January 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM

OUR GODFATHER (self-reference alert)

The Moral Conservatism of Nathaniel Hawthorne (Russell Kirk, Imaginative Conservative)

That part of the American past which was his especial province, Puritan New England, exerted an influence in the long run substantially conservative. Though born of a stern dissent, Puritanism in America soon displayed a character more demandingly orthodox, according to its own canons, than the comparative leniency from which it had fled. In The Scarlet Letter, retrospectively in The House of Seven Gables, in many of the Twice Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse, that Puritan spirit is described with inimitable perspicacity: fiercely censorious, resolute, industrious, allied with free political institutions, introspective, repressive of emotion, seeking after godliness with a zeal that does not spare self-pity or even worldly ambition. The Puritan character, for all its lasting influence upon the American mind, stands poles apart from the common aspirations and impulses of modern American life. Suspicious of alteration and expansion, repressive of self, Puritanism detests the hedonistic appetites that predominate. Puritanism is moral conservatism in its most unbending form: and of all the varieties of mutiny that the modern world suffers, moral revolution is the most violent. Because of Hawthorne, America has not been able to forget wholly the Puritans, either their vices or their virtues.

Yet this achievement, magnificent in a lesser man, is merely incidental to Hawthorne's chief accomplishment: impressing the idea of sin upon a nation which would like to forget it. Hawthorne was never mainly an historical romancer; his burning interest was morality. Writing such artful moral allegories as had not been produced since Bunyan, he chastened American optimism by declaring that sin, in quality and in quantity, is virtually constant; that projects of reform must begin and end with the human heart; that our real enemy is not social institutions but the devil within us; that the fanatical improver of mankind through alteration is, commonly, in truth a destroyer of souls.

Belief in the dogma of original sin has been prominent in the system of every great conservative thinker--in the Christian resignation of Burke, the hard-headed pessimism of John Adams, the "Calvinistic Catholicism" of Newman, the stern vigour of J. F. Stephen. With Hawthorne the contemplation of sin is his obsession, almost his life. "True civilization," wrote Baudelaire in his journal, "does not lie in progress or steam or table-turning. It lies in the diminution of the marks of original sin." Though so radically different in mind and heart, Hawthorne and Baudelaire were close together in this view. By heroic effort, Hawthorne suggests, men may diminish the influence of original sin in the world, but this struggle requires nearly their undivided attention. Not that Hawthorne is a true Puritan, or perhaps even a strict Christian. His novels are not tracts. He dissects the anatomy of sin with a curiosity insatiable and even cruel. In The Scarlet Letter, and again in The Marble Faun, he suggests that sin, for all its consequences, may be an enlightening influence upon certain natures: although it burns, it wakens. Perhaps our regeneration is impossible without sin's agency. "Is Sin, then--which we deem such a fearful blackness in the universe--" he makes Kenyon speculate in The Marble Faun--"is it, like Sorrow, merely an element of human education, through which we struggle to a higher and purer state than we could otherwise have attained? Did Adam fall that we might ultimately rise to a loftier paradise than his?"

But whatever sin affects, we must reckon with it as the greatest force which agitates society. In The Blithedale Romance, as in a half-dozen short stories, Hawthorne describes the catastrophe of well-intentioned humanitarianism between moral blinkers. He did not convince America of the necessity for taking sin into every social calculation. It remains merely an uncomfortable theory to men of the twentieth century, and an age that has beheld human beings consumed in the furnaces of Auschwitz or worked to death like old horses in the Siberian arctic, still pretends that it is no more than a theological sham. Even a critic like Mr. R. C. Churchill, often astute, an inheritor of the old English Liberal tradition, writes doggedly (in his recent Disagreements) of "the barbarous, pre-civilised notion of Original Sin"--although a Fabian like Mr. Grossman now admits its reality. Hawthorne did not make the doctrine of sin popular, but he left a good many people uneasily mindful that it is possibly true. This is his powerful conservative achievement.

"A revolution, or anything that interrupts social order, may afford opportunities for the individual display of eminent virtues," wrote Hawthorne in his sketch The Old Tory; "but its effects are pernicious to general morality. Most people are so constituted that they can be virtuous only in a certain routine." This is Burke's mind, through and through. Hawthorne returns to this theme of moral conservatism throughout his works, but his most lengthy analysis of the destroying power of sinful impulse, once revolutionary moral precepts are practised, is The Blithedale Romance. In that novel, he turned his back, with good-natured contempt, upon the idealists and radicals of Brook Farm, upon Emerson and Alcott and Ripley and Margaret Fuller and "all that knot of dreamers." For they had forgotten the sinfulness of man, and with it, the proper functions and limits of moral action. When the story is done, the fanatic reformer who is its chief character, Hollingsworth, is grimly resigned to attempting the reformation of one criminal only--himself. "The besetting sin of a philanthropist, it appears to me," Hawthorne says through the mouth of Coverdale, "is apt to be a moral obliquity. His sense of honour ceases to be the sense of other honourable men. At some point of his course--I know not exactly when or where--he is tempted to potter with the right, and can scarcely forbear persuading himself that the importance of his public ends renders it allowable to throw aside his private conscience."

The kerfuffle over Leon Kass and Hawthorne's story The Birthmark was the proximate cause of this blog. 


Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM

VERY AMERICAN:

This town voted for Trump and welcomes hundreds of refugees (Salena Zito, January 6, 2018, The New York Post

Erie, Pa . -- After taking his oath of citizenship late last year, Fidel Bahati walked straight out of the Erie federal courthouse and into the offices of the Army Reserves to enlist.

"God bless America. I am an American now, and I will now serve my country who has provided me so much opportunity to better myself," he said.

Bahati, who arrived in this northwestern Pennsylvania city seven years ago after spending nearly five years in a refugee camp in Kenya, will now serve the Army part-time while studying for a degree in electrical and computer-engineering technology at Penn State's Behrend campus. "It's a double major. It is hard. My first semester I had a 4.0, my second semester the same, this time I might only get a 3.9," he said.

His dream? "Work at General Electric of course," he said of the company that has been Erie's largest employer for over 100 years.

Bahati's work ethic, drive to succeed, connection to community and willingness to assimilate and serve his country are all linked to the virtues of American exceptionalism. Seven years ago he spoke not a word of English. Born in the Congo, his family was taken by rebels and disappeared before his eyes. He had never left Africa, rode on a plane, been to a foreign country or even seen a snowflake until he moved to Erie in 2010 when he was 21, chosen by a local resettlement program.

Last week there were snowflakes piled nearly six feet high all around him. "Erie is my hometown now. Many people try to encourage me to go big cities like New York, but I don't want to. I have roots here, the people here are family, they have treated me well," he said, beaming with pride.

Erie County seems like a contradiction to many outsiders. It voted by 17 percentage points for Barack Obama in 2012 and then turned around four years later and supported Donald Trump in 2016. It's also home to the one of the largest refugee populations in Pennsylvania, which took in 3,219 refugees in 2016 -- ranking ninth among all states in the union. [...]

Sitting in his office, located in a former synagogue, Ferati explains how he knows he has truly made it in his new homeland. "I am a Muslim, working in a Jewish synagogue, in a majority Catholic town, with much of my education coming through Catholic schools, who is married to an Albanian Russian.

"You know what I think about that? Two words. It's American, very American."

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM

THE DEFINING FEATURE OF HELL IS WARMTH:

An Eyelash-Freezing 'Icy Hell': The One Spot That Could Feel Like Minus 100 (JESS BIDGOOD, KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and JACK HEALY, JAN. 5, 2018, NY Times)

The moment you step out into the frozen air on the way up Mount Washington -- one of the most frigid spots in the lower 48 -- the icy wind steals your breath and freezes your eyelashes. You can't blink. The cold stabs your face and numbs your earlobes to rubber.

"It's an icy hell," said Amy Loughlin, 50, who was visiting from Austin, Tex., and scaling the mountain, the highest in the Northeast, in the back of a SnowCoach -- a van retrofitted with tanklike treads to handle the blowing snow and treacherous roads.

With much of the Northeast and Midwest feeling like a block of ice, the temperature here in the high peaks of New Hampshire's White Mountains was forecast to drop to 40 degrees below zero overnight Friday. The wind chill could make the air feel as cold as 100 below zero. That is not a typo. Negative. 100. [...]

The temperature on Mount Washington had plunged to 26 below on Friday afternoon -- 70 degrees below with wind chill factored in. The wind had gusted up to 122 miles per hour. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM

BEING A (INSERT EXPLETIVE) DOES NOT MAKE YOU CRAZY:

Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He's a 'Very Stable Genius' (PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN, JAN. 6, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have generated endless op-ed columns, magazine articles, books, professional panel discussions and cable television speculation. [...]

"These amateurs shouldn't be diagnosing at a distance, and they don't know what they're talking about," said Allen Frances, a former psychiatry department chairman at Duke University School of Medicine who helped develop the profession's diagnostic standards for mental disorders.

Dr. Frances, author of "Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump," said the president's bad behavior should not be blamed on mental illness. "He is definitely unstable," Dr. Frances said. "He is definitely impulsive. He is world-class narcissistic not just for our day but for the ages. You can't say enough about how incompetent and unqualified he is to be leader of the free world. But that does not make him mentally ill."

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM

THERE'S NEVER A BAD DAY TO BE NEVER-TRUMP...:

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo (DAVID FRUM, 1/06/18, The Atlantic)

"I can handle things. I'm smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb. I'm smart and I want respect!"

This morning's presidential Twitter outburst recalls those words of Fredo Corleone's in one of the most famous scenes from The Godfather series. Trump tweeted that his "two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," and in a subsequent tweet called himself a "very stable genius."

Trump may imagine that he's Michael Corleone, the tough and canny rightful heir--or even Sonny Corleone, the terrifyingly violent but at least powerful heir apparent--but after today he is Fredo forever.

There's a key difference between film and reality, though: The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.


...but this week has been pure joy.

Posted by orrinj at 11:41 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:


Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM

ABOVE AVERAGE IS OVER:

Can Washington Be Automated? : An algorithmic lobbyist sounds like a joke. But it's already here. Here's who the robots are coming for next. (NANCY SCOLA January/February 2018, Politico)

Hatch's varied career is the longest ever for a Senate Republican; he's been a video-game critic and an advocate for the "Ground Zero Mosque," and in his four decades on Capitol Hill he has championed hundreds of bills and taken thousands of votes both obscure and important. Figuring out Orrin Hatch isn't a trivial job, even for a seasoned D.C. hand. But FiscalNote has all that data distilled, analyzed and weaponized. The display tells us that Hatch is formidable not just for his seniority, but because he's in the top 3 percent of all legislators when it comes to effectiveness--or at least he was, before he announced his impending retirement. When he throws his weight behind a bill, it's likely to become law. What's more, his effectiveness varies: It's high when the topic is health, but drops some on tech issues.

The software drills deeper. One immediate surprise it delivers is that the lawmaker most similar to Hatch's interests and patterns is Louisiana's John Kennedy, a 66-year-old Republican who's been on Capitol Hill all of 11 months. Then, with a few more clicks, it's crunching the woeful record of a shall-remain-nameless member of Congress who occupies the bottom third of legislators in the house, and who, the software dryly notes, is "fairly ineffective as a primary co-sponsor."

There's more. Much more. Hwang's system analyzes interests, not just people, and quickly summarizes everything knowable about who is trying to pass what kind of rules about the most obscure topic I can come up with on the spot: "dairy." A couple more clicks after that, and we're looking at a summarized version of a bill tackling cybersecurity that the software has considered and rendered a judgment on, when it comes to the probability that it will become law. We're not talking a rough estimate. There's a decimal: 78.1 percent.

This kind of data-crunching might sound hopelessly wonky, a kind of baseball-stats-geek approach to Washington. But if you've spent years attempting to make sense of the Washington information ecosystem--which can often feel like a swirling mass of partially baked ideas, misunderstandings and half-truths--the effect is mesmerizing. FiscalNote takes a morass of documents and history and conventional wisdom and distills it into a precise serving of understanding, the kind on which decisions are made. Here, the software is telling us that if we're looking for an up-and-coming Republican to get on board a health bill Hatch is pushing, Kennedy's a good bet. Want it bipartisan? The system will suggest likely Democratic backers, too.

If you're an aide, one of the people walking on the street outside from a power breakfast to a meeting on the Hill, there's another way to think about what FiscalNote is doing: It's doing your job.

Posted by orrinj at 11:31 AM

BUT HE'D ALREADY ADMITTED TO OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE:

Did Trump Obstruct Justice? (BARRY BERKE, NOAH BOOKBINDER and NORMAN L. EISENJAN. 5, 2018, NY Times)

We now know, for example, that the president took aggressive steps to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Justice Department's investigation because he needed Mr. Sessions to protect and safeguard him, as he believed Eric Holder Jr. and Robert Kennedy did for their presidents. This shows that from the outset the president was concerned that he needed protection from the impact of any investigation. In fact, when the president's efforts were unsuccessful, he purportedly responded by saying, "Where's my Roy Cohn?" perhaps suggesting that Mr. Trump wanted the attorney general of the United States to act as his personal criminal defense lawyer -- a startling view into his state of mind.

Equally significant are new revelations that the president had drafted a letter to the F.B.I. director at the time, James Comey, describing the Russian investigation as "fabricated and politically motivated." Those disclosures support that the president's statements to the press and the public in connection with firing Mr. Comey were misleading. The president, of course, publicly claimed that Mr. Comey was fired because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. This matters because attempts to cover up the truth are classic indicators of a culpable state of mind under the obstruction statutes.

In this same vein, the Wolff book claims that the president's lawyers believed that his efforts aboard Air Force One last summer to shape his son Donald Jr.'s statement about a meeting at Trump Tower with Russians was "an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation's gears." Mr. Wolff also asserts that one of Mr. Trump's spokesmen quit over the incident because of a concern that it was obstruction of justice. That was a wise move. If the president knowingly caused his son to make a false statement to interfere with the investigations or cover up the facts, that alone could constitute obstruction of justice.

Another ominous note for the president is The Times's reporting that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has substantiated Mr. Comey's narrative of his dealings with the president, including through notes maintained by members of the White House staff. Whatever one may think of some of Mr. Comey's decisions, he has a spotless reputation for candor. The president's reputation is the opposite. But in a swearing contest between two witnesses, a responsible prosecutor looks for independent corroboration no matter who those witnesses are. It seems Mr. Mueller is finding it.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Causes behind Iran's protests: A preliminary account (Ali Fathollah-Nejad, 1/06/18, Al Jazeera)

Since March 2016, Iran has seen 1,700 social protests, according to the Islamic Revolution Devotees Society (Jamiyat-e Isargara-e Enqelqb-e Eslami), a conservative party of which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a founding member. Over the course of 2017, hundreds of protests took place by workers, pensioners, teachers, and students. Labour protests continued due to unpaid salaries, neoliberal economic policies and resistance towards labour organising, which were confronted with harsh repression by security forces and sanctioned by arbitrary layoffs.

The Right and Left don't want Rouhani to Westernize.


Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

US Trade Deficit Rises To Near Six-Year High On Record Imports (Reuters, 1/05/18)

The U.S. trade deficit increased more than expected in November as imports of goods surged to a record high amid strong domestic demand, making it likely that trade will subtract from economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap widened 3.2 percent to $50.5 billion. That was the highest level since January 2012 and followed an upwardly revised $48.9 billion shortfall in October.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM

ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GUY...:

Fire and Fury Is Much Ado about Nothing New (Jonah Goldberg, January 5, 2018, National Review)

As for Trump himself, Wolff describes the president as an easily bored narcissist with a hair-trigger attention span and a thin-skinned ego.

But this has been reported countless times already. Last month, the New York Times described a president who spends, daily, somewhere between four and eight hours "in front of a television," albeit sometimes with it muted.

You can call such things "fake news" -- as the president himself often does. But even a normal citizen can follow Trump's Twitter feed or listen to him speak and see that he is, by any conventional standard, obsessed with TV coverage. We've known for years -- and the White House has never denied -- that the only print-news clips the president regularly reads are the curated stories about himself.

Similarly, if you've watched or read virtually any interview with the president -- never mind listened to him at a rally -- you've observed how the president struggles to complete a line of thought without being distracted. Diagramming his sentences often requires a grammatical Rube Goldberg machine to connect verbs and nouns, subjects and predicates.

In short, even discounting for hearsay and exaggeration, the Trump in Fire and Fury seems utterly plausible save for those who have chosen not to believe their own lying eyes.

...is that the Gorilla Channel story was indistinguishable as satire.  If it weren't for the dehumanizing on immigrants,. the comedy alone would make this presidency worthwhile.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:


Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM

HE COULD THROW THAT SPEEDBALL BY YA':


Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM

SHE HIRED THE MONEY:

THE LOST LADY 'Inconsolable' Melania Trump couldn't cope with marriage to 'chronically unfaithful' President according to shocking White House book Fire and Fury (Grant Rollings, 6th January 2018, The Sun)

DISTRAUGHT and broken, Melania Trump told her husband  she simply could not bear the pressure of being First Lady, according to the sensational  book that has laid  the White House bare.

"Is this the future?" the "inconsolable" ex-model reportedly asked mogul Donald after the publication of nude pictures taken early in her career.

She then told him she "wouldn't be able to take it", according to the explosive work, Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House, by author Michael Wolff.

But Trump, who the book claims was "chronically unfaithful", calmed her down, assuring  her that what she saw as a nightmare would be over soon.

At that stage he was still just running for the top office and he made his wife "a solemn  guarantee: There was simply no way he would win".

According the book, he urged: "Just a little longer . . . it would all be over in November."

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:


Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM

THE OBSTRUCTION IS ADMITTED:

Trump's Recusal Directive Adds to Obstruction Questions (Eric Tucker and Chad Day, 1/05/18, Associated Press)

President Donald Trump's effort to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a vocal and loyal supporter of his election bid, in charge of an investigation into his campaign offers special counsel Robert Mueller yet another avenue to explore as his prosecutors work to untangle potential evidence of obstruction.

The federal investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia already includes a close look at whether Trump's actions as president constitute an effort to impede that same probe. Those include the firing of FBI Director James Comey, an allegation by Comey that Trump encouraged him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the president's role in drafting an incomplete and potentially misleading statement about a 2016 meeting with Russians.

The latest revelation -- that Trump directed his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to tell Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation -- is known to Mueller's investigators, who have interviewed many current and former executive branch officials. It adds to the portrait of a president left furious by an investigation that he has called a hoax and suggests that he worked through an intermediary to keep the inquiry under the watch of an attorney general he expected would be loyal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM

INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE; AMERICANS WANT TO BE SECURE:

U.S.'s Embattled Surveillance Program Proves Resilient (Evan Halper, 1/25/18, Chicago Tribune)

"We need every tool and every authority we've got to keep people safe," FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month. "I would implore the committee and the Congress not to begin rebuilding the wall that existed prior to 9/11."

The Trump administration has signaled that even if Congress fails to act, an obscure legal ruling could allow it to keep the program in place for at least several months. Those negotiating the issue on Capitol Hill say the most likely action by Congress will be to grant a two-year extension of the status quo.

That extension could be tacked on to the budget bill Congress must pass once again in January to keep government agencies open. Lawmakers would have little choice but to approve it, backers of the extension hope.


The best bit is is this : "The tech industry worries that American government snooping will motivate clients to move their business abroad."  At that point you wouldn't even need unmasking since all the communications would be from abroad.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE::

Trump Loses Many Staffers (Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller, 1/06/18, Associated Press)

Already setting turnover records, President Donald Trump's White House is bracing for even more staff departures and an increasing struggle to fill vacancies, shadowed by the unrelenting Russia probe, political squabbling and Trump's own low poll numbers.

Entering a grueling year that is sure to bring fresh challenges at home and abroad, Trump faces a brain drain across a wide swath of government functions, threatening to hamstring efforts to enact legislation or conduct even basic operations. Some departures are expected to come from senior ranks -- the staff churn that makes headlines -- but more are likely among the lesser-known officials who help to keep the White House and Cabinet agencies running.

In Trump's first year, his administration's upper-level officials have had a turnover rate of 34 percent, much higher than any other in the past 40 years, according to an analysis by Kathryn Dunn-Tenpas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The study found that 22 of the 64 senior officials she tracked have resigned, been fired or reassigned.

Anecdotal evidence among more junior officials -- the White House wouldn't release data -- suggests similar departure rates, and White House aides acknowledge difficulty filling roles in the administration.

The goal all along has been to keep him from doing anything until we can replace him an orderly, constitutional manner.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM

THE NEXT BEST THING TO ISIS VS ASSAD:


Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM

YOU CAN PICK A REASON WHY HE OBSTRUCTED JUSTICE:

Michael Wolff's Withering Portrait of President Donald Trump (John Cassidy, January 4, 2018, The New Yorker)

As Wolff tells it, Trump is, ultimately, a self-fixated performer rather than a politician, and his primary goal is to monopolize public attention. ("This man never takes a break from being Donald Trump," Wolff quotes Bannon as saying.) This depiction probably understates Trump's devotion to making money, as well as his racism and nativism, both of which go back decades. But, in any case, even performer-Presidents have to make some decisions, and Wolff devotes a good deal of space to the most fateful call Trump has made so far: the firing of the F.B.I. director James Comey, last May. Whether Trump's firing of Comey amounts to obstruction of justice is a central focus of the investigation being conducted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, into the President's behavior.

In Wolff's account, the battle lines inside the White House were clearly drawn. Bannon, Reince Priebus, who served as chief of staff before Kelly, and Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, were adamantly opposed to firing Comey. "McGahn tried to explain that in fact Comey himself was not running the Russia investigation, that without Comey the investigation would proceed anyway," Wolff writes. In an Oval Office meeting, Bannon told Trump, "This Russian story is a third-tier story, but you fire Comey and it'll be the biggest story in the world."

Ranged on the other side of the issue, according to Wolff, were some of Trump's cronies outside the White House, including Chris Christie and Rudolph Giuliani, who "encouraged him to take the view that the DOJ was resolved against him; it was all part of a holdover Obama plot." Even more important, Wolff goes on, was the concern of Charles Kushner, Jared's father, "channeled through his son and daughter-in-law, that the Kushner family [business] dealings were getting wrapped up in the pursuit of Trump." As the President considered whether to get rid of Comey, Jared and Ivanka "encouraged him, arguing the once possibly charmable Comey was now a dangerous and uncontrollable player whose profit would inevitably be their loss."

But "Fire and Fury" also stresses that the prime mover in the firing of Comey was Trump himself. In the end, the President cut almost all of his advisers out of his final decision-making process:
Jared and Ivanka were urging the president on, but even they did not know that the axe would shortly fall. Hope Hicks . . . didn't know. Steven Bannon, however much he worried that the president might blow, didn't know. His chief of staff didn't know. And his press secretary didn't know. The president, on the verge of starting a war with the FBI, the DOJ, and many in Congress, was going rogue.

Eight days after Trump fired Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to take over the Russia investigation. Although the findings of Mueller's probe aren't yet known, and Trump's lawyers insist that the probe will clear the President of any wrongdoing, Wolff was surely right to stress the momentousness of the decision to get rid of the "rat"-- Trump's term for Comey. Wolff recounts near the end of the book that, five months after Comey's firing, Bannon was predicting the collapse of Trump's Presidency. Speaking in Breitbart's headquarters, which Bannon refers to as the Breitbart Embassy, Bannon told people there was a 33.3-per-cent chance that the Mueller investigation would lead to Trump's impeachment, a 33.3-per-cent chance that Trump would resign, "perhaps in the wake of a threat by the cabinet to act on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment," and a 33.3-per-cent chance that he would "limp to the end of his term. In any event, there would certainly not be a second term, or even an attempt at one. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM

ACCIDENTAL CLARITY:

Manfred Weber red-faced over 'final solution' gaffe (Deutsche-Welle, 1/06/18)

Addressing asylum policy, as the most senior European politician in the CSU, Weber said that the key EU effort in 2018 would be finding a "final solution (finale Lösung in German) to the migrant question."

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM

TRIGGERING THE TRUMPBOTS:

Alex Jones Declares War On Steve Bannon (Cristina Lopez G., January 6, 2018, MediaMatters)

Infowars and Jones are currently exploiting the commotion to position themselves to fill the void Breitbart's weakening and Bannon's fall from grace might create. Now, nearly a year and a half after Infowars reporter and host Roger Stone bragged that he advised candidate Trump to hire Bannon, Jones is focusing his rage on the beleaguered Breitbart chairman, claiming he "stabbed the president and America in the back" and accusing him of being "at the heart of the attempt to take [Trump] down." During other comments in the January 4 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones lobbed insults at Bannon (saying "Mr. Dandruff" has "big giant red swollen eyeballs that look like an owl on PCP that you poured 14 bottles of scotch on top of" and is a "pile of feces") and suggested he be investigated for espionage. On Twitter, he attacked Bannon's initial lack of response to Trump's rebuke and praised Trump's anti-Bannon statement.

The MAGA base has come to expect specific things from its news content, which Breitbart provided in relentless streams: a strong anti-establishment stance that included targeting the media and both major political parties, and a penchant for "triggering the libs," a phrase used to ridicule progressive stances on cultural and social issues. Those are the elements that Trump weaponized to help him achieve victory.

After Trump took the White House, and following a year of reported chaos within the administration, the audience's ethos now also includes unapologetic Trump loyalty, a defense mechanism that serves as a validation of their electoral choice. If Breitbart's readers ultimately side with Trump and flee the website, Alex Jones' Infowars seems like a prime candidate to pick up the disgruntled MAGA crowd by providing those readers the fix they're looking for.

The fact is that Infowars has fewer constraints than Breitbart because it's a financially independent outlet reportedly grossing close to $10 million a year -- not from advertisers, but from selling nootropic supplements and other merchandise. 

Those poor cretins in the bubble, less oxygen to their brains every day.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM

IT AIN'T EASY BEING CHEETO-JESUS (profanity alert):

Excerpts from 'Fire and Fury,' the best-seller Trump has been trying to suppress (AFP, 1/06/18)

- And the comb-over: explained by Ivanka -
"She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate -- a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery -- surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men -- the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump's orange-blond hair color."