Friday, May 25, 2018

Trump's Fake News Strategy

As you know, Li’l Donnie Trump is quite often in a snit over the press. He constantly demeans and defames journalists with terms like “lying”, “failing”, “corrupt” and, of course, his favorite “Fake News”. 


The term “Fake News” was first brought to prominence in relation to Russian efforts to interfere in our electoral process but the promulgation of fake news stories to discredit Hillary Clinton and promote Donald Trump. “Fake News” applied to completely made up stories originating from persons or groups with no journalistic credentials. 


Trump immediately seized on the term for any news story he didn’t like.


Why does he do that?


Donald Trump is an egomaniacal, thin skinned, petulant man-child asshole. 


If you’re looking for more than that,  CBS journalist Lesley Stahl has something to share.  


According to Stahl, Trump told her that he continually “discredits” and “demeans” the press for a very specific reason: to sow uncertainty about the media so that “no one will believe” negative stories about him.


The “60 Minutes” reporter recalled what happened when she and her boss met with the then president-elect at Trump Tower after in late 2016. Trump eventually started bashing the press in front of them.


Stahl spoke up to Trump, saying, “‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over. It’s boring and it’s time to end that.’ And he said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’” 


So basically Trump copped to a strategy of carpet bombing the press. With no regard to specific stories or targets, just continually demean and deride all the press all the time so that whenever they do a story he doesn’t like, his followers will not believe it. If Trump paints the press as “lying”, “failing”, “corrupt” and  “Fake News” all the time, then he destroys their credibility with those who would still support Trump. Negative stories are just like all the other stories: “Fake News”.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Trump Cancels His Date With Kim Jong Un

Li’l Donald Trump, perpetually in a petulant snit, canceled his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Kim said mean, nasty things, that ol’ nasty meanie!


“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, sent to reporters on Thursday.


No, the letter was not written in crayon so color me surprised. 


Yep, Kim was back in a belligerent mode of late but that appears to be in direct response to comments made by national security adviser John Bolton.  


You see, Bolton is an extreme hardliner who thinks “shoot first, ask questions later” is too lenient. Bolton is more of a “shoot first, I don’t have any questions” kind of a guy.


Bolton recently made the rounds on news shows promoting the idea that engagement with North Korea would follow the Libya model. 


What, pray tell, is the Libya model, you may ask?


After Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003, an armed revolution aided by a U.S. and NATO military intervention ousted him in 2011. Rebel forces captured Gaddafi, sodomized him with gardening tools and brutally killed him. I’m sure along one of those steps (capture, sodomize or kill), Gaddafi was probably thinking, “Gee, I bet this would NOT be happening if I still had my nuclear weapons program.”


I imagine hearing John Bolton go “oh, we would like to follow a Libya model” made Kim Jong Un think, “What? And get captured, sodomized with gardening tools AND brutally killed? Oh fuck you, John Bolton!” Then just to be on the safe side, Kim Jong Un ordered all hoes and pruning shears to be removed from North Korea. 


The thing is, the “Libya model” represents the person with the nuclear weapons program completely giving up the nuclear weapons program in exchange for the rest of the world leaving their ass alone. That didn’t happen in Libya. Now that’s not to say Muammar Gaddafi didn’t have it coming. Gaddafi was a genocidal madman who is currently in his own corner of hell being sodomized with gardening tools.


Kim Jong Un himself is not a nice guy. He has a lot of blood on his hands too. If John Bolton’s reference to the “Libya model” wasn't a tacit enough threat to Kim Jong Un, Kim only needs to look to a more recent example to give him pause: Li’l Donnie’s violation of the Iran nuclear deal. 


Iran agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. Weapon inspectors and various intelligence agencies have concurred: Iran has done it’s part. 


Trump said, “Fuck that! I just KNOW Iran has to be violating the deal so, hold on, bitches, I’m laying down the worst economic sanctions on your asses.” 


Kim Jong Un may be short and has trouble seeing over the tops of things but he can hear clearly the message: North Korea has to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for… nothing. No, just because America says so.


So where is Kim Jong Un’s incentive to behave, to cooperate, to negotiate?   


Of course, there is the possibility this was the plan all along. The word was that Trump doing fuck all by way of preparation for the summit with Kim Jong Un. He let himself get suckered into accepting Kim Jong Un’s invitation to meet up because Li’l Donnie’s anxious to show he’s a big boy. Trump brings on John Bolton who is not a big believer in negotiating with North Korea in the first damn place. Bolton spouts some shit about the Libya model which is sure to get under Kim Jong Un’s skin, causing Kim Jong Un to get a bit testy which gives Trump cover to get out of a meeting he didn’t want to go to anyway.  


In a surprise to no one:  


South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his government appeared to be blindsided by Trump’s decision Thursday. “(We) are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it.”  


Translation: “What the fuck is this moron up to now?” 

President Moon, if you figure this out, let us know, OK? 


Standing Up For the Freedom Not To Stand

In an attempt to take Baltimore, the British attacked Fort McHenry, which protected the harbor.
Bombs were soon bursting in air, rockets were glaring, and all in all it was a moment of great historical interest. During the bombardment, a young lawyer named Francis Off Key [sic] wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner", and when, by the dawn's early light, the British heard it sung, they fled in terror.
— humorist Richard Armour
It All Started With Columbus


The NFL announced that all players who are on the field when the national anthem is heard before a game must stand and show respect or can choose to remain in the locker room without penalty


Li’l Donnie Trump, of course, weighed in on that.  


“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners did the right thing.”  


This whole controversy over players kneeling during National Anthem started in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback with the 49ers, first refused to stand as a lone protest of police brutality against black Americans and racial oppression. Others joined the protests.


Since that time, Trump has repeatedly criticized this kneeling in protest, calling it “disgraceful” and referring to the protestors as “sons of bitches” who should be fired. 


It really plays well with Trump’s base. I have zero respect for Li’l Donnie but I will give him this: the son of a bitch knows his audience.


Taking a knee during the national anthem has been vilified as a direct assault on our country and even as an action of disrespect against ours troops. The core of Trump’s hyper nationalist under educated white constituency, loyalty to America means devotions to its symbols.


Except the whole point of our country’s birth in 1776 was to be free of autocratic rule. Being told to stand for a national anthem under penalty for not doing so is the complete antithesis of what America is supposed to stand for.


If you think the men and women of our military put their lives on the line to force allegiance to a song or a flag or whatever is sadly not appreciating what these men and women are putting their lives on the line for.


To be American is to be free. And that means the freedom to stand up and say, sometimes this country sucks. And to say that without being tossed in jail or put to death.


What makes America great is that it allows Colin Kaepernick to be free to not stand for its anthem.


What makes America great is that it allows Colin Kaepernick to be free to protest that hey, maybe we can do better.


What the men and women of our military put their lives on the line for, what the flag stands for, what our anthem celebrates is the freedom to resist those who would oppress us, who would deprive us of our freedom. When America gets it wrong, we have the power to demand to make it right. And when America gets it right, it's because its people are free to make it right.

And Li’l Donnie Trump, you dumb fuck, if you don’t or can’t understand that, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. 


THIS JUST IN: Trump’s pulled out of the summit meeting with Kim Jung Un of North Korea?


We’ll take a look at this latest shit in a subsequent post.

Russian To Judgement

There have been some news reports that the FBI’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election utilized an informant who somehow contacted the Trump campaign.


Li’l Donnie turned “federal informant” into “spy” and has been on fire over that, ranting on Twitter: “Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around! SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”


Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, appearing on ABC's "The View" on Tuesday, emphasized that the FBI's activities were focused on Russia's election interference efforts, not the Trump campaign itself. Joy Behar asked if Trump should be happy that the bureau was probing the Kremlin's interference campaign, Clapper said "he should be."


Here’s how Li’l Donnie responded to that:

“'Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign.' No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!"


Responding to Trump’s tantrum, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has directed to the Justice Department’s inspector general to see if any mean spy people were being mean to Trump campaign. 


I can’t help but think that Rod Rosenstein greets every day with the lament, “Oh, what fresh hell is this?”  


There’s going to be a meeting on Thursday to give lawmakers access to classified information regarding the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. In case you’re wondering if any of this is politically motivated, let me clarify, only senior Republican lawmakers are invited to this meeting; no Democrats. 


Now if all of this just sounds like Donald Trump being his usual thin skinned self and making any effort to link investigations into Russia's election interference efforts to a personal attack, the damage to our democracy may be more substantial. 
From William Yeomans, the Ronald Goldfarb Fellow at the Alliance for Justice, Lecturer at Columbia Law School and a 26 year veteran of the Department of Justice.
“Demanding that the FBI and Department of Justice investigate the use of an FBI source during his presidential campaign…. follows the authoritarian playbook. It orders law enforcement to launch an investigation without a factual predicate. Trump’s purpose is to delegitimize the investigation into his campaign and redirect law enforcement toward his political enemies.”
In reference to the proposed Thursday meeting, Yeoman’s had this to say: 
“The meeting… appears to be an inappropriate effort to use executive power over law enforcement and congressional oversight to extract classified information during the course of a criminal and counterintelligence investigation. That information will then be used to delegitimize the investigation and aid the president’s defense.” 
The purpose of the meeting is not a broad review and assessment of classified information as to how it might impact our nation but how to use this information to either defend Trump, attack his enemies or (too hit the sweet spot) both.  
Yeomans emphasizes this point, observing “The president’s demand for an investigation is transparently political. The reported facts hold that the FBI employed a longstanding confidential source to speak with three members of the Trump campaign who might have information about Russian email hacking. These contacts followed warnings to both campaigns that Russians might attempt to interfere in the election. By any standard, these minimal contacts were appropriate… steps in a counterintelligence investigation.”
As James Clapper noted on Tuesday, FBI's activities were focused on Russia's election interference efforts. Trump wants to make this personal. 
“Article II of the Constitution gives the president authority to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed. That makes him the formal head of federal law enforcement with the technical authority to direct its actions. That authority, however, has long been curtailed by recognition that law enforcement must remain above politics and the whims of presidents. Richard Nixon’s determined attempts to shut down the Watergate investigation, including his instruction to the CIA to tell the FBI to stand down, formed the core of the articles of impeachment adopted by the House Judiciary Committee.” 
In other words, when Nixon tried the same shit Trump is trying, Congress was ready to impeach Nixon’s ass. This time, Congress, or more specifically those Republican lawmakers who have switched their damn loyalty from the Constitution to Donald Trump are actually helping Trump do this shit. 
Since Nixon, William Yeomans notes that “administrations have observed strict norms that limit communication between the White House and Justice Department. They recognized that members of the FBI and Justice Department owe ultimate allegiance to the Constitution and laws and must be allowed to operate without presidential interference in prosecutorial decisions.”
What is bugging Trump and has bugged him since this whole mess began is that the FBI and Justice Department have not rolled over to play dead when Trump wants them to. It irks him to no end that the FBI and Justice Department have allegiances beyond his own whims.   
Since even before his inauguration, Trump has railed against the very idea of Russian electoral interference, even before the idea of collusion raised its ugly head. The question is why.
One assumption is why be against anyone looking into something unless there’s something to hide. Why is Trump so vehemently opposed to looking into Russia's election interference efforts unless Trump profited from those efforts? Why act guilty if you’re not guilty?
The thing to remember is that for Trump, it’s all personal.  If there is even the slightest possibility that Russia's election interference efforts tipped the scales in his favor to win the election, it diminishes his victory. It diminishes him. And Li’l Donnie gets very upset if something or someone diminishes him.  Just ask Seth Meyers.
Then gets worse if the story points to Trump’s campaign actively working with the Russians. Trump is not bugged about the legality or ethics of collaborating with a foreign power to win the Presidency. It’s the very idea that people might think he might have needed help.
Trump has this over inflated ego that sees itself as a one man force of nature. Trump does what he wants, goes where he wants and needs no one else. Of course, that whole self-image is bullshit. Trump got his whole start with help from dear old dad. Trump’s whole history as a real estate mogul is littered with those who helped with securing financing, bending laws and regulations, never mind all those people who “helped” Trump by not getting paid after his various bankruptcies. But for all that, Trump still holds to the self-delusion of being a self-made man who answers to no one.
Russia's election interference efforts are a matter of fact. The gravity of the evidence exerts an inescapable pull towards Russia’s intent and efforts to make that intent a reality.  This represents a serious and grave assault on our nation and its democratic ideals.
Trump looks at all this and thinks, “Fuck all that. This makes ME look bad.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who Needs Peter Parker Anyway?

Trump's Phones

What do Donald Trump and his cellphones have in common?

They're both insecure.


Hey, do you remember how during the 2016 campaign for President, Li’l Donnie Trump would get people all worked over the crimes of Crooked Hillary Clinton to the point he would get crowds to chant “lock her up”. Never mind the campaign, the “lock her up” chant still makes appearances at Trump rallies. 


The biggest “crime” was Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, a system that made classified information vulnerable to hacking by hostile actors. Trump called Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to run for president.”


Well, get a load of this shit.


Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, a practice of his predecessors.  Not following that practice potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance. Li’l Donnie has explicitly said “no” to any efforts to upgrade security on his phone use. 


Where is the Fox News outrage? Where are the cries to “lock him up”?  


Trump uses 2 iPhones issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications. One phone is capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites.  


The president has gone as long as five months without having the Twitter phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.


President Barack Obama handed over his White House phones every 30 days to be examined by telecommunications staffers for hacking and other suspicious activity.  


Trump’s call phone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cellphones used by Obama. Cameras and microphones are favorite items for phone hackers to get into and track the user’s whereabouts.  At least the GPS location tracker is reportedly disabled on Trump’s devices.


One White House official doesn’t think this is a big deal, saying that “Due to inherent capabilities and advancement in technologies, these devices are more secure than any Obama-era devices.”

Man, that sounds like a bullshit answer given by high school student hasn't done their homework.  


Trump’s reluctance to submit to White House security protocols that would limit his ability to tweet or contact friends freely would be “inconvenient”, an excuse provided by both Trump and by (wait for it!) Hillary Clinton when she chose not to use separate servers for business and personal emails. 


National security officials pretty much agree that cellphones are dangerous when it comes to security.  Here’s what former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration Nate Jones has to say about this.  


“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States.” 


While a president has the authority to ignore the advice of aides and advisers for reasons of comfort or convenience, Jones says, “doing so could pose significant risks to the country.”


Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly has cracked down on personal cellphone use by White House staff, citing security risks.


Trump himself does whatever the fuck he wants.


Lock him up? 


Cybersecurity experts can’t fucking believe a president wou;ld refuse to take protective measures to defend against hacks. 


Here’s what Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has to say about this.  “It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations.”  


Well, “Samm Sacks” (if that is your real name), no, it is not baffling. Li’l Donnie Trump is a petulant man-child who can’t be deprived of his toys or he’ll get all grumpy-wumpy. It’s all about his needs and wants while the security of the nation and his office can go fuck themselves. 


Lock him up? 


Of course not. The usual hypocrisy is at work here. Violations of security (real or imagined) by Hillary Clinton made her “the most corrupt person ever to run for president.” Trump does similar shit and it’s no big deal.  


Here is a post from Mark Evanier (my favorite blogging person) on this topic: 

Being a total cynic about Donald Trump means you have to watch a lot of position-shifting…you know, like how when Barack Obama played golf, people who didn't like him would say he was a lousy president because he spent too much time on the links but now they're fine with Trump spending a whole lot more. Or people who chanted "Lock her up!" because Hillary didn't take every possible security procedure don't mind one bit that Trump uses an unsecured cell phone, ignoring his aides' pleas to not do that. This shifting-of-supposed-principles is not new to politics but we've never seen it on quite this scale before.
------Mark Evanier, Tuesday, May 22,2018 at 7:56 AM

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

MUSICALS AWAY! Mamma Mia! AND Moulin Rouge!

It was a MUSICALS weekend at the Fortress of Ineptitude as the family gathered to watch two movie musicals this weekend. Both movies were jukebox musical romantic comedies with two word titles ending in an exclamation point. But they could not be more differerent.

On Saturday, we watched Mamma Mia!, a 2008 movie based on the1999 stage musical  based on the songs of   ABBA. As a lifelong fan of ABBA since the days of my kidhood, oddly enough, I had never seen Mamma Mia! live or on screen. But I stumbled upon it on Netflix Saturday night and I figured, why the hell not? I convinced Andrea and Randie to give it a go. 

Meryl Streep plays Donna Sheridan, a single mother whose daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married. Sophie would like her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. Except she doesn’t know who her father is. But thanks to her mother’s diary, she’s able to narrow down the list to three men: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd). So Sophie sends out wedding invites to these three guys, hoping when they arrive, she can suss out who her real dad is.

They do arrive but she can’t pin down which of these guys is her real dad.

Oh, and Donna really doesn’t want any of these guys there.

So hilarity ensues. 

Mamma Mia! is, to be blunt, a silly and contrived trifle. But it is a silly and contrived trifle that we all got a kick out of watching. It’s a screwball comedy but with heart, driven by the infectious melodies of ABBA tunes. Meryl Streep comports herself well as the aging pop star/flower child running a rag tag resort on a Greek island. (The island setting for this movie is gorgeous.) Her singing is quite good. Christine Baranski who plays a friend of Donna’s does a wicked cover of Does Your Mother Know?. And Amanda Seyfried does a very good job with her ABBA songs. The biggest weakness in terms of singing is Pierce Brosnan; it looks like he’s trying to pass a kidney stone every time he sings; sounds like it too.  

The three of us had a lot of fun watching this movie. I was worried that it might be too light a confection to appeal to my teenage daughter but I’ll be damned, the next day, Randie was looping ABBA songs on her phone.  

If  Mamma Mia! was a pleasant daydream of a movie, the next musical we watched Sunday evening was a fevered dream skirting the edges of nightmare.

From 2001, Moulin Rouge! is the story of Christian (Ewan McGregor), a young English writer, who falls in love with Satine (Nicole Kidman), a cabaret actress and courtesan, the star of the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Although set in the year 1899, the movie employs pop songs from the mid-to-late 20th century. 

The set design is abstract, diverging off from reality. Camera angles swoop and change with extreme closes up interchanging quickly with panoramic shots. Lighting moves from color infused brightness to washed out hues draped in shadows.  Moulin Rouge! is a wild ride of shifting tones and perspectives, not just in how it looks but the story it tells. Scenes of broad comedy give way to scenes of sadness.

Christian warns you up front, narrating after the fact from the year 1900, telling you who is dead. When that death arrives in the narrative, no amount of warning dulls the impact.

Moulin Rouge! is an emotionally challenging film, building up a powerful tale of passion and romance, of the giddy heights of what it is like to find love and be loved in return, knowing that love is doomed to a tragic end.    

If one dances away under a sun dappled sky from Mamma Mia!, one can only walk away under a grim grey sky, shoulders hunched down against a cold wind from Moulin Rouge!, exhausted by the spectacle and brought low by the death of a love that can never be again. 

Whoa. That’s heavy. 

Trump's Fake News Strategy

As you know, Li’l Donnie Trump is quite often in a snit over the press. He constantly demeans and defames journalists with terms like “l...