100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

THE HEAT IS ON



Nervous yet, Paulie boy?
(PHOTO: US News & World Report)
Like ants under a microscope, the president*'s goon squad is once again feeling the sizzle:
"What's certainly the case is that the FBI, backed by the Justice Department, felt it had ample evidence to pursue the warrant based on what they already knew about Manafort and his dealings. The surveillance first began in 2014, well before the election or The Age of Trump, with the FBI's investigation into Manafort's work on behalf of Ukraine's former ruling party. Eventually, we would learn that Manafort was paid at least $17 million to work with the party of Kremlin-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. A ledger that popped up in Ukraine last year also appeared to detail payments. […]
 

That second warrant was linked to the Justice Department investigation into ties between Trump campaign associates—Manafort was once the campaign chairman—and Russian officials. The warrant would have needed the approval of top brass at both the FBI and DOJ. In theory, it's difficult to secure a FISA warrant, particularly against an American citizen—though that's debated—and the FBI would need to have shown "suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power." It's not the first such FISA warrant the FBI has secured to monitor a member of Trumpworld: They also got one to keep tabs on Carter Page, the former campaign foreign policy adviser who knows his way around Moscow. […]

It's unclear when exactly the surveillance kicked back into gear, but CNN reports Manafort managed to recapture the FBI's attention when he was caught on intercepted communications with "Russian operatives." (Here it would seem the Russian operatives were under surveillance and Manafort was caught in the net, much like Trump could have been caught in a similar net set for him.) The FBI also caught chatter among the Russians themselves that turned their attention back to Manafort. While the exact timeline is unconfirmed, a source told CNN the FBI was not listening in June 2016, when Manafort joined a meeting at Trump Tower organized by Donald Trump, Jr., with an intriguing ensemble of characters, including a Kremlin-connected lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Whatever the FBI did find has been turned over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators."
The only thing that will drive this administration back into the whole from whence it came is Death By A Thousand Cuts. It's too big, too entrenched in the system that spawned it for this to happen any other way. While such damage may be maddeningly slow to inflict, it sure is a helluva lot of fun to watch guys like Manafort flinch every time the feel the sting of the lash.

Friday, September 15, 2017

HOUSEKEEPING!

I’m really bad at this whole self-promotion thing, outside of the sharing by rote of my postings across various social media outlets…I’d prefer to let me work speak for itself most of the time, rather than get swept up in the “lookit me, lookit meeeeeee!” mentality that has come to pervade the entire Internet. There was a time where this kinda stuff came much more naturally to me, but age and disappointments and general curmudgeonry have made me much more reclusive in recent years; given that I don’t have and can’t afford someone to handle this nonsense for me, here we are.

Podcast preparations have begun in earnest, and I have – or shall I say, had – two interviews booked in as many weekends starting as of tomorrow, the former of which was postponed due to ill health on the part of my guest. However, never being one to waste a workday (actually, this is not true; I’m a world-class procrastinator) I’ll be doing some final tweaks to my trailer script, and possibly even recording it tomorrow. With any luck, I’ll have it ready to go in a couple of weeks.

Other interview prospects down the pipe are highly intriguing, ranging from musicians to activists to historians to musicians and beyond. I’m also working on my first storytelling/historical segment, which has been a fascinating experience, to say the least. The differences between outlining scripts versus outlining essays are not large; you’re arranging ideas and quotes and anecdotes together to form a compelling story/argument, deciding when to show and when to tell, apply appropriate levels of rhetorical flourish, etc. The biggest differences I’ve noticed have been that the latter tend to be slightly more linear, and the former bring to mind concepts and digressions that would never translate well into written format, but will be easy to bullshit my way through out loud. I have a feeling doing this show is going to impact my overall creativity immensely, which I suppose was easily half the point.

Also, I’m continuously surprised and heartened by the outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends and family regarding my decision to do this. One of the things I’ll be featuring prominently on the show is local, San Francisco Bay Area music, crafted by a number of bands whom I’ve known and loved for years. When I approached them for permission to use their material, there wasn’t a single one who didn’t enthusiastically say “yes!” and proceed to tell me how excited they were to hear that I was finally launching another show post-Face For Radio, and that they couldn’t wait to hear it and share it with their friends.

Their vote of confidence is both humbling and empowering, and for the first time, not threatening. When I was a full-time musician, I was in competition with many of these folks for gigs, mindshare, clicks, downloads, you name it. And while that competition wasn’t “official” in any way, it never changed the fact that I always felt like so many of the bands I was surrounded by were so much better than my own, and when my peers would tell me otherwise, I simply couldn’t believe it to be anything other than good sportsmanship. But we’re in non-competing spaces now, and they’ve heard and seen what I’ve done in the post-music years, and want to be a part of it. While that doesn’t make me “better” by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly makes it a lot easier to look them in the eye and know they’re not full of shit.

That’s all I got, for now. Look for the first podcast trailer in a few weeks, and keep those donations and Patreon subscriptions coming in. Also, sharing means caring; if you like my stuff, share it on your social networks and help me get the word out. It don’t cost nothin’ but a couple extra mouse clicks, and I need all the help I can get. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend, and if you’re gonna punch any Nazis, be sure and lock your wrist.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

SO MUCH WINNING!

(PHOTO: Yahoo News)
Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton is no fool. Her bids to remain relevant post-election, whatever their purpose might be, have been undeniably successful, up to and including the publication of her electoral autopsy-cum-memoir, What Happened. Like with so many observations of the woman herself, Clinton's book is full of speculation ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, but there's no denying that her portrait of Donald Trump, as echoed in a recent interview with David Remnick in The New Yorker, is spot fucking on.
“[Trump] is immature, with poor impulse control; unqualified for the position that he holds; reactive, not proactive; not strategic, either at home or on the world stage. And I think he is unpredictable, which, at the end of the description one can give of him, makes him dangerous. The latest incident with North Korea? Going after our ally, South Korea, while North Korea is threatening the region, threatening us? Going after China, which we need, whether we like it or not, to help us try to resolve the aggressive behavior of Kim Jong Un? It puts a smile on Kim’s face. Just like him going after nato and the Atlantic alliance puts a smile on Putin’s face. He admires authoritarians. In fact, before this crisis with North Korea, he was praising Kim Jong Un. He clearly has a bromance toward Putin, whom he lauds as a great leader.

He’s being played by the Putins and the Kim Jong Uns of the world. I’m not even sure he’s aware of that. Because he has such a limited understanding of the world. Everything is in relation to how it makes him feel. And therefore he has little objective distance, which a leader must have. Making decisions in the Oval Office requires a level of dispassionate, reasoned analysis. We’ve seen no evidence he’s capable of that.”
Remnick's interview is was also featured on their companion program The New Yorker Radio Hour, and I highly recommend you give it a listen. Mrs. Clinton is a much better speaker than she is an author, especially when conversating with a savvy political reporter rather than, say, Joy Behar on The View



There is one thing I will say about Hillary's description of the president*: it doesn't go far enough. Trump isn't just being "played by the Putins and the Kim Jong Uns of the world"; he's being played by the Trudeaus and the Merkels and the Macrons and Xi Jinpings of the world, too. As you can imagine, this doesn't exactly bode well for our nation's already FUBARed economic situation.
"Foreign governments have adapted. They flatter Trump outrageously. Their emissaries stay at his hotels and offer the Trump Organization abundant concessions (39 trademarks approved by China alone since Trump took office, including one for an escort service). They take him to military parades; they talk tough-guy-to-tough-guy; they show him the kind of deference that only someone without a center can crave. And so he flip-flops: Paris was no longer “so, so out of control, so dangerous” once he’d had dinner in the Eiffel Tower; Xi Jinping, during an April visit to Mar-a-Lago, went from being the leader of a parasitic country intent on ripping off American workers to being “a gentleman” who “wants to do the right thing.” (By July, Trump was back to bashing China, for doing “NOTHING” to help us.)

In short, foreign leaders may consider Trump alarming, but they do not consider him serious. They may think they can use him, but they know they cannot rely on him. They look at his plans to slash the State Department’s ranks and its budget—the latter by about 30 percent—and draw conclusions about his interest in traditional diplomacy. And so, already, they have begun to reshape alliances and reconfigure the networks that make up the global economy, bypassing the United States and diminishing its standing. In January, at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Xi made a case for Chinese global leadership that was startlingly well received by the rich and powerful officials, businesspeople, and experts in attendance. In March, Canada formally joined a Chinese-led regional development bank that the Obama administration had opposed as an instrument of broadened Chinese influence; Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France were among the founding members. In July, Japan and Europe agreed on a free-trade deal as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump had unceremoniously discarded."
There has never been any doubt in my mind that at some point our nation would be forced to reconcile with the notion that we cannot function in perpetuity as the world's chief economic power, but I had hoped such a thing would happen with a bang, not a whimper from the puckery asshole-mouth of some orange-pasted egomaniac with all the intelligence of a salt shaker.

HE'S GONNA GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS...


...no matter what.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

BATTLE OF THE BILLIONARES

No More Mister Nice Blog is reporting that heir to House Harkonnen (thanks, Uncle Charlie!) Steve Bannon’s post-Cheetocracy shenanigans regarding the 2018 mid-terms have been…strange, to say the least:
“Breitbart is promoting the guy running against Trump's candidate as if he is Trump's candidate. Remember that Trump endorsed Luther Strange in Alabama's special Senate election. Breitbart prefers former "Ten Commandments judge" Roy Moore. Breitbart is not just running stories in praise of Moore – it's describing Moore as the true Trump candidate...even though White House legislative director Marc Short reaffirmed Trump's support for Strange yesterday, the Breitbart story insists that Trump "has...withdrawn his support for Strange for now."

That's Bannon's idea of being a wingman and helping to "get allies of President Donald Trump elected to the Senate": He decides who's pro-Trump, not Trump...Bannon and his fellow Breitbartniks believe in Trumpism – but they reserve the right to define what Trumpism is, and sometimes it's the opposite to what Trump himself is actually doing. They think they're more Catholic than the #MAGA pope.”
On its face, the idea of pitting these two against each other for the title of Chief Bootlicker is actually sound political strategy; no matter who wins, Trump earns an ever-more-devoted sycophant. But the 50,000-foot view, courtesy of The American Prospect, reveals something significantly more diabolical at work.
"It’s clear that Mercer has no small amount of envy for the Koch brothers, the billionaire siblings whose will has largely shaped the GOP agenda as the party became ever more dependent on the political infrastructure built by the Kochs and the donor network they have cultivated over the course of decades. No longer insurgents, the Kochs and their political beneficiaries have become part of the GOP establishment. House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose career got a mighty boost from the Koch-founded Americans For Prosperity (AFP), is a case in point. Ryan, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are now tasked with the realities of governing, which often leads them to make decisions that are at odds with the president’s whims. And that makes them, and some of the incumbents they hope to re-elect, the focus of right-wing ire.

Bannon and his patron Mercer, it seems, are willing to take their chances on the possible loss of the GOP’s narrow Senate majority if the gambit places Mercer in the kingmaker’s seat, supplanting the Koch brothers in that role. But there’s a fly in that ointment, for nearly all Republican lawmakers depend on the Koch brothers’ political apparatus in order to win re-election, especially the get-out-the-vote operations of Americans For Prosperity, and the data firm i360. Bannon seems to be betting that AFP will turn out the vote for any Republican who runs for the Senate, including the neo-theocrat Roy Moore, whom Bannon is backing against Strange in the Alabama Republican primary.

Then again, Bannon may night mind seeing the GOP lose the Senate, seeing how that would deprive McConnell, as special target of Bannon’s opprobrium, of what power he currently holds. Both Ryan and McConnell, Bannon charged in his 60 Minutes interview, seek “to nullify the 2016 election.” […]

Given Bannon’s longstanding contempt for McConnell and Ryan, it would be easy to take these statements at face value. But there’s something far deeper going on. This is not about a battle for the soul of the party. It’s about which billionaires get to control the levers of power. And Mercer clearly thinks it should be him.

During the presidential campaign, the Koch brothers made a show of not backing Donald Trump for the party’s nomination, and later saying they wouldn’t put money into the presidential contest. But that was more posture than pledge, since all of AFP’s voter-turnout efforts surely redounded to Trump’s benefit, since most who came to a voting booth to select a Republican for Congress likely marked the box next to Trump’s line among the choices for president. Like many Republicans, Koch operations like to play the race card without naming it as such. Calls for ending Obamacare or shrinking the food stamp program: This is the kind of code employed in Kochian rhetoric. Trump’s crime was his coarse and obvious embrace of haters of all stripes.

Mercer, however, doesn’t stand on ceremony. He’s poured some $10 million into Breitbart.com, the website Bannon proudly dubbed “the platform of the alt-right,” where Islamophobia and racism shape false narratives about terrorism and crime, and misogyny abounds. Mercer money also fueled the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute founded by Bannon, which generated false narratives about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, producing the since-discredited book, Clinton Cash, whose claims were picked up by The New York Times. Mercer also gave Bannon a top post at his for-profit political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, which uses Facebook profiles to determine voter preferences. (Bannon resigned as Cambridge Analytica’s vice president when he won his White House appointment.)"
It’s becoming increasingly clear that a Steve Bannon-helmed Breitbart News Network, more than any other online media outlet (with the possible exception of Facebook, according to their recently-disclosed FBI report) was the single most influential player in the 2016 election. Bannon knows it, and more importantly, Mercer knows it. He bought the office, so to the victor go the spoils, right?

Using BNN to primary Koch-suckers for Mercer from the right is a risky strategy, to say the least. But what Bannon lacks in a proper dermatological regimen he more than makes up in personal and professional ambition; if he manages to capture a few seats on behalf of his paymaster, not only will it put the Kochs on their heels, but it will place his scabrous, bloated body all-too-dangerously close to the levers of power once again, standing alongside a man with all the moral compunction of a starved and beaten hyena.

“What a time to be alive,” he says, sarcastically.