erik lundegaard

Politics posts

Saturday June 25, 2022

Indict the Sumbitch Already

Yesterday afternoon, after a day spent reading about SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade 6-3, and how Justice Thomas' decision bodes poorly for other precedents like gay marriage (and interracial marriage, Clarence?), I walked over to Lake Washington on a sky-blue day listening to Ezra Klein and Jamelle Bouie have a smart conversation about the Jan. 6 hearings and whether Donald Trump can and should be charged with crimes.

Main takeaways:

  • We're as much a nation of norms and formalities as we are a nation of laws, and Donald Trump shattered those norms and formalities. They're out there for anyone to use and abuse now. They don't go back in. 
  • Bouie in particular goes into how the founders hedged their bets on democracy by building into the process, for example, the electoral college, with state electors, rather than we the people, casting the true ballots. This is one of those formalities that Trump tossed into the dungheap. “Oh, there's no law preventing an elector from switching their vote? It's just on the honor system?” That's a wide-open lane for someone like Trump who has no honor.
  • The two go into the whole right-wing “We're not a democracy, we're a republic” bullshit, and what's being truly said.
  • They also talk about how indicting a former president sets a dangerous precedent; and how, given everything Trump has done, it's much more dangerous to do nothing.

Anyway, smart conversation on another dumb day for America.

Posted at 01:10 PM on Saturday June 25, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Friday June 17, 2022

The Pardon List

“I've decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”

-- attorney John Eastman, the so-called legal architect behind the Jan. 6 insurrection, in an email to Rudy Giuliani after Jan. 6., as revealed during the Jan. 6 hearings

Of course it quickly became a meme. (The above is my favorite example so far.) And it deserves to be a meme. It's an astonishing sentence. Both the casualness of it and the sense of privilege. I've decided? How nice when one gets ownership over one's own absolution. And the whole “if that's still in the works,” indicating they'd all already talked about it, indicating they all knew they were involved in activities that needed presidential pardoning in the first place. Which they did. From The New York Times

Mr. Eastman also admitted in a private conversation with Mr. Pence's top lawyer, Greg Jacob, that if the Supreme Court ever had to rule on the legality of a vice president deciding the results of an election on his own, the court would unanimously vote to toss the matter, Mr. Jacob testified. But more important, Mr. Jacob told the committee in a videotaped deposition — snippets of which were played during the hearing — that Mr. Eastman had admitted in Mr. Trump's presence that the plan to pressure Mr. Pence violated an 1887 law known as the Electoral Count Act. According to Mr. Jacob, Mr. Eastman acknowledged the illegality of the scheme in front of Mr. Trump on Jan. 4, 2021, just two days before Mr. Pence was to oversee the certification of the election.

What fucking assholes. At least he never got the pardon. I guess it's still in the works.  

Posted at 07:15 AM on Friday June 17, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Wednesday May 11, 2022

Quote of the Day

“The analysts who keep flogging Biden for his inability to pass more ambitious legislation through Rooseveltian persuasion and Johnsonian party discipline tend to ignore the fact that F.D.R. and L.B.J. enjoyed immense congressional majorities. Biden has Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. His stimulus bill, a significant achievement, attracted zero Republican support. The members of the political class of the G.O.P., with rare exceptions, have determined that their voters are with Trump, and so they must be, too. These men and women have all the political independence and moral courage of the trembling members of Putin's national-security council. They have traded the principles of a liberal democracy for a job.”

-- David Remnick, “A Role Model for the Midterms,” The New Yorker

Posted at 09:21 AM on Wednesday May 11, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Thursday April 14, 2022

'The Litany of Trump-Russia Intersections Remains Remarkable'

There is a long, remarkable paragraph in Robert Draper's excellent New York Times Magazine feature on former presidential adviser Fiona Hall. It's good reading for Americans who, per David Bowie, don't really remember their President Trump. Or the bills they have to pay. Or yesterday. 

As I said, it's a long paragraph. This is how it begins: “The litany of Trump-Russia intersections remains remarkable,” and then Draper lists them off. He doesnt' bullet-point them but I'm going to. They demand bullet-pointing. Most of them I remember. I didn't know the thing about Gordon and Kislyak. I knew about the watering down but not the details behind it. Ready? Rock 'n' roll...

  • Citizen Trump's business pursuits in Moscow, which continued throughout his candidacy
  • Candidate Trump's abiding affinity for Putin
  • The incident in which the Trump campaign's national security director, J.D. Gordon, watered down language in the 2016 Republican Party platform pledging to provide Ukraine with “lethal defense weapons” to combat Russian interference — and did so the same week Gordon dined with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, at an event
  • Trump's longtime political consigliere Roger Stone's reaching out to WikiLeaks through an intermediary and requesting “the pending emails,” an apparent reference to the Clinton campaign emails pirated by Russia, which the site had started to post
  • Trump's chiming in: “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
  • The meeting in the Seychelles islands between Erik Prince (the founder of the military contractor Blackwater and a Trump-campaign supporter whose sister Betsy DeVos would become Trump's secretary of education) and the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund in an effort to facilitate a back-channel dialogue between the two countries before Trump's inauguration
  • The former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort's consistent lying to federal investigators about his own secretive dealings with the Russian political consultant and intelligence operative Konstantin V. Kilimnik, with whom he shared Trump campaign polling
  • Trump's two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki in the summer of 2018, unattended by staff
  • Trump's public declaration, at a joint news conference in Helsinki, that he was more inclined to believe Putin than the U.S. intelligence team when it came to Russia's interference in the 2016 election
  • The dissemination by Trump and his allies in 2019 of the Russian propaganda that it was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 election, in support of the Clinton campaign
  • Trump's pardoning of Manafort and Stone in December 2020
  • And most recently, on March 29, Trump's saying yet again that Putin “should release” dirt on a political opponent — this time President Biden, who, Trump asserted without evidence, had received, along with his son Hunter Biden, $3.5 million from the wife of Moscow's former mayor

This is the guy that his base, his idiot base, says would be tough on Russia right now. This fucking putz.

Jonathan Chait has a piece over on the New York magazine site about Sean Hannity trying desperately to get Trump to condemn Russia's aggression in Ukraine and Trump constantly deflecting to complain about NATO and our western allies and Ukraine. Jesus fucking Christ. It could be high comedy but Chait knows it's not and ends the piece ominously: “Had 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin swung the other way, Zelensky would probably at this moment be in exile, in a Russian prison, or dead.”

Posted at 06:05 PM on Thursday April 14, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Wednesday March 30, 2022

Why Dictatorships Fail

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing, and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.”

-- U.S. intelligence official in a statement today. Here's hoping Putin doesn't learn the truth until it's too late. (At the same time, he must suspect something, right?)

Posted at 04:53 PM on Wednesday March 30, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Thursday March 10, 2022

Just a Reminder to All the Useful Idiots Who Claim Trump Was 'Tough on Putin'

“I think [Trump] feared [Putin]. I think he was afraid of him. I think that the man intimidated him. Because Putin is a scary man, just frankly, I think he was afraid of him. I also think he admired him greatly, I think he wanted to be able to kill whoever spoke out against him. So I think it was a lot of that. In my experience with him, he loved the dictators, he loved the people who could kill anyone, including the press. ... And I will say this, just in watching all of this with Zelenskyy, Donald Trump would be 57 feet below ground hiding. And Zelenskyy has been out there fighting for his country.”

-- former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on The View on Tuesday, via Vanity Fair. Then, for those with short memories, we get some nice reminders of all the times Trump showed how much he loved dictators:

  • Saying he believed Russia didn't interfere in the 2016 election because Vladimir Putin told him so—even though U.S. intelligence said otherwise
  • Believing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he had nothing to do with the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—even though the CIA said otherwise
  • Taking Kim Jong-Un's word that he “didn't know about” the yearlong imprisonment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of brain damage days after returning to the U.S.
  • Hosting and praising autocrats such as Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey

Plus all the Putin shit

Posted at 07:07 AM on Thursday March 10, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Sunday February 20, 2022

That Mazars Letter, Translated

I'd heard about it, certainly, but missed the import of it. Thankfully, Friday, there was super tax lawyer and anti-Trumper George Conway (hubby, yes, of Kellyanne) to explain it all in The Washington Post. 

On Feb. 9, the accounting firm Mazars USA sent a letter, via electronic mail, terminating its longtime relationship with the Trump Organization. Among the things they said: “... the Statements of Financial Condition for Donald J. Trump for the years ending June 30, 2011 - June 30, 2020 should no longer be relied upon.” 

Wow. That's brutal enough. But it's how they came to this conclusion that's even better: from the Jan. 18 filings of the NY AG investigating the Trump Org.; from info from internal and external sources; and from their own investigation. “Mazars performed its work in accordance with professional standards,” they wrote. So the fault lies elsewhere. Guess where?

Wait, it gets better. They add that, because of “the totality of the circumstances, we have also reached the point such that there is a non-waivable conflict of interest with the Trump Organization. As a result, we are not able to provide any new work product to the Trump Organization.” Conway translates this for us:

Oh, and by the way, Donald and Melania's tax returns are due in four business days—but, hey, we promise “to facilitate a smooth transition to your new tax preparers.” Best regards, Mazars.

Wait, it gets better. Conway again:

The letter was an unmitigated disaster for Trump, far beyond his possibly having to file late returns. By saying the statements “should no longer be relied upon,” the accountants effectively announced, You misled us. By “totality of the circumstances,” they likely meant, The prosecutors investigating you, and the case they're making, are serious.

By pronouncing “a non-waivable conflict of interest,” they were all but saying, We're on team A.G.—or we might have to join someday soon. And by saying no “new work product” and quitting, they essentially declared, We don't trust you—and we're certainly not going to jail for you.

Throughout the piece, Conway counsels caution. He begins it by saying it's never a safe bet to predict the demise of Donald Trump. You think he's done and then he's not. And he's got a dumbshit base that will do whatever the fuck he tells them. But Conway ends the piece upbeat. “Could this be, at long last, the beginning of the end for Trump? As always, don't bet on it—but this time, don't be surprised if it is.”

Pass the popcorn.

Posted at 09:51 AM on Sunday February 20, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Wednesday February 09, 2022

McConnell vs. Trump: Fracases of the Jackasses

Today I read a few articles on this moment's GOP rift, which is basically between the “stay in power by unethical/hypocritical means” group, led by the Prince of Darkness, Mitch McConnell; and the “WE WUZ ROBBED, FUCK YOU, JAN. 6 IS GREAT!” sect, led by that shitstain on American history, Donald Trump.

The former group sees a focus on Jan. 6 as counterproductive to the Midterms. The latter group wants a celebration of Jan. 6 and a vindication for its insane charge that the 2020 election was stolen. 

And that's the dilemma. They can't really win without Trump but Trump is pushing them toward arguments that won't help them win. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of assholes. 

BTW, someone recently posted a clip of Hillary during one of the 2016 debates in which she listed off the number of times Trump claimed the game was rigged against him whenever he lost or was losing. And this was in 2016, mind you. Her examples include:

  • The Iowa caucus
  • The Wisconsin primary
  • The Trump U lawsuit
  • The Emmys

“This is a mindset,” she added. “This is how Donald thinks. And it's funny. But it's also really troubling.” 

She nailed it. She nailed him. Crazy what we could've had. Instead we've got crazy.

READING LIST:

Posted at 09:13 PM on Wednesday February 09, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Saturday February 05, 2022

'Legitimate Political Discourse'

It wasn't even an off-the-cuff comment. It was a statement drafted by, argued over and ultimately adopted by the RNC's Resolutions Committee, in which, amid the usual insane Fox News talking points, the RNC formally censured Rep. Lynn Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger for participating in the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. And there it was at the end of the first page:

I remember the horror I felt on Jan. 6 as the U.S. Capitol, our Capitol, was overrun and damaged and ransacked, and our politicians made to run for their lives, by MAGA fools who believed Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

I remember hoping on that day, and subseqent days, that maybe this was a turning point, the moment when the Trump-mad, Fox-mad fever finally broke, and Republicans became responsible U.S. citizens again. 

Then the Fox News of it all picked up anew, and they began to lie and lie and lie, and live and breathe the lie, until the lie was all that mattered anymore.

And now we're here. 

“Legitimate political discourse.” The worst attack on American democracy since the U.S. Civil War. “Legitimate political discourse.” 

The Republican party has just shown itself once more to be illegitimate. It's now them or American democracy. There's really no middle ground.

Posted at 11:03 AM on Saturday February 05, 2022 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Sunday December 05, 2021

Chalk Lines

Jelani Cobb posted this last week:

Answers included “It wouldn't have gotten out of the planning stage” to “Every black activist, author, or organizer would have been called in for questioning or had their phones tapped or both.” The most succinct answer? “Chalk lines.”

Meanwhile, the fuckers that planned and carried out the actual Jan. 6 attack are still at it. They're still funded. Their lies are still being propped up by the Republican party. 

Posted at 07:56 AM on Sunday December 05, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Friday September 03, 2021

Jane Mayer's Article

I finally got around to reading Jane Mayer's article “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie,” from early August, about the people, organizations and theories behind the attempts to undermine American democracy. They're close to doing so. A few names to watch:

  • Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas
  • Karen Fann, president of the Arizona State Senate
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • The Federalist Society
  • The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  • Leonard Leo, chairman of the Federallist Society
  • Lisa Nelson, the CEO of ALEC
  • Freedom Works
  • Election Integrity Project California
  • the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Milwaukee
  • Cleta Mitchell, Bradley Foundation director, legal counsel of True the Vote, and member of Freedom Works
  • The Indepedent Legislature Doctrine
  • Chris Ruddy, founder of Newsmaxx
  • Robert George, Bradley Foundation board, former Princeton philosophy professor
  • Art Pope, libertarian discount-store magnate, Bradley Foundation board
  • Paul Clement, Kirkland & Ellis, Bradley Foundation board
  • True the Vote, right-wing poll monitor org in Texas
  • The Public Interest Legal Foundation, funded by the Bradley Foundation
  • John Eastman, one of the directors of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, who spoke with Trump about ways to void the election on Jan. 4, 2021
  • J. Christian Adams, Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyer
  • Hans von Spakovsky, Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyer and head of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative
  • Shawnna Bolick, running for AZ secretary of state
  • Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA
  • Tyler Bowyer, COO of Turning Point and member of the RNC
  • Rally Forge, AZ-based marketing co. involved in troll farming, banned from Facebook
  • Jake Hoffman, president of Rally Forge, permanently suspended from Twitter
  • Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, the politically active arm of the Heritage Foundation
  • Townhall, conservative website
  • Election Transparency Initiative
  • the Susan B. Anthony List
  • American Principles Project

Here's a good quote from Republican lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg, who for years, Mayer writes, led the party's election-law fights but is now disenchanted with the fraud taking place: “a party that's increasingly old and white whose base is a diminishing share of the population is conjuring up charges of fraud to erect barriers to voting for people it fears won't support its candidates.”

And from near the end of the article: “In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote 'election integrity,' starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona.”

It's all about dark money preventing dark people from voting. Pay attention. I'm talking to me, too.

Posted at 07:21 AM on Friday September 03, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Sunday August 15, 2021

Last Days in Afghanistan

Q: Your book [“Freedom”] briefly touches on Afghanistan, a country where you've spent considerable time as a reporter and documentary filmmaker. With the Biden administration's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops by Sept. 11, the Taliban are poised to regain power. How do you view their claim to freedom?

I loathe the Taliban like I loathe Franco and Pinochet and anyone who tramples human rights for their own benefit or their own ideology. But this is what's so tricky about the word “freedom.” Who will enjoy freedom under the Taliban? The Taliban. They represent quite a swath of Afghan society – they represent probably the majority of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan – and for them, their definition of freedom is, “We don't want somebody else telling us what to do and how to live and who to worship.” And I can't dispute that with them; I just loathe their human values.

I'm not going to tell Americans what policies they should ascribe to, but as a journalist, I can talk about the benefits and costs of different policies. The benefits of not being in Afghanistan is that there are 2,000 special ops forces that can't possibly be killed because they won't be there. That's the upside, and we also won't provide an easy excuse for the Taliban to justify their violence. The downside, of course, is that we pull out and Afghan society implodes and there's tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and in all likelihood, the Taliban reclaim the country and impose their sharia law and rewind the beginnings of human rights and women's rights. It makes me nauseous to think about it.

-- Sebastian Junger, co-director of “Restrepo,” in conversation with one-time Stars & Stripes reporter Martin Kuz, in The Christian Science Monitor on June 1 of this year. Today, Kabul fell to the Taliban, who once again rule the country after 20 years of U.S. occupation. 

Posted at 12:41 PM on Sunday August 15, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Thursday July 01, 2021

Donald Rumsfeld (1932-2021)

Deflecting the truth with aren't-I-clever grins.

The most recent wave of horrific Republicans has made me all-but-forget just how awful the previous generation of horrific Republicans were, but the death of Donald Rumsfeld yesterday, at age 88, reopened some of those wounds. I don't know if Rumsfeld was the worst of the bunch, but his CV is pretty good: secretary of defense under George W. Bush, who, within hours of the 9/11 attack, was turning his eye not toward the attackers but toward his own foreign policy to-do list, which began with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. You might have heard how that one ended. 

George Packer has a good obit on the man on the Atlantic site. He's less kind than me. Excerpt: 

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn't spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara ... Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile—squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind. ...

Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he'd long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn't need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn't operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he'd ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.

I had my own Rumsfeld-McNamara comparison after viewing Errol Morris' underappreciated doc, “The Unknown Known,” which was a kind of national follow-up to his Acadamy Award-winning doc on McNamara, “The Fog of War.” Two defense secretaries, two disastrous American wars, but at least McNamara was willing to glimpse himself in the mirror and see the horror. If Rumsfeld glimpsed himself, he was too enamored with what he saw. “Indeed,” I wrote back in 2014, “Rumsfeld, with his nitpicky, overly semantic arguments and pleased-with-himself 'aren't I clever?' grins, makes McNamara, the numbers cruncher and company man, seem like the most soulful person who ever lived.”

Morris' title, of course, comes from Rumsfeld's famous quote about what we know/don't know:

  • known knowns: things we know we know
  • known unknowns: things we know we don't know
  • unknown unknowns: things we don't know that we don't know
  • unknown knowns: things we think we know but don't

Rumsfeld was a master of unknown knowns to the end. And now he's left us for the great known unknown. If there's anything to know there, now he knows.

Posted at 03:59 PM on Thursday July 01, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Sunday June 13, 2021

The Democratic Party Needs to Listen to Marc Maron More Often

“It is Memorial Day. I do want to put my heart out there for people who have lost people, in all fights. And I do again want to stress my gratitude to the people that have had the courage to get vaccinated like fucking adults: the people that had the courage to take a hit for the herd, and move forward, believing in science; and with the belief that we can somehow push this virus back. We did it. Those are the people that fought for our freedom this year—the people that got vaccinated. Not the belligerent babies who didn't get vaccinated for whatever reason. I mean, I do have some empathy and understanding for people who have health issues and don't want to get vaccinated. But all of those people who fought against the fight to stop the spread of the virus, because of what they saw as 'the fight for their personal freedom,' can go fuck themselves, on this Memorial Day.”

-- Marc Maron on his WTF podcast on May 31, 2021. This is the way the Dems need to frame the argument. The other side has usurped the freedom label but it's really ours. We fought to make us all more free; so that we can go to restaurants and ball games and visit family again. They fought for their own freedom to be dicks and douches. Just be upfront about it. The other side is crazy and getting crazier, and you don't stop them with kindness.

Posted at 09:03 AM on Sunday June 13, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

Sunday May 16, 2021

Burn After Reading II

“Basically a large proportion of the people who worked with Trump came away deeply dismayed by his mental capabilities. O'Keefe, Ledeen, et al., looking at this epidemic of Trump appointees who consider him a complete moron, decided the problem was a deep-state cabal subverting Trump. And then, despite investing large sums of money, the expertise of a British spy, and several attractive women, did not get anybody calling Trump an idiot on camera. This would be like luring a group of tourists into the desert without air conditioning in the goal of getting somebody to say they're hot, and failing.

”Mark 'Deep Throat' Felt famously said of the Watergate scheme, 'The truth is these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.' The truth about Trump's gang of wannabe spies is that they're not very bright guys, and things did not even get out of hand, because they couldn't even get people to blurt out an opinion held by half of America and nearly all of Washington, D.C."

-- Jonathan ChaitNew York magazine, commenting on an article in The New York Times about a spectacularly inept undercover operation during the Trump presidency led by James O'Keefe's spectacularly inept Project Veritas. Someone should make it into a movie. I nominate the Coens. 

Posted at 07:19 AM on Sunday May 16, 2021 in category Politics   |   Permalink  
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