview with the Associated Press this week.

“The midterms are very tough for anybody the opposite of president, for whatever reason, nobody has been able to say,” Trump said.


Republicans are starting from a huge advantage. The congressional map this year favors Republicans — particularly in the Senate, where Democrats are defending 10 seats in states Trump won. But even in the House, Republicans’ landslide wins in the 2010 midterm let the party redraw the lines for congressional districts, giving them an advantage.

The generic ballot shows Democrats with an average 7 point lead, where voters are asked whether they prefer a Democrat or a Republican, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. But Democrats will need to do at least that well to have any hope of retaking the house thanks to gerrymandering.

Despite all that, Trump is making things very difficult for Republicans, and there are many signs that this will be a wave election for Democrats. Trump doesn’t seem to recognize this reality. Instead, he is already praising himself for his electoral successes.

“I think I’m helping people,” Trump said. “Look, I’m 48 and one in the primaries, and actually it’s much higher than that because I endorsed a lot of people that were successful that people don’t even talk about. But many of those 48, as you know, were people that had no chance, in some cases.”

Trump talks about one big disadvantage: He’s not on the ballot, he said.

In a particularly telling musing from the president, he said some “people” have been telling him they could never vote in an election without Trump on the ballot.

“I’m not running,” Trump said. “I mean, there are many people that have said to me, ‘Sir, I will never ever ... I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’”

You'd think that the Republican candidates would be a little bit miffed at this but they appear on stage with him regularly and lick his boots like he's some kind of demi-god. The entire party is banking on Trump's allegedly massive popularity to keep them in power.

Or, it's just that he has that boot on their neck, promising to treat them like garbage the way he treats Flake, Corker, McCain and they are simply cowards who would rather bow down than take a chance on losing their seats?

This is not a new phenomenon. People love to talk about the spineless Dems and how useless they are, but they are nothing compared to the groveling sycophants of the GOP. I used to write about this all the time during the Bush years. I called them the Eunuch Caucus which is an insensitive, gendered term, which I regret. So I will now refer to them as Tiny's Obedient Servants.


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