Christianity Is a Fast-Food Restaurant Chain, and Other Nonsense

Trump Maladministration

Some pathetic, whiny dweeb named Douglas MacKinnon asks, “How long will I be allowed to remain a Christian?

With each passing month, that shocking question becomes more relevant and even more disturbing.

To say that Christians and Christianity are under a withering and brutal attack in certain areas of the world would be an understatement.

In various parts of the Middle East, there is a genocidal cleansing of Christians being carried out. Women, men, and their young children are being slaughtered because of their faith and world leaders and most of the media turn their backs in bored indifference.

Here in the United States, Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked by some on a daily basis. This is a bigoted practice that is not only increasing exponentially, but is being encouraged and sanctioned by a number on the left.

There is indeed real oppression of Christians going on in the Middle East. And in various parts of the world there is real oppression of Muslims, of Jews, of Buddhists, of people of many religions. It’s not just Christians. But Christians never notice what’s going on with the other religions.

However, there is no oppression of Christians in the United States. Not even close. Pushing back against oppression by people who self-identify as Christians is not oppression of Christians.

The prevailing view in much of the media is that Christianity is aligned with Republicans, conservatives, or the views of President Trump – and therefore must be diminished and made suspect.

No, not Christianity. Just white evangelicals. See Ed Kilgore, “Nobody Likes Trump Except White Evangelicals.”

The New Yorker just described the opening of a few Chick-fil-A restaurants in New York City as “Pervasive Christian traditionalism,” and a “Creepy infiltration of New York City.”

Christianity is an “infiltration” to some on the left.

Christianity is not a fast-food restaurant chain. But let’s look at what the New Yorker said.

… the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage. “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation,” he once said, “when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ” The company has since reaffirmed its intention to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect,” but it has quietly continued to donate to anti-L.G.B.T. groups.

Clue, Mr. MacKinnon. It’s not Chick-fil-A’s association with the Sermon on the Mount that is causing the problem.

In college, they now teach about the evils of “Christian Privilege.”

A shame MacKinnon missed that.

In name, on the crucifix, and in art, Jesus Christ is desecrated in the most twisted and obscene of ways. In movies, on television and online, Christians are portrayed in the most dishonest, prejudiced and insulting of ways.

Especially on the Christian Broadcasting Network, she snarked. Seriously, I’m not seeing an uptick of people poking fun at Jesus.

Across the country, Christian colleges are under constant assault from “social justice warriors” seeking to strip their accreditation and put them out of business.

The only example of such a thing that I could find by googling is a 2014 article from the National Catholic Register, which worried that some colleges might lose accreditation if they didn’t stop discriminating against homosexual students. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Christian groups on campus are at times being persecuted, their offices and handouts vandalized, with members even being physically assaulted.

I could find no news stories, even old ones, claiming such a thing.

In a nation that is still majority Christian, those who follow the faith have been litigated or brow-beaten into being fearful to utter the words “Merry Christmas,” or to display a Nativity scene celebrating the one and only reason there is a Christmas Day.

Another bogus claim. Christian churches and individual Christians can put all the nativity scenes they want on their own property. The issue is whether they can be placed on public property. See above about the evils of “Christian Privilege.” And I’ve yet to find an actual verifiable example of anybody being punished for saying “Merry Christmas.”

MacKinnon goes on and on, making whiny claims of persecution that he appears to be hauling out of his ass. If we ever want to put together a public display of “Why Right-Wing Christians Are Annoying and Why People Don’t Like Them,” I propose putting MacKinnon on a pedestal in the middle of the exhibit.

MacKinnon: We don’t dislike you because of your faith; we dislike you because you’re a whiny intolerant asshole. 

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Republicans Step on a Rake

Trump Maladministration

Apparently Republicans were eager to release the Comey memos because they believed it would reveal that Comey had leaked classified information. The Creature continued to believe that after the Republicans made the memos public.

However, people who don’t work for Fox News and who have combed through the memos are not finding the classified information that Comey allegedly leaked. Jeremy Stahl explains how the belief in the leaked classified memos comes from sloppy Fox News reporting, not the memos themselves.

See also Greg Sargent, The leaked Comey memos just blew up in Trump’s face.

When you cut through all the noise, what they really reveal is a senior law enforcement official struggling to figure out in real time how to handle efforts by the president to turn him into a loyalist devoted to carrying out his political will in wildly inappropriate fashion. Comey’s memos recount in new detail that Trump repeatedly demanded his loyalty and that Trump pressed him to drop his probe into his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Weirdly, Trump and his minions are claiming the memos prove “no collusion” and “no obstruction.” Um, no, they don’t.

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Not Settling for Crumbs

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I want to add just a few more thoughts to yesterday’s post on the Republican tax cuts and why they are unpopular. Paul Krugman points out that the Bush tax cuts, which similarly gave a lot of money to the rich and cranked up the budget deficit, were popular. “Distributionally, the two tax cuts were broadly similar – as I said, big stuff for the rich, plus what amount to loss leaders for the middle class,” Krugman writes.

[The] answer might be that the Bush tax cut was pushed through in a very different fiscal environment. Readers of a certain age may recall that when Bush ran in 2000, the U.S. actually had a budget surplus – which he claimed simply to be giving back to voters. But during the Obama years voters were subjected to constant scare talk about deficits and debt – some from centrist scolds, some from the very Republicans who rammed through their tax cut. This may have made voters more aware of the downside to big tax cuts for the rich, even if they got a bit themselves.

It’s really truly not 2001 any more. The economy had been, relatively speaking, pretty sweet in the late 1990s. It was the Age of Complacency. When George W. Bush talked about giving the budget surplus back to taxpayers, many people obviously assumed “budget surplus” meant there were piles of extra money in Washington somewhere that the government didn’t need, which of course isn’t how these things work.  But remember back in the earlier 1990s when Ross Perot got everybody worked up about the deficit? Look at what has happened since:


Anyway, much has happened since George W. Bush became president, and I’m not just talking about terrorist attacks. A lot of people never really recovered from the financial meltdown in 2008. That episode also showed America that the big shots in Washington and on Wall Street can’t be trusted. The rising tide they created for themselves was made of the tears and sweat of working people, who didn’t benefit, but who paid the price when it all tumbled down. Meanwhile we’re in a country made of crumbling infrastructure, and with major cities deprived of safe drinking water, and with shrinking social programs, and too many people still doing without secure housing and decent health care, and there’s never enough money to fix that.  But the rich get richer, and there’s always plenty of money for wars and parades and whatever ridiculous thing Scott Pruitt is doing.

Today, thanks to the tax cuts, big banks are reporting record profits. Few of us will benefit. And I think most people realize that, including even most Trump voters.

Martin Longman writes that pollsters have found people believe the tax breaks were just to reward Republican donors. Here he quotes the pollsters’ report:

One key difference the research found is voters are more receptive to the argument that Republicans are likelier to use government to personally enrich themselves and their wealthy donors. “They actually don’t think the tax plan was done for policy reasons,” Pollock said. “They don’t even think it was done for ideological reasons. They think it was done for purely dirty campaign reasons.”

That’s because it was. Voters didn’t see that in 2001, but they understand it now. And maybe we’ve finally reached the point that Republicans cannot continue to skate on the illusory promise of prosperity through tax cuts. They’ve pulled that trick too many times; people see the scam.

But I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Assuming the blue tide is real and the Dems take back the House and, maybe, the Senate this fall, the Dems can’t fall back into being the party of meaningless tweaks and Republican Lite. They have to be seen actually passing legislation that will benefit people, even if a Republican president vetoes it. And the problem with the Democrats is that a big chunk of the party is still complacent and still afraid that bold progressive initiatives will drive away the mythical center. Meanwhile, they take the votes of struggling minorities for granted, because hey — we’re not as bad as Republicans.

Thomas Edsall has an interesting column up

Last week, in an essay for CityLab, Richard Florida, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto, described how housing costs are driving the growing division between upwardly and downwardly mobile populations within Democratic ranks:

The rise in housing inequality brings us face to face with a central paradox of today’s increasingly urbanized form of capitalism. The clustering of talent, industry, investment, and other economic assets in small parts of cities and metropolitan areas is at once the main engine of economic growth and the biggest driver of inequality. The ability to buy and own housing, much more than income or any other source of wealth, is a significant factor in the growing divides between the economy’s winners and losers.

Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions.

In brief: High-income urban professionals have plenty of money and are often oblivious to the hardships faced by others living in the same city. This is true of high-income urban professionals who call themselves “liberals” and are consistent Democratic voters.

Edsall links to this essay by Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard, who lays out the problem in stark terms. He addresses the rise of right-wing authoritarian faux populism in western democracies.

Why were democratic political systems not responsive early enough to the grievances that autocratic populists have successfully exploited – inequality and economic anxiety, decline of perceived social status, the chasm between elites and ordinary citizens? Had political parties, particularly of the center left, pursued a bolder agenda, perhaps the rise of right-wing, nativist political movements might have been averted.

And why didn’t the Left respond?

After the supply-side shocks of the 1970s dissolved the Keynesian consensus of the postwar era, and progressive taxation and the European welfare state had gone out of fashion, the vacuum was filled by market fundamentalism (also called neoliberalism) of the type championed by Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The new wave also appeared to have caught the electorate’s imagination.

Instead of developing a credible alternative, politicians of the center left  into the new disposition. Clinton’s New Democrats and Tony Blair’s New Labour acted as cheerleaders for globalization. The French socialists inexplicably became advocates of freeing up controls on international capital movements. Their only difference from the right was the sweeteners they promised in the form of more spending on social programs and education – which rarely became a reality.

The French economist Thomas Piketty has recently documented an interesting transformation in the social base of left-wing parties. Until the late 1960s, the poor generally voted for parties of the left, while the wealthy voted for the right. Since then, left-wing parties have been increasingly captured by the well-educated elite, whom Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left,” to distinguish them from the “Merchant” class whose members still vote for right-wing parties. Piketty argues that this bifurcation of the elite has insulated the political system from redistributive demands. The Brahmin Left is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy – a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.

This is exactly what’s going on in the Democratic Party. In 2016 the Brahmin Left backed Hillary Clinton and could not for the life of them see why she was not a palatable candidate to most of the country, including working-class and young people of all races. The Brahmins are very proud of their support for civil rights for minorities, as they should be, but utterly oblivious to the way the system that benefits them is shafting everybody else. And this took us to the stupid post-2016 election squabbles about whether the Democratic Party should abandon civil rights in favor of economic issues, as if there was a reason the party couldn’t support both.

Trust in government has generally been declining in the US since the 1960s, with some ups and downs. There are similar trends in many European countries as well, especially in southern Europe. This suggests that progressive politicians who envisage an active government role in reshaping economic opportunities face an uphill battle in winning over the electorate. The fear of losing that battle may explain the timidity of the left’s response.

I’d say the real reason is that too many influential Democrats have their heads up their asses. My fear is that Democratic victories this December will translate into more Democratic complacency and inertia. People have seen through that scam, too. They are not willing to settle for crumbs any more. The party that really gets that will be in a great position to dominate American politics for a generation. The sad thing is, I don’t think either one really does.

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Republicans Don’t Understand Why People Don’t Like Them

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There’s a story in the right-wing Washington Examiner saying that Republicans are alarmed that their tax cuts aren’t more popular.

In a fresh NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey conducted jointly by Democratic and Republican pollsters, the law was underwater: 27 percent approved, 36 percent disapproved. Those results track with private data Republicans have monitored, sparking anxiety about their chances of surviving a tough November election with their House majority intact.

“Republicans have a lot of work in front of them to make sure people understand the benefits of the tax bill, and nobody is going to be driving this but them. They need to understand that it’s not just — we’ve done this, let’s go on to the next thing,” said David Winston, a GOP pollster who advises House and Senate Republicans.

“The signature achievement for Congressional Republicans for this Congress will have been the tax bill — no matter what else they do,” he added.

They are blaming Trump for being off message.

“People aren’t talking about it enough, and when people aren’t talking about it enough, that’s a problem,” Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday, of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “Our guys need to be talking about the tax bill more; that’s one of the things that I talked about in conference this morning.”

However, a poll taken in March found that 52 percent of working adults say they aren’t seeing any increase in their paychecks, which may tell us something about why talking about the tax cuts isn’t going to help. The tax bill doesn’t seem to be winning hearts and minds; a Gallup poll found 39 percent approval for it in February and April. No change.

Last February the Koch Brothers put a bunch of money into television ads aimed at Claire McCaskill for not voting for the tax increase. Here’s one, featuring a nice white family who have a very nice home. I saw a few of them, and then they stopped running. I suspect they weren’t moving the needle.

Last month Eric Levitz wrote that the tax cut bill was more popular in January, right after it passed, and then fell in popularity in February, which was when people were supposed to start seeing more money in their paychecks.

Republicans could blame the public for its ignorance on this front. Or, they could also blame themselves for giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy, and “so small they could be erased by your rising health-insurance premiums” tax breaks to working people.

The New York Times, also last month:

At Slyder’s Tavern, Matt Kazee, a machinist, drank a couple of beers as he waited for burgers to take home for dinner. His tab was about equal to the increase in his take-home pay after President Trump’s tax cut found its way into the nation’s paychecks.

“I have seen a little uptick in my paycheck, about what I expected, about 30 bucks,” said Mr. Kazee, who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 before backing Mr. Trump in the 2016 election. “It felt to me about like where things were 15 years ago.”

His underwhelmed reaction was not what Republicans had in mind. The white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest who helped put Mr. Trump in the White House are now seeing the extra cash from the tax cut, the president’s signature domestic policy achievement and the foundation for Republican election hopes in November.

But the result has hardly been a windfall, economically or politically. Other workers described their increase as enough for a week’s worth of gas or a couple of gallons of milk, with an additional $40 in a paycheck every two weeks on the high side to $2 a week on the low. Few are complaining, but the working class here is not feeling flush with newfound wealth.

Republicans really thought that throwing a few bucks at the little people would hand them the midterms on a plate. Remember Paul Ryan’s tweet about the secretary who got a whole additional $1.50 a week? It’s kind of hard to fake being a populist when you are clueless about the people.

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Barbara Bush, 1925-2018

Trump Maladministration

For the record.

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Good Guys/Bad Guys

Trump Maladministration

One of the fascinating aspects of our current outrageously convoluted concurrence of scandals it is the way that it confounds sorting many of the players into good guys and bad guys, as we humans tend to want to do.

Take James Comey, for example. Over the past couple of days a number of lefty-leaning commentators have written that Comey is no hero. See:

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, “James Comey Is No Hero.”

Charles Pierce, Esquire, “James Comey Is No Hero.”

Alex Ward, Vox, “Why James Comey isn’t the hero you think he is.”

Ryan Cooper, The Week, “James Comey Is Not a Hero.”

And so on and so on. Cooper provides the clearest explanation:

Let us recall Comey’s last-minute intervention in the 2016 election, when he loudly announced the reopening of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails on Oct. 28, then quietly closed it again after a few days. So far as anyone can tell, it directly caused a sharp decline in her poll numbers, and quite possibly may have tipped the election outcome on its own. (Of course, only Clinton’s extraordinarily unpopularity allowed the election to be close enough to tip in the first place.)

This was in direct violation of FBI rules on public statements about ongoing investigations. For very obvious reasons (which Comey unquestionably understood), national law enforcement must tread with extreme caution when it comes to investigations of political candidates. Claims that a candidate is corrupt is towards the top of the list of how authoritarian governments undermine fair elections.

Let us also recall what Comey did not say: that the Trump campaign was also under FBI investigation at that same moment — and for possibly colluding with a hostile foreign power, something that is considerably worse than violating government rules about proper email management. He left a New York Times story relating false claims of anonymous FBI sources that the agency saw no connection between Russia and Trump stand without correction.

In short: During the 2016 election, James Comey in his capacity as FBI director behaved as a committed and highly effective partisan of Donald Trump.

As I understand it, Comey’s explanation is that he presumed Clinton would win, and he wanted to inoculate the FBI from any accusations that the Bureau helped her win. But at the very least he should have been more forthcoming that the Trump campaign also was under investigation. But now Comey is on the front lines against Trump. He was the one factor outside of Clinton’s control that probably did cost her the election, but now he’s on “our” side. And, believe me, I’m not suggesting we should ask him to leave. If he can help bring down Trump, let him do it. Just don’t put him on a pedestal.

(And, before moving on from the damn emails, let us lay some blame on Hillary Clinton also. She may not have done anything criminal, but she herself mishandled the email situation from the beginning, starting with not notifying the State Department that she was setting up her own server and then mixing up government and personal emails in the same account. And then she let the situation fester way too long without addressing it more forthrightly. As Matt Yglesias wrote, it was a bullshit story, but Clinton allowed it to become a bullshit story.)

And then there are the #NeverTrump conservatives. It’s a bit disconcerting to find myself agreeing with the likes of Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, after their years of knee-jerk support for the Right. I assume that if America survives Trump, at some point in the future I’ll find myself calling Boot, Rubin et al. idiots once again. We’ll see. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg is still an obvious idiot, even if he dislikes Trump; this keeps me grounded. (But see also this interview of Rubin in Politico.  It appears scales have fallen from eyes.)

Charles Pierce wrote,

I am told regularly by people I admire and respect to hold my cynical tongue about all the career conservatives and television flotsam from the late and unlamented Avignon Presidency who now are all over the airwaves deploring the terrible things being done to the Republic by the president* and his dwindling band of loyalists down at Camp Runamuck. Be nice, I am told. These are valuable allies.

Try not to say so loudly that, as soon as the Republican Party casts off the First Millstone, these people all will be right back to promoting the ideas and the policies that made him possible in the first place—voodoo economics, wars of choice based on deceit, ticking-bomb excuses for torture, and night sweats over the impending rise of the liberal power elite. Keep that stuff to yourself, they say.

Both Boot and Rubin played their part in creating the Right-Wing Neverland of alt-truth that allowed Trump to run for the presidency without having to make sense or answer for his own sordid “business” background. Jonathan Chait wrote,

What implications might be drawn from the implacable support of the party base for the manifestly incompetent, scandal-ridden party leader? One might entertain the conclusion that no combination of facts and logic can dislodge the Republican base from its tribal loyalties. This interpretation could be supported by such evidence as the fondness of Republicans for birtherism, their distrust of climate science, and so on. Perhaps the Republican base as currently constituted is hopelessly immune to reason and a reasonable person such as Brooks should instead refocus his political energies on curtailing its political power.

Maybe somebody should send Brooks the quiz for conservatives in Charles Pierce’s post. Sample question: “Please provide an example of how you pushed back against the entire Swift Boating of Kerry. Did any of you upbraid the people who were peddling Purple Heart Band-Aids at the 2004 Republican Convention?” Do read it all.

Something else to read: Nancy LeTourneau, “What Was Speaker Paul Ryan Doing in Prague Three Weeks Ago?

To be honest, I have no idea what any of this means. But it is important to keep in mind that Ryan is better known for his ideological commitment to Ayn Rand economics than as a foreign policy expert. It sure looks like he knows that the whole Trump-Russia conspiracy is about to blow up and, as a final act, positioned himself for a 2020 presidential run as the non-Trump candidate. I’ll admit that is pure speculation on my part, so what do you make of all of this? Could it all be just one gigantic coincidence?

Finally, what’s up with the Sean Hannity-Michael Cohen thing? Why did Cohen’s lawyers make a big bleeping deal about keeping the “third client” anonymous, but then they blurted it out in open court? And then Hannity couldn’t deny being Cohen’s client forcefully enough. But then, he said Cohen was advising him on real estate. Cohen is not a real estate lawyer. Cohen is, however, involved in big real estate deals in a non-lawyer capacity. One might assume Hannity was up to something involving Cohen he doesn’t want the world to know about, wouldn’t one?

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Ooo, Somebody’s Scared

Trump Maladministration

Yesterday three lawyers working for Trump sent a letter to Judge Kimba Wood,  Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, asking that Trump be allowed to review all the documents seized from Michael Cohen before criminal investigators see it.

(If the name “Kimba Wood” sounds familiar, she was nominated to be U.S. Attorney General by Bill Clinton in 1993. Her name was withdrawn because of the nannygate thing, even thought she hadn’t done anything illegal, or anything that a lot of the Republicans in Congress hadn’t done, I’m sure. If she ever wanted to get revenge on the Right for that mess, now’s her chance. She is the judge who sentenced Michael Milken to ten years in prison. I also see in her bio that she originally was nominated to the SDNY court by Ronald Reagan on the recommendation of  Senator Al D’Amato, however. Make of that what you will. )

Judge Wood is scheduled to have a hearing this afternoon for the purpose of ascertaining that Cohen actually works as a lawyer. There’s some question whether he has had anything resembling a “law practice” for several years, in which case any pretense at privilege would go up in smoke.

The stuff seized in the raid last week is supposed to next go to a “taint team,” prosecutors who are not part of the investigation into Cohen, review all the material and eliminate anything that might be covered by lawyer privilege. Trump’s lawyers are trying to stop that, however.

“The president objects to the government’s proposal to use a ‘taint team’ of prosecutors from the very office that is investigating this matter to conduct the initial privilege review of documents seized from the President’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen,’’ Hendon’s letter said.

She added that “the president respectfully requests” that the judge issue an order barring the taint team from conducting an initial review of the seized material and require the government to turn over a copy of that material to Cohen’s lawyers.

Then, the president wants the court to direct Cohen “to identify to the president all seized materials that relate to him in any way and to provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel,” according to the letter. Any disputes about what material was or wasn’t covered by the attorney-client privilege would then be decided by a judge, under the president’s proposal.

Considering that the FBI apparently seized a truckload of stuff, this kind of review could drag on for years. I hope Judge Wood just says no.

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Trump’s Breaking Point?

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What everyone seems to be reading this weekend: Adam Davidson, “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency.” Youn will want to read this all the way through. “There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded,” Davidson writes. Here’s just a bit:

I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

The counter-argument, which Davidson addresses, is that Trump’s followers know him to be a ruthless, whatever-it-takes kind of guy, and that’s why they like him. Reports of criminal behavior in business will no more phase them than reports of his rampant promiscuity. Davidson argues that these people haven’t yet been exposed to the depths of Trump’s sleaziness. They still think of him as an actual businessman who became rich through his own shrewdness. When they find out he never was a businessman, really, but just a crook/media personality, they are likely to change their minds.

Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace.

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

I believe this is true. The question is, how long will it take? Six months? A year? A decade?

I remember lots of people supporting Nixon nearly up to the bitter end. But Nixon became persona non grata everywhere pretty quickly. Eventually even people who cheered on the Iraq War came to realize it was a massive clusterbleep. Unfortunately, it’s probably the case that things have to get worse before people are ready to wake up. Fortunately, it’s a near certainty things will get worse, because Trump is in charge and he’s an incompetent moron.

Now, skip over to David Atkins at Washington Monthly. “It’s Too Late for Trump To Stop the Investigations,” he writes.

With the joint cooperation of both federal and state investigators in pursuing the president’s long-time consigliere Michael Cohen, even successfully muzzling Mueller may well have little effect. Not only would the probe continue at the federal level regardless of a change in leadership, more importantly the state-level investigations would proceed at full pace as well.

The raid by the Southern District New York on Michael Cohen’s residences and office looks more and more significant, and there’s not a damn thing Trump can do to stop it.

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Syria: One and Done, and Nothing Really Changes

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Before we go on to Syria — does anyone remember Trump’s big announcement last August that he was calling for a troop increase in Afghanistan?

President Trump outlined a revised vision for the U.S. war in Afghanistan on Monday, pledging to end a strategy of “nation-building” and instead institute a policy aimed more squarely at addressing the terrorist threat that emanates from the region. …

… But Trump provided few specifics about his policy and how much the U.S. military commitment in the region would increase as a result, insisting that conditions on the ground would determine troop levels and strategy.

What sticks in my head most vividly is a conversation I overheard the next day, in which some locals were telling each other with some excitement that Trump was going to bring back the draft. They were anticipating a major military action in Afghanistan. And I’m thinking, seriously? This is nothing but the usual blah blah blah. In a couple of weeks nobody will remember anything about it. And I was right. There was a modest increase in troops, btw, that nobody seems to have noticed.

This morning I saw someone on social media declaring that we were back at war, and I’m thinking, probably not. It’s not clear to me that yesterday’s strike on Syria was any different from other strikes on Syria. This is just what we do in the absence of having a plan; we periodically fire missiles at Syria.

Krishnadev Calamur writes at the Atlantic:

It was a dramatic action at the end of a dramatic few days. But we’ve seen a version of this before. What’s different about these strikes, Trump said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” And, as Dunford pointed out later, while the previous strike hit one facility, this one struck three. And while the last one was unilateral, this one involved the British and the French.

But, as was the case with the last strike, we won’t immediately know how effective Friday’s strikes were in stopping further chemical attacks—or what will happen should Russia intervene militarily.

This year’s Syria air strike was bigger than last year’s Syria air strike, but I’m not seeing anyone who thinks it will make any long-term difference. The goal seems to have been to make a show of doing something without doing so much something that there would be any retaliation. Trump may have said that he is “prepared to sustain” whatever you want to call yesterday’s strikes, but Secretary of Defense James Mattis said this was a “one-time shot.” It appears Trump’s administration pays less and less attention to Trump. It’s the only way it can function at all.

Just as a sign of how bleeped this all is, Trump actually tweeted “mission accomplished!” this morning. I’m not kidding.

Lives lost, families blown apart. But we have cool missiles!

Most of the smart people are saying that the “result” is that Assad has won. Krishnadev Calamur concluded,

Any damage sustained to Syrian military facilities can be repaired by Assad’s benefactors, Russia and Iran. Assad has all but won the conflict at a great cost: More than 500,000 people have been killed, the war has created more than 5 million refugees, and entire cities have been flattened. Unless the U.S. supplements Friday’s actions with a broader military role in Syria—one that neither the president nor the American public has the appetite for—Assad will not only remain in power, but also retain his ability to target his people.

Juan Cole:

In our age of politics as reality show, where we have hired the star of NBC’s “Apprentice” to play president (apparently in large part because he is both consistently awful and highly entertaining at once), even geopolitics is done for show.

The United States, France and the UK lost the Syrian War to Russia and Iran. It is all over but the shouting. They had hoped that the al-Assad regime, which had been a thorn in their sides for decades, would be overthrown. It isn’t an ignoble hope. It is a horrible, Stalinist regime with massive amounts of blood on its hands. But the reasons for which Washington, Paris and London wanted it gone were not necessarily noble ones. Syria is among the last states to reject Israel. Its secular elites reached out, isolated after the end of the Cold War, to Iran for support. Its system does not accommodate the Western corporate take-over of the country’s economy. Overthrowing countries that buck the neoliberal, barracuda capitalist Washington consensus and challenge the neocolonial order in the Middle East (with the assumption of Israeli hegemony in the Levant) is a no-brainer for the North Atlantic powers. …

… The missile attacks are for domestic politics, and perhaps to some extent a demonstration of political will to Russia and Iran. As military history they are a footnote.

Those who argue that they were necessary to show resistance to the use of chemical weapons are missing some things. The West backed Saddam Hussein’s use of chem in the Iraq-Iran War. It is hard to see why killing children with chlorine differs from the point of view of the children from killing them with bombs. Military action should be taken in accordance with international law. And, deploying missile strikes ineffectually renders them less effective politically down the road.

These strikes are like when a fistfight breaks out on the reality show Big Brother. The show will go on next week.

It’s worth reading Juan Cole all the way through; he explains what’s actually going on better than most of the big media outlets. And for all the chest-thumping going on in Washington, the more telling news is this:

Moscow met the limited American-led airstrikes against Syria before dawn on Saturday with plenty of bluster and heated rhetoric, starting with an uncharacteristically quick response from President Vladimir V. Putin condemning the attack and accusing the United States of aggravating the humanitarian situation.

But there was also a palpable sense of relief.

The sun was barely up before the Defense Ministry, not famous for speedy reactions, pumped out a statement underscoring that none of the thousands of Russian troops garrisoned in Syria had been threatened by the American, British and French attack and that none of its air defense systems had been mobilized.

This just in: Pro-Assad official says targeted bases were evacuated on Russian warning. Of course they were.

Right now my email in box is clogged with messages from various groups asking me to help stop Trump’s illegal strikes in Syria (by sending them money). I suspect the strikes are over already — for a while, anyway. Until next time somebody decides we have to Do Something about Assad.

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The Slogan “Show Me State” Takes on New Meaning

Republican Party

Yesterday the Missouri House released a 400-page report about the 2015 “affair” between not-yet Governor Eric Greitens and his hairdresser, which includes the woman’s testimony. You can read the highlights here. Executive summary: Greitens is a predator, an abuser and a creep. See also “House report stings like the slap it says Eric Greitens delivered to his lover.”

First, let me say that the nation owes this woman and her estranged husband, who persisted in calling media attention to the incident, a debt of gratitude. I understand the Republican Party had its eye on Greitens for greater things, maybe even a presidential run someday. Now even the Republican-dominated Missouri House is calling for him to resign. We’re all dodging a bullet with this guy.

Claire McCaskill is running television ads reminding voters that her probable general election opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, initially supported Greitens when the first accusations came out. But now even Hawley is calling for Greitens to resign, so McCaskill may not get much mileage with that.

Greitens claims to be the victim of a “political witch hunt” and is continuing to push his agenda, which includes right-to-work laws, stripping state employees of worker protections and defunding higher ed. The usual Republican stuff.

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