Tuesday, November 05, 2019

It's too damned crazy

I can't keep up with the news. You can't keep up with the news. Nobody can. The best we can do is snatch at some of the news as it rushes by.

Sondland has amended his testimony. The hotelier recovered his memories: "Oh, you mean THAT quid pro quo! I thought you were asking if I bought a used Go Pro camera for a quid. In, uh, England. Quid Go Pro."

Sondland also brought Mike Pence into the picture.
Mr. Sondland recounted how he had discussed the linkage with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Zelensky in Warsaw. Mr. Zelensky had discussed the suspension of aid with Mr. Pence, Mr. Sondland said.
Pence can claim that the suspension discussion had no link to the "Get Biden" plan, but any such denial would be gossamer thin.

I said it in an earlier post: The EU ambassador may have pledged loyalty to Trump without understanding that Trump's definition of "loyalty" is "Die for me." Sondland finally understands that.

That said, it should be understood that Sondland has not truly flipped. It's complicated.
In other words, while Sondland is taking big steps toward an explicit admission of demanding a quid pro quo from Ukraine for the investigations, he’s insulating his boss, Trump, from any culpability. Sondland wasn’t told that Trump said aid was contingent on investigations, according to his new assertions, just that he sort of guessed that’s what it would take.

This is hard to believe, but Sondland's other testimony similarly insists on his own ignorance as an excuse for questionable activity.
On the other hand...
Sondland testified that Trump and Giuliani’s positions “kept getting more insidious,” evolving from a general interest in fighting corruption to an interest in Burisma and finally to an investigation of the Bidens. The EU envoy noted he was not a lawyer but said he “assumed” an effort to pressure Ukraine to do so, as pursued by Giuliani with Trump’s support, would be illegal.

Trump’s allies have recently begun to embrace a new defense: that Trump might have sought a quid pro quo, but that doing so is neither improper nor impeachable. In a criminal trial, a witness's legal opinion is considered irrelevant. But impeachment is a political process — and with Sondland's testimony, that talking point has now been complicated by Trump’s own appointee.
You have to take this new-and-improved testimony in context: Mulvaney, Taylor, Vindman, Morrison, and Senator Ron Johnson have all told us that there was a quid pro quo. And then there's the transcript itself, which Trump calls "perfect," and others call perfectly damning.

Yet Trump still insists on sticking to his "No quid pro quo" story. He's not even fooling his own supporters by this point.

All day, I've been flashing back to 2016. Remember when Trump got on TV and tried to convince the country that Trump Steaks was still in business? He "proved" his point with prop steaks from another supplier. Yet as he lied, his eyes shone with a crazed gleam -- and I got the impression that, on some level, he really believed that he was still in the steak business.

Maybe he really believes that there was no quid pro quo. Maybe he really believes that the transcript exonerates him.

Lev Parnas may actually dish on Trump. When we first got word that he would appear before Congress, I was cynical. I presumed that he would be more of a Manafort than a Cohen -- in other words, he wouldn't be a talker.

But Trump can't wave a pardon in front of Lev, can he? I mean, yeah, that's technically possible, but even Donald Trump must bow to certain political proprieties.

As you will recall, Lev's former lawyer John Dowd -- also Trump's lawyer -- suggested that Parnas is protected by executive privilege, even though Parnas doesn't work for the administration -- he works for the Dmitry Firtash crime syndicate. Trump, true to form, insisted that he didn't even know Parnas, even though strong evidence suggests otherwise. My sources tell me that the president offered three such denials, and then a rooster crowed.

The new lawyer (not Dowd, who lasted barely a month) says that Parnas got pissed off by Trump's denials. Hence the offer to work with the investigators.

Here's hoping that Lev Parnas will spill more beans than B&M cans in a decade.

I've heard of strange bedfellows, but this...! Who the hell is Aaron Maté? He's considered a really important journalist over at The Nation, a rag I stopped reading back in the early 1990s. I'm told that it's now BernieBro Central. Maté is even worse than Taibbi when it comes to insidious attempts to sell the Trump party line to liberals. This exchange with Marcy Wheeler offers a glimpse into one of the most bizarre subcultures of our bizarre era: The pro-Tump left.

(I really hope that Aaron is not related to this famous cinematographer and director, whose work I've always admired.)

But it gets even weirder.

In an episode of the anti-fascist podcast I Don't Speak German -- this episode, if memory serves -- the host and guest agreed that a surprising number of hard-core, white nationalist Alt Righties have grown tired of Trump. He's like, so five minutes ago. Believe it or not, these acolytes of Adolf are now gravitating toward Andrew Yang.

Why Yang? Because he promises a free $1000 check every month. That prospect sounds like heaven to these unlovable exemplars of the Master Race, who'd like nothing more than to spend their days "shit-posting" in the basement. Their only problem with Yang is, of course, his heritage.

Keep in mind that, like, five or ten minutes ago, most of these indolent bigots were libertarians.

So here we are: The Nation has become a pro-Trump, pro-Putin, pro-fascist publication -- while a bunch of ultra-racist former Randroids now support a non-white candidate offering the proverbial free lunch.

And the mice no longer eat cheese. They demand to be eaten by the cat, who would rather be killed by the bulldog.

Maybe this theory is right. Maybe we all died in 2012 and we just don't know it. Maybe that's why nothing makes sense.

I was going to write a much longer post, but I can't. I just can't. It's too damned crazy.


joseph said...

It seems to me that Trump was more interested in finding Hillary's server in the Ukraine. I seriously doubt that Hillary had a server in the Ukraine, but more importantly, I don't understand what the point of finding the alleged server would be. What information exactly would be contained on that server? It couldn't be emails stored on there because Hillary's IT guys put copies on the cloud. I don't understand how access to the server would give any information as to what entity was responsible for the hack. I acknowledge being old and not having grown up with computers, but it seems to me that any hack would have been the result of internet access to the server and the FBI has already determined based on the access that the Russians were responsible. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

@Joseph, hope you’re well and that tonight’s election results will encourage you to write that longer post you mention.

All the weirdness cannot be accidental or coincidence.

Time to read Peter Pomerantsev, who writes about the psychological warfare tactics used by the Russians. He has a new book out called This is not Propaganda.

His 2011 essay in the LRB, “Putin’s Rasputin,” becomes only more timely. Not paywalled. Link:

danny viborg said...

There's something I've been wanting to comment about here for a while. It's grown from taking issue with a specific topic to a general concern I have..

I should start by saying that I have recently rediscovered my admiration for this blog in a big way. I remember reading you back in the W years which was always a hoot, and I mean that in the best way. Then I tuned out for a while but recently you're practically essential reading in my book.

What I especially appreciate is the semi-investigative reporting based on cold hard facts. I understand in this field that some amount of speculation is usually involved, and I respect that your speculation is mostly evidence-based.

With that in mind I'd like to offer some hopefully consttructive criticism. To be clear, I agree with what I think I saw you comment on regarding modern politics and how fixated it is on issues of identity. For the most part it's become a distraction and it's clear that the main reason is because it is in the interests of corporate capitalism to distract us from economic issues. It does seem like identity politics is an issue that leads to a somewhat personal reaction on your part though. You probably know that one issue I'm touching on here is feminism. Ok, I get it. I think I used to share your perspective more, but then I got a look at the other side. You think feminists are unreasonable...yes no doubt some of them are. But Men's Rights...come on, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There is a significant and vocal faction of people who just harbor an unreasonable hatred of the notion of equal rights for women. I'm not saying you're one of them by any means, but it's possible you just don't quite realize how unreasonably misogynistic some of those folks are. I certainly didn't quite get it until recently.

It's almost beside the point though. I think we all realize we've fallen on desperate times, and even if you don't label yourself a progressive then I hope we at least agree in the value of basic human democratic rights. And I think we can admit it's gotten to where the other side doesn't really seem to value democracy so much any more. So yes politics makes strange bedfellows, and I can understand your issues with identity politics. But I suggest in the spirit of free inquiry and good faith discussion that if you can't discuss issues like feminism in a way that's inclusive of your likely political allies, maybe it would be best for you to avoid discussion those topics in general.

Much respect,


MrMike said...

Somebody tell Gordo who Lawrence Scooter Libby is and what didn't happen to Karl Rove at Pat Fitzgerald's hand?

Joseph Cannon said...

"But Men's Rights...come on, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There is a significant and vocal faction of people who just harbor an unreasonable hatred of the notion of equal rights for women."

Is that fair? I've never sided with (or even mentioned) the Men's Rights movement.

Now, they may have a point or two in their favor -- for example, when it comes to child custody issues. I have not studied that issue in any depth because -- well, frankly, I have not reproduced. I've had friends who had children and then divorced, but for the most part, they were lucky enough to avoid acrimonious custody disputes. Bottom line, that may or may not be an area where the men's rights contingent has a valid argument. There may be other areas of valid argumentation as well.

The whole idea of "Men's Rights" bugs me because it reeks of identity politics -- of division. To me, the only division worthy of our concentrated attention is the haves versus the have-nots.

If I recall the numbers correctly, only 30 percent of the American populace embraces feminism. (Only 38 percent of women do.) Last I looked, I think something like 82 percent of Americans favor gender equality. The number fluctuates from poll to poll, but it is always very high. Therefore, you should conclude that I stand with the 50+ percent who like the idea of gender equality but don't like what feminism has turned into.

You should NOT conclude that I stand with the 18 percent who dislike gender equality. Anyone who automatically makes that presumption is being either foolish or manipulative.